22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DALY presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing the rate of pension to at least 50 per cent. of the basic wage and liberalizing certain other social service benefits.
Petition received and read.
Incident at Navuneram.
– Is the Minister for Terri tories now in a position to give the House further information with regard to the inquiry recently instituted by the Government into the death of two natives at Navuneram in New Guinea, and the surrounding circumstances?
– I am informed that the Commissioner, Mr. Justice Mann, opened his inquiry on Friday of last week and that, after preliminary matters had been attended to, the inquiry was adjourned to an early date. Arrangements have been made for the Commissioner to be assisted by Mr. Edmonds, an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in Australia. The presentation of evidence to the Commissioner will be handled by the Assistant Crown Law Officer of the Territory, Mr. Johnson. The usual announcements have been made and notices issued inviting all those wishing to give evidence to do so. The right honorable gentleman can be assured that the inquiry is proceeding with expedition and a proper regard for the necessity for a thorough investigation.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the employment position on the northern coal-fields. Has any action been taken to improve the transport of coal from the Maitland-Cessnock fields to the port of Newcastle? Secondly, can the Minister inform me of the possibility of some miners on the Cessnock field who have received dismissal notices gaining employment on the south coast?
– I am not able to give the honorable gentleman offhand information about the method of transporting coal from Cessnock to Newcastle. I do not think that is so important a factor in the employment problem which has arisen in the area as a result of the re-organization arrangements as is the desirability of bringing the men in Cessnock more readily into contact with such employment opportunities as may be available in the Newcastle area. I understand that the transport facilities are not as good as they might be. The problem of providing a better road, which would give the men quicker contact with work in Newcastle and the outlying district, is one which has been examined, I believe, by the committee on which my colleague, the Minister for National Development, is represented. I would certainly hope that as a part of the contribution to this problem the New South Wales Government will go very sympathetically into that aspect of the matter. Over the last two years this Government has made substantial increases in the amount of money allocated to New South Wales for roads purposes. The amount has been increased from £8,400,000 to £10,200,000 in the current Budget. If the time of travel between Cessnock and Newcastle, whether by road or rail, could be appreciably shortened,I am sure there would be increasing opportunities for men from Cessnock to work in Newcastle. We believe that Cessnock can become a centre for providing labour for such mines as continue to operate. The mines in respect of which recent retrenchments have taken place are not necessarily going out of operation indefinitely. I understand that there is a strong probability that some re-organization of method and some mechanization will be taking place in those mines, which will provide work opportunities for at least some of the displaced miners later on. There is the prospect, I gather, of a new mine opening to supply the New South Wales Electricity Commission when it gets under way. Apart from that, there will be, as I have said, opportunities arising outside the area to which men from Cessnock could proceed.
As to the south coast, I indicated yesterday that my department, on behalf of the
Government, had taken a very active part - as has the Government of New South Wales - in trying to facilitate movement from the northern coal-fields to such vacancies as exist in the south. There are still 160 vacancies recorded on the southern fields. Accommodation is provided in a Commonwealth hostel on a temporary basis while the employee takes up a position and looks round for more permanent accommodation for himself and his family. The fare of the employee seeking work is paid for the first interview that he has in the south. If he gets a job and wants to bring his family down later, the fares of his family are paid also. If he moves his establishment, a contribution of £80 is made from the funds of the Joint Coal Board towards the cost of that movement. I mention these matters as illustrations of the fact that both governments are not only alert and sympathetic to the problems of displaced miners, but also are actively doing what they can to assist. In amplification of what I said yesterday, I would add only that it should not be taken that this re-organization inside our coal-mining industry is something peculiar to Australia. It is a part of what has become a worldwide attempt to enable coal to hold its place against competing fuels, particularly fuel oils. It is as a result of the steps taken in the coal-mining industry, in New South Wales in particular, that coal mining is now back in a position of assured and continuing prosperity.
– Just before the recent short parliamentary recess I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the continued occupancy by Sir Percy Spender, a justice of the International Court, of a position on the directorate of the Goodyear tyre company. The Prime Minister said that he had no knowledge of the matter. I now ask him whether he has since had inquiries made and, if so, whether he will make the result known to the House.
– As I indicated to the honorable member, I had no knowledge of this matter at the time when he put his question. Subsequently, I communicated with the judge and had a reply from him. I think that it will be found very satisfactory, but the best way in which to put the
House in possession of it will be for me to table to-morrow morning, when the House meets, both my letter and the reply from the judge.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been directed to a certain statement by a senior officer of the Department of Labour and National Service at the recent selective ballot for the 12,000 national servicemen who will be trained next year? It was to the effect that a wastage of 4,000, or one-third of the total number, could be expected before the trainees marched into camp? If so, will the Minister re-affirm the Government’s policy of maintaining the quota at 12,000 per annum and thus remove any misunderstanding which may have arisen?
– I have seen the statement, which was published in the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “, and I agree that it might give rise to misunderstanding, for it implied that the call-up had been reduced to 8,000. It is, of course, not true to say that only 8,000 young men will undertake training next year. However, in each call-up a large number of trainees obtained deferment on grounds of ill health, studies, hardship, occupation and so on. Thus, in a call-up of 12,000, there might be no more than 8,000 effective trainees. However, because of previous deferments, there is a large pool of trainees awaiting call-up. The deficiency is made up from this pool and from volunteers, who also come into the picture. The honorable member may be assured that each intake is not only full but also, in fact, slightly in excess of the quota of 12,000.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in answer to a request by the Premier of Western Australia in June of last year, he agreed to consider further that State’s application to export 1,000,000 tons of iron ore from Tallering Peak. If so, when will he be in a position to give a reply, bearing in mind that a favorable decision means the establishment, in the* south-west of Western Australia, of a major charcoal industry financed from the sale of iron ore?
– I have been in correspondence with the Premier of Western
Australia about this matter for some time. In response to his latest communication to me, I signed a further answer this morning, but naturally I would not want to say anything about the matter until he receives the letter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to statements made on behalf of maize-growers in New South Wales that the recent importation of maize into that State, and possibly also into other States, is seriously affecting both the present and the future of the maize industry? Will the Minister inform the House of the position as known to him, and give some assurance to the maize industry that its reasonable interests will not be prejudiced by the policy of the Government?
– No import licences have been given in recent months either for the importation of maize into New South Wales, or for the importation of maize grits. I recollect that in December, 1957, and in January of this year import licences for 2,700 tons were given in order to cover the period from the last New South Wales or Queensland crop to the new crop that was about to be harvested. It was a condition of the import licences that the maize had to be imported prior to the date on which the Australian crop would come on to the market. I give the honorable member an assurance that the interests of Australian producers were not affected, and I can also give him an assurance, for the benefit of the maize industry, that when import licences are being considered, the reasonable interests of the Australian growers will he protected.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that reports from skilled observers indicate that Australian artists are being frozen out of commercial television programmes? Is he also aware that it appears certain that in the immediate future there will not be one live artist show on either commercial channel in New South Wales after 7 p.m.? If the Minister is not aware of these opinions, will he have an investigation made and take appropriate action against any television station which is implementing a policy designed to freeze out Australian artists, particularly at popular viewing times, in order to present cheap and sub-standard programmes imported from overseas?
– I have not heard the reports referred to by the honorable member for Lang, but whether I had heard them or not, 1 should have no hesitation in saying that the rather extravagant charges made in those reports are not substantiated by careful investigation. As honorable members on both sides of the House know, I have paid particular attention over a long period to the matter of the steady building up of the use of live Australian talent in our television programmes. I have pointed out that there are difficulties in the way and that we cannot expect the whole field to be filled by Australian artists immediately.
It is suggested that Australian artists are being deliberately frozen out. I inform the honorable member for Lang, and any one else who is interested, that I have had a number of discussions with commercial television licensees, and I know from their attitude that they have no intention whatsoever of attempting to freeze out Australian artists. They desire to build up Australian talent and, at the same time they desire to offer opportunities - this is the important thing, Mr. Speaker - to Australian artists to go into this field to train so that they can produce an article which is comparable with overseas presentations. For example, it was some considerable time ago that two television licensees, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne - I need not mention their names - made plans for a television play competition, and each of them and one of the oil companies offered a prize of £1,000 - a total prize of £3,000. That I cite as one instance given to me of the desire of television licensees to build up Australian talent. In view of those facts, and many others known to me. the suggestion that Australian artists are being frozen out will not stand investigation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I refer to questions that I have previously directed to the Minister with regard to the general study of the retiring age which I understand has been undertaken by an interdepartmental committee. I now ask the
Minister whether he is in a position to give the House some information about the progress made by that committee.
– The honorable member took a keen interest in the setting up of an inter-departmental committee by my illustrious and celibate predecessor, who is now the Minister for Primary Industry, to inquire into the social and economic consequences of the retiring age. I have tried, Mr. Speaker, so far as I am able, to keep the honorable member for Higinbotham informed. The inter-departmental committee met at frequent intervals over a period of time, and subsequently a report was prepared and presented to me. With the devotion to duty that is characteristic of the Ministers of this Government, I handed the report to the Prime Minister in the hope that that would’ be the end of it so far as I was concerned, but unfortunately, Sir, the right honorable gentleman returned the report to me. I had to make a precis of its contents. It is a prodigious and most informative document. I made certain submissions to Cabinet, and Cabinet, having extracted the information contained in the report, passed it on to the Public Service Board. The same procedure was adopted, it is to be presumed, by the board. The information was extracted and the report was returned to Cabinet. My impression is that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to place a copy of the report in the Library, where it will be available to any interested honorable member. If it is likely to serve any useful purpose, I could issue a statement on the matter.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What check, if any, is made by his department to ensure that television stations present balanced programmes? Would a survey show that this week in New South Wales, of 43 programmes listed by the commercial channels between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., no fewer than 24 are devoted to depicting crimes of violence in one form or another? If no check is made by the department, will the Minister take immediate action to have such a check made in order to ensure that the commercial television stations do not devote such a large percentage of viewing time to the dissemination of programmes boosting blood and thunder? If such a check is already made, can the Minister explain why no action has been taken to prevent the commercial channels from taking up about 60 per cent, of viewing time with programmes dealing with murder, other crime, and passion?
– Once again, I have to suggest that an honorable member - and an honorable friend of mine - has couched his question in rather extravagant terms. I have found that that is a habit of Opposition’ members in asking questions about this matter. I fully realize the importance of the quality in television programmes, but the steady improvement of programme quality will not be assisted by an extravagant presentation of some of the features of programmes that some honorable members may consider to be not as desirable as they would like them to be.
The honorable member has asked what action is taken to see that the programmes presented on television are of a reasonable quality. In the first place, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, acting under instructions from the Government, established programme standards for programmes of all types - standards that the commercial television stations would be required to observe. I have copies of the standards available for the honorable member or any one else who may want them. After the standards had been laid down, the board had conferences with representatives of all the television licensees, discussed these standards with them, and obtained undertakings from the licensees that they would do their utmost to observe the required standards. In addition, the board has a staff of monitors who regularly monitor not only radio programmes, as they have done for years, but also television programmes. If any departure from the standards laid down by the board is seen, the licensee concerned is immediately contacted. The board has found, so far, that whenever the attention of a licensee has been directed to some departure from the approved standards the licensee has been prepared to fall into line with the board’s requirements.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that *he Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria is contemplating the production of 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 gallons annually of various kinds of liquid fuel, and that this quantity is considerably in excess of what would be the diesel fuel requirements for the entire Australian railways system if it were fully dieselized? Will the right honorable gentleman approach the Victorian Premier in order to explore the possibility of obtaining a permanent local supply of diesel fuel to meet the requirements of the entire Australian railways system? Will the Prime Minister approach the New South Wales Premier also in order to explore the possibilities of producing liquid fuel from black coal? In this connexion, I refer particularly to recent experiments by the Pittsburgh Consolidated Coal Company, in the United States of America, where lowtemperature carbonization with a fluidization bed has enabled-
– Order! The honorable member should ask his question. He is giving information.
– The use of this process has enabled liquid fuel to be produced as a by-product of electricity generation.
– My attention had not been specifically directed to the first point in respect of Victoria. Some honorable members have referred to the second aspect of the matter in this House. I will be very glad to have both suggestions examined by the relevant departments.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, concerns the proposed alterations and extensions of the post office buildings in Launceston. Are plans now being prepared for this work? If it is on the programme, will the Minister authorize the commencement of the work as early as possible in order to assist the building industry in Launceston?
– I regret that, for various reasons, I am not in a position to answer the question offhand, but I will obtain the information that the honorable member seeks and will give it to him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that processed milk products were sold on credit to India and Pakistan some two years ago with the aid of government finance.
– No. Processed milk products have not been sold to either Pakistan or India in recent years under government guarantee or with the provision of government finance. Some time ago, I received representations from the processed milk industry asking whether I would be prepared to guarantee credit sales of processed milk to India and Pakistan. It was pointed out to the representatives of the industry that credit sales were a function of the banking system, including both the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks, and that the industry should apply to those banks for the necessary credit. I may mention to the honorable gentleman that, since that date, the export payments insurance scheme has been introduced and, if it so happened that exporters, or processors who became exporters, suffered any loss over which they had no control, they could, by means of the insurance available under this scheme, cover their losses. Thus they can protect their sales.
The short answer to the question is: No, we have not, under government guarantee, sold processed milk products to either Pakistan or India.
– In directing a question to the Postmaster-General, I refer to a document from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which is already in the hands of the Postmaster-General. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that applications for television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide have been refused by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the ground that the applications revealed, in all cases, monopolistic practices?
– The question put by the honorable member refers to a matter which, as I believe I told the House yesterday, I shall be discussing on a policy basis with Cabinet very shortly. Therefore, it is not at present a matter for discussion at question time.
– Will the Minister for Immigration look into the position regarding the obtaining of application forms for naturalization? At present, those forms have to be obtained from the offices of the Department of Immigration in capital cities. Would it be possible to have forms available for distribution at post offices, where most other government forms are readily obtainable, or from the offices of shire and city councils, in whose premises naturalization ceremonies generally take place?
– I shall investigate the honorable member’s request and communicate the result to him.
– I address to the Minister for Primary Industry a question dealing with the shipping and sale of beef to the United Kingdom. Is it a fact, as claimed by the Conference shipping lines, that beef is being carried to the United Kingdom for less than the freight cost to the ship-owner? Is it also a fact, as claimed by the Graziers Federal Council, that the Conference shipping lines enjoy a monopoly of the carriage of beef to the United Kingdom, under legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament? Has the Graziers Federal Council made representations to the Government seeking the repeal of the legislation establishing that monopoly? At what stage are the negotiations regarding the shipping and sale of Australian beef to the United Kingdom?
– The honorable member asked four questions. The answer to the first question is, “ Yes “, so they claim; and the answer to the second question is probably “ No “. The answer to the third question is that the legislation to which the honorable gentleman refers was in existence when the Labour government was in office, and that under that legislation negotiations are carried out annually between the shippers and the shipping companies as to the freights to be charged for the current year. If particular shippers do not wish to send their products by vessels of the conference lines they need not continue the agreement. I am sorry to say, Sir, that ] have forgotten the last question.
– Will the Postmaster-General consider exempting elderly citizens’ clubs and other charitable institutions from payment of radio and television licence-fees?
– The granting of concessional rates in respect of television licence-fees is a matter which is determined by a particular section of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Speaking from memory, I think it is provided that licences may be granted free to certain persons, such as blind persons over the age of sixteen years, and to schools, and that reduced rates are payable by certain classes of age and invalid pensioners. It is not competent for the department to go beyond that in the granting of concessional rates for television or broadcasting licences; but I inform the honorable member for Henty that in certain cases where a hall has been used solely or largely by age pensioners who come within the provisions of the exemption, the department has been prepared to grant a concession. From the form of the question, I do not know whether the honorable member’s suggestion comes within that category, but I shall be glad to have a further look at it to see whether it does. The question of extending concessions for broadcasting, and more recently television, licences, has received a great deal of attention over a period of years from various bodies, and on each occasion it has been decided that it would be unwise to extend the scope of the concessions.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In the re-employment of unemployed miners, where local government and other authorities are prepared to raise finance locally for the purpose of sewerage and similar works, will the right honorable gentleman consider rebating to the constructing authority a sum equal to the amount that the Commonwealth would save in the payment of unemployment relief, and gain in pay-roll tax and personal exertion income tax collections, for the purpose of enabling the work to be continued beyond the period for which the finance available would otherwise allow the work to proceed?
– The honorable member raises, as I am sure he will agree, a very large matter of policy, the ramifications of which could not be seen at a glance. As a matter of policy, it will be considered in conjunction with other matters of policy.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry any recent information about the operation of the South African wool reserve price scheme? Can he say whether the scheme has operated to the satisfaction of the South African woolgrowers?
– Yes, I have some recent information. The honorable gentleman will realize that the quantity of wool sold in South Africa is not to be compared with the large quantity that is sold in Australia. Therefore, it would be difficult to compare the success of the South African scheme with that of an equivalent scheme in this country. I have been informed that, while the South African grower is reasonably satisfied with the results, it is a little too early yet to make up our minds whether, from a national viewpoint, the scheme has been successful.
Removal of Sand
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior.
– Order! The Minister is not in attendance.
– Well, because of the urgency of the matter and the currency of rumours in my electorate, I should like to address the question to the Prime Minister. By way of preface, I point out to the right honorable gentleman that in my electorate there is an area of land of about 200 acres bounded by Bundock-street, Moverley-road, Elphinstone-street and the Randwick naval stores, on which sand excavators are at work. I presume that the land is under the control of the Department of the Interior. Because of the urgency of the matter, I should like the Prime Minister to obtain answers to the following questions: -
– Order! In addition to. giving information, the honorable member is directing to the Prime Minister a question about a matter that does not come under the right honorable gentleman’s control. The honorable member should ask his question immediately or resume his seat.
– What hours of the day is the licensee allowed to operate, bearing in mind–
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health, and wish to state by way of explanation that the National Radiation Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Macfarlane Burnet decided to advise the strict tightening-up of health laws throughout the Commonwealth. One of the most important of the committee’s recommendations was that, in future, all types of leukaemia should be notifiable diseases. The other recommendation was that radiation doses to the individual arising from the medical use of X-rays for diagnostic purposes should be reduced without delay by administrative and technical action. Will the Minister inform the House whether any action has been taken, or is contemplated, in this matter by all the State governments in making use of the model act and regulations prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council?
– The honorable gentleman has referred to the report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, and I should like to say I hope, now that it is a public document, that all honorable members will make themselves familiar with it, because it is a most valuable and, if I may say so, sensible and reassuring report. The question of leukaemia, which it is suggested should be made a notifiable disease, was referred by me to the National Health and Medical Research Council when the report was first finalized. It will be appreciated, of course, by the honorable gentleman that this is a matter for the States except insofar as it affects Territories under the control of the Commonwealth Government, but I have no doubt that they will act on the advice of the council, which includes representatives of the health departments of all States.
My recollection of the report as regards the question of therapeutic X-rays is that the committee separated this from the uncontrolled use of X-rays, or the use of X- rays by unqualified persons. A model health act has been approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council and circulated to all State governments. I understand that most of them have already passed appropriate legislation or taken appropriate action to implement the recommendations under the model act.
The only other thing I can tell the honorale gentleman on the therapeutic use of X- rays is that the committee, in its report, advised that there should be no discontinuance of the mass X-rays used by the tuberculosis service, giving it as its opinion that, so long as they were suitably supervised and assessed, they presented no danger to the community.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy concerning the employment position at Garden Island. I have no doubt the Minister is aware of the large-scale retrenchments of skilled personnel at the Garden Island naval dockyard. In view of the importance of this establishment to the Royal Australian Navy and Australia’s security, I ask the Minister whether the Government has made any effort to find alternative contracts, either governmental or private, in the hope of holding the labour force and fully utilizing the very adequate facilities available at that establishment. If this proposal has not been considered hitherto, will the Minister apply himself to the problem and arrest* the retrenchment programme until his inquiries are completed?
– The honorable member has referred to the employment position at Garden Island. This is a matter to which the Department of the Navy has been giving attention for some considerable time, and I am glad of the opportunity presented by the question to give an indication to the House of the real position as against that described in some press publications recently. Garden Island has been used for the last few years to carry out special work in addition to work associated with the reconditioning and converting of some of our frigates. As a result, the level of employment at Garden Island increased considerably after 1952. Round about that period, the total number of employees was slightly over 2,000. Then, as a result of the special work that the Navy was doing, the number rose to over 3,000. That work is just about complete, and, as a result, there has been some reduction of the number of employees at Garden Island. I ask the honorable member for KingsfordSmith, who is interjecting, to let me answer the question, if he does not mind. A certain minimum number of employees, however, is required to be kept at Garden Island. This number will be 2,100. 1 can give the honorable member an assurance that there is no intention whatsoever of going below that level or of carrying out any retrenchment programme, although “ retrenchment “ is not the proper word. As a matter of fact, provision has been made in the vote for the Department of the Navy for this year for a sum to ensure a continuance of this level of employment at Garden Island, to secure the normal functioning of the base. That is the position as regards Garden Island. The special work on the conversion of some of our frigates and on other refits is just about complete, and that is what has caused the reduction of work. Also I may say that, as the honorable member probably knows, in a drive towards further efficiency certain actions have been taken which have increased the efficiency of the dockyard. That has caused a small, but only a small, reduction in the number employed. In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I assure him that the department has done what it can to ensure that the more or less temporary employees who were put off as a result of the conditions I have just explained will get other work. For a few of them who were prepared to take a transfer, work has been found at Williamstown dockyard. The honorable member probably knows that. Work has been found for others at Cockatoo Island. The Department of Labour and National Service has been asked to do what it can to get men placed in other employment. In actual fact, any employee who desires to discuss the matter of further employment with the Department of Labour and National Service has been given time off, at the department’s expense, to achieve that end.
” HANSARD “ REPORT.
– by leave - I wish to make a short statement in reference to a speech made to the House on 14th August by my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), just before he left Australia. The Minister is reported in “ Hansard “ on page 428, lines 29 to 33, as saying -
It is a Budget in which there is an unwillingness on the part of the Government to raise by revenue . . .
Whether it was due to a slip of the tongue or to a reporting error, I am unable to say, but the Minister has asked me to make it clear that this passage should read -
It is a Budget in which there is no unwillingness on the part of the Government to raise by revenue . . .
The error was overlooked when the “ Hansard “ proofs were checked after the speech, but, small though the word is, it changes the whole sense of the Minister’s remarks, and he is most anxious that the correct word be recorded.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 9th September (vide page 1011).
Proposed Vote, £2,161,000.
Proposed Vote, £1,517,000.
Proposed Vote, £6,075,000.
Proposed Vote, £1,574,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to associate my remarks with the Department of Labour and National Service and a booklet issued by that department entitled “Industrial Disputes in Australia “. This is an enlightening production and the Minister is to be commended for his initiative in arranging for its publication. However, a most disturbing comment appears on page 7 of the production, which reads -
Workers in the coal-mining and stevedoring industries lost in 1957 through industrial disputes roughly 80 and 50 times respectively more time than their fellows in other industries.
I wonder where we as a parliament are heading in relation to the stevedoring industry, when one sees, with growing concern, the cleavage in the ranks of the Labour movement on this question. Whilst I find myself implacably opposed to the basic tenets of Labour’s political philosophy, still I number friends amongst members on the other side, in whose sincerity I believe. There is, and can be, some basis of fellowship where differing ideals and beliefs are at least focused on one great common purpose, that is, the good of Australia.
However, I find myself in disagreement with some members of the Opposition in their attitude to the waterfront problems, for it is in this regard that one of the greatest displays of political windowdressing is being staged in Sydney at the present time by the Australian Labour party. It has all arisen over the Australian Labour party’s unity ticket alliance with the Communist party, and it is pathetic to see the attempts being made by the Australian Labour party to divorce itself from its clinging partner. On Friday night last, the New South Wales State Executive of the Australian Labour party expelled two leading members of the Waterside Workers Federation from membership of the party.
– I take a point of order. In the last few days you, Mr. Chairman, have been rigorous in your observance of standing orders in reference to the Estimates. What has this matter to do with the Department of Labour and National Service?
– It is an industrial dispute.
The honorable member will proceed. I shall follow his remarks and see whether he is in order.
– I am tying this up with industrial disputes. This booklet is issued by the Department of Labour and National Service. It is entitled “ Industrial Disputes in Australia”, and it refers to a matter which is exercising the minds of the Australian people in relation to the waterfront in Sydney. I say again that on Friday last the New South Wales State Executive of the Australian Labour party expelled from its ranks two members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– I take a point of order. This matter does not touch upon the vote for the Department of Labour and National Service in any shape or form.
– The Stevedoring Industry Act is administered by a department which is in the group of departments the votes for which we are now considering. So on that subject I must rule that the honorable member is in order in discussing the matter.
– May I speak to the point of order? I have listened to the honorable gentleman. He introduced his remarks by referring to a booklet.
– I have ruled that he is in order.
– You ruled on a particular aspect of his remarks. The point I was going to make is that I understood that the honorable gentleman, having cited a publication issued by the department, was referring to the incidence indicated therein of strike action in the stevedoring industry, and was trying to point to cases which call for attention by the department.
– I have ruled that the honorable member for Mitchell is in order.
– I was referring to the expulsion of the two members and to the fact that a third was declared to be an illegal member of the party. No doubt this fact will be used by the Labour party as evidence of a get-tough policy with members of the Labour party who may stand with Communists on how-to-vote tickets in union elections. But the people are well aware that if a general election were not impending, no action to expel those members would have been taken. If my statement is contested, then I ask- (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! The committee will come to order.
– If my statement-
– Under which section of the Estimates is the honorable member raising this matter?
– Is the honorable member raising a point of order? If honorable members will maintain order I might be able to hear what is going on.
– You would not take any notice if you did hear it.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will apologize to the Chair for that remark.
– I apologize, Sir, for my remark.
– I should like to know under which section of this group the Labour party is being discussed by the honorable member.
– Order! The honorable member for Mitchell is in order.
– If my statement is contested by honorable members opposite, the immediate question that I raise is: Why was this so-called expulsion not carried out before?
– I rise to order. The honorable member has now stated the question he wishes to ask, and that is why the Labour party did not earlier take action to expel certain members. I should like to know whether that inquiry has any bearing on the matter before the committee.
– Surely the activities of the Minister, as applied to his department and in relation to industrial disputes, come within the scope of this discussion. The honorable member for Mitchell is in order.
– The executive of the Labour party has known for months that waterside workers who were members of the Labour party stood on the same ticket as Communists, but the executive did nothing about it until last week. This is in marked contrast with the action taken against a Mr. O’Toole, a member of the Labour party who stood on the same ticket as members of the Democratic Labour party. Mr. O’Toole was expelled in a matter of a few days - in fact, before the ballot took place.
– I rise to order.
– Order! Is the honorable member raising a fresh point of order?
– Yes. The honorable member for Mitchell is reading his speech, and, as I understand1 the position, that is contrary to Standing Orders.
– The honorable member for Mitchell is in order.
– I know that my remarks hurt honorable gentlemen opposite, and it pains me that I should have to ventilate this matter here. The Waterside Workers Federation elections are a perfect illustration of the fact that the Labour party and the Communist party have indulged in a marriage of convenience without any undue twinge of political conscience. The two men expelled were Mi. Neville Isaksen and Mr. E. Ross.
– Mr. Adermann-
– Order! The honorable member for Wilmot must not interrupt unless he wishes to raise a point of order.
– I wish to raise a point of order. I take strong exception to remarks made by the honorable member for Mitchell, and I ask that he be ordered to withdraw them, because they are offensive to me.
– I made a statement of fact, and I do not see any reason to withdraw it.
– Order! To what remarks does the honorable member for Wilmot take exception?
– I take exception to the remark that the Labour party entered into a marriage of convenience with the Communists.
– That remark was not applicable to any particular honorable member. The honorable member for Mitchell is in order.
– Let me make myself perfectly clear- (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! The committee will come to order. Otherwise I shall have to take action against some honorable members.
– It is about time, on your form this afternoon.
– The honorable member for Werriwa will apologise to the Chair for that remark.
– I apologise.
– If the Opposition does not want me to make this speech now, I shall make it on the motion for the adjournment. It will be made either now or later. The two men expelled were Mr. Neville Isaksen and1 Mr. E. Ross, because their names appeared on unity tickets with those of Communist candidates. If this was a reason for earning the displeasure of the State executive of the Labour party, those members should have been expelled long ago, because members of the Labour party and Communists have stood together on unity tickets since 1954. I have with me the unity ticket for the 1956 elections, and on it are photographs of Labour party and Communist candidates nestling alongside each other in happy accord. Mr. Isaksen is given pride of place on page 2 of the manifesto, and included in his recommendation is the qualification that he is “ an active member of the A.L.P. “. Mr. Ross carried1 the Labour party banner for the position of vice-president, and he is pictured on the unity ticket side by side with wellknown members of the Communist party.
I also have here the unity ticket for the elections held in July, 1958, on which Mr. Isaksen’s photograph appears. This leads me to inquire again whether Mr. Isaksen and Mr. Ross have been expelled for their misdemeanours in 1958, and why they were not expelled for the same reasons in 1956. Obviously, there was no need to expel them in 1956 because no general election was impending. It is also obvious that the present expulsion is not genuine and is just a phony, face-saving operation staged to deceive the electors. There can be no doubt that there has been an alliance between the Labour party and the Communist party in the Waterside Workers Federation on the question of unity tickets and that this practice, up till now, has been condoned, if not encouraged, by the Labour party.
I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his present dilemma, because he seems to have been caught up in the machinations of the faction in his party machine. But try as he may, he will have no chance of convincing the general public that the Labour party has not collaborated with the Communist party. All this belated action of expulsion from the Labour party will convince nobody that the Labour party has not been tainted by its associations with the Communist party. Both manifestoes to which I have referred contain on their back page how-to-vote directions, and it is rather significant that their policy is stated as having one aim - to defeat the Menzies Government. Elsewhere throughout the manifestoes appear condemnatory comments concerning the Menzies Government, and it is those references that have prompted me to speak on this occasion.
In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to one Senator Ormonde, who has just come to Canberra, and who apparently is in haste to set the Molonglo on fire. Senator Ormonde appears to have had an armchair ride to Canberra, and has been fortunate enough to have found a cosy seat in another place, which has caused a great deal of heartburning amongst other contenders for the position. Senator Ormonde is typical of the new crusader who comes to Canberra and believes that he can save democracy in six easy lessons. As such he is traditionally impetuous, and prone to dive into troubled waters heedless of the dangers. If that were not enough, he has set himself up as an authority on many matters. Honorable members will have noticed that he is a prolific writer of letters to newspapers, and that he is a spokesman for his party. Accordingly, any statement made by Senator Ormonde must have some party significance and recognition. One such statement, which must bestir all liberals in Australia, was his recent remark that the Communist party prefers a non-Labour government in power. Such an assertion is absolute nonsense, and Senator Ormonde surely cannot be brash enough to believe that we never see these manifestoes or read the proLabour content of the Communist newspapers. I want to make it quite clear that
I am not one who imagines he sees Communists hidden under every bush by day and under the bed at night, but I do happen to be one of the honorable members on this side who has been opposed by Communist candidates at general elections, and therefore know something of the Communist aims, techniques and methods. I say categorically now, as I have said in the past, in my electorate, that we will have no truck with the Communists.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 do not intend to pursue the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) in his rather tortuous attempt to bring within the confines of the Department of Labour and National Service the domestic affairs of the Australian Labour party. I suggest that the one thing that does more than anything else to promote the growth of communism in Australia is the growth of economic insecurity; and for that reason alone, this Government ought to be much more concerned than it is about the growing amount of unemployment in the Australian community.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) ought to look a little more closely, not so much at the accuracy of the unemployment statistics that are published, but at the inadequacy of those statistics as a guide to the real seriousness of the situation. I draw the Minister’s attention to figures I have extracted from the latest report of the Director-General of Social Services. This report was tabled in the House only a few days ago, and although it has not yet been printed, it is available for perusal. I also draw attention to the following comments by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services on the question of unemployment: -
The number of people receiving unemployment benefit throughout the year was higher than in 1956-57. On 30th June, 1957, the total number of beneficiaries was 18,071. In the first five months of 1957-58, the numbers varied slightly up and down, but there was no significant change until December. The numbers rose sharply during that month, reaching 26,005 on 28th December. With miner variations, they continued to rise until 1st February, when they reached 29,856, the peak for the year. For a time after that date, the trend was slightly downwards but this was reversed at the end of March. Since then, it has been generally in an upward direction, the total number receiving benefit on 30th June, 1958, being 29,418.
These, I suggest, are the significant figures that ought to alarm the Australian community -
Of 235,393 claims for benefit received during the year, a total of 143,877 was granted, compared with 96,030 for 1956-57.
It is time that a great deal more attention was given by the Minister to the nature of the unemployment that exists in the Australian community at the moment. It is probable that amongst the thousands of applicants for unemployment benefit there are some who have made recurring applications, but, during the year, no fewer than 235,000 separate applications were considered, and apparently 143,000 of that number were made by persons who were out of work for at least a long enough period at some time during the twelve months-
– One week.
– Exactly. Apparently those 143,000 applications were made by people who were out of work for a long enough period at some time during the twelve months to justify their receiving unemployment benefit of one kind or another. I submit that this problem is reaching much more deeply into the Australian economy than this Government allows for. Many people come to me periodically in connexion with this matter, and I have had personal experience of several cases in which the men concerned have been without work for some months at a time. From that experience, it appears that the person in that category is usually the unskilled or semi-skilled man of 45 years of age or over.
If we are to obtain a better appraisal of unemployment in the Australian community, some attempt should be made, when recording statistics, to indicate the age groups of the unemployed, the period of unemployment and the nature of the last employment of the recipients of the unemployment benefit. It is easy enough for a government to take to itself the rather cold comfort of saying that there were only approximately 30,000 unemployed at the end of July, 1958, and that this was but a small percentage of the total Australian work force; but I point out that, speaking in terms of an average weekly income of £17, about which this Government is boasting, this unemployment means a decline of the order of £500,000 in the purchasing power of the Australian community every week. In the course of twelve months, if unemployment remains at the stated figure of 30,000, this means a decline of nearly £30,000,000 in economic activity, and, to those people who subscribe, when it suits them, to what is called the multiplier theory - the theory that £1 of activity generates £3 indirectly - I point out that this means a fall of something like £100,000,000 every year in the economic activity of the Australian community. It is at that kind of discontent and dissatisfaction rather than who wins a trade union election, that the Government should be casting its attention.
The person who should be greatly concerned about this important matter, instead of engaging in vague attempts to make capital out of the activities of another political party, is the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is charged not only with the important duty of watching the employment position but also with the responsibility of .doing what he can to ameliorate the position of the unemployed and lessening unemployment. I am always suspicious when employers become concerned about the results of trade union elections and when the Liberal and Australian Country parties become concerned about the internal affairs of the Australian Labour party. Primarily, that is not their specific business, and I suggest that there are many things outside those matters which are causing great concern to the Australian community and to which the Minister for Labour and National Service, in particular, should be giving a little more attention.
Because of the greater use of machinery in Australia to-day, there exists structural unemployment of a serious and cumulative nature, and it is time this Government had much more adequate information about unemployment than it seems to have for the Australian community. If the Government has not the facilities for giving the people this information, it is time an attempt was made to set them up. These matters, rather than the domestic affairs of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, are the germane affairs for consideration when we are discussing the Estimates. We will look after the domestic affairs of the Labour party ourselves. We do not want any patronizing aid from people who, basically, are opposed to our ideas. Let the Government get on with the business of the country and leave the management of our domestic affairs to us!
Mr. HOWSON (Fawkner) 13.451. - I should like to direct the attention of the committee to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with particular relation to the role of the Division of Industrial Chemistry. Often in this chamber we hear a great deal said about the work that C.S.I.R.O. is doing for our primary industries. We know what wonderful work the organization has done in developing new techniques for our primary industries, which are basic to the whole of our export trade. However, I would suggest that the work of the Division of Industrial Chemistry is even more important. The work that the industrial research scientist is doing to-day will determine the products of our factories in ten years’ time, and the products of our factories in ten years’ time will do much to improve our standard of living and, more important than that, will- provide work for the many hundreds of thousands of migrants who come to this country during the next ten years.
I believe, therefore, that although it is important to spend money on research work for our primary industries, it is even more important to spend money on industrial research to aid our manufacturing industries. The function of the Division of Industrial Chemistry is the carrying out of basic research to enable the establishment of new industries and the expansion and improvement of existing industries. The work that has been carried out during past years shows that the money has been well spent. The C.S.I.R.O. has aimed, in particular, to develop Australia’s own resources for use in Australian industries. This is well demonstrated by the way in which Australian scientists have played their part in the development of a new china and earthenware industry in Australia. For some time past, nearly all of the china and earthenware used in this country had to be imported, because great difficulty had been experienced in using the clays in Australia to make earthenware. As a result of the work carried out by C.S.I.R.O. in the last two or three years, it has been found possible to use Australian clays and now, in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, there is a grow ing and expanding china and earthenware industry. A new industry has been developed, using Australian materials and thus saving imports. Its development is entirely due to the scientific work that has been done by C.S.I.R.O.
Even more important is the way in which C.S.I.R.O. has been co-operating with industry during the last two or three years. First of all, I would comment on the way it has co-operated with a group of companies interested in the refining of copper. Several companies grouped together and asked C.S.I.R.O. to carry out basic research with a view to improving and cheapening the method of refining copper. As a result of the work that has been carried out, the organization has evolved a method that will considerably reduce the costs of refining copper in Australia. It is something that will go a long way towards helping the copper industry, by increasing the amount of copper that is mined and refined and by reducing costs.
More important than that, I think, is the way that C.S.I.R.O. has helped to pui into industrial use processes that have been perfected . on a laboratory scale. A new process may be found which works extremely well in the laboratory, but the difficulty arises when you come to develop it on a large scale in industry. In this connexion, I think we should pay tribute to the work of the Process Equipment Laboratory at Fishermen’s Bend. This is an organization that is unique at the present moment although I understand that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in the United Kingdom is endeavouring to copy the work that is being done in Melbourne. I hope that in the next year the industries and companies in Australia which are interested in industrial research will make more use of this laboratory. Already a number of companies have made use of it and have obtained great benefit during the past year. I refer first of all to those companies interested in the refining of uranium. A new process discovered by our scientists at Fishermen’s Bend is to be developed on an industrial scale in co-operation with a firm known as Territory Enterprises Proprietary Limited. It has been developed on a pilot scale in Melbourne and within the next year will be transferred to the Northern Territory and used in the refining of uranium oxide there. It is a process that will considerably reduce the cost of refining this vitally important metal.
A more homely illustration is the way in which the paint industry has been assisted. The industry found out that overseas a new process had been evolved in the laboratory for improving the water repellant properties of paint. It asked for the help of C.S.I.R.O. to develop this process from a laboratory scale to an industrial scale. That has been done, and in the near future we will see on the market a type of paint that will be in line with anything produced overseas. We will obtain the benefit of international research made available to Australian industry in the shortest possible time.
– When will that paint be on the market?
– Within the next six months. Unfortunately, I cannot give the honorable member the name of the company. I also wish to refer to work being done in the development of a new material known as isopropyl nitrate, which is a new starter fuel for jet engines. This chemical had to be imported entirely from the United Kingdom. A hold-up in supplies occurred as a result of shipping trouble, and C.S.I.R.O. was asked, almost at a moment’s notice, to manufacture this material. It did so within three weeks. It developed a process that can be put into operation in Australia, thus saving imports and enabling us to keep our jet planes in the air without depending on materials from overseas.
For a few minutes I think I should direct the attention of the committee to what industry itself is doing in relation to industrial processes that have been discovered by our research organizations. Too often it is said. “ Our research organization has worked out a new process; why does not industry develop it straight away? “ The real difficulties occur during the process of applying the new skill on a huge industrial scale. A tremendous amount of capital is needed for the development of new industrial processes and for the marketing of a new product.
The difficulties are well illustrated by a new type of cement which is being developed at Fishermen’s Bend. A substance known as krilium has been used in producing a cement which has greatly improved harden ing properties. However, the architect or engineer in charge of building a dam or other large work would probably be too scared to use the new product unless it had been extensively tried out elsewhere. Therefore, a company trying to market such a product has virtually to build a dam, or erect a large concrete wall, itself, by way of demonstration. This all involves capital investment on a large scale. Great importance should be attached to the comment made by Lord Chandos when he visited Australia last year. He said that it was important that the rate of capital formation for the development of new products kept pace with the rate at which industrial research organizations were producing them. The degree of capital needed to develop new products must always be borne in mind by honorable members. It is, therefore, more important than ever that the Parliament should be in close touch with the work of scientists and industrialists.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom has what is known as a parliamentary and scientific committee. Members from all parties in the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet, at fairly regular intervals, leaders in all the scientific disciplines. I believe that we should derive great benefit from the existence of such a committee in Australia, and I hope that in the twenty-third Parliament its establishment will prove possible. It would keep us in touch with the work of scientists and industrialists throughout the country.
Tn conclusion, I should like to pay a tribute to the work that has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in the industrial field particularly. Australian scientific research is being put on the map. This is tremendously important because we must contribute to the pool of scientific knowledge if we are to benefit from research carried out overseas. In I960, a conference will be held in Australia of world leaders in the field of organic chemistry. Scientists will come here to learn what we are doing in the way of research into the organic chemistry of natural products, such as plants and shrubs - the kind of work that has been done at Fishermen’s Bend. The work of the C.S.I.R.O. in the last year has been valuable indeed, and one may hope that it will receive as much finance in the coming year as it has in the past, because no department in this Commonwealth has used its money so wisely or with such great effect.
.- I would like, for a moment, to refer to the proposed expenditure upon the Kimberley Research Station and Ord River gauging, set out in division 127 (c) of the Estimates for the Department of National Development. The Kimberley Research Station is operated jointly by the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government. Its policy is determined by a committee which is representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Department of National Development on the Commonwealth side, and the Department of Agriculture and the Public Works Departmenon the Western Australian side.
Recently, I had the pleasure of paying a second visit to the research station, which is just outside Wyndham on the Ord River, during a trip sponsored by West Australian Newspapers Limited. The party included federal members representing electorates in Western Australia and other federal and local representatives, including some Commonwealth departmental heads. West Australian Newspapers Limited are to be congratulated on arranging the trip because it enabled quite a number of people to pay their first visit to north-western Australia and the Kimberleys. Our tour followed that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whose itinerary was, by comparison, very restricted. We travelled 4,500 miles by plane and 500 miles by car and jeep. Western Australians generally felt that the Prime Minister’s visit would be followed by something really substantial in the way of financial provision for the development of the north-west. It is true to say that the Budget contains some tax concessions, but they are not sufficient to attract one additional person to that area. They might, of course, be of some advantage to the people already there, but they are minor in effect and will not help to achieve our main objective of attracting settlers. The main complaint of people who already live in the area is that nothing is really being done to develop it.
To return to the subject of the Kimberley Research Station, I might mention that investigations at the station have proved that crops worth many millions of pounds, annually can be grown in the Kimberleys. There is a vast area of fertile black soil on which can be grown rice, sugar, cotton, peanuts, linseed, maize, sorghum and safflower. We saw these products actually being grown in the Kimberleys, which is 100,000 squaremiles in area and larger than the State of Victoria, or Great Britain. Its water resources virtually equal those offered by the river Murray, the Murrumbidgee and the Darling combined.
I have frequently referred to the construction of the proposed Ord River dam. Such a dam would have a capacity six times that of Sydney Harbour. The construction of the dam and the power stations and the necessary developmental projects is estimated to cost just over £16,000,000, which, as honorable members are aware, is lessthan a year’s expenditure by this Government on the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. But apart from that particular dam, there is scope for the construction of other dams of almost equal size in that area, on the many rivers that flow into the Timor Sea from the Kimberleys. Dams are also envisaged on the Fitzroy River, each of which could produce electrical power by the establishment of power stations equal in generating capacity to the South Fremantle power station. The Ord River area is particularly suitable for the first big irrigation project in northern Australia. It is situated 60 miles from the port of Wyndham and 40 miles from the Northern Territory border. This is the region also where the Victoria River and the Baines River flow and there are many large tributaries which could be harnessed to enable further extensive irrigation areas to be developed. There is no doubt that this area could carry a large population, and as a result of increased exports from the Kimberleys, many other industries could be developed there. I do not know whether very many honorable members have visited this area. Some honorable members who had the good fortune to undertake the trip I have mentioned and who visited the aTea for the first time were greatly impressed indeed.
It is proposed that extensions shall be’ made to the jetty at the deep sea port of Wyndham, to enable the berthing of ships drawing up to 40 feet. Provision in this regard has already been made from a large grant. There is at Wyndham a modern and efficient meat works which deals with over 30,000 beasts each season. Its ful handling capacity is over 80,000 beasts a season. In order that this meat works may operate at its full capacity, an area of from 30,000 to 40,000 acres of pasture land should be made available for the establishment of a staging depot to fatten cattle after travelling long distances, particularly towards the end of the season when the stock routes are largely eaten out. The season, of course, lasts from May to September. This staging depot could be irrigated, and if its western boundary were about 30 miles from the meat works, it would be a fairly easy matter to construct a railway or a road from it to the meat works. The important factor is that the development of the Ord River irrigation project and the establishment of such a staging depot for fattening cattle would enable up to 80,000 beasts a season to be treated at the Wyndham meat works, compared with 30,000 as at present.
If people are to be attracted to the northwest of Western Australia and to the Kimberleys, we shall have to make those areas more attractive. People will not go to them unless there are provided some of the amenities that are available in the southern parts of Australia. Electricity will play an important part in these areas by providing power for home lighting and for irrigation purposes. But in addition, the provision of other amenities is necessary if people are to be attracted to these areas. Increased population and, of course, the full development of these vast areas would put the Kimberleys well on the way to producing good crops for export.
A very important factor that should not be overlooked when we are discussing the question of populating these areas is the matter of defence. At present, we are not doing anything in the way of defence to enable us to hold the north. Our northern defences have never been worse than they are at present. We have no defence aircraft or ships there, and relatively few army personnel. Indeed, there are practically no defence establishments on the northern coast-line between Cairns in Queensland and Carnarvon in Western Australia. The irony of the situation is that we have nothing to fear from the Pacific side of this continent or from the south where we have most ot our defence installations. If we are in danger at all, we are in danger from the north and, as I have said, we have inadequate defences in northern Australia. Unless we are very careful, we could find ourselves confronted with circumstances similar to those that existed during the last war. Surely to goodness we have learnt from our experiences during that period! I again emphasize that if we are not prepared to do something about our vast empty spaces in the north, we do not deserve tohold them, nor will we. I consider thai this Government should provide much morn additional money for the development of our northern areas.
I come now to the matter of oil search. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated, in reply to a question I asked, that there was no sign of a decrease in the intensity of the oil search programme. Unfortunately, as honorable members are aware, there is no sign either of an increase in the intensity of the search for oil throughout Australia. It is true that some concessions have been granted in this connexion, but I do not think that they will result in much speeding up of the rate of the search for oil. As a matter of fact, although about £30,000,000 has been expended on the search for oil in Papua and New Guinea, the search has now practically collapsed. Despite the immense amount of money that has been spent on oil search, the number of holes sunk is infinitesimal when we have regard to the vast area to be explored for oil. I understand that about 360 oil search holes havebeen sunk in Australia. We should remember that before oil in commercial quantities was found in the Sahara and in Alberta, over 3,000 holes were sunk. Last year’s. Budget provided a drilling subsidy of” £500,000 a year to assist oil search, but that amount is not sufficient to finance the drilling of even three additional holes. From the reply to my question that I received from the Minister for National Development, that seems to be the sum total of the programme that is anticipated. From that reply, it is evident that we are not doing sufficient in relation to the search for oil. The last paragraph of the Minister’s answer reads -
The contractor employed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources has just completed drilling for- stratigraphic information at Wallal, Western Australia, and is now moving the drilling plant to Giralia on Exmouth Gulf where a second stratigraphic hole is to be drilled. Three more holes are programmed, at Muderong near Carnarvon.
It appears that only four more holes will be drilled during the forthcoming year. That indicates to me that we are not doing sufficient in relation to the search for oil. I think we should remember that all of our oil requirements are imported, and if as a result of a change in the international situation our supplies from the Persian Gulf and from other sources were interrupted, we could be in very serious straits. Therefore, I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the provision of more money for the search for oil so that we can really do an efficient job in this field.
During question time to-day, I raised with the Prime Minister the matter of the export of iron ore. The
Western Australian Government asked for a permit to export 1,000,000 tons of iron ore from Koolyanobbing. With the profits that Government intended to increase the Wandowie plant’s capacity from 14,000 tons of charcoal iron to about 40,000 tons, and it also wanted to establish a new plant at Bunbury. The request was refused on the ground that the only known deposits-
– Order! The honor- able member has exhausted his time.
.- I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) is in the chamber, because I want to discuss one aspect of his department, namely, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which, in its work, must consider costs of production in Australia. ^Because our costs of production are now so important, the commission, and its system for assessing wage levels, have assumed a new importance, far greater, I “believe, than at any other time in the last decade or so. Wages, of course, are only one component of costs, but they are a vital component. Unless our wage levels are struck according to the capacity of industry to pay, and are not plucked as figures from the air, as often seems to be the case, we cannot have any accurate control over that vital component of our cost structure.
It is necessary for the commission to be provided with adequate information on which to assess the capacity of industry to pay, so that it may be able to judge the proper level of wages from time to time. That has been very apparent to the commission, and for many years it has pleaded for the provision of proper data on which to base its judgments. I propose to quote from the judgments given in inquiries that have been held since 1934. In the Basic Wage case of that year it was said that -
There is no clear means of measuring the general wage-paying capacity of the total industry of a country. All that can be done is to approximate . . .
In 1952, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court referred both to that statement and to a statement by Mr. Justice Beeby, made in 1941. The court stated, in relation to the Basic Wage and Standard Hours Inquiry -
There is, indeed, still no satisfactory method of measuring the productivity, or even the level of production as a whole of Australian industrial activity. The attempts which have been made to do this have been attended by a very large measure of what is called statistical estimation, and margins of possible error are consequently very considerable.
In the long period of time between 1934 and 1952-53, the court had no proper method of assessing wages. In fact, it was not given the tools with which to do the job that it was called upon to do. In the 1952-53 Basic Wage and Standard Hours Inquiry, the court also stated -
In fine, time and energy will be saved in future cases if the parties to disputes will direct their attention to the broader aspects of the economy, such as are indicated by a study of the following matters: - Employment, investment, production and productivity, overseas trade, overseas balances, competitive position of secondary industry, retail trade.
I move on from that inquiry to the Metal Trades Basic Wage inquiry of 1956. In that case, the court stated -
As in the 19S2-53 case the Court is bound to say that the information before it on this aspect of the case “ is not satisfactory and is far from complete.” . . . The Court has not, apart from the data supplied by counsel and their submissions, resources necessary to resolve problems associated with growth or recession of productivity, whether measured simply in terms of volume, by relation to population or by relation to work force. In consequence it must be said that, on the subject of productivity outside the sphere of rural activity, the Court is left with only vague impressions . .
In the course of the same judgment the court stated -
Thus the Court feels doubly concerned on this occasion with respect to production and productivity. The only overall estimates which have been presented, are based, at best, on data which are unsuitable for the court’s purposes . . .
I move on from 1956 to the Basic Wage Inquiry of 1957, when the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission reiterated this constant refrain which, as I have said, goes right back to 1934. It stated -
Unless and until some more satisfactory method of estimating national product is established the Commission feels that it has no alternative to doing what the Court did in the past, namely, making an assessment to the best of its ability and of the state of the economy at the present and in the near future from the indicators which are customarily examined and to estimate therefrom what in its opinion is the highest rate of basic wage which can be sustained without economic damage.
In relation to the same inquiry, the commission also stated -
The Commission is of the opinion that the general observations on this topic made by the Court in 1956 are still applicable … it is not possible to say whether productivity, measured either in relation to population or to the work force, has increased.
In the basic wage inquiry held earlier this year, the commission reiterated what it had said in 1957. However, in respect of that inquiry, we meet with a change. We find that the commission has at last some information before it, information provided by the Industries Division of the Department of Trade. That information was used by counsel both for the employers and for the unions. The commission stated -
Counsel for the employers and for the unions made extensive use of a “ Survey of Manufacturing Activity in Australia “, prepared in October last by the Department of Trade.
T have one of the earlier editions of that survey before me at the moment. Since the information was supported by both parties to the hearing, the commission made extensive use of it in arriving at its judgment. It said -
The summary included in the general report in effect sets out the broad conclusions which the Department has reached upon the survey. Its accuracy was not challenged by the parties in any material particular, and in view of this, and of its general importance, it is set out in full as expressing conclusions acceptable to the Commission: - . . .
Later in its judgment, the commission stated -
In the light of the available material the Commission has concluded that since last year’s inquiry secondary industries have on the whole maintained stability, and in many instances have improved their efficiency and productivity.
That is the history of the basic wage inquiries and of the search by the commission for proper data on which to form judgments; in other words, for the tools with which to do its job. It has settled on this survey of manufacturing activity in Australia. In fact, that is the only information that has been given to it, and the commission has accepted it very gratefully. But on examination, we find that this “ Survey of Manufacturing Activity in Australia “ has nothing whatever to do with productivity, as is stated in the foreword.
– Could I interrupt the honorable member? No doubt he will make it clear that that is the data which he says that the commission has before it on the question of productivity. It will be acknowledged, of course, that the commission has before it data on a great many other economic indicators, which it takes into account in forming its judgment.
– I accept that, but I did not want to bore the committee for any longer than I have already, by continuing to read extracts from the judgments. I think that the question of productivity is the salient point right through them.
– But there are various indicators which the commission takes into account in reaching its judgment, and information on those is supplied, normally, by the representative of the Commonwealth Government. That information deals with the state of overseas trade, the state of employment, and matters of that kind. Information is supplied to the commission on all those matters.
– I accept the Minister’s apology.
– It was not an apology. I was trying to save the honorable member from unwittingly misrepresenting theposition to other people; that is all.
– I suggest that thequotations that I have given from thejudgment in the basic wage inquiry stand’ by themselves. The judgment uses this; report of the survey of manufacturing activity made by the Department of Trade extensively, and I suggest that the extensive use of the report in this way indicates that it had a very large bearing on the judgment finally arrived at, and perhaps far more bearing than had any of the statistics from other sources that were available to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
I should like to know what other figures made available to the commission could possibly have any bearing on changes in productivity. This report of the survey made by the Department of Trade gives the nearest approach to statistics of changes in productivity, because it is an analysis of manufacturing industry in Australia, lt is a survey of manufacturing activity, and it is the only survey, or anything comparable to a survey, that is made by any government agency. But the survey is inadequate, to say the least. It is based upon information given voluntarily by a number of concerns taken as a sample of the whole of each industry, and in a number of instances, as the Department of Trade points out, the replies have not been precise or adequate. As a result, one must feel some hesitation in forming judgments upon the figures given in this report of the survey.
I should like to quote the following passage from the foreword to the report: -
The sample taken in each industry is sufficient to enable reliable judgments to be made on trends in activity as indicated by movements in production, sales and employment.
Trends in activity indicate demand and the volume of orders, but have nothing to do with efficiency in industry as indicated by costs of production, and tell us nothing about changes of efficiency from year to year, the greater use of machines, the better use of machines, or the better use of skills in manufacturing industries. Reading between the lines, I feel that wherever that kind of information has been sought by the department’s experts it has been refused by the employers.
Recently, in this chamber, I urged that the Government should appoint a staff of production engineers and cost accountants to make studies of individual firms, because -only in that way could we gather the kind of information that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its predecessor, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, have been asking for since 1934 - the kind of information on which it would be safe to form judgments about the wage levels that would be proper in this country. We have in this country management consultants who are employed extensively by the larger concerns, but 93 per cent, of the firms in Australia employ fewer than 50 persons, and they do not engage management consultants, lt is vitally important that this work be done by a government agency which could investigate those firms and see whether they have the capacity to pay higher wages, or could have the capacity to pay higher wages if they adopted better methods. That is the kind of information that the tribunal has been asking for, but its request has not yet been acceded to.
In Britain, an organization known as the British Productivity Council does a lot of good work on a voluntary basis. The kind of work done by that body could be better done in Australia by a government agency - perhaps a department of productivity. It could have experts who would undertake work studies.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the words “ national development “ should excite the patriotic spirit of every Australian, and the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of National Development should be the highlight of the consideration of the Estimates by the Commonwealth Parliament. Unfortunately, the Department of National Development is a department with a name but without a plan and without clear objectives. It has no plan for a specified number of years - say, three years or five years - in the way that other nations have found it profitable to plan. It has no plan for this nation to perform a definite task or to attain a specific objective within any given period. Consequently, Sir, a new approach is called for in this challenging task of developing Australia. This is a field in which parliamentary committees might well be used. I submit to honorable members this afternoon that the Parliament, even in its dying days, might well consider the appointment of an all-party committee to act as a watch-dog and to work on behalf of the Parliament in ensuring that projects are brought to the attention of the Minister for National Development and of the Cabinet, and to enable the Parliament to be in a better position to pass judgment on them.
We have heard valuable statements by honorable members about national development. I have examined the estimates for the Department of National Development in vain, Mr. Temporary Chairman, seeking indications of practical action to tackle the urgent problems of national development facing this nation. We find provision for the expenses of administration. That is necessary in every department. Salaries and general expenses must be paid, and financial provision must be made for them. At page 74 of the Estimates, under Division No. 127 - Administrative - Other Services, we find provision for the Kimberley Research Station and gauging of the Ord River. Here, there may yet be a ray of hope that work on the Ord River scheme, which is long overdue, will begin. Provision is made also, in Division No. 127K, for the Division of National Mapping. There may be some ray of hope there that minor consideration is being given to important work.
In Division No. 128, financial provision is made for the Bureau of Mineral Resources, but I suggest that too little is being done in respect of the practical application of the bureau’s work. I should like to see its activities extended in such a way as to allow our national resources of minerals to be measured against future requirements. Later, I should like to discuss coal and shale oil reserves. I am sure that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) must be aware that insufficient is known of our shale oil reserves and that further action should be taken in this matter.
I have cast about to see where, throughout Australia, this Government is proceeding with national development. It is true that the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme - that magnificent undertaking begun by the Chifley Labour Government - continues to go ahead, and for that we are grateful, but not sufficient is being done in view of the migrant intake of 115,000 a year and the natural increase of the Australian population. With the population increasing as rapidly as it is, the tasks of national development should engage the attention of all honorable members, and the Government should make plans that would excite the imagination of all.
We can think of so much work that could be done. It may be said on behalf of the Government that bauxite deposits at Weipa are being developed. In response to such a suggestion, I would say only that there we shall have another instance of the plundering of Australia’s resources of raw materials. The raw materials will be taken away, but little will be done to process them in Australia in order to provide products that are already essentia] and will become much more important as the years go by. We have seen what has happened at Rum Jungle, in the Northern Territory. All that is left there now is a huge hole in the ground. But what has become of the proceeds of the uranium sold overseas is another matter entirely. The exact amount obtained has never been disclosed to the Parliament.
Having studied the broad issue of the development of Australia, I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that urgent work faces us in providing additional supplies of iron and steel. I made inquiries recently and received the information that we export something like £21,000,000 worth of iron and steel each year, and import a volume of iron and steel of almost precisely the same value, there being only a few thousands of pounds difference in the two figures. At a time when this country is faced with a balance of payments problem, it seems to me we should be producing more iron and steel, and should not have all our eggs in one basket. We ought to try to develop the production of iron and steel throughout Australia, and one area which suggests itself to me is the Collinsville area of Queensland, with Bowen as a port. There, with satisfactory coking coal and iron ore resources in close proximity, great development would be possible.
The establishment of an iron and steel industry in north Queensland would be an excellent way of triggering off development in northern Australia. Such an industry, established in that area, could supply the requirements of the Territory of Papua and
New Guinea and the Northern Territory, as well as supply steel for export to Asian countries.
We appreciate that the establishment of an iron and steel industry in northern Queensland would require a tremendous amount of capital. Perhaps the Government is not prepared to engage directly in such a project, but it could engage in it in co-operation with the Queensland Government, ,and with the help of some private capital. The establishment of the industry there would encourage the establishment of associated industries, which would go a long way towards helping in the development of northern Australia, a vulnerable part of our country which is so much in need of added population. I think it will be conceded that population trends in Australia are most disturbing. We need more people scattered over the whole of Australia instead of having the great bulk of the population concentrated in the capital cities, as at present.
I now turn to a discussion of the further development of the sugar industry as an aspect of national development. Perhaps some of the people who have played a part in the development of the sugar industry in Queensland will say that the industry established there is already sufficient for our needs. I acknowledge the great work done in relation to the sugar industry in northern Queensland, an area which was developed as a result of the establishment of that industry; but I put it to the committee that a sugar industry can be developed on the rich alluvial flats of the Northern Territory, and that would help considerably to populate that part of northern Australia. It could be developed in close proximity to Darwin. The opening of a sugar mill in the Northern Territory would encourage the cultivation of sugar cane, and undoubtedly we would find that, as happened in Queensland in many instances, a township would grow round the mill. We need such a development. We should not restrict ourselves as we have been doing in connexion with such matters.
There are some other matters with which I wish to deal. One of them, which I mentioned at the outset of my speech, is the need to get on with the production of oil from coal and shale. Recently, I addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question which sought information regarding the shale industry, and the very fine experiment carried out at the Denver Research Institute in the United States of America in connexion with that matter. I have received an extensive reply from the Prime Minister, in the course of which he admits that, from information provided, the new manner of producing oil from shale in the United States has reduced the cost of production by some 50 per cent. In the course of his letter, however, he refers to the fact that shale is won very cheaply by open-cut methods in the United States - something which, generally speaking, cannot be done in Australia. Here is a case where the Bureau of Mineral Resources might engage in making a comprehensive survey of shale measures and basins in Australia in order to discover their extent. A general investigation into this subject is needed so that we can have a practical appreciation of the problem and see what can be done.
Whilst the winning of shale is considerably cheaper in the United States than it is here, the American shale is of a much lower quality and value than Australian shales. The range of yield from American shales is from 20 to 30 gallons of oil per ton of shale. We have the richest shale in the world, shale that can yield up to 100 gallons a ton. We ought to take this matter up seriously. If the United States, with its own great resources of flow oil, thinks it worth while to develop the production of oil from shale, surely we in this country, with richer grades of shale than America has, and with no flow oil, should be doing the same. I submit that that is a job which this Parliament should undertake, as a responsibility to the people. It should set about establishing an industry for the production of oil from our own resources, because, in the foreseeable and not too distant future, we may be faced with a very serious problem regarding our balance of payments. On that ground alone we should explore every possibility of producing in Australia commodities that can be won from our own latent reserves.
Even if the Government is not prepared to go the whole distance in establishing the retorts and other equipment, perhaps it would be prepared to establish a pilot plant. If it is not prepared to go beyond that, I put it to the committee that the Government ought at least to engage some of the idle mineworkers from the Newcastle district and my own electorate on the job of testing to see what can be done with shale. The Government could at least establish a shale bank - a great stockpile of shale which could be held against the future, and used when circumstances warranted, for the production of oil. I think that you will agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that that is a practical and feasible proposition which the Government cannot lightly brush aside.
The production of oil from coal is another challenging task facing a future government. It is interesting to know what is being done in this field in other countries, particularly in South Africa at the Sasol oilfromcoal works of the South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation Limited. That firm proposes to mine and treat 7,600 tons of coal a day for the production of petroleum products. I think that what South Africa can do ought to be done here also, in the national interest. The figures relating to the yield of products from coal treated by the South African firm are most enlightening and interesting. Here is a list of the quantities of petroleum products and chemicals that the firm expects to produce annually - Petrol, 55,000,000 imperial gallons; diesel oil, 4,300,000 imperial gallons; fuel oil, 2,300,000 imperial gallons; paraffin waxes, 18,000 short tons; ethanol, 3,950,000 imperial gallons; propanol, 2,000,000 imperial gallons; butanol, 525,000 imperial gallons; acetone, 210,000 imperial gallons; methylethyl-ketone 260,000 imperial gallons; mixed solvents, 60,000 imperial gallons; benzole, 500,000 imperial gallons; toluole, 280,000 imperial gallons; xylole and solvent naphtha, 500,000 imperial gallons; creosote wood preservative, 1,000,000 imperial gallons; pitch and tar road primer, 920,000 imperial gallons; crude phenols, 6,000 short tons; ammonium sulphate, 35,000 short tons; liquefied petroleum gas, 300,000 imperial gallons.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I can get my head up from underneath all those gallons, I should like to address a few remarks to the committee on the subject of housing. In my view, this Government has brought housing to the point where we may now reasonably consider the next stage.
– What is that? The building of houses?
– Yes, to provide houses. Looking at the Opposition, and its vacancy, I am quite sure that honorable members opposite are not likely to build anything.
It is necessary; first, to remember that we entered the last war some 60,000 houses short. According to the 1947 figures, when we came out of the war we were 250,000 houses short. At last June, we were only 80,000 houses short, notwithstanding the fact that we had taken care of an annual increment with a very large input of migration and a very large natural increase of population. That was due in no small measure to the concentrated effort of this Government.
It was not unnatural that, faced with a very large shortage at the end of the war, governments should turn to such a mechanism as we find expressed in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The first housing agreement provided predominantly for government building, for both selling and renting. What I want to say by way of suggestion is that we have now reached the stage where we may consider whether in the near future we may rightly abandon the government building of houses and stimulate more actively the building of houses by private institutions and private persons. The reason why I think the present moment is the appropriate time to mention these things to the committee is this: Over the past four years we have averaged 75,846 houses per annum. For last year the figure was 74,333. It is said that the annual increment calls for about 54,000 houses per annum, if you take account of migration at the estimated input and natural increase at the present level. That means that we are mowing down the arrears at the rate of nearly 20,000 houses per annum.
– That ignores sub-standard houses altogether.
– I shall say something about sub-standard houses in a moment. Government building of houses is the source of sub-standard houses. The position is that people have been saying that about 74,000 to 80,000 houses per annum is the largest number that we can build, having regard to current resources and the availability of materials. I am sure we are all aware of the fact that commercial and industrial building, of which there has been such a great deal in the near past, has probably retreated a little because the demand has been, to an extent, satisfied. That is likely to release materials and labour which may be used to increase the number of houses we build annually, without inviting any inflationary movement.
– I rise to a point of order. Under what proposed vote is the subject of housing being considered?
– Order! It comes under the proposed vote for the Department of National Development.
– The housing agreement of 1945 contained no provision for the making of advances to the building societies, but the 1956 agreement made a most significant step forward in that direction. It provided that 20 per cent, of the advances were to be made available to terminating building societies in the main - there were some permanent ones in some of the States - and this year 30 per cent, is to be made available. It is around that fact that I want to build my few moments of suggestion.
It seems to me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that when the housing agreement expires in 1961 there should be available some fairly well developed mechanism that will allow the building of the then necessary number of houses through private enterprise. The building societies seem to me to afford the necessary mechanism - not necessarily the terminating building societies, but permanent building societies of the kind with which one becomes familiar in both England and the United States of America where there are the savings and the loan societies.
My thought is this: If, during the currency of the housing agreement, particularly in the period that it has yet to run, there is an added capacity in the community to build more houses because materials and’ labour are becoming increasingly available, the slack should be taken up, not by making added advances to State housing commissions which may or may not build the substandard houses about which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is so concerned, but by enabling people to build, through the building societies, the houses that they want - to choose their own sites, to participate in the designing of those houses and to have their own builders.
– Jerry building!
– Much less jerry building is done through the building societies than through the other activity about which I spoke. It may be necessary, of course, in order to strengthen and’ foster the permanent building societies, to give them a government guarantee similar to that which the terminating societies receive. It may be necessary even to consider giving to them a subsidy to take up the difference between the amount of interest they would be bound to give for short-term or longterm deposits and the rate at which they found it convenient to lend out the money to home builders. But that subsidy would be a very small sum in comparison with what would be called for under a continuance of the housing agreement system. The amount to be paid out this year under the housing agreement will be some £35,000,000. Although, nominally, it is serviced’ from loan funds, in fact more than 42 per cent, of it will be thrown onto revenue because of the deficiency in the raising of the amount set by the Australian Loan Council.
– And 35 per cent, of it will be diverted from the housing commissions.
– Thirty per cent, will be diverted.
– The figure is 35 per cent., because service dwellings account for another 5 per cent.
– Well, so much the better. I am all in favour of more being diverted. My point is that at the moment some 42 per cent, of the moneys made available under the housing agreement is thrown onto revenue. We should be astute enough at every step to minimize the amount of capital expenditure that is thrown onto revenue. Speaking comparatively, I believe that the amount required to subsidize the difference between the rate at which the permanent building societies borrowed and the rate at which they lent the money would be very small.
Might I mention one more thing by way of suggestion? It is this: These permanent societies should be encouraged to accept short-term money, as is done abroad, in which case one would probably find that there would be no need for any subsidy even if there were a discrepancy between the rate at which they borrowed on longterm and the rate at which they lent money on short term.
There is one further point I should like to make before I sit down. We in Australia are desperately short of capital. To find the capital for building is exceedingly difficult, although the banks and the savings banks have, over the past few months, increased enormously the sums which they have made available for housing. There has been a very interesting development which I suggest might well be pursued. There was a recent announcement that the board of directors of the United States of America Development Loan Fund had authorized a loan to the Government of the Netherlands of 3,000,000 United States dollars to assist in financing housing for Dutch emigrants to Australia. This provision did not apply to any other country, but was made exclusively for Australia on condition that an equal amount was made available from local funds. This sum is sufficient to settle some 800 Dutch immigrant families in Australia. It means the introduction into Australia of some 3,000,000 United States dollars by way of added capital.
This, of course, was induced by this Government. It was induced, no doubt, by the sense of confidence which foreign countries could have in Australia because of the stable condition of its affairs. Besides commending the Government for inducing the investment of this sum, I should like to suggest that there be a continued effort with respect to other governments whose nationals we are taking, to ensure that they should also make some provision by way of capital assistance for the housing of their emigrants to Australia. If we were to follow that course, we would be supplementing our capital and, at the same time, advancing the number of houses that could be built without endangering our local structure.
Might I conclude, Mr. Temporary Chairman, with this thought: Everybody has shown interest in the number of nouses under construction. For once I would be of a mind with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). It is probably the only time I shall agree with him. I am interested in the quality as well as the number of houses. It is very short-sighted policy if we attempt to cover the landscape of Australia with houses which are not really worthy of it. I believe that if we were to stimulate the permanent building societies and encourage them, and if we were also to pursue this course of persuading governments whose nationals come here to support them by finance for homes, there would be a much better chance of there being better as well as more houses in Australia.
.- We have just heard from the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) - a gilded fledgling in this chamber - a most amazing statement. We expect that the honorable gentleman probably will find his way rapidly to the front bench if this Government remains in office, and accordingly we have found some of his statements astounding. He suggested that the State governments who are participating in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement were building sub-standard homes. That is an absolute absurdity. The houses that are being constructed by the New South Wales Housing Commission compare in quality and in price with those of corresponding standard which are being constructed by private enterprise. What is more to the point, they are available on a more equitable basis to those who need homes.
The honorable member for Parramatta must remember that in New South Wales, the Labour Government has constructed 49,000 homes, of which 5,000 have been purchased by the occupants. That has been made possible by the finance that has been available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, restricted though it is. The important fact is obviously that we have not yet approached the point where we are overtaking the housing lag.
– It has been overtaken in New South Wales.
– Not at all. In my electorate, which is only a small portion of
Australia, 1,500 homes are needed now. Throughout the eastern coastal areas of Australia where the population is densest, people are living in all manner of substandard conditions because this Government has not provided the finance that is required to build homes. It is futile to suggest that, in the near future, when materials and man-power become available, we will be able to accelerate construction. We have all the materials now that we need to build homes. We have all the skilled men we need, but many of them are unemployed or are working at jobs where their skill is not being used. The only missing ingredient is finance.
I recommend the honorable member for Parramatta to address his mind in the councils of this Government to the fact that, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, less money will be available this year from the amount provided by this Government for the construction of homes for letting and selling than ever before. The Government is slipping; it is retarding the whole system of home construction which was initiated by the Labour government under the original housing agreement.
– Is the honorable member referring to the money that is provided for housing by this Government?
– Then his statement is completely wrong.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will have an opportunity to speak on this matter later. At present, the Victorian Housing Commission has 17,000 outstanding applications for homes. Applications in New South Wales for emergency accommodation - that is, for anything other than a tent or living under the most adverse circumstances - total 870. That is a deplorable position in this rich young country. Our wealth is not being shared properly among those who need it. There is no justification for denying any person - Australian or new Australian - the right to a home. The provision of a home should flow naturally from Government policy whether it is for the young Australian couple who are entering matrimony or immigrants who are arriving in this country. They should not be forced to remain in hostels for six or seven years. In my district there are couples who have been waiting that length of time.
How can a man with eight children or less and taking home £29 a fortnight get a home? It is impossible, and the position will remain unchanged unless the Commonwealth Government provides finance more generously.
If we are to have a continuation of this retrograde thinking of the honorable member for Parramatta in propounding this Government’s policies for the future, it is high time for the people of Parramatta, in particular, to know about it, and for the people of Australia to be conscious of the fact that he speaks, apparently, with some degree of authority, even though that may be self-assumed.
I should like to make a reference to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, that mammoth contribution to Australia’s development, which reflects great credit upon the administrations that are and have been concerned with its day-to-day development, and also upon the leadership of the Commissioner, Sir William Hudson. There is no need for me to traverse in any way the history of the undertaking or the great amount of work that has been performed, but the point that obtrudes itself - and I recommend it to the responsible Minister - is that planning should be commenced now for the future employment of the great staff of skilled personnel that has been built up. After all is said and done, Australia needs many more such schemes as the Snowy scheme, though probably not as great in extent and scope. We need a continuation of that pattern of work in many, many parts of Australia. The long-range policy of any government in control of this country should be to prevent a drop of fresh water from running out of Australia into any ocean. We should conserve the lot.
That is a point which I suggest should be looked at when determining the future activity of this authority. This mammoth work could well finish in seven or eight years and the organization could well dry up unless there is advanced planning to determine what will happen to this great assembly of mechanical, administrative, and engineering skill, which is now producing such wonderful results. I recommend that thought particularly to. the Government.
We need further storage dams in the Snowy area as a supplement to the existing scheme, in order to allow the retention of all the water possible and its dispersal to where it is needed.
There is another aspect which will be of importance to this Government or to another government in five, eight or ten years. The Snowy Mountains Authority has been the employer of a great number of people, particularly new Australians. It has been a natural starting point for them, and they have made a great, positive and lasting contribution to this huge constructional activity. We should persist in overall policies to ensure that this scheme and similar schemes are maintained in order to provide sources of work for the great numbers of people entering this country.
I should like to touch upon another aspect of the Snowy Mountains activities, in a general sense. My remarks are not directed to the authority more than to private contractors. Naturally great engineering works of this character are not carried out without a high accident rate amongst the workers. There has been a high accident rate in this undertaking. On that point, I refer to Part I. of the eighth annual report of the authority. Unfortunately, whilst the report gives the accident rate in percentages, it does not indicate to the public how many accidents have occurred in this great constructional activity, and how many of them have been fatal. That point should be made clear.
The work, despite its advanced nature, is still in certain respects most dangerous. Rigging and tunnelling are always highly dangerous occupations. It was pleasing to me, as a recent visitor to the works, to learn that an officer of the New South Wales Department of Labour is to be permanently located on the Snowy to exercise supervision over mechanical devices, including power moving equipment, rigging, cableways and other things of that character. Whilst on this point, I want to pay a tribute to the men who worked in the bowels of the earth there, under the most adverse and primitive conditions in the early stages. T can speak on this matter with authority, as I was organizing for a trade union - the Australian Workers Union - on the Snowy in 1949, when the men were living in tents in that snow bound, frozen country, without any amenities. They had to struggle, and conditions were most arduous, although their rates of pay were no different from those of men on similar construction work in the environs of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. These men made a great contribution and enabled the ideas of the great engineering brains to be carried out. Over the years, a number of men have made the supreme sacrifice, and, unfortunately, it is fair to assume that further lives will be lost. One life was lost one day last week, as I was leaving the Snowy, when a man was crushed in a tunnel way. I suggest that the Minister concerned should take up with the authority the question of erecting a monument in the Snowy Mountains to the workers who have lost their lives or suffered major injuries in the service of this great undertaking.
I also wish to touch upon an important aspect of the responsibilities of the Department of Labour and National Service, in relation to employment. Despite what the Minister has said from time to time, and what Government supporters have echoed, unemployment in Australia continues to give rise to widespread anxiety. In August of last year, the Minister said that the Government was justifiably proud of its record on employment. In July, 1957, the official figures showed that 53,000 people were registered as unemployed and that 20,291 were receiving unemployment benefit, in other words, the dole. Twelve months later, in July, 1958, the numbers had jumped to 65,913 registered as unemployed and 29,908 receiving unemployment benefit. There was an increase in twelve months of over 12,000 in unemployed registrations and 9,617 in those who were dependent for their Sunday dinners and for everything they get out of life on the meagre unemployment allowance. If any person can say that he is justifiably proud of that record, something is fundamentally wrong with his mental apparatus, and he is not entitled to be in a position of power in this country at any time or under any guise.
The situation is serious. The Minister, in his news releases, which are cloaked, smooth statements, talks about percentages. That is all tommy rot. Let us get down to essentials. It is not a question of whether the figure is 1.7 per cent, or 2.1 per cent. The fact facing business men and people engaged in every form of commercial activity is that we have in this country to-day 60,000 to 70,000 people who are not receiving the means to purchase the goods they need, the purchase of which would permit our economy to flow easily. We have a condition which is abhorrent to any decentminded person. The Government carries the responsibility for promoting a plan for the absorption of these people and for putting an end to this condition. What has it done? Nothing! What plan has been propounded, or what has the Government in mind to do? Nothing! What is the position on the coal-fields?
– Read the Budget and understand.
– The Budget does not mean a thing in relation to this question. lt does not contribute one extra job. In six months’ time the honorable member will be eating those words. In J une of next year he will recognize that in his electorate there is a greater number of unemployed than there is to-day. I hope that the people recognize before 22nd November that that will happen. These conditions must be remedied, and the responsibility for doing it is in the hands of the Government. The Minister admitted yesterday that there are several thousands of men on the northern coal-fields out of work. There are about 150 vacancies on the south coast for miners, but we cannot bring the men and the jobs together. What is the missing factor? There are no homes in the south to’ enable the northern miners to take up those jobs. That, 1 suggest, should be a matter of the utmost concern to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and it is a matter upon which the honorable member for Parramatta should browse and ruminate. Men want to go to the south coast. We know that jobs are available on the coalfields there, but the men cannot go to them. That is the position, and apparently the Government has no intention of doing anything about it. To that extent the Government has lamentably failed.
.- We have just listened to an extraordinary speech by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney). He accused the Government of not providing homes in Wollongong in preparation for a movement of displaced miners from the northern coalfields to the south coast. To-day is the first time in the last six months that he has said anything about that matter.
I rose to speak about the Department of Labour and National Service. The honorable member for Cunningham, and many other honorable members opposite, have been very concerned during the last six months about unemployment. The Labour party has suggested that the recording methods used by the Department of Labour and National Service are not satisfactory. Honorable members opposite feel that the trade unions are more competent to assess the degree of unemployment existing in the country. The honorable member for Cunningham spoke vehemently about the responsibility of the Government to maintain full employment. There is no doubt in my mind that honorable members opposite have raised this matter as election propaganda. They want to create an atmosphere of fear of unemployment in the minds of the people, and then to make some use of that fear.
The Budget makes provision for unemployment. It does so, for instance, by making grants to the States. The States are to get an extra £15,000,000 to take up the slack in employment. The Department of Labour and National Service is supposed to provide employment for those who seek work, and it does so through employment offices in the various States. The States provide the work. So the money that is allocated in the Budget to New South Wales is intended to take up the slack in employment. The New South Wales Government is a trade union government. The Labour party calls itself a trade union party. If it is the contention of honorable members opposite that the trade unions know the true facts about unemployment, surely it could be expected that the New South Wales Government would take steps to take up the so-called substantial slack in employment. But what is the position? In New South Wales, legislation is to be introduced to provide three weeks annual leave for persons working under State awards. Does the Labour party suggest for one moment that the large sum of money involved in the payment of three weeks annual leave is justified at a time when we have this so-called substantial amount of unemployment? The honorable member for Cunningham said that the Government was guilty of gross wickedness in not providing money for homes for unemployed miners, yet he is a trade union organizer who is helping to force the New South Wales Government to use money, which would otherwise be used to assist unemployed miners, to give benefits to people already in employment. How can he justify that sort of double talk?
The New South Wales Government also intends to legislate for equal pay for the sexes. That will cost the New South Wales Government a great deal of money. Where will that money come from? It will come from the vote that this Government gives to New South Wales to take up the slack in employment. How does New South Wales intend to use that money? The money will be used to provide equal pay for the sexes. Large sums of money are to be diverted from deserving unemployed miners and used to increase the pay of people in employment, at a time when the Labour party claims that there is substantial unemployment. How can the honorable member for Cunningham justify his remarks? The honorable member often interjects when I speak, and it is a wonder that he does not interject now when I show him how politically dishonest is the attitude of the New South Wales Government. I do not say for .one moment that three weeks’ annual leave and equal pay for the sexes may not be justified. I am not interested in that aspect, but I do not think that such matters should be decided by Parliament. They should be determined by the court. If there is any truth in the allegation that there is at present substantial unemployment, then no government has the right to use money to increase benefits to those already in employment.
Those are matters that affect Australia very greatly. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) said that we should watch our costs carefully. That is true, because at present primary producers must watch their costs very closely, since they have to sell on an adverse market overseas. No matter what the rights or wrongs of the proposal for three weeks’ annual leave may be, ultimately the cost will be met by the primary producer, because he is the man who has to export his produce on the world’s markets in order to provide money to create employment in secondary industries. The primary producers’ main market is in Australia, and if we are to have a large pool of unemployment there will be less produce sold in Australia. The money that should be used to alleviate unemployment is being used to provide additional benefits for people already in employment.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick). He made a very useful contribution to this debate on the subject of national development. I have never liked State ownership of houses. At present, there are some 45,000 houses in New South Wales which must be painted every five years. They must also be repaired and maintained. Who will do that? The taxpayers will do it. Instead of those houses being owned by the people they are under government control. The government is the landlord, and the tenants do not care two hoots whether the houses are properly maintained or not. It is the private owner who maintains his house in good order.
The honorable member for Cunningham said that the Commonwealth and States housing agreement was wonderful. He talked of the need to provide houses for workers all over the place. Australia has the proud record of having the highest percentage of home-owners of any country, yet honorable members opposite talk about the Government’s bad record. Whichever way one looks at this matter of housing, the alternative government in an election year is, as the honorable member for Parramatta said, guilty of hypocrisy.
My main object in speaking at this stage was to direct attention to the action of the New South Wales Government in using money to provide benefits for people already in employment when it should have been directing its attention towards assisting those who are unemployed.
.- The committee this afternoon has heard submissions from honorable members opposite supporting the argument put forward by the Government that there is really no housing crisis or housing shortage in Australia at the present time because the Government has maintained an adequate level of home construction during its term of office.
In my view, there i9 no more false and deceptive argument than the one to which I have referred. The number of houses under construction during the time this
Government has been in office has been steadily falling. The number has fallen in practically every year. I refer the committee to the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician. In 1951-52, the number of houses under construction was 81,806. That was soon after me Government came to office. Those houses were built under economic conditions that had prevailed for some years before. As the number of homes under construction does not change quickly, it will be obvious that this figure was reached under economic conditions which resulted from the economic policy pursued by the Chifley Government. From that figure of 81,806 in 1951-52, the number of houses under construction fell to 66,340 in the next year. In the following year, the number dropped to 65,650, then to 60,902 in the next year and to 54,971 in the year after that. Finally, in 1956-57, the last complete year for which I have figures, the number was 55,863. That continuous fall was associated with an equally continuous rise in population. During that period the number of people in Australia rose by 1,221,304, and, of that number, the net intake of migrants for the respective years was 132,000 in 1950-51, 104,000 in 1951-52, 62,000 in 1952-53, 50,000 in 1953-54, 88,000 in 1954-55, 93,000 in 1955-56, and 80,000 in 1956-57. It is Only too clear that with such a rapid increase in the population the significant fall in the number of home units under construction increased rather than reduced the shortage of houses.
Speakers on the Government side have relied upon a survey conducted by the Department of National Development when quoting the housing deficiency, but I point out that this survey completely ignores the existing level of housing in Australia. It ignores the fact that there are over 120,000 sub-standard and condemned houses in the Commonwealth at the present time. Even accepting this completely artificial and unreal basis of attempting to arrive at the true housing deficiency, we still find that deficiency is very substantial.
– The department’s survey admits that.
– That is so. I ha« never heard that mentioned by any supporter of the Government, either in this
House or elsewhere. We all know that the slums in Australia have been a serious, indeed a grave problem, not for 25 years but for over a century. Hardly any impact whatever has been made on that problem in the last five or ten years.
– They are caused by private enterprise.
– And these slums are the result of private enterprise. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) may be unaware of this, because he lives in a very salubrious suburb of Sydney. I understand he travels to the courts at a rather rapid pace in an expensive motor car. I can understand that many honorable members on the Government side may be completely unaware of the housing conditions obtaining in the country, and, in order to acquaint them of some facts, I propose to quote ten cases that I investigated either in or near my electorate last week. They are ten actual cases which show the true crisis in housing at the present time.
The first case is that of eleven caravans parked on a block of land measuring 140 feet by 70 feet. Four of those caravans are owned by the owner of the land and are let by him at £4 10s. a week each to families - man, wife and children. The seven other caravans on that allotment are owned by the people who live in them, but those people pay £1 15s. a week each. This gives the owner of the land a total rental of £30 5s. a week. This for a block of land 140 feet by 70 feet! I am sure he must be a supporter of the Government.
The second case relates to a house which cost £1,000 to build over 35 years ago. It is now let for £7 10s. a week to a man, wife and one child. The total income of that family, including child endowment, is £15 a week. Can any one SuggeSt that it is reasonable for members on the Government side to assert that there is no housing shortage when a man, his wife and child, are compelled to pay £7 10s. a week, or half their net income, in rent?
The third case relates to a house which cost approximately £2,200 to build many years ago. I could not discover how many years ago it was built, but it was let for 22s. 6d. a week until 1956. It is now being let at £10 10s. a week. What are the people who have to pay that rent going to say about the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) who say there is no housing shortage in this country? This house is being let to a man, his wife and three children, and the gross income of that family is £17 a week. They are paying £10 10s. a week rent out of a gross income of £17! ls the honorable member for Parramatta aware of these conditions? Does he know they exist in the capital cities of this country?
– What about the Landlord and Tenant Act?
– Let me inform the honorable member for Phillip, who is completely ignorant of what a Liberal government does when it gets into office, that the Landlord and Tenant Act offers no protection. The protection enjoyed by these people was swept away from them by the Bolte Government in Victoria as from 1st January, 1956. If ever the people of New South Wales are so stupid as to listen to the honorable member for Phillip and return a Liberal government in that State, they will find1 exactly the same thing happening to them.
The fourth case I wish to mention relates to a house that was let for 17s. 6d. a week and which is now being let for £6 6s. a week. It was let for 17s. 6d. a week before the Bolte Government removed the protection accorded by the Landlord and Tenant Act to cases such as this. Since the removal of that protection, the rental has been increased to £6 6s. a week.
The fifth case relates to two pensioners who rent a double room in which there arc no cooking facilities other than what they can attach to the one electric power point in the room. They are paying £4 10s. a week for that room.
The next case is that of two pensioners living in a double room with a kitchenette, for which they pay £4 10s. a week out of a combined pension of £8 15s. a week. And the honorable member for Parramatta does not think there is any great housing shortage at the present time!
The seventh case is that of one pensioner occupying a single room for which he is paying rent of £3 a week. That room has no cooking facilities whatever. All the cases I have mentioned so far relating to pensioners are typical of what is to be found over and over again in every industrial city in the Commonwealth. Yet honorable members opposite say that the Government’s housing record is satisfactory!
The eighth case relates to a house in which six families are living and for which those six families are paying a total rent of £34 10s. a week to an agent of the owner. That house was let to one tenant at £1 15s. a week until 1957. It was occupied by one family - it was built originally to house only one family - who paid £1 15s. a week until 1957. It is now occupied by six families, and I think that those six families have a total of seventeen children. Is that evidence that there is no housing shortage in this country? Is that evidence that the Government’s housing record is completely satisfactory? Are such Government supporters as the honorable member for Parramatta and others who spoke a little while ago completely ignorant of this situation? Or are they aware of it and, for political reasons, deny its existence? What is the explanation?
The ninth case relates to a threebedroom house which was let to a Scottish migrant with four children for £12 12s. a week. After a considerable amount of pressure and agitation on my part, this case was eventually taken up by the Victorian rent investigator, and the rental was reduced to £6 6s. a week. When that happened, the migrant-owner of the house moved into it, with his motor cycle, which he parked1 in the back yard, and, for three months, he made himself so objectionable that the tenant eventually was forced to leave.
The tenth case - these are all cases that I investigated in recent weeks, most of them last week - relates to a family in which there are five children. That family has been on the waiting list of the Victorian Housing Commission for three and a half years. They are paying 35s. a week for a house which for fifteen years has been condemned as being unfit for human habitation. In several rooms in that house, when standing in the middle of the room you can see daylight in several places in the ceiling. Those are the conditions in which fellow Australians of honorable members opposite are required to live at the present time, yet they talk about the housing record of this Government being satisfactory. No record has ever been more unsatisfactory or more discreditable to any government in the history of this Commonwealth than the record of this Government in relation to housing.
While these things are happening, the Minister for Labour and National Service is endeavouring to distract the attention of the electors of this country by telling the old story of communism in trade unions and all the rest of it, without being concerned about these fundamental economic factors which determine the social and political health of the country.
– The honorable member knows that Australia has one of the best housing records in the world.
– I have heard enough about that. Of course, you can point to India, to China and to countries which are in poverty and say that your record is better. I could say that the Minister’s arrival at Essendon aerodrome, which is just like that of the Sheik of Kuwait, accompanied as he is by two or three typists and a secretary, reminds me of what the Sheik of Kuwait is doing on the Persian Gulf at the present time. Let us put an end to those stupid comparisons. Of course, Australia is in a better position than a lot of other countries, and Australia will be in a better position still in the years to come. If the position is not improved by this Government, it will be improved by some other government. We are not satisfied with this Government’s record in housing or in anything like it. The Minister for Labour and National Service comes into this chamber and gives us pious platitudes in answer to prepared questions. His garrulity is excessive. It is more noticeable than any other characteristic of the Minister.
At the same time that this is happening in the field of housing, he pledges himself to the maintenance of full employment. If you ignore altogether the existence of 60,000 to 70,000 unemployed in this country at the present time, then platitudes such as “ It is seasonal “ or “ We are watching trends” may be quite all right, but we are not prepared to ignore the overall employment situation. It is not enough to try to maintain full employment with overinflated expenditure. Let us have a look at the total of employment, a subject over which the Minister has been appointed to preside. First of all, take the aggregates which we are given in June of each year. In 1955 the aggregate was 2,801,000. It was only 2,889,000 in April, 1958, nearly three years later. Notwithstanding an increase in population, only 80,000 more people were employed in this country. The total number of people available for work in Australia must have risen by from 180,000 to 210,000. When we look at the number of those in civilian employment, we find that the position is considerably worse. These are the real responsibilities of the Minister, but he is not more than a political propagandist.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) gave one the impression that he and a small number of his colleagues are the only people who care for those who are unfortunate enough not to have good homes. He chided us with not taking sufficient care to see that everybody has a home. The only way to judge whether we have done enough is to look at what has been done by other governments. We have been hampered by the fact that there is not an unlimited supply of building materials or of capable builders. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) said that the New South Wales Government had built 47,000 houses. When that Government came into power ten years ago, it promised to build 90,000 houses in three years. The cry “ 90,000 houses in three years “ rang in everybody’s ears, but we find that that Government has built 47.000 houses instead of 90,000, and that it has built them in ten years instead of three.
What did the members of the New South Wales Labour Government - the friends of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) - do last year? They received £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. With that £8,000,000 they built fewer houses than South Australia built with the £2,500,000 it received from the Commonwealth. South Australia matched the Commonwealth grant on a £l-for-£l basis. It added £2,500,000 to what it received from the Commonwealth and with that money it built more houses than the Cahill Labour
Government built with its £8,000,000. The Cahill Government did not add one penny to the money it received from this Government.
– That is not right.
– All that the honorable gentleman can do is to interject, “ That is not right “. Honorable members opposite ought to be ashamed to raise the issue of housing in this chamber when they are doing nothing worth while in respect of housing. The New South Wales Government accepted £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth, did not add a penny to that amount and built fewer houses than South Australia built with £2,500,000. That is a situation of which honorable members ought to be ashamed. They ought not to raise the matter here, seeing that they have fallen down on the job. They are more interested in the wretched fights inside their party. They cannot build anything; all that they can do is destroy, and in order to cover up their weaknesses they try to criticize our side. I repeat that with £8,000,000 the Cahill Government built fewer houses than South Australia built with £2,500,000. One could go on repeating that, because it shows where Labour stands on this matter. The honorable member for Yarra, in an emotional way, produced a number of cases, but what has his party done to remedy the position? The Labour Government of New South Wales obtained £8,000,000 from the Commonwealth for housing under the formula that has been agreed upon by all the States, but it did not do its job. Just think that over.
There is something a little more wholesome than the Labour party’s record in housing about which I should like to speak. In the Estimates before the chamber is a really exciting item in which you, Sir, as the honorable member for Gippsland, ought to be most interested. It relates to one of the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has designed a new apparatus - if I may be pardoned for using that word, for lack of a better one. It is a cabinet in which it is hoped to breed magnificent Australian plants. We should not go on trying to grow plants in Australia which were brought here by our forebears from a country whose climate is entirely different from the climate of Australia. The corn which grows in the old country in the summer grows in this country in the winter. During winter the old country is under snow, whereas our winter is warm, or, if it is cold, it is only for a matter of a few days. The Australian Labour party has declared itself to be a nationalist party which devotes and dedicates itself to the welfare of Australia. It ought to be sympathetic towards an organization such as the C.S.I.R.O. which, under this Government, is evolving a cabinet capable of breeding quickly plants which we need in Australia.
The area which you represent, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is blessed with temperate, rainy weather akin to that of the Old Country, but that is not the case everywhere in Australia. Clovers and grasses indigenous to Europe have done best in this country, though they arrived here only by chance. They grow especially well in the Victorian countryside, and on the” Victorian coast, but not in the vast, sun-drenched areas of inland Australia. They do not thrive in the gibber deserts which are so much in need of vegetative cover. We have not always been able to cover the naked earth which we found in so many parts of Australia when we first came here.
Now, the Government has provided the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with a phytotron - not a boxer but a machine, developed only a few years ago in California, which consists of a series of cabinets in which the temperature can be controlled. It is possible to produce day temperatures or night temperatures, darkness or bright sunlight, and a given humidity and evaporation rate It is possible to create perpetual spring, summer, autumn or winter, with the variations found in any region of Australia. This cannot fail to speed up the breeding of plants. When we think of the genius of Farrer in producing our great Australian wheats, we realize what he could have done if he had had a machine such as the phytoti on at his disposal. He could have produced even finer wheat than we have now - wheat with a better baking quality and a high yield.
To-day, we look for legumes that will grow not only in the smiling countryside of the Gippsland but also in the vast naked deserts of the interior. We need clover, both annual and perennial, creeping lucerne and so on. I refer to those grasses because of their importance to Australia. This continent has had an unfortunate weather history. lt had 5,000 years of extremely wet weather and then 5,000 years of extremely dry weather. This apparently leached all the nitrogen out of the soil, and nitrogen can be restored cheaply by the use of legumes and clovers only. We need legumes which will restore nitrogen to the soil of northwest New South Wales, western Queensland and the Territory and place new layers of soil on the naked gibber deserts. If we are civilized and really enterprising we shall not have the deserts encroaching on us but will, instead, encroach upon the deserts. By the use of the phytotron thousands of acres of new country can be brought into production, and farmers who are at present battling on so-called marginal areas can be helped to obtain a good living.
Our researches should not be restricted to grasses. On the east coast of Australia the fruit fly has almost put our orchards and kitchen gardens out of commission. In Adelaide one is always able to obtain fruit in plenty, but on the east coast of New South Wales it is almost impossible to grow fruit successively. The plant breeder must come in and help here too. I invite honorable members to think of the 7,500 different species of wild flowers found in Western Australia alone; to consider our mallees and our beautiful flowering gums. The plant breeders can use their skills to produce flowering shrubs and trees finer than can be seen anywhere in the world. The carnation and the chrysanthemum - in common with many other favourite flowers - were produced by plant breeders in other countries and subsequently brought to Australia. The phytotron will make it possible to achieve in a few years what has taken centuries elsewhere. Australia will soon begin to have plants of its own and will not have to depend upon plants brought here by chance.
I remind honorable members that subterranean clover, which covers so much of Australia and is worth even more to us than is myxomatosis, came here in the straw of a packing case - perhaps originating in the Mediterranean area. Twenty years passed before the farmers could convince the agricultural scientists and departments of its worth. Now, the scientist will be able to give us the plants that we need. If I may use a time-honoured phrase, I congratulate and thank the Government for producing a phytotron - something of which the C.S.I.R.O. has hitherto only dreamed. It will give us so many of the things that we need to make this a wonderful country.
.- I have listened with interest to Government supporters, especially when they have referred to unemployment and to the important question of housing. The last speaker, in common with most of his colleagues, spent much time in attacking the New South Wales Labour Government’s treatment of the housing problem. I hate to think how rare their speeches would be if there were not a New South Wales Labour Government to attack. They have not mentioned the thousands of houses - whole suburbs - built by the Government of that State since it has been in office. In the Dundas Valley alone it has housed about 30,000 people. So outstanding is that particular project that Her Majesty The Queen saw fit to visit it. That is but one aspect of the New South Wales Government’s work in the area represented by the honorable member for Parramatta.
Throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales thousands of homes have been built under a scheme which was instituted by the Chifley Government and put into effect with the co-operation of the New South Wales Government and other State governments. If it had been left to private enterprise, very few homes would have been built, for it is more concerned with profit than with whether people are being housed. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) had a great deal to say about the record of the Labour Government of New South Wales. If its housing efforts are so unsuccessful why has it been returned to office continuously for seventeen years? At the last State election in New South Wales the alleged housing lag was trumpeted in the press and elsewhere by supporters of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Despite that, the Cahill Government was returned to office on its record in this and other fields. If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is trying to interject, thinks that the New South Wales Government has not a good housing record he is out of step with the people of that State who have returned their Government to office ever since 1941.
Why does not the Minister and his Government do something about the housing under its direct control? The Commonwealth Government has the exclusive control of war service housing, but in that field alone there is a lag of 20,000 homes. The Estimates which we are discussing disclose no plan for overtaking that lag. In addition to that, in the Northern Territory the Government does not provide one home for civilians! As the authority responsible for the administration of that Territory, it should do so. The Government - the Commonwealth Administration - has a shabby and damning record in housing, and honorable members opposite should hang their heads in shame when they criticize administrations like the New South Wales Labour Government and others which have given to the people by the thousands homes which would never have been available had this Government had the exclusive right to put up homes and had left the task to private enterprise.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) a few moments ago said that there are to-day 120,000 sub-standard and condemned houses in Australia. The war has been over now for thirteen years. The lag in housing should be completely cleaned up, and I say quite truthfully that had it not been for the plans laid by a Labour administration for war service homes, which came to fruition in 1952-53, and those which the States put into effect at the instigation of the Chifley Labour Government, the position of housing in this country today would be much more tragic than people could imagine. This Government, in the field of development and housing, has a record of incapacity and incompetence unequalled by that of any government at any time in the history of this Commonwealth. When the honorable member for Macarthur says that housing is bad in New South Wales, and that the New South Wales Government has wasted its money, all I say is that I shall rest on the judgment of the electors in that respect. That Government for many reasons has not been able to build all the homes that were required, but the full responsibility lies at the door of this Government, which has refused to supply sufficient money to the State Government for that purpose. Apparently this Government has plenty of money to squander on defence projects like St. Mary’s and others, and for all kinds of waste, but has insufficient money to give to the State governments to provide homes and to carry out development for the people, and so take up the slack in unemployment.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) also spoke on this matter a few moments ago. He said that the New South Wales Government is squandering money, and that instead of providing employment by building homes, it is legislating for three weeks’ annual leave and equal pay for the sexes - things which, he says, benefit some people but which, at the same time, put others out of work. The Country party and the Liberal party governments have never been progressive; they are stayasyouwere or go-back governments. When the New South Wales Labour Government brought in the 40-hour week, the members of those parties said that development would cease and industry would go bankrupt. I do not know how they arrived at that conclusion, because General Motors-Holden’s Limited make a profit of £9,000,000 a year, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited i9 stacking away a few million pounds in excess of that amount. Industry throughout the land has prospered since the introduction of the 40-hour week.
I make the point that reforms are never accepted by Liberal-Country party governments, and the workers would still be working a 64-hour week at wages well below the cost of living, if it had been left to members like the honorable member for Hume and others to bring in worthwhile reforms. The honorable member blamed Labour governments for unemployment. If there were not Labour governments for him to blame for this Government’s shortcomings, he would be dumb, for the simple reason that he would have nothing else to talk about. One would think from his remarks that there is unemployment only in New South Wales, which has a Labour government. The good-looking, well-dressed Minister for Labour and National Service was good enough to provide me with some figures a short time ago in reply to a question I asked him about unemployment throughout Australia. He stated that at 1st August there were 65,913 people registered for unemployment benefit in the various employment offices of the Commonwealth. In case honorable members think that all the unemployed persons are in New South Wales, let me say that in Victoria, under a Liberal government, 16,285 people are looking for jobs. In Queensland, under a Liberal-Country party government, there are 9,422 people looking for work. In South Australia, under the Playford Government, there are 5,280 persons unemployed. There are 31,000 people to-day in States of Australia under Liberal governments walking the streets looking for work because this Government will not make finance available to the States in order to take up this slack. For the honorable member for Hume and others to tell us that unemployment exists only in the Labour-governed States is completely misleading. Such statements completely belie the fact that there is unemployment in the country to-day because this Government has not given sufficient money to the States. At a time when we should be talking of development and expansion, when work should be going on everywhere, when every man able and willing to work should have a job, there are 65,000 people seeking work! The Government says that it has the matter under review; that it is looking at the matter regularly. I remind the Minister that the people who were to be put in the gas chambers during the war were constantly under review and they were looked at regularly. It is small satisfaction to the people who are unemployed because of this Government’s lack of policy on this important subject to know that the Government is just keeping them under review. I, like other members on this side, think the number of unemployed persons is closer to 100,000. I think the Minister’s figures are inaccurate. According to the figures the Minister gave me, 1.058 unemployed persons were registered at Newtown, in my own electorate, at 1st August.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In the few minutes at my disposal, I want to summarize some of the points that I made prior to the suspension of the sitting. Honorable members may remember that, in reply to the honorable member for Macarthur, I had said that his criticism of the New South Wales Labour Government for its housing record was completely unjustified. I do not intend to go over that again, other than to say that whole suburbs have been established by that government from funds provided through the housing scheme. Homes have been provided for people who would never have been housed had it been left to those who support this Government to do so.
The only contribution that the Liberal party in New South Wales has made to solving the housing problem has been to appoint a brains trust, if such it can be called, and send it on an expedition into every gaol in the State to see how better housing might be provided for the inmates. The Liberal contribution to housing the aged, the disabled and the sick in New South Wales has been to try to give every criminal in gaol an innerspring mattress and chicken for breakfast, dinner and tea. It has forgotten all about the people outside the gaols who require homes. Therefore, when the supporters of the Liberal party talk about housing, they should have a look at their own shop window and put their own house in order. They should realize their shortcomings instead of criticizing a government that has done much to house the people of New South Wales. There is plenty for this Government to do in the field of housing. For instance, there is wide scope for action under the War Service Homes Act. To-day, there are 20,000 applicants waiting for war service homes. Although that act is administered entirely by this Government, it does nothing to reduce that waiting period.
At a time when this country could be prosperous and development should be at its maximum pitch, we find that more than 63,000 people are officially registered as unemployed. That figure, of course, is not an accurate one. The true figure, as I stated earlier, would be well over 100,000. This Government has refused to give to the States the money that is necessary to provide developmental work whereby this slack in employment might be taken up. It is idle to say that unemployment occurs only in Labour-controlled States. The figures that I have already quoted show that about 31,000, or approximately half the total number, of unemployed live in States which are administered by Liberal governments. The real reason for the unemployment is the financial policy of this Government. People are unable to obtain work because insufficient money is available. Why should not money be given to the New South Wales Government and other State governments for schools and hospitals, for administrative purposes, and for works that are so necessary, not only for the development of the States, but also in order that the slack in employment might be taken up?
The Minister for Labour and National Service, who is at the table, might well answer this question: What else does he do except review the employment situation from time to time? He might say what contribution he personally is making towards placing in employment even a few of those 63,000 people who to-day are officially registered as unemployed, who are able and willing to work but who are unable to obtain employment under this Government. In addition, as honorable members know, the Government is bringing to Australia a number of migrants whom it immediately places on the unemployed list. That is scandalous in the extreme. It is unfair both to the migrants and to this country, and it is unjust to every one concerned.
This Government deserves to be condemned for its lack of developmental plans. If there had not been a Chifley Labour Government there would have been no schemes for development worth mentioning. If there had not been a Labour government to plan, there would have been few telephones and few war service homes. In addition, there would have been thousands more unemployed to-day. This Government gives lip service to the policy of full employment, but it does not believe in that policy. The Government wants economic conscription. It wants to see men and women waiting outside the factory gates, so that there may be greater profits for those who support it, and economic pressure on those who do not. The Government deserves to be condemned if for no other reason than the unemployment it has caused by its policies. On 22nd November next, I think that the people of Australia will exact retribution from a government which has betrayed the fundamental principle of democratic government - the provision of employment for the people.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is always an entertaining speaker, and to-night he has lived up to his usual good form, but unfortunately for the honorable member, we on this side of the Parliament no longer take him very seriously. There was a time when we thought he had a good deal of promise. The hand of the late Ben Chifley had been placed on his shoulder and he was marked out as one of the coming men in the Labour party. But he saw only too clearly - and I pay this tribute to his shrewdness - the coming division inside the Labour movement. There were some not so shrewd, but a little more outspoken, who used to sit on the opposite side of the chamber.
The seven federal members from the State of Victoria who did not see eye to eye with the left wing trend in the Labour party led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were a little more outspoken than the honorable member for Grayndler. They said what they thought and they paid the penalty for their thoughts by expulsion from the Labour party and subsequent defeat by Labour candidates at the polls. That was one of the first signs of serious division inside the Labour movement. Since then, the honorable member for Grayndler has gone into an intellectual and political deep freeze. I hope that he stays in that condition for some time, because whatever differences we might have with his politics, we like the honorable member and hope that he will be able to survive the difficulties which are ahead of him.
There have been some useful, serious and constructive speeches in the course of the discussion so far on this group of the Estimates. Some of the items which have been discussed will, as I have previously undertaken, be considered in more detail by the Ministers who are directly concerned, but there are three particular matters to which I want to direct my attention to-night, without taking up too much of the time of the committee, two of them having come forward from the Opposition side of the chamber and one from the Government side.
First, Sir, I shall deal with the opening remarks of the first spokesman for the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). He is an earnest seeker after the truth, and we have learned to respect him and his sincerity. He put forward the point that this Government could provide more adequate statistics on the employment situation. In the course of making that suggestion he referred to the employment situation generally and1 used some rather extravagant language, to which 1 shall refer in a moment. I can well understand the desire of the honorable member for more detailed information. That also has been my desire, but I want to remind the committee that it was not until this Government came to office that such statistics were made available to the public in the regular way that this Government has done so.
– What rot!
– The honorable member for East Sydney says, “ What rot! “ He was a former Minister for Labour. During the time that he was Minister for Labour there was no monthly publication of statistics.
– There were no unemployed then.
– Need I remind him of the coal strike of 1949? Need I remind him of the statement by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that 5 per cent, unemployment could be regarded as the happy minimum in a normal period? Mr. Chairman, the fact is that it was during my own administration, from March, 1952. onwards, that we began to supply regularly to the Parliament and the public figures which would indicate to them the trends of the employment situation.
I know that it is pleasant for honorable gentlemen opposite to charge this Government with trying to create a pool of unemployed. The fact of the matter is that since we took office in 1949 we have had a record with regard to employment that is unparalleled and unsurpassed in any part of the free world. Mr. Chairman. And honorable gentlemen opposite know it. Would it have been the mark of a government that wanted to create a pool of unemployed to set about deliberately giving the public, month by month, details of the number of people registered for work, details of the employment vacancies available, and details of the number of people on unemployment benefit each month? That has been done by this Government.
Why, Mr. Chairman, these honorable gentlemen opposite who speak of their high regard for the workers of this country know that when Labour was in office years ago it did not even have a Labour department! It was left to the first Menzies Government to create the first Department of Labour and National Service in the history of our federation.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that unemployment was increasing and that unemployment of a serious and cumulative kind was occurring in Australia at the present time. Honorable gentlemen opposite have a certain political vested interest in unemployment. They rub their hands as they look at the figures which show that the position is worsening, and they fling up their hands in despair when, unfortunately for them, the trend goes the other way. And, during most of the time that we have been in office, the trend has been for unemployment to decrease. I have been the first to admit publicly, Sir, that over the last year or so unemployment has been at a level that we would not wish to see in this country.
– What has the Government been doing about it?
– We have been doing plenty about it. I remind the honorable gentleman that we have been steering the destinies of this country through one of the most difficult economic periods in its history. Over the last twelve months or so, we have been guiding Australia through a period comparable with the early 1930’s when Labour was in office, and when 32 per cent, of the registered trade unionists of this country were out of work. In that period, with Labour in office, unemployment suddenly jumped from 10 per cent, to 30 per cent, of the registered trade unionists. We have had to grapple with that difficult situation. Sir, and. although T do not claim satisfaction with unemployment at the level at which it has been. I say. not without some justifiable pride, that this difficult situation has been managed in a manner that has not been surpassed in any other country, and that the trend is moving’ the right way.
This cumulative unemployment which the prospective Treasurer in the Labour ranks, which provide the alternative government, has mentioned, is gainsaid not only by the figures that I was able to give to honorable members during the Budget debate but also by the figures which I now have as at the end of August. I shall give them in more detail in the normal way when we release our regular monthly survey report on Monday of next week. This, remember, is in what is normally not a very lively period of the year, because we have hardly yet emerged from the winter. These figures reveal, Mr. Chairman, that the number of applicants for employment dropped in August by 2,938 to the present figure of 62,975. In that month, in which registrations fell by the figure that I have given, vacancies for employment increased by 1,829, and the number of persons on unemployment benefit fell by 1,630. In the last week of which I have a record, the number on unemployment benefit declined by 1,015, and that fall has been reflected in every State.
So I am afraid that we have to disappoint honorable gentlemen opposite. About the last card that they had in the pack was their hope that unemployment would mount so rapidly in the middle of this year that they would be able to sail into office on the cry that another depression was on hand, although, as I remind them, in the real depression which developed during a period when Labour was unable to manage the affairs of this country, not 2 per cent., but up to 32 per cent., of the registered trade unionists of this country could not find employment.
The second matter that I turn to now, Sir, is that of housing. I refer in particular to the remarks made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) - the brash and egregious honorable member for Yarra! He chose to be critical, in a rather intelligentsia way, of honorable members on this side of the chamber. He affects to find me garrulous and platitudinous. I find him a very interesting subject for analysis myself. He has not been here very long, but that has not deterred him from attempting to constitute himself an authority on every subject before the Chair. There was a doctor in this place on the Labour side, but, flushed with his recent academic honours and knowing that the other doctor was not as popular with his supporters as he might be, he hoped that by talking often enough and volubly enough he would take a short, quick leap from the back bench to the front bench on the Opposition side of the chamber. I am afraid that, representing Yarra, he has felt it incumbent on him to behave in this Parliament like the babbling brook. But, Sir, the results have not been quite as effective as he hoped.
The honorable member chose to be critical about the Government’s housing programme. As long as there is a family wanting a house, and unhoused, none of us can be complacent about the housing programme in this country. But at least, when we are attacked by honorable gentlemen opposite in political terms, it is fair to analyse what we have done and what they have done. As long as there are families wanting homes of their own - and there are undoubtedly some thousands of them at the present time - we must go on with our efforts and make the best provision that we can for them. But, on the facts, Sir, the Australian nation is unquestionably one of the best-housed nations in the civilized world, if not the best housed - and I make that statement advisedly.
An examination of the statistics relative to the last two censuses will indicate the improvement that has been taking place. At the census of 1954 there was a house for every 3.55 persons in Australia - and let us assume, for the purposes of this analysis that we can have .55 of a person. That, I repeat, Sir, is indicative of one of the best housing standards, in terms of rooms and houses available for individuals, to be found anywhere in the world, including the United States of America and the Scandinavian countries. That figure in 1954, Mr. Chairman, showed quite a marked improvement over the figure at the census of 1947, when there was one house to every 3.75 persons. So, over a period in which this Government was in office most of the time, and at a time when migrants were streaming into this country in tens of thousands, the percentage of occupancy improved in favour of the Australian population. In another sense, the situation has improved further.
Those honorable members who have visited other parts of the world will know that, in most of Western Europe, the people are housed, not in the single housing units that we regard as part of the Australian way of life, but in apartment houses. jammed one against the other. In this country, Mr. Chairman, not only are there houses providing the occupancy ratio that I have just mentioned, but between the census of 1947 and that of 1954 there was a dramatic improvement in the proportion of the people who either owned their own homes or were in the process of buying them. The 1947 census showed that 54.8 per cent, of the occupants of homes in Australia either owned their homes or were in the process of buying them. In 1954, 64.9 per cent, of the occupants of homes - a very remarkable increase - either owned their homes or were in the process of buying them on an instalment payment basis. That was four years ago, and undoubtedly the figures have improved since then, both in relation to room occupancy and to the proportion of those owning their homes. I would take a lot of convincing - there are no published statistics which would contend to the contrary in any of the United Nations publications, so far as I am aware - that any country in the civilized free world is in a better position than is Australia in respect of housing.
Let us look at the provision this Government has made compared with that made by our critics opposite when they were in office. In the last complete year of Labour’s term - the financial year which ended on 30th June, 1949 - the Labour Government provided £14,492,000 for the States for housing. In this current year we are providing £35,810,000 for the States for the same purpose. But that is only part of the story! The Commonwealth finances the building and purchase of war service homes by ex-servicemen. In the period of about 31 years from the end of World War I. in 1918 to 1949- which included the last period of office of a Labour government - a total of 55,541 war service homes were built. In the nine years we have been in office a total of 111,639 war service homes have been provided under the scheme, which is about double in nine years the number provided in the previous 31 years.
I could go on at great length pointing to the reduction of the war-caused housing lag which has occurred during our term of office. I could point to the fact that this reduction has taken place despite a great influx of immigrants; but I think that I have said enough to show that, whatever may remain to be done, a very remarkable job has already been done. That job has been done not only by this Government, because we have merely provided the sinews in the form of finance, but also by the men and women working in the building and associated industries who have produced a housing record of which we, as Australians, may be justifiably proud.
The third matter is the very important topic raised by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). He produced to the committee figures showing the abnormally high incidence of industrial trouble in the coal-mining industry and on the waterfront. He went on to demonstrate that both of the major trade unions connected with these industries are under Communist control. I think that the truth of his statement will not be denied by any member of this Parliament. He went on to say that the Communists are able to retain their control of those unions because of the unity ticket technique which is now rampant in various unions and various sections of the industrial movement.
I want to take that story just a stage further, and bring it up to date, because the honorable gentleman was quoting from a document published by the Department of Labour and National Service which carried the figures up to, I think, the end of 1957. I should now like to give the committee the latest position as at the end of July this year - and this year, I am glad to say, has been comparatively quiet so far as industrial trouble generally is concerned. Last year, we lost fewer working days through strikes than were lost in any year since 1942. The loss in terms of each working man amounted to less than onetenth of 1 per cent, of working time. The performance in the first six months of this year has been very good. Working time lost in that period has been rather less than that lost in the corresponding period last year, and I sincerely hope that that trend will continue.
The significant thing shown by an analysis of the figures is that, of 304,900 working days lost through industrial disputes in the first six months of this year, no fewer than 223,000, or 73 per cent., were lost in those two sections of industry - the coal-mining and stevedoring fields. Yet employees in those two sections of industry constitute less than 2 per cent, of the total work force of the nation. Let me put that point again in another way: Less than 2 per cent, of the total of Australia’s work force was responsible for more than 70 per cent, of the working time lost through industrial disputes in the first six months of this year. Both of the trade unions concerned are under strong Communist control.
In passing, let me point out that it is a tragic irony that the coal industry, which is in such a difficult plight in New South Wales at this time, and about which honorable members on both sides of the Parliament have been expressing their concern, has been responsible for more than 40 per cent, of the total working time lost in that period of six months, although its workers constitute only 1 per cent, of the total work force of the nation.
– But you have more coal production than you want.
– We have had a great deal of mechanization. The honorable gentleman is trying to drag a little red herring across the trail. If the honorable gentleman will analyse the Joint Coal Board’s figures for coal production, and separate the figures for coal produced manually from those for coal produced mechanically, he will find that, whereas the overall output per man-hour has increased very appreciably the output of coal produced manually has hardly moved.
– Who said that?
– The Joint Coal Board, the representative body set up by the Labour Government of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government under complementary legislation. That is the authority which is the source of what I am now telling the committee. It says that the output, per man-shift, of coal produced manually has hardly moved, whereas the output of coal produced by mechanization has been increased very considerably. And it is mechanization which will be the salvation of this industry.
The real point I want to establish - and this supports what was put forward by the honorable member for Mitchell - is that we have two of our most important industrial unions, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and the miners’ federation, under Communist control. Together, these two trade unions embrace less than 2 per cent, of the work force, but their members are responsible for more than 70 per cent, of the working time lost through industrial trouble, and so are responsible for a great deal of industrial dislocation arising from interruptions to the supply of key products.
An interruption in the supply of coal is not these days so vital because, partly as a contribution to sustain employment in the coal industry, this Government has helped to finance the aggregation of a stockpile of coal of more than 2,000,000 tons, so we have some guarantee of continuity of coal supplies. But the position is different on the waterfront. If shipping can be held up for a day, that is a loss to the economy of this country that can never be recovered. It is for that very reason, of course, that the Communists have made the waterfront industry one of the most critical targets for their attack. It is because the industry is so crucial to the Australian economy that they have there this concentration of activity and strength. The lesson to be drawn from this fact is that the Communists could not survive in charge of these key unions if members of the Australian Labour party inside those unions voted, not for Communist candidates, but for either Australian Labour party candidates or some anti-Communist candidate who presented himself to them.
We all know that when the Communists submit themselves at an ordinary political election, almost invariably they lose their deposits. They cannot muster more than a small proportion of the votes that are cast at any such election in this country. But, because at industrial elections they are able to attract to themselves not merely Communist support, but also the support of many thousands of people who, at political elections, go along to the polling booth and cast a vote for an Australian Labour party candidate, they are able to remain in office. If honorable gentlemen opposite, instead of attacking this Government, were to attack the real enemies of this country and root them out of these key unions, that situation would not exist. It has become one of Australia’s political tragedies that, instead of doing that, these honorable gentlemen themselves are so split that the Communists are able to sweep on from success to success.
Quite recently we tried to pin honorable members opposite on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), having been pushed into a corner, did a complete somersault on what he told us in April this year when he said that these matters were entirely for the unions themselves to resolve. Now he says quite firmly that no A.L.P. man can associate with a member of the Communist party. The federal executive of the A.L.P. tells us precisely the same thing.
– You have lost your election issue. That is all you are worrying about.
– The honorable member will be surprised. We are not trying to magnify this into an election issue. It is you people who are making it an election issue. You could destroy it as an election issue to-morrow if the instruction of the federal executive was carried out to the letter in every A.L.P. branch in the country. It would be dead and buried, and everybody would be glad to see it dead and buried. But, of course, that is not your performance. The federal executive of the A.L.P. lays down this great ukase and the Leader of the Opposition finally stiffens himself and declares himself as being for it.
What has happened? We find that in the mighty industrial State of New South Wales the great weight of the machine was used and a couple of members of the Waterside Workers Federation were expelled. A couple of years ago another man was expelled, but he was smartly re-admitted. How soon after the next election will these two expelled members of the Waterside Workers Federation be re-admitted? We hear nothing about that. How far is this to proceed? I suggest that it will not proceed very far for the very good reason that, although the federal executive and the Leader of the Opposition may say these things, the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) and the Victorian division of the A.L.P. do not say them. I have in my hand an official article from the Victorian division of the A.L.P. in which that division adopts wholeheartedly and without reservation the policy put forward by the honorable member for Darebin.
– What does it say?
– They say that it is a fundamental element of our democracy that people should be free to associate one with the other inside their unions. The honorable member for East Sydney agrees with that.
– I am not agreeing with anything.
– The article to which I refer bears the caption “ Labour speaks “. It was written by their official spokesman, and it appeared in an issue of the Melbourne “ Herald “ last week.
– Read it out.
Order! Honorable members must allow the Minister to make his speech in his own way.
– Read it out.
– Order! If the honorable member for Stirling disobeys the Chair again, I shall name him without further notice. He must obey the Chair when he is asked to do so.
– It is not necessary for me to read out the whole article because, fortunately for honorable gentlemen opposite, it is much more conveniently available to them in the “ Hansard “ report of the speech of their colleague, the member for Darebin. The Victorian division adopts his speech. The article in question quotes the following passage in the speech of the honorable member for Darebin -
It is through this freedom that we enjoy parliamentary democracy, freedom of religious observance and freedom to join in the very many social activities that we as individuals prefer.
The article continues -
And he made the viewpoint of the trade union movement Quite clear when he said - “ It is on this fundamental freedom of association for lawful purposes that the whole of the trade union movement rests”.
– What is wrong with that?
– You agree with that, do you? If you agree with that, you do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition, because he has said that any A.L.P. man who associates with a Communist on an industrial ticket in a trade union election commits an offence against the rules of the A.L.P. and should be expelled.
– There is nothing about tickets in what you read out.
– I did read about tickets.
– You did not.
– Read it again.
– The article treads -
But this Liberal talk about “ unity tickets “ is more than a cheap election stunt.
– That is the first time you have mentioned it.
– The article continues -
It is an attack on a fundamental principle of British democracy - the right of the individual to associate with anyone of his choice.
– Who said that?
– They said that in this article.
– Who said it?
– In other words, they maintain the position–
– Who is the “ they “?
– The official spokesman for the Australian Labour party in Victoria.
– There is no official spokesman
– Order! The committee must come to order and allow the Minister to speak without interruption.
- Mr. Chairman, I know they will try to confuse this matter. They are so hopelessly divided on it themselves that they cannot tolerate it.
– I rise to a point of order. What part of the Estimates is the Minister dealing with? Is he in order in referring to a previous debate in this chamber?
– Order! A similar point of order was taken earlier in the day. I ruled then that such a course was in order.
– I do not want to dwell on the matter. I know how painful it is to honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Who is the spokesman?
– Who is the spokesman as between yourself and the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin)? We understand that you and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith do not see eye to eye on this matter. Do you and the honorable member for Darebin see eye to eye on it? Where does the honorable mem ber for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) stand? Is he with the federal executive or is he with the Victorian division of the Australian Labour party on the issue of unity tickets?
I come back to the point I was trying to make a little earlier. I have used this illustration, Mr. Chairman, to establish the point. The fact is that throughout Australia communism, which earlier received severe setbacks, largely as a result of the work inside the unions of the industrial groupers, has now been able to establish itself more firmly in the industrial life of this country. It is able to do so because honorable gentlemen opposite are not merely expelling members of the industrial groups. While the Victorian division of the A.L.P. was talking about the right of a person to associate with anybody else as being a fundamental element in democracy, a certain Mr. O’Toole, a member of the A.L.P. who associated with some industrial groupers in a recent election in New South Wales, was very smartly expelled.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member knows that it is true.
– He was expelled because he did not respond to a charge that was made against him.
– I do not accept the honorable member’s version, but let us put it at the highest point to which he can take it. He says, “We did not expel him; we merely charged him “.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– There was no question about his right to associate freely with anybody that he wanted to.
– He was put out for not responding to a charge that was made against him.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is out of order. He has not the floor at the moment.
-I say, Mr. Chairman, that industrial trouble and disruption are greater than they need be in Australia because of the influence of Communist control. I say that Communist control has been permitted to grow because those who were fighting communism inside the trade union movement have either been expelled from the A.L.P. or have to spend so much of their time in fighting their former allies inside the Labour party that their efforts are nullified.
We have had the most recent expression of the current philosophy of honorable gentlemen opposite from the newly appointed senator from New South Wales when he offered us the counsel of despair. He said, in effect, “ Look! If we did not associate with the Communists, they would take over the show completely, so let us associate with them and at least go along for the ride.” That is not good enough for the people of Australia. It is because the people see a Labour party so. reft and torn on so many fundamental issues affecting the country at this stage of its history that they will refuse to turn to the Australian Labour party as an alternative government when they are given the opportunity later this year.
.- I have listened to many speeches by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in this chamber, and I must say that the speech that we have heard from him to-night is the most extraordinary I have heard fall from his lips. He endeavoured, in the first place, to give an answer to the very grave charge of growing unemployment as a consequence of government policy. Then, so that the weak case he put up on that point might not be remembered by the people, he made an attack on the Australian Labour party.
I want to say simply to the Minister and to every supporter of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party that we members of the Australian Labour party will look after our own affairs, and you can mind your own business. We will leave you to look after the affairs of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party. Whatever our viewpoint might be on the questions that have been raised by the Minister for Labour and National Service to-night, we will prove our case to the people in the election campaign. We are not going to be deprived of our right to attack the Government for bad administration and bad government, or be distracted by red herrings such as the Minister has drawn across the trail to-night.
I was late entering the chamber to-night, and the first statement I heard the Minister make was that in the days of the Curtin
Government and the Chifley Government, the Labour administration was so backward and so unmindful of the affairs of the great working masses of Australia that we did not have a Department of Labour and National Service. All I can say is that the Minister’s memory was at fault, or he must have been over-excited and, as a consequence, forgot the history of the department he administers; because I can recollect in the days of both John Curtin and Ben Chifley when my colleague who is sitting on my left, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Labour. He was followed in that office by Mr. Holloway. I remember that Dr. Wilson - now Sir Roland Wilson and Secretary of the Treasury - was appointed Secretary of the Department of Labour. Another well-known public servant, the late Mr. R. J. Murphy, was appointed his Assistant Secretary and left that department to become Secretary of the Department of Transport when the honorable member for East Sydney became the Minister for Transport.
The Minister who is now sitting at the table made another statement to-night which he has repeated on more than one occasion, and the more it is exposed, the better it will be for the people. The right honorable gentleman said that, during the regime of the Labour Government in 1929-1931, unemployment in Australia rose to 30 per cent, of registered trade unionists. There again the Minister was wrong. It is true that on 30th June, 1932, unemployment had reached a startling level of 30 per cent, of trade unionists, but that was in the lifetime of the Lyons Liberal Government and not in the lifetime of the Labour government.
So that the unemployment position at that time might be properly understood by this committee and by the people of Australia, I shall give the quarterly unemployment figures for that period. I do not wish to go into the whole economic history of the depression. It was very bad from the stand-point of Australia and every other country in the world, because every country was engulfed by it. When the Bruce-Page Government was defeated in 1929, unemployment in Australia had grown from an average of about 6 per cent, in 1925 to, roughly, 12 per cent, of trade unionists in 1929. These are the figures for the quarters of the last year of the Scullin Government and the first year of the Lyons Govern ment -
The Lyons Government was elected to office in December, 1931, and unemployment figures in -the subsequent quarters were -
To complete the picture and inform the people of Australia how badly the situation continued to be under the Lyons Government, I shall cite figures which were liberated as a consequence of the census of 1933. The Lyons Government was elected in 1931 on the promise that it would rid Australia of unemployment. Eighteen months later, the number of unemployed males as shown by the census was no less than 405,400 males and unemployed females totalled 75,800, a total of 481,200. The Statistician who released these figures added this very significant comment -
In addition, there were considerable numbers of youths and young women of working age who had never been employed and who were not at work at the time of the census.
This indicated that the Liberal government of that time had been unable to find work for boys and girls who had left school. The total unemployment in the Lyons Government’s short period of office had risen by June, 1933, to close on 500,000 persons. The Government of to-day, which is similar in character to the Lyons Government and is faced with growing unemployment in Australia at present, charges the Australian Labour party with having been guilty of allowing unemployment in the past, but its own record, when it had the press and the community behind it, was worse than that of any Labour government in the history of Australia.
Let us look at the unemployment situation to-day. This is the problem which is gravely disturbing the people of Australia. Above all else, the people want security of employment and security in life for themselves and their families. Since 1941, except for a brief period in 1952-53, the Australian people have had full employment and security, and even a small measure of unemployment to-day is regarded as something exceedingly serious. When the number of persons registered for work runs into 70,000, as it did last December, and when, on the figures given by the Minister, 62,000 men and women are looking for employment to-day, seeking work at factory doors, with no guarantee that things will be better in the future, one can understand why people throughout the Commonwealth are becoming more and more disturbed at the trend of events.
A statement of the number of persons at present unemployed does not fully answer the question. Other things give us an indication of the trends that are operating in this country. The first matter I bring under the notice of the committee is that, in the past, when unemployment has fallen the number of vacant jobs in industry has risen largely. The more unemployment figures fell, the greater became the number of vacancies. But the reverse is taking place now. The unemployment figures are falling- from 70,000. down to 65,000 and. again down to 62,000 - but the number of vacancies is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. Therefore, industry now could not give employment to all of those who are unemployed, whereas in the past, no matter what was the number of unemployed persons, the demands from industry were always for more persons than were unemployed. So when one sees the number of vacant jobs falling, with unemployment at the 60,000 or 70,000 mark, one says that there is something wrong with the economy of Australia.
One then examines the position in relation to the total number of persons employed as salary and wage earners. The figures that are available show an alarming trend in respect of the absorption of men and women by Australian industry. It is not my intention to weary the committee by reciting all of the figures that I have, but they indicate that after the conclusion of World. War II. in 1945 there was a steady and persistent increase in the total number of persons employed as wage and salary earners in Australia. Industry was constantly growing, and in some years the number of persons taken into industry increased astonishingly.
I shall just give one or two illustrations. In the year 1947 the number of salary and wage earners increased by 167,000. In 1950 there was an increase of 110,000, and in 1954 an increase of 106,000. But during the last two or three years there has been a sharp decline in the progress of employment in Australian industries as a whole. For instance, in the year ended June, 1957, the work force of wage and salary earners in an increasing population increased by only 10,000, whereas some three years before it had increased by 106,000. One has to bear in mir.d that during that year about 60,000 additional persons were available for absorption in industry. At least 30,000 boys and girls were leaving school. In addition, of some 80,000 to 90,000 immigrants, at least 30,000 would be seeking work. Although the increase from those two sources alone was 60,000 - on conservative estimates - industry was able to absorb only some 10.000 persons.
The last figures that I have are for the twelve months ended May, 1958. They are taken from the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics” for May, 1958. I find that in that period of twelve months, the increase in the work force, instead of being in the 100,000’s, as it might well be in a population of nearly 10,000,000, was only 22,000. So one finds, first, that the number of wage and salary earners is not increasing in the same ratio or in the same proportion as in the past; and secondly, that industry is not requiring the same number of persons as it required previously.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was my intention to participate in this debate in order to talk about national development and water, but I cannot resist the opportunity to make a few glancing observations on the speech that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has just concluded. The honorable member has the characteristic of being convincing, but his performance this evening was most unconvincing. He failed, and failed in a singular fashion, to answer the devastating case presented by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) this evening.
Approximately four or five minutes after the Minister had said that the unemployment figures for last month showed a decline, the honorable member for Bendigospoke about growing unemployment. That is not an answer. The honorable member for Bendigo, commanding, as he undoubtedly does, a degree of intellectualhonesty, must admit that his charge thisevening that there is growing unemployment in Australia is completely false. The truth of the matter is this: The Labour party is a party that believes in unemployment. It is a party that believes in depression, in gloom and in despondency. I have styled it in this chamber before as a “ 3D “ party. Every time there is unemployment in the community the members of the Labour party try to cash in on the situation. The honorable member for East Sydney does not know whether to beat a drum or to go and play a piano.
I remind the committee, particularly the members who sit opposite, that if we were to take the yardstick presented to this Parliament some years ago by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) - the bold centurion from Parkes - that for all practical purposes 5 per cent, of unemployment could be regarded as full employment. 200,000 people could be out of work’ in Australia to-day and there still would be full employment. The fact is that the percentage of unemployment is below 2 per cent. I would ask the members of the Opposition: How many of them have ever gone out of their way to assist men to obtain work in the last twelve months? I suggest that they could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The honorable member for Bendigo, referring to the serious charge made by the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning unity tickets, turned and said quite casually, “ We will manage our own affairs “. In view of the unhappy events that have occurred in the Labour party in the last ten years, far be it from members of the Labour party to say that they can manage their own affairs. They could not run a bankrupt pie stall, and that is the truth. The honorable member for Bendigo presented what is in essence a valid argument. He asked what business it is of those who sit on the Government side to worry about unity tickets. Let me give an illustration for the consideration of every serious-minded honorable member, and that would remove to oblivion the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). Let me show how unity tickets can destroy democratic government. I refer to Czechoslovakia. In February, 1945, 75 per cent, of trade unionists in Czechoslovakia were anti-Communists. In June, 1945, by the unity ticket device, every trade union in Czechoslovakia was Communist-controlled. Then in October, 1948, the Communistcontrolled trade union movement led the coup against the Czechoslovakian Government. Czechoslovakia was reduced to the position of a servile state. That is the concern of honorable members on this side and of every thinking person in Australia.
A few weeks ago in this Parliament I proved, I thought at the time, to the satisfaction of every reasonable minded honorable member that in Queensland, in the Waterside Workers Federation election, there was a specific illustration of members of the Australian Labour party collaborating openly with members of the Communist party. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) with feigned innocence, said “ I do not know what the honorable member for Moreton was referring to “. I pointed out to the right honorable gentleman that the Queensland central executive of the Labour party, when asked by the Waterside Workers Federation delegate to the Queensland central executive what was the position regarding unity tickets, declared that for industrial purposes they were quite in order; that there was a ban only during political elections. That is the charge that remains heavily against every honorable member who sits on the opposite side of this Parliament. There is the charge - up till now it has been completely untouched - that remains against every member of the Labour party outside this parliament. The fact is that the people of Australia will judge the members of the Labour party, not on the hasty and hurried moves regarding unity tickets and what is said by their leader on this occasion, but on its actions. I am willing to wager that those Labour party members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane who collaborated with the Communist party on unity tickets will not be expelled from the Labour party. I have been told that the Leader of the Opposition is a little distressed because I raised the question of unity tickets in the Parliament, and that he will try to effect a form of reprisal against me by coming into my electorate and staging a sort of Nuremberg rally there. I shall be only too happy to arrange a rally for the Leader of the Opposition in my electorate. Every minute that he stays in the electorate will be worth 1,000 votes to me.
I turn from that somewhat controversial issue to an issue upon which I hope there will be agreement on both sides of the Parliament. I refer to water conservation and national development. I want to refer, very briefly, perforce, to a scheme propounded some years ago by the late Dr. J. J. C. Bradfield. It came to be known as the Bradfield scheme. It is some twenty years since Dr. Bradfield propounded his scheme. It is about twelve years since his proposal for water conservation on a massive scale in central Australia received anything in the nature of critical analysis. I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table, will convey to the Government my suggestion that the Bradfield concept - because it is a concept rather than a scheme - should be reappraised. The late Dr. Bradfield did not produce any detailed ideas regarding the workings of his concept, but many people in Australia to-day remain attracted in a very firm fashion to it.
I should like briefly to outline what the Bradfield concept amounted to. First of all, it laid down that the waste waters from coastal rivers should be diverted into the inland. That involved a host of northern Queensland rivers. Secondly, the Bradfield concept involved the damming of water in the Macdonnell and Musgrave ranges and in the Finke, Neale, Hamilton, and Todd rivers in central Australia. Thirdly, the Bradfield concept envisaged the construction of great dams on the rivers of the plains - for example, the Cooper at Kullymurra Gorge near Innamincka - and similar storage tanks on Strzelecki Creek and at Hunter’s Gorge on the Diamantina southwest of Winton. There have been many critics of Dr. Bradfield’s concept. I believe that it would be an eminently satisfactory expenditure of money, even to the extent of £100,000, to receive an up-to-date critical analysis and appraisement of the Bradfield concept. Years ago, when Mr.
O’Connor put forward his proposal for the construction of a pipeline from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie, many people said that it was completely impossible. One can go back, to the year 2205 B.C., when a Chinese engineer, referring to the Szechuan Plain, declared that if water could be got into that plain people could live and thrive there. To-day the Szechuan Plain supports 43,000,000 people. Then again one can go to the state of Bikaner in India, where 500,000 people are living alongside a concretelined canal constructed in the Thar Desert. If the Bradfield concept is practical, it would mean that 5,000,000 people could be brought to this country and could find a living in central Australia. At the moment, very few people live there.
The discussions that have taken place in this Parliament over the last few weeks indicate quite conclusively that water is the lubricant of Australia’s economy. When we are struck by a drought our dependence on water is manifested in more ways than one. I appeal to the Minister for the Army to ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to collaborate with the Queensland Government in an effort to secure an up-to-date appraisal of the Bradfield concept. If the concept is practical and we do nothing about it, it may well be that future generations of Australians will do something about it, and, as they labour, they will curse us for our indifference. They will irrigate and bring water to central Australia, but they will do it in a state of extreme slavery.
.- All honorable members will agree with the latter part of the speech just made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). That part of his speech was presumably directed to the Estimates for the Department of National Development. That department’s main function is the administration of the Snowy Mountains scheme, which illustrates the practicality of the Bradfield concept. It is typical of this Government that the only constructive things that it has done or maintained are those which were initiated by the government which preceded it, the Chifley Government. There is no doubt that if a Labour government had been returned to power at any time in the last eight years, something would have been done at least to investi gate, and probably to initiate, the Bradfield concept, to do for northern Queensland, the most exposed area of this continent, what has already been so largely and successfully done for the south-eastern corner of the continent by the Snowy Mountains scheme.
The first part of the honorable member’s speech dealt with the affairs of the Labour party. I am unable to find that item in the Estimates. I shall therefore go back to the first speech from the Government side of the committee this evening, that of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). He is the exponent of that very arid and futile line of argument favoured in Government circles. It has two features. First, it is regarded as debating to make remarks about preceding speakers. The Minister made such personal comments about the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who preceded him in this debate. The second line of approach which is espoused by the right honorable gentleman is that of going far enough back in history to justify the shortcomings of this Government by saying that there were preceding governments which were worse still. For instance, if one refers to unemployment, he says, “ Ah, but in 1949, at one time during the coal strike, there were almost as many people out of work, and for a couple of weeks there were more “. If that does not suffice, he goes back to the early 1930’s and gives still further catastrophic figures, trusting that people will forget that in those times Labour’s policy was frustrated by an irresponsible Commonwealth Bank Board, by a Liberal Senate, and by Liberal-minded State Premiers.
I must apologize now for having to be factual and statistical, and therefore dry, but let me deal with the first points to which the Minister referred - the employment situation in the country, the number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit, the number of people in employment and the number of industrial disputes. First, let us look at the number of people in employment in Australia at the end of the last three financial years, that is, the three financial years which have occurred since the last general election.
Here let me point out that I shall be quoting from figures which are available to any member of the general public, in publications of the Commonwealth Statistician. I do not propose to resort - I suppose I could not, in any case - to those clandestine figures which the Minister for Labour and National Service says he will be uncovering next Monday, together with his interpretation. I shall rely, as members of the public and of this Parliament have to do, on figures which are authenticated by the Statistician. Therefore, I quote from the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics “ for June, which arrived only last week. It shows that the number of males in private employment at the end of June, 1956, was 1,476,800, at the end of June, 1957, 1,475,200-1,600 fewer- and at the end of last June 1,472,100, or 3,100 fewer still.
It is not as if the Australian population is declining; it is not as if our work force is declining; in actual fact, the population of Australia goes up by over 200,000 a year, and of that number at least one-third are people who would normally be in employment if there was employment available.
I point out that at the end of each of the last three financial years the number of men in private employment has declined. There has been a very small increase in total employment in Australia. The total employment in Australia during those three years rose from 2,120,100 to 2,128,100, but that rise in employment was due entirely to the fact that there were more females in employment and there were more persons in employment in government services. But private employment in Australia is declining while the population is increasing!
Now let me refer to the number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit. Here I quote from the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ for June last, which we received the day before yesterday. It shows that at the end of June, 1956, there were, in the whole of Australia, 7,003 people in receipt of the unemployment benefit. It shows that at the end of June, 1957, that number had increased to 18.071 and that by the end of June last it had jumped to 29,418.
Dealing now with the question of industrial disputes, I do not go back to depression figures. I should think they are interesting as an historical exercise, but they do very little to show recent trends. I realize that this subject is arid in its turn, but since the Minister took up the time of the committee in dealing with it, let me scotch his argument forthwith. He pointed out that in 1949, the year of the coal strike, there were many people out of work. In that year, 1,333,990 working days were lost, and the amount lost in wages was £2,611,536. But in the following year, the first year of this Government’s term of office, when the right honorable gentleman held the relevant portfolio for the whole time, the number of working days lost rose to 2,062,888 - a rise of one half - and the amount lost in wages increased to £4,166,418, which was actually a greater rise than one half because inflation was already well under way.
This argument about the number of days lost through strikes is just a smoke screen to cover up the Government’s failure to tackle the problem which causes the greatest loss of working days and of wages in the community - industrial accidents. Five times as many days are lost, five times as much is lost in wages, and five times as much skill is wasted through industrial accidents as are lost through all the industrial disputes that occur from year to year.
This is not something that the Government can do nothing about. One has only to look at the appalling record of the Minister for Labour and National Service himself in the failure of his department to implement the International Labour Office conventions, of which over half still remain unratified, some of them of the early 1920’s vintage. One has only to look at his failure to co-ordinate industrial conditions in the States. The Liberal States of Victoria and South Australia are notoriously laggard in improving industrial conditions and modernizing industrial inspections and processes. The Minister appoints committees to deal with these problems, but we never see the reports, and we never see the results. Instead we have all this futile argument and talk about the number of days which are lost in the stevedoring and mining industries, the great industries in which mechanization could carry out the jobs which men should no longer be required to do.
These two industries provide excellent examples of how greatly this Government fails in its administration. It fails whenever mechanization takes over in a port, as in Mackay, and it fails whenever mechanization takes over in a coal mine, as at Cessnock. Whenever that happens, the Government is caught flat-footed. It makes no provision for the establishment of other industries in those areas where miners and wharf labourers have their homes, where their children are going to school and where they are integrated in community life. The Government makes no provision for housing in alternative places, such as the south coast of New South Wales, with mines, or new industrial areas in South Australia or the outskirts of Sydney or Melbourne. It makes no extra provision for more houses or schools to be put into those districts for the accommodation of men who are displaced from employment or, as the Government calls it, released from employment by mechanization or re-organization. It never foresees trouble; it never plans for trouble; and when trouble does occur, the Government does nothing to correct the position.
I come now to the next subject to which the Minister referred - housing. This subject was introduced this afternoon by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick). His speech showed very clearly how the most brilliant counsel can fail when he has not got a welldocumented and well-prepared brief. The honorable member for Parramatta went “back to the days before the war. I see, naturally of course, a smile on the face of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is sitting at the table. The honorable member for Parramatta looks back to the primitive stage in Australia before we had the profitable forms, the exploiting forms of investment which this Government has made available for local and foreign investors here, and when people who wanted a steady investment put their money into housing, knowing that they would have a continuing asset which would return them a steady income.
Nobody will invest in housing now because inflation has meant that one investing in housing has not a steady asset and “because, of course, this Government has made it possible for everybody to exploit industrial shares and particularly shares in credit companies with so very much more profit to themselves. You can conceal your profit when you are manufacturing something, but you cannot conceal your exploitation if you are increasing the rent every quarter in accordance with the inflation which has occurred in the previous quarter. On the subject of housing, we are always given this arid comparison of the various States. Dealing with the housing agreement of 1956, under which the State housing commissions and trusts operate, let me point out that in this financial year every State housing commission and every State housing trust will receive less money for the construction of houses - for sale or for rental - than in any previous year that this Government has been in office.
Under the 1945 housing agreement the States could get from this Parliament all the money which they could spend on housing commission or trust houses. The amounts needed were found immediately and the momentum was continually on the increase. But under this Government the amounts levelled out and now they are declining. This year, as the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) recently told us, £25,067,000 will be available for State housing commissions and trusts to build commission and trust dwellings. Last year £26,528,000 was available.
– What did the building societies get?
– They will get 30 per cent, this year, as against 20 per cent, last year. The building societies are getting less from non-governmental sources than at any time since the war. This diversion of housing commission funds to building societies is an attempt to cover up the failure of this Government to compel banks and insurance companies - as it can under the Constitution - to make money available to building societies or directly to homebuilders or home-purchasers, whether they be those who have come to this country or those who have always lived here. There is less money available now for housing commission dwellings than in any previous year.
This afternoon the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), in a very expansive fashion, said that South Australia had erected more housing commission dwellings than had New South Wales. He quoted no authority and he quoted no figures. There is no such authority and there are no such figures. I will refute his statements from a publication of the Department of National Development, whose estimates we are discussing. It gives the housing statistics up to 30th June this year.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) came close to making to the committee a statement of some validity.
– That would be unique.
– He came close to it, but he did not do so. He spoke of the time lost as the result of industrial accidents in Australia. That is a matter on which I wish to speak myself. Before giving to the committee some figures and facts - things which the honorable member for Werriwa was quite unable to give - let me point out that the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council was in the midst of an inquiry into industrial safety when the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions issued an instruction that the union delegates were to withdraw from that council. It is interesting to realize that shortly before the issue of the instruction to those men to withdraw, there were elected to the interstate executive four, or possibly five, known Communists. Those Communists were elected to the interstate executive as the result of a very fundamental change in the method of election and representation on the executive. The executive threw overboard the old idea of two delegates from each State and substituted for it the election of one delegate from each State and one from a group of industrial unions.
By creating that atmosphere, the executive facilitated the entry of Communists. Its first action afterwards was to instruct the union delegates to the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council to withdraw, at a time when very important matters were being considered by that council. The council had already issued very excellent reports on automation, on the employment of apprentices in industry and on other matters, and was carrying out an inquiry into industrial safety.
The honorable member for Werriwa has said that the amount of time lost as the result of industrial accidents in Australia is greater than that lost as the result of strikes. That is true. He suggested that the Liberal Government of Victoria has been very slothful in adopting reports. That is quite untrue. I have in my hand a report dated 14th July, 1958, signed bv three members of a committee - by Mr. V. H. Arnold, as chairman, and by Mr. A. J. Christophers and Mr. G. J. de Mestre, as members. The committee was specifically asked by the Attorney-General and the Chief Secretary of the Liberal Government of Victoria, Mr. Rylah, to investigate the most practical manner and means in or by which the State of Victoria might assist in reducing the accident rate in industry in Victoria. The situation has arisen that I am asking the Commonwealth Government, and particularly the Minister for Labour and National Service, to institute an alternative board of inquiry to try to find some way of cutting down the rate of industrial accidents. The report presented to the Governor of Victoria by command of the Victorian Attorney-General brings to light some most interesting facets of the loss to Australia caused by industrial accidents. It sets out for the various industries the estimated frequency rate of accidents, that is, the number of accidents, including diseases, per million man-hours. In the industry of primary production, the frequency rate is 66 accidents per million man-hours of work. The industry which has the highest rate is mining and quarrying, where the rate is 225 accidents per million man-hours of work. The rates for the various industries are given, showing an average of 102 accidents per million man-hours in Victoria. The financial loss occasioned by these accidents, of course, can be conjectured in the mind, but no figures can properly be given. The committee of inquiry pointed out -
It is difficult to form an assessment of the total cost to industry in Victoria because the Board hasbeen unable to obtain any evidence in this regard. Some authorities estimate that over all industry the total cost of accidents might be ashigh as five times the cost of compensation. If this basis were used a current figure approaching £S0 000.000 per annum would be obtained, having regard to the total premiums paid for workers’ compensation of £10,053,000 in 1956-57. Portion of the claims paid was, of course, in respect of diseases (including heart cases) and “journey” cases, but the latest information available shows that the remaining claims which represent what might be called “ preventable “ accidents comprise at least 75 per cent, of the total claims.
When these facts are made known, surely nobody can deny that it was an act of great irresponsibility on the part of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., and of the trade unions themselves, to leave this great vacuum at a time when there was an inquiry being made by a Commonwealth body - the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. It was an act of irresponsibility to leave that vacuum on any grounds whatever - and only the shallowest of grounds were suggested. The interstate executive said it could not take part in a policymaking decision of the government of the day. A whole variety of reasons was given, but the fact of the matter was that the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. had fallen under Communist influence. It was from there that the orders came to withdraw from the council. It was a shocking dereliction of responsibility. The report continues -
Evidence showed that the steps taken following the basic decision on safety usually follow a pattern and are often referred to as “ a safety programme “.
In a factory, a safety programme would probably involve: -
The appointment of a safety officer.
The establishment of records of accidents for statistical purposes.
The use of medical services.
The adoption of safeworking procedures in the factory.
Psychological action in the form of pro paganda.
Specific investigations were made to ascertain the results achieved, and in firm A, which had 94 accidents per 1,000,000 manhours in 1946, the figure for 1956 was 27; for 1957 it was nineteen, and for 1970 the target is one. That is an example of the way in which management can act in co-operation with union representatives in the matter of industrial safety. Yet men such as these, taking part, of their own volition, in safety committees, found that their alleged leaders, the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, had left a vacuum because they were not prepared to proceed further with the prevention of industrial accidents.
The committee has requested the State government to set up a board representative of employers, employees and officers of the State department concerned. I assume that, as the report was specifically called for, the relevant State Minister will follow the committee’s recommendations and appoint such a board. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to see whether he can continue the inquiries initiated by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council on safety in industry.
Frequent reference has been made to unemployment. It is, perhaps, necessary to remind some honorable members that this subject is not new. We saw the difficulty in which the Opposition found itself early this year when Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., announced in the press that Australia’s unemployment situation was not then serious. His announcement brought forth great criticism from Opposition members. They said that they did not share his view, that it would not be supported by any one else in the A.C.T.U. However, within a day or two Mr. Evans, the vicepresident of that body, publicly announced that in his opinion also the unemployment situation was not serious. His statement evoked further protests from the political side of the Australian Labour party. Honorable members opposite said, “ We do not believe what the A.C.T.U. says. The unemployment situation is indeed serious.”
As if to complete the triumvirate, Mr. Souter, the secretary of the council, then announced that he agreed with the opinions expressed by Mr. Monk and Mr. Evans, the president and vice-president respectively. There we have the three most senior men in the A.C.T.U., the industrial wing of the Australian Labour party saying, as early as the beginning of this year, that unemployment was not serious. There can be no doubt that the numbers receiving unemployment benefit have since continued to decline. If the position was not serious then, how can it be serious now, and by what sort of. mesmerism does the Opposition hope to convince the Australian people that it is telling the true story?
.- Obviously, the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) was not paying very much attention to what was said by my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). My colleague described the increase during the last twelve months in the number of persons registering with the Department of Labour and National Service, and in receipt of unemployment benefit. In one month only - September - did the figures decrease. The honorable member for Werriwa also pointed out that since June, 1957, the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit had increased by more than 12,000. I suggest at once to the honorable member for Bruce, who has devoted so little time to studying this subject, that the situation cannot be simply glossed over. Members of the Australian Labour party regard the unemployment position as most serious, and nothing has been said by Government supporters to indicate that they are willing to face that fact. As I said only a few nights ago, if there is one thing which we can expect from the Government in a crisis it is a display of absolute inertia. That has been .the Government’s attitude to unemployment also.
Turning now to the estimates of the Department of National Development, I should like to enlarge upon the remarks of the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) concerning the failure of this Government to undertake national projects. The honorable member pointed out that the Government had not, with the possible exception of the St. Mary’s filling factory, undertaken one major developmental programme in the last eight years.
I want to direct my remarks to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay in Tasmania, a matter to which I have referred previously. The needs of that industry have been completely ignored by this Government. Certainly, it was obliged to give effect to the original intentions of the previous Labour administration concerning the establishment of . that great industry. The initial legislation was discussed in this House as far back as 1941. Indeed, it was not until Labour assumed office that appropriate legislation was introduced. It was brought down by the then Minister for Supply and provided for the making of an agreement between the _ Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania concerning the establishment of the aluminium industry at Bell Bay.
In fairness to the Government, it has gone on with the programme outlined by the then Minister for Supply; but it has taken no action whatever to enlarge the scope of the industry. The legislation envisaged an annual production of approximately 12,000 tons of aluminium. It was expected that Australia’s annual requirements would, in the immediate post-war years, be approximately 6,000 tons. A perusal of the debates which took place on that occasion will show that even then, the present Prime Minister said that in his opinion only a raving lunatic would completely ignore the fact that in the post-war years there would be a substantial decline in the demand for aluminium. Despite the gloomy prediction of the Prime Minister on that occasion, the aluminium requirements of Australia to-day, instead of being 12,000 tons a year, which is the maximum production of .the industry at Bell Bay, are approximately 26,000 tons a year. Although recommendations have been made to the various Ministers for Supply in recent years, not only by me, but also by interested organizations outside this Parliament, the Government has refused to accept its responsibility and has declined to take action to double the production of aluminium at Bell Bay.
– Is that why they are out on strike to-day?
– If the honorable member for Braddon, who, to my knowledge, has not spoken in this House during the last six months, wishes to join in this debate, I am sure that the Minister will accord him the opportunity to do so after I have resumed my seat.
I believe that this Government has a responsibility, because of the importance of the industry at Bell Bay from the point of view of defence, to press ahead with the development of this vital industry. I have already pointed out that our requirements of aluminium are now, not 12,000 tons, but 26,000 tons a year, and to indicate the expansion that has taken place in the world demand for aluminium, I propose to refer to figures that have been made available in a recent publication dealing with minerals issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. In 1935, the world production of aluminium was only 250,000 tons. By 1956, production had increased to 3,250,000 tons, and it is. possible that by 1970, production will have increased to approximately 6,000,000 tons, or an estimated increase pf 75 per cent. between 1956 and 1970. Australia’s requirements in 1956 were 18,000 tons, and it is estimated that by 1965 they will be approximately 35,000 tons.
I believe that production at Bell Bay could be doubled at very little additional cost to this Government. It has been argued by honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth Government would be obliged to find the finance necessary for such increased production, but I point out to the committee that the Tasmanian Government has provided £1,500,000 as a direct contribution to the establishment of the project at Bell Bay. At the same time, we should also take into consideration the finance that has had to be made available by the Tasmanian Government as a direct contribution towards the supply of power and the provision of homes required by the employees of the commission at Bell Bay, in addition to the funds required to provide a first-class road between Launceston and Bell Bay. The Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission was required to expend £8,500,000 to provide the power for the industry. Therefore, I believe that it can be argued successfully that Tasmania has made more than a reasonable contribution to the establishment of the Bell Bay undertaking.
Production at Bell Bay must be increased. All that is required is for this Government to undertake the planning that is necessary. I suggest that such planning should be commenced immediately. There is no reason why we should wait until supplies of aluminium are required urgently. Even to-day, with the limited production of aluminium that we have in this country, we are expending valuable dollars in overseas countries to import aluminium. During 1957, the Aluminium Production Commission was obliged to sell some of the Bell Bay production overseas because a government department had issued licences to import aluminium from dollar sources. I believe that the problems involved could be overcome if this Government were prepared to adopt a more realistic attitude towards the industry at Bell Bay. After all, it is an essential defence project, and the Government should so regard it.
I have already pointed out that by 1965 the amount of aluminium required in Australia will be more than treble the present production. In view of the fact that there are now vast supplies of bauxite in Australia - I refer to the deposits at Weipa, where we have almost unlimited quantities - surely it is in the best interests of all concerned for the Government to press ahead with plans to extend the industry at Bell Bay. When the original legislation was introduced in this Parliament it was made perfectly clear that, although the maximum production of the plant at Bell Bay would be only 12,000 tons a year, if the demand exceeded that amount there was nothing to prevent the government of the day from increasing production as circumstances required. We have had three Ministers for Supply in control of this great industry, but not one of them has shown any real interest in it. As each Minister for Supply has been appointed, he has visited Bell Bay, assumed that the industry has reached maximum production, and there, so far as he and the Government have been concerned, the matter has ended. When a Tasmanian was appointed Minister for Supply I thought that at least some consideration would be given to the extension of the Bell Bay plant, but I must assume that he was only too pleased to hand responsibility for the matter to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who, during his term of office, has made one visit to Tasmania. Although he indicated in a press statement that he felt there should be some extension of the Bell Bay plant, since then he has remained silent on this important subject.
In addition to the Government’s responsibility to increase the output at Bell Bay, it has a responsibility to provide for extrusion, as well as for sheet and foil aluminium production. If such production were possible, in conjunction with the production of aluminium ingot. all of Australia’s industrial requirements of aluminium could be met. With increasing industrialization, if the output of the Bell Bay works were increased, it might be possible to attract additional industries to the area.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
Proposed Vote, £1,940,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– Mr. Chairman, as we are discussing the associated defence departments, it is my intention to outline briefly to the committee the policy, the programme and the achievements of the Government in the defence field. The fundamental objective of Australian defence policy is to ensure the security of Australian territory and waters. Interpreted in its widest sense this involves making friends of like-minded countries for our mutual support. It also requires us to combat policies that endanger our security. Broadly speaking, Australia can at present claim an almost complete identity of basic interests with the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and a wide identity of interests with our neighbour countries of South-East Asia. On the other hand, our ideals and our way of life are fundamentally opposed to those obtaining in the countries of the Communist bloc.
In view of the collective arrangements made with our friends, the scope of Australian defence policy must be of necessity world-wide. Our security would be threatened by any blow at the United Kingdom, the United States or other countries in the defensive alliances that have been formed in the free world. Our security would likewise be jeopardized by any severe deterioration in the political situation in the countries of South-East Asia, more particularly if there should be any unexpected development of Communist power.
The nuclear stalemate between the Western powers and the Communist bloc continues to make global war unlikely as an act of deliberate policy, although the risk of a world conflagration willpersist so long as the arms race continues, more powerful weapons are developed, and their means of delivery improved. On the other hand, the last twelve months have given further evidence of instability in various areas of the world, from the Middle East, where the United States and the United Kingdom found it necessary to send protective forces into Lebanon and Jordan, to Indonesia, where there has been armed conflict between the central government and the dissident forces of the outlying islands.
Communism still threatens in greater or lesser degree all of the countries of SouthEast Asia. To-day, this threat takes the form of internal subversion rather than external aggression, but these disruptive tactics are backed by the great armed strength of Communist China and Russia, and it is essential that the free countries in the area maintain adequate defence forces in readiness to deter or counter any threat of armed attack. Seato provides an important means for the co-ordination of the defence efforts of Australia and her allies. Founded on the concept of collective defence and backed by the power of the United States, Seato provides a deterrentto aggression, and a means to expose and to counter Communist infiltration. Australia’s defence preparations are further coordinated with those of her allies through Anzus and through our Commonwealth defence links.
As I have indicated, events of the last twelve months have confirmed the view that local emergencies are more likely than fullscale war, provided that the strength of the Western nuclear deterrent is maintained. A high premium must be placed on welltrained and suitably armed forces which can move swiftly to a threatened area. The broad principles of the defence policy announced last year therefore remain valid; namely, reliance on collective defence in association with powerful allies, priority for cold war measures, such as the stationing of our forces in Malaya, and continual improvement of our ability to react immediately to limited war situations should they occur. While the main outlines of our policy need little change, there is considerable flexibility within the programme to permit adjustment to new situations and to the continual progress in weapons. The Government will, therefore, be ready to introduce any appropriate modifications in the roles, organization or. equipment of our forces as. these may be shown to be necessary.
The total expenditure on defence since 1950-51 has amounted to some £1,385,000,000. Following the precedent of last year, I have circulated for the information of honorable members, and of the public, some statistics showing in detail how this sum has been spent over the years, and the size of the forces which- have been built up, equipped, and maintained. The regular and reserve forces had been built up from a total of 57,500 at 30th June, 1950, to 113,000 by 30th June, 1958.
In any analysis of defence expenditure, it is important to bear in mind the large proportion of the Defence vote that is necessarily required for maintenance expenditure. It will be evident that provision must be made for the essential maintenance of the strength and organization that exist, before funds can be allotted to further development in the way of capital equipment and works. Since 1950-51, the amount required for maintenance expenditure has been £976,500,000, or 70 per cent, of the total defence expenditure of £1,385,000,000. A further £281,000,000, or 20 per cent., has been devoted to the provision of ships, aircraft, weapons, vehicles and other capital equipment. A total of £124,000,000, or 9 per cent., has been applied to capital buildings and works for the Services and the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply, including the. Joint United Kingdom-Australia Guided Weapons Project at Woomera,.
The main emphasis in the current defence programme will’ continue to be on the provision of regular forces, highly trained, well-‘ equipped, and mobile. Simultaneously, a sound basic defence organization, including adequate reserve, forces, is being maintained to permit rapid expansion, in an emergency. Last financial year, the expenditure on the programme was £185,000,000. This year, a vote of £190,000,000 is being provided.
– And what have we got? Nothing!
– I am just going to .let the committee- know what we have, although I do not think that the honorable member will understand it.
The strategic role of the Navy is to ensure the security of Australia’s sea, communications, and to co-operate with allies and sister services in general operations of war. Because of the vital need- to ensure the security of sea communications,, the Government’s naval policy has placed emphasis on antisubmarine capabilities. These are provided in the Royal. Australian Navy- by carrierborne naval aircraft and fast anti-submarine vessels, both destroyers and frigates. At the same time, it has been the aim to provide a balanced, modern and effective force sufficiently versatile to carry out the wide range of tasks which falls upon a navy in war. The ships in sea-going commission this year will be one aircraft carrier, four destroyers, five frigates, two ocean- minesweepers, and a number of smaller ships and craft. This strength includes the Navy’s contribution to the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, consisting of two destroyers or frigates and an annual visit by the aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier H.M.A.S- “Melbourne “ is one of the most modern of its type, and will be. maintained in- a fully operational state. The- front line aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm are all-weather Sea Venom jet fighters and Gannet turboprop anti-submarine, planes. Altogether, some 250 aircraft have, been delivered to the Fleet Air Arm since. 1950.
The Daring Class destroyer H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “, which is . in Fleet service, was completed last year. Two more of these modern ships are to be added to the fleet; one early next year, and the second is expected to be completed by the middle of next year. Three of the ships- in com. mission, have recently, been converted from Q class destroyers to fast, anti-submarine frigates with modern capabilities.. Work- on the construction of four new type antisubmarine frigates has been accelerated, and: satisfactory progress has been made;
Like the Daring class destroyers, the new type anti-submarine frigates are being constructed in Australian shipyards. These yards, of course, also undertake the maintenance and. refitting , of ships and the construction of a number of small ships and! craft.. A- fast fleet tanker ‘built in -the United Kingdom , has been added., to the Royal Australian Navy. This ship, which will enhance the mobility of the fleet, is at present employed on commercial charter.
The total expenditure since June, 1950, on all naval construction, conversion and modernization has been £54,600,000, and a further £6,500,000 is being provided in the current financial year. In addition to the fleet in commission, there is a reserve fleet consisting of one aircraft carrier, one cruiser, and a number of destroyers, frigates, and other vessels. There are also the shore establishments essential for efficient operations and training. These have been streamlined in order to reduce costs.
The estimated average strength of permanent naval forces during the current year is 10,947. In addition, there are the reserves of over 8,000. An extensive naval works programme has been carried out, involving an expenditure of £11,000,000 since 1950. For the current year, a further £1,300,000 is being provided.
From June, 1950, to the end of last financial year, the total expenditure on the Navy has been £331,600,000. The estimate for the current financial year is £42,400,000.
The changes in Army structure and organization which the Government approved last year have been carried out. In the Australian Regular Army, the First Infantry Brigade Group has- completed its first period of collective training. This force, together with the infantry battalion group of approximately 1,200 personnel at present serving in Malaya as part of the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, and the Pacific Islands Regiment, comprise a Regular Army field force approaching some 6,000 personnel. In addition to the field forces, there are the Regular Army staffs required for Citizen Military Force cadres, national service training, and cadets; and for training establishments, headquarters, command, administrative, and overseas establishments, and various maintenance and supporting units, all of which are essential to meet the needs of both the regular and Citizen Military Forces.
The estimated average total strength of the regular forces as a whole in 1958-59 is of the order of 20,200. In the Citizen Military Forces, the estimated average strength for the year is approximately 49,000, including 15,500 voluntary enlist ments. This is an acceptable level for peace-time training and efficiency. The reorganization of the Citizen Military Forces to meet mobilization plans has been completed. Two infantry divisions, units for a third infantry division, the Papua and New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, and a proportion of Citizen Military Force troops to provide a basis for expansion have been retained. A total of some 209,000 partlytrained men has been provided under the national service training scheme.
The provision of modern equipment for the Army has been an important feature, of the Government’s defence preparations. From June, 1950, to the end of the last financial year an amount of £115,500,000 has been spent on Army equipment of all kinds, including 120 Centurion tanks, 300. other armoured fighting vehicles, 5,164 transport and other vehicles, 432 items of heavy earth-moving and major engineering equipment, 8,210 wireless sets, 1,550 weapons of all types, and very large quantities of artillery shells and cartridges, and small arms ammunition. The first delivery of the Australian-manufactured FN rifle will be made early in 1959.
In the current financial year, an amount of £17,800,000 is being provided for Army equipment generally, comprising £5,800,000 for maintenance equipment and stores, and £12,000,000 for new capital equipment.
The provision of permanent accommodation for married and single members of the Regular Army continues to be a highpriority objective of the Army’s works programme. The new barracks at Puckapunyal are nearing completion and major new projects planned for authorization this year include the commencement of the n?.w accommodation at Watsonia. The total expenditure on the Army since June, 1950, has been £477,900,000. The proposed vote for the current financial year is £63,500,000.
In the Royal Australian Air Force there is an operational force of one bomber squadron and two fighter squadrons, with a mobile support force of a bomber squadron, two transport squadrons, a fighter reconnaissance squadron, an air observation post flight and an airfield construction squadron. In addition, there is an opera,tional reserve comprising a bomber and fighter squadron, and a home defence force of four fighter squadrons, two maritime reconnaissance squadrons and an airfield construction squadron. These forces include a bomber squadron at present with the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya, and a fighter wing of two squadrons planned to join the reserve later. The estimated average strength of the Royal Australian Air Force during the current financial year is approximately 15,260 personnel.
The Royal Australian Air Force equipment policy aims at facilitating operations with elements of the United States Air Force as well as the Royal Air Force. Since 1950, over 490 aircraft have been delivered to the R.A.A.F., including Neptunes and Meteors from overseas, and Vampires, Winjeels, Sabres and Canberras from Australian factories. This year £10,900,000 is being provided for aircraft purchases and production.
The present production order of 48 Canberra bombers and 90 Sabre fighters will be completed this year. Progress is also being made with the production of an additional 21 Avon Sabre fighters and a further 68 Vampire trainer aircraft. At the same time, modifications are being incorporated into Sabre, Canberra and other aircraft to improve performance. The twelve Hercules transport aircraft being obtained from the United States will be delivered during the period December, 1958, to January, 1959. These aircraft will be a major factor in providing mobility for the Australian armed forces. - Provision is being made to order airtoair guided weapons for some Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, and surfacetoair guided weapons and control and reporting radar associated with the R.A.A.F. Guided Weapons Unit. Other equipment ordered for the Royal Australian Air Force over the last few years includes over 1,440 vehicles, 457 items of heavy earth-moving equipment, aircraft armament and other weapons and equipment, training and reserve requirements of bombs and ammunition, and a great variety of radar equipments. These equipments are of growing complexity and of great import.ance for R.A.A.F. operational efficiency and safety. Among the important items which have been procured are ground control approach equipment, high power and mobile search radars, and multiplex signal equipment. The total provision made this financial year for all equipment both capital and maintenance, other than aircraft, is £14,800,000.
In parallel with the introduction of modern types of aircraft, there has been continuous development of the ground organization, including an extensive airfield development programme. Since June, 1950, approximately £10,000,000 has been spent on major airfield works at various R.A.A.F. stations and at Cocos Island. In addition, airfield works at Butterworth, Malaya, estimated to cost approximately £2,900,000, are nearing completion. For the current financial year, an amount of £1,100,000 is being provided for further airfield works at various localities. Since June, 1950, and up to the end of the last financial year, a total amount of £389,600,000 has been spent on the Air Force. The proposed vote for the current financial year is £59,300,000.
In balance with the development of the services, the Government is continuing the development of the facilities necessary for the production or procurement of their material requirements. The requirements of the services, both in peace and for mobilization, are continuously being related to the capacities of government factories and industry. Since 1951, an amount of £47,000,000 has been devoted1 to expansion of production capacity and the replacement and modernization of existing facilities. A further £3,000,000 will be allotted to these objectives in the current financial year.
In the field of aircraft production, I have already referred to the production of aircraft for the R.A.A.F. Production has also continued with the Jindivik radio-controlled target aircraft, some 128 of which have now been manufactured. A United Kingdom order for the manufacture of a number of rounds of the Australian developed Malkara weapon is in hand.
The joint United Kingdom-Australia long-range weapons project continues to be the major item in defence research and development. Weapon trials are continuing at a steady rate and additional facilities are constantly being provided for the testing of the newer and longer range weapons, most of which, naturally, are on the secret list. A total of £72.500,000 has been spent by
Australia on this project up to 30th June, 1958. The amount being provided in the current financial year is £9,500,000.
Work will continue on a number of Australian defence research projects, principally in the fields of guided weapons, electronics and aeronautics, ana the further development of the Malkara weapon. Australia will also continue to participate in work in support of atomic weapons tests carried out by the United Kingdom at Maralinga, in South Australia. The amount provided this financial year for research and development, other than the joint longrange weapons project, is £2,400,000.
The Government’s policy is to ensure that its forces have the modern equipment they need to perform their role in war. Arising out of discussions during my defence equipment mission to the United States last year, the United States defence authorities sent a technical mission to Australia towards the end of 1957 to make an appraisal of the equipment requirements of the Australian defence forces and to inspect the available and potential capacity of Australian industries to manufacture United States type military equipment, with a view to further discussions. The mission, led by Major-Genera] P. E. Ruestow. was a fact-finding one and was not empowered to come to decisions or to enter into commitments in regard to those matters investi gated. Its report was recently made available to us by the United States Department of Defence with the suggestion that further technical service discussions should take place within the framework of the report. This is being done. In particular, our representatives are directing their attention to the priority requirements of the Army brigade group. There are a number of technical aspects which have to be resolved, but good progress is being made in the talks and I have every reason to expect a satisfactory outcome.
I have already referred to the arrangements for the procurement of twelve Hercules transport aircraft for the R.A.A.F. resulting from my negotiations with the United States authorities. The R.A.A.F. is now conducting technical discussions with the United States Air Force on the most suitable and latest types of fighter and bomber aircraft now under development, and which will satisfy the operational role of the Australian Air Force. Discussions are also taking place in regard to naval equipment, particularly communications equipment. As previously announced by the Prime Minister and myself, the Government’s policy is that it is desirable that equipment used by Australian forces should be standard or compatible, as far as possible, with that used by United States forces, with whom they are associated in defence arrangements. This is a continuing process and the current discussions are directed to that end.
It will be remembered that the Government, after its consideration of the report of the Morshead committee, decided that the Department of Defence would direct and control investigations aimed at the elimination of overlapping, the coordination of activities, and the development of common services throughout the armed services. As I announced last month, I have re-arranged the senior appointments in the department under my administration, one important objective of which will be to provide for a unit to carry out reviews of appropriate activities of the armed services and administer any joint service organizations which may be set up as a result of these reviews. Many phases of service activities will be studied jointly with officers of the service departments in a continuing long-term programme.
Several investigations are already under way, including moves towards the coordination of the design and inspection services of the three service departments, some measure of rationalization of the medical services of the three services and a review of canteen services. The approach in these investigations must be flexible and directed towards increased efficiency and greater economy.
Next month a committee of senior officers of the Department of Defence and the armed services, assisted by a highly qualified scientist with wide experience in the electronic data processing fields, will investigate the practicability of the introduction of electronic data processing into the armed services. This should be a most fruitful field of investigation, as large organizations with major stores holdings and employing large numbers of personnel, such as the service departments, are particularly suited to take advantage of the astounding capacity of electronic computers and their associated machines. It is possible that recording and assessment which, in the past, have been undertaken manually or with mechanical accounting machines, may be performed by electronic data processing with greater accuracy and with considerable savings in man-power, which could be applied to the operational elements of the services to increase further their capacity and effort. I must emphasize, however, that the introduction of electronic data processing does not amount simply to purchasing a machine and putting it to work. It may involve adapting current methods to a completely different system if we are to exploit to the full this expensive and complex equipment. Its full introduction, as is being proven overseas, is a matter of years and not months. Nevertheless, honorable members may be assured that in this field, and in the others I have mentioned, no time will be lost in applying the results of this research to shorten the tail and sharpen the teeth of the armed services. Our approach in these fields is in line with that of most of the defence groups in the western world, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand.
As already announced, the Government has approved of increases in the rates of pay and allowances of Navy, Army and Air Force personnel, following a review of the defence services pay code by a special committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison. The decisions reached ensure that the pay, allowances and financial conditions of the serviceman are provided on a fair and reasonable basis which adequately reflects the nature, importance and demands of service in the armed forces, and it is the Government’s belief that they will have a real effect in attracting recruits and in encouraging the re-engagement of trained and experienced men in the three services. The increases operated from the first pay period in July, and are estimated to cost of the order of £5,000,000 in the current financial year. The committee is now looking into the question of retirement benefits and gratuities for the defence forces, and its report on these aspects will be considered by the Government in due course.
Civil defence planning has been proceeding for some years and valuable training and educational work has been carried out at the Commonwealth Civil Defence School.
Provision is made in the defence vote for an expenditure of £300,000 during the current year. The question of civil defence is now under further study by the interested Commonwealth authorities, and an announcement will be made when the results of the review have been considered by the Government.
I shall in the near future be vacating the portfolio of Minister for Defence in which it has been my honour and privilege to have served Australia for more than eight years. That period has been marked by acute international instability and uncertainty, and the intensification of the cold war. I have outlined to the House the great strides made in Australia’s defence plans and preparations, the build up of the strength and equipment of our forces, the broadening of the basis of our defence measures by the development of regional arrangements. I refer in particular to Seato and Anzus. Our defence preparedness in peace-time has never been at a higher level, and it will he further increased on completion of the objectives of the current programme. My visits overseas have demonstrated to me that our basic defence policy is sound, and that the return to us in defence preparations for the money spent is not excelled by any other country from a similar amount.
Australia has been well served by the men and women of the three fighting services. In the cold war operations in Korea and Malaya they have done magnificently. Their role at the present time has never been more important, and I pay a tribute to their loyalty and devotion to duty, which I am sure is shared by the Australian people.
.- Having regard to the disturbed international situation to which the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has directed attention, I should imagine that anybody who could suffer listening to his speech for its full length must have been terrified at the prospects of defending Australia whilst the present hopeless crew remains in control. At least there was one bright spot in the Minister’s speech and it came near the end when he said he was going to retire. I will say that his retirement is long overdue, although I will admit, with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), that the position could not possibly be quite as bad as the Minister’s speech made it sound.
Let me turn to the defence expenditure of this Government. The Minister spoke of expenditure as though it were some accomplishment. He said, “ We have spent so many millions of pounds on the Army, so much on the Navy and so much on the Air Force “. Then he looked around with a great sense of pride thinking that he had achieved something. The Australian Labour party believes in an adequate and proper defence for Australia. We also believe that the defence position ought to be reviewed having regard to modern developments. All that we insist upon is that when the taxpayers are providing the tremendous amount of money that they have provided for a number of years now, they should be getting value for their money. I shall endeavour to show in the time at my disposal that they are not getting it.
As a matter of fact, if ever there was a hit and miss procedure in the defence services as to how much they should put on the Estimates each year, it is shown by what has happened over the last few years. Since this Government took office, it has expended altogether on defence £1,530,000,000. That is quite a sizeable amount of money, and it includes the current year’s estimates. Let us see how the Government has been able to estimate what it required for defence. Last year, the Government provided on the Estimates, £23,000,000 for the construction of the St. Mary’s filling factory, or at least a sizeable part of that amount. The St. Mary’s project is now finished, and although the Government admits that it cost £5,000,000 more than the original estimate, the Government cut the work by about £2,000,000 in an attempt to restrict expenditure. In spite of that experience, the Government is back to the old figure of £190,000,000 for its defence vote. The Government merely decides on a figure and then, at the end of the year, desperately attempts to expend that amount of money so that it can show that its estimating was correct.
In the financial year 1954-55, the Government underspent its Estimate for Defence by £14,500,000. In 1955-56, expenditure exceeded the Estimate by £716,000. In 1956-57, the Government underspent by £1,500,000. In 1957-58, it overspent by £10,000,000. The highest expenditure was in June, the last month of the financial year, and it was the highest expenditure for the year because the Government had sent out a directive that at all costs the departments must spend to reach the Estimates.
Let us now turn to what is happening; and honorable members can check these figures if they care to examine the Budget Papers. Let us take the Army first. On this year’s Estimates, we are to get one more brigadier, one more colonel, 51 more majors, captains and lieutenants, 180 more warrant officers, 21 more staff sergeants, 73 more sergeants and 72 more corporals, but 400 fewer privates, gunners, sappers and drivers! So, honorable members can see that our Army is to be like the Portugese Army. We will have all generals and officers and nobody in the ranks. The president of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Yeo, directed attention to this situation not long ago. He said that too much was being spent on high pay for senior officers.
According to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), we have this new concept of defence - the brigade group of 4,000 men which is said to be a mobile force. Everybody knows that the brigade group to which the Minister has referred, if called up for active service to-morrow, would not have enough reinforcements to maintain its strength for one week. It is well known to the people of this country that when the Brigade Group with some of its equipment was paraded in Sydney not so very long ago, it was shown to be using the 25-pounder gun which, I understand, was used in the First World War. That is the type of equipment with which it was parading!
Let us have a look at what the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) had to say. It was reported that he said a survey was being made of the Army to see whether its members were happy in the service. There was a number of psychologists, experts, and long-haired gentlemen conducting a survey in the Army to see whether the men were happy in the service. There has been no announcement of the result of the investigation.
Now I turn to the Navy, the disappearing Navy! It is quite true that the men who serve actively in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, are doing an excellent job and are first-rate men. But there is not enough of them, and they are disappearing. They are disappearing because they have become completely dissatisfied and disillusioned as a result of the activities of this Government. Honorable members heard what the Minister for Defence said about the Navy. Our active, fighting Navy will be constituted of, first, one aircraft carrier, “ Melbourne “, which he described as the most modern of its type, but I think that if anybody cares to examine the records in this respect he will find that “ Melbourne “ is by no means the most modern vessel of this type in the world. We are to have four destroyers, five frigates and two vessels of a type which I failed to hear when the Minister announced it. These make twelve in all. He said that in addition there are a number of small craft, and he referred also to the reserve. He included the reserve to try to make it appear that these vessels were manned and ready at any time, the moment they were needed, to put to sea in defence of the country. What is the situation? The Government has decided to loan “ Sydney “, which is at present in moth balls, to an American film company. Far from its being ready for action, the ship has to be towed to Melbourne, where the film is to be made, and towed back to Sydney. That is the position of these vessels which the Government terms as being in reserve.
Here is the position in regard to personnel in the Navy. The Estimates show that this year we will have one more rearadmiral, one more commodore, four more commanders, and a total of 230 officers of ranks from commander to admiral. There will be. on the Minister’s own assessment, 230 officers of those ranks for twelve active ships. Junior officers are to be reduced by 110 to 1.055, and petty officers and seamen - despite the fact that we will have all this galaxy of toD brass, as it is termed in the Navy - are to be down by 1,261. The disappearing Navy! When we see naval men in the various cities wearing on their caps the names H.M.A.S. “ Cerebus “. “ Harman “. “ Melville “. “ Albatross “, “ Rushcutter “. “ Kuttabul “. “Nirimba”, “Penguin” and “Watson”, we should not be misled into believing that those are active fighting ships. They are shore establishments; they do not go to sea at all. They are given the title of a naval ship in order to mislead the Australian public.
While the Minister is trying to convey the impression that our defences to-day are better than they ever were before, at the Garden Island naval workshops, where the actual work of keeping the ships in good order and condition is done, 300 of the trained personnel are being sacked, in a period when, the Minister says, there are terrific international tensions.
Now let me turn to the Air Force. It will be remembered that on 4th April last year, after a great deal of criticism and pressure, the Prime Minister announced a new defence policy. We get such announcements quite frequently, when the Government decides that it will introduce some new system. If honorable members care to examine that speech, they will see that we were told that the Royal Australian Air Force was to be equipped with the Lockheed FI 04 Starfighter, the best of its kind in the world, and we were assured by the Minister for Defence himself that this decision was based on the recommendation of the Government’s military advisers. So later the Minister set out for the United States of America, ostensibly to purchase these planes. What happened? It was an abortive mission. He got about a dozen transport planes, but he could not get any Starfighters at all. When the Minister returned to this country from his abortive mission, the Prime Minister went to his defence and said -
The McBride mission achieved more than I would ever have thought possible.
Listen to this! He went on -
As a result of Sir Philip’s important discussions, we have been relieved of the tremendous problem of finding many millions of scarce dollars for the FI 04.
So actually this mission overseas to purchase the Starfighter was, according to the Prime Minister, a great triumph when it failed, because the Government could not get the Starfighter and therefore did not have to find the dollars that were in short supply. In the very year when the Government was saying that dollars were in too short supply for Australia to buy the Starfighter, the Government relieved the American film companies of the restrictions which had been imposed upon them in regard to their earnings in Australia. In that same year, 1957, when we were told that dollars were in too short supply for us to buy the Starfighter, this Government was allowing the American film companies to take out of Australia as many dollars as they could earn here. That was the situation.
When that abortive mission returned, we were told that there was nothing to worry about, that more Sabre jets were to be ordered. Everybody knows what happened in the Australian aircraft industry. Men were being dismissed, and others were resigning because they could get no information in regard to the future of this great industry, which was rapidly disintegrating. When the mission overseas failed and the Government had to purchase or order more Sabre jets here, that helped to correct the situation in the aircraft industry. The Minister said -
We are ready to take advantage of the development of an alternative all-purpose fighter.
After the Government had failed to get the Starfighter, which it had decided to purchase on the advice of its military experts, the Government decided that Starfighters were not suitable for Australian conditions, and it was waiting to take advantage of the development of an alternative all-purpose fighter. The Minister made some reference this evening to the all-purpose fighter. I am reminded of the plan to make the FN30 rifle at Lithgow; the Government is still waiting for it to develop. If this Government remains in control, it will be waiting much longer. We shall certainly see that things are speeded up and that the gallant men who serve in the armed forces will get the equipment they need after 22nd November, when this Government ceases to exist.
Now let me turn to the Department of Defence, because the Minister made some reference to the Morshead investigation. The report on the investigation conducted by the committee of which Sir Leslie Morshead was chairman was practically ridiculed by the Prime Minister when he was giving his reasons for not accepting its recommendations. The major recommendations of the Morshead committee were completely rejected and were ridiculed by the Government. I understand that one of the recommendations of Sir Leslie Morshead - the report has not been tabled or made available to members, for obvious reasons - was that certain changes be made in the control of the Service departments. ‘
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I believe that this discussion of the Estimates should be treated seriously, and not in the party political fashion adopted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I do find something to please me in what he said, because it is reasonable to point out that he used the term “an adequate and proper defence “, saying that this was fundamental to Labour’s thinking on Australia’s defence problems. Sooner or later, the Australian Labour party will have to make quite clear where it stands as a party in relation to defence policy.
Having said that, I shall now proceed to give some of my own views on the matters referred to by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). In the general sense the defence policy of the Australian Government is designed to achieve the ultimate objective of Australian security. This defence policy is prepared by the military leaders of Australia’s defence forces and then, after much further consideration and analysis, it is finally adopted as a policy by the Government. During the last eight years the Government has set out to achieve certain objectives that are fundamental to the present defence policy. The first objective was related to foreign policy, and the intention was to arrange for Australia to become a party to collective security agreements. This matter, if seen in its proper perspective, can in my opinion be considered in this way: We must look back to 1949 and consider Australia’s prestige in the great international capitals of the world at that time. We must ask ourselves whether Australia was completely trusted in Washington, for example, and I believe that there are honorable members of this Parliament who know the appropriate answer to that question. I content myself by saying that the Government, led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and assisted by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), has so restored Australia’s prestige that to-day it is higher than it has ever been.
Australia sought to acquire powerful friends and to have them committed to a joint system of defence which would be of mutual benefit to all concerned. Thus the Anzus pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization have evolved and have played their part in forming Australia’s defence policy. It must be understood by critics of our defence policy that it is fundamental to Australia’s defence thinking that there should be confidence in the Anzus pact and in Seato. Destroy the validity of that premise and our entire defence policy falters.
– Does the Anzus pact commit Australia with regard to Formosa, or America with regard to New Guinea?
– No, they are collective security defence pacts. They provide for assistance to repel attack. They are not designed to assist in aggression; that is, aggression by a treaty member.
There is a great deal of ill-informed criticism, concerning defence matters, and from time to time it would seem that some of the judgments expressed in some of the great Australian newspapers are deliberately intended to distort the facts and, for some ulterior reason, to mislead and confuse the reading public seeking to make a general appraisal of the defence position. No loyal Australian in 1958 can be unaware of the fact that the future security of Australia is completely identified with the future and security of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Nobody in this country to-day could be excused for being unaware that the Communist powers constitute a real threat to our security and1 are the only self-admitted potential aggressors on earth.
Honorable members have been told in a series of clear statements by the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister during recent years that Australia’s aim is to provide balanced forces that will be able to co-operate with the forces of our allies in maintaining peace. We are aware that communism still threatens all the countries of South-East Asia and still threatens Australia. Nothing can help the enemy more than to have people talking of communism as an age-old bogy. It is not a bogy; it is a live, constant threat to the security and survival of this country. It could be that there is some truth in the contention that internal subversion rather than external aggression will be the pattern of Communist policy, but it should be borne in mind that the absolutely ruthless Communist leaders have announced publicly that they are prepared to commit themselves to enormous risks in order to achieve the world-wide domination that they declared they would seek so many years ago.
Most honorable members are familiar with some of the writings of Lenin, and all honorable members should be deeply conscious of the significance of the judgment passed by Lenin when he wrote that if in the final battles three-quarters of the people who live on the earth were to perish, it would not matter so long as the remaining one-quarter were Communists. To-day in Australia many people simply do not understand these things and will make no proper effort to comprehend them. They will make no effort to study the public announcements and writings of the Communist leaders, whose announced plan of world domination is clearly defined for anybody to read and to understand.
It is still generally believed that global war is unlikely to take place because of the deterrent created by the great strategic air command of the United States of America, and as long as the strength of the Western Powers’ nuclear deterrent is maintained, this will probably be the case.
It is possible against this background to have a clear picture of what the Government has done since 1950-51. The Minister for Defence has told the House that a total of £1,385,000,000 has been spent on defence since 1950-51. He has pointed out that no less than 70 per cent, of the total figure is required for maintenance, expenditure, salaries, and general equipment associated with the serving personnel of the forces. Twenty per cent, of the total of £1,385,000,000 has been devoted to the provision of capital equipment, such as warships, aircraft, weapons, and vehicles. A total of £124,000,000, or 9 per cent, of the grand total, has been applied to capital buildings and works for the three services, the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply, including the joint United Kingdom and Australian guided weapons project at Woomera.
It is my view that the Commonwealth Government will have to give serious consideration to increasing defence expenditure within the next few years, but I congratulate the Government on the policy that it has evolved and on the work that has been done to date. The aim has been to provide regular forces which are highly trained, well equipped and mobile, to be supported by a sound basic defence organization, including adequate reserve forces.
During 1957-58, £185,000,000 was spent on defence, and this year the proposed vote is £190,000,000. I believe that members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should ma’ke their position clear in relation to this problem of adequacy. Do they hold the view that the Australian forces are not large enough, and are they prepared to support the steps that would be necessary to have those forces substantially increased? That, after all, is the fundamental problem that must be faced. For example, in the Royal Australian Navy one aircraft carrier, four destroyers, five frigates, two general mine sweepers, and a number of smaller craft will be in sea-going commission this year. I think the honorable member for East Sydney should have indicated quite clearly whether he believed that those forces should be increased. The total strength of the Australian Regular Army is of the order of 20,200, including the 1st Infantry Brigade Group, which has now completed its initial period of collective training. This brigade group, together with the infantry battalion of approximately 1,200 men, which is at present serving in Malaya, is part of the “British Commonwealth’s strategic reserve. The Pacific Islands Regiment, which was referred to by the Minister, comprises a ‘Regular Army field force approaching some 6,000 personnel. These are, after all, personnel who are available now in the event of some emergency arising. There are, of course, the members of the Regular Army who are required for the Citizen Military Forces, cadres, national service training cadets and’ ali training establishments, headquarters command, administrative and overseas establishment’s. The Minister has referred to the ‘Citizen Military Forces, and they comprise a considerable section of the Armed Forces. The total expenditure on the Army since June, 1950, has been £477,900,000, and the vote for the current financial year is £63,500,000.
I believe that, in relation to the Australian army, the members of the Opposition should make particular criticisms and should indicate whether they believe that this force should be bigger or smaller.
I turn now briefly to the Royal Australian Air Force, and refer to the operational force of one bomber and two fighter squadrons, with a mobile support force of a bomber squadron, two transport squadrons, a fighter reconnaissance unit, an air operations base flight and an airfield construction squadron. In addition to these forces, which are ready to operate at this present moment, there is an operational force comprising a bomber and fighter squadron, and the Citizen A’k Force Fighter Squadron based on all the capital cities. There are two maritime squadrons and an airfield construction squadron. There is a bomber squadron at present with the Strategic Reserve in Malaya, and it is planned that a fighter wing of two squadrons will join this Strategic Reserve in due course. The Government’s policy, related as it is to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, is such that Australia’s forces are widespread to meet the threats of attack, as they come to light, at the source. There are 15,260 people in the R.A.A.F. at present. Since 1950, over 490 aircraft have been delivered to the R.A.A.F.. including Neptune’s and Meteors from overseas source’s, and Sabres, Canberras. Vampires and Winjeels from the Australian aircraft industry.
I should like to conclude by congratulating Sir Philip McBride upon the many years of service that he has rendered to Australia in the administration of this portfolio. I wish him well, as he is leaving the Parliament at the end of this year, and 1 express the hope that whoever takes his place will have the same devotion to duty, and will be as popular in his office as Sir Philip has been.
– I intend to devote my attention to the Australian aircraft industry because I consider that, the circumstances being as they are, it is high time the Government made some tangible decision concerning the future of this allimportant industry. At the moment, the industry is in a state of uncertainty. Government policy is varied almost from day to day, with the result that optimism is fast waning in the industry and skilled per.sonnnel engaged in it are looking for other avenues of employment because they just do not know how long they can expect their present employment to last.
From time to time, we on this side have directed questions to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) in an endeavour to ascertain what the position is. Whilst the Minister does his best under the circumstances, I want to say categorically that the answers given so far have been satisfactory to nobody. Many months ago, in an effort to create the impression that something was being done to stabilize the industry, the Government appointed a business committee to inquire into the industry and to make recommendations concerning its future. That committee heard evidence many months ago, and up to the moment, so far as I am aware, no firm recommendation has been made known to the Parliament, or to the public as to what may be done for the future of the Australian aircraft industry.
About three weeks ago, in answer to a question by me, the Minister stated that the Division of Aircraft Production at Fisherman’s Bend had received further orders for Jindiviks, and could expect to continue to construct these Jindiviks and carry out modifications to a few Canberra bombers for the next couple of years. He pointed out that nothing was visualized for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation employees except the completion of an additional order for Avon Sabre jets that was given some months ago. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) stated to-night that during this financial year the orders for the Sabre jets will be almost completed, so that it can be seen, that unless something concrete is announced very shortly, the industry will be truly in the doldrums and there will be little cause for optimism about the future. I should say that morale of the personnel engaged in the industry is ebbing fast. I have been approached by representatives of trade unions concerned with the industry in Melbourne seeking information as to just where the employees stand. The Government has procrastinated for two or three years now. and it is high time that we had a definite announcement as to what the Government proposes to do.
In 1957, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was somewhat concerned about the future of the industry and made top level representations to the Government asking, quite fairly, what the future held for it. The corporation was given an order for an additional 21 Sabre jet fighters. I imagine that was done to keep the employees quiet for the time being and to give the Government an opportunity to make up its mind. Actually, the reprieve given to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was only temporary. The work created by the additional 21 Sabre jet fighters will not last for very long. It is expected that this order will be completed within a few months now.
Unfortunately for the industry, over the last two or three years, political and defence authorities have debated or left undecided, the question of replacement equipment for the Royal Australian Air Force. We were told some years ago that some new type of fighter should be constructed because the Sabre jet was fast becoming obsolete. Unfortunately, tied up with this matter is the whole future of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in this industry. The position now is that an industry of unquestionably great defence background utility and high technological standing is tottering in the balance because of political indecision. Because of the uncertainty of the Government about the future of the industry, those connected with the industry have become so plagued that they do not know whether they are coming or going. That feeling exists from the highest to the lowest level of the employees. I did hope that by this time the high level business committee which the Government appointed some months ago would have made a recommendation and that the Government would have adopted that recommendation and made a firm announcement as to what the industry could expect in the future. But nothing along those lines has happened.
I should like now to give some idea of the way in which the Government has treated this industry over .the last three years. In 1955, it was recommended that the Royal Australian Air Force should be equipped with Lockheed F104 Starfighters. In March, 1957, the Government announced, through the Prime Minister’s defence statement in that month, that an aircraft equivalent in performance to the FI 04 was to be selected for production by the
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. That announcement was made eighteen months ago. The Minister for Defence then went on a mission to Washington, came back, and told all and sundry that the Government did not propose to equip the R.A.A.F. with the FI 04 Starfighter. I understand that the latest suggestion - and it is only a suggestion at the moment - is that a new American supersonic twin jet fighter, the Northrop N156F should be adopted for the re-equipment programme. In view of the fact that orders for the Avon Sabre jets and the Canberra bombers are now being carried out, the Government should put the Australian aircraft industry out of its misery by making a definite announcement as to what it proposes to do. If it does not, it will mean that in time the aircraft industry will be denuded of its skilled personnel, who will look for other avenues of employment. They are not prepared to stay in an industry that may last for only another six months. The more highly skilled craftsmen - toolmakers and men of that description - can get offers of lucrative employment outside.
I think most members of the committee will agree with the two points I am about to make. The first point is that the R.A.A.F. needs a new fighter to replace the Avon Sabre jet. I do not think there will be any argument about that. Secondly, the Government has, by word of mouth, announced that it will produce a fighter in Australia. However, because of the delay in making a positive statement, a great deal of doubt exists as to whether the Government means what it says. The Government will be firmly believed by the Australian people only when it says definitely what it intends to do. It should make a speedy decision on this matter in order to allay the doubts that exist in all sections of the aircraft industry.
Only recently I read in the press that Indonesia was acquiring MIG 17 fighters from Russia. I read in the press the following day that R.A.A.F. authorities were of the opinion that the MIG aircraft was superior to our own Avon Sabre jet. That is very disquieting. We must face the fact that Australia will never be able to get first-class aircraft from overseas when she wants them in an emergency, because the countries that make those first-class aircraft possibly will be facing the same state of emergency and will require the aircraft for their own purposes. It is quite possible that in grave times we would have to fend for ourselves in the production of aircraft. Therefore, it is time that the Government made up its mind. To-day the aircraft industry is just getting along by nibbling at small orders - an order worth a few thousands of pounds from here and an order worth £50,000 from somewhere eke.
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory in Victoria has the most modern equipment. I cannot speak too highly of the machinery and the personnel. However, we find that it has to take all sorts of engineering work in order to keep its personnel together. It cannot keep on doing that, because the source of the work that it is getting is rapidly drying up. Unless it can obtain firm orders for aircraft, it will have to dispense with more of its skilled personnel. Because of the present circumstances, brought about by the vacillation of this Government, the staff of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne has been reduced from nearly 5,000, at the height of the Sabre jet programme, to fewer than 3,000. That is bad. It means that men who have acquired the art and skill of aeroplane production over the years are leaving the industry. It is not an art or a skill that you can learn in a few months; it takes years to reach the highest pinnacle. If we are to stop the drain on employees, the Government must say what it intends to do. Now is the time for big and bold decisions on the part of this Government, but we know that when the Government has been called upon to make big and bold decisions in the past, it has always bucked at the barrier. I am very much afraid it is doing so in relation to this question.
A great deal of uninformed criticism has been levelled at the aircraft industry by people who would have all the work done overseas, people who think that nothing pood can come from our own factories. They say that because it costs more to build an aircraft in this country, we should buy aircraft oveseas and let our aircraft industry go out of existence. I suggest to the Government that it is difficult for the Australian aircraft industry to keep its costs down because of the circumstances surrounding production.
The aircraft industry wants to spread out its work on a peace-time basis in order to achieve the best economic results. It could keep prices down if it did that. On the other hand, the Air Force - and 1 can understand its point ‘of view - when it determines what equipment it wants, requires it as quickly as possible. Because of that, the aircraft industry has to speed up its methods of production, with the result that costs jump considerably. The R.A.A.F. wants the equipment aS quickly ‘as possible.
It is riot concerned about what happens to the ‘industry between orders. It is not the job of the R.A.A.F. to worry about what happens to the aircraft industry between orders, but it i’s the job of the Government, In addition, military requirements for modifications to the original specification introduced into the production line of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation arid the Division of Aircraft Production, though laudable as military objectives, are a delaying factor in the construction of aircraft in this country. They are also very costly. It seems to me that we ‘must expect in the aircraft industry a process of boom and recession. You come up to a peak of production, you go down into the valley for a couple of years, and then you come up again. It is a case of up and down alternately. Therefore, the Government should give very serious consideration to achieving some degree of stability in the aircraft industry.
A suggestion has been made by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Everybody knows that the directors of that organization are men who have proved themselves to be very successful in many sections of industry. They suggest that when the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is npt required to make military aircraft, it should be given an opportunity to provide civilian aircraft of the DC3 standard. At the present time there are more than 70 DC3’s in Australia, used on feeder services to the main airlines. They usually carry only about ten or fourteen passengers. Those aircraft are wearing out. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation has suggested that it provide aircraft to take the Place of these DC3’s which are fast becoming obsolete and are not in a fit state to take the air. I suggest that the Government give very serious consideration to the suggestion that the aircraft industry be given an oppor tunity for steady development, riot dependent upon defence uncertainty.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 am very sorry indeed that this will be the last time that t the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will be present during a debate “on the Defence Estimates. He has given a lifetime of very fine service to his country, and it is with real regret that I see him going after the difficult years of changing circumstances ‘in “defence since the Korean ‘war.
First of all, I should like to criticize the Opposition’s approach to the subject of defence. One Would have expected that on the very important subject of defence, at this time - :an election year - :the alternative Prime Minister would have fed the debate for the Opposition. Who do we “find leading the debate for the Opposition, following the Minister’s important statement? We find the ‘honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Even his most ardent admirers will not regard him as a great strategist. He made a terrible mistake in regard to the 25-pounder, one of the most popular field pieces ever handled by artillery men. What he had to say sent shudders down their backs. He does not realize that the 25-pounder is being left out nowadays because of the necessity for standardization with our allies. The honorable member for East Sydney is notorious in the Labour movement as a sort of rough and tumble fighter to be used to break down a previous speaker’s case. He is the man who led the Opposition’s attack on the Government’s defence policy. Even the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) might have been a better choice. One might well have expected the alternative Prime Minister to lead the debate; and to criticize our defence expenditure, as at the last general election he proposed, that such expenditure be reduced by £50,000,000. It was rather frightening to hear the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) suggest recently that our complete defence vote was wasted. He also seemed to think that the atomic bomb was no real deterrent. This is the approach to the security of our homeland which is adopted by Opposition members.
During the speech of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) we heard a series of interjections by honorable members who have no’ knowledge of military affairs. Were they merely whistling in the dark, or were they guilty of a sinister attempt to cast doubt on the defences” of this country? To me it is frightening that the rest of the World should be told by members of this Parliament that Australia’s defences are useless.
That, of course, is not in the least true. The Government may decide defence policy, but the money which it provides is spent by service chiefs whose performance in two world wars has proved that Australia can produce generals arid military brains equal to the best in the world. They are career officers and are responsible for the defence of their homeland, regardless of the government which happens to be in baca. Honorable members opposite may say that Government policy is wrong, but they should recognize that the way in which the defence vote is spent should be very close to being fight. In fixing the size of the defence vote the Government is guided by what the economy can stand. I should like to see a little more spent on defence, but I am satisfied that such money as is provided is being spent effectively. Any ohe who doubts this fact need only look at our performance in various theatres of war during the last decade. We have always fought beside the more powerful nations of Great Britain and the United States of America and not once have we failed to win renown. Our training and equipment have always proved equal to the best, and our servicemen have been better than most. Those are facts which have emerged from the test of battle. Our weapons are comparable with those of any other country. Many people have suddenly decided that the (.303 rifle is out of date; that our weapons are not modern. In Korea, Malaya, and now in the Formosan Strait, weapons similar to our own have been used, or are being used. An honorable member described our Air Force as being out of date, but I remind him that the Australian Sabre jet is regarded as being superior to the American model which, in the hands of the Nationalist Chinese, has successfully combated the MIG15 and -the MIG17. Doubts as to the efficiency of our equipment are not supported by facts. Indeed, if would be much1 easier for honorable members opposite if they kept to the facts.
I particularly dislike the party political approach to defence. The honorable member for East Sydney said, in effect, “ Look, the Government has spent £1,500,000,000 on defence but has nothing to show for it “. The figure he gives includes, of course, £190,000,000 which has not yet been spent; but he is, after all, only saying these things for effect. He knows that the proceedings are being broadcast, arid he hopes that he can frighten people into believing that Australia has no defences. It is interesting to note that £1,000,000,000 has been spent on defence pay and maintenance alone. Would any honorable member opposite change that? One would expect the Estimates to be challenged by precise assertions that the Government has spent too much on, say, pay of maintenance, but Labour approaches defence in a purely party political way. Apparently, Opposition members do not care very much whether the country is safe or not so long as they create a doubt as to the efficacy of the Budget proposals. If Labour succeeded in proving that the Government’s policy was unsound we should be willing to vacate office, but the tactics of honorable members opposite are merely to lay political smokescreens and refuse to discuss the defence vote in detail. Such tactics may be appropriate on any other subject, but surely they are not appropriate when we are discussing defence. If we want greater man-power in our services we must, if anything, increase the expenditure on pay. Another £190,000,000 will not go very far in that direction.
A sum of £400,000,000 has been spent on meeting the material requirements of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, including not only weapons and armaments but also machinery and plant. Magnificent research establishments have been set up at Woomera and Maralinga. When I heard the late Mr. Chifley describing the potentialities of Woomera I thought that he was exaggerating, but I now recognize that he was right. Woomera has. played an enormous part in advancing Australian research.
I remind ‘honorable members opposite that works and housing associated “with the defence forces are also paid for from the defence vote. I invite the next Opposition speaker to criticize the Estimates on the basis of the figures which the Minister has produced for the greater understanding of all. Within our resources we have successfully provided for the defence of this country over the last eight years, and have met the expense of pay, maintenance and material replacement connected therewith.
I should like to see more trained personnel in the defence forces, but we must not forget that we have a very large pool of partly-trained national servicemen. The national service training scheme is one of the finest things that the government has produced. The basic training provided by it has been excellent and the scheme has not only produced efficient servicemen but has improved the morale, character and physique of our young men. This pool of partly-trained men is of immense value to this country. I know that to be true because I had to fight with men who had not fired a rifle before they were sent into battle. I invite honorable members opposite to show me how we can obtain more manpower at lower cost. If they can do that, they will have succeeded in finding a weak spot in the Government’s policy.
I repeat, Labour’s attitude to Australia’s defence is frightening. As members of a democracy, we have the right to criticize the Government and see how every shilling of our money is spent. That does not happen in Communist China or Soviet Russia. Australia’s defence system is exposed to the vulgar gaze of the world, and if Her Majesty’s Opposition treats it in a frivolous fashion, it may make a most unfortunate impression on people in the Middle East and in the Far East. Australia ;is recognized as one of the bastions of defence in the Western world. I feel that Labour is approaching this defence vote in a completely unreal and, in fact, a dangerous and somewhat unpatriotic way. If honorable members opposite have doubts : about the policy of this Government, let them show us where we are wrong, so that we may rectify matters. I believe that, for the money that is available for defence, we have achieved considerable efficiency. I think that the Government has done more, in time of peace, to secure the defence of the country than has ever been the case in our history.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr.
Anderson) apparently is quite satisfied with the defence position as he sees it to-day. Certainly, we have spent a considerable sum of money, supposedly on defence. We bought from Great Britain two aircraft carriers which cost many millions of pounds, but no sooner had they arrived in Australia than we found that the planes on the carriers were absolutely useless. In that case, we spent millions of pounds on something that was of no use at all. We have spent many millions of pounds on the St. Mary’s project. When it is completed, the military materials produced there will be as out of date as the horse and buggy in modern transport.
We sent our soldiers to Malaya, and then we decided to send their wives and children also. We built homes for them at enormous expense. I submit that if there was danger in Malaya, the wives and children of the servicemen never should have been sent there. Has any one heard of anything so ridiculous as to send women and children into a fighting area? If there was no danger in the area, and if the wives and children of the servicemen were quite safe, surely the men were not required there in the first place. Some of the millions of pounds about which the Government supporters speak were spent in Malaya to build homes for the families of our servicemen. More millions of pounds were spent on the purchase of the two aircraft carriers that T have mentioned. Great Britain put a “ swifty “ over us there, because the planes were absolutely useless. When they arrived in Australia they were put in mothballs because there was danger whenever they were sent off the ships.
We find that we have not sufficient ships for the number of trainees who are called up to do national service in the Navy. Yet. the Government talks about defence! It is so much tommy rot. We have nothing. T admit that millions of pounds have been spent, but we have nothing to show for it. Reference has been made to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. I was down there on one occasion. The Americans had the job of supplying materials, but the second engineer told me that the corporation could not get materials when it wanted them urgently. At that time, in order to keep the men employed, they were making white enamel baths. I saw them doing it. The defence policy of this Government has been utterly ridiculous and ineffective.
Let us consider the position of the Woomera rocket range. Australia does not get one thing from that range. Great Britain has decided that it will let America have the benefit of some of the tests that are carried out there, and it will have the rest. If we are to judge by the information that the Government has given to this Parliament on the subject, Australia has not got one thing from the Woomera rocket range. If we are spending millions of pounds on that project, it seems that again we are the pigeons, and that we are putting the money in while other people are getting the returns, as with the aircraft carriers. I defy any supporter of the Government, any Minister, or even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to tell the Parliament what we have in the way of real defences. I do not want hot air. I should like to know where our naval forces are, where our military forces are, and where our “ Black Knights “ are. Do we own any “ Black Knights “, or do we control any of them? The Government should be ashamed of itself for its defence policy. Apparently, it is so ignorant of the position that it does not realize that it has left Australia with no real defence.
The Prime Minister has said that we will stand behind the Dutch if Indonesia dares to attack Dutch New Guinea. At the same time, our allies, the Americans, are supplying Indonesia with up-to-date arms and equipment, while we have nothing. Of course, the Prime Minister is all right here. As long as he has not to go to the front, it is all right. He is like a little puppy yapping at a bigger dog and running away when the bigger dog turns round. If we do not wake up very shortly, within less than ten years we shall be a province of China. We hear talk about fighting Communist China, which has 600,000,000 people. If 200,000,000 of them were killed, the living conditions of the other 400,000,000 would be much better than they are to-day. The Chinese have military equipment of much the same kind as we and the Americans have, and the white races could not afford to lose men at the same rate as could the Chinese. Surely no one with enough intelligence to keep out of a mental home would seriously suggest that we could possibly affect the situation in China, with its 600,000,000 people, a quarter of the world’s population, and equipped along the same lines as those nations that might attack it.
Of course, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 am as worried about our defence position as is anybody else in this chamber. Government supporters say complacently, “ We are doing this, we are doing that and we are doing the other thing “. Yet, the Government has not done one substantial thing for the defence of Australia. We are in the most hopeless position of any nation in the world, great or small. The complacency of the Cabinet absolutely astonishes and amazes me. The Government apparently does not appreciate that in a future war it will not be a case, as it was in the past, of sending armies overseas, as you would send a football team or a cricket team. We shall all be in it. As sure as the sun rises, unless the supporters of the Government wake up they will pay the penalty, as other people have, for their crass ignorance.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Mr. STOKES (Maribyrnong) [12 midnight - Mr. Chairman, before I turn to the Estimates now under consideration, I should like to join with those who have paid tribute to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). I pay tribute to him particularly for his political service to this country over more than a quarter of a century and for the sterling and downtoearth manner in which he has administered the portfolio from which he is soon to retire. In common, I am sure, with all other honorable members, I wish him well in his retirement.
Now I address my remarks to the Defence Estimates, Mr. Chairman. I doubt whether T have ever heard such glorious inconsistency as I have heard to-night in the remarks of Opposition speakers who have discussed these Estimates. In one breath, they cry that we have not adequate defence, that there is not enough money to buy materials to keep men in work, and that there is not this and there is not the other thing; and, in the next breath, they try to tear down the defence programme by pressing for a reduction of the Defence vote by £40,000,000 or £50;000;000. I do not ‘think one would ever’ hear such inconsistency -except from ‘ members of the present Opposition party.
My friend, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), seem far more concerned about keeping employed in industry certain elements of the work force than about the defence of this country. I agree with them that nobody wants to see men out of work; but that seems to ‘ be their primary concern. The honorable member for Batman discussed the Lockheed FI 04 Starfighter and talked about the reasons why we could not get delivery of it. The fact is that that aircraft was found to be unsuited to our requirements. Another fighter - a Northrop aircraft - was coming along for testing, and we thought that it might suit us. I fancy that it has now been found that it perhaps does not meet our requirements. If they may not suit us, how can we afford to mess about with prototypes of various fighters, and why should we do so, when we have a powerful ally willing to experiment and test new aircraft? We can reap the benefit of the experience gained and choose a suitable aircraft that will not be obsolete. Yet, when we decide to do this, we hear loud squeals from the Opposition. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) talked about the obsolescence of aircraft carriers. I think, from memory, that at least one of our carriers was bought by a ‘Labour government with aircraft that the honorable member now says are obsolescent. That is what happens. From the moment one acquires an aircraft, it tends to become obsolescent. That is the very thing that we are now trying to avoid.
The Defence vote remains the same, at £190.000,000, as it was in the last two financial years. As you know, Mr. Chairman, and as we all are aware, there has been much opposition and criticism from honorable members opposite over the expenditure of defence funds and the fact that in the financial year 1955-56 an amount of £10.000.000 remained unexpended. Despite protests from the Services about moneys earmarked for payment for items of equipment from overseas in respect of which there was difficulty in obtaining delivery, the Services were not ‘permitted to carry those “funds over in order to pay for that equipment if it was ‘delivered in the following fiscal year, and the Defence vote was arbitrarily reduced by £10;000,000, the amount unexpended. As a result, Mr. Chairman, the services were able to spend less than before on equipment that was still desperately needed.
In order to compensate for the lack of funds with which to purchase ‘ that equipment certain economies were ma’de. One of them was the curtailment of the national service training scheme -which resulted :in its modification, as you, ‘Mr. Chai’r’ma’n, know, to provide for selective ‘ballots for a maximum of 12,000’ trainees a year, and a reduction- of the period of continuous training from’ 98 to 77 days. Although this curtailment resulted in a saving of, 1 : think, approximately £4,000,000 per annum, it is my opinion that it has ‘not been in the best interests of Australia or of the young people who will be its future responsible citizens. Personally, I consider it is high time that the defence vote was increased to the original figure of £200,000,000. This is seen to be particularly necessary when we take into account pay increases and the higher cost of keeping men in the field to-day.
Concentration on the permanent brigade group and the training only of this limited number of national service trainees will undoubtedly leave this country, in the event of war, in much the same position as in 1939 with respect to its preparedness, lt is my opinion that the best that Australia could do in an emergency in the way of mobilization would be to raise a division around the nucleus of the present brigade group. This would probably take about three month’s, and the raising of two divisions would probably take five months. It would probably be eight months or more before we could get a corps into the field. In the present state of the world, such a lapse of time is completely ‘farcical, to say the least, and we should use every endeavour to shorten the time that it would take us to mobilize our force’s. I suggest that, even within our present limited financial capacity, we could improve the position materially at a minimum cost by augmenting the present method of national service training. We already have in the Department of Labour and National Service the necessary machinery for the registration of all youths becoming eligible for training. The -average registrations, I think, would approximate 30,000 or perhaps 40,000 per annum. Of these, only 12,000, mark you, are selected by ballot and receive training. The training of the others is deferred sine die.
– I am not criticizing that decision. At present, we are losing a great opportunity in not undertaking, in respect of all youths who register for national service training, the minimum basic requirements for enlisted personnel normally undertaken immediately after enlistment. I refer to matters such as blood grouping, vaccination and inoculation, and the instilling of the rudiments of discipline, of the capability to move in parties from place to place, of respect for seniors, and of the ability to carry out an order; in other words, all those things that are normally covered by the term, “ basic recruit training “ in the service manuals. It should be fairly practicable to cover most of these things within a month if we sacrifice excessive squad drill, rifle drill and musketry practice, and substitute in their place, perhaps, a degree of first-aid training and instruction in the rudiments of rescue work for civil defence. In this period of one month’s training, the various civil employment categories of the trainees could be recorded, preferences for training in particular branches of the services could be ascertained, capabilities, physique and occupational aptitudes could oe assessed, and trainees could be allotted to particular branches of the forces.
Before the camp concluded, those trainees who had been selected to continue their training could be so advised. All other personnel marching out could be placed on the reserve of whatever branch of the service for which they were most qualified by their civil occupations, so that in the event of mobilization they could be enlisted accordingly. This would remove the futility of so many round pegs in square holes, which occurs in connexion with mass enlistments during mobilization in war-time, when we find perhaps a science student placed in the ordnance corps, and so on. The local government authorities in the areas in which these semi-trained personnel who marched out of camp after one month’s training resided could be advised immediately after they marched out and could keep a record of the men, so that they could be called on if necessary in any state of national emergency such as that produced by a national disaster caused by floods or bush fires, or in the event of war.
This brings me to a discussion of the item in the Estimates covering civil defence. I was pleased to see that the amount for civil defence provided in the Estimates has been increased to £300,000. I hope that this portends an increase of civil defence activities. Indeed, the Minister gave some indication in his speech to-night that such would be the case. During the last war we had available to us the services of many exsoldiers who joined the Volunteer Defence Corps. There should be no reason why, at the present time, we should not have a volunteer civil defence corps. There are many retired officers and returned soldiers associated with the Returned Servicemen’s League who would be only too willing to give up a little of their time in what would be a continuation of the service to their country that they have already given in war-time. At present, Mr. Chairman, all this excellent material is being completely wasted.
I suggest that a volunteer civil defence corps be established under the direction of the civil defence directorate, that volunteers be called for in each State, that the control of the corps be exercised through each individual State on this voluntary basis, that volunteers be trained at the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon and that, if necessary, similar schools be established in each State. Such organizations could look for volunteers among those youths who I previously mentioned who have undergone one month’s training. The youthful volunteers would have undergone a certain amount of basic training in first aid, rescue work and civil defence, and so on. Many of them would live in country districts, and they would be available to assist in civil defence work in the case of an atomic attack on a capital city. I am sure that they would do a worth-while job.
I know that the Government - and world opinion - holds that the probability of a nuclear global war is remote at present; but the citizens of this country are entitled, even if there is only a vague possibility of nuclear global war, to have some protection against atomic attack. This could be given by such a volunteer organization as I have mentioned. Should the services of the organization never be used - which we all fervently hope would be the case - the time spent in training by this volunteer organization, together with the one month’s training which the youths who enlisted in it would have already received, would produce better citizens, because dedication to service is the keystone upon which good citizenship is undoubtedly built.
– First, I want to enter an emphatic protest against the action of the Government in bringing in this most important division of the Estimates at midnight, with the intention of keeping the committee debating until 2 a.m. There is plenty of time between now and 22nd November, the date of the coming general election, for a debate on these estimates, without pulling them on after midnight when everybody is getting a bit weary. In other words, this is legislation by exhaustion, with a vengeance.
The Government knows full well that it is very vulnerable on this particular question - defence. The result is that it wants to get these Estimates through as quickly as possible and to limit the debate on them as much as it can. The press of Australia, as well as members of the Opposition, has for a long time been pointing out to the Government how very remiss it has been about the defence of Australia. The Labour party believes in adequate defence. The Labour party demonstrated in World War II. what it was capable of doing in that field.
– What did it do?
– When Japan struck at Pearl Harbour there were still 100,000 unemployed in this country - and we had been at war for two years! Do not talk to me about what the Labour party did during World War II.
– Well, what did it do?
Order! Both sides of the committee must come to order. Neither side is helping the honorable gentleman who has the floor. I think that we should have less noise.
– I turn now to the subject of aircraft carriers, to which reference has been made. During the Korean War and World War II. it was seaborne aircraft which paved the way for the operations of land-based aircraft. In World War II. seaborne aircraft gave the necessary cover to the fleets and military forces operating to the north of Australia.
Aircraft carriers having proved how vital they were in a Pacific war the Chifley Government decided to accept an offer made by Great Britain for the sale of two aircraft carriers the keels of which had been laid down during World War II., but on which work had ceased with the cessation of hostilities. This class of carrier was the “ Glory “ class. The last report on that class of carrier that I had seen in “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “ for 1956-57, said that the Royal Navy had eight “ Glory “ type carriers in operation and that the reason that the Australian Government had decided on these carriers was that a “ Glory “ class carrier requires in peace-time a complement of 1,076, which compares with the complement of about 1,350 required for a “ Hercules “ type of carrier. It was quite obvious that in time of peace we would run up against the problem that this Government is running up against now - the problem of man-power for the services. So the two “ Glory “ type carriers were ordered. “ Sydney “ was the first to arrive, and at the time of her arrival in Australia in 1949 she was the most efficient carrier of her class afloat. “ Melbourne “ was not delivered until well into the life of the present Government, the reason being that no priority was given in Great Britain to the construction of those carriers, and apparently the Government did not bother to do anything about getting the work on the carriers expedited. It just let things drift. When “ Melbourne “ arrived here she was the best equipped ship of her kind afloat. She had the angled landing deck and other modern features. But in 1950 “ Sydney “ was sent back to Great Britain to be further modernized, to have installed in her certain equipment which had been developed since her commissioning and her arrival in Australia in 1949.
I have read since that even to-day aircraft carriers are still vital for our defence because although we have land-based aircraft the sea lanes to Australia from Aden and Africa, as well as from America, are so long that only seaborne aircraft could patrol them and keep them open in time of war.
The plans that were inherited by this Government from the Chifley Government provided for the commissioning of those two carriers. From what I can remember, those plans also provided for the purchase of a third carrier so that in the event of hostilities two carriers would be operational and one would be in reserve. But to-day we have only one carrier - “ Melbourne “. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked what was to happen to “ Sydney “. That vessel should have been sent abroad to be modernized. Despite the fact that this Government is faced with a man-power problem, it has not bothered to keep “ Sydney “ up to scratch or up to the standard of aircraft carriers of her type in other parts of the world.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said earlier that five frigates had been commissioned. During the last war Australia had Q class destroyers in operation. The Chifley Government was of the opinion that, if this country became involved in another conflict, because of our geographical situation modern submarines would constitute the greatest menace. Therefore, it was decided that the Q class destroyers should be modernized and equipped for anti-submarine warfare.
The plans inherited by this Government also envisaged the construction at Cockatoo Island dockyard and at Williamstown certain Daring class destroyers. Great Britain has eight of those vessels. I do not wish to refer to the number that it was intended to build here, but I wish to make the point that the Government has fallen down on the construction side of our defence programme. What has happened in the shipbuilding industry generally? Walkers Limited at Maryborough has closed down its shipyard and 300 men are going off. Other dockyards are idle because they have no orders. The Chifley Government decided that the retention of our shipbuilding yards was vital to the defence of our country, but in that respect this Government has been negligent. It has allowed the shipbuilding industry to die. What is the future for Evens Deakin and Company Limited, which has one of the biggest shipbuilding yards in Australia? lt can see about twelve months’ work ahead. I repeat that this Government has fallen down on the construction of ships.
If, during World War II., Japan had not been defeated at Midway Island, the story would have been quite different from what it was. The advice that had been tendered to governments up to the outbreak of World War II. was based upon the Kitchener report of 1913, which pointed out that any attack on Australia would come from the north and would be directed against our eastern seaboard. It is quite obvious that the existence of the base at Singapore would not have interfered with any Japanese movement in this direction, particularly in the light of what happened at that unfortunate place.
Because we have a small population but a long sea coast, it follows that, comparatively speaking, our Navy must be small; but it behoves any government that is aware of its defence responsibilities to keep the Navy as efficient as possible. But this Government has allowed the Navy to slip back. It is a disgrace, Mr. Chairman, for the Minister for Defence to rise in his place and say that we have only twelve ships manned. During the nine years that it has been in office, this Government has spent £331,000,000 on the Navy. Even then, one of the aircraft carriers was already operational.
I refer now to the position of the Air Force and to the basic plank of Labour’s defence policy. When it was in office, the Australian Labour party believed - and it still believes - that the first line of Australia’s defence was in the air. During World War II., even when Labour was in opposition, Jack Curtin stressed the fact that our first line of defence was in the air. Despite the expenditure of £392,000,000 on the Air Force, this Government’s plans are still in the air, too. Let me refer to the Prime Minister’s speech of 19th September last. Dealing with the purchase of aircraft he said -
The Lockheed FI 04 had been recommended on the strength of investigations made some time before. These investigations had indicated that it would be the last word in speed, height, and manoeuvreability. Having regard to the almost alarming rate at which military aircraft became obsolescent and finally obsolete, it was thought that the last word would be best.
But we found that the last word was not the best. When the Minister for Defence went to America, he decided that they would not be purchased.
I now turn to the Army. The best I can do is to direct the attention of the committee to a copy of the Sydney “ Sun “ which’ features right across the page the caption “ Australia Unarmed. Where is the Army? “ That is what we want to know. We know that the north of Australia is not defended. We know, too, that we will not be attacked by the penguins and that, if any attack is directed against our shores, it will come, as in the time of Kitchener, from the north. What defence preparations have been made in the north? None! There is a Dakota there, and possibly a Lincoln bomber. It is true that the Government has spent £1,000,000 on a runway at Townsville and that there are a handful of Lincoln bombers there. Even the Canberra jet bombers have been superseded. They are based on Amberley, but Djakarta is closer to Darwin than Amberley is. These matters are agitating the minds of the people in the north of Australia. They want to know whether this Government is aware of what could have happened during the last war if it had not been for the Allies’ victory at Midway Island. Are the people in the north to be thrown to the wolves? Are they to be left as they were left in 1939?
Recently the Prime Minister visited the Mary Kathleen area, and blazoned across the Townsville press were the words “ The Prime Minister Discovers North Queensland “. He went to Weipa also, and then returned south and wept about the great potentialities of north Queensland. Reference was made, too, to expenditure at Mount Isa. But what is this Government doing about protecting that vital part of this continent? At Weipa there is one of the greatest deposits of bauxite in the world, and at least £45,000,000 worth of uranium oxide will be won at Mary Kathleen.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It was rather strange to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) who was formerly Minister for the Navy, objecting to the defence estimates being considered at this hour. The honorable member began his speech at approximately 12.15 a.m. He knows very well that in 1946, when I first was elected to this chamber, and in the years following, the expenditure of millions of pounds was passed in. this chamber between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock in the morning. At that time the Chifley Labour Government was in office. I remember leaving this chamber and arriving at the Hotel Kurrajong as the breakfast bell was rung. Honorable members on the Opposition side know that that is quite correct and the honorable member for Kennedy was a Minister at the time, and yet he has complained dramatically at 12.15 a.m. that it is ridiculous to discuss the defence Estimates at this hour.
I think reference should be made to the difference between the attitude of the honorable member for Kennedy and that of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). The honorable member for Leichhardt referred to Australia’s two aircraft carriers. He said that they were useless and that the Government had let the people down in buying them. The honorable member for Kennedy, who is a former Minister for the Navy, referred to the aircraft carrier “ Sydney “. He said it was right up to date and had done a remarkable job when it came to Australia. It arrived here in May, 1949.
– That is what I said.
– I know that; but the honorable member for Leichhardt took the Government to task for bringing that aircraft carrier here. I point out that it was brought to Australia when a Labour government was in office. If there was anything wrong with it - and I do not think there was - it was not this Government’s fault but the fault of the Labour government of the day. The “ Sydney “ had Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft and it did a good job. The honorable member for Leichhardt is retiring from the Parliament. We give him credit for what he has done in the past, but he should be careful what he says in the last few days that he occupies a seat in this chamber; otherwise, he might spoil his record.
H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ was brought to Australia in March, 1956. It has Sea Venom and Gannet aircraft. It is an uptodate aircraft carrier equipped with modern aeroplanes. Fancy an honorable member saying that this Government had acted wrongly and wasted the money of the taxpayers in obtaining these aircraft carriers which are necessary in modern war.
The honorable member for Leichhardt found fault with this Government for sending forces to Malaya to join the Commonwealth forces there in fighting the Communist terrorists. He said that women and children should not have been sent there if there was any danger. There was no danger o’f a widespread war in Malaya. Every one knows that the danger came from the -Communist terrorists in the jungle. The wives of our servicemen who went to Malaya were perfectly safe, but the troops did excellent work in clearing out the Communist terrorists. Only recently when some of them returned to Australia, the representatives of the Malayan people sent words of thanks to the Australian Government for the fine work that this force of men had done in Malaya to help rid the country of the scourge of communism. The Communists were murdering people in the country whenever they had an opportunity. Of course, members of the Australian Labour party objected to the Australian force going to .Malaya. Our men were going to fight the Communists. Since the Malayan authorities expressed appreciation of the work of the Australian force, the Australian Labour .party has gone quietly on the subject, until the honorable member for Leichhardt spoke to-night. The British Commonwealth forces cemented the prevailing goodwill between the Commonwealth countries,
The honorable member for Leichhardt referred to the Woomera rocket range and said that Australia was getting nothing out of it. Previously, he had complained that Australia was unarmed. Through the Woomera rocket range, Australia is keeping up-to-date in scientific warfare. Opposition members have referred to obsolete weapons and aircraft, but apparently it will not be very long before most of these weapons are obsolete. When that time comes, the scientific discoveries at the Woomera range will be of great value to us. The honorable member for Leichhardt said that the United “Kingdom and the United States of America were getting all the benefit from the trials at the range. Who should benefit from them? Those countries are our allies.
I suppose the honorable member objects to Seato, but that is .one of the great bulwarks of Australia from a defence point of view.
Many speeches that have been delivered on the Opposition side to-night have had no basis in fact. I compliment the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) on his statement to .the committee. He has given us information of a comprehensive nature and has set out at the back of one pahmplet just how our money is being spent, how these estimates for the year were worked out and the actual expenditure that has taken place, If honorable members peruse this document they will discover that much has been spent on wages and the upkeep of the troops. I compliment the Government on ‘having increased the pay of the personnel in our armed forces. That will attract more men to the ranks of those who protect us.
I -believe that this Government is doing everything possible in peace-time to keep our defences strong. With -the close cooperation of the countries of the free world, Australia is being well served. We never hear any request from the supporters of the Australian Labour party for the fostering of close co-operation with the United States of America. We hear from them only criticism of such things as Seato. Supporters of the Labour party always criticize the United Kingdom and the United States of America and other countries which we must regard as our best friends in peace and war. The closer we can co-operate with those countries, the better our position will be. If we keep our defences strong, we shall be ready at any time to co-operate in an emergency with those stronger nations as we have done in the past.
.- I wish to refer to some matters which have been raised by supporters of the Government. They have stated that the Australian Labour party is not interested in defence. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that we are not interested in co-operation with the United States of America. As my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out quite rightly, we were the first people really to get co-operation with the United States of America. It was the Australian Labour party which established the Fleet Air Arm, and ordered aircraft carriers, as the former Minister for the Navy pointed out. The Labour party established the Woomera Rocket Range, of which the Government is so proud. It established the Regular Army, the basis of the defence system, of which, again, the Government is so proud.
Those are not the things upon which I particularly want to dwell. We have spent some £1,300,000,000 on defence, and we have heard honorable members opposite explain that it has been spent to good effect. We heard one honorable member - I think the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) - explaining that it was our job not so much to consider details of policy, as to take the advice of the men who have spent a long time in the services and therefore know exactly what we want and how we ought to spend the money. Those were the words that were used. I only hope that their anticipation of our defence needs and what ought to be done about them is better than their estimates of expenditure. That is the first point upon which I oppose the Government’s defence expenditure - its faulty estimating. If we turn to the financial reports, we find that last financial year we over-estimated by a total of £17,000,000. That is a tremendous sum of money. This over-estimating is indicative of the attitude of the Government to the defence system - that figures will produce results. So my first criticism is on the ground of faulty estimating.
There are a number of other reasons why the defence system should come under criticism. There is the erratic equipment and organizational policy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the last two or three years, has announced several changes of policy, and this has had an effect throughout the Services. There has been a complete failure to take account of modern trends. For instance, we have done nothing whatsoever about the integration of our Services which was advocated in the Morshead report. Our defence forces are not mobile. I defy the Government to move our defence forces quickly, even with the new equipment it is purchasing.
The Government’s attitude over the years, its policy on recruitment, the sudden introduction of national service training and its removal, with consequent disorganiza tion of military units, have seriously weakened the morale of the defence services. The Government is antagonizing our closest foreign neighbours. It is destroying the industrial base upon which our ability to fight and defend ourselves can be maintained, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and by other honorable members on this side in questions concerning the shipping industry and so on.
– Who are the foreign neighbours we are antagonizing?
– They seem to be acceptable to the United States of America, with whom the Government is so friendly. Finally, in the field of civil defence practically nothing is being done.
I am prepared to admit that defence poses a problem of the first magnitude. The principal problem we have to face is whether we are likely to have to fight a total war, to fight a limited war, or to supply forces for the United Nations. There is very little that Australia can do about total war, except to prepare itself by civil defence. Last week most of us saw something of the American naval strength when we watched a film shown in this building. It indicated the tremendous industrial strength required to maintain global forces. Australia just cannot be in it, and that is admitted. We cannot produce fleets of aircraft carriers or fleets of modern fighters, and maintain huge standing armies. That is beyond our capacity. But at least we ought to be able to examine the things we are doing to see whether they will achieve what the Government has set out to achieve.
In the case of a limited war, we ought to be able to take an active part, as was the case in Korea, if such an event should occur in any part of the world, but I believe our principal aim should be to be in a position to supply some part of an international force for the United Nations, if it is considered necessary to raise such a force. Let us examine our forces as they stand at the moment to see whether they are capable of achieving this. At various times I have asked questions of the Minister for Defence, seeking an outline of the structure of our military forces, but I have never obtained a satisfactory answer. So to-night I spent some time going through telephone books and working it out for myself, and honorable members will be interested to know that I arrived at the same answer as the Minister gave in his speech to-night.
We have the basis of three infantry divisions, and we have a permanent brigade. The Minister says that these are well trained, mobile and well equipped. Let us take the numbers and equipment of the Australian Army as it stands. We have three divisions, principally infantry; we have 120 Centurion tanks, large numbers of wireless sets, and various forms of transport. I believe that Australian industry, and the design and development side of the defence forces, should have been taking definite steps to produce a tank more fitted to the needs of the Australian Army than the Centurion. I have raised this point here before. 1 admit that the Centurion tank is the best that you can get. There is nothing wrong with it, except that it is unsuitable for our needs. In relation to the Starfighter, I think the Prime Minister used the term that it was too sophisticated for our needs. Likewise, I think that the Centurion tank, because of difficulties in moving the machine, the extravagant cost of maintaining it, its huge petrol consumption and its limited range, is unsuitable.
We should have been trying to produce a more suitable tank in the 25-ton to 30- ton range, with a diesel engine. I understand that the Russians are using diesel engines in their tanks and that they get from them a cruising distance of up to 200 miles. The Centurion will do on a crosscountry run only about 30 miles on its 120 gallons of petrol. If our defence force is mobile, highly trained and ready for anything, we should be able to put it, in fighting form, anywhere on our coastline at least. How would we fare if within ten days we had to put a respectable force in the north of Australia. Could our shippine and other transport services handle our 1 20 tanks? How long would that number last in a modern war? These are things that we have to face. It is useless to have equipment that places too great a strain upon our general services. I still remain unconvinced, despite the criticism of the 25-nounder bv mv friend the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that it is a good proposition to equip the Australian Army with the 105- millimetre gun.
– Tell us about the 25- pounder. You know something about it.
– He should tell you about it. You were only in the V.D.C.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is out of order.
– There is a fair amount of audience participation. I believe that the 105-millimetre gun will not supply anything that the 25-pounder cannot supply. Although the 105-millimetre gun fires a shell which is 5 lb. heavier, it has a maximum range of a few hundred yards less, I understand, and it probably weighs about 8 cwt. or 10 cwt. more. The expenditure on ammunition for it probably would place a greater strain on our resources, and we would have to re-tool our factories before we could re-equip with it. It does not answer the questions posed by atomic warfare, in a tactical sense. In the last war. our infantry divisions probably ranged over a distance of from 12,000 to 15,000 yards. This was within the range of all the artillery in the divisions. So far as T understand, the British forces are attempting to produce, and have probably achieved some success in producing, a weapon which is little more than a field gun, with a maximum range of 25,000 yards.
These are things that we should be considering. If we are to re-equip, we must re-equip with something which is eminently satisfactory for the future. If we cannot find something which solves these problems, we ought to use what we have. There must be at least 1,000 25- pounders in Australia in good order and condition, and millions of rounds of ammunition for them. Tt is part of the system that, in relation to the defence vote, anything does and you can get away with anything as long at it is connected with defence. You can arrange to spend £17,000,000 more than is actually spent in a year. What the total figures are over the last eight years T cannot say, but I know that the actual expenditure was less than the votes by probably £50.000.000 or £60.000.000. The Australian people are asking for efficiency in the defence services, They are also asking for many other things, such as more schools, increased pensions, more roads and ports, and a standardized railway system. The amount of £17,000,000, which was over-estimated last year, would standardize many miles of railway lines. I believe that we have become subservient to faulty estimating, to a fallacious approach to our defence system. This has imposed an impossible strain on the nation. I oppose the vote on those grounds, although I concede that it is difficult to estimate accurately in modern times.
I oppose the purchase of the Lockheed “ Hercules “ by the dozen. There may be some point in buying two or three of them. They cost £1,250,000 each, with spare parts. They carry about 100 troops. What is involved in shifting a modern army, or even one infantry battalion? It involves the shifting of thousands of tons of equipment and ammunition. One Centurion tank carries 65 rounds of ammunition, each round weighing perhaps 50 lb. or 60 lb. How many aeroplanes would be necessary to keep two tanks in action for a couple of days? Just as St. Mary’s was a piece of extravagance, so the purchase of these Lockheed “ Hercules “ aircraft is a piece of extravagance. The national service training scheme has served no good purpose. Our defence system needs logical reconsideration.
We must see what our future defence role is likely to be. If we are to supply a division to the United Nations, it will probably come from one of the three divisions that we already have. Those divisions should be equipped with light armour, ready to play a role in international affairs. I say those things after fair consideration and a reasonable amount of experience, admitting all the time that the answer is not easy to find, that we on this side of the chamber do. not have the resources necessary to delve into the deeper and more remote aspects of defence policy and reequipment costs and the rest of it. So when honorable members on this side say that the proposed vote for defence should be reduced by £40,000,000, I believe that an examination of some of the things that have taken place in the last few years - for example, the expenditure on H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ and on the St. Mary’s projectwill show that £200,000.000 or £300,000,000 could have been saved and the same end result produced. 1 refuseto believe that our Army is mobile. I am disappointed that there has been no concrete step taken towards integration of the services. It is twelve months since integration was first mooted and all we have achieved so far is an improvement in canteen and medical services. What about pay, records, ordnance and supply? They are some of the challenges that the Government has not faced and about which I believe the Australian people have been inadequately informed. We have not been given the information on which to decide our role. That is the general feeling, I think, throughout the defence forces. Why cannot the Government make a concrete statement that we will maintain a division equipped to a certain standard, that we will adopt a less sophisticated system that will give us a chance to defend our own shores and support the United Nations, and that we will do something radical about civil defence? There is probably a basis for civil defence in the rifle clubs, but the best disciplined and organized group of people in the community at present is the trade union movement, which comes under constant criticism from Government members. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) does no service to the nation by his attitude to the trade union movement. The waterside workers, the coal-miners, and the railwaymen are accustomed-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not want to take up much time in answering the last two Opposition speakers, but I cannot allow to pass the age-old comment made by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that everybody knows that the Labour party won the last war. The truth is that the Labour party only just avoided losing the last war because it had enough common sense to build on the foundations that were laid by the Menzies Government. The honorable member for Kennedy also went to some length to explain how the Labour party had laid- the foundations for our aircraft carrier naval component. He. went on to say that if the
Labour party had remained in office Australia would have had three aircraft carriers. My reply to that is that our handicap is big enough with our two aircraft carriers.
I do not believe that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) was sincere when he said he could not -understand why overestimating in the Defence vote must inevitably occur. A lot of Opposition speakers have. made, some point of -this inability on the part of the Government accurately to estimate defence expenditure for the year. The honorable member for Wills, with his experience, must know that it is impossible not to over-estimate if reasonable provision is made for new equipment, which is one of our most urgent necessities, having regard to the uncertainty of delivery dates. Failure to provide in the Estimates for the purchase of equipment if it becomes available could well result, not in our not getting the equipment, but in its delivery being delayed. So it is only common sense and prudence to provide in the Estimates money to procure equipment that we urgently need and which may become . available during the financial year under consideration.
– And is on order.
– And is on order. Deliveries being as unreliable as they are, it inevitably occurs that some equipment is not received during the financial year covered by the vote, and so it appears - to use the Opposition’s term - that there has been - over-estimation by- the Defence Services.
– Why not spend the money on something else?
– Because the Government is not so scatter-brained as to spend money simply for the sake of spending it. If it cannot spend the money on equipment for which the, estimate was made, it correctly, and. frugally pays the. money back into general revenue.
I have one or two points that I want to raise. The first concerns a matter that has already been touched on by honorable members on this side and by the honorable member for Wills. It is~ pleasing to see that the proposed vote for- Civil Defence is more than double the- amount that w.as voted last year. This is particularly encouraging in view of- the fact that so. little has been done, up to: date about civil defence. The Government, it. is true, has set up a very useful and efficient school at Mount Macedon, where indoctrination courses have been held with great success. Some instructors’ courses also have been held, the .aim being to provide instructors to the States if they are required. In New South Wales, some attempt hasbeen made, and some . progress has been registered, in civil defence planning and organization. But in the other States practically nothing has been done. I hope that the proposed increased provision for civil defence means that the Government has now come to the conclusion that it is time that some co-ordination and leadership in this important phase of defence was provided by the Commonwealth. If that is so, I think it is opportune to suggest again that in order to provide this efficient leadership and coordination with a minimum of expense and dislocation, it may be a good idea to pass this responsibility on to the Army.- The Army already has in being a command and administrative organization well and suitably disposed through the States, in the centres- of population, which could very well carry out the co-ordination of civil defence duties without any significant increase in overhead and so avoid the expense, difficulties and delays inherent in setting up a brand new Commonwealth organization to deal with it.
I know that civil defence is very largely a matter for such State, instrumentalities as the police force, fire brigades, ambulance and medical services, water, power, light and sewerage services and so on, but, in an emergency, those services must be controlled and co-ordinated. Surely the Army is the suitable organization to do that. Army commanders and staffs are already experienced in. this type of work. They would be operating in their own fields. It is also true that in an emergency these State instrumentalities which are . the basic elements of any civil defence organization would require reinforcement, not only in the event of a war. emergency;, but in the event of a national disaster. For example, fire services could very quickly become insufficient to deal with, a conflagration and epidemics of sickness could. very quickly saturate our. hospitals. So there basic elements of a civil defence organization do require reinforcement, which is. readily available, and . trained to meet an; emergency.
Here again f suggest that the Army can provide the obvious and economic solution.
We already have a national service training scheme. We have reduced the intake of national service trainees from, I think, a possible 30,000 to 12,000. I suggest that we could take in some additional national service trainees, for whom the Army still has the accommodation and with whom it still has the organization to deal. These additional trainees should be drawn with discrimination from the large centres of population and given training in civil defence. When they return to their homes from their continuous training of two or three months, whatever it may be, I suggest that they would be automatically distributed in the most suitable places within the areas from which they have been drawn. Then those special national service trainees who are additional to the militia requirements, and who have been specially trained in civil defence, for which the Army has the facilities and the accommodation to-day, should be required to complete their national service training obligations in subsequent years by secondment to the State instrumentalities in the areas of population in which they live. In this way, the police force would have at its disposal a number of auxiliary policemen, or special constables, call them what you will, upon whom they could call in an emergency to supplement the ordinary police force, the fire brigades would have supernumary firemen available to them, hospitals would have reinforcements of people trained in hospital orderly work, and so on. It seems to me that such an organization as that would involve a minimum of overhead, and a minimum of delay in that it would be making use of an existing command and administrative organization which would be carrying out a function in a field for which it is trained and for which it is eminently suitable. I leave it at that. I have made the suggestion before.
I come now to the integration of the defence forces. I do hope that the Morshead report has not been shelved for good. That hope is sustained by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Government will give the Morshead report further consideration from time to time. This report does not touch the integration of the fighting services as I understand it. What it does recommend, so T and other honorable members have been told by the Prime Minister, is the almagamation. co-ordination or integration, whatever term you like to use, of the service departments of the defence department into a single ministry. I believe that is more efficient and more economical. I am particularly interested in it because it is the first essential step to an integrated fighting service. Without an integrated higher administrative organization and political control, to talk about an integrated fighting service is, of course, stupid.
That brings me to the point which I particularly want to stress. There seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding and loose thinking about what is meant by an integrated service. When talking to some people, I find to my amazement that when I say I think an integrated defence force is something we should have they think I mean integration of the services right from the top to the bottom, with servicemen and junior officers jacks of all trades, in a ship this week, flying an aeroplane next week, marching in an infantry company the following week, and so on. Nothing could be more unreasonable. My conception of an integrated defence force is the integration of the top command with a combined staff. Below the top command with an integrated staff, there would be little, if any, discernible difference in the services as we know them to-day. Under this top command with a combined integrated staff we would have our air arm, our land arm, and our sea arm. In operation and training, these special arms of the integrated forces would of course be coordinated, trained and administered by their own officers.
Tn the field, the same principle would automatically follow merely by adopting the well-tested and time-tried system of task forces. If you go into a theatre of war, or a section of a theatre of war, a task force is formed. A single commander, with an integrated staff, commands, controls and administers the arm of the service particularly suited to the task required to be done. That, I think, is the proper conception of an integrated defence force. It is certainly what I have been advocating over the last ten years, and I feel more cheerful about it when I find that I am supported in my view by the two leading soldiers of our time, General Eisenhower and Lord Montgomery, who have stated publicly that an integrated fighting service is the final solution.
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in the statement he read to-night, started off in his usual manner by trying to create a fear complex in the more timid souls in our community. We heard much about the fear of Communist aggression, armed attack and war. Every one agrees that we are not prepared for war. Despite the Minister’s assurances about the ships we have in commission, I should like to question what he has told us. My information is dated as late as 3rd September last and relates to the ships we have in service or under refit. We have one carrier and two Tribal class destroyers. I take the destroyers to be “ Warramunga “ and another destroyer that was built in 1943 at Cockatoo Dock. We have two battle class destroyers and one of the Daring class. They are so old that you need to be daring to go to sea in them. There are two corvettes and one boom defence vessel. The other one, the “ Kangaroo “, has collapsed. There are also three Q class destroyers. That makes twelve ships we have in commission. The information I am giving you is authentic, despite the assurance we have been given by the Minister.
My information of 3rd September also refers to the sale of ships. “ Australia “ and “ Shropshire “ were sold to England, and “Platypus”, “ Bataan “, “Quality”, “Lae”, “Tarakan”, “Labuan”, “Shepparton “, “ Dubbo “ and “ Colac “ were sold to Japan.
– What about “Hobart”?
– I shall have more to say about “ Hobart “ later. I also have an informer in a newspaper, the Sydney “ Sun “, which has been berating this Government for its lack of defence. The Sydney “ Sun “, under the heading “ Government Watch “, had this to say -
Australia is aware of a rapid build-up of arms by Indonesia.
This awareness has increased during recent weeks as the result of fresh reports reaching the External Affairs Department.
This information has been passed on to defence chiefs and the Federal Cabinet has discussed it.
Later on the Sydney “ Sun “, continuing to berate the Government for its lack of defence, under the heading “Australia Unarmed “, said -
Australia’s defence bill, including to-night’s Budget allocation, totals 1,570 million pounds since 1950-51.
What have we got for it?
The “ Sun “ also stated, under the heading, “ N.G. Alert Story “-
Australia has been alerted to a reported Indonesian threat to attack the Dutch colony of West New Guinea, according to a report in the Chicago “ Sun Times “.
Yet the Government is content to sell eleven ships, nine to Japan and two to England, to be broken up for scrap. How much did it get for those ships? That is not stated in the Estimates. There is no mention of the charge made for these ships, how much the Government received, or where the money has gone. I am most concerned about our lack of defence, despite the Minister’s assurance that everything is going well. If we were preparing to defend this island continent, with 12,000 miles of coastline, with lovely rivers and harbours, we would be building ships and would keep on building them. Most war equipment is out of date almost as soon as it has been produced, but this Government rattles on and, in the words of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), still relies on the 25- pounder gun. Most of our defence chiefs think they live in the days of the bow and arrow.
I am concerned at the lack of employment at Garden Island. Walsh’s Dock, Morts Dock and Cockatoo Dock. My information discloses that maladministration at the Garden island dockyard is depressing. Back in 1948 all work done by the department known as “ fitters afloat “ was supervised by two foremen and six leading hands. At that time the amount of work was much greater than it is at the present time. The number of men engaged on the work at that time was approximately 80 to 85 tradesmen and their assistants. The ships in service or being refitted included all small craft, apart from motor boats. There were five “ Q “ class destroyers, three tribal class destroyers, nine frigates, three cruisers, a number of corvettes, tugs, A.S.R.’s and three tank landing craft.
During this .period, when only two foremen were employed, the work performed included the handing back refit of “ Kanimbla “, a tailshaft job on the merchant ship “ Georgie “ and a refit of the Antarctic ship “ Discovery “. Much work was also carried out on ships >of other navies visiting Sydney. Also all diesel tailshaft work was done by the fitters afloat.
I wish now to give the present set-up - this should be very important to the Ministerand point to the lack of administrative policy and the huge number of superintendents, commanders and lieutenantcommanders who roam around the dockyard at will. The recent set-up includes five foremen, one superintendent, ten leading hands, approximately 90 fitters, and 80 -tradesmen’s assistants. One of these foremen has the duty of supervising all work carried out on underwater fitting when ships are dry docked. The number of ships now in service or doing refit is the same as I mentioned previously.
It must be pointed out that fitters afloat now do no diesel work of the nature that was performed in 1948. The number of men in the machine shop remains about the same, but whereas one foreman and two leading hands previously supervised the work, the shop now has two foremen, and four leading hands. The dock machine shop, which previously had no foreman and two charge hands, now has one foreman and two charge hands. The tool store, which for years did not carry a foreman, now has one foreman and one staff surveyor.
These changes have taken place at the same time as 300 men have been retrenched. Three hundred men have been retrenched, but the salaries of many of the officers who roam around at will, with nothing to .do but fill in their time, have been increased. One job that was recently done at the naval store workshop was the turning up of stainless steel reels for the Royal Navy Fishing Club. The president of the Royal Naval Fishing Club is the Admiral, and three reels were made for him at the taxpayers’ expense. Of course the Admiral would deny that. The Admiral’s car was also put into the dock to be refurbished and to have several repairs done to it. 1 wish to give .two instances of .increases in salaries .that have taken place while men are being retrenched. The Administrative Officer - I will not mention namesreceived an increase in salary from £2,108 to £2,273 on 24th April, 1958. Then there is the public relations officer. What he does, I do not know. Why they want a public relations officer while they have so many loafers walking around, I do not know. His salary was increased from £1,443 to £1,623. I suggest that we find some productive employment for these people. lt is interesting to look at the personnel available to man the twelve ships in the Navy. We have the Chief of Naval Staff, seven rear admirals, six commodores second class, 57 captains and 159 commanders. Surely, all those gentlemen do not appear on duty at the same time? We have also 1 ,055 lieutenant-commanders, lieutenants and sub-lieutenants, and 200 midshipmen and cadet midshipmen. We have 10,530 petty officers and seamen. They total 1,500 officers and 10,530 petty officers and seamen. All these gentlemen are paid and, presumably are on duty, so we have one officer to every six men in the Navy.
The Estimates do not set out the salaries of all these people. Instead, total salaries are given. The numbers of dockyard police are also of interest. There are one chief inspector, four inspectors and subinspectors, 67 non-commissioned officers and 298 constables - one officer for every four constables. There are eight police on duty at the main gate to the dockyard. They may, of course, be necessary, but there are two officers to watch them. Of course, they are guarding secrets. Everything in the dockyard is secret. The fact that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) was arrested there shows that these men are doing their job. The honorable member learnt that to his cost.
What I should like to know most of all is why there is any need to retrench mechanics, as has been done in the last few months. I suggest that the Government spend some money on the construction of seven or eight vessels with up-to-date equipment which will enable them to be used around the coastline for charting purposes. We have ali the highly, skilled personnel we need to man such vessels, but the Navy is still using charts that were made by Captain Cook. It should be ashamed of that fact.
The great body of officers in the Navy should not be very proud of having allowed that to happen. We should put them back to work taking part in a huge survey project around the Australian coastline. We should keep the mechanics and other personnel who are worth while and sack some of the loafers. Skilled workmen are being scattered throughout the Commonwealth.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Having listened to many speeches by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) we shall be genuinely sorry, after 22nd November, to have to accept the fact that he will no longer be here to entertain us. What impressed me most to-night was his admission that ships quickly become out of date. He then used that fact to justify the building of more ships, and then criticized the Government for selling outofdate ships to Japan!
I should like to pay a brief tribute to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). The administration of defence in peacetime is a very difficult task indeed - in fact, one of the most difficult confronting any government. Defence expenditure, if it achieves its main purpose of preventing war, is in a sense wasted because the weapons which it buys are never used. For that reason, defence policy is a natural prey for small people with small minds and dubious motives. Over the years the Minister for Defence has stood up very well to the criticisms of such people both here and in the press. He has displayed a steadfastness which does him great credit and has refused to be stampeded by irresponsible criticism. He has always kept his feet firmly planted on the ground and has administered his department with great skill. This country owes him a great debt. Nothing has annoyed me more to-night than the jeering of honorable members opposite, many of whom are not fit to lick the boots of this man, who has given 25 years of devoted service to Australia and has just made what will probably be his last major speech to this House. There is nothing on which Opposition members are more united than their attempt to turn the defence of this country into a party political football to suit their own ends. I have been informed that they intend to do the same sort of thing in the forthcoming election campaign.
I believe that the people of Australia share our contempt for that sort of thing. I suppose that under the two-party system everything is grist to the mill in political debate. In democratic countries it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose, but in civilized and responsible communities a line is usualy drawn in matters which affect national security. That does not mean that the Opposition has no right to criticize the Government on these matters. It merely means that honorable members opposite should think twice before doing so, and that such criticism as is offered is warranted by deficiencies of very great seriousness indeed. I do not believe that the members of the Opposition really think there are such deficiencies. I do not think that they have tried to find out the facts; otherwise they would come along with a well-documented case instead of the generalities that we have heard to-night and in the defence debates that have taken place in the last year or so. I do not think that they are equipped to know. Most of them have no personal knowledge of defence. I believe that they take an interest in such matters only when they can smell a few votes in the air.
What are these criticisms that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members opposite have been pleased to call a major indictment of the Government’s defence policy? The Leader of the Opposition says that we have no defence plans, that we have little modern equipment, that we have no idea of where we are going. He has consistently accused the Government of spending billions on defence, and he has described the money as “ wasted “ or “ going down the drain “. Those are pretty serious charges. One would thing that they would be substantiated by detailed chapter and verse. Of course, they are not. That is not necessary, because in the next sentence - I am referring to the last statement by the Leader of the Opposition on this subject - come the emotional overtones, the appeal to brute prejudice. He says, “ The Government is glad to spend in this field alone because it is another field of very profitable operations for big business concerns “. There are votes in this sort of criticism. What does it matter if you sell your country down the river in the process and jeopardize its security?
Let us have a look at some of these charges of waste, nothing to show for the money spent, and lack of policy. Not one honorable gentleman opposite has pointed out that 70 per cent, of the defence vote of this country, over the years the Government has been in office, was spent on pay and allowances and maintenance, ls that waste? Perhaps honorable members opposite will tell us that we should not have trained the people concerned, or that we have had too many in the forces, or that we pay them too much, or that we should not give them the houses and barracks that we in fact give them. They dp not say these things, but it would be true to form if they did.
This Government knows what it found when it took office. There was a completely demoralized defence force. It was underpaid and understaffed. The personnel were living in sub-standard houses, where they could get them, and barracks; they were treated like dirt by their political masters of the time who had always been, and still are, rather ashamed of having anything to do with the services at all. This is a byproduct of a so-called anti-militarist and pacifist tradition which has been .strong in the Labour movement since the beginning. As Labour members were compelled by public opinion to have some sort of defence forces in peace-time, they worked off their secret shame by kicking the forces in the teeth and reducing servicemen as a group to the most depressed class in the community. I have no hesitation in saying that that would happen again if the Labour party came back to office. If there is one thing of which this Government may be proud it is the status which the regular services now have in the eyes of the community as a whole, something which springs from the standards and conditions they enjoy, the standards they set, and the considerate treatment that they have received from the Government. The raising of morale has contributed much to the defence of Australia and has fully justified the proportion of the defence vote that has been spent on it.
Despite the implication of the argument of honorable members opposite - and it runs right through their speeches - that men are no longer important, I believe that men are still the vital constituent of any defence effort. They are the most difficult to obtain, the most difficult to train and the most difficult to retain. To do all those things costs money, but contrary to what the Opposition says, I regard it as money well spent.
Mr. Chairman, the Opposition has criticized us for having no defence policy. On three occasions in the short time that I have been a member of this Parliament the Government has enunciated its defence policy. Perhaps honorable gentlemen opposite did not listen. If they had, they would have heard that our policy is to have a wellbalanced force of all three services, armed with the latest appropriate conventional weapons, and highly mobile. Our policy is to have a force capable of being used for cold and limited war purposes in conjunction with our Seato, Anzam and Anzus allies; a force with weapons and methods standardized with those of our ally, the United States of America, the great power most likely to be involved in the area where our vital interests lie. That is our policy, a policy that the Opposition says does not exist.
What is Labour policy? What forces Labour would provide we do not know, because honorable members opposite have not told us, although we can deduce one thing by inference from the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Whatever forces we had under a Labour government, they would not have ammunition, because according to the honorable member for East Sydney, it was a waste to build the factory that makes ammunition. On other aspects of the defence policy of the Opposition we are more certain where honorable members opposite stand. If there is one thing which may be described as the king pin of the Government’s defence policy it is our close cooperation with the United States. That relationship has never been closer than it is at the present time. The degree of mutual confidence has never been greater. There are few, if any, countries which enjoy such a high degree of exchange of information and joint planning as Australia.
We know where the Opposition stands in this connexion. All that co-operation would go overboard forthwith if Labour came to office. The Leader of the Opposition and his followers are self-admitted Yank haters of the most virulent and vocal kind. Even if they wanted to co-operate with the Americans, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) says they do, 1 am quite sure that the Americans would not be very happy about co-operating with them, and I would not blame them if they did not do so. If I were the President of the United States I would not be very happy about trusting a government of this country that had consistently put the worst possible construction on the actions of my country and gave the benefit of the doubt to our supposedly joint enemies, a government that was known to be bitterly critical of the political system of my country and pledged to socialize American enterprise and investments in Australia. There is no doubt that in those circumstances the springs of co-operation would dry up overnight, and our present defence policy arch would collapse like a pack of cards.
We know, too, Mr. Chairman, where We stand with Seato, the focal point of the defence policy of this Government in the regional area in which our vital interests lie. That particular part of our defence arrangements would collapse also if Labour came into office. The Labour party is pledged to withdraw from Seato because it is composed, so the members of the Opposition say, of so-called reactionary governments which it would never do for a Labour government to associate with. Again, even if the responsibilities of office brought Labour to its senses and it .desired to remain a member of Seato, it is doubtful whether Seato would have us. The Leader of the Opposition and his followers have so consistently insulted most of the member governments of Seato that I would not blame them if they told us to go and stew in our own juice.
Where would that leave us? With the Americans alienated and Seato alienated, with whom would we join up? Indonesia perhaps; or perhaps we would take the whole burden of our defence policy on ourselves. What then would happen to Australia?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Mr. Chairman, I wish to raise three matters in relation to the estimates now before the committee. The first relates to the Department of the Army, the second to the Department of Supply and the third to the
Department of Defence. I am glad that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is at the table, because I desire to raise with him the question of the future of the rifle clubs of Australia. The Minister no doubt knows that the rifle clubs scattered throughout the Commonwealth are doing exceedingly good work in the training of marksmen, and that, for many years, they have had the financial support of the Department of the Army, which, I understand, to a certain extent, has subsidized the excellent organizations that the clubs have formed and are maintaining throughout the country.
The rifle clubs in my electorate - and I can assure the Minister that there is quite a number of them - are concerned about a rumour that has gone round the clubs that it is proposed to increase the charge for ammunition used by them. I am told that at present they pay 50s. a hundred for cartridges, and that tentative suggestions have been made that the charge should be increased to £5. Indeed, in one instance it was suggested that it would be raised to £10. All I desire to point out to the Minister is that the members of these clubs, in the main, are people of very limited means. The members of the rifle clubs in my electorate are people who work in factories and shops and on farms, municipal employees and other workers, and they are hard put to it to pay for the cartridges that they use in practising. In addition, the clubs must train new marksmen, and this training entails the constant expenditure of cartridges. If the present charge of 6d. a cartridge is increased to ls. or 2s., the rifle club movement throughout Australia will be effectively killed, because very few members will be able to afford the expense. If the charge for cartridges is increased, the good work that has been done by these organizations for so long will probably die out altogether. I ask the Minister to investigate the matter and ascertain whether there is any proposal to increase the charge for cartridges, and I suggest that if this is intended, he should prevent any increase from being made and thereby enable the rifle clubs to continue to function effectively.
The second matter that I desire to raise concerns the Bendigo Ordnance Factory. Since October, 1956, about 450 male employees, most of whom are skilled tradesmen, have been put off. The reason given is lack of work. I think it would be well for me to point out at this stage that, on the numerous occasions on which I have discussed with successive Ministers for Supply the employment prospects of workers in the Bendigo Ordnance Factory, in other munitions factories in Melbourne and in the small arms factory at Lithgow, I have always been told that not enough orders are received from the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. It looks as if the expenditure of the moneys voted by the Parliament for those three services is not so planned as to keep all the munitions factories going steadily at a constant level of employment. This has had a very serious effect at the Bendigo factory in particular. At one stage, this? establishment had a staff of 1,200. As I have said, the number of employees has now been reduced by 450, and there is grave doubt about whether work will be available for a number of the remaining employees at the conclusion of this year. I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) to get outside orders to keep the various factories going, but it seems to me that the Government itself could take positive action to find constructive work for the men in these establishments.
During World War II., the Bendigo Ordnance Factory produced 200-horse- power diesel engines for naval vessels, and it is capable of turning out 2,000-horse- power diesel engines that would be invaluable for use in diesel locomotives on the railways. I think it is essential from the stand-point of defence that not only the Bendigo factory but also the other defence factories should be kept fully staffed and that key skilled personnel should be retained, so that, in an emergency, men will be available immediately for defence work. In order to ensure that, I suggest that these factories, and especially the Bendigo factory, could be employed on the manufacture of diesel engines for railway locomotives, and that the Commonwealth Government could help by offering the States a loan of, say, £10,000,000 on the understanding that the money would be used to improve and modernize the railways by putting into service increased numbers of diesel locomotives powered with motors made by the Commonwealth defence factories. If that were done it would achieve two objects. First of all, it would keep the Bendigo factory and the other defence factories fully staffed, and would obviate the dispersal of skilled tradesmen. Secondly, it would improve the efficiency of the railways, both from the stand-point of the States and for defence purposes. I earnestly hope that the Government will consider this suggestion carefully in order that defence factories may be kept fully staffed and the defence value of our railways considerably enhanced.
The third matter that I desire to raise, Mr. Chairman, concerns the question of defence as a whole, with particular reference to the railways again, because of their defence value. More than one speaker in the debate on these estimates this evening has said that our defence forces must be mobile. There is no doubt that complete mobility, not only of troops, but also of supplies, foodstuffs and the general requirements of the people, is essential in a time of emergency. Therefore, we must have strategic roads in order that troops may be transported quickly from place to place, and we must have a properly unified railways system in order to provide the highest degree of mobility.
The present tendency in Victoria to close certain sections of railway lines, thereby preventing the complete integration of the Victorian railways system, impels me to mention this matter during the consideration of the Defence estimates. There are four arterial railways in Victoria running from Melbourne to the north, the north-east and the north-west, and there are spur lines connecting them. Certain of those lines are highly vulnerable to aerial bombing attack. It would be easy to put out of commission the line between Melbourne and Echuca by the destruction of bridges at Woodend and Malmsbury, and by the destruction of tunnels near Chewton and other places. The same considerations apply to the railway line from Ballarat to Adelaide and other places. They also apply to interlocking lines linking the places 1 have mentioned, such as the line from Heathcote to Bendigo and the line from Maryborough to Ararat which provide a link-up with the four arterial systems, thus providing alternative routes for the purposes of mobility. But these linking lines are being closed. I believe that that is wrong, and should not be permitted. I seriously suggest that this matter might be again considered by the Minister for Defence with a view to arriving at some understanding between the Commonwealth and the State on the lines to which I have referred, which are necessary for defence purposes. They should be kept in operation and in good repair so that in an emergency it would be possible to link one line with another and so have alternative means of transport between the various arterial lines should one section of line be put out of operation.
I make these suggestions in the belief that their adoption would assist our defence. 1 think that rifle clubs are essential, that proper staffing of our various factories is essential, that mobility and interchangeability in our railway systems is essential, and 1 suggest that these three matters should receive the earnest consideration of the Government.
– One is sorely tempted at this hour of the morning to ask for leave of the committee to have one’s remarks incorporated in “ Hansard “ so that we could all go home, but I do not know whether that would meet with your approval, Mr. Chairman.
The debate on the Defence Estimates has intrigued me for a number of reasons. One of the more notable of these reasons is the fact that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) led the debate for the Opposition. The honorable member has played some extraordinary roles in his time, but the role, which he now assumes, of Edward the Defence Maker, is rather an engaging and bewildering one, because there are few people in this Parliament who are more ill-qualified to deal with defence matters than is the honorable member for East Sydney. I have only one regret about his attitude and background in relation to defence matters. That is, that he did not pass through the hands of some kind, tolerant sergeant-major. Had he done so, I think he would certainly be a little more civil in his outlook than he is.
I think that the committee is indebted to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) for his constructive and penetrating analysis of the defences of this country and their relationship to world defence. He pointed out quite clearly that it would be physically impossible for this country to defend itself. It is the mere fact that we have powerful and effective defence arrangements with other countries that secures our defence. It is astonishing to find residing in the minds of many people, and voiced by many journalists in Australia, the idea that Australia can defend itself entirely, no matter what enemy may engage our defence forces. That idea is quite quaint. It is an idea that is completely inconsistent with reality. I think that the analysis made by the honorable member for Barker this evening was not only presented in a spirited fashion, but in an eminently realistic fashion.
– The honorable member looks like a leader of a boy scout group.
– Well, that would be quite right. I want to devote all my remaining time to an aspect of the defence services that I believe has been sadly neglected. When I say that, I should like it to be clearly understood that the same aspect of defence has also been neglected by most of the democratic countries. The phrase “ cold war “ is now well established; but if I may say so without wishing to appear presumptuous, it seems that the phrase “ cold war” is not thoroughly understood. May I give a few indications of why I hold that belief? As a Messianic movement, communism rests substantially, although by no means exclusively, on propaganda.
If one reads the report, for example, of the Central Checking Commission of the 20th Congress of the Russian Communist party one gets some indication of the ramifications of the Communist propaganda organization and its relationship to the Soviet defence forces. For instance, the report points out that last year 50,000 propaganda workers attended seminars or short lectures on Marxism-Leninism. In the same year 149,000 people attended 288 evening universities to study MarxismLeninism. The report also makes it clear that there are some 375,000 full-time propagandists in the Soviet Union and some 2,100,000 part-time propagandists. The report leads one to the conclusion that the Soviet Union is now spending approximately £600,000,000 a year on propaganda. With that sort of background, I am tempted to suggest that the time is well overdue for the establishment in this country of a directorate of psychological warfare. I will explain what I have in mind in a few moments.
The central organization for the control of propaganda in the Soviet Union is known as “ Agitprop “. It enables the Soviet Union to maintain uniformity of propaganda throughout the world on any given line, no matter how violently the party policy may vary at times. We find that through “ Agitprop “, the nerve centre of the Communist propaganda machine and an organ of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist party, the Soviet Union has gained an advantage over the Western world, the full nature of which does not seem to be clearly understood. Honorable members may ask what exactly a directorate of psychological warfare in this country would involve.
– Put a bit of pep into it!
Tha CHAIRMAN.- Order!
– This is a very serious matter, as any one with some semblance of common sense would realize. A directorate of psychological warfare should take the form that I am about to outline. It should include a civil division, which should include, first, a select group of people thoroughly conversant with the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, to reduce it to a level understandable by the ordinary layman. Facilities for the imparting of this information would have to be provided. I should hope that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would consider this matter, because on odd occasions I have heard him make suggestions on approximately the same lines.
Secondly, I believe that there should be established an advisory body of qualified representatives of the Australian press and broadcasting and television stations to prepare information on Australia suitable for placing in South-East Asian countries. Although our present contribution in this field is useful in many respects, it is utterly inadequate. Thirdly, there should be formed a committee of people thoroughly versed in the languages and cultures of Asian peoples, whose role it would be to stimulate greater interest by Australians in peoples and problems of Asian countries. Fourthly, the civil division should include a consultative body, representative of employers and employees, to examine the most effective methods of eliminating all Communist influence from industry and of preserving stability in industry. In which ever way we look at this matter, we find that the Communist propaganda machine is out-manoeuvring that of the democratic countries. Finally, I believe that there should be established a committee to review the methods of economic warfare that are used by Communist countries.
Referring to the second major head - the military division - I think it is a great pity that senior service commanders do not seem to recognize the full military significance of Marxism-Leninism. I do not say that in criticism of the commanders themselves. Some people simply take the viewpoint that Marxism-Leninism is a political philosophy. Of course, it is not! To overcome that great drawback and that great weakness, I believe that service commanders should be instructed in the rudiments of the MarxistLeninist theory. To continue to regard the struggle against Communism exclusively in terms of military conflict is absurd. The pre-eminent weapon used by the Communist party is propaganda.
I come now to my third suggestion in regard to the establishment of a directorate of psychological warfare. Many thousands of people have come to Australia from iron curtain countries. In fact, I believe that more people from behind the iron curtain have come to Australia than have gone to any other country. Those people should be provided with an opportunity to tell of their experiences. Accordingly, I suggest that an information bureau, representative of people from Soviet-controlled countries, should be set up to collate the evidence of new Australians on Soviet methods. I know of one man who was trained at the Lenin institute at Moscow, who subsequently repudiated Marxism-Leninism and who is now living in Australia. Apart from the very limited facilities that I and a few of my friends have been able to provide for him, his information remains untapped. There is a man who has been trained at the very highest level in the propaganda field and in the wielding of that political weapon of MarxismLeninism, but no one seems to be particularly interested in him.
I apologize, Sir, for having taken up the time of the committee. May I conclude simply, but nevertheless sincerely, by joining with those honorable gentlemen who have extended goodwill and good wishes to the retiring Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride)? Since I entered the Parliament, I have found him to be a very kindly and very approachable man. I am sure that the political history of this country will identify him as having been a very sound and solid servant, not only of the Australian people but of the defences of Australia.
– Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.Mr. Speaker, last week–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.17 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. I believe that in answer to a press inquiry, Dr. Deacon was reported to have expressed certain facts which are widely known to scientists. This matter does not require any additional action on the part of the Government. Previous experience has shown that only extremely small changes in radio-activity would be expected, and these have contributed much less than an additional I per cent, to the natural background dose to which we are exposed. With regard to the cessation of nuclear tests, the Government has frequently announced that it will support any practical proposals which are generally agreed between nations covering the cessation of nuclear tests.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
United Nations Wheat Conference to be held in Geneva from 28th October, 1958, to discuss the possible negotiation of a further International Wheat Agreement.
Since the threat of disposals of surplus wheal on non-commercial terms developed, the Government has been active wherever an opportunity existed for international action to reduce possible adverse effects of such disposals on usual marketings of Australian wheat. This action included, for example, a full part in the formulating of the F.A.O. Principles of Surplus Disposal to which over 40 nations have subscribed, including those producing the surpluses and those which have been receiving aid wheat. These principles stress that solution to the problem of surplus disposal should wherever possible be sought through efforts to increase consumption rather than through measures to reduce production, but that where surpluses are disposed of under special terms arrangements should be made to avoid harmful interference with normal patterns of production and international trade.
Australia took a major initiative in the establishment of the F.A.O. Sub-committee on Surplus Disposal whose function it is to provide the necessary consultative machinery on surplus disposal transactions. This sub-committee has held regular meetings in Washington since 1954, and its endeavours have met with a fair degree of success. In addition Australia played a prominent role in negotiating and securing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade resolution which places an obligation on contracting parties to consult other interested members before carrying out surplus disposal operations. In bilateral discussions with countries supplying and receiving wheat on non-commercial terms the Government has taken every opportunity to protect the Australian wheat-growing industry. The Trade Agreements negotiated with the United Kingdom and Janan include provisions to protect Australian sales against unfair competition in these important wheat markets. Recently concluded trade a.reements with Ceylon and Malaya represent further successful efforts by the Government to assure nutlets for Australian wheat and flour.
z asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice; -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What is the text of any ministerial directions relating to section 20(1.) of the War Service Homes Act which are still in force?
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
The texts of ministerial directions relating to section 20 (lj of the War Service Homes Act which are still in force are as follows: -
An advance is not to be made to discharge a mortgage unless the applicant obtains the Division’s approval to raise temporary finance before entering into the mortgage.
Exceptions to this instruction have been approved in circumstances such as the following: -
Where a widow to whom a home has been transferred on the death of her husband is unable, from her reduced income, to meet the obligations under a mortgage entered into by her husband before his death; and
Where an applicant, after entering into a mortgage, suffers a considerable permanent reduction in his income due to illness or some other cause beyond his control and cannot meet the obligations under the private mortgage.
Assistance is not to be given to exmembers of the Militia or Women’s Auxiliary Services unless they actually served outside of Australia.
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
This included apparatus covered by the arrangement as well as equipment supplied on the basis of competitive tenders. The value of the equipment supplied to other Commonwealth and State Departments is not known but it would be small in relation to Post Office purchases.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Balgowlah, 541; Bankstown, 504; Burwood, 562; Campsie, 538; Carramar, 524; City East, 958; Dee Why, 538; Eastwood, 552; Glebe, 398; Hurstville, 416; Kings Cross, 466; Maroubra, 522; Newtown, 403; North Sydney, 853; Petersham, 620; Pymble, 464; Randwick, 476; St. Leonards, 448; Waverley, 718.
Installations during 1954-55: Ashfield, 456; Balgowlah, 400; Bankstown, 427; Bondi, 507; Burwood, 484; Campsie, 412; City East, 937; Dee Why, 497; Glebe, 389; Hurstville, 675; Kings Cross, 622; Kogarah, 731; Lakemba, 409; North Sydney, 737; Peakhurst, 1,022; Pymble, 411. Revesby, 530; St. Leonards, 466; Undercliffe, 399; Waverley, 396.
Installations during 1955-56: Ashfield, 501; Bankstown, 632; City East, 1,260; Eastwood, 458; French’s Forest, 402; Glebe, 430; Hurstville, 885; Kings Cross, 449; Kingsgrove, 437; Kogarah, 433; Lakemba, 459; Lidcombe, 580; North Sydney, 610; Peakhurst, 418; Pennant Hills, 543; Petersham, 463; Pymble, 413; Randwick, 488; Revesby, 426; St. Leonards, 422.
Installations during 1956-57: Bankstown, 615; Bondi, 502; City East, 1,082; Epping, 518; Glebe, 493; Hurstville, 688; Kings Cross, 1,100; Kingsgrove, 985; Kogarah, 623; Lakemba, 716; Lidcombe, 867; Maroubra, 573; Miranda, 604; Newton, 597; North Sydney, 633; Petersham, 721; Randwick, 767; Redfern, 556; Ryde, 591; Waverley, 626.
Installations during 1957-58: Ashfield, 541; Bankstown, 944; Carramar, 545; City East, 1,133: Como, 602; Cronulla, 689; Guildford, 829; Harbord, 648; Hurstville, 524; Kings Cross, 1,068; Lakemba, 584; Lidcombe, 553; Miranda, 1,433; Newtown, 743; North Sydney, 788; Petersham, 576; Revesby, 499; Rockdale, 481; Ryde, 673; Strathfield South, 505.
b asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Do parents and citizens associations pay for the installation of telephones at schools; if so, will he waive the installation fee of £10?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Yes, when they are applicants for the installation of telephone services in schools. Payment of the £10 service connexion fee is prescribed for the provision of each new or additional telephone exchange line. As a public undertaking administering a communications service on behalf of and for the benefit of the community, the Post Office is obliged to provide telephone service on an impartial basis and is not legally empowered to waive payment of the service connexion fee. In any case it could hardly discriminate between schools and other educational institutions or withhold the concession from the many organizations and groups in the community which could claim equal consideration for concessional treatment. Waiver of the fee, therefore, could not with equity be confined to schools and serious difficulties would be encountered in determining where discrimination should end. In the circumstances it is regretted that the way is not clear to waive the fee in respect cf telephone services provided at schools.
d asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580910_reps_22_hor21/>.