23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. William John Fulton made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Leichhardt, Queensland.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the continued banning and censorship of a book called “ Borstal Boy “, written by an Irishman named Brendan Behan. This book is available throughout all civilized countries of the world, with the exception of Australia and one or two backward republics.
– I understand that it is banned in Ireland.
– When I sought to obtain a copy of this book, and one of another book called “ Lolita “, which is also banned, I was told that those books were in the exclusive charge of the Minister for Customs and Excise. I think that the Minister should share a good thing and not keep it to himself for so long if it is not to be made available to the general public. I ask the Prime Minister, who is head of the Commonwealth Literary Fund in Australia, and who is something of a literary figure these days, to inquire carefully into the reasons for banning “Borstal Boy”, which is a tough and powerful story of slum life, and for banning “ Lolita “, which is a well written story by a Russian author. Can the right honorable gentleman give me some help with respect to these books?
– I am delighted to know that the honorable member, who has not had the opportunity to read “ Borstal Boy “, should be so well acquainted with the book. I have had an opportunity of looking at this book, but I am not the censor, nor am I in charge of censorship. I must say, with regard to this book in particular, that it seemed to me to be almost a collection of what the Italians call “ graffiti “ - that is to say, things written on walls in certain places by adolescents. I hope that the honorable member understands me: I am sure that he does.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to “ Lolita “?
– No, I have not heard of the lady.
– The right honorable gentleman will.
– I have not heard of the lady, but I have seen the other book, and I would think that the author was probably justifiably incarcerated in Borstal. A matter of this kind is dealt with by a board selected for its literary judgment and capacity, and I understand - I will check up on it - that the board has recommended that this book be not admitted to Australia. I understand also that it has not been admitted into Ireland which, no doubt, is one of the countries that the honorable member had in mind when he referred to backward republics.
As for the other book, I know nothing about it. I sympathize with the honorable member’s desire to study banned books, and I will put in a word for him with the Minister. I think I might be able to arrange for him to see it.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware that there is considerable unrest and nervousness in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea following the recent survey made as to the taxation revenue potential of the Territory? As many business concerns, trading companies and individuals are in doubt on this matter and as there is a hesitancy to invest funds in the development of the Territory, as well as some move to withdraw capital, would it not be desirable to make an early announcement on the subject?
– The honorable member has referred in terms which are not quite exact, perhaps, to a study which was undertaken by officers of the Department of Territories and the Administration of Papua and New Guinea regarding the means of raising revenue in that Territory. That study was undertaken as a result of an assurance which I gave in this House during the debate on the Estimates about eighteen months ago. That assurance was along the lines that we would examine the ways in which revenue was raised in the Territory in order to find out if it was being raised equitably and in a way that distributed the financial burden where it should fall.
That financial review has been carried out and as the report was a document in respect of which we would profit from having the comments of other people, arrangements were made to table it in the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea. The tabling of the review in the Legislative Council has naturally given rise to a great deal of discussion in the Territory. Taxpayers, whether they are in Australia or whether they are in one of the territories of Australia, are always apprehensive. They always see some shadows for alarm even when shadows do not exist; and in the Territory there has been a good deal of public discussion. I have, myself, received -deputations representative of various groups in the Territory, and I have had the opportunity of reading quite a number of things that have been published in the press of the Territory. Those are matters which the Government itself has to take into consideration when deciding which is the best way of raising revenue in the Territory.
– Will the Treasurer make a statement or prepare a report on the proposed operation of the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank, as a lender of last resort, “to a restricted number of public financial companies?
– I shall be glad to have a suitable statement prepared for the information of honorable members. Some publicity has already been given to these matters by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government regards the arrangement as a useful addition to our financial structure. But I shall go into more detail in the statement which I shall have prepared.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the proposal to hold a conference on CommonwealthState financial relations on 4th. 5th :and 6th March. Is it a fact that the South Australian elections are to be held on 7th March and the elections in New South
Wales and Western Australia on 21st March? If this is so, would not this conjunction of events turn the conference into a travesty? Would it not be possible to arrange for the conference to be held at a time when these important matters could be dealt with in a suitable atmosphere?
– I understand that the dates mentioned by the honorable member are correct, and I appreciate the point that he has made. It has exercised me a little because, although I have had no actual proposal put to me by any Premier, I do realize that it would not be the best to have a conference occurring in circumstances which prevented it from being full and satisfactory. Therefore, we are considering this matter. I have nothing more to say about it at this stage.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will end at once the speculation that the £1 Australian is to be devalued in relation to the £1 sterling and the United States dollar.
– I do not know the source of speculation. All I can say is that there is no foundation in Government thinking for any such proposition.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the frequent occurrence of great damage from heavy floods in New South Wales and Queensland, and also in other States at times, and the difficulty in securing immediate co-operative Federal and State Government action to meet the urgent needs of the people affected, I ask the right honorable gentleman to consider setting up a permanent emergency relief committee of this Parliament to make immediate investigations and to secure the fullest possible relief for sufferers. I might say, in explanation, that during the last few weeks we have found it fairly easy to contact the Commonwealth Minister for Works - he has always been very helpful - but very difficult to get the State government to act in connexion with certain matters that have arisen. If relief could be given very much more quickly than it has been, it would be of considerable assistance and much of the loss could be made good.
– I think the suggestion is a very interesting one. I should like an opportunity to look into it and perhaps to have some further talk about it with the right honorable gentleman himself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the desire of the milling industry in Australia to have more flour instead of wheat exported, can anything further be done beyond what the Minister has already done, to bring this about, especially where big quantities of wheat have been made available to other countries under the Colombo plan? Cannot such gifts be in the form of flour instead of wheat? Is it possible to do anything more?
– The Government is very conscious of the fact that the economics of flour milling depend tremendously upon the total throughput of the flour mills. Out of this consciousness, the Government has been very active in trying, first, to safeguard Australia’s traditional export flour markets and, secondly, to gain new markets. The truth of the matter is that most of our markets around the Indian Ocean are in countries that have quite grievous balanceofpayment problems. Australia’s difficulty is further aggravated by an incursion into these markets of heavily subsidized flour from certain European countries such as France, Germany and Italy. Occasionally, we have also been troubled by the gift of flour by the United States of America. The policy of the Government has been to maintain a proper consciousness of the needs of the recipient countries and never to try to obstruct a gift of flour or wheat to countries that could not buy it. Beyond that our policy is to act through negotiations to safeguard our markets, and we have had considerable success. As I was able to inform the honorable member for Lawson yesterday, out of some negotiations I conducted myself, we have ensured a sale of a total of 210,000 tons to Malaya and Ceylon from last July until the end of this calendar year, and a continuance at the rate of 180,000 tons in the following year. I have confidence of a continuation beyond that time at a similar rate. Let me emphasize that these quantities are being sold in such countries as Ceylon, which had previously constituted our biggest flour market, but in which we had not sold a ton of flour for sixteen months. The Australian flour-milling industry is, I am sure, most appreciative of the effectiveness of the Government’s intervention. Similar remarks apply in the case of Malaya. With regard to Indonesia, we have had discussions from time to time with the Government of that country and with the Government of the United States of America. All I can say is that we will continue to watch the interests of those concerned. Where it has been possible, and desired by the respective countries, to give a gift through the Colombo Plan, that has been done, and I have no doubt that it will be done in the future.
– Consequent upon the reported suggestion that our aborigines on mission stations and government settlements be taught to drink alcohol, will the Minister for Territories say whether this suggested departure from present practice would be in the best interests of our aborigines?
– I think the honorable member is probably referring to a statement that has probably not been accurately reported. I have not had the opportunity of seeing the verbatim report of certain evidence that was given at an inquiry currently being held at Darwin, but it has been reported that a witness said, in effect, that aborigines should be taught how to drink alcohol. I think the meaning behind that statement was that if aborigines or persons of aboriginal origin were in a position to have access to drink and were entitled to have drink, they should be taught how to use it wisely and temperately, and the meaning was not that they should be encouraged to use it. I would like to express the firm belief that it is a proved historical fact that alcoholic liquors have been one of the greatest causes of the debauching and degradation of primitive peoples. So long as we have primitive peoples under our guardianship and protection, the obligation is on us as a Government, or on those responsible for administration, to make it impossible for those people to obtain alcoholic liquors, while they remain under our protection, and also to visit the strictest possible punishments on those miserable creatures of our own race who, for purposes of profit, peddle liquor to the primitive people. This is the policy of the Government, and it is the policy that we are following in the Northern Territory. But undoubtedly there may come a time when a person of aboriginal origin, either by attaining citizenship or through reasons over which we have no control, does acquire an appetite for alcoholic liquors and d’oes start to consume them. At that point, undoubtedly - and this might equally be counselled with regard to persons of the white race - it becomes the obligation of those who have any care for the well-being of their fellows to teach them the lessons of temperance and self-control, so that the drinking of liquor does not become a greater cause of harm to them than it need be.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Social Services a question. In view of the Minister’s deliberate policy of allowing only Government supporters to present cheques to organizations which have qualified for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act, is he prepared to accord to Opposition members of this House at least the courtesy of a formal acknowledgment when a cheque is being presented, particularly where an Opposition member has joined in the original representations for the grant?
– This is a matter that I have considered from time to time. There have been occasions when I invited honorable members from the Opposition-
– Only one. I was the one.
– There have been occasions when I have been invited to make a presentation and have been unable to do so. I have then invited honorable members to present cheques on behalf of the Government to the appropriate organizations. On one occasion, I invited the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who has just interjected, to make a presentation, but he declined. He said, among other things, that it was not appropriate that Opposition members should be asked to perform duties of that description. I am quite prepared to consider the matter again, but I point out to honorable members opposite that in most instances the invitation to make these presentations is extended to me, and if I am unable to make a presentation myself, it is my duty to select some one who can adequately represent me.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the public announcement - which has been so well received - that the Government will institute a comprehensive and general public examination of the taxation laws, will the right honorable gentleman indicate to the House whether the inquiry will take the form of a royal commission similar to the British royal commission on taxation which completed a comprehensive survey a few years ago? Also, can he indicate when this review of the taxation laws is likely to commence?
– I am unable to give the honorable member or the House precise information on these points at this time. I can assure the honorable member that the matter is actively under consideration by the Treasury. We have already had a look at some terms of reference which might be adopted. We have examined the practice which has applied in the past in respect of committees of inquiry, or commissions of inquiry, both here and in other countries, and we are trying to profit from the experiences of such bodies in order to see that the terms of reference are not drafted so widely as to make the task too long or too complex for the Parliament to be able to get a quick look at the recommendations, which should be of current value to us. However, we have to try to work out the best arrangement that we can, having regard to the need for a comprehensive review and at the same time the desirability of getting to grips with the problem fairly promptly.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Premier of Queensland any communication concerning the devastation caused by the cyclone in north Queensland? If he has not received any such communication, will he cause inquiries to be made, and will he grant immediate financial relief, as the people who have been hardest hit are in poor circumstances and are desperately in need of financial assistance? Is it a fact, as was stated by the
Premier of Queensland last Thursday at a civic reception at Bowen, that although the Commonwealth Government promised financial support for the relief of people who suffered from the devastation caused by the previous cyclone at Bowen ten months ago, the Commonwealth withdrew its support? Surely the complete destruction of a home, or the loss of the roof of a home, constitutes personal hardship for a worker. If it does not, what does?
– To the best of my information and belief, I have received no application from the Premier of Queensland on this matter. The honorable member is quite familiar with the rule that we have constantly applied where such applications are received - a rule which the Labour Government to which he belonged constantly applied. That is that in cases of hardship where the State has made a grant we have matched the grant made for that purpose. That will continue to be our rule. That will continue to be our approach. The honorable member’s mention of some individual case, of course, is a reference to something that has not come before me. The rule on this matter is perfectly well understood and, I have always believed, has been perfectly fairly administered by both Commonwealth and State authorities.
– I direct to the PostmasterGeneral a question which concerns applications for commercial television licences in Perth. Are copies of the evidence submitted to, and the recommendations made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board available to honorable members?
– A record of the evidence given before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is available in the board’s office and could be obtained if desired. The report also is available. I have in my office a copy of the report on which the determination was based, and I shall be glad to let the honorable member have a look at it.
– Does the Minister for Social Services approve of that part of the Social Services Act which, while granting to aborigines living on native reserves or mission stations the right to child endowment, precludes their entitlement to age, invalid and tuberculosis pensions? I may say that the department has been known even to reject a claim for maternity allowance because the mother had one-sixteenth too much native blood in her veins. If the Minister does not approve of this unfair discrimination against the descendants of the original inhabitants of this country who can read and write and who while working have to pay taxes in the same way as do other people, will he have a look at the legislation with a view to having it rectified, at least during the Budget session?
– The honorable member will know that there are constitutional limitations on the power of the Commonwealth Government to deal with this question. The matter is constantly under review, but the Constitution lays it down that whereas the Commonwealth has the power to make laws with respect to the people of any other race, it excludes the aboriginal native races of Australia.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes must refrain from interjecting.
– I can assure the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and honorable members generally, that this matter, together with all other aspects of social services, is constantly under review.
– The Treasurer will recall that, in the course of the Budget speech for 1957-58, the then Treasurer said that the Government was studying proposals for the introduction of a withholding tax for dividends on overseas investment, similar to the system operating in the United States, Canada and South Africa. Has the right honorable gentleman himself yet had time to consider this matter? If so, has any Government decision on the subject yet been reached?
– I raised this matter with Treasury officers consequent upon the statement which, as the honorable member rightly points out, occurred in the speech of my predecessor. Some preparation of material has been going ahead in the Treasury. I have not yet had any such material placed before me, nor have I been in a position to convey any views on the subject to the Government, but the matter is actively in hand.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that in some sugargrowing areas in Queensland mechanical harvesting of sugar crops will be introduced this year, causing many manual workers to be excluded from the industry? Has he had an opportunity of inspecting the improved machinery used in the majority of Queensland sugar mills? Has the Minister had an opportunity to examine the equipment at Bundaberg, Mackay, and Lucinda Point provided for the bulk-handling of raw sugar? As the present retail price of sugar was fixed before the introduction of mechanical cane harvesters-
– Order! The honorable member is now giving information. He will ask his question.
– I was only-
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question.
– As the mechanical installations for the harvesting of sugar and the bulk handling of sugar came into use after the retail price of sugar was fixed, will the Minister arrange for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, or some other authority, to investigate the savings-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Well, I want to know what the price of sugar in my electorate
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I want to know what the price of sugar in my electorate should be, having regard to the scientific developments that have occurred.
– Order ! I name the honorable member.
– Have not my constituents the right to know why they should pay high prices for sugar?
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith be suspended from the service of the House.
– But the honorable member has not been named. Did you name the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, Mr. Speaker?
– I point out that when he was attempting to ask his question he was subjected to continuous interruption, and honorable members on this side could not hear what you said.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr, Haylen. - Certainly, Sir
– The suspension of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was a decision of the House and therefore is outside my control. May I say, while I am on my feet, that it behoves every honorable member to assist the Chair to uphold the dignity of the Parliament? Occasionally a few honorable members set a very bad standard for the great majority and I appeal to those members of long standing, who are fully aware of what is necessary, to set an example to others, particularly the new members in the chamber.
– In view of the deafness of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith - because he is partially deaf - would I be in order in moving, now that the punishment has been inflicted, that the honorable member be permitted to return upon tendering an apology to you, Mr. Speaker?
– It will be necessary for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to seek leave of the House.
– I ask for leave of the House to submit a motion concerning the re-admission of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. [Leave granted.]
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) - by leave - proposed -
That the honorable member for KingsfordSmith be permitted to resume his seat upon tendering an apology to the Speaker and the House.
– I second the motion and submit that in the circumstances it would be just to re-admit the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will be re-admitted. The House will continue with questions without notice.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question.
In view of the acute shortage of baling wire last season, possibly due to lack of foresight on the part of manufacturers and distributors alike, will the Minister try to do something to ensure that adequate reserves of this wire are held in stock so that such a shortage does not recur in this coming year?
– When the department was advised of the shortage of baling wire during last season’s harvesting it ascertained that the reason for the shortage was that the distributors had underestimated requirements. The department immediately contacted Rylands Brothers Australia Proprietary Limited, who readily met the position by increasing production shifts throughout the week and by substituting a production shift for a maintenance shift on Sundays, with the result that supply soon caught up with demand. However, I can assure the honorable member that for the forthcoming peak harvesting season I will see that adequate supplies of baling wire are available, or I will at least approach the firms concerned in an endeavour to ensure it.
(The honorable member for KingsfordSmith having re-entered the chamber) -
– Does the honorable member tender an apology?
– Apologize? What for, Sir? I never heard-
– Order! Is the honorable member tendering an apology?
– I apologize to the Chair.
– Order! The honorable member will rise in his place and tender an apology to the House.
– The House?
– I do not need an apology. I accept - -
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– I wish to apologize to the House. Mr. Speaker, may I ask my question?
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– by leave - I have asked for leave to make a statement on the recent visit to Australia of the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr. Subandrio, because I believe that the House will wish to have an account of this visit and its significance to Australian-Indonesian relations.
I believe that the House should have the text of the joint announcement made by Dr. Subandrio and by myself on behalf of the Australian Government.
Honorable members will no doubt have seen the text of this joint announcement which Dr. Subandrio and I agreed and which was issued at the termination of his visit. Before making some comments on this document, I should like briefly to remind honorable members of the way in which this visit came about, what its purposes were, and what results have been achieved from it.
It is more than seven years since a Foreign Minister of Indonesia has visited Australia. Since then I have visited Indonesia several times, the latest being in 1955, and a number of prominent Indonesians, including Ministers and other individuals prominent in the political life of Indonesia, have visited Australia over the last three years. But the Australian Government had in mind that further direct contact at the governmental level in Australia would be a means of showing to the Indonesian Government and people the real and sympathetic interest which Australia has in Indonesia’s progress and welfare and would, at the same time, allow opportunity for discussions of foreign policy matters, including those upon which our two countries differ. It was in this spirit and with this intention that I informed Dr. Subandrio towards the end of last year that a visit would be most welcome. It was in this spirit also, I believe, that the invitation was accepted on the Indonesian side.
Dr. Subandrio did not come to Australia for the purpose of any formal negotiations on any particular matter. He came as the representative of a neighbouring friendly country for the purpose of exchanging views and creating a better understanding. I believe that his visit served to do both these things.
Indonesia is a country in whose independence Australia has a deep concern - not only now but throughout the future of Australia. At its nearest point, Indonesian territory is but 200 miles from Australian shores. We are necessarily concerned with the success of the efforts of Indonesia to establish stable and democratic institutions. In many ways Indonesia’s foreign policy differs from Australia’s. Its declared policy is to avoid alinements and military pacts, seeking rather to consolidate its independence and security by other means. These differences in policy are a reason for more rather than less discussion between us.
We thought it right that Dr. Subandrio should meet representatives of the Opposition in Australia as well as the members of the Australian Cabinet. These meetings were arranged and took place.
In his discussions with Australian Ministers, Dr. Subandrio explained and discussed Indonesia’s national objectives and described current problems in the ideological, economic, constitutional and political development of Indonesia and in her international relations. There was a review of questions deriving directly from IndonesianAustralian relations, of present co-operation between the two countries, and of the ways and means in which this co-operation could be extended.
We discussed the question of Dutch New Guinea. Australia and Indonesia take differing views as to where sovereignty lies. Perhaps I might remind honorable members of the content of the relevant paragraphs of the joint announcement in respect of Dutch New Guinea, which read as follows: -
The Ministers reviewed in detail IndonesianAustralian relations. There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over western New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing Netherlands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, but the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.
The Ministers indicated that they believed that the issue between the Netherlands and Indonesia over western New Guinea (West Irian) was one to be resolved by peaceful means, and that they were in accord with the view that force should not be used by the parties concerned in the settlement of territorial differences.
Those are the two paragraphs which dealt particularly with this New Guinea matter.
Members of the Australian Government heard from Dr. Subandrio a statement of the Indonesian attitude upon the matter, and the considerations which have led to the Indonesian claim to the territory. Australian Ministers, for their part, stated the reasons why Australia recognized and will continue to recognize Netherlands sovereignty. We explained our conception of the legal rights enjoyed by the Netherlands as the sovereign power, and the importance we attach to the principle of self-determination. The Government made it clear that Australia retains a strong interest in developments in western New Guinea. The nature and purpose of our administrative co-operation with the Netherlands administration were explained. This co-operation will, of course, continue.
It will be seen that in the joint announcement, the Australian Government has also stated its attitude towards a situation which is hypothetical, in which an agreement might be made between the Netherlands and Indonesia by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles - which means, among other things, absence of duress. We say that, in these circumstances, Australia would not oppose such an agreement. Believing as we do in the fundamental rights to make agreements possessed by the Netherlands Government and derived from the sovereignty which we are convinced the Netherlands possesses, and believing in the rule of law, this position is the only right and proper one for Australia. It represents no new departure in our policy, but I believe it does clarify to Indonesia a position upon which they have held doubts. I make it clear to the House, as was conveyed to Dr. Subandrio, that this definition of the Australian position can in no sense be represented as advice to the Netherlands or to Indonesia on the question of negotiation upon this matter.
There are, I may say, many matters at issue between Indonesia and the Netherlands. In the course of our discussions, Australian Ministers drew to Dr. Subandrio’s attention the bad effect upon Australian opinion of the seizure without compensation of Netherlands assets and the treatment accorded to Netherlands nationals and our hope that measures for compensation would be speedily and effectively applied. I would judge from some public comments upon the terms of this particular part of the joint announcement that some unwarranted assumptions are being made. One of them is that, if there were an agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia, only one result in terms of the future of the western half of the New Guinea is possible. I suggest that, on the contrary, there is a variety of possibilities, depending largely upon the decision of the Netherlands and Indonesia to accept any one of them. In this connexion I remind honorable members that the Netherlands Government has more than once emphasized the importance which it attached to the international principle that the interests of the indigenous inhabitants of western New Guinea are to be assured.
Again I would remind honorable members that the Netherlands Government has suggested in the past that the question of the sovereignty over western New Guinea should be submitted to the International Court, which is clearly one of the peaceful processes that might be employed. If the matter were to go to the court, I do not believe that any one in Australia would fail to respect the decision of the court, whichever way it might go.
The joint announcement expresses the conviction of both countries that there should be no resort to force in the settlement of territorial disputes. This clear declaration is welcomed by the Australian Government. It could be, I believe, a real contribution to improving relations generally in the region of South-East Asia and the Pacific. I commend the terms of the joint announcement to honorable members as marking a further step in the development of better understanding in AustralianIndonesian relations and as evidence of the determination of both Indonesia and Australia to live together in increasing amity. The joint announcement is necessarily a short one. The discussions with Dr. Subandrio and his officers occupied a very great many hours.
I am mindful of the fact, and draw this to the attention of honorable members, that Dr. Subandrio is still travelling in New Zealand and has not yet had the opportunity of reporting in person to his own government. A closer relation with 80,000,000 Indonesians who are Australia’s nearest neighbours is something to work for with energy and patience. It would be idle to pretend that differences in history, culture, language and institutions do not create obstacles. Indeed, it is because we recognize these to be obstacles which exist, but which can be progressively reduced, that Dr. Subandrio and I have recommended to our governments that further practical steps be taken in the cultural field.
Of course Australia will necessarily look to ensure that our own interests and responsibility are understood and respected by Indonesia. We have many such interests both within and outside the South-, East Asian region, including our associations and understandings with other powers, both Asians and non-Asians. Our membership of Seato is one such interest. These matters were explained to Dr. Subandrio and were discussed, and we believe that his visit will lead to a better understanding of them in Indonesia. There were valuable exploratory discussions upon other subjects, such as trade and communication routes, upon which I do not propose to enter in detail.
I am sure that I reflect the views of the Opposition as well as those of the Government when I say that friendship with a democratic and truly independent Indonesia is our aim and that the few important conflicts of national policy that divide us should not distract either country from building on the great many interests we have in common.
With the permission of the House, 1 shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ the joint statement to which I referred. It reads -
During his visit to Australia from 10th to 15th February, 1959, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia (Dr. Subandrio) had discussions with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and with other Ministers.
It was the object of Ministers to expand the present area of agreement between the two neighbouring countries and, where differences exist, to seek to reconcile them and to create better understanding of each country’s interests and national policies.
With this objective, a meeting was arranged between Dr. Subandrio and all members of the Australian Cabinet. The discussions served to re-affirm the determination of both Governments that Australia and Indonesia will live together and co-operate as good neighbourssympathetically concerned in each other’s material progress and respecting each other’s independence, and fostering closer relations between their peoples.
There was a valuable exchange of views on the international situation and upon its effect on the security of the two countries. Much common ground was found. Ministers re-affirmed the support of the two Governments for the Charter of the United Nations, peaceful settlement of disputes, and for the principles of mutual tolerance among nations and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. It was recognized that those differences that exist in foreign policies on questions of international peace and security were compatible with mutual respect for each other’s interests and a common concern in Indonesia and Australia to preserve national independence from external interference.
The Ministers reviewed in detail Indonesian-
Australian relations. There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over western New Guinea West Irian), with Australia recognizing Nether- lands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, out the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.
The Ministers indicated that they believed that the issue between the Netherlands and Indonesia over western New Guinea (West Irian) was one to be resolved by peaceful means, and that they were in accord with the view that force should not be used by the parties concerned in the settlement of territorial differences.
The Ministers decided to put to study the possibility of a formal agreement between the two countries to encourage and widen mutual understanding through exchanges of persons competent in the fields of artistic, literary or other cultural achievement, science and scholarship. Such an agreement would be designed to extend existing co-operative arrangements under the Colombo Plan and under other forms of international cultural co-operation.
The Ministers noted that, since Indonesia joined the Colombo Plan, Australia has received more than SOO Indonesians for training and study. It is agreed that the educational authorities in each country will be asked to examine the possibilities of study opportunities in Indonesia being used to a greater extent by Australian universities and learned bodies.
Australian Ministers and Dr. Subandrio expressed the belief that the visit with its frank and extensive exchanges of views had contributed to the fostering of relations of amity and better understanding between Australia and Indonesia.
– by leave - The statement just delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is extremely important. lt is quite correct, as the Minister said, that an opportunity was given to my colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and myself to discuss questions of common interest with the visiting Minister for Foreign Affairs from Indonesia. We did discuss them and we stated the position frankly as we understood it, and I propose to say much the same to honorable members.
Our view is that we have to look at this problem in the light of other facts. The outstanding fact is that New Guinea - and I refer to the whole of the great island of New Guinea, consisting as it does of the Trust Territory of New Guinea, formerly German New Guinea, Papua, which is Australian territory, and Dutch New Guinea - constitutes territory and territories which, during the war against Japan, were proved to be absolutely vital to the security and defence of Australia. 1 think that is so obvious that one need not develop the matter further. The Australian Labour party decided, through its governing body, that the immediate purpose in connexion with Indonesia should be -
A mutual regional pact for security and welfare-
Honorable members will see that it is for both objectives. Security is one thing, and the welfare of the peoples concerned is another. They are equally important. The proposal is that this pact - should be negotiated between Australia, Holland and Indonesia. The Pact should aim at promoting the security of the entire areas of Indonesia and New Guinea. It should also aim at improving the standards of life for all the peoples throughout this area - so vital to Australia.
If I may, I shall detail what I have said. We have the three territories - Papua, an Australian possession; western New Guinea, a Dutch possession; and the trust Territory of New Guinea. They are the three integral parts and their interests are the same, whether they arise through the trust principle embodied in the Charter of the United Nations or through the provisions of Chapter XI. of the Charter, which is the declaration regarding non-self-governing territories. These, of course, would include both Papua and Dutch New Guinea. Very much the same principle is contained in each of those provisions of the Charter, which is part and parcel of the United Nations itself. Article 73 applies clearly to our Territory of Papua and to the Dutch territory of western New Guinea. It reads -
Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligations to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the Present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
The peoples there referred to are not the inhabitants of Indonesia or of Holland; they are the inhabitants, in this instance, of western New Guinea, and the principle relates to them. It may take many years, but in the end they are the people who will have sovereignty over the various territories. Australia is the trustee of two of the three territories, but all three are connected. The article continues - . . and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of such territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.
The Minister seems to suppose that, if sovereignty over western New Guinea resides in the Netherlands, it can be transferred at the will of the Netherlands to Indonesia, and that will be the end of the matter. But it is not! An obligation of the character that I have mentioned, making paramount the interests of the native peoples, cannot be evaded. It is an obligation under the charter of the United Nations, and it must be recognized. Therefore, it is not a question merely of a bargain between Indonesia and Holland, as the Minister seems to suppose. That is a complete misconception. It is quite true that Dr. Subandrio came here and put his views courteously and very ably. What I have said to the House, my colleague the honorable member for Melbourne and I said to him. We told him that Australia was interested in the territory, not for the sake of obtaining a possession for Australia but to protect the interests of the native peoples of all parts of New Guinea. That consideration must be paramount. We said that clearly and we also said, quite frankly, that in the war against Japan the whole of New Guinea was vital to the security of Australia. After listening to Dr. Subandrio, I believe that there was a chance - there may still be a chance - of getting him to see our point of view. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Labour party favours an agreement between Holland, Indonesia and Australia regarding the welfare and security of the native peoples.
The Minister seems to think that referring the question of sovereignty to the International Court might be a solution. But who really suggests that sovereignty is not in the Netherlands? The parties made an agreement in regard to western New Guinea some years ago, and it is plain from their own document that sovereignty over western New Guinea does not reside in Indonesia. If the question went to the court, the court would unhesitatingly and immediately decide that sovereignty, so far as the oldfashioned idea of sovereignty applied, still remained with Holland. Therefore, there is nothing to decide. The Minister could have gone ahead on the assumption that there is nothing to decide. Sovereignty rests with the Government and the people of the Netherlands. It is true, as the Minister said, that we want friendship with a democratic and truly independent Indonesia. That is our aim. The Minister said that few important questions divide us, but this is an important question that divides the people and I do not think it can be solved by simply leaving it where it is. I am sure that the Netherlands would not agree to a change in management and control which would prejudice the very purpose of the charter in the terms that I have mentioned. This is a vital question.
We want a debate on this matter in this House. This matter affects Australia’s defence, security and welfare very vitally, and the Government should immediately reconsider its policy on a basis of frankness with Indonesia. The case for what I am putting is overwhelming, I submit, and I do not think that there is any question of sovereignty. In the old technical and legal sense, sovereignty resides where it has resided since 1949 - with the Netherlands. The vital question is: In what interest is this territory to be governed? It must be governed according to the charter of the United Nations, which means that it must be governed in the interests of the native peoples. But there is not a suggestion of that in the statement made by the two governments.
– It would be a change from colonialism to colonialism.
– In one sense it might be a change of colonialism for colonialism; but let us get closer to it. Let us try to bring the Indonesian and the Dutch people together to see whether an agreement of the character we have indicated could be reached. That would be not only a permanent protection for the native peoples of western New Guinea but also a great reinforcement of the principle that we should provide for the protection, advancement and welfare of the native peoples of Papua and New Guinea, for whom we are directly responsible. Those matters have not been considered. The interests of the native peoples of western New Guinea should remain paramount.
It has been suggested that agreement on sovereignty between Holland and Indonesia would solve the problem. It would do nothing of the kind. It would aggravate the problem and make it very serious indeed from certain angles. I think that the Minister who visited Australia has a fund of goodwill towards this country, but he must really see our point of view. We hope to have a debate on this matter in the near future so that the views of honorable members on this side of the House can be put.
– May I just clarify a point? The right honorable gentleman has sought an opportunity for subsequent debate. Would he prefer that to be in the form of a motion that the statement be printed?
– I do not mind what form it is, as long as the House has a chance to debate it.
– The subject could be raised in the Address-in-Reply debate.
– We do not want to curtail debate on other matters during the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
– If the Opposition prefers it, the debate could be on the motion that the paper be printed.
– That might prevent a decision.
– It would not preclude reference to the subject in the course of the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
– That is not good enough. We will move a motion of censure, in due course, if necessary.
– At this stage you do not want a motion for the printing of the paper?
– I have received the second annual report by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In his report the President has made several suggestions for amendments to the legislation to deal with problems which have arisen during the year under review. These suggestions are being examined and are expected to lead to the introduction of a short amending bill later in the session.
Pursuant to section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - Second Annual Report by President, for year ended 13th August, 1958.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17, I lay on the table my warrant, nominating Mr. Chaney, Mr. Clark, Mr. Failes, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Luchetti, Mr. Lucock, Mr. Makin, Mr. Peters, Mr. Timson and Mr. Wight to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 17th February (vide page 27), on motion by Mr. Browne -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– First let me extend to you, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself and other honorable members on this side of the
House, our congratulations on your reappointment to the Chair. We feel sure that the common purpose we all pursue in this chamber, to ensure the well-being of the people of Australia, will continue to be followed under your excellent guidance.
Let me now say that the Speech delivered by Hh Excellency the Governor-General, which, after all, is an outline of Government policy, represents perhaps the most empty piece of planning, coming, as it does, after nine years of government by the Menzies administration, that this country has ever seen. The only piece of legislation mentioned in it is one about which there has been considerable public controversy. I refer to the banking legislation. We are told that within the next few weeks this legislation will come before the House. When it has been disposed of, one wonders, after reading His Excellency’s Speech closely, what the future activities of the Parliament will be. Two matters stand out in importance, so far as I am concerned. The first one is the inadequacy of the Government’s plan to deal with job opportunity in Australia. On page 3 of His Excellency’s Speech a brief comment is made on this matter. His Excellency merely said: -
During 1958 employment opportunities continued to increase.
The question of job opportunity is left wide open. Any one concerned with this matter must have wondered why, after having been in office for nine years, the Government changed the Ministry, so that the Minister who previously dealt with primary industry now has control of the problem of job opportunity, which has been taken out of the hands of a Minister who was, perhaps, familiar with it and might know what should be done in the future. In making this change, did the Government accept the fact that it had no plan and no policy, and did not intend to formulate one? .
The brief reference to this question in the Governor-General’s Speech calls for some comment. Particulars are available, to the Ministry and the Government as well as to every one else, regarding job opportunities in the last twelve months. When one considers these figures one surely must wonder why such a brief reference is made to the matter of job opportunity by a new Government coming to office. It has not been possible to obtain complete figures for 1958, but it has been possible to compare the figures for November, 1957, with those for November, 1958. Let us see what the picture is, and why this smug self-satisfaction is apparent in the Governor-General’s Speech.
On previous occasions I have mentioned in this House the shortage of job opportunities available, month by month, in the field of private employment. In a young, growing country, private employment must be the basis of job opportunities. A young, developing country such as ours cannot depend upon government employment for job opportunities. When we compare the figures for November, 1957, with those for November, 1958, we discover a startling situation. The figures I am citing are taken from the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics for November, 1958, which is the last issue available. It appears that between November, 1957, and November, 1958, only 6,300 additional jobs were created for males. I am dealing at the moment with private employment only. Only 2,800 additional jobs were created for females. That is the situation concerning which His Excellency made such a brief reference yesterday. It is a situation that is obviously regarded by the Government as being satisfactory, because it does not propose to do anything about it. In that period of twelve months only 9,100 additional jobs were created in Australia.
One wonders just what the position would have been if we had depended upon private enterprise to provide all the jobs required by our young Australians. Let us look at the other side of the picture. This is a matter about which this Government criticized the outgoing government in the late ‘40’s. I refer to the numbers of persons in government employment. Whereas only 9,100 additional jobs were created in private employment between November, 1957, and November, 1958, the figures provided by the Government Statistician show that slightly more than 16,000 jobs were created in the public service in one field or another.
– But not in the Commonwealth sphere, where the number of employees declined by 1,000.
– If the honorable member will wait until I take my argument a little further, he will understand why I am putting this proposition.
At the moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not concerned whether it is employment in the State, Federal or local government field, or anywhere else. What I am concerned about is: What is the Government’s policy? It is obvious, from the smug satisfaction expressed in those few words, that the Government has no policy in relation to this vital matter of job opportunity. That is the very problem, and at the moment I am not concerned whether the Commonwealth or the State sphere offers more opportunities for employment. What I want to emphasize is that job opportunity at the government level, both State and Federal, will decrease over the next five years as a result of automation and the technological advances that are being made in both fields. That is the problem that requires attention at the governmental level. Let us not run away with the idea that because about twice as many additional people have been taken on by governments as by private enterprise in this ^country, as I have pointed out, we should criticize governments for employing the greater number of additional workers. I do not suggest that any individual man or woman would be employed in a governmental enterprise if it was not necessary. The point I emphasize is that the job opportunities provided in both governmental and private enterprise do not meet the requirements of a developing Australia.
The relevant statistics, Mr. Deputy Speaker, immediately pose the question: Is our present rate of progress, relative to the opportunities for employment within the framework of the private enterprise policy adopted by this Government, healthy? Does the Government believe that merely by providing job opportunities in private enterprise for an additional 9,100 people over the last twelve months - a figure that is evidently regarded by the Government as being satisfactory - it is providing a basis upon which this country can advance and develop? It is of no use for us to talk about Indonesia or any other country if we do not first provide safety and security for our own people in this country.
The figures that I have given are alarming, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when one analyses them, because the process will not stop there. Only a week- or two ago, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited announced that it hoped - I emphasize the word “ hoped “, coming from a great organization like that - that over the next five years, with the advance of modern t technology and the installation of the latest o.’fice equipment, it would be able to retain its present clerical staff on its pay-roll. The company stated that it would not require so many clerical workers as at present, but it hoped that, taking into account resignations, retirements and deaths, it would be able to continue to employ the present clerical staff over the next five years. What is to happen to the thousands of young Australians who should obtain employment with the company in the next five years?
Let me now turn to something that astounded me. As honorable members know, 15,000 additional unemployed were registered during January, but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) just puts it down to seasonal fluctuation. Let us have a look at a news release made by the Department of Labour and National Service on 16th February. The report with which it deals was evidently available when the Governor-General’s Speech was being prepared1. Dealing with New South Wales, the news release states -
It was not so long ago, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that business organizations of all kinds were eagerly awaiting the months of November and December and swamped the high schools and colleges with offers of employment for young Australians completing their secondary schooling. But to-day we find that in New South Wales young, educated Australians have to line up at a Commonwealth Employment Office seeking employment, although, in many cases, their parents have made sacrifices and endured hardship to educate them and fit them for employment. Let us have a look at what this report, which was in the hands of the Minister, says about Victoria. The news release indicates that in that State it is a problem to find vacancies for those who are leaving school, and that there are more young people leaving school and seeking work than there are vacancies in employment for them.
We find that there is great difficulty in Queensland also. The news release states that young people leaving school are enrolling at the Commonwealth Employment Office this year seeking initial employment. That is something new within the framework of employment in Australia, and it is a warning to the government of the day that it must take stock of what is happening in the field of private employment. In South Australia, where a government of the :same kidney as this one has held the reins of office for a long time, the situation is indicated in the news release in these words -
In respect of Western Australia, the release states -
It is the young people again who are affected. They are the ones for whom I am making an appeal to-day. Whatever may have happened to those of us who are older, this Government or any other government should not neglect to provide opportunities of employment for young Australians who are coming on to the employment market. If a government neglects to provide those opportunities, it will be doing the very thing that either fascism or communism would hope to see done in a free community. In Tasmania, things are pretty good, in point of fact, because that State has a Labour government which has done an excellent job for the people. But even in respect of that State, the news release makes the following observation: - . . fewer vacancies registered for men, particularly for building tradesmen and semi-skilled workers; . . .
So we see the whole tenor of this report that was received by the Minister on 19th January. Yet Government spokesmen claim in this House that during 1958 employment opportunities continued to increase.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I emphasize to the House and the country that it is tragic that this Government should be so smug about the inroads that automation and the new equipment resulting from modern technology have already made and will continue to make into the employment opportunities for Australians, and particularly for young Australians leaving school. I do not profess to be a historian, but these circumstances cause me to wonder whether this Government, as a responsible authority, is taking any notice at all of the historical - I repeat, “ historical “ - information available to us as a result of what happened in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution of more than 150 years ago. It is a fact that Britain to-day has more unemployed workers than it has had for twenty years. Again the same dark cloud is spreading across the country.
Regardless of the political faith of the government of the day, if automation and the new equipment made possible by modern technology are to be used only for profit, there will be great hardship for those seeking employment in the future. Whether or not this Government likes it, automation and the advancements of modern technology will force any government in a free country to take stock of the employment situation, and it may be necessary, in some instances, to seek power from the people to take special measures to ensure that automation shall not be used entirely for profit but that the great benefits made possible by modern technology and equipment shall be shared equally not only by those who install it but also by those whose jobs it can do. The problem of fairly sharing these benefits is the greatest problem that confronts this country to-day. I know that in the press to-day appears a report of a statement by a leading trade unionist that automation has not yet greatly affected the Australian employment field. Perhaps I should agree with him. He has made a wider examination of the matter than I have made.
– Except in relation to the coal industry.
– I shall come to that. Let the Government use the words of that trade unionist if it wishes. If, in point of fact, we have not yet felt the full impact of automation, why have only 9,100 additional jobs been available in private employment in twelve months? If that is the position, and we have not felt the impact of automation, what a bleak future there is for us if nothing is done about the matter! Let us not deal with this matter as we have dealt with the coal-miners. There is a brief reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the position on the coal-fields. Conditions there are tragic. Everybody in this country knew that there were great movements on the coal-fields. We remember the attempts to organize stoppages as protests against mechanization. The miners were promised that if they produced coal at lower cost their jobs would be secure and more miners would be wanted. What do we find to-day? The Governor-General said -
Australia now has an adequate supply of coal from more efficient mines. However, mechanization has also led to re-employment problems in New South Wales, but my Government has co-operated with the State government and with industry in measures to overcome these difficulties.
That underlines a situation that we cannot afford to allow to develop in other spheres. If we want to make progress in this young, developing country, we must do much better with the modem equipment that is now becoming available than we have done on the coal-fields. There must be planning and an understanding of the ramifications of these developments. Provision must be made before people become unemployed and not after. I have seen married people thrown out of their homes in Taree and South Grafton merely because of the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives in the New South Wales Railways. Somebody will say that railway service is terrible and is not paying. There is a suggestion that within five years it will pay, but what will have happened? The number of people employed in rail transport in New South Wales will have fallen by about 7,000. It is the job of this Government as well as of every other government to see to it that government instrumentalities follow the same course with their employees as does the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited, which is trying to hold its employees, letting retirements, dismissals and deaths take up the slack.
What will happen about the 7,000 railway jobs that ought to be there for the young Australians coming on? Alternative employment must be found for them. That is a task that this Government must undertake now. I submit that it is a task for a commission, and I urge the Government to give immediate attention to setting up, within the framework of its own responsibility, an employment opportunity commission. That commission should be charged with studying the impact on industry of automation and the improved machinery now available, and then presenting a report on the opportunities that exist now and that will exist in the future. Its principal duty should be to report upon the area of immediate and future impact of automation and modern machinery upon the workers in industry. Then, if workers are to be displaced in Taree and South Grafton, or at Albury, as they will be in two years’ time, let us plan in advance for alternative industries and employment in those areas.
Let us not allow these people, wherever they may be, to be thrown to the wolves. We do not want to drive them all to the capital cities. If the City of Albury is to be faced with finding work for hundreds of men who will be displaced as a result of the standardization of rail gauges, surely somebody will be big enough to plan something for them. Let us not say that it is a State responsibility; it is the responsibility of every government. We must do better than has been done on the coal-fields. I stress the urgency of establishing such a commission as I have suggested. New South Wales has already appointed some sort of organization to study the impact of automation, but that will not serve the purpose. This Government is responsible for employment and unemployment. The people have already determined that question. The responsibility of facing up to this problem rests squarely on the Government in Canberra.
Whatever happens during the next three years, there is nothing else so urgent and important as the establishment right now of an authority to analyse properly the advantages that can be derived from modern equipment and the opportunities that exist in this country. With the aid of automation and the latest in production lines, Australian workmen can compete in costs, with those of any other country. A commission should be established to study the situation, so that we will not have an extension of the conditions that operate on the coal-fields, with people being told they must go somewhere else. We will not have such a situation as we have had at Taree, where 156 men were told that as from the following week they would not be required. That resulted from the public being given a better and more efficient rail service. The achievement of greater efficiency should never be the instance of good Australians being thrown out of work. Greater efficiency should provide more job opportunities, but this can only be achieved by a planning authority, which knows the results that will follow and which plans to take up the shock of the impact. I think that this is the most important problem that arises out of this matter, and I urge the Government to do something about it as a matter of urgency.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who has just addressed us, has told us something of his own ideas regarding the impact of automation and what he considers it is necessary to do in relation to job opportunities. While I should like to answer him in the main when T come to the general theme of my remarks, I feel that I should say something immediately about one of the main examples which he gave to the House, namely the situation in the northern coal-fields.
As you may know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, part of my electoral division incorporates some of the mines in the Newcastle area and goes very close to the Cessnock area. Indeed, some of my constituents work in the mines in the latter area, so it is not to be wondered at that I took the opportunity during the recent recess to pay several visits there to talk to people about the problem that exists in that part of New South Wales. While in no way do I wish to lessen the importance of the problem, there is one very important thing that should be said immediately in reply to the honorable member for Blaxland and to those who think along the same lines - and this applies to some sections of the press. The many persons whom I was able to interview were upset at the exaggeration of the position of residents of Cessnock and the surrounding areas. I found that there was complete unanimity amongst those people I interviewed regarding the exaggerated reports of some of those who live there. I can say that at the present time there is no sign of an atmosphere of gloom or of any suggestion of a major trade recession hitting that city or any of its surroundings.
Whilst I recognize that the coal industry is once again passing through a transition period, I found that the people concerned in the industry were facing this problem with confidence. They are hoping to attract new industries to the area, to the need for which the honorable member for Blaxland referred1, and they are doing their best to do so. But the residents of that area feel that harm is being done to their cause by the scare-merchants who remind people of the bad industrial record of some of the coalmining districts. They think that reminding people of these things will lessen the attraction that their own district may hold for new industries. Nevertheless, arrangements are already being made for certain new industries to be established there. From the information that was given to me only a few weeks ago I have learned that arrangements have been made for the establishment of gas works at Cessnock to provide gas for domestic consumption in the Cessnock district and the nearby City of Maitland. Although it is not thought that this industry will provide much employment, and whilst it is not intended as a means of increasing the revenue of the district to a large degree, the establishment of this new industry is a beginning, and will help to attract other industries to the area.
Once again, as in the past, references were made to me about the disturbing tactics of the leaders of the miners’ federation in past years, tactics that have had a bad effect on the coal industry and on the interests of miners in general. But the people of Cessnock - and I speak of them as a whole - believe that, away from the influence of the left wing leaders of the miners’ federation, the miner is a most adaptable person and a good worker who does not want to have his employment continually interrupted by stand-down days, rolling strikes and so on. The people of Cessnock generally believe that, as leaders within their own community, they have a responsibility to the other citizens of the area and, indeed1, a responsibility to show the rest of New South Wales and the Commonwealth as a whole that the miner is not an irresponsible person. They believe also that members of the younger generation in the Cessnock area, not having had some of the unpleasant experiences of their fathers, and having had better opportunities and a wider education than the previous generation of people in the area, have got away from some of the parochial thinking of the past and will provide a very good labour force for new industries that may be established.
I mention those things because it is the genuine belief of the residents of Cessnock and the surrounding coal-fields areas that they must get into the Australian mind, and especially the minds of people thinking of investing money in new industries in the coal-fields, that there is a great potential in the area for new ventures. Therefore, people who try to produce an atmosphere of gloom by claiming that the establishment of new industries there is fraught with difficulties are doing great harm to the cause which, in some ways, they are seeking to promote.
I hope to take an opportunity later in the session to say something more on these matters, and to make some suggestions about the type of industries that we may be able to establish in the coal-fields area around Cessnock. I have brought this matter up to-day because I felt that it was necessary to answer immediately some of the criticisms that the honorable member for Blaxland had made, and some of the recent press comment which, we believe, is doing harm to the cause.
Before proceeding to my main theme I should like to make a short comment on some of the matters that come before all members of Parliament in connexion with their representations to the Repatriation Commission on behalf of ex-servicemen. In saying what I am about to say I do not intend to criticize in any way the officers of the commission with whom one comes in contact when making such representations. Indeed, I wish to thank them for the manner in which they have helped to solve the various problems that are placed before them by us. However, I wish to speak in particular of the great differences of judgment shown in decisions given either in favour of, or against, appeals by exservicemen to a repatriation appeal tribunal. In New South Wales especially in recent years, as I know from experience, great differences of judgment have been shown in decisions given.
I understand readily that the assessment, as 100 per cent, war-caused, of an injury that is the subject of a claim by an exserviceman of World War I. is a very diffi cult matter. As the man concerned gets older he is naturally liable to suffer from greater physical disabilities, and it becomes more difficult to determine whether those disabilities are war-caused. But I believe that the operation of what we loosely call the onus-of-proof provision in the act is not being properly interpreted by certain of the appeal tribunals. I believe that the time is overdue for us in this House to put this matter right under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation so that he may have urgent discussions with the Commissioner for Repatriation in order to ensure that more will be done to assist exservicemen, especially those of World War J.
I think that all of us have been told by ex-servicemen that their main objective when they were discharged from the fighting services was to return to civil life as quickly as possible without taking up time to ascertain whether they were suffering from disabilities that would make them eligible for even a part-pension. Many of them could not be bothered going through the necessary process. I advise exservicemen from World War II., no matter how minor a disability may be, to seek to have it accepted now as a war-caused disability, because it will save them a great deal of bother later on when the disability becomes worse with the passage of the years.
I should like to give the House only one example - because only one example is necessary - to show how the onus-of-proof provision is not working in the way in which I believe we intended it to work when the legislation was before this Parliament. I intend to show that in some cases the exserviceman is not getting the benefit of the doubt. At the conclusion of my speech 1 shall give the name, address and other particulars of the person I am about to mention, to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is now at the table, so that he may take appropriate action.
The case is that of an ex-serviceman of World War II. who was accepted as a person to whom a pension should be paid as a result of an injury received during the war, which now necessitates the wearing by him of a Taylor Brace from hips to neck. A summary of his case is as follows: In 1944, he was granted a 10 per cent, war pension because of the disability to which I have referred. He received hospital treatment during the following years as an inpatient of 113 Repatriation General Hospital on a number of occasions until, by 1955, by gradual increase his pension reached 70 per cent. In February, 1955, he re-entered hospital, an operation was performed, and his pension was increased to the temporarily totally incapacitated rate. In December, 1955, he obtained work at a local timber yard, and the pension was reduced to 80 per cent. He reports - and I have confirmed this in interviews with his employer and his doctor - that the first nine months was satisfactory from the point of view of his health, when he was in employment, but the following period of six months saw a considerable deterioration. This deterioration continued until March, 1957, when he collapsed at work. He was placed on medical sustenance, and his pension was increased to the 100 per cent. rate. Up to the time of his collapse he had also been partly working his farm. I bring in these two points to show that this ex-serviceman was genuinely trying to pay his own way and support his family by his own industry.
In July, 1957, he was re-admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital, an operation was performed, and his pension was reinstated to the T.T.I, rate. This rate continued to be paid until November, 1958. In August, 1958, he was advised by his repatriation specialist to sell the farm, as it would not be possible for him ever to work on it again. This transaction was finalized early in November, and on the 14th of that month he received notice from the commissioner that his pension had been reduced to the 100 per cent. rate. The man’s dependants are a wife and three children aged eleven, six and one and a half years. He has been interviewed by the repatriation rehabilitation and vocational guidance officers. They have informed him that it is considered unlikely that he can ever be placed in employment because of his physical disabilities yet, on the other hand, the Appeals Tribunal has reduced his pension because it considered that he could be engaged in light employment. That is just a summary of this case. I have discussed this man’s problems with the chief medical officer in that area and he has confirmed the deterioration in the man’s condition. He is of the opinion that this man is unlikely to be able to work again.
That is an example of what is happening, and I suggest that these matters should be discussed by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) with the Repatriation Commission.
In his Speech, the Governor-General referred to overseas trade and stated -
My Government is pursuing an active trade policy directed towards the consolidation of existing export outlets and the development of new trading opportunities. It has achieved some success in protecting Australian export industries from unfair trading practices of others.
I wish to refer to that matter in particular because I believe those words have some reference of great interest to the markets to the near north of Australia, especially those through Singapore. In particular, they have reference to trade agreements that we have made with Malaya, Ceylon and Japan. 1 should like to make reference particularly to the delegation which recently went abroad in the trade ship “ Delos “. Honorable members may remember that that ship called at a number of ports in South-East Asia, Japan and New Guinea. The Department of Trade co-operated to quite a considerable extent with the various commercial and manufacturing industries which provided the actual exhibits on the ship. Reports by those who travelled on the ship and also those I have had personally from contacts in the area visited were gratifying. They show that that trade mission was a success. It was received cordially and created wide interest. A large number of inquiries were made during the voyage about the prospects of trade with Australia, and increased trade has been attained as a result.
Having gone so far, I believe that we should lose no time in pressing home energetically the advantage which that delegation has achieved for us. It has supported the various trade missions we have sent abroad over the last few years and the visits by senior officers of the Department of Trade to several countries in South-East Asia. Honorable members will recall that two senior officers of the Department of Trade visited South-East Asia in 1957 to discuss with the authorities in various countries in a preliminary way the scope for trade negotiation with Australia. I understand that they visited India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaya and Indonesia. One of the officers later visited Thailand, the Republic of Viet Nam and Burma. Further detailed trade discussions have taken place with Ceylon and Malaya, and, recently, during the visit of Dr. Subandrio, with Indonesia.
We have one advantage over a number of our competitors and that is the shorter haul between Australia and the countries of South-East Asia. As a result, we should be able to reduce the freight content in the price of our goods. Unfortunately, the cost of production in Australia is much higher than it is in some of the competing countries so that our other advantage is somewhat offset. Nevertheless, we have the advantage of quicker voyages, especially for perishable goods, and an opportunity to land those products in better condition. In saying that, I wish to impress upon honorable members the need for maintaining standards in our products. By that I mean not only a standard of presentation but also standards of quality, size and packing and all those things that go towards providing an attractive article so that the people of South-East Asia will want to buy Australian goods. In addition, we must maintain continuity in trade promotion. Although we are doing much in that direction by the personal missions to which I have referred and by advertising in suitable trade journals, I believe we should also use the motion picture screen as a medium of publicity.
Those who have had an opportunity of visiting those countries know that a large proportion of the population go to the pictures. With very little cost to ourselves, we could initiate a very good trade advertising campaign by a series of short cartoon films. It is not necessary to have a lot of dialogue; in fact, the shorter the dialogue, the better, as a more distinctive message can be conveyed by sight rather than by sound. Where it is necessary to include some comment or sound in the film, for example, in Singapore and Malaya, the sound track should be in Malay and the dubbing of other languages at the bottom of the picture should be in English and Mandarin Chinese. Other countries are using animated cartoons to great advantage to carry their trade advertisements and to show the uses to which their products can be put. By that means, their sales in some cases are greater than ours.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) in supporting the motion relating to the Address-in-Reply referred to the difficulties of some primary producers, particularly those who produced fruit and the more perishable commodities. We have an opportunity to supply fresh fruit and vegetables to Singapore and, through Singapore, to a number of neighbouring countries. With the assistance of the Department of Trade and our trade post in Singapore, I brought to Australia for exhibition purposes not so long ago, just as an exercise, two cases of oranges. That fruit is one of the primary products produced in the electorate I represent. I imported one case of oranges from the west coast of United States of America and one case which had been supplied to the Singapore market from South Africa. When the cases were opened, the oranges were in very good condition although they had travelled from the United States and South Africa to Singapore, and had been there for several days before they were shipped to Australia. They were uniform in size, very well packed, and of good quality and colour. The American oranges were of slightly better quality than the best of our own export fruit. But we found that our own fruit equalled, if not excelled, the South African product.
This is only an example, once again, but, during the last few years, the South African growers have been giving a very great challenge, and a most successful challenge, to the American suppliers who, for many years, have had the majority of sales in that area. If the South Africans can do it, we can do it, because, as I say, we have an equal, if not a better product.
The other day, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, announced the granting of an additional £5,000 for research into fruit fly sterilization in citrus fruit and said that this sum would enable investigations already being made to be continued until 30th June, 1960. It would permit an investigation of the problems of controlling the fumigant method of sterilizing fruit. I make reference to that announcement in particular because a great deal of this work is being carried out under the auspices of our Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and in conjunction with the State Department of Agriculture in New South Wales, officers of which have been carrying out a most successful series of experiments. The fact that this success has been. recognized, I feel, has encouraged the Commonwealth Government to proceed and, once again, give an additional grant.
As the Minister said, investigations are being made because Australia’s citrus export trade, which is worth about £1,000,000 a year, is dependent on our being able to ensure that our fruit exports are free from fruit fly. Most of our fruit exports come from areas which could be said to have been contaminated with fruit fly at some time or which would be liable to the infestation of fruit fly from adjoining areas. Whether that is so or not, the buyer wants to be assured. He will not buy unless he is satisfied on that point.
Could I sum up by saying that all of us, in this place, realize the necessity for increasing our overseas trade? This is referred to as part of government planning in His Excellency’s Speech and it answers a great deal of the criticism made by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) who asked what we were going to do to assist in maintaining employment in this country. Apart from that, it is necessary for us to provide a product of good quality, to keep it at a recognized standard, to pack it well, and to advertise it well in the way that I have suggested.
I know of several instances in which we have been able to obtain a good share of the market but, having had it for a year or two, following on a drop in production we have not kept up the quality or the continuity of our shipments. We have said, “ It is only for Singapore. Send it to them,” and we have lost the market, and have had to start all over again. I believe that these initial mistakes which we made at the end of World War II. are becoming increasingly recognized as such by the promoters of trade. But I think it is necessary for us, in this place, to recognize them and, through our appropriate departments, to give all possible encouragement to the drive that is being made for exports.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think that the speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) was like the Speech that the Governor-General made yesterday afternoon - it was full of negatives. The honorable member complained about some repatriation matters that are long outstanding, yet he supports a Government that has had the opportunity, over nine years, to rectify the omissions but which has failed to do so! I am satisfied that while he supports such a government those matters will remain outstanding.
I listened to the Governor-General’s Speech very intently and I think it was notable, not for the things it contained, but for the things it omitted. Time will prevent me, of course, from dealing with all the matters that it omitted, or even all the things that it mentioned, but there are some subjects on which I shall find time to say a few words, as I consider them to be vital.
For instance, the Governor-General made a very brief reference to social services. He said that the Government would review social services from time to time. But all that the Government ever does is to review them from time to time. I would prefer the Government, instead of saying that it would “ review “ them, to say that it would “ revise “ them. The Government should revise the age pension immediately and increase it by, say, £1 a week. All other social service payments should be similarly increased. The review that takes place from time to time gives no justice to the pensioners. The Governor-General’s Speech was full of negatives such as the statement on social services.
One matter that I think should have been mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, and which I regard as vital, is the need for electoral reform. I say that because the electoral results indicate that we do not have democracy in Australia. As a matter of fact, at the present time, Australia is governed by a minority government. I am quite satisfied that the people who framed the Constitution 60 years ago really did wish that Australia should have democracy some day, yet we find ourselves to-day with an autocratic government which is the very opposite of democratic government! If we peruse the list of people who attended the conventions which framed the Constitution, we find that they were the same kind of thinkers as those who govern Australia to-day. They had the same kind of qualifications and designations. It seems as though the wanglers of 1889 were no different to the wanglers of 1959 by whom we have been governed for some time.
To show why I consider that Australia is being governed by a minority government, let us examine the returns for the last general election. I know that already we have all examined them very critically, but it will not hurt to go over them again. I have an official copy of the Senate results from the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. lt clearly shows that this Liberal-Country party Government obtained less votes than its opponents. That means minority government. For instance, the official figures of Senate voting show that the Government parties obtained 45.19 per cent, of the formal votes cast. Against that, the anti-Government candidates - that is the Labour party, in the main - obtained 54.19 per cent.
If that does not clearly indicate that we are governed by a minority government, nothing could. Despite the fact that the Government parties obtained only 45.19 per cent, of votes, they have a representation of 76 members in this House against 47 Labour members. Another weakness in our democracy is that, of the 47 Labour members in this House, two have not a vote. The figures that I have cited indicate very clearly that we are being governed by a minority government. They also indicate that the electorates all over Australia are heavily loaded against the Labour party. I say that we have a minority dictatorship in this country, and1 there are many examples of this. I should like to refer to the dropping from the Ministry without explanation of two former Ministers for the Interior. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was politely dropped from the Ministry, and his successor met with the same fate. Both those honorable gentlemen did a remarkable and splendid job in the departments that they were administering, yet for no reason at all they were dropped from the Ministry. I do not suppose that an apology was even offered to them. They were dropped without explanation, but many people were guessing why they were dropped. The honorable member for Chisholm, in a newspaper article, recently broke the silence when he expressed his sympathy with his successor, the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who had, without rhyme or reason, been dropped from the Ministry. The honorable member for Chisholm said that he and his colleague were possibly dropped for the same reason. The honorable member for Chisholm said that he was dropped by what he termed a dictatorship of bureaucracy. That statement by the honorable member establishes the truth of what I have been saying.
A glance at the history of Parliament will show that other Ministers have also been surprisingly dropped from the Ministry, and some even from Cabinet. Take, for instance, ,ne right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He is the veteran member of the Australian Country party, and also the brains of the Australian Country party. When he makes a speech in this House it is a constructive speech. He is the only member of the Australian Country party, from my observations, who makes constructive speeches in this House. Whilst he may be a veteran, he is still very energetic and1 a most virile thinker.
Take the case of the former honorable member for Richmond, whose son now represents Richmond in this House. The former honorable member was dropped from the Ministry at a time when Australia was in the midst of developing a very important means of communication - television. I do not know what his crime was, but possibly he was dropped because he failed to carry out the dictates of the monopolists with regard to television in this country. Monopolistic control, or capitalism, applies in communications in this country more than in any other sphere. The people who run our newspapers and radio stations also control our television stations. Communications in this country are completely under monopolistic control, and that is a very serious matter.
There are other instances of what has happened under what I term this dictatorship. The honorable member for Chisholm calls it a bureaucratic dictatorship, but I prefer to call it a monopolistic, capitalist dictatorship. Take the case of Sir Percy Spender, who was dropped from Cabinet. Sir Eric Harrison, who recently made a return visit to this country, was another who was set adrift. Sir Josiah Francis, the former honorable member for Parramatta, and others suffered similar fates. Some of the persons whom I have mentioned were not demoted at home, but they were transported to rosier settings, or promoted abroad, and kept long distances from Australia where they would not create any mischief or harm.
It is interesting to compare what is happening in Australia under this capitalist, monopolistic dictatorship, with what is happening in other countries that are ruled by dictatorships, particularly Russia. Similar things have happened in Russia. Look what happened to Bulganin, Molotov, Malenkov and others. They suffered in the same way as did the former Commonwealth Ministers whom I have mentioned. What is happening in Australia is no different to what is happening in Russia. Each country is being governed by a minority dictatorship.
Earlier in my remarks I said that I would show what was really happening in this country. I believe that the present control in Canberra is a despotic, dangerous, and undemocratic control. 1 am sorry that the majority of the people of this country stand for this control. They do not vote for this Government, but for some reason or other they stand for it. I hope that the time will arrive when they will no longer do so.
I believe that a minority government is dangerous and irritating to anybody who believes in our great democracy. This state of affairs has been brought about by gerrymandering of electorates. There is no doubt that the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries is thwarting the intentions of the people in a way that should not be allowed. This Government is guilty of very serious malpractices. I believe also that splinter parties which aid and abet such happenings, which pretend to be so consciencestricken, and prate so much about their good morals, yet help such governments to power, are equally guilty. I believe that the essence of democracy is an assembly elected by the majority of the people, and we have not got that in this place.
The election figures show that this assembly is just the opposite of democracy. An honest government would strive to change such a state of affairs. I have said that the Governor-General’s Speech was negative, and I should like to make a constructive suggestion. I suggest that the Government take immediate steps to set this House in order by setting up an impar tial commission to re-aline the electoral boundaries, so that instead of a minority, dictatorial, monopolistic government, we may have a democratic government. In order to bring this about the commission should be given only one term of reference. It should be asked to see that electorates are set up on the basis of one man one vote. I venture to say that any violation of that rule, no matter how fractional, is undemocratic. I think that the Electoral Act is out of date and needs revising. The previous Minister for the Interior did promise to review the Electoral Act and bring it up to date, and that promise may have helped to bring about his downfall. Well, there has been no review of the act. Whether the former Minister was prevented from allowing it to happen or not, or what actually happened, I do not know. As a matter of fact we had debates on this subject in the House and the Minister asked us for suggestions because he considered it to be so important. In my opinion the Commonwealth Electoral Act is out of date; it should be brought up-to-date. The imperfections in our electoral system detract from the ideal of democracy that we hope to achieve.
I have examined the results in various electorates in the recent election and have found that the Labour party candidates were at a disadvantage because representatives of the parties opposing them had what might be called an A B C advantage. Many illustrations could be given. In my electorate of Banks the name of the Liberal party candidate, who was a person unknown to me, began with B. Of course, mine begins with C. I point out that in 1955, a Communist candidate named Clancy - who beat me for alphabetical position on the ballot paper by one letter - polled 3,356 votes. I received 23,000 votes, and the Liberal party candidate 15,000. At the recent elections the Communist candidate Clancy was displaced from first position on the ballot-paper by a candidate whose name began with B - a Mr. Booth. It is interesting to note that Clancy polled only 1,670 votes, a drop of more than 70 per cent, compared with the 3,356 votes he polled in 1955. That example illustrates the obvious advantage of alphabetical priority on the ballot-paper. In this electorate, Booth received 16,000 votes which was an improvement on the result for the
Liberal candidate at the 1955 elections. Costa received 28,000 votes. The Democratic Labour party candidate lost his deposit because he polled only 2,300 votes. The result was entirely satisfactory to me, but I still voice my complaint about this alphabetical advantage. It shows that the top position on the ballot paper is worth many votes. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party and the rest of their partners in crime exploited this advantage to the full.
I have here a record of the seats and those who contested them, supplied to me by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) who is noted for his skill and research in providing statistics. I note that in New South Wales the Australian Labour party contested 46 seats but its candidates had the top position on the ballot-paper in only seven of them. The Liberal party, which also contested 46 seats, had 21 candidates in the top position. The Democratic Labour party, which contested 40 seats, had fifteen candidates in the top position, and the Communist party, which contested seven seats, had three candidates in the top position. The results show that in those seats where the D.L.P. candidates had first place on the ballot-paper - that is in fifteen seats in New South Wales - they secured an average of 8.9 per cent, of the formal votes cast, whereas in the 25 seats where their candidates were not placed first on the ballot-paper there was a different story. In those electorates they polled 50 per cent, fewer votes, that is an average of only 4.7 per cent, of the formal votes cast.
A system under which that kind of thing happens is completely wrong, and the Government should do something about it. Candidates for election to the Senate draw for positions on the ballot-paper. I believe that that method should be used to determine the positions of candidates for the House of Representatives on the ballotpaper. I happen to have an alphabetical advantage because my name begins with C, but I am unselfish and I would not mind if I drew the bottom position on the ballotpaper. If the practice of drawing for positions were introduced it would do away with a great deal of the alphabetical manoeuvring to which I refer. Unless this practice is abandoned, as time goes by and older members retire from this House they will be replaced by members whose names begin with A, B, or C and there will be no “ X Y Z’S “ in the House at all. I know of many instances in which anti-Labour parties sought candidates whose names began with A, B, or C. In my district a man named Aarons was approached. An attempt was made to gain an alphabetical advantage over the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). In some electorates men of high repute and ability who sought selection as Liberal party candidates and were suitable in every way were not selected because they did not have this alphabetical qualification. This practice is completely wrong and should be discarded.
Another matter to which the Government should give some attention if our claim to be a democracy is to be justified is the large number of informal votes cast at general elections. This is a serious matter, but the Government does not seem to be at all concerned about it. In the Senate elections a total of 5,141,109 votes were cast, but 529,050 of them were informal. That is over half a million. That is a disgrace, and I hope that fact is not reported abroad, otherwise people on the other side of the world will form a very poor opinion of the intelligence of Australian voters.
This is an important matter. Electoral procedure should be taught in our schools as part of the subject of social studies. It is the basis of our democracy and school children should be taught about it. This would not be playing at politics, but would be a step towards establishing real democracy in this country.
In New South Wales the number of informal votes cast in the Senate election was 12 per cent. The quota of votes necessary to elect a senator in that State was 245,000. Of the total number of votes cast, 244,000 - a number almost equivalent to the quota - were informal. That is a very serious matter. I know that all the States must have equal representation in the Senate, but I shall illustrate how lopsided our democracy is by pointing to what happened in Tasmania. Whilst the 152,000 electors in that State returned five senators, in New South Wales 244,000 persons whose votes were informal are not represented in the Parliament. These happenings indicate weaknesses in our democracy which should be remedied. I believe that the names of the parties represented by the respective candidates should be shown on the ballotpapers. People are more interested in voting for parties than for individual candidates.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I open my remarks this afternoon by extending my congratulations and those of the older members of the House to the newcomers to this Parliament. Naturally, that goes for the new members on both sides of the House. Of course, my friends on the Opposition side will hardly expect us to wish them a long stay in the Parliament, but I know that they will do their best to stay here as long as possible. I add my congratulations also to the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt). They delivered very well-informed speeches dealing, as I feel could be expected in the circumstances, with their own electorates and their own direct interests. They will naturally appreciate after they have been in this Parliament a little longer, that the contributions they make must be on a wider horizon than that of their own electorates. But it is indicative of the calibre of new members coming into this House that these speeches were cast on such a high plane.
One would not miss the opportunity to note with very great satisfaction on this side of the House at the return of the Government with an enhanced majority. It is a tribute to the good housekeeping of the national economy by the Menzies Government, and partly it is a vote of censure on the Opposition, for its failure to achieve that unity out of which alone can come the sort of opposition in parliament that a democracy needs. It is all very well for the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) to give us a post mortem on what happened to his party in the election. He ascribed the defeat of his party to some odd things, but nothing more odd than the alphabetical complex. I thought it was his party that invented the system. We on this side remember the three A’s who for many years dominated the Senate list on his side. There was the celebrated occasion on which his party looked hard to find a man with the same name to contest New England against our old friend on this side of the House, the Honorable J. P. Abbott. These matters of names and initials are not entirely unknown to members on his side of the House.
– What about Newcastle?
– I am not complaining about it. I merely draw attention to the fact that my friend is on very unsound ground indeed. What the honorable gentleman would do is to prevent a man standing for Parliament in a democracy simply because that man’s name happened to be the same as that of another member. The background of the man who stood for Newcastle establishes that he had been interested in politics for many years indeed. I can well understand the feelings of members of the Opposition. However, I think the present honorable member for Newcastle is comfortable in his seat for some years to come.
The address delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General was notable rather for the economy of words with which it dealt with matters of the utmost importance, in my view. Paramount of these is the proposal of the Government to establish an independent public investigation of the Commonwealth taxation laws. The matter raised during question time to-day indicates the general desire that there should be fairly wide terms of reference for such an investigation, but not so wide as to delay for too long the return of a well-informed report on this particularly vital subject. Of course, in these days when the tax gatherer has his hand in every pocket and in every till in every business in this land, it is inevitable that any minor change in the taxation laws will have consequential repercussions all the way down the line. This process does not have to go on for long before the taxation laws begin to take on a faintly jerry-built aspect and are in need of review. For my part. I am particularly glad that the time has come to give this sort of attention to the tax structure.
I notice a second item of importance, and that is the meeting scheduled to take place within the next few weeks to deal with the very important question of CommonwealthState financial relations. How important this question is, I think, is indicated by the great fear abroad at present that this meeting, which will fall in a period just prior to several State elections, will be attended by people who are so irresponsible that they will use the conference, at which one of the -most important questions underlying government in Australia is to be discussed, as a pre-election forum. Yet, when we look over the history of the past few years in this country, particularly in my own State, we are left in no doubt at all that that will be the case.
In the years since 1941 and 1942, we have seen nothing but a succession of occasions on which State governments have sought to off-load on to the Commonwealth all their failure of omission and commission, mostly on the grounds of the Commonwealth’s alleged control of the purse strings. We have heard cries times without number, particularly from the Labour States and particularly from New South Wales, that the Commonwealth holds the purse strings and that they have become mendicant States. Sir, if anybody turned the States into mendicants it was the Chifley Labour Government which, in 1942, tore up the decision of the 1941 committee on uniform taxation. The Chifley Labour Government decided that uniform taxation would be with us permanently.
From uniform taxation has arisen this very great distortion of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States and a very great misunderstanding of the problems by people who are not well versed in the intricacies of the Constitution and of the Financial Agreement. This has led to a situation in which no member of this House - I had a very useful illustration recently - can go back into his electorate or his State and discuss any project dealing with public works, with hospital administration, with roads, or with education, without having thrown up to him by people well versed in the art of propaganda the responsibilities of the Federal Government. In other words, people are prepared not to drive their own State governments to shoulder their clear constitutional responsibilities; they are prepared to let those governments out of it because they do not get any action from them and to go over their heads to the Federal Government on the score that the Federal Government holds the purse strings. The propaganda always runs along the lines that there ought to be a greater share of the loan funds for the States; that there ought to be greater grant to the States and that Commonwealth surpluses which appear here and there in Commonwealth Budgets ought to be made available to the States.
The real fact is that, under the pressures generated by uniform taxation, the Commonwealth has found itself in a position where it has been obliged to underwrite State loan programmes far in excess of any moneys which the loan market will raise. The result of that is that, if there is a surplus in Commonwealth budgeting, that surplus goes immediately to the States to underwrite the loan programme. As far as additional loan funds are concerned, it ought to be well known to the critics that the Commonwealth is entitled to 20 per cent, of loan raisings and that, in the years when this Government has been in office, it has given away its entitlement to its share of the loan raisings, which has always gone to the States in further support of their works programmes. As a result, Commonwealth works have been financed out of revenue to a rising degree. When we talk about surpluses and about more loan funds, we must remember that there are not any of either because the States have consumed them already. In addition, during the years that this Government has been in office, annual supplementary grants to the tune of £20,000,000 or thereabouts have been made without any obligation at all to support the States.
I had the unhappy experience a week or two ago of attending a meeting in my State at which a great public work was under discussion. I shall say nothing of the merits of this work, but it was a job that the State Government clearly did not want to undertake. Yet, this meeting was prepared to pass a resolution that a delegation be sent to Canberra to ask the Menzies Government to provide the money for this undertaking! That sort of thing can arise only out of a deep and unfortunate public misunderstanding of the relations between the States and the Commonwealth in the financial field. This widely representative meeting of local government people and of leaders in community affairs wanted to send a delegation to Canberra to ask the Commonwealth to provide money for the State to do a job which the State does not intend to do! This surely is a very great distortion. Whilst it is too much to hope that the coming conference will do very much towards straightening out this situation - I imagine it will do much less towards restoring the responsibilities of the States to collect their own taxation - I do hope that something can be done along those lines.
The real fact is that years of uniform taxation and the ability of State governments to off-load their responsibilities in the public mind and to use the so-called shortage of funds as an umbrella to cover all their deficiencies have almost led the States into a position of financial delinquency. In one of Sydney’s newspapers to-day is a list of public works in New South Wales which have been started and which have gone on for an unconscionable length of time. They have cost vastly more than was originally estimated, and there is doubt whether some of them will ever be finished.
The job that heads the list is a dam in my own electorate, which was originally estimated to cost, I think, £1,500,000. Certainly it has been increased in size since it was originally designed, but the cost has increased to £14,000,000. It was going to be a great irrigation dam. Certainly it now serves also for flood mitigation, to some extent, and this is particularly important. My point is that the job could have been completed over a short period if the State Government had specialized in this particular work. It would have been finished at half the cost and in half the time. It would have been a producing asset many years ago. As it is, the cost has climbed to such astronomical heights that additional funds cannot be found to reticulate the water for irrigation. We now have a dam on a main stream in my electorate, and the best it can do is to run the water down the river, while the farmers are told, “ If you want it, come and get it”. It will make a fine holiday resort, and I hope that, having spent a little time in licking our financial wounds over the situation, we will settle down to enjoy the bathing, the fishing, the boating and the duck hunting.
I am very pleased to see that the Government proposes to establish machinery for a close inquiry into the vexed problems of the dairying industry. This is a matter that will call for the closest integration of State and Federal Governments. I think most people will be aware of the real problems of the dairying industry. It is an industry that has only recently emerged from the slave labour stage. It is struggling to put. itself on a basis approaching that of other’ industries. Its problems are very seriousones indeed. In an effort to equate the supply to the market, the governments in most States, and certainly in New South Wales, which is a big milk producing State, have had recourse to the quota system. Sowide are the day-to-day and season-to- - season variations in production that the dairy farmer never quite knows how much, of his milk will go to the whole milk market and how much to the processing establishments. Since there is a vast difference in the returns from the two markets, we have an industry in which the producer is urged to go all out for greater efficiency, although he never knows how much he is going to get for the product that passes through the front gate of his farm. It is not an easy problem to solve, and I am particularly glad to see that it will be dealt with.
There is one matter spoken of in His Excellency’s Speech to which I would like to refer. Yesterday, for the first time, the opening of this Parliament was televised. Certainly it was not on a national scale, but it appears that the trend is in that direction. We had a television broadcast from Canberra, of course, at the time of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. We have had visits of important persons from overseas, as a result of which those persons appeared on our television screens. Current events and important sporting contests are now being shown in television programmes, and I believe that television in this country is providing a wider horizon for the dissemination of public information and the provision of entertainment. TV in this country has done extraordinarily well. Its technical standards are high. Its programme standards, despite the complaints that are made about them, are also particularly good.
– What does the honorable member think of “ Gunsmoke “?
– Well, I imagine that my friend reads a bit of escapist literature from time to time. While “ Gunsmoke “ is no classic, and I myself am rather tired of the thunder of hooves and the crackle of shots that open so many TV programmes, no one will say that those programmes should not be on television. But they are counter-balanced by a vast amount of informative and entertaining material. However, I am getting a little away from the point. I wanted to direct attention to the fact that television has so created a need for its services that in these days we must consider a more rapid expansion of the industry. We will all be happy to see television extended to other States. This will increase employment and must have a great effect on costs and on the facility with which programme material can be produced and presented.
There has also been an odd effect in many of the areas which will be next in line, I hope, for the provision of television services. These are the fringe areas of television reception, including centres like Wollongong and Newcastle, and perhaps the electorate of my friend, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman). These are areas with vast concentrations of population. I would urge the Government to give early attention to the matter of calling applications for licences to operate television stations in those areas. Let me take my own electorate as an illustration. In the Newcastle and Lower Hunter Valley areas there are more than 4,000 television receivers. These sets have been installed because the people found that they could get reception. It is rather indifferent reception, and to get it they have had to incur the cost of installing special aerials. But the programmes are now so compelling that they have been obliged to do this. I believe the time has come when we should be moving quickly to establish TV in these areas.
One of the points that concerns me a little in the Governor-General’s Speech is a reference to the fact that consideration will be given to the means by which television services can be extended. I should like to inquire what is meant by the reference to the means of doing this job. I have some concern that the public, not thinking very much about the implication of these matters, and having in mind only the provision of better television services, may be prepared to ask for booster or relay stations, tied to stations already established in the capital cities. So far as the national television service is concerned, there is no objection in this regard, because I presume that it would provide facilities for the new sta tions to originate their own programmes. But when we get into the field of commercial television it is my firm view that when TV stations are opened in the provincial areas they should be fully licensed and fully equipped to originate their own programmes. Most important of all, they should be controlled, both financially and as to policy, from within the areas that they service. I leave the question there, because I know that it is probably exercising the minds of other honorable members at this time.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer in this field, or a related field. During this year there will be in Geneva a periodical meeting of the International Telecommunications Union. This is a body that meets periodically to carve up, as it were, the radio frequency spectrum, and to make laws for the orderly use of radio communications in all their forms. The normal drill is for us to send forward to Geneva our proposals. They will there be integrated with those of all the other signatories to the International Telecommunications Union Agreement, and then returned for consideration and for the preparation of the brief which our delegates will take to Geneva. In the broad field I am not so terribly concerned, because these are matters for departmental consideration, and I am sure they will be dealt with very well. But I want to raise here a voice on behalf of a group of persons whose interests may very well be overlooked, because they do not usually come to public attention when these matters are being considered.
I refer to the 3,500 operators in this country of amateur experimental radio stations. These people are fully qualified by examination to operate their stations. They run them on a basis of international communication, and they therefore offer a potent source of development of good international relations. Since World War I. they have always enjoyed the use of certain radio frequencies, but inevitably, in the course of time, as the pressure of commercialism in radio has grown, so the channels available have become severely restricted. To-day I believe they are almost down to the minimum required to encourage more people to undertake this activity. These operators occupy, I believe, a very important place in public esteem. I well remember what happened during the last war with relation to defence communications, and the history of the role played by amateur radio operators has not been adequately stated. Before war-time these amateurs were operating as reserves for the Royal Australian Air Force, and the members of the radio reserves were the first into the Air Force when war was about to break out.
When we went into the war, Australia had no substantial communications industry. We had one or two factories which were aware of the problems of making transmitters. The rest had been making receivers. An immediate call went out for technicians for the factories, laboratories, design establishments and assembly plants, and ultimately the operation of much of this equipment fell to radio amateurs. In every disaster that has struck Australia, the radio amateurs have done their part in providing communications, as I am sure they are doing in north Queensland at the moment, taking up where ordinary communications break down. Our expeditions to the Antarctic take with them amateur radio operators. These people, who train themselves in their own time and at their own expense, have rendered, and are rendering, very special service to this country.
I know that the proposals affecting amateur radio operators, which involve some review of their frequency channels, have already been dealt with departmentally and may indeed be in the submissions which have gone to Geneva. I have asked to have a look at those, and I should like to study them in due course. In the meantime, I urge the Government to consider this problem very carefully. It is true that 3,500 people do not speak with a very loud voice in this country, but I believe that we ought to recognize the service that they have given and are capable of giving to the nation and that this problem should be approached constructively, and I am sure that it will be regarded as one that merits sympathetic consideration by the Government.
There is one other important aspect of this matter, Sir. The Governor-General’s Speech referred to developments at Woomera. We all know - those of us who have read something about what is going on there or who have been there - that, without electronics, there could be none of this development and no modern weapons,, and that, indeed, there can be no modern defence without the widespread use of electronics. This group of people who occupy themselves in something that is more than a hobby are contributing to the building up in Australia of a vast pool of trained technicians who are ready to take up, even at short notice, as they did in 1939, the technical support of Australia’s defence.
I would end on that note, Sir. I urge the Government to consider very sympathetically indeed the preservation of all the facilities which the radio amateurs in Australia enjoy to-day, and perhaps even some minor extension, if that is possible, by international agreement.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to add my congratulations to those that have already been offered to the two new members who yesterday went through the ordeal of making what is called “ a maiden speech “. I hope that the speeches that they made yesterday will be the first of many sound contributions that they will make to the debates in this place.
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said that what had impressed him most about the Governor-General’s Speech was the economy of words with which it dealt with matters of great importance. By contrast, I should say that what impressed me was the rather fulsome description that it gave of the exploits of the Skylark, Black Knight and Blue Streak missiles and the possibilities of the peaceful use of outer space. These may be matters for some conjecture in the future, but 1 think that the people of Australia were looking for a statement by the Government of its policy on matters of more fundamental and immediate urgency to the majority of Australians. His Excellency’s Speech mentioned a committee to be appointed to examine one thing and another committee to examine something else. I suggest, however, that the business of a government that has just been returned to office with a substantial majority is to govern the country and to give more serious attention to the very important problems with which the country is confronted. Those important problems were hinted at by the two new members who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the
Governor-General’s Speech. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), who moved the motion, referred to something which the Americans are not likely to do. The United States of America controls the price of gold at 35 dollars an ounce, and has most of the world’s supplies of that valuable metal. The honorable member said he hoped that the Americans would be generous enough to raise the price to 50 dollars an ounce.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), who seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, pointed to something which is of great significance - the wide fluctuations in the prices of primary products in Australia to-day. What he said about pineapples may be said with much more force about Australia’s great staple commodity - wool. I think that most honorable members receive this publication, “ Woo] Facts “, which is prepared and distributed by the Australian Wool Growers Council. The latest issue, which is dated 16th February, indicates in all its stark reality the great impact upon the Australian economy of variations in the price of wool. In the seven months ended 31st January, 1958, 751,000,000 lb. of greasy wool realized £212,000,000. In the seven months ended 31st January, 1959, 752,000,000 lb. of greasy wool, or 1,000,000 lb. more than in the previous period, realized £145,000,000, or £67,000,000 less than was earned in the earlier period. Almost the same quantity of wool was exported in each period, but the percentage of Australia’s total export income earned by wool declined from 45 per cent, to 37 per cent. It is from our export earnings, to which wool is the principal contributor, that Australia has to pay for its imports.
One can only be alarmed by the complacency with which this Government regards what is called the balance of payments problem. Instead of facing up to the fundamental issues and endeavouring to secure justice, equity and stability in the prices of our great primary products, this Government and the Premiers of some of the States are hawking around the world in an endeavour to borrow from other countries, thereby using capital items to make good to-day’s shortcomings of income, and storing up for Australia great difficulties in the future. There ought to be some systematic examination of how much money is coming into this country by means of what the Commonwealth Statistician calls simply “ balancing items “. He can measure the imports of goods and services, and exports. After a few months, he can measure what are called the invisible items - freight and the like. But when he looks at the level of our London balances to-day compared with twelve months ago, he says that the difference is represented by capital inflow, and no analysis is made to see where that capital is going.
It may be that, in some fields, this country requires imports of capital from other parts of the world, but capital is being imported into Australia to-day to do what Australia is quite competent to do for itself. Why should Australia want to get money from the United States, London or anywhere else for the construction of a departmental store in Bourke-street or a luxury hotel at the top of Collins-street? What we want is bricks, cement, steel and building labour, and we have these things in abundance in this country. There may be certain items of plant and equipment - I suggest that they are less numerous than we sometimes imagine - which cannot at present be manufactured in Australia, and which we need. This borrowing that has been undertaken should be allocated for the provision of such items. What overseas investors are looking for in Australia to-day is not necessarily investment in the basic industries which Australia most needs. What overseas investors are looking for is the kind of investment that gives the quickest and greatest return. American money to-day talks in terms of a return of from 20 to 25 per cent, on the capital invested. American investors plough back money extracted from the hides of the buyers in Australia and expect to earn 20 or 25 per cent., not on the original capital, but on what they call the equity of the shareholders. This country in future years will have to pay a very large invisible item in dollars and sterling for dividends and other earnings, not on the initial capital, but on the capital which has been accumulated from the prices taken from the purchasers of the goods in the Australian community.
I suggest that the time has come for a more fundamental examination of these problems. There ought to be some participation by Australians in the control of many of these industries. Why should an industry be allowed to come into this country and, merely because its promoters say, “ We have 1,000,000 dollars “ or “ We have 2,000,000 dollars”, get a convenient site and make use of the railways, the power, and the irrigation, developed in this country over the years? These people are welcomed because they bring their millions of dollars, and the money is used to buy something else altogether. In terms of aggregate investment year by year in Australia, foreign investment is only a very small proportion, but because of the strategic outposts which it seizes upon, it has a significance out of all relation to its true contribution to the Australian welfare. That is the kind of problem that ought to be looked at by this Government.
The Government should use loans, if it wants to do so, to bring in particular pieces of equipment. It should buy the know-how, if it likes, separately. But it should not give these people the franchise to exploit the Australian population for ever afterwards, which is the main difference between that kind of capital and the traditional loan and other borrowing. That is a problem of crucial significance to Australia at its present stage of development. If we were getting a fairer price for our wool, pineapples, and various other primary products, we would not have to hawk round the world for these investments. We would be able to buy, in a rational and sensible manner, the equipment that we lack; the control of it afterwards would be in Australian hands and subject to Australian laws, and the fruits of it would go to the Australian community in one way or another. This is one field in which the Government has been recreant to its trust to the Australian people, and in my view it is more important than the circling round Woomera of the Skylark, Blue Knight, or Blackjack, or whatever the next one is to be called.
Another matter which requires a great deal more illumination than has been given by this Government is the loan market, both here and overseas, and the policies being pursued by the Government. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said that a policy of financial delinquency was being pursued to-day by certain of the Australian States. He was using the opportunity, of course, to get in a little sly election propaganda for New South Wales. I would say that the difficulty that faces the Australian States is not one of financial delinquency on their part. It is a difficulty caused by the financial erosion or inflation which has been allowed to go pretty well unchecked by this Government over its eight or nine years of office.
Six or seven months ago we had before us a document about which there was great debate. I refer to the Murray committee’s report on the future of university education in Australia, which dealt with the serious difficulty which Australia faces in obtaining the necessary number of university graduates during the next five or ten years. We will not get university graduates in sufficient numbers unless we have primary schools, secondary schools and technical schools from which to send students to the universities in the first place. There may be odd geniuses who, left on the sidewalk, can acquire a university degree without a few years of intermediate education, but the majority of Australians are not geniuses. They have as much capacity as has anybody else in any other part of the world, given the opportunity.
In Victoria, where there is not a Labour government but a Liberal government, we had the spectacle in the first week in February, when the schools resumed, of high schools that should have been completed not being completed. Technical schools that were supposed to have been ready then will not be open till the middle of the second term. We have schools, so-called, that are occupying church halls and temporary huts in various parts of the metropolitan area. I could do as did the honorable member for Paterson, and blame the Liberal Government in Victoria, but I do not intend to do that. I think that the blame lies on the Commonwealth Government because of the improper allocation of those funds about which the honorable member spoke and which are derived from uniform taxation. I believe that uniform taxation is the most sensible method that can be evolved in Australia for the collection of revenue. Income tax is a tax that does not lend itself to a sharing in its collection, but a more equitable and more sensible formula must be worked out for the distribution of what is collected, and the same applies to loan or capital funds.
I believe that it has been a sound policy to use the revenues of this country for capital works. This has been done over the last fifteen years, not only by this Government but also by previous governments. But I do not think it is right that the Commonwealth should first determine how much it requires for its ordinary purposes of government leaving the Loan Council at its annual wrangle to decide how much is to be allocated to the States. I believe that all the public works undertaken in Australia, whether by the Commonwealth or the States, should be undertaken on a properly planned basis. At the moment the Commonwealth can largely determine, without any challenge, how much it wants to spend, let us say, on postal works every year, but the States, for their important function of education, can have only what is arrived at in the bargaining after the Commonwealth’s share is taken out. I suggest that that is wrong. It is wrong that the Commonwealth should be able independently to erect a new post office in a town where children are denied a school because education is a State function. I think it is more important to teach children than to sell stamps, but that is the kind of thing that is going on at the moment, because these works are being planned in accordance with rules of financial stringency rather than on a priority of needs. Now, the question of where this money, over and above the revenue, is to be raised - the question of the loan market - also requires some serious consideration by the Government.
Three years ago, it was suggested on this side of the House that there should be an issue of a special kind of bond that could not, or would not, lose its capital value, that would guarantee to the small investor that if, for a good and sufficient reason, he had to cash his bond after three months or six months, he would not be involved in a capital loss as a result of doing so. Very belatedly, a few weeks before the last general election, the Government introduced such a scheme, and has given this kind of bond the name of “ special bond “. I have been reading in newspapers in the last few weeks very large and impressive advertisements urging the public to invest in these special bonds. In the same newspapers one finds advertisements inserted by hire-purchase agencies urging the public to sell their Commonwealth bonds and get a bigger yield by buying hire-purchase securities. What kind of financial stupidity is it that enables the interest rate to get higher and higher progressively in this way? The fact is that, on the one hand, the Government is bidding for money from small investors whilst at the same time financial institutions are saying to those who have invested in Commonwealth bonds, “ That is an inadequate return. Cash your Commonwealth bonds and put the money in our short-term securities for six months, twelve months, eighteen months or two years, and we will give you a greater yield than you will get from a Government security.”
Again, who is it that pays the higher interest? It is taken out of the hide of the poor consumer of ordinary goods, and there seems to be no end as to what will be financed in this country by means of hire purchase of one kind or another.
When I was at my home in Middle Park the other day, a hawker knocked at my door. He was bearing a very impressive catalogue. He said, “ Peter Kaye is broadening his activities now. He is not only selling television sets and motor cars on hire purchase, but if you want to do so you can buy this winter’s blankets on hire purchase, or a new set of linen or cutlery or anything else.” Those of you who come from Victoria will know the ramifications of Peter Kaye. I told him that I was not interested in his proposition, but that is the sort of stupid thing that is going on at the moment. The proper price for goods is being inflated by the cost of financing, by the cost of employing hawkers, by interest rates and so on. This state of affairs is allowed to continue unchallenged by the Government, which claims that it has not the constitutional power to do anything about the matter. But the Government has never made any attempt to establish at law whether it has the constitutional power. It has relied only on the opinion of the Attorney-General’s Department that it has no such power. That department has been wrong in the past on certain issues. Why does not the Government make some attempt to control hire purchase, and let some of those philanthropists in the hirepurchase business challenge it, instead of allowing the hire-purchase interests to exploit the public as they are doing now7
The Government is endeavouring to raise, by means of loans, money with which to provide more schools, more power and more irrigation, and it has to face competition from people who are selling television sets, blankets and so on at more than just prices under hire-purchase arrangements.
Which is the most urgent priority, and where does the responsibility of a government begin and end in these matters? During the last general election campaign, the Government took unto itself great credit for the financial reputation enjoyed by Australia in the overseas loan markets. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) proudly said in Tasmania, I think, during one election meeting, that an Australian loan floated in London had been oversubscribed in ten minutes, or something of the kind. No wonder it was oversubscribed! It was a loan to convert a previous loan raised ten years before at an interest rate of 3 per cent. It was to be converted at a discount of £2 per cent., and the interest rate was to be nearly 6 per cent. Is it any wonder that there is success when such terms are offered? That is the kind of thing that is being done as part of the deliberate financial policy of this Government.
The amount of interest at 3 per cent, that was formerly payable on a loan of £A.20,000,000, or £16,000,000 sterling, was £600.000 a year, but when the loan is converted to a 6 per cent, loan the annual interest charge alone, without any amortization, is £1,200,000 a year - another £600,000 in interest that has to be paid every year. And it is to this that the Government proudly points as the result of a sound financial policy, and as an indication of the prestige that Australia enjoys overseas.
I have not time at the moment to enlarge further on this matter, but I ask honorable members w’.io arc interested in the subject to look at page thirteen of the last report of the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, where they may read about the conversion in London of a loan only a few months ago. His comments make very illuminating reading about the financial policy and lack of wisdom on the part of this Government.
Meanwhile, the national debt of Australia rises to an astronomical figure. Bit by bit, the interest rate is also rising. Ten years ago, most of the public loan in this country was being raised at an interest rate of a little more than 3 per cent. To-day, the Government is finding difficulty in raising loans at more than 51 per cent. Just pause and think what the gradual conversion of nearly £4,000,000,000 in loans, raised at interest charges of just over 3 per cent., to an interest rate of more than 5 per cent., means to the taxpayers of Australia, and then wonder at the futility of talking about reducing taxation.
The Government has not faced the fundamental problem - the problem of doing justice to the ordinary wage-earner in Australia who depends upon a fixed wage and who hopes for reasonable wages and reasonable prices.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
– The Governor-General, in addressing this Twenty-third Parliament of the Commonwealth, very properly referred to the pleasure we derived from the visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. His Excellency gave promise of a visit by Her Royal Highness Process Alexandra whom we will receive with pleasure and through whom we will express our loyalty to the Crown. The Governor-General also referred to the associations that this Parliament has with other parliaments of the British Commonwealth of Nations through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He spoke of the visitors from overseas whom we have had the pleasure of entertaining. AH these experiences make for mutual good relations between Australia, other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and other countries.
On our part, we have been able to send our representatives abroad to discuss matters of great import to our mutual benefit. Some of those representatives were members of this Parliament who discussed such matters as trade relations with the nations of SouthEast Asia and the Colombo plan through which we are helping to improve the conditions of under-privileged people in SouthEast Asia. In that way we have been trying to make their part of the world a better place in which to live. We have also tried to give them the benefit of some amenities of civilization and to stimulate trade between our countries. The GovernorGeneral referred to the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East which will shortly meet in Australia. His Excellency referred also to nuclear tests and our desire to have some system of control which would lead to a discontinuance of those tests. That is something to which we all subscribe. The Governor-General indicated also Australia’s desire to engage in international scientific research and the propagation of information so gained among the nations. We have worked along those lines already, and through research that was conducted during the International Geophysical Year, great benefits have accrued.
Our economic position at home and abroad was discussed by His Excellency. He spoke of national and international finance. He referred particularly to the effect of the European free trade proposal and its possible repercussion on Australia’s overseas trade. Tn that connexion, I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who recently visited Malaya, Ceylon and Montreal. The Minister’s visits to those places were productive of much good. Before the suspension of the sitting this afternoon, an honorable member on the Opposition side referred to Ministers travelling around the world. He said that they were trying to get rid of our goods here and there and that he did not consider that was an edifying spectacle. The fact is that in the world to-day with trade on a governmenttogovernment basis, it is desirable and necessary that our senior Ministers, particularly those who are concerned with trade, should visit other countries. Some very valuable treaties have been negotiated in that way. One was the Japanese trade treaty. I also refer honorable members to the Malayan trade treaty and the sale to Ceylon recently of our wheat although Ceylon had not bought any of our wheat for two years previously. During that same visit abroad, the Minister for Trade was able to sell wheat to India in competition with wheat from other countries which are able to sell at prices lower than ours. That was a valuable contribution to our overseas trade.
The Governor-General referred to defence and to our contracted obligations under Seato. Reverting to affairs at home, His Excellency directed attention to the fact that discussions will be held soon between the Commonwealth Government and the State Premiers. In that connexion, one honorable member on the Opposition side who spoke before the sitting was suspended was very critical of the present application of uniform taxation. I remind him that the system of uniform taxation was introduced by the Australian Labour party when it was in office and was tied up so thoroughly that it is now very difficult to get out of it. Now, the Labour party believes that we should abolish uniform taxation. Having introduced it and tied it up, members on the Opposition side are now against it. State Labour governments shed crocodile tears and cry, “ If only we could break away from this system of uniform taxation, make our own taxation laws and administer them ourselves, how much better off we would be “. I repeat that they are crocodile tears, because the last thing those governments desire is the power to levy income tax themselves. It is a very nice state of affairs when they can get somebody else to levy taxes, which are a most undesirable feature of government, and then receive the money and spend it as they desire. However, that is by the way.
The Governor-General referred to the assistance for housing that this Government has given to the States and to the excellent position that has resulted. His Excellency referred to the decision to have discussions on roads and a national roads system. This is another problem which rightly belongs to the States but is now being foisted upon the Commonwealth. An honorable member on the Opposition side who spoke earlier said that if the Commonwealth Government would not give the States money for schools and roads because the Commonwealth believed that it could not do so under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Government should challenge the Constitution. Is that the attitude of the Australian Labour party? Does it feel that it does not know whether the Commonwealth is able to do these things under the Constitution?
– The honorable member who spoke earlier did not say that.
– I am pleased to hear that because this Government understands these matters. It has studied constitutional procedure and law.
– The honorable member who spoke earlier said, “ Let somebody else do it “.
– Those are not the words of the honorable member who spoke before the sitting was suspended. He said that the Commonwealth Government itself should investigate those constitutional powers by some form of challenge. The position is simply this: Even supposing the Commonwealth Government, under the Constitution, could supplement what it already gives to the States, does the Opposition believe it could do so without levying additional taxes? That is the sort of view that is propagated by the Australian Labour party. It declares, in effect, that the Commonwealth has all the money bags and can dip into them to give money to the States without raising any more money by way of taxation. I cannot agree that that is a sensible outlook. This Government has given careful thought to the assistance that it is able to provide for Western Australia. That State deserves assistance, and I am pleased that it is to have more aid. The Government also plans to develop the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Those territories are relatively undeveloped but, as the years go by, they will be developed and so take their rightful place in the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Government has assisted in the search for oil. That is most important because of our present dependency on oil produced overseas. The Government has not hesitated to give what assistance it can in the search for oil. It has also pressed on with the Snowy Mountains scheme. I am not going to say that this Government initiated that great project. We did not. It was initiated years and years ago. We came into office and found the blueprints drawn up. We immediately set to and put them into practical operation and what a grand scheme it is! I do not detract from what the Labour government did. The relevant bill was passed in August of 1949 and we came into office a few months after- wards. We have carried on this scheme to which I pay the highest tribute.
Reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the Post Office and to television. I was very pleased to note the attention given to the latter subject by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). Television was looked at askance by many country people some years ago. They expressed the opinion that they should have more telephones and better postal facilities before we went in for the luxury of television. But so successful has the Postal Department been in overcoming the lag in the supply of telephones and in building up its rural services, that people in the country are now prepared to say that they think the time is ripe for them to have the benefits of television - to bring some of the amenities of the city to the country districts.
No doubt all the honorable members of the Opposition who are interjecting come from city seats. They do not care whether country people get television or not, but we look forward to it. In this age of great scientific advancement, the system of television that exists to-day is not necessarily that which will be provided in country areas. In the last few weeks, I have heard of a new system of propagating the radio waves used in television which may solve, to a great extent, the problems we have experienced in the past of covering vast areas from one station. We may find that it will soon be possible for chains of relay stations in the country to give very much greater coverage and more efficient reception. In my own home town, which is some 250 air miles from metropolitan stations, television signals are being picked up, but not very successfully. With this new development I have no doubt that it will not be very long before we shall enjoy television - one of the things which can help to keep people in the country and stop the drift to the city.
His Excellency referred to the standardization of railway gauges, which is very desirable. He mentioned the advances in civil aviation. He referred to the industrial peace that we have enjoyed and the immigrants that we have received under a scheme which was initiated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) - and a very good scheme it has been. His Excellency also referred to social services.
But in referring to all these matters, he gave mainly a recital of what has already happened. Before we can enjoy the benefits of many of the things to which we aspire, we must maintain our nation, we must maintain our production and we must maintain our industries. One of the great things that we have always depended upon has been the primary products of this country. Somebody may say that I am repeating, over and over again, words that have been said in this House before. I cannot repeat them too many times because the relevant figures prove that if it were not for our primary products, particularly those which we export, we would soon fall by the wayside.
I do not come to speak in this chamber having studied a lot of statistics. I come fresh from the electorate where I have seen with my own eyes the conditions in the rural parts of Australia. There I have talked with the people and heard their views and I know what they are thinking, what they are concerned about, and what they will be more concerned about. Having read the Speech of His Excellency, I wonder why his advisers did not provide him with a reference in that Speech to the essential primary products of this nation.
I refer, in the first place, to wool. Practically the only reference that I can find to wool in the Governor-General’s Speech is a statement that the price of wool has remained at a low level. Too right, it remains at a low level! It has fallen by between 33i per cent, and 35 per cent, over the last twelve months. I am very disappointed to find that some of the Government’s advisers do not appear to have been very wise in the statements that they have made. I think that about last September the statement was made, presumably on the authority of a Commonwealth department, that whilst wool was at a low level at the opening sales, it was expected to rise by Christmas. Unfortunately, we found that by Christmas time the price of wool had just about reached the bottom. Recently another statement was made, apparently by the same gentlemen, advising the Minister that an improvement in the wool market was hoped for, but that if it should fail to occur a drop in the gross value of wool production would still have to be reckoned with.
The price of wool is low. Wool is the life blood of this country. It is just as well to face up to this position. It is not wise to have this sort of speculation about what will happen. Nobody in the wool trade knew in September what was going to happen to the price of wool and no one knows to-day; but the position is far from happy. The fall in the value of wool, according to figures supplied by the Woolgrowers’ Council, presents rather an alarming state of affairs. The average price for the seven months ended 31st January, 1958, was 67.72d.; for 1958-59 the average price was 46.4d., a fall of about one-third.
There is a general feeling that the woolgrower is a very wealthy man and that it does not matter if the price of wool falls because he will still make plenty of money. The fact is that if the gross value of wool income falls the net value to the grower might entirely disappear. The cost of production of wool is a somewhat elastic figure but it has been estimated at between 48d. and 56d. per lb. If the cost of production is accepted as 48d., it may be said that when wool is selling at an average price of 67d. per lb. it shows a reasonable profit over the cost of production; but when the selling price averages 46d. per lb. and the cost of production is 48d., then the profit entirely disappears.
– That is a good deduction.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who is such a clever mathematician, saying that that is a good deduction. But the woolgrower does not have to deduce anything. His position is revealed by his wool cheque. Wool is still one of our staple exports, representing on to-day’s price, 37 per cent, of our total exports. If the selling price of our wool is not maintained at the highest possible figure, we shall very soon find that many of the goods we now import, including some raw materials which maintain secondary production, will not be available.
I was very pleased to learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that a committee will be set up to investigate the dairy industry. This is an industry which is supplying a great home need and which has struggled for many years through a good deal of adversity. It is an industry which is worth encouraging. It has been said that if our immigration policy proceeds, we will eventually not be able to feed ourselves in this country. When I was asked my opinion about this the other day, I pointed out that we had been told a little while ago that England produced 50 per cent, of its foodstuffs. If that little island continent can produce 50 per cent, of its foodstuffs, surely we can ensure that we shall not reach the stage at which we cannot expand because we cannot produce enough to feed ourselves. We must look after our primary industries although some of them may not appear to be very valuable from the point of view of export trade.
I am disturbed to see no mention made of the wheat position in His Excellency’s Speech. That is possibly because we have had a very good wheat crop, but had we not had such a good crop we would have been in a parlous plight. His Excellency stated that for the first six months of the current financial year Australia’s exports were £75,000,000 lower than for the corresponding six months of 1957-58. Our wool exports for the six months ended 31st December last were £68,000,000 lower than for the corresponding period in 1957-58, which represents practically the total drop in our national income. The wool and wheat industries need all the assistance that they can get. In order to assist them we must first discover why the industries are in their present state. Earlier in my remarks I said something about taxation. Fortunately, the Commonwealth does not, in general, tax people on a selective basis. Income tax, for instance, is a tax levied on profits. If there are no profits, there is no income tax. One might say: What about sales tax? Sales tax is a very selective tax. Primary producers, about whom I am particularly concerned at the moment, do not pay a great amount in sales tax on farm necessities, but the State governments tax a person whether he makes a profit or not. Land tax is levied on a property irrespective of profits. The New South Wales road tax is iniquitous, levying as it does one-third of a penny per ton per mile on the total carrying capacity of the vehicle, whether the vehicle be laden or unladen. Rail freights, shire rates, and many other levies are based not on profits, but in some way or other on capital.
Something to which I shall refer briefly, but which will be dealt with in more detail by the honorable member for Hume (Mr.
Anderson), is the tariff that is placed on imports. The time is long overdue when the effect of tariffs on our export earning primary industries should be considered. What can be done to help the primary industries? In the first place I suggest that a great deal more assistance should be given to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization has done a great deal to assist not only the pastoral industry, but also every other industry in Australia, and it should be supported in every way. The time may not be far distant when the C.S.I.R.O. will develop alternative uses for our wool and wheat. The organization is too important to be placed in the charge of a Minister whose time is almost fully occupied with important affairs of state of an international character. The organization deserves the very best that we can give it.
Before resuming my seat I should like to refer briefly to the proposed formation of a development bank, which honorable members will have a better opportunity to debate later in the session. A development bank could have greatly assisted those wheat-farmers who lost their crops this year through rust or frostbite. Young farmers who have received a setback will be given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves when the development bank is functioning.
Costs are one of the great problems of primary industries to-day. It is right that we should seek better markets for our products, that we should help the extension services of the State Departments of Agriculture, and in doing so some costs are unavoidable. We can only hope that with the passage of time, and by good government in both the Commonwealth and State spheres, those costs may be reduced.
.- First, I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to your high office. To the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General I offer my congratulations upon the moderation and objective nature of their speeches. The House will earnestly look forward to’ further contributions from those honorable members. I trust that their example will be followed more closely by other honorable members opposite, so that we may be spared the tirades to which we have become accustomed over the years, when honorable members opposite have sought to justify their positions by denouncing honorable members on this side of the House and making comparisons that are odious to those concerned.
I am deeply concerned at any change in Australia’s traditional attitude towards New Guinea. I am referring not only to the part of New Guinea that is administered by the Commonwealth, but to western New Guinea also, which is administered by the Netherlands. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should be warmly commended for the statement that he made this afternoon with regard to the visit to this country recently of the Indonesian Minister, Dr. Subandrio. Great concern is felt throughout Australia at the manner in which the Australian Government is facing its responsibilities with regard to New Guinea. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that two important principles must be considered when dealing with the problem. The first is the right of the native peoples of those territories to self-determination in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter when that is possible. The second principle to be borne in mind deals with the security of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the close proximity of part of New Guinea to the Australian mainland. I believe that the actual distance is approximately 130 miles. Anybody who had any experience of administering this country’s affairs during the last war will be conscious of the importance of New Guinea to Australia’s security. Urgent thought should be given to those aspects which are so important in the affairs of this country for our own servicemen were engaged in keeping the enemy from the shores of Australia and protecting the territories which I have mentioned. Many of our servicemen were casualties as they fought to repulse the aggressor. We should recognize the importance of this matter.
The Australian Labour party views with some perturbation any suggestion of change in the government of these areas unless it be confirmed by a clear mandate from the native peoples and is in keeping with the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, Australia should be consulted in any deliberations that might take place on this matter. The organizations in this country representing ex-servicemen rightly register misgivings about any change of administrative authority in these areas. The Australian Labour party makes its attitude clear. Its members desire to maintain friendly relations with our near neighbours as well as peoples of other lands; but Australia will not allow itself to be compromised in a matter so vital to its interests. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) expressed the view and the determination of the people of this great nation. One should register in the most emphatic terms and at the earliest possible moment one’s feelings on this important aspect of public policy and let it be known that the interests of this country must be protected in respect of any agreements that may be made. Furthermore, those people for whose protection and welfare we are responsible should have the right to determine who shall govern them, or alternatively, the right of self-determination in these matters. That attitude represents overwhelmingly the view of the Australian nation, and I hope that honorable members will not be unaware of the responsibilities we owe to the electorate in this matter.
The Address-in-Reply debate is a traditional procedure. It is well known that the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral is, in reality, a document declaring Government policy. On this occasion, the speech was of considerable length, but it over-emphasized many matters which are formal and relatively secondary in importance whilst it completely failed to deal with urgent and important issues. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) raised one of these issues, the growing unemployment in Australia. It appears that the Government is unwilling to show any appreciation of the problems which confront thousands of citizens who are earnestly desirous of following a useful occupation and providing a home and comforts for their families in accordance with our standards of living. But up to this moment the Government has been absolutely indifferent. To-day, 81,000 persons are unemployed. But a much larger number have to suffer the discomforts, uncertainty and privations consequent upon the unemployment of those 81,000 workers. In a young country which is bringing in new citizens and which is so anxious to develop its resources and to cultivate in the minds of its people the thought that it has a great destiny, we find that 81,000 people cannot find useful occupations.
– It is a disgraceful state of affairs, as my friend the honorable member for Parkes indicates. It calls for some action by the Government, and this Parliament will be required to stimulate the Government’s thinking on the situation. Members of the Opposition will certainly see that the Government is kept fully aware and constantly reminded of the fact that it owes a responsibility to our citizens to provide for developmental works essential to our national life and so open the way for employment for those at present out of work. If we can afford to bring increasing numbers of people to this land to share its wealth, then we have an equal responsibility to provide for those already here.
The principal item in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was the proposal to reintroduce, in the current period of this session, the Government’s banking legislation. This is given precedence over all other matters irrespective of how urgent and essential they may be to the wellbeing of the people of this country. The private banks must be given first consideration. This action of the Government in treating its banking legislation as urgent clearly indicates who are its masters. The private banks can so dictate the policy to be followed in this country that they can put pressure upon the Government to rush forward the legislation which they so much desire. They do not desire to have legislation that will restrict their activities. They want to challenge the supremacy of the bank of the Australian nation - the Commonwealth Bank. They seek to destroy its effectiveness by dividing it into a number of sections, which will be controlled by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. The Government has been extremely considerate of the interests of the private banking institutions and it has given licences to trading banks to engage in savings bank activities. The result has been that the funds of government savings banks have been depleted but the funds of the private trading banks have been greatly enhanced. In the future, they will feel immune and will fail to recognize that they are subordinate to the life of the nation and not the masters of it.
The latest proposal is rather remarkable. The legislation will provide for the establishment of a Commonwealth Development Bank as part of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. But the private trading banks are to be the agents of the Development Bank and will get their rake-off from the business undertaken by this new bank. The private banks will become so assertive that ultimately they will want to control the policy of this branch of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. Honorable members must not be surprised if in the future the private banking institutions use the Development Bank as a stepping stone to make inroads into the financial structure of the Commonwealth and to exert even more influence than they have up to the present.
Recently, a suggestion was made in the newspapers, presumably not without some authority, that a former Minister, Sir Arthur Fadden, will be chairman of the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. I hope that the Government will give some indication as to whether that is so. If it is so, then the Government has not been as candid with the Australian people as it should have been. There was at least a belief that this gentleman, who was formerly the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was retiring entirely from public affairs. If he is appointed to the position of chairman of the board, the administration of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will inevitably be held as political in character and strongly partisan.
No reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the unfortunate circumstances of those who must live on the allowances made to them through our social services legislation. Many of these people are subjected to very grave privation, and the Government has failed in its obligation to see that they receive adequate sustenance. The Government has failed to appreciate the impact of increased costs on our community life in all its aspects. Pensioners are being denied the opportunity to live the fuller life that they deserve. Not even a single mention has been made of their future prospects.
The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is, of course, the Simon Pure of politics. One would never feel that any fault could be found with his ideas. He seems always to try to build a speech on the affairs of a party that is opposed to him and on what he thinks about Opposition members. To-night, he mentioned the wool industry. It is remarkable that he supports a government that allows cotton to be imported into this country to be used by our textile mills in the manufacture of blankets. These blankets consist entirely of cotton material, with not one ounce of wool in them.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election to the Chair. May I say how glad we are that you are to continue to be, if I may use the expression, the deus ex machina of this chamber. I would also like to offer my congratulations to the mover and seconder of this motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Perhaps the best I can do is to say that I hope they will enjoy the esteem and respect that was enjoyed by the previous occupiers of their two seats in this House.
The Governor-General’s Speech was concerned, to a large extent, with national development. I suppose it is natural, when we think of national development, to think of material development, of industrial development, of more roads, railways, air services, growing towns, more manufactures, and things of that nature. These are, of course, manifestations of national development, and it is a fact that there has been rapid and striking development in all these directions during the term of office of the present Government. But scientific development and technical arrangements have to keep pace with this material development; in fact, in many instances they have to precede it in order to make it possible. It is about these aspects that I wish particularly to speak to-night, and I intend to confine myself to their application to the Department of Health.
During the last nine years there has been great progress in sociological developments in medicine in this country. The House is quite familiar with them. We have seen the introduction and development of a national health insurance scheme. We have seen the introduction of a pensioner medical service and a pharmaceutical benefits scheme. We have seen also, perhaps not strictly in the sociological field but in con nexion with scientific developments in medicine, great advances in preventive medicine, none of which, perhaps, has been more important than the campaign for mass immunization against poliomyelitis by means of the Salk vaccine. All these things have bulked so large in popular notice that it is, perhaps, forgotten or overlooked that the Department of Health and the Government have simultaneously been pursuing great scientific objectives, on which the worth of all these other services ultimately depends.
There are four aspects of this matter perhaps not generally understood or appreciated, but very important in our national health services, about which I wish to speak chiefly to-night. When I have said what I wish to say about them, I will by no means have exhausted the activities of the federal Government in the field of health which are discharged through the Department of Health. However, these are the only matters about which I will have time to speak to-night.
The first is concerned with the production and employment of biological products. By these I mean such things as sera, vaccines, hormone preparations, as, for instance, insulin, and, of course, the antibiotics, such as penicillin, terramycin, Chloromycetin and others in the great range of them. These substances have, within the last few years, completely changed the whole face of the practice of medicine. Their use is a matter of immense importance in this country.
The supply of these substances has two sources. Some are imported. They are not manufactured in Australia but are used here. However, a great range of them is manufactured in Australia, and many of the most important that are used are manufactured only in Australia and not imported at all.
– Manufactured by whom?
– I will tell the honorable member in a moment. Of those used in Australia and manufactured here, and not imported, practically all - although not entirely all - are manufactured in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne which, of course, form part of the Commonwealth Department of Health.
– What a wonderful piece of socialism!
– That is just nonsense, Mr. Speaker. We can say, then, that the basis of all these great advances in the practice of medicine to which I have been referring, and particularly as far as this country is concerned, lies in the efficient functioning of these great laboratories, where there are now about 900 persons employed. These great medical advances have their basis not only in the efficient functioning of the laboratories, but also in the improvement of their techniques, in the research that is carried on in them, and in their cooperation with other similar institutions in other parts of the world. In this connexion, I am glad to say that we have access to many scientific processes because of our liaison and co-operation with other great manufacturing institutions of this nature in other countries.
I am sure that the House will appreciate that it is important not only to have a supply of the substances to which I have referred, but also to ensure that, just as there are standards of accuracy in other fields, such as that of weights and measures, and just as there are standards of purity, potency, safety and effectiveness required with regard to what I might roughly describe as inorganic medicines, the ordinary pharmaceutical preparations, so it is important that there should be national standards and facilities for testing all the biological products that we use in this country. It will be realized that the setting up of these standards requires, in the first place, highly skilled personnel, and in the second place, a first class laboratory and facilities for those persons to function efficiently.
I think it is also important, or at any rate highly desirable, that the laboratory should be located in the national capital. The Government has, accordingly, taken steps to set up this national biological standards biological laboratory. We are in the process of setting it up here, and the job is the responsibility of the Department of Health. I would like to read to the House the charter for this laboratory, and tell honorable members what its functions are to be. In the first place it is to act as agent for the Director-General in the examination of goods referred to it; that is, goods having a therapeutic substance. Secondly, it is concerned with the testing of new therapeutic substances. Thirdly, it has to provide expert advice to the Department of Health on these matters - and also, of course, to the medical profession and to other persons concerned. Fourthly, it has to prepare, distribute and keep Australian national standards of biological and pharmaceutical preparations, and to collaborate with other laboratories in the establishment of new international standards.
I am sure honorable members will realize that this is a most important step, and that they will be glad to hear that we have secured the services of a highly skilled medical scientist, a doctor, to act as director of this laboratory. With the co-operation and assistance of the Australian National University, we have secured buildings in which the laboratory will commence to function, and we have also secured a great deal of material. The laboratory is now about to commence operating. That, I think, is a matter of immense scientific importance to medicine and health in Australia.
The second matter to which I want to refer, Sir, is the problem of living and working in the tropics. It is obvious, of course, with the development which is going on in the northern part of our continent, and in view of the conditions of climate and terrain and the general conditions which exist up there, that the correct solution of the problems of living and working there is of the utmost national importance. It will not be enough to make economic conditions attractive. It will not be enough to make taxation concessions. It will not be enough to open up roads, and that sort of thing. We must have a proper scientific investigation of the conditions under which people are to live there, and we must be assured of the arrangements which we ought to make in the light of that knowledge.
It is not just a question of studying tropical diseases and finding cures for them or taking preventive measures against them. This is being done, and has been done for many years, by the Department of Health, at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in Sydney. It is a question of the physiology of living and working in the tropics. Is efficiency impaired among the people who live there? Are sedentary workers able to do the same work there as they can do elsewhere? Are manual workers able to perform the same work, or should the conditions under which they work in tropical areas be modified? Can men work for such long hours there as they do in the south? Should their hours of work be differently arranged? All these questions, of course, have most important economic aspects as well as scientific aspects. We want to know whether tropical climates do in fact have adverse effects on the women and children who live in them. It has long been thought that they do. Is this belief well founded?
All these things are questions of great importance to the nation and we should know the answers, Sir. We can point, of course, to thriving tropical towns in the north, but are the conditions satisfactory for the continuing growth and prosperity of these places? We do not really know the answers, but we are setting about finding them. We have, accordingly, set up for the investigation of these problems, within the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in Sydney, a special department under the directorship of a most eminent physician who has already made a preliminary examination of these matters. About eighteen months or two years ago, he presented us with a preliminary report - a report which I thought was of such great importance that I had it printed and circulated to all members of the Parliament. I hope that all honorable members who have not read it in the past will read it now. This investigation is an important scientific advance which has taken place during the time when we have been actively engaged in developing all the great sociological aspects of medicine to which we have devoted so much attention during the past nine years.
The third matter to which I want to refer, Mr. Speaker, is our relations with the World Health Organization. It may be thought that perhaps this has not much application to the development of Australia. In fact, it has a great deal to do with it, because this organization is exerting a great and growing influence on the health of the whole world. That is an expansive statement, Sir, but it is a true one. The organization is becoming an increasingly important forum of consultation and discussion on medical subjects - and discussion at the highest level, because the member nations send some of their highest experts and administrators to take part in these discussions. They are concerned with matters of health which are of vital importance to us here in Australia. The plain truth is that we simply cannot afford not to take a prominent part in the activities of the World Health Organization.
I should like to give honorable members some idea of what these activities are, but I shall be able to mention only a few of them, Mr. Speaker. The organization is concerned with the eradication of some of the great epidemic diseases of the world - malaria, yaws, tuberculosis and others of that nature - with problems of radiation and with the investigation and ultimate control of such things as epidemics of influenza, which, though not always necessarily crippling in their own effects are often accompanied by serious diseases. The organization is concerned also with medical education and the elevation of standards of medical practice, with nutrition throughout the world and, above all, with co-operation and the spreading of knowledge among its members. All these, Sir, are most important things, from Australia’s point of view. I think I can fairly say not only that they are matters which concern us to our own advantage, but also that, because of the standards of medical practice and public health in this country, Australia has something to contribute to these discussions and these arrangements, and has a duty to make that contribution. So we have taken a most active part in the World Health Organization, and it is of great importance that we should continue to do so. At present, Australia is one of the eighteen nations which constitute the executive board of the organization and thereby have a direct influence on its programme and its management.
The fourth and final thing about which I want to say something, Sir, is the question of ionizing radiation. This subject and its implications have become matters of burning discussion throughout the world, and they obviously are matters of the greatest! importance. What attitude should we adopt, individually and collectively, towards this kind of radiation? First of all, we should do our best to understand some of the elementary facts about it and avoid extravagant views and beliefs which are unsupported by proper evidence. I should like to suggest, if I may, Mr. Speaker, a few things which could guide us in formulating our attitude. Broadly speaking, there are two sources of this radiation. First, there is what is known as background radiation. This, of course, comes from the cosmic rays which reach us from outer space, and from various radio-active sources in the world around us. Man has always been exposed to background radiation, and always will be exposed to it. There is nothing which we can do about this. But it is there, and we should realize the quantum of it in the total effects of ionizing radiation to which we are subjected. The second source, of course, is what we can broadly call man-made radiation - artificially produced radiation. This is present in addition to the background radiation, and it is produced partly by apparatus such as X-ray machines and partly by the processes of atomic fission and atomic fusion, and is liberated, broadly speaking, at large from atomic explosions, in a controlled form as radio-active isotopes, or in atomic energy which is used in industrial or scientific work. So we have these two sources of the ionizing radiation to which we are exposed.
Perhaps we might think, Sir, that it would be better if we had never learned to split the atom and had not been exposed to the risks which go with the splitting of the atom, because there are risks, and they are considerable. But, of course, that would be only an academic and philosophical reflection. The plain fact is that we live in a world in which these radiations exist. We have to find some practical and commonsense approach to them, and some practical way to continue to exist in the presence of these radiations by learning to control and use them. This is not perhaps the time for much discussion about what effects have already been caused in the world by the liberation of artificially produced ionizing radiations, Sir, but I think it is fair comment to say - and this is supported by what is probably the best scientific opinion - that so far, with one or two notable exceptions, those effects, broadly speaking, have not been very serious. But that is not to say that, without control, that state of affairs will continue to exist.
Even though the damage already done may not have been very great, with the one or two exceptions which I have mentioned, there are constant dangers to which we must be alert and which we must be able to counter. There are dangers in the use of this kind of radiation, and infinitely greater dangers in its abuse. So we have to find some way of utilizing these radiations and preventing them from dominating us. But the fact that there is danger in their use is no reason for not availing ourselves of the great advantages that they bring, because in addition to dangers they do obviously bring very great advantages to mankind. It would be just as illogical to deprive ourselves of these as, because of the fact that there are dangers associated with the use of general anaesthesia or surgical procedures, to say that we should abolish the use of anaesthetics or desist from the operations of surgery.
I want to make it plain that this situation and these dangers are not overlooked by the Government or by the Department of Health. Within the department there is a very valuable institution, the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory. It is not a new organization, of course. It has existed for many years, but its advice and direction have become more important and more sought after with the discovery of new techniques, with the availability of further radio active devices, and its advice and guidance are sought, not only by my own department but by other services and departments. In fact, its director and personnel have given the most valuable assistance in various fields.
In addition, a special committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which keeps in touch with the latest developments in the field of radioactivity, is available to the Department of Health to give us the benefit of its advice. Also, as honorable members will know, the Government has set up, outside the Department of Health, a National Radiation Advisory Committee. We are constantly in touch with world counsel and opinion through the World Health Organization and the special Committee on Radio-activity, which was set up by the United Nations. In fact, we were well represented on that committee.
Having all these sources of information and knowledge at our disposal, we have taken steps to translate them into effect by - amongst other things - the preparation of a model Radio-active Substances Act which can serve as a guide for the sovereign States of the Commonwealth with whom, of course, my department maintains constant liaison in this matter, as it does in other matters of health.
I said that this by no means exhausts the list of the activities of the Commonwealth Department of Health. That is to say, there are many other activities as well, but these are four important scientific activities which have gone on being developed, being put into use, and being maintained at the highest level. They are of immense value to the country. They have gone on more or less unnoticed and perhaps unknown, so I wanted to take this opportunity to-night, in speaking of the general development of Australia, to point out that although we have been engaged in great expansions of health services, we have backed them up and made them effective by the great scientific developments on which we are constantly concentrating within the Department of Health.
.- The Speech of the Governor-General is evidently not intended to be a blueprint of an approaching statesmanlike era. For the most part, it consists of a collection of airy platitudes with no effort at all being made to strike at the roots of Australia’s ever-mounting problems. Issues of a most momentous nature are bypassed in a very casual fashion or flippantly dismissed with a few words. An examination of the Speech proves the truth of this contention. No firm statements are made of the Government’s intention to make available to the States sufficient funds to provide urgently needed homes, roads, hospitals, schools and other services which are essential to public health and welfare. Nothing is said about the Government’s intention to develop decentralized industries in order to provide full employment for both old and new Australians.
The Government, during its term of office, has found no solution to these problems. It has permitted an anti-social and unhealthy congestion of immigrants in capital cities, which has created deplorable over-crowding. Although the Government has been in office for nine years, the deplorably inadequate housing and overcrowding of the people continue to be prominent features of our national life. Why are funds not made available to the States for the construction of homes, roads, hospitals, and many other national works that are vitally necessary in a country with an increasing population? Our population is increasing at the rate of 2± per cent, per annum, li per cent, as a result of natural increase and 1 per cent, as a result of immigration, but the Government is apparently oblivious of this all-important fact.
The Governor-General’s Speech makes no mention of any worthwhile effort to tackle many undesirable features that have appeared in our national life. We find that State governments, local governing bodies, and water and sewerage boards, are struggling because of lack of money to carry out essential services. The problems which confront these bodies are the direct result of Federal Government policy, particularly in relation to immigration. When taxed with this by State representatives, members of local governing bodies, and honorable members on this side of the House, the Government nonchalantly shrugs its shoulders and says, “ That is a matter for the State.” According to the Government, the States should provide all of these services, irrespective of the fact that the States depend for their very life-blood - that is, finance for completing these works - on hand-outs from the Commonwealth Government. Unfortunately for the welfare of the Australian people, this nonchalant view completely disregards the extremely serious position that is developing all over the Commonwealth.
When a country is expanding as Australia is expanding, more must be spent on the basic elements of expansion - more roads, more and bigger water supplies, hospitals, schools, and all the other ancillary items that go to make a better and more complete life. This Government seems to be entirely incapable of appreciating this elementary truth, which is a matter for great distress to those people who are very seriously concerned with the future of this country. The studied indifference of this Government towards the fundamental needs of the States scarcely makes one optimistic for the future. It could be that there is a slight ray of hope in the projected special conference of Premiers, which will be held very shortly to discuss the financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth. The present set-up, without question, cannot cope with an expanding economy, increasing population, rapid industrialization, and the urgent necessity for increased exports. For the Commonwealth Government to expect the State governments, with their very limited financial resources, to finance the necessary machinery to achieve results is expecting the impossible.
For too long has the Commonwealth Government expected the States to shoulder the crushing burden of increased loan liabilities. The statistics of the loan liabilities of the respective States reveal the almost incredible situation that, while the total public indebtedness of the States goes up by leaps and bounds every year, the Commonwealth indebtedness remains practically static. That is very unfair, because both the State governments and the Commonwealth Government were created to follow policies directed to the welfare of the people of the whole of Australia. After all, both the Commonwealth Government and the State governments legislate for the inhabitants of the States. I cannot understand why the States are expected to finance all their public works from interest-bearing loan moneys obtained through the Commonwealth whilst, on the other hand, the Commonwealth finances its capital works from revenue.
I think that this Parliament and, indeed, the people of Australia, have to face the fact that the Financial Agreement of 1928 has become, in view of the financial policy followed by the present Government, outmoded and almost unworkable.
Not enough heed is taken by this Government of the effect on the States of the implementation of Commonwealth policy. Migration is a case in point. Honorable members on this side of the House agree with the policy of migration. However, whilst not opposed to migration, we are opposed to the results that have accrued from the policy of migration so far as it affects the States and their financial status. Just because we in this Commonwealth Parliament wield the big stick financially, we must not mete out injustice to the States - and the present situation is not only unjust, but is also intolerable, to the States. The problem can. be solved only by the Commonwealth Government recognizing that the States must be given greater and more sympathetic financial assistance in meeting the great responsibilities that are theirs under the Constitution.
Because of the present situation in Commonwealth and State financial relationships we find that the ball is often tossed back and forth between the Commonwealth and the States. State governments and the Commonwealth Government often use the present intolerable position as a means of shelving difficult problems. They use it as an alibi, as it were. If we are to pinpoint the responsibilities of the respective governments for tackling a particular problem, we have to put the financial obligations of the two forms of government, Commonwealth and State, on a far more even basis than they are on at present.
I should not like it to be said that I am merely repeating what the New South Wales Labour Government has been saying for many years. So, I shall not cite anything the New South Wales Government has said in regard to the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States; instead, I shall mention what Mr. Bolte, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, has had to say about this matter. In passing, I point out that in regard to the policies of this Commonwealth Government, Mr. Bolte has always shown himself to be a “ little Sir Echo “. He agrees wholeheartedly with almost everything this Government puts forward, and speaks everlastingly in praise of what this Government does. But even Mr. Bolte has had enough of the treatment meted out to Victoria under the financial policies of the Government, as is shown by a statement that he made recently. I quote now from a report published in the Melbourne “ Herald “. It reads -
Victoria will seek Commonwealth financial aid for housing migrants.
Mr. Bolte said to day that Victoria was taking about 40 per cent, of all migrants but got no financial aid to help house them.
Mr. Bolte was supporting the Minister for Housing, Mr. Petty, who told the Citizenship conference in Canberra yesterday that housing was the major problem in assimilating migrants.
Mr. Bolte said he would also urge the Commonwealth to contribute towards the cost of teaching and training Asian students in Victoria.
He estimated it was costing Victoria half a million pounds a year for students who were here under the Colombo plan or privately.
He then went on to say, according to the report - “ We have no objection to these students being taught or trained here.”
This is a most significant statement - “ But the Commonwealth always takes the credit for their success - the same as it does with the migration scheme.”
The report adds -
In both cases, however, they were a direct cost to Victoria, he said.
So, it can be seen from Mr. Bolte’s remarks, which are quite unequivocal in their forthrightness, that Mr. Bolte, to use a colloquialism, has had the Commonwealth Government so far as the measure of justice it is giving to Victoria is concerned.
I would say that that statement made by Mr. Bolte dispels the idea being advanced by the honorable member for Hume that I am merely repeating arguments advanced by Mr. Cahill, the Labour Premier of New South Wales. All I can say is that if Mr. Cahill and Mr. Bolte have the same point of view, there must be a lot of substance in it.
Now I shall quote the words of another Victorian Cabinet Minister, Mr. Petty, the Minister for Housing in Victoria. Mr. Petty is a man who at all times can be depended upon to put the point of view of liberalism in Victoria 100 per cent. He is, by conviction, an avowed Liberal, and at all times sees nothing but good in Liberal governments. But he too, as Victoria’s Minister for Housing, has reached the end of his patience, because recently he had something to say about the Commonwealth Government, which was reported in the press as follows: -
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Petty) last night warned that the housing shortage “could easily become Victoria’s major problem in four or five years.”
Mr. Petty said the increased number of migrants and the general rise in population would aggravate the shortage.
Mr. Petty said there was a definite shortage of housing in Victoria. “The Housing Commission has more than 13,000 applications registered for housing in the metropolitan area,” he said.
And this is a significant statement in view of the Government’s legislation to provide more money for co-operative housing societies - “The co-operative housing societies have about 10,000 applications from people who want to join one of these societies.”
The report continues -
Mr. Petty said “ lack of money was the 1 sole cause ‘ of the State’s housing shortage, and the reason why applicants were not accommodated.”
So you can see that the Victorian Liberal Government, generally a faithful and loyal supporter of this Government, is just about fed up with the unfair and miserable treatment that has been handed out to it. But the Government is very complacent. For example, in the Governor-General’s Speech it shows itself to be very satisfied about housing. Why? I am in a dilemma to know, because anybody who has made the slightest study of the housing problem knows that, far from the problem being solved, it is getting worse, particularly in Victoria. But this is what the Government had to say about it in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech -
This financial year a record amount of approximately £80,000,000 is being provided by my Government for housing. This will enable the normal current demand to be met and, in addition, will permit a substantial reduction in the already diminished arrears.
Well, they are brave words. But, unfortunately, the statistics do not bear out that statement. What do we find is the attitude of the Victorian Housing Commission? It would be idle to deny that the State Housing Commissions are the only authorities in Australia that are dealing with the housing requirements of the lower income groups. No authority in the private sector of the economy makes any effort to provide for those in the lower income groups, the people who have to pay rent and cannot afford to buy houses. In its last annual report the Victorian Housing Commission said -
The number of 2,194 units available for eligible families compared with 2,338 in the previous year, and is the lowest figure of completion since 1949-50. Restriction of funds available to the Commission is the sole cause of the decline in new construction.
Unless the programme of new construction can be expanded, the total number of applications on hand will progressively increase.
What are the prospects for those 13,000 or 14,000 applicants in Victoria when the Commonwealth Government will give the Victorian Housing Commission this year only £7,000,000 compared with £10,000,000 three years ago? What will be their reaction to that news when they are living in garages, wood-sheds and washhouses? What hope have they of getting a house through the Victorian Housing Commission? When they read that report they can look forward only to spending the rest of their lives in buildings which, in some cases, measure only 10 ft. by 12 ft. for families of five persons.
The Commonwealth Government appears to be entirely oblivious to the fact that the population is increasing by leaps and bounds. This Government seems to think that housing requirements should be considered in terms of a static population. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), who is voluble on these matters should hear some of the stories that have been told to me about housing problems. I have proved them to be true by personal examination. The honorable member would not be so flippant if he understood the situation but would try to get the Government to restore to the Victorian Housing Commission the £10,000,000 that it received three years ago. The housing position will not be solved by sarcastic and flippant remarks. This is a serious matter. The honorable member might be suitably housed, but thousands of good Australians are not in that happy position. The housing problem should always be considered seriously at the highest level.
This Government has said, in effect, that the present rate of housing construction is adequate. Last year 70,000 houses were built. The current rate of demand is 55,000 houses. The rate of demand will be 60,000 houses by 1961, 65,000 houses by 1965 and 80,000 by 1970. Therefore, every effort should be made to reduce the lag as quickly as possible. Every endeavour should be made by the Government to reach a total of 80,000 during the next two or three years. In five or six years, there will be a formidable problem in home construction because the 20 to 25 years age group will increase in the next five to eight years by 55 per cent. The people in that group were the children of those who married during the Second World War, and everybody knows, that the birth rate rose considerably at the close of the war. Unless the Government reduces the lag in housing immediately, the people of Australia, particularly those in the lower income groups, have no future at all so far as housing is concerned.
Reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and to the special conference that will be held within the next few weeks to deal with roads and other matters. Recently, the Government convened a conference to deal with roads. It was attended by representatives of all State governments, various transport bodies, the Australian Local Government Association and others who were interested. I congratulate the Government on calling that conference, which was representative of groups actively associated with road and transport problems, but unfortunately for the future of the road problem, the only unanimous vote expressed by delegates was that the roads are falling far behind our developmental needs. It was agreed by all and sundry that many of our main roads are in poor condition. At that point, all agreement ceased. Many views were expressed as a solution of the problem, but ultimately no solution was reached.
In my opinion, the New South Wales Government made the most statesmanlike approach to the problem. Its representatives said that the Commonwealth Government should build roads under a national roads plan and that the States should be responsible for primary and secondary roads within their own borders. That proposition was opposed by the other States on the ground that road building was constitutionally a State matter. This divergence of opinion prevented the States and other interstate bodies from presenting a united front, and a solution of the roads problem was postponed indefinitely. The present unsatisfactory situation will continue and Australian roads will go from bad to worse. I had hoped that new legislation would be brought forward this year to meet the situation, but I am satisfied now that this Government will use the great divergence of opinion among the States and that there will not be much improvement in the present situation.
Reports in the press to-day suggest that the Government intends to offer to the State Premiers £8,000,000 for roads over and above what they are receiving now. The States will receive £4,000,000 in the next year or two because of the increase in the number of vehicles on the roads so that, in effect, the Commonwealth will offer the States about £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 more than they would get anyway. In other words, the Commonwealth proposes to pay to the States out of petrol tax collections 9d. a gallon instead of 8d. a gallon.
Surely, the Government does not believe that that will relieve the road problem! It should recognize that the first step - but not the only step - is to devote all the proceeds of the petrol tax to roads. Anything less will constitute an outright refusal to face up to the issue on broad statesmanlike lines.
I notice that, during the conference, the Commonwealth Government spokesman stated that the Government took the view that the petrol tax was a revenue tax. He said that that had always been the accepted view and that the Government was not prepared to deviate from it. An examination of the legislation of 1926 proves conclusively that that was not the case, because the States have not the consitutional power to impose a petrol tax for road purposes. Some States did impose such a tax before 1926 and the result was involved constitutional and legal proceedings by the Commonwealth Government. As a compromise, it was agreed that the States would not proceed with their plans but that the Commonwealth would give to the States £2,000,000 a year for ten years and impose a tax equivalent to the amount to be given to the States for that purpose. That was the intention of the original petrol tax in 1926 and nobody who knows anything about the history of the petrol tax can deny it. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will realize that fact and that it will not take advantage of disunity among the States and other bodies to offer them another penny a gallon of the petrol tax for roads and let it go at that. I shudder to think of the condition of the roads in five years time if the States are given only another penny a gallon. The backbenchers on the Government side who from time” to time have spoken in favour of devoting all the petrol tax to the States for roads should assert themselves and insist that the Government shall make a direct approach to the problem and allocate all the petrol tax proceeds to the States for road purposes.
The Governor-General stated that social services were constantly under review and that the Government was giving its attention to legislation to provide additional social service benefits. Last year, the Government granted an increase of 10s. a week to pensioners, who were paying rent, on the ground that they were suffering a particular disability. I remind the Government that pensioners who own property are finding the payment of municipal rates an everincreasing hardship. Their disability is equal to that of those who are living alone and paying rent, because municipal councils which are faced with heavier responsibilities to benefit the whole community have no alternative but to increase rates. Many pensioners are approaching municipal councils and asking for relief from the payment of rates, but the councils are unable to grant relief because of their financial position. I suggest that the Government should give a payment to pensioners who own property to enable them to meet some of the rates they must pay.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should imagine that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) who has just resumed his seat would agree with me that his opening remarks were the foundation upon which he built his speech. In his opening remarks, the honorable member suggested that the Governor-General’s Speech was to be deplored because there was no reference in it to the moneys that the Government proposes to allocate for housing in the ensuing twelve months. So I should like to draw the attention of the honorable member for Batman to that portion of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which reads -
This financial year a record amount of approximately £80,000,000 is being provided by my Government for housing. This will enable the normal current demand to be met and, in addition, will permit a substantial reduction in the already diminished arrears. My Government will continue to encourage home ownership.
It is not. my intention to make any further reference to the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Batman.
I should like to open my remarks in this debate by congratulating the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the members of his Government who were in office in the last Parliament upon the manner in which they conducted the affairs of this country. Their administration must have met with the approval of the people, because after a phenomenal record of nine years in government,the Australian electors saw fit to return them with an even greater majority than that which they had during the last Parliament, which, in itself, was then a record.
May I also take the opportunity to extend my congratulations to the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and Senator John Gorton upon their elevation to the Ministry, and to you Mr. Speaker, upon your notable achievement in being returned as Speaker of this House without any opposition.
Yesterday afternoon the House was privileged to hear two maiden speeches, one from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) and the other from the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), who, respectively moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I do not think there is a member of this Parliament who does not join with me in extending to those two honorable members congratulations on the manner in which they delivered their maiden speeches in this House.
I should like to refer to that part of the Governor-General’s Speech which reads -
My advisers believe that much can be done to promote friendly international relations and bring about closer understanding and co-operation between nations by the exchange of visits of national leaders.
Since my entire remarks will be confined to these paragraphs of His Excellency’s Speech I should like to read them in their entirety. They continue-
Last year we had the pleasure of a visit from the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, and quite recently my Government had important discussions over a wide range of questions of common interest with Dr. Subandrio, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. At the end of March my Minister for External Affairs will visit Japan and the Republic of Korea, which are countries of great significance in the Pacific area.
Our relations with the countries of Asia are of first rate importance.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there could be no truer words than that our relations with the countries of Asia are of first-class importance. It is true that the future of this country is intimately bound with the future of every one of the Asian countries. It is true that their fight for freedom is our fight for freedom and that their fight for selfdetermination is our fight. Surely the retention of this right of self-determination, without interference or dictation from any other nation or group of nations, is the most heartfelt desire of every individual in every country, whatever the colour of his skin and whatever his religious beliefs. That must be the inherent desire of every human being - that his country shall be his; that his children shall inherit from him the right to mould, dictate and determine the destiny of their own country.
So it is true that the future of my children and of all this country’s children is intimately bound up with the future of children throughout Asia, whether they be in Japan, Viet Nam, Burma, Indonesia or New Guinea. Each and every one of those children has an equal right with our children to have self-determination for their country, and the right to guide and shape its destiny.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that, in Australia, whilst recognizing that our future is so closely connected with the future of the countries of Asia, we have not taken advantage of the opportunity to have more visits by our Ministers, and by Parliamentary delegations in particular, to the countries of Asia, so that every member of this Parliament may have an intimate knowledge of the problems of those countries; so that we may tie, still more closely, the bonds of friendship with those countries; and so that Australia may fulfil its essential role in Asia. That role is, I believe, to give a lead, to act as a spokesman, and to help these people materially, not only through the Colombo plan, but in the councils of the world, in the battle to develop their countries and to retain the right of selfdetermination for themselves.
We notice that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) will visit Japan and Korea at the end of March. It is unfortunate that the Minister will not also have an opportunity to visit certain other Asian countries because it would be to the advantage of Australia for him to have a more intimate knowledge of political developments in those countries. That he is visiting Japan and Korea is good. That the feeling between Korea and Japan is, at the moment, strained is unfortunate, because these are two of the free nations of Asia. Relations between those two countries have become even more strained in recent weeks since the announcement by the Japanese Government that it intends to repatriate to North Korea - that is, Communistdominated Korea - Koreans who are at the moment in Japan.
I hope that when the Minister visits Korea he will be able to take some part in lessening the strain which exists between Japan and Korea at the present time. It is unfortunate, I would say, that he will not have an opportunity to visit Formosa, Viet Nam, and, particularly, Laos. The situation in Laos at the moment is critical. We know that recently there was a change of government in Laos, and that the government which has now taken over control of the country has expelled from the government the Pathet Lao and Communist sympathisers. Since that has happened there has been aggression from Northern Viet Nam into Laos, aided and abetted in every possible way by the Communist Government of mainland China. This aggressive country, Communist China, which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) suggests should receive recognition and admission to the United Nations, is not only involved in aggression in Laos but is also involved in unprovoked aggression in Tibet.
There has been a decided improvement in the situation in Burma following the coup as a result of which U Nu and U Ba Swe lost control. Those Communist sympathizers are no longer holding sway in Burma. It is to be hoped that the trends that started in Burma will continue for the good of the people of Burma and ensure that they will not come under the control of the Communist elements in that country, who were not only fighting the Government but also sustained an army in Burma and attempted to wrest control from the Government.
As one proceeds further south one comes to Indonesia, Australia’s closest neighbour. Australia was recently very fortunate to receive a visit from Dr. Subandrio, the Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was most appropriate that Dr. Subandrio should come to Australia at this particular time. We in Australia most certainly desire close friendship with Indonesia and with all our Asian neighbours. Australians are not a race of people who seek to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We believe that we should have the right to shape our destiny and that it is the right of other countries to do likewise. But as we look at the history of events that have occurred in Indonesia in recent years, it is, I believe, excusable that there should be a considerable degree of apprehension not only in the minds of the general mass of the Australian people but also of every member of this Parliament. Indonesia, our closest neighbour, consists of about 3,000 islands, with a population of about 85,000,000 people. It is a nation that has only in recent years attained the right of self-determination. As a nation it cannot be classed as experienced in administering its own affairs. At the head of the Government are brilliant men who have not been elected by the people but have been appointed by the President, Dr. Soekarno. Not only are those people not elected, but also they are not even responsible to the elected members of the Parliament, nor to Parliament itself. The Government of Indonesia is responsible to the President of Indonesia. That is a form of government with which we in this country are not familiar.
In Indonesia we have seen a trend in events that has given cause for considerable apprehension. We have seen first of all the arms build-up in Indonesia, but on mature reflection we must recognize that as we in Australia possess an Army, Navy and Air Force, Indonesia must be permitted by the nations of the world to have her armed forces to protect her integrity. However, we became somewhat apprehensive in May last year when, at a time when Indonesia was claiming the right to control western New Guinea and there was a tremendous buildup of arms from the iron curtain countries. In answer to a question Dr. Djuanda expressly stated that the arms and equipment would not be used to suppress the rebels in Indonesia. At that time he was visiting the Philippines. We in this country wondered - and surely we could be forgiven for doing so - whether Indonesia intended armed aggression to gain control of western New Guinea. We have seen the attitude of the Indonesian Government in expropriating the assets of the Dutch. We have seen indications of dissatisfaction in the various large islands of Indonesia over the administration of those islands by the government in Djakarta. AH that seemed to indicate that the Government of Indonesia was experiencing difficulties with which countries such as Australia are not familiar. It is not our job to condemn them because they are having those difficulties, but it is our job to try to assist them to overcome their problems, to do everything possible to win and hold their friendship, and to raise the standard of living of their people. Even if we believe that Indonesia’s form of government is not such as we would desire, let us recognize that Indonesia is struggling hard to achieve nationhood.
A statement was made by Dr. Djuanda in May last year that Indonesia was in extreme financial difficulties and did not have enough money to pay her army, which was fighting the rebels. And Dr. Djuanda suggested that it might even be necessary for Indonesia to sell her national airline, Garuda Airways, in order to maintain her army which at the time consisted of approximately 130 battalions. Now, if this is the situation, how does Dr. Subandrio support the claim that Indonesia would be able to make any real contribution towards raising the living standards of the people of western New Guinea? How can he claim that Indonesia could, for decades to come, have the resources and the finance available to be able to give to the people of western New Guinea the opportunity to develop their country to the point where they, as the indigenous population, would be able mould and shape the destiny of their own country? Article 1, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations states that a purpose of the United Nations is -
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
On 15th February last, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) issued a statement in which he said - . . a meeting was arranged between Dr. Subandrio and all members of the Australian Cabinet. The discussions served to re-affirm the determination of both Governments that Australia and Indonesia will live together and co-operate as good neighbours sympathetically concerned in each other’s material progress . . .
With that we completely agree. We want to be friends with Indonesia and help the Indonesians all we can, and so we agree with almost every phase and every point raised by the Minister for External Affairs in that document.
But there is one point upon which I have considerable reservations. I should like to quote a passage of the communication which does, I feel, cause a number of honorable members on both sides of the House to treat the statement and the points it raises with reservation. The Minister said -
The Ministers reviewed in detail IndonesianAustralian relations. There was a full explanation of the considerations which have led each country to a different view over West New Guinea (West Irian), with Australia recognizing Netherlands’ sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination. This difference remains, but the position was clarified by an explanation from Australian Ministers that it followed from their position of respect for agreements on the rights of sovereignty that if any agreement were reached between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, Australia would not oppose such an agreement.
I believe that that might not be a very accurate statement of the feelings of the Australian people about this situation. We are not unaware of the trends which have been developing in Holland. We know that tremendous pressure has been put on the political parties in that country and the Dutch Government that it could be to Holland’s advantage to trade with Indonesia on the basis that Holland would give to Indonesia the right to control and administer western New Guinea and, in return, that the Government of Indonesia might return to the free-enterprise companies of Holland the assets which it expropriated.
The only comforting thing about this matter is that the majority of the political parties in Holland have indicated in their policy speeches that they intend to persevere in New Guinea and try to advance the people there to the point where they can be given the right of self-determination. The election will be held on 12th March this year. But there was a crisis in the Labour party in Holland which led to the resignation of Mr. Drees, the Prime Minister. The rank and file majority of the Labour party in Holland wanted to carry out the wishes of the private enterprise organization which had suggested and was pressing the Government to give away western New Guinea in return for the Dutch assets that had been expropriated in Indonesia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sorry to have to come into this debate at all.
– The honorable member is not as sorry as we are.
– I know that we are sorry to see the honorable member for Hume back in this House. Sometimes the whip’s job is to be the last reserve or defence, and I participate in this debate in a spirit of defence as well as offence. First, I should like to say how pleased we are to see some new faces in this Parliament, especially on the Opposition side. But to all the new members on both sides I wish to tender my congratulations upon winning their seats. At this stage I shall not discuss party political affairs in each electorate, but new members on the other side of the House will forgive me when I say that I do not wish them a long life and a merry one in this Parliament. However, we are looking forward to hearing the new members on both sides, because I believe that they will be able to advance new thoughts and give a new emphasis to many matters of national importance in this Parliament. Members on the Opposition side are not so arrogant as to suggest they have learned all there is to be known about this country and its happenings. We are learners all the time and I, personally, will listen to each new member with an open mind trusting that he will make a very real contribution to this debate which began yesterday with the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply.
In this Parliament many attachments are formed between members on both sides of the House, and many of us are sorry to see certain members go from either side. There are some things which are far more important than party politics. One is the fellowship among members of the Parliament, this body which is working ultimately for the good of this country. We on this side may have one way of seeking to achieve our objectives and members on the other side may have their way, but there is a common denominator on which all of us stand, that is the fellowship which is built up here over the years and creates lasting friendships between men of opposing political views. If we did not have that basis this place would be a madhouse, quite meaningless and quite hopeless. Some outsiders would say that it is one now, but I am speaking as one on the inside to others on the inside of this Parliament. I am not concerned about what uninformed people on the outside may say about us. I am talking to-night of the people who are on the inside of the show. Therefore, I wish the new honorable members well while they are here, be their term long or short. They will find themselves involved in hard work calling for a tremendous amount of attention and concentration both in their electorates and in this Parliament.
I turn now to the speech of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). At the outset, he referred in very proud and glowing terms to the increased Government majority. I do not think that is anything to be proud of. If the Opposition gained a majority in the way that the Government gained its additional numbers, I certainly would not be very proud of it.
– What do you mean by that?
– The Government has been re-elected with the assistance of the Australian Democratic Labour party. It is no use blinding our eyes to that fact. Every sound political institution in this country knows it and has written about it. I will admire the man on the Government side who will get up and admit it, but I will not admire any honorable member who tries to gloss over what happened. Honorable members on the Government side know very well that the Government won seventeen seats by means of the second preferences of D.L.P. candidates. It could have been some other group, but on this occasion it was a specific group of which members of the Australian Labour party have been very conscious throughout the last four years; and seventeen members on the Government side were returned as a result nf the efforts of that group.
It is idle for the honorable member for Lilley and his colleagues to say that the people of Australia gave the Government an increased majority. They did nothing of the kind, as the voting results show when they are closely analysed. Why should honorable members on the Government side try to pull the wool over our eyes and those of the people of Australia as to what happened? No party can feel proud of the fact that it had to ask an outside group for its second preferences in order to be returned to office. I say quite specifically that the present Government is a puppet government elected by the 8 per cent, of people in the splinter group to which I referred. I want to put that group in its proper perspective; that is all. We on this side of the House have lost some good colleagues through it. They would have been back here with a lot more colleagues if the situation had not developed as it did.
To say that the Government came back with an increased majority is in fact true, but honorable members opposite have not been prepared to state the reasons for it. We have the danger of the French system of government developing into this country as a result of what we saw a few months ago. In such a system a small minority group can dictate to the rest of the country. That is no good for any country - Australia, France or any other country - but that is the danger, as I can see it, in the present development. It is all very well for those who take the short term view to foster this development for the sake of winning an election at a certain time, but I am trying to look at it as it may develop over the next ten or twenty years. I am afraid that the influence that brought this Government back into office will develop the dangerous tendencies that we see overseas.
The Governor-General’s Speech was similar to all such speeches that I have heard in the twelve years that I have been a member of this House. It told us very little of what will happen. It patted the Government on the back - that is, the Government patted itself on the back - but left us rather in the air as to the specific policy and plans of the Government. Therefore, we must wait month by month to see what comes from this Government.
One matter mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is the question of roads. My colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) ably analyzed this matter to-night. I do not want to deal with it in detail but I wish to refer to one or two points. If this great problem is to be solved and if the objectives of providing better roads is to be achieved, a lead must be given by the Federal Liberal Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) very quickly after the election called a conference which included representatives of the States. That is good as far as it goes, but that sort of conference usually ends in a mass of words and no action. T think it was most unfair of him to call the States together without a plan for them to get their teeth into, and that is what I mean when I sav that a lead must be given to the States. The Prime Minister has given no lead, no direction, no specific plan and no inspiration to the States to enable them to arrive at a final solution of the road problem.
What is needed is a national plan advanced by this Government that talks so glibly about better roads. We should have a national plan initiated and developed by this Government. This would give a constructive and progressive lead to the States, and they could then be told, “This is how we think it should be worked out. We are prepared to finance such a scheme. Now, you give us your reactions to the plan and the details of how it can be implemented in each State “. The Government has done it the other way round. I do not think that the States should be expected to think nationally. Why should we pass the buck to the States and ask them to bring down a national roads plan or some sort of a roads plan? That is not the way it should be approached. It should be approached entirely from a national point of view, and the only government that can do that is the Commonwealth Government. That is the first weakness in what the Prime Minister has done in calling this conference. A piecemeal approach to the roads problem will fail. Five State plans will endanger the whole scheme and make confusion worse confounded.
I feel that the national roads plan should be financed by the Commonwealth Government and carried out by State road authorities. The money for such a scheme could come from various sources but it should be provided by the one Treasury, and that is the Commonwealth Treasury. We should have a definite plan, just as the United States of America is following a definite plan in its great 10,000,000 dollars federal roads scheme, which began three years ago. The United States has given us a wonderful illustration of how the problem can be tackled. However, the Federal Liberal Government does nothing but call the States together in a round-table conference. Various suggestions were put forward at that conference, but nothing specific has come out of it at all. The representatives have gone back to their States frustrated and feeling that the whole thing is hopeless. As my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has said, it was probably loaded with politics on the eve of three State elections. It may be a good political move to call the representatives together in a round-table conference without giving them anything at all to get their teeth into, but it is only a half-hearted attempt to solve one of Australia’s greatest problems.
In the latter part of my short speech I want to refer to Australia’s relations with Asia. In his Speech, the Governor-General said -
Our relations with the countries of Asia are of first-rate importance. Trade between Australia and Asian countries will be further developed and Australia will continue to play an active part in helping to raise living standards in the countries of Asia through the Colombo Plan.
Of course, we all agree with that, and I should like to conclude to-night on that point of agreement. The honorable member for Lilley gave us some very good thoughts on this Asian question. I do not suppose that there is anybody in Australia to-day who does not read all he can about Asia and who is not interested in the visits of Asians to our country and our visits to Asia. We are becoming completely and inextricably interlocked in many ways unheard of a few years ago. I should like to refer to five ways in which Australia can help Asia, beyond talking about it. The first way is an understanding of the Asian people. Our previous attitude to Asia has been one of sheer indifference, sheer complacency and sheer apathy. I refer to my own attitude to Asia before the war. I studied Asia at the university purely as a project on a curriculum. I never looked upon the Asian people as personalities or as human beings. They belonged to a country that I had to study so that I could pass an examination. It was necessary to know as much as possible about China, Japan and South-East Asia, but I took no responsibility for Asia as an individual. My approach to this question was purely impersonal. The vast number of people to the north of us were nothing more than a geographical entity without any flesh or blood or bones.
I feel that Australia’s attitude could largely be summed up in the statement I have used to describe my previous attitude. But, thank God, we are now moving away from that attitude of apathy, indifference and complacency to an active attitude of trying to understand the Asian nations to the north on a purely human level. These people are like us in all but colour. Their response to friendship and understanding is very great. I have had the privilege of visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia within the last three years, and I have met many of these people who have come out here to study. Speaking to them, man to man, one finds that they have the same hopes and ambitions as we have; they suffer from the same weaknesses as we do; they have the same aspirations as we have. They want security, home and family, ordinary community facilities and good government. These are the things that we all want.
The second thing we must do for Asia is to give the people food. I refer particularly to the people of Japan, who have to import so much of their grain, and also those of South-East Asia, where there is so much hunger and semi-starvation. In this regard we must agree that the Colombo plan is the greatest Christian concept that has come out of any country since the war, and the more we can extend that plan the better for the Asians, and, indirectly, for ourselves. The plan is noble in conception. It has caused us to think of other people and to help them in a practical way. We have sent them technicians and men who want to understand them and to pass on technical and other knowledge to them. We have sent them men who want to guide and help them and encourage them to build up their security and their standard of living. Tractors and other kinds of equipment have been going to Asian countries since the war under this magnificent scheme, and trade between Australia and the Asian countries has developed as a result.
The giving of food to these people is a powerful weapon against communism. Most of the people of South-East Asia are not as highly educated as we are. In Asia there is a terrific amount of illiteracy, although those who have received an education have responded magnificently and are as intelligent as people in any other part of the world. But the vast majority of them are illiterate, and a gift of food appeals to them. It is something they can see; it is something that will help keep them alive. By giving them food we will help to offset the impact of Communist propaganda. In this regard I shall quote portion of a newspaper report of 23rd January, 1959, in which the High Commissioner for Ceylon, who was visiting Australia, is reported to have said, ‘ Democracy was on trial in Asia because the form of government which succeeded in improving living standards first might well be the form adopted “. That is why we must beat the Communists in this food battle.
Russia has given India 50,000 tons of wheat in recent months, and I believe that this is not the first, but the second or third shipment of wheat that it has sent to India - a straight-out gift of food. You can win a lot of battles with food. These Asian people will respond to practical gifts of food. The High Commissioner for Ceylon has summed up the situation very well. “ The poor man who is hungry is impatient”, he said the other day in Hobart, in outlining the problems of over-population and poverty in Asia. The newspaper reported him further as follows: -
Other forms of government were also making efforts to improve conditions. “ Upon the success or failure to improve conditions in a short time depends the success or failure of one type of government or another “, he said.
A newspaper of 21st January, 1959, carried the following report from Washington: -
President Eisenhower announced plans yesterday for a “ Food-f or-Peace “ drive to turn farm surpluses into a major new weapon for the antiCommunist world’s arsenal. Mr. Eisenhower said that in the past four years the U.S. had provided friendly nations with £1,786 million worth of farm products through special export programmes.
Both these statements stress the fact that through food we can win a major battle in the war against communism.
The third thing we have to give to Asia is freedom. We have true democracy in this country, freedom of the ballot box, freedom of speech, of religion and of assembly. We must do all we can to develop among Asian people a love for the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter. We want them to have a government of a kind that will allow them to live free from intimidation, from the fear of concentration camps and of victimization. We want them to have a government without guns.
The fourth thing we must give to Asia is friendship, definite, real, genuine friendship as between man and man on equal footing. Too much of what we have given to Asia in the past has been accompanied by pat ronage. The Asian people do not like patronage any more than we do, but they will’ respond to genuine friendship. Australians are noted for their friendship. Wherever they have gone, during two world wars, and the various missions that they have undertaken, they have laid the foundations of friendship in a way that no other nation could have done. To our credit, we are showing Asian students who come out here that we can be friends. We can take them into our homes. They can ride on the trams with white people, eat in restaurants and go into hotels with white people. This is different from the position in the United States of America and in South Africa. There is no racial discrimination in this country, and wherever we see it rearing its head we must stamp on it for all we are worth, irrespective of the party to which we owe allegiance. We do not stand for it in Australia, and the friendship for which we are noted must be extended to the people of Asia. We must make friends with them as individuals. This will help tremendously in the battle against communism, the adherents of which are trying to make friends with them for other reasons. If we had more friendships in the world to-day we would need fewer battleships. This is a fundamental truth.
Finally, we must give the Asian people a faith, an ideology. We must help them to a way of life with a system of beliefs by which to live. An ideology is a summary of our convictions. It sums up the standards by which we live and think. It is a summary of our ideals, and I believe that in Asia there is a genuine need for an ideology, a way of life or a system of beliefs that will not run counter to Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Confucianism or Hinduism, the four main religions, of Asia. We should give them an ideology that will provide a common platform on which they can stand and work for a better Asia.
– Does the honorable member believe in the White Australia policy?
– I was not talking about the White Australia policy, but the answer to the honorable member’s question, is that we will not solve the problems of Asia by having Asians live in Australia at this stage of our development. But if we can build up the living standards of Asia, through education and through a Christian approach to the problems of those countries, we may be able to bring those people to our country in later years without in any way depressing our own living standards.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, before I make a few comments on a subject on which I think comment is called for on a quiet night like this, I should like to congratulate you on your re-election to your high office, and to say that the particular detergent that you use on your wig is eminently satisfactory.
The particular question on which I should like to address the House first this evening concerns something that I think is serious. It may be humorous, but on a slack night like this we ought to have a talk about it. I refer to the knighthood machine - the honours machine, which grinds out decorations, large and small, for various people throughout this, country, as. it has done throughout the term of the Menzies Government. It was said by Malcolm Muggeridge that a knighthood was an inexpensive carrot. It appears that we have dealt out a lot of inexpensive carrots during the last few years. Although the Australian Labour party, as a matter of policy, is opposed to knighthoods, it does not object to people getting them, provided that they have been earned by endeavours for worthy purposes and by useful deeds, particularly by servicemen, who should be rewarded for their deeds of valour. And I dare say that they should be given to civilians for community effort.
I want to deal with the matter in lighter vein- rather than seriously, but I think we have gone quite beyond what is reasonable in the bestowing of these awards in the last few years. Canberra has now come to- be known .as the city of dreadful knights. You dare not go out for a walk in case you fall over a knight and his fair lady. You have to be very careful indeed about what goes on. One who is engaged, as I am, in looking after an electorate sometimes finds in the
Public Service an embarrassment of riches, so far as knights are concerned. I confess to having a feeling of inferiority in these matters, and it is nourished rather than allayed by the things that happen. I have before- me a note from my secretary of things that I have to do this week. Let us have a look at it. It is in this strain -
Ring Sir Patrick about your taxation worries.
Ascertain whether you can. see Sir William about that superannuation job.
Sir Kenneth may help you on a legal opinion about Mrs. Murgatroyd.
Sir John has promised you a trade permit. You should look him up.
If Sir Giles is still with us, see whether you can get a telephone for the diggers at Burwood.
A minister, not a bureaucrat, this time might help you with that digger’s pension. If all else fails, you can ring Sir Roland at the Treasury, to see whether something can be accomplished by this means.
In all this talk, there is a serious vein. There is too much of this decoration nonsense. I found, that I had additional work to do, and I used, the telephone again. When my call was answered at the other end, I asked, “ Who is there? “ The reply was, “ Bill “. I said, “ Thank God! I did not know that there was any one in Canberra left without a title “. I suggest that the plain “ misters “ of this city should now be cared for and cherished, because they are a diminishing kind.
I suppose one can look at this in a humorous, light, but have we not overdone it? I think the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ touched on the matter some months ago when it said that the guerdon for long service, or the accolade conferred by the Queen, is quite apart from this lighthearted controversy, but when you hand out these baubles indiscriminately you only tend to debase the currency, as it were. That is the point that I wish to make,, without labouring the matter. We in the Australian Labour party have felt for a long time that this sort of thing is. going on, and I wish to make a kindly and well-intentioned protest to the Government about it. It is laughable, and the value which attaches to a decoration awarded by the Queen is debased by having too many applicants and by the manner in which these awards are being given. It is getting as bad here as in England, where it is nothing for the “ Times “ to. publish a list of: O.B.E. awards taking up six columns, with the note, “ Continued in our next instalment”. So these things go from bad to worse. I know that the Government is horror-stricken that this matter should be brought up here, because it is one of the things that it revels in.
I see in the august audience this evening a knight whom I have no intention of offending. I send a great big cheerio to Sir Frank, who is engaged in a matter of very great importance to the members of this place. Any remarks that I make are not intended to reflect on him in any way.
All this is in passing, Sir. The second matter with which I wish to deal is one about which I asked a question earlier in the day - the censorship of books in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) showed a little irritation when I directed attention to a book-
– Not irritation.
– It was. The Minister is not Prime Minister yet, although his ambition is well known. He would do better to wait a little to hear what I have to say before he tries to apologize. When I said that censorship in this country operated on a par with that of certain republics, the Prime Minister said, “ You are referring to Ireland “. In this case, the author concerned is an Irishman. In the interval between question time and the present I have been permitted to read “ Borstal Boy “. I represent many thousands of electors, and am also an executive officer of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, and I have been forced to shuttle between the Parliamentary Library and this chamber trying to read the book in little snatches because the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has ordered that it must not be taken from the library. What a farcical situation that creates!
Here is a book that is banned. We want to know whether a good piece of literary craftsmanship is being murdered. I would not describe the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has just interjected, as a literary craftsman because he no longer writes poetry, except for certain dissertations about the territories. These books are written and then some one says they ought to be censored. Two books have been censored, and we shall bring that up again. One is “ Borstal Boy “ and the other is “ Lolita “ - both in their own way works of art. I want to point out that it is a pretty stupid and niggling way to deal with a request that a book should be released from censorship in this fashion, and to require that it be read in instalments in the Parliamentary Library. I make no criticism of the library, but I certainly criticize the Minister for Customs and Excise.
If we want to get out of this position into which we have fallen by being one of the countries that imposes a harsh censorship, particularly on the written word in book form, we shall just have to bring these things into the open. I brought the matter of censorship up once before, and subsequently many books were released from censorship as a consequence. A survey of the things that were being withheld was made. It was extremely laughable that some of those books were being withheld. These two books with which I am now concerned are works in respect of which those in the outside world - the readers and the community - consider that they should be the best judges of what they should read. They do not want any professors or members of Parliament to censor their reading. The police courts can take charge of anything that is salacious or pornographic. But these are literary works, and they are banned. What would happen to the works of Rabelais if this sort of thing were accepted? This Government has been notorious for it. A former Minister banned “ Ulysses “ and the classical works of Rabelais were banned by others. Anything that contained what sounded like a naughty word was immediately seized, wrapped in hessian and put under the seat that the responsible Minister occupied for the time being. This is a very bad practice, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for allowing it.
We should grow up in literary matters, just as we should grow up in our attitude towards knighthoods. We should chide the Government on these two little matters. It should not try to make fools of the Australian community by throwing largesse knighthoods about everywhere. The Government should remember what Muggeridge said about them - that the carrot can be too eagerly devoured by the donkey wanting some preferment at the time. You have got to keep these things up to a standard. Do not let them become debased as they were in the days of Lloyd George, when they were handouts, gewgaws and propaganda.
We should see that our literature is allowed free circulation, and even if it hurts the susceptibilities of one or two people, the Government should observe the democratic principle that is essential and iet the people make their own decisions about what they wear, eat and read. Sumptuary laws have never been successful. They have caused the downfall of democracy. On that point, Mr. Speaker, I say no more, except to plead with the liberal-minded supporters of the Government. The term “ liberal “ is becoming very badly misused, and the Government and its supporters are becoming less and less worthy of the description “ liberal “. In the matter of books, censorship generally, pictures and Australian culture, let us take a grown-up view and not expect members of this House to run back and forth from the library trying to read a book in quick snatches. That is absurd and ridiculous. This matter should be looked into, and I suggest that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme), who is at the table, or any other Minister who may be responsible for bringing this matter to the notice of the Minister for Customs and Excise, should direct attention to the bad aspects of censorship that I have mentioned.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) introduced two subjects. He certainly spoke in a rather heavily humorous vein, but when a front-bench member of the Opposition comes to the Parliament - and I congratulate him on his re-appointment - with what is, by all indications, a considered statement on two matters, not so much of government policy as of community practice, I think he deserves the compliment of a reply by a representative of the Government. On both of these matters I propose to say something.
He criticized, in a general condemnation, the practice by which there is an official recognition from the Crown of services rendered to the community, frequently beyond the line of duty, and in very many cases in an entirely honorary fashion. This recognition from the Throne - because, although we quite readily concede that in modern practice the recognition is made on the recommendation of the head of the government of the day, it is the prerogative of the Crown to accept or reject advice of this character - is valued still even in this swiftly moving scientific age, by very many members of the community as one of the most rewarding gestures which may come to them in a lifetime. That is the case, whether it be a relatively humble order which is given by grant from the Throne or one of the higher orders. Before I move on from that point, I pause just to say that the form of the Labour party over the years is rather difficult to follow. It certainly has been lacking in consistency. I have heard rather class-conscious gentlemen attack this system of honours recognition from time to time, but every now and then there is a break in the cloud and some distinguished member of the Labour party or of the Labour movement surrenders, not so much to popular pressure as to his own sense of his fitness or the fitness of the recognition, in order to accept an award of this character.
– Like McKell.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition interjects, “ like McKell.” I am quite certain that fairminded people around Australia, irrespective of their politics, will feel that Sir William McKell, by the service he gave, not only in the political life of his country but also as Governor-General, richly de served the recognition which was accorded him. But I think of a more recent instance in the case of Sir Robert Cosgrove, a very able and distinguished Premier of the State of Tasmania, and a very notable figure in the life of the Labour movement of this country. I recall with some pleasure and satisfaction that one of the most distinguished Australians of our generation, Mr. Essington Lewis, who was selected by the Menzies Government as Director-General of Munitions in time of war and was retained in that office by the Curtin Government, finally received, on the recommendation of the Curtin Government, an order far higher than any order of knighthood which has been recommended by this Government - membership of the Companion of Honour order, which is restricted to 50 members in the British Commonwealth.
– You would not compare Essington Lewis with the local draper, would you?
– The honorable gentleman has his own ideas as to what sort of contribution to the community should receive a reward. I think that these things have become pretty well established in the public mind by now. There have been abuses, no doubt, in the past, but I think that Australia can fairly claim that those who have received honours of this kind in this country have, on the average, deserved them just as richly as, if not more than similar rewards have been deserved in any other part of the world, and certainly in any other part of the British Commonwealth. It has not been a distinction to be bought but one that has had to be earned. Sometimes it has followed closely on the office which has been held, but that office itself has been an office of service to the nation. In other respects there have been awards which have followed upon notable public service, frequently of an honorary kind.
There may be different opinions about these matters, but I prefer to live in a community which has the capacity to give rewards other than those of a purely financial kind; to give honour where honour is due, and to pay tribute to those who have given distinguished public service in the way that it has been done here. The honorable gentleman has sneered at some of the most self-effacing yet devoted servants of this Commonwealth; men who, in terms of ability, can hold their own in comparison with their opposite numbers in any part of the world. I do not believe that any one of them has given the kind of service he has given because the carrot of distinction has been held out to him. The distinction has followed the service. The service has not been given because of some expected distinction.
We may choose to differ on this matter. Certainly on this side of the House - and I believe we are in line with the great body of opinion in Australia - we like to feel that there is, as I say, a reward which is not a material or monetary reward, available to be given to people who have served the country well.
The other matter raised, that of book censorship, is admittedly a very difficult and complex problem. The honorable gentleman has strong views about it, and I respect his advocacy of the widest possible freedom of expression and distribution of the notable literature of our time. But governments from both sides of politics have grappled with this problem. I can remember a time when the most severe censorship ever exercised in the history of Australia was exercised by the government led by a former right honorable member for Yarra, the late Mr. Scullin. According to his own lights and judgment, and those of his colleagues who sat with him in government at that time, it was the proper course to follow, but it was largely as a result of the criticism which came from our side of the House at that time, directed against the very restrictive censorship policy then adopted, that the current machinery and practices were established.
The honorable member has been critical, but he has not been constructively critical. He has not told us what better machinery we could devise than the censorship board as it now exists. I am sure that we would be receptive to an account of how a better system could be established. So far the present system is the most effective which it has been felt possible to devise in the general interests of the community while allowing the most reasonable and proper access to the literature of our time.
We are always interested in the contributions of the honorable gentleman. They are thoughtful, but I believe that on this occasion, in the first blow that he has struck he has not been in accord with the general opinion of the Australian community. In the second instance he has certainly been critical, but he has not shown us a better way.
.- I wish to say a few words on the so-called honours system. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and with that other distinguished writer, Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge, that the honours system is an inexpensive form of carrot. The Labour party has a plank in its platform - no imperial orders or decorations. But occasionally somebody breaks away and either secures a so-called honour from an anti-Labour government - as in the case of
Sir William McKell or recommends himself, or gets somebody else to recommend him, for an honour - as in the case of Sir Robert Cosgrove. The system is completely wrong. We are an egalitarian people, and if we are not, we ought to be. If we have not got class distinction in this country - and anti-Labour governments always say we have not - why do these governments perpetuate class distinction by handing out decorations for so-called public services.
– Do you not have life members of trade unions?
– We have life members, yes; but I object to the title “ Sir “, and the courtesy title “ Lady “.
– But the honorable gentleman himself has the life title “ honorable “, which he does not reject.
– You can take that away to-morrow, because I got it by act of Parliament. I do not use it. I do not put it on my visiting cards. I will produce them. I call myself by my baptismal appellation. I want no adventitious aids to glory. I object to the whole system of knighthood and, unlike the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who aspired to, and obtained, membership of Her Majesty’s most Privy Council, I do not want that either if I am ever entitled to receive it. I want no title, style, honour or decoration that it is not within the power of the Australian people to confer on me. You can confer Australian decorations, if you like, in the name of the Queen. You could have a Star of Australia, an Order of the Southern Cross, or an Order of the Wattle, and you could give them in the form of recognition for service to the Australian people. But those who hunger for these decorations of the Middle Ages and the Georgian period and the Edwardian period are human anachronisms. Why do we need these things? What red-blooded man hungers for the Order of the Bath? What fair dinkum Australian wants to be a Companion of St. Michael and St. George even before he is dead? What real Australian wants to put around his neck a piece of gaudy-coloured ribbon with a bit or ironmongery dangling at the end of it?
In my view the only people entitled to put prefixes to their names are people like university professors, people who win their honours because of their academic qualifications and achievements, or servicemen who win ranks in war. And the only people who are entitled to suffixes are those who win military decorations or have university degrees. The other kinds of people are handed these so-called honours and decorations for alleged service to the community. I am not afraid of offending Sir Frank Richardson or anybody else, or of jeopardizing the future of any member of this Parliament by saying these things publicly, because I have already said them privately to him and to everybody else. I think we ought to get up to date about all this business.
– Like Canada.
– Yes, like Canada, which will not permit anybody to receive a decoration higher, I think, than that of Companion of the Bath. Nobody gets any higher decoration than that. It is only a certain class of person in this country who really chases after governments for these decorations. What appals me is the prospect that if the Cahill Government of New South Wales is beaten we might even see-
– Sir Eddie Ward!
– No, much worse than that - Sir Rupert Henderson and Sir Frank Packer. I do not think we ought to take the honours system that far.
– What about Sir Ezra Norton?
– He would not take a knighthood even if he were offered one, and, anyhow, he has not now got any newspaper under his control, so this Government would not be interested in giving him one, nor would a new Liberal government in New South Wales, should that State have to suffer the affliction of another Liberal government.
I ask the Government seriously to consider the inauguration of a system of recognition for Australians by the award of Australian honours or decorations. I do not know what form such a system would take. An award could be made in the form of a certificate or something of that sort. I know that it is human nature to crave for recognition of some sort and so the honours system exists, in one form or another, in most countries.
– Especially colonial countries.
– They do not have such a system in the United States of America. In answer to the honorable member for Werriwa, I do not want what the great-grandfather of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) once wanted, and what was described as a bunyip artistocracy. It would have been composed of ex-convicts and free people, and so it was objectionable to many.
There is something in recognizing people’s services; but 1 certainly object to having to ring up a public servant and ask to be put on to Sir Ronald or Sir John or Sir Somebody-else. As a matter of fact, I rang up the Commissioner of Taxation the other day and, instead of calling him Sir Patrick, I called him St. Patrick. I thought I might do better by calling him St. Patrick than I would by calling him Sir Patrick. But there it is! My colleague has struck a blow for Australia, and I support him.
, - I want to say a few words on the subject of book censorship. I realize that in every country it is necessary to have some form of control over the kind of books that are allowed to enter the country and to be sold, published or circulated in the country. But I am not absolutely satisfied with the way that the censorship laws have been administered in Australia. Far too many books for my liking have been banned in this country which have been freely read in other countries. What I want to do to-night is to repeat what I said on a previous occasion - that is, that the books that are banned by the Literature Censorship Board should be made freely available to members of the Parliament in order that honorable members may double-check the decisions of the board. I hold that view because, surely among the duties that we have to perform in this Parliament ohe of the most important must be to make certain that the people who sent us into the Parliament are not being deprived of the right to read literature which other civilized people enjoy the right to read.
I went to the Librarian here and asked him whether it would be possible for members of Parliament to read, for the purpose of checking the actions of the censorship board, books that had been placed on the censorship list. He told me he would not be permitted to allow a member of Parliament to read any of these books because that would be contrary to customs regulations.
I then went to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), and the Minister roared with laughter when I told him that the Librarian had said that a member of the Parliament could not read such a book because that would be a breach of customs regulations- He said, “ If we cannot trust a member of the national Parliament to read such books we have no right to give that responsibility to the Censorship Board “. Because, after all, we are superior to the Censorship Board. The Parliament is above any board that is appointed, and if a member of the Parliament, having read a book that has been declared unfit for circulation, believes that the book should not have been banned, and is prepared to get up and say so in the Parliament, that honorable member should have the right to rise in the Parliament and challenge the decision of the Censorship Board and state his reasons for so doing. But how can he do so if he is not to be given the right to read books that the censorship authorities have declared to be unfit for circulation?
The Minister for Customs and Excise then told me, very rightly, that he would give instructions that members of the national Parliament would have that right in order that they might carry out that important duty and responsibility to the community. He said, “ If you go to the Librarian and ask for the books, he will have them made available to you “. But the Librarian, in the usual bureaucratic manner of some of these people, decided that he was going to stop members of the Parliament from reading the books no matter what happened. So by devious means, he eventually succeeded in preventing the Minister’s own decision from being implemented. He did this by going to the Minister and pointing out to him all kinds of difficulties which he was able to manufacture in his own mind and which, in the end, led to the Minister deciding that he would allow the books to be made available provided that the applicant went first of all to a member of the library staff and named the book he wanted. It would then be made available to him.
Imagine my surprise when I went to the Librarian subsequently to carry out what I thought was settled policy only to be told that the Library Committee had decided that members of the Parliament were not to be allowed to read the books unless they sat inside the library where they would be under the constant surveillance of the Librarian. We are not allowed to take such a book outside the library. Why? Because these sage and august gentlemen of the Library Committee have said that members of the Parliament might leave the particular book in a tramcar forgetfully and somebody, who was not entitled to read such a book, might read it. That is the best reason the Library Committee could advance for refusing to allow a member of this Parliament to carry out his duty in respect of censorship in a proper way.
How can a member of the Parliament check on the activities of the Literature Censorship Board if he has to do all his reading sitting in the library under the constant surveillance of some member of the library staff or of the Library Committee? I hope that when the new Library Committee is appointed and meets for the first time, it will drop this infantile attitude on the question of books which members of the Parliament have a duty to check upon, and that it will give to honorable members an opportunity to check properly books that have been banned. If a member of the Parliament, after reading a book, is prepared to rise in this House and say that the decision of the Literature Censorship Board in banning it was wrong, let him do so and thus strike a great blow for freedom. 1 understand - although this decision of the Library Committee is secret - that unfortunately this was not a party decision. Honorable members on both sides of the House were party to it. I have not been able to discover who they were; but no matter to what party they belong, I believe that it was an infantile decision. Members of the Parliament are not allowed to check on a book which has been banned by the Literature Censorship Board unless they sit like convicts under the constant surveillance of the Librarian or members of his staff. I hope that better judgment will prevail.
In this connexion, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), had one of those occasional lucid moments when his judgment was completely sound. He was one who did adopt a broadminded and sensible attitude on this matter. I did not think the day would come when I would ask anybody to follow the example of the honorable member for Mackellar, but on this occasion I hope that the other members of the Library Committee will be as broad-minded, sensible and grown-up with respect to book censorship as the honorable member for Mackellar has proved to be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 February 1959, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590218_reps_23_hor22/>.