23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– ls the Treasurer aware that Australian shareholders of Kraft Holdings Limited have received an ultimatum from the National Dairy Products Corporation of the United States of America to the effect that if they do not accept the offer made by the corporation, which is below current market value, shares in the company will be rendered unsaleable because the company will be delisted on Australian stock exchanges? As the right honorable gentleman has power under currency control regulations, because dollar scrip is being offered to the Australian shareholders in the company in purchase of their shares, will he take action to protect the interests of Australian shareholders by refusing permission to the corporation to carry on with its proposals pending a complete investigation of the treatment accorded to Australian shareholders?
– I do not have in my mind the details of the particular matter to which the honorable gentleman refers, and I would seriously question whether the course that he proposes is one that should commend itself to a Commonwealth government. The purpose of exchange control which, I imagine, is the area of administration to which the honorable gentleman directs my attention, is to protect the state of our own currency, overseas balances, and so forth. Tt was not intended, I imagine, to interfere in conflicts between private commercial interests. I shall examine the question closely and see whether I can give the honorable gentleman a more detailed reply to the points he has raised.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question regarding the unfortunate withdrawal of Norway from the International Whaling Commission. Will Russia’s refusal to limit her catch of whales, and Norway’s withdrawal from, the commission, lead to a free-for-all massacre of whales on the pattern of that which led to the extinction of whale stocks in the Arctic at the end of the nineteenth century? If that is so, can the Australian Government do anything that will lead to the preservation of an important Australian industry?
– I believe that the question might more properly be directed to my friend and colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry.
– Five countries are interested in whaling in the Antarctic - the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Russia. The international annual quota for all operators in the Antarctic is 15,000 blue whale units. Following the announcement of the intention of the Russian Government to increase its pelagic whaling fleet, the other four countries I have mentioned decided to allot Russia 20 per cent, of the total quota. Then these four countries could not agree on the allocation of the other 80 per cent. As a consequence, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway have given notice that if agreement on the allocation of the quota is not satisfactorily reached by the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in June they will withdraw from the agreement. If that happens, the position may be as described by the honorable member for Isaacs, that is, that there will be no agreement, and there could be a drastic increase in whale killings. The Australian Government can do nothing at the present time except wait and see whether the problem can be solved by next June. Our delegates to the conference will have instructions from the Government to try to protect the interests of the Australian whaling industry.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will correct the position whereby the Commonwealth is the only employer in Australia that can defend a claim for damages by an employee on the ground that the employee was injured by the wrongful act, neglect or default of a fellow employee. The honorable gentleman will recollect that this rule of common employment was abolished in respect of State and private employers in New South
Wales in 1926, and in all the other States during or shortly after the last war, and that it was abolished in respect of all employers in England in 1948 and in the Australian Capital Territory in 1955. Will he therefore take steps to abolish the Commonwealth’s unique and archaic advantage over its civilian and military employees outside the Australian Capital Territory, and in the meantime will he direct that this ignoble defence be no longer pleaded?
– I am delighted to receive legal information from the honorable member. It had not come under my notice before. I can assure the honorable member that I shall look into the matter and see what recommendation ought to be made to Cabinet upon it.
– Is the Minister for Immigration in a position to state when the provisions of the Migration Act relating to the abolition of the dictation test, which were passed by Parliament last year, will come into force?
– It is the Government’s desire to proclaim with the greatest possible expedition that part of the act to which my honorable friend refers. But as the honorable member will realize - being himself, if I may say so, a lawyer of distinction and one who took a conspicuous part in the debates on the migration legislation last year - these are sweeping reforms, which will entail and are entailing a great deal of work in the way of drafting regulations, and devising new forms of procedure, and new processes generally. I had hoped that it would be possible within the matter of a few weeks to bring this part of the new legislation into effect, but as a result of the enormous amount of work involved, and the necessity for briefing immigration officers overseas in the new processes, it will not be possible to proclaim the legislation until 1st June. But the honorable gentleman may rest assured that the Government is well seised of the necessity to implement this act in the shortest possible time, and although the proclamation of the act may seem to some people to have been unduly delayed, none the less, considering the work involved, the matter is proceeding as quickly as is humanly possible.
– Has the Prime Minister read the annual report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which directed attention to the lag in hearing cases pending in the court and urged the appointment of an additional commissioner to avoid further delays? Is the Prime Minister aware that long delays are occurring in cases pending before the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that one public service union of 35,000 members - the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union - is considering strike action unless the court proceeds immediately to hear long outstanding claims for wage justice? Will the Prime Minister examine the various arbitration jurisdictions and cause the appointment of sufficient arbitrators to avoid long delays that are irritating quite a number of public service unions?
– So far as the honorable member’s questions relate to the Public Service Arbitrator, I am not aware of the facts he has mentioned but I shall find them out and advise the honorable member. So far as his questions relate to the appointment of an additional commissioner, that is a matter I would need to discuss with my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House what effect the recent fall in the price of Danish butter on the London market has had on the sale of Australian butter?
– There has been a fall in the price of Danish butter from 368s. to 338s. per cwt., but it has not had any material effect as yet on other butters. Actually, that is because the Danish cask butter is a specialized product and has its regional supporters. Undoubtedly, the Danish Government is concerned with the butter stocks position because Denmark is now entering into the period of the year when it will have a flush supply. The Australian butter price has been maintained since 8th December last at 289s. per cwt. and remains at that level to-day. The United Kingdom cold stores stock position is about 25,000 tons lower now than it was twelve months ago but the market is quiet. Importers are working on stocks rather than taking in additional supplies. Whether the fall in Danish prices will ultimately have any effect, or whether there will be any downward trend, remains to be seen.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade by directing his attention to the journal “ Overseas Trading”, which is published by his authority. I have noticed that questions asked by honorable members relating to trade matters and the answers given to those questions by the Minister are published in that journal when the House is in session. When a member on the -Government side asks a question his name is mentioned, but when an Opposition member asks a question his name is omitted. Will the Minister for Trade take steps to end this discrimination?
– I thank the honorable member for directing my attention to this matter. Quite frankly, I did not know that questions and answers given in the House were published in the journal. I give an unqualified assurance that I have never been consulted on this matter. I have not the slightest doubt that no officer of the Department of Trade would discriminate politically. I give an undertaking forthwith that if this practice of publishing questions and answers in the journal is continued, the names of Opposition members will be given no less prominence than the names of honorable members on the Government side.
DEVELOPMENT OF NORTH-WEST m WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
Mr. -BROWNE.- Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Western Australian Government has submitted any proposal for the expenditure of the second federal grant of £2,500,000 for use in the north-west of Western Australia?
– Under the original proposals for the grant of £2,500,000, certain projects were put forward by the Premier of Western Australia. They included a new deep-water port at Black Rocks, the construction of a new berth at Wyndham jetty and the carrying out of extensive investiga-
tions in the Napier-Broome Bay area to decide the most suitable method of servicing the north Kimberleys area. Those, three projects were put forward and were accepted by us. I think that each of them, or certainly the three in total, would require more than the amount of money originally made available by us, and I am, therefore, expecting that the extra amount made available by our increasing the sum to £5,000,000 over the stipulated period will probably all be used, or at any rate most of it will be in connexion with those three proposals. The Premier of Western Australia has since put forward a pretty comprehensive proposal with respect to the Ord River, which, as he has made clear, he does not consider should be included in the works to be covered by the £5,000,000 grant. It is a very complicated proposal. It will require an immense amount of investigation, and this Government and the Western Australian Government are discussing it at the present time.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. I preface the question by informing the House that I noticed a report in my local newspaper to the effect that the Minister had recently visited the Albion explosives factory. This government factory, which is adjacent to the Deer Park explosives factory of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, is situated contiguous to a rapidly expanding residential area. Can the Minister say that an explosion in either of these factories would not endanger residents of the area or their homes?
– ‘I did have the opportunity last Friday of visiting the government factory at Deer Park. So far as the I.C.I, factory is concerned, I can give no other information than that the factory is registered under the Victorian Explosives Act. With regard to the Commonwealth factory, .1 can say that the Commonwealth has owned the land for a considerable number of years, and owned it before there was any housing settlement in the area. I would have thought, therefore, that the State and municipal authorities would have considered the problems arising from the establishment of a housing settlement so close to an explosives factory before giving permission for any such settlement to be established. I can tell the House that there is in the United Kingdom a committee, known as the Explosives, Stores and Transport Committee, which offers advice, based on experience of bombing and of experimental and accidental explosions, in relation to this particular problem. In Australia we have an operational safety committee which also tenders advice to the Government with regard to this problem. The advice that I have with respect to this matter is that we can be sure there would be no loss of life should an accidental explosion occur at this factory, although there might be minor damage, such as, perhaps, a few broken windows.
– My question, which is addressed to the Attorney-General, relates to the mysterious loss cf the ship “ Ian Crouch “, in which a number of Australians, most of them from South Australia, lost their lives. Has the Minister yet received the report of the court of inquiry into this matter? If so, will he make a statement in relation to the matter? If he has not received the report, will he take steps to expedite the presentation of it?
– Honorable members may be interested to know that I sent an officer to Hong Kong to assist at this inquiry and to ensure that all the information we could gather was available to the court. As yet I have not received the transcript or the report. I can assure the honorable member that, when I do receive it, I will take whatever action is desirable with regard to it, and that the honorable member will be informed of the contents of the report and the transcript of the court’s proceedings.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Government proposes to carry out its undertaking to provide full employment. If so. what does the Government propose to do to provide employment for approximately 80,000 registered unemployed and the more to come?
– I think that all members of the House, deep in their hearts, know that the Government will carry out its policy of full employment. Whenever the Government thinks it is necessary, it will take action in order to ensure that that goal is achieved as far as it is humanly practicable. This is a big human and economic problem and I do not think it is a political one. The House can rest assured that whenever the Government has to take action in terms of either Budget or preBudget activity, it will do so. Already, the Treasurer has announced that £4,000,000 has been made available through the Loan Council to local government authorities, and we confidently expect that the State governments will play their part in helping in the areas where unemployment is greatest. Secondly, the central bank has released £15,000,000 to the trading banks in order to provide funds for private investment. I could mention many other courses of action taken by the Government, but I think I have said enough to indicate that the Government’s policy of ensuring full employment will be applied in the future as it has been in the past.
– Towards the end of the last Parliament, I asked the predecessor of the present Minister for Primary Industry whether he would give consideration to carrying out a survey of the gross income of dairyfarmers in the Tweed-Richmond area. The then Minister replied that it would be done in due course. I ask the present Minister whether he will consider this matter as I feel that it is very important that the dairy investigation committee which the Government proposes to set up should have this knowledge to give it a clear definition of the problem in that area.
– The Division of Agricultural Economics does plan, from time to time, surveys of the kind mentioned by the honorable member, not only in the dairy industry, but in other industries as well. It is planned to make such a survey in the dairy industry this year and the honorable member’s area will certainly be included in that survey.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories.
An announcement has been made to the effect that constitutional reform with respect to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory will provide for an increase in the number of non-official members. I ask the Minister whether the increase will be made up of elected members, or of nominated and elected members. Will the Minister also indicate the composition of the proposed Administrator’s Council and its functions?
– I think it would be in conformity with general practice if the details of the legislation foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech were presented to the House at the time that the legislation was brought down. I am expecting that the bills will be presented to the House within the next one or two weeks. I can assure the honorable member, however, that the increase in the membership of the Legislative Council will include an increase in the number of elected members.
– I ask the
Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether that organization has investigated the problem of shine in woollen fabrics. If it has, what are the results of such investigations? I feel that all honorable members, by their presence here, belong to a sedentary profession and should have a vested interest in this question. If the C.S.I.R.O. has not done research in this matter, will the Minister bring the suggestion to the notice of his officers? If woollen suits did not become shiny their present competitive advantage over synthetics would be greatly enhanced.
– A great deal of research work has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, particularly at the wool textile research laboratories at Geelong. This work has been of a very practical nature and has been very successful indeed. It has been directed particularly, perhaps, to enable wool more effectively to compete with synthetics. I am not aware that any particular work has been done on the elimination of shine, but I see the point in the honorable member’s question. As many of us spend a good deal of our time in chairs, the area of friction clearly may induce shine. Although I suppose this could not necessarily be called a fundamental part of the problem, I will certainly see that it is brought to the notice of the C.S.I.R.O.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the statement made by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, that it is costing the Victorian Government £500,000 a year to teach and train Asian students who are in Victoria under the Colombo plan or privately? If the Premier’s statement is correct, does it mean that State governments are expected to contribute to meeting the cost of the Colombo plan?
– I have not seen the statement referred to but I shall try to obtain a copy of what Mr. Bolte said and see to what extent our Colombo plan activities do create additional financial burdens for the States. I should imagine, however, that if this burden was in any way substantial I would have heard about it before this. However, the honorable member can rely upon me to pursue the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received any approach from the Premier of New South Wales in connexion with a £25,000,000 national housing corporation. At any time during the long period this Government has been in office at Canberra and the present Government has been in office in New South Wales, has the Premier of that State ever made a suggestion of this character, either directly to the Government or at a Premiers conference or any meeting of the Australian Loan Council?
– As one honorable member says, this appears to be a brand new idea. I saw a report of it in the newspaper this morning as part of the policy speech of the Premier of New South Wales. That was the first I had heard of the matter.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Trade relates to the Tariff Board report on timber tabled in this House on 14th May, 1958. I preface it by reminding the Minister that one of the recommendations of the board was that the Government’s attention should be directed to finding a solution to the problem of freight disadvantage between domestic and imported timbers-, particularly in relation to Tasmania and Western Australia. I now ask the Minister what action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to give effect to that recommendation. If, in. fact; some action has been taken, what advantages have accrued?
– I remember the recommendation to which the honorable member refers, but he has not stated it in precisely correct terms. I think his words just now were to the effect that the recommendation was that the Government should direct its attention to achieving a solution of this problem. I think that is not correct, although I am- subject, of course, to the record.
– The Government was asked to endeavour to find a solution.
– The Government was to endeavour, to. find, a solution. On that basis, which is the sane one, the Government has appointed a committee of very experienced officers who have conducted quite an exhaustive examination into the possibilities of achieving some alleviation of this undoubted freight problem which exists in interstate traffic in timber. My memory does not enable me to tell the honorable member whether, or whats action has been taken, but I shall undertake to secure the information and supply it to the, honorable member very promptly.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is the Australian Wheat Board paying interest for financial accommodation which enabled it to make an advance, pending sale, of the 1958-59 wheat crop? If so, and bearing in mind the large amount of wheat for disposal in the coming year, will the- Minister consider a proposal that the wheat be sold on a credit basis in approved cases?
– The Commonwealth Government guarantees the advance to the Australian Wheat Board, by the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank, to finance the intake of the crop. The rate of interest paid which, I think, is a very satisfactory one- in the circumstances, is 4 per cent. As to the honorable member’s suggestion that we should establish a credit trade with other nations, I am afraid that once the procedure were established everybody would want to be in the arrangement, so that’ aspect of his question would need consideration on my part before I would make any committal on behalf of the Government.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service I point out that a few minutes ago he said that a certain large sum of money, an amount of about £20,000,000, had been released through the banks to local government authorities in’ order to reduce unemployment. I ask him: Is there any evidence whatsoever that there has been a significant decline in the number of people registered as unemployed? In view of the fact that unemployment has been increasing at the rate of approximately 20,000 a year for the last’ three years, at what figure would the Minister regard the problem as urgent enough to call for the kind of action from which we might see significant results?
– As I have said, Mr. Speaker,, action is continually being taken by. the Government to deal not only with the problem of full employment but also with the problems of the expanded demand and. expanded development within the Australian community necessary to achieve full employment. The honorable gentleman will remember that in February last year, action was taken. Action was again taken in the Budget.
– But the number of unemployed has grown since then.
– On the contrary, the honorable gentleman’s figures as to the increase in registrations for employment are not correct. The number by which applications for unemployment benefit increased in January of this year is much lower than the preceding January. In 1 958, it was about 6,000 and not 20,000. A fact which should be borne in mind is that the number of wage and- salary earners increased substantially from November, 1957, to November, 1958, by something like 28,000. In other words, the work force is continually expanding, and opportunities are being continually provided for the increasing number of wage and salary earners. I shall obtain a detailed reply to the honorable member’s question and let him have it.
– Yesterday, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a series of questions regarding the recent floods in New South Wales, and I promised that I would answer the question to-day. I am now able to inform the right honorable gentleman that no request for assistance has been made, up to the present time, by the New South Wales Government. That is not entirely surprising, because these things have to be worked out in point of detail. At the request of the New South Wales Government the dragline mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper has been made available by the Commonwealth Department of Works on two occasions of major flooding in the Clarence River area, in order to assist in the clearance of debris. I have ascertained that, on this occasion, following arrangements between the State authorities and the Commonwealth Department of Works, the drag-line arrived in the area on 4th February and is being employed in accordance with locally-arranged task priorities. It is under the control of the District Engineer of the New South Wales Public Works Department, who is in contact with local government authorities in the area. The cost involved - approximately £1,000 a month for three months - has been provisionally accepted by the New South Wales Government. I emphasize “ provisionally “, because other arrangements may be made. In accordance with its usual practice, the Commonwealth Government will consider sympathetically any requests that might be received from the New South Wales Government relating to these floods.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question relating to the appointment of the committee of inquiry into the complex problems of the dairying industry. When the Government is appointing the committee and laying down the final charter for the work, will it have regard to the problems of selling so that selling will not be overlooked or overwhelmed by the problems of increasing, production? Can we be certain that the commodities will be of continuing high quality and that they will find a ready sale, before we go into the question of boosting production?
– I note what the honorable member has said on this important matter. I am not in a position to make any announcement about it, except to say that I will honour the undertaking given by the Prime Minister during the election campaign, and I am sure that Cabinet will endorse that approach.
– My question is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Wentworth and is directed to the Prime Minister. If the right honorable gentleman has, as he indicated, read the views of the New South Wales Premier on the need to do something tangible to relieve the housing situation in New South Wales, will he continue to give the same attention to the problem with a view to indicating, in the course of the next two weeks, what his Government is prepared to do to assist the New South Wales Government to relieve the housing situation in that State?
– I do not quite know why the honorable member gives me a time limit of two weeks. Perhaps he thinks that an announcement ought to be made during the New South Wales election campaign. It is a matter of federal policy and it will be dealt with as such.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether any consideration has been given to an overseas tour by the Central Band of the Royal Australian Air Force, such a tour to include engagements at the Toronto Fair.
– I have heard suggest tions for such a tour, and would like to see it undertaken. The very high standard of the band would reflect credit not only on the Royal Australian Air Force but also on Australia generally. However, the matter is principally one of cost. I should need to be assured that the very high cost of sending a large band of more than 40 members would be at least substantially offset by the receipts from the tour. I regret to say that such advice as I have at present does not indicate that that would be the case.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that many publicspirited groups have organized the erection of costly recreational centres for aged citizens in various parts of Australia? In view of the fact that such centres provide amenities for a large number of aged persons, as compared with the necessarily limited number provided for under the Aged Persons Homes Act, will the Minister recommend the extension of the principle underlying the act to provide assistance for the establishment of such of these much desired recreational centres as are registered as benevolent organizations?
– Similar representations have been made to me from time to time, and to my predecessors, both in the present Government and in the preceding government. I would remind the honorable member for Barton that every State has a department of social welfare, and that these departments in the six States cover certain fields of social welfare. The field referred to by the honorable member is one that has been exclusive to them up to this point, and I do not propose to alter that arrangement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Can the Minister clarify the situation in regard to the power of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization to intervene in a case where a dispute has been referred to the United Nations? As an example of such a case, may I suggest the situation in the kingdom of Laos, the northern provinces of which have already been entered by armed forces from North Viet Nam. The dispute there has been referred to the United Nations.
Should the situation deteriorate rapidly before the United Nations is able to intervene, could the Secretary-General of Seato intervene at the request of the Laotian Government or, since Laos is in fact within the area prescribed in the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, although it is not a signatory to the treaty, would the Secretary-General of Seato take the initiative in approaching the Government of Laos with a view to intervening there in order to repel the aggression which has occurred within Laotian territory?
– I could give an offhand reply to the question, but as it concerns a matter of such international importance, I think it would be right and proper for me to request notice of it.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Is it a fact that Dr. Subandrio has invited the Prime Minister to visit Indonesia, and that the Prime Minister has accepted the invitation? Was this invitation a personal one from Dr. Subandrio, or was it extended on behalf of Dr. Soekarno? In other words, has the Minister been assured that the invitation has the backing of, and was given on behalf of, Dr. Soekarno and the Indonesian Government, and that when the Prime Minister visits Indonesia the reception accorded him will be in keeping with his position as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia and more cordial than that which he received on the historic and memorable occasion of his visit to President Nasser of Egypt?
– I am sure that a Minister of the distinction and position of Dr. Subandrio would not have issued an invitation to the Prime Minister unless it had the full and formal backing of the President and the Government of Indonesia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior. Can the Minister say how far the Government has gone in its discussions relating to the establishment of a Commonwealth institute to undertake fundamental forestry research? Is he aware that the future of this vital section of Australia’s resources may well depend on a speedy and favorable decision in this matter?
– I know that the honorable member has shown a great interest in this matter over a considerable period of time. I am unable at present to tell him exactly what the Government will be able to do in regard to forestry research, but I undertake to keep him informed.
Mr. THOMPSON__ 1 direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Statements have been made concerning permission for families to migrate to Australia from Europe although one member of the family cannot pass the requisite medical examination. I should like to know whether similar consideration has been given to the situation of families some members of which have come here from England and desire to bring out their parents but have been precluded because the father or the mother has not been able to satisfy the requisite medical standards. If the position of such people has not been considered, will it be considered in the future so that families with members in England and in this country may be reunited here?
– The cases referred to by the honorable member are always, as a matter of course, under consideration. As the House will realize, the basis of the Government’s migration policy is that of family migration and family reunion. So the cases referred to in principle by the honorable member are always considered most sympathetically by me.
– by leave - I wish to make two very short statements, one giving details of the recent Commonwealth loan, which has just closed, and the other giving some details to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) regarding the operations of the short-term money market.
I may say by way of preliminary observation that I do not propose to make a practice of taking up the time of the Par liament with the details of Commonwealth loan raisings, but there were some features about the latest loan raising which I think honorable members would wish to have at direct hand.
Honorable members will be interested to learn that the Commonwealth cash loan that closed last Friday received subscriptions of £60,000,000. The loan was thus over-subscribed by £35,000,000. In view of this notable result I think honorable members will appreciate some details firsthand rather than through the medium of the usual statement released to the press and radio stations.
When the Australian Loan Council decided on a target of £25,000,000 for the loan - and I emphasize that the amount and conditions of the loan were unanimously agreed upon by the various constituent members of the Loan Council, which, of course, includes the State governments - it took into account the relatively small amount of advance subscriptions received in the short period since the close of the October, 1958, loan and the very useful subscriptions which had been received to special bonds since then. However, in the event the result was spectacular. Total receipts were more than £20,000,000 higher than in any other loan raised since early 1955, whilst the extent of the oversubscription was easily the greatest for any cash loan since the first Commonwealth loan was raised in 1915. The successful result of the loan was due principally to a small number of unusually large subscriptions from trading banks and from brokers and dealers interested in the new short-term market. Nevertheless, there was continued strong support from other institutions and from the general public, particularly when investments in special bonds are taken into account.
The Government is grateful for the confidence that investors have displayed in Commonwealth securities. So far this year we have borrowed £96,700,000 in two cash loans in Australia, £17,600,000 in special bonds, and £29,300,000 in two loans raised in London and New York last October, a total of £143,600,000. This amount is being applied entirely towards financing the 1958-59 State governments’ works and housing programme of £210,000,000, approved by the Loan Council.
As to the short-term money market, on 18th February last, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked me a question relating to the short-term money market in Australia, and on 19th February the honorable member for Yarra asked a further question relating to the same subject. The statement that I now make to the House incorporates answers to both questions.
For some time there has been evidence of the growth of a short-term money market in Australia. With the increased significance of the market both the central bank and the firms actively engaged in it have seen the need for the establishment of a close and formal association with the central bank to ensure that the further development of the market will be soundly based and that it will operate in the national interest. The basis of the association recently announced by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has been evolved by the central bank after considerable discussion with the firms either acting in the market or which have expressed interest in participating as dealers. In addition the bank has been in consultation with the trading banks, as the major group most likely to be using the market.
Although only four companies were included in the announcement by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, it is understood that others are interested and may be applying for appointment at a later stage. The central bank is willing to consider applications from those who can meet the basic conditions and requirements which have been decided.
The central bank’s relationship of “ lender of last resort “ will take the form of a line of credit to be established in favour of each dealer, under which the dealer against lodgment of security will be enabled to obtain a temporary loan from the bank to ensure the liquidity of his position. The amount of the line of credit will correspond to the maximum investment portfolio approved by the central bank for each dealer which in turn is partly governed by the capital of the dealer. The investment portfolios of the dealers will for the time being be confined to “ money market securities “ which have been defined as Commonwealth Government securities with currencies not exceeding three years.
The dealers will finance the holding of their portfolios by seeking and accepting loans - overnight, at call or fixed for short periods - from banks, commercial and industrial companies or others with substantial short-term funds available. They will also be ready to buy or sell outright shortterm government securities.
The central bank will charge interest on its loans to dealers under the lines of credit. The primary object of this rate, which may be varied at any time, will be to discourage too frequent borrowing from the central bank.
The lines of credit for the approved dealers will be distinct from the arrangements whereby the trading banks may obtain temporary assistance from the central bank to restore their liquidity and will have no effect on the obligations of trading banks in relation to special account.
To qualify for the relationship with the central bank the dealer companies are required to -
As I said when I answered in broad terms the first question put to me, the Commonwealth Government regards this as a very useful addition to the financial arrangements inside this country. If there are further points of detail on which either of the honorable gentlemen who have already addressed questions, or other honorable members would wish to have enlightenment, I should be glad if they would advise me.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the taking of all necessary steps for the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of the following bills: - Reserve Bank, Commonwealth Banks, Banking, Banking (Transitional Provisions), Audit, Christmas Island, Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough, Crimes, Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment, National Debt Sinking Fund, Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee), Officers’ Rights Declaration, Re-establishment and Employment, and Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications).
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation and to make provision for the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to regulate banking, to make provision for the protection of the currency and of the public credit of the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to enact certain transitional provisions consequential upon the enactment of the Reserve Bank Act 1959, the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 and the Banking Act 1959.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1957.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Christmas Island Act 1958.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed .to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Commonwealth employees’ furlough.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Crimes Act 1914-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the law relating to income tax in relation to the Commonwealth Trading Bank, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the National Debt Commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act 1954.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the rights of officers.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to re-establishment and employment.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications).
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committees shall have power to call for official papers or records;
In proposing this motion, I do not believe it is necessary for me to speak at any great length. The general form and purpose of the Foreign Affairs Committee is now well known to honorable members. It is, and has been for some appreciable time a very well established institution which has enabled a considerable number of members of this Parliament to get quite an intimate knowledge of international affairs that it would have been, to say the least, extremely difficult for them to get but for the existence of this committee. I do not know how many hundreds of meetings the Foreign Affairs Committee has had, or how many scores of subjects of international political importance it has considered, but I think the calibre of the speeches by the members who have had the privilege of serving on this committee substantiates what I say as to its value.
In certain directions, this motion differs from those I have had the privilege of introducing in this House before in that it makes provision for the Foreign Affairs Committee to sit in places other than the seat of government at Canberra; that is, for the convenience of members of the committee who may wish to sit as a committee or as sub-committees in some other capital city or elsewhere in Australia. The motion also makes provision for the committee to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament. It provides that the committee, as elected, will hold office for the duration and the life of a parliament. Those are the only alterations and they are contained in clause (4) (b) of the motion.
That is the only difference in content between this motion and similar motions that have been submitted in the past. Both the alterations have been introduced to give the Foreign Affairs Committee an element of continuity through recesses and adjournments of the Parliament that it has lacked in the past. They are also to provide for the convenience of members of the committee who may wish to sit in places in Australia other than Canberra.
As the Foreign Affairs Committee has existed for so many years and has done so much highly useful work, it would be supererogation for me at this point to take up the time of honorable members to argue the case for the continued existence of the committee. I repeat what I have said on a number of occasions that I hope very much that the Opposition will find itself able to join the Foreign Affairs Committee.
.- The Opposition opposes this motion as it has opposed similar motions on every previous occasion that the proposal has been brought forward. This is the seventh time the Parliament has been asked to set up what is called a Committee on Foreign Affairs. No doubt both Houses of the Parliament will do the same thing again as happened on the six previous occasions and will oblige the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) by giving him his little study circle, his tutorial classes, where he lectures and informs honorable members on the Government side, who care to join his class on foreign policy.
The Minister has said that honorable members have had an opportunity to obtain information on foreign affairs because of their membership of this committee. He said that they would not have obtained this information otherwise. If the speeches of members of the study circle are any evidence of the information that they have garnered because of their membership of the committee, the committee has been a complete failure. It would not be hard to replace the present Minister, of course, in the light of his notorious blunders over Suez, West New Guinea and the like, and I should imagine that, in his own interests, he would not want to train too many possible successors.
– You bright boys on the Opposition side know everything.
– We do not know everything, but I am sure the honorable member knows nothing. The Opposition is as much opposed to the setting up of this useless, time-wasting and expensive committee as it was on earlier occasions. It is useless for the Minister for External Affairs to approach honorable members on the Opposition side and almost beg us on his knees to join his fatuous committee. We have no objection - and we have said this before - to considering a request to join a Committee on Foreign Affairs if it is a worthwhile committee. We have laid down our terms and we expect them to be accepted. If they are not accepted, we will not join the committee. We will stay precisely where we are.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an interjection to be made by an honorable member sitting in the gallery?
– No, it is quite out of order.
– I have only to refer to the views that I expressed in this chamber on 27th February last year to emphasize my point. We have said repeatedly that if this was a committee like the Public Works Committee, the Public Accounts Committee or the Constitution Review Committee, we would probably participate in its activities. But this committee functions at the behest of the Minister. It cannot discuss anything unless the discussion is initiated by the Minister. It cannot make any reports that can come to the notice of the Parliament. The members of the Parliament who sit on the committee are pledged and bound not to reveal to their colleagues in the Parliament any of this marvellous, valuable information that they obtain, that illuminates their minds and makes them almost capable of accompanying Mr. Macmillan on his journey to meet Mr. Khrushchev.
The Minister says that the committee has had hundreds of meetings. Well, I suppose lt has. That is a statement of fact. I hear, by means of the grapevine, that the committee has heard Dr. Helmi, the Ambassador from Indonesia, on Dutch New Guinea. It has heard the Dutch Ambassador on the same question. It spends its time listening to people, and sometimes it is even addressed by the Minister.
In reply to a question by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) on 30th April last, the Minister said that there had been 65 meetings of the committee during the life of the Twenty-second Parliament. The committee had met 57 times in Canberra and eight times in Melbourne. Its total expenditure had been about £6,250 up till then during the lifetime of the Twenty-second Parliament, and £3,235 represented sitting and travelling allowances paid to members. Only one formal report had been submitted to the Minister, we are told, during the whole lifetime of that Parliament. That proves how useful, or useless, the committee is. The report was on extradition treaties, and it was tabled in the Parliament on 24th October, 1956. The Minister said that the committee had also given consideration to a considerable number of subjects, including Australia’s relations with Nationalist China, the working of the Colombo plan, disarmament, trade with Communist China, the position of
Hungary in the United Nations, the position of West New Guinea, and the conduct of debates on foreign affairs. But none of those reports has been presented to the Parliament. No honorable member outside the committee knows anything about what happened. We claim, therefore, that the committee is time-wasting, useless and expensive.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said only yesterday that we would be prepared to consider consulting with the Government on the question of foreign affairs. I think he expressed the feeling of honorable members on this side of the House when he said that the Government obviously needs help in the field of foreign affairs, and 1 repeat, in his absence, because he is engaged in the conduct of the New South Wales State elections at the moment-
– That will not do him any good; that will lose votes for the Labour party.
– I repeat, in spite of the ignorant clamour of the Liberal party mob, that if the Government wishes to ascertain the views-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I did not reflect on you.
– You reflected on the Government parties. The Liberal party is one of the Government parties.
– I did not say the Government parties.
– Is it parliamentary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to use the expression “ the Liberal party mob “? I would like that remark withdrawn, because, after all, we associate with them.
– The honorable member for Melbourne will proceed.
– May I say this, Mr. Deputy Speaker: If the Government wishes to ascertain the views of the Opposition on foreign affairs and defence there will be no difficulty in arranging a time and place for a full discussion of the problems associated with such vital matters, without prejudice to the rights or interests of either side. The discussions must, we insist, be at the highest level and not down at the school class level. They must be conducted at the highest level, or they will be worthless. The experiment made at the time of the Suez crisis, for a brief period, could well be repeated from time to time. On that occasion the Leader of the Opposition and 1, representing the Labour party, conferred with the Minister for .External Affairs and the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, in the absence of the Prime Minister overseas, -and at least we kept feelings in this House from reaching explosion point. We most certainly believe that foreign affairs and defence are matters of vital importance to this country. But there is a tremendous difference between the attitude of the Opposition and that of the Government. Basically we are the Australian party in this Parliament, while the Government forces are the imperialists. They are under continuous pressure from people overseas and adopt an accommodating attitude so far as European problems are concerned. We put Australia first at all times and in all circumstances.
If the Minister wishes at any time to create a favorable atmosphere for the reception of any proposals that he might like to make to the Opposition, he will have to change his habits and his ways. During the recent election campaign he indulged in the most reckless invective, the grossest abuse, directed at the Leader of the Australian Labour party. He inspired the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to make a bitter attack upon the Leader of the ‘Opposition, and then he repeated those charges himself the following night. The Minister for Air said that overseas countries would not trust defence secrets to a Labour government. If that is true, is the Minister for External Affairs acting sensibly or reasonably in asking us to join the committee that he proposes to set up on foreign affairs? We might, perhaps, discover some minor secret with regard to foreign affairs with disastrous consequences!
The Minister for Air said that we are not trusted by foreign governments, but no foreign government has ever said so. It was a miserable, contemptible falsehood for the Minister for Air to utter, as was his subsequent statement that relations with overseas countries would degenerate if the Labour party won the election. He was speaking, of course, before the vote was taken. This story appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun “ on 5th November. On the next day there was another statement of the same sort and this time it came from the author of all these miserable, contemptible attacks upon the Leader of the Labour party - the Minister for External Affairs. This gentleman is reported as having said that Dr. Evatt and the A.L.P. had links with the Communist party which were extremely dangerous. If he believed that statement, then obviously he is acting hypocritically in offering us membership of a committee under his control which he proposes to set up. If his offer to-day is sincere, then his .attack upon the Labour party during the election campaign was most contemptible and outrageously unfair.
The -Leader of his Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a television interview on the night of 10th November, a report of which .appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun “ on the following day, sidestepped the question whether he thought that a Labour government would not be trusted as alleged by two of his Ministers. To the credit of the Prime Minister, he refused to sink to the depths reached by the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Air,
Despite all .these statements, we :find the Minister for External Affairs, who has submitted this motion, speaking as if nothing had ever happened in the campaign that he has any reason to regret or that we have reason to feel hurt about. We resent what he said and we resent it very deeply.
The Minister said that the members of this committee which he proposes to set up will be able to move from place to place. The first proposal was put forward by Sir Percy Spender. Later his proposal was broken down by the present Minister. As a matter of fact, the first Spender proposal was weakened by the second Spender proposal. Then, the present Minister came along and weakened the proposal further still. He did hold out the bait to members that they would get trips overseas; that they would be able to travel from place to place outside Australia in order to inform their minds, but none of them has ever had a trip overseas. Just before the federal election took place, four members of ‘the committee thumbed a ride to Antarctica. They called up the American Ambassador and said. “ Have you got any seats on a ‘plane going down south because we would like to see the South Pole “. And they went and returned, but we have heard nothing from them yet with regard to what is happening down at the South Pole.
– You might take a trip yourself.
– I hope that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will take such a trip. The honours system has been called an inexpensive form of carrot: I think that the Foreign Affairs Committee is an expensive form of the same vegetable. It seems to be as attractive to certain anti-Labour politicians as it is to seekers after so-called honours and to a certain creature in the animal kingdom. The Minister can dangle the carrot wherever he likes, but he will have the takers all on one side. Labour party members do not want to join this committee until it is a proper committee. Indeed, we do not give any promise that we will join it then, but we will have a look at the conditions and see whether they approximate to what we would require in order that we could serve with advantage and without embarrassment to ourselves and our party.
As an Opposition, we have a duty to the country to put the opposite view, if we think it is desirable, to that advanced by the Government. And we are not going to jeopardize our position in advance by agreeing to appoint our most prominent members to a committee - we would not put any one on the committee - only to have them precluded from telling their party colleagues any important information that they might obtain by virtue of their membership of the committee. Certainly, we do not feel in any frame of mind to listen to the siren voice of the right honorable member for La Trobe at this particular moment.
We have put forward an alternative proposal. We think it is a better one. Let the members of the Government parties who like to meet or to run around on this committee do so. If the Government really wants to ascertain the Opposition’s views on foreign affairs and on defence in the best interests of Australia; if it wants to prevent things from happening which, perhaps, could be avoided, let there be consultations as there were on the occasion of the Suez campaign. But do not let misrepresentations continue - particularly the charge that we do not want to join a proper foreign affairs committee. The next time that the Minister makes a statement about the attitude of the Labour party to foreign affairs let him not repeat these malicious and mendacious statements he is in the habit of uttering.
Our record in foreign affairs is as good as that of any member on the Government side and the record of Labour members during the last war, when they had to conduct the foreign relations of this country, is as good as and much better than that of the present Minister at any time in his career.
If I wished to be very nasty I could remind the Minister that he still has a lot to answer for in regard to his conduct as Australian Minister at Washington. I do not want to resurrect the past, but I recall that when the Labour party came to power in 1941, he walked out of his job in Washington and found a more congenial job somewhere else.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) took an extraordinarily long time to say, “No”. But this is what we have come to expect from him. It can be called “ Calwell’s lament on the Foreign Affairs Committee” because he follows the same strain and sounds the same dismal note all the time. In effect, he says, “ I will not play in your backyard unless I bat all the time “ and “ You play according to my rules, otherwise I will take my bat home “.
Somebody has said that the real reason for Labour’s refusal to join the Foreign Affairs Committee is that the sole authority on foreign affairs in the Opposition is the right honorable member for Hunter (Dr. Evatt) and that the party does not want anybody to rival that important fount of knowledge. I suppose that where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to meddle, but I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should belong to this committee. If he did join it. it would do him a world of good because, obviously, from the speech he has just made he has a breathless vision which is bounded by the Yarra and the Flemington race-course. It would be a very good idea if he joined the Foreign Affairs Committee if only to broaden his vision on these matters. We would welcome him.
Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is frightened of learning the facts of life because the Democratic Labour party is going to join this committee. He might learn something about cloak and dagger methods iri the fields of politics and international affairs that he does not already know. I regret very much that the Labour party has declined to join this committee because I believe honorable members opposite could enlighten their minds and, as far as the Deputy Leader is concerned, we could do with a sample of his wit on the committee.
.- In supporting the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this afternoon, I think I should make it quite clear to members opposite that what we object to is that this committee is responsible solely to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Members of the Opposition do not mind being responsible to Parliament. If this were a dinkum parliamentary committee where members met on equal terms and be answerable to the Parliament, the Opposition would have a completely different attitude towards it. But this is, obviously, the private property of the Minister and it is taking a very carefree view of the duties of an opposition in any parliament to think that members of it will be prepared to be part of a back-slapping system for the Minister. That is my own particular attitude. I cannot see myself associating in any way with a committee which is designed to carry out only such duties as the Minister directs from time to time. One has
Only to read the proposal to see that in paragraph after paragraph, the Minister for External Affairs is mentioned as the authority, or the fount from which all blessings will flow. It is useless to suggest that we should surrender all our freedom of thought and action in this matter - after all there is a very serious difference of opinion between us - and then bemoan the fact that we are boycotting something.
In reply to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) I say that there is no shortage of quite well informed people on this side of the House in these matters. The difference between us, I suppose, is that we are prepared to be objective on all matters of foreign policy. In the past, Australia’s contribution, where it has meant anything, has been from the people who support our viewpoint in foreign affairs, and we have no intention whatsoever of being dragged around by others who accept, not so much direction, but complete influence from overseas.
One of the interesting things to me has been the difference in the official attitudes in regard to the supply of arms to Indonesia. When the British Government was going to send arms to Indonesia, that was a bad thing. When it was suggested that Indonesia get a couple of cart loads of unwanted rifles from America, that was a good thing.
The different method of approach between members on the Government side and our own is so radical that even the honorable member for Mitchell and I would not be able to see eye to eye on this question and I would demand the right to stand up in the Parliament and say so. We know something about foreign policy and, as the Deputy Leader said, the Government is welcome to all the assistance and advice that it can get from the D.L.P. on the committee. If it is any consolation to the Government on this particular aspect there are at least some of them who, although it seems almost improbable, are more reactionary than members of the Liberal party.
– Briefly answering some of the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I say that he did himself and his party no great service by his offhand references to the many services to the nation and the British Commonwealth given in the past by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I think he was even more liable to criticism for his rather offhand references to those who sit behind him as types of the animal enticed by a carrot. I do not think he would get much credit for such statements from his own supporters.
The basis of the speech usually delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition each time this matter comes up for discussion is founded, I believe, on sour grapes. I believe that the Labour party would like to have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee in order to use it as a sounding box for some criticism of the government of the day. Honorable members opposite have referred, in a rather woolly way, to what happens in other legislatures such as that of the United States of America. But what they fail to point out is that under the American system there is no possibility of direct criticism of the Minister in the legislative chamber. This has to be done, particularly in the Senate, by some other body, in the form of a foreign affairs committee. I believe that the whole basis of the Opposition’s criticism is the fact that its members have felt they cannot use the Foreign Affairs Committee for their own ends if they should like to do so, even as a stick with which to beat the Government.
I feel, further, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) have not really expressed the wishes and desires of a great number of their supporters. I am quite satisfied, from my own knowledge of the intelligence of certain members on the Opposition benches, that they would appreciate the opportunity to serve on this committee and take advantage of the information that is made available. They could thus better inform themselves on foreign affairs and be able to play some part in moulding public opinion on Australia’s foreign policy.
Honorable members may have gained the impression from the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the committee is completely circumscribed- in the subjects which it discusses. Anybody who has had any association with this committee knows that this is completely untrue. The committee can discuss any subject it likes, but there are limitations on the subjects on which it will make a report. In the past, according to my knowledge of the workings of this committee, although its work does not hit the headlines - and that is obviously natural or native to the security type of discussion of the committee - on a number of occasions it has provided information and a consensus of thought which has helped the Minister and the Government in making decisions on certain current problems.
I believe, in regard to paragraph 4 (g) of the motion, that when these recommendations were detailed and actually took the form of a report to the House, a copy of that report would naturally be submitted to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If mem bers of the Labour party were serving on this committee, submissions from the committee which were passed on to the Government would, with the Minister’s approval, be communicated also to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy.
I feel that the whole of the arguments against this matter are so theatrical and unsound that the House should discard them and so should the people of Australia. If there is any subject about which we want to know more at the present time, particularly in this country which is remote from the centre of other governments, it is the problems and activities of other countries.
.- The way in which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) has stated the attitude of the Opposition in this matter is misleading. I should like to inform him that this proposal has been discussed frequently at party meetings of the Opposition and the attitude which the party has taken on those occasions has been adopted unanimously.
– The party is not game to do anything else.
– That remark illustrates the kind of attitude which Government members so frequently adopt. I should like to say that I am. quite prepared, personally, as are many others who sit on this side, to engage in any contest of courage with the honorable member for Corangamite, or with anybody else on the Government side. A few moments ago the honorable member defended the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) against the legitimate criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He supports a party which heaps the most scurrilous criticism upon the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and upon every member of this party and finds it necessary to defend1 his Minister against a quite legitimate line of criticism.
I think it fair to say that the Minister has not followed anything like a line of independent thought on foreign policy while he has been Minister for External Affairs. It is fair to say also that the difference between the Labour party and the Government on this matter brings out into the open that particular feature. The Minister does not believe in open discussion of foreign policy, and I can understand his reasons for adopting that attitude. He believes in the importance of things that are not said rather than of the things which are said. He believes in keeping within a very restricted circle the discussion of those matters which to him are of special importance. Yesterday I had a very good example in my own experience of that. At question time I asked the Minister whether any discussions had taken place with the governments of the United States of America or of Holland on the current question of West New Guinea. The Minister brushed my question aside, as he so often has been wont to brush aside so many similar questions, and said that as the matter would be discussed later in the afternoon he thought it could be left until then.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for External Affairs and two other Government speakers spent nearly 70 minutes yesterday afternoon discussing, the question of West New Guinea, but not once did any of them mention the matter which the Minister said at question time could be left until later in the afternoon - that is to say, the attitude of the British Government and: of the governments of the United States of America and Holland on the question ot West New Guinea. I believe that this practice of dodging issues and of restricted secrecy which prevails in relation to external affairs in this country is so assiduously followed by the Minister that he cannot expect any co-operation in it from this side of the House.
The second point made equally clear by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that the Minister leads and encourages the attitude which prevails, particularly among members of this committee, towards the Opposition party in this House. Consequently, we do not see any reason to cooperate with them. On the one hand they say that the Leader of the Opposition cannot be trusted. They make accusations of disloyalty, which in my case do not affect me at all, such as the Prime Minister has made two or three times in my case. Yet, in those circumstances, Government supporters ask us, the people they so describe, to come onto a committee where, for reasons of national security, certain restrictive practices have to be imposed upon its proceedings. The Government will have to make up its mind which way it wants to go.
It has to decide whether we cannot be trusted or whether it wants us on this committee. It cannot have it both ways. The Government will have to make up its mind what it wants to do before it raises this question next year for the eighth time.
The Minister for External Affairs is a man of great experience and of liberal mind and he should not try to seek whatever he does seek from some of his own backbenchers by leading this kind of yelping pack and giving some authority to what they say. The Minister himself should give some thought to the manner in which he places this proposition before Parliament on the next occasion it is due for consideration.
.- If the Australian Labour party does not desire to have representatives on this committee it is free to say so, and it has said so, but I do not believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell)- who has been, described as “ Acting Leader “ to-day - should make this an opportunity for attacking the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I have found few men, if any, in the whole of Australia who are held in higher regard than is the Minister. He has travelled widely through the world and everywhere he has gone he has lifted the prestige of this great Commonwealth. I pay a tribute to him this afternoon as an outstanding ambassador of this country. Yet we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House making all sorts of ridiculous remarks directed against the character and ability of the Minister, and saying other things which, generally speaking, are derogatory of the Minister. If we were to apply the yardstick that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself, has provided for us, and judge him by it, how would he emerge? The honorable member says that members of the Labour party cannot join this committee because the Minister heads it. How could we associate, in any event, with the honorable member if he were on the committee, in view of the statements we have heard from him on so many occasions, both at election time and otherwise? Everybody knows that in politics statements are made about political opponents but that the next day everybody is quite friendly. T had attacks made on me by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when I first came into this Parliament, and had I taken them seriously we would have been the greatest of enemies, whereas we remain the greatest of friends, because we know that these things happen and I knew the remarks were untrue.
– What did I say?
– Nothing to be proud of. I could quote them. I believe that the Labour party is right out of order in connexion with this matter. I do not say that it should appoint members to the committee. If members of the Labour party do not want to join the committee, that is all right, but they should act in a decent and reasonable manner and not as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has acted.
Of course, I do not agree with everything about the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Minister is a very tolerant man, otherwise he would not have given the Labour party another chance to join the committee. Because he is a tolerant man I want to suggest a change in the rules governing meetings of the committee which may be of some advantage. It may seem a very small and unimportant thing, but as a party Whip I think it is of importance, and I submit the suggestion accordingly. Sub-paragraph (4) (d) of the rules to govern the committee reads -
The Committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That seems a lot of words, and it really means that the committee may sit anywhere at any time. If the provision said simply that the committee may sit anywhere at any time the intention would be expressed in a few words, and a lot of unnecessary verbiage would be avoided. But it is to the last few words of that sub-paragraph, “ and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament,” that I wish to direct attention. If some of my brother Whips were here I should like them to support the contention I am about to make. It is very often difficult for the Whips to keep the requisite number of members present in the chamber. We have had quorums called on many occasions by a certain gentleman. Yet the rules governing the committee contain a special order that “ notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders,” the committee may sit at any time while the House is sitting. I think that that is quite wrong because, speaking from memory, there are thirteen members on the committee, which means that there are thirteen members not available for the Whips to bring in, who may be sitting in this building at a meeting of the committee.
– I can explain that.
– I do not disagree with the provision that the committee may meet when and where it likes, but I should like the Minister to have the provision altered so as to add the proviso, “ but not when the House is sitting.”
After all, the Foreign Affairs Committee might be very important, and I do not deny it; but I think that this chamber is the most important place in Australia when the House is sitting. In the thirteen years that I have been here I have always claimed that this is the place where an honorable member should be during a sitting of the House. I have said on many occasions in this chamber that during sittings of the House honorable members should not attend country shows, or even the Royal Easter Show in Sydney or the Royal Melbourne Show, and by the same token they should not be in this building at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Committee when the House is actually sitting. Would the Minister take some action to eliminate the provision I have mentioned?
.- I take this opportunity to clarify, for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) the meaning of the paragraph to which he has referred. The phrase, “ during the sittings of either House of the Parliament “ does not necessarily mean during the actual sitting hours. It means that during the currency of a session of the Parliament the committee may use, say, Friday mornings, when the Parliament is not actually sitting although it is in session, for meetings of the committee. I cannot recall any instance of the Foreign Affairs Committee having actually met at a time when the presence of honorable members was required in the chamber during a sitting.
– But that could happen under this provision.
– If the honorable member for Mallee is anxious that this provision should be altered to remove all ambiguity,
I suggest that he would find considerable difficulty in altering it in order to provide that the committee shall meet on Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning or at any other particular time, without using a mass of verbiage. I think the intention of the provision is clear to all honorable members, and I see no case for an alteration of the wording. The provision that the committee have power to hold its meetings in different places is also necessary to provide for meetings during the recesses of the Parliament, when international situations may arise which make it necessary for the committee to confer with the Minister for External Affairs. It is sometimes necessary for members of the committee to travel to Melbourne, Canberra, or some other city - usually the place of meeting is Melbourne. This is not done with any degree of irresponsibility, because whenever this committee has met it has met for a very good purpose, and its meeting has served a very good cause. I suggest that paragraph (4) (d) remain unchanged because its intention is clear in the minds of honorable members.
Now I wish to make one reference to remarks that have come from the other side of the House about the reasons for the refusal of honorable gentlemen opposite to associate themselves with the Foreign Affairs Committee. I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that not one honorable member who has risen on the other side of the House has given the real reason why the Labour party holds aloof from the committee. That real reason is clear to honorable members on this side of the House. We know that the Labour party split wide open on one issue - foreign policy. The foreign policy of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is the issue which split the Labour party from stem to stern. The Labour caucus knows that if a group of Labour members joined the committee and attended its meetings they would gain a greater knowledge of foreign affairs than they would otherwise have, and as a result of the enlightenment they gained the Labour party would lose some members of its caucus to the caucus of the Australian Democratic Labour party. As members of the Foreign Affairs Committee these members of the Labour party would become more acquainted with the international situation and would realize how strange and incomprehensible is the attitude that has been adopted by the Labour party in regard to foreign affairs.
The foreign policy of the Labour party was dictated by the party’s annual conference in Hobart, and many of the members of the Labour party who sit in this Parliament violently disagree with it. The result is that the Labour party is most concerned that as few of its members as possible will become associated with Government members on such a committee as the Foreign Affairs Committee, because if they did we on the Government side would be in a position to know with what degree of violence rank and file members of the Labour party disagree with the policy of their leader on international affairs. I say that it is a bad thing that the Labour party has adopted such a negative attitude to this committee, which is an excellent committee that has done an excellent job.
– I would not have spoken on this matter had it not been for the remarks made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). He states that the Labour party is afraid to be represented on the Foreign Affairs Committee because of some split on foreign policy within the party. It is very nice to hear expressed the hallucinations of some honorable members opposite. I should like to say as a member of the Labour party that when the proposal for Labour party representation on the committee first came before our party the decision made was made because, first, the only foreign affairs matters with which the committee could really deal were to be those referred to it by the Minister and, secondly, because anything dealt with by the committee was to be absolutely secret and would not be communicable to other members of the Labour party. We felt as a party that, if we were to elect representatives to the Foreign Affairs Committee, they should be permitted to report to the party anything that they thought it was desirable that we, as an Opposition, should know.
The Minister is still of the opinion that any information given to the committee must not go back to a party, whether it be a Government party or the Opposition party. We do not agree with the Minister and honorable members opposite that the Parliament would be better informed if a few members had access to certain information which they were not permitted to pass on to other members. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has put the position clearly. If the members of the committee were free to convey information to other honorable members, we would join it. On previous occasions when this matter has been raised, honorable members opposite have questioned whether Opposition members should be permitted to join the committee. They have said, “ Some honorable members opposite are Communists or ‘ fellow travellers ‘, and if they heard the information that is made available to the committee, it might not be to the advantage of Australia “. So long as Government supporters have the idea that Opposition members would be traitors to the best interests of Australia, we do not want to be associated with the committee.
I agree that committees of the Parliament should consider the details of various matters. We know very well that the Minister cannot place some matters before Parliament and have them debated in the ordinary way. But they can be referred to a committee of honorable members who can, as a body, put in the time to deal with them. If the Minister would view the problem in that broad sense in which we view it, this committee could become a very valuable one. I do not suggest that whatever the Minister put to the committee should be given to the newspapers or to the public generally. Many matters could be very easily misconstrued and put to the public, through the press, in a way that could do much damage. But for goodness’ sake do not ask members of the Opposition to serve on a committee that is constituted in the way that this committee is.
I ask honorable members opposite not to continue with the idea that this party is impotent. I think honorable members, particularly those who have been here in previous Parliaments, will agree that a party decision on either side of the House is usually observed very faithfully by all members of that party. We see that when a division is taken. On few occasions since this Government has been in office have Government supporters voted against a measure introduced by it. From time to time we see statements in the press that back-benchers, as they are termed, are opposed to what is being done. We see reports of differences of opinion in the Ministry and the difficulties that have been experienced in reaching a final decision. But when a vote is taken in the House, honorable members follow the decision of their party. I know what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said on one occasion to, I think, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I know that threats have been made that, if certain honorable members were not prepared to stick by the Government, they would have to have a new government, or something to that effect. We expect honorable members to stand by the decision made by the party.
So, on this matter, when we say that we will not serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee as it is at present constituted, we are carrying out the decision of our party, and 1 hope that we will be able to continue to do so.
Honorable members on the other side of the House talk about linking up with the D.L.P., as the honorable member for Lilley did. I say, for goodness’ sake keep the D.L.P. out of this business altogether. I thought we had had enough comment about communism and the D.L.P. thrown at us by honorable members opposite. The Government has a pretty big majority and, on the vote of the people, has the right to put forward the legislation that it wants to introduce. We have the right to criticize it and to vote against it. The Government has the numbers to pass any legislation, and its supporters do not need to draw these red herrings across the trail, unless it is done for an ulterior motive, such as influencing a State election. Apart from that, I cannot see why Government supporters want to bring up these matters at the present time.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has correctly stated our objections to this committee. I shall not go into his criticisms of the Minister. That is his own affair. He has put our views on the matter and in my way I have endeavoured to make our position as clear as possible.
.- I will be very brief, but there are one or two comments I should like to make. First, I should like to thank the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for having included in this resolution three amendments that were recommended by the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is evidence that the point of view of most Opposition members with regard to this committee is wrong. During my experience of it, the Minister has given the committee very wide freedom. In fact, I do notknow of any restriction that he has imposed when the committee has wanted to inquire into a matter. On occasions he has referred to the committee certain matters on which he wanted a special report. They have been few and far between, and in the main the committee has decided its own line of research, without the Minister’s direction and with the Minister’s concurrence.
I think it is only right that one should stand up in the House not only to thank the Minister but also to remove the very strange obsession that seems to be in the minds of many Opposition members who have been raising bogy after bogy in an effort to justify their decision to keep foreign affairs on a political party basis. I think that is a tragedy. No one in this place is a fool. We all know that certain things must have a certain and sometimes very big political party content. There may be entirely opposing views on certain vital matters. But on many other aspects of foreign affairs, party politics can be almost entirely eliminated, and everybody, particularly Australia as a country, benefits thereby. As I have said before, in the 32 years that I have been in State and Federal politics, I have never had more personal satisfaction than Ihave had as a member of this committee. I have never been on a committee, including cabinets - I have been a member of several, so this does not refer to federal cabinets only - that has done better work, more consistently. I feel that this is a very valuable committee, and I consider it a great honour to be a member of it. I give credit to the Minister for having formed it in the first place.
I can assure Opposition members that they have a very wrong idea of how this committee works and what it does. My friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and I have known each other for a very long time now, and I am sorry that, in discussing this committee today, he appeared in perhaps the worst light in which I have ever seen him. He has an entirely wrong idea about the committee. So has the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in respect of the point that he has raised. I cannot recall the committee having sat once when this House was sitting - for the very reasons that the honorable member gave. But there are isolated occasions when animportant visitor from overseas can meet the members of the committee only at a time when the House is sitting - and we have with us now an important overseas visitor in that position. We avoid like the plague meetings of the committee during sitting hours of the Parliament, but it would be a shame not to be able to take advantage of an opportunity to meet the occasional important visitor who is available only during the Parliament’s sitting hours just because the motion appointing the committee laid it down that the committee should not meet while the Parliament was sitting. I want to assure the honorable member for Mallee on that point. The Foreign Affairs Committee meets regularly every Tuesday at 9.30 a.m. when the Parliament is in session, in order to avoid the very error into which the honorable member feels wemight fall if the motion were agreed to in the terms in which it is framed.
As far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is concerned, I can only say that if he listened a little more to what other people had to say, not only he but all of us would have a far better background and a far wider knowledge, and would be more competent to deal with the problems which come before us in this House, whether they be concerned with foreign affairs or other matters. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 262) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24th February (vide page 249), on motion by Mr. Browne -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
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.
.- In his address on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament, His Excellency the Governor-General expressed the view that Australia’s prospects for expansion appeared to be good. That is a confident view that will be shared by all people who have faith in Australia. But it is important that we should not allow that confidence to blind us to the real problems that beset Australia at the present time. If we consider our economic position at this time properly, we must see it against the background of the change in the structure of our population, the growth in our population, and the tremendous developments that are taking place in western countries and in the Communist countries. If we study Australia’s problems against that background we must appreciate more fully the magnitude of those problems than we normally would.
This country has done remarkably well in the last ten years or so. We have invested a higher proportion of our savings than has any other country in the free world. Twenty-five per cent, of our gross national product goes back into capital works each year. That is a higher percentage than any other country can boast about. But despite that record, Australia is still desperately short of the capital that it needs for development at a rate sufficient to guarantee our long-term security and the maintenance of our standard of living. How much capital do we need to ensure the security and welfare of this country? We cannot say precisely, even if we had adequate data with which to make the calculation. All that we can say at this stage is that our need is very great and grave. We have, as is well known, and as will be made even better known at the Premiers conference to be held in Canberra next week, a grave shortage of capital for public works. We need more capital for the construction of roads and the improvement of our transport and communications systems. We need more capital for irrigation works and all the other things that will increase the productivity of our country. We need more capital for the raising of skills in the community. At first glance it may not strike one that the raising of skills does require a heavy expenditure of capital. It costs money to train people from the status of apprenticeship right through to the status of doctorate of philosophy, and in recent times we have been falling behind in the training of our people. We have not been spending enough in that direction. I can cite some figures which will indicate the extent to which we have been slipping back. In terms of percentage of total population, Australia produces only one-half as many scientists and engineers as the United Kingdom produces, one-third as many as the United States of America, and onequarter as many as the Soviet Union. If we draw a comparison between Australia and Canada, which are very similar countries, we find that Canada produces twice as many scientists and engineers, in proportion to its population, as does Australia. But worse than that, at the doctor of philosophy level the discrepancy is even more dramatic. Canada produces over eighteen doctor of philosophy graduates per 1,000,000 of its population to Australia’s four. We need large amounts of capital to train our people.
We also need capital to raise the productivity of our industries, both primary and secondary. A celebrated Swedish economist, Professor Lundberg, who visited Australia a couple of years ago, estimated that Australia’s productivity had slipped back in relation to that of other countries at a very striking rate. The results show up in the increase in real wages since the war. He calculated that in Sweden since the war real wages had risen by 55 per cent, as against 25 per cent, in Australia. That discrepancy is due very largely, of course, to our migration policy. We have admitted very many more people to these shores, and we have had to provide houses and other facilities for them. That has lowered our rate of productivity as a nation. However, we cannot be satisfied with that proportion. We must devote more money and more attention to the raising of levels of productivity in Australia during the next few years. When we attempt to raise productivity by introducing mechanization, by installing better machines and better equipment in factories and so on, obviously we will displace a great number of workers, as has happened and is happening now in the coalfields of New South Wales, and perhaps in the rest of Australia. So we must find capital to absorb those displaced workers and also the growing number of youngsters who will be leaving school and looking for employment in the next ten years.
Professor Sir Douglas Copland has calculated that the increase in our work force over the next ten years, as a result of the change in the structure of our population, that is, as a result of the increased birth rate after the last war, will be some 35 per cent. Other experts have put the position in another way, saying that in place of the 500,000 jobs that we had to find in the last ten years we shall have to find upwards of 1,000,000 jobs in the next ten years. That will require a great deal of capital.
We need to increase our productivity on the land, of course. We also need to increase our levels of production on the land very substantially if we are to continue exporting primary goods. I remind the House again that it is on primary goods that Australia depends for its overseas earnings, and on very little else. The percentage of truly manufactured goods in our exports is still round about 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. The great bulk of our exports comes from the primary sector of the economy. We must step up that production very sharply, if we are to cater for the needs of the rapidly rising population of Australia and to have large and growing surpluses for export.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has calculated, as shown by a paper published last year, that we have to increase our primary production by some 66 per cent, over the next few years if we are to maintain the proportion of primary products to our exports as it is at present. That is, if we are to satisfy the needs of our people and have a growing surplus for export, we must have a growth of 66 per cent, in our primary production. We have not made very much progress towards that goal of increased production on the land.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in a bulletin published in October, 1958, which is the most recent report I have, pointed out that the gross output of farm products in 1957-58 was 7.6 per cent, lower than it was in the previous year. We are remaining stationary or going back in production on the land, instead of having this tremendous increase that we should have if we are to maintain Australia as a growing country with an expanding economy.
Of course, it is very easy to say that we need these vast amounts of capital. We must have them if we are to maintain Australia as a free country with a high standard of living. Where are we to obtain these large amounts that we need? We can obtain them, as we have been doing, from overseas borrowing, overseas earnings, and foreign investments, but anything that comes in that way comes more or less as a windfall. It cannot be planned in advance. It cannot be ordered. It just arrives, and if it does not arrive, there is very little that we can do about it. We must continue to depend for our progress on the money that we can raise from ourselves, on our own savings, and on the increase of our productivity.
I urge the Government to investigate our taxation systems thoroughly. The GovernorGeneral has forecast a review of our taxation system. I suggest that it be a very comprehensive review, which takes into account all the innovations which have been suggested in recent years, such as the expenditure tax which has been canvassed by some notable economists and which at least would have the effect, I believe, of diverting money from the public sector to the private sector of the economy, and that might well be of great advantage.
I urge the Government to draw up plans for the future, to set up the machinery for eliciting the facts that it needs, to ascertain the facts, and to set about drawing up comprehensive plans for the future economic progress of Australia. Those plans would have to cover a long period. We would have to plan for at least the next ten years if the plans are to be worthwhile at all. In this connexion it is an interesting and rather odd commentary on our interest in the future and the welfare of other countries of the British Commonwealth, that the thorough-going report produced last year by the royal commission which Canada appointed a few years ago to ascertain her prospects for the next 25 years has evidently not been studied by this Government. Certainly it has not been studied to the extent one would wish, because when I set out to obtain from the National Library a copy of the report of the commission set up in 1955 to investigate Canada’s economic prospects, I was told that a copy was not available here. Since
Canada’s problems are very similar to Australia’s, and since we both have a desperate need for more capital and an urgent need to discover where we are going if we are to maintain our high standards and free way of life, surely it is incumbent on some one to take note of what is happening in Canada and adopt the lessons that could be applied to Australian conditions.
A great responsibility devolves on the government of a country like Australia in these days because of the controlled economy we have. The general public is unaware of the economic relationship between one country and another. We do not know how our standards compare with the standards of people who live in other countries, as a general rule, but the Government does or should know what is the relationship. The general public are sheltered by various forms of controls and restrictions imposed by the Government and its agencies which give us an air-cushion ride. In the past few years, we have been able to ride over the shocks of the basic wage judgments, the Korean War and sharp increases in the price of wool in 1951 with scarcely a ripple on the surface of the economy. That is all because of this pneumatic-controlled economy. That being so, it is very easy for us as a nation to slide back in our standards without the public being aware of what is going on.
Those who know - and that means the Government, which should know - have an obligation to see that action is taken in time to prevent the country from slipping back. Therefore, I urge the Government to obtain the facts now, to set up the machinery to find out “what our needs are, what our standards are in Australia and our levels of productivity, and to draw up sensible longterm policies on .the basis of those facts.
It is not by accident that the countries of Europe have come together in an economic union. They are aware of the tremendous rate of development that is going on in the Communist countries. They are aware of the danger that will confront the free world in the next generation. The United States of America is also most conscious of this danger and its Secretary of State, Mr. John Foster Dulles, warned the United States only a month ago that it must be prepared to accept policies of government which would entail sacrifice and austerity. The mighty, wealthy America feels the need for austerity, for accumulating capital aud building up its country. Canada obviously is also aware of the need although it shelters under the umbrella of the United States. Canada has gone to the trouble of setting up a royal commission, and we in Australia at least should set up a fact-finding committee.
We are far more vulnerable than any other free country. We are isolated in the Asian sector of the globe. We are a long way distant from the sources of capital such as are freely available to Canada. We have to pull ourselves up very largely by our own boot straps and we are proud of the fact that we have been able to succeed in doing that so far. Let us go on and develop Australia in its strength by adopting wise policies now - policies that might be unpopular with the people who are not aware of the need for them, but policies which we believe we must obtain in the best long-term interests of Australia.
A mighty explosion is impending in Asia. The population of China is increasing at a tremendous rate. The Chinese are developing the wealth and the power of that country rapidly. If we do not build up Australia .at a rate at least comparable with that of the Chinese rate of increase and expansion, we will create a vacuum in this part of the world which will inevitably lead to war. It is weakness and not strength that produces wars. If we want to preserve this country for future generations, we must see .to it now that the right action is taken to safeguard Australia and keep it as a free country.
.- The Address-in-‘Reply debate at the opening of a new Parliament gives honorable members who have survived the political battle an opportunity to recall those who have not been fortunate enough to be returned to the Parliament. While it might seem to be a pessimistic thought, that is something we will rail have to face some day, I hope that When it comes we will take it gracefully.
This debate also gives us an opportunity to welcome the new members to the House. So faT, we have heard quite a number of honorable members from both sides of the House make their maiden speeches. I want to extend to them my congratulations on their efforts. I am quite sure that the prestige and dignity of the House will be heightened by their presence and that the standard of debate will be considerably improved.
The Governor-General’s Speech was an unimpressive document and it was also disappointing. It emphasized once again the lack of continuing policy that has marked this Government’s nine years of office.
This Government has occupied the treasury bench since 1949, and in that time it has failed to bring forth any policy which could be described as a national one. It has, in my opinion, lived from day to day. It has been very fortunate in that we have seen a succession of good seasons, and, due more to good luck than to good management, the Government has struggled through. But I think it is high time, after nine years of office, that Government supporters asked themselves how long they are going to permit this stumbling along without a national policy, or with a policy that must eventually have catastrophic effects for Australia.
I believe also that government supporters from now on should not continue to resort repeatedly to criticism of the Chifley Labour government. During the last nine years we have heard honorable members on the other side of the House referring ad nauseam to what they allege happened under a Labour government. It is about time they brought themselves up to date and contended with the things that are happening in the world to-day. They can get only so far with such an unreal approach, and I believe that they have gone as far as they can go.
The unreal nature of the thinking of Government supporters is exemplified by the fact that time and time again they tell us that whereas under the Chifley Government an amount of, say, £50,000,000, was spent on a certain project in a given year, this Government is spending £80,000,000 annually on the same project. Of course such an argument will not convince thinking people. I remind the House that under the Chifley Government the basic wage in 1949 was £6 9s. The basic wage has now jumped to £13 2s. Since this Government has been in office the basic wage has more than doubled. This means, of course, that inflation has been rampant. If they rely for justification of their policy on a comparison of amounts of money spent on certain undertakings by this and the previous government, honorable members opposite must be able to show that for every £50,000,000 spent by the Chifley Government in a certain way £120,000,000 is spent to-day.
I was very disappointed with the outline of the Government’s policy, as presented to us in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, because it appears that the Government is failing to accept its responsibilities and is running away from major issues. One would have imagined, for instance, that some substantial reference would have been made to the matter of unemployment. We cannot escape the fact that the unemployment problem is increasing, but as yet no member of the Government has seen fit to face the fact that in our midst we have an increasing number of unemployed. Official figures show that there is more unemployment in Australia to-day than there has been at any other time during the past ten years. We find that in its tenth year of office this Government is facing a situation in which there are more persons unemployed than there have been at any other time during the past ten years. This fact alone should surely urge Government members to formulate a policy to reduce the number of unemployed.
Unemployment is, of course, quite a serious problem. It may not be so serious for those who are not directly affected, but for people out of work and looking for work it is a major problem. People seeking work to-day are far too often told that they are too old at 40. It appears that we are getting back to the position that confronted Australia in the early ‘30’s. I have said that the unemployment figures to-day are higher than they have been during the past ten years. This statement is confirmed by the official figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that the number of persons registered for employment at the end of January was 81,901. This represented an increase of over 17,000 on the figures for the previous month. Let me show the House the dramatic change that has been taking place in the employment situation. In January, 1957, as shown again by the official figures, there were 22,136 persons registered for employment, while the figure now stands at 81,901.
Every one will, I think, agree that the most serious problem that can confront any country at any time is that of unemployment. We have mounting unemployment in this country, but apparently the Government has no policy to combat it.
Another major issue that any government cognizant of its responsibilities should face is that of housing. We have long passed the stage of being satisfied with the statement that housing is the responsibility of State governments. We do not, of course, hear that cry so often to-day from honorable members opposite, simply because there are fewer Labour governments in the States than there were years ago. However, the stage has been reached at which the States are finding it exceedingly difficult to carry on. While the system of uniform taxation is continued, this matter cannot be dismissed in the somewhat cavalier fashion in which it has been brushed aside by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and responsible members of his Government. This Government is not making sufficient money available to meet the increasing housing needs of our population. We have an intake of immigrants into Australia amounting each year to 1 per cent, of our population. This intake is matched by our own natural population increase. It may be as well to point out that by 1967 our working population will have increased by 35 per cent. Our existing intake of immigrants is causing a population increase of 3,860 a week. If the present policy of the Government with regard to the provision of housing is maintained, the shortage of 100,000 houses existing at the moment will not be reduced. At the present time there are, throughout the Commonwealth, 100,000 homes required. If the annual building rate stands at 69,000 homes, then we cannot touch the demand created by our increasing population.
One of the aspects of this question of housing to which I wish to refer is the failure of private investors to put money into housing. We hear all kinds of arguments on this matter from time to time from honorable members opposite. We heard many of them from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) before he was appointed to that position. He was frequently on the rampage, attacking the New South Wales Labour Government, suggesting that if rent controls were lifted, one of our major home-building problems would disappear. These controls have been lifted in practically every State. There are no restrictions to-day on rents that may be charged for new premises, but this has made no difference whatsoever to private investors. We are told that in Australia to-day about 62 per cent, of house occupants own their homes. This means that there are always about one-third of our people requiring rental homes. The only authorities in the Commonwealth to-day that are building homes for rental purposes are the State governments. With the limited finances at their disposal, it is quite obvious that they cannot cope with the demand.
As I said previously, private capital is not interested in this vital problem. Years ago one of the fields sought after by private capital was that of property. This situation no longer exists. To defend the attitude of private investors, honorable members opposite have frequently attacked the system of controls, but these controls were lifted many years ago.
Another handicap that people have to contend with in building or purchasing homes is excessively high costs. I make the definite statement that one of the factors that has contributed, in my opinion, to the high cost of homes in this country is the excessive profits made by the master builders. In New South Wales the master builders have an organization, and by arrangement among themselves they determine what prices shall be charged and what profits made. I have no doubt that if the activities of these individuals were to cease there would be an appreciable drop in the cost of home-building.
The question of roads, I think, is also a national problem, and it has far passed out of the ability of the States to cope with it. I believe that, to-day, a major road costs about £30,000 a mile to construct and a secondary road costs about £23,000 a mile. This provides some appreciation of the difficulties and the problems that confront the States, municipalities and shires. Therefore, I think this matter should be lifted from that level and placed on a national level.
I think it is hard to argue against the fact that roads have some strategic value. They have a defence: value. But I go further and say that, unfortunately, from my travels within our own country and abroad it is clear that our roads suffer very badly by comparison. For some reason or other we always seem to be lagging behind other countries in this respect.
Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom all have highways which, in my opinion, are far superior to our own. They have tackled the problem. I think it is interesting to make a contrast, also, between Australia and Canada. The previous speaker made some reference to the development that is going on in Canada. I say quite definitely that Australia is lagging behind in many respects in this matter. I do not say that in a deprecating sense. I am saying it to try to awaken this Government to its responsibilities - to prove to it that people will not be satisfied continually with mere statements made from time to time.
Anyone who has travelled our highways and our byways knows perfectly well that, in time of emergency, our highway system would be incapable of meeting the demands that would be made upon it. Suggestions have been made from time to time and T think that, as a result of the pressure that has been put on the Government and’ the continual agitation that has been going’ on down the years, the Government must, sooner or later, face up to its responsibilities. Our roads cannot be allowed te deteriorate because their constant deterioration means also that our defence efforts are being impaired.
I wish to make some reference to Indonesia’s plan for Dutch New Guinea. I do not know of a debate in this House in recent times out of which the Government has come so badly. I think it is pertinent to point out that the Government has shuffle.-‘ from point to point. It is a long time indeed since we saw six senior Ministers faltering and fumbling as we witnessed them doing yesterday. None of them was happy in his task. None of them was secure in his case. They faltered on.
One of the most pertinent points of the debate was raised by the honorable member for Yarra when he asked the Minister for
External Affairs (Mr. Casey) whether it was, true that, outside pressure had been put on Australia to adopt this attitude in negotiations with the Indonesians.
– Order! The honorable member cannot renew the debate on New Guinea. New Guinea is mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and he may make his own’ comment on it, but he cannot canvass thedebate that has been adjourned.
– I submit to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But I point out that other speakers in this debate on the Address-in-Reply have referred to this, matter.
– They have not referred to it while I have been, in the chair.
– I have to submit toyour ruling.
– You may speak on New Guinea, but make your own contribution. Do not refer to the debate that has taken place.
– Tt is very hard,, indeed, to find any justification for the attitude of the. Indonesian Government on West New Guinea, and there is less Justification for our own Government’s attitude. It is quite obvious that the claim of the Indonesian Government to Dutch New Guinea cannot be sustained under any pretext Its disregard for the inhabitants of the territory that it is trying to take over makes its case, in my opinion, much worse.
Most people have very short memories. I wish to put on record my opinion of what happened in the negotiations that led up to the present situation, in order to prove that Indonesia’s claims are indefensible in this matter and also to show how hard it is to understand our own Government’s attitude. From my reading of what has happened, 1 believe that inserted in the Cheriben agreement, signed between Holland and Indonesia- in. March, 1947, was a statement of Holland’s intention to retain West New Guinea. So, Holland’s intention to retainNew Guinea was made clear as far back as 1947, in the first agreement that was made. I believe that article 2 of the charter for the transfer of sovereignty that was signed in 1949 declares that Dutch New Guinea would remain with Holland until agreement could be reached.
No government, I believe, should adopt the attitude that this one has adopted on this occasion. I think it as well also, to point out that no member of the Government, apparently, has relished his brief on this issue. It is also pertinent to point out that honorable members- opposite who have had military experience have been conspicuous by their absence from this debate. Prominent military men who figured in campaigns in that part of the world have already been quoted in this debate and their views are known. But Government supporters who have had conspicuous service have remained quite silent on this very important issue.
The attitude of the Labour party is quite clear. We will not be a party to handing over 700,000 people to anybody without the rights of those 700,000 people being safeguarded. I think that one of” the many weaknesses of the Indonesians’ claims is the fact that they have not, at any time, stated their willingness to safeguard the interests of the inhabitants of the territory that they are trying to get. That being so. one can say quite definitely that it is a major matter that the well-being of these inhabitants should be- safeguarded.
Another consideration is the strategic: value of New Guinea. In debate in this House and in discussions outside, honorable members such as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) have: tried to write off New Guinea as. having- no; strategic value. Opposed to that view have Been the opinions of many men eminent inmilitary affairs who have emphasized’ how important is the strategic value of New Guinea.
I’ wish to refer to the claim that New Guinea has little or no strategic value. I submit that no one can predict what will be the conditions of warfare in the foreseeable future. It is a fact that from the beginning of time the principles of warfare have not changed. Only the methods of warfare have altered. It is true that, should a third world war occur - let us hope that it never will - the: methods! used will be quite different from those used heretofore. How far away the next world war is no one can say with certainty, it could be 50 years, 25 years, or 100 years. With the thought of such an event being so distant and without knowing what may happen in the meantime, I think it is idle to try to write off New Guinea as having no strategic value, as the honorable member for Mackellar has tried to do.
Every nation is entitled, within reason, to adopt strategic measures to ensure its own defence. In doing so, it is obliged to see that it does not impose hardship or injustice upon certain peoples. Australian influence and activities in New Guinea have in no way imposed’ any hardship or injustice upon the native peoples. Australia has worked with the sole purpose of assisting their development.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to this motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, I should like at the outset to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and your colleague, Mr. Speaker, upon your appointment to these most important positions which you respectively hold in this? House. I believe that I am expressing the sentiments, of all honorable, members when. I say that. I believe you will continue to display in those respective offices the dignity, impartiality and decision which are so. necessary in. the- conduct, of the. business of this House.
L add also; my word1 of appreciation of: the standard, of the maiden speeches delivered! in this debate. The mover and the; seconder of the. motion and: all. the new members on both sides of the House, who have spoken have shown great promise of being’ valuable- additions to the debating strength of the Parliament.
I wish to discuss certain portions of His Excellency’s Speech, which have reference to. two of our great exports, wool and. dairyproducts. These are the principal products of the electorate which I have the honour to represent in this place. It is impossible to exaggerate at the moment, or in the future, the vast economic importance to the prosperity of Australia of a satisfactory export income.
However much we may like to imagine the possibility of developing the export of products of our secondary industry, at the present moment we must face up to the situation that we rely almost entirely on the export of our primary products and minerals. We look to them to provide the necessary funds for our future development and also for our current purchases from overseas. Consequently, their importance is inescapable.
Falling prices of wool this year have caused despondency in certain circles, and not without some good reason. The effect of this decline in prices will be noticed in due course throughout our whole economic structure. To many of us it is surprising that there has not yet been a greater reaction. Accompanying this despondency there has been a variety of suggestions for some change or modification in our present methods of marketing our main product, wool. I believe, in common with a number of other people, that at this time, we need to exercise considerable caution and give due consideration to the whole matter before changing a system which has been tried and tested over a long period. The present atmosphere created by low prices has brought about a feeling that all is not well.
At the same time, I believe that there is no system which is so vitally important to the economic future of Australia that should not be regularly examined. I have been particularly refreshed to notice that our main grower organizations have lent themselves to the idea of examining the present situation and possibly of making recommendations as to how the present system can be improved. I feel that it is only common sense to place the examination of an asset of such vast importance to Australia as the wool industry in either the hands of the growers or of an official group and to review the actual way in which the product is disposed of.
But it would be a wrong approach if this examination were undertaken in an atmosphere of despair or fright. Unfortunately, that is a concomitant at the moment because people are worried and cannot see what the future holds. They have a fear of the competition of synthetics and of various other undercurrents associated with the methods adopted by buyers. But as I have said already, this is such an important matter that there is good reason to have a periodical examination of the methods of marketing wool.
I suggest that the growers and the industry as a whole, should give consideration to an extended trial of the promotion schemes which have already been outlined by the Australian Wool Bureau, and that before anything is done in a precipitate manner, there should be at least some idea of the results of the methods proposed. Various schemes have been propounded by several organizations. An announcement appeared in yesterday’s press to the effect that the Australian Woolgrowers Council rejected any idea of an abandonment of the auction system. At the same time they suggested there was need to make an examination of the impact on the manufacturer of the violent fluctuations in wool prices in recent years. Although I hold no brief for a floor price plan - and floor price plans and reserve price plans have often been suggested - the growers in 1951 very positively rejected the previous scheme which was submitted to them. We must remember the conditions under which that vote was taken, otherwise we may be deluded as to its real value and doubt the wisdom of the continuance of the determination of growers’ wishes. The first thing that upset that vote was the introduction of the wool sales deduction legislation by this Government at the time of the violent rises in wool prices as a result of the Korean War. This possibly induced in the minds of the growers a certain suspicion of any government action in regard to their industry, which they had always so jealously guarded themselves, and I believe that that was the major factor in bringing about the vote against the scheme as submitted in that referendum.
The second point that I think is of very great importance in regard to that decision was that at that time prices for wool were generally most satisfactory. They far exceeded the prices that growers were ready to accept some years before. So there was no urge to alter a system that was providing prices generally recognized as extremely satisfactory to the growers.
The third and potent reason why the scheme was rejected was that, as was known, there was a fund available out of the profits of the Joint Organization scheme. After the war, that fund totalled some £60,000,000 and was to be used, in part, for the scheme if it was accepted by the growers. But if the scheme was rejected, that money would be available for distribution to those who were entitled to receive a share of it. These three very potent reasons would have influenced the growers, particularly in the existing atmosphere of resentment against a legislative act of the Government regarding wool sales deductions. Although I believed that that act could be criticized very freely at the time, 1 also believe that it has had a very beneficial effect on the industry as a whole, and might have saved a number of people from errors resulting from their own folly.
Now, I believe that the inquiries as envisaged by the wool-growers’ organizations - the first by the Australian Woolgrowers Council, the second the proposition for a floor price plan submitted by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation - require closer examination. I also believe that in conjunction with that examination a very direct focus should be brought to bear on the question of the fluctuation of prices, because I think that that is fundamental. We are at the moment thinking in terms of fluctuations downwards, and their effect on the economy, but I think that we must also think of violent fluctuations upwards, which have also had an upsetting effect on general marketing principles for wool and on general wool usage throughout the world. I believe that there is definitely warrant enough for an inquiry to be made, and that the results of this inquiry by the grower’s organizations would be sufficient to lead to a more general inquiry on an official level, something to which this Parliament should, I believe, give very serious consideration.
I want to refer briefly now to some criticism that has appeared from time to time recently in the press regarding the admission of synthetic fibres which have been entering Australia, in some cases paying little or no duty. Traditionally, the main growers’ organizations have been opposed to any tariff and, in fact, internal competition with wool at the moment, although undesirable, is not really a vital factor in the overall world consumption figure. We are consuming of our own wool production approximately 10 per cent, overall - and the amount of synthetics being consumed in Australia at the moment, in competition with wool, would not total in value more than about 1 per cent, of the value of our total wool production. So honorable members can see that it would not be a very vital matter in reference to world prices.
I intend now to give a few figures dealing with the importation of synthetics, which I have been able to obtain from the department. Until the beginning of this financial year it has been impossible to identify the various types of synthetics coming in, and it is only since 1st July that we have had figures to indicate which types of synthetics would be in direct competition with wool. However, I also understand that it is not easy, on the figures I have at the moment, to identify such of that content as is admitted duty-free; but, from my information, and going by the figures that I am about to give, the bulk of the competitive synthetics would be admitted dutyfree in the form of what are described as filaments, staple fibres, slivers and tops.
The two main competitive groups of synthetics are the orion group and the terylene group with its associated fibres. The figures for the period from 1st July to 31st December last year show that orion importations, mainly from the United States of America, totalled 973,642 lb., valued at £A.660,412. This synthetic is used mainly in the production of knitted articles such as ladies’ twinsets, either pure or blended with wool. The other group, the terylene group, came mainly from the United Kingdom, and importations totalled 551,652 lb. valued at £A. 388,158. This synthetic is used mainly for worsted suit lengths, either pure or blended with wool or cotton.
The interesting feature about the price factor of these importations is that in either case their values are at least double that of the wool equivalent. If the total of imports increases in the future, these synthetics could play a significant part in competition with wool in our own manufacturing industry. The information I have is that an application will shortly be submitted to the Tariff Board for an inquiry into the position. T think that before we decide on any action we must think in terms of possible retaliatory action from our customers overseas from whom we are buying this material.
I want to turn now to the dairying industry, in which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as honorable member for Gippsland, have a very vital interest. The dairying industry is one of our most important primary industries. It has suffered a very serious setback since the principle of governmenttogovernment trading was replaced by the principle of independent buying, particularly with the United Kingdom, our greatest market for dairy products. We now have a further threat - the possibility of the dumping by the United States of America of that country’s surplus dairy products in some of our traditional markets. I was pleased, therefore, that the GovernorGeneral foreshadowed in the Speech the appointment of the committee of inquiry into the difficult problems of the dairying industry which was forecast in the policy speech of the Government parties at the last general election. I may be treading on slightly dangerous ground when I say that a point worthy of consideration by that committee of inquiry is the need for an examination of the economic possibilities of the dairying industry in certain parts of Australia. By that I mean that when the Government is making available a huge sum of money in the form of subsidy there is naturally a tendency to apply some form of restriction to any expansion of this industry. Yet, parts of our assured rainfall area, particularly in Victoria, are eminently suitable areas, as evidenced by cost of production figures, for economic dairying, not perhaps at the present level of export prices but not unsatisfactorily when the home consumption and the export prices are combined. So I suggest that in any determination in regard to this industry, if we are to be practical and realistic about it we should give very careful consideration to where uneconomic production exists, and not continue uneconomic production at the expense of considerable areas of country which we know will be capable of economic production and of carrying a very satisfactory population. I hope that when the committee of inquiry is formed, it will discuss that point.
At this stage I wish to turn to the report of the conference of the InterParliamentary Union which was held in Rio de Janeiro last year. This report was presented in the dying hours of the last Par liament and may have escaped the notice of some honorable members. The conference was in the capable and hospitable hands of the Brazilian Group of the InterParliamentary Union. I had the privilege to lead the delegation, reference to which was made by my friend, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) in his speech on this motion. It may be that, due to the effluxion of time, certain salient features of the report have escaped notice, and I should like to remind the House that the ideals and objectives of the InterParliamentary Union place an obligation on the delegates from national groups who attend the conference to pass on to their legislatures the results of deliberations at each annual conference.
The conference was held from 22nd July to 1st August in the Palace Tiradentes, the House of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, which corresponds to our House of Representatives. It was attended by delegations from 46 member nations. Also in attendance were observers from certain other organizations, such as the United Nations Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the International Labour Organization, the Organization of American States and certain non-member countries that were making a reconnaissance with a view to joining the Inter-Parliamentary Union. These countries included Canada and Uruguay.
The proceedings were opened by His Excellency Senhor Juscelino Kubitschek President of the United States of Brazil, and the conference also had the pleasure of being addressed by the .Foreign Minister, Senhor Negrao de Lima. As can be expected at such conferences where international political subjects are being discussed in an atmosphere, as it was then, of current international difficulty, particularly in the Middle East, there was not complete unanimity on some of the subjects. However, despite this, I believe that in the main delegates did try to overcome the principle of expressing only government views, and got down to something fundamental and practical to .help the cause of peace in the world.
I want to discuss very briefly two or three of the main resolutions. The resolution concerning the strengthening of peace, incidentally, fits into the remarks contained in the -Governor-General’s Speech, which is before the House. The resolution was -
The Conference appeals urgently to Parliaments of all members of the IPU to recommend to Governments in the strongest possible terms that speedy action be taken to secure the resumption of disarmament negotiations, preferably within the framework of the United Nations, and that one of the most urgent aims of such negotiations should be to secure without delay the cessation, under .proper international .control, of nuclear weapons tests.
That resolution was agreed to unanimously. A more contentious one was passed with a large majority, .and this .concerned the introduction of an international police force. The resolution adopted was -
The 47th -Inter-Parliamentary Conference,
Believing that the institution of a permanent international Police Force charged with the task of -ensuring collective security is highly desirable,
Is of the opinion that the establishment of such a Force should be -effected under the aegis of the United Nations;
And urgently appeals to all Parliaments represented within the Union to recommend that their respective ‘Governments take all possible steps to establish an International Police Force on a permanent basis.
That gives a fair summary of the discussion on this very important subject and the resolutions that flowed from it. Another quite important resolution concerned the principle of investing foreign capital in countries in process of economic development. However, time does not permit me to discuss that resolution. It is available in the report.
I should like briefly to refer to the assistance that we received from the Clerk of the House and through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to express to him the thanks of all the delegates. He was the “ Admirable Crichton “ and assisted greatly with our work. I should also like to mention the tremendous assistance we had from my brother, the Minister in Brazil. Through his good graces, we were the best equipped and best outfitted delegation at the conference.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, in the few days since this twentythird Parliament first met, many of the new members have made their maiden speeches. I have listened to most of them, and have been impressed by the high standard of their speeches. Each of those new members has shown that, in his own way, he <has something to contribute to the deliberations of the National Parliament. I congratulate each of them and sincerely trust that, -during the life of this Parliament, they all will assist in raising the prestige and the (dignity of this House. To the honorable -member for .Braddon (Mr. Davies), the honorable member for St. George (Mr.. Clay) and the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) I offer a special word of praise on their fine speeches. To the other honorable members who have yet to make their maiden contributions, I offer .my best wishes for a successful début.
For the first time in the history of this Commonwealth Parliament, the proceedings at the opening were televised. The reaction has been very favorable. The only complaint which I have heard or read has been that the Governor-General’s Speech was uninteresting and too long. One Sydney Sunday newspaper commented in the following words: -
The cameras caught some spectators in the Senate looking bored, and handsome, bewigged President McMuIlin kept glancing sideways at the G.G.’s manuscript as if to see how much more there was to come.
Such a reaction is not to be wondered at. I have been privileged to attend four or five openings of the Parliament, and the Governor-General’s Speech on this occasion ranks as the most dreary, uninteresting and disappointing seven pages of words the reading of which I have been forced to suffer.
I sympathize with His Excellency in having to deliver on behalf of his Government such an uninteresting Speech on what will probably be the last occasion on which he will open the Parliament, as his term is due to expire later this year. During his term as Governor-General, His Excellency has on many occasions shown a deep and firm belief in the future of Australia. His speeches have demonstrated great confidence in Australia and its people, and he has always indicated a desire to see that the problems of an expanding and developing nation were met by realistic policies and plans. I am certain that if His Excellency had been (responsible for the preparation of the Speech which he made he would not have delivered such an innocuous and dreary .address. ‘Undoubtedly, he would have spoken of matters of great import to the people of Australia, and among those matters would have been plans for better educational facilities, better roads and adequate housing for the people. However, His Excellency did not have an opportunity to speak on these matters, and it is left to Opposition members to raise them in this debate.
I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to raise, first, the matter of housing. It is common knowledge that throughout Australia at the present time various estimates have indicated that there is a shortage of housing ranging between 90,000 and 100,000 homes. In Australia, it has always been shown that two kinds of housing are required - one for rent and one for the person who desires to build or purchase a home that will eventually become his own. It has fallen to the lot of the State governments to undertake the task of providing homes for rent, contrary to the opinion expressed by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who said that if rent controls were lifted homes would become freely available for renting. The Minister has been proved to be incorrect, and it is now the job of the housing commissions and trusts in the various States to provide dwellings for rental purposes. But because of the lack of finance and the absence of foresight on the part of this Government, which controls Australia’s purse strings by means of uniform taxation, and which, owing to its nearsightedness, has failed to realize the seriousness of the pressing and important housing problem, the State instrumentalities have failed to catch up on the back-lag of homes.
In 1952, approximately 80,000 homes were built. If it was possible to build 80.000 homes in 1952, surely in these days, with the increase in population and the greater number of people now engaged in the building industry, it is possible to build 90,000 or 100,000 homes a year. But we find that, last financial year, only 75,329 homes were built. I repeat that 80,000 were constructed in 1952. The demand for housing at the present time is estimated at between 55,000 and 60,000 homes a year, and. with the increase in population, that demand will increase. But we have found continually during the last five or six years that each year fewer homes than in the previous year are being built. If the back lag in housing is* to be overtaken, this Government - because it controls the nation’s coffers and allocates to the housing bodies in the various States the money to provide housing commission homes - will have to see that the States get much more money than they are receiving at present.
Those people who, on the other hand, desire to build or purchase a home of their own are continually in difficulty seeking finance to go ahead with their projects. Newly married couples and couples with young families find that, unless they are able to raise £1,200 or £1,500, they are not in a position to build or purchase a home of their own. And even if they have £1,200 or £1,500, often they find it impossible to obtain finance from cooperative building societies, banks or insurance companies. It is up to this Government to see that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia advances to co-operative building societies more money than it has been advancing. It is up to this Government to see that the private trading banks and the insurance companies also play their part in making funds available to the co-operative building societies. At the same time, it is imperative that the deposit necessary for the purchase or construction of a home be reduced to the minimum, because at present it is almost impossible for young couples to save sufficient money to put down as a deposit on a home. The private banks and the insurance companies of Australia have not played their part in the last few years in providing funds for the co-operative building societies, and a great deal of the burden has fallen on the Commonwealth Bank. On a few occasions, I have had cause to approach that bank in an effort to obtain a loan for co-operative building societies in my electorate, and on a number of those occasions the co-operative building society concerned has had to wait for six or twelve months before the money was available, although, throughout the entire waiting period, more and more applications for loans have been lodged with it.
Because housing is so important, and because there is at present such a lack of housing, one finds that various estate agents and property owners are indulging in a racket, particularly in relation to new Australians. In the last couple of years, I have seen a number of cases in which new Australians have been expected to pay something like £500 deposit on a house selling for £2,950, although the Valuer-General’s valuation was only about £1,750. Because the houses in question were older than the age limit specified by the co-operative building societies, the intending purchasers had to obtain the necessary funds from finance companies, which charged them 10 per cent, interest. They are paying back in the vicinity of £15 or £20 a week on the money that they have borrowed from the finance company. They have to do that because they were not able to obtain finance from the banks, insurance companies, or cooperative building societies. Because they had to resort to the finance companies they now have a burden around their necks. The State governments are not to blame for the housing shortages because they are denied sufficient funds by the Commonwealth Government. This Government must face up to these problems instead of allowing them to drift until they become too difficult for immediate solution.
I make an earnest appeal to this Government to do something about housing. In the Speech prepared for the GovernorGeneral the Government takes great credit for its intention to provide £80,000,000 for housing in this financial year. 1 remind honorable members opposite, however, that that amount is only £3,000,000 more than was made available by the Government for this purpose in the last financial year. At present there is a backlog of between 90,000 and 100,000 homes in Australia.
– Where did the honorable member get those figures?
– From Sir Douglas Copland. The present demand for houses is between 55,000 and 60,000 a year, yet the number of houses being built in Australia is declining year by year. It is the duty of the Government to do something about that situation without delay.
In every State of the Commonwealth the education system is in a chaotic condition because this Government is not providing sufficient finance to the States to meet the high cost of education. In New South Wales in the last financial year 55 per cent, of the tax reimbursement grant was made available for education. In addition £10,250,000 was made available out of State funds. Yet New South Wales, together with the other States, is suffering from a shortage of schools and class-rooms. Classes are over-crowded, and teachers and teaching aids are in short supply.
I have in my possession a copy of a letter, dated 18th February, 1959, which was sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by the New South Wales Teachers Federation. This letter shows that the federation and the New South Wales Parent Teacher Education Council, have asked the Prime Minister at next week’s Premiers conference to arrange to make a substantial emergency grant to New South Wales for education. The letter also asks for the appointment of a committee, along the lines of the Murray committee, to inquire into the needs of primary, secondary and technical education on a nationwide basis.
Because it controls the purse-strings, the Commonwealth Government is to blame for the chaotic situation that has developed in the State education systems. Admittedly, during the last Parliament the Government made money available for the universities, but it is ridiculous to make money available at the university level when there is so much overcrowding in class-rooms and such a lack of teachers and teaching aids at the primary and secondary levels. If we are to do anything about education we must start at the kindergarten level and work right through to the secondary level. Merely to render assistance at the university level is not enough.
At next week’s Premiers conference the subject of education will undoubtedly be raised and the Premiers will ask for increased aid for this purpose. I hazard a guess, however, that the result of their appeal will be negligible or that this Government will give them nothing. In New South Wales at the present time the Premier and his Government have had to adopt all sorts of means to raise finance. The New South Wales Government has had to license poker machines and it has had to obtain revenue from totalizators and lotteries. This is causing grave concern to the Premier, Mr. Cahill, a man of unblemished character and record, who is sincere in everything that he does. During his term of office New South Wales has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. Undoubtedly on 21-st March- next the people of New South Wales will show their gratitude to Joe Cahill and his Government by returning them to office with a resounding majority. Honorable members opposite, who ridicule the statement that Joe Cahill is a man of unblemished character and record, should- consider their Liberal colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament. If honorable members opposite think that the New South Wales Labour Government is not worth much, let me tell them that their colleagues in the New South Wales State House are twice as- bad.
Another matter that deserves the attention of this Government is the finance for roads. Time and again honorable members have spoken about the need for this country to be adequately defended, and year in and year out we have spent £200,000,000 on defence. Honorable members have spoken about the Woomera- rocket range, and ‘the Governor-General’s Speech mentioned guided missiles and other things. In the event of war those guided missiles could not be transported around Australia because of the state of our roads. The State governments are not in a position to finance road construction and maintenance, education, transport, and the various other calls made upon them. This Government must face up to these problems. It must realize that these are national responsibilities and it must do something about them. In the last Parliament we had a Constitution Review Committee. This Government claims that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to assist the States to provide finance for many of these things, but if the Constitution Review Committee is re-appointed and does its job correctly, many of these matters will undoubtedly come under the control of the Commonwealth. However, even in that event this Government would still be disinclined to do much for a State that was not governed by a Liberal government. The defence significance of roads cannot be stressed too greatly, because our railway system is obsolete because of broken gauges. Unless we have good roads, in time of war we will not be able to transport our troops,, arms, and other requirements satisfactorily. It is time that the Government spent some of the annual £200,000,000 defence vote on road construction and maintenance.
While on the subject of roads may I’ say that I think it is time that the road hauliers, particularly those operating interstate transports, made a just contribution towards the upkeep of the roads that they use. To suggest that the States are not justly entitled to tax those people on constitutional’ grounds is to take a very narrow view of constitutional limitations. The Constitution Review Committee must do something to preserve the right of the States to impose a just tax on interstate road hauliers.
There is a great need to plan roads between the main cities of Australia, and those roads should become the responsibility of the Federal Government. Leaving, aside constitutional difficulties, I feel that agreement should be reached with the States on the question of providing four and: six lane highways between the State capitals.
A subject that has been exercising my mind for a long time and causing me some worry is the growth of monopoly interests in television, radio and newspapers. The control of these mediums of communication in Australia is falling into the hands of fewer and fewer people as each day goes by. I have only to instance the recent sale of the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ to a company financed by the “ Sydney Morning Herald”. One has only to look at the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and its recommendations to the PostmasterGeneral on the applications for television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide to realize just how tied in with each other are newspapers, radio and television. On page 14 of the report we read that in Sydney the newspaper applicants for television licences were: “ Sydney Morning Herald “, Sydney “Sun”, Sydney “Daily Telegraph”, Sydney “Daily Mirror” and “Truth”, London “ Daily Mirror “ and. London “ Daily Mail “. The broadcasting stations which applied for television licences were 2GB, 2UE, 2UW, 2SM and 2KY, all of Sydney, and 2KA, Katoomba. In Melbourne, the applicants for licences were: Melbourne “ Herald “. Melbourne “ Age “. Melbourne “ Argus “, 3AK, 3SY, 3UZ and 3KZ, all of Melbourne, Macquarie Broadcasting. Service, Artransa Proprietary Limited, and Associated T.V. Proprietary Limited.
In Brisbane and Adelaide, the position was the same. Again there was a newspaper, radio, and television hook-up. In Brisbane, the applicants included the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, Brisbane “ Telegraph “, “ Sydney Morning Herald “, Sydney “Daily Telegraph”, Sydney “Truth and Sportsman. “, Melbourne “ Herald “, London “ Daily Mail “, Toowoomba Newspaper Company Limited, Northern Star Limited, Lismore, Tweed Newspaper Company Limited, Murwillumbah, 4BC Brisbane, 4GR Toowoomba, 4MB Maryborough, 4RO Rockhampton, 4BK Brisbane, and 4AK Oakey. In Adelaide the applicants included Adelaide “ Advertiser “, Adelaide “ News “, Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, London. “ Daily Mail “, 5 AD, SDN, and 5KA, all of Adelaide, 5SE Mount Gambier, 5PI Crystalbrook, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5AU Port Augusta, and 2BH Broken Hill.
Consequently, we find that instead of the Parliament of Australia being the governing body, the radio, television and newspaper interests are telling this Government in particular what to do about certain problems, and time and again the Government bows its knee. If members of the Government do not bow their knees in order to keep in good with the newspaper interests, they are removed and given a knighthood or put on the New Year honours list in some other way.
This is a dangerous tendency that has been developing and it is a matter that should be looked at by this Government. The Commonwealth Parliament should govern this country, and not the newspaper, radio and television interests. It is time that the power of the press, radio and television was curbed in order that the Australian Government can govern in the interests of Australia rather than in their interests and those of their friends. The hook-up between newspapers, radio and television is not the only example of the growth of big monopoly interests that can be cited in Australia at the present time. Large retail stores are taking over in various parts of the country by buying out the small man. Large retail grocery stores are expanding their operations, and large industrial com panies are eating up smaller men. Quite often this is accomplished by unfair competition, either by selling, an item below cost or by preventing supplies from reaching the smaller men. The growth of monopolies and other big business is a matter that should be studied immediately by the Government. It is to be hoped that during the term of this Parliament the Government will recover from, the lethargy and lack of interest from which it suffers and will introduce legislation to resolve some of the problems of this great and expanding nation.
.- I should like to join with other honorable members in congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election to your high office, lt is a particular source of satisfaction for me; as a South Australian, that you once again, because of your qualities, have gained the confidence of this House and brought credit to our State by occupying your high position. At the same time I should like to deprecate scurrilous remarks such as those that were made the other day by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
– Why pick on him when he is not here?
– I would like him to be here, but he is back in South Australia poking his sticky fingers into the State election campaign instead of doing what he should be doing and what he is paid to do, namely, appearing in this House when it is sitting.
That the honorable member for Hindmarsh constantly indulges in this sort of scurrilous stuff has been recognized not only by this side of the House and the general public but also by his colleagues. I noted that the honorable member, who was said to be one of the up-and-coming people in the Australian Labour party, barely managed to retain his position on the Labour front bench. It may be that that will be a corrective and a lesson to him.
I should like to join with speakers on both sides of the House in congratulating those honorable members who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. These speeches have been uniformly of a very high standard. I was particularly impressed by the thoughtful manner in which many of them broke new ground. 1 think that we can expect much originality in this Parliament, as a result.
Not every election produces in the membership of the House a change of approximately one-sixth, while leaving the party position much the same as it was before, yet that is what has happened on this occasion. I hope that the other new members will forgive me if I make particular mention of the maiden speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), my friend and colleague from South Australia. I am sure that honorable members who heard him were impressed by his penetrating analysis of foreign exchange requirements and the difficulties which face our principal export industries, an impression which was enhanced, if I may say so, by the quiet, diffident, and patently sincere way in which he delivered his speech. My honorable friend is equipped by training and experience which are second to none, I believe, in this House to analyse and dissect the problems of our primary industries.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I direct your attention to Standing Order 61, which states that a member shall not read his speech. The honorable member appears to be infringing this rule.
I think the honorable member is in order. He is entitled to refer to his notes, but I ask him to keep within the Standing Orders.
– I wish to refer, in the time available to me, to what I believe to be two of the most important problems facing Australia, which were mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech. The first of these is wool, and I am, therefore, particularly glad that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is sitting at the table. The second is Commonwealth-State financial relations. His Excellency said -
The prices of a number of our exports have risen but the price of wool, which is of the greatest importance for Australia-
Which is a classic understatement, if I may say so - has remained at a relatively low level.
Almost entirely because of this fall, the value of our exports has dropped by £7,509,000 in the six months ended December, 1958, compared with the same period in 1957.
It should not be necessary for me to emphasize the importance to Australia of that capacity to import. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) did that when he pointed out that the condition precedent to our future growth is not only the maintenance of our capacity to import at the level of recent years but also the raising of those levels quite considerably in the very near future. That is the stark reality. I believe that we cannot escape from it by import replacement or import licensing or, least of all, by an artificially generated internal demand. Whether we like it or not, if we cannot earn enough overseas funds we must cut down on our immigration programme, plans for internal development, plans for raising the standards of living of all of the Australian people and, in fact, on our vision of Australia Unlimited. That is the measure of the importance of wool. That is why not only the woolgrowers but every man, woman and child in Australia are concerned with the future of wool. Because they are concerned, so also are the Australian Government and this Parliament.
What has happened to wool? We were going along comfortably with wool at a good price when suddently, with little warning, it dropped catastrophically to a level which, in many cases, is below the cost of production. The level is 34 per cent, lower in the first half of 1958-59 than it was in the corresponding period in 1957-58. Of course, when this sort of thing happens, everybody has a particular theory as to why it happened. In this case, an extraordinary variety of bogies have been produced from under the bed. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) blames pies and the rigging of the auction system. It should be remembered that the honorable member is not disinterested in giving that explanation. Others blame competition from synthetics. As a number of my colleagues have mentioned, others have blamed the import, duty free - or almost duty free - of certain synthetics from overseas. Others blame hire purchase and other forms of competitive finance for durable consumer goods. I could go on with this list almost indefinitely. There is probably some element of truth in every one of those explanations.
In putting them forward, I think it important to keep both eyes on the ball, and to remember that, whatever the effect of those factors, the overwhelmingly important reason for the decline in the price of wool has been the recession in the major industrial countries overseas and, in particular, in the United States of America. There is nothing new about this. Similar circumstances have accompanied every steep decline in prices in the history of our wool industry. What is new in the present situation is the failure of wool to recover in a normal way with the quickening in industrial activity that has taken place in those countries in the past few months. I hasten to add that I believe this to be purely a lag and not an absolute state. I have every confidence that in the long run wool prices will return to a reasonable level.
Could this lag, however, be a measure of the inroads made by synthetics since there was last a substantial decline in world economic activity? I believe, Mr. Speaker, that it is a measure of the advance made by synthetics in their competition with wool. They are not, as I said, the principal cause of the decline in price but a very important subsidiary cause - a cause which is growing more important year by year as wool is left further behind in the promotional race.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that we have been appallingly complacent in our approach to the problems of this our most important industry. By we, I mean this House, all Australian governments, the Australian people and even, incredible as it may seem, the Australian wool-growers themselves. The Australian Wool Bureau, which is controlled by the growers, incidentally, has done virtually nothing in the last few years except accumulate, so fa/ as I can make out, about £4,000,000 in trust fund balances. The bureau has now announced a superb programme for wool promotion in Australia and to bolster the situation overseas, but I have a feeling that such a programme should have been undertaken before and not after the recent catastrophic drop in wool prices.
However that may be, Mr. Speaker, my concern is with the role of the Commonwealth Government in selling the maximum quantity of Australian wool to the peoples of the world at the best possible price. I believe the role of the Government should be to provide leadership, to co-ordinate, to encourage and to take the responsibility for ensuring that there are no weak links in the chain, and if necessary to provide funds on a massive scale, in conjunction with the wool-growers, for world promotion of wool. That, Sir, should be the role of the Government. It is a role made necessary by the atomistic structure of the industry - an industry that is made up of tens of thousands of small growers, all producing wool with superb efficiency, but few actively concerned with the fate of their product after it is sold.
In contrast to this atomistic structure, we have the monolithic structure of the vast companies which produce the synthetic fibres. They are companies of the type of Imperial Chemical Industries and Du Pont. In such an unequal contest, there is no doubt which will win, but there is no reason, as I see it, for the contest to be unequal. A co-ordinating authority which took responsibility for ensuring that nothing was missed in the chain of action necessary to make wool the most attractive fibre on the world market could adjust the balance. If such an authority existed, the contest would not be the unequal battle that it is at present.
As a small illustration of what I am driving at, I remind the House of a point that was made by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) in a most interesting and able speech last Thursday night on this subject. While in the United States of America recently, the honorable gentleman, in his usual thorough fashion, studied everything in that country which is of significance to the Australian wool industry. Among other things, he discovered that some of the biggest woollen textile manufacturers in America had never heard of the new processes developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization such as permanent pleating, shrink.proofing and moth-proofing. They are processes which, in terms of the bally-hoo developed by the synthetic manufacturers, have made wool a miracle fibre.
Sir, what I want to know is why woollen textile manufacturers have not heard of those processes. They should have heard of them, and it is just not good enough that they have not. This is just one example of dozens that I could give the House which illustrate beyond contradiction that too much is left to chance. Wool is too important to the future of Australia to be left .to chance.
I urge the Government to call an immediate conference of all interested bodies and government departments - every one who is concerned with wool from the time it begins to grow on the sheep’s back until it is a finished article in the hands of the consumer. I would hope that such a conference would set up a co-ordinating secretariat with the task of ensuring that Australian wool is presented to the world with the same monolithic efficiency as are the synthetic fibres. If we can achieve this with wool, then I am sure that it will beat into a cocked hat every synthetic fibre that is available to-day or is likely to be developed in the future.
The other matter which I wish to consider briefly in the short time available to me is the vital question of CommonwealthState relations. I believe, Sir, that the forthcoming Premiers conference on this question could be the most important of its kind since federation. I say this because 1 think it possible that the conference could represent a turning point in our constitutional advance, or retrogression, whichever way you happen to look at it. It may well be the means of saving the federal system from what appears to be an irresistible trend towards a unitary system of government. It may well be the means by which the growing tendency towards irresponsible government is reversed, so that we achieve again the responsible government which is meant to be such an important feature of the British parliamentary system, wherever it nourishes.
We still delude ourselves, Mr. Speaker, that we have a federal system in this country. I believe that we only delude ourselves. We have the forms of federal government, but the substance is something entirely different. A system of government is called federal when the central government on the one hand, and the units on the other, have separate and sovereign powers. This is true in Australia insofar as it relates to formal legislative :power. The legislative powers of the States and the Commonwealth are separate and sovereign, and they are exercised. But is legislative power real and effective power if the government concerned has not independent control over separate financial resources sufficient to enable it to meet its legislative responsibilities? I do not believe that any meaningful use of the term “ federation “ can apply to cover such weak creatures as the Australian States have become .since they were deprived of independent control over a section of the income tax field. My point is that whatever our view may be as to the desirability of the present state of affairs, let us not delude ourselves that in it we have a true federal system, because we have .not.
Last year most States celebrated their centenary of responsible government. I think Queensland is to do so this year. The implication in those celebrations was that the States still had responsible government. But did they, and do they to-day? Can any student of governmental institutions describe a government as -responsible which is not responsible for raising the money which it spends in fulfilling its legislative responsibilities? On the contrary, it would be better described as an irresponsible government, and many of the State governments are becoming more and more irresponsible as time goes on. I believe, Sir, that the deleterious effects of this irresponsibility on the attitude of the Australian people to government activity has been incalculable.
I hope that the forthcoming conference will take action leading to the restoration of the federal system. I do not believe that any better system has been devised for a country like Australia, with the problems that Australia has to face, nor are the Australian people ready to change to any other system. Restore it, therefore, to its former pristine state. It can be done, I believe, given the will, and the will, I am sure, will be there once it is realized that under the present system - and I do not think everybody does realize it - we no longer have a federal form of government in any meaningful sense of the term, nor do we have responsible government in any meaningful sense of that term.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) took me by storm, Mr. Speaker. If it were not that I think honorable members opposite might hold it against you, I also would congratulate you on your elevation again to your office.
The honorable member for Barker has prepared a very fine paper on the problems of government, but I am afraid that a committee considering it on this side would give: him only a fair pass. Some of the principles of which he spoke are not carried out io the way that they should be by the party he speaks for, and, I think, some of the matters of which he spoke are not as he has set them out. He spoke, for instance, of the British parliamentary system. He mentioned it in terms of association with the federal system. I presume that the British parliamentary system has descended and developed from the House of Commons and its sovereign powers, and there is no suggestion in that system that you will get efficient government by breaking up your sovereign powers into parts and stratifying them in such a way that no one can arrive at a decision. That is where irresponsibility lies. The fault is not the failure of the federal system to go backwards, but the failure of the people who sponsor federal systems to realize that without the power itself you can have neither responsibility nor government. There is, therefore, only one thing to do. We have to develop a system which puts the responsibility and the power of decision into the hands of one legislature which is, from our point of view, this one. There is plenty of development that you can do along the line, to make sure that the system solves the problems of Australian government - of which there are many. But in these days of space and outer space, distances and lines of communication are no real’ difficulty, and therefore I suggest that honorable members opposite should be turning their minds towards continuous development, along what are logical lines - that is, towards unitary government of some sort, which solves the regional problems also.
It is interesting, I think, in studying federal systems to note that historically under those systems which have been developed latest more powers have been reposed in the central body. If one studies these systems, such as the original one introduced in the United States of America over 150 years ago, Australia’s system which was introduced nearly 60 years ago, and the one designed for Austria some time after the first world war, it becomes obvious that the logical development is towards a unitary system in which a responsible government makes its decisions-. Unfortunately, there is not such a system in Australia, and there is no State government more irresponsible politically than that in your own home State. Mr. Speaker, and the home State of the honorable member for Barker. Consider the position in South Australia. Consider the position- with regard to electorates there. Consider the existence of a Legislative Council with a restricted property franchise in a Liberal State in what is supposed to be a democratic country. The Government there fights to preserve that system. Over the years I have heard in this House many violent accusations levelled against the trade union movement. If a trade union leader decided, in order to preserve his position, that het would burn some ballot-papers instead of sending them out to his opponent, then’ that would be considered a bad thing. The matter would go to the Arbitration Court and he would be punished. But if you are a Liberal - traditionally, and almost by inheritance, in charge of a State - then you can draw electoral boundaries so that your opponents cannot win, and you. will be. knighted for it. I see no difference between the type of gerrymandering which for 100 years has been going on under Liberal governments from one end of Australia to another, and the kind of tampering with ballot boxes to which I have referred. Therefore, the Liberal party stands in de;fault. It stands, condemned despite all the fluent pretensions of the back-benchers opposite us, none of which are given legislative effect in this Parliament or in State parliaments where the Liberal party is in office. Therefore, we take very little notice of the causes that they pretend to sponsor.
I do not feel there is much need for me to defend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). When he returns to- the House, having taken his part in the attempt, not to restore, but to produce for the first time, democracy in South Australia. I have no doubt that he will be able to deal with the honorable member for Barker in his usual: competent fashion.
There are a few other points in the speech of the honorable member for Barker to which it might be worth while to refer. He seems to be in terrible trouble between the atomistic sheep-farmers and the monolithic industrial concerns. He regretted that too much was left to chance. I thought it was Liberal philosophy to leave things to chance; that it was chance that developed the free flow of markets; that the unfettered right of a person to do what he thinks best in his own interests would finally resolve the problems of the nation and produce a better and happier life for all of us. But this does not seem to work. I suggest that if the honorable member for Barker would come into conference with us over here we might consider his theory and examine the philosophy of chance and its effect on human nature. Perhaps we could convince him that planning, co-ordination, getting together, and co-operation are the things that will produce a decent society. They are the kind of things that are sponsored by a socialist society, and they are the answer to his problem.
These are the continual contradictions that one finds in examining speeches of honorable members opposite. They seem to stay on the back benches if they have put any research into their subjects. As 1 have said, the speeches from the opposite side of the House have no relation to the actions of Liberal parties all over Australia and, I suppose, of conservative parties generally.
So I turn to the Speech made by His Excellency the Governor-General only one week past. It is an interesting document. I do not suppose it is any more dull than the other two or three to which I have listened since I was elected to this place. I think it provided, perhaps, a little more in the abstract and placed less emphasis on practical problems. I looked in vain for human questions that one could study. But the very atmosphere of the thing has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. We find that we are going to have committees. Committees will look into matters. The Tariff Board has a committee looking into one matter. The dairying problem is to be considered by a committee. There is a committee on decimal coinage which is to solve some sort of problem. These problems are not to be tackled by this Government, by the Parliament, or even by parliamentary committees. Somebody outside is going to wave the wand and produce the answers, and His Excellency’s Government is going ito try, hopefully, to translate them into action.
The Governor-General expressed the hope of his advisers that the present Parliament would have an opportunity to do certain things. The Government hopes! It has the numbers, and so will be able to go on hoping. We were told, too, that, “ if the economy permits “ the Government will look into social services, and that “ consideration has also been given to possible alternative uses of coal.” So the Government is going to consider things! It is going to hope. As a matter of fact, the only hope that I finally see is in the last phrase - “ It is the earnest hope that Divine providence may guide our deliberations.”
The new members of this House are a credit to this institution, but I shall not examine too closely the relationship between the utterances of honorable members opposite and the actions of their parties. However, they stood up, and very competently and fluently made their points and I hope that they will keep it up.
I examined the Governor-General’s Speech very carefully in the light of the problems of the people whom I represent in a Melbourne metropolitan constituency. In the division of Wills, about 40,000 voters and their families are concentrated in some 8 or 9 square miles. They have not much room to manoeuvre in this game of chance against the monolithic structures that support the Liberal party and the atomistic sheep-farmers who are trying to continue to purchase Cadillacs in the face of falling markets.
The people whom I represent are interested in housing. The Government hopes it may be able to do something about that. It recognizes in not one way the fact that housing is lagging seriously. Only a fortnight back I heard the news that in Australia there are some 2,800 marriages a week whereas only 1,300 houses are being built each week. These figures take no regard whatsoever of the fact that thousands and thousands of people who occupy existing houses would like either to extend them, to pull them down and rebuild, or to move to better ones. This is a part of the social problem that seems to me never to have been considered at all.
In view of the fact that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on one occasion described this country as being lush with money, the social service payments are a disgrace. It is impossible for a person to live on them whether they be the unemployment benefit, a widow’s pension, the age pensions or any other pensions. Something has to be done about it. Surely the conscience of the Government, in complete control of the country as it is at the moment, should be stirred to do something about this problem and not keep putting off the evil day. Something must be done about it. But nothing constructive has been said in the Governor-General’s Speech about pensions.
In my electorate, there are probably 3,000 or 4,000 people on the age pension and I am continually in touch with widow pensioners. The civilian widow who is left with young children - the woman between 30 and 50 years of age who has one, two, or three young children and is unable to go out to work - is in a dreadful position. She is entitled to the same sort of consideration that we give to widows who lost their husbands in the war. The Government has ignored this problem.
Education is vital to the nation. In my electorate are two fairly large high schools with 700 and 600 children respectively. I have mentioned before that at one of them, when the mothers’ club bought seats for the children to put in the yard, there was no room to put them in the yard. The other day I measured out the yard with the headmaster and found that each child had less than two square yards of space. Space is being sought to put up a new building - perhaps it will have to go further up into the sky. At one of these schools 70 children may want to do the matriculation examination next year and there is no hope of accommodating them within miles of the school - possibly not within the Victorian education system.
We have had the Murray report on our universities. Secondary education is vital to the country. This crisis has been coming for 12 years. A logical expectation following the end of the war was an increase in the birth rate. It was only necessary to consult the year book of 12 years ago to realize the great wave of children that was going to hit the schools in 12 years’ time.
Any one charged with the responsibility of governing the country did not need to be very bright to be able to add 12 to 1947 and arrive at 1959 and so to see that this was going to be a year of crisis in the secondary education system of Australia. But nothing at all has been done about it. The condition is ignored.
The Federal Government does all kinds of things. The Murray committee examined the position of the universities, but teachers’ colleges have been ignored. Just established in my electorate is a new teachers’ college which of course is part of the tertiary education system. There are 120 trainee teachers in a church hall. These are the people who are to be trained for the next two or three years to go out as teachers. There has been no consideration of making grants to the States to assist teachers’ colleges and incorporate them under the university system. So we look in vain for any approach by the Government to one of the fundamental problems - one of the most human and personal problems - the development of the educational system throughout Australia. This is a system of false values.
There is one subject in which I have taken a good deal of interest in the past few years. That is the welfare of aboriginals in Australia. I want to support the point of view which was put here last night by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) so fluently.
– Yes- brilliantly. Each honorable member should read the speech. Each honorable member, too, should start to consider the question from the point of view of the human problem involved. It is not a matter of whether they are aborigines or natives or black; it is a matter of treating them as people. What is the position in this country at the moment? We make great play of special agreements with the United Nations and we talk about human rights and values, but one simple indication of our attitude to the aborigines is shown in the Commonwealth Year-Book for 1958, copies of which have just reached us. In the population statistics the Australian aborigines have not been counted. The last time any mention of their numbers was made was at 30th June, 1947. That was in a census taken when the Labour government was in office. But in the 1954 census, taken when the present Government was in office, no mention is made of Them. I read a news item some weeks ago hat the aborigines would not be taken into account in the census of 1961 unless there was some special reason to do so.
In the Year-Book for 1958 there is no difficulty in finding how many head of cattle there are in Australia. On page 922, figures are shown as at the end of 1957 giving those details. The section dealing with sheep is even more specific. Details are given of the numbers, age, sex and breed of all Australian sheep as at 31st March, 1957.
The inattention to aborigines is a very serious reflection on the whole nation and upon each one of us. Twelve months or more ago I asked the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, to do -something about statistics relating to aborigines. I understood that the Bureau of Census and Statistics was under his control. He said that he would look into the matter, but still the latest figures “that are available from the Commonwealth Statistician concerning aborigines are twelve years old. This is a simple demonstration of the fact that when the plain question of purely human values is considered, this Government has no sympathy at all for the aborigines.
At the moment we are confronted with the serious question of general citizenship for the Australian aborigines. There are some 50,000 of them who can be classed as ;pure .aborigines and another 20,000 who are of part aboriginal descent. An interestingfact is that in Victoria aborigines have full . citizenship. With the present shortage -of -housing in that State this right does not give them much practical benefit, but nevertheless .the Liberal Government in Victoria is proud of the fact that the aborigines have full citizenship rights. The responsible Liberal party Minister in the Victorian Government has made numerous speeches about this. But when a proposition was made -to the Liberal Country League Government in Western Australia to grant the aborigines in that State full citizenship rights, it was rejected by the Legislative Council - one <of those democratic institutions which our political opponents have kept in existence for their preservation. In that House the voting was fifteen against and twelve in favour of granting citizenship rights to the 20,000 and more natives of Western Australia. I do not know whether the Australian Country party has a more tolerant attitude, but -in Western Australia the coalition Liberal Country League said it -was too early to grant the aborigines full citizenship. Western Australia has been a State for 120 or 130 years; how much longer will it be before it grants this right to these people?
This is a challenge to us. It is not a question of whether we can hold up our heads in Asia or anywhere else in the world but one for our own conscience. Citizenship is :not simply the right to vote. As the honorable member for Fremantle said last night, we do not expect to go chasing nomads around the desert with a ballot-box but we do expect that the legal restrictions, obstacles and hurdles to the attainment of their rights of citizenship in this country, which was originally their own, should be removed. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to remove them. There are restrictions in the social service legislation and practised in the various social service systems. In most States, unless an aboriginal can produce some sort .of evidence that he is a fit and .proper person he is not allowed to receive such social service benefits as unemployment relief, age pension, or sickness benefits. The same sort of restriction applies to .aboriginal women with regard to the maternity allowance. These prohibitions do mot apply to other classes of persons. An alien who ‘has just landed from an immigrant -ship is entitled to these benefits at once. It is not a :case of having 2,000 years of civilization behind us; it is a matter of adopting an adult, mature, tolerant, .civilized .attitude to .people who are fundamentally the same as we are. These are the considerations we -have to face.
In the Northern Territory, out of 16.000 or 17,000 aborigines, only seventeen have been granted citizenship. I pay tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who, in spite of his conservatism, has done probably one of the best jobs for these people ‘that anybody in Australia has done in accordance with his ‘duties. But this intolerant, doubtful, cautious, conservative attitude which breeds a fear that something dreadful will happen if restrictions over the aborigines are removed, must be changed. I know that some people in the Northern Territory are convinced that something dreadful will happen if the aborigines are given equal freedom with white people. They fear that they will take to drink. Already there seems to be a huge consumption of alcohol throughout Australia and it would probably be better if all of us - perhaps myself excepted - used less of the stuff: Because there has been one known case of a famous Australian who indulged himself a little too much it seems that we are going to restrict the freedom of all the others. These things are a challenge to all Australians.
Although the Minister, in all good faith and sincerity, says that it is his objective to remove temptation from primitive people, the Government has allowed two breweries to be established in Darwin. This is a city with a population about a quarter of that of Canberra. In Papua and New Guinea there are only two well-established secondary industries, one a brewery and the other a tobacco factory. The Government must realize that it cannot proceed along one line and neglect another. Honorable members heard the shocked amazement in the voice of the new honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) when he heard the suggestion that the “ natives “, as he called them, should be granted citizenship. The honorable member is one of the youngest members of his party. At his age he ought to be a democrat and even a revolutionary still.
I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that all men should be treated as equal, and we have a right as Australians to show the rest of the people on this planet that after 6,000 years of persecution, intolerance and oppression of people on racial, religious or political grounds we have achieved something worth while. The problem is quite small. There are only 60,000 aborigines and I suppose that half of them will make out quite well, given reasonable opportunities. The cost of bringing the others up to standard would be minute. If they cannot make the grade, we must treat them as social invalids. We give the invalid pension to a person who cannot make the grade because of ill health or mental ill- ness. We have to make the same allowance for the aborigines who cannot make the grade socially.
This is a challenge that faces us all. It is a kind of human challenge which I have chosen to bring into this debate on this occasion. It is a smallish problem but an important and vital one. It is the opposite approach to that of the Governor-General’s Speech, which has been presented to us and which devotes itself to matters of decimal coinage, various hopes and fears and the prospect of travel in outer space.
.- As the oldest member of this House I should like to congratulate the new members on both sides of the chamber who have made their very bright maiden speeches. I was very pleased to note that they were all optimists. Apparently the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has become a little pessimistic, if we are to judge by the speech he has just made. Probably if a Labour government were elected to office he would become optimistic again. I read the reports of the speeches of new members whom I was not present to hear and I was pleased to note that they all spoke for an “Australia Unlimited.” I congratulate them upon having that attitude.
I should like to say quite plainly at the very beginning of my speech that I do not think we can get “ Australia unlimited “ unless we do something to revise our methods of financing the developments that are necessary. I do not believe that this generation can afford to find, out of taxes or loans, the money needed to fix up all the public works necessary for perhaps four or five times as many people in 50 years’ time. Therefore, we have to make certain that we find other sources from which to secure the wealth that is necessary.
My main reason for speaking to-night is to refer to a matter that has been brought very closely to my mind by the two major floods which occurred during the last few weeks in the northern part of New South Wales. They were extraordinary floods - floods that rose at the rate of 8, 9 or 10 feet an hour for consecutive hours - the fastest ever known, and consequently most dangerous to the townspeople lower down the river, because they were not given time to evacuate their homes as would be the case had the floods risen more slowly.
I want to indicate the measures that I think are necessary, first, to give relief to the people who have suffered all these troubles, and, secondly, to provide a permanent solution of the difficulties that have faced them, and do something that will really prevent floods in this country. Objectively, the floods we have in Australia - there has been no real attempt to prevent them - are not merely a hazard to development, and not merely the cause of a tremendous amount of waste of natural resources, but, subjectively, they develop a sense of hopeless futility and despair even among people who are indomitable in the way in which they face their difficulties, when they are left with their homes flooded, their furnishings and other possessions swept away, their stock drowned and their pastures unproductive for many months. At present, there are thousands of thousands of acres of farming land in the northern rivers area under water, and likely to remain under water until the winter is past.
For some unknown reason the flood waters of the Clarence have a strange habit of entering the towns in the dark. They steal in stealthily like a burglar, at night, or come in the very early morning. They always come at times that are very inconvenient, and it is absolutely indispensable that the people affected should have word beforehand to enable them to evacuate their houses.
What happens with regard to these floods? Commonwealth revenue suffers, State revenue suffers and local government revenue suffers. There is loss all along the line. We have losses of production, losses of overseas trade and losses of tax revenue. Also, by doing nothing in a permanent way to prevent floods, we suffer a monetary loss in that funds have to be spent on flood relief. That money is washed away like flotsam in the floods year after year. So we must make certain that we apply the right cure. That cure, of course, is to preserve both the money and the water. We must store our waters and thereby make certain that they cannot come with this desperate rapidity which causes all the trouble. I am quite convinced that in my lifetime many dams could have been built with the money spent by governments on relief for people affected by disastrous floods. Those floods could have been avoided completely had the money we were forced to spend on that relief been earlier used on proper preventive measures.
I find that Australia is the only country in the world which is able to afford such a foolhardy lack of action. I find also that it is the only country that has division of authority in regard to flood control. The United States of America, which is roughly about the same size as Australia, and is, like Australia, a federation, has placed the control of navigation under absolute federal authority. It is, therefore, able to guard against floods to a great extent, but, should floods occur, it is able to put relief measures into motion immediately.
The January flood on the Clarence, followed by a second flood the following week, in February, emphasizes the need for federal powers in this connexion. I am glad that the Constitution Review Committee, as mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, has recommended that the control of navigation be exclusively a Commonwealth function. We would then be following the American method of dealing with this problem. The federal authorities in America control navigation right from the highest rill in the hills to where the water debouches into the sea. The river systems of America are entirely under the control of one government.
T remind the House once again of what has happened in this country due to division of authority. When these last floods occurred, they not only rose with extraordinary rapidity, but they rose in rivers which had not been on recent occasions very severely flooded. The result of these floods in rivers which had been fairly free from flooding was that the flood waters brought down an enormous amount of debris - logs and all sorts of rubbish - which blocked all the bridges and the egresses of the small creeks. The flood waters could not get away, completely isolating many people in their homes and many cattle in the pastures. I applied at once to the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) for a dragline which the Commonwealth Government had provided freely during the floods in 1954 and 1955, and which had given inestimable service. He said he was quite willing to make it available, but after he had looked into the matter he found that he could not let us have the dragline except on the request of the State Government. 1 said that 1 would guarantee the payment of the rent, and he replied that that was no good, and that even a request from a local government authority would not do. We had to get a request from the State Government. That conversation occurred on a Monday, I think. It took us until the following Friday before we could get any request made by the Stale Government for the dragline, although we had every member from that area in the New South Wales Parliament working to ensure that the request was made.
I find from the reply that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave to-day to a question that I asked yesterday, that there has been no actual request for relief, such as is ordinarily made by the New South Wales Government when any of these disastrous floods occur, even though these floods, which began three weeks ago, have not abated. The Prime Minister read his reply at a time when, unfortunately, I had left the chamber. 1 had spent 35 minutes here waiting for the reply but, as the Prime Minister had not mentioned it, I left the chamber thinking he had forgotten it. The Prime Minister said -
At the request of the New South Wales Government, the dragline mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper has been made available by the Commonwealth Department of Works on two occasions of major flooding in the Clarence River area, to assist in the clearance of debris. I have ascertained that on this occasion, following arrangements between State authorities and the Commonwealth Department of Works, the dragline arrived in the area on 4th February and is being employed in accordance with locally arranged task priorities. It is under the control of the district engineer of the New South Wales Public Works Department, who is in contact with local government authorities in the area. The cost involved - approximately £1,000 per month for some three months - has been provisionally accepted by the New South Wales Government. In accordance with its usual practice, the Commonwealth Government will consider sympathetically any requests that may be received from New South Wales relating to these floods.
I wish to point out that the people affected - the ratepayers of the flooded shires - will not have any revenue for months and months. Those shires will have to free the roads of debris, repair damage, and do lots of other things as a result of the floods, and they have not a dog’s chance of finding the money to pay for them. It will come, i believe, ultimately from the Commonwealth Government, because I am sure that, sooner or later, the State government will realize its constitutional responsibilities and deal with this matter in the way that it has always been dealt with hitherto. If the State government makes its request for relief, the thing can be dealt with at once.
Some lime ago I asked the Prime Minister whether he would constitute a permanent emergency flood relief committee of this Parliament, which would always be in existence, with members from every State on it, and which could immediately approach State and Federal governments - as would be necessary under the present constitutional set-up - to get something done. I know that everybody will remember that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has done a yeoman job in connexion with floods in New South Wales on five or six occasions, because he was in an executive position and able to get on with the job. He has been extraordinarily useful to us in that regard. I hope that the committee will be set up at once so that we will be able to make contact with the State governments immediately the need arises. In Queensland, there is really just as much trouble as there has been in New South Wales.
I must commend my State colleagues in New South Wales. They worked sedulously to secure the help of the New South Wales Premier, but they could not contact him. Finally, they approached the permanent head of the Treasury, who made contact with the officials, and the dragline has gone forward. However, I have been informed by wire now that the dragline will be removed almost at once. I do not know what will happen, but the decision to move the dragline seems silly. Water is lying on the land and will remain there until something is done to let it run away. While the land remains under water, tremendous losses are being suffered.
The big advantage of the Commonwealth having control of relief of this nature is that it already has an organization in the Army and the Air Force which have the necessary equipment and so could get on with the job immediately. Personnel from these services have done invaluable work in the- past. If the Commonwealth had full control, immediate action could be taken when the floods occurred. At this time, I should like to thank the Commonwealth officials who did so- much during- the last and other floods. We feel that we owe them a tremendous debt, and we should like to express our gratitude to the Minister.
The permanent solution of our problem is within the realm of possibility. Researches by experts over the last 60 years have always reached the same conclusion - that a dam at the gorge on the Clarence River, where practically al! the tributaries coalesce, would prevent all flooding and would provide water for irrigation, give access to 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 acres of timber that at present are inaccessible, and would permit a very big head of power to be established. Such a dam would pay for itself. Yet we can get nothing done! I venture to say that this is because of the magnitude of the job. Nothing was done with the Snowy River until the Commonwealth Government, under Mr. Chifley, started the scheme. I regret to say that this was at the end of his term of office; I wish it had been started earlier. 1 have been fighting for the Snowy scheme as well as the Clarence and the Burdekin schemes all my life. The River Murray Waters Commission, the Wyangala dam and many other ventures were started either on the initiative of the Commonwealth or with the assistance of the Commonwealth. I feel that we will never get the waters of this nation harnessed unless the Commonwealth takes the initiative. Australia is the driest continent and we need to use the water that we have to the fullest advantage.
Harnessing the waters of the Clarence River would not merely prevent flooding but would also provide many ancillary benefits. I am rather surprised that there should be any difficulty with the New South Wales Government at this time. On 22nd March, 1955, almost four years ago, the “Daily Telegraph “ published the following report: -
The Government has been investigating proposals to mitigate floods.
Mr. Cahill referred in a broadcast last night to organised relief in flood areas. He said: “ What is exercising the Government’s mind is prevention “.
That is what is exercising my mind heretonight. We know how to- prevent the floods but- no one- will do anything about- it because it is such1 a big job-.
– Why does the Commonwealth Government, not do it?
– That is what I have suggested al! along and’ that is what I suggest again to-night. I shall deal with the question of the financing of this scheme. When one looks at the enormous amount of money raised in taxes and l’oans, and when one realizes that’ this is still not enough to do a whole host of indispensable jobs in Australia, it is obvious that we must find some other way to finance this scheme, or we will be left three or four laps behind in the race-.
– What about the Commonwealth Bank?
– That would not do. If we used the bank too freely, we would bump up costs and less would be done. There is a way we can get this done, if we follow the example of the United States of America. The United States of America, like ourselves, had a population of 4,000,000 when it federated some 150 years ago. In the first 100 years, it faced all sorts of problems, just as we are facing problems now. But it realized that it could not develop the country out of the savings or the production of the people and that it needed more men and more capital. Therefore, it went out of its way to attract both capital and man-power. For some years it had terms of trade with the rest of the world against it. For 30 or 40 years it imported more than it exported. I hope that people will rid their minds of the idea that imports are necessarily bad. The important point with imports is the way in which they are paid for. At the end of 30 or 40 years, the United States of America found that it had a population of between 60,000,000 and 70,000,000 people, and within two or three years it had a surplus of exports over imports. In a very short time, the country was able to repay hundreds of millions of pounds that had been expended on building railways and other projects. Capital, other than that invested in Government bonds, had been attracted to pay for the work.
At the present time, we have all sorts of tff’ difficulties in obtaining sufficient money for State works, for local government works and- for Commonwealth works. It seems tome that the time has come when the Australian Loan Council should not merely concern itself with the raising of public loans but should also take into its hands the question of attracting capital from overseas for developmental or semi-business works. That would enable us to get these works done at the same time as we build houses, sewers and all the other essential, things. My hope is that we will build enough houses not only for those who are already here but for those who may come to this country. lt seems to me that in a real immigration programme we should build enough houses to provide for the needs of immigrants. I am sure that if a house were available for every family that wanted to come to Australia, we would be able to get the best people from every nation to help us build’ this country.
I hope that the floods that have done so much damage in northern New South- Wales and. in Queensland will be a fingerpost pointing the way we must move forward to get results. This work will not be done if we rely on- government loans for the necessary finance. Trouble is experienced now in finding sufficient loan funds to satisfy the needs of the State governments and localgoverning authorities. If loan funds cannot be found for this flood prevention work, other capital must be attracted for it. If these works were done on a charter and franchise basis with overseas capital, we would reap the benefit of the need of overseas investors to get the work done quickly. These people must see that the capital they control earns dividends for their shareholders, and the work is usually finished and paying its way very quickly. Unfortunately, in Australia we have developed the habit of taking 20 or 30 years to build a dam such as the Glenbawn dam. The Keepit dam, of course, fills up with dirt almost as quickly as the height of the wall is raised. Instead of taking so long to complete these public works, we should finish them in a year or two years. The contractors on the Snowy Mountains scheme have shown that big works can be completed two years ahead of schedule.
What we in this country need to do is to get on with the- job in this way that will give us these amenities very quickly. I may be getting a bit long in the tooth and rather old, but I hope to live long enough to enjoy some of these amenities that we have been trying to get for all these years, and I am very keen- indeed that my children’s children should enjoy them in their lifetime, too. Instead of merely talking to them about these things being provided in the future, I want to see them really here. Therefore, I say that we have to do something about the matter.
I can give a very sharp illustration of the way in which the present methods work badly for us all. There is an area of land in South Grafton which could be reclaimed. It was necessary to resume it before the reclamation could be undertaken, and therefore it became a job for the Graft03 City Council. The banks were approached for finance, and they said that they were prepared jointly to provide the money required. Had the reclamation been undertaken, I suppose about- 1,000 people who have been forced to leave their homes during the last couple of weeks would have been able to remain undisturbed. After the banks had said that they would find the money needed to reclaim the land, the New South Wales Treasury told the city council, “ If you find this money to reclaim the land, the amount will be taken off your allocation of loan funds, even though it will not be a public debt “. Surely we must alter that situation. We must not reduce an authority’s allocation of loan funds by an amount equivalent to any finance obtained by the giving of a franchise or a charter, or on overdraft, particularly where the money is to be used for purposes such as flood mitigation and prevention, or for making people safe from disaster. If money is found for these purposes, we must not deprive the people, for that very reason, of sewerage or some amenity or service that is absolutely indispensable in a city or municipality. But this is- what is happening at the present time.
For these reasons, I suggest that the Australian Loan Council should undertake two functions. First, it should do the real job for which it was established and, secondly, it should get on with the job of vetting proposals for overseas investment in this country and encouraging overseas investors to bring capital into Australia and undertake these big works. If such investors come here to invest their money, they will bring a lot of specialists in these fields of work who will have a fund of up-to-date knowledge and who will know what ought to be done. They will be extraordinarily valuable to us in the further development of this country.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Twenty-second Commonwealth Parliament has passed away, and the Twenty-third Parliament has been opened with all the pomp and ceremony that is dear to the hearts of members of Parliament and their friends, and dear in another way to the rest of the people of Australia also. For the first time, a large audience of Australians has been able to see some of those ceremonies on television.
The fifth Menzies-Fadden Administration since 1949 has come and gone. We have seen the end of an epoch. No longer is Sir Arthur Fadden a member of this Parliament, and the end of an epoch, surely, is a time when we should, as it were, draw up a kind of national balance-sheet and compare the balance-sheet of the era that has just passed with those of earlier eras. But this is not to say, of course. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that directing attention to what has been done will alter anything that has been done. Not all our piety or wit can cancel half a line; nor all our tears can wash out a word of the record of what has been done. The record is written! But a comparison of the balance-sheet of the latest era with those of earlier eras can let the people see whether the road that we are treading is the right road, whether the methods that we are adopting are the right methods, and whether there should be an alteration of methods, direction or administration. Therefore, T wish to present briefly a comparison between the balance-sheet for the latest era and that for an earlier era in the history of this Australia unlimited to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has referred this evening. Of course, the balance-sheets are not mine. They are prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician - the official statistician of the Commonwealth. And the inferences that are drawn from them will not be mine. They will be the inferences of a responsible official in this community.
Let us take the nine years from the financial year 1940-41 to the financial year 1948-49, both inclusive. In that period, we exported £2,001,000,000 worth of commodities. We imported £1,501,000,000 worth of goods. We paid in interest on public authority loans £225,000,000. We paid out in other invisible items £444,000,000. We showed a favorable balance of £145,000,000. During the latter part of that era after 1943, when the Curtin Government was in office, we showed a favorable balance of payments of £210,000,000. When the Curtin Government took office, our overseas interest bill was £28,000,000 per annum. In 1949, we were paying in interest on overseas bonds £19,000.000 per annum. The amount going to overseas bondholders had been reduced by £9,000.000 per annum. T ask honorable members to keep those figures in mind and to pay attention to those that I am about to recite.
From the financial year 1949-50 to the financial year 1957-58, we exported £7,215,000,000 worth of commodities. This was more than ever before - not because of any action on the part of this Government, but because of bountiful seasons, without droughts, and because of high prices for our goods overseas. We imported in that period £6,698,000,000 worth of goods. We paid in interest on government loans overseas £188,000,000, and we paid in other invisibles £1,253,000,000. Over that period of nine years, our adverse balance - the community’s loss upon current account- totalled £824,000,000. The interest bill on government loans overseas increased from £19.000.000 in 1949-50 to £23,000,000 in 1957-58.
A nation is like a family or a business, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It cannot continually pay out more than it receives. Along that road lies bankruptcy. I admit, of course, that a community, like a business or a family, can pay out more than it receives over a period, if the expenditure that it makes leads to the development of industry in order that production at home can be increased in the future. But is that the case with Australia? Has that vast overseas debt meant the building up of large assets that will add to the productive capacity of the community in the future and so raise the living standards of the people?
Has the vast expenditure been on capital equipment for the building of hospitals, schools, and homes? No, we have relatively fewer homes to-day than we had in the past. Our hospital facilities are inadequate. We do not have enough schools to cater for the requirements of the people.
– The honorable member should tell that to Mr. Cahill.
– The present situation has been brought about because this Government has, contrary to the interests of Australia, spent more than our income, and that at a time when the national coffers have never been so full.
– Mr. Cahill says that Australia is prosperous.
– I would be the last to say that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) should take any notice of the conclusions that I draw or should be able to analyse the figures that I put before them in such stark reality and clarity. I do not expect them to accept my word or to understand what I am saying. But I do expect them to take heed of the leading public servant in this community who deals with these matters. He is a gentleman who was formerly known as Mr. J. G. Crawford, secretary of the Department of Trade. Because of his outstanding capacity and near-genius he was recently knighted, and to-day he is known as Sir John Crawford.
On 30th October, 1958, the Melbourne “ Sun “ carried the following article: -
An overseas trading deficit of £260 million for Australia in 1958-59 was forecast to-day by the Secretary of the Trade Department (Mr. J. G. Crawford).
What does that mean? In 1939 Australia’s overseas funds totalled £55,000,000. When the Curtin Government went out of office our overseas funds totalled £650,000,000. Shortly after the Curtin Government went out of office our overseas funds had reached £803,000,000, due to the efforts of the Curtin Government. To-day our overseas funds amount to £525,000,000. The newspaper article, quoting Mr. Crawford, states -
He said that, as a result, overseas balances would drop below £400 million, against £567 million at the end of 1956-1957.
This is a most interesting article. I should like to read all of it. It continues -
He said that in 1956-57 Australia’s exports were £978 million and imports £718 million, leaving a favourable balance of £93 million after freight, insurance and other charges totalling £167 million had been met.
On present market prices Australia would do well this financial year if exports reached £750,000,000. Imports were expected to be £810,000,000.
Mr. Crawford said he was fairly confident that Australia would not have to face a repetition of the 1929 depression.
What does it mean when a man in Sir John Crawford’s position says, after pointing out the dangers of our present situation, that he is fairly confident that hundreds and thousands of Australia’s sons and daughters will not have to trudge her country roads or her city streets in a hopeless quest for work? What does it mean when he says that he is only “ fairly confident “ that in an industrial suburb such as Brunswick, where 1 live, with 60,000 inhabitants, including men, women and children, 12,000 of them will not be on the dole as they were in 1929? Sir John Crawford says that he is only “ fairly confident “. What is his remedy? He says -
However, we should pray every night that there will not be a major setback in the economies of our main overseas customers.
That is his remedy. The people of Australia must pray that the capacity of overseas countries to purchase our goods will remain as high as it is, or even increase. The position is an intolerable one. Even at this late stage the Government should take some financial action to remedy the position. To-night the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that Australia should encourage overseas investment in this country in order to develop it. What happens when overseas countries invest in Australia? Are those overseas investors content not to draw interest on their investment, or must we export more and more goods in order to pay the interest on overseas investments, just as we do now in order to pay the increasing interest debt on government loans? That would be the position. All overseas investors, whether they be from America, as in the case of General MotorsHolden’s Limited, or from elsewhere want to receive their interest as it falls due.
– In dollars.
– Yes, and Australia has not got dollars. We have to pay the interest on overseas investments by exports of wheat, wool, minerals and manufactured commodities. If we are unable to export manufactured goods, or if the prices for our exports are reduced, then we cannot pay the exorbitant interest charges on overseas investments in this country and at the same time import those raw materials, such as rubber, oil and raw cotton, that are so essential to our industrial progress.
I admit that industrially Australia has made great progress over the past nine years. We have great industries throughout the length and breadth of the land but every additional industry that is established means that we must import more of the raw materials that are essential for the smooth working of those industries. If we do not bring these commodities into this country, unemployment and destitution result.
We see the position as outlined by the expert employed by this Government, and knighted on the recommendation of the Government because of his capacity, knowledge and ability to understand the circumstances attached to ordinary governmental trading. That is the position tha: faces this community. I know, of course, that the warning pen can write in vain, and the warning voice grow hoarse. I remember the other depression and the days before i’.. I remember when, in the late 1920’s, conditions exactly similar to those of to-day existed throughout the length .and breadth of this country, and there were warning voices from Labour .members to say that the Government was hurtling down the road that .led to disaster. Those warnings were not .heeded, and I do .not .expect my warning to-night to be heeded.
The people of Australia must realize, when the facts are put clearly before them, that no people can continue indefinitely to spend more than they earn without ultimate disaster overcoming them. Unemployment is rearing its ugly head in the community at present. It is increasing as the days go by, and it will continue to do so unless we have a radical reversal of the Government’s policy that has enabled the development of such a position that in a period of nine years we are £824,000,000 to the bad, plus those loans that we have raised overseas in that time. It is a position that is pregnant with danger to the whole community. Although conditions are apparently good to-day - working-class people are enjoying a relatively high wage, the business section of the community is making vast profits, and hire-purchase monopolies an J others are exacting immense toll from the people - the writing is on the wall and the Government should give heed to it. In that calm and unimpassioned manner that always distinguishes my remarks, I seek to direct the attention of the Government and of honorable members generally to the descent that this country is making into the abyss of financial disaster.
– It is strange that to-night I should speak immediately after the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has spoken. This situation takes me back to my maiden speech in this House. On that occasion, too, as I think he will remember, I followed him.
– You have not improved much.
– I have not improved a bit, and neither has he. He is still the calm member that he was on that occasion. He is like me in that he never raises his voice, and we are still the same unimpressive speakers.
First, I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment as Chairman of ‘Committees, and I ask you to convey my congratulations to Mr. Speaker on his appointment. I ‘should like also to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the .AddressinReply, and those other honorable members who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. They were very good indeed. I have :heard many maiden speeches in my nine or ten years here, and the standard of those in this debate was very high. I think that we can look forward to some very vigorous debates in this House. For a start, we are all bound to make mistakes. 1 remember that in my first speech I called :the Speaker “ Your Worship “, because I thought I was addressing a magistrate on a bench. One of the speakers the other night called us “ fellows “, which is a very good term for parliamentarians. One will make -these little mistakes, but by and large the speeches were very, very good.
We are debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. His Excellency referred in his Speech, amongst other things, to our support for efforts to achieve properly controlled disarmament, and for the establishment, if it can be brought about, of inspection posts in this country. I think that everyone sincerely hopes that before this year is ended material advances will have been made in these very desirable directions. We hope that real results will accrue from the discussions that are now taking place between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Premier of Russia.
One notices that, notwithstanding these hopes, His Excellency referred, in another part of his Speech, to the determination of the Government to continue with its efforts to improve our defences, with emphasis on highly trained, well equipped forces, mobile and modern, in the three branches of the services. Mention was also made of the priority given by the Government to our field force, the First Infantry Brigade Group and the battalion with the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya.
In the few minutes available to me tonight I have no intention of going through all that is being done in the matter of defence or in the Army, but it might be an appropriate occasion to mention certain matters of interest relating, in particular, to the Army. I am sure that there are many members who would like to have that information, and I do not have much opportunity in other debates to convey ‘it to them. T emphasize that this is , not .a general review of matter relating to the Army.
In an ever-changing world of vast scientific developments, the Government has kept abreast df what is going on in other -countries. Indeed, the Army itself is taking part in some great research projects, particularly at Woomera and Maralinga, and keeping in very close contact with trends and developments “in modern warfare based on the highest counsel and top-rank military thought of the Western democracies.
Our decisions in this country are influenced very largely by world leaders in military tactics and strategy and are based upon conferences, meetings ;and collective exercises in various countries, which many of our defence leaders constantly attend. So we are abreast of what is moving in the modern world in defence matters. The Army, with its complex and intricate organization - it is probably much more complex than most people realize - has seen many far-reaching changes in recent years. As I have mentioned before, and as His Excellency stated, the emphasis is on high mobility, increased fire power, technical and scientific training, and the highest of physical standards for personnel. Its complexities embrace in some form almost every aspect of industry, administration and academic study. Those who keep in close contact with events know what this means, but I am sure that the general public at large have no realization of what is happening inside a service such as our modern army.
Australia has had a permanent army only in -recent years. Previously, we had never had what could be called properly a permanent army in the sense of a complete organization. In peace-time, we had merely the nucleus of an army which could be developed in an emergency, but we never had a permanent standing army. Therefore, the people are not to blame for not appreciating the details of our modern defence organization. Their outlook is based on the armies .that were raised in the two world wars by the mobilization of citizens. They were magnificent armies. They covered themselves with glory and I am not deprecating them in any way, -but they were not in the same category as ;a modern standing army which has to meet new world conditions.
When the two world wars ended, the citizen armies were demobilized and the men who belonged to them went back .to their civil jobs, .although no doubt they -.continued -to take a great interest in -the armed forces. But I am .referring to-night to the permanent Army, and not to the Citizen Military Forces, which are composed of ,citiZen -soldiers. It is appropriate that I should emphasize what a permanent army comprises because modern defence calls for something entirely new in the event of an outbreak of war. Time, equipment and training are the essential factors in a modern war. The -new permanent army of to-day is a career and a profession. It is an organization in which -men devote their lives to highly -specialized training. They must be men above average in mental and physical capacity. That is proved by the fact that one-third of those who apply for enlistment in the Army must be rejected because they do not reach the high medical and physical standards required. Men of quality are required for the modern permanent Army, and that is one of the reasons why I am speaking to-night.
The men who form our Army need recognition, encouragement and support from the people, the members of this Parliament and the press so that they will maintain their morale in the difficult tasks that lie ahead. A permanent standing army must have prestige. It must be recognized for the vital part it must play in the defence of a country like Australia. The Army presents great opportunities for high-class training and education for the young men of Australia. As I have said, only the best of young men are admitted to the Army. That is essential because we are building a field force which must be the spearhead should war break out. We must train officers, non-commissioned officers and others so that they can train others in the event of mobilization for war.
Men who join the Army have a wide choice to-day. They may join the infantry, artillery, armoured corps, engineers, signals, the special air services, the marines or many other sections. The general training given is the most up-to-date in the world. We are abreast of the most modern methods. This should be more widely appreciated.
We provide a number of schools and classes. There are opportunities for higher education as well as modern sporting facilities. We have made great progress in housing army personnel in the past year and greater progress will be made this year. Since the Allison committee report on rates of pay was adopted by the Government, men who join the Army have been given rates of pay comparable with and, in many respects, better than they would receive in civil life, in addition to greater amenities. The adoption of that report has had a marked effect on recruiting. Officer training is an important role of a standing army. A committee has been investigating this matter and I hope that it will produce a report which will lead to even better provisions for officer training. However, excellent opportunities are provided now.
The Royal Military College at Duntroon provides a four-year course, and after graduation cadets have an opportunity to go to higher education in a university. Many hundreds of men have acquired their university degrees through that course. We also have an officer cadet school at Portsea in Victoria. The course is shorter than that at Duntroon but the school is producing some magnificent officers. We are also training many apprentices at the trade apprenticeship courses at Balcombe in Victoria. Hundreds of young men are being trained as first-class tradesmen and those who are trained at Balcombe will compare more than favorably with those produced by any other organization in Australia. There are various other schools with specialist courses where young men can obtain a higher education which is necessary to fit them for the type of career we envisage. In addition, there are great opportunities in the Army for overseas postings. Many hundreds of young men who have gone into the Army have already had an opportunity to accept overseas posts, because we must keep close contact with other countries. We have to send men to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries where they get additional training and observe what is happening elsewhere. Therefore, there are wide opportunities for those who join the permanent Army in Australia.
I have been very pleased with the outcome of the Allison Committee’s report. Recruiting in the past twelve months has shown extraordinary improvement.
In the last quarter of 1958, 925 enlistments were accepted. In December alone, there were 213, against only 84 in December of the previous year. Between 1st January and 4th February, just a little over a month, in this year, 503 recruits were accepted into the Army. There is, of course, some slight wastage, but the proportion of re-engagements has built up from the low figure of 36 per cent, a little while ago to 72 per cent, at the present time. These are re-engagements of men who have served their terms of three or six years.
I would like to mention also the matter of the school cadet system in Australia. I know that it has an old history, and that for a time it fell into disuse, but in recent years great enthusiasm has been shown throughout Australia by school cadets. It is a grand organization. Most of the major schools throughout Australia are participating, and the pressure on me to increase the ceiling number of cadets is enormous. I think we must do something about it. Let me inform honorable members that 93 per cent, of the cadets that we get at the Royal Military College come from the school cadet organizations. This will give some idea of the encouragement that has been given to the system throughout the country.
Just recently, as honorable members know, we reduced the minimum age for entry of young men into the Citizen Military Forces from eighteen to seventeen years. This was done so that the school cadet who left school at the age of seventeen years could go straight into the Citizen Military Forces, without losing his enthusiasm, and being able to continue his training without interruption.
Above all, I am proud to be able to say that this Army is a democratic Army. There is an equal chance for every young man. Ability is the only test, and given the required ability any one can reach the top. There are no prejudices. It has nothing to do with the school that you go to or anything of that nature. It makes no difference whether your parents have a lot of money or no money.
– No Grenadier Guards stuff!
– No. In this country any boy, from any family, provided that he can stand up to the academic and physical tests, is accepted. The basis of examination is the same for all, and all have the same opportunities. We must keep it that way - a democratic army.
– You are a great Minister!
– I do not apologize for coming here and giving a bit of a boost to an organization that is of such national importance. Let me now refer to the vast network of this Army organization, which extends all over Australia. There are many honorable members on both sides of this House who are keenly interested in this. As I have said in this Parliament before, the covered stores of the Army in Australia would not fit into the heart of the City of Sydney. It is a bigger organization, from the point of view of manpower and of money spent, than any other organization in Australia, although there is one, I think, that exceeds it in the matter of man-power. That is the postal department. lt is bigger than the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in every way. I remind honorable members of the huge ordnance depots at Moorebank in New South Wales and Broadmeadows in Victoria, the extensive engineer workshops at Bandiana, the jungle training centre at Canungra, where we are spending large amounts of money on the most magnificent course, I think, in any part of the world. Then there is the signals depot at Balcombe. I might mention also the very modern world-wide radio communications centre, on which we have spent a great deal of money, at Diggers Rest in Victoria.
– Don’t forget St. Mary’s!
– That does not come within the jurisdiction of the Army. Then there are the great training centres at Ingleburn, Holsworthy, Puckapunyal, Wacol and Enoggera. These are just a few in the vast network of depots and other centres throughout Australia.
As I said, I am dealing only with the permanent Army, which now has some 22,000 personnel. This does not include the Citizen Military Forces, which has done magnificent work. That force now numbers about 60,000. Whereas at this time last year our numbers were falling away, our front-line brigade group is now almost at its target strength of 4,200. There are many more hundreds of young men now in training who will be taken into that brigade group.
The exercises that will take place at Mackay in May will be well worth while seeing. In answer to a question in this House the other day I said that I would welcome any honorable members who wished to come to those exercises. I am now making inquiries about the matter because the exercises will take place at a point which is some 50 miles into the jungle. I shall certainly make arrangements for some honorable members to attend, and I sincerely hope that as many as possible will make it their business to come up and see what is being done in these exercises, which are the most ambitious ever to be undertaken in our peace-time history. There will- be a series of exercises in both attack and defence, involving latest techniques and tactics in jungle fighting and tropical warfare. Some thousands of vehicles will be travelling to the exercises from the different States, and we will take the opportunity to let the people see just what is happening in relation to this matter. The exercises will certainly be well worth looking at.
This year will see a great improvement in the provision of modern equipment for the Army, particularly in the fields of transport and communications. This week the FN rifle, about which we have heard so many questions in this House, will be handed over to the Army. We will receive our first batch, which will go to the Infantry Brigade Group. Without going into a lot of figures, honorable members may be interested to hear some comparisons of the capacities of the FN rifle and of the .303 Lee Enfield. The fire power of the new rifle is 100 per cent, greater in aimed shooting, and for short periods it is 400 per cent, better than the old .303. This will give honorable members some idea of the greater efficiency that will follow from the equipping of the Army with the FN rifle. I am not going to deal with the C.M.F. to-night, but it is our second line of defence, and after the permanent Army has been equipped it will also receive the FN rifle. This is quite necessary, of course, because the members of that force must receive the same standard of training as the regular and the permanent Army.
I am sorry that time does not permit me to give certain other details, but I would like to assure honorable members that if they are interested in Army matters, I am only too happy to provide them with whatever information they require. I sincerely hope that, in their turn, they will go back to their electorates and assist us to build up this permanent Army that is so necessary for the defence of this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mclvor) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not propose to detain the House at any great length but I do desire to refer to the disastrous cyclone which hit North Queensland at the beginning of last week. I propose to confine my remarks purely to Bowen because I went there last Wednesday and remained there for three days. I did not visit the other parts of the State that had been affected by the cyclone. Bowen looked to me, when I arrived there, as it did ten months ago after the cyclone which occurred on 1st April, 1958. In other words, it looked like a bombed-out city.
I was privileged to see the anemometer graph for the Monday on which the cyclone occurred. It indicated that the speed at which the wind hit Bowen at 3 a.m. on the Monday was 65 miles an hour, and that nearly 20 hours passed before the speed dropped below that figure. From approximately 12.20 p.m. until 2 p.m. the registration was 116 miles an hour - the limit of the chart - so the actual speed may have been greater. This gives some idea of the forces of destruction that were hurled at the town. Wooden and brick buildings all suffered a terrific battering for twenty hours. Damage estimated at £500,000 was caused to buildings and property in and around the town of Bowen.
The reason for my rising to-night is to appeal to this Government for financial assistance, not only for the people of Bowen but for people in all the cyclonedevastated area. The damage caused on this occasion which, as I have said, is estimated at £500,000 in Bowen alone is equal to the damage which was caused by the cyclone on 1st April, 1958, ten months earlier. On this occasion, 28 homes were completely wrecked, 200 homes suffered extensive damage and 200 others suffered lesser damage. I do not propose to give details of the damage because officers of the State Government and of the local authorities are gathering this information for submission to the State Government. Ultimately the Premier of Queensland willmake an appeal to the Commonwealth Government for assistance in the rehabilitation of the devastated area.
Before dealing with financial assistance with respect to this disaster on this occasion, I want to refer to the financial assistance that was rendered on the occasion of the cyclone of 1st April, 1958. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question concerning Commonwealth assistance to those people in Bowen whose property had suffered damage in the 1958 cyclone. This question is reported in volume 18 of “ Hansard “ at page 839. I quoted a letter that I had received from the Prime Minister in answer to a telegram which 1 had sent to him as a result of a public meeting which more than half the total population or Bowen attended. The letter from the Prime Minister read -
The responsibility for the restoration of property damaged by natural disasters is clearly one for the State Government concerned and, in appropriate cases, for its local authorities. However, the Commonwealth is always willing to join with a State in the relief of personal hardship and distress caused by natural disasters and has already agreed to do this in .the case of Bowen on the request of the Queensland Government. The relief scheme will, of course, be organized and .controlled by the State Government, and at this stage there is no estimate of the amount which the Commonwealth will be called upon to provide.
I asked the Prime Minister whether assistance would be given on a pound for pound basis. Here is the end of the Prime Minister’s reply -
The rule followed in the past is that the State Government works out its proposal, applies to the Commonwealth Government - in cases of hardship - and the Commonwealth Government matches, in such cases, what the State Government does on a pound for pound basis. That has been the rule adopted on a score of occasions, lt is, quite plainly, the rule that is being adopted this time.
That is exactly what the Prime Minister told me again in answer to a question in this House last Wednesday - that the Commonwealth would more or less match the State assistance. He referred to assistance on a pound for pound basis in which the Commonwealth would collaborate in cases of hardship. Surely the destruction of 28 houses and damage to 400 more constitutes a -personal hardship. It certainly does from the point of view of the unfortunates who have been so sorely hit by this calamity.
On 12th February the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, was at a civic reception in Bowen. This is what he said in regard to the cyclone of 1958 according to the Brisbane “Courier-Mail” on Friday, 13th February: -
The Premier (Mr. Nicklin) to-day criticized the Federal Government for not giving Bowen cyclone relief ‘last year. He told a civic reception that the
Commonwealth had .claimed it could not give help unless personal distress was experienced. Mr. “Nicklin said if a cyclone destroyed the roof of a house, then .distress must be experienced. The Federal Government had promised relief, but later withdrew its offer and the State government provided all relief funds.
Yet the Prime Minister has the hide to say that the Commonwealth Government will collaborate with the State Government on the question of relief! The Prime Minister said that he proposed to follow the usual practice. If this is the usual practice that this Government proposes to follow, God help the people in the devastated areas of North Queensland! I appeal to the Prime Minister to be a little more generous and to assist the State on a £l-for-£l basis in granting financial relief.
The Government cannot get out of it on the ground that there is no hardship. Surely the fact that 28 homes are wrecked and 28 families are homeless and have lost everything including their furniture and personal belongings constitutes hardship. What the wind did not destroy the rain and water did. In addition, 200 other families have been adversely affected. Surely this too must constitute grave personal hardship. Surely assistance is not to be restricted to the narrowest meaning of the term “ personal hardship “. The people who have been hardest hit are workers and farmers, many of whose homes were weakened by the cyclone of ten months ago.
I ask, first, that moneys be granted to the State Government to assist these people; secondly, that all homes unroofed be reroofed free of cost to the individual and at the cost of the Commonwealth and State Governments; thirdly, that grants similar to those paid by the State Government last year be paid to the 28 families that lost their homes this year and that the Commonwealth join with the States in meeting this expenditure; fourthly, that a grant be made -to all property owners whose homes have been damaged, to assist them in effecting repairs. Personal losses are being met from public subscriptions raised by the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “. Next week, a conference between the States and the Commonwealth is to be held.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I apologize for taking up the time of the House at this late hour, but this place is not without understanding and I wish to raise a matter which I believe will be adjudged by every person as not being of a partisan nature. 1 want to refer to the dismissal from the United Nations Organization of a gentleman named Povl BangJensen.
– Was he a cleaner?
– If the honorable member will listen for a few minutes he will hear something-
– I am only asking a question.
– It was not a very civil question. In January, 1957, Mr. BangJensen was appointed deputy secretary to the United Nations Committee to investigate Soviet aggression in Hungary. That committee produced a report which was acclaimed by every liberty-loving individual throughout the world1 as being a very finely tempered report and one that struck a singular blow for all those people who cherish the ideals of liberty and freedom. It is a report which, despite the sombre nature of its subject, engrosses the attention of every serious-minded person. It cannot be read without a turmoil or a welling up of emotions.
Towards the end of last year Mr. Povl Bang-Jensen was dismissed by the United Nations Secretariat. The reason for his dismissal was that he refused to divulge the names of the Hungarian refugees who were the source of his information. With the indulgence of honorable members I should like to read a few extracts from the “ New York Times “ on the Bang-Jensen case. Some people, quite understandably, might ask whether this matter is the direct concern of this Parliament. It is a fair question and I will answer it. I believe that it is the concern and warrants the attention of this Parliament. Year after year this Parliament approves the allocation of thousands of pounds which the Australian Government contributes quite freely to the United Nations and its various agencies.
On 21st November last year the “New York Times” had this to say on the dismissal of Mr. Bang-Jensen -
Povl Bang-Jensen appealed to the United Nations Administrative Tribunal to-day to give him access to the documents used in the proceedings that led to his dismissal as a United Nations senior political officer.
The tribunal ruled instead that the 49-year-old Dane should submit specific questions to-morrow. If the questions are deemed worthy, the tribunal will pass them to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold and ask for replies by Monday.
Mr. Bang Jensen was dismissed July 3 after he had refused to give the Secretary-General the names of Hungarians who testified anonymously in Geneva and Vienna before the special United Nations committee investigating the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
He publicly burned the list of names last January. In point of fact, the burning took place on top of the United Nations building. There is a very simple but very fundamental principle involved. The United Nations Committee produced this report which I have already described as being a finely tempered blow struck against Communist tyranny on behalf of all liberty-loving individuals. No matter how people in this somewhat cynical world regard principles, this is a principle which, I submit with all humility but nevertheless with all force, must be recognized and supported.
Either this Parliament will sit in silence on the dismissal of Mr. Bang-Jensen or it will ask some pressing and pertinent questions. It has been suggested that whatever the rights or wrongs in the case, Mr. BangJensen was suffering from a nervous breakdown and, as a consequence, was no longer capable of discharging his duties. I do not believe that that circumstance disturbs the principle involved. This matter cries out for the attention of this Parliament.
Some people may appraise this to be a rather extravagant sentiment but nevertheless I utter it. I believe that because of the effectiveness and force and essential character of the United Nations Committee report on Hungary, the Communist world set out to ridicule the report and to break down and destroy its prestige. To do so it sought to weaken and destroy some of those who served on the committee which prepared this report.
Tributes have been paid in this place and elsewhere to the magnificent work rendered by Mr. Shann of Australia who was the rapporteur to the United Nations Committee on Hungary. Nevertheless, the tact remains that this report could never have been made available to the world if Mr. Bang- Jensen had not had access to the Hungarians who gave him the information. This report could never have been produced.
Why is it that because he refused to divulge the names of those who gave him the information, he is dismissed?
That is the charge which has been levelled against him. I invite the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is sitting at the table, to take up this matter with his colleagues. I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) being, as he is, a man with a keen judgment on these matters and one with a high regard for humanitarian principles, to use his forces and his office to bring this Parliament and the people of this country to demand that their Australian representatives at the United Nations shall find the answer to the question: What lay behind the dismissal of Povl Bang-Jensen from the United Nations Secretariat?
I apologize again to the House for having trespassed upon its time, but 1 believe that this matter involves a fundamental principle which this Parliament, unless it is prepared to set fundamental principles aside, must defend with purpose and realism.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [10.381.- I happen to have read something of the case cited by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and I think 1 remember reading that the documents concerned were burned on the top of the United Nations building in New York in the presence of a number of high officials of the United Nations.
What the honorable member is charging to-night, is, in effect, maladministration on the part of Mr. Hammarskjoeld and his staff. The whole subject has been aired in the United Nations and I presume that even the Foreign Affairs Committee of this Parliament has had an opportunity to examine it. As the honorable member is a member of that committee I suggest that he raise the matter at one of its meetings or get the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), that indefatigable, ubiquitous gentleman who is omnicompetent to express views on so many subjects, to raise it.
But really this is a matter for the United Nations administration. If Australia is to be involved, it is a matter for the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Parliament cannot pass judgment until it knows all the facts. Honorable members are certainly not going to stay here and read through the pile of newspapers which now rest so importantly on the desk in front of the honorable member for Moreton.
– But you cannot laugh it off.
– I am not laughing it off at all. The matter has been well aired before the United Nations and apparently there is more in the subject than the honorable member himself, with all his interest and his honest concern about the case, knows. I have the same sympathy that he and everybody else has for the victims of the Hungarian revolution. We are always hearing about the tyranny of the Russians in Hungary, and the blood-baths that have occurred in that country. I should like to hear a few of the honorable gentlemen who are so eloquent on that question tell us their opinion of the Cuban blood-baths that have disgraced that republic and nauseated freedom-loving people everywhere. I do not believe that every revolution has to be accompanied by mass murder, but the murder in Hungary has been equalled by the murder in Cuba.
– You cannot draw a comparison.
– Yes. .1 say that the dominant faction in Cuba is no better than, and is equally inhuman, equally bloodthirsty as, the people who took control in Hungary, and I am as strongly antiCommunist as the honorable gentleman is.
– There is no comparison at all.
– Maybe, but 1 fee! that way. Now I turn to the question raised by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), which was the matter on which I rose to speak. I ask the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth), who is in charge of the House at the moment, to take the representations made by the honorable member for Kennedy to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I also use this opportunity to say that these periodical disasters which are occurring all round Australia demand that this Parliament, and the State parliaments, consider the establishment of some effective scheme of insurance, on a nation-wide basis, against such happenings. It is said that we have no constitutional power in peacetime to establish the equivalent of the War Damage Commission which did such fine work for Australia during the war period.
When the Premiers meet here next week and ask the Commonwealth for more money they might very well consider referring to the Commonwealth Parliament powers to enable a national scheme of insurance to be established for the purpose of dealing with all these things that are generally regarded as being acts of God. A hailstorm in the Huon Valley in Tasmania or the Murray Valley in Victoria will destroy a fruit crop. Floods in New South Wales and Queensland, occurring with sickening rapidity, do a great deal of damage to a lot of properties and a lot of people. There are areas of Australia which are in the cyclone belt, and the people who. live there - they are just as good Australians as anybody else - run risks other people do not- have to run. I think that we should seriously consider the establishment of a national scheme of insurance to which all- Australians would contribute - compulsorily if necessary - so that when disaster did strike appeals would not need to be made in this Parliament for Commonwealth assistance to supplement State assistance. These appeals are usually followed by arguments as to what is the real extent of the damage and the hardship suffered by the victims of the disasters.
Sooner or later the whole question has to be faced - and I think the sooner it is faced the better. What the honorable member for Kennedy has said about Bowen to-day could easily be said about some other part of Queensland later this year, or next year. The floods on the Richmond River in New South Wales, of which mention has been made, are, of course, recurrent. The Tweed and Clarence rivers also suffer, and there are sometimes floods in Tasmania and Victoria. This is a national question. We are all Australians and I do not think that in this time of the history of our federation it is right and proper that honorable members from either side of the House should have to make appeals to the Government to give some assistance to unfortunates who have lost everything in a disaster that they could not foresee and could not forestall.
– I had no intention of speaking this evening, but I am prompted by the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) to direct attention to another dismissal which is of much more interest, I should imagine, in this country than the one to which he has directed attention. I refer to the dismissal of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) from the Cabinet under rather strange circumstances. Anti-Labour Cabinets are selected according to a most undemocratic procedure, because although the people of this country elect the Parliament they have no say - and neither do the members they elect, while this Government is in control - in who is to constitute a Cabinet. I can think of any number of reasons why the honorable member for Paterson should not be in the Cabinet, but, while they do not seem to be important, when I glance around the House and see the mediocrities that have been selected to occupy Cabinet rank it occurs to me that there is something wrong in the selection of anti-Labour Cabinets.
The honorable- member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) went out of the Cabinet in 1956, I think, under very similar circumstances. If I recollect correctly, I read in the press that the honorable member has sympathized with the honorable member for Paterson, and said that he suffered the same fate. According to the honorable member for Chisholm, the honorable member for Paterson was dropped from the Cabinet, not because he was regarded as not administering his department efficiently, but for some other reason, which the honorable member for Chisholm attributed to the activities and intriguing of certain public servants in this capital city. I think that that is a very serious matter. It is well known that the Prime Minister has no particular liking for the honorable member for Chisholm, and I am not suggesting that he needed a great deal of urging to remove him from the Cabinet when he did so, but I think it is a terrible thing for this country when a Cabinet is selected on the basis of the likes and dislikes of certain public servants and the likes and dislikes of the Prime Minister.
I hate anti-Labour governments, and I hate to see any anti-Labour Ministers at all; but when we have to suffer them because of the decision of the people, at least we want to see a Cabinet comprising the best men that the Government can select from a very poor lot - and I am afraid that that is not so on this occasion. There are only four Cabinet Ministers present at the moment. Look at them! A dejected look on their faces! They are despondent because they know that what I am saying is the truth. It is nothing short of a miracle that some of them made the Cabinet at all. It appears to me that the Prime Minister sets out not to select men who might be regarded as having some ability, but to surround himself with mediocrities, because then his figure looms large on the political horizon and his star is in the ascendant. That is apparently the attitude of the Prime Minister.
I return to my earlier remarks. I wish that the Prime Minister were here, but we see him infrequently in the Parliament. He leaves his-, juniors - his office boys - to sit here during the debate on the adjournment when such- matters as this are raised. I do not suggest that they know anything about it, but I desire to have the information that the statement made by the. honorable member for Chisholm to the press seems to call for, and perhaps that honorable member may be provoked to come into this debate. I should like the honorable member for Chisholm to tell us who are those public servants whom he blames for his dismissal from the Cabinet, and who are the public servants whom he blames for influencing the Prime Minister to remove the honorable member for Paterson from the Cabinet. It looks to me as if becoming Minister for the Interior in an anti-Labour government is the kiss of death. You are on the way out if you are appointed to this portfolio. I am very curious to know who these individuals are, because at least when a Labour government is in office in this country we appoint our Cabinet democratically. The elected representatives of the Labour party select the Cabinet. But on the other side of the House you are just like a gang that lines up, and then the Prime Minister goes along the line and says, “ You, you, you, you, you and you, step out “, and that is how the Cabinet is selected. Now have a look at the men who sit on the back benches. They do their best to keep themselves in the public eye. The honorable member for
Moreton delves into books and newspapers in the library and then makes a speech in the House on some matter or other. He has an obsession about communism growing in this country. Then we have the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who, on television, charged this Government with having neglected our defences. He said that the Government has missed the bus, that it is behind the times, and that our defences are in a deplorable condition. He is a leading member of the Government parties and a member of their Foreign Affairs Committee. Yet the Prime Minister has the audacity to say in this House that he has not read or heard what the honorable member said although it was plastered over every newspaper in the country! I think the Government is running the affairs of the country in a strange way.
I hope that the honorable member for Chisholm, if he cannot be provoked into doing it to-night, will come into the House when he feels he has more courage, and instead of hiding behind a newspaper statement, will tackle the Prime Minister face to face. I hope that he will let the Parliament and the country know who were the public servants responsible for his removal and the removal of the honorable member for Paterson, from the Cabinet.
– I do not propose to embark on any detailed debate with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on the points that he has raised. I simply wish to observe that he claimed great merit because he was at one time a member of a democratically elected Cabinet. I should like to comment, also, that he has had great experience from time to time in leaving a democratically elected Cabinet, either by suspension or by dismissal.
– He was never dismissed.
– Well, suspended, shall we say.
– He never resigned.
– Then let me put it this way, since honorable members opposite seem sensitive about it: The honorable member for East Sydney speaks with an air of authority about going into and coming out of cabinets. All the members of the Menzies ministries who have left the Government for one reason or another, I am confident, have left in a far more honorable way than did the honorable member for East Sydney.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2-
r asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590225_reps_23_hor22/>.