23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, a question.
– Order! I ask honorable members to remain silent, particularly during question time. It is very difficult for me to hear questions asked from the benches, and it is difficult for honorable members who are interested in the replies to hear them. There is a standing order covering the matter, but I do not want to have to enforce it unless it is necessary.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister as head of the Government. As this House will not be sitting next week, will the right honorable gentleman study the statements made by President Eisenhower of the United States of America, at his press conference yesterday, concerning the deterioration of East-West relations and, in particular the President’s view that the chances of an East-West meeting of heads of States to deal with the German question have receded, with consequent concern and growth of pessimism? Will the Prime Minister acquaint honorable members with the Government’s views on the latest available information about the developing situation before the House adjourns this evening?
– I am afraid I cannot promise to do that. I have a very full programme of work for to-day already determined. But I will be very glad, of course, and interested, to study the statement.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Information has come to me from Western Australian tourists that Australia was not represented at the World Fair in Brussels last year. As this was an important fair in which many countries were separately represented, I assume that there were sound reasons-
– Order! The honorable member is giving information. I ask him to direct a question.
– Will the Minister indicate the reasons which guided the Australian Government in its decision in this matter? Will he also inform the House regarding Australian representation at overseas trade fairs during the current financial year?
– The Government gave serious consideration to the question of representation at the Brussels World Fair. It was not a trade fair in the ordinary sense, and it was the opinion of the Government’s advisers, both those within the government service and those to whom we turn in these publicity and trade promotional matters, that it was not the best venue on which we ought to spend such funds as we have for these purposes. May I explain the situation by reminding the House that several nations constructed buildings at the fair at Brussels at a total expenditure of more than £2,000,000 each. I think that that can be said of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Soviet Union and many other countries that were commensurable. Australia has not that kind of money, and we believe that the money that we have can be spent to much better advantage. This was more a national prestige fair than a commercial trade fair. That is why Australia was not represented there. But in the same year we had exhibitions at trade fairs in Wellington, New Zealand, at Kuala Lumpur, at Toronto, at Cologne, and in five major centres in the United Kingdom. This year we shall be represented at a number of trade fairs. I cannot say offhand where they will be, but I shall write to the honorable member and let him know.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Is it a fact that quite recently the Indonesian Government refused to allow Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to land in Indonesian territory to refuel, as a result of which the aircraft had to cover a much greater distance in their flight to Malaya by having to refuel at Biak? Did the Minister discuss that matter with the Indonesian Foreign Minister during his visit to Australia? If so, what was the outcome of the discussion?
– As I understand the position, the honorable gentleman is incorrect in believing that Australia sought permission for Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to land in Indonesian territory. However, I shall obtain full particulars of what was done in this matter by my department and the Department of Air, and I shall communicate with the honorable member later.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. The Treasury Bulletin for October, 1958, states that the number of telephones connected during the preceding twelve months increased by 125,150 or 6.8 per cent. Is it possible to give the number of telephones connected in the rapidly developing outer metropolitan divisions, such as the electorate that I represent? Is it possible to give the number of outstanding applications, and the percentage as against installations, in that or other comparable divisions? Finally, is the PostmasterGeneral satisfied that, in relation to the finance available, sufficient attention is being given to the needs of the outer metropolitan districts?
– I shall try to answer the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question first, because it is a general question and one that I can reply to immediately. He has asked whether I am satisfied with the attention being given to the outer metropolitan areas in the expenditure of money available to the department for capital works. My reply is: Yes, I am satisfied that proper attention is being given to the rapidly expanding outer metropolitan areas, such as the area that the honorable member represents, and other areas, which constitute a very great problem because the department realizes that its function is to attempt to keep pace with the demand of our rapidly expanding economy and to supply telephones which are so essential to that development. I point out, however, that a great deal of work is involved in meeting this rapid development in the outer metropolitan areas. A great deal of engineering work has to be done, and in many cases new exchanges must be provided. A great deal of new cable work, and also aerial work, is involved. Therefore, the department is, -in common parlance, flat out in attempting to get ahead of -the demand that it sees .developing in the various areas. I am satisfied that the department is expending the money available to it in a creditable -fashion. The Government realizes the need to keep pace with development, and in the last three years it has annually made available to the department an increasing “vote for capital expenditure. For instance, this year in the engineering vote there was an increase of £1,500,000 over the vote for the previous twelve months. 1 have only just received a report of the operations for the first seven months of this financial year, ending 31st January last. The report discloses that deferred applications in that period have been reduced by some 2,800 from the figure for the 30th June last. That is one indication-
– Are there only 47,000 outstanding applications now?
– I am citing the figures up to 31st January, which have not been available previously to honorable members. They are not included, for instance, in the report recently tabled.
– What is the total number -of outstanding applications?
– I am speaking from memory. I have not got the total, but it is down in the 40 thousands. I do not know the actual figure. Current telephone applications are some 3,000 more than at the end of June last year. These are indications of the work that the department is doing. The honorable gentleman asked, in the first part of his question, for a detailed statement of the position prevailing in his own electorate. I shall consider that request as being on the notice-paper and shall give him a detailed reply.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to a public statement by the honorable member for Chisholm, in which he attributed his removal from the Cabinet in 1956 to the activities of intriguing public servants in Canberra? Is it a fact that the only person able to initiate or take action to remove or dismiss a member of the Cabinet is the Prime Minister himself? In view of the obvious implications that the Prime Minister was either influenced by, or was a party to, such intrigue, will the Prime Minister make a statement as to the accuracy or otherwise of the allegation of the honorable member for Chisholm?
– I am afraid that I must accept responsibility for movements in and out of the Cabinet. In no case have I ever discussed any such move with any civil servant, nor has any civil servant ever sought to influence my judgment.
– 1 ask the Treasurer a question, which. I preface by directing his attention to the fact that section 32 (4.) of the Superannuation Act provides -
This provision operates unfairly against a widower who, having previously made provision for his wife, desires to marry after her death. Should he marry a war widow, she not only does not acquire a right to a pension on his death but also forfeits her original war widow’s pension. Will the Treasurer see whether some provision can be framed which, while preventing deathbed marriages arranged for pension entitlement purposes, would still give protection in genuine cases?
– I have no doubt that the policy which is in force was adopted after careful consideration of the relevant circumstances, but if there are aspects which were earlier overlooked and are now raised in the honorable gentleman’s question, I can assure him that I shall see that the whole matter is fully examined and that what he has put forward is fully considered.
– Will the Treasurer supplement what can only be regarded as a rather flimsy statement presented by him yesterday on the short-term money market? In particular, I direct his attention to an article, which appears to me to be slightly inspired, in the October issue of the “ Quarterly Survey “ of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. It is pointed out in this article that two features are regarded: as necessary, for a short-term money market, the first of them being acceptance by the central, bank, unequi- vocally, of the role of lender of last resort. Secondly, if a short-term money market is to grow to full stature, treasury-bills will need to be issued publicly. The Government implied that the short-term money market was a good thing. I think that we might be pardoned for thinking that it is a good thing only for some people. My specific questions are: First, does the Government propose that treasury-bills will be issued publicly? Secondly, if so, will such bills bear interest at any higher rate than the rate now offered on such securities?
– In presenting his question, the honorable gentleman indicated that my answer yesterday had been somewhat flimsy. I think the interjections that have come from various parts of the House rather suggest that whilst he and I might have a close interest in these matters, such interest is not so general among honorable members as to encourage me to take up unduly the time of the Parliament in giving a mass of detail on a matter of this sort. I can assure him that what was presented by me yesterday was intended to give a general picture and, as I think I said at the time, if more detail was sought by the two honorable members who raised the questions with me, or others round the House, I would try to supply that detail to them.
The suggestion that some article was inspired interests me. It certainly was not inspired by me because I confess that I do not know sufficient about the subject to inspire anybody to write an authoritative article concerning it. Whether these short-term market arrangements will be a good thing for Australia or a few people remains, I think, to be determined in the future. In the judgment of the Commonwealth Bank and the Government, it will be a very good thing for Australia and a very useful addition to the financial capacity, flexibility and resources of the Australian economy. That is our judgment, and already the results are confirming it. We hope that the short-term money market will not only have a long and successful life but that it will also be an expanding factor in promoting the development of Australia.
To the extent that the honorable gentleman has raised particular matters which have not been covered by me, I shall see that he gets what information1 1 can supply..
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has received any detailed information concerning recent cyclone damage in Queensland? If so, has he received any specific request from the Queensland Government for financial assistance?
– I cannot answer by the book as to whether any specific request has arrived. Communications have been passing, and I have had also the advantage of an on-the-spot report from one of our own honorable members; but as to the details of this matter, I will find out whether there are any available and will let them be known to the honorable member.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. In view of the extreme heat of the last few weeks which appears likely to continue for an indefinite period, and taking into account the discomfort of members generally, particularly older members, and giving special consideration to the older members on the front bench on the Government side, will you, Sir, consider a suggestion that honorable members be allowed to remove their coats in the House during the summer months?
– The answer is, “ No.”
– My question, Mr. Speaker, is vaguely related to the previous question that was directed to you. Will you, Sir, in order to soften the blow dealt in uprooting me and my room-mates from comfortable quarters on the ground floor to a hot box on the top floor, arrange for the installation of an air-conditioning unit as has been found necessary in the suite occupied by the Attorney-General, which is just next door to us?
-I suggest to the honorable member that he bring that matter to the attention of his own nominee on the Joint House Committee.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs consider that the statement made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday that Australia wants a say in any agreement about the future of West New Guinea a very important matter? If so, why was it not included in the joint statement made by the Minister for External Affairs and the Indonesian Foreign Minister? Can the right honorable gentleman take comfort from the probability that his blunder in this matter is no greater than that of the Prime Minister in relation to the Suez crisis?
– I did not quite hear what the honorable member said, but I can assure him that the joint statement issued by Dr. Subandrio and myself, and the statement that I made in this House on Thursday, contained nothing inconsistent with what the Prime Minister said on Tuesday afternoon.
– Can the Minister for Territories tell the House whether the new general hospital at Port Moresby has yet been completed? If it has not, can he say when it will be opened and ready for use, and can he give us some information as to the total cost of the hospital?
– The hospital at Port Moresby, in the Taurama-road district, is one of a series of base hospitals that we are building in the Territory. It was built in two stages, the first one being the native wing and the central services block, and the second one the European wing. The native wing was occupied during 1957, and the European wing was occupied in May, 1958, and finally handed over complete in August, 1958. I think the House will recall that our former colleague, the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, performed a ceremonial opening in October, 1957, and we regard that as the opening of the whole hospital. The cost of the completed hospital was a shade under £1,000,000. From memory, I think it was about £960,000, the cost being almost equally apportioned between the native wing and the European wing. We have certain plans for the future, including the construction of a medical school, and we are hoping that the first stage of that school will be included in our works programme for next year.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. On about 29th October last the Secretary of the Department of Trade, Mr. Crawford, now Sir
John Crawford, made a speech to an organization of primary producers upon the trade of the Commonwealth of Australia. Can the Minister make available to members of this Parliament copies of the full speech as delivered to that gathering of primary producers?
– I shall be glad to inquire whether copies of the speech are available. I can assure the honorable member that any speech made in relation to trade or primary production by Sir John Crawford would be most highly regarded by all those competent to pass judgment on it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been directed to a statement reported to have been made by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, to the effect that the scale of social service benefits in Australia ranks only seventeenth on the list of scales of benefits available in various nations? Is such a statement based on fact?
– My attention, up to this point, had not been drawn to the statement alleged to have been made by the Lord Mayor of Sydney. Unfortunately and, perhaps, unhappily, I do not know the gentleman, but from what the honorable member for Hume says, it is fairly obvious to me that the powers of comprehension of the Lord Mayor of Sydney are limited. It is true that the International Labour Organization publishes a list of countries, stating their expenditure on what is called “ social security “, measured against what is described as their “ national income “. But the International Labour Office, in the document, warns readers not to draw the wrong conclusions from that list or from any other list of the kind. The fact remains - and apparently the Lord Mayor of Sydney has forgotten it - that Australia is noi a unitary country such as France. Belgium, Spain and Portugal. It is a federation. The Commonwealth Government has certain responsibilities in regard to social services and discharges them to the best of its ability. The six State Governments, too, all have social welfare responsibilities which are discharged to the best of the ability of the people of those States. So it is entirely unfair to draw a comparison between a federation and another kind of country. In addition to that, perhaps I should say - and the honorable member for Hume would want me to say - that there are no special merits in huge expenditures on social security since, quite obviously, a relatively poor country with a high percentage of unemployment would naturally spend a higher proportion of the national income on social security than would a rich country with comparatively little unemployment.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by reminding him of the refusal by his department of an application made by the Lithgow City Council and a business undertaking for permission to install a special antenna and coaxial cable to feed television programmes into the city of Lithgow. I now ask the Minister whether he will be good enough to review decisions of his department so as to enable the television programmes for which the whole of the people of Australia pay to be fed into Lithgow valley and to like places throughout Australia. If the Minister is not prepared to permit the people of Lithgow to receive this service, which would be without additional cost to his department, can he indicate when booster stations will be erected to extend transmissions to people in country areas and when new licences will be issued to provide those services? Finally, I ask the Postmaster-General to give to Lithgow the same rights, facilities and benefits of television as have been afforded to the people of Balmoral by similar means.
– The honorable member’s question refers to the whole matter of the further extension of television, that is to say, to the third phase of the extension of television services which concerns provincial and country areas. I believe I have already informed the honorable member - I have certainly informed this House on several occasions - that attention would be given to this third phase immediately the second phase was in development. That is the position now. No other answer than that can be given to the honorable gentleman’s question in general terms. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Postmaster-General’s Department have been in consultation, at my instruction, for some time and they are preparing for me a report on the possibility of further extension of television services. I believe that I shall receive that report very shortly, and I shall then discuss it with the Government so that further policy regarding the extension of television may be determined within a reasonable time and then announced.
– As the PostmasterGeneral is aware, widespread and frequent applications are made for the installation of rural automatic exchange units. Is the restricted supply of these units the cause of many such applications being refused or is it the lack of finance available to the department? If the former reason is the cause, are supplies available overseas? If the latter, will the profit of £4,000,000 said to have been made by the department overcome the difficulty?
– In common with all the other services demanded of the Postal Department there is a great demand for the provision of rural automatic exchanges. As a country member myself I can quite understand that demand. But of course, proper attention must be given to all the different phases of demands on the department in planning each year’s programme. Consequently, we plan for the installation of a certain number of these exchanges each year at a figure which is consistent with the other proper demands and with the total amount of capital available to the department. Last financial year a total of about 149 rural automatic exchanges were installed throughout Australia, which represented just about a record. This year the target is slightly, though not much less than that. My latest information is that the target figure for this year will be reached, with the result that at the end of this financial year somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200 of these exchanges will be in operation. This is a very great increase on the number in service when this Government took office.
The position is not that the supply of these exchanges is in any way restricted1. Various manufacturing companies in Australia are making these units for the department, and if the department required more I have no doubt they would be able to supply the extra numbers ordered. It is a question of spreading over all the demands on the Postal Department the available funds for capital works which, as I indicated in reply to a previous question, have been expanded by the Government in ‘each of the three years that I have held the portfolio of Postmaster-General.
– Seeing that the PostmasterGeneral is in good voice and form, I shall ask him a question without notice and not by pre-arrangement. Will the PostmasterGeneral examine the purchase of shares by Brisbane T.V. Limited, the company which owns the licence to operate television station BT07, Brisbane, in Television Corporation Limited, operator of television station TCN-9 Sydney; and also the purchase of shares by the same company, Brisbane T.V. Limited, in Television Corporation, a holding company of Brisbane T.V. Limited? Will he say whether these and other deals, which further strengthen the interlocking of shareholdings in television, radio and newspaper companies, which have taken place recently, or are in contemplation, are not violations of the Broadcasting Act and a further illegal extension of the monopolistic practices of the carefully selected and lucky few who have been so greatly enriched by being given television broadcast licences from among the Government’s closest and most loyal supporters?
– I am aware of the transaction referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne. Because it appeared that under the act I might be required to investigate it, I had that matter examined, as well as the other transfers to which the honorable member referred in passing. I can assure him that this transaction and the others are within the ambit of the act and do not in any way transgress its provisions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I expect the Minister has noticed that there has been a number of deaths recently in Sydney and its immediate environs as a result of funnel-web spider bites. A degree of hope exists that the Commonwealth medical research authorities may discover an anti-venene for use in cases of spider bite. Can the Minister say whether any progress has been made in this direction?
– A considerable amount of work has been done in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in an endeavour to find anti-venenes to the poison injected in bites by Australia’s two poisonous spiders, the redback and the funnel-web. The experiments with regard to the redback spider anti-venene have been very successful, and a highly potent antivenene has been elaborated. The experiments directed to the production of an anti-venene for funnel-web spider bite have not been very successful. In order to develop an anti-venene it is necessary to get an antigen response in an animal injected with the poison and to produce the anti-venene from its blood serum. This has not proved possible in the case of the funnel-web poison, but it is hoped that an antidote, in the form of some pharmacological substance, which may counter the venom, will be ultimately discovered. However, it is probable that a good deal more work will have to be done before that is achieved.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As the war service land settlement scheme was intended for approved soldier settlers of World War II., will the Minister please explain why singleunit dairy farms, when available, cannot be allocated to applicants in Tasmania who have waited for years for a farm?
– I should like the honorable member to give me the details of instances in which applications for single-unit farms have been refused. There are conditions embodied in the act which must be complied with. For instance, a pre-requisite is that the required area should be capable of providing an adequate living. Then there are, of course, price ceiling limits beyond which the department cannot go, I should like specific instances to be supplied to me, and when that is done I shall give the honorable member the information he has asked for.
– In directing a question to the Treasurer I refer to the announcement by the New South Wales Premier that he intends to seek Commonwealth assistance in order to establish a £25,000,000 housing corporation. I ask the right honorable gentleman: Is this a matter that could be discussed solely between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, or would other States have to be consulted? How does the present position regarding the housing lag in New South Wales compare with the position in other States?
– I regret that I have not yet had an opportunity to study the proposal which, I gather, was included by the New South Wales Premier in his election policy speech earlier this week. Consequently, I cannot give a considered reply to the honorable gentleman. My understanding, however, is that as this proposal would involve - as I am sure it would - a provision out of the total loan funds which become available in the course of the year to the Commonwealth and State governments, it would be a matter which, if proceeded with, would require the approval of the Australian Loan Council.
The honorable gentleman also asked how the housing situation in New South Wales compared with that in other States. Again, I lack precise information, but such understanding as I have of the matter indicates that, paradoxically, although New South Wales appears to have the most acute housing shortage of all the States, the number of rooms per person in New South Wales, according to the 1954 census, was, I believe, higher than the comparable number in any other State. So it would appear that if there is an acute housing shortage in New South Wales the trouble is due not so much to inadequate housing as to an unsatisfactory distribution of the accommodation available. This, in turn, may be due to problems of housing finance, or it may be a consequence of rental policies followed by the New South Wales Government.
While dealing with this matter, may I amplify a reply that I gave to the honorable gentleman on Tuesday about loan funds and their employment in relation to the New South Wales coal-fields?
– A Dorothy Dix-er!
– No, this was not raised-
– Did he ring you up on the telephone?
– Order! The honorable member will remain silent.
– This was not raised by the honorable gentleman other than on Tuesday of this week. I have had a letter from Mr. Cahill which indicates his general intention. In view of the honorable gentleman’s earlier question and the interest that other honorable members have in the problem of the New South Wales coal-fields, I am sure that the Premier would wish me to pass his views on to the House. In acknowledging the arrangement under which local government loan raisings were to be authorized, Mr. Cahill commented -
I feel sure that this action will have the desired effect of permitting these bodies to carry out various important works and also of affording some relief in the unemployment situation, particularly in the northern coal-fields areas of this State.
That confirms the view 1 had formed, and which I conveyed to the honorable gentleman. I may add that Mr. Cahill was good enough, in the concluding paragraph of his communication to me, to add an expression of appreciation of the action and the assistance of the Commonwealth Government in this matter, following his talk with the Prime Minister and myself earlier this year.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the desperate overcrowding within Parliament House, which could worsen rather than improve during the life of this Parliament, and in view of the possible increase in Commonwealth electorates which would bring additional members to this House after the next census in two years’ time, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the much discussed new Parliament House will be built, rather than that the proposal to build it should be confined to musty files, and will he assure us that, if it is to be built, the commencement date will not be long delayed? Have the plans yet been approved?
– Up to this point, there has been discussion and agreement in principle on the siting of a new Parliament House, which I agree is badly needed and will be increasingly needed. That has been done merely as part of the proposed plan of development of the city. We have not reached the stage of preparing plans for the building or of arriving at any specific conclusions in relation to it. There are other aspects of the development of Canberra, and they must all be put in some order of priority.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Trade, refers to the investment by overseas companies in Australian industry. Has any survey been carried out by the Department of Trade into the proportion of funds introduced by such companies from overseas, as compared with the opportunities afforded by them for investment, on an equity basis or otherwise, by Australian citizens, and as compared with the profits ploughed back into them from the sale of their products to Australian consumers? If no such survey has been undertaken, will the Minister have one made with a view to redressing, by focusing public attention on the matter, a situation that appears to have become badly unbalanced?
– The honorable gentleman uses the term “ survey “, which has some air of formality about it. I am not aware that a formal survey has been made, but I am confident that my department will have in its possession a certain amount of information. I will secure that information and see that it is made available.
Broadly, the policy of the Government is to encourage the investment of overseas capital here. But I would say to the House that quite frequently representatives of overseas industries come to see me to discuss conditions in Australia, insofar as they are within the control of the Department of Trade, and this touches a good deal on the matter of import licences. When these discussions take place, I constantly suggest that, while the Government has not a mandatory policy on this matter, it would be desirable that overseas interests, in respect of both capital and technological skills, join in partnership with Australian industry. I am sure that in a number of instances this approach has had the effect of bringing that about. I said in a public address in Sydney the other evening that I believed that it would be wise, in the long term, for overseas investors to realize the advantages of going into partnership with Australian industry when they come here to take advantage of the great opportunities for growth and development in this country.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, on 19th February, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked me a question without notice regarding the leasing of accommodation in Adelaide from Advertiser Newspapers Limited. I undertook to examine the position. As the honorable member’s allegations implied either some irregularity or some extravagance on the part of the Department of the Interior in its handling of public funds, I thought it desirable to give this information to all honorable members.
Office accommodation totalling 61,330 square feet is being rented in the Advertiser building, in Adelaide, at a cost of £90,000 per annum. That is made up of £66,100 for rent, £14,700 for rates and taxes and £9,200 for cleaning. The building is supplied with linoleum and Venetian blinds. The overall rental amounts to approximately 29s. 6d. a square foot, and this is slightly below the rental originally sought by the owners. I find that the owners had appointed real estate agents as their agents, and had accepted their advice as to appropriate rents. On this basis, the accommodation was offered to the public. The Taxation Branch entered into negotiations and in fact obtained a slight reduction in rent because it was taking over a bulk area. Other tenants will be charged the rents originally fixed.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh is very wide of the mark indeed in saying that the rental to be paid is at least 50 per cent, higher than the highest rate charged for other rented Commonwealth office accommodation in Adelaide. A base rental of 30s. a square foot per annum was quoted in the case of each of the last three major buildings constructed in Adelaide. Rentals being paid for Commonwealth accommodation in Adelaide in buildings comparable with the new Advertiser building range from 24s. 8d. to 30s. a square foot. Linoleum and Venetian blinds are not provided in the area rented at 24s. 8d. a square foot. I should point out, moreover, that in order to be of service to the public the Taxation Branch must be in a conveniently central location. In this respect, the site of the Advertiser building is one of the best available.
It is not possible at this stage to give a firm indication as to when the Commonwealth can commence the construction of its own office buildings in Adelaide. I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh may have overlooked the fact that, when the Commonwealth constructs its own buildings, it will not be liable for rates and taxes, which, as I said earlier, amount to £14,700 in respect of the accommodation rented in the Advertiser building. In that respect, at any rate, there could be a direct loss to the ratepayers of Adelaide.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 10th March, at 2.30 p.m.
– I move -
That a joint committee be appointed to -
That the committee consist of two members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister, two Members of the House of
Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, three Senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two Senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
I, would say, briefly, Sir, that this committee is being re-constituted with the same authority as that vested in the committee appointed during the previous Parliament.
Mr. h R. FRASER (Australian Capital Territory) [11.22]. - Mr. Speaker, I welcome the re-appointment of this committee. I would recall to the House that, when the committee’ was first established by a motion in this House in November, 1956, spokesmen on the Government side of the House expressed the view that the committee would carry out constructive work in tendering advice to the Parliament on matters over which it must have oversight in the development of the National Capital. On this side of the chamber, the hope was expressed that the committee would be given useful tasks to perform. I. should like to remind the House that, since the committee was formed over two years ago, it has been given only one task - and that was one which would hardly have been expected to be within the ambit of the committee’s proposed activities. That task was an inquiry into shopping hours within the Australian Capital Territory. It had no bearing on the actual physical development of the city. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) and the Government will see that as many matters as possible are referred to this committee, because we are now in a period of very great development in the National Capital.
The National Capital Development Commission, which was established by this Government, is doing an excellent job in the development of the city, but this development involves a great many changes in what have been the expectations of development here, and may involve actual changes or variations in the plan of the city as laid down in 1925. And that is one of the matters on which this committee is required to report. It may well be, Mr. Speaker, that one of the matters into which the committee could inquire - and I suggest it to the Minister for his consideration - could be possible changes in the procedure by which variations in the Canberra plan are approved tacitly by the Parliament as at present. As the Minister will know, any proposal for a variation of the Canberra plan must lie on the table of each House of the Parliament for fifteen sitting days. In the modern scheme of working of the Parliament, this involves some four or five weeks of sitting. It could be that variations of the plan envisaged by the National Capital Development Commission, and required in the development of Canberra, should not be delayed for so long, but, at the same time, no action should be taken that would deprive the Parliament of any opportunity to supervise and overlook the development of the National Capital to its proper destiny.
– in reply - If I may reply briefly, Sir, to the suggestion made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), I want at this stage to assure him that major changes in the plan for the development of the National Capital will undoubtedly be referred to this committee. In part the defect that is complained about - that the committee had only one job to do during its last term - arose from the fact that during that time the National Capital Development Commission was appointed. That commission has a planning committee which advises the commission on the planning of the National Capital. The commission has been considering very many problems that are at the point of coming to fruition.
I have discussed this matter with Mr. Overall, the National Capital Development Commissioner, and he will, I hope, soon issue an invitation to the members of this new committee to look in an informal way at some of the work that the commission is doing before the matter is formally referred to the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 25th February (vide page 308), on motion by Mr. Browne -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Firstly, I feel that I should apologize for the consternation that I caused in this House last night by moving the adjournment. The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bowden) dealt very effectively with my motion, and the House was able to carry on with its business as usual. I am afraid that I was moved to act as I did because of the flights of fancy and imagination of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). I thought that I had been elevated to the responsible position of mover of the adjournment, but the Deputy Speaker soon brought me back !o the private ranks.
Before I deal with the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, I want to offer my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, on being elevated once again to your very high and noble office. I know that the tolerant and impartial manner in which you handled debates in this House in the past will be exhibited in the future with credit to yourself and to this House of Representatives. I also congratulate the new members of this House for the capable manner in which they delivered their maiden speeches. Now that they have undergone that ordeal, they will be able to settle down to the business of this House and the business of their electorates. I am sure that they will prove themselves to be capable representatives, and will serve this House and the nation with distinction.
In dealing with His Excellency’s Speech I think it is probably true to say that the most salient point that has emerged from the Speech is the fact that the Government intends to push on with the banking legislation with undue haste. So great is the haste to push ahead with this legislation that one can almost hear the demands of the big banking monopolies ringing through the precincts of this House, exhorting the Government to get on with the legislation so that the avaricious demands of the banks may be satisfied. It is amazing that this legislation should be pushed ahead so quickly when so many other national problems cry out for attention, problems that are, in my view, much more important than any change in our banking legislation. One of those problems is unemployment. Another problem, which is causing much distress to the masses in this country, is the cost of living. The duplication of our transport services must be costing the taxpayers millions of pounds. Shipping and overseas trade are problems that need urgent attention, and the plight of the pensioners is another matter that requires adjustment In his Speech His Excellency said that social services would be kept under constant review. Constant review is poor consolation to the pensioners who are forced to endure a miserable existence on the pittance granted to them by this Government. They live in slums and small rooms because they have not enough money to provide better quarters for themselves.
Another matter of vital importance to the community is housing. Housing could have received more prominence in the Governor-General’s Speech than it did. The home building industry is at a very low ebb in Australia to-day. I know that the building industry in general is flourishing because, as we are all aware, great office blocks are being built and large industrial establishments erected. But that is not so in the case of housing. The money that this Government says it is advancing for housing and for local government and semi-government purposes is not finding its way into those channels at all. It is interesting to note what Dr. Coombs said in his recent R. C. Mills memorial lecture. He said -
Less money proportionately is passing through institutions like savings banks, banks, and assurance houses, which are traditionally lenders to governments, semi-government and local authorities, housing societies, schools, and churches, who offer safety but lower returns.
In other words, the people who ordinarily provide money for such things as housing and local government undertakings are not prepared to lend to those authorities. Although Dr. Coombs spoke about safety and lower returns, investors are prepared to disregard safety for the sake of high interest rates. Consequently, they are investing in hire purchase. The Government claims that it is overcoming the great housing shortage but it is alarming to see that the number of homes commenced in the December quarter of last year showed the biggest drop for seven years. That is an indication that money is not being used for home building. I know that claims are made that the number of homes built last year was the highest since 1955. but the fact that the number of homes commenced during the December quarter dropped to the lowest figure for seven years shows that the money available for housing has been absorbed, and that those people who wanted to build homes during the December quarter were unable to obtain the necessary finance.
Professor Copland’s statement in June last year has never been challenged. One would have thought that his remarks would have led the Government to try to meet the situation and improve on its allocation of money for housing because of to-day’s desperate conditions. The Governor-General referred to the £80,000,000 that the Government intends to make available for housing, but I doubt whether that money will ever find its way into housing channels, because cooperatives cannot get money. I could establish two co-operative building societies in my electorate if it were possible to get the £100,000 that is needed for the purpose. It is practically impossible to get the money. Therefore, people who desire homes have to battle along under all sorts of conditions which are not a credit to the nation. The Governor-General said that this Government encourages home ownership. My party encourages home ownership too, but what concerns us greatly is the increasingly acute shortage of homes for rental. Private enterprise is not prepared to act. It is prepared to build homes for sale but is not interested in building homes for rental.
That brings me to a discussion that I had with an official of the Victorian Housing Commission, who informed me that because of the reduction which this Government made in the financial allocations to that State, the commission had to cut its housing programme by one-half, from a round figure of 4,000 homes to 2,000. The demand is so great and increasing so much that the commission, finding it absolutely impossible to meet, is falling further behind, day by day. To make matters worse, the rate of evictions in Melbourne and elsewhere throughout Victoria is so high that it is impossible to house also those persons evicted. This official told me that many people who are evicted from homes had to live in all sorts of wretched conditions which would not exist if adequate money was made available to enable State housing authorities to meet the demands that this problem makes upon them.
I had occasion to take up a case in Maribyrnong, in my own electorate. A man, wife and four children - there are only three children now, unfortunately - are living in what is no more than a fowl shed, a galvanized iron structure with a ceiling height of about 7 feet, because they cannot obtain other quarters. I have taken this matter up with the housing commission. The most unfortunate and tragic aspect of the circumstances of this family is that during the heatwave they lost their youngest child because of the conditions under which they had to live.
The housing position has a great bearing on unemployment figures. It is true that when the home-building industry is flat one always finds a great pool of unemployed. It is rather a contradiction for Commonwealth Ministers to say that everything is rosy and to talk about “ Australia unlimited “, when one knows that there are about 82,000 people unemployed in Australia. It is quite wrong to talk about Australia bursting at the seams with prosperity. I do not know whether any Ministers or other Government supporters find, as I do, men standing on their verandahs night after night asking for work to be found for them. Those are the conditions prevailing in many of the big industrial areas. I represent one of the biggest industrial areas in Australia, and I know that to be true. I have this experience night after night, and the most tragic aspect is that men aged 45 years say that they cannot get a job because they are told that they are too old and therefore not wanted. Is this a good advertisement for Australia, with all the prosperity that exists and the development that we know is proceeding about us? Has this Government made any effort to find the cause of this unemployment? I feel sure that the Government is not interested in it, because it has been said in houses of parliament overseas that to keep the workers in subjection we must create a pool of unemployed - a pool of misery. Is this the policy of the Government? Is this the reason why unemployment is increasing in this nation at the rate of 17,000 annually? Is this the reason why we have nearly 82,000 persons unemployed? If it is, I say it is to the standing discredit of this Government. Unemployment allied with lack of housing is the greatest social scourge that we have, and before Australia can talk about “Australia unlimited “ this problem must be overcome.
I noticed with some concern the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the trouble on the coal-fields. A new word, “ re-employment “, has been used in relation to the unfortunate miners. I hope that the same word will be used in relation to the 82,000 persons who want to be reemployed. During this debate we heard the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) give a very fine address on scientific developments in medicine. For those who understood it, it was probably very informative and interesting. I give him great credit for being able to inform the House of all that is going on in the health laboratories with which he is acquainted; but he could have made reference to another great scientific development that is causing great distress among many people and is probably the primary cause of most of the unemployment. I refer to automation.
I was very disappointed to find that the Governor-General’s Speech contained no mention of what the Government intends to do to try to offset the effects of automation. Mechanization was stated to be the cause of the trouble on the coal-fields. The position boils down to the fact that the reason for the dismissal of these coal miners is the introduction of automation. One reads in the newspapers that it is quite possible that because of automation the Public Service will be cut down considerably. It is said that some 10,000 persons may be dismissed. Will the Government just sit still, knowing that this may take place, and do nothing about it, or will it try to open new fields of employment for these people? I feel that this matter is worthy of attention. The well-being of this country demands that when such developments take place action shall be taken to absorb displaced people into other industries in order that they will not be thrown amongst the 82,000 persons already unemployed. No mention has been made of the problems of primary and secondary education. That subject seems to be studiously avoided.
I want to refer to local government economy and to some questions which were asked of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the answers that he gave to them. I direct attention also to the statement that was made by Dr.. Coombs. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) asked the Treasurer questions concerning finance for focal government authorities and he referred to articles that had appeared in the press to the effect that £4,000,000 was to be made available to such authorities. The honorable member asked the Treasurer whether lie knew where the municipalities could obtain some of this money, and the right honorable gentleman replied that he did not know. In my opinion, this is just a gigantic hoax. The Premier of Victoria, Mr, Bolte, spilled the beans because he knows what the position is. He knows that municipal and shire councils and semigovernment authorities cannot get money. As Dr. Coombs has said, all the money is being invested in hire purchase. When authorities can offer only lower interest rates, it is almost impossible for them to get money.
Commenting on this matter, Mr. Bolte is reported in the press to have said -
Local Government authorities with the highest priority would be notified soon of an increase in loan borrowing powers. Those authorities would have to give assurances that they could borrow the money.
They would have to give assurances. Mr. Bolte knows that it is practically impossible for them to borrow money. The Commonwealth Government threw out the bait. It said that it would allow semi-government authorities to borrow £4,000,000. It wanted those authorities to relieve the Commonwealth of its responsibilities to the unemployed. A statement to that effect was published in the press as follows: -
The Commonwealth made its proposal because of the increase of 17,223 registered unemployed in January, to take the unemployed figure to 81,901.
The Loan Council has agreed that New South Wales local government authorities should be allowed to borrow the extra £2,000,000 because of the unemployment problem in that State.
I hope- that local government authorities in New South Wales can borrow the £2.000,000 they need so that they can relieve unemployment in that State; but I am sure from my own experience that the focal government authorities in Victoria will find it impossible to borrow any extra money. They could not get it under the last loan’ schedule and they will not be able to get it under the current one. The Com monwealth Government is putting- a gigantic hoax over the people and is passing off its- responsibilities for unemployment to local government authorities. The fact is that such authorities are loaded already with too many responsibilities that rightly belong to this Government.
I can give an outline of some of the difficulties that are being- experienced’ by State, semi-government and local government authorities. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) referred to the Glenbawn Dam. He said that in 1946 when it was started, it was to cost £1,500,000, but its final cost, including enlargement of the originally proposed dam, had been £14,600,000. The Government of New South Wales cannot be blamed for that. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works had to build a dam on the Upper Yarra in 1950. The estimate was £7,800,000. The capacity was increased in. 1951 and the estimate rose to £8,600,000. The total cost was £14,050,000 when it was finished in August, 1957. Between 1950 and 1956, the cost index was doubled and, therefore, the estimate was doubled. That was due to the fact that this Government removed price controls. Therefore, those who planned these projects were at the mercy of those who had the materials. Again, the money was not available and they had to stretch it out. On the Upper Yarra project, the shifts had to be reduced and, consequently, costs rose.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
’.- I am afraid that my friend the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) is still, living in the past. He rightly said that he represents one of the most thickly populated’ and densest industrial areas in Victoria,, but I would advise him to get out of that old area and see some of the vigorous industrial areas on. the eastern; side of Victoria where we have progressive members of this Parliament, such as the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). The people of those electorates, realizing what a good job this Government has done and how hopelessly out-dated Labour- thinking is, are happy to return Liberal members to this Parliament to increase the progress of those areas which has been evident for several years now. The Governor-General, at the beginning of his Speech, said -
You have been called together to deal with matters of national moment.
Then His Excellency went on to deal with the programme that lies before this Twentythird Parliament. Before commenting on that programme, I should like to express my gratitude to the people of McMillan for having been so kind as to entrust to me the task of representing them in the discussion of those “ matters of national moment “ in this Parliament. McMillan was the most strongly contested seat in Australia. There were six competitors for the honour of serving such a prosperous and eminently desirable portion of the premier State of Australia. I want to assure all the people concerned that I will always continue to regard myself as the representative of each and every one of them, irrespective of any particular party tags they may attach to themselves. I should like to extend ray best wishes to the newcomers to this Parliament. It is not so long since I was a newcomer myself, and I can still remember the tribulations and difficulties I experienced in learning how this place works. To all of them I offer my very best wishes.
It has been suggested to me that the Governor-General’s Speech was in somewhat vague terms and that the programme which it set out for this session did not state that we shall do this or introduce that. Tt merely indicated the general direction in which the Government would move. This is the natural course, the only course that a government with such a superb record of stability and sturdy development could take. Apart from the banking bills which we will now have great satisfaction in seeing passed, with the resultant strengthening of the whole financial structure, there are many matters of national moment before us but no others that involve major changes.
This Government has so ordered its policies that there is no section of industry to-day that is not enjoying a standard of comfort and prosperity that was unknown ten years ago.. It is a standard that Opposition members do not understand. They do not believe it possible, and in fact it would not be possible if their outmoded socialistic ideas were put. into force. It is quite apparent that the only prosperous nations- to-day are the ones that recognize the value of co-operative effort and also the value of some reward for initiative and enterprise. This is the only way of life that should be encouraged, and it is the way of life that this Government has nurtured throughout its whole period of office. The tasks that face this Parliament are largely ones of guidance, of direction, of providing the framework within which the various sections of the community can work out what they need for their own improvement. In this way, each section protects its own financial well being.
One of the first matters mentioned by His Excellency was the promotion of friendly international relations and closer understanding and co-operation between nations. He followed that statement by a reference to the further development of trade between Australia and Asian countries. He pointed out the benefits that we have received from the exchange of visits by national leaders. Last year we all had the pleasure of meeting, however briefly, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honorable John Diefenbaker, but I was very disappointed that no opportunity was given to us to meet, and assess for ourselves, Dr. Subandrio during his visit here, particularly in view of all that has been said about Indonesia during the last few days. The Minister for External Affairs is going to Japan in the immediate future, and I understand that the Prime Minister will be going to Indonesia at the end of this year. These things in themselves are very good, but I do not think that sufficient opportunity is given to back-benchers to take part in this most important aspect of government.
Missions go from Australia at various times to promote trade and friendly relations with other countries. Recently the trade ship “ Delos “ made a most successful tour of south-east Asia, and other such tours are contemplated. Another mission is to go- to the American west coast and: Canada this week. Other such missions are envisaged’. South Africa has been mentioned as a place that could usefully be visited with a view to promotion of trade. South America is another such country. I suggest that on all visits of this kind it would be most beneficial to have a member of this Parliament accompany the delegation, to give it the prestige of Government participation, to extend the particular member’s knowledge of the area and to provide the liaison between the Parliament and such activities that is missing at present. If one of our members could bring back to us first-hand information and impressions of the countries he was fortunate enough to visit, we would all gain something in our appreciation of the problems that are always present, even when we are dealing with the most friendly of our neighbours.
Our relations with the countries of Asia are of first-rate importance, but backbenchers, who, after all, are called upon to vote on quite a few matters that affect these relations, have no way of becoming acquainted with the many important features that are peculiar to individual countries. Even at such a brilliant function as the reception held at the opening of this Parliament, the back-bencher had no real opportunity to meet the many colourful visitors from neighbouring countries who added so much lustre to the occasion. I believe that part of our function in the conduct of the affairs of this nation should be to learn how our great neighbouring countries think, to find out about the things that we have in common, and to try to assess the manner of our approach, whether through diplomatic or trade channels.
Because of the predominant position of the McMillan electorate in the dairying industry, I was particularly interested to note the reference by His Excellency to the appointment of an impartial committee of inquiry to investigate and report on the complex problems of the industry. I want to emphasize the need to keep this committee “ impartial “. If we are to get a proper account of what the industry needs to achieve an adequate basis of stability, it is absolutely essential that the committee of inquiry should not consist of the same men who have been making recommendations to the Government for years on the amount of bounty that should be paid. The solution of the difficulties of this widely scattered and completely basic primary industry does not lie in that direction. It lies in a thorough re-thinking of the role of the dairy farm in the community, and in rationalization of costs.
In Australia to-day there is one cow for every four persons. There are some 600,000 people vitally concerned with the industry. One person in every sixteen is in some way dependent on the dairying industry for a living. The capital value of the industry is about £750,000,000. It is subject to intense competition from substitutes and synthetics, and also to illogically based attacks from ill-informed sections of the medical profession.
Recently the Australian Agricultural Council, which has done a very great deal for this industry and all other primary industries, agreed, at the request of all sections of the industry, to have legislation brought down in all States to ban the manufacture or sale of filled milk, which is merely ordinary milk from which the butter fat has been removed and replaced by coco-nut oil or some other indigestible grease. In the statement issued to this effect, the council said that it considered filled milk such a threat to a very valuable section of the economy, namely the whole milk trade, that it should be banned. The total production of milk in Australia is of the order of 1,300,000,000 gallons, of which 300,000,000 go into the whole milk trade and 800,000,000 are used to produce butter. If it is necessary and desirable - and I agree that it is most necessary and most desirable - that filled milk should be banned to protect 20 per cent, of the dairying industry, the most remunerative 20 per cent, of it, then it is even more necessary and desirable that urgent action should be taken to ban the manufacture and sale of margarine, which is just as powerful a threat to 60 per cent, of the dairying industry. Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although the agreement made with the Agricultural Council was to the effect that all States would ban filled milk, New South Wales has not taken action along these lines. The people of New South Wales could well bear that in mind when they cast their votes at the forthcoming election.
– The New South Wales Government betrayed its trust.
– Quite right. It is notable that farmers, as distinct from graziers, have not really been able to progress to the same extent as other sections of the community have. Individual and collective incomes have fallen, despite - and in some cases because of - a rising volume of farm production. It is essential that we maintain this rising volume, for two reasons. First, the increase of our population at the rate of 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, a year involves increased demand, and provides us with our best market. Secondly, primary products still have to produce the necessary export income to enable us to purchase machinery and material for our rapidly expanding secondary industries. They, too, will, I hope, make steady efforts to increase their contribution to our exports, but as long as our primary industries continue to provide 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of our overseas funds, it is essential that special consideration should be given to maintaining those industries as a whole in a healthy state. It is essential that a rise in volume of production should be accompanied by a rise in net return.
I am very encouraged to find that the Export Development Council of which Sir John Allison is chairman has just issued a statement stressing that although Australia’s future in trade tends to lie in new and expanding markets in Africa and Asia, there is a great need to rouse in Australia, in Australians, and in this Parliament an export consciousness. It suggested that we should do something to increase production of all of those exports which are so necessary to continue Australia’s development in the way it has been maintained over the last few years.
If honorable members opposite will only read the Speech of His Excellency, they will find that it is packed with matters of national moment. His Excellency referred to the need to review the present financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I hope that something will be done in this regard1 next week. Too often, in the electorates, we find State members getting themselves out of blame for something they should be providing by laying the blame on the Commonwealth. The drive over recent months, particularly the pressure during the election campaign, for more money for education was a typical example of this. If the Premiers conference next week does not do anything more than cast some light on these subjects it will have done some good. However, I think it will really tackle these problems on a much higher level.
I hope that the Premiers will be able to agree on a more acceptable basis for the
Commonwealth to collect, on behalf of the States, the amount of tax that they require in order to provide their people with the things that are State responsibilities. The conference should also seek a more acceptable basis of reimbursement. The people of the States do not realize that the State treasuries which do all the whingeing also do a lot of the taxing.
Linked closely with this matter is the burning question of financial assistance for road purposes. 1 most emphatically support the Victorian cry for more money for roads - for better roads to cut down transport cost, and1 for better roads to reduce the accident rate. Good roads are a vital factor in modern living, a factor that is lagging far behind in the rapid progress that Australia, as a whole, is making.
I also believe that the political expedient of allocating a special tax for some specific purpose is just as out of date as our thinking on roads. Under the present formula, even Western Australian members cannot fail to see - even if they will not publicly admit - that Victoria gets an absolutely raw deal. Under the present method of linking the federal aid roads grant with the amount of money collected in petrol tax, it is inevitable that the distribution will be inequitable. Petrol tax is just another method of raising revenue in the same way as the excise on beer and tobacco, or the sales tax, or any other tax. But as long as one marks any one tax for a particular social service there will be inequalities. Either the tax will be too high and raise too much, which is bad, or it will be too low and starve the particular project. The common-sense way, as far as roads are concerned, is to let the petrol tax money go into Consolidated Revenue and let each State mak; a realistic claim for its legitimate requirements - an amount corresponding not to what it thinks it can do but to what it can really do, and has the man-power and materials to do. That amount should be negotiated for by the States under some similar arrangement to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Another of the matters of national moment mentioned by His Excellency is the intention of the Government to set up a competent and independent public investigation of Commonwealth taxation laws. If this, too, did no more than remove some of the anomalies inherent in our straggling sales tax decisions it would be .good. I shall mention a few examples. An apple pie is taxed but a meat pie is not; a dough made into a bread is not taxed but if a few raisins and a little sugar are added it is; sales tax is charged on fruit cake and plum pudding although all the ingredients are themselves free of tax and most of them are the products of Australian primary industries which are in receipt of Government assistance designed to aid their expansion.
However, we all expect a lot more than the removal of anomalies from the inquiry that will be set up. One of the things that are vitally important to its considerations is the removal of the iniquitous pay-roll tax. The contribution which the pay-roll tax makes to the Treasury does not nearly compensate for the burden that it places on the community as a whole. Its obstinate retention in its application to State government and semi-government instrumentalities is very difficult to understand. But its effect on industry is even worse. Every £1 that is collected from industry increases the price of the commodity concerned by at least £2. When the pay-roll tax is levied on goods which require a complicated series of processes before the finished article is produced, its effect is to raise the price by some £3 for every £1 of tax collected.
These are only a few of the many matters of national moment of which His Excellency spoke; but surely they are enough to demonstrate clearly the obvious intention of this Government to continue the progressive policies that will lead to greater contentment and happiness for the people of Australia. We have a difficult time before us in a world that is striving for peace and seeking some means of closer co-operation and friendly assistance between nations.
For nine years, now, this Menzies Government has consistently done what was right and proper at the time. It has been flexible enough in its thinking to be able, despite the ups and downs of the seasons and of world prices, the rumblings of war, and changing markets or the changing ability of our traditional customers to trade with us, to ensure a still higher level of prosperity. I have no doubt that, with the goodwill of the .people behind us, so admirably shown in the results of the recent elections, not only shall we continue the progress and development of Australia but we shall accelerate it.
– Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the tradition of the House I should like to take this opportunity to pay my tribute to those who have recently come among us. It has indeed been a refreshing and stimulating experience to get this great influx of new ideas from both sides of the House. I know that Government supporters are prepared to speak of their own recent arrivals in encouraging terms, but Opposition members are particularly pleased with those who have come amongst us here. We have no doubt that, in this place, they will make a great contribution to its deliberations and, indeed, to the welfare of the people of Australia.
It must be astounding, however, to many of the new members on both sides of the House to hear remarks such as those with which the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) closed his speech, in which he referred to the flexibility of the Menzies Government to meet problems as they emerge from time to time. No doubt many of the new members, regardless of whether they are on the Opposition or the Government side, who have been relatively close to the people and have some appreciation of their problems, find it difficult to relate this flexibility to the failure of the Government to side step, for example, the great crisis of unemployment or to meet adequately the housing needs of the Australian people. They must find it hard to reconcile this flexibility with the declining values of social service benefits. Almost every social service has deteriorated over the period that this Government has been in office. How astounding it is to hear the honorable member for McMillan, a government member, speaking of his desire to meet the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio!
– The honorable member would be sucked in if he met him.
– The honorable member for Macarthur suggests that I would be sucked in if I met Dr. Subandrio. The fact of the matter is that up to a very short time ago members on the Government side were intent on destroying the reputation of anybody who stood for an independent Indonesia. We remember so clearly when Dr. Soekarno came into office that he was criticized as having Communist associations. But in all these matters we find that Government members, in the long run, are prepared to acquiesce. Never are they filled with a burning zeal for reform or an enthusiasm to lead the way in respect of matters which appertain to the welfare of the people. They criticize and condemn as radicals and red-raggers those who are prepared to be outspoken about these things.
When I first came into this Parliament 1 talked about nuclear weapons and I know that many members, some of whom are still in the House, concluded from what I said about the need to effect some agreement in world organizations to control the use of these weapons that I had left-wing leanings. But to-day, slowly and slowly, even the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is coming round to my point of view. Ultimately he and his colleagues will acquiesce with the view of members on this side. So many other issues clearly indicate that the remarks of the honorable member for McMillan are without foundation.
Having regard to all these things, this would be a particularly dull place, but it is at least encouraging to see that persons like yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and also Mr. Speaker himself, have been elected to the august positions which you respectively occupy in this chamber. I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Sir, and also Mr. Speaker, upon being elevated to your present exalted positions with the warm-hearted approval of members on both sides of the House. I can say that you, Sir, are bound to prove far superior to your predecessor.
I now wish to refer to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I cannot see in it the great and outstanding record of government achievements which honorable members on the Government side are so prone to acclaim. The Speech was negative. It has very little regard for the great problems besetting the Australian people. I cannot attribute its shortcomings to His Excellency because it is well appreciated that the Speech is actually prepared by the Government. It clearly indicates that this Government is a com pletely status quo government, void of any ideas. I am greatly disappointed that the major item referred to in the Speech is one of destructive intention. I refer to the fact that this year the Commonwealth Government will concern itself principally with its efforts to destroy systematically the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In the very near future we are to be treated to an important process directed towards that end.
I was particularly interested in the passage of the Governor-General’s Speech pertaining to ‘Commonwealth-State financial relations and the proposal that in the near future a conference on this subject would be convened. The particular paragraph in the Speech dealing with this matter reads as follows: -
My Government considers that there is a pressing need to review the present financial relations between the Commonwealth and the State governments. Accordingly, it has arranged for a special Premiers conference to be held early next month to discuss the complex problems that exist in this field.
It is encouraging to note that the Government has at last succumbed to the great pressure that has been exerted in this matter by supporters of all political parties. This conference is long overdue. A financial crisis of unprecedented proportions is evident in every State, and it affects seriously the third arm of government, that is, local government. Many honorable members share with me the earnest hope that the intentions of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and of the Government in convening this conference at this particular time are genuine. The great deficiency of services at the local government level and those of State instrumentalities is so serious and bears so directly on the welfare of the Australian people that any tendency to political flippancy or political opportunism in respect of this vital conference will be condemned.
We hope that it is mere coincidence rather than sinister political design that this conference has been convened to precede immediately the South Australian elections and only a short time prior to the elections in New South Wales and Western Australia. It could be that the conference is intended to afford a stalking ground for merely party political purposes. The Government and the people should be warned of the consequences of such a fiasco, which would impair the ability of the State governments to come to grips with the pressing problems that now confront them.
With many of my colleagues, I am obsessed with the desire to re-establish the solvency of the three arms of government which has deteriorated to such a marked degree as a consequence of the present Commonwealth administration. Two of these spheres, those of State and local government, have been ruthlessly assailed during the lifetime of the Menzies Government. I should like to project into the impending Premiers conference some special consideration for local government, which 1 believe to be the sphere of delegated governmental authority which is suffering most from financial malnutrition. There is a rapidly developing school of thought which believes that with three arms of government, Australia has a tendency to be grossly over-governed. A new administrative concept is necessary, based on the fundamental principle that matters of nation-wide concern should be the prerogative of the National Parliament whilst those of local concern should be the prerogative of local government. It is quite reasonable to assume that in the long run local government should encourage the development of a regional or area parliamentary system. This would develop the type of organization already in evidence in the provision of water and electricity services. Whether or not such a system is evolved, it is clear that the role of local government will always be a very vital one. Therefore, we should preserve its framework and assist it as much as possible.
There is a constant need and a heavy obligation on the part of the parent parliaments, State and Federal, to ensure that local government is adequately equipped to discharge satisfactorily its vital obligations and services. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Commonwealth rather than the States is responsible for the present deterioration in local government services.
I lay at the door of the Menzies Government full responsibility for spiralling rates which, in many areas, now exceed the capacity of people to pay. A survey of local government finances has recently been conducted in New South Wales. It is a very important survey which, in the near future, will receive considerable attention in this House. It has cost a great deal of money. The former Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Sir Bertram Stevens - or former United Australia party Premier, or former Nationalist Premier - I forget what the Liberal party was calling itself at the time that he graced the Treasury bench in New South Wales - has been engaged, as principal of a firm of accountants, to make this survey on behalf of the Local Government Association of New South Wales and the Shires Association of New South Wales.
This report serves to clarify a number of points regarding the financial dilemma of local governments. It is interesting, in the first place, to see the extent to which shire and municipal councils have been forced to increase rates on the unimproved capital value of properties in the ten-year period from 1947 to 1957. Although the report deals with New South Wales it is apparent that the trend shown in the figures would prevail in other States also. In that tenyear period rate revenues spiralled to astronomical levels. The increases in respect of various local government authorities, and classes ot local government authorities are as follows: - City of Sydney, 210 per cent.; suburban municipalities, 297 per cent.; suburban shires 546 per cent.; City of Newcastle, 258 per cent. I think that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who recently made his maiden speech in this House, can take some consolation from the fact that his area, where he recently served as Lord Mayor, incurred the comparatively low increase of 258 per cent. The list continues - City of Wollongong, 593 per cent.; country municipalities, 354 per cent.; country shires, 440 per cent. In my own district, Sutherland, rate revenue in that period of ten years increased by 583.7 per cent., although the population increased by only 164 per cent., which means that the burden has to be carried to a very great extent by the older residents. Of properties in that area. 84 per cent, are owned by the people who occupy them.
– What is the money used for?
– It is incredible that we should get such a question from a member of the National Parliament, and I do not think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I should be expected to go to the trouble of answering it at this time.
The figures I have given are all the more revealing in face of the fact that over the same period the wholesale price index rose by only 145 per cent., and average weekly earnings by 185 per cent. These, according to Sir Bertram Stevens, who is a confrere of the honorable gentlemen who sit opposite, are the important relevant considerations. I give these figures not as my own, but as his, and he would not be influenced in his survey by the Local Government Association or the Shires Association which is certainly not dominated by Labour interests in the shires.
Increases in rate revenue reflect the necessity to provide added services and to perform the increasing variety of functions which became the responsibility of local governments in that decade. Local govern-ments have had to raise more revenue in their own areas, because the Commonwealth has failed to give the necessary assistance to them, either directly or indirectly. The survey made by Sir Bertram Stevens shows that the weight of the heavy rate increases has fallen mainly upon properties that are owned - or are in the process of being owned - by families who occupy them. The fact is that rating has reached saturation point, and additional revenue needed for local government purposes will have to come from either State or Federal sources. The possibility that any State would be in a position to assist local government bodies to a greater extent than hitherto is extremely remote. All States share this problem regardless of the political complexion of their governments, and the suggestion that any one of them can alleviate the plight of local government bodies within its boundaries is inspired by political rather than financial considerations.
Local government bodies- have a right to share in the national income in proportion to their responsbilities, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that more borrowing would, in many cases, aggravate rather than relieve the desperate situation that now exists. I do not want to convey the idea that I would generally contend that additional loan moneys are not needed by local government authorities in New South Wales and other States, but I point out that in many of the fast-growing areas of New South Wales the stage has been reached at which loan moneys are not the answer to the problem because, as a result of the accumulation of outstanding loans, the predominant part of the revenue from increased rates is being used to repay loans already incurred. In these circumstances, further loans can mean only increased rates, which the people cannot afford to pay.
We have the ridiculous situation that local government rates are levied with no regard to capacity to pay. A block with a house on it may stand next door to a block containing twenty flats, and the capacity to pay in one case bears no relation to the capacity to pay in the other. Disregard of the principle of the capacity to pay must, in this enlightened financial era, be described as inequitable. Local government authorities administering rapidly expanding areas have reached saturation point in regard to expenditure, and if they are to increase expenditure they will require a subvention from either the Commonwealth or the State Government.
The only real solution to this problem, while these three arms of government continue to exist in their present relation to one another is a revision of the formula by which the proceeds of uniform taxation are returned, in part, to the States. I think honorable members should realize how out of date that formula is. Whereas, when the formula was arrived at in 1947-48, the amount of money for distribution was £45,000,000, the amount to be distributed now is £175,000,000 a year. This seems to indicate that a revision is overdue. A fiasco has developed in relation to this matter. A temporary expedient has been adopted in the provision of grants by the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution, but this procedure does not, in some cases, inspire the imagination of the State Premiers. Their opposition to this system is not difficult to understand, because they interpret resort to the grants system as an insidious onslaught on the rights of the States. They do not relish the fact of this money coming to them from the Commonwealth with the manner in which it must be spent already predetermined. They regard the system as an attack on the sovereign right of a State to decide the manner in which its income shall be expended.
While we have State governments - and I hope that this affliction will not persist indefinitely - these problems will always be in evidence to some degree. I hope they will be minimized by one of the two methods I have outlined.
– Are not high rates the result of decisions taken by local government authorities themselves?
– Of course they are! How else does the honorable member propose that local government authorities should meet their responsibilities to provide services for which the people are crying, such as sewerage, sports fields, libraries, and baby health centres? If the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) stands for inadequate local government, he should say so. The fact is that these services are necessary and have to be provided, and they cannot be provided in any greatly increased measure by raising the rates on the unimproved capital value of property. Of course, the Commonwealth will have to face up to its responsibilities and, if the honorable member is not prepared to play his part, I have no doubt that an increasing appreciation by the people of these requirements will, in the long run, cause him to be replaced by some one else.
I wish to examine for a moment the manner in which the balance of finance between the States and’ the Commonwealth has been upset by the Menzies Government. The fact that the indebtedness of the States has soared to such dizzy heights contributes both to the desperate financial dilemma experienced by local government authorities and to the inability of the States to assist them. Over the last ten years, the States and their authorities have increased their indebtedness by no less than £1,139,000,000. Their indebtedness has more than doubled in that time, but the Commonwealth has reduced its debt by £83,000,000. In the same period, the Commonwealth’s interest bill has increased by only £2,000,000 a year, while the interest burden of the States has soared from £32,000,000 to £88.000.000 in the last nine years.
The spirit of the 1928 Financial Agreement has been completely undermined by this Government, as has been, I believe, the underlying principle of the uniform taxation system. The Commonwealth, taking for its own purposes, as it does, the proceeds of uniform taxation - revenue which is free of the crippling burden of interest - is driving the States to bankruptcy by loading them with dear money derived from the loan market. Similarly, income from taxation has often been loaned to the States, so that we have reached the incredible position in which the Commonwealth receives from the States and others more interest than it pay3.
Some honorable members have a misconception, I know from private conversations, that the Commonwealth makes extensive grants to local government authorities. It might come as a surprise to them to know that grants from federal revenue sources to the New South Wales local government authorities in the last year were limited to £3,095,000, which represented Commonwealth aid roads allocations to councils from the proceeds of the petrol tax, I think this is an appropriate opportunity to raise this subject because the honorable member for Macarthur may have some positive thoughts on it. Each year the Commonwealth retains approximately onethird of the proceeds of the petrol tax. Of the £50,000,000 collected, only £34,000,000 goes to the States. The balance of £16,000,000 is retained by the Commonwealth and goes into Consolidated Revenue. The pressing need1 for road development makes it imperative that every penny derived from petrol-driven road vehicles, and indeed from diesel-driven road vehicles, should bc used to relieve the burden on local government authorities. I do not suggest that the proceeds of this tax is any real yardstick by which to measure the needs of the authorities for road purposes. Much more financial help is needed, and every penny raised by the petrol tax should be allocated for road purposes.
The attitude of the Treasurer and of the Government is in direct contrast with that of the former Treasurer, who, when dealing with this matter in his Budget speech in 1926, said-
The State Governments, lacking the power *o impose customs- duties, are unable to effectively reach all road users. The Commonwealth, therefore, is co-operating with the States in a national roads policy and will impose special customs duties which will be hypothecated for road construction.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, previous speakers in this debate have congratulated the new members of this House who have spoken and who have demonstrated - this applies to honorable members on both sides of the chamber - that, as a result of the recent general election, the House has been enriched by a number of young, talented men who, I feel sure, as they gain greater experience, will contribute considerably to the debating strength of the House and, I hope, to its dignity also. I sincerely add my congratulations to those which have already been offered to the new members who have spoken.
To you, Mr. Speaker, I offer my heartiest congratulations. It is very pleasing indeed that you have been appointed for a further term following the service that you have already given in controlling this House and upholding its honour and dignity. I congratulate also my colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who is the new Chairman of Committees. He knows full well that he is following in the footsteps of another colleague who gave great service in that position. We know that our new Chairman will continue to uphold tradition in that position and will demonstrate that he is capable of service equally as fine as was that of his predecessor in office.
We are now debating, Sir, a motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of this Parliament. In that Speech, the GovernorGeneral referred to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which I have the honour to administer, and I think, therefore, that it is fitting that I should enlarge on those necessarily brief references for the information of honorable members generally, because the operations of the department, in its many spheres of activity, touch the actual representative work of all members very closely indeed, and it is proper that they should be kept informed not only of progress already made but also of plans for the future. His Excellency said -
The Post Office is continuing to expand and improve its postal and telecommunication services to meet the growing needs of the community.
I ask honorable members to note the use of the phrase “ continuing to expand and improve “. I propose to spend a little time demonstrating the fact that the developments which are taking place, and the facilities which are now operating, represent a continuance of a service which has been steadily developing for a considerable period. It is proper, of course, for me, in doing this, to point out that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is giving effect to basic Government policy - a policy to ensure that Australia’s steady development will be servicedby postal and telecommunications facilities which are so essential nowadays to the development of properties and to the everyday life of all people in the community, no matter where they may be. It is Government policy to provide for that development and to continue to expand services in consonance with the expansion of our economy and the development of our country.
As I mentioned earlier to-day, that policy is backed in a material way by the Government in providing for the department each year, at the time of the Budget determinations, increased allocations of funds so that the expansion required may be possible. Let me remind honorable members of the increase in the department’s vote since I have held my present portfolio. In the financial year 1956-57, the engineering vote was £27,457,000, and the vote for buildings and sites was £3,847,000, making a total of £31,304,000 for the department’s new capital works. Buildings and sites, of course, represent an essential part of our development, and they must be provided before we can expend the money voted for engineering works, which represent the installation of equipment in the buildings provided.
Honorable members will note that, as I have pointed out, in 1956-57 the vote for new capital works was £31,304,000. In 1957- 58, the engineering vote was increased to £30,500,000, and the vote for buildings and sites was increased to £4,000,000, making a. total of £34,500,000, or an increase of about £3,200,000. In the financial year 1958- 59 - the current financial year - the engineering vote was further increased to £32,000,000 - an increase of more than £1.500,000 - and the vote for buildings and sites remained at £4,000,000, making a total of £36,000,000. That figure is exclusive of provision for certain work which the department will probably be undertaking within the next few months, in the latter half of the current financial year, in connexion with the provision of a co-axial cable between Melbourne and Sydney, this work representing the commencement of operations which are likely to extend over two or three years. So honorable members will see that actual expenditure is likely to be more than the vote of £36,000,000 for new capital works in this financial year, although the £36,000,000 is an increase of £1,500,000 compared with the vote for the previous financial year. It is the department’s task, Sir, to ensure that these funds are utilized in the proper way to provide for the extra services which are constantly being demanded. I was asked this morning whether I was satisfied that the department was properly utilizing the additional funds available to it, and I said I believed that the department was using the money properly.
In order to illustrate these matters, I must give the House some figures, although I know that it is often difficult for honorable members to assimilate a quantity of statistics given in the compass of a brief speech. It is an important part of the department’s task, first, to keep pace with the increasing demand for services, and, secondly, to overtake the lag which has developed in previous years, particularly in respect of telephone connexions. The extent of the department’s success in discharging that task can be judged by some of the latest figures available to me, which have not yet been made public. I shall take as an example, Mr. Speaker, the figure for the gross connexions of telephones. It is significant. In 1958-59, we set a target of 135,000 gross connexions, feeling that if we achieved that target we would hold the position and enable ourselves at the same time to carry out certain engineering works for the provision of junctions and similar technical requirements which would enable us to keep abreast of development.
In the seven months to 31st January of this year, we achieved a figure of 86,575 gross connexions. That was - deliberately - slightly below the target that we achieved in the previous financial year, but the target figure for the whole of the current financial year will be exceeded, and so we shall continue not only to keep abreast of requirements but also to reduce the number of outstanding applications. I should point out, Mr. Speaker, that a significant feature which must be taken into account in any survey such as this is the fact that applications from the people generally are maintained at a high rate. The gross figure for applications in the current financial year will be about 140,000. It is our experience that all the applications are not required to be serviced, and therefore we shall achieve a gross connexion rate in excess of the effective application rate, which still remains high.
Our success in overhauling the lag in these installations is evidenced by the fact that, over a period of years, we have reduced the number of deferred applications. Several years ago, they totalled more than 70,000. At 30th June, 1958, the total was 43,383. As a result of the increased funds available, the figure had been considerably reduced in the previous financial year. In the seven months to 31st January of this year, the number of deferred applications had been further reduced by 2,850. So we are now down to a figure of 40,533, compared with a figure of more than 70,000 two years ago. I should point out that these deferred applications are those which the department has had to put to one side for a considerable period because no equipment was available for the particular area or in the exchange concerned. They are in a different category from what we call outstanding applications which can be serviced, but which are held up until gangs are organized to do the work. So these deferred applications have an important bearing on any survey of the department, because they show that the department is putting in new equipment in exchanges, and providing cables, junctions and so on to enable those applications, for which there was previously very little hope, to be serviced.
Let me give the House another example. I shall deal with current orders for telephone installations now made possible because the equipment has become available. Always we have a certain number of such applications in respect of which orders have been given by the district telephone officers, and installations are currently being made. At present orders for the installation of telephones are being given at the rate of 34,708 a year. As at June, 1958, the rate was only 31,400. So, in effect, we are now installing about 3,000 more telephones each year than we were seven or eight months ago. That is a significant indication of the way the department is discharging its responsibilities.
Now I turn briefly to some of the other services that the department is giving. Many honorable members have shown an interest in rural automatic exchanges. They are established in country areas, not in city areas, and 51 have been installed in the last seven months. That figure is slightly below the rate of installation in the previous twelve months, but the target of 130 at least for the year will be achieved, and possibly an even higher number will be installed. That means that we shall have pushed the installation of rural automatic exchanges throughout Australia up to a total of about 1,220 by the end of this financial year.
Trunk line channels are very important because no matter how many services we install in residences, it is essential that they should be serviced by adequate trunk line channels in order to avoid undue delay to the subscriber when putting through a call. T am quite satisfied from remarks that have been made to me that there has been a great improvement in recent years in the provision of those channels and a reduction of the waiting time associated with putting through long distance trunk line calls. The department lias been constantly increasing the number of trunk line channels, and in the last seven months it has installed a further 803 channels. This year, we will put in a number equivalent to the number installed last year, that is, over 1,500 trunk line channels, which will make a total in two years of at least an additional 3,000 trunk line channels throughout Australia.
There are some other advances to which I should like to refer briefly in this report of the department’s activities. Those advances apply mainly to the business world. I refer to the extension of the teleprinter service, which is of such great value to the business community. At present more than 400 subscribers use this service, and in addition to the teleprinter service, an international telex service has been established. This new service is available not only to subscribers to the teleprinter service, but to others also, and it can now be used with eighteen overseas countries. I remind the House that this new service is only six months old. It is developing rapidly, and considerable use is being made of it to the benefit of those concerned.
I want to turn briefly to the future. So far I have referred to past achievements. As I have indicated to some honorable members individually in response to inquiries, we have plans for the future which will arise from the great strides that have been made in recent years in the science of engineering, particularly as it is applied to the tele-communications field. Amazing developments have taken place, and the department is out to take every advantage of those developments so that it can keep abreast of all the latest trends in telecommunications. I refer briefly to such things as the use of automatic dialling and calling, automatic switching, automatic registering of calls, automatic accounting of calls, and also to the great developments being made in the types of automatic exchange equipment now being brought into operation. I refer to something that is being done in the electorate of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), where what might be called a pilot scheme is being tried. In that area a new kind of exchange equipment is being installed which, we believe, will be considerably cheaper - in fact, we know it will be cheaper - and it will be more easily maintained. It will also enable the cost of the services to be reduced, whilst at the same time increasing their efficiency. The use of the new equipment not only saves space, but also reduces maintenance and operating costs.
All these things have opened up for the service generally what I think I may term a fascinating prospect in that they enable us to plan nation-wide subscribertosubscriber dialling, a nation-wide service in which the local subscriber, no matter where he may be, will be able to dial through to some other part of the country without the intrusion along the line of various operators and various exchanges. Eventually, under this system, all calls will be handled automatically. Honorable members will understand quite readily that this is a longrange project, and will not be achieved within a year or two. It will take a number of years and a considerable amount of capital to complete the undertaking.
Nevertheless, after a long period of intensive study by top-level engineers and mechanics in my department, we are now moving towards the installation of this new system and towards the realization of our ultimate goal.
In order to achieve our .goal, several short-range projects we have must be completed. First of all, there must be a steady expansion of the automatic system throughout Australia’s telephone system. There must be a rationalization of local call areas and local call charges. There must also be, as we go further afield, a rationalization of trunk-line call charges and the mileage divisions under which trunk-line charges are made. At present, from memory, I think there are 22 such divisions. That is too many for automatic working and for simplified accounting. So the question of trunk-line mileage divisions and trunk-line tariffs present one of the problems that must be investigated before we arrive at our goal.
One of the first things to be done will be the placing of rural centres into rural zones. This means that in an area adjacent, say, to a parent exchange, there are always spaced quite a number of small exchanges, some of them manual and some of them rural automatic. Those exchanges in country areas will have to be grouped in zones based on community interests. Perhaps five, six, seven, or eight country exchanges will be grouped into one zone. In each case at present there is a small trunk-line charge for calling from one exchange to another, even though they are only 10 miles apart. Under the zone system the local call rate will be chargeable; that is, the local call rate of 3d. as at present, untimed, will be chargeable between the exchanges in the zone. As a result of that, the charges for service by these exchanges will be considerably reduced in that subscribers will be given a much wider range for their local call fee. That will apply not only in country areas but also in urban areas where we have quite a number of exchanges just outside the boundary of the city exchange area. Trunk-line charges are now made for a call from an area which is virtually part of the greater city area but is outside the 10 or 15 mile radius within which a local call fee is payable.
Those urban exchanges will be brought under this zone system, as well , as the country exchanges outside the smaller provincial areas.
The next step forward is the grouping of the zones I have been describing into districts, in which the largest exchange will be .the parent exchange. Trunk-line charges will be payable on calls from the zones to the parent exchange, but they will be based on the distance between the central point in the zone and the centre of the district, thereby eliminating many of the differential rates which apply at present to calls between country areas quite close to each other. There may be two areas within 5 miles of each other. The trunk-line charge to the central point in one may now be 4d. in one instance, and 5d. in another. This dis.crimate charging will be eliminated, and this will enable rationalization of lowmileage trunk rates on a much more satisfactory and efficient basis.
With the establishment of districts, the next problem is the rationalization of the main trunk line charges for longer distances. I referred a few moments ago to the great number of divisions - twenty-odd - that we have in our trunk mileage scale and to the differentiation that exists in tariffs. Rationalization will result in greater efficiency and, eventually, lower rates. It is proposed to reduce greatly the number of mileage divisions and to adjust the tariffs accordingly, as a further method of bringing about the ultimate objective of subscribertosubscriber trunk dialling.
That is a very brief outline of what we intend doing. I am glad to be able to inform the House that the planning of the zones and the districts is now proceeding and I expect that some time during this year the new system will come into operation. I cannot make a firm announcement of the date at present because a terrific amount of work is involved in planning zone and district boundaries and determining tariffs, particularly for shorter distances. As we proceed further I shall be able to give honorable members further firm information about the full achievement.
There are several minor matters which will be taken up. One of them is that in order to enable the system to work properly, we must do something about the long party lines which have been in use for a number of years. The maintenance of these is heavy and they do not provide an efficient service. On my instructions, this matter is being gone into fully by my head office, and I am hoping to have some improvement in this direction in the next few months.
May 1 say that this progress that I contend we have achieved, and the forward planning that I have outlined, stem from two main factors. The first is the action taken by the Government to provide the funds to achieve the results. The second - to which I want to make particular reference - is the high spirit of service which permeates the whole of the department. The officials of the department are out to provide, to the best of their ability, service to the people. That spirit of service is very apparent, no matter where one may travel throughout Australia, and that is one of the reasons why we are getting ahead as we are doing. An important factor in these advances is the high degree of engineering and technical skill that resides in members of the department.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I join in the congratulations and good wishes that have been expressed to those honorable members who have been elected to office within the House and to those who, having been elected to and having taken their places in this chamber, have made, or have yet to make, their maiden speeches in this Parliament.
In addressing myself to the debate that is proceeding, I should like to express my very sincere regret that His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir William Slim, will not again, in all likelihood, be addressing this Parliament on the occasion of an official opening. While I subscribe very fully and sincerely to the Australian Labour party view and policy that Australians should be appointed to this high office, I feel that no one I know could have done a better job than has been done by His Excellency during his term of some six years in office. Both His Excellency and his very gracious lady have shown a very real, deep and continuing interest in the welfare of this country, and’ in particular have they identified themselves with the welfare of the National Capital and its people. They have with distinction appeared on great occasions and they have also taken their part in the community on the smaller or every-day occasions, whether at the opening of a fete or some other event of that kind. They have been a most gracious host and hostess in their home at Yarralumla, and I for one am sorry indeed to know that they are to leave us before this year is out.
Listening to His Excellency reading the Speech prepared for him on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament, I could not help but wonder what type of speech he would have made had he been speaking as an individual in this place. I feel sure that it would not have been the pallid document that was put into his hands and which, of course, he had to read. He is a man who has spoken forthrightly about the development of this country. He has told us in frank terms some of the defects, perhaps, of our way of life. He is a man who has, I believe, made a great contribution to thinking in this country, and one who has done great service to Australia. I feel that no matter where he and Lady Slim may go they will be not merely ambassadors for this country; they will be, in effect, true Australians themselves and will put the Australian point of view in whatever sphere they may be called upon to serve.
I desire to refer to some disabilities that are suffered by the people of the Australian Capital Territory through decisions of this Parliament. Several days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) expressed some doubts as to whether I was sincere in seeking a full vote for the member for the Australian Capital Territory in this Parliament. I should like to assure the Prime Minister and the House that I am perfectly sincere in that wish. I expressed that view in my maiden speech in this House in 1951, and I have sought on every occasion possible to me to urge this Government to amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act so as to remove the restrictions on the voting of the member for the Australian Capital Territory. It is a slight, not on the member for the Australian Capital Territory, whoever he may be; it is a slight on the residents and electors of the Australian Capital Territory, who should no longer be denied full representation in this Parliament. It is perfectly true that the member for the Australian Capital Territory may speak on any matter, may move any motion, and may take part in every activity of the House, but limitations on his voting rights are imposed by the act which created this seat in 1948. The act was introduced by a Labour government in that year, and at that time there was perhaps a valid reason for limiting the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory.
When the seat was created in 1948, the voting strength of the electorate was about 10,000. Residents of the Territory always had local elections for the Advisory Council and the Canberra Community Hospital Board. The view was held that the member representing so few electors should not have equal voting rights with members representing electorates of up to 80,000 electors and averaging over 50,000 in those years. In 1949, there was a redistribution of seats and an enlargement of the Parliament. The electorates were reduced in size and the number of members of the Parliament was increased. In 1949, when the Australian Capital Territory seat was first contested in a general election, the enrolment was 11,841 and the subsequent increase in the number of electors is shown by the following table: -
I have always held the view that once the enrolment of this electorate exceeded half that of an average Tasmanian electorate or, in fact, of any electorate in the Commonwealth, there was a very valid argument for the removal of the disabilities contained in section 6 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act. I direct attention to the fact that, based on the last census figures, the Commonwealth electoral quotas in 1955, were -
As most honorable members know, provision is made in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, section 25 (2.) (b), for a redistribution of seats when in one-fourth of the divisions in any one State, enrolment differs from a quota by one-fifth more or one-fifth less. In effect, if the 21,000 electors of the Australian Capital Territory were included in any one State they would provide sufficient reason for the creation of another seat in that State. I believe that that is a valid argument why the electors of the Territory sould be given full representation on equal terms with every other electorate in the Commonwealth.
– What is the Government afraid of?
– With its present majority, it has not much reason to be afraid, but time will tell. The electorate of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, which embraces nine-tenths of that State, has an electoral enrolment of 21,363. To take my argument on the Tasmanian seats further, under the Constitution no State may have fewer than five representatives in the House of Representatives. Tasmania has. five elected members in this House, three of whom are on the Opposition side and doing a noteworthy job. The enrolments in the Tasmanian electorates at the last election were -
But in addition to having five members in the House of Representatives, Tasmania has ten senators; so that for a total electoral enrolment of 178,717, Tasmania has fifteen fully-voting members in the Commonwealth Parliament. That is one member with full voting rights for every 11,915 electors. I suggest that the 20,897 electors of the Australian Capital Territory should no longer be denied the right to full voting representation in this House.
– Would you want a senator as well?
– Not at the moment. I can handle the job quite well. But it is in the power of the Parliament under the
Constitution to appoint such members to the Parliament as Parliament may deem requisite to represent a territory. It would be possible to elect a senator and certainly he would be one acceptable to those who have elected me to the Parliament. If we elected three members, two would be acceptable.
Section 6 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act imposes certain restrictions on the elected member whoever he may be. He has power to vote only on a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory or any amendment to such ordinance, lt was elicited last year that that section gives the member the right to vote on the disallowance of an ordinance, but does not give him the right to vote on a motion for the disallowance of a regulation made under that ordinance. I have power to move, as I did last year, for the disallowance of a regulation made under an ordinance, but Mr. Speaker had to rule then that I did not have power to vote on that motion although I have power to vote on the disallowance of the ordinance itself.
The second restriction is that the member for the Australian Capital Territory is not counted in a quorum. When the bells are rung, the honorable member for this Territory, and the representative of the Northern Territory, become completely invisible and do not count. The member for the Australian Capital Territory cannot be elected the Speaker, or Chairman of Committees, or be elected to perform their duties, obviously because those positions carry with them an obligation to cast a vote in a division if need be. The member for the Australian Capital Territory is not counted when an absolute majority of the House is required. I suggest that section 6 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act should be removed from that statute and that the member for the Territory, no matter who he or she may be in future, should be given full voting rights. I do not ask for voting rights simply for the sake of the member who represents the Territory. The present provisions carry some advantages. When there are all night sittings, the representative of the Australian Capital Territory is not required to stay here in case he should be required for a division. But for the benefit of the elec tors of the Territory, their representative should no longer be denied this right.
– When was it introduced?
– In 1948, by the Chifley Government. The limitation then had some meaning. The comparable act for the Northern Territory was introduced by an anti-Labour government, so there is a fairly even balance. I hope that the Government will realize the extent of development that is taking place in the Australian Capital Territory and will give its parliamentary representative full voting rights. It has been forecast that in sixteen years there will be a population in Canberra of 100,000. The report of the Public Service Board which was tabled in this House yesterday pointed to the transfer within ten years of about 10,000 public servants with wives and families. The public servants who have been transferred here have come from other States where they had full voting rights, not only to elect a member to the Commonwealth Parliament but also to elect representatives to the State Parliament, municipal, shire or city councils. That is an additional argument for the removal of the limitations on voting rights in the Australian Capital Territory which no longer have any reality and should be altered. I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who is sitting at the table, will endeavour to have this restriction removed.
Considerable development is taking place in the National Capital now, and there is a great need for the Parliament to be alert to its requirements. The appointment to-day of a joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory seeks to give Parliament that oversight of development here which it must exercise. Canberra is in great danger of being a city of reports. We have reports from time to time on all manner of subjects. Committees of investigation and inquiry have presented reports after mature consideration of evidence put before them. What happens to the reports I do not know. Whether they gather dust on some departmental shelf or in some ministerial corridor ! cannot say.
We have, over the years, had a number of reports recommending forms of selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory. We had, first, a report from Mr. Cole, then Town Clerk of Hobart, who recommended a form of self-government at the municipal level. That report gave some hope to the people of the Territory, but nothing more was heard of the suggestion. More recently, we have had a report from the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, which heard evidence on the subject and made a recommendation for a form of local self-government on what would normally be a State level, involving the establishment of a legislative council to govern the Territory in its daytoday affairs. Since then, there has been a voluminous report by the Senate Select Committee, which made a thorough investigation and heard a great deal of evidence. Once again we had a recommendation for the establishment of a form of selfgovernment within this Territory. Yet we have no self-government here. We have selfgovernment neither at the municipal level nor at the State level - nor, as I have pointed out, do we have full representation at the federal level.
That is a ludicrous state of affairs in a city which is engaged in the very business of national government, and which exists only for the purposes of national government. It is ridiculous that the people of this city, whose work is concerned with the business of government and who, in the senior brackets, advise the Ministers who implement the policy formulated by this National Parliament, have themselves no representative vote in the Parliament and are denied the right to govern themselves in their day-to-day affairs. They are denied the right that is given to every other community in Australia. They are denied a right that is enjoyed by the citizens of Wuk Wuk East or Woop Woop West, or any other small community. The people in such places have a right to elect their shire or municipal councillors, but here in the National Capital the citizens are denied that right. I believe that this anomaly should be removed.
We have had, over the years, reports that have urged on the Government the need to take action, but no action has been taken. The only form of representation that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have at the municipal level is through the Advisory Council, which consists of four nominated and six elected members. That council is an advisory body only. It has no legislative authority and can act only to advise the Minister for the Interior, or the Minister for Health, or other Ministers whose portfolios have something to do with the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. That body, of course, has done valuable work, but it is not adequate representation for the people of this city.
I .have spoken of this city as being a city of reports. I have dealt with the reports recommending a form of local selfgovernment, but there have been reports on many other subjects, and we should beware, as a Parliament, of neglecting the proper oversight of the development of this city as a national capital and a symbol of this country. I believe it can and will develop in that way if we do our part.
We have had many reports in recent years. One of them came from the Joint Committee on Public Works of this Parliament. It was a report presented, after a great deal of evidence had been heard, over the signature of the then chairman, who is now the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). It related to the proposed erection of Commonwealthavenue Bridge, in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. It was presented on 26th January, 1955, and the very first item in the committee’s summary of conclusions is as follows: -
There is an urgent necessity for a bridge now, with special planning for future needs, commencement to be at Kings-avenue.
An explanatory paragraph in the report says this-
The first work is the commencement of a twolane bridge at Kings-avenue in June, 1955, with completion in June, 1958. The earthworks to form the edges of the lakes would be started in 1959 and completed in 1962.
That joint committee of this Parliament, appointed by the Senate and the House of Representatives to carry out this sort of work, made a recommendation as to the urgent need for these works to be carried out. Any person who lives in Canberra and who has had to drive a motor vehicle or other vehicle around this city in traffic peak hours will realize the urgent necessity for the construction of these bridges. There was a recommendation in January, 1955, for the construction of the Kings-avenue Bridge to be commenced in June, 1955, and completed in June, 1958. In fact, tenders were called in June, 1958, at the time when the bridge should have been completed, but subsequently the offer was withdrawn by the National Capital Development Commission, and since that time no action has been taken with regard to the building of that bridge.
This city already has a population of over 40,000, and it is estimated that within sixteen years the population will have increased to 100,000. Every one in Canberra is dependent in times of flood on one ricketty wooden bridge over the Molonglo River at Commonwealth-avenue, and I suggest that any honorable member who has not made the journey over that bridge at the time of peak traffic, and .particularly when the lowlevel crossings are covered by flood waters, should do so. He will then realize how futile it is to have committees of this Parliament set up and presenting reports containing recommendations that are not carried out.
It seems that we can never, in this Capital City, envisage the possibility of building two bridges at once. We cannot even build one, when we really need two. Officialdom evidently cannot possibly contemplate the construction of two bridges at the one time. Action should be taken immediately to construct a new Commonwealth-avenue bridge adjacent to the wooden structure at present existing, which is in grave danger in time of flood and could, through misadventure, be damaged beyond repair. If that happened the city would be cut into two unconnected parts, with the fire brigade on one side of the river, and the ambulance and hospital on the other.
That is the situation in this Capital City at present, and I urge that action be taken to remedy the position at the earliest possible moment. The National Capital Development Commission, as I have said, is doing a magnificent job, although in its first year or so of life it has been restricted in its activities because of the need to provide housing at an ever-increasing rate owing to past failures to cope with this need. I believe that this commission will shortly put before the Government, if it has not already done so, a five-year plan for the development of the National Capital, which will envisage some of the matters I have mentioned. It will envisage the implementation of the lakes scheme, the siting and con struction of a new Parliament House and other monumental buildings which must be constructed if the capital is to achieve the stature envisaged for it. In this connexion let me express my goodwill towards the National Capital Development Commission and the new Minister as he takes up his portfolio as Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works.
I have heard in this House many references to the difficult housing situations in some of the cosmopolitan cities. Let me just give the House some information that may be of particular interest to new members. There are 4,700 persons’ names on the waiting list for homes in this city, and the waiting time for a home, after one’s name has been put on the list - because everything here must be done by means of a list - is from two years and three months to two years and six months.
– Who has control of that?
– That is controlled by the Department of the Interior. Let me say also that should you, during the waiting period, of your own initiative secure a house in Queanbeyan or the tenancy of a house in Canberra, then you may not be allotted a home at all, because when your name reaches the top of the list it may be decided that you are already adequately housed. So the advice that must be given to people who are waiting for homes is, not to buy a home in Queanbeyan, not to secure the tenancy of a dwelling during the waiting period, but to live in a tent, to live in a shack, or to live in a garage or a caravan until their name reaches the top of the list when they will be able to get the Government home to which they are entitled and for which they have been waiting.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, had the Speaker been in the chair I would have begun my speech by congratulating him. I informed him before he left that I would mention a certain report on the acoustics and lighting in this chamber, which he received some months ago but, apparently, has not yet been able to follow up.
– We can hear you all right.
– Thank you. The trouble is that although we can hear most honorable members opposite we do, unfortunately, suffer from one or two mumbling Ministers whom we cannot hear. Above all, there is the habit of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), when addressing this House, of presenting his back to us. I can appreciate why he does not present his back to his own followers, but his habit does, at times, make it difficult for us to hear matters which, occasionally, are of some importance.
I would urge you, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to stress to Mr. Speaker the1 desirability of doing something further about the acoustics, not for the frontbenchers who are seldom here except for the question hour or to deliver a speech, but for the sake ot those back-benchers who wish to hear what is said on both sides of the House on the front benches.
There is also the question of lighting. The report which was received indicated quite clearly that the present lighting does have a most slumber-inducing effect on members. There may be other causes as well, but this one is in the hands of Mr. Speaker and I suggest that he expedite the process of remedying it. 1 should like to congratulate the new members on their maiden speeches. They are now, of course, too numerous to mention individually but I was struck by the very right stress which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) placed on the price of gold. He could have added that, throughout its years of office, this Government has done all it could in the councils of the world to increase the price of gold. It reversed the previous policy of forbidding premium sales and thus eased the position of gold producers. It has consistently, since, in conjunction with the representatives of South Africa, pressed for an increased price. However, I wish that I could feel that these representations will some day bear fruit in the treasury of the United States of America. Of that, however, I feel extremely pessimistic.
I should like, also, to congratulate the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) on a very significant event - his election to the front bench. This has brought home to us that there are still a few flowers blooming in the desert opposite. It also suggests that when, eventually, time and common sense remove the divided, discredited and worn-out old guard, the Labour party will not be entirely without hope. In fact, one would have thought that a cleaner sweep would have been made. One would have thought that the party, if it were less concerned with its feuds and more with its future, would have made a clean sweep. Instead, it has repeatedly confirmed in office the electoral derelicts who clutter up its front bench and who are so useful to us. Their removal would hardly seriously affect the Labour party. Those who replaced them could not do worse and it is conceivable that they would do much better.
– You were lucky to make the grade on Labour’s preferences.
– There were a few other things besides that. Leaving this matter of honorable gentlemen opposite, I should like to turn to the coming conference on State and Commonwealth financial relationships.
– You will be better on that.
– Yes - and I dare say that the honorable member for Wilmot would be much better on many other things. I congratulate him on his survival, also. It was not achieved without certain difficulties.
As far as Commonwealth-State financial relationships are concerned, we are faced, and have been faced for some time, with this very dangerous divorce between sovereignty and financial resources. Once expenditure and revenue are no longer matched and are placed in different hands, irresponsibility develops. I remember the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointing out in a speech delivered when the uniform tax legislation was brought in that the States would, in due course, by this means, tend to die of inanition. Unfortunately, many of them are tending to die of irresponsibility.
The present arrangement is turning the States into irresponsible beggars and - let us face it - it does induce a high degree of waste in the Commonwealth, too. When large sums are being raised and passed on to the States, the Commonwealth slips in a few million pounds without its seeming to count very much. What comes easily to the Commonwealth comes with great difficulty to the States. The Commonwealth sketches out its demands and then superimposes over and above that as much as it thinks the economy can reasonably bear.
This is divided among the States. One thing that the Commonwealth should seek is to attain uniformity of capital expenditure and the considerations applying to it. For instance, the Postal Department has invested in it many hundreds of millions of pounds on which it pays very little interest. I think it pays under £2,000,000 a year in interest. If the State railways had to pay nothing for their capital, or if almost any business of any size in the Commonwealth could obtain capital for which it paid almost nothing from an accounting point of view, it would have no difficulty in showing a profit. The fact that some important undertakings pay interest and others do not means that the use of investment capital is not properly equated.
It is easy for the Commonwealth to find money for large modern jet aircraft. It is much more difficult for some of the railways to find money for diesel locomotives. Both, of course, are highly desirable. Of the two it is the diesels that are more fundamentally important to the Australian economy. We have spent millions, and are about to spend many more millions, on extending aircraft runways so that we can have the very latest jets. The same amount of money expended on the roads of Australia would make a very considerable difference to them.
Qantas, for instance, is now talking of building a large modern hotel in Sydney - a desirable thing to have. Such a hotel would, of course, have a virtually guaranteed clientele because of the aircraft passengers passing through. They can use a large hotel much more fully than private enterprise, but it means that the capital funds available for other public authorities are depleted. There ought to be some effective uniform basis of equating the expenditure of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 on a big hotel against spending a similar sum on schools, universities and hospitals. The danger is that there is a kind of artificial split in the middle and separate considerations are applied on expenditure in the Commonwealth half and the States half.
The Australian Loan Council is not, of course, a works council, but behind its deliberations lie works and the use of capital. Capital is short in Australia and is likely to remain so and we need some effec tive means of equating the expenditure by the Commonwealth and the States through the medium of the Loan Council. Onethird of the total investment in Australia is made by public authorities. It is a vital , foundation for all the rest of the economy and it is high time that we reviewed the whole position and brought it up to date.
With the present position of the Commonwealth helping itself to sums to carry out objectives which are near to the hearts of Ministers and the administrators of the Commonwealth, we inevitably must rob more important activities elsewhere. On the State side, there is also widespread improvidence. New South Wales, which is the State that I know really well, has, in fact, spent its money badly. It started far too many works, stopped some and now tries to bring pressure on the Commonwealth for more money. But it has never properly planned in the first place. Too many projects are started; the planning is loose, and vast sums of capital are tied up in uncompleted public works. One of the things which we have to learn is the effective use of our very limited supply of capital so that it is not tied up for long periods in projects yielding no return. Instead these public works projects should be completed as quickly as possible.
The impending conference will have to be married in some way to the Constitution Review Committee. Undoubtedly, there is a very severe conflict between our legal conceptions of sovereignty and the economic and social realities of modern life. Since federation, our conceptions of legal sovereignty have remained almost where they were, but there has been an economic and social revolution. Unless we bring these two sectors into line, many of our governmental efforts are bound to be wasteful and abortive. Instead of marching forward to our desirable national goals we shall be forced to mark time in the sterile enclave of the law.
I turn now to another item in the Speech in which the Government affirms that it will hold a public investigation into Commonwealth tax laws. Many of these are now antiquated. The basic act on income tax was passed long ago. Since then it has had many amendments and its need for consolidation is extreme. It needs tidying up, but this exercise will take a very considerable time. In the meantime, I trust that attention will be given to a number of other tax matters which require more » immediate action.
One is the taxing of the undistributed profits of private companies. This heavy impost was brought in to prevent tax evasion by wealthy people, particularly by family arrangements. But it is, in fact, a severe handicap on a vital sector of our economy, the small private firm. Concerns of this nature are, in the aggregate, probably more important than the large ones and it is important that the small firms should be able to grow. When they are big enough to become public companies their troubles, in this respect, end. They can then plough back their profits, as any company must, to expand its operations in the future. This ploughing back of profits by private companies is especially important in an inflationary era. I suggest that this needs looking at. The new Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will probably approach matters of this kind with a freshness of mind and a different view. We should not allow the stopping of the sin of tax evasion to crush out life which is essential to the expansion of small private companies.
This is important not only for our domestic situation but also in regard to attracting investment from overseas. There are various reasons why a number of overseas investors would rather form private companies of a fairly limited character than establish themselves here on a public basis which might be completely impracticable. Now, instead of leaving the profits of small private companies for re-investment and expansion, those companies are obliged to distribute them as dividends. This means that these profits are either taken out of the country or punitive tax is paid on them. Virtually, 10s. in the £1 has to be paid out in dividends to avoid punitive taxation - money that might well be re-invested and ploughed back into the economy.
There is also the question of withholding tax on dividends to residents outside Australia. This matter was first mentioned in the Budget speech of 1957 when the Government was studying it. The new Treasurer will come fresh to this subject but I suggest that it is time the issue was brought to a conclusion. Our rivals in the overseas investment field are, to a large extent, South Africa and- Canada. Both of those countries have a withholding tax system: The great advantage of it is that the flat rate of tax is deducted at the source by the company concerned and the remainder remitted. No taxation return or any other formality is required, and the balance of any tax liability is paid to the resident in the country in which he lives. This matter is particularly important in respect of the Government’s policy of attracting as much overseas capital as possible for the purpose of developing Australia.
I shall now turn slightly away from the tax structure to taxation policy in relation to the wider financial and economic policies of the Government. There is a need, overall, in a fast developing country to keep down taxation to the lowest practicable level. High taxation deters savings and inhibits effort at all levels of society from the big companies down to the wage earner. The extraction from the pay packet of taxes on earnings from the increased overtime now being worked generally is a bar to the kind of rapid development we envisage.
There has been a. tendency on the part of the Government, when it is faced with an inflationary situation, to attempt to damp down demand by the use of tax increases’, but, unfortunately, when it feels that some stimulus is required, its mind tends to run, not to tax reduction, but to increased government expenditure. Thus, gradually, by this process, we build in a higher level of taxation than would probably be necessary if the Government were continually wary of this particular aspect. I suggest that if in the near future the Government comes to the conclusion that a further stimulus to the economy is required, it give priority to considering a reduction in the level of income tax, which will have a widespread and immediate impact throughout the economy.
The Speech also states that the Government welcomes the recent move by the United Kingdom to widen the convertibility of sterling. I should like to join with that a welcome to the moves which have been made by the countries of western Europe, many of whom are our close trading partners, in the same direction. However, there is now something of a disability in being in the sterling. area, sterling being convertible into any currency by non-residents of the sterling area but not by those who live within it. Thus, we ought not to be so much concerned with welcoming the new move as with finding out what the Government intends to do about it, what advantage it intends to take of this new situation.
Most countries of the sterling area have been continuously and progressively scaling down their discrimination against goods from the dollar area, the object being to give importers and consumers a greater freedom of choice - a chance to buy more suitable goods in a cheaper market and increase the competition to supply the country concerned - and this reduces the price of imports and makes the country’s foreign currency go further.
The United Kingdom has gone a good way further than we have in reducing discrimination against goods from the dollar area. As ‘far as I have been able to ascertain - the facts are not easy to measure in any way precisely - Australia lags well behind the rest of the sterling area in freeing import trade from discrimination against American supplies, which in many cases are cheaper and more suitable for Australian purposes than those from elsewhere. There is, unfortunately, a tendency for the Department of Trade to lag behind in these matters. Because of the intensity of import licensing over the last .few years the department has tended to .mother every item of trade, and go into great detail about whether particular goods can really be more favorably purchased in the dollar area than elsewhere, and make the kind of decisions which ought to be made by the importers themselves. If our external position permits imports at a certain level it should be a major objective of the Government to provide, within that ceiling, the maximum freedom of choice.
I should like now to welcome the Government’s announcement regarding oil. The Government has announced that it will increase by £1,000,000 the subsidy for oil search, which last year and this year was £500,000.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The uninspiring address just concluded by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) is an indication that for once the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has shown some judgment by not elevating the honorable gentleman to the second-rate Ministry that to-day rules this country. The honorable member’s speech came from a dis.appointed aspirant to a position in the Ministry. The honorable gentleman scraped into this Parliament because a number of unintelligent Liberals did not vote the ticket, and he was hailed as the white hope of the Liberal party on financial matters. But if the honorable gentleman’s speech to-day is an indication of what we could expect from him as Treasurer of this country, I think that for once we must condone the action of the Prime Minister in condemning the honorable member, apparently for an indefinite time, to the back benches.
The Governor-General’s Speech generally deals with -what the Governor-General on this occasion described as “ matters of great national moment”. The Speech was a particularly strange one on this occasion. It was, I suppose, one of the dreariest ever recorded, and it is significant that in the second-last paragraph of the Speech the Government announced that it intended to amend the -bankruptcy laws. In the last paragraph of the Speech the GovernorGeneral prayed for divine guidance for this Parliament. Fair enough, because undoubtedly there will be bankruptcy under the .policy of the Government, and it looks as if the salvation of the people, if the Government continues in office, will depend on -divine intervention.
The programme outlined in the Speech is a disappointing programme from every point of view. The Speech was delivered with great dignity by the Governor-General. I respect his position, and appreciate the dignity with which he carried out a very difficult task on this occasion. But the Speech was a long, dreary dirge, quite uninspiring and most disappointing. It was -uninteresting, and was more like a panegyric than .an address setting out “the policy .of a government. It did not .contain a bold plan for this young country, Australia, which has a great future. It did not contain a ‘plan for a country crying out for a dynamic policy to inspire the people, lt tired and depressed honorable members and senators from all sides of the Parliament.
The spectators were so uninterested in it that they became drowsy as they listened to it. The people of Australia are disgusted by the attitude of the Government and its approach to their problems.
I make these few comments in a constructive way in the hope that the administration will realize that this country expects its government to give the people leadership and something to hope for instead of the outdated policies that have characterized Liberal administrations over the years.
I want to say a few words now about new members, Mr. Speaker, and others. I join in the congratulations to honorable members from all States who have made their maiden speeches. I trust that the new members on the Labour side will remain here indefinitely in order to give effect to the policies of the Labour party in the interests of the Australian people. To the new members on the Government side, unfortunately, I cannot hold out such a rosy prospect, because if they are judged ultimately on the record of the Government some of them, unfortunately for them, but for the good of Australia, are destined to a short, though possibly a joyous, term in this Parliament.
To Mr. Speaker, who is not here at the moment, I would like to say that it was with regret that I learned that the Government had endeavoured to replace him with somebody who would do its bidding in this House. That was a monstrous thing for any government to do. We on this side have always believed that the Speaker should be above Parliament and individuals. In my opinion, a Speaker who is re-elected to office by the unanimous vote of the House is a man who has endeavoured to carry out his duties fairly and impartially. I regret, therefore, that the Government saw fit to attempt to replace Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, so many Government members have congratulated Mr. Speaker on his re-election that it is a wonder to me that he was not unopposed for the position, on the Government side. So far, nobody on that side has admitted to not voting for Mr. Speaker when he was selected for office by the Government parties. But the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who unsuccessfully sought the support of his party in a bid to occupy the position of
Speaker in this Parliament, has since the election continually endeavoured to impress upon honorable members the need to observe Standing Orders, and he has taken points of order and raised matters of that nature. Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you would pass on to Mr. Speaker my advice, you would tell him to trust not Trebonius because 1 feel that, while the honorable member is temporarily divorced from the chair, he seeks to take the honour from Mr. Speaker in the not too distant future.
I extend my congratulations to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who has been elevated to the position of Chairman of Committees. I hope that he will be impartial when dealing with members on this side of the chamber and will do justice to the position to which he has been elected.
It is inevitable that great changes must take place in a Parliament. I was elected to this House on 23rd September, 1943. On studying the records, I find that the House of Representatives had 75 members at that time. However, only eighteen of those 75 members now occupy seats in the Parliament. Only five of the 30 senators of that time are left. That shows the high rate of turnover of members of Parliament and stresses the fact that those honorable members on either side of the House who look upon their positions as permanent ones are certainly not looking at the matter in the right light. Changes occur on both sides of the Parliament.
We are told of the unity of the Liberal and Australian Country parties. But I wonder what the former member for Wimmera, Mr. Lawrence, who thought he was destined to be a great Speaker in this Parliament, thinks to-day when he reads of his colleague-in-arms of the Australian Country party sitting in his place in this House. I wonder what that distinguished ex-serviceman, Mr. Bostock, who formerly was the member for Indi, thinks of the unity of the Liberal and Australian Country parties when he reads of an Australian Country party member sitting in his place in this House. I wonder what the most expensive politician on earth, the former member for Moore, Mr. Leslie, who used to sit alongside us here, thinks of the Liberal party member who occupies his position in this House. This is a dog-eat-dog attitude and shows that the alleged unity of the
Liberal and Australian Country parties and the good fellowship between them is merely talk. I shall deal in a moment with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting. We find that the background of the Australian Country party is the same as usual. In the hurly-burly of politics, the party has added to its ranks a solicitor, a grocer and a wine and spirit merchant. We can all see the background!
Then, if we go further, we find that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), who took over a large rural electorate, was elected on a joint LiberalAustralian Country party ticket. But the Australian Country party claimed him as its own. It. said, “ This man is the darling of the Australian Country party. He will take his place in our ranks and be to the forefront of the party in the Parliament “. But what did he do? He was president of the party. He came to Canberra, had a look at the honorable member for Hume and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and immediately deserted the cactus, went down to the “ big smoke “ and joined the “ city slickers “ of the Liberal party. I hear from close and intimate sources that the reason he deserted the Australian Country party was that he could not find a farmer to sit with in that party.
That gives us an idea of the background of these men. But let us go a little further. The Australian Country party is an interesting collection of people. At present, the leader of the Country party in New South Wales is touring that State telling the people to vote against the Labour Government because it sanctioned the introduction of the one-armed bandits. But what do we find in the Australian Country party here? It now has a legalized “ bandidt “ in its ranks. He has taken his place in the Parliament and, although he is the only “ bandidt “ in name, there are plenty of others there who are anonymous, so he should feel completely at home.
My remarks have given an idea of the background of the party and the changes that have taken place. They also highlight the fact that the so-called unity between the Liberal and Australian Country parties is a sham and a farce. Any one who says that the Australian Country party in this Parliament represents the rural people should look at the occupations of its members and their background. I doubt whether we could find one member who had any connexion with country people at all. Country party members are possibly not as close to rural affairs as was the former Minister for Primary Industry, who had only a plastic hose and a few pot plants.
We have heard the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and other honorable members complain about the wool position. The people should know what Australian Country party members are doing to increase the consumption of wool. Most ot them, as we all know, wear “ ersatz “ suits. They wear nylon shirts and most of them have Japanese artificial silk ties. To round off the picture, most of them wear synthetic smiles. In addition, at the recent ball in Parliament House, their womenfolk, who looked charming, were wearing nylon or orion frocks. All this happened in face of the campaign to encourage people to wear more wool. If it is any satisfaction to the members of the Australian Country party, I inform them that I have read - and noticed in photographs at which I have glanced occasionally - that Sabrina wears wool because she finds it cooler in our climate. In that respect, some contribution is being made to ensure that the wool industry remains sound.
The honorable member for Wentworth had a little to say about mumbling Ministers. He said that there ought to have been a clean sweep, in some respects. There should have been a clean sweep on the Government side of the House, because the uninspiring collection of Ministers who have been elected will certainly spread gloom throughout the land. I think that the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who was previously Minister for the Interior, is the unluckiest man in the Parliament. I could not imagine any man with intelligence being left out of the Ministry, particularly the former Minister who rendered commendable service. To those honorable members opposite who look ambitiously towards the front bench, let me say that we on this side have a good view of the occupants of that bench and we have come to the conclusion tha: honorable members on the back benches opposite are very lucky. Quite truthfully, they have not much to beat. It is in a way a small insult to them that they have been passed over.
I join with others in extending sympathy to them in having been passed over for those who have been elected.
The honorable member for Wentworth was not complimentary to some Ministers. He referred to them as mumbling Ministers, but he is lucky. We on this side of the House, sometimes hear the replies that are given to/ questions, and I can say that- they are not worth- listening, to. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister had this in view when he knighted the former Leader of the Senate. He also knighted Senator Cooper, and surely that is the nod to get out. He must realize that he has problems to carry- this Ministry indefinitely with such white hopes behind them.-
– He should have crowned them!
– That is correct. 1 notice in- the- Governor-General’s Speech that the Government will deal with the Antarctic. The. question of outer space is also coming into consideration now. One thing we can say about members of’ the Government is that the only area in- which they have not travelled is outer space. I suppose the Governor-General had that in mind when he spoke on this occasion. Some honorable members opposite went to the South Pole in the middle of the last election campaign, and as far as we on this side of the House know, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is now assured of the penguin vote; most people have deserted him. Right through the list of Ministers we find the same situation. This is a most uninspiring Ministry with a most uninspiring programme and a real dirge for a GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The only part of the opening of Parliament worth noting was the way in which His Excellency read the Speech. He did his best in an exceedingly difficult situation.
I feel that in this opening session of the Parliament it is important to know the background of the Australian Country party and to be aware of the relations that it has with the Liberal party. In all honesty, we should not have an Australian Country party masquerading as the friend of the farmers when very few of its members know anything about the land. We should not allow Government supporters to speak about unity and disunity when we see them replacing each other in the Parliament in a dog-eat-dog attitude, and trying to hide thetrue position from the Australian people. We should enlighten the people on these matters. We look to-day, amongst other things, at a number of political accidents. I say this most sincerely. Honorable members opposite seem to be a reasonable collection of members, but they should make the most of their position because they just will not be back here again. It is well- to warn- them in advance so that they will know what will happen.
I” want to deal with one or two matters apart’ from the background that I have given. I want to say particularly that I should have thought that the” Government’s programme in this day and age would have contained some statement on defence. The Government should have given a broad programme on this subject - if it has one. I thought that the Governor-General’s Speech might have contained something about overseas borrowing and how this country has been placed in pawn by the policy of this Government. I thought there might have been a progressive approach to the problem of relieving the position of the 100,000 people who are seeking homes to-day but cannot find them because of the policy of this Government. I thought that, with the huge resources at the disposal of the Postmaster-General’s Department to-day, we would see some alleviation in respect not only of charges but also of benefits to employees in that department. I thought that the neglected, the poor, the sick, the infirm and all those people dependent upon social services would be given some benefit by the Government, and that the necessary legislation would be reviewed in the Governor-General’s Speech. I thought particularly that those people who depend entirely on pensions would be able to look forward to something much more beneficial to them than the pittance that is handed out to them to-day by this Government.
But what do we find? Practically nothing is mentioned in detail. No programme has been brought forward, and the Government now seeks not only to curtail the sittings of the Parliament but also to bring down legislation, which, broadly, will not affect the vast majority of the people, who will derive no benefit from it. One kind of legislation will shortly be before us for discussion - the Government’s banking legislation. The introduction of this legislation means that, once again, the agents of toryism and conservatism, and of the private banks of this country, will attack- the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It means that the Government is seeking, to destroy completely as a people’s bank the Commonwealth Bank as we know it. The Australian Labour party will oppose this legislation, because it is the. protector’ of the people’s bank. It was under Labour’s administration that the bank was built up to the powerful organization which it is to-day. 1 was a member of this Parliament when the nationalization ot banking was dealt with, and I think that the day must ultimately come, when Labour must give effect to the policy of the nationalization of banking in order to protect the people’s interests in the Commonwealth Bank. The growth of monopolies in banking, television and various other fields of enterprise under the administration of this Government is evidence of the Government’s continuing policy, particularly in regard to finance and banking, which undoubtedly will place the people in pawn to the private banking interests of this country again, if it is not stopped, and Government supporters know it.
– What about-
– An Australian Country party member should know better than to interject when a Labour member is defending the Commonwealth Bank, because farmers all over Australia know that in the depression years it was the Commonwealth Bank which gave them some degree of salvation, and would have saved them entirely, for that matter, had it not been for the opposition in the Senate of members of the Australian Country party and the party that was the forerunner of the Liberal party of Australia.
– And the Commonwealth Bank Board, also.
– The Commonwealth Bank Board has been re-established. Big banking interests control it and completely direct the Commonwealth Bank in what it shall do. The Government seeks, by means of its banking legislation, to destroy completely the security, stability and independence of the Commonwealth Bank, and its capacity to force the other banks to lend money to the people at a reasonable rate of interest for vital purposes. It is for that reason, among others, that Labour will oppose the Government’s banking legislation in this Parliament. To-day, the private banks are interested only in lending money for hire-purchase business at very- high rates of interest. People cannot get money for homes, but they can get all the money, they want, at exorbitant rates of interest, in order to buy, say, a Kelvinator refrigerator for a house, that they cannot buy, but are forced to rent, if they can get it. This, is reactionary finance on the part of thisGovernment, and, accordingly, the Australian Labour party will oppose the bankings bills.
One wonders whether this Government’ will take any notice of what was said in this chamber this morning, and what wassaid last evening- by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), about the growth of monopoly in television in this country-. In a splendid speech last evening, the honorable member for Lang outlined the great link-up between the newspaper and radio interests, and the huge monopoly control that they have over this great medium of publicity. This Government has given away the rights of Australians to any freedom of expression by the manner in which it has issued television licences. The Packers and the Hendersons, the “ Daily Telegraph “ and various other newspaper interests in this country, control entirely this medium of publicity, and the Government has gone counter to recommendations made by men appointed by it, because it seeks to serve its masters in this great field of propaganda. If honorable members care to check on what has been done, they will find that, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said this morning, television interests are at present acting contrary to the provisions of the Broadcasting Act by the manner in which they are selling shares- in television stations about1 to be established in Brisbane. If honorable1 members study the report and recommendations made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in connexion with the granting of television licences in Brisbane, they will find that Associated Newspapers Limited, John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited, the proprietors of radio station 2UE;
Sydney, and a dozen or more similar enterprises control entirely the television industry in this country. The tragedy of television in Australia is that a Labour government was not in office to give effect to Labour’s policy of the nationalization of television in the interests of the Australian people.
What did we find recently when the Cahill Labour Government in New South Wales was under attack? We found that only people who had attacked the Cahill Government were invited to be interviewed in television broadcasts from ABN Channel 9, and leading commentators from the parliamentary press galleries, and penetrating questioners, were left at home in order that they should not be able to ask pertinent questions. If the “ Sydney Morning Herald” or the “Daily Telegraph” do not like a person, they make sure that he is interviewed on television and kicked around by the ‘‘interviewer who questions him. To-day, the Liberal party, which boasts - quite wrongly - of its regard for the freedom of the subject and the liberty of the people, should know that if television is placed in the hands of the unscrupulous newspapers of this country it can easily be turned against the interests of any democratically elected member of Parliament. It is tragic to see the way in which, at the behest of big business and outside interests, the Government has sold out the people’s rights by giving control over this influential medium of propaganda to the few people who control the newspapers and radio of this country, and who will use television for their own purposes.
There is nothing worth-while that we can see in the Speech that is the subject of this Address-in-Reply, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have to read between the lines and discover what the Government has left out of it in order to show that this Administration is hiding a lot from the Australian people and that it has no real intention of doing anything effective for them. I have pointed out certain things to you, Sir, so that you and other members of the Parliament will realize that a change of government is necessary, and the people will ultimately awaken to the fact that the Government has sold out to the huge monopolies, the private banks and other interests, and that it cares little for the aged, the sick and the infirm, people who want homes, and young couples who are trying to rear children. This Government represents only big business interests. 1 conclude what I hope has been a constructive and objective speech on this note: We live in an age of jet-propulsion, an age of atomic and nuclear weapons, an age when Sputniks circle in outer space, an age when the moon is the target of man’s ambitions. We live in an age when time and distance mean little because of the brilliance of man’s inventions. Yet, in this dynamic age, we in Australia face the future with a Prime Minister who, as it were, drives a horse and buggy loaded with a Cabinet and a party whose thinking is tedious and tortuous, and which are unable to grasp the needs and opportunities of our time. The Government is planning the future of our country with the speed of a man in a bullock dray. Clearly, the outlook for this young country is most depressing while it continues in office.
.- We have just listened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to a speech of a kind to which this House is becoming accustomed. As usual, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has not dealt with the matters referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, but has clowned his way through a speech devoted entirely to other matters. That is something to which the House is becoming accustomed where he is concerned. It is rather strange that a man who introduces personalities into this House should talk of unity, when he himself has been one of the prime movers in what is called the right-wing group of the Australian Labour party, and has done much to cause the disunity that exists in that party to-day. It is rather odd, too, I think, that the honorable member should criticize Ministers who travel overseas on behalf of the Government, when he himself was given the nick-name, “ DillyDally “, while he was overseas. He stayed there without the permission of his party and then was ignominiously removed from the position of Whip of the party to which he is alleged to be pledged.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I, as previous speakers have done, want to congratulate the new members of this House who have already spoken, and who, I believe, on both sides of the House, have made quite an impression. Their contributions have been of a high standard which indicates their high calibre, and I wish them all well during their stay in this House. I also wish to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election to office, and I remind the honorable member for Grayndler that Mr. Speaker was elected unanimously by the House.
I wish to convey my thanks to the electors of Phillip, who have once again elected mc to represent them in this Parliament. 1 appreciate the honour that they have bestowed upon me, in spite of many forecasts that I would not be elected.
In his Speech His Excellency the Governor-General referred to the visit ot Dr. Subandrio to this country. That visit is of momentous importance to Australia, as is also the announced intention that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will venture to Indonesia later this year to have official talks with the Indonesian Government. This is, of course, a recognition by both governments of their desire to cement the friendship that exists between the two countries. Talks at the highest level, such as those that have taken place and will take place, undoubtedly allow of free and frank discussion and should result in a clearer understanding of each other’s point of view. Indonesia is our nearest neighbour, and I am sure that honorable members, bearing in mind the particular problems that beset her, and the problems that beset the countries of South-East Asia in combating the growing influence of communism in their area, will agree that it is all the more important that Australia and Indonesia should respect each other’s point of view. It is to be hoped that, from the further discussions that will take place, the main difference between the Indonesian and Australian governments - Australia’s continued support for Dutch sovereignty of West New Guinea - will be respected by the people and the Government of Indonesia. That appears to be the main point of difference between Australia and Indonesia, but it should not be forgotten that there are many other points on which we are in complete harmony.
It is well that we should examine, without any emotionalism, why we support the Dutch. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has made our attitude quite plain by repeated statements of our policy and, indeed, we have made our attitude quite plain to the world by our various statements in the United Nations. Indonesia’s claim is based on the interpretation of words, but if words mean anything it is quite clear that the agreement reached at the round table conference held at The Hague on 2nd November, 1949, between Indonesia and the Netherlands defines where the sovereignty of West New Guinea lies. I quote from the draft charter of transfer of sovereignty, drawn up at the second plenary meeting of the round table conference, held at The Hague. Article I. states -
The Kingdom of the Netherlands unconditionally and irrevocably transfers complete sovereignty over Indonesia to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and thereby recognizes the said Republic of the United States of Indonesia as an independent and sovereign state.
Article II. reads -
With regard to the residency of Dutch New Guinea it is decided -
in view of the fact that it has not yet been possible to reconcile the view of the parties on New Guinea, which remain therefore in dispute . . .
Paragraph (f) of the same article states -
The status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained with the stipulation that within a year from the date of transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, the question of political status of New Guinea will be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
An exchange of letters then took place between the Indonesian and Netherlands delegations, and on 2nd November, 1949, the chairman of the Netherlands delegation at the conference, Mr. J. H. van Marsder forwarded a letter to the chairman of the delegation of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, which read -
I have the honour to inform you that the Netherlands delegation to the round table conference states that the following has been agreed upon by the delegates to the conference. The clause in Article If of the draft charter of transfer of sovereignty, reading “ the status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained “ means-
And this is the important part - “ through continuing under the Government of the Netherlands “.
On the same day the Netherlands received an acknowledgement, couched in similar terms, pointing out that Indonesia recognized that sovereignty remained in the hands of the Netherlands.
In accordance with the agreement, that is, that negotiations should take place within :a year between the two parties, negotiations were held in an endeavour to reach a decision on the future of New Guinea. Several conferences were held but proved of no avail. On 15th August, 1950, at a time when the year set for the negotiations had barely run half of its course, President Soekarno issued a statement in which he said -
After this year neither of the parties will be bound by this round table conference decision.
Shortly after this the Indonesian Government stated -
Article II of the charter of transfer of sovereignty does not provide -any grounds for continuation of discussions.
– !-I wish I could follow the honorable member’s argument.
– My argument was good enough for the honorable member to quote ad lib recently.
In November, 195.2, .President Soekarno said -
From now . on .we will . discuss the future of New Guinea exclusively amongst ourselves. We will take unilateral measures on the basis of our own plans and will no longer discuss these matters with the Dutch.
In 1956, Indonesia declared that she no longer considered herself bound by the agreement and repudiated all agreements reached at the round table conference. It is clear, then, that as no- further negotiations have taken place, sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea unquestionably remains with the Netherlands Government.
Since that time, however, the attitude of the Indonesians has changed, and it is well to observe the comments of Dr. Subandrio on 3rd March, 1957. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is very conversant with this statement. Dr. Subandrio said -
The only question is whether the United Nations is the place where this solution may be worked out or whether we must embark upon another course, even at the risk of aggravating conditions in South-East Asia, and perhaps inviting cold war tensions to muddy further the waters of peace in that region of the world.
On 7th November of the same year Presi- dent Soekarno said -
So far, we have pursued the struggle for West Irian’s freedom through the United Nations. However, if the United Nations fails us, we will resort to methods which will startle the world.
So it is quite evident that Indonesia has now repudiated the agreement reached -at the round table conference held at The Hague, and her spokesmen and her President have made it quite clear that unless she gets, her way in the United Nations she will take some other action - and I repeat - “ which will startle the world “.
These repudiations show a complete disregard by Indonesia of agreements. How, then, could we rely upon Indonesia, if it were by any chance to obtain the territory of Dutch New Guinea, to honour the obligations and responsibilities set out in article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations? These include working towards the political progress of the population, while ensuring just treatment and protection against abuses, the maintenance of peace and order, and the making of vigorous efforts for the cultural, social and economic advancement of the local population.
On the other hand, the Netherlands has given to the inhabitants a solemn promise to grant them the right of selfdetermination as soon as they are able to express their will and to decide their own political future for themselves. The Netherlands has announced this intention quite unequivocally to the world. I think it is important to contrast this attitude with the statement of Dr. Ali Sastroamidjojo, who was Prime Minister of Indonesia in 1953, that Indonesia was not willing - . to consult the population of West Irian, as to whether it is really prepared to accept association with Indonesia
The Netherlands cannot and will not comply with Indonesian demands for annexation of Dutch New Guinea, nor will it enter upon any negotiations concerning the future status of the territory, without its inhabitants having exercised the right, granted to them by the Netherlands, to decide their own political future.
It is well to remember that, during the course of the Dutch occupancy of Indonesia, the inhabitants, through the efforts of the Dutch, were brought to a standard where they could exercise the right of selfdetermination. I think that this provides very valid reasons for the Australian Government’s continued support for Dutch sovereignty, for we too have a responsibility in our own portion of New Guinea, and we work in .close co-operation with the Dutch to ensure that the natives are brought as quickly as possible to a standard where selfdetermination will be possible. Selfdetermination is not regarded as something remote. It can be reckoned not in centuries but in decades. What could be more calamitous to the interests of the inhabitants of this area than to give them, or virtually to throw them to the world at large when they would be at the mercy of Communist nations for exploitation, infiltration and propaganda? They should not have the right of self-determination prior to their being educated to the standard which will enable them to take their place in the councils of the world. Stone-age people cannot be brought out of their caves and put for teaching into the universities of. this country. Of necessity, the process must be slow and gradual. To talk of giving these people the right of self-determination now is to be unrealistic, and to have no regard for the ultimate destiny of the people of Dutch New Guinea or even of the Australian portion of this island.
I believe that, when self-determination comes to the people of Dutch New Guinea, it is most likely that they will take the natural course of. throwing in their lot with the people on the eastern side of the artificial boundary that now separates, east from west. It is only an artificial boundary, and the peoples can mix freely. There is, of course, a language problem, over 500 different dialects being spoken in our own territory alone. The people are associated racially, ethnologically and historically, which makes for an easier unification of the two sections.
The situation between the Netherlands and Australian Governments is as before. The Australian Government has not altered its policy in any way. We have always conceded that nations are legally entitled to make separate agreements with one another, and Australia has no legal right to oppose any negotiations to that end, provided, of course, that they are within the framework of the United Nations. It should be stated clearly that we have done nothing other than to recognize Indonesia’s right of negotiation-. We have not granted any concessions. Time and time again the Dutch Government has shown its willingness to have talks with Indonesia on problems outstanding between the two countries, in. relation not only to DutchNew Guinea but also to Indonesia itself. We. would have no objection, if negotiations started from the basis that the sovereignty of the Dutch, was recognized. I do not. think that any honorable member will dispute that that sovereignty over West New Guinea is firmly established.
However, the Indonesian Government’ bus never been prepared to accept this asa basis for talks. It has gone on, willynilly, stirring up world opinion, and, within its own country-, under the guise of an upsurge of nationalism, stirring up hatred’ of the Dutch and of the Australian attitude to the upholding of Dutch sovereignty in’ this area. But the attitude of the Dutch Government has undergone no change in this matter. I believe that we should make* quite clear that, although we have no legal: or moral right to the territory in dispute, we are keenly interested in what becomes of this important island, and that any attempt to disturb the status quo by the’ use of arms or force, from wherever it may come, will be resisted. We must continue our present policy of supporting Dutch sovereignty where it rightly exists, and. we should lose no time in assuring the Netherlands Government of our continued support for the policy of self-determination by the people of Dutch New Guinea in accordance with article 73 ot the United Nations Charter.
The Netherlands Government hasaccepted as a sacred trust the administration of this territory and the bringing of the people to the standard where they can determine for themselves their own political destiny. With three other honorable members, I had the privilege in 1957 of touring Dutch New Guinea and seeing developments with my own eyes. Each of us, of course, was able to make his own inquiries. I believe that Australia is indebted to the Dutch Government for the magnificent job that it is doing.
– Flogging the natives!
– We were informed of the details of the Netherlands Government’s first three-year plan, which was put into operation. If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith were prepared to listen, he might form a different concept of what is going on in the world. The Dutch have in recent years established many airfields throughout the area, at Sorong, Biak, and Manokwari and other important places. They are building eight airfields in the hinterland, which will enable them, by using Beaver, Norseman and similar aircraft, as well as helicopters, to take field officers and missionaries into the interior. They are establishing airlines in country where white people are unknown and where aircraft, and any of the other things that go with civilization have never been seen before. Access to these areas is very difficult. For example, it took us three days to traverse an area of Dutch New Guinea by land, but we were able to return from one of the new airstrips put in by the Dutch in only twenty minutes. That will give honorable members some idea of the terrain in which the Dutch are operating for the benefit of the indigenous people. Highway development has forged ahead, and macadamized roads are to be found in the larger cities of the area. Travelling through Biak is like travelling in some of our cities of this Commonwealth.
At Hollandia there is one of the world’s finest harbours. It is being deepened, harbour facilities are being provided, and employment is being given to the natives in that area. This employment is not, as honorable members opposite may think, of a lowly kind. Natives can learn to become carpenters, bricklayers, and so on. They are given hospital training and on a prominent hill overlooking the harbour a hospital costing more than £2,000,000 is being built. It will house both natives and Europeans. The Dutch are encouraging integration of Asian and European. There is, as a result, much intermarriage. Education is proceeding apace. The technical schools are magnificent. They contain expensive lathes and modern machinery. This enables the natives to learn engineering and upon returning to their villages assist to solve housing and building problems.
My time is limited so I must pass on. Indonesia, as it is now constituted, ls a young nation, and we wish her well. However, if she is to enjoy the respect and confidence of the world she will find it necessary to regard an agreement as something more than a mere piece of paper which can be disregarded at will. As an act of good faith she could well take up the question of Dutch reparations and deal with that matter as quickly as possible. She could give fur ther proof of good faith by ceasing, in the guise of nationalism, the whipping up of antiDutch and anti-Australian feeling. Above all, she could show to this country and to the world her very clear desire to rid herself of her Communist element. She professes to be doing this already. She should take some real and positive steps to combat the spread of this cancerous growth in her territory.
– I am very proud to be a member of this Twenty-third Parliament, as a representative of the Australian Labour movement. I would like to thank the electors of Reid for the wonderful support that they have given me. Reid is a great industrial area, and the people of Reid are well aware what a struggle it is to feed, clothe and educate one’s family under the present economic conditions.
Before I continue 1 should like to make a few remarks about what the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) had to say. He referred to the existence of great problems in Indonesia. It is simple to talk, but there are indeed great problems in that country and this Government has done very little to assist the struggles of the people there. When Labour was in office it did a great deal to assist the Indonesian people in their initial struggle. I lived in Asia for quite a long time and I was very proud of the action that our leader took at that time to struggle in the United Nations for the underprivileged people of Indonesia. This change of face on the part of Government supporters is a lot of mullarkey, and complete hypocrisy, and it disappoints me to see hypocrisy in this Parliament.
During the recent election campaign I did my utmost not to be side-tracked by any unimportant issue. I expressed my great faith in our Labour principles, in the decision of the 1955 Hobart conference, and in our platform, which was formulated in Brisbane in 1921, which provided for the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and antisocial aspects.
Labour was formed as a radical party. The trade unions were an expression of radicalism in the days of their formation. Living standards have improved, not as a result of benevolence, but as a result of intense struggle. Every step forward has been won in the face of bitter opposition. Basically, that situation has not changed to-day. Many people, honest in their convictions, fail to see that the struggle continues and claim that, because of the postwar boom, the situation has changed - yet workers continue to be sacked and thousands face uncertainty and insecurity. In order to obtain shelter and a few amenities, the average worker has had to become heavily mortgaged. Wives in their thousands have put aside their domestic chores and taken to the work bench or office in order to supplement the family income. Pensioners, superannuated citizens and others become poorer while evidence mounts to show that the rich are getting richer.
Housing, education, local government, hospitalization, trade and many basic industries are in a state of crisis. A solution of these problems lies only in the Australian Labour movement. Our platform is based on Christian and humane ideals. We consider that it is the moral obligation of the fit to look after the sick, of the young to look after the old, and of the rich to look after the poor. By socialism we mean a more equitable sharing of the great and ever increasing wealth of this nation among the people, who are, after all, responsible for the greater productivity that is being enjoyed.
I should like to relate an experience that I had during the war. I was a prisoner of war at a place called Hintock-road Camp, on the Burma-Siam railway. Our commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel “ Weary “ Dunlop. He was a remarkable man in many ways. He was not only a great doctor but also a great soldier. We were known as the “ Dunlop “ force. As honorable members probably know, the Japanese paid our officers and medical orderlies an allowance. The noncommissioned officers and men who worked on the railway were also paid a small wage. This was a sham kept up by the Japanese to save face under the Geneva Convention.
In our camp the officers and medical orderlies paid the greater proportion of their allowance into a central fund. The men who worked did likewise. We were living by the principle of the fit looking after the sick, the young looking after the old, the rich looking after the poor. A few months after we had arrived at Hin.tockroad Camp, a part of “ H “ force arrived. They were about 400 strong. As a temporary arrangement they had tents. The officers selected the best, the noncommissioned officers the next best, and the men got the dregs. Soon after they arrived the wet season set in, bringing with it cholera and dysentery. Six weeks later only 50 men marched out of that camp, and of that number only about 25 survived. Only a creek separated our two camps, but on one side the law of the jungle prevailed and on the other the principles of socialism.
On this side of the House we are well aware that the Constitution is a barrier to social progress. We are also aware of the great difficulties involved in altering the Constitution. The propaganda channels of press, radio and television are controlled by strong adherents of the status quo. Any proposal put forward by Labour to benefit the people would be opposed strongly by the propaganda specialists. They would do their utmost to confuse and mislead. Yet I have great faith that we can and will achieve our objective within the Constitution. Past Labour governments have introduced many great socialist undertakings which stand as monuments of efficiency. The Commonwealth Bank, Trans-Australia Airlines and the National Shipping Line are a few of them. At this point I should like to direct attention to the result of a public opinion poll which was published in the Sydney “ Sun “ to-day. It stated -
MOST SAY KEEP T.A.A.
The public does not approve the suggestion that the Government should sell its airline, T.A.A.
The suggestion was made by Mr. R. M. Ansett, chairman of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd.
It is also true that the present anti-Labour administration has sold out the people’s assets in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries, the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool and the Whaling Commission. Therefore, it may be necessary for a future Labour government to take action to prevent any anti-Labour government from de-socializing the people’s assets without first referring the proposal to the people.
I turn my attention now to the taxation field. From 1st July, 1957, to 30th
June, 1958, Commonwealth revenue was £1,311,000,000. Of that amount, I Relieve that only £435,000,000 was collected by way of direct taxation. A sum of £154,000,000 was received from government business undertakings, and £722,000,000 from indirect taxation. I should like to remind honorable members df the system of raising revenue in New South Wales before 1-894. The revenue was raised by taxing all goods coming into the colony. Sir George Reid, the Liberal Premier at that time, and he was a liberal in the true sense of the word - as you might know, my electorate was named after that distinguished gentleman - thought it was an unjust way to tax. He -saw that ‘the masses o’f the people who consumed the bulk of - the goods but did not -possess the bulk of the wealth were most unjustly taxed. With the help of the Labour party, he altered the taxing laws and introduced a direct income tax and a tax on land. Honorable members will agree with me that there is not a great difference in tax justice to-day from that prior to 1894. Up to that date, taxation was indirect and the bulk of it to-day is still indirect taxation.
In the last financial year, £48,000,000 was .-raised by pay-roll tax. This impost is not paid by . the companies concerned, but is passed on in the cost of production. The consumers, that is the people, pay it. In the ‘last ‘financial year, £137,000,000 was raised by way of sales tax. Let us consider, for example, the purchase of tooth paste, which carries sales tax of 12± per cent. If one person earns £10,000 a year and another earns £1,000, does the person on £10,000 consume ten times more toothpaste than does the person on £1,000? Of course, he does not. The same comparison can be applied to almost all goods covered by sales tax. Sales tax should be abolished except where it is placed on luxury lines.
Company taxation in the last financial year amounted to £215,000,000. This is also an -indirect tax. It is taken into the cost structure and the consumer, not the company, pays it. Wherever possible, indirect .taxes should be progressively abolished and a higher individual tax should be paid. At least, we would then know who was .paying the taxes. At present, the people on the .lower incomes are paying the bulk ,of indirect taxation. The effect on the economy of the reform I have suggested would be cheaper consumer goods if the companies passed on the indirect tax savings to the people. If they did not do that, the Taxation Branch should be empowered to impose a higher individual direct ‘tax on dividends.
One section of industry which would be assisted by the abolition of indirect taxes would be the manufacturing industry. At present Australia relies on its wool and primary products to boost its export trade. I believe that Australia has ridden on the sheep’s. back far too long. Manufacturing industries may well be the answer to our export problem. With the development of the markets to our near north and the lessening of the dead weight of company taxation, amounting to approximately 7s. in the £1, and the abolition of pay-roll tax, manufacturers would have a greater incentive to compete on overseas markets. The profit derived from such trade should then attract a higher , direct tax on dividends.
I direct attention .now to foreign investments in Australia. What greatly concerns me is the little direct tax that foreign capita] pays to the Australian people. The present Administration seems obsessed with the desire to attract . any type of foreign capital without concern about future consequences. In this connexion it is interesting to study a statement in the “ Quarterly Review “ published in the Division of Agricultural Economics in April, 1956. The article was headed “ Direct foreign investment - influence on Australia’s balance of payments “. It stated, in part -
Continued ploughing-back of profits does, however, result in a marked increase in local earnings and eventually in remittances overseas. The dangers Were are that as service payments on past investments are a continuing outflow, they may, in a short time, substantially exceed the rate of new capital inflow, and that earnings of overseas investors may grow into a very large commitment absorbing a substantial part of Australia’s foreign exchange earnings.
This Government is doing very little about the inflow of foreign capital. It must decide what foreign capital it needs and what it does not need. There should be an immediate overhaul of the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act 1953-1958, which .covers agreements between the Governments of the -United Kingdom, United
States of America. Canada and Australia. Overseas investments in this country should pay a higher direct income tax to the Australian people. The present agreement is farcical and is too one-sided. We have a wonderful country with a magnificent future as long as we do not put it in pawn to foreign capital.
I thank honorable members for the attentive hearing they have given me. During the next three years I shall do my best on behalf of the electors of Reid and the Australian Labour movement.
In conclusion, I -should like to quote from “Things Worth Fighting For”, an extract from the late Mr. Chifley’s speech to the Australian Labour movement in June, 1951-
I hope that the defeat at the last elections has not discouraged members of the Labour movement from fighting for what they think is right - whether it brings victory to the party or not.
The Labour movement was not created with the objective of always thinking what is the most acceptable thing to do - whether this individual will .win a seat or whether the movement will pander to some section of the community. The .Labour movement was .created by the pioneers, and its objectives have been preached by disciples of the Labour movement over the years, to make decisions for the best for all the people.
If, from time -to time, the policy is not favored by the majority of the people, there is no reason why the things we fight for should be put aside to curry favour with any section of the people. I believe -that what we are fighting for is right and just. We must continue and justice will prevail.
.- I join with other honorable members in conveying my congratulations to Mr. Speaker on his re-election to his very high office in this Parliament, and I take this opportunity to offer my .congratulations to all those new honorable members who have made contributions to,this debate. on the motion for the adoption-of .the Address-in-Reply. Their contributions were very varied and there is not the slightest doubt that they delivered their speeches very effectively indeed. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) played his part also, although I take the liberty to disagree somewhat violently with some of the remarks he made.
I should like to join with other honorable members in expressing our loyalty -to Her Majesty the Queen- I think we all remember most vividly the pleasure we derived -from mer visit when she “was -here in our -midst a “few short -years .ago.
In reading the Governor-General’s Speech delivered to us last last week, my attention was first drawn to the paragraph dealing with defence. Once again I see with some dismay that no indication is given as to when this Government, after almost ten years of office, proposes to do anything about establishing a naval base on the Western Australian coast. I have raised that matter repeatedly in this Parliament but, unfortunately, I have had the support only of the previous honorable member for Stirling. I was glad to hear the new honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash) raise his voice the other night in this regard. Spasmodic attempts to get this naval base have been made by other honorable members,! but there -has ‘been no concerted action. I admit that we are ‘to have air defences established at .Learmonth, and everybody -knows that the additions to the -Pearce aerodrome will be of value. However, if this -.Government has an interest in Western Australia’s -development and is really earnest in its desire to :see the State develop industrially as well as otherwise, it could do no better than start the construction of a naval establishment on that coast. From that would follow an inflow .of heavy industry. It would also give the other industries already established there a chance to improve and encourage the commencement of others. I am not one of 1 those who say that the Government should put up magnificent structures or establishments here, there and everywhere else. A start could be made by providing docking facilities, even though the Navy might use them very infrequently. At .least, that would be a haven for these ships that continually traverse the Indian Ocean and would save them from having to go all the way from .the west to the east to have repairs effected.
I have repeatedly reminded the Parliament that the distance from the east to the west of Australia is the same as that from London to New York. Ships from Western Australia have to travel that distance in order to have repairs and maintenance done. One day the people of Australia will wake up to a realization that Governments down the years have not given attention to the 4,380 miles of seaboard stretching from Wyndham to Eucla. I hope that before this Parliament ends a decision will be made on this matter. This Government, and Com- monwealth governments of all shades of opinion, have held considerable areas in Western Australia with the idea of making a commencement, but up to the present nothing has been done. I hope that this Government will do something about this base in the very near future. 1 read with great interest the references to our economic position in His Excellency’s Speech. I think most of us recognize that we could be in a precarious position because of the drastic fall in wool prices. Whilst I agree to a large degree with the comments made last night by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), 1 think there is something that must be done immediately. Some of my colleagues are going to deal with this matter, and I intend to deal with it myself. 1 think that the main thing for the wool-growers to endeavour to do is to cut down their cost of production. One of the easiest and quickest ways to help them do that - and at the same time bring greater revenue to the coffers of this Government - is to reintroduce the subsidy on superphosphate. That would make it possible to carry two or one and a half sheep where one is being carried now. The return to the wool-grower for the same expenditure would be greater, and the revenue coming to the Commonwealth Treasury would be increased. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the position of wool and of the wool-growers, while the growers are endeavouring to make up their minds whether they should accept a reserve price plan, and reintroduce the superphosphate subsidy. 1 wish to deal for a few moments with the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. We have been informed in the Governor-General’s Speech, that it is the intention of the Government to call a conference with the Premiers of the various States. The financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States is, to my mind, a most difficult question. It will be a big job to get any alteration of the present position. Every one who has studied the subject knows that not only have we had Premiers’ conferences, but also conferences of high officials in both the State and Federal spheres, endeavouring to work out a formula. Unfortunately, every time somebody will not agree with the formula suggested, with the result that nothing is achieved. Some people have suggested that the Commonwealth should make a move and repeal the act dealing with uniform taxation. Whether that would accomplish anything, 1 know not. Whether it would be possible to do that, 1 am not certain, but 1 do know that it is going to be very difficult indeed to arrive at a solution of the problem when you have State Premiers who vary in their political persuasions, who are ingrained with the idea that uniform taxation is bad because it tends to breed irresponsibility in State legislatures, but who say that if the Commonwealth thinks it can get their support for the abolition of uniform taxation, it has another think coming. It is most difficult to deal with the States in this regard. 1 have said previously in this Parliament that there are some measures that we could use. 1 am glad that some of the States at long last are beginning to realize the difficulties we are facing. One of the measures to which I refer is related to the power of the States to control hire purchase. The States know that the power to deal with hire purchase resides with themselves and that no such power is available to the Commonwealth Government. For so long as the State governments refuse to act in unison or alternatively to refer their powers to the Commonwealth for a certain period, I say that the Commonwealth should take unto itself the right that it has under the Financial Agreement to take for Commonwealth works the first 20 per cent, of all loan raisings instead of financing its works, as it has done over the last nine years, from revenue with the result that the people of to-day are paying for the benefits that will be enjoyed by others twenty years hence.
That brings me to a consideration of the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department and its finances. We read in the press yesterday that this department had made a profit of approximately £4,000,000. I am prepared to suggest here and now that more than 50 per cent, of the people of Australia are asking. “ If the department has made that profit, why cannot we get a telephone here, a rural automatic exchange there or a post office somewhere else? “ We know very well that that profit of £4,000,000 which the department has made on its business undertakings has to go into Consolidated Revenue.
The only funds that the department gets for its developmental undertakings are those that are handed out year after year by the Treasury. The time is long past when a Commonwealth government, be it Liberal, Labour or anything else, should be prepared to say, as was said by a Labour government under the leadership of Mr. Chifley, “ For a period of X years the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will get X million pounds for its developmental works.” If that was done, those officials who do the department’s planning would be able to plan with a sense of achievement. They are already efficient, but their efficiency would increase.
Even though, as we were informed this morning by the Postmaster-General, the funds available to the department have increased over the last three years, those of us who have taken the trouble to inquire from the officials who do the department’s planning know full well that they are becoming affected by frustration. They plan to run a telephone line here or establish a rural automatic exchange somewhere else, only to find that when the works programme is being arranged and the same old arguments arise in a certain room at one corner of this building the PostmasterGeneral is told that he has not the funds. Therefore some one must go without, lt becomes a question as to who is to have his work done and who is not. Unfortunately, that feeling of frustration is growing into the marrow of these eminent men within the department who are responsible for the planning. Therefore, I say that the Government should say to itself and to the country that over the next five years or so a certain amount of money will be made available to the Postmaster-General’s Department so that a definite scheme can be inaugurated and the work carried out.
People criticize the various departments because of the cost of constructing different undertakings. Some ask, “ Why does noi the department have it done by contract? “ In reply, let me ask this question: “What businessman in Australia with any business acumen would enter into a contract for constructing telephone lines or anything else for the Postmaster-General’s Department if he did not have an indication tha! such work would continue to be available? “ If contractors cannot obtain a continuity of work, they are left with a load of equipment around their necks which they cannot dispose of or keep gainfully employed. If the department was able to plan for five, six, seven or even ten years ahead, such people would be encouraged to do work for it, knowing full well that when they bought the equipment it would be used.
His Excellency also made reference to television. I am somewhat concerned about the following sentence in His Excellency’s Speech -
Preliminary consideration is also being given to means by which television can be extended to major provincial and country centres.
I hope that the consideration to be given to this matter by the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be somewhat different from what has occurred over the last couple of months. The method of granting licences has caused me considerable concern.
I shall review what has happened over the last few months. After the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had heard evidence in Adelaide and had sifted that evidence, it directed the attention of the Government to the interest of powerful metropolitan newspapers in the field of commercial television. The board questioned the acceptance of the expansion of groups already powerful in the field of mass communication. If any one is interested in this matter, he need only to read the comments of the board at page 29 of the report and recommendations on applications for licences for the Brisbane and Adelaide areas. The board asked, most pertinently, whether, in the public interest, the local ownership of stations and the independence of licensees is the objective to be achieved.
The board recommended to the Government that there should be one licence for Brisbane and one for Adelaide. As we all know, the Government over-rode the board and told it to recommend the granting of two licences at each place. If any honorable member wants to read the supplementary report on these applications, it is available in the Library or from the Clerk of Papers. Even though I dislike the Government’s action - it was very obvious that somebody would get something out of what was available - the Government did have the courage to accept responsibility for ordering the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to review its recommendation.
– It was done in return for funds.
-MILTON.- The-honorable member may not like what’ I say by the time I have finished. Now let’ us see what happened in regard to Perth. There- were two applications for commercial television licences in Perth: One was lodged by TVW Limited, consisting of West Australian Newspapers Limited and some others, and one by Western Television Services Limited. Both organizations said they thought that at this juncture Perth could carry only one commercial television station, and I think every one will agree with that opinion.
I should like to look at those, two applicants through the eyes of the board, and in the light of its report. Both companies proposed to establish a station with the same amount of capital, namely £1,000,000, to be divided into 2,000,000 shares of 10s. each. The successful applicant, TVW Limited, which, as I indicated, was controlled mainly by West Australian Newspapers Limited, proposed to make only 600,000 shares available to the public and to retain 600,000 shares, with the proviso in its articles of association that the directors may. at their absolute, discretion, decline to allow any one shareholder except itself to hold more than 60,000 shares. To my mind, that is a definite indication that this organization desired no one but itself to control this powerful instrument of mass communication. Reference to that can be seen in paragraph 1 8 of the board’s report.
Western Television Services, the other applicant, in contrast with what I have just said, had in its articles of association a clause limiting the voting power of any member of the company to 10 per cent, of the votes at any meeting of shareholders. That was a truly democratic idea, because every sensible individual in this country knows that television is a powerful medium of mass communication. A reference to that limitation can be found at paragraph 27 of the report.
Western Television proposed to spread its shareholding among community interests, such as the Young Australia League. Is there any person in Australia who dares to stand up and say that the Young Australia League is not a fit and proper organization to have a share in this medium of communications? This organization has sent, youths and- girls not only throughoutthe length’ and’ breadth of Australia but also to. many other parts of the world to im- prove their education: Nevertheless, the. Australian Broadcasting Control Board gave the licence to a- monopoly interest.
It was claimed that TVW had much the better proposition, because it put forward figures to show that it held 427 applications for 747,000 shares, and 1,649 applications for notes to the value of £500,000. It was admitted that if the sole licence was not given to that company all that money would have been refunded without interest - the charges being borne by the company - by 31st October, 1958. The report further shows that of the 747,000 shares for which applications were held, the board thought, that 600,000 were intended for West Australian Newspapers Limited. It is obvious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that all this investment in TVW came from people who were not interested in personalities but in television. If TVW had not obtained the licence, that money would have gone to the other organizations interested, but now it has gone to TVW.
Let us consider another aspect of the matter. As I said, TVW is to be controlled by West Australian Newspapers Limited. That company controls the only two daily newspapers in Perth. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is now sitting at the table, knows full well that on one occasion when he was very badly misreported, the newspaper company representatives laughed in his face when he asked for a correction. The present managing director of the company notified men in public life and others interested that in future the prefix “ Mr.” would not be used because he wanted to streamline the English language, and unless you are a titled gentleman or a senator you will be described in those newspapers simply as “ Jones “ or “ Thompson “.
The financial proposals of the two applicants were identical, and they can be found in paragraphs 20 and 30 of the report. There was considerable surprise when the Broadcasting Control Board gave this licence to TVW. Then some ugly rumours began to circulate in Perth to the effect that the board had been overridden by the Australian Government. When that was not accepted, there was criticism of men like. Sir. Alex Reid, John Thompson and. Mr. Steffanoni, all men who have contributed the sum of their time, energy and ability to the. advancement of this Commonwealth.
This is the point 1 now come to: If the Government does this kind of thing, and over-rides the Australian Broadcasting. Control Board, which said at Adelaide that these interests should not be under the control of people already in command of the means of mass communication, but should be spread so that a diversity of interests would be involved, or if the Australian Broadcasting Control Board treats applicants in this manner, then I say they are doing the greatest disservice to the youth of this country that has ever been done: It is all very well for members of the Australian Labour party to get up here and ask spurious questions about these matters. What the Government is now doing is placing in. the hands of honorable members opposite, for use when they get into office - and they will on some occasion; do not let us fool ourselves - a medium by which they could drum into the people of Australia all the false propaganda they cared to gather. The Opposition is always threatening to nationalize. As we saw when we ourselves were in opposition; when these newspapers, powerful as they are, and shipping companies and other big concerns are threatened by a Labour government with nationalization, they run like dingos with their tails between their legs. Therefore, I say that if the Government over-rides the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, it must accept the responsibility for so doing. But if the control board is taking this action on its own volition, then the Government should take a firm stand and sack the members of the board.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire, first, to extend to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and through you to Mr. Speaker, my congratulations upon your accession to your respective offices. I trust that you will retain those positions and serve us well until we on this side of the House have sufficient numbers to elect a speaker from our own ranks - and that time will not be long in coming.
I represent the- electorate of Darebin, which is an industrial constituency, very much like that of Gellibrand. It is also very much like a constituency that was mentioned this morning, when an honorable member suggested that his constituency was on a higher plane than that of Gellibrand. I can assure that honorable member that Gellibrand is on the same plane as Darebin. It is an industrial constituency, and its electors have sufficient intelligence to return at all times the best and only possible representatives, members of the Australian Labour party.
I desire also to extend my compliments to the mover and seconder of the motion that is now being considered: In doing so, I feel that they are entitled- to a little bit of sympathy. They have expressed their pride and pleasure at being associated with a Government- that has had nine years of office and has, we are told, brought about stability and prosperity such as has never been previously achieved in this Commonwealth. I have noticed, however, as was apparent from the speech made a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), that although the Government has had opportunities to do things that Labour governments were never in a position to do, and despite the fact that there have been nine prosperous years, Government supporters have all been able to point to some things that are wrong and that the. Government has neglected. They have told us, for instance, that at Kalgoorlie industries are languishing, miners are unemployed, and there is a threat that the main industry, gold mining, will suffer extinction.
We have heard also that, despite nine years of prosperity and sound government, the vast potential of the north-west has not been exploited and no real attempt has been made to develop that area. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) complained that although this was a good administration, which had exercised the powers of government for nine prosperous years, there is now unemployment in Queensland. That State, too, has languishing industries. It has been said that the pineapple industry is facing extinction because the growers are not getting sufficient assistance from the Government. I was a bit sorry for the pineapplegrowers until I reflected that when a worker in my constituency becomes unemployed he is entitled to social services, and I realized that probably the pineapplegrower and even the grazier, who is in dire circumstances, are entitled to social services, too. So my sympathy with the pineapplegrowers, to some extent, vanished.
All through this debate, from both sides of the House we have heard of increasing unemployment due, some say, to automation; due, some say, to certain industries not having received sufficient assistance from the Government; and due, some say, to the importation of cheap foreign goods. But in each case the unemployment has been attributed to some factor over which this Government has had some considerable measure of control.
On both sides of the House there is a general realization that what Australia needs is a plan to work upon. Australia is entitled to expect from a Government which has had a record term of office some blueprint for the future. We had been led to believe that the Governor-General’s Speech would represent the Government’s blueprint for the future, and would give some indication of the manner in which the Government proposed to proceed to overcome the problems which have been revealed from this side of the House, and are admitted from the other side. We were entitled to expect that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, while not giving full details, would indicate how the problems were to be tackled. But what do we find? We find that the Speech gives no hope for a solution of the unemployment problem, although the number of unemployed is increasing at the rate of 20,000 a year. There is no suggestion that anything is to be done that would effectively correct that drift. Nor have we had any useful suggestions on this subject from the other side of the House. The Speech merely states the problem but does not give us a solution.
To the people of electorates like my own which, I think, is typical of most metropolitan electorates and, to some extent, of country electorates, no assurance is given that road and street construction problems are to be alleviated in any way. True, there is to be a conference. It has been unkindly suggested by somebody that the idea of a conference was simply put forward in order to influence the elections in New South Wales and South Australia. I have no doubt that, whether the idea was put forward for that purpose or not, the conference will be used for that purpose, and I have little doubt that not a great deal will flow from the conference that will help us to solve this serious problem.
In my municipality we have 87 miles of roads to make. Our permissible borrowing will enable us to construct only one and a half miles of road a year. That means that many people are not likely to have their roads constructed for between 40 and 60 years. Because I live in a fringe suburb, most of the people affected are new home owners. A very big proportion of them were brought to Australia by this Government from Great Britain, Ireland, and other places. They were used to these amenities and they write home advising people that there are no such amenities in this country.
The Governor-General’s Speech gives no hope that the problem of our overcrowded schools will be tackled. There is no hope that sufficient new hospitals will be built. This is said to be “ Australia Unlimited “ and yet the hospital in my electorate has been seven years in the building! The guiding hand of “ Australia Unlimited “ cannot even see fit to let us have some financial assistance to construct an institution for the sick!
Our electorates require, not only new schools and hospitals, but also many more homes. It is not necessary to quote figures when talking to the public about the shortage of homes because all sections of the community know something of the accommodation problem. There is no hope whatever in the Governor-General’s Speech for those who are seeking homes. As I said before, the Speech should at least have contained some proposals for an amelioration of our problems. The fact that it contained no such proposals, in my view, justifies us in concluding that the Government does not care and does not intend to give us any hope in these matters. Perhaps, having been a bit rough on the Government, I should pay it one compliment: Having promised the people nothing, it ought to be complimented on the expeditious manner in which it has set out to redeem its promise.
Apparently, however, all is not lost because the Government seems to have solved the problem of Dutch New Guinea, almost since we arrived here. At the same time, I am reminded that the same problem of New Guinea was, during the war years, solved by the same people by preparing to hand it over, lock, stock and barrel, together with most of Queensland, to the Japanese, under the “ Brisbane Line “ strategy. That is precisely what is happening to-day. There is no question about it. The problem is being solved by handing over the territory. The Government has agreed that, by the adoption of a certain procedure, West New Guinea may be handed over to Indonesia without Australia’s objection. In effect, that is what the Government’s actions amount to. And having agreed to the handing over of Dutch New Guinea, it will be only a matter of time before the Government agrees to the handing over of the entire island. That is inescapable.
There are two positive proposals that 1 can see in the Governor-General’s Speech. One is that the Government proposes to effect what might be described, for the want of a better term, as banking reform. The “ Canberra Times “, in its issue of Tuesday last, quoted the Bank of New South Wales economic review as stating -
The proposed legislation appears to meet the submissions of the trading banks on all points except this . . .
Yet some one in this House has said that the trading banks had never even made submissions. I do not think, Sir, that the people of whom I have been speaking are likely to derive any great benefit from the banking reform.
The other proposal of a positive nature that I can see in the Governor-General’s Speech is well worth examining. I noticed, in the midst of all the pages of the printed document that was circulated, that the Government proposed to meet the costs of court-controlled ballots in respect of trade union elections. I take that to mean that the Government proposes to continue to cut. the trade unions to pieces but is now prepared to buy its own cutlery with which to do that. There may have been some justification for the Chifley Government legislation which provided, in effect, that where it had been demonstrated that there had been some malpractice in connexion with trade union elections, an authority would step in, and see that the matter was cleared up, but there is no justification for the type of fascist jack-booting that goes on under the name of court-controlled ballots at the present time. I know, because I happen to have been on the receiving end of it.
I stood, not long ago, in the office of the Builders Labourers Union in Melbourne. There was no suggestion that at any time the union had conducted a ballot that was not proper or fair, nor do I believe that it has ever done so. Yet two gentlemen - I shall call them gentlemen for the moment. Sir, and I shall give you their criminal records later, although I may say now that both were members of the Democratic Labour party - walked into the office of the trade union in a most arrogant fashion, slapped on to the counter an order from the court in effect entitling them to force their entry - because that is what they did - to the union office and take notations of any kind from the records. The order was signed by the Chief Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. One of the gentlemen was well known to me. His attitude was quite arrogant. He said, “ We are here. We want those records and we are going to have them. If any of you persons start to hinder us, in goes a complaint.” That was his jack-booting attitude. T. shall give you his criminal history, Sir, and then I shall tell you more about him. His name was W. F. Lancaster. In 1943, he was before the Children’s Court, charged with the theft of a bicycle. He was put on probation. In 1944, he came before the Children’s Court, charged with causing wilful damage. The case was dismissed. In 1 946. at Newcastle, he was found on licensed premises, after hours. He was charged and fined 30 shillings. In 1948, in Melbourne, he was charged with offensive behaviour and fined £2. Again, in 1948, in Melbourne, he was charged with being in possession of stolen property and fined £2. The House will notice the lightness of the fines that are imposed on these agents.
In 1951, at Port Adelaide, he was charged with larceny and sentenced to fourteen days’ hard labour. In 1952, in Melbourne, he came before the Melbourne General Sessions and was charged with office breaking and stealing. He was released on a bond to be of good behaviour for three years. In 1954, at Melbourne again, he was charged with stealing from a building job - this is .a. man out on a bond to be of good behaviour for three years - and wes fined £7, or .21 days’ hard labour. No action was taken for breach of bond. In 1956, at the Melbourne General Sessions, he was charged with stealing. He is now on a bond to be of good behaviour for five years.
I rang the Registrar and asked him whether it was a fair thing that these people should be able to force their way into an office where decent girls were working and where, on occasion, there was no male in attendance, and proceed to carry on as they thought fit. The Registrar said that, under the ‘regulations, any person, whether a member of the union or otherwise, could be nominated and he had to authorize it. Let us pursue the matter further. Those persons, having once secured the list of names of members, are entitled to go about, as they do, knocking on the ‘doors, of members’ homes at night time, always taking stand-over men with them, and intimidating members into signing petitions. 1 put it to you, Sir, that a person with a criminal record like that is in fact armed with. more authority than a member of the police force .would have. He is allowed to go about knocking on. our doors and intimidating us. I suggest that that type of person might knock on a door, find nobody at home . and - well, Sir, you -know what he is likely to do in view of his record.
I think that the Government should carefully reconsider this proposal to pay for court-controlled ballots because of the circumstances that I have described. The Government arms. people of .the character that I have indicated with authority to hinder and .obstruct :in their work unions that are not violently militant in any case. If the Government proposes to pay for the cost of conducting court-controlled ballots, why should it not also have a look at some of the ballots that are held in .employer organizations, such as the ballot when Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited wanted to absorb -Butler Air Transport Limited. What about the ballot that was conducted then and which subsequently had to go to the High Court?
I say that .the attitude of the trade unions is that they are not getting a fair go. Electors of the type that I represent think that they are not getting a fair go either, and they will not get a fair deal until such time as this Government is thrown from office, as it deserves. The only other thing that I wish to say is that we are not very happy about the prospect of having our ballots controlled .by a government that could achieve a record majority from a minority of the electorate. Even the Communists could not achieve that feat, ! but I have reservations about the D.L;P.
.- First, I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and through you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to the offices which you hold .in this Parliament. It is a very great honour indeed for me to be allowed the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this ‘House as the representative of the electorate of Herbert. In doing so, I am fortified considerably by the best wishes of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) .and other honorable members. They know how I feel, because they have gone through this ordeal themselves. If I am one. of the political accidents referred to by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), all I can say is that if the seat that I hold is to be held by me for only a short time, as many of my friends opposite hope it will be, I trust that I shall be able to hand it back, in three years’ time, :in much the condition that I have received it and without too much dust on it.
Somebody pointed out to me the other day that if a line were drawn across the map of Australia from east to west giving a northern half and a southern half, .it would be found that the southern half is represented in this Parliament by approximately 160 members, but the northern half by only seven or so. This fact .is not fully realized in many places. Anything that the -seven or so members from the north might want to say in this Parliament would have to be said pretty loudly and forcibly and on. every possible occasion to attract attention. It is obvious that .with -1 60 members of the Parliament representing the southern half of Australia, the odds are weighted pretty heavily against -the seven or so from northern Australia. Some one might ask:
Why not, for this purpose, divide Australia into .eastern and western halves? The answer is that the population of Australia spreads from south to north without any regard whatsoever for geography; and this is the basis on which further development must be considered. The fact that there is a torrid. zone in the north and a temperate zone in the south is not fully realized by most people including many who should be conscious of it. The pioneers pushed north with their flocks and herds, and organized settlement followed without much thought of the significance of the fact that they were going from a temperate ‘to a tropical zone. Had this been realized it would have had a tremendous effect on ‘the progress of development in northern Australia. The proposal has been made that we should spend a sum o’f £5,000,000 on the development of “the north-western part of Western Australia. I sincerely hope that those responsible will have a clear aim and a practical knowledge of ‘the problems involved in -that tropical environment before such expenditure is -incurred. There is no way of spending money more quickly than in an agricultural venture which -has -not a clear aim. -Such a venture is like a bottomless pit.
There are splendid examples, however, of industries geared to Australia’s tropical environment. Sugar is one. Without doubt it is the most highly organized and efficient industry in Australia. It has controlled production, sensibly related to world markets and agreements. The beef industry has been , mentioned on several occasions during this debate, and ‘I should. like to make a few remarks about it. The beef industry, in northern Australia particularly, has been running, generally speaking, in a pretty chaotic condition for years. It .has never had even short-term accurate forecasts of overseas markets or home markets. It has never had real guidance or a blueprint such as the honorable member who has just spoken mentioned. In fact, it has been left very much to its own devices.
The area of Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn produces practically the highest percentage of our export beef and a tremendous proportion of the total quantity used for home. consumption. But-in northern Australia that industry has many problems. Its .greatest difficulty is /the lack of con tinuity of supplies, brought about by seasonal conditions. The wet season and the dry season are part of an annual pattern in the tropics. In the latter half of the year the availability of killable cattie comes almost to a standstill. The pastures dry up and lose their nutrition, growing stock lose condition and the . movement on the hoof of large mobs is often hazardous or impossible because of the -lack -of water and feed on stock -routes.
Hundreds of ‘men are often thrown out of work- because employment in the northern Australian meatworks is seasonal. Employment in the sugar industry is seasonal also. In -the slack periods of both these industries many workers are out of employment. It can :be -said generally that throughout northern Australia the meat-worker is a seasonal employee. But the opportunity exists to change this seasonal pattern of work and, to some extent, the seasonal pattern of the industry. That opportunity has been staring us in the face for many years. What is needed is a continuity of beef supply which would be possible by a continuity of -killing, and :this would lead to a continuity of .export. of chilled beef. What is most important is. that. this would provide continuity . of employment. -Honorable members are all aware of the variations. and the -vagaries of the Australian seasons and how they affect the production of wheat, wool and many other primary products. In Queensland, the Channel Country and many other .areas suitable for fattening cattle are often gripped by drought. Large numbers of .cattle in the best breeding areas of the north have to remain on the properties because there is no way of -taking them elsewhere to be fattened. -0n account , of drought, fattening conditions. on the properties where they are located do not exist. The consequence is a failure in the continuity of supply.
There can never be any degree of stability in an industry while that sort of pattern exists. But there is an opportunity to develop hundreds of thousands of acres along the wet tropical coast as allyearround fattening country. The pasture work has been done; the technique of pasture improvement has been mastered; the mon.soonal .rains never fail and. there is a regular rainfall for the .maintenance and .improvement. of pastures. The soil is rich and only one crop is necessary - grass, the initial pasture. Grasses and legumes grow lush and green all the year round in this tropical coastal belt. In many areas of the wet tropical coastal belt thousands of acres suitable for fattening purposes are waiting to be developed. The quality of the soil is as rich as that on which sugar is grown and if it were developed it could provide a continuous growth of pasture. It would be capable of carrying a beast to the acre. In the inland breeding areas some cattle have to wait for four or five years before they are ready for the meatworks. If these tropical fattening areas were developed the animals could be moved from the inland as yearlings, or at eighteen months, and be ready for killing at two years or two and a half years of age. Any one who sees the feed lot system in the United States of America is always impressed by the uniform lines of prime young cattle going on to the market. There the game is sewn up because the industry is so well organized. The Argentine has held its trade with the United Kingdom for similar reasons. It has a regular pattern of production and export.
I say again that on the tropical coast of Australia there is a vast area of land waiting to be developed. What is needed are leadership and sensible guidance. The big meat export companies in the north have failed to give a lead. They have never recognized the opportunity which exists right at their doors with good country available for fattening. If they had grasped this opportunity and developed the country the continuity of supply of first-class beef, which is needed so much for export, would have been established. It is safe to say that the wastage in the beef industry in northern Australia is a national calamity.
Breeding societies throughout Australia handling beef cattle have completely failed over the years to recognize the fundamental difference between the tropical environment of the north and the temperate environment of the south. As a result the selection of British breeds which have been supplied for the north has not proved successful. Bulls have been sent from the south to the north in an attempt to maintain herds in accordance with United Kingdom standards. That is all very well for the temperate zones in the south, but it is completely out of step for the tropics. Let me cite an example. Some few years ago, when cattle were sent from Victoria to Burma in accordance with arrangements made with the Food and Agricultural Organization, many of them died. They were sent without any clear knowledge or appreciation of conditions in Burma. They were selected from studs mainly in Victoria. The sending of cattle from studs in Victoria to Burma is just as foolish as trying to grow a commercial crop of paw paws in Tasmania. lt is to the north of the Tropic of Capricorn that we look for most of our beef production. There are very few areas in the tropics where the environment is changed by elevation or by some other factor of management to carry a large population of British cattle. No other country in the world attempts to do it. The late Dr. Gilruth, in the ‘twenties, recognized the need for this and we have pamphlet No. 27 of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research issued in 1932. We also have pamphlet No. 172 issued by the council, as it was then known, in 1943, when the clear pattern for the northern development emerged and the need to change to cattle suited to the environment was recognized.
As a result of the research that was done, mainly by Dr. R. B. Kelly, who was a voice crying in the wilderness for all those years, we now see Brahmin and Santa Gertrudis cattle commencing to exert a beneficial influence into the herds of the north. Nothing but good can come from this. But that does not alter the fact that the blame must be placed at the door of the British breed section which failed years ago to appreciate the needs of a tropical or northern environment, because a better selection should have been made of British breeds. An attempt is being made now to do so but it is too late. I for one welcome the closing of doors to cattle from overseas. I think that is a very good move because we will develop cattle that are suited to our Australian conditions instead of continually bringing in cattle fundamentally unsuited to them.
The problems of the beef industry must be faced, but not only in some areas in the north. The industry is being held back by tick, buffalo fly, pleuro-pneumonia and contagious reproductive diseases. In the broader field there is a lack of national planning and guidance. I direct the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to the fact that k is just as important in the beef industry to tackle the problems of vibriosis and tri.comaniasis as it is in the dairying industry. Tremendous loss is incurred through these things in beef cattle. The industry is held back by many of these things and tremendous losses are incurred. It is also held back by a general lack of national planning to give a clear blueprint for development. On national planning I would like to say this: We have heard many statements over a number of years on the need to populate and develop the north of Australia. Responsible people have said that, generally speaking, the people in the north do not believe that any very sincere attempt has yet been made to develop that part. Of course, some effort has been made, but that is the general feeling. The majority of our migrants come to the south. They are attracted, very naturally, by far more civilized conditions in the populated south, and that will continue. They will keep coming here, thereby increasing the lack of balance between the north and south of Australia with respect to population. Very definitely, Sir, we cannot direct people where they shall go. We cannot say “ You will move from here and go there “, but surely we could cause, or help, certain areas to become so attractive to settlement and investment that many people down here with an ounce of guts - and we have plenty of them - will be prepared to say, “ That is where we will go and stake a claim for ourselves and our children “.
It is Queensland’s centenary year, and we know that the State has made great progress in the last 100 years - tremendous progress. But in 1959 there is not the same degree of pioneering as there was, apparently, in 1859, and rightly so, because we do demand to-day certain standards of living, health, and education which, generally speaking, are so much higher here in the south than they are in the north. But the people, nevertheless, will put up with a tremendous amount of inconvenience and hardship if they know that a reward for their work and sacrifice lies ahead. A splendid example of that is the soldier settlement at Abergowrie in the Herbert River district, where cane farms were commenced in 1951. The exservicemen were quite prepared to go ahead and carve cane farms out of the scrub, and to live under very primitive conditions indeed, because they knew that in an organized industry such as sugar the reward lay ahead. Today, seven or eight years later, they are a thriving and prosperous community. There is ample scope for development of this kind in other fields of production. The implementation of the Burdekin River project could be such a one. It could take water to 700,000 acres of land very simply. It could generate vast quantities of electricity. Sir John Kemp, in his report on the Burdekin River Irrigation, Hydro-electric and Flood Mitigation Project, stated -
The effects of the project in increasing the productivity and population of North Queensland and in stimulating industrial development in the area will be such that Australia cannot afford not to proceed with it. Development of North Queensland and its resources has a very real defence significance, and indeed is vital to the security of Australia. Australia cannot expect to retain control of the North if she is not prepared to develop its potentialities and utilize its resources to the full. Immediate action must be taken to demonstrate to the world that she is sincere in her intentions to do this. With the present world food situation and anticipated future needs, it is essential that as much food as possible be grown in North Queensland. The Burdekin River project is bound up with the development of the North and with the holding of Australia. It is considered, therefore, that speedy construction of the project, in its initial stages, should rank among the most important of the defence measures to be undertaken in Australia.
We know, Sir, that the requirements of defence do alter, but in relation to food, power and industries they do not vary. There is the Burdekin scheme, the Herbert River project, the scheme for Tully - just to mention a few in my own area. Many schemes have been propounded right through the north. Extraordinary possibilities abound in that regard. For many years we have been conditioned to looking northwards for the dangers which may exist on distant horizons. And no doubt some dangers do exist. But with our eyes constantly on distant horizons, I feel that we tend sometimes to overlook our own middle distance, to the north of Australia, and possibly to forget at times that there are some forms of charity which may well begin at home. Our north can be populated and and developed if we really want to do it. There is no doubt about that. I firmly believe that there is more potential to the square yard north of Capricorn than there is to the square, mile south i of it and. I, for one, will keep, saying.- so- in this Parliament. Northern Australia certainly has its problems, but L suggest that if we. really want to develop that area our thinking should be a little less temperate and a little more torrid.
.- First, I should like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on being elected Chairman of Committees, and through you, to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election. I trust that you will both remain in good health to administer justice and maintain decorum in this House, as we know you are both capable of doing.
I should also like to take this opportunity to thank sincerely the Clerk of the House and his staff. I know that I am speaking for all new members when I do so. The co-operation and assistance of the Clerk and his staff have added much pleasure to our early days in this Parliament. I also thank the rest of the staff of the House for their many kindnesses to us since we arrived here. 1 must apologize for my absence when the Governor-General delivered his Speech. Since that occasion I have read the Speech. As many speakers before me have discussed it in detail, I shall confine myself to saying that the Speech read by His Excellency had quantity but not quality.
I should like to pay a tribute to the Governor-General and his Lady for the many courtesies they extended to us in the Leichhardt area during, their visits there.
I feel humble - very humble indeed, and yet proud and honoured - to follow in the footsteps of a great Australian, a man who, as a youth, worked very hard indeed, and when he was still young offered his services to his fellow workers to better their conditions. Later, that same man entered the Queensland Parliament. His ability and energy were soon recognized, and he attained the rank of Minister. The monuments to his service as a Minister are to be seen in the north of Queensland to-day, and are a tribute to his great energy and foresight. The road network throughout northern Queensland is due entirely to his energy and effort as Minister for Public Works. His work is also seen in the many schools in scattered areas, the building of which he fostered as Minister for Public Instruction. He was a man at whom, in my opinion, nobody, in this or any other land could point the finger of scorn, and whom nobody could call anything but a true Australian. I am happy and proud to have known him, and to have been able to call him my friend.- I’ refer, of course, to the late Henry Adam Bruce, who spent, his later years in this very House.
I- am honoured to represent the electorate that Mr. Bruce represented in this House - the electorate of Leichhardt, the most northerly electorate in the Commonwealth. It has an area of approximately 127,700 square miles, and yet has a population of under 100,000. In my opinion, it is an area with great potentiality - greater, perhaps than any other area of comparable size in the world. I should like to speak on the industries in the Leichhardt electorate, most of which are financed from capital raised locally, although some of them are not. The main industry - the sugar industry - is of great economic importance to the Commonwealth.
The Leichhardt electorate stretches from El Arish, near Tully in the south, to Thursday Island in the north. The sugar belt in Leichhardt extends from the south of the electorate to Mossman, about 100 miles to the north, There are seven sugar mills in that area. Last year, those mills crushed 2,328,269 tons of sugar cane for a yield of 333,715 tons of sugar. The sugar industry employs thousands of workers but, unfortunately, as it is a seasonal industry, practically all those workers have to seek other work for the five or six months of the year that are the slack period in the sugar industry. Their main concern - and I think it is also the concern of this Parliament as well as of everybody in Australia - is to find some alternative work at which they can be gainfully employed during that period. To fulfil this purpose I had in mind - and will undertake as best I can - the encouragement of some sort of industry that can operate under cover, such as a cotton mill, where work is indoors, because it is during that slack period in the sugar industry that Queensland has its greatest rainfall. In the sugar belt the annua! rainfall varies from 79.52 inches to 177.31 inches. That is a great rainfall but, unfortunately, that lifeblood of empire, water, flows swiftly and directly to the Pacific Ocean and is lost to the area. Some honorable members may recall Dr. I. J. C. Bradfield’s scheme to divert that water to the west. I think that we shall see that scheme in operation if we live long enough. It will be the salvation of the whole of that area when it is implemented.
The next important industry in Queensland is the timber industry. As honorable members are no doubt aware, some of the finest cabinet timbers in the world are found in Queensland. This industry is at present receiving a much-needed overhaul. A commission is inquiring into the industry, and it is hoped that a sane and commonsense policy will be evolved, because this industry is nearly as big as the sugar industry in Queensland and can be improved if treated with more sympathy and understanding by governments. The timber industry also employs workers on a seasonal basis and, again, these workers must be looked after in those dreary months when the industry cannot employ them. The tobacco industry is also a seasonal industry, so we have three seasonal industries in Queensland - sugar, timber and tobacco. If we are serious about developing our north and populating and expanding these undeveloped areas we must find sufficient work to keep in the north the workers in those industries.
Tobacco-growing, which is the next important industry in my electorate, is proving to be a very valuable asset to our economy, but the Government, if it is sincere in its wish to assist, should give more sympathetic consideration to the industry and’ to the conditions of the workers in the area.
Further into the hinterland we rise to a height of 3,000 feet to the districts of Mareeba and Dimbulah, and then to the Atherton tablelands where maize .and peanuts are grown. Continuing further we come to the Evelyn tablelands, where the climate is much better than the climate df Canberra. -Dairying pursuits are carried on in that area. I was surprised to hear honorable members say that they are happy about the dairying industry ..and that it is better now than .ever before. If those honorable members were to visit the north and see for .themselves the plight of the industry, they would .change their attitude. “We .then come to the .mineral ‘belt which leads to the Cape York Peninsula. The Government could well devote more attention to that area. Over the years, many kinds of minerals have been discovered there, but many have been cast aside because they have no commercial value. However, we hope that the great bauxite find at Weipa will be developed and become a great asset to north Queensland and to Australia in much the same way as the Mount Isa mine, which is included in my neighbouring electorate of Herbert. Honorable members will remember that Mount lsa commenced as a gold mine, progressed gradually into copper and silver lead mining, and then became famous when uranium was found in that area. The same story could be repeated in north Queensland if the aluminium project now under way is given the impetus that it needs.
Many other minerals that were previously cast aside as having no commercial value will, I hope, be mined. I have in mind molybdenum, which could be of great value to us. Other minerals such as copper and silver lead have been found in payable quantities in that area by gougers, people who are content to scratch the ground and win enough gold, tin, or other minerals to keep them .going for a time, but when they have to dig more deeply and are unable to find the capital to finance that work, just move on and begin again. These gougers are proud men and do not like to see the big combines come in and swallow up the small miners and take away from the area the profits which are made there. I do not think that a gouger would tell any person where the minerals are to be found, so .a great deal of capita] is needed to work the diggings. If the finance is made available, the mining industry will develop as it should.
Sitting: suspended -from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, through you I should like to thank the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for delaying his speeches on the banking measures so that I may conclude my speech. -Before the suspension of the sitting, I described, the mineral belt in the Cape York Peninsula, which is part of the Leichhardt electorate. I could say much more, but with the limited time at my disposal I feel that I should move on to other subjects. Cattle is another industry in this peninsula and it has already been referred to by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). I fully endorse their comments and I hope that they will continue to fight for this industry. I shall deal now with the pearl shell industry. This is in a very bad state at the moment but it could be important in the economy of Australia. Honorable members no doubt have heard of the experiment of importing divers from Okinawa to try to show our islanders how to dive and how to produce more pearl shell. The experiment was a complete failure. At least three quarters of these men, if not all of them, have been returned to Okinawa. Our divers proved just as good as they could ever be.
I feel that this industry would play an important part in our national life if it had the sympathetic consideration of the Government. The industry could put the islanders in their proper place. We have heard much talk in the House about aborigines and Indonesians, but we have never given any thought to the islanders. They are a magnificent and very intelligent race. If they were given a fair deal they could be assimilated into the community just as the Maoris have been assimilated in New Zealand. They are just as intelligent and have just as magnificent a physique as any Maori 1 have ever seen. I feel that they should be given a better deal. It may be said that this is a responsibility of the State government. We are prone to say that the responsibility for many things rests on the State government. However, it is surely the duty of this National Parliament to ensure that the State governments fulfil their obligations. If they do not, we should find out why.
I feel, also, that the National Parliament should assess the worth of all undeveloped areas. If it cannot do so, it should call on the State governments to make a thorough investigation into the potential of the undeveloped areas and the means of getting the products of the areas to the markets. A thorough investigation should be made by the States to assess the value of these areas, and priorities should be fixed on the basis of their worth and the cost of bringing them into production. I think that it should be the duty of the National Parliament to see that the State governments investigate the potential of these areas.
The tourist industry would also benefit from further development. The Leichhardt area has a variety of tourist attractions, including the Great Barrier Reef. I do not think that one could find a better sight than the underwater observatory at Green Island. This is a private venture undertaken by two young men who sank a large tank alongside the reef and built other parts of the reef around it. Many overseas visitors have told me that the attractions there are far greater than anything they have ever seen anywhere in the world, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. On the tablelands, which have a beautiful climate, it is possible to travel for many miles on good roads, thanks to the efforts of the late Harry Bruce. One can travel from Cairns, up to the tableland 3,000 feet above the sea, in a one-day trip. At Ravenshoe, the real beauty of the scrubland can be seen. The tourist then comes down the Palmerston Highway to Innisfail, which is a pretty sugar town with a strong and healthy community. I venture to say that nowhere else in the world would one find scenery to match that abounding on this trip. However, further development is needed before the best use will be made of this area.
T have spoken about the industries in the Leichhardt electorate. I now want to say something about the thoughts of the people in that area. Leichhardt, as I have said, is the most northerly electorate in the Commonwealth. More than half the world’s population lies between the north of Australia and China, and we must remember that the population in this area is increasing 100 times faster than is our populalation, even with our immigration scheme. The people in the Leichhardt area fear this rapidly increasing population because the policy of the Government is to try to buy the friendship of our neighbours. Friendship bought in this way does not last very long. Our neighbours would undoubtedly think that we had something to hide if we tried to encourage their friendship without asking them to do something in return, and I feel that what we have to hide is the vast undeveloped area in the north of our continent. We have not developed this area to its fullest. No matter how friendly the governments may be this year or twenty years hence, the populations of the countries to our north will still be growing. Those countries will certainly not have enough land to support the increased populations. It may be the hope of those who are firing rockets at the moon to transport millions of the people there and so relieve these overcrowded areas.
We must also remember that scourges, such as plagues at one time killed millions of people in these areas, but medical research has provided the means to control these diseases. As a result populations will increase more rapidly than they otherwise would. In addition, the lifespan of these people has been extended, and this increases the problem of a growing population.
As I said earlier in my speech, the Leichhardt area could maintain 1,000,000 people, who could live well off the land. If we do not develop this country, we have no right to prevent other people from doing so.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holten) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I compliment the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) on having successfully endured the ordeal of his maiden speech. I could not have wished for a more appropriate introduction to this series of bills relating to banking reform than to have his urgent request put to us at the conclusion of his speech that we go ahead with the job of developing Australia. I sincerely believe that these banking reforms which I now commend to the House will assist us in that vital and important task.
Honorable members will be aware that during the last Parliament a series of measures was twice passed by the House for the purpose of reconstructing the Australian banking system in major ways. The measures that were then passed did not, however, become law because of their rejection in another place.
In the course of the recent federal election campaign, the Government affirmed its determination to proceed with these banking proposals if returned to office. The fact that we were so returned with majorities in both Houses, and indeed with a record majority in this House of Representatives, must be accepted as a broad endorsement by the Australian people of the banking reforms we had proposed.
In the interval since our proposals were rejected for the second time by the other chamber, we have taken the opportunity to re-examine the language of the legislation. We have also examined fully and carefully proposals which have come to us from various quarters for some amendment of the original bills. As I shall explain in the course of my second reading speeches, and during discussions in committee, a few changes have been made. Some of these are merely technical in character, made necessary by the passage of time since the earlier bills were presented, or made desirable by drafting requirements. Others make no change in the structure we had previously erected, but define our intentions rather more precisely. The fact that this House is now being asked, for the third time, to adopt our banking proposals along substantially identical lines to those put forward in the original bills is in itself a tribute to the soundness and thoroughness of the heavy pioneering work devoted over a long period to this question of banking reform by my distinguished predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden. I should like Sir Arthur to know that he is very much in the minds of his former colleagues of the Parliament as we proceed with our discussion of these measures.
The operation of the banking system goes to the very root of the national well-being, and it is vitally important that the system should at all times work with maximum efficiency and harmony. The Government remains convinced - and is fortified in this conviction by the verdict given by the people at the recent election - that reconstruction of the system is essential if its fully efficient and harmonious operation is to be assured. Consequently, the Government has decided to reintroduce its banking legislation proposals to the present Parliament, and the bill now before the House is the first of four major measures that are designed to give effect to the Government’s proposals. In addition, I shall later be introducing ten minor bills for the purpose of making necessary amendments to other acts of Parliament as a consequence of the proposed new banking structure.
I do not propose to dwell on the reasons why the Government believes that the banking system should be reconstructed. These reasons were admirably and fully explained by Sir Arthur Fadden in the second-reading speeches he gave when first introducing the legislation on 24th October, 1957. I commend those speeches, which are reported in pages 1765 to 1782 of “ Hansard “ for the last Parliament, for careful study by all honorable members.
Except for two or three minor changes and some other changes of a purely technical and drafting nature, the legislation is in the same form as that in which it was passed by the House in the last Parliament. For the convenience of honorable members, I have had a statement prepared showing the precise nature of the changes which have been made, and copies of this statement will be made available.
The following is a brief general description of the main proposals embodied in the legislation: -
The Reserve Bank Bill is related to the first of these main purposes - namely, the establishment of the Reserve Bank of Australia as the central bank for the Australian monetary and banking system and as an institution that will not be directly associated with the conduct of retail banking business.
Under the bill, the body corporate now known as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is continued in existence as the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank will have wide banking powers of a general character such as the Commonwealth Bank now has, but will not be empowered to carry on business otherwise than as a central bank. Like the Commonwealth Bank, it will control the note issue and will act as banker to the Commonwealth insofar as the Commonwealth requires it to do so.
The detailed framework of central bank controls that the Reserve Bank will be empowered to exercise over the banking system at large is provided for in the Banking Bill, which I shall be introducing shortly as a replacement for the present Banking Act. Except for the substitution of a system of statutory reserve deposits for the present special accounts system, the Reserve Bank’s powers in relation to the banking system will be essentially the same as those now exercised by the Commonwealth Bank.
The Reserve Bank will take with it the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank, whose function is the making of advances to marketing bodies to assist the marketing of primary produce or the processing or manufacture of primary produce. The attachment of that department to the. central bank, is necessary because the. department requires very large amounts of central bank accommodation to meet its. seasonal requirements for finance. The bill also provides for the capital of the department to be increased by £2,000,000 from central bank reserves, bringing it to a total of £4,714,000.
The provisions in the bill relating to the Reserve Bank Board are similar to those in the present Commonwealth act governing the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Reserve Bank Board will comprise the Governor and Deputy Governor of the bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, and seven other members appointed by the Governor-General. These seven other members must be persons who are not associated with any other bank, and at least five or them must be persons who are not officers of the Reserve Bank or of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Governor and the Deputy Governor will continue to be chairman and deputy chairman respectively of the board. Under the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which I shall be introducing later, the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board who are in office when this legislation comes into operation will continue to hold corresponding offices with the Reserve Bank.
The board will determine the policy of the Reserve Bank and ensure that effect is given to that policy. It will have the duty, as the Commonwealth Bank now has, of ensuring, within the limit of its powers, that the monetary and banking policy of the bank is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and that the powers of the bank are used to promote the stability of the currency, the maintenance of full employment and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia. There are also provisions, similar to those in the present act, which will require the board to keep the Government informed regarding the monetary and banking policy of the bank and which, in the event of a difference of opinion between the board and the Government on that policy, will give the Government, subject to the observance of certain procedures, including the tabling of explanatory documents in both Houses of the Parliament, an ultimate power to determine the policy of the bank.
The bill provides for the constitution of a staff service for the Reserve Bank. Provision for the allocation of officers of the existing Commonwealth Bank Service to the Reserve Bank Service is contained in the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill which I shall be introducing later.
The bank will have fairly wide and flexible powers ot staff- recruitment and management. Such powers are considered to be necessary because the Reserve Bank will be a highly specialized institution and it will need,- particularly in some of its sections, staff of exceptionally high calibre and standards of training. Moreover, it will not have at its disposal the large staff service that is now available to the Commonwealth Bank.
As an essential part of the separation of the centra] banking and non-central banking activities of the present Commonwealth group of banks, there is a provision in the bill that the head office of the Reserve Bank, which is to be in Sydney, shall not, after a reasonable period of time, be in the same building as the head office of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation or any other bank.
The bill also provides for certain changes of detail as compared with the existing Commonwealth Bank Act, but none of these involves major questions of policy and they can be better explained when we reach the committee stages of the bill.
Under the provisions that I have outlined, and those in the Banking Bill, the Reserve Bank will be a worthy successor to the Commonwealth Bank as Australia’s central bank. With status enhanced by the fact that it will no longer be directly associated with the conduct of retail banking business in competition with the private banks, and with its legal powers for regulation of the banking system unimpaired, the Reserve Bank will take its place at the head of a banking system that will be freed from earlier sources of conflict. With the conviction that the bill, together with the measures I shall introduce shortly, will provide the bank with new opportunities for still greater service to the nation, I commend the Reserve Bank Bill to the House.
– Arrant nonsense! If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, the debate will be resumed by the Leader of the Opposition when he returns.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made the comment, “ Arrant nonsense! “ I was not sure whether that was an introduction to what he was about to say or whether it was something of another character.
– Do not clown!
– Well, I like to fit in with the company around me.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is the second of the four main measures that go to make up the proposed banking legislation. Its essential purpose is to provide for the reconstitution of the noncentralbanking components of the present Commonwealth Bank group under a new corporation, to be called the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which will function as an entirely separate organization from the Reserve Bank.
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, under its own separate board, will be the controlling body for three banks - the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Development Bank. The lastmentioned of these banks will be constituted as an amalgamation, with some increase of resources and some change of responsibilities, of the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank. As we shall see, provisions are included in the bill to ensure that each of the three banks will have its own statutory functions and responsibilities and that the separate identity of each within the general framework of the corporation will be preserved.
The board of the corporation will be empowered to determine the policies of each of the three banks and to control their affairs, and the corporation is to provide the staff for conducting the business of the three banks. The board will have a statutory responsibility to ensure, within the limits of its powers, that the policy of the corporation and the banking policies of all three banks are, to quote the wording of the relevant provision in the bill, “ directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia and have due regard to the stability and balanced development of the Australian economy “. In line with the provisions of the present Commonwealth Bank Act and the Reserve Bank Bill, the board of the corporation will be required to keep the Government informed of the policies of the institutions under its control, and there are provisions whereby, in the event of a difference of opinion between the Government and the board as to whether any such policy is directed to the objectives laid down, the Government will, subject to the tabling of explanatory documents in both Houses of the Parliament and the observance of certain other procedures, have an ultimate power of direction over the board in regard to the policies of the corporation and its three affiliated banks. I would stress, however, that as the bill is worded it will not be possible for the policies of the corporation and the three banks to be inconsistent under any circumstances with the provisions of the proposed Banking Act, which will provide for regulation of the banking system at large.
Before describing the provisions relating to the administration of the corporation and its affiliated banks, I should like first to say a word or two about the principle on which they are based. The principle in question, to which I have already alluded in my reference to the preservation of the separate identity of each of the banks, concerns the great importance that the Government attaches to ensuring that each of the three banks, which will be important institutions in their own right, will rank equally with each other in the Commonwealth Banking Corporation framework and that the interests of one will not be given preference over, or be overshadowed by, the interests of the others. Suggestions have been made that the administration provisions are unduly and unnecessarily complex. The Government does not share that view; the provisions are the result of the Government’s most careful consideration of the best and most effective means of achieving the fundamentally important purpose 1 have described.
The board of the corporation is to comprise eleven members. The managing director and deputy managing director of the corporation and the Secretary to the Treasury will be ex officio members, and the other eight members, of whom one will be chairman and another deputy chairman of the board, will be persons who are not officers of the Commonwealth Public Service or directors, officers or employees of a bank, including the Reserve Bank and the corporation and its three constituent banks. The composition of the board will thus be designed to comprehend the widest possible field of available knowledge and experience that is appropriate to its important responsibilities. There will also be an executive committee of the board for each of the three separate banks. These executive committees will be appointed by the Treasurer after consultation with the board, and will be charged with taking such action as is necessary to ensure that effect is given by the respective banks to the policies laid down for those banks and to any directions given by the board in relation to their affairs. These committees are being established for two main reasons. First, as a considerable amount of detailed business will have to be done in connexion with each bank and this business will vary a great deal as between banks, there is an obvious advantage in having for each a separate executive group of the board that will be capable of giving its affairs the necessary time and attention. Secondly, the executive committee device will further contribute to the achievement of the fundamental objective I have already stressed. I might mention specially in this connexion the provision that the chairman of the board will not be a member of any of the executive committees, although he will have the right to attend any meetings of the committees.
Under the board, the corporation will be managed by a managing director and a deputy managing director, both of whom will be appointed by the Governor-General and will be ex officio members of the board. The managing director will also be a member of each executive committee and the deputy managing director will be eligible for membership of the committees. Each of the three banks will have its own general manager, who will be appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the corporation board. Under the managing director of the corporation, the general managers will manage their respective banks in accordance with the policy laid down for those banks and with any directions of the board or of the executive committees.
I now come to the provisions of the bill that relate to the three individual banks. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will be maintained in its present form. It will carry on general banking business and will continue to have the duty of developing and expanding its business. As in the present act, there is a provision that the Commonwealth Trading Bank shall not refuse to conduct banking business by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking business away from another bank.
In order to provide for certain transitional costs, particularly those arising from the fact that the head office of the present Commonwealth Bank group is owned by the central bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank is to be supplied from central bank reserves with additional capital of £2,000,000. On the basis of its reserve fund, as at 30th June, 1958, the Trading Bank will then have total capital and reserves of almost £10,500,000 apart from the amounts that have been set aside over the years as provisions for contingencies.
The Trading Bank should, therefore, commence its career under the Commonwealth Banking Corporation with adequate capital funds. I wish to stress in this connexion that the Government considers that the Trading Bank should not be at a capital disadvantage as compared with other trading banks. The position of the Trading Bank in this respect will be closely watched, and action will be taken to make a further increase in its capital in the future if experience shows this to be necessary.
Consistent with our purpose of placing the Commonwealth Trading Bank on an equal footing with its competitors, the Trading Bank will, under a bill I shall later be introducing for :an amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Act, be made liable to Commonwealth income tax. In addition, the bill now before the House leaves scope for the Trading Bank to be made liable, equally with the private trading banks, to any income tax that might be imposed by the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I am not suggesting that it necessarily follows that taxation laws will be introduced in that Territory, but clearly it would be undesirable to have to bring in special amending legislation should that transpire. There is a good deal of discussion proceeding on that matter. I should also mention at this stage that the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be on precisely the same basis as the other trading banks so far, as the provisions of the Banking Act are concerned.
The -Commonwealth Savings Bank is also to continue in its present form, and in addition is being given the explicit statutory duty of encouraging savings and promoting the interests of its depositors. As at present, the .profits of the .Commonwealth Savings Bank will be exempt from income tax and, after the making of payments to certain States under amalgamation agreements with those States, will be divided each year equally between the bank’s reserve fund and the Commonwealth.
Provision is made in the bill, as in the present Commonwealth Bank Act, for the investment of the funds of the Commonwealth Savings Bank in ways which are traditional for savings banks. This provision is to be supplemented by regulations to be made under the Banking Act, of which I shall speak further when discussing the Banking Bill, that will apply equally to the Commonwealth Savings Bank and to the private savings banks. In other respects also, the Commonwealth Savings Bank will be subject to the same central banking controls under the Banking Act as are the private savings banks.
With regard to housing loans, the bill contains provisions for the making of loans to individuals on credit foncier terms and to building societies by the Commonwealth Savings Bank as well as by the Commonwealth Trading Bank. In the present Commonwealth Bank Act, the provisions in -question apply only to the Commonwealth Trading Bank and not to the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
As I have said, the Commonwealth Development Bank will be formed basically as an amalgamation of the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank, and it will operate in the same field as those two departments - namely, the provision of assistance to primary producers and to industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings.
The functions and responsibilities of the Development Bank , as laid .down in the bill are, however, defined with .greater precision and will be different in some important respects from those of the two existing departments. First and foremost, the function of the Development Bank will be to provide finance to primary producers and to industrial undertakings in cases where, in its opinion, provision of the finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. In other words, the Development Bank’s role will be to supplement, but not to take the place of, the sources of finance available to primary producers and industrial undertakings through ordinary commercial lending institutions. Secondly, and as an important corollary of the function I .have just described, the Development Bank will be required, when determining whether or not to make a loan, to have regard primarily to the prospects of the borrower’s operations being successful rather than to the amount of security the borrower can provide in support of the loan. Thirdly, the Development Bank will be prohibited from providing finance for the purchase of goods otherwise than for use in the course of the borrower’s business, and all of its resources will thereby be devoted to productive purposes.
The Development Bank will have powers and resources necessary for the performance of its important functions. I wish to stress, however, that none of its powers or resources will be capable of use except for the purpose of the functions I have described, and that purpose is set out clearly in the measure.
The capital funds of the Development Bank on its establishment will consist of the capital and reserves of the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments - amounting to almost £15,000,000 on the basis of 30th June, 1958, figures - plus an additional £5,000,000 capital to be provided from the reserves of the central bank. These funds, together with the borrowing powers that the bank will have and the provision, to which I shall refer later, for retention of its profits, should ensure that the Development Bank will have adequate resources for the discharge of its important responsibilities. The Government will, however, watch the position closely from the viewpoint of the possible need for a further increase in the bank’s capital later in the light of the bank’s operating experience.
It has been necessary to give the Development Bank the power to accept deposits from the public. It is not anticipated, however, that the bank will either attract deposits from the public on any significant scale or seek to rely on such deposits as a major source of funds. In respect of such deposits as are placed with it, the Development Bank will not, under the Banking Bill, be required to lodge statutory reserve deposits with the Reserve Bank - this for the reasons that the Development Bank will be a special institution quite unlike the trading banks, and that, since the level of its deposits will not be affected to anything like the same extent by the influences which cause the trading banks’ deposits to rise and fall, the Development Bank’s business could be inconvenienced without warrant if, for instance, it were required to participate in a call to reserve deposits brought about through an increase in trading bank deposits in which it did not participate.
I might say that in other respects the Development Bank will be subject to the same basic central banking controls as the trading banks. I shall indicate the controls in question when introducing the Banking Bill.
Like any other bank, the Development Bank will have fairly wide borrowing powers. It will, however, require the Treasurer’s consent to any borrowings in excess of £2,000,000 from the Reserve Bank and to any borrowings from overseas. With regard to the making of loans by the Reserve Bank to the Development Bank, it is to be remembered that under the Reserve Bank Bill the Reserve Bank will be able to make loans to the Development Bank, or to any other bank, only for central banking purposes. In other words, the Reserve Bank will only be able to make such loans if they are needed for the purpose of supporting a bank’s liquidity position. This, of course, is the traditional central banking function of acting as lender of last resort to the banking system. It has always been the intention that the Development Bank would, like other banks, be able to call on the Reserve Bank only if the need arose for its liquidity to be supported, and the Government is satisfied that the provisions in the legislation relating to such borrowings go no further than to give effect to this intention.
In relation to borrowings by the Development Bank from the Treasurer, the Treasurer’s power to make loans to or deposits with the Development Bank will be subject to the appropriation of moneys by the Parliament for the purpose. The Treasurer will not otherwise have power to make moneys available to the bank.
– That is another surrender.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition calls control by Parliament over these matters a surrender. I submit that such control is of the essence of democracy, and the Government has accepted the restrictions it imposes as being in the interests of democracy and the people generally.
As is at present the case with the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments, all of the Development Bank’s profits will be paid to the bank’s reserve fund and will thus go to augmenting the bank’s resources.
There has been included in clause 83 of the bill a provision to the effect that, if they so desire, the trading banks will be appointed as agents of the Development Bank for the receipt and transmission of applications for assistance.
– Another surrender!
– Honorable members opposite are oblivious of the fact that this has been the practice applied in relation both to the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department. In other words, what we are doing is to put specifically into the legislation what has been the unchallenged practice in the banking system up to this point of time. I do not know whether that exposes the ignorance or malevolence of honorable members opposite on this particular matter.
This provision should ensure the continuance of present arrangements under which the trading banks commonly refer to the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments applications which are not suitable for trading bank loans but which the trading banks feel would be considered by those two departments. In addition, the provision will serve to ensure that the Development Bank will not discriminate between the trading banks in the choice of its agents.
I have heard honorable gentlemen opposite interject “ bad risks “ and say that we would give the Commonwealth instrumentality all the bad undertakings and so forth. Do these honorable gentlemen not recognize the need in the Australian banking system for a bank which will not be compelled to rely upon normal, orthodox and conservative banking practices? If we are to develop the land and the small businesses which have a risk element and which may be in need of capital but can demonstrate good prospects, and if we have men and women of character and capacity who cannot put up the necessary security in order to go ahead with a project that they can demonstrate has a high probability of success, do we not welcome an institution of this kind which will, I believe, fill an important gap in the present financial and banking structure of this country?
The remaining important part of the bill now before the House is that dealing with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Service. These provisions are in practically identical terms to those in the present Commonwealth Bank Act relating to the Commonwealth Bank Service, and so do not call for special comment. The allocation of officers to the new service is dealt with in the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill which I shall be explaining shortly.
I have now dealt briefly with all the more important aspects of the Commonwealth Banks Bill, which the Government considers marks a great and significant advance in the development of the Commonwealth’s banking institutions an servants of the Aus tralian community. It is therefore with great pleasure that I now commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to replace the Banking Act 1945-1953, which is the act regulating generally the conduct of banking business in Australia and making provision for the various controls that are available to the central bank for regulation of the banking system at large.
The bill makes two main changes in the existing framework of these controls. In the first place, it replaces the special accounts provisions of the present act with a system of statutory reserve deposits. Secondly, it recasts the relevant parts of the act so as to make adequate provision for the regulation of savings bank business, as required by the emergence in recent years of private savings banks. The bill also makes various adjustments necessitated by the establishment of the Commonwealth Development Bank as part of the banking system, and it effects a few relatively minor amendments of a technical character.
The provisions for a system of statutory reserve deposits are contained in clauses 17 to 31 of the bill and may be summarized as follows: -
Reserve Bank may vary the statutory reserve deposit ratio, so long as the ratio is not thereby increased above 25 per cent.;
Bank may increase the ratio above 25 per cent.;
These provisions will give the Reserve Bank ample powers of regulation of bank credit, while meeting the objections that have been made to the present special accounts system, namely that it is unnecessarily complex and is capable of being used in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. I have no doubt that as I read the provisions they seemed rather complex to honorable members sitting round the House, but those familiar with banking will, I am assured, be able to follow them much more easily than the system at present in vogue.
The main restriction that will be imposed on the Reserve Bank’s statutory reserve deposit powers will be the requirement to give 45 days’ notice of a determination of a statutory reserve deposit ratio in excess of 25 per cent. This will afford the trading banks reasonable protection against any sudden or arbitrary action that could conceivably be taken to disrupt their affairs and to attack them unfairly. The figure of 25 per cent, is clearly an adequate one for central bank purposes, as at no time since the special accounts system was revised in 1953 has the amount in special accounts exceeded 25 per cent, of the banks’ deposits. Moreover, as the Commonwealth Bank has in fact been operating the special accounts system in such a manner that each major trading bank has the same percentage of its deposits on deposit in special accounts, the express uniformity provision in the bill will present no difficulty so far as the effective use of the Reserve Bank’s powers is concerned.
I should also mention at this stage that the trading banks have agreed to continue to observe the liquidity convention which is now in operation by arrangement between themselves and the Commonwealth Bank, or such other liquidity convention as may be agreed on in future. The observance of an agreed liquidity convention, the essence of which is that the trading banks will not allow the liquid assets in their own hands to fall below an agreed level, is of the greatest importance in that it enables central bank credit policy, whether implemented through special accounts, reserve deposits or otherwise, to be planned with greater certainty of its effect on the level of bank credit in the economy.
As I have said, the bill also contains new provisions in relation to savings banks. The conditions under which the private savings banks operate, and, in particular, the ways in which they may invest their depositors’ funds, are laid down in the authorities that have been granted to them to conduct banking business. The Commonwealth Savings Bank, while not at present subject to the same detailed conditions as the private savings banks, has, in practice, observed the same conditions. Under the bill, at clauses 37 and 38, there is a requirement for certain matters in relation to savings banks to be prescribed by regulations which must apply equally to both the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks. It is proposed that the regulations will embody the- conditions now attached to the authorities of the private savings banks. In addition, the bill requires the regulations to provide that a savings bank may not maintain deposits with, or otherwise make moneys available to trading- banks, to an amount exceeding £2’,000,000, plus 2i per cent, of the savings bank’s depositors’ balances. This provision, which will also apply uniformly to the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks, will ensure that an undue proportion of savings bank funds is not channelled into ordinary commercial banking uses.
In order to make entirely sure that the Reserve Bank is kept fully aware of the investment policies of both the Commonwealth Savings Bank and- the private savings banks, there is a further provision requiring the various savings banks to keep the Reserve Bank informed of their policies in relation to loans and investments including, in particular, their policies in relation to loans for housing purposes.
Finally, as I pointed out in my speech on the Commonwealth Banks Bill, the bill now before the House contains provisions regulating the position of the new Development Bank. This bank is made subject to the provisions in the bill relating to protection of depositors, mobilization of foreign currency, advance policy, interest rate policy, the furnishing and publication of statistics, inspections by the AuditorGeneral and the supply of information to the Reserve Bank. The Development Bank will not, for reasons that I have already mentioned in connexion with the Commonwealth Banks Bill, be subject to the reserve deposits provisions, and it will not be classed as a trading bank for the purpose of the £2,000,000 plus 2i per cent, formula to which I referred earlier. 1 am entirely confident that the revision of Australia’s fundamental banking law that this bill represents will make for increased efficiency and harmony in the functioning of the banking system at large, and that it will ensure the smooth working of that system for many years to come. In this firm belief, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
, - I move -
That the bill be’ now read a second time.
This bill, as is indicated by its title, deals with those matters for which it is necessary to provide in order to effect a smooth transfer from the present to the new banking structure. It therefore contains provisions that are related to each of the three main bills I have already introduced.
Apart possibly from the provisions for the allocation of present Commonwealth Bank officers to the two new staff services, the provisions in the bill are of a machinery and technical nature and do not involve issues of principle.
The bill firstly contains provisions for ensuring that the Reserve Bank of Australia will carry on as the central bank in succession to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and that this change-over will not cause any interruption to the performance of central bank functions. The present Commonwealth Bank Board will continue in office as the Reserve Bank Board, and the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will continue in office in similar capacities with the Reserve Bank. The Note Issue and Rural Credits Departments of the Commonwealth Bank will also carry on as the Note Issue and Rural Credits Departments of the Reserve Bank.
With regard to the establishment of the reserve deposits system, it is of course important to make certain that the establishment of this system to replace the specialaccounts system will not involve any gapor period of uncertainty in the administration of the central bank’s credit policy. It is therefore provided in the bill that the Commonwealth bank may, on giving appropriate notice, determine a statutory reserve deposit ratio that will come into force on the commencing date of the new system. On that day the moneys held by the Commonwealth Bank in special accounts will necessarily be repayable to the banks concerned but, in view of the prior determination by the Commonwealth Bank, an appropriate amount will simultaneously fall due for lodgment in the statutory reserve deposit accounts held with the Reserve Bank. The provisions in the Banking Bill relating to statutory reserve deposits will thereafter apply.
The bill also provides that the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations that have been made under the Banking Act 1945- 1953 may be continued in force, following an appropriate declaration by the GovernorGeneral, and that directions previously given by the Commonwealth Bank concerning the sale and purchase of gold will continue to have legal effect.
With regard to the establisment of the Commonwealth Development Bank, it is provided in the bill that the assets and liabilities of the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank will be transferred to the Development Bank as from the date when that bank is established.
I come now to the staff provisions of the bill. Under these provisions the officers of the present Commonwealth Bank Service will become officers either of the Reserve Bank Service or of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Service. They will be allocated between the two new services by agreement between the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. I would emphasize that every effort will be made, in this allocation, to meet the wishes of individual officers, having regard to the essential requirements of both services. The bill also contains specific provisions to ensure that officers will not suffer any reduction in remuneration when they are allocated to the two new services, and that their accrued rights to superannuation, recreation leave, long service leave and sick leave will be preserved.
There is a further provision in the bill designed to meet the possibility that, after the initial allocation of officers to the two new services has been made, some subsequent transfers of officers between the two services might prove to be desirable. There will be a three months’ period after the initial allocation, during which transfers may be effected between the two services with full preservation of the rights of officers concerned.
Before concluding the general explanation of the four main bills, I should perhaps refer to the proposal that the bills, together with the ten minor bills I shall be introducing shortly, will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. As will be appreciated, the legislation involves major changes in the banking structure, and after the passing of the bills by Parliament a great deal will have to be done before the new structure can be brought into effect. Numerous rules and regulations will have to be promulgated, many appointments will have to be made, the separation of staff will have to be attended to, arrangements will have to be made for the commencement of business by the new Development Bank, and so on. It is essential that all these things be attended to with the greatest care to ensure a smooth changeover from the old structure to the new, and it will probably be some months after thepassage of the legislation before the proclamation to bring it into operation will be issued.
It will, I think, be obvious enough that the ‘Government has given the closest possible thought to the many and varied issues that are involved in the revision of the Commonwealth’s banking legislation. The sole object of the revision is to ensure that this important part of our law meets the needs of our times and will ensure the fully efficient operation of the Australian banking system. I commend this bill to the House as ‘an integral part of the measures thathave been designed to achieve those ends.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
As I indicated when introducing the Reserve Bank Bill, the reconstruction of the banking system will necessitate consequential amendments to a number of other acts of Parliament. The acts in question, ten in all, do not themselves deal with banking as such, but they contain certain banking references that will be affected by the new banking legislation.
The establishment of the Reserve Bank of Australia as the central bank in place of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia means that a number of references in other acts to the Commonwealth Bank will have to be amended so as to make them references to the Reserve Bank. There is, therefore, a provision in the Reserve Bank Bill that, except in specified cases where it would be inappropriate, all references to the Commonwealth Bank in laws of the Commonwealth or of a Territory of the Commonwealth in force immediately before the commencement of the banking legislation are to be read as references to the Reserve Bank. The ten acts that are to be specially amended are those requiring consequential amendment in ways other than the reading of references to the Commonwealth Bank as references to the Reserve Bank.
In view of the lapse of time and the passage of other legislation affecting the principal acts concerned since the bills to effect these amendments were before the last Parliament, and for other technical reasons, the long titles and a few sections of some of the amending bills have had to be altered. There is no policy significance in any of these formal changes, and I therefore do not propose to refer to them further.
In addition, it has been necessary to provide, in an entirely new bill, for certain consequential amendments to the Christmas Island Act 1958, which became law after the banking legislation was before the last Parliament. As an offset to this additional bill, however, it is no longer necessary for an amendment to be made to the Goldmining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1957 because the operation of that act in its present form will have expired before the new banking legislation comes into operation. It does not mean necessarily the substance of the legislation expires; it expires in point of time. But the Government will be giving consideration to its policy on that matter at a later date.
All the minor amending bills, with the exception of certain provisions in the Crimes Bill that are unconnected with banking, are to come into operation on the same day as the Reserve Bank Act, that is, the day on which the revised banking legislation in general comes into operation.
The bill now before the House relates to the first of the ten acts that have to be specially amended and its purpose is to make an appropriate amendment to the Audit Act 1901-1957.
Under section 70b of the Audit Act 1901-1957 the Treasurer has power to guarantee repayment to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or to the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia of loans made for the purposes of the Commonwealth by either of those banks. By the amendment now proposed, the Treasurer will be empowered to guarantee repayment of such loans to the Reserve Bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank or the Commonwealth Development Bank.
The addition of the Development Bank does not affect the present position, as loans made by the existing Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of ‘ the Commonwealth Bank for Commonwealth purposes may be guaranteed by the Treasurer, and under the new banking legislation the Development Bank will be taking over the business of those two departments.
Debated (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend section 19 of the Christmas Island Act 1958 so that its operation will not be affected by the replacement of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1953 and the Banking Act 1945- 1953 by the Reserve Bank Act 1959 and the Banking Act 1959 respectively.
Because it was considered desirable to interfere as little as possible with ordinary business transactions on Christmas Island when that island passed to the Commonwealth, provision was made in the Christmas Island Act 1958 whereby the Singapore currency which had formerly been legal tender on the island might circulate side by side with Australian currency. The bill before the House has the effect merely of making the necessary adjustments to the citations of acts and regulations in the principal act.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As the Commonwealth Bank has always operated its own scheme of long service leave benefits for its officers and employees, the latter were excluded from the operation of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act when it was enacted in 1943. The bill now before the House continues the present position in relation to officers and employees of the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which will also operate their own long service leave schemes.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make minor amendments to the provisions of the Crimes Act 1914-1955, which is the act relating to offences against the Commonwealth. The Crimes Act at present defines “ Commonwealth officer “ to include any person in the service of any public authority under the Commonwealth, and specifically to include an officer of the Commonwealth Bank. It also defines “ public authority under the Commonwealth “ to mean any authority or body constituted by or under any act, and specifically to include the Commonwealth Bank.
It is, of course, intended that officers of the two new staff services for the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will continue to be Commonwealth officers for the purposes of the Crimes Act, and that the authorities constituted under the new legislation will continue to be public authorities under the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Act. The appropriate amendment to the Crimes Act is to omit from the Act the references to the Commonwealth Bank in the definitions of “ Commonwealth officer “ and “ public authority under the Commonwealth “, and this is what the bill proposes. It is not necessary to substitute for them references to the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and its three affiliated banks because all of these institutions will unquestionably be authorities constituted under an Act and as such will automatically be covered, together with the officers employed by them, by the definitions in the Crimes Act without express mention of them in that act.
The opportunity is also being taken to amend section 2 of the Crimes Act so as to include references to section numbers in the explanation of the division of the act into parts. This amendment is purely machinery in nature and gives effect to standard procedure that has been followed in other acts. As the amendment is unconnected with the banking legislation and it is desired to bring it into force as soon as possible, the bill provides that it will come into operation on receiving the royal assent. The amendment in the bill affecting Commonwealth Bank officers will, of course, come into force on the day that the Reserve Bank Act comes into force.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief purpose of this bill is to give effect to the intention, that I explained when introducing the Commonwealth Banks Bill, of making the Commonwealth Trading Bank liable to income tax from tile beginning of the financial year in which the new banking structure comes into operation. The bill provides that, as from that time, the Commonwealth Trading Bank will pay income tax at the rates applicable to a public company, that is, on the basis of the rates for the current financial year, at 6s. 6d. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 7s. 6d. in the £1 on the balance.
A basic purpose of the new banking legislation is to ensure that the Commonwealth
Trading Bank takes its place in the competitive trading bank system on an equal footing with the private trading banks. Since the private trading banks are liable to income tax as public companies, it follows that the Commonwealth Trading Bank should also be so liable.
The liability of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to income tax will not affect the bank’s obligation to pay one-half of its net profits - which in future will be after tax - to the Commonwealth. These payments by the bank to the Commonwealth can, of course, be likened to the dividend payments that companies make to their shareholders.
I might mention that the principle involved has already been approved by Parliament in the case of the Australian National Airlines Commission and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, both of which are required by Act of Parliament to pay income tax on the same basis as their private enterprise competitors as well as to pay a share of their profits to the Commonwealth.
As I indicated in my speech on the Commonwealth Banks Bill, it is not proposed to make either the Commonwealth Savings Bank or the Commonwealth Development Bank liable to income tax, and accordingly the provisions in the bill now before the House do not affect either of those banks.
After careful deliberation, the Government has decided that it would not be appropriate to subject the Savings Bank to income tax in addition to requiring it to pay one-half of its net profits to the Commonwealth. The Savings Bank is a very special kind of national institution in that it is the depository of the savings of millions of people, and it is being given a statutory duty to encourage saving and to promote the interests of its depositors. The Government believes that it would be inconsistent with the conception of the Savings Bank in the new banking structure to make it liable to income tax. It has, moreover, to be remembered that, under the terms of agreements with the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, the Savings Bank is required to pay to the States concerned one-half of the profits it earns on its business in those States, and the Savings Bank would be placed in an unduly onerous position if it had to pay income tax in addition to the payments it is required to make to the States and to the Commonwealth.
The Government has also decided that it would not be appropriate to require the Commonwealth Development Bank to pay income tax. As we have seen, the Development Bank will have special functions and responsibilities for the achievement of national objectives, and the bank will retain all of its profits for the purpose of strengthening its capital structure. Retention by the Development Bank of all of its profits will continue the position that has hitherto obtained in the case of the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank.
Finally, I should perhaps mention that clause 4 of the bill proposes a minor amendment to section 23c of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. This section relates to the exemption from tax of certain income derived by a company from the sale of gold, and the amendment that is proposed is of technical significance only.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend section 6 (I.) of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1950 by substituting the governor of the Reserve Bank for the governor of the Commonwealth Bank as a member of the National Debt Commission. This amendment is, of course, a purely consequential one.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act 1954, the Treasurer is empowered to guarantee repayment of a portion of a loan made by a bank to the holder of a pastoral homestead lease or an agricultural lease in the Northern Territory for the purpose of financing the improvement of his leasehold property. The banks at present specified under the scheme are the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading and savings banks.
The proposed amendment removes the Commonwealth Bank and adds the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank to the specified banks. The Reserve Bank is excluded because it will function only as a central bank and will not be making loans of the type in question. The Development Bank is added because it will be the successor of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, and the making of loans by it to Northern Territory leaseholders in appropriate cases will be entirely consistent with its functions. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is being included in order to place it in the same position as private savings banks, which are already eligible banks for the purposes of the scheme. Again, no issues of substance arise in the proposals in the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make two routine amendments to the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928-1953, which is the act that preserves the existing and accruing rights of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who are appointed to positions with statutory authorities of the Commonwealth. The first of the proposed amendments is to delete from the act a reference to Commonwealth public servants who became officers of the Commonwealth Bank prior to 1928. There are no longer any officers of the Commonwealth Bank in this category, and consequently there is no need to retain the reference to them.
The second of the proposed amendments is to delete from the act a reference to persons employed under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911-1927. There are provisions in both the Reserve Bank Bill 1959 and the Commonwealth Banks Bill 1959 whereby the existing and accruing rights of ex-Public Service employees of the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will be preserved, and it is not necessary to make express provision for these employees in the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act. The two proposed amendments have no policy significance and I recommend their adoption.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make a machinery amendment in section 98 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1958 The Re-establishment and Employment Act is the act that relates to the re-establishment in civil life of members of the Forces. Division 3 of Part VI of the act provides for the making of reestablishment loans to discharged members of the Forces, and section 98 provides that agreements may be made with specified authorities for the performance by the latter of functions under Division 3.
The specified authorities referred to in the present section 98 include the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The effect of the proposals in the bill is to delete the Commonwealth Bank as a specified authority and to substitute for it the Commonwealth Development Bank. The existing reference to the Commonwealth Bank contemplated the performance by the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank of functions in relation to the making of re-establishment loans, and since the Commonwealth Development Bank is to take over these departments it is appropriate that the reference in section 98 to the Commonwealth Bank be changed to a reference to the Commonwealth Development Bank. The amendment is, of course, a purely routine consequence of the proposed establishment of the Commonwealth Development Bank, and has no other significance.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The effect of this bill will be to exempt the Reserve Bank from the payment of sales tax on goods used or produced by it, provided they are not for sale by the bank otherwise than to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Banking Corporation and its three affiliated banks will, however, be subject to sales tax.
Under the present Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act, goods produced by the Commonwealth Bank are exempt from sales tax, but goods purchased for the use of the institutions in the Commonwealth Bank group are subject to sales tax. As the normal principle is that a statutory authority which does not conduct a business ‘ undertaking in the sense of producing goods or services for sale is not required to pay sales tax, and the Reserve Bank will be in this category, these provisions require amendment in the sense I have indicated. The practical significance of the proposals is small.
That brings me, Mr. Speaker, to the end of the four main measures and the ten minor measures which together make up the banking scheme which the Government has placed before this House now, in substance, for the third time. I am indebted to honorable members for the patience with which they have listened to this highly technical series of matters, which necessarily does not admit of a very elaborate presentation within the time which the House has available to it. Honorable members will be relieved to know that there is, in printed form, a full statement of what I have put to the House to-night, bound together so that they will have the complete scheme.
I imagine that it will be the wish of all honorable members, as it was on an earlier occasion, to have one general debate, in the first instance at any rate, so that the banking proposals can be discussed together as a whole. I commend all these measures to the House, to the Parliament and to the nation, believing that in these proposals we have the opportunity - if we seize it - to promote more satisfactorily the development of Australia, and to maintain a more effective and harmonious banking system.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that the Opposition will agree to the suggestion of the Treasurer that the bills be taken in the manner in which they were discussed on the last two occasions of their presentation. It does not seem likely that they will be presented for a fourth time!
The Treasurer has prepared a brief memorandum showing the changes that have been made in this legislation compared with the earlier, rejected bills. I should like to suggest to him that, if it is possible, either the Commonwealth Bank authorities or the Treasury prepare a memorandum traversing briefly but as effectively as possible the history of the Commonwealth Bank and showing the changes that have been made from the beginning in legislation affecting the bank. I make that suggestion, because such a memorandum would give honorable members a better view of what has happened over the years, with the result that the debate could be a more informed one.
On other occasions when amending legislation of an important nature has been introduced, all governments have followed the custom of supplying a printed memorandum showing in a certain type of print the existing legislation, in another type the proposed changes, and in a third type something by way of explanation in justification of the proposed changes. The Minister certainly has a very busy week ahead of him. I do not know whether he is any more optimistic than I am about a fruitful outcome from next week’s discussions -
– Will the honorable member be praying for me?
– Oh, yes!
– Or will your colleagues be preying on me?
– It depends upon the spelling of the verb you are using. We shall not display any hostility to what the honorable gentleman may try to do, because it may be that at some time a Labour Commonwealth Treasurer will have to face the same problems and, if experience is any guide, probably be obliged to give much the same answers.
But if the Treasurer can find an opportunity to interest some of his officers in supplying, for the benefit of all honorable members, additional information on the lines I have suggested, we may have a more informed and possibly a snorter debate than might otherwise be the case, particularly at the committee stage, as some of the provisions are complicated. The Minister himself has recognized that fact, because he has addressed himself to-night to an elucidation of some of the more intricate provisions of particular clauses of the amending legislation.
– by leave - I shall certainly consider the request made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As he has very rightly and accurately pointed out, because of the holding of the Premiers conference here next week a particularly heavy programme is ahead of senior officers of the Treasury. But if it is possible to meet the suggestion of the honorable member, we shall certainly do so.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of the Australian National University Act 1946-47, the House of Representatives elects Mr. Beazley and Mr. Joske to fill casual vacancies on the council of the Australian National University until 30th June, 1960, and to continue as members of the council until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following resolutions: -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 4 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That Senators Cole, Maher, Pearson,
Vincent and Wordsworth be members of such joint committee.
That until such time as the two remaining vacancies for members of the Senate on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Senators Robertson and Scott, be members of the committee.
Debate resumed (vide page 375).
– Mr. Deputy Speaker and honorable members, in this my maiden speech in the House of Representatives I want, first, to tell the people of Indi that I appreciate fully the great honour and tremendous responsibility of representing them in the Federal Parliament. They can be certain that their problems will be my problems and that they will receive diligent attention.
I wish to offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) upon having led this coalition Government to victory in the recent election. The result of the election can only be regarded as a vote of confidence in the policies and the results achieved by the Menzies-Fadden Administration over the past nine years. I would like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to convey my congratulations to Mr. Speaker upon his re-election for a second term, and to offer my congratulations to the right honorable member for Hunter (Dr. Evatt) upon his re-election as Leader of the Opposition. I offer my congratulations, too, to other new members upon their success in being elected to the Parliament and offer my best wishes for a successful and fruitful term.
I intend briefly to give my thoughts on the following subjects: - Education, petrol tax, housing, foreign policy, decentralization and primary production. These are all matters which concern both the people living in the electorate of Indi and the progress of the nation as a whole. Before proceeding to deal with those subjects, I wish to give the House an outline of the nature of the primary and secondary industries of the Indi electorate. In the primary production field we have dairying, wheat, wool, cattle, hops, barley, maize, oats, vineyards and pine plantations at Bright,
Corryong and Myrtleford, while tobacco is grown at Myrtleford and in the King Valley.
On the secondary industry side, there are the chain and clothing factories at Benalla, the great masonite corporation at Eildon, a number of timber mills in various centres, plus the establishments of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited and Wangaratta Woollen Mills Limited, and smallgoods factories, at Wangaratta. There are also similar industries in other towns. It can be seen, Mr. Speaker, that I have the honour to represent an electorate that could be said to be an important part of Australia.
Dealing with the subject of education, while it is realized that State governments are primarily responsible for the early education of our children, the Federal Government still has an important role to play. There is no question that in the forthcoming years it will be necessary for every young person to receive some kind of technical education if it is at all possible to give it. We should see that, wherever possible, the best use is made of the minds of our brilliant young men. Particularly close consideration must be given by the Government to the possibility of enticing the best available talent into the fields of research, to enable us to keep pace with the strong nations of the world. The granting of suitable scholarships and the payment of adequate salaries, depending on the importance of the particular field of research, are two ways of showing that we appreciate the value of the work done.
I now turn to the matter of petrol tax. I realize that the distribution of this form of revenue is due for revision very shortly, and I think it is fair to say that the Menzies-Fadden Administration had been steadily increasing its allocation to the States under a certain formula, until last year the total reached 66 per cent, of all revenue derived from the petrol tax. However, I am certain that the States are quite justified in expecting to receive the whole of this tax, after administration costs have been taken out.
With regard to the formula under which this money is distributed, while due consideration must be given to our various needs from a national point of view, there must be a realistic recognition of the needs and entitlement of Victoria. Of course, there must be full provision for the requirements of those people who are pioneering difficult areas of this country, but it is felt in Victoria that that State has not been treated quite fairly.
The provision of adequate housing, I feel, represents a serious problem for honorable members of this Parliament, eventhough the Menzies-Fadden Administrationhas a record that compares favorably with the record of the previous government. Inthe five years prior to the MenziesFadden Government coming to power, £109,000,000 was spent on housing by the Labour Government. In the following five years the Menzies-Fadden Administration provided £329,000,000 for housing. I suggest that this is a pretty fair effort and compares favorably with that of the previous government. However, I believe the Government would be wise to investigate the possibility of giving greater assistance to young people who marry and desire to own their own homes. If a couple is granted a marriage loan at a low interest rate, the know-: ledge that every repayment they make brings them closer to owning their own home would make for a more contented marriage and a better environment for their children, and would give the young couple a tangible stake in their particular town or city, and also in Australia. Of course, it would be reasonable to expect that young people approaching the marrying stage would help to provide for themselves by saving.
On the subject of foreign policy, it is my opinion, and, I think, that of most other people, that the problems involved in deciding Australia’s foreign policy are complex and vital ones. They will have to be met with courage, resource and intelligence. We must certainly assess the tremendous value of the friendship of Great Britain and the United States of America to our security, but we must also consider the particular problems with which we are faced due topur geographical location in relation to millions of underprivileged people who do not enjoy our high standard of living. While giving full attention to the policies dealing with our special circumstances, we must, of course, work in close association with our great allies. I suggest that we should not forget that our population and strength are not sufficient to entitle us to throw our weight around.
It is most important for us to remain on friendly terms with our neighbours in the Near and Far East, if for no other reasons than their tremendous population significance and the fact that they have human problems to the solution of which we must contribute if we can. These huge populations - for instance the 85,000,000 in Indonesia alone - represent potentially good customers for our export trade, provided that their financial position can be improved in some way, and I realize that there are many problems connected with that aspect. But I do believe that we should consider some means of stimulating reciprocal trading activities, even if only with Indonesia at first.
An alert watch must be kept on the activities of communism, both at home and abroad. The danger to the rest of the world of this ever-spreading menace is very real, and there is no question that the aim is world domination. Australia must be prepared to play its part in demonstrating to the underprivileged peoples, to Whom communism could have some appeal, that our way of life is the best.
On the home front I cannot stress too strongly the importance of decentralization. The meaning which I give tothis word is the building up and increasing of the size of towns and cities outside an area within a 40-mile radius of our capital cities. There may be isolated cases of secondary industries establishing plants in places outside those areas, but in practically 99 per cent. of cases worthwhile new industries establish themselves within 40 miles of the major capital cities. So we see the size of our five major cities on the mainland of Australia rapidly increasing, whilst development inland merely crawls along, and the drift of young people to the big cities becomes more pronounced each year. In every country town there are more and more worried parents who have to decide whether they should sever connexions with the towns in which they live and move to the capital cities in order to look after their children while they are trying to improve their education, which is such a vital matter for this country. Last year Sydney’s population increased by 54,000 and Melbourne’s by 46,000. The increased population in those two cities alone represented the number of people that one would find in about five or six decent sized country towns.
In the event of a hostile attack on our five or six strategic targets, more than half the population of Australia would be within the target area, and all our major hospitals and most essential services would be liable to be destroyed. To my mind, whether decentralization is the responsibility of the federal or State governments - and I am certain that it is a federal responsibility, because this Government has the responsibility of developing the whole continent- r the question to be answered is this: Does the Government really believe in the principle of developing inland centres, or does it maintain that the growth of only five centres is sufficient to ensure a safe and prosperous future? Either the Government subscribes to the principle or it is against it. If it subscribes to it, as it must, let us have some concrete action, either in the form of substantial allowances to industries and pioneer settlers, or by the creation of new States, or by taxation concessions to industries which establish, or are prepared to establish, themselves in inland centres.
That an industry can operate successfully inland has been proved by results. Industrial plants operating in country areas report greater productivity, as well as less absenteeism and sickness, due to conditions existing in country towns. They have also had an excellent financial record in most cases. I am not putting forward a case merely for my own town or my own electorate, but for the development of inland centres generally, because this is vital to the defence and development of Australia. In my own town and in a lot of other country towns are organizations of people who try to help their own localities by encouraging the development of industries. They give every assistance they can with data about the area.
Many words have been spoken over the years about the conditions of the working man. There is no doubt that the Labour party did a great job for the working man in the first half of this century by the establishment of trade unions and the introduction of arbitration courts and other advantages. However, a statement in a Wodonga newspaper that the Labour party is the only party that has done or can do anything for the working man interested me considerably. I do not believe this to be correct.
Members of the Menzies-McEwen Administration should take pains to see that the worker is made well aware of what the Menzies-Fadden Administration did over the past nine years to help him. We all appreciate the importance of the working man to the Australian nation and we intend to help him to improve his standard of living and see that he receives a fair go.
The last and most important matter with which I wish to deal is the subject of primary production and the man on the land. I want it clearly understood that the Australian Country party does not represent the primary producer alone. It maintains a national outlook and represents every person living in a rural area, regardless of his occupation. However, the primary producer has earned, in the past, an average of 80 per cent, of our export income - and that is a minimum average - and he will earn a similar proportion for as many years as we can see into the future. We depend, as a number of honorable members have said in this debate, on our export income for our rate of progress and national development. So, every Australian cannot help but recognize the vital importance of the farmer, and must admit that he forms the backbone of the nation’s economy.
Two spheres of primary production which are facing difficulty at the moment are the dairying and the wool industries. The establishment of extension services and the subsequent advice available to dairyfarmers would be of great assistance. In addition, a scheme which is in operation in the United Kingdom of long-term grants for capital improvement in farms is worthy of investigation. Under another scheme operating in the United Kingdom, shorter term loans are granted for soil conservation, water conservation and fertilization. Those schemes are worthy of consideration to help the dairy-farmer.
I feel that the aim of the dairying industry should be to increase the sales of butter in Australia. Also - and I know that this is easier said than done - I think that all possible steps should be taken to increase efficiency on the farm. After all, a farm to-day is just as much a business as is any other commercial undertaking.
One of the greatest difficulties facing the farmers is that their costs are fixed or even rising, whereas their incomes are decreasing. Most costs rose when the very good wool prices prevailed about eight or nine years ago and they have not come down. In fact, they continue to rise. One of these high costs is the price of superphosphate. I ask the Government to consider restoring the bounty on superphosphate. Developing this subject, it is important to point out that a bounty was paid for many years, up to the 1950-51 season when wool prices boomed. The bounty was then discontinued and the price of superphosphate rose to £8 ls. a ton. The price is now £12 5s. a ton plus an average of £1 10s. a ton freight. This is typical of the rising costs that have been experienced by the primary producer over the last eight or nine years. I urge the Government to restore the bounty on superphosphate of £2 5s. a ton which was paid to the primary producer in 1950.
I feel that some reason should be given for a request such as this. I have already mentioned, high production costs. But one of the most important reasons, as was mentioned by an honorable member last night, is the need to increase our primary production by 66 per cent, over the next five years or so. The only way in which any major increase can be achieved in a large area of Australia - not all over Australia - is by the application of more superphosphate. This will produce the subterranean clover that is essential for pasture improvement from which higher production will follow. This arrangement, I suggest, should not be one-sided. The farmer must be prepared to help himself, and I do think that the Government would gain an extra return of revenue that would largely offset the cost of any bounty.
To strike an optimistic note, may I say that it is certain that the much needed Development Bank will prove a tremendous help to primary producers as well as to other sections of the community. However, the Government must take due care to ensure that sufficient funds are provided to enable the Development Bank to function successfully.
The Postmaster-General has commented quite a lot this week on the establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges. It is most convenient for people in the country to have these exchanges and we know that the electors may rest assured that the PostmasterGeneral will expedite their installation over the next few years.
I should like to conclude by saying that Australia and Australians have taken their place with the best in the world in a wide variety of fields. Provided we, the Federal Parliament of Australia - and that includes everybody in this House - use common sense and apply our financial resources wisely I am certain we will forge ahead. But we must be prepared to pull together, to work hard, and to set an example to the nation, particularly to the young people. We must remain loyal to the British Commonwealth of Nations and to Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, and above all, be honest in all our dealings with other countries. Mistakes may be made but if we have acted honestly and in a fair dinkum Australian manner’ I am certain that God will watch over us and give us His protection which is the force that I have no doubt will be the deciding factor in our future.
.- First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 wish to congratulate you on your election to the office that you hold, and I ask you to be good enough to pass on my congratulations to Mr. Speaker on his election. I express my thanks to those honorable members on both sides of the House who have wished me well in my membership of this National Parliament, and I say “ Thank you “ to the electors of Barton for their goodness in returning me as their member for the next three years. I hope that I may have a term of office comparable to that of my predecessor, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who represented the Barton electorate with great distinction and high status for a period of eighteen years. The services of the right honorable gentleman in this Parliament and in world councils are well known, and I only wish to say that the electors of Barton appreciate the kind of service that he gave during the time that he was their representative.
It is my intention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to speak on some subjects that have already been canvassed considerably during this debate. One of them, namely education, which has been touched on by almost every previous speaker, is a subject in which I have a special interest, having been an educationist practising in the field of education before I came to this Parliament. Therefore, I ask honorable members to accept that what I have to say on this matter will be said with a little modest authority, in that I have been practising in the field of secondary education, teacher training, technical education and adult education. Of course, I was trained for that job at a university.
The significance of education is clearly shown, I think, by the large national conferences that have been held within the last twelve or eighteen months. Indeed, a very large conference was held here in Canberra last year. That conference was representative not only of organizations such as parents’ and citizens’ associations and mothers’ clubs, but also of various other organizations in the community that have shown increasing interest in the subject and recognition of the fundamental part played by education in a modern, democratic society. I do not think it is without significance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that two of the new members elected to this Parliament - the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) and I - are educationists. To me, that indicates a growing conviction within the community that education must be given much more attention by the Federal Parliament than it has hitherto enjoyed.
I say to all those good people - individuals and organizations alike - who have shown such interest, that there is a need for a continuing and persistent campaign in this matter. Therefore, I make no apology whatever for speaking on this topic that has already, as I have said, been canvassed fairly widely during the debate. It is, of course, also a topical question at this time of the year. People are inclined to think of education as a problem involving only schools, school buildings, school materials, teachers, and the children within the schools, but there is another aspect of it, one that affects the parents in providing for their children to attend schools. Gone are the days, I think, if they ever existed, when we could talk about free education. Any parent who has to send youngsters to school to-day, or to transfer children from one school to another, knows the terrific cost that that involves. The provision of books, equipment, uniforms, sports fees, library fees, book-lending fees and the like, makes a heavy demand on the parent who wants to see his child get a fair go.
Because of the state of education to-day, there is the further burden that many parents feel compelled to try to meet - that of obtaining coaching for their children outside the formal school arrangements. We on this side of the House feel that there is an urgent necessity for every child in the community to have an equal opportunity to develop his or her talents to the fullest possible extent. Whenever parents have to depend on their own resources to send their children to coaching classes in order to. supplement their formal education, it must be readily seen that that is not equal opportunity.
This question is topical also because, within the next week, we are to have a Premiers conference. I hope that the question of education will take a high place on the agenda for that conference. The plea has been made, and I want to repeat it in this House on behalf of professional educators, that the Commonwealth should take the initiative in conducting a nation-wide inquiry to find out the needs of primary, secondary and technical education in Australia, and that, in the interim, as an emergency measure, the Commonwealth should provide urgently needed aid for the States with a view to overcoming the crisis, as it has been truly called, in education. It is not only in this country that that kind of plea is being made. Pleas for federal assistance for education are being made under other federal systems and other forms of government elsewhere in the world. But before I refer to a very spectacular and dramatic appeal that has been made in the United States, I wish to remind the House that a good deal of our problem in education to-day derives from the immigration programme of this self-same federal Parliament. As a matter of fact, I think that each member of the Parliament has received a copy of a letter sent by the New South Wales Teachers Federation to the Prime Minister on this matter. That letter states -
The unprecedented increase in public school enrolments, arising from post-war live-births and migration; the progression of thousands of additional children from the primary to the more specialized secondary and technical levels; the higher educational standards essential as the result of scientific, technological and social advances; are all making impossible demands on the States’ financial resources.
Although the New South Wales Government this year has made record allocations (55 per cent, of tax reimbursements and £10,250,000 from funds) the simple fact is that these are insufficient to provide adequate educational services.
The letter goes on to state, and I think that all honorable members will concur, that-
All other States are in a similar position.
Last year, a nation-wide preliminary survey was conducted into the needs of education. I do not intend, at this time of the night, to refer in any detail to the findings, but in New South Wales the findings resulted from an independent survey by Mr. H. S. W. Philp, who is the senior lecturer in education in the University of Sydney. Amongst other things, Mr. Philp found that if we look at the number of classes consisting of more than 30 children, which is the maximum number that he considers desirable for teaching purposes, we have the astonishing total of 500,000 children who are not being properly educated. As a practising teacher, I can vouch for the fact that a parent who expects a teacher to teach a class of 40, 50 or more pupils is only deluding himself. When it gets to that kind of proportion it becomes more a case of child-minding than education.
I have said that that finding was not peculiar to New South Wales. In Victoria a survey this year showed there were 547 classes with 50 or more pupils. Included in that number were 57 secondary classes. In Tasmania a recent survey showed that there were 120 classes in primary schools with more than 50 pupils. It is a disgrace that a Commonwealth Government which has so much money to spend on such things as national service training cannot provide adequately for the education of our children. In Western Australia it was found that there were 407 classes of between 50 and 60 pupils. No wonder parents feel obliged to send their children to professional colleges outside so that they can make up for what they have lost as a result of overcrowding in the schools. I think it is fair to acknowledge that every State government, irrespective of its political colour, is doing the best possible under the present financial arrangements to provide adequate schools, teachers and equipment for the children.
As I said earlier, an appeal was made in the United States of America by the Honorable William Benton, who is the publisher of the “ Encyclopaedia Brittanica “, an American publication, in an address to the National Association of State Universities in America. This appeal was made to them on 7th May, 1956. This educated American had just visited educational institutions in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and what he saw there urged him on his return to America to speak with utter alarm about how America, comparably, was catering for education. He was making a plea for federal aid in the United States of America, just as we are now asking for help in Australia. His was an urgent plea to the central government of the United States of America to match the educational efforts of the U.S.S.R. He recognized that not only was education fundamental to the military balance of power in the world, but more importantly, it was also the basis of economic power and competitiveness in the world.
It is no good this Government urging the Australian people to produce and be able to sell competitively unless it is prepared to undertake the fundamental task of providing trained, skilled people in the community who will be able to produce the goods. Tied up with military and economic might, of course, is the ideological battle for men’s minds. Mr. Benton, who was an assistant secretary in the American Government, said -
Let me confess . that having been in government and education off and on for two decades, I do not share the widespread fear of the Federal Government that seems to grip and even to terrorize so many people in education.
He went on -
Education is now clearly and dramatically involved with national defence and national survival and defence is a constituted federal function.
He then referred to some of the things that he saw in the U.S.S.R. which impressed him with the fact that the government there recognized the powerful influence and importance of education. He referred to the Soviet producing almost three times as many new engineers as America. He said that in the present five-year plan, 4,000,000 graduate technicians are expected to pour out of Soviet institutions by 1960. He added -
Most assuredly a substantial bloc will be exported.
That is a substantial bloc of those 4,000,000 technicians. He went on -
They are new-type front-line troops . . . Central to this plan is the schooling for export of scores of thousands of indoctrinated and capable technicians of all kinds.
That is the kind of emphasis that impressed him. He said, further -
So potent is this plan as to make military manoeuvring seem by comparison tactical and even diversionary.
As further evidence of this tremendous national emphasis upon education in the U.S.S.R., Mr. Benton pointed out -
By 1960 the basic ten-year school is to be compulsory everywhere; in spite of acute labour shortages, by 1960 all children are to be kept in school from 7 to 17.
In Australia one mainland State, New South Wales, is at present providing compulsory education up to fifteen years of age. Victoria has legislated for a school-leaving age of fifteen years but is still unable to implement that measure owing to lack of finance. These examples show the difference between the two systems of education. Mr. Benton went on -
The U.S.S.R. has already surpassed the U.S. both in the number and percentage of students enrolled in institutions above the secondary level.
In 1955, there were 4,300,000 students receiving education above the secondary level. In other words, in Russia they are producing 70 per cent, more graduates from their universities, institutes and tekknikums than is the United States of America. Here is a central government at work very purposefully and very definitely on a programme of this kind. Mr. Benton had this to say -
We Americans are now awaking with a start to discover that from the earliest days the Soviets have not only given up butter for guns but they have given up meat for education.
Although I do not suggest that we are trying to emulate the Russian example, it seems that we will have to review our priority in these matters. When one considers, for example, that in 1957-58 Australians spent four times as much on beer, cigarettes and tobacco as was spent on education - that is all kinds of education, the figures being £101,000,000 as against £419,000,000- this should awaken our consciences in the same way as Mr. Benton suggested that the American conscience should be awakened to the utter importance being placed on education in other parts of the world.
If we are interested and anxious, as we say we are, in taking our place in the international sphere then we, too, have to try to impress upon the National Government the fact that it is high time something very substantial was done along the lines requested by various parents and citizens’ organizations and a multitude of other organizations in our community. My final quotation from Mr. Benton’s remarks is as follows: -
The wastage of potential manpower we tolerate here in the U.S. would be unthinkable in the U.S.S.R.
We can refer to our own figures in Australia on this matter. I believe that of all the children who go to secondary schools, each year on an average only eight out of every 100 successfuly complete the secondary education course. That does not hold out much hope of producing for all kinds of research, or all the necessities of an atomic age, or an age of automation, all the scientists, technologists and assistants this country will require if it is to take its place among the modern countries of the world and give reality to this “ Australia Unlimited “ concept. He went on to say -
Further characterizing this national dedication to education is the university of Moscow (one of 33 universities in the U.S S R.) - the University of Moscow which dominates the Soviet capital with its gleaming new 33-storey central tower dedicated to the sciences.
I ask honorable members to note particularly the following comment: -
It contains 1,900 laboratories.
This is one university -
Here work most of the 2,000 professors of the university of Moscow who teach students. Here too are the 500 scholars dedicated to research, from whom no teaching is expected.
There is something of the problem that confronts us. If we are to match this kind of purpose in our own country we have to sell to the National Parliament and the people of Australia an idea of the utter necessity and utter importance of education at all levels. It was very worthy of the Parliament last year to adopt the recommendations of the Murray Report at the tertiary or university education level. As has been mentioned here before, such a contribution at the tertiary level is going to be drastically limited in its effectiveness unless there is provision for Australians who have not the economic means at the moment to go on and complete their secondary education. Then they may be able to equip themselves for all of the research jobs that we are going to ask of them in the future. There have been suggested many solutions of these problems and in the very few minutes left to me I shall refer only briefly to them in the hope that I will have an opportunity on a future occasion to expand them.
There is a possibility at the forthcoming Commonwealth-States conference to do something about this problem, but I would say that, for one thing, the federal Government will have to do something about this business of finance whereby the Commonwealth Government appropriates to itself millions of pounds for public works - capital works - free of any kind of interest, while on the other hand it lends to the States a proportion of the surplus revenue it has obtained by taxes from the people, on which it charges the States interest. Let us consider the kind of situation in which Victoria’s public debt has increased by £316,000,000 over the last nine years, while the public debt of New South Wales has increased by £319,000,000. Tasmania’s public debt has gone up by £100,000,000. Yet, the public debt of the Commonwealth has actually decreased by £87,000,000. That kind of thing has to be rectified.
I believe that the Chifley Government, prior to going out of office in 1949, made a survey in connexion with a system of scholarships for selected secondary school students. We have scholarships at the tertiary level and the suggestion is that there should be something at the secondary school level. Let us also consider child endowment. There should be no problem for this Parliament in that respect. It is a direct responsibility accepted - nominally accepted - by the Commonwealth Parliament, yet no increases have been granted in child endowment for the second and subsequent children in a family since 1948 - ten years ago! The Commonwealth has to make up its mind. Does it believe in this kind of aid, or does it not? At the moment it certainly gives the impression that it does not. Tax rebate provisions have been provided, and possibly they could be increased, but my experience is that such provisions would not help the people most in need of help. Then there is the matter of the extension of the services of the Commonwealth Office of Education. Here again, I do not believe that the Government has used the Office of Education to anything like the extent that it could use it. I say that there is a need for orderly, purposeful development of educational facilities on a national scale.
I hope that my contribution to-night will help in some way the valiant organizations in the community which have at heart the interests of our children and the development of Australia, so that it will be able to take its place amongst the most modern countries in the world as the result of having received urgently needed national help in the matter of education at all levels.
.- It is rather a coincidence that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) selected as his subject a matter with which I intend to deal in my speech to-night. I could not but congratulate him on the way in which he tackled it, and I should like to say that it is a double relief, because we have heard to-night from the honorable member for Barton some positive suggestions, and also some understandable arguments which we did not hear from his predecessor in this seat.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to congratulate our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - although naturally he cannot be here at present - on his fifth victory and also on one extra victory in the Senate in 1953 which came about because of the double dissolution of the Parliament. To-day, electioneering is very hard, because it is conducted in three dimensions. Television has come in, and that supplies a new technique. The Prime Minister, by his honest and straightforward policy, won with straight talks.
Other elections are pending, and television will be used again. I should like to say here that I think that the other technique is deplorable. I refer to the case in which there is a large audience who cannot direct any questions; they cannot heckle or do anything else. The form is that you have your stooge who asks questions, and then the prepared answers are produced. There is no mention that the questioner is not the chairman, as it were, as with “ Meet the Press “, but an ordinary organizer of a party. I think that the victory was, therefore, even greater than it might have been.
Many new members of this Parliament have entered the lists of speakers early in this debate. Some have entered it with meekness, others with boldness, but each has done a very good job in contributing his little piece. I should like to mention especially the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), who made a very good speech when he opened this debate, and also the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), who was delightfully refreshing. I think that from the new members we may expect much.
The Governor-General’s Speech was not exciting, but it was very sound. Defence, which is of importance nowadays, was mentioned. This subject has been dealt with quite frequently in this House during the last few days. His Excellency’s references to our economy and our trade were very necessary, but as I am not an expert in those fields I shall not make any comment on them. In respect of social services, in which, as everybody knows, I am very interested, His Excellency made exactly the same promises as the Prime Minister made in his election policy speech. He said that it would be constantly under review, and I know perfectly well that this will be the case. In spite of the attacks on the Minister for Social Services, the honorable gentleman is not the hard-hearted man he is painted as being and he does his very best in his portfolio.
I have said frequently in this House that we need new lines of thinking in relation to social services as well as to other matters. In the social services field the thinking has always been along the line of how much it would cost the revenue to increase pensions by an extra half-crown or 5s. I do not think that my advocacy had anything to do with the innovation, but I was very pleased when the Minister for Social Services showed evidence of a new line of thinking when he introduced the provision for an extra allowance of 10s. a week for single pensioners paying rent.
I wish to deal to-night with two very controversial subjects. The Premiers are coming here next week for a meeting of the Loan Council and a Premiers conference. After those meetings are over, all their plans will be known. I hope that we will see some useful developments from those meetings in relation to the subject mentioned by the last speaker - education. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said that the meeting of the Premiers might be the turning point in respect of legislation dealing with education. The Government of my State, Victoria, devotes a very high percentage of its total revenue to education, but it is definitely not enough for the purpose. I fully realize that before the last federal election and the last Victorian election the big push on education - one could almost call it a pogrom - was inspired by the Opposition in each case, and I am sorry to say that in my electorate a certain amount of Communistic propaganda came into it.
Education is a most important subject, because our future is dependent on the young. The number of children in Australia is increasing every year both as the result of natural increase and of the immigration programme. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) also asked for increased help in relation to education. His suggestion, however, was to make greater grants to the States or to increase tax reimbursements. I do not say that if New South Wales were granted more money it would not necessarily spend the extra money on education, but we have no guarantee that it would do so. I am not making a plea for nationalization of schooling. God forbid! That would be the most awful thing that could happen. Different states and different places have their own lines of thinking in regard to education. But we need a new line of thought on the subject. We make grants to universities. We also provide school children with free milk, although that may be said to be designed to help the dairying industry. We also allow concessional rebates of tax to parents of school children. Meanwhile new schools are being built, though not enough of them. There are in my electorate several schools which are forced to hire scout halls to accommodate classes, and such accommodation is not to be had cheaply. At the same time, the old schools are becoming more dilapidated and are deteriorating. Many of the new schools are not yet finished. They are without playgrounds and amenities. Some schools are turning to the parents of the school children who are members of the parents’ and citizens’ associations to find money for them. The parents’ and citizens’ associations are formed of taxpayers whose children receive a basically free education, but the parents have to raise large sums of money for equipment for schools and so on. Even the money they raise is not enough for that purpose. New lines of thinking are necessary, and I hope that something of that sort will come from next week’s meeting of the Premiers.
I can suggest two new approaches to education which might be made. We all admit that the scheme for subsidies to help in the building of homes for the aged has been one of the most successful measures that the Government has introduced. Although I would not suggest that the same amount of subsidy, on a percentage basis, be paid in relation to the building of schools, I think that some subsidy might be paid to the States to help them with school building. No risk would be involved, because no State would embark on a construction programme merely for the sake of obtaining a little extra money from the Commonwealth. Alternatively, grants made by the Commonwealth to help the States to build schools could be on a per capita basis, according to the number of children to be educated. These grants could be made to the States or even direct to schools.
While I am on the subject of education, I should like to say a few words about doing something to help the public schools of this country. Many people prefer to send their children to public schools. Australia is a young and rapidly expanding country, and has not existed as a nation long enough for public schools to grow up naturally as they have grown up over the centuries, for instance, in Britain. To-day costs are absolutely prohibitive, and it is very difficult for the public schools to expand. They appeal for funds to old boys and parents, but with costs of building as high as they are, even though gifts to the schools are tax free, the public schools cannot get enough money for new buildings.
The chief objection that some people have to making grants to public schools is that many of the public schools are denominational. But without the churches there would be almost no schools of that nature in Australia to-day. Surely we are old enough now not to be bigoted. After all, religious persecution has long ceased. The public schools take countless children who otherwise would be in State schools, at a cost of millions of pounds to the public revenue for the accommodation required for them. So any new approach to the problem of education could well include the provision of some help to public schools. People from the older parts of the world come here and wish to send their children to that kind of school. What must they think of us when they find that they are not able to do so because we have not enough public school accommodation in this country?
Now I come to a matter which is very controversial. There are possibly on both sides of the House numbers of members who will think that I am a traitor for saying what I am about to say. At the moment there is a much maligned, but very competent and fair committee, which is examining the question of the salaries of the members of this Parliament. I hope that this committee will produce a new approach and not just think along the lines of how much extra can be paid out in parliamentary salaries. I say quite definitely that I am against a rise. I admit that there are only 124 of us here, and 60 senators, and that we are chosen out of 10,000,000 people. But that does not make us supermen. 1 know that if other people stood against me in my electorate I would not have a chance. It is said that higher parliamentary salaries would attract a better class of people to parliamentary life. I do not know that that would be the case. Higher salaries might easily attract a lower type. We came here on our present salaries, and I say that we should, anyhow for the time being, be content with them.
– On a point of order: Is the honorable member in order in discussing the subject-matter of an inquiry which is now taking place?
– The honorable member is not discussing the subject-matter of any inquiry. He is giving information on the matter he mentioned, which is quite in order in a debate on the Address-in-Reply.
– To my knowledge, this matter is not before the courts, and I am not reading from the “ Hansard “ report of a current debate. Various matters must be taken into consideration: first, the hAe of the person on election to this Parliament; secondly, the stability of the seat he holds - whether it is safe or a “ swinger “; and, thirdly, and probably most importantly, the length of time he may expect to remain in Parliament. If a man comes to this House while still young, he receives a higher salary than he would receive at the commencement of his service in outside industry. If he remains in Parliament for only a short period, he receives valuable experience that he can put to good use when he returns to his previous job. If a man comes to this House when he is comparatively advanced in years, he has fewer commitments to meet, he has “ found a niche in the community for himself and, if necessary, he can return to the position he held prior to his election. Those members who hold safe seats continue indefinitely in Parliament. Some rise to Cabinet rank, and if the government of which they are members is defeated they return to the Opposition side of the House. Undoubtedly, many very able men who are at present occupying the Opposition benches would hold a Cabinet post if their party were in office. Honorable members are interjecting. It is interestto note that all the interjections are coming from honorable members opposite who are trying to prevent me from saying what I want to say.
I shall now deal with the swinging seats. If a man loses his seat after one term in Parliament, not much harm has been done to him; but if he has been successful in remaining in Parliament for two, three or even four terms and is then defeated, his return to his previous occupation becomes all the more difficult. The life of a member of Parliament is not by any means the sort of life that the average person in the electorates thinks it to be. We do more work than persons outside this Parliament imagine. Further, many of us are here at great personal cost. A newspaper in my electorate suggested recently that anybody who is doing a good job in Canberra would have no chance of obtaining a job in his home town. That is completely wrong. Members of the Parliament work hard, and if they do not do their job well they are quickly replaced.
The committee should indulge in some original thinking and recommend that parliamentary salaries be paid on an incremental scale to bring them into line with the salaries of employees in industry generally. Men in the armed forces, in offices, and in the Public Service, are all paid on an incremental scale. Unless we do the job we are elected to do, we are not reelected to Parliament. If we were employed at a salary based on a sliding scale, we would be recompensed to some extent by having received a comparatively high salary when the electors decide that they do not want us to represent them any longer. Most of the electors have the impression that members of Parliament do not pay income tax. Of course that impression is wrong. But, if parliamentarians were to receive a portion of their salary free of tax, a better type of person would be attracted to Parliament because members then would not be required to carry the additional tax burden that follows from the higher salary many of them receive on election to this House.
I realize that my remarks may sound silly to some honorable members, but they are worthy of consideration. I have given up quite a good deal to come to this place. When I leave, I shall be satisfied that I have worked hard and served my country and my electors well. I am quite happy to continue to serve the people at the salary I contracted to accept on election to the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cope) adjourned.
Superannuation- War Widows’ PensionsAborigines.
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As the Government adopts the practice of closing this Parliament on any pretext that presents itself, members of the Opposition are obliged to take every opportunity to bring to the notice of the House, and to the community generally, some of the outrageous actions perpetrated by this Government in its administration of various departments. I venture the opinion that no member of this House would attempt to justify the attitude of the responsible department, or of the Government, in the case which I am about to mention.
As honorable members are aware, if a public servant retires and after retirement marries, and subsequently predeceases his wife, his widow receives no pension. The pension dies with the retired person. That is the law. The case I am about to mention is unusual, and because it is unusual I thought that the Government or the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) or the Superannuation Board might examine it. If an amendment of the act or regulations is necessary to provide a pension for the person concerned, I thought that the Government would have the good sense to take action on those lines. The facts of the case are these: A man retired from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department after many years service and received a pension of £9 15s. a fortnight. Before retirement he divorced his wife, but after retirement he re-married her. He subsequently died. If the man had not divorced his wife, she would have qualified for a pension, but because they were divorced prior to his retirement the department will not allow the widow the pension she would otherwise be qualified to receive. I need hardly mention that the man had contributed to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund for many years prior to his retirement.
For the Government to adopt the stand that this case does not come within the ambit of the act cannot be regarded by any honorable member as a satisfactory conclusion. I do not lay the blame for the Government’s action on the Superannuation Board because it is bound by the act. However, I have knowledge of other cases which have been regarded by the department concerned as having some merit, and the Government has made a payment to the widow as an act of grace, but it has not done so in this instance.
– What has the honorable member done about it?
– I have done everything possible. I have brought the case to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Superannuation Board and now, as a last resort, I am obliged to mention it in the Parliament because, to my mind, it is outrageous that this widow should be denied a pension. I have no objection to giving the Treasurer the woman’s name and address and any other relevant details. I am determined that this matter shall not rest until this widow has received justice. Every government, irrespective of its political colour, is bound to see that every citizen receives just treatment. If it does not do so, it should be exposed. I hope the Government will take appropriate action in this case. If some slight amendment to the act is necessary, why not amend it? This case, on the evidence submitted, is unusual. Should the law not provide for unusual cases? If the law does not so provide, the Government should amend it to see that justice is done.
I want to turn now to another injustice permitted by this Government through its administration of the Repatriation Department. This is the case of a war widow and I will set out the circumstances. The unfortunate ex-serviceman committed suicide, and because of that the repatriation authorities say that his death is not attributable to war service, although it is quite evident that he committed suicide because he was worried about his condition. He had had four years’ service, almost all of it overseas, and had suffered shrapnel wounds to both eyes. Shortly before his death, he was advised that the medical opinion was that within a month or two he would be completely blind. Worry about this condition and about those dependent upon him led to his suicide. It is admitted that his eye condition was due to war service and it was worry about the fact that he was going blind that brought about a condition of mind in which he took his life. Yet the authorities say that because he committed suicide his death was not attributable to war service and that therefore his widow is not entitled to a pension.
This situation is outrageous. The unfortunate woman did not even get the funeral benefit, which is usually provided when an ex-serviceman dies. At the time of her husband’s death, she was worried and distressed and evidently did not know that she had to apply within a certain time. Her application was rejected on the grounds that it was received too late and that her assets exceeded £200, although by the time she made the application she had used up all her assets in providing for her maintenance. The Government should give sympathetic consideration to this type of case. It is no use going back to the repatriation authorities; we have taken it to them and they have said that they are bound by the act and have no discretion. Their ruling is that, because the man took his life, it cannot be established that his death was attributable to war service. Lack of sympathy in these cases is the reason why people become so dissatisfied and disgusted with the administration of these departments by anti-Labour governments.
– Has she been to the tribunal?
– She has been everywhere. She has exercised all her rights under the act, trying to obtain justice, but has failed to get a favorable decision.
The next matter with which I shall deal concerns the administration of the Department of Territories. I listened with great interest to the excellent speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) last night. A feature of it was the reference to the failure of the Government to relieve the position of the aborigines and to give them the justice that has been denied them up to this point. I took up with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) the question of the denial of a maternity allowance to an aboriginal woman in Western Australia. I discovered that the application had been rejected on the grounds that this woman’s preponderance of aboriginal blood was one thirty-second above that specified by the act. It is perfectly true that payment was eventually made, but, according to the letter that I received from the Minister, it was made as an act of grace.
In my view members of the aboriginal race in Australia are entitled to better treatment than this Government is giving them. These payments should not be made as an act of grace but as a right. As the honorable member for Fremantle pointed out, the Government does not seem to have any constitutional difficulty when imposing taxes upon these people. If they earn a taxable income, they must contribute to the revenues of the country. This woman’s application was rejected in the first instance because aboriginal blood predominated to the extent of one thirty-second above what is required by the act. I think that is a disgraceful state of affairs.
Recently, we spoke about justice for the peoples of other countries, yet we treat the few remaining members of our aboriginal race in this way! It is not a very good advertisement for Australia. We talk about the interests of the natives of New Guinea being paramount, but we should first ensure that our own aborigines receive justice.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The information requested by the honorable member is as follows: -
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
As used in this treaty, the “ treaty area “ is the general area of South-East Asia, including also the entire territories of the Asian partners, and the general area of the South-West Pacific not including the Pacific area north of 21 degrees 30 minutes north latitude. The parties may by unanimous agreement, amend this article to include within the treaty area the territory of any state acceding to this treaty in accordance with Article VIII. or otherwise to change the treaty area.
The islands between Australia and Asia which are included in the term “ general area of the Southwest Pacific “ were not enumerated, but as I stated in this House on 27th October, 1954, the territories belonging to Australia are included in it.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 4. Enquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I am advised by the Minister for Repatriation that statistics are not maintained of the number of exservicemen who have been granted or refused a war pension in respect of incapacity resulting from cancer of the lung. With regard to 3. of the question by the honorable member I am advised by the Minister that a repatriation board or the Repatriation Commission only rejects a claim for pension in respect of incapacity resulting from lung cancer when the board or the commission is satisfied that the incapacity is not due to war service.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many persons in each State are in receipt of war pensions payable to them as parents of servicemen killed in World Wars I. and II.?
– I am advised by the Minister for Repatriation that separate statistics in relation to persons in receipt of war pension payable to them as parents of servicemen killed in World Wars I. and II. are not kept. The following shows the number, as at 30th June, 1958, of persons in receipt of war pensions payable to them as parents of servicemen whose deaths have resulted from war service, including those killed in action: -
s asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 February 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590226_reps_23_hor22/>.