23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. G. J. Bowden) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the acting Minister for External Affairs. It follows a question I asked last week as to whether the text of the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs in respect of Laos could be made available for the information of the House. I put the question whether anything had been done, or could be done in Laos, which is where the tension is obviously so great, and whether some attempt at mediation or conciliation could be made. I now wish to ask whether a statement could be included with relation to the possibility of conciliation in respect of the important State of Cambodia where there appears to be similar tension. Laos and Cambodia are closely connected, and there does not seem to have been any attempt, apart from official inquiries, to get the parties involved together for the purpose of conciliation, as I understand the Prime Minister of Cambodia has recently been attempting to do.
– MayI say, first, that when I answered the right honorable gentleman on the last occasion I thought that the summary which I would be laying on the table related to the current session of the United Nations. I think I was in error. The summary will relate to the last session, but, nonetheless, I shall make available the more recent statement of the Minister for External Affairs, as promised.
– You will include his recent statement?
– Yes, the more recent statement. There is at present a United Nations sub-committee in Laos, and depending upon its report there may be further activity on the part of the United Nations to bring about conciliation between the parties.
I am afraid that the matter relating to Cambodia has not developed to the point where I can tell the right honorable gentleman that there is any prospect of conciliation.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Will the Australian Broadcasting Control Board make recommendations to the Government on the granting of licences for country television on the basis of evidence given at the forthcoming hearings only, or is it proposed that there will be some further inquiry into the technical and economic questions involved? Will the board hear evidence from persons other than applicants and their representatives, and will written evidence or statements be accepted from organizations interested in the service to be given but not directly in the licence?
– As the honorable member for Paterson knows:, the board will have the task of considering thoroughly all the problems involved in the applications for the extension of television to country areas in order that it may present a complete report to the Government. In doing so, obviously the board first of all will be required to hear all the evidence submitted by applicants which has a direct bearing on the applications concerned. In addition to that, it is obvious that there are certain technical and economic problems involved which the board will need to investigate in order to be in a position to make a thoroughly sound report. No doubt, the board will investigate such technical and economic problems and in doing so will be guided by the evidence that is placed before it. If written evidence is submitted from various sources it would be competent for the board to accept such evidence always provided that, as the act provides, the evidence has some definite bearing on the question before the board.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister, who has announced that a census will be taken on 30th June, 1961. As section 24 of the Constitution provides that the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall be determined by the latest population statistics found when the census is taken, does the Government intend to make a redistribution of electorates after the census? If no re-distribution is proposed, does the Government intend to alter the existing boundaries of electorates in accordance with any population movement that may be revealed?
– It is quite true that a census is to be taken in 1961. What effect that has on the distribution of seats will, of course, turn primarily on the result of the census. We are not unaware of the fact that the census may disclose a state of affairs in which some change may have to be made, but we will not know that until we learn the result of the census.
– In replying to a question asked of him last week with regard to the latest request by the Government of Western Australia for permission to export iron ore from Koolyanobbing, the Prime Minister said that he was in the course of replying to the Premier of Western Australia, and that when he had replied he would be quite happy to put the House in full possession of his views. Is the right honorable gentleman now prepared to make known the details of his answer to the Premier?
– I think I told the House last week that we had received correspondence from the Government of Western Australia telling us of action that it had taken in respect of the projected export of iron ore from that State. We were informed that the action was designed to test the market and to establish the conditions under which sales might be negotiated if export licences were forthcoming. But this procedure, I might say, did not have the approval of the Commonwealth Government. It was not asked for, nor was it given. The Commonwealth of Australia maintains an embargo on the export of iron ore because it is believed that iron and steel are of such basic importance to the economy of Australia that our limited known resources must be conserved. The rule has been imposed by successive governments for a very long time; in fact, I think since 1938. This Government sees no reason to vary the policy. There is, therefore, no prospect of the issue of export licences, and I have communicated that information to the Premier of Western Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: What qualifications are required for appointment as welfare officer or shipboard education officer on migrant ships travelling to this country? Does appointment to either of these positions give the appointee free travel to Australia from ports in the United Kingdom or other European centres? In view of local reports that recent appointments have included men of wealth and position, not necessarily better equipped than others to carry out the duties of these positions, would the Minister have an examination made - not necessarily for publication but at least for his own information - of recent appointments or proposed appointments to these positions?
– Great care is exercised in the appointment of education officers and welfare officers in migrant ships of the kind to which the honorable gentleman refers. Obviously, these are positions of responsibility, and my department always seeks to obtain for these voyages people who are well versed in Australian affairs, who are capable of mixing well with the migrants on the voyage out, and who can generally give these people, whom we hope to welcome here, a good introduction to Australian ways of life and customs. In order to achieve this, we try to obtain a variety of people of different types for these purposes, but I can assure the honorable gentleman that none of these appointments is made lightly and that we always recognize the quite onerous nature of the work that these officers have to perform.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Having regard to allegations made by a member of another place in this Parliament that telephone lines are being tapped, can the right honorable gentleman state whether he has any information on this subject which would indicate whether telephone tapping is, as claimed, an accepted practice?
– I noticed in the press that it had been stated by a member of another place that his telephone had been tapped. I have made careful inquiries about this matter and I find that the fact is that there has been no tapping or monitoring of the telephone of any member of Parliament in either House of any Parliament, Federal or State.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that which was just asked by the honorable member for Corio. The right honorable gentleman will recall that about a year-and-a-half ago I asked him who in Australia gives, or would give, the authority to tap telephones or intercept letters, which authority in the United Kingdom must be given by the Home Secretary. The right honorable gentleman told me that he personally had given a good deal of attention to the 1957 report to the British Government on the subject, and he asked me to put my question on the noticepaper. Last April, I received his reply that he was having the matter examined and proposed to discuss it with Cabinet as soon as possible. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether Cabinet has discussed the matter and made any decisions and, if not, whether there is any prospect of Cabinet doing so this year.
– I have not had an opportunity of bringing this matter to finality, but I expect to do so before the end of the year.
– I direct to the Minister for Trade a question relating to the decision of President Eisenhower to refer the question of the tariff on woollen textiles to the United States Tariff Commission following an appeal made by Mr. Macmillan during a television interview. Does the Minister consider that anything is to be gained by Australia presenting a case to the commission during the hearing in relation to the specific subject-matter of the hearing, which indirectly affects the demand for our wool, or, alternatively, in using the hearing as an opportunity to raise the question of the United States tariff on raw wool? If so, can the Minister say whether the Government intends to prepare and present a case?
– The Government, through the agency of the Department of Trade and our diplomatic representatives, constantly keeps the United States Administration aware of the Australian interest in all matters of American trade and trade policy, including the matter to which the honorable member now refers. Through the channels that I have mentioned, we have made the Australian interest quite clear. I shall ascertain whether the possibility of Australia taking a formal part in the United States Tariff Commission hearings, to which, I understand, President Eisenhower intends to refer the matter, is being considered, or should be considered. I acknowledge immediately that Australia has a very important interest, in that Australian wool is, to a large extent, the basis of the woollen goods that are exported to the United States of America by the United Kingdom, France and other continental countries.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the concern that has arisen in the meat industry owing to the steep rise in the cost of beef, and the threatened boycott of beef sales as a result, will the Minister appoint a committee of inquiry to examine all aspects of meat marketing and, in particular, the effect that the export beef trade is having on local consumption? Will the Minister consider this matter as urgent in view of the fact that beef is being sold in Melbourne suburbs at 10s. per lb.?
– I rather imagine that the Australian Meat Board, which is the authority in charge of the export marketing of meat, is responsible enough to know the whole position pertaining to the meat industry, and I do not think that there is any need for a committee of inquiry to ascertain the facts relative to the industry. Surely the honorable member knows that the prices charged to consumers are a matter for the State governments. If he is in any doubt as to the effects of the meat industry on Australia’s economy, he ought to have a look at the statistics in order to see how beneficial the overseas trade is. I think that we would be in a rather sorry state if we were not able to export our third-grade meats to the United States of America, because the United Kingdom market might be depressed if we had to sell those meats there. I think that, on the whole, the export meat trade has been very beneficial to this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will the honorable gentleman ask for an investigation into a statement by an official of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, after the finding of water in the fuel tanks of a Boeing 707 aircraft at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, that water formed by condensation is present also in the tanks of intra-state airliners but does not settle down because of the constant movement of these aircraft, in contrast with aircraft on overseas services, which sometimes remain on the ground for up to two days?
– I shall be pleased to convey the question to my colleague in another place. There is water in the fuel of domestic aircraft, the same as there is in the fuel of aircraft on overseas routes, and the honorable member will be aware of the fact that a last check before take-off is made by the withdrawal of fuel from a special cock in the lower part of aircraft fuel tanks. I am sure that Qantas Empire Airways Limited would be aware of this, too. The very fact that water was detected in the fuel tanks of the Boeing aircraft indicates that this check, which is in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation, was in fact made before the aircraft took off.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Interior, I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware of an analysis which indicates that the first position on the ballot-paper in elections for the House of Representatives is worth at least 3 per cent, of the poll? Will the Prime Minister recommend that positions on ballot-papers for House of Representatives elections be ballotted for, as is the case with Senate elections, so that a more equitable measure of democracy shall be available to all candidates irrespective of their surnames?
– I will convey that suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for the Interior.
– I call the honorable member for Kingston. (Government supporters interjecting) -
– Order! Apparently the Chair has made a mistake. I call the honorable member for Higinbotham.
– I rise to order. I do not think anybody could accuse me of adopting a parochial attitude in this Parliament, but I wish to point out that this is the fifth time that a call to the Government parties has gone to your right and that a member of the Australian Country Party has failed to obtain the call. The honorable member for Mcpherson has been trying to get the call. I merely wish to direct your attention to that fact.
– Order! That is a matter for the Chair. I am watching the position as closely as I can. I have called the honorable member for Higinbotham.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the Commonwealth-owned Southern Trawling Company Limited, which was registered in Adelaide in November last. That company was established, with funds provided from the Fisheries Development Trust Account, to investigate and exploit fishing potentialities in the Great Australian Bight. In view of the fact that this company was formed almost twelve months ago, I ask the Minister to tell the House what progress it has made.
– As the honorable member says, the company was formed for the purpose of ascertaining the possibilities of fishing in the Great Australian Bight, and it was financed out of the Fisheries Development Trust Account. It has negotiated the purchase in the United Kingdom of a modern diesel trawler, no suitable vessel being available in Australia. A price has been agreed upon and, subject to survey, the chairman of the company, who is at present in London, will arrange to take over the vessel and for it to be delivered. The vessel is expected to arrive here about January next, and operations will commence promptly.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. Can he inform me whether the list of recognized hospitals under the special accounts section of the Hospital Benefits Act still includes maternity hospitals, children’s hospitals and babies’ hospitals? Will the Minister explain what treatment is available at those hospitals for aged persons and chronic sufferers who come under the special accounts section? Will he state whether it is intended to recognize additional general hospitals so that those people who pay into hospital funds may obtain hospital treatment and benefits for the payments that they now make?
– There is still a list of hospitals not recognized for special accounts purposes. The details sought in the honorable member’s question will be made plain in the near future when legislation to amend the National Health Act is brought down in the House. I think that probably he would be wise to wait until then and see what are the full details.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the continued and world-wide unreliability of Boeing 707 jet aircraft, will the Minister consider adding Comet aircraft to the Qantas fleet?
– I will be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place, but I think that at this stage I should query his remark about the unreliability of Boeing 707 aircraft. In my view the Boeing 707 is probably the most reliable aircraft that has flown on Australian airlines. Up to date, Qantas, in its training programme, has flown Boeings for the equivalent of three years’ round-the-world operations and engine shutdowns are only one in every 2,400 hours of operation as against one in every 900 hours operation for the latest piston engine aircraft. More than 70 of these aircraft have been supplied to the various airlines of the world. The United States Government has three. President Eisenhower has one for his own use. I have spoken to several of the very senior Qantas captains, who have referred to the aircraft in the highest terms. I think that undue publicity may have been given to some of the incidents that have occurred in the last few weeks.
– I direct a question to the acting Minister for External Affairs. Has he read the evidence given to, and the findings made by, the Porter Hardy subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives on American aid operations in Laos? If so, will he make the evidence and the findings available to honorable members? If the Minister has not seen the report, will he instruct the Australian Embassy in Washington to get copies and to send them to Australia by airmail as soon as possible? In view of the fact that Australia is a partner in Seato, and having regard to these disclosures of grave corruption, swindling and peculation by spivs and sharpies in the Royal Laotian Government which have meant that almost a quarter of a billion dollars of American military aid money has largely gone to make private fortunes in Laos, will the Minister treat the obtaining of the report as a matter of urgency?
– I have read the report, and I want to say immediately that it does not reflect on the Royal Laotian Government at all. It does reflect upon certain American contractors who were employed in Laos. I have only one copy of the report, but if the honorable member would like to read it so that he can correct his own misunderstanding, I will make it available to him.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Does he recall an occasion when the broadcast of a speech delivered in this place by the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, took a leading part in a broadcast of the Goon Show? It would appear that a fortnight ago the broadcast of the speech made by the honorable member for Higinbotham on the Repatriation Bill was jammed by a broadcast of the singing of a ditty dedicated to a lovely called Lulu. If this is to become a feature of parliamentary broadcasts, may I suggest excerpts from the “ Pirates of Penzance “ as a fitting background to speeches made by the honorable member for East Sydney?
– Contrary to the words of a song which I remember hearing very many years ago, I do not know Lulu.
I remember that some considerable time ago an unfortunate experience was suffered by my colleague, the then Treasurer, when he was delivering, 1 think, a speech on a loan bill. I do not know anything of the incident referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, which occurred within the last few days. All that I can say is that it was evidently an unfortunate occurrence, which the Australian Broadcasting Commission would regret. With regard to the last part of the question, let me say that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is noted for its impartiality, and therefore, I am sure, would be prepared to accord to the honorable member for East Sydney treatment similar to that which it accorded to the honorable member for Higinbotham.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Is it a fact that last week the Minister for the Interior said, in effect, that Australia had adopted a policy of preparing for local or limited war, and that total or world war was unlikely? Does the Minister agree that this statement is one which has very great significance and far-reaching implications? Has the Minister himself - -the Minister for Defence - made any statement upon this matter to Cabinet or to the Parliament? If he has not done so, will he prepare a statement on this matter showing its implications and how the decision has been arrived at?
– I shall answer the last part of the honorable member’s question first. Both my predecessor, and the Prime Minister, have already made announcements along the lines he has indicated. What my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, said last week about civil defence was, I am sure, a very carefully-worded and informative statement.
– My question, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is addressed to you. It appears that the number of members of the general public who listen to broadcasts from this House is diminishing to some extent because of the great noise that takes place when members are speaking. Only recently, some of my constituents told me that they had been unable to hear all my speech owing to what they call hooliganism in the House. I ask you, Sir, to endeavour to find some means of overcoming this undue inconvenience.
– The Speaker has, over the years, exercised his mind with that problem. If he has not met with 100 per cent, success, it is because of the members themselves.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the substitution of numbers in lieu of letters prefixing telephone numbers is causing great confusion and resulting in many wrong numbers being dialled on telephones? Is he also aware that the new system is very unpopular with the great majority of telephone users? Will the honorable gentleman explain what advantages have been obtained by the change-over?
– This is a subject to which members of this House applied themselves in some detail some considerable time ago. It will be remembered that not only did I indicate in this chamber the reasons and the justification for, and the advantages of, this change-over, but that I also made arrangements for officers of the department to come up here and to address any of those members who were interested on the department’s reasons for this change-over and the advantages to be gained from it. That was a considerable time ago. I had gathered the impression as a result of the experience gained by many of the previous critics that it was being quite widely realized that the new system was better than the system that prevailed previously. I have had no great indication recently that it is unpopular with the public. The advantages to be gained by it are that it considerably simplifies dialling, and enables faster dialling. Also, it has been found that, in spite of what the honorable gentleman has just said, there is less wrong dialling under this new system than under the old system. I can tell the honorable gentleman that the action of the department in Australia is in accordance with the action taken by other Post Office administrations throughout the world. Most of the Post Office administrations throughout the world have adopted or are adopting this system, lt is sometimes claimed that as some of the British cities such as London, and one or two big cities in America, have letters that must be the better system. But we know from our investigations that the authorities in those areas that still have the combination of letters and numerals would prefer to be able to go over to the all-numeral system if it were possible to do so.
As we progress with automatic equipment there are further advantages in using an all-numeral system. The processing of accounts and the registering of calls all are simpler. Therefore, more and more advantage will be gained from the new system.
– Has the attention of the acting Minister for External Affairs been drawn to the fact that the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament is to hold a conference in Melbourne in November? Is this organization linked with the Australian Peace Council and the Australian Assembly for Peace, both known Communist front movements whose organizations in Britain have been banned by the British Labour Party and the British Trade Union Congress? Further, has this congress any Communist affiliation? Are Communists actively engaged in preparation for this congress?
– Over the last few months, my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, has made three public statements calling attention to the fact that this congress is Communist inspired, Communist organized and devoted to Communist propaganda. He asked people who were minded to have something to do with the congress to examine most closely the motives of those who were organizing it. I am able to say that the honorable member is correct in his statement. This congress is truly a Communist front. It is not intended to be a vehicle for any impartial discussion of a topic- with which we are all most concerned - disarmament and peace. The purpose is, if possible, to get highly respectable citizens to associate themselves with the congress in the hope that their association will benefit Communist propaganda, particularly propaganda among uncommitted countries and peoples, and also in the hope that those people who have high and philanthropic motives will not observe the boundary which will exist between their high-mindedness and some Communist ideology. One can expect from this congress resolutions which, of course, will not say anything about the actions of Communist countries.
I would only say this, finally: People will need to have in mind the double talk with which Communists garnish their remarks. When they speak of peace they do not mean peace of the kind that we know. After all, Hungary was at peace with Russia; Tibet was at peace with China; India was at peace with China; and, as far as I know, no one suggests that Laos was not at peace with Viet Nam.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Production whether it is a fact that in 1957-58 the Australian Wool Bureau, a government-appointed instrumentality largely financed from Commonwealth revenue, invited representatives of the red Chinese Government to Australia to discuss and endeavour to sponsor and foster trade in wool with red China. If this is a fact, would it be true to say that, to supply wool to red China, if that country is a potential enemy, would be to supply the raw material of a high-priority article of war- soldiers’ clothing?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would not know.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Can the Minister tell the House something about the infra-red ray device, which has been developed by the Long Range Weapons Establishment, for use in assisting fire fighters to see through smoke? In particular, can he say when it will be available, and on what terms it will be made available?
– There is some evidence that infra-red radiation, particularly of the longer wave lengths, can penetrate thick smoke. Some work has been done within the laboratories of the Department of Supply in relation to this matter. The work has reached the stage at which efforts are being made to construct portable apparatus that can be used by persons who, perhaps, have not full technical qualifications. When this has been done to the satisfaction of the laboratory staff, the apparatus will be made available to the fire protection organizations for field experiments.
– My question, which is directed to the acting Minister for External Affairs, is supplementary to the question asked this afternoon by the honorable member for Phillip. Is it not a fact that last Sunday, on television Channel 9, in the session, “ I challenge the Minister “, the Reverend Alan Walker was asked a question similar to that asked of the Minister by the honorable member for Phillip, as to whether the forthcoming peace conference in Melbourne is Communist-inspired? Is it not a fact that the Reverend Alan Walker said in reply that the Methodist Church in Victoria, after a great deal of consideration and after having made extensive inquiries, had decided to support fully the conference for peace? Is it not also a fact that the Reverend Alan Walker said that we must explore all avenues to break down the barriers of hate between nations and to take the initiative in promoting peace?
– I did not see the television interview with Mr. Alan Walker, but if he said what the honorable member attributes to him all I can say is that he has inadequate information. On the information available to me, there is no question that those in charge of the organization concerned are Communists and have a Communist purpose in running it. Let me say one further thing. We are all, of course, interested in peace and in genuine objective discussion. If the churches wish to discuss the matter, they are highly Organized and can conduct proper dispassionate discussions. They do not need to join a Communist-front organization in order to have a discussion.
-I ask the acting Minister for External Affairs a further question concerning the peace conference in Melbourne. Is it a fact that the organizers of this conference indulge in the dishonest practice of sending invitations to certain leaders in the community, and then, without waiting for the invitations to be declined, state publicly that those persons have been invited, thus seriously damaging the reputations of the persons concerned?
– I have no particular knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries and answer him in due course.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to reports and statements by certain supporters of the Government that the national service training scheme is to be abandoned almost immediately? Has his attention also been directed to constant denials by the Minister for the Army when questioned on these reports? Is the Minister aware that in the year 1958-59 the scheme cost £10,500,000, to train 12,000 men? In view of these reports, denials by the Minister, statements by Government supporters, and the wasteful expenditure on the scheme, will he, as the Minister responsible for the coordination of the defence of Australia, inform this Parliament of the Government’s plans in regard to the national service training scheme?
– I can only repeat what the honorable member was told by the Minister for the Army last week. That is, that the future variation, whether by way of reduction or increase, of the national service training scheme has never even been considered by the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) on the ground of ill health.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1st October (vide page 1728).
Department of Immigration
Proposed Vote, £2,039,000
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed Vote, £2,336,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– Before the debate proceeds further, Mr. Temporary Chairman, honorable members may be interested in a brief synopsis of the results of our immigration programme for the last financial year ended 30th June, together with an outline of the target we hope to achieve for the current year, 1959-60. Last year, Sir, Australia received 116,697 long-term and permanent arrivals, which was an excess of 1,697 over the authorized figure of 115,000. This total was made up of 60,623 British and 56,074 non-British. If honorable members choose to make a quick arithmetical calculation, they will see that on those figures British arrivals totalled 52 per cent, of the entire intake.
As the committee will realize, our programme is divided into two parts: Those who are brought out here under an elaborate, and certainly an expensive, assisted passage scheme, and those who come registered as full-fare migrants paying their own way. Last year, we had 58,020 assisted passage migrants and 58,677 full-fare migrants. In the first named, assisted, category, the British from the United Kingdom, including 500 Irish, totalled 28,694, and in addition we had 1,005 Maltese. Amongst our European assisted migrants were 7,222 Dutch, 6,541 Germans, 1,289 Austrians, 3,014 Italians, 2,099 Greeks and 435 Danes.
The committee will recall that we also have in operation, and have had for some time, a general assisted passage scheme under which the Government contributes something over £71 to the fare of migrants in that category. Those last year who came out in this general assisted passage category were 2,498 Finns - a result which I think all honorable members, and I am sure the country, will applaud - 172 Swiss, 159 British, 101 Norwegians, 67 Swedes, 21 Danes and 250 Americans. Then, Sir, we brought in last year a considerable number of refugees. We attracted to Australia 2,057 Yugoslavs from refugee camps in Italy and 1,476 Yugoslavs from refugee camps in Austria. We also brought in 585 Hungarian refugees. Our full-fare immigrant totals for 1958-59 were, amongst the British, 30,738, and amongst the non-British, 27,939. In the last-named group there were 10,587 Italians, 3,362 Greeks, 1,766 Poles, 1,377 Yugoslavs and 1,304 people from the United States of America.
I turn now, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to the Government’s immigration programme for the current financial year, 1959-60. As my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), announced in his Budget speech, the Government has advanced the total from 115,000 last year to 125,000 for the present year. Again, taking the two categories of assisted migrants and full-fare migrants, and taking the assisted first, we hope to bring in from the United Kingdom altogether 35,000 - 34,000 under our straight-forward assisted passage plan and 1,000 under our general assisted passage scheme. We expect 1,000 Maltese, and 8,500 people from Holland, 7,500 from Germany, 1,500 from Austria, 3,000 from Italy and 1,500 from Greece. We hope to welcome 1,000 Danes and another 3,000 people under our general assisted passage scheme, the great majority of them in this case, we expect, being Finns. We are also planning for a total of 3,000 refugees. This makes a total number of assisted migrants of 65,000. In respect of the other prong of our programme for this year - our full-fare migrant intake - we expect 30,000 British migrants, 15,000 Italians, 5,000 Greeks and 10,000 people in other categories, the last of which will include a number of refugees from iron curtain countries and from other countries in various parts of Europe, particularly, I hope, northern Europe.
The committee may recall that, from time to time, not only here but also outside this place, I have drawn attention to the growing difficulty that Australia is confronted with in regard to obtaining the really suitable types of people we would most like to have. In this financial year, as I see it - and I am speaking from my own experience gained in my recent trip abroad - the two principal obstacles we will face in getting the people we want are the unparalleled prosperity of the United Kingdom and the unparalleled prosperity of the continent of Europe - both being more prosperous than at probably any other period in the whole history of the old world. In such a condition, of course, it is only natural that people are less inclined to pack up, to dissociate themselves from their environment and transplant themselves to a country 12,000 miles away on the other side of the world.
Our second difficulty is the re-entry of our sister dominion, Canada, to the field of European migration. From all accounts, the Canadian programme will be stepped up quite markedly this year. As honorable members will realize, after a moment’s thought, Canada has an immense advantage in one respect over us - her proximity to Europe, and consequently the great ease with which migrants, once in Canada, can return for short periods to their countries of origin.
Having said those things, Sir, and having fulfilled my duty to direct the attention of the committee and of the Parliament to those difficulties, I wish to say that I myself am confident that our target of 125,000 immigrants for this year will not only be realized, but also that we shall obtain the types of people we desire. Australia will be vastly assisted in this by the operation of our migration offices in Europe.
When I was abroad two or three months ago, I made it my business to visit each of those principal offices, and I was greatly heartened by what I saw - not only by the quality of our Australian-based personnel who are running those offices, but also by the general efficiency and the spread of their activities. Honorable gentlemen who have studied the estimates for the Department of Immigration will have noticed that we have quite a number of posts in Europe as well as in the United Kingdom. We have, for example, a considerable and very efficient office in Athens. In Italy we have our head-quarters in Rome, but we also have sub-offices in Genoa and Trieste. Our programme activities for the United Kingdom radiate from our central office in London, but the Government, as the committee will recall, is speedily decentralizing our work there by the establishment of offices in Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast. I also hope that, in a short time, we shall open a branch office in Birmingham.
In Holland, we have a remarkably fine migration office at The Hague. In some respects it was one of the best that I saw on my trip. In Denmark, we are centred on Copenhagen, and Australian teams of selection officers from there visit Sweden, Norway and Finland. In Germany, we have quite an intricate organization, with headquarters in Cologne and with sub-offices in Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin and Hanau which, honorable members may recall, is near Frankfurt. We also have a branch office in Munich. In Austria, apart from our headquarters established at Vienna, we have suboffices in Salzburg, Linz and Graz. 1 said a moment ago that on my recent inspection of those posts I had been impressed by the quality of our representatives. I should like to emphasize that point, because sometimes - not necessarily in this Parliament, but in other places - there have been what I found to be rather idle criticisms regarding the types of men the Department of Immigration employs abroad. Also, from time to time, some people have made scathing remarks on the alleged lack of knowledge, on the part of our officers abroad, of the language of the country in which they are operating. So, during my inspection, I kept roy eyes open to see whether those criticisms in particular had any validity. I hasten to tell the committee now that I found them to be completely without foundation. The Parliament can rest assured that the men whom we send officially from Australia to our posts abroad are people who are absolutely dedicated in their whole lives and spirit to the cause of immigration, who are just vibrating with enthusiasm in the whole of their activities in the countries concerned. I was also particularly pleased to note that many of our Australians in out posts abroad have acquired a reasonably good knowledge of the diverse languages of the people with whom they have to speak. That, Sir, is particularly true of our men in Vienna, where not only the Commonwealth migration officer, but also the great majority of the members of his staff, have a sound knowledge of German and can speak it fluently.
I need hardly say, Sir, that the Government attaches great importance to those things - especially to the types of men we send abroad, and to their qualities. 1 think that, while learning of the results of last year’s operations, and of our plans for this year, the committee and the Parliament in general will be pleased to know of the fine types of men we have serving our country overseas, and of how fortunate we are to be represented in Europe by men fired with such a spirit of enthusiasm.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) always makes a spirited defence of the very excellent job he is doing in regard to immigration, and it is interesting to listen to him because of his zeal for his job. So, whilst I am not in the habit of decorating the Government benches with superlatives, or creating an atmosphere of hyperbole, I must say that the honorable gentleman has brought to his job a definite touch which has resulted in the administration of his portfolio - which was created when the Labour Government was in office - being carried on in the high tradition. Though perhaps we cannot offer him complete cooperation we have - and I think I speak for those behind me at this moment - a great deal of respect for the manner in which he upholds a most important portfolio. Having said that, and perhaps having said too much of that - I shall now deal with what could be of some assistance to the Minister and his quite remarkable staff under Mr. Heyes in the matter of assimilation.
I agree with him that numbers are a problem at the moment and that, with the unparalleled development of new sources of wealth and employment in the old world, difficulty is experienced in getting migrants. It is not in our view such a serious thing if the stream is slightly reduced at this stage, but it is important that those who are already in this country should begin to become of us - to become assimilated. That has been the problem in every country which has had an immigration programme. The Americans, who had a migration scheme greater in volume, but less diverse, than our own, encountered the same problem. We are all trying, by virtue of the councils which we attend as private members to see naturalization ceremonies, by virtue of the publicity that comes to the Good Neighbour councils and other activities right on the line of the village, the township, the municipality or the constituency, to break down this hard-core of resistance so that even a measure of assimilation can result.
Before we tackle the problem of assimilation as it affects the new and old Australian 1 believe that we have to find some sort of solvent between the migrants themselves. One thing that is obvious is that the new Australians have not intermingled as freely as was expected. We are in the habit of thinking in terms of a problem that requires only one solution - that the new Australians should move, mingle and coalesce with the old Australians. We feel that if we can do this the difficulty is resolved, or at least on the way to being resolved, but first we have to break down insularity, active dislike - innate dislike sometimes - of other sections of migrants in this community. I believe that that aspect has been tackled intelligently. Certainly, its solution requires a great deal of understanding and consideration. I do not think that you do much good by using a migrant to tell you what is wrong with the Australians, or what is wrong with other migrants. It is probably better to employ some sort of general understanding with the underlying idea of getting these people naturalized. Surely we can only go to a certain point in this. It is a highly desirable thing to be an Australian - to us the greatest prize of all - and it cannot be hawked, as the Minister says, in the market place. The fact that, at a certain point, 40 per cent, of the migrants capable of being naturalized have become so naturalized is not enough; but it is enough if the next step is to be mealy-mouthed about it and suggest, by a pressure campaign, that they ought to become Australians willy-nilly.
Neither do I believe, on examining the statistics, that the newspaper Gallup polls and surveys have any validity at all. They appear to me to be based roughly on what the newspaper expects migrants to say - “ Oh, I can’t get a house, therefore I won’t get naturalized “, or, “ I do not like the next door neighbours. They won’t talk to me, so I won’t get naturalized “. I do not think that these are the underlying reasons at all. I believe that the reason goes much deeper, that it is much more significant, and that it has its roots in nationalism. At the core of the whole trouble in the Italian community, for instance, is usually an old mother who is the soul of Italy itself. Gathered about her is the family, and while the young people go out and do become Australians - and very fine Australians - there is always in the centre the little shrine of the old country. So it is with the Czechs, the Slavs, the Germans and others. There is that core of nationhood - which has a great deal to commend it - but in this broad matter of assimilation and naturalization there is a lot to be said for the simple campaign directed by the department, which draws attention to the facilities for assimilation, and suggests its usefulness.
From a letter given to me by the secretary of the department I learn that experienced departmental officers conduct country tours; that contact is made with employers’ organizations, such as Apex clubs and Rotary; and that what are known as the service clubs are brought in. That is all quite feasible, quite natural, and quite legitimate. Good Neighbour Councils are in daily contact with these people, posters and pamphlets are distributed and amendments of the Nationality and Citizenship Act reduce the formalities and let them know that there is an urgent desire on behalf of the Australian people, as represented by its government, that those who are available for naturalization, and eligible for it, should become naturalized. The figures are not disheartening, nor are they altogether encouraging. They carry a lot of inferences which require examination. During the last five years the number of applications for naturalization has been of interest. In 1955 the figure was 39,000, but in fact only 20,000 persons eventually became naturalized in that year. One reads with interest the precentage of applicants and then the percentage of people who actually became naturalized. We know that approximately 206,000 alien migrants have been naturalized, that about 206,000 are still waiting, and that most of these could be naturalized as they stand to-day. The latter figure includes about 40,000 children.
The really significant question is, “ What happens to the migrant who has decided 1o become naturalized, makes an application and does not go on with it? “ That occurs in 50 per cent, of cases. Is that not,
Mr. Minister, where you should bend your investigation, in order to find out where the weakness lies? Should that not be done before you go out to the great amorphous mass of migrants who probably have not yet caught up with the benefits of naturalization? With lots of publicity, with Good Neighbour Councils and so on, we tend to think that we can succeed, but how isolated is a man who speaks only a foreign language and has contact with only his fellow nationals in this matter of taking his place in a new country? What sort of a feeling does he have about this new and permanent step of severing himself from the land of his birth, the land of his fathers - the continent that he lived in - the old Europe of culture and tradition? He must naturally take longer to make up his mind than the man who sees, by the use of hard, sound logic that this is a grand country, that the wages are good, that the conditions are terrific and who decides that, at the earliest possible moment, he will become an Australian - and consequently does. They are the ones who become naturalized.
It is interesting to break down these figures. In. 1958, 54,082 persons signified their intention of becoming naturalized, but only 46,000 people eventually went on with the job. It may be that there has been wastage of this kind from time immemorial - ever since there has been naturalization - even under the administration of the old Department of Home and Territories. It may have been proportionally as heavy then, but we have never previously had migration on such a grand scale. As a result of our propaganda and advertisement we have become a sales prospect - if I may use the term - and people have decided that they want to be Australians. Why is it that a percentage - a third or a quarter perhaps - wish to become naturalized and then do not in fact become naturalized when the opportunity is presented? These people simply do not go on with the job in that year.
There may be departmental reasons - investigations and things of that sort - but in this matter of assimilation we have to get away from the idea of simply meeting and chatting on the subject. There are many reasons why the new Australian will not become naturalized. He says, fairly enough, that he is not yet a first-class Australian, that he has great difficulty in getting a house but so has the ex-serviceman who has been abroad fighting for this country. The migrant experiences difficulties of assimilation and of contact, and all this might make him look with yearning to the land from whence he came. There are such people, as the Government well knows, as “ second look “ migrants - migrants who think that this country has let them down badly. It has not fulfilled its promise, their rosy dreams have had a very grey perimeter, so they go back home. This is particularly so of the English migrant. He takes one look at the place he came from and the circumstances of employment and, despite his British love of country, decides, for the sake of his children, for the sake of the sunshine, and for the sake of other opportunities, that he will come out here again. So it may be that among the migrants from Europe and elsewhere we have the “ secondlook “ migrant who will later come into this question of assimilation. It is a most dogged and hard-core problem, the same as the hard-core problem of the refugees in Europe to-day.
There are two very difficult problems associated with migration. The first is to make these new citizens really citizens in the proper sense, making them feel that they belong to the new country and everything else and want to give their allegiance to the Queen and to the country. The other is one on which I touch lightly because this is refugee year, the hard-core of refugees left in Europe about which we will, by our consideration, our sympathy and our humanity do something and do it pretty soon.
This is a subject which could be talked about for a long time and I have only a quarter of an hour, but in the few moments left to me I should like to ask the Minister why upwards of 200 people, as I see by the figures, have been refused naturalization. They are alleged, in a general way, to have some security risk attached, but apparently it is not sufficient to merit their deportation. Surely this is a hard core with which the Minister will have to deal. Either these people will have to become naturalized and given the advantages of the case or they will have to be dealt with if they are not eligible to remain in this country. These 200-odd people have come to various members on both sides of the committee and pleaded their cases. Some have come from China and some from other countries outside Europe as well as from Europe itself. Only a few minutes ago the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I were discussing this matter. I think it is reasonable to ask the Minister to look at this problem in regard to these 200 or 300 people who desire to be naturalized, and see if there is some flaw in the papers concerning them and perhaps some security questions. Sooner or later the problem has to be resolved, and the Minister is just the man to do it.
– Would you apply the decision to all such migrants or just these few?
– No, only to these 200- odd; it is a very small proportion considering the immense number of migrants who have come to Australia. This number has accumulated over the years. It is a “ bottom of the file “ sort of matter. It is like a letter you should write to your constituent - it keeps dropping through the file until it gets into the unanswerable section. This problem takes a bit of solving and the Minister will have to have a good hard look at it.
I do not think we will do any good by having this sort of symposium or questionnaire containing such questions as, “ Why don’t you want to become an Australian?” “ If you are an Australian, what do you think of people who will not become Australian?” I think the worst example in this respect was supplied at the last Australian Citizenship Convention held in Canberra this year. I was not present, but I have a copy of a booklet entitled “ Assimilation or integration?” in which a Dutchman and his wife expressed some extremely useful and considered opinions which were placed before the convention. In his anxiety to put a case maybe the husband overstated his views and may have offended some Australians. He said -
The Australian population in general is an easy-going one. People look to the Government for housing and so on. The newcomer in general is used to having to provide for himself and to do so by hard work.
The Australian worker generally works only for his pay packet and lives for his week-end. The newcomer likes to obtain assets in any form.
The very thing we are attempting to avoid is a sharp conflict of attitude such as “ What you are and what 1 am “. Instead we should be creating a bridge over which we both can walk and assimilate each other and get to know each other. “ Assimilation “ is an ugly word. We want the migrants to become Australians in the broadest possible sense with an understanding of our differing backgrounds. That is the task the department has to handle, and it is handling it well by its publicity and by other means.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The worthwhile contribution just made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the problems he poses to the committee show very clearly that immigration policy is really a bi-partisan matter. Some honorable members may disagree on minor points, but largely the policy is one on which we all agree. I feel that immigration has the whole-hearted support of most members of the Parliament. That is a very good thing, because immigration is a matter of great national importance and one which should command, in the main, our solid support.
Governments represented by the parties on both sides of this committee - the Australian Labour Party when it was in office and the Liberal-Australian Country Party since that time - have always regarded immigration on a high plane. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) inaugurated the immigration scheme in his capacity as a senior member of the Labour Government and he devoted great energy to it. He laid a good foundation. He was followed in the office of Minister of Immigration, when the present Government came into office, by the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), then by the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and now by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). All these men occupy senior Cabinet posts and that is an indication of the importance with which governments represented by both sides of this chamber have regarded immigration.
In the short time that the present Minister for Immigration has occupied the portfolio he has always made himself extremely accessible to members from both sides. Although interviews he has given them have been time consuming, nevertheless he has regarded them as necessary because the problem of immigration cannot be dealt with in a rule of thumb manner, lt always calls for a human and sympathetic approach. The Minister has brought to his office a real understanding of the migrants and their problems. It is a most fortunate circumstance also that the present head of the Department of Immigration, who has occupied his position from the beginning of the scheme has laid a great foundation and has been of immense help to all Ministers of Immigration and also to the implementation of the scheme throughout Australia. I refer to Mr. Heyes.
As honorable members know the immigration target has been raised this year to 125,000. As a long-term aim the Government hopes to increase the number of immigrants to the equivalent to 1 per cent, of the Australian population. That target was fixed three years ago. It could well be that the Government has become slightly mesmerized by this figure and has not had a fresh look at it to see whether it should not be increased under the present circumstances. In view of the spectacular and rapid development in Australia, immigration is a vital matter. It not only affects our own living standards and security but also our capacity to aid our neighbours. History and geography have placed us in a position from which we cannot turn back, even if we want to.
Another reason why I believe we should consider stepping up our migrant intake above 125,000 is that we must demonstrate to the world to-day - not to-morrow - that we are able to populate this country and manage it properly and effectively. Our ability and capacity to absorb migrants have been greatly increased. We have overcome many of the arrears in schools - although there are still great strains there - essential services are better and we are in a much better position to absorb an even greater inflow of migrants. Job opportunities in Australia to-day are greater than ever they were. In all these circumstances we should have a serious look again at lifting the target of intake even higher than the proposed 1 per cent, that we seem to have hooked on to.
There are some restrictions at present to a greater inflow of migrants. The Minister earlier mentioned the limiting factor of trying to get proper migrants. Perhaps it is not our capacity to absorb but to attract them that needs to be improved. Although we can hold out unique opportunities and prospects, plus security, we have to overcome an initial inertia on the part of potential migrants. In short, we must work much harder to get them. However, the population of Western Europe and the United Kingdom is some 300,000,000 and I frankly cannot believe that we will not be able to get the people we need if we devote adequate resources to the task. The Department of Immigration is undertaking this work very effectively, but at the same time it must be given some assurance that our immigration intake will continue at least at the same level so that it can maintain overseas posts of the present hight quality.
What are the restrictions to a greater intake of immigrants? The answer to this question can be given simply by pointing to our difficulty in attracting migrants and the insufficiency of our housing. Housing is an important factor. The migrants we should bring here are people with strong family ties. We want them to come because they feel that here they have greater prospects than in their homeland, not because they feel that there are no prospects in their homeland and that migration to Australia is the last resort. We must be able to offer the migrants a home. I do not mean that they should be given a home but they should at least be given the opportunity to obtain a home. They should not be compelled to live in hostels, in camps or under crowded and unpleasant conditions. That objective is not so easy to attain, because all our Australian people are not yet adequately housed.
We should suggest to the authorities in the countries from which our migrants come that they provide migrants with loans. When the migrants came here they would then be able to buy or build a home fairly soon after their arrival and could repay the housing loan under long-term conditions. The money so borrowed would come from a source right outside the Australian loan market; it would come from the country of origin of the migrants.
Although I advocate a greater immigration flow, I point out that it would be most dangerous if we were to open the door and sacrifice quality for quantity. Has that been done? 1 do not believe it has been done, because our post-war immigration programme would never have had such success if it had been concerned only with numbers and not with quality. The immigration programme has continued very successfully for fourteen years, and that surely is clear evidence that a great deal of planning has gone into the formulation of the programme. A successful immigration programme is the result of careful thought and not of chance. In this instance, it is the product of careful forward planning and of the meticulous execution of the plan.
If the immigration programme had been concerned only with bringing in a large number of people, Australia would have been weakened and not strengthened, as it has been. Admittedly, we are proud of Australia’s population growth, but the effect of immigration on our economy has been dramatic. I shall not have time to deal fully with that point, but it must be obvious to every one that immigration has made a valuable and powerful contribution to our development. If we had been concerned only with quantity and not with quality, our immigration programme would have failed instead of being the huge success that it has been, and we would not have witnessed the tremendous development that has taken place here.
I ask the Minister to examine carefully the long-range policy laid down by the Government some years ago of aiming at a migrant intake of 1 per cent, of our population. The target should be lifted much higher. I commend the Minister for raising the intake figure to the present 125,000, but we should go much further than that. I suggest that he inquire from other countries whether they would be willing to make advances for the purpose of housing migrants from those countries on the understanding that the loans would be repaid. I make clear that I am not suggesting we ask for gifts. If such loans were granted, migrants coming here would not be taking the risk of not being able to obtain a suitable home. They would know that they would not have to wait for many years before they could bring their families here. The adoption of this scheme would make Australia more attractive to migrants with strong family ties, and they are the people we want.
I am sure that every one will agree that immigration must continue. I hope that it will continue at an even greater tempo than has been evident in the past, because immigration is geared to development. Success breeds success. The tempo of expansion maintained through immigration would be certain to attract increasing amounts of capital for further development. We could look back with pride and face the future with confidence if we had a soundly based immigration programme providing for the intake of ever-increasing numbers.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr, Howse) said that immigration is geared to development, and he related this to the job opportunities in Australia which, he said, are very great. I am afraid that the honorable member failed to appreciate the difficulties that will flow from an increase in the number of immigrants if something really dramatic is not done about employment. I remind the honorable member and the committee that between June, 1956, and March, 1958, when we were developing at our present rate, about 38,500 additional jobs were created. That information can be found in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics” for April, 1958. On that basis, the difficulty that faces us is that, through natural population increase, the number of employees in our work-force is increasing more rapidly than jobs are being created. That fact causes me to turn from a consideration of the immigration programme to the industrial structure of Australia.
I have for years questioned the correctness of the industrial policy of this Government. This debate affords an opportunity to examine one of the most important questions now confronting us, and that is: Is our compulsory arbitration system working to advantage and what does the future hold? First, let us be quite frank about our system of conciliation and arbitration. The laws enacted by this Government provide for compulsory arbitration, with conciliation taking a second place. The appointment of conciliators without arbitral powers has, in only a small measure, broken through the barrier of compulsory arbitration. I think it is important to see what is happening in industrial arbitration.
Let me pose the question: How is compulsory arbitration enforced? The trade unions are on record as saying that the penal provisions of this Government’s legislation are deliberately designed to enforce compulsory arbitration. Without going into any great detail, let us consider the position of the important organization known as the Amalgamated Engineering Union. That organization has played its part in the field of trade unionism in Australia. I do not think anybody can deny that when the pressure of war was on us this great union did more than play its part in the war effort. Yet we find that it has been harshly treated under this Government’s arbitration legislation. On no fewer than eight of the 26 occasions on which the penal provisions of our arbitration laws were applied against trade unions between 1950 and 1958, they were applied against the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Under our present compulsory arbitration system, fines ranging from £100 to £2,000 may be imposed on an industrial organization. On at least one occasion a fine of £2,000 was imposed on the Australian Air Pilots Association. I also remind the committee that on no fewer than four of the 26 occasions to which I have referred, fines were imposed on the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. So we find, under the Commonwealth’s system of compulsory arbitration, that awards and agreements registered with the court are enforced strictly against the unions. If any attempt is made by the trade union movement to obtain wage justice for employees by direct methods, fines are imposed on organizations without hesitation. The employers, on the other hand, are not so harshly treated.
Is it in the best interests of the country that our trade unions should be penalized in this way? I say emphatically that it is not. Here let me refer to the recent decision of the New South Wales Government to amend its arbitration act. Under that amendment, unions may conduct what are looked upon as legal strikes if fourteen days’ notice of the stoppage is given to the Minister for Labour and Industry. That is a progressive step, and I commend it to this Government and, in particular, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is sitting at the table.
As another illustration of the iron grip in which trade unions are held by this Government, I point out that the system of court-controlled ballots is strangling our unions financially. I do not propose to develop this question because I am sure that my friend the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will have something to say about it later. A court-controlled ballot may cost a union as much as £3,000. If the union is able to conduct the ballot in the normal way under its own rules, the cost is only about £400. I repeat that this Government’s compulsory arbitration system is gradually strangling the trade union movement financially.
But what of the employer? As yet, we have no anti-monopoly laws in this country. That is something to which this Government will have to give serious attention in the near future. Labour will attend to it immediately it is returned to office. However, we see developing a strong tendency towards, if not amalgamation, then a tacit understanding on the cost of production, particularly of goods for Australian consumption.
Let me take oil as the first example of this growing tendency. It has been said both in this chamber and outside that the oil companies are not experiencing a great deal of difficulty with their employees. I emphasize that the oil companies have not observed the compulsory arbitration system of this country. The Minister will know as well as I do that many monopolies have arrived at agreements with unions - many of these agreements are not registered - for the overpayment of £2 a week to employees. When a compulsory arbitration system permits of overpayment, this has an immediate adverse effect upon other organizations. Under the present system, the Government is creating protection for the monopolies. At the same time, it is driving to the wall those organizations whose members are not employed by monopoly groups, those which have not a tacit understanding on costs and those who are not prepared to fleece the public of Australia by imposing added costs.
What does this mean? We have warned the Government of what can take place. lt can only mean that other monopolies will follow the same practice as that adopted by the oil companies. I submit that it is safe to say that in a great many instances it can be proved that employers in the monopoly-controlled or privileged industries, where they control profits of the production line, are disregarding awards and making average overpayments of £2 a week or more to tradesmen. These people are not observing the awards and the principles of compulsory arbitration. These practices are arising because the penal provision is being applied only to the minimum wageearning section of the community - railway workers and others who are equally entitled to their share of what the nation, can afford to pay.
That brings me to the court. I believe this Government made a very serious mistake when it amended the legislation to set up the arbitration commission. Here let me emphasize that I have no desire to criticize the commission, but I point out that we now have a situation in which Other industries are ready to fight for their share of the nation’s prosperity. Other organizations representing the underprivileged or minimum wage-earning section of employees feel that they must fight to protect themselves. Under the Government’s present policy of protecting monopoly organizations, skilled workers are being attracted to these groups by the offer of overpayments. This reacts to the detriment of every other organization that is not engaging in these practices.
Let me take my examination of the present compulsory arbitration system one step further. I refer now to the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is charged with the duty of fixing the basic wage. In February and March each year, the commission issues a basic wage determination. That determination is based on the amount that the commission feels the national economy can afford. At present the margins case is being heard. I venture the opinion that in presenting their case the unions will give hundreds of instances of overpayment by the monopolistic electrical trades and the like, all of which are taking more than their fair share of what the national economy can afford. I tell the Minister for Labour and National Service quite frankly that the present position is unhealthy from the point of view of the national economy. Again I emphasize that I am not critcizing the commission, but no one can convince me that the commission’s last determination to increase the basic wage by 15s. in one lump was not a retrograde step. In my view, it would have been far better to have increased the basic wage by 15s. gradually, to spread the 15s. over the previous year instead of imposing it on industry all at once. In addition to this sudden impost on the nation’s ability to pay, we have the fact that the monopolies are paying their employees up to £2 a week over award rates. And the unions interested in the margins case seeking to have margins adjusted to their correct level.
I emphasize also that Australia and other developing countries are experiencing the introduction of automation and modern technology in industrial development. In my opinion, this inevitably means that sooner or later we shall be faced with the necessity for a shorter working week, irrespective of whether we like it. The figures I quoted at the outset should serve as a warning. I predict that if the present trend continues, there will not be enough jobs in the next five years for our own workforce, let alone for the immigrants we should like to bring to Australia. In all those circumstances, a shorter working week seems inevitable. Sooner or later, this matter will have to be considered by the commission, again on the level of the nation’s capacity to pay. So long as the monopoly groups fail to observe the system of compulsory arbitration in Australia, so long as they continue to take more than their fair share of what the national economy can afford, employees such as those engaged in rail transport and other government-controlled industries will not receive wage justice.
We have reached the point - I say this deliberately - at which unions feel that they would prefer the barter system. The trade union movement is thinking of going over to bartering in many directions. And is there any good reason why unions should not? I can only say that I hope the trade union movement and the Government - this applies to all governments irrespective of political colour - will never stand idly by and watch such monopolistic groups as the oil companies continuing to attract topline technicians by offering over award remuneration while those industries which are not members of the monopoly groups are left to stagnate. That factor alone should cause the Government to pause, and to give effect to the principle that has been adopted by the Government of New South Wales. A Labour government is faced with more unrest than is a Liberal government in any Stale because the workers are inclined to demand more from their own government than from a Liberal government. That is logical. The workers are more inclined to believe that a Labour government will not use the lash on them as much as a Liberal government will. That is logical also. The Government of New South Wales has decided that the time has come when it and the workers must fight for their principles. In other words, compulsory arbitration in Australia is undergoing a test. The relevant legislation will have to be amended to effect a levelling of conditions so that all the workers of Australia will get those things to which they are entitled, instead of the Government’s pandering to monopoly groups and employees in monopoly groups, or this system will break down in the course of the next five years.
I assure the Minister and the Government that my remarks do not constitute an attack on the commission, which is attempting to do a tremendous job, but I put to the Government as strongly as I can that the matters to which I have referred must be reviewed quickly. If you believe in the nation’s ability to pay. you cannot tolerate the existing system. You cannot properly put monopoly groups into a position in which they can offer a’ wage two, three or even four times in excess of the basic wage. If you do there will be chaos. You cannot hog-tie unions in the way in which this legislation hog-ties them.
– The honorable member has called my statement nonsense. He would not know. As I have said, the penal provisions of this legislation hog-tie the unions. I repeat to the Minister that I am not attacking the industrial court; 1 am merely criticizing the existing legislation, and suggesting that a realistic view should be taken of the proposition that all workers in Australia are entitled to a fair share of our country’s prosperity. If you believe in the nation’s capacity to pay, then you must believe that the workers are entitled to their share of the nation’s prosperity.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I did not intend to intervene in this debate because I thought that it was an occasion for private members to express their views. So much has been said about migrant hostels that I feel impelled to say something which, I think, will put the facts a little more clearly and will show the attempts that are being made by the authorities to give the best practicable living conditions to the incoming migrants. I have risen to my feet for another reason. At present we are trying to induce as many migrants as we can to come to this country, and we have fixed a target this year of, I think, 125,000 migrants. Unless there is good ground for criticism, I think the prudent course to be followed is to restrain oneself and not to do anything which will affect the objective of the Government and prevent us from obtaining the desired number of migrants this year. In other words, I think that the migrant to-day can be a pretty timid person. He has an abundance of opportunities to go to other countries. In any event, they are difficult to obtain and, if we want to attract them to Australia, the facts should be presented to them fairly and accurately. I doubt very much whether the facts have been presented either fairly or accurately in this chamber during the last few days.
May I commence with stating what we mean when we speak of migrant hostels. In the first place, they are temporary accommodation for assisted migrants coming to Australia. It is not intended that the accommodation should be anything more than temporary. The hostels are not intended to be homes or permanent residences for the migrants. Secondly, one should not base his criticism on the fact that the hostels are not the equivalent of private homes and do not give the migrant the opportunity to live in them permanently. In fact, it is the policy of the Government, which is explained to the migrants when they come to Australia, that they may live in the hostels for a period of two years. Most of the migrants live up to their obligation to remain not more than two years although, of course, many do exceed that period. The important point that I want to make is that a hostel is not permanent home accommodation; it is accommodation that gives the migrants the opportunity to come to Australia, establish themselves, and at some future time - we hope within two years of their arrival in this country - obtain homes of their own.
As I have listened to the debates in this committee, and on the motion to adjourn the House, I have been struck by the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I direct attention to the fact immediately that probably the best-informed member of the Opposition on this matter, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), has not spoken on this subject of accommodation for migrants. I think that can be taken as indicating that he frankly does not find any real ground for objection.
– I have spoken.
– I have paid you the compliment of stating that I think that on this matter you are probably the bestinformed member on the Opposition side of the chamber. Having listened to the various objections that have been raised by the Opposition, what can I accept as its views? Both the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Melbourne have said that there is no objection to the catering and no objection to the quality of the food. I think that those who have been to at least two or three hostels will have come away convinced of the fact that the food is good. The catering superintendents are excellent and the catering facilities, without stating the fact too strongly, are as good as we receive in some parts of Canberra. Immediately we can dismiss from our thinking the fact that the quality of the food is one of the real problems that face the migrants.
Secondly, let me refer to recreation facilities. I have received no complaints about recreation facilities. Thirdly - I include this matter because I have made my own inquiries into it - I wish to refer to preschool training for children. Being a bachelor, I am not quite certain of the correct phrase, but the nursery attention that is given to the children is first class, and it gives them an opportunity to prepare themselves for school on a basis that is at least as good as children would receive in their own homes if under the supervision of Australian parents. This was one of the aspects of the hostels that pleased me, and I know that it has pleased other observers who have cared to go to the hostels to have a look for themselves.
So the problem resolves itself into a matter of accommodation, the sleeping quarters and whether the migrants should have an extra room to be used as a recreation room, a living room or for some other purpose. Immediately I should make the statement that some time ago extra accommodation was provided but was withdrawn on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council because it thought, first, that the additional accommodation should be made available for an increased number of migrants, and secondly, although it might have been stated in a muted tone, nevertheless it was stated that it might be an incentive to the migrants to remain in the hostels for longer than the prescribed period of two years. I have mentioned that the council’s second recommendation was put in a muted tone, and was not put as strongly as the necessity to provide additional accommodation for an increased number of migrants. Nonetheless, the council advised the Government that it thought that the extra room was not necessary, and that the space should be given to the incoming migrants rather than to those who were in the hostels at that particular time.
Amongst those on the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council are the honorable member for Bendigo and Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, so I think that all honorable members can accept the fact that the council is well constituted. Its advice was accepted by the Government, which did not act on its own initiative. I take it a stage further. I think it should be known that in no other country does one find the government providing temporary accommodation for assisted migrants to cover the transitionary phase between the time they arrive and the time they can obtain homes of their own. Those overseas visitors who are interested in migration and who have come here are universally of the opinion that this accommodation is good, and they have gone out of their way to congratulate the Government upon it. So, whilst I am not one who is prepared to argue that we cannot do better - of course, we can, and we are always anxious to do better - I do say, first, that the objective observer congratulates the Government on the opportunities it affords migrants to get temporary accommodation and, secondly, that this is not done in any other country.
May I now come to some of the criticisms that have been made by the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor). I took the trouble to have each one of the complaints investigated. I do not want to be provocative and I do not want to reduce these matters to political issues, but not one of the complaints that have been made has been proved to be completely accurate in fact. In other words, each of the allegations made has not been perfectly accurate. Some, it is true, were close to accuracy, but some were quite wide of the mark. Nonetheless, in a matter of such great importance as the migrant intake of this country - and I repeat that we must do our best to get 125,000 migrants this year - we must be accurate in our allegations and make certain that we are not frightening migrants away. I repeat the statement that not one of those complaints was literally correct, and some of them were quite wide of the mark. Some months or weeks ago, the honorable gentleman from Gellibrand told me he had a petition from 250 people. As yet, he has not shown the petition to me, despite the fact that he promised to let me have a copy of it, nor, for that matter, has he let the hostel manager have a copy of it, although he promised the hostel manager that he would do sp, in order that the complaints might be .examined.
I shall give an illustration of what happened when I went out to one hostel and the honorable gentleman from Gellibrand complained about the fact that a rotary cooker might be placed in the kitchen. He said that there had been criticism of the fact that the rotary cooker might be put in. The catering manager said to the honorable gentleman - I shall not quote his exact words, because his reply was put a little more dramatically and a little more emotionally than I would care to put it - “ What you are saying is not correct. The cooker I have is good. It is better than anything else I have ever had. All my statement amounted to was that I did not know what this new-style rotary cooker was like. I am perfectly satisfied with the cooker I have, and for that reason I do not ask for a change.” That was a totally different statement from that made by the honorable gentleman from Gellibrand that complaints - strong complaints - had been made in the migrant hostel about the quality of the cooking machines that were there.
– Why did you not let the honorable members know that you were going to reply, so that they would be here?
– If they do not care to come into the chamber and listen to what members are saying that is their responsibility - they knew that the proposed vote for my department would be considered and that I would be replying. Members do not come searching for me when they have complaints to make in the House, and I certainly do not go looking for them when I have an answer to make to their complaints.
– You have not replied to their complaints.
Order! The honorable member will remain silent.
– So I come to this conclusion. We have about 20,000 welcome migrants in Commonwealth hostels. It is true that there -have been some complaints during the time I have been Minister responsible for Commonwealth hostels, but surely it is only reasonable to expect some complaints when there are 20,000 people in hostels scattered throughout the Commonwealth.
The complaints have been at a minimum and, to paraphrase a statement made a few nights ago by my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, we as a Government hope they will be reduced because of the fact that we have great hopes that in future increasing opportunities will be provided for migrants to get homes shortly after they come here. As I have said, the accommodation now provided in hostels is temporary. We hope that migrants will be able to find accommodation for themselves quickly. When I mentioned, Sir, that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said only the other day that in New South Wales over 30,000 new homes were being provided this year and of that number one in each three could be provided for wiping off the backlog and for providing for demolitions and improvement in housing facilities, besides providing for the increasing population, you will realize that this Government is providing opportunities, or - if I am, perhaps, putting it a little too highly - that under this Government increasing opportunities are being provided to permit the migrant to get a home of his own shortly after he arrives here. That means that we would not be justified in providing permanent accommodation in migrant hostels for the period that the migrant, temporarily, stays there.
– Even Australian people cannot get homes.
– I have said that it is temporary accommodation. What are we doing? Of course, we are never satisfied. As I am sure my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, will agree, we are trying to ensure that, as far as it is reasonable and possible, the accommodation is improved every year. This year, I think, nearly £500,000 will be spent on the maintenance and improvement of accommodation in migrant hostels and, of that amount, £250,000 will be expended on improving the accommodation. That is a lot of money provided from these votes and the general revenues of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, and I think it indicates the goodwill of the Government and its real wish to provide an incentive and inducement for an increasing number of migrants to come here, and, above all, to ensure that our target of 125,000 migrants is achieved this year.
I conclude on this basis: Of course, we want the migrants, and the closer we can get to our goal of 125,000 a year the happier we will be. I do make this point abundantly clear: The number of complaints that I have received has not been great, and this year we are spending what we regard as a reasonable amount on improving the accommodation of migrants in order to see that during the time they occupy this accommodation temporarily, they are housed and looked after under reasonable conditions. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I rose because I thought the criticisms of this accommodation had been unwarranted and a little unjust. From what I have seen, I think that the hostels management is doing a good job and I personally think that migrants coming here do get reasonable - even though it is temporary - accommodation.
.- Time will not permit me to answer all of the arguments advanced by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) in defence of the administration of his department, but I feel obliged to say something in relation to this question of migration, because 1 refuse to be a party to a policy of bringing people to this country by a process of misrepresentation. To listen to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), one would imagine that there were ample houses and ample employment in this country and that there was no difficulty in a migrant, shortly after he arrived in Australia, finding a home to occupy, either as a tenant or as a purchaser. That is not the case at all. As a matter of fact, when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) was, not so very long ago, on the other side of the world, he received so many complaints that, in a petulant outburst, he referred to people as “ squealers “ who had found their way back to the Old Country and complained that they had been tricked into coming to Australia and had found conditions here altogether different from what they had been represented to be at the time they were sought as migrants. I read in the press not very long ago that a young English migrant, who had reached Aden as a stowaway with his wife and young baby, had been in Australia for some time without being able to get work and that this baby had been treated in a hospital for a week for malnutrition. That does not seem to indicate that all migrants are satisfied or that they have had happy experiences since their arrival in. Australia.
I have always been of the opinion that migration should be planned scientifically. It should not be a question of reaching out, as this Government appears to do, for numbers, but of considering, having regard to the economic conditions in this country, in what way the migration programme is accelerating inflation and whether we have the resources here to absorb them into employment and housing and to provide schools, hospitals, and other services for them. I think that it is utter rubbish for the Government to talk about the great benefits of an expanded immigration programme. We on this side of the chamber do not object to migrants coming to this country, but we think that they ought to be properly screened in order that we shall get only the best, and that they should be brought in only in such numbers as we can absorb in this community without placing undue strain on our economic resources.
Time will not permit me to develop fully the argument that I believe can be advanced against the Government’s policy of immigration, for I now want to say something about a very serious situation which exists in the industrial field, and to which I again direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the socalled court-controlled ballots and what they are doing to the trade union movement. Any government that permits the existing system to continue cannot argue that it has any desire to assist the development of trade unionism in this country. What is happening in respect of court-controlled ballots under the regime of this Government is sufficient evidence, for any reasonable, thinking member of the Australian community, that this Government is anti-union and wants to destroy and weaken the effectiveness of the unions. Nobody argues that malpractice should be permitted in ballots of any description, but one would imagine, to hear Government supporters talk, that the only ballots in which malpractices ever occur are trade union ballots. If one considers the major degree of malpractice which has been proved to exist in trade union ballots, one finds that the trade union movement in this country has a very creditable record compared with that of many other organizations in Australia.
What is the situation? I am of the opinion that the trade unions could well be left to conduct their own affairs, but, some years ago, a Labour government of which 1 was a member decided to introduce legislation to provide that, where anybody who could produce evidence that made it appear that malpractice had occurred could take proceedings to have a ballot declared null and void and to have a fresh, courtcontrolled ballot conducted. This Government, evidently in order to irritate the trade unions and to cause disturbance in the industrial field, decided that it would go one better, and it introduced legislation under which a small minority in a trade union can now, in effect, take the business of the union out of the hands of the elected officials without being obliged to produce any evidence of malpractice. In this context, I particularly mention the position in the Amalgamated Engineering Union as a typical example of what is happening.
Under section 170 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the committee of management of a union, or of a branch of a union, may apply for a court-controlled ballot, or a petition signed by a certain number of members of the union who request such a ballot may be presented, and, automatically, the Industrial Registrar will grant a court-controlled ballot. Before this new procedure was introduced into the act which enabled a disgruntled minority to take this action, there had never been any suggestion that ballots in the Amalgamated Engineering Union were not conducted properly. As a matter of fact, under the methods by which the ballots of this union are conducted, in accordance with its rules, in my opinion, no way for malpractice is left open. It was the practice of the union to have what were known as star nights. All members were summoned to a meeting, nominations were accepted at that meeting, a ballot was conducted, the votes were counted on the spot, and the result was made known at the meeting. Nothing could be fairer. That method does not leave the way open to malpractice. Under the new system pro vided for in section 170 of the act, a minority can force court-controlled ballots on the union. No action was taken in respect of this union’s ballots under the Chifley Government’s legislation, but, under this Government’s legislation, since 1953, only one of the ballots in the union has been conducted solely by the union, and that was because a petition for a courtcontrolled ballot was received too late.
I shall indicate to the committee what is the normal practice of a disgruntled minority in its attempts to upset the business of the union. On one occasion, this minority presented a petition asking for a court-controlled ballot. When nominations closed, there was only one nominee, and he was declared elected unopposed.
Let us have a look at the practices in respect of these petitions. The union is not protected against fraud and impersonation. It has tried to have these petitions checked, not just to ascertain whether the required number of signatures had been obtained, but in order to determine whether the signatures were genuine and whether the persons whose names appeared were financial members of the organization. But the union is not permitted to check these petitions. Even the Industrial Registrar himself is not obliged to make any check, because sub-section (4.) of section 170 of the act provides -
Where a request is made or purports to be made under this section, the Industrial Registrar shall, after making such inquiries (if any) as he considers necessary, decide whether or not the request has been duly made.
The union has endeavoured to secure permission to examine the actual petitions, because it has had1 evidence that such petitions have, on occasions, been taken around not merely by persons who are not members of the union, but by persons who are not members of any industrial organization. It has had evidence that, in some instances, a canvass for signatures has been made in hotel bars and that some of the people signing have not been in a lit condition to know exactly what was happening. Or many occasions, the purpose of the po*’ tion has not been clearly explained to those whose signatures have been sought. When Mr. Taylor, the Industrial Registrar, was asked by the union to allow its officials to check a petition or to let it have a copy, he said -
I take steps to ensure that at least the prescribed number of members have made the request
That probably means that he has merely counted the signatures or checked them off with some records of a union branch. No attempt is made to check the genuineness of the signatures.
On one occasion, the union was able to find out a certain number of the names on a petition, though not as a result of any co-operation by the Industrial Registrar. Having got the names, the union officials were able to establish that at least one man who had signed the petition had not known what he was signing, and that he was not in fact a member of the union. That man made a statutory declaration to that effect. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, if a union official wants to check any documents that are filed with the Industrial Registrar, all he has to do is pay a stipulated fee and he can either inspect the documents or obtain copies. But not so with respect to these petitions. In response to the union’s request for access to the petitions, the Industrial Registrar said -
If any evidence as to the bona fides of signatures or declarations verifying them or of the mebership of the signatories be given to me, I would be prepared to give further consideration to fin application to inspect . . .
So we have the impossible situation in which the Registrar informs the union that, if it gives him evidence that people whose names appear on a petition did not sign it, he will consider whether he will make available a copy of a petition. How can a union possibly prove its case unless it has access to the petition and check it with the union records?
The names that I have mentioned were secured by the union were obtained on the occasion of the election of the Commonwealth Councilman for division No. 1 of the union in 1958. The union sent to the various branches the names it had obtained which appeared on the petition. Many of the branches wrote back to say that they had no record of some of these men ever having been members, and that they certainly were not members at that time.
Although the act does not require to be lodged with a petition asking for a courtcontrolled ballot a declaration certifying that the signatures to the petition have been properly obtained and are the genuine signatures of members of the union, on this occasion, evidently in order to support the case for a court-controlled ballot, such a declaration was submitted with the petition. When the officials of the union proved, by the submission of a statutory declaration, that the declaration originally lodged with the petition must necessarily have been a false one, the Registrar was induced to have an investigation. After that investigation had been made, the Registrar, in a letter dated 22nd May of this year, wrote -
Steps were taken to initiate proceedings against one of the persons who made a statutory declaration in the matter.
However, in the course of preparation of the proceedings the Deputy Crown Solicitor noted two delects in the Statutory Declaration, one being that the word “ subscribed “ was used instead of the word “ declared “, and that the form used did not contain at the foot thereof, the warning required by the Statutory Declarations Act for persons making a false declaration.
Having evidently secured legal advice the people responsible for organizing the petition cunningly presented declarations that were not legal documents because they were not drawn in accordance with the Statutory Declarations Act. The Industrial Registrar has declared that no action can be taken in the matter and the AttorneyGeneral has adopted the same attitude. The unions have no protection against impersonation and fraud. How are these happenings affecting the efficiency of the unions? As I have pointed out, there has been only one union-conducted ballot in the Amalgamated Engineering Union since 1953, and that was when the petition arrived too late.
According to the regulations under this act, 10 per cent, of members of a federal organization, or 1,000 members, which ever is the lesser number, must sign a petition for a court-controlled ballot. The Amalgamated Engineering Union has a membership of between 78,000 and 79,000 and only 1,000 of its members throughout the whole of the Commonwealth are obliged to sign a petition. That represents a little more than 1 per cent, of the union’s membership. This situation should be examined. When members on this side of the chamber pointed to the enormous additional expense with which unions were confronted as a result of this legislation and the conducting of ballots by the court, the Government agreed to introduce amending legislation to provide for the payment by the Commonwealth of the additional costs. The Amalgamated Engineering Union wrote to the Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service seeking to clarify its position. The letter written to the Attorney-General on 10th December, 1958, contained a number of questions but it was only answered in one respect. The Attorney-General answered the question concerning financial cost and said that the effect of the Government’s amending legislation was not retrospective, and that in respect of past ballots the union still owes £2,137.
I wish to quote an extract from an opinion given to the union with respect to this legislation. The opinion was given to Messrs. Barwick, Q.C. and Moore, some time in August, 1953. Our AttorneyGeneral is the same gentleman who is named as Barwick Q.C, and Mr. Moore is now a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. They said -
Section 96M (now Sec. 170) is not limited in its operation to the purpose of ensuring that the “ authentic will of the members may be ascertained “.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I cannot think what is the motive behind the speech just made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Those members with long memories of this matter will know that he recommended that at least part of the costs incurred by a union in having court-controlled ballots should be borne by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government agreed to that suggestion. I think it was implicit in what the honorable member said at that time that if he was willing to have part of the cost borne by the Commonwealth, at least, in principle, he agreed that courtcontrolled ballots were desirable and were frequently in the interests - or perhaps usually in the interests - of the members of the trade unions.
What is the purpose of permitting courtcontrolled ballots? The only purpose is to protect the interests of rank and file members and to permit them to express their views by means of a court-controlled ballot, particularly in the election of officers. Why would one wish to prevent rank and file members from expressing their point of view? That is why 1 asked: What is the motive of the honorable member for East Sydney? His motive could only be that he resents the rank and file expressing their view and that he wants militant groups to be given the opportunity to so manipulate the ballots that they will have their representatives elected to trade union office. There can be no other explanation of the approach taken to this matter by the honorable member for East Sydney.
The honorable member has referred to the ballots that are taken by the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Previously, the A.E.U. conducted star-night ballots at which members raised their hands and showed publicly how they were voting. 1 should like to point out to the honorable member that the A.E.U. was one of the unions that requested that court-controlled ballots should be partially paid for by the Commonwealth Government. As the A.E.U. made that request to us and the request was agreed to, I think we can take it for granted that at present the A.E.U. is not strongly opposed to court-controlled ballots. I venture to express the opinion that the honorable member for East Sydney is out of touch with trade union opinion, except that of the particular junta with which he happens to associate.
I state emphatically that, by and large, the trade union movement to-day does not complain about court-controlled ballots. It is true that, a few months ago, some unions were saying that they should not have to bear the excess cost of court-controlled ballots. When I received their recommendations that the excess cost should be borne by the Commonwealth, I obtained the approval of Cabinet and legislation was passed permitting the excess costs to be borne by the Treasury and not by the members of the union.
So again I ask: What is the motive of the honorable member for East Sydney? It can only be to help those people who are attempting to control the rank and file of the trade union movement. I repeat, too, that he is out of touch with trade union opinion. By and large I have had no complaints other than on the score of expense, and the Government has taken action to see that excess expense is borne by the Commonwealth itself.
So I leave this matter to the committee to judge. It was debated fully when the recent amendments to the act were introduced. At that time I expressed my personal view that the trade union movement would be one of the last to suggest or to expect that there should be a repeal of the legislation which now permits rank and file trade unionists to determine their own affairs by secret ballot, and particularly to determine who should be elected as their leaders.
.- I should like to read the legal opinion quoted in part by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The opinion was given by Messrs. Barwick, Q.C., and Moore and deals with section 96m, now section 170. It reads -
Section 96m (now Section 170) is not limited in its operation to the purpose of ensuring that the “ authentic will of the members may be ascertained “. It can be a means of enabling a dissatisfied minority to have a Court conducted election for any motive, even a desire merely to embarrass the existing office bearers. As the nexus with the Constitutional power which the Court chose in the Ironworkers’ case was that the purpose or designed end of the section was the prevention of irregularities, we would respectfully disagree with the Court’s statement that the section has the effect of enabling members of organizations to express authentically their will. It is true that in some circumstances it may have that effect, but it also may have others; and in any case the existence of any doubt, or possible doubt, as to whether or not an election conducted by the organization without the supervision of the Court would reflect the will of its members is not a criterion or circumstance in bringing the section into play.
That opinion shows clearly that this section is likely to be used for the purpose of embarrassing existing office bearers. As the honorable member for East Sydney said, it is a device to transfer, or seek to transfer, the control of a union from the elected office bearers to a dissatisfied minority. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) would have some difficulty in explaining away that opinion given by two such eminent authorities as Messrs. Barwick, Q.C., and Moore.
I want to devote the rest of my very brief time to a few words of criticism of a department that is administered and that generally operates in a most satisfactory manner - a manner with which 1 generally agree. 1 want my words of criticism to be taken in that context. My first criticism is that there is still great delay and difficulty involved overseas in arranging for immigration, particularly in the cases of members of the families of immigrants who are already here. In Italy particularly, some persons wanting to come to Australia are asked to travel hundreds of miles, at a cost to themselves of tens of thousands of lira, to have medical examinations. This is an expense that many of them cannot afford to bear, having regard to their economic circumstances. The kind of decentralization of Australian immigration offices which the Minister discussed this afternoon does not appear to exist in Italy. I think that some arrangements ought to be made so that these people could have at least a preliminary medical examination without being required to travel to Rome or to other places a considerable distance from their homes. If that is not possible, then some consideration should be given to making a contribution to their travelling expenses.
I do not know whether the Italian Government would be prepared to cooperate. Indeed, I do not know whether the matter has ever been raised with it. However, I think that the processing of applications should be speeded up. I am not raising at the moment the question whether that would involve an increased vote, or the question whether the existing staff is doing everything it possibly can in the circumstances, but I say that something ought to be done to see that applications are dealt with more expeditiously.
There is another matter that I wish to raise. It is one that I have discussed in considerable detail with the Minister and the department. I shall not quote individual cases in relation to this matter, just as 1 did not quote individual cases in relation to the matter that I have just raised, although I have on my files a dozen or so cases to support my contentions. I refer now to the official practice of refusing naturalization on what might be called security or political grounds. In a number of cases that I have investigated very carefully I know that, without a shadow of doubt, the individuals have records, politically and socially, which do not in any way justify the refusal of the department to grant them naturalization as Australian citizens. I have not yet been able to find out the grounds upon which some of them have been refused naturalization. There is a suspicion that refusal might have been due to the fact that the person concerned attended a so-called peace meeting, or that he had taken part in a May Day march, or that he had appeared at a meeting where somebody else who was regarded as a Communist had also appeared, or that he had contributed to a certain newspaper or read a certain book and that was regarded by a completely politically uneducated member of the security service as evidence that he was some kind of a security risk. I think that the department should be considerably more hesitant in refusing to grant naturalization to immigrants on political or security grounds.
There are quite a number of other points that I should like to make. There is one matter, in particular, that I will raise on the adjournment at the first opportunity, lt has to do with an element of discrimination that was implied in a statement made by the Minister for Immigration, reported in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 22nd June last.
Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration and Department of Labour and National Service has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of National Development
Proposed Vote, £1,931,000
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
Proposed Vote, £6,772,000
Australian Atomic Energy Commission
Proposed Vote, £2,186,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to refer to the allocation for the War Service Homes Division. The sum of £35,000,000 was made available last year, and a similar sum is to be made available this year, but the fact is that the net sum that will be available for the building of war service homes in Australia this year is £2,000,000 less than it was last year. During 1950-51, 15,579 war service homes were built, and the capital expenditure was £25,000,000. The receipts and income of the War Service Homes Division in that year were £4,850,000, making the net amount spent £20,150,000. At that time, the applications numbered 23,500. We find that ten years later, in 1958-59 - this Government having been in power during the intervening time - the War Service Homes Division built only 14,669 homes and expended a gross amount of £35,150,000. The receipts and income of the division amounted to £16,760,000, which means that only £18,390,000 was spent on the building of war service homes.
The net amount spent in 1950-51 was £20,150,000. Ten years later, we find that the net amount spent was only £18,390,000. The fact is that this Government is spending less to-day on war service homes than it was spending ten years ago. I have a cold, and my voice is not very strong. With the concurrence of the committee, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table: -
This Government’s record in the building of war service homes is particularly poor. In 1950-51, 15,579 homes were built under this government, yet ten years later - in 1958-59 - only 14,669 homes were built. In 1950-51, there were 23,500 applications. Ten years later, there are 22,000 applications not yet catered for. The average cost of a home in 1950-51 was £2,080. To-day, the average cost is £3,918, being an increase of some 56 per cent, on the cost in 1950-51. Yet, no additional money has been made available for war service homes. This Government’s policy is to limit war service homes loans to £2,750. That amount is insufficient to build a home. Of course, we know that this Government is a friend and a protector of the money lenders, who charge ex-servicemen exorbitant rates of interest on temporary finance. Solicitors who arrange the contracts for ex-servicemen are go-betweens for the money lenders who provide temporary finance at interest of 8 per cent., 10 per cent., and sometimes 12 per cent.
At present, the waiting time for a war service homes loan to build is three months. When an ex-serviceman builds privately with temporary finance, the war service homes loan is made available twelve months after completion of the dwelling. The waiting time for a loan to purchase an existing new home is fifteen months, but if an ex-serviceman wishes to purchase an old home the waiting time for a loan is eighteen months. During the waiting period, the ex-servicemen have to obtain temporary finance from the money lenders. I think that this Government should make money available to exservicemen through the Commonwealth Bank so that as soon as they get the O.K. from the War Service Homes Division they can obtain money from the Commonwealth Bank at a reasonable rate of interest instead of having to wait about eighteen months - our friends on the other side know that in many instances the waiting time is even longer - for their war service homes loan.
There are many ex-servicemen on both sides of this chamber. It is all very well for some people to say that the exservicemen are treated quite well. We know that a maximum loan of £2,750 is insuf ficient and that it is wrong for an exserviceman to have to wait so long for a loan after his application has been approved. Some fourteen years have elapsed since the cessation of hostilities, yet the ex-servicemen still have to wait lengthy periods for loans through the War Service Homes Division. I remind the committee that there are still 22,000 applicants for war service homes loans who are unsatisfied, but less money is being made available this year for war service homes than was provided last year. Mr. Temporary Chairman, I hope that you will leave the chair and enter this debate to emphasize what I have said, because “ Hansard “, of 14th May, at page 2204, records that, when speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Housing Loans Guarantees (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1959, you said -
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who is now in the chair. Those were your actual words, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The maximum amount of a war service homes loan was raised to £2,750 in December, 1951. At that time, the average cost of a home was £2,080. The maximum amount of a war service homes loan now is only £2,750, despite the fact that the average cost of a home and the land to-day is £3,900. On the occasion to which I have referred, the honorable member for Lilley went on to say, concerning the maximum amount of loan -
In relation to war service homes, it should have been increased years ago. It is so long ago that £2,750 became the maximum advance available under the War Service Homes Act, that I have almost forgotten when it was. I think, the limit was set in 1951.
For your information, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I point out that this limit was set in December, 1951. This is very relevant to the present discussion, because the limitation of £2,750 applies to exservicemen who are living in the Australian Capital Territory.
I think that honorable members opposite must acknowledge that statistics show that the Government is using the War Service Homes Division - and the Post Office - as a revenue raiser. When this Government came to office in 1949, the division’s revenue was only £4,850,000; to-day, it is £16,700,000. The net amount that is being made available by this Government to-day to build war service homes is less than the net amount that was made available ten years ago. This Government’s record in relation to the building of homes for exservicemen
– It is a shameful record.
– As the honorable member for Macquarie has interjected, it is a shameful record, and one of which this Government cannot be proud. It should ensure that adequate money is made available for the housing of ex-servicemen.
During last week-end, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) boasted when addressing a conference of master builders in Victoria, that 74,000 homes were built last year and 84,000 homes have been built so far this year. Yet there are 22,000 unsatisfied exservicemen who have applied for loans from the War Service Homes Division. In addition, due to the waiting time for a loan, many more ex-servicemen have been frustrated and cannot be satisfied.
Let us look at the facts. Up till 1952, an ex-serviceman who had built a home with finance provided by a lending society or a bank could transfer his mortgage to the War Service Homes Division. This Government has wiped out that provision. I am an ex-serviceman. I built my home with finance provided by the Rural Bank of New South Wales, and I am unable to transfer the mortgage to the War Service Homes Division. Many ex-servicemen in Australia are paying 5i per cent, and 6 per cent, interest on money they have borrowed for home-building. They should be entitled to transfer their mortgages to the division and thus obtain the benefit of the lower interest rate of 3i per cent, that is charged on war service homes loans.
I say that this Government is merely a flag-waving government. Many honorable members on the other side of this chamber wear the returned soldiers’ badge with pride, but when it comes to making sure that this Government provides sufficient money for war service homes they remain silent. It will be interesting to see how many honorable members on the Govern ment side will get up and attack the Government on the matter of the miserable amount of money it is providing for war service homes. How can the Government be proud of the fact that the amount of money it is making available this year for war service homes is £2,000,000 less than was provided ten years ago?
– That is nonsense.
– If the Minister for Social Services will read the reports that have been made by this Government he will see that my assertion is not nonsense, but the truth.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I want to remind honorable members that when this Government came into office it promised to wipe out black marketing, and was going to do this and that. There is more black marketing and racketeering in the building of war service homes to-day than anything else. Only recently, on the adjournment motion, I directed attention to the fact that misleading advertisements were being inserted in the press by unscrupulous real estate agents and builders. Those advertisements stated that many homes were available for purchase by ex-servicemen without deposit! and that no waiting time was involved. But buyers found that they had to pay an amount of about £120 called, not a deposit, but a legal fee. They found also that the price did not include fences, and they had to pay something like £100 for fencing. The price did not include pathways, and they found that they had to pay an additional £50-odd to have pathways laid down. It was necessary, also, for them to negotiate a loan with the gas company for a period of about four years, repayable at £2 a week. The position was that, although they did not have to obtain temporary finance, they had to pay an occupation fee for a period of about 18 months until their loan from the War Service Homes Division became available. This illustrates the position that this Government, many of whose members are exservicemen, allows to continue. I should like ex-servicemen on the Government side of the chamber to get up and demand that expenditure on war service homes be increased from £35,000,000 to £40,000,000 so that a few more homes can be built. I ask ex-servicemen on the other side of the chamber to join with honorable members on this side in protest against this miserable amount that has been made available to the War Service Homes Division for the housing of ex-servicemen.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, you and I must have listened to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) with some amusement because as you know and as the honorable member for Reid would have known had he been here some years ago, this Government has broken the back of the war service housing lag. The war service housing situation is something of which we can be very proud indeed. As far as my electorate is concerned, I am proud of the record of the War Service Homes Division. I pay a tribute to Mr. Dempsey, the very energetic New South Wales Deputy Director of the War Service Homes Division for his work. I think that even members of the Opposition will be surprised at what the honorable member for Reid has said. Everybody knows, that, in the last ten years, many more war service homes have been constructed than in the previous 32 years during which many Labour governments had been in office. So, there has been a good record in war service homes and we cannot allow the honorable member for Reid to get away with his statements.
The estimates before the committee include those for the Department of National Development. I believe that two of the greatest achievements for which the prosperous age of the Menzies Government will be remembered are the major break through in the development of north Australia and the solution of the break of gauge problem. I submit that this Government will emerge in history for its work in the north in cooperation with the State governments. The development of North Australia will rank with the overland telegraph, the transAustralia railway and federation, itself, because all these things were the result of wide vision. They were not projects initiated as income-producing undertakings. They were designed to unite and further the development of this young country so that it could realize the full richness of its destiny and safeguard and maintain the security of its people.
– They were Labour blueprints.
– I am glad that I have the approbation of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). It is not often that I get it but he cannot forebear to applaud what has been done. With appreciation of the growing importance of the north and Western Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went to those regions last year. He increased federal aid for the work of development to £5,000,000. Thus, the Prime Minister has shown the way and given early impetus to this type of national development.
Thinking Australians have had an uneasy feeling about neglect of the thousands of miles of our northern coastline and of the millions of acres, much of it fertile, in a monsoon rainfall area. That this is so was shown by the interest in a tour of these areas displayed in the electorates of members who made it. All thinking Australians want the Commonwealth Government to take full responsibility for all of that wonderful land which a bountiful providence has assigned to us. All Australian people want to know that the north of Australia is to be fully developed. Thinking Australians are aware that hundreds of millions of underprivileged people will look with growing envy at this territory unless we move in vigorously. The people of Asia are already watching to see what use we make of this area. Millions of those people are closer to the north of Australia than are the people living in Canberra or other Australian cities. The few Australians living in our north are closer to Djakarta than they are to any Australian State capital city.
By removing the limiting factors of disease and famine, science is fast raising the expectancy of life in Asia. The rate of population growth has increased in this century. In 25 years, there will be another 500,000,000 people not very distant from Darwin. Rapid communication has brought them to within a few hours of any part of our north. If north Australia, with its rich food and mineral potential, is left unused, a challenge to our sole occupation will come.
Dr. Subandrio said a few months ago that in five or ten years Indonesia will turn its eyes to what was, a few years ago, our empty north. An Asian expert at a Canadian conference, a few weeks ago, spoke of Japan’s great interest in our raw materials there. When this challenge comes, it will be too late to do anything unless we start doing something now and continue to do it. Any invasion of our Northern Territory must affect the rest of Australia. There is so much do, so many obstacles to overcome, and so much preparation needed for the large-scale settlement that is required.
The World Refugee Year brings to mind millions of people and in Europe hundreds of thousands of people, who will be most interested in the north of Australia because it would give them a home and an occupation and would be so much superior to the squalor and hopelessness of the conditions under which they exist. I would think that this is the sort of national development which we ought to pursue.
As secretary of the government members’ food and agriculture committee, I had the privilege of organizing a tour of eleven members of the Federal Parliament as well as the Western Australian Minister for the North-West, engineers, scientists, rural experts, press and radio men. All of them came back full of enthusiasm. It was gratifying indeed to hear, two weeks later, that the Prime Minister had followed up his own interest by informing the Premier of Western Australia that the construction of the first diversion dam on the mighty Ord River had been approved as a joint Commonwealth-Western Australian work. It is the commencement, we hope, of an expanding programme of development which will cover further works.
I should like to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) who initiated this tour, the honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), Wimmera (Mr. King), Moore (Mr. Halbert), and my honorable friend, the distinguished representative for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who visited this area. Those members met their own accommodation and out-of-pocket expenses and gave up valuable time which they might have been expected to desire for work in their own electorates. A much greater number wanted to come, but their itineraries in their electorates precluded them from accompanying us. They asked whether similar tours could be organized later. I should pay a tribute also to members who sit in another place representing Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. If I may be permitted to mention their names, I refer to Senators Maher, Wardlaw, Branson, Drake-Brockman and Scott. They also made this tour, and all of them have made contributions to national development.
I would also like to pay a tribute to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who will be responsible in the Commonwealth sphere for the work carried out in the north of Western Australia. Probably no other person is more enthusiastic than he. I pay a tribute also to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who has been responsible, with his officers, for carrying out some magnificent research in the Northern Territory. Grasses and crops are being proven which will be of valuable assistance in the beef industry.
Australia is lucky in having at its disposal the services of the Western Australian Minister for the North-West, the Honorable Charles Court, who is able, competent and enthusiastic, and will accept the challenge offered him by the Commonwealth Government in approving of the work on the Ord River. I should also mention the work of the senior public servants in Western Australia, who are just as enthusiastic as, or perhaps even more enthusiastic than, anybody else associated with these projects. In speaking of this tour, one ought not to forget the radio men, who breathed a national spirit into the undertaking. I refer particularly to Mr. Bickel. The Western Australian pressmen also helped tremendously.
There were two people with us, Mr. George Falkiner, the federal president of the Merino Sheepbreeders’ Association, and Mr. Grant Davies, a distinguished grazier of my electorate, who gave us the benefit of their practical experience, which is so necessary with a group such as ours. I would also like to mention the firm of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, which carried out the work of transporting us through the area.
I should think that the northern area of Queensland would be richer than the northern parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I suggest that Queensland should be given consideration and assistance. We will visit that area also. Of course, the Minister for Territories is doing his job well in the Northern Territory itself.
Finally I should like to quote some remarks of Mr. Rohan Rivett, editor-in-chief of the Adelaide “News”. Mr. Rivett should certainly know what it is like to be in Asia, and to be a prisoner-of-war in an Asian camp. Speaking at the Good Neighbour Council regional meeting in Perth, Mr. Rivett said that the Australia of the 1960’s and 1970’s would be so different that many concepts that previously served us would have to be ruthlessly discarded. Referring to Asia, Mr. Rivett said -
The vast, rapidly expanding populations to the north of Australia represented an unfillable market. Unless Australia developed her northern resources to fill their needs, she would forfeit her right to occupy the Australian continent. That was why Australia’s rich cities, as well as the Federal Government, must make a bold attempt within the next five years to find the capital for northern development.
.- The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), in commencing his speech, took to task the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), saying that he had misquoted some figures when speaking about war service homes.
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said nothing about misquoting.
– The honoroble member said that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Reid were not in accordance with the facts, and that the assumptions that the honorable member for Reid had made from those figures were also not correct. Let me cite, for the benefit of the committee, the exact figures for 1957-58 and 1958-59. In each of those two years a total allocation of £35,000,000 was made to the War Service Homes Division. In 1957-58 the income received by the War Service Homes Division, by way of repayments of loans and in other ways, was £14,650,000. Taking that amount from the total allocation, we find that the net amount spent was £20,350,000. In 1958-59 the amount received in income was £16,760,000; the total amount spent, therefore, being £18,240,000. These figures show a reduction of about £2,000,000 in the amount of money spent by the Wat Service Homes Division, or by this Government, in providing homes for ex-servicemen.
The honorable member for Macarthur also spoke of the need for the development of the northern parts of Australia, and he went to some lengths to explain what is required in those areas, and to congratulate the Government for having made available £5,000,000 for developmental works. If the honorable member considers thai £5,000,000 is al! that is necessary for the development of the northern parts of Australia, let me inform him that honorable members on this side of the House do not share his view. We consider that the development of our northern areas should be receiving far more attention from this Government than it has received over the last ten years. So much of our land remains undeveloped, and so many things need to be done in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia, that the cost will be nearer to £500,000,000 than £5,000,000 if we are going to do the job properly.
I rose mainly to speak about war service homes. In the last few months I have received a number of representations from ex-servicemen’s organizations in my electorate. They have complained about the inadequacy of the finance being made available by this Government for war service homes. They have also voiced their dissatisfaction at the long periods that exservicemen must wait before they can obtain their finance.
The War Service Homes Division gives ex-servicemen an opportunity of purchasing their own homes. I feel that the exservicemen are merely receiving consideration for the time that they spent in keeping this country safe. It is now fourteen years since the end of the Second World War, and applications on hand for assistance from the War Service Homes Division totalled 20,621 at 31st July last. If the Government considers that this is a satisfactory state of affairs, let me say that I am far from satisfied with the position, and my view is shared by the ex-servicemen’s organizations. We have only to look at the annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of
Australia to find that that organization also is dissatisfied with the allocation of funds for war service homes.
The waiting period for an advance from the War Service Homes Division to build a house is three months, plus the length of time that it takes to build a home. In some cases, this is estimated to be approximately fifteen months in all. There is a class of application for advances to build privately by arranging finance before the War Service Homes Division makes funds available. The waiting time in this respect is twelve months after the satisfactory completion of the home. For the purchase of a new home the waiting time is eighteen months after receipt of the application or completion of the home, whichever is the later date. For the purchase of an old property, the waiting time is twenty months. For group homes, in respect of which the War Service Homes Division does everything - that is, it provides the home and the applicants simply move in - the waiting period is fifteen months. So, in every instance, before ex-servicemen may move into homes, there is a waiting time of between twelve months and twenty months. This far from satisfactory state of affairs could easily be remedied by the Government if it made additional funds available to the War Service Homes Division.
The unsatisfactory nature of the position is highlighted by the fact that ex-servicemen who apply to the division for finance are told that they may raise temporary finance. But even if they succeed in doing so it will still be necessary for them1 to wait for a certain period before funds are made available. We find that many ex-servicemen are not able to arrange temporary finance at reasonable rates of interest. An exserviceman who goes to a bank for assistance may be told that the longest period for which it can allow him temporary finance is nine months. If he proposes to purchase an old property - that is, a property that has been built for some years - he has to wait for twenty months before the War Service Homes Division will make an advance available to him. If he goes to the Commonwealth Bank he may be told that money cannot be made available to him on a temporary basis for longer than nine months, but the War Service Homes Division, another Commonwealth instrumentality, tells him that he will .have to wait for twenty months before he may expect financial assistance from it. If the division allows exservicemen to obtain temporary finance, surely it is up to the Government to say to the Commonwealth Bank, “ These people who go to you for a loan have the right to borrow money from the War Service Homes Division. They are entitled to receive from you temporary loans to correspond with the waiting period fixed by the division “, instead of the Commonwealth Bank saying, “ We will give you a loan for only nine months “, and the War Service Homes Division saying, “You will have to wait for twenty months “.
– What is the average rate of interest on those temporary loans?
– I have not the exact figures, but in some instances the rate is 10 per cent, over the whole period of the loan, so that if the loan is for two years and finance becomes available from the War Service Homes Division in a period of twenty months, the ex-serviceman must continue to pay interest for the whole period of two years for which the temporary finance was granted. Perhaps only the better type of financier makes money available to ex-servicemen at 10 per cent. The fact that ex-servicemen must pay such exorbitant rates of interest means that some of them find they are unable to meet their repayments, while others who meet their repayments have to make tremendous sacrifices to do so.
The provision of finance through the War Service Homes Division is solely the prerogative of the federal Government. The division was established by the Commonwealth to provide homes for ex-servicemen. If the present Commonwealth Government were facing its responsibilities in the field of housing, even if only in respect of homes for ex-servicemen, the housing lag throughout Australia would not be nearly so great. The ex-serviceman has a right to expect that financial assistance will be made available to him within a reasonable time of his application, lt is now fourteen years since the end of the war, and it is completely unsatisfactory that ex-servicemen should have to wait many months before an advance is made. From figures which appear in the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes, we find that over the last three years the number of applications for assistance has ranged from approximately 21,000 to 23,000. About 40 per cent, of the total number of applicants do not proceed with their applications, for various reasons. It is therefore a simple arithmetical problem to work out exactly how much money would be required in order to overtake the backlag of applications for advances from the division. If this Government did as the Returned Servicemen’s League suggests it should do, and increased the allocation by £5,000,000 a year for the next two or three years, the backlag would be overtaken. The problem which faces us in respect of war service homes at the moment relates, in large part, to the insufficiency of the funds that are allocated.
Another matter that I desire to discuss, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is the need for an increase of the maximum amount of financial assistance which may be obtained from the War Service Homes Division. The amount was increased in December, 1951, from £2,000 to £2,750, in respect of appin cations to build homes. In respect of applications for all classes of homes, the amount was increased to £2,750 in November, 1954. I have taken out some figures from the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes which show that in 1954-55, the financial year in which the maximum loan was increased to £2,750, the average cost of land and dwellings erected with the aid of finance from the division was £4,153 in the Australian Capital Territory, where the cost was the highest, £3,386 in New South Wales, and £3,017 in Queensland, where the cost was the lowest, due partly to the fact that a lot of homes in that State are built of timber. In 1958-59,’ the average cost ranged from £5,755 in the Australian Capital Territory, which was again the highest, down to £3,391 in Queensland, which was again the lowest. We therefore have a basis for comparison. In 1954-55, when the highest average cost was £4,153 in the Australian Capital Territory, the maximum loan was £2,750. In 1958-59, with average costs of £5,755 in the Australian Capital Territory, and £3,391 in Queensland, the maximum advance was still only £2,750. If it was considered reasonable to increase the maximum loan to £2,750 in 1954-55, then the time has long since passed when the loans should have been further increased.
I suggest that a reasonable figure at the present time, having regard to the average cost of houses, would be about £3,500. It is impossible for many ex-servicemen with young families and who may have to pay exorbitant rents for unsuitable dwellings, to save approximately £1,200, which an ex-serviceman in New South Wales would have to do, as a deposit on land and a dwelling. If this Government were facing up to its responsibilities in the matter of housing assistance for ex-servicemen, which comes directly under its control, this problem could be very quickly solved by increasing the allocation of funds to the War Service Homes Division. There are one or two other problems in relation to war service homes that I should like an opportunity to discuss.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- 1 should like to speak on the subject of national development in a broader sense, perhaps, than merely the work of the Department of National Development. In its broadest sense national development means all that work and all those activities which, in fact, develop- the nation. I hope I may be pardoned, Sir, for applying that construction for the purposes of this debate.
If we as a nation are seriously intent on national development in its true sense - and that is surely a consummation devoutly to be wished - we must look beyond the cities and beyond the thinking of city dwellers. We are fast becoming more and more a nation of city dwellers. I take it that national development means the development of all of the nation. Yet, so little encouragement is given to people to live outside our cities that one would think that the objective of governments, both Federal and State, is to carry on rural development without rural dwellers. Australia to-day has a very fine immigration policy, as nobody can dispute; but what is the use of having a large intake of migrants if the migrants are mostly going to finish up as city dwellers? The drift to the cities in this country is calamitous, and it is one of the greatest obstacles in the way of national development in its true sense, as I denned it a moment ago.
If the Government is aware of this fact, no indication of its awareness has been given. No plan for the encouragement of people to populate our under-developed areas has been announced, so far as I am aware. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence of governments in every sphere discouraging- people from living in the very areas which we want to develop, and which we must develop. The cost of living in outback areas is high. One would think that some form of relief would be given, perhaps in the matter of rail freights and shipping freights, which represent a considerable proportion of the cost of living in rural areas. Instead of that, however, the Government levies sales tax not only on the item for sale, but also on the freight. If honorable members are inclined to be incredulous about that, I have in my keeping invoices which specifically detail all the charges. In one case these include freight, £6, and sales tax at 8i per cent, on the freight. I have categorical proof that this is the position, and I think that it- is grossly unfair to people who live in areas where freight is such a large proportion of the cost of commodities. That situation does not promote decentralization - and we are supposed to have a policy of decentralization. Surely decentralization must be considered in the light of the need for national development.
This is a subject which should vitally interest all Commonwealth departments, which surely should co-operate with the Department of National Development. If they did so, the work of that department would become much easier and, more important still, much more effective. If we consider the exploitation of our mineral assets to be part of national development, the people who will exploit those minerals are just as important as the actual minerals are, and they should be encouraged to stay where the minerals are. I mention minerals simply as an illustration; the same argument applies to pastoral, agricultural and all other pursuits.
The Department of National Development has earned the respect of all Aus tralians for its financial and geological encouragement of the search for oil in this country. The Bureau of Mineral Resources, which it controls, is an institution renowned for its good work. I hope that my plea for a more concerted effort by all Commonwealth departments will be heeded. This country’s national assets are immense but, as yet, they are mostly hidden, and while Australians continue to be city-minded, confining their thinking within the metropolitan boundaries, those great national assets will continue to be hidden.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in these days of intense competition, especially when our prosperity is flaunted before our eyes with unfailing regularity, it is amazing that this Government apparently has no great plans for national development. In my opinion, there is a need for a bold plan for transport co-ordination in respect of road, rail, air and sea communications. In fact, it is my opinion that the economy of this country demands such a plan of coordination. Insofar as sea, rail and air transport are concerned, the routes are clearly defined. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about roads. We read much about great mineral wealth in the north. We read with interest the statements of Mr. Christian regarding the potential of Arnhem Land and the Northern Territory, in particular for cattle-raising, mining and agriculture. Arising out of all his splendid information about the vast resources of our nation perhaps the most salient point is the lack of communications and transport facilities. I would say that that is the most important feature of the issue.
Any one who has travelled in the Northern Territory is amazed at what I would describe as the woeful inadequacy in the provision of all-weather roads - roads which could be considered as the conduits that are so necessary to the development of the far north. In fact, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is true to say that roads are the conduits of our national life. It is also true to say that cities, towns, shires and countries have built roads and, in turn, the roads have built cities, towns, shires and countries. Wherever a road has run it has always been of absolute importance to industry and the community generally. It- is equally true to say that the greater the co-ordination and’ ease and speed’ of communications the greater the measure of progress and success in development. It is beyond a shadow of doubt that co-ordination of transport anywhere is always a great improvement and of benefit- to the nation.
Over the past ten years, our population, and wealth have increased at a far greater rate than we expected. So, too, has the volume of road transport, and I think that everybody would agree that basically those factors are the main reasons for the total inadequacy of our road system. In fact, they highlight the absolute need for trans. port co-ordination in Australia. Some indication of the increase in motor traffic can be gleaned from a book entitled, “ Australian Automotive Year Book”! The figures which it gives for the last 35 years are of interest. In 1923 there were on the roads 13’2,521 vehicles. These served a population of “5,694,000, or 43 persons per vehicle. In 1958 there were 2,410,809 vehicles serving a population of 9,846,000, or 4.08 persons per vehicle. These figures alone indicate the need, for a national approach to the question of better roads and transport co-ordination..
It is interesting to note, in passing, that on1 the Government’s own admission there arc 60,000 unemployed persons in this country. It is easy to- see how this state of affairs could be rectified’ by the implementation of a national roads scheme; Ninety per cent: of the money spent on road construction is devoted to labour costs. Unfortunately, many people have been led to believe that we cannot afford modern roads. In fact, we have reached the stage at which we cannot afford, not to have them. Perhaps this might be a convenient time at which to suspend the sitting..
– As a guillotine has been imposed I think we ought to use- every bit of time that we have.
– Every one is agreed upon the need for good roads.. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has himself expressed that thought in many conversations I have* had with’ him on the subject. Such are the: economic; defence and develop mental needs of this- country that national road-building and- transport coordination are demanded by each and every1 Australian. A bold aproach is needed to overcome what is, without doubt, the- greatest devouring, agent in our national economy.
– The Government has been fighting the idea for eight years.
– It has been fighting it for much longer than that. The federal Government should become, the nation’sroadbuilding authority. The only real answer to the present state of affairs is the creation of a national construction and coordinating authority- to provide the roads needed for all activities. This would reduce the staggering effect of our antiquated road and. transport systems on. the cost of everything that is. purchased:
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) spoke of decentralization of industry, but this is dependent upon transport co-ordination, and that in turn depends upon good, modern roads. These, we believe, are vital to the progress of this nation - especially at the present time.
It is interesting to refer: to a report, published in the Melbourne “Sun” of 14th. May last of a statement on this subject by Sir Thomas Maltby, the Victorian Minister for Public Works. The report reads -
Victoria would need an extra ?100- million over the next 10 years to overtake deficiencies, in its road system, the Minister for Public Works, Sir Thomas Maltby, said last night.
The- recent increased’ grant, from the Commonwealth was a palliative, not a cure, he said. Under the new Federal Aid Roads legislation Victoria’ would get ?8,370,000 a year from the Commonwealth - an increase of ?l,720j000..
Sir Thomas said that this, would help, to make, a start, on relieving traffic congestion problems in urban areas rt would also, make: up some of the leeway in urgent works on the.- existing, country- roadsnetwork.
But until’ more money was available there would not be much improvement in- Victorian roads.
Sir Thomas Maltby, in common with the Government, chose to say not one word about co-ordination or decentralization.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mr;- McIVOR.: - Prior to- the suspension of the sitting, 1 was stressing the need for modern roads, transport co-ordination and decentralization of industry. The advocacy for better transport has been going on for many years. I pointed out also that there was great apathy on the part of this Government to take the intitiative and bring into being something which could be of great benefit to the country. It was interesting to read in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 5th January last an article under large banner headlines, “ Federal Call, to States on Road Plans Part of that article was as follows -
Representatives of authorities may be called in to provide the “ broadened approach “ to the problem of road construction, road maintenance and road safety promised by the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, in his Federal election policy speech.
Four months later, on 21st May, this same newspaper carried another article under the heading “ Governments Blamed for ‘ Shameful Roads ‘ “. The opening paragraph read -
Australia’s roads should make us thoroughly ashamed the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Norman Robertson, says in his annual report issued to-day.
The article went on -
The so-called highway linking Melbourne and Sydney is 50 years behind the times.
Mr. Robertson says the Commonwealth Government in the last 32 years has collected £476,000,000 from motorists in petrol tax alone.
But only £257,000,000 has been used for road maintenance.
A later paragraph in the article reads -
Mr. Robertson says Australia cannot afford roads on the American scale, but at least Australians might expect the highways linking the capital cities and provincial centres to be of modern standard.
This would literally pave the way for decentralization.
In the light of my remarks before the suspension of the sitting, it is fitting to go back again to 1956 and see how the subjects of decentralization and transport coordination have been hammered at and to observe that no progress is being made. The Government, which shelters behind the Constitution, does not seem to have any desire to give a lead to the States by doing something in this important matter which is now absolutely beyond the control of the States. In 1956, when the Victorian Railways had a deficit of £4,270,680 the State Railways Commissioners gave the excuse that uncontrolled interstate traffic by air and road’ had become a major factor in their financial slide. That comment appeared in an article in the Melbourne- “ Sun NewsPictorial “ on 24th November, 1956. The writer- had this to say -
You can’t apply steam-roller reasoning to atom age transport.
Is it to be assumed that railways can pay only if road hauliers are pushed aside and air transport is discouraged?
It would be unthinkable.
I agree. The stage has been reached in our country to-day when, we must rise above parochial State thinking. We must get down to a basis of transport coordination, of modern road construction and of practical decentralization. Only then will we be doing justice to the workers of this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to confine my remarks to the estimate for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and to speak particularly about research on the cattle tick. Most honorable members will probably have seen the most interesting report issued by the Division of Agricultural Economics on the losses caused in Australia by this parasite. In that report, it is estimated that the annual loss is £10,000,000. After a very long experience in the cattle industry in north Queensland. I suggest that that estimate is most conservative. For one thing, I notice that the values taken are £5 10s. per 100 lb., for fat cattle, but we all know that to-day’s value is practically twice that sum. Another striking example of the effect of this parasite is shown by the loss of income to Queensland.
Not long ago the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in a most interesting speech traced the history of the cattle tick in Australia. He pointed out that it was introduced to the Northern Territory in 1872 by Brahman cattle imported from Java and spread through the Territory into Queensland. By 1895 it had practically covered the coastal areas of that State and then it spread to northeastern New South Wales. Obviously the further spread of the tick was prevented purely by climatic conditions. lt is interesting to make some comparisons of the numbers of stock in Queensland at various periods. In 1860, there were 432,000 head in Queensland and in 1895, when the tick spread throughout that State, there were 6,800,000. To-day there are only 5,600,000 beef cattle there, lt must be realized that in 1895, when the cattle population was at its peak, very little improvement work was done on cattle properties. The earliest figures I can find relating to artesian and sub-artesian bores show that in 1902 there were 670 throughout Queensland but to-day there are more than 10,500. That indicates a tremendous improvement in station properties, but, unfortunately, the cattle population has decreased. On the other hand, sheep numbers are considerably ahead of cattle. In 1895, there were 19,800,000 sheep, but to-day there are 22,000,000. Many of the areas which, in the latter part of last century ran sheep, were changed over to cattle because of spear grass and adverse climatic conditions. As I have already pointed out, the report of the C.S.I.R.O. shows that the cattle tick is responsbile for an annual loss to the cattle industry of £10,000,000. In the twenty years from 1940, the losses can be put down at £200,000,000. In that period we have spent £300,000 on research into the cattle tick.
There are two ways of defeating this parasite; one is by eradication and the other by chemical attack such as dips. The breeding of tick-resistant cattle is another means of overcoming it. The cattle tick has been eradicated in the United States of America but in that country climatic conditions were strongly in favour of this being achieved. Eradication will be more difficult in Queensland. Before we can attempt it, we must find out more about the tick. The honorable member for Richmond has stated that the Commonwealth is engaged with the New South Wales Government in eradication measures and that £500,000 has been spent in this way in each of the last two years; but the tick has still not been eradicated. We still do not know very much about this parasite. Until control measures are taken in the areas of Queensland immediately adjacent to northeastern New South Wales, I believe that the eradication project in New South Wales cannot succeed. Each female tick lays about 2,000 eggs, and when the eggs hatch the young crawl up the grass and attach themselves to anything at all. They are easily spread.
Another problem is created by the redwater disease, which is spread by the tick. We know very little about this disease, but to some extent it can be controlled by inoculation. However, we have still much to learn about it. For instance, cattle which are immune in one area may die of redwater when transferred to another area. Until we can afford ample protection by inoculation or other means, we cannot commence eradication schemes in Queensland. I am sure that honorable members will agree that the expenditure of only £50,000 a year for research by the C.S.I.R.O. into the parasite and £5,000 or £10,000 a year for research into red-water disease is ridiculously inadequate. In view of the splendid reputation of the C.S.I.R.O. and the saving of hundreds of millions of pounds as a result of its research into our problems, I feel that this Government is duty bound to see that the estimates for the C.S.I.R.O. are increased so that ample funds will be available for this organization to undertake adequate research into tick control.
At present in Queensland the area devoted purely to research into the parasite covers 1.6 acres and I understand that it is leased. The opportunity is present now to start research into this problem and ample funds should be made available to enable it to be done. As the honorable member for Richmond pointed out, we are not making very much progress in north-eastern New South Wales, and until we acquire a greater knowledge of the tick, we are wasting money. I have studied this matter and as a result I believe that if the amount were increased to, say, £200,000 or £300,000 a year, a good deal could be accomplished.
There is another very important factor. Before the cattle tick came to Queensland, British breeds of cattle were a tremendous success. The trend to-day is to use exotic breeds such as Brahman and Santa Gertrudis. If we cannot eradicate the tick, the only way out will be to use these exotic breeds; but as we know that British breeds were a tremendous success in the northern areas, we should persevere in our efforts to eradicate the tick. After all, we know that beef from British breeds is, so far, the top beef of the world. Since we are a primary producing country and depend to a vital degree on our export of primary products, we must put quality before all other considerations. I think that beef exports from Australia in the last twelve months amounted to £110,000,000. If we succeeded in eradicating the tick, I have no doubt that we could increase our cattle population in the tick areas by 25 per cent. The sum that I have mentioned for research is not very large when considered alongside the amount that we lose. We would be failing the cattle industry of Queensland if we did not accept our responsibilities and provide an adequate amount for research that could lead to the eradication of the cattle tick.
.- It is always interesting for honorable members to hear the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) speak on a subject with which he is so well acquainted. All honorable members, however amateur is their knowledge of such matters, must respond to his appeal that the Commonwealth, by every means, develop its tropical areas. One of the great roles that Australia can play - certainly a role that it must play if it is to justify its position in this part of the world - is to provide foodstuffs for the rapidly growing population of Asia. I believe it is true that wherever the standard of living of any people improves, their consumption of meat increases. If Australia can develop the vast spaces of its tropical areas to carry large herds of beef cattle, then Australia will not only be more secure and more prosperous but it will be able to face the rest of the world with a better conscience.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has already done a magnificent job in developing our agricultural and pastoral potential. It is regrettable that the pressure on the C.S.I.R.O. and other Government agencies to develop the tropics is inevitably less intense than the pressure on them to deal with the problems of the already welldeveloped temperate zones. But, Sir, we are reaching the end of the economic capacity of our temperate areas to produce agricultural and pastoral products, such as crops of various types, and butter and cheese, for the European market. We have,, however, merely tapped the potential of our tropical areas to cater for Asia. I would not, of course, venture to say whether the exotic breeds to which the honorable member for Mcpherson referred are less suited for our tropical areas thant the breeds which we obtained from Scotland and the Channel Islands. I would have thought that the exotic breeds were not inappropriate to our tropics, but this is a matter which can safely be left to the experts in the C.S.I.R.O.
I hope that, as a result of the comments made by the honorable members for Mcpherson and Herbert (Mr. Murray) on the Government side and by Opposition members who represent tropical constituencies such as the Northern Territory, Leichhardt, Kennedy and, after the next election, Kalgoorlie, the C.S.I.R.O. will be encouraged to devote an increasing proportion of its resources to investigating and developing our tropical potential.
I wish to pass now to a subject of which many previous speakers have spoken during the debate on the estimates for the Department of National Development, namely, the position of the War Service Homes Division. We are familiar with the evasions and the alibis which the Government has pleaded over many years with respect to housing in general. And it can plead those alibis with a fair degree of plausibility in some directions. It can say that housing commissions are administered by the States; and if it reiterates that point of view long enough, it can obscure the fact that the housing commissions get their funds from the Commonwealth, and always have done so. Again, the Government can say to building societies, and to people who hope to borrow money from banks and insurance companies - the traditional long-term lenders - that there again it is a matter of discretion for the banks or insurance companies whether and how much they will lend to home-seekers directly or through building societies.
If the Government reiterates that point of view long enough, it will obscure the fact that this Parliament has sufficient constitutional power over insurance companies, and over banks, to determine the amount of money they lend for housing and at what interest, for what period and on what deposit they lend it. In all these fields, this Parliament if it has the will, and if it abandons prevarication, can ensure that sufficient funds are made available to provide a house for every family which lives in Australia or migrants to Australia whenever and wherever required.
But, as regards war service homes, there can be no evasion. For 41 years this Parliament has made appropriations for the purpose of war service homes. The power of the Parliament to make appropriations for that purpose has never been challenged, and it cannot be challenged. It is not like the Wickham case where a challenge was made to the preference-in-employment provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. There is no let or hindrance to this Parliament making appropriations of money to cater for the health, pensions, accommodation or land settlement of men and women who have served in our forces, or who are serving in our forces now.
Furthermore, not only is there the power for us to deal with that matter, but there is the obligation for us to deal with it. It was well known during the First World War, the Second World War, and the wars in which we have been engaged since, that one of the privileges which this Parliament would extend to people who served in the forces was that they would secure preferential terms of home finance when they were demobilized.
From time to time, the Government professes to be surprised at the number of people who seek assistance from the War Service Homes Division. It is not to be wondered at, of course, if you increase the interest rate for home loans after the horror Budget in 1951, and increase it again in 1956 after the little horror Budget, that more and more people will seek advances for homes from the War Service Homes Division, the one source through which the Commonwealth itself directly makes money available and in which, accordingly, even this Government has not got the effrontery to increase the interest rate.
I remember that in a recent estimates debate the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) stated that nowadays everybody with a shadow of a claim seeks an advance from the War Service Homes Division. War service homes have never been the peculiar prerogative of persons who have served in the Forces with such distinction that they have been decorated; they are available to anybody who has served overseas in the Forces. It is surprising that people who hold some position of responsibility in the Parliament should presume to ration the sources of finance to people according to the distinction of their war service as distinct from the fact of their war service.
If one looks at the first annual report of the new Director of the War Service Homes Division, one will notice that last year - the second year in which the Parliament had made £35,000,000 available for the division - the number of houses being provided declined. Particularly was that the case where new homes were required, because, as I hope to show the committee, the advances made possible under this act are now so small that people cannot afford to secure new houses with them.
The number of applicants who received advances of all kinds from the War Service Homes Division fell from 14,790 in 1957- 58, to 14,669 last year, while the number of unsatisfied applicants rose from 19,257 to 20,518. The number of building contracts signed fell from 4,979 to 3,684. The percentage of buildings to total applications fell from 33 per cent, to 30 per cent. The number of homes completed fell from 5,498 to 5,210. The number of new homes provided fell from 9,520 to 8,415, representing 13.37 per cent, and 10.69 per cent, respectively of the total new homes built throughout Australia. On the other hand, the number of old homes provided rose from 3,738 to 4,996. Wherever one looks in this report, one sees that the number of new houses being erected has declined. The simple reason for that is that the maximum loan which one can secure from the War Service Homes Division has remained at £2,750 since 11th December, 1951.
According to successive reports of the Director, the average cost of a dwelling and land in each State rose between 1951- 52 and 1958-59 as follows:-
It will be noted that in every case the average cost in 1951-52 was some hundreds of pounds less than the maximum advance which could be secured from the War Service Homes Division, whereas last year the maximum advance which could be secured was between £600 and £1,200 less than the average cost of a house and land. It is no wonder, therefore, that exservicemen are finding it more and more difficult to borrow the money with which to buy new homes.
The details were shown more clearly in an answer to a question which the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, Mr. Roberton, gave me on 16th September last. From that answer it transpired that in four of the five categories under which advances can be made by the War Service Homes Division, the number of people who received assistance declined in Australia as a whole and in most States. In the first category - the building of houses under the act - the number of advances declined in every State except Queensland. In the second category - the building of houses privately with temporary finance - the number of advances declined in every State except New South Wales. In the third category - the purchase of new houses - the number of advances declined in every State except Tasmania. In the fourth category - group homes - the number of advances declined in every State except New South Wales and Queensland. It was only in the fifth category - the purchase of old homes - that the number of advances increased, both in Australia as a whole and in every State.
Finally, the Minister’s .reply showed that in every State the delay in securing an advance had increased last year as compared with the previous year. In the first category - the building of houses under the act - the delay rose from nil to three months. In the second category - building houses privately with temporary finance - it rose from nine months to twelve months after satisfactory completion of the house. In the third category - the purchase of new houses - it remained at fifteen months in every State. In the fourth category - group homes - it rose from twelve months to fifteen months in New South Wales, from eighteen months to 30 months in Tasmania, nil to three months in Western Aus tralia and remained the same in the, other four States. In the fifth category - the purchase of old houses - the delay increased from fifteen months to eighteen months in each State. It is, therefore, quite plain that in most States and in most categories people who apply this year for finance for war service homes will not secure the advance in the financial year with which we are dealing, and in several categories they will not receive the advance even in next financial year.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think all honorable members will agree - no one could fail to agree - with the opening remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) relating to the north of Australia. His remarks were very well considered and true in every respect. I sincerely hope that he conveys those remarks at every possible opportunity to honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
Surely no government department has a name or designation that conjures up in the mind such scope and possibilities as the Department of National Development. There are so many great projects that could be undertaken from which we could derive great benefit that we wonder how many such projects have been investigated, reported upon and pigeon-holed. I think there would be a great number.
It is a very popular pastime for residents of the southern States these days to travel north of Capricorn, have a quick look around and return south feeling tremendously enthusiastic. They have discovered, or rediscovered, the great potential of north Australia. They are freely quoted in the press, in fact seldom a week goes by that one does not read an article in some southern newspaper directing attention to the statements that these discoverers have made. No one doubts that they are completely correct in everything that they have said, but the tragedy is that what they have been saying all these years has been entirely wasted. The very disturbing result of all this is that there is a growing division between the thinking of the people in the north and the people in the south. That division does exist, lt is a reflection on Commonwealth and State administration over the years that it has been allowed to develop.
North of Capricorn the population is developing into almost a race apart in its thinking. The people are cynical of southern administration and they wonder, with some justification, whether there really is any meaning in many of the slogans they have heard so often concerning the north - “ Populate or perish “, “ Use or lose “, and so on. They can be excused for their wonderment. They hear of vast sums of money being spent in the southern States to alleviate difficulties that have been caused by the rapid growth of population in and around capital cities, difficulties which they believe are arising far too early in our national growth when we have so much rich, undeveloped land waiting for attention. They see the Premiers of the southern States competing with one another in every possible way to encourage overseas investments in their particular States. We all know that we have not the physical and financial resources to progress at the rate at which we should. We have a very high stability rating, and overseas investors are encouraged by what they see. We must do everything to encourage overseas investment in Australia and do nothing to discourage it.
Nevertheless, we are continuing to grow in an unbalanced manner. Far too much emphasis has been placed on the growth of population and development in some areas at the expense of others. It is about time that we had a statement of truth on this matter, a statement that will tell us whether it is really important for us to populate the north. Many of us believe that this is very important from a defence point of view. If it is, it would be a good thing for the people to know the size of the population that is needed in the north and the location in which it should be placed. We should be told also what population is required to make any serious contribution to defence. If we rely on the present slow rate of increase, time certainly is not on our side. This particular problem should be recognized by us all.
About 40 per cent, of Australia’s land area is north of Capricorn, and it carries about 4 per cent, of our total population - about 400,000 people north of Capricorn and about 9,500,000 south. Of that 400,000. about 200,000 people are situated on the narrow coastal strip of north-east Queensland mainly as a result of the establishment of the sugar industry in that area. If it were not for the sugar industry and several mining enterprises, the population of north Australia would be very small indeed, and it would rely mainly on pastoral industries. The sugar industry has been largely responsible for the growth of population in the north, but it does not seem to have much chance of any great expansion in the foreseeable future. We have great mineral resources awaiting development if markets and communications are available. For instance, the Mount Isa mining company has set a clear example of enterprise in opening a copper refinery at Townsville which had an initial output of 40,000 tons of refined copper a year. We have now been told that production will increase in a few years to 100,000 tons - a wonderful enterprise indeed, and one which, within a very short time, probably will be paying to the Commonwealth up to £10,000,000 or more a year in taxes.
There is little wonder that the people of the north are more than puzzled. In fact, many are genuinely angered at the fact that apparently money cannot be found at home or abroad to bring the Mount IsaTownsville railway line to the standard that all agree is necessary to handle the increased output of the Mount Isa mines and the tremendous potential of the great inland area which the railway line will serve. This is a project of such national importance that we cannot sit idly by and see it deferred. I believe that no new national project should be commenced in Australia until work is carried out on the Mount Isa-Townsville railway line.
Mining has a vital part to play in our development, but we must never lose sight of the fact that our real and everlasting wealth lies in the good earth itself. Seventy-five per cent, of Australia’s better rainfall area lies in the north of Australia. If we want to demonstrate that we have staked our claim properly in that area, we must exploit it. It is very easy for us to talk about the urgency of this or that project. We do so with good intentions, but in most cases there is the evidence to show that after having looked at the matter thoroughly we should have been more cautious in our approach. Obviously we need some research on a national basis to show the merits of this or that recommendation, research which would allow the Government to make a proper appreciation of the position so that we could be told what is really important and what is not. We badly need to have this research. We cannot afford to do other than first things first. We certainly cannot afford to start any developmental project which might have, or might suggest that it has, greater political than national benefit.
We are very short of research workers. Private enterprise is allowed to compete far too freely with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and other research organizations. This should be stopped, and we should make it far more difficult for that sort of thing to occur. It would be impossible to calculate the good that the C.S.I.R.O. has done and the contribution that it has made to our national wealth. This remarkable organization is showing us more clearly every day just how great is our potential and how clearly inadequate our resources are to deal with it. Yet we find the C.S.I.R.O. handicapped by lack of money and shortage of research workers. It cannot get on with some of the research programmes which are so urgent. Our greatest requirement at present is for research into methods of increasing primary production in northern Australia. If we cannot put a large population in the north, or if we do not need it there for some reason or other, we should double our efforts to increase the productivity of the north. In North Queensland alone, we have extraordinary possibilities for increasing beef production by developing the wet tropical coastal area into a natural fattening region for the beef cattle industry. The pattern should be to breed inland and to fatten on the coast. This might be said to be a State responsibility, but with the meat industry in the far north on a seasonal basis, as it is, and large sums of money being paid out each year in unemployment relief, the Commonwealth should take a very definite interest in the suggestion. The sugar industry, of course, is still more seasonal in character, and although the numbers affected by its seasonal character may be reduced by mechanization, we will still have this problem. Forestry may offer opportunities. The planting of forests for future requirements may provide work in the wet season to take up some of the unemployment in the sugar industry.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) have dealt very ably with the cattle tick menace. Nobody knows how much damage the tick is causing. We cannot estimate the loss that we suffer each year because of it. We are slowly being conditioned to living with cattle tick control rather than facing up to tick eradication. This is a very serious matter indeed. The southern states of the United States of America, despite very serious industry opposition, faced up to the eradication of the tick and were very successful. The benefit has been tremendous. As a result, cattle numbers in Florida alone have risen from 300,000 to 2,000,000. I believe that the honorable member for McPherson was very close to the mark when he suggested that by tick eradication we could raise our numbers by at least 25 per cent. I think the increase would be greater. We might well wonder what contribution the C.S.I.R.O. has been asked by the New South Wales Government to make to the eradication of the tick in that State. That would be an interesting story indeed. Research, and more research, are needed, particularly in the north, so that we may have a proper appreciation, guide our investment, plan our growth, and raise our productivity.
.- In recent years the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has made a study of the housing problem. The reports that he has issued are of a most interesting nature and it is quite evident that much research has been devoted to their compilation. In December, 1956, a report issued over the name of the Minister stated that he hoped the back of the housing problem would be broken in four or five years. Well, whether or not that has been achieved is. certainly a matter for argument. Interest was again focussed on the housing problem by a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) yesterday to the effect that over the last twelve months the number of houses built in Australia was 10,000 more than the number built in the previous year. That is very interesting, and it is very hopeful to those who are at present deprived of that most necessary adjunct to civilized living, namely, a decent home.
But experiences over the last few years have shown that the rate of house construction in the Commonwealth has oscillated most violently, and there is no guarantee that because 84,000 houses were built in the year ended June last, an equal or even larger number will be built this year. This is due, of course, to the eratic financial policy enunciated by the Commonwealth from time to time. An examination of the statistics shows that the construction of ‘84,000 houses, about which the Prime Minister waxed so eloquent and enthusiastic yesterday, was by no means a super-human effort, because in 1952-53 no fewer than 80,000 houses were erected, and we must remember that there has been a terrific increase in population since then. In 1953-54, 77,000 houses were erected; in 1954-55, 82,000, or only 2,000 fewer than were erected last year; in 1955-56, 78,000; in 1956-57, 68,000; and in 1957-58, 74,000. It can therefore be seen that the number has varied from year to year. Because of that 1 should like to have from a Government spokesman some statement as to whether the construction of 84,000 houses last year is a sign of things to come.
As a matter of interest, I should like to have seen a type dissection of those 84,000 houses, because frankly I do not believe that the neediest section of the community, the lower income group, benefited very substantially from the houses erected last year. I am satisfied that such a dissection would show that the housing units erected were luxury flats, flats for the middle income group, and houses in the £5,000- £6,000-£7,000 range, whereas the houses being provided for those people who are unable, unfortunately, for economic and other reasons, to provide their own houses are very few, as I hope to prove to the committee’s satisfaction very shortly. For example, we find that in 1956-57, 12,000 fewer houses were erected than in 1952- 53, despite the fact that between those years the population increased by 800,000. One would think that if the Government were to keep pace with the increases in population the number of houses erected each year would increase progressively, but such has not been the case.
The method of approaching building problems has been very haphazard, and, for the life of me, I cannot believe that the Government has a definite plan in view. Unless it is prepared to formulate a definite five-year plan for a progressive increase in the number of houses provided commensurate with the increase in population, there is not much hope for the lower income group in this community. Our population is increasing at the rate of 2i per cent, per annum, of which 1 per cent, is attributable to immigration and li per cent, to natural increase. The next few years will be most critical for the nation’s housing, because the .numbers .in the age groups seeking homes will increase at a greater rate over the next ten years. The number in the 20-24 years age group will increase by 55 per cent, in ten years. This is understandable because we had a terrific increase in the birth rate at the end of the war, whereas in the war years the birth rate was low and there was no need to construct large numbers of houses. Because of the huge increase in the birth rate following the cessation of hostilities in 1945, there will have to be a terrific increase in the number of houses provided in the .next; four or five years. We should aim at a target of no .fewer than 100,000 houses a year in two or three years’ time.
I want to know whether the Government is formulating plans to meet what will undoubtedly be a terrific drain on our housing resources over the next four or five years. It is of no use to wait until those at present in this age group from twenty to 24 are getting married and demanding houses. At the present time the Government should be concentrating its activities on decreasing the present lag in housing, which is between 70,000 and 80,000 houses. I suggest that if the rate of construction for the next two or three years is only ‘80,000 a year it will not provide all the houses that we shall need in order to satisfy the .increased demand in four or five years’ time.
Men and material will have to be mobilized in order to increase the rate of construction. I have made some inquiries among the building trade unions, but, so far as I can see, there is no move on the Government’s part to “attract additional men to the building industry in order to meet the terrific increase in the demand for homes over the next four or five years. What do we find when we examine the situation? Instead of the number of building tradesmen being increased in order to meet the contingencies which will arise in a few years’ time, the reverse is happening. In 1951, 123,000 men were employed_in the .building industry. In 1958 - seven years later - only 117,000 men were engaged in the industry,. The number has declined by 6,000. If we are to build 100,000 houses a year over the next two or .three years, obviously the number of building artisans must be substantially increased. But, so far, the Government has shown no recognition of this very important fact, and it is making no effort to co-operate with the State authorities in order to increase the number of building tradesmen. It seems to have no idea of encouraging young men to enter the building industry in order to increase the number of building tradesmen to the level required to meet the demands for housing that will be made in the next few years.
– The numbers employed in the ancillary trades are declining, too.
– That is quite true. As the honorable member points out, the numbers of tradesmen in. the ancillary trades associated with building are decreasing. There seems to be a tendency on the part of a number of people not to worry about apprenticeship in the building trade. But this Government and the country will rue the consequences unless strenuous efforts are made to increase the number of apprentices in the building industry over the next two or three years. The incontrovertible fact, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that the number of workers employed in the building industry has not increased commensurately with the increase in the work force generally. Not only should the facts be recognized, but also efforts should be made to deal with them.
There is a variety of reasons why the number of houses constructed in the last few years has not reached the desired leveL Both government and private enterprise, including co-operative housing schemes, have contributed to the total of new construction. Previous speakers from this side ,of the committee have mentioned the Government’s strange reluctance to face up to the fact that the allocation of funds to the War Service Homes .Division is by no means sufficient to meet the requests for advances daily being received by the division. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) said that there were 22,000 unsatisfied applications for loans from the division. It is perfectly obvious that the current rate of allocation of funds to the division, which is £35,000,000 a year, will have to be increased considerably in order to make up the lag. At the present time, an applicant has to wait about eighteen months to get a loan.
– The waiting time is twenty months in Victoria.
– That is a most miserable state of affairs. Applicants for advances from the War Service Homes Division are told that, in the meanwhile, they will have to get finance privately. Numerous exservicemen have told me that the only finance that they can get bears interest at the rate of 10, 12, or 15 per cent. When they ask my advice on the problem, I am compelled to say that I do not like advising them to borrow money at those extortionate rates of interest, but that, if they do not do so, they will not be able to do anything about their housing plans until they can get their advance from the War Service Homes Division up to eighteen months later. Surely no government ought to allow such a scandalous state of affairs to continue. Exservicemen are literally being bled white, but this Government adopts the attitude of Pontius Pilate and wipes its hands of the whole affair.
What is known as the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is an important governmental factor in housing. I am by no means satisfied that the present agreement is delivering the goods, as it were. For example, we were told, when it was before this Parliament for approval, that it would increase the number of houses being ‘built, because it provided that certain money that formerly went to the State government housing authorities should go to the co-operative building societies. However, this meant, first, that the number of homes being built by the State housing authorities diminished because funds were diverted to the co-operative building societies. For instance, in 1955-56, the
Victorian Housing Commission constructed 4,152 homes; in 1956-57, 2,338; and in 1957-58, 2,194. It has been getting less money every year from this Government. As a consequence, the people in the lower income groups, who are unable to purchase their own homes, find that they have to wait many years for a Housing Commission home in Victoria. The Victorian Housing Commission now has 15,000 applications for homes on its books, and the number is increasing at the rate of several hundred a week. The last report of the commission made the very significant statement that unless the programme of new construction can be expanded the total number of applications on hand will progressively increase.
Let us now have a look at the position of the co-operative housing societies. We were told that the additional money to be provided for them under the current Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement would enable them to construct more homes. They were to be allocated an additional £2,000,000, or 20 per cent, of the Victorian allocation in each of the first two years of the term of the agreement, and 30 per cent, of the State allocation for each of the next three years. But what do we find? The Federation of Co-operative Housing Societies of Victoria publishes the magazine, “At Your Place”. On the front cover of its issue for the winter of 1959, there is a fine photograph of Mr. Bolte, the Victorian Premier. In this magazine, we find the following statement about government assistance -
The inauguration of the current Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (1957-1961) has given a steady flow of Government money. Under this scheme a proportion of funds loaned to the States by the Commonwealth for the specific purpose of housing was diverted to home ownership through Co-operative Housing Societies. It was not the intention of the Commonwealth Government that this influx of finance should be offset by a decrease in private lending: rather it was anticipated that such money would be in addition to the existing funds.
Here is the most significant observation -
Unfortunately, as our graph clearly shows, private finance has diminished in proportion to the increase of State finance.
When the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was before this Parliament three and one-half years ago, Opposition members pointed out that this would happen, but Government supporters laughed at that contention. It has now been borne out. Here is clear-cut evidence that our view was correct. The graph that appears on pages 28 and 29 of this magazine demonstrates conclusively that as Government finance has increased private finance has decreased correspondingly, Mr. Temporary Chairman. In other words, it is safe to say that, as a result of the present housing agreement, £3,000,000 a year less is being spent in Victoria by the Housing Commission and the co-operative housing societies than was spent previously.
– The banks have been relieved of their obligations.
– As the honorable member points out, the banks are diverting their money elsewhere.
In this respect, it is very interesting to examine the report of the twenty-second annual conference of the Association of Cooperative Building Societies of New South Wales and to see the amount allocated to these societies in that State. The movement in that State is much older than is the cooperative housing movement in Victoria. This report indicates that, altogether, £137,506,825 had been advanced to cooperative building societies in New South Wales at 30th June of this year by 52 lending organizations. Of this amount, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank had contributed not less than £70,033,000, or about 52 per cent.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, whatever is said on the subject of housing, there are one or two fundamental facts which should not be overlooked. To begin with, house building in Australia is now at a record level, and the level is still rising. The housing problem now, is in very large part, confined to Melbourne and Sydney. In Sydney, it is far worse than it is in Melbourne. In Sydney, it is very greatly aggravated by the wasteful use of housing brought about by the incidence of the State landlord and tenant legislation.
I rise first to address myself to the estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In doing so I should like to begin by paying a tribute to the late Sir Ian Clunies-Ross, in whose death we lost a great Australian. His own scientific contributions were mainly in the veterinary field, both on the purely academic side and later as Director of the McMaster Animal Health Laboratory. He later served as Director of Scientific Manpower and as adviser on the pastoral industry in the Department of War Organization of Industry during the war. He was also a member of the International Wool Secretariat. Later still he made his great contribution to the C.S.I.R.O. He was a rare combination of scientist, great administrator. and great human being. He was one of the few scientists who are competent to speak on social and political problems. Many eminent scientists use their great names to talk in those spheres about which they know very little and they talk a great deal of nonsense, but Sir Ian Clunies-Ross made worthy contributions in many fields, amongst his offices being the presidency of the Institute of International Affairs.
It is noteworthy that this year the estimated expenditure of the C.S.I.R.O. is £6,700,000- an increase of £700,000 over last year. I am sure that that expenditure will be warmly supported from every quarter in this chamber. The only real limitation on further expansion of this body is not funds, but lack of trained scientists to carry out investigations. Much more could be done than is being done to increase the supply of scientists and those who are studying science as undergraduates at the universities. I have been in correspondence with the Minister in Charge of the C.S.I.R.O. (Mr. Casey), who unfortunately is also a very busy Minister for External Affairs. He is often away from the country and the result is that the organization does not always receive the political attention that it deserves.
A large number of organizations in Australia now finance the education of undergraduates from the time they leave school until they graduate in the particular disciplines and subjects in which those organizations are interested. In recent weeks I have noted a number of those institutions. Our own Department of Supply finances the training of engineers. The Department of Works also finances the training of engineers as well as architects. The Bureau of
Census and Statistics has a scheme for training and paying statisticians throughout their period of training. Many State departments and a large number of private firms have similar schemes. I have read about schemes operated by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Austral Bronze Company Proprietary Limited, and there are many others. These schemes are very attractive to the parents of children of school leaving age who, even with the assistance of Commonwealth scholarships, find that it is very expensive to send their children through university.
If we are to have a proper supply of scientists, bodies such as the C.S.I.R.O. should sponsor their training. The C.S.I.R.O. has entered the field by assisting graduates to more advanced studies, but if the flow of trained scientists is to be adequate we must start off at the very beginning of university education. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of such a scheme, there is no alternative if we are to have the scientists we need. If we are to adopt that kind of approach, we shall need a ministry of science or a minister who devotes a great deal of time to science. I have read reports recently stating that both major parties in the current United Kingdom election are proposing, if returned to power, to establish a minister and ministry of science. I suggest that we should do the same in this country. Preferably we should have an honours graduate in science, such as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), because Cabinet basically is still dominated by those whose mental training is in the more archaic disciplines. Although we have a distinguished doctor and also a chemist in Cabinet, most of the Ministers are cloaked with the archaic original discipline.
In this connexion it is worth noting, if we are to compete ultimately with Russia, that she did not begin her real drive in this direction until the early 1930’s. It takes a quarter of a century, probably, for a process of this kind to pay off in full. There will be no political gain from any scheme of this nature. Such a scheme is not glamorous politically because insufficient numbers in the community are interested in this kind of exercise. But if we are to safeguard our future, this is the direction in which we should proceed.
If we look back at our own history we find that much of our achievement has been due directly to the application of science. In the pastoral revolution that has taken place since the war, in such matters as the planting of subterranean clover and so on, the studies carried out by the C.S.I.R.O. have played a tremendous part, and so have contributed substantially to our development. But for the application of science, this country could not support even its present limited population. So, from every viewpoint we should be doing all that we can to increase the number of people who enter the scientific fields. This means a revised policy of payment for scientists. We shall not get our best brains in large numbers in the sciences if the rewards to science graduates continue to be about one-quarter of the rewards to graduates in medicine.
Turning to the Department of National Development, I find that the estimates show an increase in expenditure of about 33 per cent. It is encouraging to note that the expenditure on the Bureau of Mineral Resources will be greatly increased, particularly in the field of its operations, which includes oil search. It is noteworthy that the bureau has more positions than there are scientists and other trained people to fill them. Once more, our need to stimulate proper studies at the right age is reflected. It is also noteworthy that the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission refers to the fact that at one stage the commission undertook a system of undergraduate scholarships in geology, geophysics, metallurgy and chemical engineering. It has relieved its own shortage and, because its requirements for staff trained in these disciplines has for the moment been satisfied, it has moved out of the field of subsidized undergraduate schemes for the study of these subjects, but there is little doubt that as members of the present staff pull out, a shortage will occur again.
I turn now to the Snowy Mountains scheme. As in the case of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the annual report of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority has been presented to the Parliament extremely late. The ninth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Authority is a very well prepared, interesting and attractive document, covering the operations of the authority for the year ended 30th June, 1958, but the letter at the beginning of the report, addressed to the Minister for National Development, is dated 30th June, 1959. It is difficult to see why the report should be presented so late. It is also noteworthy that the Snowy Mountains Authority, which is such an enormous consumer of public funds, has not as yet rendered to the Parliament a financial statement for the year ended 30th June, 1957. The covering letter of the latest report, to which I have referred, mentions that that financial statement is now almost ready, and explains that it has been held up for a number of reasons. This Parliament will be very easily satisfied if it takes no interest in the fact that the last proper financial statement submitted by the Snowy Mountains Authority was that for the year ended 30th June, 1956. One hopes that the presentation of these statements will be speeded up in the future. The covering letter does state that as soon as the statement for 1956-57 is completed, the full report for the year ended 30th June, 1959, will be submitted to the Minister. However, it is difficult to see, having regard to the material in the last report, why there is such a long delay between the finishing of a year’s operations and the presentation of the report for that year.
It is fitting, in noting the report of the Snowy Mountains Authority, to express some thanks for the great contribution which has been made by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Up to 30th June, 1958, the bureau had trained 69 of the authority’s engineers in its engineering headquarters at Denver, Colorado. It prepared a large proportion of the plans and specifications for certain contracts, and sent out a number of senior engineers to advise on different aspects of the scheme.
Undoubtedly the Snowy scheme has made a great contribution to Australia, not only in direct material terms, but also because it has infused the approach to the construction of large-scale works in Australia with a new spirit. However, because of the large resources which it consumes, it is a scheme which needs close and continuous watching. I suggest that the time has come for an up-to-date assessment to be made by appropriate experts of the implications of proceeding with the southern sector of the scheme.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to speak on the estimates affecting the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the War Service Homes Division. First, however, I should like to put the record straight. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) made reference to the housing problem and attempted, in a snide way, to put on to the New South Wales Government the blame for the housing shortage in that State. For his benefit, in case he does not know it, let me. tell the committee that there is no control in New South Wales over the rentals of flats built after 1955. Those rentals are decided between the owners of the flats and the tenants. New South Wales, of course, is not the only State which has a Landlord and Tenant Act. If I wanted to be political, I could say that the housing shortage in South Australia is due to the inefficient Liberal Country Party Government that is in power there, but I do not want to be political and, like the honorable member for Wentworth, blame various State governments. The plain fact is that the housing shortage in Australia to-day is the result of the inaction of the Menzies Government, which for so long has denied to the States the money that they need to enable them to get on with a decent housing programme to meet the needs of the people of this country.
As you well know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, large numbers of people to-day - young, middle-aged and elderly - are clamouring for homes. In many instances, aged folk are being evicted from premises that they have occupied for many years. Young married couples who desire to .purchase homes of their own are denied that right because insufficient money for housing is made available by the Commonwealth Government. It is no good trying to place the blame on the State governments. The blame lies entirely at the door of the Commonwealth Government, which, years ago, should have embarked upon a national housing plan in order to make up the leeway and provide the houses so urgently needed.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) boasts repeatedly that the housing shortage has been overcome. I wish he would visit the various State government departments that administer housing. I wish he would inspect the records of the South Australian Housing Trust and find out how many thousands of people in that State urgently require, not permanent homes, but emergency accommodation. But all that the Minister and other members of this Government do is to sit idly by and say that the housing shortage has been overtaken, that it does not exist now.
– Who is the Premier in South Australia?
– He is a Liberal-Country Party Premier, and his Government is, of course, of the same political make-up as this Government. The State, as well as the nation, suffers because of that.
I should like to refer to the problems faced by people who desire to borrow money to purchase homes. The maximum advance made by the Commonwealth Bank, and also by the War Service Homes Division, is £2,750. The State Bank in South Australia and the South Australia Savings Bank have recently increased their maximum housing loans to £3,000, but that still leaves a prospective purchaser between £1,000 and £1,500 short of the money necessary to purchase a home. The wageearner who has to find £1,000 or more for a deposit on a home is in an almost impossible position. It is true that some institutions offer second mortgages, but they place a heavy burden on wage-earners, particularly young wage-earners who are rearing families. It is difficult for them to carry two mortgages and pay off two loans on the property that they are purchasing.
Does anybody in this Parliament, or in this community, deny young people the right to purchase their own homes? The prices of homes are continuing to rise, because of the inflation brought about by this Government. This- Government and this Parliament must accept the responsibility to ensure that sufficient money will be made available to enable people to purchase their own homes when they so desire. lt is a great pity, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as you well know, that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement does not still contain a clause that was inserted in the days of the Chifley Labour Government. In effect, that Government said to the States, “ Get on with the job of building the homes necessary, and we will supply the finance”. The present Government restricts the States and talks idly about the homes shortage being overtaken. One would think that even if this Government pushed aside the civilian demand for homes in a cavalier manner, it would give consideration to people who were eligible to obtain loans from the War Service Homes Division. The position is, however, that the ex-serviceman and the ex-servicewoman who are entitled to war service homes loans receive very scant consideration indeed.
Not long after this Government came into office it took away from exservicemen the right to borrow money from the War Service Homes Division in order to discharge an existing mortgage on a home. Many ex-servicemen who could not wait for a long period to obtain a loan from the division borrowed money from insurance companies and other institutions at fairly high rates of interest. Without warning, this Government decided that no longer would loans be granted by the War Service Homes Division to discharge mortgages, and that the ex-servicemen who had contracted with insurance companies and other institutions would have to carry on under the arrangements they had made. To-day, many relatively young ex-servicemen are saddled with high interest charges because this Government, by a stroke of the pen, prevented them from obtaining loans from the War Service Homes Division to discharge a mortgage on their home.
I have been reminded that many exservice members of the Government side remain silent when they have an opportunity to help the ex-servicemen in the community. Most of them remained silent when the Repatriation Bill 1959 was before this chamber recently. Those who did enter the debate had very little to say about the injustice that is meted out to ex-servicemen despite the provision of the onus-of-proof section. The consideration of the estimates for the War Service Homes Division affords honorable members an opportunity to direct attention to the shortcomings in relation to war service homes, but the gallant people on the other side who are always saying that they represent the ex-servicemen remain seated and make no attempt to persuade the Government to accede to the requests made by the returned servicemen’s league in relation to war service homes, to which the league constantly refers in its journal. One would think that during this debate they would rise in their places and raise their voices, as they do at election time, to point out where the Government has failed in this matter. But, as during the debate on the Repatriation Bill, they are as silent as the grave.
The maximum amount of a loan that may be granted by the War Service Homes Division is £2,750. For years in South Australia that amount exceeded by about £500 the loan that one could get from a bank. To-day, the maximum amount of a war service homes loan is about £250 less than the loan that one may obtain from the banks. As I have said, the cost of a home has continually risen, and today an exserviceman has to provide a deposit of about £1,500 apart from the loan he receives from the War Service Homes Division, or give a second mortgage on the home for that amount.
– Or live in a tent.
– I do not know whether the honorable member made that remark facetiously, but it is unfortunately a fact that a great number of people in this community - civilians, as well as exservicemen and ex-servicewomen - are living under conditions that are not much better than the conditions that people who live in tents endure. In my own State, which I know well, the emergency homes that have been provided are a God-send to people who have nowhere else to live; but we need more dwellings. This Parliament has a responsibility to bring into being a programme on a national scale, in conjunction with the States, in order to overcome the leeway in housing.
Many migrants are being brought to this country. It is no good enough to say - as was said earlier during the consideration of the Estimates - that the newcomers can go into hostels. The Government has a responsibility to see that these people are given an opportunity to obtain homes. A national programme should be put under way to provide housing, not only for our own people who have been waiting so long for homes, but also for the immigrants. At present, many immigrants are forced to pay high rentals that they cannot afford, and this in turn prevents them from saving sufficient money to pay a deposit on a home.
I should like, but time will not permit, to give to the committee details of exservice personnel who are eligible for war service homes assistance and those that are denied such assistance. Members of the Citizen Military Force who served in Darwin during the last war are not eligible for a war service homes loan, despite the fact that they fought side by side with members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Royal Australian Air Force. They were in danger. They could have been killed or wounded by bombs dropped in that area just as members of the other forces were killed or wounded. They could have been sent to the islands, but those who were in control of the forces, in their wisdom, decided that they could best serve the interests of this nation by performing duty in Darwin. I feel that every consideration and every assistance should be given to exmembers of the forces, whether they served in the Militia, the A.I.F., the Air Force or any other force, to buy their homes. Whether they fought inside or outside Australia, they should receive every consideration. There is a great obligation upon this Parliament to see that they are taken care of. I think that the act should be amended at the first opportunity to provide that they shall be eligible to receive war service homes loans.
– They were given returned servicemen status.
– That is true, but they are denied assistance under the act. Let me say this: I believe it is a disgrace to this Government and to this Parliament that ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen have to wait for periods of up to eighteen months to obtain a loan from the War Service Homes Division in order to buy a home.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- This is Queensland’s centenary year, and it is perhaps fitting that we should pause for a moment to consider how that State has developed during the last 100 years and how, we hope, it will be further developed in the future. The records shows that, 100 years ago, there were approximately 24,000 people in Queensland. To-day, there are about 1,500,000 people in that State. In 1881, about 10 per cent, of Australia’s population resided in Queensland. Then, due to considerable development in our State, its share of the Australian population increased to 15 per cent, in 1954. But since that time, the growth rate in Queensland has slowed down. One of the reasons is that more immigrants are coming to jobs in the south, particularly in Victoria. But I fully believe that in time, when Queensland does develop again at an increased rate, it will no longer occupy third place in Australia’s population but will occupy first place.
I can assure honorable members who are interjecting that there is plenty of room in Queensland, even for honorable members of the Opposition if they care to come and see our riches. In case honorable members are interested in the warmth of the tropics, I would mention that two-thirds of Queensland lies in the tropics. Yet only a quarter of the State’s people live there! As the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) has pointed out, there is plenty of room in Queensland for development, particularly in the tropics. But the people of Queensland have not been lazy. Often the charge is levelled against the primary producer that he is not efficient. But, if we examine the situation, we find that the charge cannot be justified.
– What about the sugar and butter subsidies?
– The honorable member should know that sugar is not subsidized. But I will have a little to say about sugar later on. Since 1900, the area under cultivation in Queensland has increased five-fold. Can primary producers be accused of being lazy when they have developed Queensland to that extent in 59 years?
Not only has the area cultivated been multiplied but so has productivity. For example, although the cane industry was being sneered at a moment ago by a member of the Opposition, the production of cane has increased from 11 tons to 25 tons an acre. I think that even the Opposition will admit that the cane farmer has done pretty well to achieve an increase of more than 100 per cent, in a comparatively short space of time. I would also remind honorable members opposite that this industry, at which one of them has sneered, brought the highest return of any industry in Queensland last year. Not only is Queensland rich in sugar cane but it has one-half the beef cattle in Australia, one-third of the dairy cattle, nearly one-sixth of the sheep and nearly one-third of the pigs. The pigs, as is obvious, are not all in the State of Queensland.
We cannot allow things to remain as they are. If Australia is to develop in a balanced way we must decide how we can increase development and production in Queensland. I suggest that the first necessity for balanced development is the recognition that primary production must be maintained and fostered. That is why I commend the Government on the appointment of its dairy industry committee of inquiry, and that is why I commend to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) the suggested stabilization scheme for the pineapple industry which was presented to him recently. This should receive, and I know it will receive, his earnest consideration.
At the present time, the pineapple industry is in such a parlous state that, even if this stabilization scheme is agreed to, it will give the growers only a few pounds more for their product. In three years’ time, even if that scheme is accepted by the Government, only three-fifths of the men who now grow pineapples will be able to remain in the industry. In short, the industry is not asking for everything and giving nothing; it is prepared to work.
A few moments ago, a member of the Opposition mentioned that we were subsidizing primary industry. I wonder whether he has thought that we are also subsidizing secondary industry! If the honorable member cares to look at the Budget, he will find that last year over £70,000,000 was collected in custom duties on goods brought into this country. .Most of that £70,000,000 was, in effect, a subsidy to secondary industry. In order to make myself clear, may I say that I fully support it? At the same time, I say that we must give primary industry the same consideration. Therefore, to any honorable member who suggests that we should not help some particular primary industry that needs help, I say that we must help these industries if we wish to develop this country.
I felt very sympathetic, as I am sure most honorable members did, when I heard to-night of the difficulties of people who could not get houses. But it is only fair to point out that if it were not for the primary industries of this country half those houses would not be required. If Brisbane continues to develop as it is developing at the present time, it will only be a few years before half the people in the 670,000 square miles of Queensland will be living in one city - the city of Brisbane.
– Why not?
– Certainly, they may live in Brisbane, but I should like to see a lot more people living in the country and developing it. I have no objection to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) living in any city. It is very nice to be able to do so. I would have no objection to his living in Surfers’ Paradise or anywhere on the Gold Coast, provided he did so as a private citizen. But I say that if we neglect the development of our countryside then we must recognize that the provincial cities and towns will suffer.
I have had the opportunity to go through the provincial areas in time of drought. It is very noticeable that in drought time the storekeepers and other business people suffer just as the primary producer suffers. In short, the secondary man cannot live without the primary man, and the primary man cannot live without the secondary man. I suggest that, in future, we should adopt the proposition that both should go forward together.
I should like to add my tribute to the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It has been said that if the C.S.I.R.O had not done one other thing, its existence for the rest of our life times would be justified by the work it did in connexion with prickly pear. At one stage about 60,000,000 acres of land, mostly in Queensland, was infested with prickly pear. Some of it was particularly dense, growing in a solid mass to a height of 12 or 15 feet, especially on the black soil plains. It was completely impenetrable unless one used a steam roller. Because of the excellent research work of the C.S.I.R.O., that 60,000,000 acres of land was brought back into production almost overnight. I know of a farm near Dalby which was thoroughly infested with pear. It was sold for 6d. an acre, and to-day it is worth about £15 an acre. The C.S.I.R.O. has, by its experimental work and the use of the cactoblastis cactorum insect, rendered a wonderful service, and I hope that it has similar good fortune in the future. It will need to experience good fortune, because there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in Queensland in connexion with legumes. la the south, legumes have effected a transformation in the soil, but in parts of central Queensland we are betwixt and between. Four winters and springs out of five are dry. In the six months from 1st April to 30th September each year in the Upper Burnett district, rainfall does not exceed eight inches on the average, while about 22 inches of rain fall in the other six months of the year. As a consequence, there is not enough moisture, as a rule, during those six winter and spring months to grow legumes, unless irrigation is available. One of the greatest problems facing the C.S.I.R.O. is to find a legume that will grow in dry conditions. I have no doubt that, given time and money, the organization will finally succeed.
There is one other way in which our development in Queensland can be assisted. I refer to the improvement of transport facilities. Last year 200,000 cattle died in the Channel Country. At £30 a head, which is a moderate estimate on to-day’s values, this means a loss of £6,000,000 in one year. Not one of those cattle need have been lost if transport had been available to take them out to good pastures nearer the coast. Cattle that are dying cannot be driven 500 miles. If there had been a bitumen road they could have been taken out by road trains. Transport is necessary not only to take out starving cattle, but also to move fat cattle from the Channel Country in lush seasons. Transport facilities are necessary, therefore, at all times.
My time is running out, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I could well have made some comments about the development of our mineral industries and the extension of research work in various directions. I could have spoken of the need to encourage dencentralization and to conserve our water as well as our soil and our forests. Time will not permit me to do so, however, so I will content myself with expressing the hope that Queensland, and the whole of Australia, will continue to develop in the next 100 years as they have done during the past 100 years.
.- I find myself in a strange position, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in that for once - and, I think, for possibly the first time in my political career - I am in agreement with a member of the Australian Country Party. In case honorable members misunderstand me - as they might be entitled to - let me say that the member to whom I refer is not the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), who has just resumed his seat. I am in complete disagreement with him. I think he gave to this Parliament the best possible reason why a Labour government is needed in Queensland.
The honorable member Whose speech I listened to earlier to-night with considerable interest was the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes), who displayed an intimate and, I would say, expert knowledge of his subject when referring to the menace of the cattle tick and the research necessary to eliminate this great danger to the cattle industry. I think, as he does, that a considerably greater amount of money may well be spent in efforts to eradicate cattle tick. I have obtained some figures, on excellent authority, which I shall give to the committee. It appears that £50,000 a year has been spent on cattle tick research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and £5,000 to £10,000 a year on research into tick fever. Since 1940 a total amount of £300,000 has been spent on tick research by the C.S.I.R.O., and in that time £200,000,000 has been lost to the Australian economy because of the ravages of the cattle tick. This shows how great a menace the tick is, and it is obvious that finance should be made available :by .the Government for more intensive research by the C.S.I.R.O.
I am fortified in my argument by a consideration of expenditure by the C.S.I.R.O. in other avenues of research from time to time. Some months ago I pointed out that the organization was spending a considerable amount of money, through its wild life section, on research into the life history of the rabbit. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who is in charge of the C.S.I. R.O., agreed that this was so. I am not complaining about the expenditure of this money, and I am willing to believe that it may be necessary, but I believe it is even more necessary to provide funds for further research into the cattle tick menace. I am further fortified in my argument when I read of certain investigations that have been sponsored by the United States Government. In the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ of 1st September, 1959, the following article appeared under the heading, “ Sex Life Study at Pole “: -
Washington, Tuesday. - Scientists are doing their best to defrost the wall of secrecy that has surrounded the private life of the penguin. The shortlegged aquatic birds with flipper-like wings which have waddled around in the coolness of the Antarctic undisturbed are now the subject of penetrating studies. The Adelie penguin is the main target. . . . The sexual behaviour of Adelie penguins is being studied at Wilkes Station in the South Polar area by Mr. Richard Penney of the University of Wisconsin. The Adelie’s parental behaviour is also under scrutiny . . . The penguin studies are included in Antarctica scientific research projects announced by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The Foundation has given grants of more than £1,000,000 for 29 projects.
The point that I make, and in this I support the remarks of the honorable member for Mcpherson, is that if such amounts of money can be spent on research into the sex life of penguins at the Pole by the United States of America, it is not too much to ask that another £5,000 or £10,000 should be allocated for research into the tick menace in the north of New South Wales. I understand, as my friend, the honorable member for Shortland (Mi. Griffiths), has said, that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and others carried out investigations on penguins in the Antarctic. Whether they went as deeply into the matter as the researcher from the University of Wisconsin has done, I am not in a position to say. The fact remains, however, that if this money can be spent on research in the Antarctic into the activities of the penguin, then there is a first-class case for the provision of a few more thousands of pounds in this country for investigation of meansof tick eradication in the north of New South Wales. I commend the honorablemember for Mcpherson on his remarks, with regard to the tick problem.
I have been interested to-night to hear Government supporters speak of national’ development. The honorable member for Wide Bay said something about the Government setting up a committee of inquiry. The Government is always inquiring and is always about to do something, but it never gives effect to any worthwhile scheme. The fact is that every scheme that has been put into operation and has meant anything to this country, from the Snowy Mountains scheme down, has been initiated by a Labour administration, and introduced in the face of tremendous criticism by honorable members opposite. T have been reading through the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1954. It is in the form of a pamphlet. On the cover there is a photograph of the Prime Minister. He always takes a good photograph; he always looks as though he is going to do something, but he is a very poor performer. On page 5 of this document, with which you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will be quite familiar, the Prime Minister, in discussing the subject of development, said -
Stability is not an end in itself … I merely mention one great work; the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric and Irrigation Scheme. It was just begun by our predecessors, but we have found practically all the money. The Snowy, so far from being local, will serve with power or water an area which contains well over half of the population of Australia.
Why did not the Prime Minister say in his policy speech that every member of the Goverment, with the exception, I think, of Sir Arthur Fadden, had boycotted the opening of that great scheme and opposed it in this Parliament. To-day, it is recognized throughout the world, as well as by all Australians, as one of the greatest developmental schemes ever commenced. Honorable members opposite, including members of the Australian Country Party, and the Prime Minister, who glibly talk about national development crossed the floor of this House and voted against that great scheme which means wealth, development and employment for Australia. So, when they speak of development and of what they intend to do, they speak as sham fighters in these great matters. They talk about them, and we put them into effect.
– You would not know anything about it.
– The honorable member for Corangamite fluked his way into the Parliament at the 1949 general election because the private banks wanted a direct representative. The only schemes that he knows about are those controlled by the vested interests which he represents.
Listen to this statement from page 17 of the printed policy speech of the Prime Minister in 1949. Incidentally, these policy speeches are well worth recording to show up for ever the sins of omission of this Government. The Prime Minister said -
Over a period of five years we shall raise loans totalling £250 millions, the interest and sinking fund on which will be provided out of the Petrol Tax. The amount to be raised and spent each year will be conditioned by the availability of men and materials. Its general administration will be under a National Works Council. The work will include feeder roads; soil conservation; the development of rural housing, embracing the construction of groups of workers’ homes in seasonal labour areas; flood prevention, the provision of water, light and power; vermin and noxious weeds destruction.
They forgot the cattle tick there -
We will aim to improve carrying capacity, reduce costs and increase productivity generally.
I say without qualification that not one item, not one word, of those proposals has been given effect by the present Government. When the supporters of the Country Party travel over the bad country roads that they speak about, let them remember that the bad state of the roads is due to the failure of the Government not only to set up the council that the Prime Minister mentioned, but also to raise the necessary money and to give effect to policies on which this Government was elected in 1949.
Honorable members opposite too easily forget, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the proposals that I have read were enunciated by them and should have been implemented. Opportunities such as this give us a chance to remind them again of their obligation to act in conformity with their policy speech, and also to remind them of the things that the Government has failed to do. As I mentioned earlier, Labour governments, be they State or Federal, have never failed to give effect to policies in the economic, social and developmental spheres that are beneficial to the people. Let me remind the smiling Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who was well known, at the time of which I speak, as Peter Snodgrass, that the Snowy Mountains scheme was introduced by a Labour government. The Joint Coal Board was an instrumentality set up by a Labour government for the development of the coalmining industry. The Woomera rocket range was another developmental work introduced by Labour. Had the Clapp report on the standardization of railway gauges, which was made to a Labour government, been given effect by this Government, the standardization of gauges could have been brought about at very little cost to the people. The establishment of employment centres administered by the Department of Labour and National Service was a further step in the great programme of national development undertaken by the Labour Party. Labour introduced the butter subsidy.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was opposed by supporters of the Government has been responsible in New South Wales alone for housing thousands upon thousands of people who would never have had homes if it had been left to private enterprise to provide them. Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which is to-day recognized as the greatest international airline of our time, v/as established by a Labour government. So, too, was Trans-Australia Airlines. Those are all great landmarks in the Labour programme for the development of this country. We have seen, too, the great scheme for land settlement, of both soldiers and civilians, introduced by Labour governments in the State and Federal spheres, road schemes and electrification schemes, and the development of the Northern Territory and other outback areas. The fifteen-year meat agreement with the United Kingdom was entered into by a Labour government. Labour also introduced a system of drought relief, on a £l-for-£l basis with the States.
Those are just a few of the achievements of Labour, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I have only a few minutes in which to speak, but I could speak for hours of what Labour governments have done. In a couple of minutes I could state fully the contribution that this Liberal-Australian Country Party Government has made to the development of Australia. These are matters of which the Parliament should be reminded because, as I say, the achievements of Labour governments are monuments to their enterprise and efficiency over the years. It is wrong for supporters of the Country Party to say that Labour has done nothing in this respect, and that Labour governments have not made available funds for development. Such statements should be corrected in this Parliament.
Let me refer to war service homes. The Labour Government planned on the assumption that probably the maximum demand for homes would come in about 1952, immediately sufficient materials and labour were available. We were defeated just before that time arrived. This Government took full advantage of the publicity accruing from our efforts to build homes, but had it not been for Labour there would have been no homes for the ex-servicemen of this country.
– The war service homes scheme was introduced in 1918.
– This Government built fewer homes in 1958-59 than it did in 1950. To-day, ex-servicemen have either to wait eighteen months or twenty months for assistance from the War Service Homes Division or pay exorbitant rates of interest for temporary finance, at a time when every ex-serviceman who needs a home and who applies for financial assistance should be given such assistance as soon as his loan is approved. The delay is scandalous in the extreme.
The Prime Minister speaks about Australia Unlimited. He limits Australia on every possible occasion. Why, he would not even assist Queensland to get money in Washington for the Mount Isa to Townsville railway. When he came back he was condemned by Queensland supporters of the Liberal and Country Parties for his lack of interest in the project. I say in all sincerity to the Queensland supporters of the
Government in this Parliament that the only hope of assistance for the outback areas of Queensland,, and for the completion of the Mount Isa railway project, is in Labour governments, both Federal and State. All they will get from this Government is a committee of inquiry to look into the matter in the future.
With those few constructive words, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have attempted to indicate the incompetence of this Government in relation to national development and to condemn the incapacity of the Government to do the things that should be done, at a time when our nation should be developing in a prosperous fashion, with homes and security for all. I think we need a new Minister for National Development. In- fact, we need a new government, with a complete change of policy. Above all, we need the return of a Labour government to give us the things that a great country like Australia really needs.
.- The Department of National Development administers the War Service Homes Division, and I, like other honorable members, have received the 1958-59 report of the Director of War Service Homes. The report shows that during the years in which Mr. Lucas was Director of War Service Homes, the division spent nearly £300,000,000 in the provision of homes for ex-servicemen, and that a total of 147,900 ex-servicemen were assisted to become home-owners. That was a great achievement. Mr. Lucas retired on 9th August last, and the new director is Mr. K. .A. Medbury, a fellow Western Australian who, incidentally, joined the Public Service with me in 1935. He served in the Navy during the war and after discharge undertook a rehabilitation course at the university. He revealed great brilliance at law and accounts and has proved well qualified to follow in the steps of Mr. Lucas. I wish to refer, Sir, to two sections of the report which has been so well presented by the new Director of War Service Homes.
The Minister is empowered under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to reduce the instalments payable by a widow or the widowed mother of an Australian soldier when, in his opinion, payment of the full amount of the instalment would cause hardship. Provision also exists for the payment of the cost of repairs, rates, taxes and other outgoings in respect of the property. This provision ensures that a widow who is purchasing a war service home will continue to have occupancy of that home for her lifetime, provided she complies with the reasonable conditions of the act. That is a worthy provision, Sir, and I commend those who introduced it.
Another section of the report shows that the average cost in each State of a war service home - these figures are for house and land - is as follows: In Queensland, £3,391; Northern Territory, £3,409; Tasmania, £3,448; Western Australia, £3,673; South Australia, £3,816; Victoria, £3,845; New South Wales, £3,918; and in the Australian Capital Territory, £5,755. The Australian Capital Territory figure is only for the dwelling, land in the A.C.T. being available only on lease.
Now, Sir, with the present maximum loan £2,750, it will be seen that with the rising value of land, as Australia develops and progresses, a considerable sum of money has to be found by an ex-serviceman wishing to purchase a house suitable for family needs, I submit, therefore, that to keep the opportunity to purchase homes within reasonable reach of ex-servicemen who have not been able to avail themselves of the department’s facilities, the permissible maximum loan should be increased by £500 to £3,250. Further consideration could be given also, Sir, to making home purchase easier for the married couples who have no service priorities.
Now, Sir, I turn to another phase of Australia’s progress. Australia’s future development depends on the proper conservation of water, and I wish to refer to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, for which this year we are asked to approve an allocation of £25,600,000 as a proportion of the total vote for the Department of National Development. It is essential that public confidence in the Snowy scheme be maintained, because much public money is being spent on this project, and therefore the purposes and progress of the Snowy development plan must be continually kept under public notice.
In 1958, there was held the Second United Nations International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, and a report of that conference proved beyond doubt that nuclear power will not in any way displace water power for at least the next 25 years and, after that, may well prove the perfect partner for the enormous hydro-electric projects which will by then have been completed, together with those now existing, which will continue faithfully to serve the consumers of electricity in all parts of the world. So, we can look forward to the time when we will be generating power from both hydroelectric and nuclear power stations. It is interesting to note that to build a model T-4 nuclear power station would cost £375,000,000, whereas the entire Snowy Mountains project will cost in the vicinity of £400,000,000, and will be completed in 1975.
In Great Britain, Calder Hall nuclear power station produces power at Id. Australian per kilowatt-hour, whilst the Snowy scheme produces power at 0.97d. per kilowatthour. The power generated on the Snowy project will continue to be sold to New South Wales and Victoria, and the receipts will pay the interest and repay the capital of the whole Snowy development while, at the same time, the water for irrigation will be supplied at no extra charge to the primary producer. The Snowy River development scheme, Sir, is the most farsighted thing Australia has ever done, for adequate power for Australia is a national necessity and, may I remind the committee, a national responsibility. It is a development plan that has attracted world interest, and the scheme is making a great contribution to Australia’s progress by supplying the power and the water which are essentials for the continuance of Australia’s prosperity.
In 1959, 300,000 acre feet of additional water will be provided for irrigation. By 1962, the amount will be 500,000 acre feet, and by 1975 the Snowy scheme will be providing each year an additional water supply of nearly 2,000,000 acre feet. When we remember that one acre foot - the amount of water required to cover one acre of ground to a depth of one foot - equals 272,000 gallons, we realize the value of the Snowy project to irrigation development in this country. It is estimated that an extra 600,000 acres of land will be irrigated by the waters of the Snowy project.
There will be new development to the production value of £43 per acre, or £25,000,000 per annum. The Snowy Mountains scheme is the largest engineering works ever attempted in Australia, and one of the largest undertaken in the world. It is a tremendous engineering project designed to turn the water of the Snowy River, which previously ran to waste, inland through the Great Dividing Range to the dry western plains of the Murray and Mumimbidgee valleys.
The Snowy Mountains project falls into two sections - the Snowy-Tumut development and the Snowy-Murray development. In the Snowy-Tumut development the Eucumbene River, which is the Snowy’s largest tributary, will be checked by the Eucumbene Dam. The resultant storage - Lake Eucumbene - will also receive the diverted waters of the upper Murrumbidgee River through a 10-mile tunnel. It is worth mentioning that Lake Eucumbene will eventually hold a storage of water 8+ times the volume of the water in Sydney Harbour. When the waters of the Snowy and the Eucumbene are diverted from east to west they will fall more than 2,000 feet, the vast power potential of the waters being harnessed in large underground power stations. At higher levels further power stations will develop power from the waters of the rapidly failing rivers before they reach the main diversion tunnels, bringing the total power capacity of the scheme to between 2,500.000 and 3,000,000 kilowatts, and the yearly energy output to over 5,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours.
In the Snowy-Murray development the waters of the Snowy River will be diverted through tunnels from the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range to the western side, and thus into the Murray River. The development plan allows for the construction of power stations on the Swampy Plain River and on the Upper Snowy River, thus making sure that the energies of this mighty flow of water will be harnessed to generate electrical power before being used for irrigation purposes.
It is interesting to note, Sir, that the construction of a dam on the Snowy River just below the town of Jindabyne will cause the flooding of the present town site, and a new town area has been planned. The situation at Jindabyne will therefore be the same as that now existing at Adaminaby, where many farms and buildings, on or adjacent to the original township, are already 60 feet under the waters of Lake Eucumbene. The necessity to build replacement townships at Adaminaby and Jindabyne illustrates the magnitude of the development plan and the diversity of the problems that confronted its architects. A considerable amount of the money allocated to the Snowy Mountains Authority is needed to maintain the well-equipped scientific and engineering laboratories located at Cooma. Great benefit is derived from these facilities, for the work done in this direction has helped to implement new safety measures and has helped considerably to reduce construction costs on the Snowy scheme. The engineering experts have the task of examining the problems of dam foundations and power-station construction, and of excluding poor materials and poor workmanship from the many varied types of construction work undertaken.
Now, Sir, on great hydro-electric and irrigation schemes soil erosion is a serious problem, and on the Snowy project considerable work has been needed to combat such erosion. A soil conservation experimental station has been established at Cooma, and several expert soil conservation teams are being maintained. Erosion prevention is vital to the efficient working of the Snowy development plan, not only in the prevention of landslides, but also as a method of preventing the entry of sedimentary matter into the water, which is the essential part of the whole Snowy scheme. It has been found necessary to re-establish the vegetation on certain areas, and by the end of this year it is hoped to plant more than 300,000 trees and shrubs. This careful conservation work, when combined with engineering skill, will set the great engineering scheme that is the Snowy development plan in a landscape both attractive and safe. Sir, development plans like the Snowy scheme have given employment to a great number of people, especially those new to this country. We must pay tribute to all those people who, in a great atmosphere of friendly co-operation, have worked on the Snow Mountains project under severe climatic conditions. There are gale force winds, heavy snow and low temperatures below freezing point for up to 180 days each year. These conditions have combined to make the climate experienced in the Snowy Mountains the most severe in Australia.
The workers on the Snowy scheme have made a great, positive and enduring contribution to this huge constructional activity. Many new records of work output have been created, particularly on the miles and miles of tunnelling involved in the development plan. In the days prior to the Snowy project 30 feet per day was regarded in Australia as good tunnelling. Now it is not unusual, on the Snowy, to tunnel 120 feet in one day even in hard rock. In fact, Sir, the tunnellers working on the Murrumbidgee-Eucumbene Tunnel recently set another world record by tunnelling 686 feet in seven days. Sir, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric project reflects great credit upon the administrations connected with its development, and upon the leadership of Sir William Hudson. I hope that the great assembly of mechanical, administrative and technical skills now producing such tremendous results at the Snowy Mountains project will at a later date be transferred to other development schemes in Australia; I have in mind particularly the Ord River project in Western Australia.
I feel, Sir, that a realization of the greatness of the whole Snowy Mountains scheme gives all Australians a new sense of capability to carry out gigantic development tasks, provided that the proposition is sound and the cash is available. To-day Australia stands on the threshold of a great future, a future dependent on the proper conservation of water, and I hope that every Australian State eventually sees the building and establishment of other great development projects like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme, for which we are approving to-day a financial allocation of just over £25,000,000.
Finally, Sir, may I suggest to every Australian that he should try to visit the Snowy project. He will be made most welcome, will be able to enjoy a guided tour, and will be shown films, maps and models of the whole developmental plan before seeing the actual construction achievements.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was most interested in the account of the Snowy scheme that was given by the honorable member for Stirling, and was sorry that he was unable to complete his speech. I have been, with my colleagues, over the whole of this great national project, which was begun by a Labour government. We are proud of the work that has been done, and of the men from all over the world who are engaged on the scheme.
I wish to refer to the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is one of the most amazing branches of Commonwealth activity. One sees from the estimates that the C.S.I.R.O. is engaged in 29 different fields of activity. The tremendous growth of the organization is seen in the fact that this year’s allocation is £6,772,000, or almost £700,000 more than was spent last year. The C.S.I.R.O. has done a great deal to increase productivity in primary and other industries, but I wish to direct my remarks more specifically to-night to its investigation of wild life, which is referred to in item 25 - “ Investigations “, in Division 421. Though almost every other subject has been discussed during this debate, this one has not.
I want for a moment to speak on behalf of the bird lovers of Australia, who regard the slaughter of our birds as one of the worst features of modern life. In one year alone 100,000 wild birds were trapped in Australia for export. Only 28,000 reached the point of shipment, and of these fewer than 3,000 survived the journey overseas. In other words, 97,000 died.
Official Commonwealth figures show that, between 1st June, 1957, and 30th September, 1958, 41,490 native birds were exported - the majority through New South Wales. Of these, 35,899 were finches and 5,171 were parrots. They went chiefly to Holland, Britain, Hong Kong, the United States, South Africa, Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal. There is no official record of how many survived their long journeys.
– How many galahs and cockatoos were there?
– There are quite a lot on the Government benches. According to Mrs. Thistle Y. Stead, honorary secretary of the Wild Life Preservation Society of Australia, conditions of transport are so bad that large numbers of birds - often more than 50 per cent. - die in transit. Others suffer miserably, especially in the tropics, and reach their destination in a poor state. Among the birds sent out of Australia in the past two years have been kookaburras, black swans, emus and the rare satin bower bird. Satin bower birds fetch about £35 sterling in England and on the Continent. Hong Kong Chinese are willing to pay £5 each, and more, for galahs, sulphur-crested cockatoos and parrots of many kinds. High prices like this reconcile some dealers to losing a good deal of stock in transit - they can afford to.
Australian bird lovers, however, are concerned not only with the export, and death in transit of such large numbers of our native birds, but also with the traffic in wild birds between the Australian States. Most States - with the notable exception of South Australia, which has, I understand, a black name with ornithologists - have well-framed and humane Birds and Animals Protection Acts. Under these laws, bird trappers have to obtain a licence. This limits the number of wild birds that they may catch. The grotesque thing, however, is that it is practically impossible to police these excellent laws.
Order! Is the honorable member attempting to link this with the estimates for the C.S.I.R.O.? If so, he might make that evident to the committee.
– I am speaking about the wild life section of the C.S.I.R.O.
The honorable member has been speaking about something that is purely a matter for State administration. If he cannot link his remarks with the proposed votes, I must rule him out of order.
– I am referring to the spending this year by the C.S.I.R.O. of money on “ wild life “, &c., &c. I am referring to the activities which come under “ &c, &c.”. There is nothing to prevent any one who has a licence from snaring all kinds of birds in, say, South Australia, where they may be unprotected, and shipping them to another State where they are protected - and selling them. I believe that the C.S.I.R.O. has a good field for investigation in the wicked slaughter of our native wild life throughout Australia. We have evidence of it at the moment on Gabo Island in Bass Strait, where penguins and gannets are being used as fishing bait. Though my subject may be bird life, I am not speaking about something that has been just plucked out of the air. I am speaking of something that is terribly important to the preservation of our flora and fauna. The C.S.I.R.O. should do something to help the States in this problem. That is why I bring it up to-night. Northern Territory field biologist, Mr. A. E. Newsome, told a recent conference of interstate fauna authorities -
From what we have seen of the trappers . . . they are interested not in the welfare of the birds, but in swelling their own purses. They crowd into a small area a tremendous number of birds and leave them without food or water. They exceed the number specified on their licence so as to allow for mortality . . .
All the authorities believe that illegal trapping, or poaching is also rife. A leading ornithologist, Mr. Alec Chisholm has said -
I am sure that great numbers of protected wild birds are poached in New South Wales alone. Our police have the power, but not the manpower to prevent this.
Mr. A. Strom, the New South Wales Chief Guardian of Fauna, has only one man to help him in the vast work of conserving all the native animals and birds of this State.
I believe that the C.S.I.R.O. could help in staffing the State authorities.
– Why does not the Comwealth prevent the export of native birds? I asked a question about this six months ago, but the Government has done nothing about it.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Lalor is interested in this subject. Uniform Commonwealth laws to protect our native birds are necessary, and their’ commercialized export should be prohibited. As I mentioned earlier, 100,000 birds were trapped in one year; but only 3,000 of that number reached their destinations overseas. That is a wicked waste of our birds. The proceeds go into the pockets of a few unscrupulous trappers who have no interest in our birds except for commercial gain. There should be greater official supervision to safeguard our native birds. This is one of the aims of bird lovers Australia-wide. They also want the general public to realize the senseless cruelty of taking any adult wild bird out of its free, natural environment and putting it in a cage.
The next matter I wish to raise relates to the Hovercraft which is now being developed by the Saunders-Roe company in England. This should be a must for the Department of National Development to investigate within the next year or two. Last week I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question about this new invention and he said that it was looking a long way into the future. But surely Australians do not want other countries to beat them to the punch in benefiting from inventions of revolutionary design. I feel that one section of the Department of Shipping and Transport could at this moment investigate this new invention so that Australia might be in the forefront when the Hovercraft is brought into production.
I have raised this matter on the estimates for the Department of National Development. The development of Australia demands that we should take an interest in all modern types of transportation. Australia needs better roads, a standardized railway gauge, a further development of the Australian National Shipping Line in overseas trade so as to create competition with the organized 70-member conference line, and we want hovercraft to be one of our new means of transport. I am not thinking of it to-night so much in connexion with sea travel as of its possible use in Queensland and the Northern Territory for the purpose of transporting beef cattle from central Australia to the railheads and markets in Queensland. This craft can travel at about 30 knots, only 15 feet above the ground. Honorable members know that there are vast level areas in central Australia over which a craft of this type could safely travel. At the moment Saunders-Roe are developing a type of this craft which will be able to transport 200 tons of cargo.
Details of the ferry-type hovercraft were published in the issue of “ Aviation Week “, dated 27th April last. The article describing the Hovercraft states -
Payload of the 400-ton model is just over 200 tons.
That is equivalent to the weight of 800 medium-sized beef cattle. It would be possible to transport that number in one load from central to the railhead or to a point where the terrain is too hilly to use the hovercraft. But the great value of it would be that it would save weeks and months of gruelling droving of herds along the stock routes, as a result of which they now arrive at market thin and greatly depleted in numbers. The use of this machine would revolutionize the beef cattle industry in the Northern Territory. At the moment a mighty job of transport of beef cattle is being carried out from the north-west down to Perth. By using hovercraft beef cattle could be taken eastwards from central Australia to the railheads of Queensland and New South Wales. This article further states -
The 200-ton payload allows for a total fuel load of 5 tons which is sufficient for a range of 2,000 nautical miles under moderate sea conditions.
A similar distance could be travelled over land because this craft is designed to travel over land as well as over water. It could easily be adapted for the purpose I have mentioned. The article continues -
Accommodation on the 400-ton craft is divided between two decks surrounding the air intake and plenum ducting.
These craft have been successfully tested already over water between England and France. The firm of Saunders-Roe is proceeding with a detailed design of twopassenger and cargo ferries. The estimated development cost is 15,000,000 dollars over a six-year period. The article describes one model as follows: -
The largest, a passenger and car ferry, with a gross weight of 400 tons, is designed to carry 1,200 passengers and 80 cars. Seven Rolls-Royce Tyne 11 gas turbines driving ducted fans and totalling 33,000 shp. will provide the low-pressure lift air.
These details show what an amazing invention this craft is. Recently, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) asked a question about the Hovercraft in the
House and I asked a supplementary question. I know that many honorable members are deeply interested in this craft which could be used with advantage not only over water along the Australian coastline, but also over the wide, flat areas of the Australian inland. As I have already said, it would revolutionize transport. This is no child’s dream or fairy story. This firm is developing new models of the craft which in six years’ time will probably be used in other parts of the world.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– During this debate several references have been made to the Snowy Mountains scheme. I wish to deal with this subject, neither to praise nor condemn the scheme but to ask that it be understood, and that we should be allowed to know something about it. The truth of the matter is that although we have spent something like f 134,000,000 on this scheme and are proposing to spend another £25,500,000 on it this year, we do not know how the money has been spent or whether we have got value for it. I am not suggesting that we have not got value for it; I am only saying that neither I nor any other member of the committee nor any member of the ministry knows whether we have got value for this money.
Earlier to-day in the debate the honorable member for Wentworth referred to this matter. He directed the attention of the committee to the last available report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which the Government recently tabled in Parliament, and pointed out that the financial statements which should have accompanied it were not given, either for this year or the year before or the year before that. It is said that they are being assembled and that they will be available shortly, but at the present moment we have not the slightest idea how this scheme is going. That is the position, and honorable members and the Government had better face up to it. On page 27 of the report to which I have referred, the commissioner mentioned that in his opinion the new T.l power station was producing power at a cost of about .9d. per kilowatt hour. However, he qualified this statement, and I want to read his phrases because they are very careful and guarded phrases. He said -
It is now estimated that the unit cost of producing the peak load energy for which this Station has been designed will be approximately 0.90 pence per kilowatt hour after full production has been reached. The estimate is based on the costing principles laid down in the CommonwealthStates’ Agreement, with the allowance of some margin for contingencies which may arise prior to completion. It includes a component to cover the additional cost attributable to the supply of water to the western rivers for irrigation, additional costs which must be included in the cost of electricity.
A direct comparison between production of peak load hydro energy with its high associated power component and a similar development in the thermal systems is complicated by a number of intangible factors. However, estimates indicate that the T.l Project will produce peak load electricity at a lower cost than peak load energy could be produced by coal burning plants.
I think that statement is open to very serious question, and because it is open to serious question, we should have now the figures on which the commissioner based his conclusion. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that a tremendous degree of skill has been shown in carrying out this Snowy Mountains scheme, and will join in praising the work done by the engineers, the staffs on the job, the men at the face and so on. At the same time, they will admire the application that has gone into the overall scheme. But - and this is the “but” which I think we had better consider - even if this scheme was right in 1950, is it necessarily right to-day? May not things have happened between 1950 and now which could have altered the whole economic basis of the scheme? I say this knowing very well that the scheme is not just an electricity scheme, but that it also conserves water. That is the position which I shall try to analyse further in a moment. But, Sir, looking at it from the power side, the scheme is open now to very serious doubts by reason of changes that have occurred in the interim.
I shall list four of these changes. When I say that some of them work one way and some another, I mean that some of them may help to make the scheme more attractive and some may militate against it. It is simply that we do not know at this moment, and nobody in the Cabinet knows, how the figures add up. The four changes that have occurred since the scheme commenced are these: First, the technique of transmitting electricity over long distances at high voltage has been very much improved. During the last few years, we have been shown transmission facilities and techniques that were simply not available to us ten years ago. Many will say, and say rightly, that this makes a difference in favour of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Perhaps it does; but perhaps it makes a difference against the Snowy Mountains Scheme if we think rather in terms of transmitting over long distances energy derived from coal or some other source.
The second point that I want to make is that during these ten years the efficiency of coal-fired plants has much improved. In addition, New South Wales has started to realize what it should have realized ages ago, and Victoria has started to realize what perhaps it anticipated New South Wales in realizing, namely that indigenous fuel resources in the form of black and brown coal are inherently much cheaper to mine and to utilize than had previously been thought. Base load coal-fired stations in Victoria or New South Wales can reasonably be expected to produce power at a cost below .5d., after making allowance for interest, depreciation and all proper costs.
I point out that these are figures for base load stations placed in the most favorable position; but even for peak load stations, I do not think that we need approach as high as the .9d. which is set out in the commissioner’s report. I know this has to be put forward full of qualifications as to what we mean by peak load, what is the load factor, and points of that kind. I simply say that we had better get the figures and analyse them, because we are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
I have made the points that transmission techniques and coal-firing techniques have improved. The third point I want to make is that in Great Britain and Europe, the responsible authorities are realizing that, to some extent, the most economical way to meet electricity peak load demand is by what is known as pump storage. In this system, the base load plant works flat out all the time and is used to elevate water, which is let down at the time of peak demand.
As we all know, electricity cannot itself be stored, so the energy is stored in the form of high level water. One might well say that this technique could be happily married with the Snowy Mountains Scheme which is itself a water scheme. That might well be, and the result of an examination could be not to reduce the Snowy Mountains Scheme but to increase it or change it. But these factors are not being properly examined in the context of their economic significance.
The fourth change of technique is much more important and that is that new power sources are now coming over the horizon. The atomic reactor is one and the fuel cell is another. The atomic reactor is here. It may not yet be fully economic, but that is a question that is debatable. The fuel cell is certainly not yet operating; but these new sources of power are coming over the horizon. With the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the cost of .9d. is tied to a 75-years amoritization and it is reasonably certain that, long before this period has ended, we will have competitive sources of electricity far cheaper for both base load and peak load. Anybody who is tying up hundreds of millions of pounds on the assumption that the technique of power generation will not improve significantly in 75 years is in for another think. We had better have another look at this. Overseas countries are tending to turn away now from big static investments in hydro-electricity, because they know that, although these changes are not yet operative, they are indeed already appearing over the horizon.
If these things are so - and they are so - had we not better have another look at this scheme in the light of the figures which are simply not being made available to us? Indeed, the scheme has itself developed and developed significantly in the course of the last few years. I refer honorable members to page 18 of the commissioner’s last report. There they will see a passage which does not seem to me to have received sufficient attention. The intention is to lift by 700 feet the level of the tunnel through the main range. This, in turn, will mean that water cannot be taken through to the Jindabyne reservoir without pumping. It is true that there is to be another tunnel from Island Bend down to the Eucumbene reservoir. That is a good idea; I approve of it; but I am trying to point out that the scheme has to be changed, that it has to be adjusted and that this is all happening without this Parliament knowing anything about what is going on.
I know that the electrical importance of the Snowy Mountains Scheme is only half the story. It has an importance also as a supplier of water for irrigation. But is that quite correct? There is not very much extra water coming through so far. The Jindabyne water can be commanded only by pumping. There will be a small flow from Island Bend when the new tunnel is completed, and there is a little coming down from Eucumbene, but not much. The main waters that will be used are those which already flow west in the Tumut and the Mumimbidgee. If honorable members know the scheme at all, they will know that the amount of new water being diverted is very small indeed. But - and this is an important point in favour of the scheme - while it is not producing much new water it is producing a great deal of water storage. The 3,500,000 acre feet which Lake Eucumbene will hold when it is full will be a tremoundous reserve which will guarantee the irrigation areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia freedom from the ravages of drought. That storage is the real thing. It is not the extra water coming through that is important; what is important is the water storage that is to be available.
But that storage is already available, and the extra hundreds of millions of pounds that we are thinking of spending will not add materially either to it or to the extra water coming through. If we want more water, we can get very much more water by spending money in other directions.
These are things that have got to be analysed and weighed. The point I am making is that they are not being analysed and weighed properly. Certainly another point I make is that this Parliament is not being given access to figures which would allow it to make an estimate of the real position.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Had I been given the opportunity to speak earlier in this debate I should have spoken about repatriation, the housing of returned soldiers and the hospital treatment of returned soldiers. Many honorable members on this side have referred to those matters. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) in particular has dealt with them fully and I am convinced that no good purpose would be served by pressing them so long as we have the present Government in office.
The housing of soldiers and the hospital treatment of ex-servicemen are similar to the social services we debated last week, and it seems that all the debating in the world will not improve the lot of the thousands of people who are requiring homes. Time and time again I have promised returned soldiers that I will inquire with a view to ascertaining what they could expect to get by way of loans. Representatives from Melbourne and Sydney electorates have referred to the granting of temporary loans for twenty months. They have told us that branches of the War Service Homes Division in Sydney and Melbourne have advised applicants that they can obtain short-term loans without any trouble at certain places, that the interest required will be anything between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent., but that the Commonwealth Government will guarantee repayment of the money within eighteen months. What better security could these money lenders, banks, solicitors and others who make short-term loans have than a guarantee by the Commonwealth Government that the money will be repaid? I submit that it would be far better for the people concerned if the Commonwealth Government, instead of requiring them to pay anything from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, for .short-term loans, decided to make no further loans, and to consider no further applications until it had caught up with present arrears. Under the present system, applicants for temporary finance are required to pay the same amount in solicitor’s fees and other costs when obtaining a shortterm loan as they would be required to pay if they were obtaining a loan for 33 years or for any other term. They should not be made to suffer these heavy imposts merely for the sake of obtaining finance fifteen or sixteen months earlier.
The Government has also allowed many thousands of people to go homeless, and I was surprised to hear the speech by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). He was formerly with the World Bank, and when we heard that he was to become a member of this Parliament, we were delighted. We felt that a man who had such wide experience would be an asset and we hoped that he would be able to put forward suggestions that would be of benefit to the people as a whole. But what did we find this afternoon? He adopted the same line as that pursued by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who said that the rent control imposed by State governments, especially the New South Wales Government, was responsible for the lack of housing. He should know only too well that since 1955 there has been no rent control applying to any house, flat or other building erected in New South Wales. As an experienced estate agent, the Minister knows every trick of the trade, yet he comes here and submits such a weak argument. Why, next door to my home in Sydney there is a house about 70 or 80 years old. The person who lived in it for 70 years died recently. It has since been converted into flats with only one set of conveniences and one bathroom. In that building which formerly housed one family, there is a Chinese family paying seven guineas a week for one flat; two people occupy another section for which they pay six guineas a week; a family pays £4 a week for a third section; and still another family pays two guineas a week for a fourth section which may be likened to a dog kennel. So a big return is being obtained for what is in reality only a house. Yet honorable members on the Government side have the hide to tell us that the people of Sydney are well housed, and that we are well on the way to overcoming the housing shortage there! Why, the present position is the greatest scandal in the world!
As honorable members know, I accompanied the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) on a visit overseas with a view to ascertaining how the people of other countries were being housed. Among the places we visited was Brazil. We saw signs of great wealth, we saw great palaces, and we also saw that the workers scrambled up the sides of hills at night and camped there the best way they could. That is a fact. The highest wage there is about £3 15s., which is paid to a tram driver. We travelled to New York and to many other places, and when we returned to Australia we had to confess that we had the best country in the world but the worst Government in the world. The Government is proving that every day that this debate on the Estimates continues, because it has not allowed members on this side of the chamber sufficient time to discuss the proposals. About fifteen or sixteen members on the Government side indicated, or at least thought, that they were prepared to walk out on the Government because of the way that it was treating the people, but they did not do so.
I travelled throughout Ireland, the country that is despised by our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who have boycotted it, and have refused for the last seven or eight years to send a representative of Australia there although the Prime Minister, when he wanted to win an election, promised to do so during one of his election campaign visits to Queensland.
Order! I think the honorable member had better bring his remarks back to the subject of national development.
– I am doing so. I should like to advise the officers who are administering the Department of National Development to hear what the Government of Ireland is doing to house the people. After the passing of the Housing (Amendment) Act 1948, a scheme was inaugurated for the provision of dwellings for newly married couples. That is something that the Government of Australia has never thought of doing. The tenants are selected as a result of an annual public draw. As the families increase in size, the tenants are transferred to larger dwellings and the vacancies thus created are made available for letting to other newly-weds. These dwellings are let on a weekly tenancy basis. What has this Government done to help the young people who want to get married? We have been told what it is doing for the ex-servicemen, and we have been told what it is doing for the children, but what is it doing for the young people who want to get married? What chance in life has this Government given them? None whatsoever!
In both newly-wed and tenant-purchase cases a capital grant is paid to the local authority by the State, but no subsidy towards loan charges is received. Prior to 1950, the rents of weekly tenancy dwellings were fixed at the date of the first letting, and were increased or decreased as necessary with fluctuations in the municipal rate. Since 1950, the rents of all new dwellings are calculated with regard to the family income, and are varied according to changes in the financial circumstances of the family. Maximum and minimum rates are fixed in respect of the various types of accommodation provided.
When the Chifley Government proposed a similar agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to cater for those people who have large families–
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The honorable member is now speaking about a housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which has nothing to do with the Estimates under discussion.
– Housing is national development.
– I remind the honorable member for Parkes that the honorable member for Lyne has addressed a point of order to the chair, not to members of the Opposition. The honorable member for West Sydney is in order in discussing housing. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement may be regarded as a matter related to national development.
– An excellent decision, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Now let us turn to New South Wales. In that State we can see the desperate situation of families looking for homes, and for that situation this Government is responsible. One would imagine that the government of a country that has available every possible product would do its utmost to house the people, but I am sorry to say that in New South Wales there is no earthly hope of that happening. If a government claims to be a national government, surely it should do something to give the people what is their right - a home in which to live and to rear their families. The people should not have to live in boxes, as you might call them - in small rooms and in unsatisfactory dwellings.
Returned servicemen have come to me time and time again complaining of the high rents that they have to pay. They are behind in meeting instalments on their furniture and other articles in the home. It all comes back to the fact that you cannot get money from the banks to build a home, but you can get all the money you require for hire-purchase transactions on which you pay 12 per cent, or 15 per cent, interest. The money that the banks should be lending to the workers to enable them to purchase homes is going to hire-purchase companies. The Labour Party is not opposed to hire purchase, but we on this side of the chamber have said repeatedly that hire-purchase transactions should carry a reasonable rate of interest. Why should people have to pay 10 per cent., 12 per cent., 15 per cent, and 25 per cent, interest on hire-purchase transactions? The article is there–
Order! The honorable member is straying from the subject again.
– The Government has strayed from the point that I wish to make, which is that the Government, during the ten years that it has been in office, has done nothing for the people. It is all very well for the Government to back up its wealthy friends when they want to do something. It is no trouble at all for the Government to meet their demands, but when the working people ask the Government for justice it is denied them. The same may be said in relation to schools. The Commonwealth Government should be responsible for the education of the children of this country.
– What has this to do with national development?
– If that is not national development, you had better go back to school. The children have to be educated, and the schools to house them have to be built. If that is not national development, you can ask me another one.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the two minutes that are left to me I want to clear up one point. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that in 1949, when the bill relating to the Snowy Mountains project was before the House, all the members of the Opposition of the day crossed the chamber and voted against it. A division was not taken on the second or third reading of the bill. All voted for it and it was passed on the voices. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then the Leader of the Opposition said -
I want to address broadly to two matters such remarks as I have to make. The first is whether the development of hydro-electric power in the Snowy Mountains area is a good thing. . . . “ Do we need to develop the resources in the Snowy Mountains Area? “…
He answered his own question by stating -
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The point of order that I wish to raise when members of the Australian Country Party are quiet - I am not in any hurry - is that when I spoke of the Government I included all members of the Australian Country Party, and the Government
Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. Obviously, he is trying to occupy the two minutes that are available to the honorable member for Mallee.
– Mr. McEwen, at that time the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, said -
The members of the Australian Country Party support this bill because we believe the proposal that it contains is good. It is completely in accordance with the policy of the Australian Country Party and with its record of achievement
The late Mr. Anthony, who was at that time the honorable member for Richmond, said -
This proposal should have been treated on a non-political plane because it is designed to benefit the whole of Australia.
I spoke at a later stage of the debate, and I said -
Long before I became a member of this chamber I was a supporter of all proposals to increase water and power supplies in this country. Therefore, I support this measure.
That only shows once again that the honorable member for Grayndler has misled the Parliament–
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. All 1 wished to say was that the honorable member and his colleagues boycotted the opening ceremony.
Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of National Development, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Australian Atomic Energy Commission has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed Vote, £1,258,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed Vote, £42,612,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed Vote, £65,554,000.
Department of Air.
Proposed Vote, £60,161,000.
Department of Supply.
Proposed Vote, £20,986,000.
Proposed Vote, £2,229,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
The rocket range was established some years before the fall of the Labour Government in 1949. It has, therefore, been researching, and researching successfully, with rockets and guided missiles for more than ten years. Yet, although in overseas navies there are many destroyers and cruisers equipped with guided missiles, so far nothing has been done with the Royal Australian Navy in this respect, and no regiment of the Australian Army has been equipped with rockets, though these have become standard equipment overseas, and their successful testing and design in Australia is something of which the Government has boasted. The Government has made films to advertise its achievements with these rockets, but we have no antiaircraft rocket units, and no regiments are equipped with the Malkara anti-tank rocket. If it be true that the States are responsible for civil defence, nobody could contend that the States were responsible for antiaircraft defence. The equipment of regiments with rockets for anti-aircraft defence as part of the Australian army is essential. It is known that foreign powers have longrange rockets which they can fire from aircraft. They can actually attack cities with atomic rockets from a distance of more than 100 miles, and if we do not consider so powerful a weapon as an atomic rocket, there are still the ordinary rockets with which aircraft are equipped and which they can use to attack ships. The new Daring class ships of the Royal Australian Navy would be called on to counter such an attack with guns which everybody in this chamber knows would be hopelessly out-ranged.
The second point is that the Navy is geared to be an anti-submarine force, but it is clearly not geared to be a force capable of dealing with atomic-powered submarines attacking cities with nuclear weapons. It is quite clear from the design of Australian surface ships that what they envisage are submarines attacking ships. They do not envisage submarines attacking cities. The second thing that they envisage, apparently, is submarines with the speed of submerged submarines of the Second World War. They do not envisage submarines with speeds which are reputed to be at least equal to, if not greater than, those of the Daring class ships, and in which it is necessary for the crews to have seat belts and other devices to ensure that they do not fall over with the new speed of manoeuvring under the water. The atomic submarine has a speed equal to or in excess of that of Daring class ships. We now know also that the United States at least, and possibly other powers too, have submarines which can fire atomic missiles without surfacing, and the only weapon to counter this is retaliation. The likelihood of a force like the Australian anti-submarine craft being in the exact position to intercept a submarine which never surfaces and which intends to attack one of the Australian coastal cities is very small. The only possible defence against submarines which attack cities with atomic weapons is the power of retaliation. Realistically, Australian naval policy should be directed towards developing some sub-surface vessels, yet we have a Navy which, year after year, continues to be exclusively on the surface.
There is no real Commonwealth policy for civil defence. I understand that during the last war it was contended against the policy of Air Marshal Harris that more effective results could have been achieved from attacking ball-bearing factories and other key defence factories than from mass bombing; but whether or not that is valid I do not know. Even in conventional warfare, which was of such civilization and refinement that attacks were directed exclusively at our industries, assuming we had an enemy who was going to use that degree of civilization in his methods of attacking our cities, and assuming that the attacks were exclusively directed against war industries, we would need civil defence. Yet we have no regiments which are trained in rocket defence of cities against air attack. One would think that regiments of the Citizen Military Forces, which are established in various localities, would be so trained, but in the civil defence policy of the Commonwealth - we are told repeatedly that we leave civil defence to the States, as it is their duty - there is not even provision for the erection by the Commonwealth of model shelters for the States. The problems of the supply of medical equipment have not even been discussed, and every time there is a civil emergency, whether it is bushfire or flood, it is dealt with by small organizations, sometimes with Army support. There appears to be no Commonwealth backing for blood transfusion services, St. John ambulance services, or voluntary fire brigades. The defence policy appears to be characterized by a belief that this country is immune from direct attack of any kind.
In the Air Force, the number of aircraft which are regarded as first-line aircraft is very small indeed. If one looks at the Australian official history of the war and reads the figures for wastage of aircraft, one recognizes that the number of machines that we are getting from the defence vote is pathetically small in relation to the likely wastage in the event of emergency.
The capital equipment of the war services is being systematically cut by inflation. The vote has been almost stationary over the years. The pay component has had to be increased repeatedly because of the need to increase the pay of the men of the services as a result of inflation, and their pay is moving upwards with the general rise in everybody’s monetary reward. It follows that if the defence vote is kept stationary and the pay component is constantly increased because of inflation, the equipment that is being given to the armed forces is being reduced. It is being reduced not merely in terms of an absolute sum of money being reduced, but in conformity with the general inflation the price of this equipment is rising, and consequently this accelerates the downward trend in the supply of new equipment. This must ultimately mean a force which is more poorly trained, composed of men with lessening respect for their training. In all these matters we have not been presented over the years with realistic statements by the Government.
We are indebted to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) for his comments about where the responsibility for civil defence lies. But everybody knows that the State governments have no real policy for civil defence, and if the Commonwealth says that the responsibility for it rests upon the States at the present time, there is no effective civil defence policy anywhere in Australia. No logical reason is advanced by the Cabinet for the implied assertion in his statement of civil defence policy that, in the event of a world conflict, this country would not itself be subjected to any form of attack. Even if the Government believes that the range of modern aircraft is not sufficient to make possible direct attacks on Australia’s cities by any likely aggressor, it is known to be physically possible for submarines armed with rockets fitted with hydrogen warheads - only seven of these weapons would be enough - to deal devastating blows, if they so chose, at all seven capital cities of Australia simultaneously. But we have no statement of any kind about this new sort of warfare which is being freely discussed in technical military journals overseas, and all that one can assume from the Government’s attitude is a belief, founded upon nothing, that this cannot happen, or, alternatively, a belief that absolutely nothing can be done to prevent it. So we have neither the development of Weapons of retaliation nor any real thinking on the subject of civil defence.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have seldom heard from the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) a speech containing so many incorrect facts as that which we have just heard. I have not time this evening to point to all the inaccuracies, but I would just point out to the committee that he has stated that we have no missiles in our Navy, although I understand that that is incorrect, at least in relation to ship-to-air missiles.
– What is an incorrect fact?
– What I mean is that we have ship-to-air missiles in the Royal Australian Navy. The honorable member for Fremantle stated, also, that no attempt had been made to provide for the defence of our cities by means of rockets or missiles, although I heard it stated in this chamber, a year or eighteen months ago, that the Government intended that precisely that kind of weapon would be provided for the defence of Sydney against air attack.
It has been the custom, during the last few years, to denigrate Australia’s defence effort. This denigration takes various forms, including destructive, negative charges, that the money spent on defence has been completely wasted and that the Government has no defence policy. These charges are made principally by Opposition members, although I was glad to see that they were not made this evening by the honorable member for Fremantle. Opposition members work on the principle that if they bray these banal generalities often enough some of the mud will stick. My observation, Sir, is that, in relation to defence, this policy has misfired. If the mud stuck anywhere, it has stuck to honorable gentlemen opposite. It has taken the form of a strongly felt impression in the minds of the general public that a party which makes such charges about a matter so clearly related to our national security, without making the slightest attempt to give detailed chapter and verse for those charges, and, indeed, without presenting any sort of alternative policy, cannot be entrusted with our national security. And the Australian people have shown in successive elections that this is their assessment of the situation.
The other critics of our defence effort, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are both more responsible and more knowledgeable, and, therefore, in my view, should be taken more seriously. They do not deny that we have a policy or that that policy has been largely- implemented. They question, not the policy, but the fundamental assumptions on which it is based. The assumptions which the Australian Government has accepted, and upon which our defence policy is based, are: First, that, because the two principal protagonists in the cold war possess the nuclear deterrent, a global war is unlikely except as an accident. Secondly, that it therefore follows that Australia, in her defence planning, should prepare for a cold war or a limited war situation. Thirdly, that, even if it is true that, in the major theatres, and particularly in Europe, an armed attack must be met by nuclear retaliation - in other words, that it is inconceivable that such a war would be confined to conventional weapons - the situation in South-East Asia, where Australia’s principal interests lie, is quite different. It is felt - I believe rightly - that a war in this area would be limited in character and confined to conventional arms. The fourth assumption on which the Government bases its policy, Sir, is that Australia could not, by her own efforts, defend herself against a major threat. It follows, therefore, that she should plan the composition of her forces to fit into the South-East Asia Treaty Organization plan, and standardize certain vital items of equipment with those of the United States of America as the principal partner in Seato.
These, as I understand it, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are the principal assumptions on which our defence policy has been based during the currency of the present three-year plan, which is now in its last year. The critics attacked these assumptions principally on the ground that they appeared to be out of step with the predominant thinking overseas. The Americans had, for a long time, both practised and preached the doctrine of the nuclear deterrent - a doctrine which predicated that the Communist powers would be disinclined to engage in overt aggression, at least if they know that such aggression would immediately be met by a shower of megaton weapons on their principal cities. Accordingly, the American emphasis has been placed on the United States Strategic Air Command, and the capacity of the United States to fight a war with conventional weapons has progressively deteriorated.
Australia appeared to be out of step also with the United Kingdom, where the famous White Paper which inaugurated the occupancy of the Defence portfolio by Mi. Duncan Sandys forecast a re-organization of the United Kingdom defence forces and an alteration of the balance of the United Kingdom defence effort which would make it virtually impossible to fight anything more than a minor police action with conventional weapons. The United Kingdom, like the United States, was thus committed to meeting even conventional threats, if they came, with nuclear weapons. In particular, the strength of the Army was drastically cut by the abolition of conscription.
I should like to emphasize, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that although, in the view of some critics, Australia was out of step with the United States and the United Kingdom that was never really the position. Our case for equipping the Australian forces with conventional arms for limited wars did not in any way involve the acceptance or rejection of the views of those two countries. Our case was based on the circumstances prevailing in SouthEast Asia; theirs on the circumstances prevailing in the major theatres. We were not out of step, that is; we were framing our defence policies on entirely different planes.
Whilst this can be accepted, it is interesting to note the extent to which thinking in the United Kingdom and the United States on the question of future wars, and the weapons that will be used, has swung round to the views expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his statements on defence on 4th April and 1 9th September, 1957. Neither the United States nor Britain is as confident as formerly of the ability of the nuclear deterrent to prevent war. This change of attitude has come about by the development of nuclear parity between Russia and the West, and in particular by the creation of what is sometimes called the missile gap. That is a gap created by the overwhelming lead that the Russians have in the field of intermediate range ballistic missiles - a lead that gives them the capacity to neutralize not only the missiles which the Americans are deploying in the United Kingdom and southern Europe, but also a large part of Strategic Air Command’s bases outside the United States. It is no longer likely therefore, that the West will be able to knock out sufficient Russian missile sites in one fell swoop to save its own cities from destruction.
The point that 1 am trying to make is that this state of nuclear parity is also a state of nuclear stalemate, lt gravely undermines the usefulness of nuclear weapons as a means of deterring the Russians from a conventional attack, lt does not destroy it entirely, of course. The Russians may still fear that a conventional assault on the whole of Europe would anger the Americans so deeply that they would let the nuclear boomerang fly and take the consequences. But in general the nuclear deterrent, as a deterrent against war, is a diminishing asset, lt retains its full value only as a deterrent against nuclear war. It may be said that the traditional concept of Nato of the sword and the shield, where the ground forces were the shield and nuclear weapons were the sword, is now reversed and that the megaton weapons are now the shield against similar weapons on the other side, and the task of an active deterrent has been inherited by the ground forces.
The logic of this situation - that the possibility of limited wars of the Korean type, fought with conventional weapons, must be taken seriously and provided for - is recognized both implicitly and explicitly in the most recent British White Paper. There is in its statements an obvious modification of the rigid doctrine of last year. The Navy for instance, is to be fitted to fight small wars by the introduction of commando carriers. The Regular Army has been increased in size by at least 15,000 men. I see in these changes a tremendous vindication and justification of the decisions taken by the Government in framing our defence policy for the current three-year programme. In the light of after events those decisions reveal not only a remarkable insight but also a steadfastness of purpose in refusing to be stampeded from a carefully assessed course by spectacular theories and easy alternatives.
The result is that whilst at the end of the current year we will have ready defence forces designed to meet the situation as we see it in South-East Asia, we will also have forces capable of fighting the sort of war that the free world would have to fight anywhere in the world. This is no mean’ feat and I for one congratulate the Government on its achievement.
Mr. BRYANT (Wills) [11.24J.- If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes; is so convinced that the nuclear deterrent is liquidating itself as such, and that therefore any war that we shall undertake will be a conventional war, how can he justify the reduction in the conventional forces of the Australian services? How can we justify the curtailment of our national service training scheme? How can we justify the almost complete neglect of the Citizen Military Forces? If we have rocket batteries located throughout the country, where are they? I have taken a fairly keen interest in the defence of this nation for several years. Where are our rocket batteries? Why are they not. listed in our telephone directories in the same way that other military units are listed? Those are questions that the honorable member for Barker did not answer. If we are integrating our forces and standardizing our equipment why is it that America is not using the FN .30 rifle? In other words, all the theories that have been advanced this evening in support of the Government’s defence policies answer no questions at all. We are still faced with this question: What has happened to the countless hundreds of millions of pounds that have been spent on defence in the last few years? If the honorable member for Barker or his colleagues have the answers to questions such as that they might give them whilst the defence estimates are being considered, because honorable members will not have time to canvass all the points that need answering.
First, let us look at the state of the forces themselves. They are immobile. I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that they are ineffective. I agree with his summary of the Navy’s situation. One does not need to make much of a study of these things to know what a menace modern submarines are. One need only look at a copy of “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “. Just examine the structure of our Navy and see whether it is capable of coping with the menace of modern submarines. What is the position of our Army? Let any one try to shift the armoured force anywhere on this continent. I will be pleased to watch the attempt.
What is the position of our Air Force? We have equipped the Air Force with large transports. Over the last five or six years we have spent about £16,000,000 on transports, but they could not maintain a decent armoured formation for any length of time at all. The quantity of equipment, weapons, petrol and ammunition used in modern war is fantastic. We on this side say that the Government’s re-equipment programme has been haphazard. We look in vain for some sign of integration of the services - integration that should be taking place if we have any regard to the creation of a national fighting force in which the three services can participate anywhere on the globe. Look at our internal defences! How can we defend this country if we cannot travel around it quickly? How can we defend it if we have done nothing about the transport system, if we have failed to develop the aircraft industry, and if we have carried out haphazard and extravagant policies? Look at St. Mary’s. In answer to a question that I asked recently I was told that £25,000,000 had been spent on St. Mary’s. In the last year the cost of running St. Mary’s, including wages, was about £760,000. As there are 745 employees there, something like £750,000 would be accounted for in wages. So less than £20,000 worth of materials must have been used! What could you manufacture with that small quantity? Take the case of H.M.A.S. “Hobart”. A vast amount of money was spent on her, and now she is in the moth-ball fleet. Take the National Service Training Scheme on which about £143,000,000 has been spent. What has it contributed towards the security of our coastline?
From the financial point of view the undertaking that we are now considering is one of the greatest with which this country has ever been concerned. I think the total amount spent on defence since this Government came to office is about £1,767,000,000. Of that amount about £416,000,000 has been spent on the Navy; about £605,000,000 on the Army; about £500,000,000 on the Air Force and about £220,000,000 on supply and production. How does that expenditure compare with other undertakings in this country? It is two and onehalf times the total capital investment in the Australian railway systems since the first sleeper was laid 100 years ago. It is four times the total capital investment in the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is equal to the sum that would be required to rebuild the 420,000 houses in the City of Melbourne at about £4,000 each. What should we have for all this expenditure? Look at our Navy to-day! It has eight or nine ships. It has one light fleet carrier, a number of “ Battle “ class and other destroyers and some “ Q “ class frigates, but it could not catch one modern submarine. For eight ships, we have spent £400,000,000. Let me remind the committee of what was said in 1950 by the present Minister for Defence, who had then held that portfolio for only a few months. He said -
The submarine will always be a deadly weapon so far as Australia is concerned, but we do not possess one escort vessel that is capable of catching a modern submarine travelling under water, let alone on the surface.
This is what the Minister said only a few days ago -
The whole of the Australian Navy is concentrating at the present time on anti-submarine warfare, using the aircraft carrier equipped with Gannet aircraft, and anti-submarine devices which, I may say, are the most modern available in the world to-day.
The modern nuclear-powered submarine costs, I understand, about £30,000,000. We could have bought ten of them for what we have spent on the Navy. Even for a half of the salaries and wages, we could have got four or five. None of our ships can catch a modern submarine. Therefore, we say that the expenditure on the Navy has not been justified. The simple fact is that we want an effective defence against what the Minister said eight years ago and again last week is the principal menace to our shores, but this Government’s defence policy has not supplied that effective defence.
There are many points which I should like to make in relation to the Army, which I know fairly well. It has been re-equipped with what is probably the best tank in the world. I know that walltowall carpets have been fitted in barracks, and it is about time that servicemen were treated in that way. The serviceman is entitled to be treated in the same way as he would be treated as a civilian.
I want to congratulate the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), because he has supplied us with a pretty well documented account of the position of the Army. If we are in any doubt about what is wrong with the Navy, the Air Force or the Department of Supply - about which we did receive some information a week or so back - it is the fault of the Ministry. Each department should have supplied us with information equivalent to that which was supplied by the Minister for the Army.
I look then at the position of the Army. It has a spearhead of one brigade and a battalion in Malaya, comprising 4,000 or 5,000 troops. We have, all told, about 22,000 people in the Regular Army. The total strength of the Army is about 65,000, including all those undergoing national service training and those in the Citizen Military Forces - the part-time, amateur forces.
The principal fighting strength of the Army lies in its armour. We have bought at great cost about 120 Centurion tanks. I understand that they cost about £50,000 each. If you want a tank, you cannot do better than the Centurion, but just point out to me one single thing that this Government has done to enable us to move our armoured forces all over the continent. Consider the state of our railway systems. I understand that there is not a single railway vehicle on the Victorian railways system that could carry a Centurion tank. These are difficult matters on which to get information, but I am giving the information that I have. I understand that South Australia has a few such vehicles. I doubt whether we could move a train carrying a Centurion tank through some of the tunnels in the New South Wales railways system. I do not know how many ports there are on the Australian coast at which Centurion tanks could be loaded or unloaded. Assume for a moment that an enemy force landed in the far north-west of Australia. I do not know what it would be doing there, but let us assume that that is so. Could we put one armoured regiment anywhere on the coast to deal with that enemy force? The consumption of petrol by Centurion tanks and the wear and tear on the vehicles themselves caused by roadwork are fantastic, and beyond the capacity of our maintenance services to cope with.
The Army is a devoted service, and it has a Minister who has produced a summary of its position, but the measuring stick which I use is its effectiveness - its ability to use its best fighting weapon, its armour. I say that the Army could not use that weapon effectively. This is not necessarily the responsibility of the Minister for the Army. It is the responsibility of the Government itself. It is a matter of defence policy at the highest possible level, but it has been absolutely and completely ignored, despite the expenditure of £1,700,000,000.
Then I consider the Air Force. We have bought twelve Lockheed Hercules transports. For what purposes are they to be used? What can be the constant and continuing employment of these magnificent aircraft? We could use two or three, perhaps. Would not it have been better to have spent only £6,000,000 on Hercules transports, and to have used the other £10,000,000 on the development of our railways, of our roads and of bridges across the Goulburn River, for instance? I understand that it is almost impossible to shift tanks from Puckapunyal, where most of them are situated, to this side of the Goulburn River unless you take them by rail. I have referred to the difficulties which, I understand, are inherent in the job of moving the tanks by rail. In fact, the position is such that if an enemy invaded this country we could attack him with our armour only if he came straight down the Hume Highway.
The position is that the Government is enamoured of expenditure. It is obsessed with the idea of spending £190,000,000 a year. I look at all the things that it has done. I look particularly at the position of St. Mary’s. I look at the answer that was given to a question that I asked about the Malkara. That is a magnificent weapon which probably will make tanks out of date, although I am not sure of that. I asked when it was proposed to equip the Australian forces with this missile, and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) stated -
The Army has arranged with the Supply Department to examine the practicability of certain modifications to this weapon to meet the possible requirements of the Australian Army, having re.gard to areas of likely operations.
That illustrates the complete failure of the Government to integrate the defence system at either the high or the low level. A weapon that we have designed and produced from our own resources will have to be modified before the Australian forces can use it!
Those are the questions to which I direct myself when I examine our defence system. Those are the reasons why 1 say that we on this side of the chamber are far from being irresponsible in our criticism of the Government’s defence policy and far from having no policy or plan of our own. Labour has a good defence record. A Labour government left this Government with the Fleet Air Arm, with the Regular Army and with the Woomera rocket range. A Labour government handed those things on to this Government, but when we look at the way in which that inheritance has been managed, we can decide only that a great proportion of the money that has been spent on defence by this Government has not returned us any value.
I want to return for a moment to the position of the Citizen Military Forces. The C.M.F. is the basis of our military forces. It will only be by the use of the volunteer, or perhaps it would be better to say, as most of the members of the Citizen Military Forces now are men who have been conscripted, by the use of the amateur, part-time soldier, that we can possibly maintain the forces necessary to defend our shores. From the figures that have been supplied to us, we see that it costs approximately £750 per year for every national serviceman, a little over £1,000 a year for every regular soldier and £65 a year for every man in the Citizen Military Forces. If we take into consideration the necessary equipment and all the other factors that are involved, we will find, I think, that for the cost of one regular division we could have approximately ten C.M.F. divisions. Therefore, in view of the overhead expenses that we have but which do not have to be borne by nations with greater densities of population, we cannot overlook the fundamental value of the C.M.F. to the defence of this continent.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I am afraid that T cannot agree with all of the criticisms that have been expressed by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). Indeed, I felt that they showed a rather outmoded approach to this very serious problem. Tt is a serious problem. and I think it is a pity that the Defence estimates have been dragged in at the scrag end of the debate and cannot be discussed properly.
At an earlier stage of the discussion of the Estimates, honorable members spoke about civil defence. I shall not reiterate what was said then, but I remind the committee of it. We do wrong if we think that we are secure or that we have some magical protection which will keep us safe. You cannot preserve your security merely with pious platitudes. Sir, in this age, unfortunately, no continent is an island and you need not ask for whom the Tibetan temple bells were tolled. Australia stands in the line. We had better recall that. I do not think that it is right to refer, as honorable members on the other side of the chamber have done, to the sums that we have spent on defence as immense. These are relatively small sums. I have had a look at the official White Paper on National Income and I have compared it with the Auditor-General’s figures for defence expenditure, and I reached the conclusion that in the first three years that this Government was in office we spent respectively 5 per cent., 5i n-ir cent., and 6 per cent, of the national income on defence. In the last three years we spent 4 per cent., 4 per cent., and 3f per cent, of the national income on defence.
I am not going to compare what has happened in Australia with what has happened in other countries. We are spending a much smaller proportion of our national income on defence than is, for example, Canada, Great Britain or the United States. I am not going to make that comparison. Let me make the comparison with what we ourselves spent only a little while ago. In 1952 we were able to find 6 per cent, of the national income for the defence we needed. The figure was down to 31 per cent, last year, and it looks, on the Estimates, as if it will be down to 3i per cent, in this year.
Shall I put it another way? If. last year, we had spent on defence the same percentage of the national income as we did spend in 1952, we would have spent about £110.000,000 more. I do not suggest that this is what should be done. I say that anybody who believes that something effective can be done, who believes that
Australia is in danger, should not be howling out about the immense sums spent on defence. We are spending much less than we used to.
– But how effectively?
– I am obliged to my honorable friend for asking how effective is our expenditure on defence. There are two things about it. First, in the changing world, what effective defence is open to us? Secondly, how are we expending our resources efficiently towards a predetermined objective?
I do not find myself in agreement with the reasoning of my honorable friend from Barker (Mr. Forbes) in this matter. I want to retrace for the honorable member some of the arguments that he has put to the committee. He said, Sir, that Britain and the United States of America, which in the past has been anxious about the nuclear deterrent as their prime weapon, were now turning back to conventional weapons. True, but did not they get the nuclear weapon first, and do not they still have it? They are turning back now to the things of lesser priority because they dic the thing of higher priority first; and it is quite illogical, just a twisting of the facts, to say that there has been a revulsion of feeling in those places, or a revolution in tactics. What happened was that they did the first thing first.
The honorable member then says - quite rightly - that there is a stalemate. So there is, but there is a nuclear stalemate among the people who hold nuclear weapons. There is no guarantee for other people that nuclear weapons will not be used against them - because this is the logical and the inevitable extension of the honorable member’s own argument. If the major powers in this nuclear stalemate are not going to use their nuclear weapons one against the other, does not that leave people who have not got nuclear weapons out in the cold? If we say - as we do say, and we say rightly - that nuclear war is now unlikely, that it can happen only by accident, does not that mean, in point of fact, that the major powers will not use their nuclear weapons in defence of other people? This is a thesis that was put forward by Air Vice-Marshal Bostock when he was the honorable member for Indi, and I think it is the correct thesis, unforunately
Let me come to the other point - conventional weapons. Unfortunately, if there is a war of conventional weapons in this theatre, it is unlikely that we will bc able to carry our side through to victory. The numbers are not with us. The equipment is not with us. The communications are on the side of the enemy. With all these things, how can we believe that the addition of even a great fraction to the conventional weapons that we now have does anything materially to further Australia’s safety, except insofar as it may make our allies further obligated to us. That, and thai only, seems to be the effectiveness of the way in which we are spending our money, because it does seem to me that the overall defence plan which we are putting forward is a childish plan. It is directed, unfortunately, to circumstances which used to be here, which we all wish were still here, but which are here no longer.
Sir, it is not by such means that our safety can be assured. It does not really matter very much except insofar as it may enable us to make a more effective, sentimental appeal to our allies. It does not matter very much whether we have one brigade or two brigades, one division or two divisions. In the sum of the manpower likely to be engaged in these theatres, these figures are not of any real consequence. I think we must think of defence in somewhat different terms. I would agree that one of the great things we need to do - and I think this was said by honorable members opposite - is to have the Navy enter the submarine field. 1 am afraid this is one of the ways. But when all is said and done, our security here must depend upon international accord. We cannot, I think, except by an effective world government holding in its hands an effective sanction, hope to obtain security either for ourselves or for other people.
House adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were; circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The services are constantly reviewing the capacity of their current equipment of aircraft and those which are available or are becoming available from overseas, in relation to their operational requirement. When these reviews show that the current equipment is failing to meet a service’s needs and a suitable replacement is available, a recommendation is made to the Government for the procurement of a new type. Mo such recommendations are before the Government at this stage.
i asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What was the number of (a) tradesmen and (b) apprentices employed as (i) carpenters, (ii) bricklayers, (iii) plumbers, (iv) painters and (v) electricians in each State at 30th June, 1959?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
m asked the Minister for
Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows - 1 and 2. The short answer to question 1 is - None. However, 148 waterside workers were suspended for two working days and 103 waterside workers were suspended for four working days onvarious occasions between February and July, 1958, in some cases for refusing to work with the Messrs. Hursey, and in others for walking off jobs on which they were employed. The registration of one waterside worker was suspended for one month for using abusive and threatening language to Mr. F. J. Hursey, and the registration of one waterside worker was cancelled for assaulting Mr. F. J. Hursey and for using abusive and threatening language.
t asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591006_reps_23_hor25/>.