23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The House met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair, and read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the Governor-General desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith. [Mr. SPEAKER and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned] -
– Mr. Speaker, as a result of the resignation of the former right honorable member for La Trobe I have to announce that I have been sworn in as Minister for External Affairs. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has been appointed Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Following the resignation of Senator Paltridge from the portfolio, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) has been sworn in as Minister for Shipping and Transport. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is in the Cabinet.
– Mr. Speaker, I have to announce that a meeting of the Opposition party yesterday elected me to the position of Leader of the Opposition, and also elected the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) as Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I should like, Mr. Speaker, to take this opportunity to congratulate both the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) on their election. They have been given the greatest honour that their party can confer upon them, and that is a matter for warm and sincere congratulation. I know, Sir, that we may rely on both of them to make, as ever, an effective contribution to the work of this Parliament.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne- Leader of the Opposition). - May I say, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and myself, that we appreciate deeply die remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). We share with him and his colleagues, and with all members of the Parliament, a deep regard for the parliamentary institution. We will continue, as we have always tried to do, to uphold its traditions and preserve its integrity. We know full well that if the parliamentary system perishes there is no hope for democracy, and the country would be well on the way towards one form of totalitarianism or another. In the short period for which we hold our offices - and, of course, we are not looking forward to very long membership in Opposition - we will co-operate in all respects with the Government in the discharge of its responsibilities to the Parliament consistent with our duties as an Opposition. We hope thereby to strengthen the feelings of the Australian people for their parliamentary institution. Unfortunately, from time to time, this institution is threatened by ill-informed and unfair criticism from people who are otherwise well-disposed towards its maintenance.
– by leave - I move -
That the following joint address of congratulation be presented to Her Majesty the Queen: - “To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty:
We, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, tender to Your Majesty and to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, our warmest congratulations on the occasion of the birth of a son and express the great joy felt by the people of Australia at this event.
We take this opportunity of expressing our continued loyalty to the Throne and Person of Your Majesty.” lt will be seen, from the terms of the resolution, Mr. Speaker, that this will go forward to Her Majesty as a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It needs no ornamentation. I venture to say that everybody in Australia was delighted when this young Prince was born, and we therefore go through something more than form when we convey to Her Majesty not only our intense pleasure at this event, but also’ the undying quality of our affection and respect for her.
– I second the motion with very great pleasure. The terms of the motion adequately express all our sentiments, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has expressed, in his own words, a feeling which will be shared by every person in this country. It was a most happy event for the Royal Family. It was a personal family matter, but every citizen of the whole British Commonwealth was delighted when the news was made known. The Opposition not only associates itself with the terms of the resolution, but hopes that the baby of to-day will grow into a healthy young man and enjoy a long and happy life. We also hope that the notable event will bring great joy and happiness to the royal parents and to the baby’s brother and sister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer to members of the House the oath, or affirmation of allegiance. I now lay the commission on the table.
– I have to announce that during the recess I received from the Right Honorable R. G. Casey, a letter resigning his seat for the electoral division of La Trobe, in the State of Victoria, to take effect on 10th February, 1960.
I also received from the Right Honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt a letter resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Hunter, in the State of New South Wales, to take effect on 10th February, 1960.
On 26th February, I issued writs for the election of members to serve for the said electoral divisions. The dates in connexion with both elections were fixed as follows: - Date of nomination, Tuesday, 15th March, 1960; date of polling, Saturday, 9th April, 1960; date of return of writs, on or before Saturday, 21st May, 1960.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Evidence Act 1905-1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I have to report that the House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament. The Speech will be included in “ Hansard “ for record purposes.
The Speech read as follows: -
You have been called together to deal with matters affecting the well-being and advancement of the Australian nation. I welcome this opportunity, my first, to address the senators and members of the Parliament. I am particularly glad to be doing so at a time when we are all rejoicing at the birth of a second son to Her Majesty the Queen, to whom our loyal affection goes out; and we have recently received the news, which has greatly pleased us all, of Princess Margaret’s engagement.
Since my distinguished predecessor last addressed you Australia has been honoured and delighted by a visit from another member of the Royal Family - Princess Alexandra of Kent.
There will be held this year in London another meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth.
There will also be held, beginning on the 16th May, a summit conference. My Government welcomes all means of relaxation of the tension between the Soviet Union on the one hand and the democratic powers on the other. My Government confidently hopes that the summit conference will prepare the ground for other similar meetings working for a progressive growth of confidence and the settlement of outstanding differences.
During the year my Government has sought a growing understanding of the problems of the people of Asia and to co-operate with them in appropriate ways in their constitutional and economic development. The Colombo Plan has been extended for a further period of five years, and Australia’s contribution will do much to raise the standard of living throughout the area. My Government is willing to participate in the World Bank scheme for settlement of the Indus Waters question.
Progress towards international disarmament has been disappointingly slow. Nevertheless my Government welcomes the forthcoming meeting of the ten-Power Disarmament Committee and hopes that it will lead to some progress on general measures of disarmament. Before any satisfactory system can be devised, however, all the great military powers would need to be associated with any agreement.
Australia has again been elected to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Australian activities including scientific research will continue in the Antarctic. My Government welcomes the signing of the Antarctic Treaty during the year and in due course Parliament will be asked to approve its ratification.
Last year, following a comprehensive review of defence policy by my Government, my Minister for Defence announced a new three year defence programme, involving important changes in the organization and equipment policies of the Services. That programme is now being put into operation.
My Government, in co-operation with the Government of the United States of America, is setting up and operating in Australia stations for observing and recording space satellites.
The short range anti-tank weapon Malkara, designed and built in Australia, has been adopted as standard equipment by the British Army and a substantial order has been placed with my Government.
My Government has decided that more active civil defence preparations should be undertaken and following discussions with the States, detailed plans are now being prepared to ensure coordination between the Commonwealth and the States.
My advisers have informed me that, whilst employment and production are high and increasing and all branches of trade are active, there are trends in the economy which have been causing them concern. In particular, costs and prices have been rising at an increasing rate. My advisers believe that if these were allowed to continue it would bring needless hardship to a great many people and it would imperil the stability upon which the further growth of Australia depends.
They have therefore decided upon certain courses of policy of which the broad aim is to counter these untoward tendencies, restore balance between demand and supply and bring the rise in costs and prices to an end.
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is at present hearing claims for substantial increases in the federal basic wage.
My Government will, is the course of these proceedings, inform the Commission of its view that our economy needs time to absorb the two large and widespread wage increases which have already occurred within recent months.
It has also announced that, in its Budget for next financial year, it will do all in its power to avoid deficit finance and it has made known that it agrees with, and will support, the policy of restraining the growth of excessive monetary liquidity.
Furthermore, as part of its general scheme of measures, my Government has removed import controls from the great majority of goods coming to Australia. This means that, apart from certain items which will remain temporarily subject to licensing, the flow of imports to this country will be unrestricted except by the Customs Tariff. This important step has been made possible by the relatively strong position of the Australian balance of payments and overseas reserves and my advisers believe that it will produce substantial benefits for the economy.
An independent committee has been appointed to carry out a public investigation of the taxation laws and has begun its work. The decimal currency inquiry is proceeding.
My advisers will bring down legislation to avoid double taxation between the income tax laws of Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. My advisers are also reviewing the legislation relating to general insurance with the aim of bringing it up to date.
My Government is concerned that, the world wide movement towards freer trade has largely excluded primary products. In a number of important markets, restrictive devices of many kinds continue to inhibit free access on commercial terms. My Government will accordingly continue to press for removal of these restrictions, as well as for international measures to ensure greater stability of prices for primary products.
The emergence of two rival trading areas in Europe and the developments flowing from the recent Paris Economic Conference, are being closely watched by my Government, which is alert to Australia’s trading interests in these matters.
My Government has continued to promote the sale of Australian products overseas, through its enlarged Trade Commissioner Service, through trade missions, and in co-operation with the Export Development Council and industry and commerce organizations. The increase in many manufacturing exports has been gratifying. A National Export Convention will be held in Canberra in May of this year.
I am advised that there has been a continued growth of manufacturing industry during the past year and that many new projects are being undertaken, a number in association with overseas capital. Protection for efficient and economic Australian industry has always been my Government’s policy.
The prospects for 1959-60 favour a continued high level of production for most of our primary industries, and wool production is estimated at a new record level of 1,690,000,000 pounds. My advisers recognize that an important factor in these achievements is the continued support for research activities from governments and industries and the ability of Australian primary producers to put the results of research to good practical use. In this Session legislation -will be introduced to permit the establishment of a research scheme in co-operation with the beef industry.
My Government is determined to maintain the impetus to national development and business expansion which immigration provides. In this World Refugee Year my Government will extend Australia’s already liberal contribution to the solution of the residual refugee problem. There are already a quarter of a million former refugees who have taken up residence here.
In Papua and New Guinea my Government continues to foster the development of agriculture and industry by both Europeans and natives and is extending welfare services, particularly in education and health. Steady progress in educating the native people towards greater participation in the administration of the Territory through native local government councils and Public Service training schools is being maintained.
In the Northern Territory the Legislative Council has been reconstituted to provide for a non-official majority, and an Administrator’s Council with non-official representation is being established. Amendments will be made to the land ordinances to permit subdivision of land within the township areas.
My Government is continuing negotiations with a number of overseas countries on air traffic agreements. One purpose is, of course, to secure necessary facilities so that our international airline Qantas can maintain and expand its operations, particularly in view of the acquisition of its new jet fleet and the commencement of round the world flights. These negotiations have demonstrated the growing interest by overseas operators in the air traffic potential of Australia and its importance on world routes.
My Government is continuing to provide a substantial subsidy to the Australian shipbuilding industry and the number of vessels under construction and orders on hand suggest good prospects for the merchant shipbuilding yards. Work is proceeding to link Sydney and Melbourne by standard gauge railway and the Commonwealth continues to provide increasing sums to the States for expenditure on roads. Legislation will be introduced in conjunction with the States to provide safeguards against the pollution of the sea by oil from ships.
Projects are in hand to provide more adequate accommodation for mail exchanges and in May the Post Office will expand local telephone service facilities over wider areas and include many more subscribers in them. This will be the first step towards a fully automatic working and nationwide subscriber dialling system. Telegraph services are being improved and their operating costs are being reduced.
Following a conference of interested Commonwealth countries in Sydney last September, my Government has expressed its willingness to participate in a Commonwealth trans-Pacific largecapacity submarine telephone cable.
Both national and commercial television services are increasing and by the middle of this year national and commercial stations will be operating in all State capital cities. Applications are being heard for commercial television licences in certain country areas.
In addition to the activities already described, my Government has continued to give special encouragement to the development and strengthening of the Australian economy in many other ways. The executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which continues to give magnificent service to Australian industries, has been enlarged and my advisers welcome the practical recognition of the importance of research that has prompted many industries to provide funds for investigations.
My Government proposes to introduce legislation authorizing the advance of up to £20,000,000 to the Queensland Government in accordance with an agreement for the rehabilitation of the railway to Mount Isa, Townsville and Collinsville. Completion of this great project will do much to hasten the development of the immensely rich mineral and other resources of north-western Queensland.
My Government has continued to assist the Western Australian Government in the development of the area of Western Australia north of the 20th parallel of latitude. Under this arrangement the prime responsibility for the selection, planning and execution of developmental projects within the area rests with the Western Australian Government and in response to its request, my Government has agreed to the construction of a diversion dam on the Ord River as a project to be covered by a contribution of up to £2,500,000 from the Commonwealth’s grant.
My Government continues to give active financial support to the search for oil in Australia and its territories and in addition to other assistance, subsidies involving an expenditure of £1,000,000 have been approved for this financial year. Further sums of this order will be made available during the two succeeding financial years. The subsidy to the gold mining industry has been extended at an increased rate for a further three years. In recognition of the importance of discovering new underground supplies of water and the development of known ones, my Government is co-operating with the States to establish a permanent conference to consider these problems.
Work on the Snowy Mountains scheme is now concentrated on the second phase of the Upper Tumut works and contractors continue to make spectacular progress.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s research reactor is now in full operation and it is proceeding with its research programme. Radioactive isotopes are being produced for use in industry, medicine and scientific research.
The year 1958-59 saw the completion of a record number of more than 84,000 new houses and flats, which made a substantial contribution towards reducing the remaining housing shortage. This financial year my Government is again providing approximately £80,000,000 for housing.
The National Capital Development Commission, with increasing assistance from private enterprise, is providing accommodation, schools, other institutions and engineering services, for the rapidly growing population of Canberra. During 1960 the Commission expects to complete the first of the defence offices at Russell Hill, the new Civic offices, the first of the new university buildings and to proceed with the lake scheme.
My Government is continuing to consolidate and develop the national health services. Arrangements for a considerable extension of the field of pharmaceutical benefits have recently been put into operation.
My Government will continue its policy of extending wherever possible measures to promote the welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependants. In the general field of social services my Government, consistent with its policy over the past ten years, is keeping all benefits under review, and prior to the preparation of the next Budget will consider particular problems associated with the application of the means test and the general pensions system. With the co-operation of the States, my Government has recently put into effect the legislation passed last year to extend the complete range of social services to Australian aboriginal natives.
My advisers are considering the report of thy Boyer Committee into Public Service Recruitment and legislation will be introduced to provide greater flexibility in meeting the present and future recruitment needs of the Commonwealth Public Service. Legislation will also be brought down to authorize increases in salaries for certain statutory officers in general conformity with recent adjustments in Public Service salaries.
Arising from a conference at Oxford last year, arrangements are now being made to promote and expand Commonwealth co-operation in education. My Government has agreed to provide some 100 scholarships for students from other Commonwealth countries to study in Australia, and together with the Australian universities and State Education Departments, will participat .- in measures to assist the less developed members of the British Commonwealth.
The Australian Universities Commission is well established in its task of assisting the development of our universities. The Commission is preparing a programme tor the period 1961 to 1963 and has appointed its first committee to inquire into the costs associated with the clinical teaching of medical students in hospitals. My advisers have decided to associate the Australian National University and the Canberra University College as one institution from the beginning of 1961 and detailed arrangements for this are being worked out.
My Attorney-General is proceeding with the preliminary steps required to bring into operation the Matrimonial Causes Act. Discussions are taking place with the State judges and administrations and with marriage guidance organizations and it is expected that the Act will be proclaimed by 1st July next. A Marriage Bill will be introduced to deal, for the first time on a uniform basis throughout Australia, with the celebration of marriage and associated questions. My Government is engaged in the substantial task of considering the lengthy and carefully prepared report presented to this Parliament by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.
The Crimes Act has been little amended since the First World War and a bill will be introduced to extend and bring its provisions up to date, particularly with regard to breaches of official secrecy. The Committee appointed by my Government to review the law of copyright has presented a valuable report recommending changes to bring the law into line with contemporary needs. The report will receive early consideration. Legislation will also be brought down to establish the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory by statute rather than by ordinance.
Amendments to the Electoral Act will be brought forward.
My Government proposes to introduce amendments to the Public Works Committee Act which will permit this Parliament, subject to certain exceptions, to examine closely all proposals foi public works which are estimated to cost over £250,000.
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That a committee, consisting of Mr. Murray, Mr. Holten and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the committee do report this day.
– Will the Minister for the Army make a statement to the House at an early date on the tragic happening in Port Phillip Bay recently when a number of servicemen lost their lives in the course of a military exercise? Will he agree to include in such statement all relevant information concerning the type of craft used and the expert opinions offered to the Army as to the advisability or otherwise of conducting such an exercise in the circumstances then existing?
– I am informed that there is to be a coronial inquiry into this tragic matter. Until that inquiry is held I do not propose to make any detailed statement in this House. When the inquiry is disposed of I will consider doing as has been suggested.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer and concerns the reported settlement of the Indus River waters dispute between the governments of India and Pakistan - a settlement which it is alleged has been brought about by the good offices of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Can the right honorable gentleman say what formalities remain before this agreement is finally concluded? What are the likely obligations under it to be entered into by Australia, and over what period will these obligations be spread?
– I think it advisable to get the honorable member a considered statement, because the formalities will concern not only Australia but also other interested countries, and it will be necessary for me to ascertain just how widely they extend. We have indicated Australia’s willingness to participate in this vast and very constructive programme for the Indus River waters, which, as I think the honorable member for Wentworth and other honorable members are aware, have been the source of a good deal of friction and controversy between India and Pakistan over recent years. It is considered that a scheme on this scale and constructed as proposed would greatly ease relations between the two countries and also contribute notably to the material well-being of their peoples. The Australian Government has been happy to indicate its willingness to participate. That is subject, of course, to the approval of this Parliament, and proposals will subsequently be brought to the Parliament for adoption. The financial provision contemplated would be just under £7,000,000, and payment would be likely to be spread over ten or twelve years. I shall see whether there is any further detail which I can usefully supply to the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question about the exchange of aircraft effected between Ansett-A.N-A. and Trans-Australia Airlines. It has been publicly reported that this agreement is to have a term of three years. I desire to know from the Minister whether that is correct and whether, at the expiration of the agreement, the aircraft concerned will be returned to the original owners. Furthermore, will the Minister have made available to honorable members the terms of the agreement made between the two airlines and approved by the Minister for Civil Aviation?
– I think the honorable member will agree that the question is one which should be conveyed to my colleague in another place. I shall see that the honorable member receives a proper reply in due course.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I refer to the execution last month by the Hungarian Government of ISO Hungarian youths aged eighteen, who had been kept in gaol for four years until they reached that age. 1 ask the right honorable gentleman whether his Government had any knowledge that those executions were contemplated. If so, was any protest sent by the Government to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization? If no protest was sent, will the right honorable gentleman consider instructing Australia’s representatives at the United Nations Assembly to seek to place the matter on the agenda for debate?
– As at least part of the honorable member’s question relates to a period before I took over the Department of External Affairs, perhaps he would be good enough to allow me to answer the question in toto to-morrow.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that a weekly publication headed “ Top Secret Newsletter “ and said to be from a person by the name of John Somerville Smith is being received by all members of Parliament. If so, is it a fact that in this so-called newsletter scurrilous and defamatory statements are made with regard to members of the public and members of this Parliament, including the Prime Minister and some, if not all, of his Ministers? As these attacks have continued without interruption for some months, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government proposes to take any action in the matter?
– I have given myself the dubious pleasure of looking at this sheet occasionally. The honorable member is perfectly correct. Never in my life have I read such a series of repeated obscene libels-
– Why do you not do something about it?
– That is a matter upon which I must take some other advice, and I will explain the difficulty if the honorable member will be patient. This man is a man of straw against whom no ordinary civil remedy is worth anything and he trades on that fact. Nobody is safe from him. I have difficulty in remembering anybody who has not been besmirched by him. Men of the most impeccable character, as we all know, are written about as if they were criminals; as if they had very strange characteristics other than criminal characteristics. It is really an incredible series of publications.
One of the difficulties in dealing with a man of this kind - and he is the only specimen of his type that I can remember for a long time - is that you must seek some remedy to prevent this kind of thing without doing what he wants to do - advertise to millions of people what he now says to hundreds of people. This is a matter of great delicacy. I have been in close consultation with the Attorney-General, because I realize that nobody in this place, on either side of the Parliament, is immune from what this low creature will publish. Unfortunately, I fear that there are in the community some men - not in this Parliament - who are willing to pay to receive this kind of thing. Their attitude and conduct is almost as contemptible as his.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a question. In his new capacity as Minister in charge of that organization will he stress the need for intensive research by the C.S.I.R.O. in an endeavour to discover a means of combating the spread of skeleton weed and eventually eradicating it in the wheat-growing areas of Victoria and elsewhere? Is the Minister aware that successful research now may save Australia very many millions of pounds in the future by preventing the loss of valuable cereal crops?
– I am aware of the dangers of the spread of skeleton weed. I will take the matter up with the executive of C.S.I.R.O. and let the honorable gentleman know what steps are being taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Has he any information to give to the House in relation to recent negotiations overseas regarding the sale of Australian zinc and lead?
– No, I am not in a position to make a statement at the present time. Certain discussions have proceeded at an industry level and some at an intergovernmental level. I will bring myself up to date on the current position and make a statement in reply to the honorable member’s question.
– Can the Minister for the Army tell the House why the Government has decided gradually to withdraw financial and administrative assistance to the Australian rifle club movement? Is he aware that this public-spirited and valuable movement, which already bears a large proportion of the cost of its operations, will find it very difficult to carry on without government assistance which, in any case, cost only about £75,000 a year?
– I will take the last portion of the question first, because there is apparently a very serious misunderstanding in the honorable member’s mind. The amount of £75,000 to which he refers is the amount appropriated for administrative purposes each year. The total cost of rifle clubs, in addition to the £75,000, has been in the region of £500,000 a year. There are two substantial reasons for the decision to withdraw assistance. First, I think all honorable members will agree that it is important that the amount allocated for defence purposes should be used with some order of priority in mind so that the most important requirements will be met first. Whilst I appreciate the fine tradition of rifle clubs in Australia, the great work that they have done, and their association with the early development of Australia, I do not think it can be said that rifle clubs have a high priority in relation to other defence matters. It was important that we should save as much as possible but at the same time do what we could to enable the rifle club movement to continue and to keep on its feet.
The second substantial reason is the change from the .303 rifle to the FN rifle, which has a .300 gauge. The Army is now being equipped with the FN rifle, and this will go on progressively until all units have the new rifle. That means that the ammunition being manufactured will change from 303 to .300 over a number of years, as the Army is equipped with the new rifle. This has presented a big problem in relation to ammunition, as the honorable member will understand. We have seen fit to make a very generous allocation of 10,000,000 rounds a year to the rifle clubs, free of charge. They can, of course, fix their own price when they sell the ammunition to their members, and thus amass quite a sum of money to enable the clubs to carry on.
That, in brief, is the story. If any honorable member would like any further details about this important matter, which I know is of interest to most honorable members, I will be very glad to supply the information that is sought.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has given consideration to the fact that flour mills in and around Port Adelaide are working almost no time at all because of the difficulty in obtaining wheat at a price which would enable them to manufacture flour for export. If he has not given any consideration to this, will he take the matter up with the Australian Wheat Board to see whether it is possible to make wheat available from the nearer portions of Victoria to South Australia, so that the men employed in this industry in the latter State for practically all their lives will not be deprived of work through the drought during the past year in South Australia, but will have an oppor- tunity to continue to get wheat at a price which will enable South Australian mills to export flour as they have in the past?
– Mr. Speaker, the flour millers of Australia did approach me, by way of deputation, to consider the manufacture of wheat into flour for export purposes, pointing out what they regarded as their difficulties in this regard. After a full discussion, I advised them that they might have a consultation with the Australian Wheat Board, because it might be possible to meet some of their difficulties within the present legislation under which the board acts. So far as wheat in South Australia is concerned, the board has tried to meet their needs in every way. Actually the production of wheat in South Australia, which was estimated to be 5,000,000 bushels, has turned out to be 9,000,000 bushels and that, together with the 5,000,000 bushels held over from the last season, is ample for their own domestic requirements. The freight to a district from which wheat has been exported is always paid by the board when it is replaced from another district.
– In answer to a question a few moments ago, I think the Minister for the Army suggested that it would take approximately three years to equip the Australian Army with the FN rifle. I ask the Minister whether the rate of equipment of the Australian Army with this new rifle is limited by the capacity of the Department of Supply to make it available. Or is the period of three years a requirement of the Department of the Army to facilitate the change-over? If there are administrative difficulties in the Department of the Army and it is the wish of the Army that the period should be three years, would the Minister explain the reason?
– If my recollection serves me right, I did not mention anything about three years. I am not aware just how long it will take to equip the Army, but we are up to schedule in production, and I think that by the end of this year the whole of the Regular Army will be completely fitted, whilst certain equipment has been supplied to the Citizen Military Forces. That process will go on until the whole of the Army is fitted. I will obtain the exact time schedule for the honorable member.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Has he received a letter from the Redfern Tenants’ Committee requesting that a conference be held to ascertain ways and means of providing alternative accommodation for 300 people involved in the Redfern resumption to make way for a mail sorting exchange? If so, does the honorable gentleman intend to accede to the request for a conference?
– Mr. Speaker, I have received a number of letters and requests from various bodies regarding the position existing at Redfern. It will be remembered that towards the end of our last sitting this question was thoroughly debated in this House, and I and other members on this side expressed the Government’s policy on this matter. There has been no alteration of that policy. The policy is, of course, that it is the responsibility of the State Government and not the Federal Government to provide housing for its citizens; but this Government has provided increasingly generous sums to the States for their housing, and that policy will be continued. Furthermore, I have pointed out that we have been fully aware of the housing requirements of the persons concerned at Redfern, and that this matter has been put before the State Government over a period extending back for nearly ten years. As this matter has been discussed at the highest level, between Prime Minister and Premier, as well as at other levels, I have no intention of holding any further conference.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Has the Government taken any steps to make available to local government authorities, through the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, supplies of triple antigen in the form of a combined preparation for immunization against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria? If it is intended to supply this preparation, when will supplies be made available to local government authorities?
– Arrangements have been in existence for quite a number of years under which local government authorities may obtain supplies.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the tendency of our cost structure to rise in spiral fashion, and of the fact that some of our secondary and primary industries have great difficulty in competing on the world’s markets, and having regard to the general dependence of Australia on primary products to keep the balance of payments stable, can the right honorable gentleman, as the leader of the Government, assure us that he will do all in his power to see that our exports are not forced out of overseas markets by ever-rising costs?
– This is an objective that is always before our minds. What the honorable member has referred to is one of the most serious aspects of the inflationary pressure.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. I understand that the honorable gentleman has written a letter to the commercial television stations, asking or insisting that they now begin to have at least 40 per cent, of Australian content in television programmes. If this is true, will the Minister say whether he has had a reply to his letter? Was the request in the form of an order or a suggestion?
– Dealing with the last portion of the honorable member’s question, let me say that I generally find that if one approaches problems with consideration and understanding, orders do not become necesary. As I told the House during the last session, I communicated with all the licensees - particularly, of course, those who have been established from the commencement of television - indicating that 1 thought the time was approaching when the proportion of Australian content in their programmes should be increased to 40 per cent. There are some licensees whose programmes already have almost 40 per cent, of Australian content, but I do not need to go into details concerning the various companies. I also indicated to them that I felt they should turn their attention to the question of providing an Australian programme of, say, one hour each week, at the best listening time, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., or between 7.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. It will interest the honorable gentleman to know that one reply I have had questions the suggestion that this is the best listening period, on the basis of certain surveys that have been carried out - but that is by the way.
I am still receiving replies. I have not received replies from all licensees, so I do not want to give what I might call a final answer to the question. I will say, however, that the replies that I have received - and I refer particularly, of course, to the four operators that have become thoroughly established - indicate a desire and an inten-tion to co-operate. One licensee - again I shall not use names - has informed me that during the coming week there will be 40 per cent, of Australian content in programmes originated by that operator. That licensee has also informed me that plans are being made at present to provide a one-hour live programme between 7 and 9. Other licensees have also indicated in various ways their intention to adhere, as far as possible, to their undertaking to develop Australian talent. I have already had some very interesting figures as to the total amounts expended on Australian programmes, as compared with imported programmes. When I have the replies in full I will let the honorable gentleman, and others interested, have them, because they will find them very interesting.
– I desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs. Has any thought been given to what is commonly called the New Valley project in the western desert in Egypt? Will the Prime Minister consider offering Egypt the assistance of a team of experts on artesian bore water, and an experimental boring plant, to test the possibility of restoring by irrigation with underground water that granary of the Roman Empire and of providing, of course, extra corn for Egypt? Does the Prime Minister not consider that this relatively inexpensive action - I understand that the cost would be about £50,000 - would return high dividends in international goodwill?
– This matter has not, 1 regret to say, come before me, but 1 will be very interested to look into it along the lines that have been suggested by the honorable member, and I will take an early opportunity to convey to him the result of my investigations.
– I ask the Minister for Trade to what extent his department is controlling, or intends to control, the flow of Japanese imports into this country, particularly those affecting rayon weaving and other textile industries. Is the Minister concerned at the fact that the value of imports from Japan has increased from £3,000,000 slightly less than three years ago to almost £45,000,000 to-day? Is he concerned also at the fact that those imports obviously are having a detrimental effect on some Australian industries, particularly those to which I have referred?
– It is well known that the Government, in combination with business and industry in Australia, has kept a very close watch upon the volume, value and character of imports from Japan. The Government invited all Australian industries which felt that they might be adversely affected, to constitute panels to which would be provided all the information that derived from import licensing. A number of those panels - I think about 40, speaking from memory - were constituted, but very few of them have ever felt that the facts of the situation obliged them to ask the Government to take any action. As soon as any industry has asked the Government to take any action on the basis of prima facie evidence of damage, the Government has referred the matter to the advisory authority, Mr. M. E. McCarthy, who enjoys the complete confidence of Australian industry in this regard.
It has turned out on occasions that an industry which was suffering as a result of the volume of imports has been shown upon examination to be suffering not merely as a result of imports from Japan and, on at least one occasion - in the case of rubber footwear - the Government has taken very wide action to place a quantitative limita tion upon imports, first, from Japan, but later from all sources of such goods, as it is entitled to do under Article 19 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I cite this case as an illustration of the fact that the Government has honoured its undertaking. The policy of the Government remains unchanged. In the new circumstances of widespread relaxation of import licensing the Government will sustain its watch on the interests of Australian industry.
However, that is not to be construed to mean that the Government does not rely principally upon the customs tariff to protect Australian industry. It is necessary for Australian industry to comprehend that fact. The Government has taken steps to ensure that the Tariff Board is competent to deal with numerous applications with much more expedition than it has done in the past.
Mr- DEAN. - Can the Minister for Air say when the Royal Australian Air Force proposes to cease its operations at Rathmines air base?
– No date has yet been determined for the closing down of the base. It will, I hope, be about the end of this year but this is dependent upon the capacity of two other bases, one in New South Wales and one in Victoria, to accommodate the units at present at Rathmines. As soon as a date can be fixed, I will inform the honorable member as a number of bodies in the district he represents have shown an interest in the closing of this base.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for the Army, is supplementary to that asked earlier by the honorable member for Barker and refers to that portion of the Minister’s answer which refers to the difficulty of supplying .303 ammunition during the transition from that weapon to the FN .30. Does the Minister know that ammunition, currently being issued to rifle clubs throughout Australia, is branded as having been manufactured in 1954 and 1955? I ask the Minister: Does this mean that there is a considerable surplus of stocks of ammunition which could be made available to rifle clubs, as this would not be required by the diminishing number of army rifles in the changeover period from Lee Enfields to FN.30’s?
– I think the honorable member would know, as all honorable members would, that we hold considerable stocks of ammunition for mobilization if necessary. This is a diminishing quantity so far as .303 calibre is concerned, because we have ceased to manufacture .303 ammunition and .300 is being produced to meet the needs as we get more FN rifles manufactured. The allocation that has been made to the rifle clubs on a reducing basis over a period of five years, which is the period of this scheme, will amount to a very large quantity, because in addition to the amount allocated free from the Government to the rifle clubs on a diminishing basis there is also available to them certain quantities which they can purchase at a reduced cost over that period of time. Of course, if there is any surplus at the end of the five years, we will give consideration to what is to be done with such ammunition.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he can inform me what has happened to equipment, either military or sporting, which has in the past been used in national service training. Will he give consideration to any surplus being made available to the rifle clubs or to any charitable organization?
– The rifle clubs, of course, get rifles at a very low price. They have been buying them at £3 a rifle for many years past, and that will continue. As to the equipment which may become surplus after national service training is finished - which will not be until 30th June next - that is under consideration at present.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Cabinet has yet decided whether Australia should adopt the British practice of requiring a Minister’s written and specific permission before a telephone is tapped or a letter intercepted. The right honorable gentleman will recollect that he has been telling us since November, 1957, that he would have Cabinet discuss the report of the British Privy Counsellors on this subject.
– Cabinet has discussed this matter now. Legislation is in course of preparation.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Is it a fact that new offices are to be built behind the South Brisbane post office to house both the Griffith Division Electoral Office and the South Brisbane Division of the Commonwealth Employment Service? If so, can the Minister say when such buildings will be completed, and also whether or not adequate provision will be made in the buildings to allow for future expansion of the facilities of the Commonwealth Employment Service in that district?
– Yes, new offices are being built. I forget the precise details of the accommodation to be provided, but I will inform the honorable member of them later.
– My question is to the Minister for Defence, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that in the so-called agreement between Ansett-A.N-A. and Trans-Australia Airlines, T.A.A. is required to pay £198 a day hire for D.C.6’s, whilst Ansett-A.N.A. pays only £168 a day for hire of Viscounts? Is it a fact that this arrangement takes account only of the seating accommodation of the planes, and more or less ignores the difference in speed and passenger appeal of the two types? Is it also a fact that T.A.A. is now required to supply crews to fly the Viscounts for Ansett-A.N.A.? If this is so, will the Minister see his colleague in another place and make sure that the full facts of this so-called agreement are put before this House without delay?
– The honorable member has referred to a “ so-called agreement “, It is, in fact, an agreement that has been signed between the two operators concerned. Of the terms of that agreement I have no knowledge, but I will convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place and I think that, if the operators were agreeable, he would provide the honorable member with the information that he seeks.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Can the Minister advise me whether he has received a letter dated 9th December, 1959, written by me on behalf of the Randwick Municipal Council, in which reference was made to the dangerous use by the Army of mechanical targets on the Long Bay Rifle Range? Also, can the Minister advise me whether he received another letter written by me dated 19th January, 1960, relating to the same subject and complaining of the lack of attention shown by his department to such important matters? Can the Minister advise me when I may expect a reply to those letters so that I may convey to the Randwick Municipal Council the Minister’s intention as to these mechanical targets? I should like to remind the Minister that to-day is 8th March.
– I am sorry if there has been any delay in relation to this correspondence. 1 was under the impression that the Randwick municipality had already been informed of the circumstances. However, 1 shall check on that. I should like the honorable member to know that I made a personal inspection of this complaint, and I suggest that the honorable member also has a look at the circumstances himself. I know quite well that it would be physically impossible for there to be any danger to people on the beach unless a man were drunk and turned round and shot in a direction opposite to the direction of the targets. If he shot in the direction of the targets at all it would be physically impossible to injure people, because the shots would be directed at an area a tremendous distance away from where members of the public are present.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say why payments to growers of wheat during the last season were delayed? Can he also say whether ail payments have now been made? Is he aware of the great inconvenience caused to many growers by the delays, and of the fact that many growers have had to pay bank interest on advances because payments have been delayed?
– The Australian Wheat Board, whose responsibility it is to make the payments, has informed me that there has been a substantia! delay with regard to the first advance payment on the No. 23 pool, but that this applies only to New South Wales. The delay is due to the introduction of a new system of calculation of payments by electronic machinery. The lag in payments has now been overcome with the exception of a small proportion of late payments due to special circumstances relating to deliveries. The board has assured me of its regret for the delays which, of course, are occasioned only by teething troubles in the introduction of the electronic machinery.
– I direct to the Minister for the Army a question complementary to those already asked on the subject of rifle clubs. I have received representations from every rifle club in my electorate on this matter. Is the Minister aware that at the end of five years the rifle clubs of Australia will either have to close down or use pearifles because of the high cost of ammunition to riflemen and the gradual exhaustion of available .303 ammunition? Does the Minister envisage the issue of the FN rifle to rifle clubs at a later date, or does he intend that rifle clubs should go out of existence?
– I think it is quite wrong to suggest that rifle clubs will have to go out of existence. If they manage their affairs reasonably well they should, far from going out of existence, be able to develop. The question of the FN rifle is one that I cannot speak about now. I cannot say whether the rifle clubs are going to adopt this rifle. Tests have been made in relation to altering the existing .303 rifle to take 300 ammunition. I am told that the number 1 .303 rifle, which is the one in general use, is difficult to convert, but that the number 4 .303 can be converted. There are a great many rifle clubs, and we would be prepared to assist in the conversion of the number 4 .303 rifles. If that proves to be possible we will do everything we can to help in the matter.
– To the Treasurer I address a question relating to the Committee on Taxation. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to report to the House on any progress made to date by this committee? Will the committee be following a time-table previously submitted to the Minister? Is there available any estimate of the time required for the submission of the committee’s first report?
– I am able to say that the committee is making progress, but I am afraid I am not able to give the honorable gentleman any detail as to the future course of events or the time when the committee’s report can be expected. I think that the honorable member may safely assume that the committee will wish to complete its work as speedily as practicable. It consists of men with an active interest in commercial affairs, and its chairman is a very distinguished former Supreme Court judge. I know that they would want to do thoroughly the job that we have asked them to do, and certainly would not wish to linger over it. However, beyond that, I cannot give the honorable gentleman any more detail at this time. I shall see whether I can find out how many sittings have taken place, and also obtain any further details that the honorable member requires.
Mr. Murray, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral (vide page 10), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I am very deeply conscious of the honour and privilege extended to me in having been asked to move the adoption of this
Address-in-Reply. This feeling is enhanced when I recall that last year a similar honour was accorded to our colleague the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne). Both of us represent areas very remote from the national capital, and for both of us the centre of gravity of our electorate is north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Therefore, this opportunity to draw attention to, and express some thoughts about the vast areas of Northern Australia is indeed appreciated.
Recently, with very genuine feelings of sadness and regret, we farewelled Field Marshal Sir William Slim and Lady Slim. As our Governor-General for nearly seven years, this great soldier who, on the battlefields and in the campaigns of two great wars, had contributed so much to the preservation of our way of life, became very well known to us. His successor, His Excellency Lord Dunrossil, whom, with Lady Dunrossil, we have so recently and so happily welcomed among us, will, we feel sure, have much to offer us from the wealth of his experience. He has already made a very noteworthy contribution in upholding the dignity and worth of our British parliamentary institution, so much a part of the very way of life which so many have given, and will continue to give, so much to preserve.
I am sure that we all wish His Excellency and Lady Dunrossil a happy stay amongst us. We might also express the wish that he will have the opportunity to travel widely and see for himself our pastoral, agricultural, and mineral wealth and potential, as well as the growth of heavy and secondary industry in and around our expanding cities and towns. I believe he will find us, not so much a weird mob, but more a young, friendly and proud nation, eager to meet him, eager to share our freedoms, our achievements, and our hopes for the future with all whom we can bring to our shores and who show a willingness to accept them.
His Excellency has mentioned a recent very happy event, the birth to our Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh of a prince - Her Majesty’s third child and the first bom to a reigning British monarch for over 100 years. This, indeed, has been a joyous event for not only does it strengthen the already firm line of succession to the throne, which means so much to us, but it has drawn our Queen, her husband and their children closer to us as a family and, if possible, has strengthened the ties ot genuine affection, loyalty and respect by which we are all held to our Royal family.
Reviewing the Speech addressed to us to-day by His Excellency, one cannot help but be impressed by the wide range of complex problems, both at home and abroad, to which our Government must give careful consideration and attention. Our destiny is inextricably woven into the pattern of world events. We are constantly reminded that it is impossible for us to isolate ourselves in thought and action from the rest of the world, any point of which can now be reached in such a few short hours. The uncertainties and dangers created almost daily by word and action in this new and still strange situation of closeness, call for great tolerance, understanding and firm leadership. We, through our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) are playing a leading role in the diplomacy and guidance of these world events. Wherever he may represent us in days ahead, whatever counsel he may be asked to give, or feel he should offer to those in similar posts of leadership, we know that he will speak with the wisdom of rich experience and as one of the great statesmen in the world to-day.
Again, reviewing His Excellency’s address, surely the least imaginative amongst us must be stirred by what has obviously been achieved in the past to enable His Excellency to draw attention in one reference after another to our continued drive in development and progress. We continue the great march forward which has gathered such impetus in the last decade, gaining further in experience and maturity in all fields. With stable government, a high overseas rating to hold attention, engender confidence and attract investment, and the . greater realization by our people of the reward that lies ahead for hard work and greater productivity, we cannot fail. It is our clear responsibility to transmit this message to every individual throughout the length and breadth of our country. The rough spots which appear along the road can be ironed out by cooperation and the understanding of their cause.
One of the greatest dangers is that we can become afraid of prosperity. We must always bear in mind that with rapid development can come, from time to time, a mild form of indigestion which unfortunately some think of as an ulcer or even a malignant growth. We should regard the present economic measures as being designed only to cure what is really an attack of economic indigestion, due to the rate of growth in our Commonwealth. As His Excellency has stated, the prospects for 1959-60 favour a continued high level of production for our primary industries and wool production should set a new record of 1,690,000,000 lb. Some primary industries are held to limits of production by limited home or overseas demand or international agreement.
The great, efficient, sugar industry to which we owe so much for its part in the early development and populating of the tropical coast of Queensland is an example. The development of this industry - the sheer efficiency of its research and production - is a shining example to all primary industries. It has also set the same shining example in the assimilation of migrants, particularly from Italy and elsewhere in southern Europe, without whom this industry might never have been developed to its present state. But in other fields of agriculture and in animal husbandry there is tremendous scope and we should be concentrating our research and effort on their expansion, so that we may use our relatively idle lands, increase their productivity and give opportunity to the many thousands of young Australians and newcomers to our country who wish to take advantage of it.
Our healthy families of secondary and heavy industries are growing, producing and intermarrying at an extraordinary pace - almost an indecent pace - and supplying a more balanced economy which is one of our great needs. But let us not forget what our primary industries have done for us and are continuing to do, and the important role they will play in our economy in the future. Primary industry has supplied a firm basis upon which we have built, and whilst we may be flushed with the wealth of our progress in other fields we must clearly bear in mind that it is primary production, with intelligent closer settlement and opening up of lands, which can supply, as always, the firm base to which population and secondary industry will be drawn and on which they will flourish.
Although we more clearly recognize the proximity of other nations to us and learn more of their problems and intentions, we are still inclined to regard northern Australia as our back door. We still face southwards and think too much in terms of the pattern in which we grew - the establishment of commerce and agriculture based on our southern shipping lanes and ports. His Excellency has directed attention to Qantas Empire Airways Limited, our international airline, and its expansion of worldwide operations, and also to the growing interest by overseas operators in the air traffic potential of Australia, a very high percentage of which has entry and exit through northern airports.
I believe it is high time we turned about, faced the north and directed more of our thinking to its importance and development. Over many years, some difference has developed between the thinking of northern residents and the people of the south, almost as if some mystical barrier had been drawn between the two. This is probably understandable when one thinks of the distance, isolation and neglect. Looking back over the years, I think it must be freely admitted that we have neglected to appreciate what the north has to offer. Recently, we have had some very hopeful indications that these long years of waiting and neglect are drawing to an end. We cannot afford to be parochial. Although some mild form of competitive interstate rivalry may be healthy and desirable, we must be careful that it does not develop to the detriment of Australia as a whole.
Sir, the north is our front door. It is becoming more important to us every day. And more urgent, I believe, is the need for some small group of carefully selected men to collect and collate the scattered information which exists in files and reports, and to seek out more in order to conserve our national finance and effort by direction and advice based on sound planning from their expert appreciation.
His Excellency referred to the Government’s advancing up to £20,000,000 to the Queensland Government for the rehabilitation of the railway line between Mount Isa, Townsville and Collinsville, and to a further Commonwealth grant of £2,500,000 to the Western Australian Government for the construction of a diversion dam on the Ord River. This is a healthy start and great benefit undoubtedly will accrue to the nation from the completion of these projects. The Mount Isa railway will carry about 14,000 tons a day of the products of Mount Isa to the copper refinery now established at Townsville - a refinery which is planning to produce up to 100,000 tons of refined copper each year. The line will carry material from other mines in the great Cloncurry and Mount Isa mineral fields. It will carry an increased number of cattle, both fats and stores. In short, it will act as a modern artery which will help in the development of a very large area indeed. But this is only a start on the transport problems of northern Australia. And transport is the life-line of those undeveloped areas.
His Excellency mentioned also legislation being brought down in this session for a research scheme in co-operation with the beef cattle industry. This is indeed welcome, although I think that it, too, is very much overdue. Probably, no primary industry in our country has been so neglected, so divorced from reality, and yet has such golden opportunities as has our beef cattle industry. Above all others, this industry offers us the chance for great productivity from what I have referred to broadly as our relatively idle northern lands. The coming legislation could give us, if we apply it wisely, an opportunity at long last to come to grips with the basic problems in the beef cattle industry. The world’s markets and growing demand both at home and overseas make it imperative that we focus attention on what we can do to increase the quantity and improve the quality of our beef cattle herds in order to build a strong trade based on continuity of supply of good quality young cattle.
According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, approximately 300,000,000 acres of wellwatered under-developed land of predominantly summer rainfall - and adequate rainfall - are to be found in northern Australia. It is here that a very high percentage of our beef cattle are bred. And this is in the tropics. Most other areas to the south where economic grazing or feeding for the fattening of beef cattle can be carried out, including the much-publicized Channel country of south-western Queensland, are affected far too often by drought, sometimes for several years continuously. Yet we have chosen to ignore almost completely the lessons learned and the success achieved by other countries which have faced up realistically to the problems of plant and animal production in a tropical environment.
A conservative estimate of the annual loss to the cattle industry from cattle tick alone is £12,500,000. We seem to have accepted control measures as the answer to this, although the control very often is inadequate. Our aim must be eradication. Lack of railways, roads and other practical forms of transport accounts for further enormous losses which are impossible to estimate. A large part of the industry is affected by seasonal unemployment, with its consequent evils. We have been held to the false belief that our standards of selection for herd improvement must be based on stock bred in a totally different environment - a temperate or northern European climate. It is small wonder that American and other overseas investors, with a knowledge of what has been achieved in other countries which have solved many of the basic problems inherent in these factors, are taking more than a casual interest and are taking over many millions of acres of our idle northern lands.
Here we have our opportunity, if we are bold enough, by adequate research into animal and plant production to more than double our beef cattle numbers and to stabilize an industry which has been drifting along for many years under great handicaps. Our national reward will be high. And, Sir, I believe that this is the most practical initial step we can take in tidying up the area at our front door - our north.
His Excellency’s Speech leaves no doubt that the Government is pressing forward to the very utmost with its consistent policy of expansion and progress based on enterprise and freedom, and there is no place for the faint-hearted in the direction of that policy. Looking ahead to the goal - the national growth which we believe is possible - we must think in a big way and not be frightened of the success we achieve.
– Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to second this motion, which was so ably moved by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). It is most appropriate thai the Address-in-Reply should contain an affirmation of our loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) mentioned earlier, this year is a special one, Mr. Speaker. We all have been delighted to hear of the birth of a second son to Her Majesty, and our loyal good wishes go out to her. I thank the Prime Minister for entrusting me with the honour of seconding this motion. I assure him and the House that I appreciate this opportunity to speak on matters of national importance. I wish to speak on subjects that are important not only to Australia, but also to the electorate of Indi, which I have the privilege to represent in this House.
I should like to join with the Prime Minister in congratulating the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on his election as Leader of the Australian Labour Party in this place, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) on his election as deputy leader. I do not know that I can wish them the best of luck, but all of us realize the honour that has been bestowed upon those two honorable members.
At the outset I want to say, as was mentioned by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in his Speech, that this Government has done an outstanding job over the past ten years. It has applied policies that had the support not only of the Liberal Party, but also of the Australian Country Party. The Australian Country Party has been proud to be associated so closely with ten years of successful government. Of course, it is appreciated that the Government has had very valuable assistance and the benefit of expert knowledge and advice from the chiefs of the various Public Service departments and their staffs. Never have we seen Australia so prosperous. Never have Australians enjoyed such a high standard of living as they do at present. But this does not mean that we can relax. We must appreciate our good fortune and work with great industry and teamwork to consolidate our position. We must never be satisfied, but must constantly endeavour to improve ourselves and our wonderful country.
Our export trade undoubtedly has been a major factor in financing Australia’s great development. We must appreciate the wonderful efforts of our primary industries, and of the people engaged in those industries. For many years past 80 to 90 per cent, of our export income, which is so vital to our internal development, has been provided by primary products. That figure includes income from the export of minerals other than gold. However, the farmers of Australia have contributed to the greatest proportion of this export income, and for as far ahead as can be seen they will continue to do so.
We must also appreciate the outstanding achievements of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in his negotiation of trade agreements with various countries, and his achievements in negotiating stabilization schemes for industries that previously had been in a chaotic condition. Australia is indeed fortunate to have the services of a person held in such high esteem as the Minister for Trade, and the Australian Counry Party is very fortunate to have him as its leader. I am certain that all Australians applaud his recent actions in placing our opinion with regard to trade so frankly before some of our American friends. I think the United States could easily relax her import duties on a number of our products, particularly wool, without affecting her own economy to any great extent. It is certainly in the interests of America to encourage or to help Australia to export goods, because the more we can export the greater will be our expansion and the more easily we will be able to purchase American exports. From my observations it would seem that one of the great problems confronting the United States at the moment is to increase her exports.
We must bear in mind the tremendous importance of our export trade with Indonesia, the Federation of Malaya, India and other Asian nations. Those countries are a potential market for our exports, and we should increase to the absolute limit technical assistance to them in the establishment of both primary and secondary industries. We should do that for humanitarian reasons also, but in doing so we would increase prospects of expanding our export trade. It is all very well to talk about potential customers near Australia, but people cannot buy goods from us if their own economic life is not sufficiently developed. There has been a great awakening among the Asian nations as young leaders have appeared in their ranks, and with this awakening there is a great determination to increase their standards of living and to raise their productivity. This could be a great thing for Australia.
Speaking of our trade position at present, we observe that the position is very sound. Our exports for the first half of 1959-60 totalled £471,000,000- an increase of 25 per cent. Once again the farmer provided by far the greatest proportion of that income - a total of £357,000,000 or 76 per cent. Those figures emphasize the importance of primary industries to Australia, and may honorable members never forget it.
Sometimes we hear criticism of the concessions that are made to primary producers. Those concessions are justified. They do not make the farmer: He is doing that by his own hard work, greater productivity and efficiency, plus considerable assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is pleasing to- see the Government actively encouraging our export trade in partnership with business leaders. We see evidence of this in the establishment of the Export Development Council and the assistance given, both by the Department of Trade and the various trade commissioners, to trade missions going overseas.
I am certain that one of the greatest deterrents to our trade expansion is the lack of knowledge of Australia and her products in many overseas countries. Particularly is this so in the United Kingdom and in the United States. T urge the Government and business leaders to do whatever they can to extend our advertising and publicity in overseas countries.
I was disappointed that in His Excellency’s Speech no mention was made of the development of country areas by the decentralization of industry. Last vear, 1 wrote to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) asking what concessions were available from the Commonwealth Government to industries that are established or that are willing to establish themselves in country areas. The right honorable gentleman replied that the State Premiers had discussed this matter several years ago at a Premiers’ Conference, and that it had been decided that each State should be allowed to decentralize its population as it thought best. The Treasurer said that under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government, when imposing taxes, could not differentiate Hetween States or parts of States. Well, if this is the case we should change the Constitution to allow of such differentiation.
Finance should also be provided from some fund at low rates of interest over long terms to enable firms to establish factories in country areas. It has been proved that factories in country areas obtain more satisfactory production than city factories, mainly because of less absenteeism and better living conditions for employees. I accept the fact that the capital city must be the biggest city in each State. But Ausralia is becoming too much a country of a few capital cities. Governments simply must devote themselves to building up areas other than these six cities. The benefits of such a policy can readily be understood. If bigger towns were created, children leaving school could find jobs in their home towns, learn a trade and live at home under the guidance of their parents. Higher education must be made available increasingly to country areas. The Australian Country Party sees a vigorous policy of decentralization of industry as of great advantage to Australia.
If country areas cannot obtain new industries, they should at least be helped to hold the industries that they now have. As the House is aware, the rayon weaving industry is in a very precarious state now. In the Indi electorate, we have the great weaving mill of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, which employs 735 people at present. This industry has been badly affected by the import of cheap textiles, mainly from Japan and America. The management of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited agrees that this is not the only cause of the present difficulties, and I realize also that the whole question of the textile trade is before the Tariff Board at the moment. It will be necessary, therefore, to wait for advice from the board before the Govern- ment can act to protect the industry. I strongly urge the Government to consider giving full protection to the rayon industry. I am certain that there is an important place in our national economy for it.
There is another reason why this industry should be afforded all possible protection by the Government. Most of the mills affected are in country areas. As the House knows, it is tremendously difficult to attract an industry away from the capital cities, and when one is established and working efficiently while orders are available, every effort should be made to keep it going. These industries have no chance to compete with Japanese imports because of the difference in wages, standards of living, the cost of mill establishment and the method of employing labour. I agree that we must trade with Japan, but I am confident that our present trade with Japan would not be affected to any large extent if restrictions were imposed on the import of certain types of textiles. After all, Japan must be buying our products because she wants them and can use them, and because they help her industries to flourish. I point out that Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited is doing a very fine job with the present staff. Employees have been told, virtually, that they will not be dismissed unnecessarily until the result of the inquiry by the Tariff Board is known and future policy is decided. The present staff at the mill is 735, and this means that the welfare of thousands of people in Wangaratta is at stake.
It seems to me that to-day any one who wishes to embarrass the Government jumps on to the fashionable band wagon of inflation. Despite all the pessimistic thoughts that have been expressed - they have been expressed by pessimists and gloom-mongers for many years now - Australia is in this wonderful position. Savings bank deposits stand at the record level of £1,460,000,000. Record business is being written by life assurance companies, and this is a further indication of saving. The real value of wages has increased further and Australians are enjoying the highest standard of living in our history. Our reserves of overseas currency are £545,000,000, and immigrants are coming here in record numbers. However, the latest marginal increase of wages could cause a dangerous rise in our cost structure. The Government is aware of the cost factor, and must and will take action to control it.
The Government cannot achieve stability by itself; it must depend on assistance from many avenues. We need top-class management, greater technical knowledge and improved employer-employee relations. We need higher productivity, and farm industries have a magnificent record of achievement in this regard. I favour incentive payments to increase productivity, the maintenance of reasonable profit margins by the directors of public and private companies, and control of excess money by the Reserve Bank. Of course, the industry that is most severely* hit by rising costs is our great primary industry. Because most primary products are sold on world markets, it is impossible for those engaged in primary production to pass on increased costs automatically. We have been particularly fortunate that, aided by trade agreements and stabilization schemes, most of our primary industries have been buoyant. I have spoken to many farmers in the past few months, and the almost unanimous opinion is that conditions are reasonably satisfactory. The one outstanding problem in their minds is the problem of rising costs, and our Government must watch the effect of these costs on the prosperity of our farming community.
One industry that has successfully overcome the problem of rising costs is the great tobacco industry. I had the pleasure of accompanying the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) on a tour of the north-eastern area of Victoria, including some of the tobacco-growing areas. We found that by hard work, efficiency, and assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the tobacco industry had triumphed over rising costs, so that the reserve price on tobacco had not altered for the past three years. All Australians should realize that the tobacco industry will this year produce a crop of about 18,000,000 lb., saving Australia approximately 20,000,000 dollars in overseas exchange. The atmosphere in the tobacco industry is one of progress and achievement, and our congratulations go to the growers.
We also had the pleasure of visiting the vine-growing areas in the north-eastern portion of Victoria, and found conditions reasonably prosperous except for two major problems. One is the high import duties imposed on our wines in England, and the second is caused by restrictive trade practices adopted by a powerful cartel in New South Wales. I ask the Government to investigate these restrictive practices.
I wish to touch briefly on the provision of new telephone services in country areas and the removal of existing services. I am very disturbed at the inability of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to provide necessary services promptly in the Indi electorate. No matter how simple a new connexion may be, I am informed that it will be four or five months before the job can be done. This state of affairs is not good and is causing considerable financial loss, worry and anxiety to business people in north-eastern Victoria. It is all very well for the Commonwealth Government to make large sums of money available to the States, but it should retain sufficient funds to enable it to meet its own responsibilities, particularly with postal services.
I, the Australian Country Party, and the Government, support the right of all employees, whether Federal or State Government employees or employees of private business, to a fair share of Australia’s prosperity in return for playing their part by giving their labour and brains to the development of efficient government departments and industries in Australia. If we do not support our ability, knowledge and natural resources by being industrious, we will find our way of life seriously threatened by nations whose ability and knowledge is put to use by most unpleasant but effective methods. It is up to all Australians to try to become one big team, and this Parliament should set an example. By doing this we will be able to withstand all threats from outside ideologies and will achieve material success.
To sum up, we must make Australia’s defence position strong. We must make full use of our natural resources so as to ensure that this country remains prosperous and that all our people share fairly in that prosperity. It is necessary to attend to the task of giving assistance to those who are not as fortunate as the majority. I am certain that if the Government adheres to the four principles I have enunciated, and which are supported and advocated by the Australian Country Party and by this Liberal and Country Party Government, we will be able to count on the support of the majority of the people of Australia. The Menzies-McEwen Government will be able to say to the people, “We have done the job of governing Australia in a satisfactory manner! “
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Government a very serious matter which was referred to me a few days ago and which I think the Government should investigate, because if the situation which has been revealed to me exists, it demonstrates a deplorable state of affairs in regard to the defence of this country. At Neutral Bay, near Sydney, there is a torpedo manufacturing factory which has in the past three years been developing an electrically driven, sound-guided torpedo. I understand that approximately 120 of those torpedoes are now in store, but I am advised that only a couple of them can be guaranteed to work and that these are displayed to V.I.P.’s when they visit the establishment Of those two, when tested under service conditions, one became embedded in the mud and the other was lost and never recovered.
I am not suggesting that these torpedoes will not progress through the water; but, according to my informant, no one can guarantee in what direction they will go. So it is evident that they will be of very little use in the defence of this country. Recently, evidently as part of the Government’s propaganda, the national television station in Sydney arranged for a documentary film to be made of this factory in operation, and that film was displayed following one of the news sessions. I am advised that when the employees who were to make the film visited the factory, those employed there considered the situa tion so disgraceful that they refused to participate. They were asked to operate the lathes and so on, so that the film could be made, but I am informed that they refused to co-operate and there was a delay in the taking of the film, while the staff and clerks were rounded up to represent the employees who operated the establishment. It was the intention of the people making the film to include some sound effects; but there were so many of the employees catcalling in the background that they were unable to proceed with that intention.
If what has been stated to me is correct I say that there is something wrong somewhere. The employees engaged in this establishment feel that the people in charge of the project are incompetent. There is nothing wrong with the Australian workmen. They are carrying out their part of the programme; but evidently those in charge of the direction and manufacture of these torpedoes lack the necessary skill. An extraordinary situation exists, inasmuch as the English General Electric Company in Great Britain is manufacturing these torpedoes, but refuses to make the details of construction available to the Australian Government. Although we are all supposed to be members of the British Commonwealth, co-operating for the common purpose of securing our own defence, this company which is operating in England for profit refuses to make its techniques known to the Australian authorities. As a result, this torpedo project is proving a complete failure. I conclude by asking the responsible Minister whether it is a fact that when these torpedoes were being tested under service conditions one was completely lost - they do not know where it went because it has never been discovered - and the other became imbedded in the mud, as I have been assured by some of the men working on the project. I will not name my informants, for obvious reasons, but the men who told me these things have been engaged in this project for three years. I repeat that there are 120 of these new type torpedoes in store; they can be fired, but nobody can guarantee in what direction they will go.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 5.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600308_reps_23_hor26/>.