23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who may recall a question I asked on 16th March concerning the increase of productivity and the kind of information that would be put before the Arbitration Commission by counsel for the Commonwealth at the basic wage hearing. I now ask the Minister: Was the information supplied to counsel for transmission to the Arbitration Commission in line with that given to the House yesterday by the Treasurer, showing that wages and salaries now represent a smaller percentage of the value of the gross national product than they have at any other time since 1952-53?
– I regret to have to say, Mr. Speaker, that although I sat here most of yesterday and listened to everything that my colleague said, I did not at any time hear him even remotely mention that matter to which the honorable member has referred. However, the relationship between wages and salaries and gross national product is well known and can be obtained from the White Papers. So far as I know - and I have read very carefully through the submission to the commission - Mr. Eggleston did not specifically refer to this matter. As I have told the honorable gentleman previously, if he wants to read the whole of the submission made by Mr. Eggleston I will be only too happy to make it available to him. He can then go through it, and if he wishes to discuss it with me, he may do so. May I say, quite emphatically, that, considered as a proportion of the gross national product, wages and salaries have shown an increase during the last ten years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Has the Minister any information about the Australian Club in London discriminating against Australian wines at its functions? If this discrimination is practised, then having in mind the large sums of money being spent in the United Kingdom on publicity for Australian products, will the Minister make definite representations to Australian Government officials in London to have this incongruous state of affairs rectified?
– I have no knowledge of any such discrimination as that suggested by the honorable member. It is some years since I attended a function in London at the Australian Club, but I remember distinctly that when I did so Australian wines were served. I have not any doubt that if Australian wine were available Australian wine would be chosen. I am quite sure that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, will bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Australian Wine Board in order to check the situation.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the Government, last year, sold several River class ships as scrap for about £55,000 each. Is one of these ships, now registered in Hong Kong as “ Tung Feng “, seeking coastal cargoes in Newcastle harbour? Have Australian registered ships been tied up awaiting cargoes in the same port since last December? Was “ Tung Feng “ previously registered in Australia as “ River Norman “? Will the Minister require an assurance, when disposing of Australian National Line ships, that they will not be brought back to operate in the coastal trade to the prejudice of Australian owned and manned ships?
– It must be recognized that the ships to which the honorable member has referred are of an ancient class. Thirteen of them were built to a pre-war British design. At the present time, they are not competitive in the Australian trade. The Australian National Line has modern bulk carriers which are doing the job efficiently and economically. The River class ships were sold to outside interests and if they were run on the same rates of pay as are demanded under Australian conditions, they could not compete with modern vessels. It is because they operate under conditions that do not prevail in Australian vessels that they are able to compete. They are antiquated and we were glad to get rid of them. It was decided that they should be sold and the Australian National Line is glad to replace them with the present efficient bulk carriers.
– Does the Minister for Air know that the projected move of the Royal Australian Air Force School of Radio from Ballarat to Laverton is being criticized in Ballarat on the ground that it will be a move from temporary buildings at one station to temporary buildings at another, that no economy, but rather extra cost, will result arid, furthermore, that the move is premature? Will the Minister reconsider this proposed move and delay or prevent this breaking of the Royal Australian Air Force link with Ballarat which is highly prized by local citizens?
– The honorable member for Corangamite is right, but only to the extent that there has been some recent criticism of this move. I think it comes from one individual, only, who is singularly wrong on points of fact. There will be an immediate and considerable saving from this move. As a result of it, the capital assets of a redundant station can be realized; the quite considerable annual cost of maintenance will be saved and, indeed, it has stopped already; through combining this small station with a larger one there will be a saving of the work of 100 servicemen who have been engaged in domestic and administrative tasks. They can now be employed in other units where they are needed. I recognize the understandable regret of the people of Ballarat. The Air Force has every reason to be grateful to them for their hospitality and friendship and for the pride they have taken in this school. But the public interest is paramount in this matter and must be served.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade concerning the trade mission which is to go to Canada and the United States. The Minister will remember that some time ago, in answering-
MrWard. - Order! He is giving information, Mr. Speaker.
– The Minister announced that a trade mission would depart this month for certain parts of the United States of America and Canada.
– How long is this to go on?
– I understand that the mission is departing shortly, and I wondered
– Order! I think the honorable member is going a little wide. He should direct his question.
– Can the Minister tell us about the proposed trade mission to Canada and the United States which is departing shortly?
– The largest trade mission ever to go from Australia under the aegis of the Government will leave for the United States and Canada. It will be led by Sir Douglas Copland, and will embrace a very representative group of Australian commercial, financial and industrial interests. It will visit Honolulu, San Francisco, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal, and conclude the visit at Ottawa. The expenses of the mission, as is normal under the arrangements made by the Government, are borne by the companies which are represented by the individual members, except those expenses that are involved in the provision of secretarial assistance. That is a matter for the Department of Trade. We expect that the character of this mission, its distinguished leadership, and the very many inquiries that have already come forward from the United States and Canada, will ensure that the mission will be a very profitable and useful one.
– I ask the Treasurer a question without notice. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether there is any tax provision in Australia designed to prevent the take-over of losing companies by profitable companies merely for the purpose of off-setting the profits of the successful company for taxation purposes. If there is no such provision, will he examine the legislation which I understand has been proposed in the United Kingdom Budget to remove this abuse? In any event, will he obtain the details of the British legislation for honorable members?
– I shall see whether I can get the information which the honorable member seeks. There is not, so far as I can recall, any legislation other than the general provision which exists in the tax laws in respect of fraudulent devices or fraudulent activities which might have a bearing on this matter. Of course, I think the honorable gentleman will be aware that it can frequently be in the community interest that a languishing company which is not operating profitably be taken over by a stronger organization which, as a result of the amalgamation, is perhaps able to provide a more efficient out-turn of the products which both organizations previously produced. So it is not entirely a simple matter, nor is the acquisition of an unprofitable organization by a more profitable one necessarily a device simply to avoid taxation. It could have the worthy objective of increasing the productivity and economic output of the organization concerned. I have not yet been able to study in any detail the provision in the United Kingdom Budget, but I shall do so.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the large drop in the price of butter on .the United Kingdom market from 407s. a cwt. to the present price of 287s. a cwt. is due partly to the unfair trading practices of the Polish authority in disposing ,of Poland’s butter? During the season Poland has made it known that it will sell its butter at 32s. a cwt. less than the Australian and New Zealand price. Will the Minister negotiate with the Government of New Zealand so that Australia and New Zealand may jointly protest to the United Kingdom Government about issuing any further butter quotas to Poland for the next six months?
– The Department of Trade, co-operating with the Department of Primary Industry and the Australian Dairy Produce Board, does keep a very close watch on the circumstances which may affect the value of Australian dairy produce on the United Kingdom market. We sustain a measure of consultation with the New
Zealand Government, as do .our various boards with the New Zealand Dairy Board. I am not aware that the circumstances are as described by the honorable member, but, of course, I am able to remind him that a year or so ago, when several continental countries were dumping butter on the United Kingdom market, the Australian Government joined with the New Zealand Government in making strong representations to the United Kingdom Government, which resulted in the United Kingdom Government asking the continental countries concerned to exercise restraint in the quantity of butter which was sent to the United Kingdom. If those circumstances are being duplicated, or are likely to be duplicated, we shall take similar action and, I would hope and expect, with the same efficacy as on the last occasion.
– My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. What is the reason for the delay pf almost six years in issuing the Commonwealth Statistician’s report on the 1954 census? Is the Minister aware that important work on the Australian National University’s demographic study section is impeded because of this delay, and that critical inquiries have been made from abroad? Is the Minister able to inform the House when the report will be issued? Can the Minister assure the House that the delay is not due to any neglect?
– I think that 1 can give the assurance for which the honorable gentleman has asked in his concluding sentence. It is a very big undertaking for the Statistician to present the report, but this does not mean that the kind of services to which the honorable member has referred as being required by universities, commercial houses and others are necessarily impeded. The bulletins and tables, which are the principal dividends from a census, are published very expeditiously and are already available. As to special analyses of the tables, those are furnished by the Statistician upon request to such bodies as universities, commercial organizations and the like. The Statistician assures me that if there is some special need for any supplementary information that is to appear, he is glad to make it available to those who have made the inquiry before the report is published.
I think honorable gentlemen who have some awareness of the enormous growth in the material which is covered by the Statistician, and the regularity with which he is required to produce the most detailed information, will realize that those factors rather work against the kind of considered commentary which a report of the character referred to embodies.
– Six years is a long time.
– It is a long time, as the honorable gentleman has frequently reminded us by his presence here.
– Will the report appear before next year’s census is taken?
– I would expect so.
– As the Minister for Air has now decided that the Royal Australian Air Force no longer requires the airfield at Mallala in my electorate, will he see whether the airfield can be made available to the local gliding club which now uses a paddock in the vicinity of the airfield?
– I have every sympathy with the activities of gliding clubs and appreciate the encouragement they give to flying, but I am afraid it is beyond my capacity to do as the honorable member suggests. The Mallala airfield will be declared surplus to the needs of the Department of Air about the end of June and after that it will be handed over, in accordance with ordinary practice, to my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, for disposal.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of a recent outbreak of gastroenteritis in central Australia? Can he inform me whether reports are correct which imply that the type of infection is particularly dangerous? Is it also correctly reported that deaths have occurred among the native population? If these reports are substantially correct, will the Minister outline steps which the Department of Health is taking to control and defeat the epidemic?
– I had some inquiries made the other day after seeing a report of an outbreak of gastro-enteritis in the Northern Territory and I am informed that it is a not infrequent occurrence in the Territory at the end of summer. The outbreak this year has not been any greater than those in previous years. I am sure the honorable member will appreciate that in some conditions which prevail in the Territory it would be perhaps really remarkable if the residents there escaped outbreaks of gastro-enteritis from time to time. I assure him that this year’s outbreak has been no worse than those in previous years.
– Have there been any deaths?
– None that I know of, but I shall find out and let the honorable member know.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation has made representations to the Government to take action to protect the interests of dairy farmers against the importation of butter and cheese now that import restrictions are lifted. Is there any basis for thinking that the lifting of these import licences could have severe repercussions on the economic position and stability of the Australian dairying industry?
– No representations have been made to me by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. I do not know whether dairy farmers are alarmed at the position, and I am not aware of any circumstances that would justify such alarm. No doubt, if the circumstances alter the farmers will certainly see me about the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that President Eisenhower recently made a decision which will have the effect of retaining the existing import tariff on wool and woollen goods. Will this have the effect of restricting sales of Australian wool and woollen goods in America? Does the United States system of restriction limit woollen imports to 5 per cent, of the average annual American production for the preceding three years at a 25 per cent, tariff, and where this quota is exceeded in any year is a prohibitive tariff of 45 per cent, applied? Will the Minister consider implementing a similar policy in respect of American products imported by this country?
– I am not sure that I caught all of the honorable member’s question. I think he used the term “wool and woollen products “.
– That is so.
– I thought so. I am not aware of any quota restriction on wool imposed by the United States of America. There is a duty on Australian wool in respect of which we have unceasingly made protesting representations. There is a duty also on woollen products, and I think that this directly affects the United Kingdom most severely. It certainly has an indirect impact on Australia as a supplier of wool to the United Kingdom. The United States law embodies a system which is described by the Americans as an identification of peril points in the dimensions of imports of particular products into the United States. I understand that, over recent years, there has been a stipulated peril point beyond which higher rates of duty apply. The Australian Government watches our interests pretty closely there. This is a year in which there will be a formal opportunity for the re-negotiation of tariff relations between countries which are members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and this Government intends to take the fullest possible advantage of the opportunity to exercise its rights in this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the latest bulletin of the World Health Organization, to which organization, incidentally, Australia makes a large financial contribution each year? Further, will the honorable gentleman examine the map of the world in this publication in which Australia is shown as a highly malarial country where inadequate preventive measures are taken? Finally, will the Minister protect Australia’s tourist trade and world health status by advising this House now, and the World Health Organization later, of the facts?
– I have not seen the document that the honorable gentleman has mentioned. He is probably aware that the World Health Organization is at present engaged in a campaign to eradicate malaria throughout the world. The document is probably one issued in connexion with that campaign. Australia contributes financially towards that campaign in addition to making its ordinary financial contributions to the organization. The facts are, of course, ‘that malaria is almost unknown in Australia. A few sporadic cases occur occasionally in northern Australia, chiefly in the Northern Territory where, as the honorable gentleman will realize, conditions are difficult to control. I can assure him that the Department of Health, through its officers there, makes all possible efforts to deal promptly with any cases that are discovered. If a document representing Australia as a highly malarious country has been issued, I shall take steps to correct that impression and to tell the authorities of the World Health Organization the facts.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee, which was established by the Government about twelve months ago, met yet? Has the Government considered the offer made about nine months ago by the New South Wales Government to place at the disposal of the committee two of its most senior research officers? If the offer has not yet been accepted, does the right honorable gentleman’s recent statement that the coal industry has been stabilized and that it is now in a condition of unprecedented strength, both technically and financially, imply that there is now no need for the Government to worry about future uses for coal?
– I will refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for National Development, who is in another place.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: What is the trend of world demand for beef? I ask this question in view of the several proposals that are currently receiving attention for the opening up of the Channel country in southwestern Queensland in order to increase the production of beef.
– I think it can be said broadly, that, with rising economic activity in the industrial countries, the demand for beef is steady to improving. In the United States of America, the demand for Australian beef of the hamburger type has been very good indeed in recent years. The demand for beef in the United Kingdom has been satisfactory. The prospect of a market for Australian beef is opening in Japan. A prospect is also opening - I use the same words - in West Germany. Although the quota there is not very high, it is promising. Overall, I think the beef industry can look forward with real confidence to improving market opportunities.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that leading Liberal Party manufacturers are so sure that the trade policy of the Government will damage Australian industries that they are intriguing to secure the defeat of the Liberal Party candidate at La Trobe in order to frighten the Government into changing its trade policy?
– I read about that in the paper this morning.
– I address my question to the Minister for Defence. Will the honorable gentleman at an early opportunity endeavour to find out the type and capabilities of the nuclear reactor to be made available by the Soviet Union to Indonesia?
– Yes, I will see what can be done to obtain that information.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the steady deterioration of radio programmes over the last two years because of a marked preponderance of rock ‘n roll music, apparently designed to cater for adolescents? With the needs- of other sections of the community in mind, will the Postmaster-
General request the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to confer with the radio stations in an endeavour to obtain a class of programme more acceptable to the majority of the public?
– I do not concede that there has been a steady deterioration in broadcast programmes in recent years. There has been a certain amount of rock ‘n roll, which a lot of people desire. However, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, through a monitoring system, keeps a constant watch over the quality of broadcasting and television programmes. If at any time it finds that there is a departure from the programme standards which it has laid down and which have been agreed to by the licensees, it discusses the situation with the licensees or takes such remedial action as may be necessary.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Is the Minister aware that there are indications of dumping of Californian paper-shell almonds on the Australian market by the United States and that this is having an unsettling effect on the stability of the Australian almond industry? Will he give an assurance that the Government will investigate and watch the situation, and take whatever action is necessary to protect the Australian producer?
– I am not aware of dumping practices in respect of Californian almonds. The honorable member, who has taken a very great interest in the Australian almond industry, will be aware that in response to his own representations, to some extent, an inquiry was held by the Tariff Board and recommendations were made, which were accepted by the Government, I think last year. That is the normal tariff protection, which now stands; but if there is evidence of dumping, my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, has a complete and arbitrary authority to protect the Australian industry. On the basis of the honorable member’s question, I will have a discussion with the Minister for Customs and Excise on this matter.
– What steps has the Treasurer taken in the last few weeks to find out whether the census to be taken next year will include the aboriginal population of Australia? If he has taken any steps, will he inform me of the results and, if he has not taken any steps, will he brighten up?
– I have taken some steps, and I shall inform the honorable member of the results of them.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of the repeated claims of local government authorities throughout Australia that only 4.8 per cent, of the national income is now being spent on local government, as against 6.5 per cent, ten years ago, will he take early action to improve the financial position of this important section of governmental activity, and, particularly, will he do something to help the municipalities in the La Trobe electorate in Victoria, where there is much avoidable illness because those municipalities are starved Of funds with which to sewer large areas now being rapidly settled?
– I am quite certain that the honorable gentleman is fully aware that the question of the finances of local government Bodies is a matter within the jurisdiction of the State governments, and the State governments themselves would not wish to see the Commonwealth Government invade that field. To the extent that the Commonwealth Government has been able to assist by a sympathetic approach to the problem of loan raising for local government affairs, the movement in the allocations over recent years has been all in the direction of helping local government bodies further. Even this year, after the State governments had agreed upon a programme of local government loan raisings, the Commonwealth Government, at the request of the States, reviewed the matter and said it would be willing to concur in an arrangement to increase that total by another £4,000,000 in the balance of this financial year. The honorable gentleman again, as in so many other instances over recent weeks, has pushed this question forward in order to prop up his dubious fortunes in the La Trobe by-election. He should exercise a little patience and await, with as much fortitude as he can, the verdict of the La Trobe electors.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is it a fact that his department is closing down branch offices and depots in country centres throughout New South Wales* particularly Parkes? In view of the great advantage to rural people of decentralization of Commonwealth departments, will he consider maintaining branches of his department in country centres?
– Depots of the Commonwealth Works Department are maintained in country centres where work is available or where their services are required. I fail to see how the community is helped by maintaining such depots where no work is required to be done by the department. I think the depot at Parkes is being closed down because no maintenance work is required to be done for any department in that area. The economics of the situation are so clearly in favour of closing the depot that there is very little argument in the honorable member’s favour.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation: Was the Department of Civil Aviation notified last week that preliminary reports on the first Braniff Electra aircraft inspected according to the United States Federal Aviation Agency requirements revealed a number of defects in the dry bay area of the aircraft? Has the department been informed that although the significance of these defects as a cause of accidents has not yet been established, largescale total failures in the parts referred to could cause loss of stability on compression surfaces?
– Order! The honorable member must realize that the Minister is in another place, and that the question has to be transmitted to him by the Minister representing him in this chamber.
– In view of the information received from the United States of
America, has consideration been given to the grounding of these aircraft until complete examinations have been made?
– Quite clearly, this is a question that should be put on the noticepaper. Unfortunately, however, the long and tortuous statement made by the honorable member has cast doubt on the reliability of certain aircraft, and it will disturb and upset many people who use those aircraft. I can assure him that the Department of Civil Aviation is kept fully informed regarding the investigations that are going on in the United States of America, and also that the Electras which are used on Australian services are as safe as aircraft can be.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Will the Minister ascertain whether it is a fact that theatre proprietors generally throughout Australia are being forced to accept lowgrade films from American and British distributors? If it is a fact, will the Minister indicate what action can be taken to protect the Australian viewing public?
– I will ask my colleague in the Senate the question that has been put to me, and I will furnish the honorable member with an answer.
– The arrangements for the supply of milk in the Australian Capital Territory are commercial arrangements, and any supervision by the Department of Health is designed only to ensure that health standards are maintained. It is true that some commercial problems have arisen from the fact that a new company has commenced to sell milk in Canberra. The effects of the intrusion of this company, as far as I can gather, will be almost wholly beneficial to the residents of the Territory. I am not aware that the problems that have arisen are of such a nature that the Government should intervene at this stage. If there is any indication that Government intervention may be necessary, we will examine the matter further.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral confer with appropriate officers in his department with a view to giving the highest possible priority to applicants for telephone service installations who are country district resident primary producers?
– The department already has a defined policy with regard to priorities in telephone installations. As I think the honorable member knows, priority is given, broadly speaking, to persons or institutions providing essential services, such as doctors, nurses and fire brigades. Amongst applicants in the business community, priority is given to those who can obviously contribute something towards national development. I can answer the honorable member only in those general terms, not having the details of any inquiry or application about which he is concerned.
– As chairman, I present the seventh report of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. The report is as follows: -
Seventh Report of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting ot Parliamentary Proceedings submits the seventh report for presentation to each House of the Parliament and recommends its adoption.
At the request of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Joint Committee has further considered the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon which and the periods during which the proceedings of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast, which were specified in previous reports by the Joint Committee and were adopted by both Houses. In accordance with section 12(1.) of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the Joint Committee has now resolved that the general principles should be further amended as follows: -
That paragraph 3a, viz.: - “ (3a) Re-broadcast of Governor-General’s Speech. - On the first sitting day of each session of the Parliament the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall re-broadcast at 7.20 p.m. the speech of the GovernorGeneral.”, be amended as follows: -
Omit “ 7.20 p.m.”, insert “ 7.15 p.m.”.
That sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph (4), viz.: - “ (4) Re-broadcast of questions and answers -
Within the limits of time available, the following Parliamentary Proceedings shall be re-broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day after the first sitting day of each session: -
Senate proceedings - Questions without notice and on notice and answers thereto;
House of Representatives proceedings - Questions without notice and answers thereto.”, be amended as follows: -
Omit “between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m.”, insert “between 7.15 p.m. and 8 p.m.”.
It is proposed that these amendments shall come into operation on 26th April, 1960.
McLEAY, Chairman. 6th April. 1960.
The general principles adopted by both Houses concerning the parliamentary broadcast stipulate that on the first sitting day of each session the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall re-broadcast at 7.20 p.m. the Governor-General’s Speech, and on subsequent sitting days shall rebroadcast questions and answers between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. The commission has now requested that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech be re-broadcast at 7.15 p.m., and that the specified period for the re-broadcasting of questions and answers be changed to 7.15 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Joint Committee has agreed to the proposals and the adoption of the report is accordingly recommended.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 27th April, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).I have received a letter from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The expressed intention of the Government to dispose of its financial interest in the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and its failure to keep the Parliament fully informed on negotiations now proceeding for the disposal of the undertaking to an overseas company.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been interjecting. I warn him that he must remain silent while the Speaker is on his feet.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- The Opposition proposes this matter for discussion for several reasons, but primarily because it has every reason to believe that the Government has been negotiating for at least twelve months, and probably longer, with a view to selling out its financial interest in the aluminium industry in Tasmania. Despite repeated representations from honorable members on this side of the House, as well as from Opposition members in another place, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), no doubt with the full concurrence of the Government, has consistently refused to advise the Parliament and the people the stage that the negotiations have reached, why they are proceeding and, for that matter, when they are likely to conclude. I think the Opposition may assume at this stage that the Government will, in accordance with its general policy on such matters, insist that its financial interest in the Bell Bay undertaking be disposed of. I think that is the basis upon which Government thinking will rest. There will be no other considerations. For example, the importance of the industry from the national viewpoint and from the viewpoint of defence are not matters with which the Government will concern itself. It is plainly dedicated to the policy of disposing of national assets regardless of the consequences.
Even if we concede that the Opposition is in no position to alter Government thinking in that respect, we are at least entitled as, indeed, I believe the general public is entitled to be kept informed of these matters that are of vital importance to us. For example, on what basis will the Government dispose of its financial interest in Bell Bay? With whom is it negotiating? For that matter, can we be given an assurance that the industry will remain at Bell Bay and that it will .continue to produce aluminium ingots? These, I believe, are questions to which the Opposition is entitled to have a frank and open reply from the Government in this .debate.
I believe that Opposition members have been extremely patient on this issue, despite what I would regard as a completely discourteous attitude on the part of the Minister for National Development. During the last Parliamentary session two questions were placed on the notice-paper requesting information from the Minister on this matter - one by myself and the other by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Both questions remained unanswered. Surely if it was thought at that time that to supply the information requested would have placed the Minister in an embarrassing position, we might have been informed of that. Instead, the Minister chose to adopt a completely arrogant attitude. How often, in the past, have the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition been approached when similar occasions have arisen! Surely no precedent would have been established by doing that on this occasion. But the questions remain unanswered and no assurance has been given to this side of the House that the information sought will be available in the future.
The first charge that I make against this Government is that it has, from the outset, adopted a completely disinterested attitude towards the industry at Bell Bay. Probably no one is in a better position than myself to appreciate what has been achieved there in more recent years by both management and staff. The industry is now producing to the limit of its capacity an aluminium ingot which is as good as, if not better than, any produced anywhere else in the world. This, I believe, has been achieved despite the complete lack of interest on the part of the Government. Aluminium is so important to-day that it is second only to iron and steel as an essential construction material for modern industrial life. I need hardly remind this House of its importance to this country in war-time, or of the difficulties experienced in our defence during the last war simply because we did not have sufficient foresight previously to harness the resources that have always been available in this country for aluminium production.
To-day, Canada and the United States produce more than 60 per cent, of the world’s aluminium. Bell Bay, during 1958-59, produced 12,271 tons, a completely insignificant figure if measured in terms of the world’s production and world requirements. Canada alone in that same period produced 1,500,000 tons. On the other hand, our known resources of bauxite - the raw material required for the production of aluminium - exceed that of any other country in the world. We have 3,000,000,000 tons- sufficient for 150 years at the current world production rate or for several thousand years if Australia’s own requirements only are to be considered. Each year, the demand for aluminium in this country has been increasing. During 1959 we imported 17,000 tons which was valued at £4,500,000. Probably, the demand would have been much higher had the metal bec readily available.
In those cilcumstances, is it not amazing that this Government should have concerned itself in recent years, not with expanding the industry at Bell Bay to match these requirements, but with devising ways are means under which the Government could escape its obligations by selling out its financial interest to private enterprise? What is that financial interest? It represents £9,700,000 of the taxpayers’ money. Therefore, I say that this Parliament and the nation are entitled to know under what circumstances and on what terms £9,700,000 of the taxpayers’ money is to be handed over to private interests outside the control of this country.
It is known that the Government has had protracted negotiations with the British Aluminium Company Limited concerning the sale of the industry at Bell Bay. I believe that there is sufficient indication of the intentions of the Minister for National Development in this respect. At no stage have Australian interests been invited to participate in these negotiations. I believe that the Opposition in this Parliament has a duty to prevent a monopoly in aluminium from developing in this country. For that reason alone, we should examine the overseas company with which the Minister has been negotiating.
The British Aluminium Company Limited has a 50 per cent, interest in Comalco - the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited. The Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited holds the other 50 per cent, interest. But the British Aluminium Company Limited .has been taken over by a group which includes the Reynolds Metal of the United States of America. Therefore, I believe it can be expected that the future developmental policy of the British Aluminium Company Limited will rest largely in the hands of American interests. It should also be clearly understood that if ‘the Government proceeds with its present intentions, a monopoly in aluminium in this country will pass to American interests. Thus, the industry will be controlled outside of the Commonwealth of Australia.
I know that we have been told by the Minister for National Development that, in the event of a sell-out at Bell Bay, the Government is under an obligation to consider any offer from the British Aluminium Company Limited. But I say that the Government is certainly not under any obligation to accept that offer. That obligation was certainly never imposed in ‘the original agreement. We accept the fact that the agreement is in existence and that an offer will have to be made to the British Aluminium ‘Company Limited, but I repeat that the Government is certainly under no obligation to accept that offer.
– Is it not under an obligation to act responsibly and decently?
– You may do that. But at no stage have Australian interests been considered in this matter. Despite the fact, as the Minister must know, that several Australian firms have already attempted to obtain consideration, apparently this Government, which has always boasted that the rights of private enterprise in this country are sacrosanct, does not intend to extend that principle to Australian interests in this case, but is prepared to permit a monopoly by an organization outside this country.
Recently, we were told in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that legislation would soon be introduced into this Parliament to control take-overs in industry which resulted in monopolies. Is not the action that the Government now proposes of the kind that one would expect such legislation to prevent? What hypocrisy for this Government to talk about protection against monopolies when it now proposes to allow that very situation to develop in respect of aluminium production in this country. Fortunately for this Parliament and, I believe, for the nation, the Tasmanian Government also has a financial interest in Bell Bay - £1,500,000 at present - and has already taken steps to increase that interest by a further £.1,500,000. It has done that in order to ensure that there will be at least some development that is in keeping with the growth in demand for aluminium in this country. Surely this Government should understand that the Tasmanian Government, least of all, has the money that is needed for the expansion of the industry at Bell Bay. The Government knows only too well that the 1957-58 report of the Australian Aluminium Commission directed attention to this fact. The report said that it would not be possible to increase the profits or reduce the cost of aluminium from Bell Bay, and in fact it would not be possible for the plant to continue to operate on an economic basis unless the Government were prepared to expand the industry. But the .Government took no action at all in respect of that report.
Bell Bay has ‘been producing aluminium ingots since 1955. Admittedly, in the first year it made a loss, and that was probably expected in the circumstances that then applied; but in all subsequent years substantial profits have been made. In 1958-59, the last complete financial year, the profit was £158,700, and a further £100,690 was credited to the appropriate account. Therefore, it will be seen that this industry is not only producing a metal that is of immeasurable value to Australia, but it has also been established on a sound financial basis.
Sir, I have pointed to, and stressed, the importance of aluminium to the economic and industrial life of this country. While the pattern of the aluminium industry in Australia may be the direct outcome of our war-time needs, the industry’s importance to Australia in peace-time has not diminished, and certainly will not diminish. I believe that no government with a proper sense of its responsibility to this nation could embark on a course of action such as this Government now proposes to embark upon - a course of action which will, in my opinion, destroy the principle that was clearly set down in the original legislation in 1944, to maintain as a government responsibility an industry which is so clearly related to the defence of Australia. While this Government has been negotiating with the British Aluminium Company its partner, the Consolidated Zinc Corporation of Australia, has been negotiating with the New Zealand Government, and in January of this year an agreement was signed between that company and the Prime Minister of New Zealand which gave Consolidated Zinc the right to investigate the power potential in New Zealand and ultimately to erect an aluminium smelter in that country to the value of £125,000,000. What have those two parties to that agreement in mind? Surely it would not be unreasonable to assume that in these circumstances that Bell Bay will be developed and expanded.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is singularly inappropriate, as I think I will be able to demonstrate, that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) should submit this motion. He accuses the Government of not being interested in this industry, which is in his electorate. I propose to show in the few moments that I have that this Government has gone out of its way, with a great deal of wholeheartedness, to assist the continuance of this industry in the honorable member’s electorate. Let me demonstrate it, chapter and verse. This industry was commenced by the last Labour government.
– A good one too!
– Very well. It was commenced on this basis: That there would be a partnership in this industry between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government, each contributing its share of the capital needed; that it would cost £3,000,000, and would produce 12,000 tons of aluminium a year. What was the result? The Tasmanian Government had never provided, until recently - and I will deal with that later - more than £1,500,000. When this Government came on the scene it was quite clear that this industry could carry on only behind a tariff which would add £37 10s. a ton to the price of aluminium, which would have to be paid by the people who fabricate and deal with that metal in this country in order to keep the industry going in the honorable member’s electorate.
The Government, finding that the industry would need that tariff, and that the Tasmanian Government could not continue to pull its weight in the partnership, put £9,700,000 into the industry - an amount much more than the amount it was obliged to put into it. To-day a total of £11,200,000 is invested in the industry, of which the Commonwealth has contributed £9,700,000. And let me tell you, that £9,700,000 did not come out of loan moneys. It came out of taxes collected from the taxpayers of Australia. The result is that the industry has an out-turn of 12,000 tons, sold at a price which is £37 10s. a ton dearer than the price at which aluminium coming from an outside manufacturer can be landed duty-free in this country.
In 1958 the Tasmanian Government made a proposal for the expansion of this plant. This Government did not turn the cold cheek to that. It considered that proposal sympathetically and said, “Very well “. We discussed the matter with the then Tasmanian Premier, Mr. Cosgrove, and told him that we preferred to see that expansion carried out as a result of private investment. Mr. Cosgrove agreed and accepted that.
– He had no option.
– Let me tell the House that it was Mr. Cosgrove who made the first approach for private capital - and he made it overseas.
– After he had been told that the Commonwealth would not supply any more money.
– He was told that we preferred not to continue to put the taxpayers’ money into expanding this industry, because there were very sound business reasons why we should not do so. Let me demonstrate that to you. You see, to produce aluminium and be able to meet world prices, you need power at a cost of not more than . 3 of1d. per unit. The very best price at which the Tasmanian Government can produce power is apparently of the order of . 47 of1d. per unit; recently it has been charging the Australian Aluminium Production Commission just under . 5 of1d. per unit. That accounts for much of the £37 10s. a ton added to the price of aluminium. The next point is that the upward limit of power which the Tasmanian Government can see its way to produce is something under the equivalent of a production of 40,000 tons of aluminium a year. Now, the consumption of aluminium in Australia is rising and will shortly be over 50,000 tons.
Any government which puts money into this smelter must ultimately face the situation that either the industry must be able to compel a tariff which it will live behind, or will have to face the competition of some other smelter on the mainland which will be producing aluminium cheaper than it can be produced in Tasmania. This Government, with a right sense of responsibility, said, “We do not think we should put further amounts of Commonwealth money into this. We prefer to see private money expand this plant.” Mr. Cosgrove accepted that as a reasonable proposition, and began to explore the possibilities. What then happened was that when Mr. Cosgrove began to look abroad for money for this expansion, from private sources, it was discovered that Mr. Chifley, when this industry was started, had promised the
British Aluminium Company Limited that it would get preferential treatment in regard to any offer it made to purchase this plant, if at any time it was to be sold. Opposition members are laughing at that statement, but it is no good trying to laugh it off. On 6th June, 1949, Mr. Chifley wrote to the British Aluminium Company. He made no stipulation even that the venture should continue to be a British company. He made the bargain with it.
– Only if it was ever tobe sold. In that case preference would be given to Great Britain.
– Exactly. This Government managed to better that arrangement a little in the interests of this Tasmanian industry. We managed to have the agreement varied so that all we had to do was to give the British Aluminium Company an opportunity to make the first offer, whether we intended to dispose of it altogether or to sell an interest in it. That was a very considerable advance on Mr. Chifley’s arrangement.
I want to make a further answer tothe charge that we have been disinterested. After the Tasmanian Government had agreed with us that we would seek private investment to expand this industry, whether in partnership with the Government or by acquiring the business - that aspect had to be explored - the Tasmanian Government asked us whether we would agree to an interim expansion of production from 12,000 tons to 16,000 tons at an estimated cost of £3,000,000. We agreed to the proposition, and that proposal is afoot now. The Tasmanian Government said that it would come to light with £2,000,000 and we agreed that other moneys of ours which were in the undertaking, and which were at our call, could be ploughed back.In addition, we said that we would give a bank guarantee for an overdraft to enable the expansion to take place. It is now taking place. Yet we have been told by the honorable member for Bass that we have been disinterested! This industry has lived by the goodwill of this Government - and by nothing else.
– What utter nonsense!
– It would not live for ten minutes without the goodwill of this Government. It is true that this
Goverment, in its philosophy, prefers to see private investment. Do not let us have any mistake about that.
– What about Australian interests?
– The honorable member has asked about Australian interests. Although Mr. Chifley bound himself to the British Aluminium Company, this Government has taken a hand and has endeavoured to switch the negotiations from the British Aluminium Company to a company which is at least 50 per cent. Australian - Comalco. But the Labour government was bound entirely to a company which could have had Russian capital in it, for that matter.
– The company you are talking about did not exist then.
– That is magnificent because, by a stroke of the pen, the Labour government could have said, “We shall promise it to the British Aluminium Company provided the company has a certain capital content”.
– Very naive.
– Yes, you were very naive - extremely naive. This Government has had to carry the burden of that naivety. I have given the answer to the suggestion that we were disinterested. Now let me state the business reason that exists for bringing in private capital. As the honorable member has said, we have a great deal of bauxite but it is no good having bauxite unless you have cheap power if you are going to smelt it. You cannot get along unless you can get power costs down. Up to this time, this country has not discovered a source of power which will enable bauxite to be converted and smelted into aluminium at a world competitive price, nor, up to this time, has it found a place where it can even smelt its own requirements to the full. So that any one who goes into Bell Bay has to remember that sooner or later he will be up against either living entirely by a tariff or find himself unable to compete on the world markets. We thought that those were very good business reasons for saying, “Let us not get ourselves tied in a corner. Let private industry come in.” We have to exploit the bauxite in this country.
So far, I have not mentioned that in order to increase production to 28,000 tons another £9,000,000 will be required. But that will not be the end of it. If the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission manages to get a little more power, it will want to increase production to perhaps 40,000 tons. If the Government retained control, it would be committed to continually feeding capital out of revenue into this plant, probably at a time when there were other and more important calls on it for finance. This is the kind of industry in which a government should not be interested because it is an industry which, of necessity, calls for expansion and for the replacement of plant by more costly plant. If the industry is being fed from revenue, calls are constantly made on the Government and often at inconvenient times.
We believe that the soundest thing for the electorate of Bass, though the honorable member for Bass apparently does not know it, is for private interests to come in, supply this capital and maintain this industry along with other ventures so that costs can be averaged out. The industry will not then find itself mowed down by competition from a country which obtains cheaper power or enjoys more beneficial conditions generally.
Mr. Speaker, I could not imagine anything more foolish than for a government, in the course of negotiations, to tell this House what is happening. That is about the silliest proposition that we have ever heard. When you realize that a sale or disposal can take place only with the approval of this Parliament, and that this House will be able to consider the whole transaction in due course, the proposition becomes even sillier. The honorable member for Bass belongs to the same party as that which now governs Tasmania, and if he cannot find out what is happening from the Labour Government there, why should he hold it against us that this House is not told from day to day of the progress of the negotiations? I do not propose for one moment to enter into a discussion on the course of the negotiations. As I have said, they are proceeding. They are delicate. This Government is determined to do the very best it can for Bass and for this country, and it does not think that it can do that if it comes into this House to conduct negotiations across the table.
.- Fifteen years ago this Parliament took the initiative in setting up an aluminium industry in Australia. This Parliament has taken the initiative in the expansion of that industry in Australia. We now find that Australia has more than half the bauxite deposits in the world. Australia has the rudiments of a capacity, not only to meet the increasing demand for aluminium in Australia, but also to process its raw material profitably for export to other markets in the world. It is, therefore, obvious that because this Parliament started the industry in Australia; because this Parliament has permitted its subsequent expansion; because this country has more than one-half of the bauxite deposits of the world; because this country is at present producing less than one-half of the demand for aluminium within its own shores; because there is an increasing demand in the world for aluminium which we could meet by processing an increasing proportion of our raw materials, this Parliament and the citizens whom we represent are entitled to be taken into the Government’s confidence on the future expansion of the industry.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) made some skilful debating points - evasive points. First of all, he said that aluminium ingots can be imported into this country, except for the duty, at £37 10s. a ton below the cost of the local product. He did not say, of course, that the companies which send those ingots to Australia sell them in their own countries at a higher price than they sell them to us. That is, it is a subsidized export. They want to keep our industry down.
Secondly, he said that the former Labour Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, as he then was, approved of private capital being brought into the industry. Mr. Cosgrove was faced with the choice that the industry remained on its present scale or that, because of the Commonwealth’s decision, it could expand with private capital alone. He didnot make a choice between public or private enterprise; he was not given that choice. He was given the choice between stagnation or expansion, and he chose expansion.
Thirdly, the Attorney-General made the point that the Chifley Government had made an arrangement with the British Aluminium Company to dispose of the project to that company if it was to be disposed of at all. It was a very reasonable arrangement since the project could not have got under way in Australia but for the co-operation of the British Aluminium Company. It was the company’s skill and its machinery which made it possible for Australia to get an aluminium industry at all. The Chifley Government provided that if any subsequent Australian government were to sell the industry it would sell it to the company which provided the initial know-how. Now, the Attorney-General twits the Chifley Government with not having foreseen what has, in fact, subsequently happened, that the British Aluminium Company would become an American company. If this is tit-for-tat, we point out to the Attorney-General that his Government committed a similar oversight with Australian National Airlines in 1951, when that company was wholly owned by the shipping companies. But in 1957, those companies sold out to Mr. R. M. Ansett. Parliament then found that it had guaranteed a company whose shareholders had been completely changed, but which, in law, was still the same depersonalized company. That even showed, in 1952, the Menzies Government had no more foresight than the Chifley Government had in 1949. So, the AttorneyGeneral can take what satisfaction he likes from that point.
We are now faced in Australia with either the Commonwealth Government or a foreign company providing the funds to expand our only aluminium industry. I put it to honorable members, and to citizens in general, that this is not the old ideological contest between public and private enterprise. If we are to deal with it on that basis, let us admit that there would have been no aluminium industry at all in Australia if it had not been for public enterprise. But the position which now arises here is: Are we to have a locally owned industry or a foreign-owned industry? It does not matter so much whether the local industry is privately operated or publicly operated; but it does matter whether the industry here is to be operated by Australians, private or representative Australians, or whether it is to be operated by a company owned overseas.
The British Aluminium Company is now owned by the Reynolds Company, one of the two new companies which sprang up in America after the successful prosecution of the Aluminium Company of America under the Sherman Act in 1945. The Reynolds Company now produces a quarter of the aluminium output in the United States. It controls the British Aluminium Company and it therefore is an equal partner in Comalco which is developing Australia’s bauxite deposits. So we have the position that the company which has the lease to prospect for and to treat Australian bauxite deposits is half American-owned.
Arrangements are now being made that Bell Bay shall be expanded by the importation of American capital provided by the company which already has a half share in our ore deposits and a quarter share in American aluminium production as well. The Attorney-General has stated that aluminium production is not competitive in Australia because of the cost of power. That is not the limiting factor which has been stated by the commission in its annual reports. It states that the cost of aluminium in Australia cannot be brought down until the capacity of the plant is improved. I quote from the commission’s annual report for 1957-58-
The Commission naturally gives close and continuous attention to the scope for effecting reductions in costs, but sees little prospect, on the basis of present productive capacity, of being able to reduce costs to the extent necessary to compete with recent Canadian and Russian prices. In this connexion it is relevant to observe that the present capacity of the Bell Bay plant is only about one-third of that of the smallest aluminium plant in North America. The Commission believes that a substantial increase in the size of the plant would offer the only means of achieving a significant reduction in costs per ton of production.
Australia’s increasing demand for aluminium has been met by increasing imports rather than by increasing production. In 1957, we produced 10,624 tons and imported 14,000 tons; in 1958, we produced 10,889 tons and imported 20,000 tons. The proportion of aluminium supplied for Australian needs by Bell Bay has gone down from 60 per cent, to 45 per cent, in the last two years. We can meet the increasing demand from our own resources if we expand the plant. All the basic installations are there to enable a treble expansion. We can then compete with imports. We can meet all our local demands and we can go on to export our aluminium ingots profitably on the world market. We have more than half the bauxite deposits in the world. We now have the skill and the basic plant to process those deposits for our own needs and for export.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The plea of the Opposition in this debate is in three parts. First of all it is against the decision to sell the enterprise at Bell Bay; secondly, the disposal of it, as honorable members opposite allege, to an overseas company; and thirdly, the secrecy of the negotiations. What are the main points which have been stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam)? His main argument is that we should try to increase the production of aluminium at Bell Bay and that we should, if possible, expand the aluminium industry in Australia to provide an export potential of this metal and develop our industry as rapidly as possible.
What are the motives behind what the Government is doing at the present time? The first one is to increase the enterprise at Bell Bay in Tasmania. The second is to develop the Australian aluminium industry in the best possible way for the nation. What has happened? Let us look very quickly at the history of the Bell Bay enterprise. It was started by the Chifley Labour Government as a defence measure. In doing that that Government gave an option, as has been stated more than once in this debate, to the British Aluminium Company, so that if at any stage the project had to be disposed of that company would be given preference of purchase. As we have heard, this plant at present produces only 12,000 tons a year, about one-third of Australia’s requirements. [Quorum formed.]
The Bell Bay establishment produces only one-third of Australia’s requirements of aluminium, and it sells its aluminium at £271 a ton, the world price being £233 10s. a ton. So the cost to Australian industry is more than £400,000 a year. Even at a price of £271 a ton, the Bell Bay enterprise can make a profit of only £58,000 in its best year. Its’ total profits,’ after allowing for losses, over the years for which it has been operating amount to only £50,000. At the very best, this establishment has made a profit of not more than 1.7 per cent, on the capital invested. The cost of the plant was estimated originally at £3,000,000, but the ultimate cost totalled £11,200,000.
What is the position now? The aim is that costs of production at Bell Bay be reduced. This can be done, as we have heard from the Opposition, only by increasing production. Production, it is hoped, will be increased to 28,000 tons a year. This means that an additional £9,000,000 will have to be provided and, quite rightly, this Government has said that it cannot provide money from government funds. Does the Opposition want the Government to use tax revenue for the expansion of this plant instead of using such funds for roads, schools and hospitals? We hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) saying all the time that more government money should be spent on roads, telephone services, hospitals and other public facilities. Yet we hear Opposition members saying now that government money should be spent on the expansion of the Bell Bay establishment in order to inc-ease its production, although private-enterprise funds are available for the purpose. Does the Opposition want the plant to be enlarged? I am sure that it does, and I am sure that the people of Tasmania do, for the expansion would provide more employment in that State.
When funds are available from private enterprise for the expansion of this undertaking, surely this Government has a good case for the calling in of new partners who are willing to play their part in the expansion of the enterprise. To whom should the Government go? Under the agreement entered into by the Chifley Government, we should have been forced to go to the British Aluminium Company Limited, an overseas firm. But the present Government has been able to alter the agreement and, as a consequence, we are able to go to the
Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited, which is commonly known as Comalco. This company is 50 per cent. Australian, and, tinder the agreement, its entire management and control are in Australian hands. This is very much different from what the situation would have been under the Chifley Government’s agreement.
Opposition members have said that there has been too much secrecy about this matter. I point out that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) answered all the questions that were asked of him in another place on 10th March. I suggest that a fair degree of openness has been shown. Surely the Opposition would not expect an entire series of commercial negotiations to be carried on in the glare of full publicity. Should we expect the Government to put all its cards on the table when the interests with which it is negotiating can keep their cards close to their chest, as it were?
The important thing that we have to consider is the future of the whole aluminium industry in Australia. The position now is very much different from the position that existed when the Bell Bay plant was established. The annual consumption of aluminium in Australia is now 30,000 tons. It will be 50,000 tons in five years’ time and 80,000 tons not long after. When the plant was constructed, defence requirements were the main consideration, and the cost of production was secondary. But, now, we have to make certain that aluminium can be produced at prices that are competitive by comparison with world prices. This cannot be done while the Tasmanian Government charges .48d. a unit for power, although power could be produced at, say, Blair Athol, or on the Purari River, in New Guinea, at about 3d. a unit. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted us to enter the export market. I entirely agree. I am certain that we should enter it, but we cannot do so while we have to pay .48d. a unit for power.
If we are to develop the bauxite deposits at Weipa and build up a completely integrated aluminium industry, we have to see that the people who are responsible for the bauxite deposits are allowed also to take a hand in the development of the
Bell Bay undertaking and its integration with the rest of the aluminium industry. We know that we shall never have sufficient power in Tasmania to enable the Bell Bay plant to produce enough aluminium to meet the whole of Australia’s requirements of this metal. The maximum production possible with the power that can be made available by the Tasmanian Government will probably be about 40,000 tons a year. If we wish to attain a production much in excess of 40,000 tons a year - I hope we shall attain it - we can never expect the Bell Bay enterprise to be anything more than part only of an integrated aluminium industry in Australia. If we prevent private enterprise from coming into the Bell Bay undertaking, we shall have aluminium produced by private enterprise at, say, Blair Athol at £233 a ton while a government enterprise produces aluminium at Bell Bay at £271 a ton. If we permitted this, we should in time find ourselves landed with a white elephant.
Summing up, I say that there has been no undue secrecy about the negotiations that have taken place. As a result of this Government’s attitude, we have been able to negotiate with a company the major part of which is Australian, as opposed to a company completely under overseas control as would have been the situation under the agreement made by the Chifley Government. Furthermore, a good case has been made out on economic grounds for the raising from private enterprise of the additional capital needed for the expansion of the Bell Bay undertaking, with a consequent saving to the Australian taxpayers. I therefore trust, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Government negotiations will be successfully concluded, and that right speedily.
.- This Government has the worst record in the world for selling out public utilities. Government enterprise found the bauxite deposits in Australia, but they have now been handed over to overseas companies. This sort of thing has gone on right down the line. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) said that the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited was 50 per cent. Australian. I should just like to give him a few facts about that.
Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, which is a partner in Comalco, as it is known, is wholly owned by the Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited, which is a United Kingdom company. The shares of Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, however, are quoted on the stock exchanges in both the United Kingdom and Australia, and the company has a share register in both London and Melbourne. I shall have more to say about that later.
This Government has a shameful record of selling out government enterprises. It is the most conservative, tory-minded government anywhere in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It has a fanatical desire to dispose of publicly owned utilities, and it is an architect of private enterprise, with a difference, in that it tries to bolster private enterprise with taxpayers’ money. In this, too, this Government is unique. The present Government sells the people’s enterprises after they have been established and made successful by the expenditure of the people’s money. We have just another case of this in respect of the Bell Bay establishment of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. This Government commits another sin in displaying so much contempt of the Parliament when big decisions are being made. Time and again, the present Government has made and announced big decisions behind the Parliament’s back, having waited until we were in recess. We prophesy that the sell-out of the Bell Bay undertaking will be announced to the nation when this Parliament is again in recess.
The tragedy of the Government’s latest move, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that the aluminium industry was established basically as a defence industry. If we read the debates of 1944 and 1952 in this House, we see that Mr. Bernard Corser, who was the member for Wide Bay, summed up the position in May, 1952, when he said -
The whole conception of the establishment of the aluminium industry in this country was based on defence considerations.
The same considerations applied with the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the Glen Davis shale oil project. All these were vital to defence, and Bell Bay was the most vital of them all.- A sell-out to an overseas combine, even in the United States of America, would be an act of treachery to this nation. What guarantee will we have that, in time of war, or at any other time, this private combine will not close the Bell Bay works? If the price of aluminium falls in the next few years, the overseas combine, embarrassed by over-production of alumina, would be ruthless enough for the sake of its survival to close little Bell Bay. If the market for aluminium goods contracted, it is extremely likely that the most distant, isolated and perhaps the smallest unit in the combine’s network of plants would be the first to be closed. This has happened before in various parts of the world. What guarantee will the Government demand to safeguard the industry against such an eventuality? That is what the Opposition asks.
In 1952, the Government was investing a further £4,500,000 in the development of Bell Bay. In the debate that took place then in this House, I forecast that a sell-out would eventuate. But the Government made a most significant amendment to the original bill of 1944 in the legislation then being debated in 1952. I shall quote what I said on that occasion. This appears at page 487 of “Hansard’” of 20th May, 1952. I said-
Clause 7 of the bill appears at first glance to be of minor importance, but it contains dangerous possibilities from the point of view of the Labour party. Section 9 of the principal act reads -
The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth and by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the State of Tasmania.
Under clause 7 of this measure that section will be repealed and the following provision will be substituted for it: -
A sale or disposal of the undertaking of the Commission, or of an interest in that undertaking, shall not be effected except with the approval of Parliament.
If, at any future date, a Liberal government in this Parliament should decide to sell this enterprise . . . that provision would relieve it of any necessity to consult the State Government in respect of such a decision.
I repeat that the provisions of clause 7 of that bill - it still exists - will enable a future Liberal government with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament to sell out this industry as a going concern to private enterprise. The Minister concerned at that time was Mr. Howard Beale. At page 503 of the “ Hansard “ report to which I have referred, he said -
When it is a working proposition we can consider whether private industry would be interested in it . . . I am not in favour of exclusive government direction of this great enterprise.
Later, he said -
When it is a working proposition, the sensible attitude to take would be to try to interest the public in it.
So, even eight years ago the days of the Bell Bay industry were numbered. Now it is a going concern, splendidly managed under Mr. Austin, with millions of pounds invested in it by the Tasmanian Government, and it is showing substantial profits. It is now in the auction room, up for sale to the highest bidder. Who will buy it? The British Aluminium Company Limited does not exist any more. It was taken over on 9th January, 1959, by the Reynolds Metal Company of the United States, as other honorable members have mentioned. This was one of the biggest absorption deals of the century, and the full story is told in the June, 1959, issue of “ Fortune “ at page 110. This journal gives the colossal improvement in the profits and finances of the Reynolds company in the last ten years, and shows that, by becoming masters of British Aluminium Company Limited, Reynolds secured the company’s new reduction plant in Quebec, Canada, with a capacity of 90,000 tons; its important bauxite potential in Australia and its production of one-third of Britain’s fabricated aluminium. Reynolds also gained substantial interests in aluminium countries in Norway, Australia and India, and won British Aluminium Company Limited’s world-wide system for distribution of fabricated aluminium. To-day, Reynolds owns 94 per cent of the company. It is to-day a serious competitor to Canada’s mighty Aluminium Limited and also to Alcoa, the American company which also wanted to buy out British Aluminium Company Limited.
This huge overseas company to which Bell Bay will most likely be sold is not worried about over-production of aluminium. The estimate of the market is that consumption in the United States of America will rise from 1,800,000 tons in 1958 to 5,000,000 tons in 1965. The success of the Reynolds organization lies in its creation of hundreds of new uses for aluminium, especially in the construction of houses. But, as against this forecast of terrific expansion in aluminium consumption, I find that plastics are already a serious rival and could become an even more serious rival. This is revealed in an article in the February, 1960, issue of “The Times Review of Industry “ at page 43. This is the brief story of the great firm that would be most likely to buy the Bell Bay works, with profits going to the United States of America. It would be the first secure foothold obtained by Reynolds in Australia, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer.
We deplore the fact that overseas industrial giants are getting a bigger and more powerful stranglehold on the economic life of this country. If the Labour government had not pioneered the aluminium industry in Tasmania as a defence project in the mid-1940’s, it is certain that private enterprise would not have risked doing so. In 1952, Mr. Howard Beale said that private enterprise would not have touched it with a 40-ft. pole. Now it is to be sold as a going concern to this overseas combine. We condemn the secrecy and we condemn the mere attempt to sell the organization to interests outside Australia. Plenty of capital could be found in this country to develop it. That is the basis of our case.
– As I see it, four questions have been raised by the Opposition during the course of this debate. The first relates to a matter of political principles and is whether the Government is correct or is acting properly in negotiating with a private company for the sale of its shareholdings in the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. There is, I think, quite a lot of confusion in the minds of Opposition members. The honorable members for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) showed some resentment about there being any negotiations at all. But the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is latterly taking a much more moderate approach to these problems, put the matter on a somewhat different basis. He did not object to a sale or to negotiations, but rather he felt that the negotiations should be with a company in which Australian interests held a major, and perhaps even a dominant, share. So we find this vast confusion in the minds of Opposition members.
What is the Government’s approach to the problem? We are always guided by what we think is the national interest, and during the course of these negotiations the national interest has been dominant in our thinking. We want the aluminium industry to expand. We want our bauxite deposits to be used. But we want to go further and have not only the production of bauxite but also the alumina and smelting plants for the metal. And we therefore look at the problem from the point of view not of any dogma or any particular philosophy, but how we can achieve the development of this great aluminium industry and whether it is in Australia’s best interests that private capital should be introduced. I think that my colleagues agree that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) proved the case conclusively for the investment of private capital in this industry. The point was raised, on what I think the honorable member for Werriwa called the doctrinal, or philosophical, level, that there might be a danger of creating a monopoly. I do not quite follow that. It is essential that the industry be established; and, of course, if we are to establish it, one company or a group of companies must come in and take the initial steps. But the fact that these companies have proceeded in the way they have does not mean that a monopoly will necessarily be created in the production of aluminium or alumina, the metal.
Sir, this is, of course, a great industry and there must be an enormous amount of capital employed before we can proceed to the process of smelting the metal. The point I put is that other companies are interested. If aluminium can be produced at an internationally competitive price - and that depends on whether power can be purchased at .3d. per unit - if the requisite power resources are available - I have no doubt that other companies will be attracted into the field. Consequently, the question of a monopoly does not arise on this occasion. But from the point of view of philosophy, the question of the participation of Australian capital arises. Again the point has been made, and I personally feel it has been effectively made, that here we find the negotiating company is to a considerable extent controlled by Consolidated Zinc which is an Australian company and has 50 per cent, of the capital in the negotiating company. Consequently, on a philosophical level the argument is persuasive, and even conclusive, that the Government has no dogma about this. There is no necessity for a monopoly to be created. We believe it is wise to introduce private capital and we think that under present conditions at least, Australian industry is effectively represented in the negotiating company.
I mentioned that one of our great objectives is the development of a total aluminium industry, not just for the production of bauxite itself, but the subsequent development of the alumina and the aluminium itself. When the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that the Government is not sincere in its proposals for the development of this industry, I think, Sir, that we on this side of the House are perfectly entitled to say that he knew the facts - he knows them well - and that he was not entitled to make that comment. We all know of the grand plans of the Labour Government for the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme and the Bell Bay project, but it was not until this Government came into power that the Snowy Mountains scheme was developed, and that Bell Bay was developed to a capacity of 12,000 tons. In other words, the denial of the argument of the honorable member for Bass that we were not sincere in our development plans lies in this: This Government has developed Bell Bay to a 12,000 tons capacity, and there are now negotiations for the expansion of that capacity to 16,000 tons and, as my colleague pointed out, the commission itself has been afforded generous financial accommodation to permit its expansion programme to take place.
Consequently, we see a picture of a wish to develop and the help that has been given by the Commonwealth Government in that development. And as a part of that general picture we see the way in which the Commonwealth Government has participated in the development of Bell Bay, and in the future, no matter what course the negotiations take, it will insist upon the development of Bell Bay and expand its capacity to 16,000 tons, which we hope will be further increased to 28,000 tons.
The only other point I would like to touch on, because it affects a colleague of mine, is the claim that there has not been a full disclosure of the Government’s intentions by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). The Minister himself was good enough to send me a list of questions that he was asked in another place, together with his answers, on 10th March. Those answers show not only that he had the wish to disclose all the information that he could disclose but also that he did so. The House will be only too ready to agree that when you are carrying out delicate negotiations of this kind it just is not practicable to disclose everything that is being done, because that is a certain way of ensuring that negotiations will not be brought to finality. I do not know of a surer way to defeat negotiations than by open debate across this chamber, particularly on a party political level.
The honorable member for Werriwa has now changed his tune and does not want the negotiations to succeed, whereas earlier he was very interested in the question of Australian capital participating in the company. The fullest possible disclosure has been made. I conclude on this point: To develop a total aluminium industry in this country requires immense resources and funds. I have heard it said that to develop the industry on a scale of 70,000 or 80,000 tons would require £130,000,000 of capital. We in Australia have an immense development in front of us. We need enormous sums of money and resources to put into our public works programmes, such as schools and other activities; and I do not think that, at present, the Government itself could produce the funds and resources necessary for the total expansion of the aluminium industry. Consequently, it becomes necessary to introduce private capital into the industry if it is to expand. That has been done; and, having said that, I think the conclusion can quickly be drawn that as private capital was necessary, it was in the best interests of Australia that we should introduce private capital into the industry-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that I had advocated that Australian capital should be used to expand the Bell Bay plant. What I did, in fact, say was that I accepted that the alternatives before the Government were the provision of Australian government money or the provision of foreign company funds. And in those circumstances, I submitted that the national interests required the former.
.- Let me first of all put the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) right regarding the Consolidated Zinc Company. He said that its capital is very largely Australian; but it is nothing of the sort. There is a great deal of British capital in it. So we can forget that argument as a justification for the negotiations which are going on. This debate has served a very useful purpose. It has brought out the fact that secret negotiations are proceeding for the sale of what is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest indigenous national assets. Any government that makes such a transaction has a very grave responsibility indeed. 1 have heard it said that it is essential in respect of this undertaking, by virtue of the vast sums of capital involved, to go outside for private capital. Is private capital stronger than the assets of the Government? Could it be stronger than the available resources in labour and in capital equipment that are available in Australia to-day? And I take it that when the Government speaks of outside capital for this undertaking, which it says is essential, it visualizes borrowing from abroad. That is completely unnecessary, and there would be no justification for such action.
It is true that when you are arguing the matter of the desirability of the investment of overseas funds in this country you are, in some cases, on sound ground. When we need to acquire some technical knowhow, or when we need to introduce some machine tools or other equipment which we do not produce here, and which it would be absurd for us to endeavour to produce, then your arguments about the investment of overseas funds in Australia are based on firm ground. But what is the position with regard to this instrumentality, which was established in 1944 by legislation of the Chifley Government? If we read the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission for 1958-59 we find that the undertaking is on a sound financial basis. It has one of the most modern factories in Australia, contiguous to a shipping port, and it has all the know-how that it needs. If you question that last statement I invite you to look at the last paragraph in the commission’s report, where you will read that the commission is now so well equipped technically that it is no longer obliged to continue an agreement with the British Aluminium Company under which it acquired technical know-how from that company. In other words, physically and technically this instrumentality is on a solid, sound foundation in Australia.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) spoke of the industry living only by virtue of protection afforded by tariff walls. The figures show that last financial year we spent £4,500,000 on importing aluminium. This was the extent to which local production fell short of Australian requirements, and we had to spend £4,500,000 for 17,000 tons of aluminium. I made a rough calculation - and my figures agree with those given by another speaker - which showed that the value of tariff protection to the local industry was about £400,000. The Government suggests that because it has been affording this tariff protection it is justified in throwing down the river Australia’s national interest is what is now an entirely indigenous industry. We have the raw material and the capacity to process it. We have all the engineering equipment that is required and we are so well equipped with technical know-how that we have been able to dispense with the technical assistance of the British Aluminium Company.
I invite honorable members opposite to consider how they reverse their attitude in different situations. I address my remarks particularly to members of the Country Party, and I refer to the policy adopted regarding bounties and tariffs for the protection of other Australian indigenous industries. I refer now to the Treasurer’s financial statement for this year. It appears that Government supporters are in favour of bounties and tariffs when they operate to assist private enterprise, but when it comes to assistance for an undertaking owned and controlled solely by the people, and in which every Australian taxpayer is a shareholder, they jib and want to throw the enterprise away. They do not mind providing protection for private enterprise and for small groups of shareholders here and abroad. For the information of members of the Country Party I will tell the House what Australia pays to support other indigenous industries. These figures have been taken from the financial statement of the Treasurer.
– We are not socialists.
– Lie down, Mallee. Get back into the rabbit burrow. These are our annual payments to protect certain industries: The cellulose acetate flake bounty, which was mainly for the benefit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, cost £110,000; we paid the copper magnates of this country, by way of the copper bounty, £900,000- yet you jib at £37 10s. a ton tariff on aluminium imported into Australia. In cotton bounty we paid £170,000. The flax fibre bounty cost £73,000. We paid £900,000 under the gold-mining industry assistance legislation. The rayon yarn bounty cost £60,000. We paid a sulphuric acid bounty, to provide cheaper superphosphate for farmers and to build up an industry in Australia which is indigenous to the extent that we have the raw material, pyrites, available here. This bounty cost £1,480,000. The tractor bounty cost £700,000.
In every case, all the money went to a group of company directors for distribution amongst their shareholders. But when it comes to an aluminium factory owned by all the people of Australia you jib at the payment of £400,000- and, after all, that estimate is based on a false premise, because when this instrumentality is handed over to private enterprise is it to be assumed that the Government will not have to continue giving it tariff protection? If it happens to become efficient enough to produce and sell its product without tariff protection, and the tariff barriers are thrown down, then the overseas aluminium combine will be sending aluminium here to be sold at a rate that will cut the throat of the local industry, and the people to whom you hand this enterprise will be coming to you on their hands and knees, pleading that the ordinary man and woman should pay a higher price so that the indigenous industry may exist.
The whole proposition is fallacious. It is all wrong. There is no political principle involved in it, other than the Government’s contention that the people must never run an instrumentality on their own behalf. You would sell the Post Office to-morrow if you could, and you would love to dispose of the Commonwealth Bank. You tried to sell 44 magnificent coastal steamers, but you could not find a capitalist with enough “ dough “ to buy them. You have done your damnedest-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member is out of order in using that expression.
– I withdraw it. I could make it a lot stronger.
– That would be still more dangerous.
– The Government will sell any public instrumentality it can as soon as it becomes profitable. There was no suggestion of selling this aluminium undertaking when you were buttering it up with the people’s money. Now you have made an agreement to put another £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of the people’s money into it, and then you will hand it over to this company that proposes to buy it. You sold the Commonwealthowned whaling station after it had been amply demonstrated that it could make, in two or three years, enough profit to meet its whole capital liability to the Commonwealth.
– They did not sell it, they gave it away.
– Yes, you gave it away, and you gave it away behind closed doors, as you are trying to do in this instance. Secret negotiations are held in the Minister’s office. The same procedure was followed in the case of the sale of the whaling enterprise, when the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) was particularly desirous of seeing a private firm in Perth get hold of this extremely lucrative concern (that had been established with the people’s money.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The basic complaint that we have heard this afternoon from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is that those who sit on this side of the House do not share his peculiar political philosophy. Speaking for myself, and, I should imagine, for every honorable member on the Government side, I have no affection at all for the socialist doctrine. The honorable member complains that we do not share his views. He talks about secret negotiations, injecting into his speech all the oldworld charm of a Hollywood drama. You can just imagine it - spies and secret conclaves and mysterious missions.
– I like that new pose you have adopted.
– Let me just say this to the honorable member for East Sydney: You have been sulking ever since Dobell refused to paint you. We on this side of the House make no bones about where we stand on this issue. I have in my hand a recent publication of the federal secretariat of the Liberal Party. I would commend this document to the honorable member for East Sydney above all others. The document states -
Socialism is in Australia an alien and deadly growth. We must destroy its political power . . .
On the opposite page, it goes on to say-
The Chifley Bank Nationalization Act was repealed. The Menzies Government disposed of the Commonwealth’s interests in A.W.A., C.O.R. and Commonwealth Engineering. Assets of the Australian Whaling Commission and the Commonwealth Equipment Handling Pool were sold to private interests. The competitive basis of Australian airlines was firmly established.
So I say to the honorable member for Lalor, and to every one on the Opposition benches, that there is no mystery about where we stand. We believe in free enterprise. It is precisely because you believe in socialism and defend it that you are sitting in opposition. As long as you continue to cling to doctrines that are distinctly out of date and are not acceptable to the people, you will remain in opposition.
What is the Opposition’s fundamental objective in raising the subject of Bell Bay for discussion as a matter of urgency?
– La Trobe.
– Precisely. It is purely for La Trobe. There is a new political malaise Latrobitis. Here is a collection of desperate men. They would do anything at all if they thought that it would enhance their prospects in La Trobe. I venture to suggest that they would even subject the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) to a week’s fast if they thought that that would enhance their electoral prospects.
The vast majority of the electors of La Trobe will reject the Labour candidate on Saturday because they believe in this Government and in the system of free enterprise. It is a rather interesting touch of irony that to-day we have this naked and unashamed attempt to exploit the Bell Bay issue for political purposes. Bell Bay had its origin in political exploit because it was in the year when every prospect pointed towards the seat of Bass being lost to the Labour Party that an attempt was made and carried through to establish the aluminium industry at Bell Bay. That was the gimmick of the year. It happened to work in that case. It is not going to work in the case of La Trobe. Desperate men, determined on desperate measures, are prepared to go to all sorts of extraordinary lengths to sustain their forces.
What of this charge that the negotiations have been conducted in secrecy? Am 1 to understand that the culinary knowledge of honorable members opposite is such that if they were baking a cake, they would open the oven and pull out the cake every five minutes to see if it was being cooked? That represents the crazy attitude of mind that the Opposition has to this matter. If Parliament, without knowing the full circumstances attending the negotiations, should make some hasty decision, it could jeopardize the outcome of these negotiations.
So I say to honorable members opposite that this is completely a political display on their part. It is a piece of arrant humbug. It is designed to restore their badly lagging prospects in La Trobe on Saturday. It brings out into the clearest of relief just where the Government stands in regard to free enterprise and it shows very clearly and firmly where the Labour Party stands. [Quorum formed.] I have only one other sentiment to utter. This is a miserable and base attempt by the Opposition to try to secure a political advantage in the La Trobe by-election. The Opposition is a party of no hope and on Saturday its members will find their aspirations revealed to them in their proper perspective.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! As it is now past the time provided for Grievance Day, Order of the Day No. 1 will not be called on. The Committee of Supply will be set down for a later hour this day.
– by leave - For some time past the Government has been giving close attention to questions of land tenure in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and, in view of the fundamental importance of these questions to all aspects of policy in that Territory, I wish to indicate to the House the direction in which we are moving, and to amplify the brief answer I gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) on 22nd March.
As honorable members are aware, respect for native land ownership was laid down as a basic principle of administration in Papua over 80 years ago. In Papua from the beginning, and in New Guinea since it was placed under mandate to Australia after the first World War, successive Australian Governments have strictly adhered to that principle. Whereas at the time of first settlement in the Australian colonies all lands were deemed to be waste lands and the property of the Crown, in Papua and New Guinea all land other than that which had been previously alienated was deemed to belong to the native people who occupied it.
As expressed in recent years, this policy has meant that no land can be acquired from the native people except by the Administration, and the Administration will not itself acquire land unless the native people are willing to sell and if, in the judgment of the Administration, the land is not necessary for the present or prospective needs of the people. As a consequence of this policy, which, as I have said, has been followed by all successive governments, less than 3 per cent of the total area of the Territory has been alienated, and less than 1 per cent is in use by non-native occupiers.
In consequence of this respect for native land ownership, a commencement in creating a formal tenure for the native occupants of the land was taken in 1952 when the Government set up a Native Lands Commission whose work was to be to establish by inquiry among the native people themselves who was the owner of each tract of land and to register that ownership so as to establish a title. At the time when that decision was made, on the advice of the Administration, it was thought, rather optimistically, that it would be possible, first, to identify the owner of each piece of land and, secondly, to register each owner. It did not take long, however, to realize first of all that it would take literally generations before the lands of the whole Territory could be so registered. Furthermore, the inquiries of the commission revealed that the systems of land ownership, occupancy and use were much more complex than had been at first supposed. More recent research by anthropologists and geographers has also revealed that we were following an illusion when we thought that we could transcribe native custom and usage exactly into terms familiar in English law. The Native Lands Commission, which is still operating, has done very useful work, and there is still a highly useful and specialized task ahead of it. but it has become clear that it is not a suitable means by which to create a system of land tenure for the native people - a system which will be applicable throughout the Territory and which will survive the many rapid changes that are taking place in the Territory.
As an example of the difficulties, it might be mentioned that there is no uniform pattern of native land holding throughout the Territory. There is, in fact, very little individual ownership of land among the native people in the sense that we know individual ownership. One form of ownership may be in a tribe or clan or family group, but, within that tribe or clan or family group, there may be individuals or groups of people who have rights of various kinds io use portions of that land. So, when a man says, “ This is my land “ - and to all intents and purposes says so honestly - he may mean that he has the right to use part of it under certain conditions for gardening, or he may mean that he has hunting rights over it, or that he has rights to gather material from the jungle. [Quorum formed.]
In our society one of the tests of ownership is the right to sell land or to pass it on to the owner’s heirs and successors. The customs of land inheritance among the New Guinea people are complex and varied. For example - and this is one example only - some societies in the Territory are matrilineal and in such a society it may be that rights in the land which a man has worked may not pass to his own children, but will pass to his sister’s children.
Native customary tenures, as I have described them briefly, were suitable for subsistence agriculture in which the land was required only for short-term cropping or food gathering. But they are not suitable for any system of agriculture which results in substantial and permanent improvements to the land and it has been found that native custom and our attempts to respect native custom will not meet the needs of a society in which, to an increasing extent as the result of rapid economic progress, the native people are planting tree crops such as coffee, cocoa and copra, and engaging in cash farming as we know it.
The practical problem can be indicated by two or three simple examples. It sometimes happens that a young and energetic man who wishes to plant cocoa cannot obtain access to any land under native custom. It may be that a man who has the use of land and plants trees on it has no continuing rights in that land under native custom. It may be that a man who obtains a higher skill and acquires a steady income and wishes to build a permanent home cannot get any title under native custom to the land on which his dwelling stands, even although he has been accustomed to regarding the land as his own.
Another problem which is emerging rapidly in the Territory is the need for extensive resettlement of some peoples who are advancing to a higher standard of living but have little opportunity of sustaining that higher standard on the poor lands or the steep slopes which they occupy at present. If they are to be transferred to places where they can find the prospect of gainful occupation, it will be necessary to give them some form of security of tenure in the place to which they will move. For this purpose it is necessary for the Administration to be able to identify those lands which to-day are unoccupied and not claimed by any one and can rightly be regarded as waste land at the disposal of the Administration.
As a consequence of these and other considerations, we have come to the opinion that measures have to be taken in order to convert a respect for native land ownership into the reality of making the land available to the people who need it and will use it. This is not something to be done suddenly for, on the one hand, it should be done only with the consent and approval of the native peoples themselves, and it should be done only in the light of a close and exact understanding of the customary system of tenure of the lands affected. In effect, what we have in mind is devising a method of converting a customary tenure into a legal tittle, and that can only be done when the nature of the customary tenure is clearly understood and when the persons who enjoy the customary tenure at present are willing to accept the new form of title to their land. As in all transitions in a primitive community, it is foolish to tear up the old ways until the people are ready to enter the new ways. In certain places in the Territory where the advancement of cash agriculture has been most rapid, some of the people are themselves showing an interest in making this change, and the need to make it is becoming more urgent.
Consequently, following a period of close study of the problems I have laid down the following broad principles to be adopted as the basis of a policy in relation to land holding by natives -
Following the adoption of these basic principles the Administration has been asked to prepare detailed proposals for giving effect to them. Before the final adoption of the new system the detailed proposals will be studied closely to ensure that they serve the purposes which we have in mind and that they will be applicable to conditions in the Territory.
In conclusion, I would stress that there will be no lessening of respect for native ownership of land and that the steps are being taken in order to facilitate the better use by the native people of the available land, the more orderly handling of all land transactions, and the better use of the natural resources of the Territory.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Land Tenure in Papua and New Guinea -
Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th April (vide page 980), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) has stated, this bill is long overdue, but at least it has come at a most opportune time, particularly for Queensland. The Queensland cattleman is now receiving the greatest returns for his product since 1922. Queensland pastures more than one-half of the beef cattle of Australia, so the impact of this bill on that State will be tremendous. The legislation is also very important from the national viewpoint when we realize that our efforts must be directed towards increasing our overseas income. Primary products comprise 85 per cent, of our exports and, with the exception of wool, most of those products, such as butter, cheese, wheat and fruit, are becoming very difficult to market, mainly as a result of competition from countries which employ cheap labour. The beef industry offers the greatest opportunity for expansion. We know that the production of wool is increasing, but after all, we can expect the industry to expand only very slowly. However, the beef industry is capable of tremendous expansion.
– You cannot get artificial beef,
– That is very true to-day, but we never know when we will see something like that. In the meantime, we must direct our efforts towards expanding our markets. As I have mentioned, our beef industry is capable of tremendous expansion, and we must find how that expansion can best be brought about. First, we must increase the number of our cattle; secondly, we must try to produce and market the best quality beef, and thirdly, we must endeavour to maintain continuity of supply.
I believe that we are well on the way towards increasing the number of our cattle, but this can be done only by further research, particularly into cattle diseases and parasites. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has stated that the major portion of the funds to be devoted to research will be supplied to those bodies which are already conducting research, and particularly to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I concur with that proposal. The C.S.I.R.O. has made tremendous progress in combating the depredations of the cattle tick. We must remember that Queensland particularly, and for that matter the whole of the north of Australia, where the cattle tick exists, is our great cattle breeding country. It is all very well to talk about fattening cattle here, but those areas have to be developed so that the cattle can be fattened under the most favorable condi tions. The cattle tick first appeared in those areas towards the end of last century. It spread over the Northern Territory, across the tropical areas of north Queensland and then down the coastal areas of Queensland to northern New South Wales. In those areas our cattle numbers were increasing rapidly until the cattle tick appeared. It may amaze some people to know that there were more beef cattle in Queensland in 1895, the year before the cattle tick made itself felt, than there are to-day. In considering these figures we must remember also that in those days there were practically no improvements on the stations. Also at that time there were areas given over to sheep which have since been changed over to cattle breeding areas.
If we refer to a very important booklet published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics we will find that Australia loses £10,000,000 a year as a result of the depredations of the cattle tick. That is a most conservative figure. But even taking that figure of £10,000,000 a year, we must realize that in ten years’ time Australia’s losses will have mounted to £100,000,000 from this cause. That is a very good reason why this fund should be made available for research. At present there is only one laboratory charged with the responsibility of conducting research into the ecology of the cattle tick. That is the veterinary parasitology research laboratory at Yeerongpilly in Queensland. I understand that only £50,000 a year is allotted for this research. In view of the tremendous losses caused by the cattle tick, every one will agree that that is a very small figure. It is most unrealistic when many times that amount is spent on the chemical attack on the cattle tick. Although this may result in preserving the cattle we have, it is putting the beef cattle industry to enormous expense.
The only answer to the cattle tick problem is total eradication. This is possible with proper research. Until we know more about the life history and habits of the cattle tick we cannot embark on the problem of attacking it. We do not know enough about it. Since 1906 an attempt has been made to rid north-eastern New South Wales of the cattle tick, and at present the Commonwealth Government is making £500,000 a year available to the New South Wales Government which, I understand, contributes a similar amount, but the cattle tick is still present in those areas.
As has been pointed out, the cattle tick, under optimum circumstances has a life cycle of about seven or eight months. If cattle are taken off the area for say twelve months, the cattle tick should disappear. But although those areas of northern New South Wales were fenced and the cattle taken from them for eighteen months, clean cattle were infected soon after being put back there. Obviously there is some other reason, perhaps a leak in the system, why the cattle tick survives. One strange fact about the cattle tick in northern New South Wales is that it does not carry the parasite of tick fever. Yet over the border in Queensland large numbers of cattle ticks carry this organism. Although individual graziers are able to eradicate the tick, we are in the unfortunate position that we can never undertake a programme for complete eradication because we must keep the cattle infested to a certain extent to preserve their immunity from tick fever. There are many types of tick fever. A beast may be immune from it in one area but when taken to another may contract the disease. Obviously there is a tremendous lot to be discovered. The tick was eradicated in the United States of America. I understand that there was some difference in the tick, or the particular type of redwater which it produced; nevertheless it was successfully eradicated. Surely we can do the same here. Our objective must be the eradication of the cattle tick.
Although we are having most prosperous times now in the beef cattle industry, some day, as has happened in the past, particularly in the beef industry, there will be periods in which marketing conditions are difficult. With rising costs the cattleman in Queensland will be in a very serious position if a slump in prices comes. But if the cattle tick is eradicated in that State the industry will have the advantage of a reduction in costs to the cattleman and he will be better able to survive low prices.
The other disease which causes great losses in Queensland and most of northern Australia is pleuro-pneumonia. This was introduced into Australia by cattle brought to Melbourne in the middle of last century. Eventually it spread to the northern parts of Australia where it is now prevalent. Although great progress has been made in combating this disease, it still takes its toll in our northern areas. When cattle are mustered and great mobs come into contact with the carriers of the disease, many beasts which outwardly appear to be in perfect health are chronic sufferers from the disease and infect others. In this matter, also, the veterinary parasitology laboratory at Yeerongpilly is evolving a rapid test which can be applied at the crush side to find the carriers which obviously can then be slaughtered. But only by the provision of sufficient funds can this great problem of cattle disease be combated.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory mentioned also the transport of cattle, particularly to the Channel country and out of it. I thoroughly agree with him and compliment him upon his suggestion that the World Bank should be approached for a loan to develop roads in those areas. No undertaking in Australia would return so much for every £1 spent in the development of this area as would the beef cattle industry there. The turn-off from our breeding areas would be increased enormously. As the honorable member pointed out, the cattle now have to travel by foot for many hundreds of miles, and they have to be close on three years old before they can start on their journey from the breeding country. Although they are fattened in the Channel country when the season is right, it is not hard to imagine that by the time they walk to the railheads in Queensland they are past their optimum time for marketing. On the other hand, if transport were available to take these cattle from the breeding grounds of the north when they were yearlings, two years of depasturing in those areas would be saved and many more cattle could be turned off. This road from the Channel country is an important factor, and it is an undertaking which must not be neglected.
Markets are another very important factor. This aspect of the problem has a particular relation to the road from the Channel country. Cattlemen in northern and central Queensland have to take the prices dictated by the great meatworks which export beef. We must have the outlet to the southern markets which has been advocated by the Division of Agricultural Economics - the road which has been drawn on a map prepared by Mr.
Jack Kelly of that division. That road would link the Channel country with Quilpie, the nearest railhead in southwestern Queensland. Any one who knows that part of the country and the conditions that prevail there knows that this would afford the cattlemen in the Channel country an opportunity to sell their beef in the best market available. They would have the benefit of competition for their beef not only by overseas buyers but also by buyers for the Australian domestic market. We must realize the importance of the domestic market to the cattle industry. I think that only 135,000 tons of the 900,000 tons of beef produced in Australia annually are exported. So we see how important a good road from the Channel country to the southern areas would be. If we cannot market our cattle in the southern domestic markets we have to take the prices dictated by the meat exporters.
– What would we do with our cattle in drought years? Is not that the problem?
– I was just coming to that. A great deal has been made of pasture improvement. I quite agree that pasture improvement is valuable, and I think that research into this field should continue, because it is most important to Queensland. But there is another thing that I think would pay even greater dividends to Queensland, because it would be of benefit to the cattlemen and also to many other producers. I refer to lot feeding of cattle, which would give us double benefits. We must have continuity of supply if we are to send quality meat to the United Kingdom. When I speak of quality meat in this context, I refer to chiller meat, and continuity of supply is essential if we are to hold a market for chiller meat. As the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) pointed out yesterday, except for the coastal belt, Queensland is subject to violent changes in seasonal conditions.
We have in Queensland great grainproducing areas such as the brigalow belt in the central districts, where the well-known Peak Downs is situated. These areas can produce tremendous quantities of sorghum. A great deal of research into sorghum strains has been undertaken, with particular attention to hybrid strains which will increase productivity considerably. I believe that, if beef prices continue at present levels, as I am sure they will, lot feeding is undoubtedly an economic proposition today. We have an over-supply of sugar cane in Queensland, and research could be undertaken in order to make it possible to use the surplus of cane for the fattening of cattle. As the honorable member for Murray remarked, good transport is needed in order to move store cattle from the breeding to the fattening areas. However, I consider that, by lot-feeding cattle, particularly with grain, we shall be able to fatten beasts in areas that are not now generally “regarded as fattening districts. This would enable us to maintain the continuity of supply that is so important to us, and it would provide a better market for the grain produced by our farmers. The grain market all over the world is rather a difficult one at present, as every one knows, because surplus stocks exist. If the farmers found another source of income by feeding their grain to stock, Queensland would benefit greatly.
I think that, in terms of markets, the future for beef looks pretty bright. The statistics indicate that beef is a luxury commodity. It is consumed in greatest quantity in areas of highest prosperity, and the statistics indicate that as the individual’s income increases his consumption of beef increases, up to a certain point, in proportion to the increase in his income, whereas, the reverse applies to cereals. With the advent of the European Economic Community, there is much doubt about how our primary products such as dairy produce, wheat and fruit will sell in Europe. But 1 do not think that there is any doubt about how our beef will sell there. There is tremendous prosperity in Germany and France. This prosperity looks like continuing if we can avoid another war, as I believe we shall, and countries like those will take tremendous quantities of beef.
I believe that this bill will do a great deal to help develop our cattle industry and increase the number of our cattle. If, as I have said, we concentrate first on eradicating the cattle tick, we shall do more to promote expansion of the cattle industry than we could do by concentrating on any other factor.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the bill for two main reasons. One is that this is another example of the promotion of research in an industry by financial contributions made by the industry in order to help in solving its own problems. For this reason, obviously, the House generally has supported the measure as one based on right principles. But the idea has an additional advantage, because, if the industry itself helps to provide the money needed in order to solve its own problems, it will have an active interest in setting out the order of priority in which efforts shall be made to solve those problems. As a consequence, the industry will have a more intimate interest in the work that is being done. I know that if I drop a £1 note into the stream of commerce I have a tremendous interest in following it up for quite a long time in order to see what has happened to it.
– How long is it since the honorable member dropped one?
– I may say that there are not many to drop. As I have said, those who put up the money for cattle and beef research will take a real interest in the work that is done. And, if those in the industry take that interest and help to list the order of priority in which problems shall be tackled, the results of the research done will, I am sure, come back along the line to the beef producer much more quickly than would otherwise be the case. I am sure that this method of getting the producers to take an interest in the whole process right from the start is the right way of tackling the problems of the industry. It is true, as is often said, that we value little the things that we get for nothing, but that we take more real interest in the things that we have to pay for ourselves.
I support the bill principally because I am so keenly aware of the need for research into the cattle and beef industry. As the representative of a constituency in South Australia, I know that there is a real need in that State, and in southern Australia generally, for research into various problems. Many of them have already been mentioned in this debate. Honorable members have an intimate knowledge of some of these problems. Speaking as one who comes from the southern areas of Australia, I welcome the expansion of research that will flow from this legislation. However, I would expect the more important research work in this industry to be done in the tropical north. Since I have been a member of a committee which concerns itself with the Northern Territory, I have become more than ever aware of the tremendous gaps in our knowledge of that area. These gaps relate to fundamental matters that we accept without question in the south. They still form great gaps in our knowledge in the north.
Although we have these great gaps in our knowledge about cattle in the tropical north, I am sure that this area holds a great potential. I have seen many things in the past few months which bear out my contention. We all know, or should know, how cattle are run in the top of the Northern Territory at the moment. Very little fencing is used in the area and cattle run on a most extensive system. The pastures are reasonably good in the “ wet “ but very poor in the “ dry “ and very little work is done on pasture improvement. In addition, no outside blood is introduced. If the suggestion is made to pastoralists in the area that it would pay to erect fences so that they could manage their properties better, they reply, “We know that we could produce more beef, but would it pay with fencing at £200 a mile? “ If one suggests that improved breeds and new breeding stock be introduced, the pastoralists are quite justified in saying that if they bring bulls from the south, they may never see them again; they would disappear into the scrub and the scrub bulls would get the cows in calf. These are the basic gaps in our knowledge in the north. We think we know that benefits would follow the introduction of methods used in the south, but it is almost impossible to measure the value of the benefits.
I should like to see experiments on these matters conducted in the top of the Territory or at least in our tropical north. I would like to see a three-pronged experiment in that area set out somewhat as follows: - An area of 100 square miles could be ring fenced, and cattle could be run on it as they are run at the moment, with no subdivision, very little watering, no attempt to wean and no attempt to mate the cattle at the right time - in fact, a truly extensive cattle-raising system. That is the way it is done at the moment, and the land owner holds the view that it is a cheap way to raise cattle. We cannot deny that it is cheap, but the trouble is that it does not produce much beef. The second step in the experiment would be to take an adjoining area of 100 square miles, divide it and fence it properly so that cattle could be controlled, weaned and mated at the right time, and the bullocks prevented from competing with the breeders for food. All those measures which are recognized as economic in the south could be adopted. We would then be able to measure the profitability of managing a property on these lines in the top of Australia. This is the kind of basic knowledge that is common in other areas but is simply not available in the north. As I say, it would be quite expensive to get this knowledge, particularly with fencing at £200 a mile.
Another factor is that, with a very wet “ wet “ season and a very dry “ dry “ season, the pastures in the north are very deficient in protein. The third step in the experiment I suggest would be to take another 100 square miles, managed as the area in the second experiment is managed, but with a protein supplement used with the pasture. Above all things, we seem to need an extra ration of protein to keep the weight of the cattle increasing during the dry season. We know, or at least we think we know, that we would get better beef by doing this. But we do not know whether it would be profitable. We must seek to fill in these fundamental gaps in our knowledge. The gaps are there, but the potential of the area is great - far greater than many of us realize.
The money for the research work covered by the legislation will come from all parts of Australia, and the cattle-grower in South Australia has a right to expect that some of the money will be spent in South Australia or in solving South Australian problems. But I make a special plea for the greater portion of the money to be spent in the tropical north. As I say, the potential of this area is great. I hope that the tropical north will receive very sympathetic consideration when a decision is taken as to where the money will be spent.
– And with respect to representation, too?
– I think it is a great pity that, if this problem is to be tackled on an Australia-wide basis, we should have representation on a State basis. Let us be clear that we should have the best people we can get, and we could not get six beef producers to represent Australia without having some representation from the north of Australia. I do not mean that the representation should come solely from the Northern Territory but that it should come from the tropical north of Australia. That is where the honorable member for the Northern Territory and I would disagree. I would be happy if the top of Australia were given adequate representation. I do not seek to have representation for a particular area.
Having stressed the need for research in the beef industry in Australia, particularly in the north, I want to mention two other matters. First, it is most distressing that this legislation has been left for so long before the Minister has been able to introduce it. This has been the result of the running battle that is constantly waged between the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Graziers Federal Council. This is yet another example of the price that we pay for the quarrel that continues between these two great organizations in our rural community. It is time that these people realized that they have a duty to the industries they represent and not a right to perpetuate the feuds of the past. AndI hope that when it comes to the consideration of the men they are to put forward on this committee, which is to control this fund, that kind of thinking will not be continued but that they will realize they have a part to play which is much more important than continuing this running fight.I hope they realize that the rural community in Australia is just about sick of the way in which we have been handicapped in many things by this state of affairs.
I want to make one point which I think has not been raised in this debate - and that is saying something.It is the peculiar position in regard to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in this respect. We know that the C.S.I.R.O. is to have one member on the committee which is to control this research fund; that the universities are to have one and that the Australian Agricultural Council is to be represented by one member who is to speak for the State Departments of Agriculture. There is a general belief that the C.S.I.R.O. does all the research in respect of rural industry in Australia and that no other important bodies are engaged in such work. I have a very warm appreciation of the work being done by the C.S.I.R.O.; indeed 1 have worked with many of its officers for many years, and I know the work they do as well as does any other member of this House. Nevertheless, we ought to realize that there are other organizations doing work of this nature - I believe it is true to say that because the C.S.I.R.O. is not bound by the red tape and regulations of the Public Service Board, it is able to pay the best brains and attract the best men to its organization. That has meant that it has skimmed the cream of the scientists in Australia, because it has the reputation and the money. It has the reputation because it has the money, and no one quarrels with that.
But what concerns me is that because the State Departments of Agriculture are bound by public service regulations and are unable to pay their men as well as they should be paid, they are gradually slipping behind, and it is to the C.S.I.R.O. alone that people are looking for research. That should not be so, because the Departments of Agriculture in the States are intimately associated with the problems involved. Their officers meet the farmers on their own farms and live more or less at the grass roots of the farming community. So it is naturally true that they have a more real appreciation of the gaps in our knowledge which must be filled. It is becoming increasingly evident that the C.S.I.R.O. is becoming more important and the State organizations less important. That is something about which we should be careful.
I hope the Minister will bear these facts in mind and that when this committee lays down the work which should be done by the research organizations a proper responsibility will be given to the State Departments of Agriculture. I am not one of those who feels that all research should be done by the C.S.I.R.O. and that the State Departments of Agriculture should do only extension work. That kind of thinking is dangerous, because immediately that is laid down as a principle it naturally follows that the bright young man who wants to do research at some time in the future feels that there is no place for him in a State Department of Agriculture and so we have a bleeding of the best of the scientists from those organizations to the C.S.I.R.O. I pay tribute as warmly as any one does to the work that is being done by the C.S.I.R.O., but let us be clear in our minds that the State Departments of Agriculture have a real part to play in this new scheme of things. Let us see that their ability is used and that they are allowed to play an increasing part.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate on the beef research programme which has been outlined by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and I have been struck once again by the great concern displayed on both sides of the House about this industry, its future and its importance to the economy of Australia. AH I can hope is that that interest will not wane and that honorable members generally will keep up their agitation and support those honorable members who represent far-flung electorates and the great beef-producing areas of this Commonwealth. The honorable members for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) represent some of the greatest beef-producing areas in the Commonwealth.
I recall that some few years ago, when I was speaking on this problem of beef, I was accused of displaying the usual bovine attitude of the Country Party and of being interested only in looking after my own beef barons. I hope that attitude will be dispelled after this debate has been concluded. This bill is the outcome of negotiations with primary producers’ organizations which have been trying to secure such legislation for a considerable time. In my contacts with the various organizations in my electorate I have come across no opposition to the introduction of this bill. The producers are quite happy to levy themselves for the purpose of carrying out the research which is provided for under this bill. Like my colleague, the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes), 1 believe that more research should have been carried out long ago into this industry, particularly in regard to some of the pests and diseases which affect it. I will not develop that aspect of the question because it has been very well covered by that wellinformed honorable member, who has had wonderful experience - though some of it has not been very happy so far as tick is concerned - in the beef industry, and also by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, whose knowledge of the industry is also very great.
The field of research provided for under this bill is very wide. Like the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), I hope there will not be any overlapping of the research being carried out at the present time by the C.S.I.R.O. and the State Departments of Agriculture and Stock. They have done a mighty job up to the present and are continuing their research - particularly the C.S.I.R.O. - into disease problems, pasture improvement and so forth.
The problem I want to deal with mainly is that of transport, but before doing so I would like to reply to some comments made last night by my friend, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). He made a valiant fight for the interests he represents in Rockhampton, when he suggested that Yaraka was the obvious place from which to take cattle from the Channel country. As you well know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Channel country covers a pretty big territory. Seasons vary from the north to the south of that country. But over the years, in average seasons, we find that cattlemen have tended to by-pass Yaraka and have usually railed their cattle from Winton or Quilpie. I have some figures here to demonstrate my point. In 1956, for instance, 63,555 cattle were trucked from Quilpie, and 8,081 from Yaraka. In 1957 the figures were 55,380 and 4,758 respectively. Then we start to enter the dry period, and most of the cattle taken out in the next year were those going to relief country. In that year 9,071 were railed from Quilpie and 5,245 from Yaraka. I cite these figures because the honorable member for Capricornia more or less led the House to believe that Yaraka was a more important trucking centre than Winton or Quilpie. My figures show that his argument does not hold! water.
The demand to-day in the first-quality beef market is for young stock of between 500 and 650 lb. weight and two and a half to three years of age. We have not enough of these cattle, particularly for the chilled meat trade. Where can we get them? We could certainly get them from the coastal areas if we carried out pasture improvement programmes and could maintain the stock in condition throughout the year, as was outlined by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). This has been done fairly successfully by the honorable member and by other cattlemen in his area. But it is out in the districts where the great herds of cattle are that we must try to find means of getting this class of cattle to the market. For this purpose we need a decent transport system. I know that I am repeating statements made by some other honorable members, but I believe, in common with them, that we can never get cattle out in good condition unless we have a decent transport system.
Some honorable members have suggested that roads should be built mainly for the purpose of affording relief in times of drought. I believe this is a wrong approach. If we use this country as it should be used, taking the young beasts in in flush seasons and getting them out when they are fat, we will be able to eliminate the terrific losses that can take place and have taken place through the years. We will be able to put on the market the better quality beef that the world is demanding.
When I was overseas a few years ago I did not bother going to the wholesale houses to find out how our meat was selling. I went to the local butchers in most of the countries I visited. I spoke to the people who had to sell the beef to the public. My usual question was, “ Have you any Australian beef? “ They would look at me guardedly, because there were certain restrictions operating at that time, but I suppose my diction made it clear that I was a foreigner. The usual reply I received was, “Yes, we are selling some of your meat, but, my God, you must have a lot of droots out there “. I soon realized that they meant “ droughts “, and I asked what that had to do with the matter. I was told, “We do not want a lot of this big-boned stuff. It does not sell. People would rather pay twice the price for meat they can eat than accept this big, heavy stuff, i! is not in demand amongst the people who buy meat.” That was proof positive that the demand exists if we want to try to satisfy it.
We can get the right class of beef only if we transport our cattle under the correct conditions. There is an old saying amongst experienced cattlemen, particularly those engaged in the chilled meat trade - and also amongst men who deal in sheep - that you must never walk a beast to market, but must take it to market. A beast that is walked to market must walk off a certain amount of condition. The Americans have overcome this problem, as the honorable member for McPherson has told us, by lot feeding. In America, however, cattle are seldom walked to the market. I was reading an article the other day which disclosed that of 16,000 cattle sold on one day in Chicago, only 2,000 walked to the market. The rest went by road transport. We should walk our stock as little as possible. If we walk them any distance we will never get good quality meat to present to the public.
As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we people in the bush have been used to killing our own meat on our own properties, and when we have visitors from the cities they say, “What marvellous beef it is”. They are quite right, because it is killed on the property. The cattle have not had to be taken away from their feeding grounds. They have not become excited and their flesh has not become impregnated with certain hormones which change the flavour. If we can kill our cattle under similar conditions we will have better quality meat, and we will sell more of it.
I believe this bill will be a great step forward and that it will result in better quality beef in the future. As I have said, the legislation covers a very wide field. I suggest - and I know the Minister has this in mind - that there should be no duplication of work carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State departments. The proposed committee will probably pick out the problem that requires the most intense research and make grants available so that the problem may be given special attention. This has been done in other fields of agriculture. I know that certain banking institutions, one of which is the Commonwealth Bank, make grants available every year to universities for special research work in the study of soils, for instance. The stipulation is made that the money mus: be spent for this particular purpose. the universities then appoint certain people to concentrate on that work. I suggest to the Minister that much research needs to be done into the transport problem, with particular reference to the need to present better quality beef to the public. I know that all the other problems are important. It might be more important to undertake pasture research in the south or to investigate the tick problem in Queensland or somewhere else. Each one of these matters has to be decided on its merits. At the present moment, I believe that our transport problem is the greatest bugbear in this country.
Whilst on the subject of pasture improvement perhaps I should mention a matter which I know the honorable member for Lalor is too bashful to mention. I had the pleasure of looking over the Werribee sewage farm outside Melbourne a little while ago. It is 20 miles from the General Post Office. Many people are surprised to learn that perhaps the greatest experiment in pasture improvement and one of the biggest cattle fattening properties in Australia is at Werribee. I suppose that not many members in this House have seen it. I suggest that anybody who wants an example of what can be done in pasture improvement can see it there - in the south. In the north, of course, much excellent work is being done, in the electorate of Herbert for instance. To see these properties is an education. I would suggest that those members who have taken a great interest in this problem to-day should make themselves more fully conversant with all aspects of it. They should keep up the agitation for this wonderful industry which has the greatest potential, perhaps, of any primary industry in the whole of the Commonwealth. There is room for expansion. I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that, if we do not intensify our research and keep our breeding stock alive, it will not be very long before our export markets will be gone and we will be short of meat for home consumption.
This is a very important bill. I believe that, under the direction of the Minister for Primary Industry, who has had a pretty wide experience of this matter, this research organization will prove its value over and over again, particularly to our main cattle breeding grounds.
– This legislation is another example of the long, painstaking, work, which the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and his predecessors in this Government have put into the great rural industries so that they may be better equipped to tackle the problems which are facing them and to achieve the utmost efficiency and the greatest production for the benefit of themselves and the country at large. It has been said in this debate that the only bad thing is that arguments between various organizations prevented agreement on the composition of the committee being reached for a long time. Because of this, it was not possible to bring in this legislation one, or perhaps two, years ago. But that is all in the past. Agreement has now been reached and for that we are thankful. I am quite certain that the work that this committee does will be of very great benefit to the industry. Quite clearly, this industry has a great potential not only in the dry areas in the north, but also in the wetter areas righ back through the territory represented by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), and also in the south.
So much has already been said in this debate that there are only one or two points which I want to mention briefly. A great deal has been said on the question of transport. It is said that we must have ability to get cattle out of the Channel country into other areas in time of drought. But the Channel country is not the only area that needs transport to solve some of its problems. In examining this question we should consider what is being done by some people for themselves, without any help from a government or any one else. I know of one company, at least, which has a property in the Northern Territory and others in the Channel country and which, over the last two or three years, has not lost one single head of stock as a result of drought. The only reason for that is that this com pany has its own fleet of heavy diesel trucks and trailers, and can transport its cattle from one area to another if one property gets eaten out. Quite clearly, this is something which the smaller holdings cannot do for themselves as the large properties or groups of properties can, but in ascertaining what needs to be done for the future we should look closely at what has been achieved by certain people who have shown a great deal of initiative in this matter.
The principal subject that has been put forward for research is pasture improvement. My friend, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) said that the great need was to have some sort of pasture that would have a higher quantity of protein in it at certain periods of the year. Quite clearly, those periods differ throughout Australia according to variations in climate. But there is no area of Australia in which pasture is not, at some time, very short of protein. In fact, it is so short that without supplement stock cannot do well on it. There is only one exception to that: I refer to irrigated areas in which it is possible to keep green feed growing nearly the whole year round. Apart from those areas, throughout Australia pastures are at times so poor in quality if not in quantity, that stock will not do well on them. That is a most vital problem, not only in Queensland and the Northern Territory but also in the relatively settled areas of Victoria.
There are people who are doing a great deal of work on this matter, not only in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization but also in the universities. The School of Agriculture at Melbourne University is doing extensive work in the use of urea and molasses. Urea is a synthetic protein, which when mixed with molasses and sprayed on pastures, can raise the quality of the feed to such a level that instead of losing condition, stock will continue to improve and put on weight. It may be that the use of urea and molasses will prove economic on some of the larger properties. In the north there are hundreds of thousands of acres of Mitchell and Flinders grasses which are dry and low in protein at certain times of the year. If these areas were sprayed with urea and molasses they might well improve in quality sufficiently to merit the cost involved. That is only one approach to this problem.
The difficulty is to get a protein supplement that is cheap enough to be economical under Australian conditions. At the present time many people are considering the use of urea and molasses because this seems to be the best protein supplement available on the Australian market. But that does not mean that it is the final answer or even an answer to the problem. However, it is one of the avenues that are being explored and more work must be done on it.
There is another aspect of Northern Territory development which I hope that the honorable member for Wakefield will heed in certain work that he is doing outside this House. I believe that the buffalo has a much greater future in the Northern Territory than most people are generally willing to recognize. The buffalo is not a wild animal but one of the quietest and most easily tamed animals in the world. It is possible to round up buffaloes which have never had people near them, and within a week, to take them quietly and easily whereever you want them to go. It is well known that there are certain areas in the Northern Territory in which the buffalo does very well and cattle do very badly. In these areas even the Santa Gertrudis and other breeds of that type do not prosper as does the buffalo. We have found that there are certain markets in South-East Asia for buffalo meat. They are not extensive at the present time but I would think that we have not tried to make them extensive because, at the present time, the buffalo herds are limited. But what is to stop people from breeding buffaloes as at present we breed cattle? Speaking from memory, I think that there are about 100,000 head of buffalo in the Northern Territory. What is to stop people from rounding up some of these animals and breeding them to increase the numbers and developing an export market for buffalo meat in the South-East Asian area which has shown, if not a liking, at least a readiness to accept buffalo instead of high-quality beef? I think that this subject needs more research. We should not merely say that there are not enough buffaloes anyway, or that it is not worth doing this. We should not just say that if we catch those animals and send them to markets overseas there will not be any left. It is well worth considering whether we should go into the business of breeding buffalo as an economic and commercial proposition. I should like to see work done in that regard also.
Although there are many grave problems in the north the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee would also have to consider problems which are becoming increasingly important in the southern parts of this continent. As has been found in the south, so it will also be found in the north, that where productivity increases the problems associated with the various stock diseases become much more urgent and much more difficult to solve, and the diseases become more difficult to control. That is more so in the south than it is in the north, where cattle are run on large areas and on the open ranges. There are certainly problems which are worrying southern farmers and graziers at present, and to which they do not really know any effective answer. Those problems need examination.
Previous speakers have mentioned feed lots. At the present time the feed lot system is not an economic proposition in Australia. We do not have available the feed or the supplements which can make feed lots an economic proposition for the beef industry under Australian conditions. There may be people engaged in this activity in certain specific areas, but the Australian beef industry is not geared to it as is the beef industry in the United States. In the United States there is usually one central farm in an area which is the feed lot. That is the area in which everything is fed, and a farmer running such a lot buys his feed from within a radius of about fifteen miles. Rarely in the United States does one find people carting feed for their cattle for a greater distance than 15 or 20 miles. The cattle to be fed are in the vicinity of the feed lot, and the whole economy of the system runs in a way entirely different from the way it could run in Australia. Australia is not at present prepared for this sort of farming, even though it is true that certain people are experimenting with it. Certainly further research and experimentation needs to be done on it.
One of the most important of the problems in the south concerns reproduction and the various venereal diseases in cattle, which are very hard to detect and extremely difficult to control. This also is a problem which increases with increasing productivity. Our friends in the north are probably as much troubled by it as are graziers in the south.
– Are buffalo also troubled with these diseases?
– I should think that buffalo also get them. Some of these things we do not know how to control, and in regard to others the various State departments of agriculture, because of shortages of man-power and equipment, are just not able to use the intensive methods necessary to stamp out the diseases. So it is not enough to know how to control diseases. We have to make sure that the beef industry as a whole is equipped to deal with the problem, and that means cooperation, not only from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but also from field representatives of the State departments of agriculture. Quite clearly in the future those departments are going to have to be very greatly expanded.
I wish to deal with only one other point, Mr. Speaker. To judge from his speech, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) seems to think that the problems of the industry can be solved by artificial insemination. For the beef industry, artificial insemination is as far away as, or farther away than, flying to the moon. It is an economic proposition for dairy herds if you get the thing properly organized, but even in Australia it is not organized to that extent yet. So far as the beef industry is concerned, although a great deal of research needs to be done on this matter, for various reasons connected with the economy of running herds, whether on small or large properties, it is not an economic proposition. The honorable member for the Northern Territory also mentioned the problem of selecting certain cows to breed young bulls by means of artificial insemination from a proven sire. That is not the answer. To breed good stock you do not just select a cow that looks good, or a bull that looks good, and expect the progeny to be good. You have to go right back into the ancestry of the individual animals, or you do not know how the progeny will turn out. There is a great num ber of people who thought that breeding studs was an easy job in Australia, and there is a great number of people who crashed and lost a great deal of money because they did not realize the complexity of the problems and the difficulties associated with breeding good stud stock that will throw accurately. It is a much more expert business than probably most people in this House realize.
I am very glad the bill has been introduced. It will have a beneficial and lasting effect on the beef industry, and I am glad that it has had the support given to it on both sides of the House.
.- I should like to congratulate the Government on introducing this bill, which can only serve to help a very fine industry. Nevertheless, we must keep the industry in perspective. We must recognize, in the first instance, that in the whole of Australia there is only about one-eighth of the number of cattle that are in the United States of America. But I do not say that our beef industry is a minor one just because we have relatively few cattle.
Because of the tremendous cattle population of America, whatever happens in the American beef industry can be very important in its effect on Australia. Similarly, what happens in other places, such as the Argentine, can be very important to Australia. The Australian cattle industry is doing very well at present as a result of a severe drought some time ago in America, which affected the American beef industry, and because of various troubles through which the Argentine industry has been going.
Though it is not so large as the American beef industry, the Australian beef industry is very important. I was rather disappointed that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) neglected to mention in his speech, among the big beef producing areas, the very fine area around Wide Bay and Burnett, because there we grow some of the finest beef produced in Queensland. We are fortunate, in a way, that at a time when the Channel country is receiving an average of 4 or S inches of rain a year we receive from 45 inches a year on the average, on the coast, to 28 inches a year average about 150 to 200 miles inland. So, from that point of view, the division I represent is particularly blessed. That is not to say that we have no troubles up there. One serious trouble we share with many other places in Queensland is the irregularity of rainfall. In the Burnett area, for example, 22 inches of rain, on an average, fall in the six months’ period that includes the summer months, and 8 inches fall in the other six months of the year, including the winter season. That happens in about four years out of every five. It is obvious that difficulties of this kind are experienced in the northern part of Australia, mostly in Queensland, which has to put up with severe conditions in the winter and spring months. Those conditions are the reverse of the conditions in Victoria, for example, where most of the rain falls in the winter months. While our pastures are green in summer - unless of course there is a drought - their pastures are dry, but they have green pastures in winter when ours look very sick. The dry winter and spring months in Queensland involve us in severe difficulties. We are unable to get good pastures because, for the most part, we have no winter legumes.
A few years ago, I had some of the soil on my farm, from both the flats and the ridges, tested by the Department of Agriculture and Stock, and I was told that the soil on the ridges was equally as good as that on the flats, but that there was a very severe lack of nitrogen on the ridges. The scientists have difficulty in telling us how to put nitrogen on the ridges. It is important for us to know this because the ridges comprise about seven-eighths of the country in that area. Unless you can grow legumes which are naturally selfregenerating, you cannot get nitrogen into the ground cheaply. It does not pay a grazier to spend £4 an acre a year to put ammonium sulphate or urea on his grazing country, so some other means of supplying nitrogen for the ground must be found.
I should like to pay tribute to the work which is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. At present, the organization is engaged upon various tests and examinations in relation to legumes. It has decided that if you could not grow good legumes in Queensland in dry winters, perhaps you could grow good legumes of a different kind in wet summers. There is a possibility now that the C.S.I.R.O. may be developing a legume, if atro is not a good one, which will grow without having to be planted and cultivated. Cultivation is the main trouble with our legumes. If the organization can find a legume which will do well on its own, grazing methods in Queensland, both in relation to the beef and the dairying industries, may change completely. I hope that with the added financial assistance which will flow to the C.S.I.R.O. as a result of this legislation, it should not be long before it will be able to find a solution to the problem of the lack of nitrogen in our grazing country in Queensland.
Another aspect to which I should like to refer is the kind of animal which is produced in Queensland. Some nice beef animals are produced in the south, but we also produce some good ones in Wide Bay. I am thinking more particularly of the dryer and the tropical areas. The C.S.I.R.O. has demonstrated at Belmont that certain tropical breeds are able to use the available grasses better than the British breeds. Although the organization has not been operating at Belmont for a very long time, the discovery to which I have referred is of great importance. I am not carrying a flag for any particular breed of cattle, because we, in this Parliament, should be concerned only with what is best for our nation. As I have said, the C.S.I.R.O. has discovered at Belmont that tropical breeds are able to use dry grass and almost wax fat in a bad time, whereas British breeds languish and lose weight. However, this does not mean that because tropical breeds are doing well at Belmont they will do well in the Channel country. From my examination of the cattle, a beautifully built shorthorn is produced there.
– What about Aberdeen Angus?
– Aberdeen Angus do not do so well in the Channel country. I am afraid that they would starve there, although they do very well on the rich country near the coast. A good-quality beef has been produced in the Channel country. Some graziers from Thargomindah have bought Santa Gertrudis bulls with the idea of conducting some experiments, and they think that, even as good as the shorthorn is, they can improve the breed. But one thing is certain - I am sure the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) will agree with me - the introduction of tropical breeds to the tropics and the tropical coast has been of the very greatest value to Queensland. That is why to-day the tropical breeds are bringing such high prices on the open market. Only recently a grazier in a locality which is just next door to my electorate sold some first-cross Santa Gertrudis cattle at over £300 a head. That was regarded as a good sale, though it has been found that each year as the sales go to the prices of the tropical cross cattle improve. Many thousands of guineas were paid recently for tropical breed bulls.
I pay a tribute to the C.S.I.R.O. for its very careful and complete investigations. It has not made any rash statements to date, but it has discovered enough to know that certain crosses are best. For example, Braford is not as good as it should be. However, in some parts of Queensland the Brangus has proved to be a fairly successful cross with the Santa Gertrudis. The C.S.I.R.O. is continuing its experiments to ascertain the best breeds of animals to cross to obtain a strain which will flourish in our tropical areas. I commend the organization on its work. As the years go by and it obtains more data on which to base its conclusions, 1 am sure that we shall see better results.
Mention has been made about the eradication of the cattle tick. Those of us who have cattle know the trouble that we have experienced in the past with the tick. Its eradication is most difficult, but any one who goes to the trouble of getting rid of the tick - and it is not really so difficult in the short-term - is immediately confronted with the problem of red water. I have experienced it myself. I do not know whether the ticks next door decide to have a look through the fence. All I know is that as soon as you get your cattle clean you are in serious trouble with red water.
Then there is the problem of developing the country in areas with a reasonable rainfall in order to improve upon the grasses which are already there. I have in mind the spear grass country. There are millions of acres of spear grass country on the eastern coast of Queensland. This grass is all right when it is young and green, but it matures quickly and rapidly loses quality until finally it is almost useless. The scientists in the Department of Agriculture and Stock, to whom I pay tribute, have proved that when you get rid of the spear grass by cultivation, and when you plant a better grass, you can improve the carrying capacity of your land from one beast to 14 or 15 acres to one beast to 3 acres.
– You supplement it with a legume.
– Especially if you supplement it with a legume. You then get a balanced ration when the animals are pastured on that area. We can imagine what it would mean if we could improve the quality of our grass. Even though a great deal of money might be involved, if we could get rid of the spear grass, plant a legume, and give the land the proper attention, we could increase fourfold or fivefold the carrying capacity on the millions of acres to which I have referred. That has been proved. The honorable member for Herbert has multiplied the carrying capacity of his property by about eight as the result of introducing legumes in a high rainfall area. I understand that a neighbour of his has over 4,000 acres on which he would be able to run 3,500 more cattle if it were possible for him to develop the pastures fully.
These things show what can be done in Queensland, and this is where the scientist deserves praise because he leads the way. In Gayndah in my own division some very good work on pastures is being done at the present time. Supplementary feeding sounds a very good thing, but up to date the graziers in Queensland who have been most successful have been able to make more money by range-feeding because this is only a matter of running the cattle in a particular paddock for a certain length of time. But the time must come when supplementary feeding, lot-feeding and the feeding of surplus cane will prove to be economically sound. At the present time some men in Queensland are doing very well indeed by feeding surplus cane as well is protein supplements. The reason is that the cane would otherwise be destroyed; and they are able to get it cheaply. It is all a question of economics. It is easy to tell a grazier to lot-feed and to spend money to get better pastures, but unless the price of cattle remains this work cannot be done. The scientist will tell him what to do but it is then a matter of economics as to whether he can afford to carry out what is necessary so that the benefit of the scientists’ experience may be gained.
Finally, I wish to speak for a moment 01 two about transport. I had the good fortune to have a look at the Channel country and surrounding areas just before Christmas, and I also had talks with experienced men out there. In Longreach, one of those men told me that it cost his company £4 13s. a head to cart cattle from the supply areas a few hundred miles to the railhead. Had the roads been open those cattle could have been walked in for less than £1 a head. It is necessary, therefore, to consider what gain is to be obtained from spending, say, another £4 a head to transport cattle moderate distances to the railhead, over and above the cost of walking them in. I admit that if there is no grass on the stock route the cattle cannot be taken on foot. If water is missing at various points - as is the case at the present time near Quilpie - and the cattle have to walk for three days without a drink, then it is a risk to take them to the railhead on foot.
The advantage of transporting cattle by motor vehicle has to be considered against that of walking them. The grazier has to consider whether it is worth the extra £4 or more a head to transport them instead of walking them in. The graziers themselves will decide that as time goes on. One factor which will influence their decision will be the quality of transport and the road available. If there is a good bitumen road for the most part and the cattle are to be taken by big stock trains there will be little bruising, and the graziers will argue that it is worth their while to avoid losses of condition which would result from walking the cattle. It is all a matter of money. We can imagine how serious this proposition is for the grazier if he has to decide to shift 2,000 head of cattle at £4 a head from a drought-stricken area to the railhead. Then he will have to pay rail freight to transport them to a better area and. in addition, agistment fees if he can find suitable grazing to keep the cattle going until times change. If bitumen roads are available, transport is a fairly reasonable proposition, lt has been found, to date, that the cost of transport over bitumen roads is about a quarter less than that over gravel roads - the difference between £3 and £4 a head. There is less wear and tear on the road trains or semi-trailers which may be used. Those who have had cattle carted over bitumen and gravel roads have made considerable savings whenever a bitumen road has been available because there is less damage to the cattle.
But it is not sufficient solely to consider the transport of cattle; water supplies must be considered as well. Here I suggest that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or some other body, must go into the question of saving the water which runs to waste in Australia. In Queensland there is too much water on the coast running to waste, whereas there is not enough of it in the Western districts. I have seen a report prepared for the Queensland Government which condemned the Bradfield scheme as not being economically feasible. I have not the time to go into details. I am not concerned whether the Bradfield scheme is economically possible. What I submit is that as soon as possible we must get going and find means of making water available and prevent it from running to waste into the ocean.
.- This debate has been most interesting. It has reflected a consensus of opinion, and all honorable members who have listened attentively to those who have spoken from both sides of the House have been impressed by their knowledge of the conditions existing in the beef cattle industry. Honorable members on the Government side of the House have congratulated the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on the conclusion of another successful agreement with primary producing organizations in Australia, and I should like to do likewise. In the short time the Minister has occupied the portfolio of primary industry, there have been many changes in the set-up of primary producers and their industries. The Minister seems to have the ability to be straight out with people and put a position very frankly before various organizations which have previously not been able to come together.
We should all remember that these negotiations have been going on for a considerable time, and that the Minister has brought them to fruition. This proposal adds another great scheme to those already in operation in respect of the wool, wheat, dairying and tobacco industries. After hearing the honorable members who have spoken on the bill, there can be no doubt that the proposed research into the beef cattle industry is vital. It is obvious that the two main problems confronting the industry are cattle tick and pleuropneumonia. I sometimes wonder how the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization manages to keep up with the many jobs that are thrust upon it, and how the members of the staff withstand the pressure that is constantly exerted on them. But, somehow or other, they seem to do so. We expect, therefore, that they will be able to come up in the near future with solutions to these two problems that I have mentioned.
In the electorate of Indi, and in Victoria generally, we are not faced with these problems to any great extent. However, I was interested to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) speak of the need for pasture improvement in Victoria and, indeed, throughout Australia. I am certain that the farmers in Victoria would agree that pasture improvement is needed in that State.
My view of this bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that regardless of the State in which we live and the problems that we are confronted with individually, we should approach the measure with a national outlook. We should ask ourselves: What is the best that we can do for the cattle and beef industry and, consequently, for Australia? Individually, perhaps, we all know more about our own States, but we should ask ourselves: What will be good for Australia? We should have a national outlook. I am sure that we all have been very much impressed by the potential of Queensland. As the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) have said, there are tremendous transport problems in that very large State. It should be obvious to any one that an examination of the transport situation by the Common wealth Government in the very near future would be very good for the primary industries, and particularly for the beef industry.
In the scheme envisaged in this measure, we see another example of the kind of partnership that is favoured by this Government in all fields, including primary and secondary industry. Only in this way can we expect to achieve any success. We must have a partnership between the Government and the people who are actually engaged in each industry. We should say to the farming community, “ Please take advantage of the results that will flow from the research done under the scheme to be inaugurated by this measure “.
As I listened to the previous speaker in this debate, Sir, I wondered what interest was taken by the members of the general public who were present in the galleries of the House and those who were listening on the radio. I venture to say that they take very little interest in this bill because, apparently, it does not directly concern them. But the people of Australia should realize that anything that helps the primary industries directly concerns every Australian, because the primary industries earn the export income that is the backbone of our economy and is vital to our internal development. So it entered my head, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the general public should realize that this bill is- of great importance to their future.
I was very pleased to hear the word “ quality “ mentioned in the Minister’s second-reading speech as being the key word. Every member of this Parliament, in his own small way, should, at all times, encourage industries to aim at quality. We should1 encourage both manufacturers and primary producers to produce goods of high quality. When people overseas see the words “Product of Australia “ on an article, no matter what it is, they should be able to have confidence that it will be of the highest possible quality.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this bill obviously will further Australia’s interests by helping us to realize our potential and to enhance our status and our place in the world, within the limits’ set by our population. Let us not try to run the affairs of every other country, but let us be known as a peace-loving people and a great trading nation. This bill will help an industry that, as has been mentioned by other speakers, has a potential that is probably greater than that of any other export primary industry in Australia. Anything that can be done to assist this industry will result only in good for this great country.
– in reply - Mr. Deputy Speaker, first I should like to express my regret at not having been able to hear the whole of the debate last evening. However, the colleague who deputized for me made notes of the debate for my benefit. I greatly appreciate the general tenor of the approach to the bill, and I appreciate particularly the support for it that was voiced on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and by succeeding Opposition speakers.
At this stage, I intend to deal with some of the points that were raised. The honorable member for Lalor asked me whether the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee would be able to own property. It will be able to purchase property to be used entirely for research. If the need for the property later disappears, the committee will have power to sell it and to reimburse the Cattle and Beef Research Trust Account. This is provided for in the functions of the committee.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) mentioned several matters in respect of which he suggested that research was urgently needed, and many other honorable members made similar suggestions in respect of various problems. It will all be a matter of priority. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) made a special plea for the north of Australia, and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) also advocated special attention to the needs of northern Australia. Research, of course, is not done on a strictly geographical basis. In the main, the research envisaged in this bill will be applicable to the entire cattle and beef industry.
If I understood him correctly, the honorable member for the Northern Territory asked whether new research institutions would be established. It is not envisaged that new institutions will be established, because we intend to work through the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the State agriculture departments and the universities. I think that all of these bodies are already doing an excellent job. I am sure that, even if any expansion of their activities is entailed, they will continue to do this work, for which they are well qualified, so long as they can get staff with the necessary qualifications.
– Would the Minister expand the existing institutions if necessary?
– The funds which will be provided for the respective organizations will enable them to pay for additional staff if they decide that it is needed. It will not be for me to say whether more staff is needed. I shall make my decisions based on the recommendations made by the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee. However, I shall have first-hand knowledge of what is happening, because a representative of the Department of Primary Industry will be a member of the committee. So, when I am called upon to accept or reject a recommendation of the committee, I will know the basis of it. All members of the committee must of necessity be experienced men; they would not be at the head of primary industry organizations or other bodies if they did not have the necessary experience, and I think that we may expect a balanced approach to the problems. There is a real urgency for research in the beef industry, as almost every honorable member who has spoken has stressed. We cannot go along haphazardly.
The suggestion has been put to me in the course of discussions with deputations and other groups that we are probably placing too much emphasis on quality when the world is seeking some third-grade meat. I cannot accept that contention. The only lasting basis on which any industry can be built is quality, and I want to emphasize that. The very fact that we have been able to sell our third-grade meat in America has given us an opportunity to clean out poor quality beasts, but having done that, we should build up with quality. What is wrong with a future that replaces thirdgrade meat with first-grade meat? Australia will stand by that, and that is my approach.
Transport has been mentioned as a vital factor in the production and distribution of quality meat. Of course it is vital, but it is stretching the meaning of research a bit far to say that it would cover transport problems. No doubt the committee would be prepared to give some advice on transport matters, or even to make some tests, but I would hardly think - I do not want honorable members to be misled - that it is for the committee to solve transport and distribution problems; that is getting beyond research.
I appreciate the approach that has been made by honorable members to the bill. Since the point raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory is a committee matter, I shall say a few words on the proposed amendment at that stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to establish a cattle and beef research trust account, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 8 - by leave - taken together.
.- I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to explain to me the meaning of clause 5 (1.), which reads -
There shall be paid into the Research Account -
amounts equal to the amounts of levy received by the Commonwealth under the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1960 (including amounts received from proprietors of abattoirs in accordance with section five of that Act and amounts payable by way of penalty in accordance with section seven of that Act);
subject to the next succeeding subsection, amounts equal to one-half of the amounts from time to time payable out of the Research Account in accordance with this Act;
I should like to know whether the Commonwealth will make its contribution immediately or, if not, what time will elapse after the committee seeks money from the Commonwealth for certain research projects before the money is paid. The delay could be considerable. No provision appears to have been made to guarantee a bank overdraft on which the committee could operate. The levies could be collected from the cattle interests, but one wonders at what time and in what amounts the Commonwealth’s contribution will be made to the fund.
– There may be some misapprehension as to the intention of the clause, but at the outset I assure honorable members that the Commonwealth will pay the full £l-for-£l subsidy. The Commonwealth’s contribution will only equal the amount of expenditure from time to time. However, the full amount will be appropriated and credit will be given for the balance not expended. This means that it is not necessary for the Commonwealth to pay the whole of its share in the first year while the committee is, perhaps, making its plans. But the committee can count on the whole amount being available. That is the reason for the wording of the clause.
.- Clause 6 enumerates the purposes for which the research account may be applied, and they include “ the training of persons for the purposes of any such research “. Will the research committee be empowered to provide for training of such persons in the elements of research at universities or other appropriate institutions? Another purpose stated is -
The publication of reports, periodicals, books and papers in connexion with scientific, economic or technical matters related either directly or indirectly to the raising of cattle or . . . the slaughter of cattle.
Will the research committee set up its own propaganda machine; will it issue such publications to disseminate its findings throughout Australia? Is it envisaged that the committee will set up an organization in respect of the training of persons and issuance of publications parallel to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State stock departments, or will such activities be undertaken in conjunction with existing scientific organizations?
– I thinkI answered the honorable member’s queries in my concluding remarks when I was replying to the second-reading debate.
There is no intention to set up new organizations. If sufficient officers are not available to the research committee to undertake research, funds can be provided to train additional officers.
.- The range of subjects on which money may be expended is very wide, and that is very desirable. But it is significant that whilst provision is made for economic and technical research no provision is made for the representation of such activities on the research committee. It may be that the representative of the Department of Primary Industry will be an economics man, or, perhaps, a man from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics; but there still remains the technical side. Further, will the Minister indicate whether attention is likely to be given to transport and handling problems, as some engineering advice may be required? Is it intended that the committee will coopt specialists in the fields I have mentioned?
– Obviously, we could not have on a committee of this sort representatives of every section of the community. So, we have to strike a balance, and I think we have done so in the bill. But the committee will have power to coopt experts in any particular field. I think that will meet the honorable member’s requirements.
.- Clause 6 is the kernel of the bill. It sets out in eight paragraphs the purposes for which the money in the research account can be applied. I think it is wise to remind honorable members that whilst the producer of beef cattle will be called upon to pay up to 2s. a head in respect of beasts killing out at 200 lb. or more, Consolidated Revenue, which is of course derived from every taxpayer in accordance with his ability to pay, will supplement, £l-for-£l, the funds provided by the primary producers. To that extent the community as a whole will finance the purposes set out in clause 6.
It is also important to note that clause 6 vests the Minister with very great power indeed. It vests him with power to approve the purposes for which this money may be expended. Thus the Minister has a power of veto; but, conversely, he cannot approve a project which the expert committee does not recommend. However, in the final analysis, the Minister is the Czar. He will control the whole of the money which goes into the research account, and therefore, he will have very great power indeed. I do not say that a Minister in any Government would act as a Czar; but I have always considered that under any measure which provides money from public funds the Minister should be vested with sufficient authority to act as a watch dog of public funds, and indeed funds contributed by primary producers. I know that the Minister’s party has not always agreed with that viewpoint.
My next point is that the research committee will be safeguarded inasmuch as the Minister cannot approve a project unless the committee itself recommends it. That may well be too great a power to give to the committee. A Minister with the intelligence of the Minister at the table may come to the conclusion that the committee is not devoting sufficient attention, for instance, to economic aspects of the industry, and he may find that despite any representations he makes to it, indicating that he is not satisfied, it may ignore him. The Minister may believe that the committee is not devoting sufficient attention to marketing and transport. He may feel disposed to say to the committee, “ Whilst it is true you are operating very wisely on technical and scientific research, I think you should do more in regard to the end destination of the meat, the point at which it reaches the purchaser “. As we know, under present-day marketing conditions, the purchaser is an absolute Czar and determines just what he will pay for the beef of the primary producer. The Minister may wish to say to the committee, “ If you will not devote some attention to this angle, I feel disposed to direct you to do something about it. Get busy and obtain an adviser under the power granted in clause 15 of the bill - an adviser well-versed in economics and accountancy - to have a look at the books of some of the people who process meat in Australia - the big export houses “. As honorable members who are primary producers know, people in this country and interests from other countries have taken millions out of beef production in Australia. Unless that angle is investigated, under the powers vested in the committee, then while I would not go so far as to say that all other angles of investigation would be futile, they may not be as effective in the end result as they should be. However, I merely point out that circumstance. Overall, I agree that the Minister should exercise the powers vested in him.
– I do not want to debate the issue with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), because I agree with practically everything he has said. I hope, of course, that the committee will be responsible enough to take notice of any matter which the Minister considers should receive urgent consideration, and that it will do its best to meet that circumstance.
On the question of ministerial direction, let me say that although we have differed in the past from the honorable member for Lalor, we have always recognized the principle - at least I have - that if the Government provides some of the funds, there should be some power reposed in the Minister. I have always contended that if a committee is set up and part of its funds is provided by the Government, the Minister should have some power of direction. Our difference has been in reference to committees to which the Government is making no contribution.
– There has always been government backing in matters of this kind. The guaranteed price for wheat is one example. I am glad to see the Minister is a reformed character.
– I do not know that I have reformed. I have always stood for the principle that if the Government provides 50 per cent or some portion of the finance for a committee, then the Government should have some representation on it, if only as a recognition of government responsibility.
I think the other matters referred to have been made clear.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister seem to agree that the Minister should have certain powers vested in him, as has been provided in many other pieces of legislation dealing with primary production. We have always known that the Minister has had these powers vested in him, but what really matters is the manner in which the Minister uses those powers. In the past, when we have been in opposition, we have sometimes claimed that Ministers of another government have not used their powers to the best advantage and in the best interests of primary production. If the honorable member for Lalor is apprehensive regarding the way in which these powers may be used, let me say to him that I have every confidence that the present Minister will use them to the best advantage of primary producers. If something unforeseen happened and the Government was changed, it is probable that the honorable member for Lalor would become the Minister for Primary Industry, and he would then have to decide how to use these powers. I hope that from past experience, and remembering the protests made by the Opposition when he was the responsible Minister, the honorable member will have learned enough to know that the general public, and especially primary producers, do not like undue interference by Ministers.
.- I want to reply to some remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He suggested that there might be some interference with the committee by outside organizations, and that the Minister might not be able to exercise sufficient control over the committee. If honorable members will study the clause dealing with the constitution of the committee, they will see that eleven members out of the twelve must be appointed by the Minister, and four of those eleven will be semi-governmental employees. The Minister obviously will have control in that direction. Another point is that the members may hold office for only three years.
– Order! I think the honorable member is discussing clause 9. We are now dealing with clauses 1 to 8. I realize that the honorable member for Lalor mentioned clause 9, but only in passing, saying that he would speak further on that clause when it came before the committee for discussion.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 9- (1.) The Committee shall consist of -
– I move -
In clause 9, at the end of sub-clause (1.) add the following paragraph: - “ (i) one person, nominated by the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees’ Association and the Central Australian Pastoral Lessees’ Association, to represent the beef cattle producers of the Northern Territory.”.
I move this amendment because I feel that if the committee is constituted as proposed in the bill, the producers of the Northern Territory will not have their interests looked after in the manner in which they are entitled to have them looked after. The proposed constitution provides adequate representation for the eastern States of Australia, but no attempt has been made to provide similar representation for the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory is a not insignificant producer of beef cattle. It yields pride of place only to Queensland, which is the predominant beef-producing State, and to New South Wales. The Northern Territory is the third largest beef-producing area in Australia, with production higher than in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania. On a proportionate basis, therefore, the Territory is entitled to wider representation on the committee.
Another point is that the Northern Territory producers will contribute to the fund in hard cash. For this reason they are entitled to have a representative to exercise some influence with regard to the methods of research and the priorities to be allocated. When the Minister made his secondreading speech on this bill he had this to say -
This bill is the outcome of negotiations with primary producer organizations that have been proceeding for a considerable time. The general principles of the scheme were originally submitted by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia. The plan has also been approved by the Australian Agricultural Council.
The Minister said, further -
For the purposes of administering the trust account, the legislation provides for the establish ment of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee. It will consist of four representatives from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, two representatives from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, and one representative from the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation.
One of the speakers on the Government side suggested that the acceptance of my amendment would further delay the implementation of this scheme. I am afraid I cannot see his point. If the Government neglected in the first place to consult the Northern Territory associations, to take them into its confidence and ask what their views were, I do not think we can be held to blame if a delay occurs. I remind the committee that any such delay would not be considerable. We are about to rise for a recess of three weeks, and by the time we meet again the matter could be finalized, after consultation with the other interested bodies.
Here again, I do not think that those bodies that have been mentioned as having representation on the committee would object. Surely one set of producer organizations would not object to another producer organization being represented on that body. From the Government’s point of view, I do not feel that it would make any difference because the Government is already in a minority on the committee. Its representatives, I think, totalling seven whereas the producers’ representatives total eight. The work of the committee would go on, the Government would not be disadvantaged over the proposition, and the committee itself would be more representative of the whole of the beef industry.
I urge the appointment of a representative to present the point of view of the Northern Territory because the problems of the Territory are not similar to the problems of cattle-raising in southern areas. During this debate, matters have been raised by the representatives of primary producers from all over Australia. Stress has been laid on the difference that exists between raising cattle in different parts of Australia, and on the problems that are peculiar to different localities. The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) spoke about ticks, rightly drawing attention to that problem in his area. Members from Victoria drew attention to the need for more pasture improvement. All these things are part and parcel of a pattern which must be looked at from an overall point of view. To say that there will be very experienced and learned persons on this body who should be able to look after the cattle interests of the Northern Territory is to beg the question. The people who pay the piper, at least to some degree, should call the tune.
We feel that the Northern Territory has particular problems. For instance, there are marketing problems peculiar to the north that have to be solved. We also have the problem of marketing in the south including South Australia for which we supply the bulk of its meat requirements. We also market our meat to the north and this could mean that the whole of the production of the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory could go north and not find its way to the south. These are matters, not merely tor research, but matters peculiar to the locality that I represent.
I raise these matters because I feel that the whole debate has been conducted in a non-party atmosphere. Political party rancour has not entered into it. Members of all parties have sought to do the best that they could for the industry as a whole. They have not asked for representation of one particular section at the expense of another. We are trying, at this stage, to hammer out something that will be in the best interests of the whole of the pastoral industry.
The proposed amendment should not embarrass the Government because it has not been actuated by party considerations. It is the result of consultation with primary producers’ organizations. I appeal to honorable members, whether Liberal, Country Party or Labour, to view the amendment that I submit, not as a move by a Labour representative who is trying to score at the expense of the Government, but as a move in the interests of a section of this great industry which will not otherwise be directly represented on the committee despite the fact that it will contribute considerable sums of money to the work of the committee.
I ask honorable members to disregard the claim that other pastoral representatives on the committee will be able to look after the interests of the Northern Terri tory. That is not the point. We feel that we should have our own representative - somebody whom we can direct. We cannot direct other persons on the committee. No matter how capable they are, we cannot say to them, “ The industry in the Northern Territory feels that this should be done “. But they will be influenced by their own respective organizations. The Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers’ Federation, and the Graziers’ Federal Council of Australia will all be able to influence the work of their representatives.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, there appears to be no reason why the phrase “ one person to represent “ should not be applied also to the Australian Meat Board instead of using the specific term “ the Chairman of the Board “. I am not very clear about the position of the person representing the universities. Who will actually appoint him? This clause specifies - one person to represent such Universities as engage in research into matters affecting the beef industry;
There is no organization that I know of representing our universities as a whole. The University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and the other universities have only their individual identity. I think that there is a vice-chancellors conference which meets annually, but I feel that some provision should be made for the selection of this representative, possibly from a panel of names to be submitted by the universities concerned. Some universities are doing extremely good work. In the University of Queensland, on the veterinary side, the work being done is vitally important to the future of the beef industry and it has very great significance indeed.
To some extent, I join forces, I think, with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in that he and I live in the rather remote north. The debate in the last day or so may have suggested that, after all, the north is fairly close to us; but it is not. It is very remote. All the time, we are up against this rather frustrating feeling that, over the years, very little attention has been paid to the requirements of the north and that not sufficient people have an appreciation of its problems. We are not represented very strongly in the Commonwealth Parliament, either here or in another place.
– The north sends very good members though.
– Thank you very much. But there are very few of us. The honorable member for the Northern Territory the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) and 1 have discussed this subject at great length and we feel that it is very difficult to convey our point of view to other members. I think that the honorable member for the Northern Territory will share my hope that the representatives on this committee will be men with an overall approach to this problem of beef cattle research and will realize where the research can do the most good for the beef cattle industry.
.- I support the amendment. It will be noted that the amendment refers to the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association and the Central Australian Pastoral Lessees Association, indicating quite clearly that in the Northern Territory there are two primary producers’ organizations which are interested in pastoral work and, inevitably, in beef cattle. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and every other member of the House knows that the Northern Territory covers an enormous expanse of country - so great indeed, that primary producers in the Northern Territory have found that even in their own area they require two organizations to deal with the problems with which they are confronted.
Surely it is reasonable to suggest that in those circumstances the pastoralists in that vast territory should have representation on this new committee. It is all very fine to say that representatives of pastoralist associations from Queensland and other parts of Australia can make representations to the committee which will adequately serve the purposes and needs of the people of the Northern Territory; but when you consider the remoteness of the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia from the rest of Australia, and the difficulties of contact between the members of pastoralist organizations in the south of Australia and members of the Northern Territory organi zations, it is easy to see the difficulties involved. The Northern Territory has no department of agriculture, as each of the States has. When you consider that, and the fact that their very remoteness always gives the people of the Northern Territory a sense of grievance and a consciousness of the difficulty of getting through to the people in authority in the south the difficulties and economic problems which concern them, it is obvious that it is desirable to bring Northern Territory pastoralists physically and spiritually - mentally, if you like - into contact with those who are dealing with their problems. They have not even asked for representatives of each of the two organizations to be placed on the committee. Even the honorable member for the Northern Territory does not ask for that; but he asks that at least one representative to act for these two organizations should be able to step on to an aircraft at Alice Springs or Darwin and within a few hours be sitting in on a meeting of this committee in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or wherever it might be held.
The result would be that the representative of a lot of people who feel physically divorced from the people in other parts of Australia could be absorbing wisdom from representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the departments, the universities and pastoral areas in other parts of Australia. In due course, after discussions in which he would gain from the expert knowledge of other members of the committee, and would give them the benefit of his expert knowledge of the Territory, he could return home and report on what had happened. When any problem arose for discussion he could say, “ I have been down to Sydney to the Australian Meat Board’s office. I have had my feet under the table with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization men, Australian Agricultural Council men and university men, and the problem you are concerned with has been dealt with by these people.” It is something intimate, something close!
I know that the Minister will admit that time without number, in relation to bills which have provided for the appointment of export control boards, this party has moved repeatedly for representation of the trade unions. In my day as Minister we had representation of trade unions on various export control boards. But on every occasion on which the Minister has been asked for such representation, and on every occasion on which we have moved an amendment to give the workers representation on such bodies, his heart has been as hard as steel and as unyielding as flint. On this occasion we have moved an amendment to give representation on this committee to two remote primary producers’ organizations, in order to help to win their hearts and minds, and bring to them an appreciation of what the people’s meed of taxation which will go into this fund, is being used for. And the Minister, I am afraid, with a heart as hard as it has been on the occasions when we asked for trade union representation on export control boards, says that to accept the amendment might delay the passage of the measure. What is his own Government doing? We have been here for three weeks in the period since Christmas. This House is adjourning to-night until the end of the month, and this bill will not pass the Senate - let the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) grin if he likes - for another three weeks or a month. In that time the Cabinet will meet and you, Mr. Minister, if your heart were warmed a bit - it is not so cold as I might allege, perhaps - will have the opportunity to tell the Cabinet of the appeal from the member for the Northern Territory which, I believe, has the sympathy of a number of other honorable members. You, with your powers of persuasion, will be able, I believe, to persuade the Government to give representation on this committee to these people from the Northern Territory. Where does the delay come in? It is the simplest thing in the world to do.
The Opposition’s amendment goes right to the heart of the problem. There is a technical deficiency in it, inasmuch as there is no provision in it for inserting the proposed new clause as subject matter over which the Minister has no control, but that is purely a technical drafting problem. I appeal to the Minister to accept this proposal. If he cannot accept the amendment now I ask him at least to give us a promise that the Government will insert the amendment in the measure before it goes to the Senate, or have the amendment moved in the Senate, so that these people will have representation on the committee. Honorable members opposite all shed crocodile tears from time to time about the people in the Northern Territory, their needs, their troubles, their problems and their isolation. These people have no Cabinet representative, they have no State department of agriculture, no university, no body within the vastness of their own territory to whom they can fly, or even walk, for advice and help with their problems.
No doubt the committee will not be unconscious of the problems of these people. But if the dairy farmers, the wool and meat producers, and the Graziers Federal Council, are entitled to representation on the committee, surely in the name of common sense these people in this isolated part of this great country, with all the disadvantages they suffer from, should also be given recognition. Could that do any harm, Mr. Minister? Even you would not say it could. Having a representative of these people on the committee could not do any harm, and could do an infinite amount of good. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. No delay would be involved in the implementation of the measure. I appeal to him to have the amendment moved in the Senate in three or four weeks’ time.
– I think that I had better state the Government’s attitude to the amendment. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in seeking the appointment of a representative of the Northern Territory’s two pastoral organizations, said that it was not specified in the bill that there should be on the committee a representative from that area. I say to him that the area whence any of these representatives of the three organizations covered in the bill are to come from is not specified. The second point I want to make is that the Graziers Federal Council is entitled to four representatives. The Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association is affiliated with that organization, and there is nothing to stop the graziers’ federal organization from appointing a member of the Northern Territory organization if it wished to do so. The other organization is seeking affiliation, and no doubt will succeed, so it will be in a like category in the near future.
The Graziers Federal Council has the right to nominate two representatives on the Australian Meat Board, and two men were appointed, one from Queensland and one from the Northern Territory. Will the organizations not be as fair in their selection of representatives on this research committee as they have been in the past? I repeat - they are affiliated with the Graziers Federal Council, so provision is made for the appointment to the committee of a representative from the Northern Territory if so recommended by the graziers organization. I go further. It would be a breach of faith on my part, with the Australian Agricultural Council, if I were to accept any arrangements other than those which have been made with the organizations. After negotiations, the six State Ministers have agreed on this basis of representation, although there was a divergence of opinion amongst them at our first two meetings. After consultation and discussion we made a unanimous recommendation to the Cabinet relating to what we felt was a fair basis of representation, and the Cabinet accepted our recommendation.
There is no reason why the organizations cannot be recognized. It would be a breach of faith on my part, too, having regard to the arrangements which were made, to state to the organizations which have accepted this basis of representation of 4-2-1 that another graziers’ representative should be appointed. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- The Minister’s statement is very sound. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), during the course of his. speech, said to me, “You can grin if you like”. I was not grinning at what he was saying about the amendment but at his total disregard for time. In trying to make the. best case that he could, he said, “ We have been here for only three weeks since Christmas “. We have been here for five weeks. I have always appreciated the fair way in which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) presents a proposition to the Parliament, although we cannot always agree with him.
– Then why not back him up?
– I said that we do not always agree with him. The honorable member defeated his own argument. He said that we have had points of view put forward by different men from different parts of Australia. He said that the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) had spoken about the cattle tick, and that honorable members from Victoria, stating a case for the southern portion of Australia, had dealt with pasture improvement. Then he went on to say - I wrote it down while he was speaking - that all these things are part of a pattern that must be looked at from an overall point of view. That is exactly what he said, and “ Hansard “ will show it word for word. I agree with the honorable member that matters such as pasture improvement, tick eradication and so on must be looked at from the overall point of view. That is exactly what the Minister is doing - looking at the matter from the overall Australian point of view. Let us consider the representatives who will be appointed to the committee. They will come from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Agricultural Council, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is an Australia-wide organization, the Department of Primary Industry, whose activities cover the whole of Australia, and the universities, which more or less represent Australia. This is a bill for Australia. If a Minister were to accept this amendment, why should not the Queenslanders also, who come from a part of Australia which goes right to the border of the Northern Territory, be represented? Why should not the great western district of Victoria, which produces some of our finest quality cattle, be represented? Why should not Gippsland be represented? But why should not these specific areas be represented? If the Northern Territory is to be represented, it should be represented as part of the Australia-wide pattern.
If I could logically support the honorable member for the Northern Territory I would be happy to do so, but’ on this occasion I find it to be impossible.
.- The honorable member for the Northern
Territory (Mr. Nelson) in a very wellreasoned appeal to the committee has sought the endorsement of his amendment. In an earlier debate the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in a broadminded speech, approved a suggestion which was made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. Why should the Northern Territory have representation? That question has been answered by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). He, on occasions, makes a special case for Victoria in relation to the distribution of the petrol tax, and for additional funds for roads. He feels it necessary to make a special case for Victoria. The honorable member for the Northern Territory feels it necessary to make a special case for the Northern Territory - on this occasion a very, very special case. The Northern Territory has a special problem which is not exactly the same as the problems which confront other parts of the Commonwealth, and because the Northern Territory has a special problem k seems only reasonable that the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory should receive the support of the committee.
Of course, the mentality of the Government on matters of this kind is easily understood. It has always adopted the attitude that the Northern Territory is a subject area and that the people of the Northern Territory are subject people. The attitude is that there is no need to have representation from the Northern Territory because the brains trust at Canberra or somewhere else can speak for the Territory. But the manner in which the Government treats the Northern Territory is well known. Its representative in this place does not have a vote. Thus, we deny the people of the Territory the opportunity to take part in the law making of this country. If a complete investigation is to be made, we should address ourselves to the problem where it is most acute. There are many parts of Australia where the necessity for scientific investigation into the cattle industry is not nearly as acute as it is in the Northern Territory. It is true that the Territory has a very great turn-off of stock, but what is to be done with that area to make it more profitable and to increase its earning power so that it can make a greater contribution to the national income? T thought that that was an aspect to which the bill, in its broad conception, was being addressed, but unfortunately we are going to miss this opportunity to do the best that we can for the Territory.
Again I ask - what objection can there be to a representative from the Northern Territory being a member of the committee? Does the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) seriously suggest that the organizations and the people whom he has named are the only ones who hold the complete answers to this problem, and the only ones who can apply their minds constructively in the search for information relating to the cattle industry? I do not think that the addition of a representative from the Northern Territory would make the committee unwieldy. In fact, it should make it much more effective. If the committee were to agree to the proposal, it would show a broadness of vision and an understanding of the industry. The right honorable member for Cowper had no hesitation in saying that he supported the proposition, and I suggest to the Country Party members in this place that they should support the amendment which was so ably proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. It would not cause any damage; it would not add to the cost, but it would bring to the proposed committee a person with a specialized understanding of the problems of the Northern Territory. In the end, this must be of great value to the industry. If it makes one contribution as a result of the inclusion of a representative of the cattle producers in the Northern Territory then it will have much to commend it. I should like to see the committee agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. It would have the effect of enabling the proposed research committee to work in the broad interests of the nation and would enable the interests of those engaged in the beef cattle industry in the Northern Territory to be fully safeguarded.
– Although T sympathize with the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) T agree with the explanation given bv the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in rejecting the honorable member’s amendment. The member’s statement that the Australian Meat Board has always given sympathetic consideration to the Northern Territory fully covers the point.
But it is not my object to talk to the amendment. I refer to paragraph (d) of clause 9 (1.) which provides that there shall be one representative of the Australian Dairy Farmers’ Federation on the research committee. That is a clear indication that the Government realizes that the dairy industry will contribute substantially to the fund which will be provided by the levy. It would have been much better - although I do not want to break up this bill as the honorable member for the Northern Territory is trying to do by moving an amendment, and thereby entail referring the matter back to the States for approval - if there had not been provision on the proposed committee for a representative of the Australian Dairy Farmers’ Federation, but, instead, provision for the allocation of a percentage of the fund to the Dairy Research Committee.
When one analyses the present situation one finds that about 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, of the money that will be raised by this levy will come from dairy farmers. About £300,000 a year will be collected by this means, and of that sum approximately £45,000 will come from the dairy farmers, who are not interested in making cattle bigger and better types of beef producers. Their main objective is to produce more milk and butter, and they have to face all the problems in that direction, including manufacture. I am stating this point of view because I want it to be put on record. In my own electorate there are 450,000 head of dairy cattle, and if 10 per cent, of those killed each year, it will mean that £45,000 will go out of my district to the proposed cattle and beef research trust account. If that money were allocated directly to the Dairy Research Committee we would obtain far greater benefits.
It is only common sense that the Dairy Research Committee could spend this money for its own purposes better than it could be spent in the interests of the beet cattle industry. It would have been better if a clause had been included in the bill to provide that 15 per cent, of the levy should go to the Dairy Research Committee. That would have been far more satisfactory than having one representative of the dairy farmers on a committee of twelve. That representative certainly will not have much power; he will have very little influence. I know that the other night the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the dairy farmers want everything.
– I didn’t say that at all.
– The honorable member interjected the other night to that effect.
– I did not say that they wanted everything. Tell the truth.
– The honorable member interjected and asked, “ What about the grant they get?”
– That is right; that is better.
– That grant is purely for efficiency and for extension work. It does not cover research work. The purpose of this bill is partly research, and that is what the Dairy Research Committee is also engaged in.
– There is a dairy research fund.
– I know that, but the effect of this measure is to make the dairy farmers pay twice. They have to pay a levy on each lb. of butter or cheese that is produced, and when a dairy cow is killed they have to pay a beef levy of 2s. a head. The beef cattle industry is trying to get this benefit at the expense of the dairy farmer. The money that will be raised to go into research for the production of better and bigger beef cattle will not help the dairy farmer one iota. The dairy farmers have to pay 2s. a head for each dairy cow that is slaughtered and by that time they are generally only boners, canners or crackers weighing on the average 3 cwt. or 4 cwt. whereas the average beef animal weighs 6 cwt. or 7 cwt. There is no equity in the rate of levy imposed. It would have been better not to provide for a representative of the dairy farmers on the proposed Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee.
.- I did not intend to have anything to say in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) but his suggestion that it is unlikely that any benefit will accrue to the dairy industry as a result of the setting-up of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee is just sheer nonsense.
– I said that very little benefit would accrue.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that the cattle tick menace affects the dairying industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales just as much as it does in the cattle districts of the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Let me add that if this proposed committee did nothing but solve the problem of the cattle tick it would save millions of pounds to the dairying industry which the honorable member represents. Let me tell him also that pleuro-pneumonia is another problem which has not been absolutely solved except by isolation. If this committee solved that problem for the dairy industry its appointment would be amply justified. A third point - and I could enumerate a dozen if necessary - is that if this committee were responsible for improving pastures in the honorable member’s district - and I have been there and know the problem that this presents - it would be worth its weight in gold. I will not go into details of pasture improvement, but the honorable member knows what they are. When this committee investigates the problem of improved pastures it will be working in the interests of the dairying industry as much as those of the beef cattle industry. The honorable member should be a little less sectional in his outlook.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) says he cannot accept the amendment because it would be a breach of faith with the Australian Agricutural Council. Did any one ever hear such nonsense? After all, what is the Australian Agricultural Council but an assembly of the respective Ministers of Agriculture from each of the States presided over by the Federal Minister for Primary Industry? It has no statutory authority whatever and no powers of legal enforcement. It is simply a nice gathering of people, generally, backed by their administrative and technical officers who discuss amicably, mostly, the problems facing Australian agriculturalists. It is a very valuable body; but for the Minister to say that he cannot accept this amendment because it would be breaking faith with it is nonsense. What is the Parliament for if it is not to exercise its own judgment in spite of what some other body might say, particularly the Australian Agricultural Council?
The Minister said also that to accept this amendment would be a breach of faith with the beef cattle industry. Does he think the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, would object to having one more farmer or pastoralist on the committee? If my colleague, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), had moved for the inclusion of a trade unionist on the committee, the representatives of the pastoralists, the wool and meat producers and the dairy-farmers might have grouched to some order. But when he proposes to add another representative of the beef cattle producers, the Minister replies that if this were done it would be breaking faith with the people already proposed for the committee. All we are suggesting is to increase the number of representatives of primary producers from seven to eight; but the Minister will not agree and hides behind this story of breach of faith.
What did he bring the bill to the Parliament for if we have no power or authority to amend it? It looks as if the Minister is one of a hide-bound ministry of closed minds. Ministers will not do anything for the primary producers or anybody else in this country. Despite the nasty things that I have said, I still appeal to the Minister to do something about the matter.
The honorable member for Richmond, of course, completely overlooked the fact that a large number of the cows in the dairy herds of Australia to-day are dual-purpose cattle.
– Yes. They are Australian Illawarra shorthorns. The dairyfarmers of Australia make a lot of money by selling dual-purpose cattle. To the degree that we produce better and more palatable beef in the Northern Territory and Queensland, we increase the demand for the Australian Illawarra shorthorn, which is somewhat similar to the Queensland and Northern Territory cattle, and which is a product of the dairying industry.
It is time the honorable member for Richmond and his friends woke up to themselves, became more broad-minded and tried to help the people whom they are supposed to represent. In order to do this, they will have to adopt a better kind of logic than we have heard from them to-day. I leave the matter at that. I again appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I oppose the amendment on simple grounds. If the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) succeeded in his request for the appointment to the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee of a representative nominated by the Northern Territory producers, honorable members from the various States could press for a representative of the State from which they hail. I remind the honorable member for the Northern Territory of the claims of the Kimberley district, in Western Australia, which, I think, turns off just as many beef cattle as does the Northern Territory.
This bill has taken quite a long time to reach the Parliament, and I think that anything that might injure its prospects at this juncture should not be accepted. We should be failing in our duty to the people we represent if we accepted something that would injure the bill at this stage. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the States would not be affected by this amendment, and that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) would commit a breach of faith if he did not accept it. I remind the honorable member that the States will play a fairly important part in the conduct of the research envisaged in this measure, because much of that research will be undertaken by the State agriculture departments. I think, too, although I cannot place my finger on any statement to that effect at the moment, that the States will probably undertake part of the job of collecting the necessary levy and will probably play a part in other ways also. If we now begin a discussion about which States should be represented on the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee and about whether this or that body should be represented, this measure will probably go by the board.
I suggest that the proposed constitution of the committee should at least be given a try. If we find that representation of the
Graziers Federal Council of Australia and of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation does not adequately provide for representation of producers throughout Australia, action can quickly be taken to correct the situation. However, I think we should give the proposed constitution of the committee a try, even if it does not provide for adequate representation of producers over the whole of Australia. We should give it a try in order to see how the committee carries out its functions.
I point out that clause 11 provides for the removal of a member from the committee by the intervention of the GovernorGeneral. Furthermore, if producers in the Northern Territory, in the Kimberleys, in the Channel country, of which we have heard so much, in Victoria, or in any other part of Australia are dissatisfied with the way in which the representatives on the committee nominated by the Graziers Federal Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation are doing their job, those producers, within their own domestic circles, can move to have the Minister requested to remove that member from the committee, as is provided for in clause 11, which states - (1.) The Governor-General may remove a mem ber of the Committee or the deputy of a member from office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour. (2.) Where-
I think that we should do a great disservice to the people whom we hope to help by passing this measure in order to establish a valuable committee if we were to accept a proposal to give any particular group of people or any particular part of Australia representation on that committee. I merely say to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and all those who sit with him, and particularly to the honorable member for Lalor, that by fighting this issue at the present time we should prevent the very thing that we were told in so many speeches at the second-reading stage we were setting out to do. As I have said, if the honorable member for the Northern Territory were to succeed with his amendment, I could, quite rightly and properly, on behalf of Western Australia, insist that the Kimberley producers be represented. Another honorable member could ask for a representative of producers in the Channel country, another could ask for a representative of producers in the south of Australia and others could request the appointment :to the proposed committee of representatives of producers anywhere else that they liked to suggest. I counsel honorable members to let such requests wait for the moment and to rely on the machinery provided in the bill. The producers’ organizations should have a chance to show whether they are awake to their responsibilities, and, if the committee does not work to their satisfaction, they can do something to get rid of any member with whom they are dissatisfied.
I could have said something about Australiawide thinking, which has been mentioned by my friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), but the Federal Aid Roads scheme came to my mind. 1 hope that when that scheme comes up for discussion again the honorable member for Mallee will think in an Australia-wide manner.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wholeheartedly support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I do not ask for the appointment to the proposed Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee of a representative from Tasmania; and that is a major advance in my thinking.
I should just like to tell the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that I cannot for the life of me understand why he proposes to appoint to the committee four representatives of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia. Why not give that body three representatives? Surely that would be sufficient. Even at that, it would have one more representative than the organization with the next highest number - the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. If only three representatives of the Graziers Federal Council were appointed, a representative of the Northern Territory producers as proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Terri tory could be appointed to maintain the strength of the committee at twelve members.
I think that the Northern Territory has a strong claim to special treatment. We are trying to develop it as a worthwhile component of this great Commonwealth, and we are talking about the construction of new railways and new roads through the Territory. Yet we refuse to allow the Territory’s producers to be represented on this committee, which will conduct research on an Australia-wide basis. I think that the Minister is behaving just a little stubbornly on this point, although I agree with everything else that he said. He has admitted that he has had to negotiate with other Ministers about this matter, and I think he could well have said that he would discuss the proposal made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory with those other Ministers rather than reject it out of hand. If we consider the matter without bias and in a non-sectional way, we realize that the Northern Territory, as an isolated part of Australia, should receive special consideration. But, apparently, the Territory is not to count at all.
The observations made by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who suggested that, if producers in the Northern Territory were represented on the proposed committee, producers in other parts of Australia should be represented, amounted only to an excuse and did not constitute a valid argument against the amendment.
I feel very strongly that the matter should be reconsidered. I suggest that the strength of the committee be maintained at twelve members and that the representation of the Graziers Federal Council be reduced by one in order to permit the appointment of a representative of producers in the Northern Territory chosen in the manner that the worthy member for the Territory has outlined to the committee. I advance this proposal as a constructive suggestion, and I assure the Minister again that I do not ask for special consideration to be given to Tasmania by the appointment to the committee of a Tasmanian representative.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am somewhat amazed at and almost perplexed by the remarks about dairy farmers made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was once closely associated with primary industry affairs as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Apparently, the honorable member has no dairy farmers in his part of the country. I cannot see anything constructive in his observations. They remind me somewhat of the fifth teat of a cow. They were so much hot air.
– Order! I allowed the honorable member for Richmond a measure of latitude when he first addressed the committee. I remind him that the amendment now before the chair relates solely to the constitution of the proposed Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee.
– Then I shall abandon the remarks that I was about to make, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and return to clause 9. The honorable member for Lalor, speaking of that clause, said that the dairy farmers should get the benefit to which they are entitled from this bill. I pointed out in my speech during the second-reading debate that there were some types of research in relation to which there would be overlapping. The two examples given by the honorable member for Lalor, namely, the tick and pleuro-pneumonia problems, were the two examples I used. I pointed out that these were problems of such great magnitude that they should be tackled at a national level instead of by research committees which have only limited funds. Their money should be used for more confined research into their own problems, rather than for research into national problems. Under the proposed set-up money will be given for research into tick control or pleuro-pneumonia. The dairy industry will contribute, in the first instance, through dairy research organizations, and in the second instance through the levy on dairy cattle that are slaughtered. In other words, it will be paying twice.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is talking about matters covered by clause 8, which has already been agreed to by the committee.
– I must apologize for taking latitude. I was only trying to defend myself against the rather vicious attack of the honorable member for Lalor. We know how he handled the dairying industry in the past. All the dairy farmers remember that well, and that is why I shall continue to be in Parliament for many years. Getting back to the matter of representation on the committee, I realize that this measure represents a great advance in the beef industry. This is a very important side of research. Although I am not asking for this, it would have been better not to have a dairy farmer representative on this committee but rather to have a proportion of the levy going directly to the dairy research committee. The honorable member for Lalor does not see this point of view. I think he is somewhat disappointed that he, as an Opposition member, did not raise it himself, but maybe that is in line with his usual attitude to the dairying industry. I do not care very much. It is more or less what has happened in the past. I support the clause although it would have been better to adopt the other method.
– I confine my remarks to a reply to a few statements made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) when he answered my case in support of the amendment I proposed. The Minister said that the composition of the committee was arrived at only after a great deal of discussion and that anything we might do now to alter it would delay the implementation of this scheme. He said that the interests of producers would be adequately looked after by the representation that the Government envisages. He said that the North Australian Pastoral Lessees Association was already a member of the Graziers Federal Council and that the Central Australian Pastoral Lessees Association had an application pending. It has been pending for a mighty long time, and it does not look as though this association will get representation on the council. This illustrates the conflict of interests of the two sections in the Northern Territory community. This conflict is apparent in Australia generally, but in the Northern Territory in particular. The North Australian Pastoral Lessees Association, of course, represents big overseas and Australian interests in the Northern Territory. They are entitled to that representation and nobody is querying their right to it. On the other hand, the
Central Australian Pastoral Lessees Association represents the smaller interests in the Northern Territory, and as such, has nothing, or very little, in common with the other body, except in relation to the overall marketing position. I am saying not that the Central Australian Pastoral Lessees Association alone should select a representative for appointment to the committee but that the two organizations should combine to elect a representative. He would represent the combined industry in the Northern Territory.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) asked where we would get if we split the committee into sections. I remind them that the Minister said that he arrived at the terms of this legislation only after earnest and long negotiation in the Australian Agricultural Council. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said, this council includes all State Ministers, who are keen to ensure that the interests of their own States are protected, to the possible exclusion of other interests. If the States insist on protecting their own interests, the Commonwealth is entitled to protect the interests of the Northern Territory by ensuring that it has some say.
The honorable member for Canning said that if there was on the committee a representative of the Northern Territory, there should be a representative of the Kimberleys, which he said produced more cattle than the Northern Territory, but which does not. If the interests of the producers of the Kimberleys and the rest of Western Australia are not adequately looked after, that is a matter about which their representatives should voice some protest. I am here to protect the interests of the Northern Territory industry and its producers. If other interests are not protected, that is not my fault and I cannot do anything about it.
The honorable member for Mallee said that I destroyed my own case by pleading for this matter to be considered from an overall point of view. I remind him that if we are to look at the industry from an overall point of view, we must first know the views of all sectional interests in order to determine what is in the best interest of all.
– Your argument is very weak.
– It is not as weak as that of the honorable gentleman, which was very weak indeed. To arrive at the overall position, we must have all the various points of view. Only in that way can we determine what will produce the greatest good for the whole industry. We are fighting a forlorn battle because the Minister has stated his attitude and nothing will shift him. I rise to voice my protest at the lack of concrete representation of the interests of Northern Territory primary producers. Responsibility for the denial of that representation must rest on the shoulders of the Federal Government.
– 1 do not want to go over all the statements I made before, but I do want to re-emphasize that the rights of the Northern Territory are not excluded from consideration under this bill any more than are the rights of any other part of Australia. Representation on the committee is not determined by geographical factors. I repeat that the Northern Territory Pastoral Licensees Association is part of the Graziers Federal Council, which has the right to nominate four representatives. Although the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made quite a song and dance about a breach of faith, I stress that the rights of the Northern Territory have not been excluded, because the Graziers Federal Council can appoint four representatives. It can appoint four from the Northern Territory, if it wishes to do so, ot it can appoint representatives from Western Australia, Victoria or any other part of Australia. That is its right. It had the right to appoint only two representatives to the Australian Meat Board, and it chose one man from the Northern Territory. It cannot, therefore, be accused of unfairness.
The honorable member for Lalor spoke about a breach of faith and the suggestion that an undertaking should over-ride parliamentary rights. That, of course, is not correct. But when the organizations representing the beef producers ask for this research to help the industry and offer to provide money, and an arrangement is made with them, what sort of a Minister would I be-
– Give them more representation; they would never object to that.
– Of course, we must have some regard to economic factors in administration. I suppose we could have fifty representatives, but then half the money allotted for research would be spent on administration. As the honorable member said, they would put their feet under the table and have a very good meeting. That is not the purpose of research. I regard an arrangement as something vital, but parliamentary decision does over-ride any such arrangement.
I do not agree with the contentions of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I remind him that the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation supports this legislation and can see merit in it. As a consequence, it has agreed to contribute to the scheme so that the industry it represents will receive some benefit. I agree with some of the points made by the honorable member for Lalor on that issue. There is a difference between dairy matters and beef matters, but take the position of a producer who wants to sell his culls out of a dairy herd. Such beef was almost worthless a few years ago, but by virtue of research and the activities of the Australian Meat Board, its value has increased 400 per cent. Does that mean that research is of no value to the dairyman? I cannot follow that reasoning at all. I say quite frankly that the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation has agreed to this proposal and is prepared to be a party to it. Part of the arrangement was that this federation should be recognized by having one representative on the committee.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that there would be some overlapping of the representation on the committee. I suppose there could be. Many of the organizations study much the same problems. The universities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation all undertake research, and many of their projects are of a similar nature. I support the Minister very definitely in his statement that research must have a beneficial effect not only on the beef cattle industry but also on the dairying industry. The committee will determine what research work will be undertaken. The Minister will, of course, have to agree. Certainly, a long time has been taken to reach agreement on the composition of the committee, but I agree with the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) that it would be a very serious business to upset the arrangements now, and then wait several more years to reach agreement on the composition of the committee. I feel that the present composition will provide us with a committee qualified to deal with the problems of the industry.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) wishes to ensure that representation is given to the Northern Territory. No doubt the people in New Guinea also would like to be represented, as the population there is increasing, and no doubt this policy could be extended even further. Although I share some of the fears of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, I feel that ultimately it is our responsibility here to watch how the money is spent and if we believe that it is not being spent in a manner beneficial to the industry as a whole, we will have the right to raise the matter at another time.
.- I oppose the amendment proposed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I cannot understand his point. He says that the Northern Territory should be included because he is advocating it, but that the various States should not have representatives as such because they are not advocating it. I wonder what sort of legislation we would have if we included in bills only those provisions advocated by an honorable member and omitted all other provisions because some one somewhere else forgot to advocate them. I should say that the duty of the Parliament is to ensure that the best possible legislation is passed, irrespective of whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory or any other honorable member advocates that some provision should be included. If the contention of the honorable member for the Northern Territory that his area should be represented by a person from the Northern Territory is correct, then I point out to him that Queensland should have at least six representatives because of the relative numbers in Queensland. We would reach a very strange state of affairs if we based representation on the number of cattle in a particular area.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) contends that the amendment should be carried. I can understand the honorable member agreeing that Tasmania should not have a representative, because all that the Tasmanian representative would have to do would be to round up the two beef cattle that he had tethered in one corner of his yard and at the same time ensure that the three or four dairy cattle in the other corner did not get into trouble. [Quorum formed.] In short, this bill embodies the principle that representation should be from certain organizations and not from States. If, having provided for representation from organizations, we were to grant representation to one territory, we would be departing from that principle. I disagree with the proposition stated by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and shall therefore oppose the amendment.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Nelson’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 24th March (vide page 577), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24th March (vide page 577), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30th March (vide page 742), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
- Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to tell the House that the Opposition supports the Minister’s first bill in this place, and we propose to devote our time on the bill to spurring him to greater efforts to improve Australia’s seaways and commerce by other international agreements; by extending the procedures which are made available under this convention for the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil, and other conventions. As the honorable gentleman knows, it is necessary for countries to enter international conventions if they are to control shipping outside their immediate territorial waters. That is particularly the case in questions of pollution where oil which is emptied into the sea beyond the 3-mile limit can very easily foul their coasts and damage property upon them, and in harbours.
I propose to refer to some of the Government’s attitudes on matters of administration and in respect of the Constitution as they emerge from the history of this bill. The Minister says that the bill was not introduced earlier because the conven tion did not come into effect until the latter part of 1958. The Government decided, he says, in early 1959, that action towards ratification should be taken. It will be noted that this convention was made in 1954. The Minister’s predecessor told me on 25th March, 1958, in answer to a question without notice -
A draft Commonwealth bill has been prepared in addition to the model State bill but it cannot be stated at this stage when the bills will be introduced into the respective parliaments. It is hoped, however, that it will be possible to introduce legislation before the end of this year.
You will notice, Sir, that the bill actually was prepared before the date the Minister gave for the Government’s decision, or the earlier date which spurred the Government to make a decision. From the reply I have just quoted and other replies which the Minister’s predecessor gave me, it appears that the United Kingdom Parliament had passed its ratifying act as far back as May, 1955, and the first Commonwealth and State discussions on ratification measures did not take place until February, 1956. By 26th July, 1957, a sufficient number of countries had ratified the convention to permit it to come into operation a year later. Whether one accepts the present Minister’s explanation for the delay or the previous Minister’s chronology, it is plain that governmental delays in Australia have prevented Australians from receiving the benefits which they could have enjoyed since July, 1958.
The Government will undoubtedly plead that it could not, and still cannot, ratify the convention until the States have passed complementary legislation. If the Commonwealth Parliament had had the plenary power over navigation and shipping which the all-party Joint Committee on Constitutional Review had unanimously recommended that the Commonwealth Parliament should seek by referendum, there should be no doubt that the Commonwealth would have ratified the convention by its own legislation much earlier. The Minister states, firstly, that State legislation will be necessary to give effect to the convention within the territorial waters of the State concerned. There was, however, no need to make a convention in order to control pollution in territorial waters since all countries already had this power. In the case of Australia, legislative power within the 3-mile limit is exercised by individual States in respect of ships which commence and conclude their voyages within the one State, and by the Commonwealth in respect of ships on voyages between ports in its territories or on voyages between a State on the one hand and other State or territory or a foreign country on the other. The only exclusive field for State legislation is with respect to the activities of ships which are not only engaged on an intrastate voyage but are also within the 3-mile limit. The Commonwealth became a party to this convention in order to control pollution beyond the 3-mile limit, whether by ships engaged on intra-state or interstate or overseas voyages.
The Minister states, secondly, that State legislation will cover the installation and maintenance of port facilities to receive oily residues. The Commonwealth, however, under its interstate and overseas commerce power, can itself provide these facilities and it does not have to wait until the several States see fit to provide them.
It is high time the Commonwealth exercised the navigation powers it has in order to co-ordinate Australian port facilities. Under the restricted view of its powers which the Commonwealth has taken in the present matter, the absurd position will arise that facilities for these oily water residues may have to be provided by 27 different port authorities, assuming that these facilities will be confined to those ports large enough to come within the present purview of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority - an authority, be it noted which the Commonwealth set up under its interstate and overseas commerce power but which the States use in their intra-state commerce.
In Sydney, these facilities for the residues will be provided by the Maritime Services Board, and in other New South Wales ports by the State Department of Public Works. In Queensland, they will be provided by the State Department of Harbours and Marine, and by seven different harbour boards; in Victoria, they will be provided by three different harbour trusts; in Western Australia, they will be provided by the State Harbour and Light Department and three different harbour boards; in Tasmania, they will be provided by one harbour trust and seven different marine boards; and in the Northern Territory, they will be provided by the Administrator. Only in South Australia, Sir, will the facilities be provided in all ports by the one authority.
– Is it necessary to get unanimity?
– It has taken nearly six years to achieve unanimity between the States as to what legislation they propose to pass; none of them has yet passed the legislation. I suppose one can excuse the States to a certain extent, since the Commonwealth took nearly two years before it broached the subject with them.
The Commonwealth could have avoided this confusion by providing all such facilities itself for interstate and overseas vessels. Surely the States would then have insisted that intra-state vessels should use these facilities, and the Commonwealth would have permitted them to do so.
I believe, Sir, that the two reasons given by the Minister for the States having to pass complementary legislation show that this Government has acted in the matter with a too timid view of its powers and has failed to exercise its proper responsibilities.
I started my speech by urging the Minister to seek to expand the terms of this convention. There is provision in our convention for doing so. I also urge the Minister to use his good offices to see that the convention is adopted by any of the 32 countries whose representatives attended the conference but which have not yet adopted the convention. I trust that some other countries, also, will be encouraged to accede to the convention.
I point out that as far as Australia is concerned, such large maritime nations as the United States of America, Greece and Japan have not yet ratified the convention. Until they, too, ratify the convention their tankers or their merchant ships can with impunity dump oil or wash out their bilges beyond the 3-mile limit from our coast.
The convention will produce very great benefits for Australia insofar as all the countries in western Europe which trade with us will now be under an obligation to keep our seas clean. Australia is fortunate in that 150 miles of sea off its inhabited coastline is protected in this way. In most other parts of the world, there is only a 50-mile clean zone.
When we have passed this measure, when the States have also passed the legislation and when we are able to accede to the convention, we will get that benefit. I hope that the passage of this bill through its remaining stages to enable us to ratify the convention will not take as long as the various stages have taken up till now.
.- Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to know that the Opposition is supporting this bill. I should like to be associated with the tribute that has been paid to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) on this, the first bill that he has introduced. I want to congratulate him on the way that he explained its provisions.
The chief matter to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has referred concerns the various delays that have been caused in bringing this bill forward since the original convention in 1954. I am certain that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows, from the keen interest that he has shown in this matter both on 19th March, 1958, and 8th April, 1959, the reasons why some of these delays took place. The Minister, very rightly, stated in his second-reading speech that it was only in April, 1959, that the Government could decide definitely that it could ratify the agreement. But, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition well knows from the answers he has had to previous questions, the Government did take action on this matter early in 1956, and even before that, in 1955. The position in Australia is unlike the position in the United Kingdom, where there is only one government to take action, and the difficulty of getting six State governments and the Federal Government together on this matter is greater than he would have the House believe. A number of very real problems arose, and the matter, as he knows well, was handled by the Australian Port Authorities Association, which meets only on rare occasions - about once a year; sub-committees of that association brought the various and differing views of the State authorities into line. I myself am pleased that the Government does not interpret its powers as widely as desired by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. My own feeling is that it is fortunate that the States have been asked to co-operate with the Federal Government in the ratifica- tion of this convention and that all the various problems they raised were sorted out and dealt with before this bill came before the House.
I believe that in the negotiations that have already taken place, a number of points were raised that will make this measure and the complementary measures that will be passed in the various States very much more worthwhile. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will realize that half way through the negotiations the association was warned and helped by the United Kingdom Ministry of Transport. The association itself suggested various amendments to the model legislation, and various modifications of a most helpful kind were incorporated in the measure that is now before us.
Although there has been a delay of up to three years in this matter, I believe that what has been done during that period has improved the legislation that will be passed by this Parliament and by the six State Parliaments.
Mr. Speaker, the importance of this bill cannot be denied. The damage to our beaches, particularly in Western Australia, has been extremely significant over the past few years. I know, also, that in my own State, Victoria, the damage that has been caused to our beaches and to our fishing grounds by the pollution of the sea by oil has been considerable. Anything that is done as a result of this legislation will be welcomed by all who enjoy our beaches, as well as by those who are interested in boating and in sea life in general.
The way in which the six State governments have co-operated in preparing model legislation on this subject has been most notable, and tribute must be paid to the work of the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales which has played a leading part. Perhaps the most important gain, however, is not the convention itself but the fact that the united action taken by a number of countries has drawn the attention of the whole world, and particularly of the maritime nations, to the dangers of polluting the sea by oil. To my mind, those who go down to the sea in ships will be less influenced by the thoughts of a heavy fine than by the fact that port authorities will provide containers into which this oil and water mixture can be dumped. If containers are to be available in the major ports of the Commonwealth, then I feel certain that masters of ships will dump their waste into them rather than into the ocean as they have done before.
The second important point is that it will now be compulsory for all Australian ships to be fitted with oil-water separators. This will mean that it will be much easier to separate the oil from the water after the bilges and tanks have been washed out, and masters of ships will be able to carry the waste to the nearest port instead of dumping it into the ocean as they have done in the past. Then there is the third provision that a log must be kept showing the times at which the oil has been dumped into the sea,
I feel that there may be some difficulty in policing this convention but perhaps by far the most important point is not that, from now on, we shall be able by legal means to prevent oil from being dumped into the sea within 150 miles of our coast, but that we shall provide a means whereby waste can be easily disposed of.
Unfortunately none of the countries whose flags are referred to as “ flags of convenience “, have yet ratified this convention. These include Liberia, Costa Rica and Panama. These are the nations under whose flags much of the tanker tonnage is sailing. Until those nations ratify this convention we cannot be certain that the main dangers to which this act refers will be substantially eliminated. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that those nations should be encouraged by every means that we have at our disposal to ratify this convention as soon as possible.
– They need more than encouragement.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member for Perth. But if, each time one of those ships comes into our ports, we make it known that containers are available in which they can easily dump their waste instead of letting it out in the ocean I am sure that we shall get co-operation. Although no penalty can be imposed, the mere fact that it is made easy for them to dispose of their waste should encourage them to do so. I think, therefore, that, apart from anything else, this legislation will draw attention to this very great problem and I believe that the provision of the facilities is the main answer to the problem. Therefore, I am very glad to see that both sides of the House wish to have this convention ratified as early as possible and I hope that the six State governments will proceed to pass the model act also within a reasonably short time.
.- Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) I support the bill and congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) upon bringing forward his first measure. I hope that whatever future legislation he may bring before this House will meet with the approval which, in the main, has greeted this bill. However, I consider this to be a very weak bill. The decisions of the convention are weak decisions. What pleases me is that at least we have now reached the stage at which a number of countries can get together, and though they can agree only on some very minor points, at least they can agree that there is something to discuss and a problem to be tackled. I am not blaming the Minister completely for the weakness of this legislation. It is the fault of the convention. The legislation represents a step in the right direction.
The only thing that I am worried about is the delay that has occurred between 1954 and 1960. It has been said by Government supporters that the convention was not agreed to until two years ago, but I point out that some countries which, like Australia, have only a small number of ships registered, have already ratified the agreement. Why could we not have tackled the problem when the agreement was drawn up in 1954? Why could we not have been one of the countries which first indicated to the framers of the convention that we agreed with it and wanted it?
There is good reason for the convention to be implemented in this country. Like the previous speaker, I am concerned about the countries that have not yet endorsed the convention, such as Liberia, the United States of America, Italy, Greece, Japan, Panama and Spain, all of which have large tanker and freighter registrations. But the countries that most concern me are those whose flags are referred to as “ flags of convenience “ - cheap labour countries whose ships are run practically by slave labour. These countries are not prepared to accept the convention. This means that Australia and other countries that are decent enough to ratify the convention will have to put up with the nuisance and inconvenience caused by ships flying flags of convenience pumping out their bilges inside the 150- mile limit and outside territorial waters. That is a serious weakness in the convention’s decision. There should be some way of penalizing the people who continue to abuse their privilege of sailing in the waters of other countries and, without proper safeguards, discharge sludge, or in the case of oil tankers, cleaning out storage tanks. I suggest that when Australia becomes a party to the agreement she should move under Article XVI. to force certain countries to honour their obligations to other countries that are signatories to the agreement. I think this convention was drawn up under pressure. The old-style shipping companies are dying hard. The exploiting shipping interests are refusing to accept the decisions of the convention. 1 should like to refer to several matters affecting shipping along our coastline. I understand that we have about 27 port authorities. This legislation is the first step by the Commonwealth to co-ordinate the activities of the various port authorities so that something may be done to prevent pollution of our harbours. Pollution is a problem that is exercising the minds of the governments of many countries to-day. An article in to-night’s Sydney “ Sun “ under the heading “ Pollution from Factories “ deals with the problem as it exists in Switzerland. The scientists of that country have realized that modern industry is creating a serious pollution problem and that slowly but surely some of the lakes of Switzerland are being poisoned. I agree that we cannot compare lakes with the open sea, but the problem confronting Switzerland is an indication of the extent of the pollution that is taking place throughout the world as the result of developments in industry. In my own electorate the port of Newcastle has on occasions been teaming with dead fish because industries established upstream on the Hunter River, such as Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, the Masonite Corporation (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Lysaght’s and the Broken Hill Proprietary
Company Limited, discharged acids and other industrial waste into the river. Only two years ago an acid tank burst at the works of the Sulphide Corporation Proprietary Limited. The acid seeped into Cockle Creek, which flows into Lake Macquarie, and thousands of dead fish were subsequently found floating on the lake. Future legislation must be framed in such a way as to prevent industries from polluting our rivers and lakes, not to mention the sea itself.
– That is a matter for the the States.
– It is the responsibility of every legislature to do what it can to prevent pollution wherever the assets of the people are being destroyed1. When the honorable member for Fawkner hears of pollution of a particular river, is he satisfied to sit back and say that is not his responsibility? As a public man it is his responsibility to do whatever he can at all times to protect the interests of the people as a whole. He should not smugly sit back and say that this is somebody else’s responsibility. It is as much his responsibility as that of anybody else. It is as much his responsibility as it is mine to bring these things to the attention of the people.
– You should deal with this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I do not propose to deal with it then. I am dealing with it now.
While we are dealing with petroleum I point to some other dangers that exist in ports. Let me recall that in the port of Houston, Texas, in November, 1959, a 12,000-ton vessel “Amcos Virginia” burned out, causing great damage to port facilities. I remember an incident that occurred in Newcastle Harbour in 1929 when “ British Honour “ caught fire. Only good luck and courage on the part of the harbour master, who took the ship to sea, prevented considerable damage and loss of life in Newcastle. In 1937 an oil tank in the centre of the city of Newcastle caught fire. We should interest ourselves in matters of that kind so that we may take appropriate steps to protect the interests of everybody, whether or not it is our direct resporisibility to do so. That is why I regard this legislation as a step in the right direction. The next step must be to ensure the safe working of oil tankers and other ships throughout the world and particularly in our own waters.
Let me give an example of the lack of co-ordination that exists in this matter. In Sydney Harbour tankers may be moved only between the hours of sunrise and sunset. In Newcastle Harbour they may come and go at any time. When discharging oil, tankers in Sydney Harbour may couple or uncouple oil lines only between the hours of sunrise and sunset. In Newcastle Harbour oil lines may be coupled or uncoupled at any time. There should be co-ordination between the various port authorities. If the Commonwealth Government itself cannot bring about this co-ordination, then at the earliest moment we should endeavour to get the various harbour authorities to agree to co-ordinate their requirements.
I should like to say a few words in relation to docks. The port of Amsterdam has given a lead to the rest of the world by providing a special oil-tanker dock. Ships are placed in that dock when discharging their cargoes. Every major port in the world, whether or not it has oil installations, should provide a similar dock for the handling of dangerous cargoes. A boom is towed across the entrance to the dock and the ship is locked in. If there should be an accident during unloading operations and oil, for example, should escape and float on the top of the water, it can be dealt with before it is carried into the open harbour, the city’s drainage or sewerage systems, or before it catches fire, causing untold damage. It is of no use to say that such things cannot happen; they do happen. I have mentioned three incidents that have happened in the last 30 years or so - in Texas last year, one in Newcastle in 1929, and the third in Newcastle in 1937. Accidents happen despite precautions that may be taken to prevent them.
Let me cite a glaring inconsistency in relation to oil tankers. On board oil tankers are notices to the effect that smoking or the carrying of matches is forbidden. The tanker’s lighting and telephone wiring is specially insulated. Trucks and cars are not allowed alongside the tanker when it is discharging its cargo. But what happens when the tanker needs the services of a tug. How many tugs are diesel-engined vessels? In the main they are coal-fired. So, although it is forbidden to have matches on board a tanker, a tug may come alongside with coal-fired boilers. Matters such as this should be investigated in the near future with a view to the adoption of safety precautions, particularly in relation to the handling of tankers. Everything should be done to see that there is the least possible risk to the general community. I suggest that the Minister should examine closely some of the other aspects of pollution and see what can be done to stop industries from polluting our rivers, lakes and harbours.
There are in the bill several weaknesses to which I would like to refer. One of them is clause 7. - (5.) which reads -
Sub-sections (1.) and (3.) of this section do not apply to the discharge from the bilges of a ship of a mixture containing no oil other than lubricating oil.
I suggest that it is very difficult to prevent any kind of oil - fuel oil, for example - from filtering into the bilges. In fact, it is almost impossible. Yet the legislation ignores that.
I think the bill should be closely examined with a view to making the provision apply to all oil that can be discharged from a ship, instead of worrying only about lubricating oil.
The next weakness to which I wish to refer is in clause 7. - (6.) which reads -
It is a defence if a person charged with an offence against this section proves -
that the discharge of the oil or mixture containing oil was for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship, of preventing damage to the ship or cargo or of saving life at sea;
That provision gives four grounds that can be used as a defence for the pumping of oil onto the sea or into a harbour. I agree with three of them, but I disagree with that which refers to preventing damage to cargo. Why should a ship be allowed to dump oil into the sea or into a harbour so as to prevent damage to its cargo? May I ask, Mr. Speaker, what about the damage that can be caused by that oil, pumped over the side, to other ships in the port, to beaches, to fishing, to everything associated with the waterfront?
What about the damage that can be caused by it catching fire while floating on the surface of the harbour? There isno need for me to tell the House the result of such a thing happening.
That is the kind of provision which makes me say that this bill contains the decisions of the shipowners’ convention - decisions that they gave very reluctantly. The shipowners have tried to safeguard themselves in every way possible. I suggest in all sincerity to the Minister that he seriously consider referring this provision back to the convention at an early date, with a view to having the words “ or cargo “ deleted from it. I ask him to do that because I believe that if something happens to a ship, such as a crack in the bulkhead, it is the responsibility of the shipowners to protect the cargo by some other means than by discharging oil over the side and perhaps endangering the public as a whole. This provision should be rectified at an early date.
Clause 7. - (7.) reads -
In any proceedings for an offence against this section in respect of the discharge of a mixture containing oil -
if it is proved that there were not less than one hundred parts of oil in one million parts of the mixture, it shall be conclusively presumed that the oil in the mixture fouled the surface of the sea; or
if it is proved that there were less than one hundred parts of oil in one million parts of the mixture, it shall be conclusively presumed that the oil in the mixture did not foul the surface of the sea.
I ask the Minister just how the percentage of oil in a mixture is going to be determined once the oil is on the beach. The oil on the beach will be pure oil, irrespective of whether it is fuel oil, lubricating oil or anything else, and the degree of pollution or the percentage of water and the percentage of oil cannot be measured. This provision should be reconsidered. If a ship pollutes the beaches in this way there should be no argument. A penalty should be imposed for the pollution of beaches by discharging oil into the sea.
The other weakness is in clause 7. - (6.), sub-paragraph (c) of which provides that it is a defence if the person charged proves -
That the discharge of the oil or mixture containing oil, being a discharge from a ship other than a tanker, occurred when the ship was proceeding to a port not provided with such reception facilities as are referred to in Article VIII. of the Convention.
I made a few inquiries about this matter, and I found that in New South Wales Sydney is the only port which at the moment has the necessary reception facilities. I suggest that such facilities should be provided where necessary as early as possible.
– What about Newcastle?
– It has not got these facilities, and neither has Port Kembla. I believe that this sub-paragraph provides a loophole for the shipping companies. Many ships come to Newcastle, discharge their cargo and pick up cargo, or bunker with coal or oil, and leave without proceeding to Sydney. Provided those ships are going to Newcastle only and not to a port with reception facilities they can discharge oil when and where they like, and nobody can do anything about it under this provision, because Newcastle is not provided with the necessary facilities. This is something which can be rectified, and the first step in rectifying it is to provide the necessary facilities at the various ports. If these facilities are not available at ports then the ships should have their own separation tanks to separate the water from the oil and discharge the oil when they get to a port with the required facilities. I would say that oil-fired ships could themselves treat any residue that they have and dispose of it in their furnaces. I feel that this is a serious weakness in the bill, which could be rectified quite easily and at an early date.
Clause 10 reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to subject the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State to liability to be prosecuted for an offence, but this section does not affect any liability of the master of a ship of which the Crown is the owner to be so prosecuted.
I ask: Why should we exempt the Commonwealth line of steamers or Western Australian Government-owned vessels from the responsibility for discharging oil into the sea? We cannot take it that those in charge of such vessels will do the right thing and observe the law that applies to other vessels. As a matter of fact, I could give three instances that occurred in Newcastle Harbour in which the line concerned could not be prosecuted. One ship was “Tyalla”, another was “Glenelg”. I have not the information regarding the third. These ships were Commonwealth line ships. I remember quite clearly when “Tyalla’s” bilges were pumped out. You should have seen the harbour on that occasion! Any one who has sympathy with the owners or the skippers of a ship that does that should look at a harbour which has been polluted as a result of the dumping of fuel oil from a ship’s bilge.
– Under this bill the master can be sued.
– The master can be sued, but I am talking about the line. Although the skipper of the ship can be prosecuted the line cannot, if it is the Commonwealth line or some other government line. In the particular case I have mentioned had it been a private line both the line and the skipper would have been prosecuted. As it was a Commonwealth ship only the skipper could be dealt with. This provision requires amendment, and I ask the Minister to give that serious consideration.
The other point to which I want to refer is contained in the schedule. I refer to Article II. which reads -
The present Convention shall apply to sea-going ships, registered in any of the territories of a Contracting Government, except -
ships for the time being used as naval auxiliaries;
Although we can expect naval auxiliaries to observe the law, why exclude them? I know that prosecution would be a case of Crown versus Crown, but I think that it is wrong to exclude any one from the provisions of such a law, because we know that far too often people in such a position are prepared to ignore the law, knowing that they cannot be dealt with for doing so. I feel that there should be provision to cover the commanders of navy ships it they discharge oil and pollute the sea.
Sub-paragraph (ii) of this article provides that the convention shall not apply to seagoing ships of under 500 tons gross tonnage. I took the trouble to take out the figures concerning this matter, and 1 found that there are twenty sea-going ships m Australia under 500 tons gross. Sixteen of them are oil burners. They are to be excluded from the operation of the law.
Ships such as those which ply between Port Adelaide and Port Lincoln are to be excluded, as are other ships which trade along the coasts of Tasmania and Victoria. Why should they be excluded from the provisions of this legislation? Why should not the legislation apply to all ships that are trading in Australian waters? I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport, when he is replying to the debate, to tell me why it is proposed to exclude ships of less than 500 tons. If a ship of 5,000 tons can pollute the sea by discharging oil, why cannot a ship of 500 tons do so too?
Article II. exempts from the terms of the convention ships for the time being engaged in the whaling industry. I believe that this exemption is a relic of past days. I do not know whether honorable members are aware that the factory ships - sometimes called mother ships or parent ships - used in the whaling industry are usually of about 10,000 tons. Last week-end, there were six whaling ships lying in Sydney Harbour. I cannot see why ships of that kind should be excluded from the provisions of the convention. What is the difference between a ship used in the whaling industry and one used in the steel industry or the petroleum industry? If such a ship burns oil, some of which is discharged into the sea after it has leaked into the bilges, does it not pollute the sea as much as other ships which discharge oil? I think that there should be an immediate approach to the convenors of the convention for the purpose of having whaling ships brought within the provisions of the legislation. As I have said, I think that the exemption is a relic of past days, when whaling ships were permitted, in inclement weather, to take shelter in harbours until the storm blew itself out, after which they were expected to put to sea again. No harbour dues were incurred for such visits to port. I do not know whether sympathetic treatment is being extended to the whaling industry, but I suggest that the Minister should, at an early date, approach the convenors of the convention and seek an amendment in respect of the two matters to which I have referred.
Although I think that the legislation before us is weak, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction for the prevention of pollution of our rivers, harbours and beaches, and of the sea generally. It is important that our deep-sea fishing industry should not be harmed in any way by the unnecessary dumping of oil in the sea, or by the cleaning out of bilges and tanks.
– I am pleased indeed to be associated with the newly appointed Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) in this first piece of legislation that he has introduced in the House. I congratulate him, not only on his appointment, but also on the presentation of the second-reading speech that he made on the bill. It is good to see that even a small bill of this kind brings forth some points of criticism which suggest that refinements or improvements could be made. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has evidently undertaken keen research into this matter. I am confident, however, that the Minister, when replying at the end of the debate, will be able to answer adequately the points raised by the honorable member.
The Minister’s second-reading speech gave a clear definition of the purpose of the bill, and it provided a very helpful reference to the history of the legislation and the necessity for its introduction. It is apparent that although the number of words in the bill may be small, the measure itself is of the greatest importance. I do not have to go very far in order to support that statement. I suggest that its truth is clearly shown by the fact that the United Kingdom Government was so concerned with the problem of pollution of the sea by oil that in 1952 it appointed a committee to consider the practical measures that could be taken to prevent the pollution of the waters around the British coast. As a result of the main recommendation of that committee - which recognized that the only worthwhile solution would be found through international action - an international conference was held in London in 1954. The Minister’s second-reading speech dealt with the situation from the time of that international conference onwards.
It is interesting to know that 42 countries, including ten observer countries, sent representatives to that international conference in London. The point I want to make, however, is that there is satisfactory evidence that even prior to 1926 the pollu tion of the sea by oil was a live subject. I think it is worthwhile for me to refer to some of the early history of this matter. At the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, an international conference of experts, known as the Preliminary Conference on Oil Pollution of Navigable Waters, met in Washington in June, 1926. I shall refer again in my speech to the United States, and at this stage I merely suggest that it is rather significant that the initial move in this direction was taken by that country as far back as June, 1926.
The object of the Washington conference was to facilitate an exchange of views on technical matters and to consider the formulation of proposals to deal by means of international agreement, with the problem of oil pollution of navigable waters. Again we see evidence of the need for international action. After some years discussions were still proceeding. In 1935, the SecretaryGeneral of the League of Nations addressed a circular letter, together with a questionnaire to the governments of all states which were members of the league and to the governments of non-member states as well - a total of 69 governments. The replies received by the Secretary-General showed that, on the whole, this problem was regarded as being of such a serious nature as to justify the holding of an international convention to discuss it. But alas, difficulties preceding the Second World War precluded positive action from being taken. The holding of an international convention was not found to be practicable then, and unfortunately the matter had to be set on one side later because of the war. The work done by the United Nations from 1950 to 1954, in addition to that done by the London conference to which I have referre d, laid the foundation for the conventionw hich was eventually convened. It is alsohe foundation of the legislation that we ha ve before us.
A decision was reached in 1954 that international action should be taken, but there was the requirement that the terms of the convention had to be ratified by a requisite number of governments. The only disturbing aspect of the legislation, in my view, is the unfortunate delay that has occurred in ratifying the convention. Here we are in the year 1960 considering legislation when a decision was reached on this matter in 1954! Of course, I must be kind and recognize that the delay is no fault of the Minister who has introduced the legislation, but some reason for the delay must be given. The requirement was that not less than ten countries should ratify the convention, and this number had to include five countries which had not less than 500,000 gross tons of tankers. Frankly, the reason for the delay which was given in the Minister’s second-reading speech does not impress me. In my assessment, Australia might well have been one of the five nations which promptly ratified the convention and requested that the provisions of the convention should then be brought into operation. Let me remind honorable members that Australia is surrounded by the sea and that this piece of legislation is of the utmost importance to us. Therefore, I want to underline my disappointment at the delay which has taken place.
I recognize that our constitutional difficulty necessitated our seeking the cooperation of the State governments which have been, or will be, asked to pass legislation complementary to that which is now before us. We could well have taken this action following the 1954 convention and not have waited until 1956 before commencing negotiations with the States which have been rather protracted.
Let me deal now with the necessity for supporting this measure. The ill-effects of oil pollution fall into five main categories; First, there is the spoiling of beaches and amenities at seaside resorts; secondly, the destruction of and injury to sea birds. This is not an occasion on which we should worry about the birds and the bees to which reference was made in this House the other day, but many people in Australia recognize the importance of protecting bird life in general. The pollution of our seas ‘ an be injurious to our bird life and even cause its destruction. Thirdly, damage can result through the fouling of yachts, boats and fishing gear. Fourthly, there can be damage to fish, shell fish and other forms of marine life. Finally, there is the risk of fire in our harbours if this pollution of the sea waters by oil is not controlled.
If I had the time at my disposal, I could comment in some detail on the five categories to which I have referred, but I merely suggest to honorable members that along our coastline, particularly where our main ports and population are to be found, we have wonderful beaches, beach resorts and swimming facilities of which we can be proud. We do not waste words when we talk about the need te preserve the quality of our beaches and to protect our harbours. I shall not comment further on the importance of bird life but in our harbours and at our holiday and fishing resorts the fouling of yachts, boats and fishing gear can be more than annoying. It can be expensive. I support the people, who have invested wisely in property of this kind, in their complaints about oil pollution. I do not know how some of my colleagues in this House, who enjoy the delectable oysters which come from the eastern coast, would fare if we did not control the pollution of the sea by oil, because oil can have an injurious effect upon oyster beds and marine life in general.
I have mentioned the risk of fire in our harbours. To illustrate the danger of fire from oil pollution I need only refer to two incidents which occurred, one in 1943 and the other in 1945, at the port of Fremantle in my own State of Western Australia. Perhaps the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who, I think, is to follow me in this debate, may have had in mind to touch on this matter. I trust that I do not trespass on the affairs of his electorate. I found with interest that the port of Fremantle has a very good record in relation to harbour fires, and that the only fires which have occurred have resulted from oil pollution. In 1943, a fire originated through a spark dropping from oxy-welding work in progress aboard a vessel on to a patch of oily waste which was surrounded by other oily refuse floating on the surface of the water alongside the vessel. The spark ignited this waste, and the fire spread rapidly over the water per medium of the oily refuse, an accumulation of which extended beneath the wharf at No. 10 berth. The fire which resulted could have been much more serious than it was.
Only two years later there was a much more serious occurrence and it is interesting to look at the details. A fire which broke out in the port of Fremantle in 1945 was caused by the ignition of the oil which had become deposited on the harbour waters.
A flame from a smouldering bag, which a waterside worker on the “Panamanian” had thrown overboard, ignited the oil on the surface of the water. When the fire broke out, another vessel had just been berthed nearby, double-banked to the “ Panamanian “, but having the tug still held on ahead, she was rapidly cast off and proceeded to the outer harbour. This fire was of some consequence. It would not have occurred if oil had not been present on the water.
Having directed the attention of honorable members to this aspect, I do not need to take the time of the House in dealing with some of the other provisions of the bill which my colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) dealt with adequately and very impressively. The honorable member for Newcastle has criticized some of the clauses of the bill, and I am confident that the Minister will be able to give appropriate and satisfactory replies to the queries which have been raised.
I am pleased to associate myself with the measure, for the foundational reasons to which I have directed attention. I recognize that the measure means that there will be some positive action. But it has taken many years to reach this stage. We are acting in co-operation with some of the major nations of the world in an attempt to correct many of the inherent dangers to which I have referred. But I am concerned to find that the United States of America - the nation which, back in 1926, suggested that something should be done in this matter - still has not ratified the convention. For some reason certain nations have hesitated to take this step. We would have expected that surely the United States would have been one of the first nations to ratify the convention and to take some positive action.
– Their standards, which are covered by their . own laws, are more severe than those which are set by this convention.
– That is a point, perhaps, that the Minister can answer. The honorable member for Fawkner has referred to the ships which fly flags of convenience. The weakness is that the countries to which those ships normally are linked are not parties to the convention. The whole emphasis all along the line has been to the effect that this convention requires international action. We did not get anywhere until we had international conferences and this convention. I hope that the Minister, in reply, will give some indication of the co-operation that can be expected from United Nations agencies. As I read the history of this matter, it has virtually been referred to the United Nations for continuing action. I hope that the influence of the United Nations can be brought to bear on all these maritime nations to ratify the convention and so make this far more universal than it stands at the present time with only ten or eleven nations having ratified it.
From Australia’s viewpoint, after a delay which I would be much happier to have seen avoided, I trust that little time will now elapse before all the States of Australia enact the complementary legislation and thus permit our nation to indicate that it, too, has ratified this most desirable plan to keep our coastal waters free from pollution by oil.
.- The legislation before the House is to ratify an international convention on the subject of pollution of the sea by persistent oils. There is no problem of persistent pollution in connexion with petrol, which evaporates, or in connexion with kerosene, which also evaporates. Whale oil, mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), will simply be absorbed into the sea as a dead whale will. Any animal or vegetable oil does not constitute a problem because it decomposes; but heavy fuel oil and unrefined oil persist. They are the oils dealt with under this convention.
What the convention imposes upon the governments which ratify it is much less exacting than what the most conscientious British companies have been doing for some years. It is much less exacting than United Kingdom law, and less exacting than the regulations of authorities such as those in New York. The initiative in this international conference was taken by Great Britain. A moment’s reflection will show why Great Britain has been concerned about the problem. No problem that we face in connexion with oil pollution is comparable to that which is faced by the United Kingdom. To begin with, the
United Kingdom is a focal point of shipping lanes, in a sense that this country never has been and is not likely to be. The mere dispersal of our main ports by comparison with the United Kingdom ports would show us that. Secondly, the United Kingdom is not merely a focal point of many shipping trade routes; the enormously important routes going to the Continent of Europe pass its shores, and ships discharging oil as they go past are likely to pollute United Kingdom ports- There is a third reason why the United Kingdom has become concerned about this. During the war, many tankers were sunk around its coast. When those wrecks were first sunk, in many cases their oil tanks were still sealed and have remained sealed under the water through the years. But as the wrecks have begun to disintegrate the oil is being released, and that has been a factor causing pollution.
The committee of the Ministry of Transport of the United Kingdom which considered this subject asked for provisions much more severe than are put into the international convention. For example, it asked for no discharge of oil whatever in the vitally important North Sea. The convention does not go so far as that. That committee asked also that distances of more than 50 miles be stipulated for the discharge of oil from ships into the sea. In places like the Adriatic where this could not apply the distance was reduced to 30 miles.
Some of the State governments, notably that of Western Australia, have been actually prosecuting under their own laws in advance of this convention. All the committees which have investigated the question of fire doubt whether it is the problem that it is sometimes considered to be. I think it was doubtful whether it was heavy persistent oil that burned in Fremantle. It was probably petrol, or possibly there was petrol in the discharge. If one thinks back one can recall the most celebrated case of rescue at sea of the “Volturno”, which caught on fire. It was a flaming torch for’ard. There was a rough sea and no boats could be lowered; and no boats from other ships could get near enough to take passengers off. The captain of the “ Carmania “ had the inspiration to summon a tanker some miles away and asked her to pour oil on the water around the flaming “Volturno”. Of course, if that had been highly inflammable, not only would the rest of the “ Volturno “ have gone up in flames but the neighbouring ships also would have perished. But that did not happen. The oil smoothed the water and enabled the rescue of the passengers of the “ Volturno “ to take place. So the United Kingdom committee doubted whether there was any great fire risk. It might be said that over the years piles and other things, which had become impregnated with oil from constant discharge, would perhaps in drying out become more inflammable.
Fremantle has had to face this problem of pollution because of the establishment nearby of the oil refinery at Kwinana. This has brought many, many times more tankers to Cockburn Sound, the waters adjacent to Fremantle, since it was established than ever took place before. We have had the problem of undisciplined masters of tankers causing pollution in Cockburn Sound. The “ West Australian “ newspaper contained some comments in its issue of 1st March, 1955. That was more than five years ago - more than five years before we have got round to ratifying this convention. These skippers were filling an empty crude oil tank with salt water ballast, then flushing it with salt water ballast and finally pouring the polluted water into the sea. The beach at Naval Base, which is a fairly popular swimming beach, was polluted. Swimmers found they got oil over themselves; and business people in the locality protested.
At that stage the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) asked each State Government to take action in line with this international convention and to set limits for the dumping of oil at sea. It has been recommended, although this convention does not go so far in all respects, that the limit should be 50 miles off-shore for cargo ships which have only a certain amount of oil as fuel and 150 miles off-shore for tankers.
The “ West Australian “, in reporting a conference on this matter, commented in these terms: -
The conference has noted that the coasts and coastal waters of many countries are seriously affected by oil pollution, the results of which include great damage to coasts and beaches and consequent hindrance to healthful recreation and interference with the tourist industry, the death’ and destruction of birds and other wild life and’ probably adverse -effects on fish and marine organisms on which they feed.
In passing, I point out that swimming fish do not appear to be so seriously affected as are shell fish and shell fish beds. The article went on -
The pollution is caused by persistent oils, that is to say crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil. They remain for very long periods . . . are capable of being carried very considerable distances by currents, wind and surface drift and of building up deposits on the seashore.
Some urge heavy fines to shake up lax skippers but the problem here is proof. If a tanker pollutes the sea coast with oil at night and sails at dawn it is difficult to spot the problem in time, bearing in mind that spilt oil might have been blown a mile away by daylight.
Obviously a culprit must be caught in the act and that means a special “watch dog” force which costs money.
The United Kingdom was imposing £1,000 fines on skippers who were responsible for any oil pollution at that time. About that year - 1955 - the commander of the “ Largs Bay “ was prosecuted for allowing pollution by oil in Fremantle Harbour. He was fined only £25, so there was nothing like the severity here in relation to penalties that there was in the United Kingdom. A ship’s puntsman was fined £50 because he allowed an overflow of oil near Kwinana, and the report of that case is in the “ West Australian “ of 9th January, 1956. So the delays by the Commonwealth in ratifying this convention have not meant that there has been no law covering pollution of the sea round our coasts. The “West Australian “, which did some research into the use of oil, published an article just after the case to which I have referred, in which it stated -
In the past five years, the world has used a quarter aif all the crude oil ever produced. Fantastic expansion of oil consumption reached a record of 786,000,000 tons in 1955. A third of this oil is delivered by sea in tankers which must clean their tanks and dump the residue (possibly 30 tons) each trip. Nearly all the 100,000,000 tons of world shipping is propelled by oil fuel and a growing proportion use the cheaper heavy fuel oils which cause the worst pollution.
The coasts of Britain and Europe, and the Atlantic coasts, have been most heavily fouled. At this stage, the British shipping companies started to impose strict rules on themselves. They were prepared, in the case of the British tanker companies, to undertake quite a heavy programme of ship reconstruction in order to equip the ships with oily water separator systems. They started to provide shore facilities to receive oily residues. A ship must wash out its tanks, but there is no need to pour the waste out into the sea if, in the ports of a country which is prepared to act responsibly in this matter, there are barges to receive the overflow, take it away and treat it.
In fact, if the estimate of 30 tons residue each trip is correct, there are indications that it could be profitable to recover the oil that is in the oily water. With the average tanker dumping 30 tons every time it clears its tanks, there is a tremendous waste. If there are facilities for separation, then some companies - salvage companies if you like - could make it their business to treat these residues, provided they are poured off into barges or shore facilities. If it became profitable to use the waste from tankers - where there is considerable waste - probably that would be the best way to safeguard the sea against pollution.
The British law depends on the honesty of ships’ officers, who are required to keep an oil dumping log book. In it they have to state what has been done with the crude oils, fuel oils and heavy diesel oils, which float for a long time on the surface of the sea. There was a bad case of spillage in Fremantle Harbour in 1956, when 1,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the harbour. Scoops were used to remove the oil. A photograph in the “ West Australian “ showed a man scooping the oil out of the water. There could be a collision in a harbour as a result of which a tanker poured out oil inadvertently. It is quite possible for a plant to be developed that would draw up the oil from the surface of the water.
– Oil on the water was set alight in 1955 in Fremantle.
– I was discussing that earlier. It is doubtful whether heavy fuel oils will catch alight. It is possible that there was a petrol content in the oil on that occasion. Out at sea the petrol content does not matter, because the petrol evaporates, but, if some one drops a spark into it, in enclosed waters, as in the case of the “ Panamanian “, it catches alight. In January, 1957, one of the popular beaches in Western Australia - South Beach - was quite seriously polluted with oil and photographs of the pollution were published in the “ West Australian “. The newspaper commented at the time -
Officials hold out little hope of finding the culprits. Guilty ships, they say, usually dump waste oil or tank washings during darkness. They can be several hundred miles away by the time it reaches the shore.
The master of the liner “ Largs Bay “ was fined £25, with £31 12s. costs, for a misdemeanour in Fremantle Harbour.
The United Kingdom Committee on the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil came to the conclusion that real protection for the United Kingdom would have to be given by an international agreement, and upon its recommendation the United Kingdom Government took the initiative which led to this convention. But that committee’s recommendations go far beyond this convention. The committee advocated that it should be the law in the United Kingdom that there be a discharge of oily residues ashore, that there should be separation and the consumption of recovered oil in the ship. Its recommendations covered ships other than tankers. They covered ordinary ships using oil as a fuel. The committee recommended that there should be special berths, equipped for the reception and disposal of oily wastes, that the normal equipment should comprise pipe lines at individual docks connected to storage tanks, separating plants or refineries, and that some berths should be equipped for tank cleaning as well. Berths equipped in this way are normally available only at ports used by tankers, but the committee recommended their extension to other United Kingdom ports.
The committee also advocated tank cleaning vessels, equipped with separating plant, to clean tankers’ cargo tanks and the fuel tanks of other vessels in port or in the waters adjacent to the coast. The committee even went to the extent of suggesting special ships to go out, if necessary, beyond the port and perform these services for ships that had to clean out their tanks. The committee also advocated the use of barges which could go alongside vessels and receive and separate oily wastes. It advocated barges, not equipped with separating plant, which could transport oily wastes ashore. It advocated separating apparatus or storage tanks in repair yards and dry docks.
The committee asked for collection and disposal services, provided by commercial recovery firms, for waste oil which had been collected on board ship in drums or tanks. The committee suggested also that on all tankers there should be slop tanks. After the tankers had washed out their tanks and then discharged the washing water into a slop tank, they could let it settle for a time before they poured out the water which was being used as ballast. The waste would accumulate in a second tank within the ship, and would not go into the sea. It would be retained on board.
The committee asked for an investigation of methods of making oily residues in a tanker’s cargo tanks available to the ship itself as fuel. It stated that the main problem was the tanker’s ballast tanks. When a tanker is empty, it fills its tanks with water to give it stability. Before it takes on its next cargo of oil, it must discharge that water, and with the water goes the oil residue which causes pollution. This flushing out of a tanker’s cargo space is the real problem to which the committee directed attention.
It also referred to the spoiling of beaches and the amenities of coastal holiday resorts. It dealt at some length with the destruction of sea-bird life and the fouling of boats, fishing gear, piers and quays. Any one who goes to the United Kingdom very quickly learns of the importance attached to birds and animals there. When I was in that country, I sometimes thought that people talked more about their dogs than they did about their children. It is rather interesting to notice, in this very serious report on the prevention of the pollution of the sea by oil, a long comment about the safeguarding of birds, which is quite important in the balance of nature, and possibly to the whole fishing industry. The committee quoted the following comment: -
The danger for birds lies in that a great part of the down becomes glued up, so that the protecting air strata between this and the body is destroyed in such spots, or becomes so thin that it does not produce warmth insulation. When one examines the fine oil-impregnated down under the microscope it is understandable that all insulation is destroyed. The bird’s natural and necessary warmth protection has been lost and the bird freezes, and in most cases flies from its native element, the sea, inland where it meets its death (certainly most frequently from cold). Its flying powers are often decreased so it must swim to land. In severe cases the bird dies before it reaches land. I have seen Razorbills and Guillemots far out to sea, so soaked with water that they could only keep their heads and neck above the surface. Without doubt far out to sea masses of birds have sunk to the bottom without having been observed, so that those which reach land and are observed are perhaps only a fractional part of the number that have really perished.
The committee seemed to regard that as one important reason why oil pollution should be reduced. It is quite a cheering thing to find a solemn governmental committee so much concerned about sea-birds.
I hope that we shall continue to be more severe than the convention stipulates. It seems to me that the action already being taken in Western Australia has been, and it is certain that the action taken by the United Kingdom has been, more severe than that asked for in the convention. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that it seems strange that the Commonwealth did not act earlier to ratify this convention. But I am not sure that Australia has sustained any practical loss as a result of the delay, in view of the action that has already been taken by the State governments. In all these matters which call for additional expenditure on the construction of ships and for the appointment of staff to ensure that care is taken - these things which result in expenses of the kind that governments like to avoid - it is a good thing, if an international convention of this nature is indicated, for us to ratify it early and thereby set an example to countries with governments which are not prepared to be public-spirited. I remind the House that the governments of other countries do not look at the Australian State governments as having international standing. They look to the Commonwealth Government. I feel that we should act more quickly over conventions such as this, and that we should ratify them within much less than six years.
Mr. BURY (Wentworth) [9.331.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, in general terms I acclaim the speeches just made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who pointed out the various ways in which oil polution of the sea is damaging. Broadly speaking, the principal damage arises from the despoiling of our beaches and the amenities of seaside resorts, injury to sea-birds, and the fouling of yachts, small boats, fishing gear and jetties; and there is also potential damage to industries such as fishing generally, and fishing for shellfish and crayfish. Over a period of time, serious damage can be caused to the industries and things I have mentioned by the undue discharge of oil waste, to say nothing of the danger and risk of fire in harbours and closed waters.
It is only natural, Sir, that honorable members from Western Australia, whose electorates are near to an oil refinery, have become acquainted with this problem. Let us not overlook the fact that oil pollution, if it is not arrested, may become worse and worse as the years go on. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), the honorable member for Mackeller (Mr. Wentworth) and I, who represent Sydney electorates in which there are numerous beaches, also have a potential problem in this respect.
It is unfortunate that, so far, this very important international convention on the prevention of the pollution of the sea by oil has been ratified by only twelve countries, and that among those twelve are not numbered Liberia, Panama, Honduras and those other countries whose flags are so freely used by the tanker owners as flags of convenience. Among the sanctions embodied in the bill, which will ratify the international convention or agreement, is provision for a fine not exceeding £1,000 for an offence of discharging oil or oil waste in prohibited waters. To the captain ofa tanker registered in Panama such a penalty would sound very distant, and it represents a somewhat vague remedy for the trouble.
Although we join wholeheartedly in the ratification of this international instrument, which is in the interests of all sea-going folk and all countries whose shores are visited by tankers and other ships, we must look far beyond this international agreement, as the honorable member for Fremantle, very rightly, has pointed out. The point is that the action proposed in this bill may not be very effective and that much more drastic action against people who discharge oil and oil waste near our shores may be needed. So the real problem is: How can we get tough with the offenders? In this respect, we must look very largely to the State governments which exercise the sovereign authority which is needed in order to put teeth into the sanctions against the undue pollution of waters by ships, and particularly by tankers. As the honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out, tankers discharging their ballast tanks and taking on water are the main offenders. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman; will use his best endeavours to persuade the State governments to put more effective teeth into any measures they propose than are contained in this international convention. Australia is in a strong position to do this, because it is not a tanker-owning country, and the business offering in Australia is extremely attractive to the owners of the tanker fleets of the world.
All tankers keep logs in which are entered, among other particulars, details of the discharge of oil and oil waste. In co-operation with the States, we should ensure that these logs are closely inspected in order that any tanker which does in fact discharge oil within 150 miles of our coast - or, depending on circumstances, even further out - is severely dealt with when it enters an Australian port. That is one requirement: We must take very stern action. In fact, it is open to Australia, if the Commonwealth and States work together, to ensure that no tanker does business in Australia after lt has polluted our waters. We are in a very strong bargaining position, and we ought to be able to ensure that our waters are riot polluted.
We must supervise very closely all ships coming to Australian ports, and particularly tankers. The States should take steps to ensure that adequate facilities are provided for the discharge of oil and oil waste by vessels before they leave Australian ports. We should make certain that all vessels leaving our ports have no need to discharge oil until they are many hundreds of miles from the Australian coastline. I do hope that the Minister will use his influence in these matters, which is no doubt very powerful, to ensure that the States get tough with offenders, because the cards are in our hands. Although we must support this bill, as we all do, let us recognize that it has severe limitations. The honorable member for Newcastle mentioned some of the problems that affect us, but they are very largely of a kind that must be dealt with by State legislation. Let us get very tough with any tankers or other ships that discharge oil in the vicinity of Australia. We are not owners of international shipping and there is a lot of competition in the world to do business with Australia. Let us take advantage of that fact and ensure that this nuisance is not inflicted upon us.
I congratulate the Minister on bringing the bill forward. I hope that other bills that he will present in the future will have equally beneficial effects upon Australia. Above all, I plead with him to use every influence with State governments to ensure that effective action is taken to inspect the logs of every tanker and other vessel that comes to Australia and to provide facilities for disposing of oil and oil waste, so that no ship leaving Australia will have any excuse for discharging oil within a couple of hundred miles of our coast.
– in reply - It has been of great interest to me that so many members have studied the bill closely and made contributions to the debate. The bill is of very great importance, as all have stressed, because of the damage done by oil to harbours, wharfs, jetties, bird life and fishing nets, and because of the danger it presents to harbours. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was, I thought, most concerned about the delay in taking action, but his remarks must be considered more as a criticism of the Constitution than of the terms of the bill and, as such, they were not quite relevant to the debate. On the question of apparent delay, I point out that the period was not particularly long in the circumstances. Australia was represented at the international convention in 1954. Preparation was commenced in 1955, the first discussions between State and Commonwealth authorities on the measures necessary to enable Australia to ratify the convention took place early in 1956, and the convention did not come into operation until 1958. Because of the constitutional position and the division between Commonwealth and States of powers in relation to shipping, the procedure for enacting the legislation necessary to ratify a convention of this nature is very much more complicated and timeconsuming in Australia than is the case in a country such as the United Kingdom that has only one sovereign government.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition implied that we should have gone in and taken over the obligations of the States. There is a tendency for the Opposition to assert that the Commonwealth should have power over the States in these matters, but I think it is better that the States should have sovereignty. The desire to take over State rights is in accord with the Opposition’s general policy in favour of the Commonwealth having supreme authority. We on this side of the House believe rather that we should come to an agreement with the States and co-operate satisfactorily with them.
Originally, 32 countries signed the agreement. Obviously they were interested in the matter of pollution of the sea and saw the necessity for some action to be taken, yet only twelve of them have so far ratified the agreement. Those countries, I should think, have not such difficulties as we have as a result of having several sovereign States. Twenty countries which, I emphasize, thought the matter important enough for them to sign the agreement, have not yet ratified it, so perhaps Australia has not been so slow as some honorable gentlemen have suggested.
As the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said at the beginning of his speech, the circumstances of this convention provide an illustration of the fact that countries can get together with a common purpose and hammer out their ideas for the benefit of all. The same is true of the Australian States. This is a matter on which they have varied ideas and outlooks, but because of its importance they have been prepared to come to the party, as it were, and incur some of the expense that will be involved, for the general good of Australia.
Mention has been made of other countries that were represented at the original meeting but which did not sign the agreement and have not shown any indication of an intention to ratify it. We have no control over vessels sailing under flags of convenience until they enter territorial waters. It was clear at the original meeting that total prohibition was the only real answer to this problem, but that cannot be enforced except in territorial waters, and so this convention has been, to a great extent, a compromise. It is a commencement, and an indication of what can be done. Perhaps through education, as time goes on, we may even be able to bring into the convention those countries that are new outside it.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) mentioned the United Nations. It may be of interest to him to know that there is within the framework of the United Nations a sub-committee known as the Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organization. Within this organization representatives of all maritime nations get together and exchange views. No doubt this organization will have some influence upon those nations which have not as yet shown interest in the convention. I emphasize again that much of the criticism directed against this bill merely underlines the difficulties of getting together nations of varying outlooks, interests, and even languages, and hammering out a policy. A very important step has been taken in the right direction.
The honorable member for Newcastle, who was quite tolerant in his outlook, did diverge at some stage, and I am not prepared to follow him up the creek or up the river on the matters he mentioned. I say quite emphatically that it is the function of the States to take action on those matters, and I do not want him to think that this Government would override State rights. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), as usual, showed that he had engaged in intense research into the effects of the bill. He mentioned the difficulties of ships that pass in the night, as it were, and escape after having jettisoned their oil. With policing and with the aid of log books that would be carried by the ships, it will be possible to advise a country under whose flag a ship is sailing, if that country has signed the convention, that it is considered that the ship discharged oil. Reference to the log book would serve as a check on the information supplied. That is the only control that we have.
– We supply the evidence on which the other country can prosecute?
– Exactly. We send the evidence that we have to the country concerned and a check is made with the log book. Of course, the ship’s officers could falsify the log, but that is a most serious offence. If the log book is maintained correctly, a competent check is provided.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) questioned whether the States would inflict penalties with determination and to the limit. We have had evidence over the years that the States take an interest in these matters. The honorable member for Fremantle has mentioned already that penalties have been imposed on ships. The States having already taken this interest, I am sure that they will accept this model bill and meet the expense of installing the necessary port facilities as an indication that they realize the danger that could arise from the pollution of the sea by oil. I am sure that the penalties they will impose will deter ships from discharging oil within the territorial waters of the States. I appreciate the interest taken by honorable members in the bill.
– There does not appear to be much interest now; there are not many members listening to you.
– Well, we are glad to see you in here for the first time this evening. [Quorum formed.] As I said, I appreciate the interest taken in this bill by honorable members.
– Those who were here.
– Those who were interested were here, of course. The constructive suggestions that have been made will be considered. In the years to come another convention will undoubtedly be held, and these matters will be brought forward and considered at that time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together.
.- Clause 2 provides that the act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation, not being earlier than the date on which the convention is accepted by Australia. I take it that the convention will not be accepted by Australia until the six States have passed the complementary legislation about which we have been told.
I therefore ask the Minister whether he can indicate when he expects that the six State Acts will be passed and when, accordingly, we will be able to accept the convention and bring this measure into operation.
– Our assessment is that, six States being concerned, probably 1 8 months or two years will elapse before the legislation will come into operation.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 6 - by leave - taken together.
.- Clause 6 provides -
Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the ships to which this Act applies are ships registered in Australia.
I ask the Minister to explain what ships are registered in Australia. As I understand it, no ships are registered in Australia in the ordinary sense. All ships that we colloquially say are registered in Australia are, in fact, registered under the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. The people to whom we refer as registrars of shipping in Australia in fact carry on their functions under the British act. The act has been amended since the Commonwealth adopted the Statute of Westminster. The Commonwealth has not adopted any of these subsequent amendments which the United Kingdom has passed to its Merchant Shipping Act, and the United Kingdom Parliament has not made any of those subsequent amendments apply to ships engaged in intra-State trade - that is, what would be regarded as Australian State ships. These are matters of importance, because the way in which a ship is registered determines the liability of its owners for the damage it causes. I ask the Minister to say what ships he means by “ ships registered in Australia “.
I should also like the Minister to let us know - although this is not strictly applicable to this bill - whether he proposes to introduce registration provisions concerning inter-State and overseas ships registered in Australia, to bring the liabilities of ship owners to the general public into line with those which now apply to British ships registered in the United Kingdom.
.- I do not quite understand the act just put on by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). Surely it is plain that, irrespective of the legal requirements, in practice large numbers of ships are registered in Australia. Our own Australian National Line and all our Australian shipping companies have ships registered in Australia. I ask: Is this not quite clearly understood? Irrespective of the act under which they are registered, a number of ships are registered in the Australian ports, and they are the ships to which this measure applies.
– Let me say in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) that it is proposed that this provision shall apply to ships and activities of both State and Commonwealth governments. In other words, it will apply to ships registered in Australian ports under the British act.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 9 - by leave - taken together.
.- I wish to refer to clause 7, which prohibits the discharge of oils, &c, into certain sea areas, and in particular to sub-clause (6.) (a), which provides -
It is a defence if a person charged with an offence against this section proves -
that the discharge of the oil or mixture containing oil was for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship, of preventing damage to the ship or cargo or of saving life at sea;
I do not propose to seek an amendment of, or vote against, the provision, but I do ask the Minister to give it serious consideration with a view to amending the convention by deleting the words “ or cargo “. As I indicated earlier, I feel that those words negative the real intention of the clause, namely, the securing of the safety of the ship, the prevention of damage to the ship, and the saving of life at sea. Nobody could disagree with those three purposes, but I do not think that cargo can be held to be associated in any way with either the welfare of the ship or the saving of life at sea. I do ask the Minister, therefore, to give serious consideration to moving under Article XVI. for the deletion of the words “or cargo”. As I pointed out earlier, if in a case where there may be only minor damage to the cargo, a skipper is to be permitted to discharge oil into the sea, especially into a harbour, untold damage and untold loss of life could be caused within the harbour.
Take Newcastle harbour as an example. On occasions, there are ships in that harbour with up to 13,000 tons of high-octane spirit aboard. What will be the position there if the captains are to be given loopholes in the law so that they will be able to discharge into the harbour oil, petrol or whatever inflammable cargo they may be carrying? We can visualize the terrific amount of damage that could be caused in those circumstances. A similar position could obtain when ships are standing off the heads or out at sea. If my suggestion is not adopted, captains of ships in which bunkers or some storage are likely to cause minor damage to cargo will be permitted to dump oil, or petroleum, as the case may be, into the sea and so pollute it. Although it may be ridiculous to attempt to amend the provision at this stage, I do ask that serious consideration be given to amending the convention in the way I have suggested.
.- I suggest to the Minister that the matter raised by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) is essentially one for State legislation. In effect, the honorable member asks the Minister to amend an international convention that has been agreed to by 32 countries. That is a task which is worse than impossible. The real answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Newcastle is that this is essentially a matter for the New South Wales Government to whose attention it should be directed.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) has certainly misunderstood the point raised by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). The convention does not prevent our deleting the words to which the honorable member for Newcastle objects. Clause 7 relates to the penalties which may be imposed on ships registered in Australia, and this Parliament can impose what penalties it likes in respect of ships registered in Australia. It is certainly true that this Parliament cannot impose penalties on ships which are not registered in Australia and which do not come within Australian territorial waters.
– But it cannot alter the international agreement.
– If it wanted to, this Parliament could pass any laws concerning ships registered in Australia. It is true that the convention permits contracting governments to exempt ships registered in their countries which discharge oil in order to preserve cargo. It does not require the contracting governments to exempt them.
It is quite right, as the honorable member for Newcastle has said, that if Australia likes to impose more stringent requirements on ships registered in Australia in order to preserve Australian shores from pollution caused by those ships, it can do so. There is nothing in the convention annexed to this measure which prevents the Parliament from deleting the words “or cargo” if it sees fit to do so. Australian ships alone are concerned in this provision and we can do what we like about them.
.- Despite what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) says, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) spoke mainly about what would happen in a harbour. Surely, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) the important thing is that the model bills that have been drafted for enactment by the State parliaments deal much more effectively with what is actually taking place within territorial waters, and within harbours than this measure could ever do. I submit that it is very much wiser to incorporate these special provisions in the model bills to be dealt with by the State parliaments than to attempt to deal with them under his measure which is essentially one seeking to ratify an international convention and to adhere as far as is possible to the actual items contained in the schedule attached thereto. I feel certain that so far during this debate the Opposition has not appreciated the difference between the convention we seek to ratify here and the model bills which the State parliaments will be considering within the next few months.
.- I submit that both the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Bury) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) are off the beam. If the honorable member for Wentworth would take the trouble to read Article XVI. of the First Schedule to this measure, which sets out how amendments can be effected, he will see that my suggestion does not present any insurmountable difficulty.
– I have read it.
– I was not talking to you; I was talking to the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Order! The honorable member should address the Chair and let us get on with the bill.
– I will do that. I have stated the position. I ask the Minister to consider the suggestion that has been put to him, so that it may be submitted to the convention in the form of a suggested amendment, in accordance with the provisions of Article XVI.
In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner, I endeavoured to make it clear that I wanted the Minister to consider the deletion of the words “ or cargo “, fully realizing that the State acts would have to be amended in this way. I feel that the Minister should look at the matter in that light. He should, first, tackle the problem of the State acts. He is the one responsible for co-ordinating the legislation, and for arranging conferences with the States in order to facilitate the preparation of their legislation, which will be necessary for the implementation of the measure now before us. I believe that there is no difficulty associated with the suggestion that has been submitted, so far as the States are concerned or the convention as a whole.
.- I would like to ask the Minister one question: Will this act override any of the State acts?
.- The States will each pass model acts to conform to the Commonwealth act. We are not overriding the States. We are putting forward a model act which they will ratify.
.-I have listened with interest to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). It seems to me that they are both apprehensive of the cargo cult.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has asked that we put forward his ideas at the next convention.
– That you consider putting them forward.
– He has asked that wc consider putting forward at the next convention his views on the provisions concerning cargo. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has suggested that we can bring the matter forward now - that we can make laws at the present time to cover the situation.
– To cover our ships.
– Yes, to cover our own ships. It would create a most invidious situation, I believe, if we applied the provisions of the convention and allowed overseas vessels to eject oil to save cargo, while imposing penalties on our own vessels for so doing, especially after the convention has come to the conclusion, following deliberation, that this practice should be allowed. Although one will, of course, take notice of what the honorable member has said, it seems to me that the convention has gone into the question very thoroughly, and has concluded that there are times when, in order to save cargo, a ship should be allowed to eject oil. I think that much depends on the particular circumstances. There may be times when a ship which is well inside the 150-miles limit finds it necessary to jettison oil in order to save the cargo, but the suggestion is that a penalty should be imposed on our own ships if they found it necessary to do so. I believe, therefore, that at the present juncture the provision should be allowed to stand.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 10 (Crown not liable to prosecution).
– The Opposition proposes to vote against clause 10, which provides -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to subject the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State to liability to be prosecuted for an offence, but this section does not affect any liability of the master of a ship of which the Crown is the owner to be so prosecuted.
You will remember, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that earlier clauses of the bill provide that the owner and the master of a ship can be guilty of offences under the legislation, and also that the legislation binds the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State. It appeared to us that we should not make it possible for government companies or corporations, such as the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, operating the Australian National Line, or the Western Australian State Shipping Service, to avoid prosecution, while private companies could be prosecuted for offences under the act.
As we understand the position, there is no doubt that if a ship owned by a private company is responsible for pollution, both the company and the master can be prosecuted. If, however, one of the Western Australian State ships is responsible for pollution, it would seem, if the bill goes through in its present form, that the owner cannot be prosecuted, but only the master.
A third position may arise, although one cannot be dogmatic about it because there have been no court decisions on the matter. It may be that if a ship of the Australian National Line is responsible for pollution, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission cannot be prosecuted, but the master can. The Government’s policy concerning these statutory corporations is that they should not be in a more favoured position than are private companies engaged in the same sort of work. It would seem that ships belonging to the Crown in right of the Commonwealth would not be naval ships alone, because ships belonging to the Crown in right of a State cannot be naval ships, since there are no State navies.
– Naval ships are excluded.
– Naval auxiliaries, of course, are excluded, under the convention, are they not?
– It appears, therefore, that this clause relates to something more than naval ships. It would apply to Government ships in commercial use. The position as regards the Australian National Line is a matter for speculation. I understand there have been no court decisions on the question whether the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is the Crown. There are many sections in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956 which would not be there if the commission were the Crown; there is an equal number which would not be there if the commission were not the Crown. One has to wait, therefore, for a decision on the matter. If the commission is the Crown, then it cannot be prosecuted for any breach of the act, and we think this is an anomaly which should be excised.
There are two further matters which should be taken into account while we are on the subject. Article VI. of the convention requires all the contracting governments to see that -
The penalities which may be imposed in pursuance of Article III under the law of any of the Territories of a Contracting Government in respect of the unlawful discharge from a ship of oil or of an oily mixture into waters outside the territorial waters of that territory shall not be less than the penalties which may be imposed under the law of that territory in respect of the unlawful discharge of oil or of an oily mixture from a ship into such territorial waters.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has mentioned cases where the Australian National Line has been prosecuted for oil pollution within territorial waters. I do not know the cases, but it would seem to me that Australia may be in breach of the convention if it exempts the commission from prosecution for offences under the convention, whereas the commission could be prosecuted for similar offences within territo ial waters under our existing laws.
The other point is that if Australia makes an exemption in respect of Government ships it affords a very bad example to some of the other signatories to the convention which have not yet ratified it but all of whose ships are government ships. Among the 32 countries which had delegates at the 1954 International Conference on the Pollution of the Sea by Oil were Poland, Russia and Yugoslavia. It is to be hoped that all those countries ratify the convention in due course. All the ships owned in those countries are owned by the governments of those countries. The only sanction under the convention for a breach of the convention on the high seas, beyond territorial waters, is in the hands of the country in which the offending ship is registered. If those coun tries in the Soviet bloc exempt their government ships from prosecution in the way we seem to be exempting some or all of our government ships, then they can quote our example to defend themselves. And if they exempt their government ships, the convention is of no force as regards those countries because the only people who can punish for these offences are the governments of the countries where the ships are registered.
– They can still punish the master.
– That is true, but there is a certain deterrent in the publicity attaching to the prosecution of a company. A company does not worry very much about the prosecution of a master. The master’s employer is not mentioned in court. The master may only be another name on a court list in a police court. But the prosecution of a prominent shipping company is news; and it would be a deterrent and help to preserve the convention. I would say the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission would certainly be ashamed to be prosecuted; and, if this clause goes through as it is, it will certainly be open for courts to say that the commission is the Crown and therefore, under this act, cannot be prosecuted. Nobody, I think, can be dogmatic on this question with the clause in its present form.
Whatever may be the position concerning the commission, it certainly appears that the Western Australian State Shipping Service is exempted by this clause; and that that service carries on interstate trade and commerce. It carries on the shipping trade between Fremantle and Darwin; and it is not purely a State function because we can legislate in respect of trade and commerce between the States or between a State and a Territory.
This clause may be in breach of the convention. It establishes a bad precedent. The A.N.L. ships have been guilty of oil pollution on earlier occasions. More and more of the world’s shipping is governmentowned. There have been many cases, since the First World War, when nationalism in shipping became prevalent–
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This clause avoids the possibility of the Crown becoming liable to prosecution under the act while not so protecting the master of a ship owned by the Crown. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has laid considerable stress on whether the Australian National Line can be said to be owned by the Crown and whether its ships will be subject to sanctions by countries which perhaps own government ships. In this context we do not regard the Australian National Line as being owned by the Crown, and therefore ships of that line, if they break these regulations, would be subject to prosecution the same as any other ship.
– What about the Western Australian Government’s ships?
– They would not be subject to prosecution. As has been pointed out during the course of this debate, we would not have got the cooperation of the States if we said to them that we were going to regard their ships not as Crown ships but would prosecute them for a breach of the regulations. That would undoubtedly have held back the bill. We regard the Western Australian Government’s ships, for the purposes of this act, as Crown ships. It would be an invidious position if we were to take the Western Australian Government to court for offences of this particular nature.
– Even for pollution off the Northern Territory?
– That is so. As the master is liable, we have control to that extent. So far as Western Australian Government ships are concerned, we will consider them as ships under the Crown. To go further, the Premier of Victoria, when asked to agree to the text of this bill, suggested that it should be made quite clear that the State Government, if it owned ships, would not be prosecuted. I say again that there is a deterrent in the fact that the master can be prosecuted.
– The Victorian Government owns only harbour vessels.
– That is so. I mention that in order to show that the States are sensitive on this question. Even though Victoria is not affected, the Premier of that State asked that it be made quite clear that the Victorian Government would not be liable to prosecution. But the Western Australian Government actually owns ships trading in this way. So we feel that this clause will have to be passed as drafted.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. F. C. Chaney.)
Majority . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- There is one remaining question I would like to put to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) concerning the definition of the Australian zone, within which contracting governments undertake that ships registered within their shores will not pollute the sea. The Australian zone shall extend for 150 miles from the coasts of Australia except off the north and the west coasts of the Australian mainland between Thursday Island and Port Hedland. Within this area lies the Gulf of Carpentaria. This Parliament frequently passes legislation in respect of pearl fisheries and fisheries and whaling and now navigation within territorial waters or the adjacent areas. The question in each case arises: In whose jurisdiction, if any, does the Gulf of Carpentaria fall? A similar point frequently arises in international law when many States purport to embrace within their territorial waters all the water within a line joining promontories. As we know, our neighbour, Indonesia, asserts that point most strongly.
I ask: Is the Gulf of Carpentaria within the territorial waters of the Northern Territory and Queensland or is it on the high seas? I am asking the Minister for the official view on this matter. It is not completely academic because more ships have been going into the Gulf of Carpentaria to serve the Weipa bauxite deposits. Many suggestions have been made for the development of the cattle industry in the Gulf country by running railways or roads to the mouth of the McArthur River and resurrecting the ancient settlement of Burketown and, of course, there are islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the coastal ports of Normanton and Karumba to which ships travel. It is to be anticipated as the tropical north is developed and produces exports that ships of larger size will use the gulf. How does this convention and this bill concern such ships?
Before I sit down, Sir, I should like to take the opportunity to thank the Minister, in his debut in this role, for the courteous and helpful replies he has given to earlier questions.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his kindly words. As I said earlier, I appreciate the fact that very great interest has been taken in this bill.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked a rather knotty question. It is one that I cannot answer at the present time, but I know that he will be very interested to hear that the very point to which he referred is at present being raised by the SolicitorGeneral who is attending a conference abroad dealing with the laws of the seas. The question cannot be answered until the matter is determined at that conference.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Trade Union Ballots- Political PartiesRadio Frequencies - Wool.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer, this evening, to the issue of unity tickets. By way of reference, I would like to go back to the evening of 13th August, 1958, when I produced in this House specific evidence of the use of a unity ticket in the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane. Those who were in the House on that occasion will recall that I produced a photostat copy indicating quite clearly the nature of the unity ticket. Those honorable members who were present will also recall that the then Leader of the Opposition cited a federal executive interpretation of its attitude on unity tickets. Amongst other things, he said that the executive’s interpretation was that - any member of the Labour Party who agrees to join with members of the Communist Party and/or any other Party opposed to Labour on any How-to-Vote tickets, commits an offence against the Party.. We therefore direct State branches to protect the policy of the Party by taking action against any member who so offends.
On the following evening, in reply to the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) the then Leader of the Opposition said that the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party had decided that -
Where evidence is placed before this Executive which reliably indicates that offences are committed and State action is not being taken, this Executive without hesitation will take the appropriate Federal action to preserve the Party’s integrity on this question.
This House and the country have now waited almost two years for action to be taken. The tragic fact is that action has not been taken. There is no evidence at all that any sanction has been imposed on those members of the Australian Labour Party who have been associated with unity tickets. Three branches of the party, in particular, have treated the federal executive’s resolution regarding unity tickets with utter contempt. Those three branches are the Queensland branch, the Victorian branch and the Western Australian branch. In Queensland, a very mild reprimand was given to those members of the Australian Labour Party who shared in the conduct of the Waterside Workers Federation unity ticket.
One can only describe the attitude of the State secretary of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria as one of unrestrained insolence. During the Australian Railways Union election in that State last year, there was the most flagrant evidence of the use of a unity ticket, and already a unity ticket is in the process of drafting for the Waterside Workers Federation election to be held in Victoria this year. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), by way of interjection, denies that. The acid test will come for him later on. I ask the House to consider the terms of the resolution of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour Party regarding the federal executive’s attitude on this issue. It said -
That the Central Executive recommends to the Victorian 1959 Annual Conference that the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party petitions the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party to call a special meeting of the Federal Australian Labour Party Conference as soon as practicable to re-consider the decision of the Federal Conference held at Canberra in May this year, with reference to non-interference by the Australian Labour Party in the affairs of trade unions.
It continues -
In support of such petition, we submit the following: - 1. ) That the time allotted for discussion was insufficient to permit proper arguments for and against the proposal as submitted by the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labour Party to be placed before Conference. 2. ) That the amendment, consisting of over 160 words, was read to the delegates. No roneoed copies were available. In view of this we submit many delegates were not clear as to the wording ofthe amendment. 3. ) That in one State, Western Australia, it is impossible to implement the decision referred to.
It is rather strange that the executive of a branch of the Australian Labour Party should say that a decision of its federal executive is not capable of being implemented. The fact of the matter is that key unions are involved in the conduct of unity tickets and basic industries are threatened. It is all very fine for some people to say that this is of no consequence. The unity ticket device can expose the whole community to disruption. Those who sponsor unity tickets are not interested in securing industrial justice or industrial peace. They are interested in getting industrial power and in using that power to promote the ambitions of a foreign power.
I invite the Leader of the Opposition this evening, first of all, to examine for himself the evidence of unity ticket activity in this country during the last two years. I invite him to examine, in particular, the evidence regarding the conduct of the last Australian Railways Union election in Victoria and the pending waterside workers’ election in that State. I invite him to request the federal executive of his party to summon Mr. Tripovitch, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Labour Party, to explain his reported statement to the effect that the State executive has no power to determine the conditions of trade union elections. Where the evidence clearly shows that there has been a violation of the federal executive’s decision on unity tickets, I invite the Leader of the Opposition to insist that the federal executive shall forthwith expel the offenders from the party.
I know that the Leader of the Opposition will probably get up and try to laugh this off, but he cannot laugh this off. He cannot laugh off the attitude of the State secretary of his branch in Victoria. His position as Leader of the Opposition puts him in the role of the alternative leader of the government in this country. That is a very great responsibility. But he will not fulfil that responsibility by ignoring the profound danger represented by the unity ticket device. No jeers or gibes, and no amount of name-calling will answer that charge. Both the Leader of the Australian Labour Party and his party will be judged, not on what they say on this issue, but on what they do. I invite the honorable gentleman to consider the four points that I have put to him this evening. There are many people, not only on this side of politics, who are genuinely concerned at what is happening regarding the progress of unity tickets. There are many people on the Leader of the Opposition’s side of politics who are genuinely concerned at what is happening and they are waiting for him to set the lead in this matter. If the Labour Party is to have a new look, here is the opportunity for it to come forward in all its new-found glory.
– I am not going to worry about the four points mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I just want to tell him flatly that I consider his effort is just a political stunt. Until 1955 we had seven members of the Democratic Labour Party in this chamber. We have none now. Senator Cole, having no opportunity of raising this issue in the Senate, has arranged for his Charlie McCarthy in this chamber to tell the story that he could not tell in another place. Fancy the honorable member for Moreton trying to pose as an authority on unity tickets! He knows nothing about the matter. He said that there is a unity ticket in the course of preparation in the Waterside Workers Federation. It is not prepared yet. It is only in course of preparation. But he knows all about it! He wants us to say where we stand in regard to something that is only in the process of being formed. The Labour Party’s policy in regard to unity tickets is very clear. It has been stated often. The events of 1959 to which the honorable gentleman referred are all past history.
A federal conference of the Australian Labour Party was held in Canberra in May last year. The federal executive of the party has since met and the whole issue is now very clearly stated. The Labour Party has always been opposed to communism. Only last week the New South Wales executive of the party unanimously passed a resolution on the subject. The New South Wales executive had before it a suggestion from two unions that the Labour Party in New South Wales should tie up with the Communist Party. The resolution passed by the New South Wales executive, which reflected the unanimous opinion of Labour men throughout the Commonwealth, stated -
This executive of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour Party unequivocally rejects the proposal of the Australian Communist Party for co-operation between the Australian Labour Party and that organization.
It is our long standing policy, re-affirmed unanimously on many occasions at both State and Federal Conferences, that there can be no co-operation with the Communist Party, nor can any member of the Australian Labour Party be associated in any way with the Communist Party.
The request made by the Communist Party for trade union support for its proposal is an example of the impudent lengths to which it is prepared to go in an attempt to end frustration arising from its continued ignominious defeat at the hands of the Australian electors, and its failure to make any significant impact upon the Australian Trade Union Movement and the Australian people.
The Australian Labour Party is a democratic organization with a policy based on social democracy, which since its inception has had a very close association with the Australian Trade Union Movement.
It has always stood independently of all other political parties and has maintained its identity as the Australian Labour Party throughout its long and illustrious history.
It abhors totalitarianism of the right or the left and does not intend to depart from the course it has set itself to develop an economic and social order for the benefit of all the people by the utilization of democratic process and within the Constitution.
This policy is so much at variance with that of the Australian Communist Party that there can never be an association between the two organizations.
We remind the two unions which have expressed their support for the Communist Party’s proposals that the Australian Labour Party provides for their affiliation and thereby the opportunity to contribute to the making of Australian Labour
Party policy. On the other hand no union can affiliate with the Communist Party nor can they contribute to the making of its policy.
We also remind the two unions that we do not accept their support as receiving the endorsement of their rank and file members.
That was the unanimous decision of the New South Wales executive of the Australian Labour Party, expressed last Friday night.
– Tell us the position in Victoria?
– The best unity ticket you ever saw will be presented to the electors of La Trobe on Saturday next. It will be Pritchard (1); Jess (2). You will always find the D.L.P. prepared to join in all kinds of unity tickets - with the Liberals in political elections and with the Communist Party delegates at conferences of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne and in the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney. I know that honorable members opposite do not like this. The name of the D.L.P. candidate in La Trobe is Martyr. He is a martyr to science. Honorable members opposite want him placed (1) and Jess (2).
– Who would you put second, the Republicans?
– The honorable member talks like a Republican. I heard him on the air the other night. His accent is much the same as that of the Republicans.
In Victoria the Labour Party has taken a certain stand against the unity ticket issue and if the D.L.P. were voted out of existence we would never hear of unity tickets again. The D.L.P. is being sustained and maintained by the representatives of this Government and the Liberal Party. In the campaign in La Trobe the very people who are the public relations officers for the Liberal Party are also doing the work of the D.L.P. A fortnight ago the Liberal Party said through its columns in the newspapers that the D.L.P. would not give its second preference to the Labour Party. That was never announced by the D.L.P. It was announced for the D.L.P. by its allies in the Liberal Party.
We must look after our affairs in our own way, and we will do so. Let me remind honorable members that at the Senate elections before last Senator McCallum was elected on the preference votes of the Communist Party candidate. Sixty per cent, of the votes of the Communist Party went u> the Liberal Party. On the occasion of the last Senate election in Victoria, Senator Sandford won by 2,500 votes in a poll of 1,500,000 votes. The Communist candidate’s preferences were distributed between the D.L.P. candidate and the Labour Party candidate and, believe it or not, 40 per cent, of the Communist Party preferences went to the D.L.P. candidate. That is the kind of unity ticket that this Government believes in. The honorable member for Moreton made an awful mess of his show tonight. He came into the chamber and adopted his typical McCarthy-like attitude. Earlier I called him a Charlie McCarthy, but he has developed into a replica of the other and more sinister McCarthy. He tried to smear the Labour Party in a vain effort to boost the dwindling fortunes and restore the fading glories of the D.L.P. in the La Trobe campaign. If I may change the metaphor, on Saturday next the D.L.P. will sing its swan song.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is clearly very uncomfortable on this issue. That is understandable and one does not lack sympathy for him in the predicament in which he finds himself.
– How many opponents have you had?
– Honorable members opposite need not worry about my pre-selection. I was here many years before the honorable member for Hughes, and I will be here for many years after he has gone from this place. So far as my electorate is concerned, it is a dull family that does not have a squabble occasionally. This year I am celebrating the 25th anniversary of my wedding to my electorate, and I can assure honorable members opposite that that marriage will continue for many years to come. Let us have no more red herrings thrown into this discussion.
The Leader of the Opposition, who has just made his apologia, tried to skirt the issue by reading out some resolution passed by the executive of the Labour Party in New South Wales. I have not yet noticed that resolution copied by the Victorian executive. The honorable gentleman is understandably uncomfortable. His opening remarks reminded us of the discomfiture that exists on his side of the House at present. He reminded us that whereas formerly seven members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party were sitting on the other side of the House, not one of those persons is there now. It is true that the Labour Party managed to get rid of its right wing in Victoria - it now has a left wing executive in control in that State - but it has not yet succeeded in doing the same job in New South Wales. Honorable gentlemen opposite who were as close as peas on a fork to their predecessors who have gone out of the Parliament, are sitting rather uneasily behind their leader and are still very much of the same mind as those who have gone from this place.
The Leader of the Opposition made no attempt to state the facts regarding the Labour executive in Victoria. He knows that the direction issued by the federal executive - the executive was goaded into issuing it for electoral purposes prior to the last election - has never been given practical effect in Victoria. Does the honorable gentleman deny that there was a unity ticket with the Communists at the last Australian Railways Union election? Does he deny that a unity ticket was worked at the last branch elections of the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria? Does he deny that the present left wing leadership of the Tramways Union in Victoria was produced as a result of a unity ticket in that State? He knows that in Victoria they just snap their fingers at him, his resolution and his federal executives so far as that matter is concerned. The honorable gentleman has not been so long in the saddle that he cannot remember when he was running after the horse, with left-wing unions pursuing him and saying, “ Not for us. We want some other man to represent us, because we know where we stand on issues of this kind.” Well, good luck to the honorable gentleman. He was able to beat them on that occasion. We hope he will go on to defeat these infiltrations of the Labour movement. The fact is that there is still an obvious division in the ranks of Labour, which the by-election in La Trobe is highlighting with a most energetic and active campaign on the part of those elements, formerly in the Labour Party, who regard the present Labour Party as still being too sensitive to communism, too willing to have truck with unity ticket techniques, and too willing to go along, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has apparently decided to do, with the Peace Congress in Victoria - an organization which my friend, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), condemned for its Communist affiliations. As long as the public see these things happening, they are not prepared to support the Australian Labour Party as truly representative of the thinking of the Australian people.
– Old stuff !
– It may be old stuff, but that position remains because you have done nothing effective about it. The unity ticket issue divides Labour to-day just as the attitude of the Labour Party to communism, to foreign affairs and to socialism, divides one section of the Labour Party from the other. As long as the Labour movement demonstrates that it is so seriously divided as to be incapable of providing a coherent policy for the Australia of our times, just so long will the Australian people see that the Labour Party remains where it deserves to remain - on the Opposition benches of this Parliament.
.- I do not want to delay the House for very long, but I should like to say a word or two about the attack made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the trade union movement and the Labour Party. I think that there are many people who would like to know a great deal about the unity ticket deals in which the Government engages. I asked a question during the present sittings about that matter. I wanted to know whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was prepared to have a public investigation of the sources of all party funds. If that investigation were held, it would disclose some very peculiar associations by men who sit on the Government side of the House.
It is interesting to note that on every occasion when we have asked for some sort of an inquiry into the sources of party funds, the Prime Minister has refused to have anything to do with it. I well recollect the charge made in this chamber by the late Mr. Ben Chifley, when he accused the
Government of getting funds from the private banks, the insurance companies and so forth, at the time of the bank nationalization campaign. There is no doubt in the world that the late Mr. Ben Chifley was speaking the truth, because no Government supporter was prepared to rise and advocate some form of investigation into the sources of the funds that had been obtained by the Government parties on that occasion. I would venture the opinion that Mr. Alan Reid of the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ was pretty close to the mark the other day in an article which he wrote, analysing the prospects in the La Trobe by-election. He said -
Unless the D.L.P. poll as many votes as they did last time, and unless 60 per cent, of the D.L.P. preferences go to the Liberal Party, it is the death knell of the D.L.P.
That means that if the D.L.P. cannot attract a substantial number of votes and transfer at least 60 per cent, of its preferences to the Liberal Party in La Trobe, it will be of no further use either to the Government or to the financial interests that back it. The D.L.P.’s funds will be withdrawn and it will collapse and disappear.
I think that the public of this country would like to have a little peep behind the political scenes, and the Government could help in that regard. As various associations are said to exist between right and left elements, let us have a thorough public examination of the sources of all party funds, including the sources of the funds of such organizations as the Sane Democracy League, the Institute of Public Affairs, and other similar organizations which are only fronts for the Liberal Party and agencies for collecting funds to assist the return of anti-Labour governments.
I give a little bit of advice to the Government, which is always displaying a great deal of solicitude - so it says - for the trade unionists. That advice is that the trade unionists of this country are quite capable of conducting their own affairs. I am certain that the men in charge of the affairs of the trade, unions are quite capable of seeing that the trade unions are run on lines satisfactory to their membership, and in the best interests of the members.
In the few moments at my disposal, I want to turn to another matter. I have been trying for some time hi this Parliament to get some information regarding the salaries, allowances and “ perks “, as they are termed, received by members of the Government. I find that the Government continually refuses to furnish the information. I asked a series of questions regarding the salaries and allowances paid to members of the Government-
– And the Opposition?
– Yes, and the Opposition, if you want to conduct a full investigation. The Government certainly has not given the information which I have sought in my questions. The answers have been rather misleading. One question I asked was -
What moneys received by Ministers are exempt from the payment of income tax?
The answer given to me was, “ None “. I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that every Minister gets a parliamentary allowance, plus an electorate allowance, in addition to other payments he receives, and is it not a fact that the electorate allowance is nontaxable and not even included-
– That is not right.
– Let me tell the Treasurer, if he wants this matter thrashed out on the floor of the Parliament, that there was a pretence that this allowance was to be brought into the taxation field. I ask the Treasurer, now that he has challenged me and denied the accuracy of my statement: Is it not a fact that at the time the Richardson report was discussed in this Parliament, there was an understanding reached with Sir Patrick McGovern, the Commissioner of Taxation, so that they would be able to escape taxation on a portion of their allowances - the electorate allowance - which had previously been exempt from taxation? So you get the same result, and every member of this Parliament knows that you get the same result. This answer submitted to me may be technically correct, but it is dishonest because it does not disclose exactly what has happened.
Why is not the Government prepared to give straight-out, honest replies to these questions? Instead, it referred me to the respective acts of Parliament, where I could get the various figures and tally them up for my own satisfaction, if I wanted to.
There are some other matters which I say ought to be revealed. It would be interesting to know what use has been made of air travel vouchers since they were introduced. There would be some surprise if the facts were disclosed of the use that has been made of air travel vouchers by each member of the Parliament. I suggest that the Government give this type of information to the public, who are anxious to know what is the cost to the community of the provision of this particular facility, and what use is being made of it by each individual member of the Parliament.
Further than that, I wanted some information in regard to Minister’s trips overseas. Everybody knows that ministerial visits overseas are occasionally required when matters of importance are to be discussed, but I think that ministerial trips overseas have become an absolute scandal in this country. This matter has become such a scandal that the Government refuses to supply any information in regard to the number of visits overseas that each Minister has had, the actual cost of those visits, the number of persons in the delegations, and whether the members of the delegations were accompanied by their wives.
It is is well known in this Parliament that the Government has a roster. It does not necessarily follow that each time a Minister goes overseas he has some particular public business to perform, or some public duty. Many overseas visits, as I have said, are essential to enable Ministers to attend international conferences and things of that kind; but it is also known in this Parliament that each Minister gets his turn, and that when his turn on the roster arrives he getsa trip to whatever part of the world he cares to visit, at public expense. In many instances Ministers take with them a lot of unnecessary people whose expenses are also a charge on the public purse.
I have tried to obtain information on this matter. I have often asked questions about it, but have received ridiculous replies. The last time I asked a question about it was on 15th March last. On that occasion, I addressed the following question to the Prime Minister: -
What Ministers have made overseas visits since the general election of 1949? What was the purpose of the visits, and what countries were visited in each instance? On what occasions were the Ministers accompanied by their wives or other members of their families at Government expense? How many persons were included in each delegation? What was the cost of each delegation, including entertainment charged to overseas Commonwealth establishments? If he considers that the collation of all this information would be too costly, will he furnish whatever details are readily available?
I received the following answer: -
I direct the honorable members attention to my replies to similar questions by him and which he will find in the “ Hansard “ of 17th February, 1953, 31st May, 1955, and 27th August, 1959. I see no reason to add to what I have already said on the matter.
If honorable members care to refer to “ Hansard “ of the dates mentioned in the Prime Ministers answer, they will see that the reply given on those occasions was that he was not prepared to furnish the information. Even though I refer to the references he has given me, I still am unable to secure the information I am seeking. Why will not the Government furnish this information, which would be of great interest to the people of this country? I suggest that the Government is afraid to produce it because it knows, as I have said, that this matter has become a public scandal.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to an entirely different subject from those which have been discussed so far to-night. I want to speak briefly of the mooted frequency allocations to amateur radio transmitters within Australia. Unlike a previous subject that has been discussed, I find that honorable members on both sides of the Parliament are in agreement in their attitude to this question. That the Parliament is in agreement on this matter is in itself a remarkable tribute to the work of these enthusiasts. More remarkable, however, is the manner in which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has displayed a seeming indifference to the expressed views of the members of this House, the elected representatives of the people.
This matter of frequency allocation, Mr. Speaker, was submitted to the recent conference of the International Telecommunications Union, with a number of recommendations for reduction, moved by the Australian delegation. These recommendations were not accepted by the conference, which indicates to me that the Australian departmental officers are out of step with the radio administration of other countries in their appreciation of the radio amateur. Having had their motions rejected by the International Telecommunications Union, the Australian delegation, determined to have its own way at least in Australia, added a footnote to the conference decision reserving the right to make a reduction in Australia by unilateral action. I find it hard to believe that Australia faces greater difficulties in providing a radio service for 10,000,000 people than does the United States of America, with a more technically minded population of approximately 170,000,000 people. One must look elsewhere for the motives. These can only be found in the attitude of some departmental officers who consider that the amateur is of no account, that his priority is low and that he is, in fact, expendable.
If the Postmaster-General accepts this attitude of his departmental officers, he flies in the face of the expressed opinion of the elected members of this Parliament, for it has been made apparent that the Parliament believes that the services of the radio amateur in Australia should be encouraged, and that the amateur should be preserved instead of exterminated. Basically, then, in this matter the expressed wish of the Parliament should prevail. If it is not to prevail, and if a departmental view is to be preferred to the opinion of the Parliament, we should vacate this place forthwith and hand it over - mace, table and chair - to the collective bureaucracy. Getting rid of the radio amateur no doubt would make departmental administration easier, but considerable damage would be done to Australia.
The Postmaster-General would do well to balance these two matters. I add my protest on this subject, representing, as it does, the view of several or my constituents. One of them, writing from Normanhurst, within my electorate, expressed the following views to me earlier this week: -
As you know, we the radio amateurs are some 3,000 strong in Australia and are ali ever ready to help our country in times of peace, in times of war and distress, and we feel that our past record of achievement, as you well know, merits a much better treatment than it would appear we may receive at Government level.
With those sentiments, Mr. Speaker, I agree. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should not allow himself to be committed to a course of action which would tend to destroy a valuable national service, freely available to the Australian people, in order to satisfy the whims of a departmental officer.
.- First, I wish to correct a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) earlier to-night. The honorable member said that Senator McCallum had been elected with the assistance of 60 per cent, of the preference votes of the Communist Party. Actually, Senator McCallum received 73 per cent, of the Communist preferences.
Having regard to the very poor effort of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) tonight, I can understand why, a few years ago, the honorable gentleman could beat old Ironbark Bill by only two votes for the deputy leadership of the party. It seems, though, that he will not have much of a show against Gar the Star the next time the numbers go up. In the light of the Treasurer’s poor efforts, there is no doubt that Gar the Star will leave him in the lurch.
We have seen to-night some of the red baiting that goes on before each federal election in this country. There is no doubt that the raising of the subject to-night was pre-arranged between the member for “ Mortein “ and the Melbourne “ Herald “. I have no doubt that the report of his speech will appear in the Melbourne “ Herald “ to-morrow night, and that the Australian Labour Party will not be given a chance to refute his statements. The old Communist bogy that is trotted out time after time during election campaigns may interest a few fanatical red baiters like the member for “ Mortein “, but I do not think it influences intelligent people who are more concerned about how this Government stands with the Communist Party.
Let us have a look at the Government’s record. Soon after the last general election the Government restored diplomatic relations with Russia. Why did it wait until after the elections to do so? Was it afraid that it might hurt the feelings of certain people if it took that action before the elections? It has been said that the only party divisions are those within the Australian Labour Party. Was not there a great division, with the member for “ Mortein “ and the member for Mackellar-
– Order! The honorable member should say “ the honorable member for Moreton”.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I thought that the honorable member’s electorate was spelt “ Mortein “. As I have said, we see the old Communist bogy being raised from time to time.
Now let us look at the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). Only recently he was entertained at the Russian Embassy as the representative of the Government. No doubt he was patting the Russians on the back and having a few vodkas with them. Then we saw the venerable Lord Casey, who shortly will go overseas, drinking vodka with Firubin, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, They were patting each other on the back and having a lovely old time. We hear the Deputy Prime Minister, the! Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who comes from Victoria, advocating recognition of red China. We see our friends in the Government sending wool to China to clothe her soldiers so that they can invade Tibet warmly clad. These are the very people who say how much they hate communism. But they will accept Communist gold. It just shows how inconsistent are these people who come to this place, try to smear the Labour Party, and trot out the old bogy just before an election.
It is interesting to see how the scrutineers at two booths in the Moreton electorate noted the way in which the Communist supporters allocated their preferences. At one booth, of fifteen Communist preferences, nine went to the Liberal Party, four to the Q.L.P. and two to the A.L.P. At the other booth, of the 23 Communist preferences, fourteen went to the Liberal Party, six to the Q.L.P. and three to the A.L.P. This pattern of allocation of preferences applied throughout the State. This case is similar to that of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). In his case, there was no leakage of preferences - it was a deliberate vote from the Communist Party. Mr. Dean’s name was at the top of the ballot paper, the Labour candidate’s name was in the centre and the
Communist’s name was at the bottom. No one in his right senses would imagine that it is a leakage of preferences when a voter jumps over one candidate to give his preference to another. It was a deliberate vote by the Communists, and our friend was elected by them. Since then, I have never heard him condemn the Communist Party. No doubt he was glad of their assistance.
This great unity which obtains on the Government side is also interesting. The honorable member for Moreton made a great protest about the restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia. What a great man he is! Yet he still supports the Government which restored diplomatic relations with Russia. Then there is the’ honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who, not so long ago, was ringing up the security service and telling them which homes to search. If he ever rings up the security service and tells them to search the home of Healy the Communist, I suggest that he asks the security officers to look under the bed and they will find the Illawarra Cup there as usual. These are the people who are supposed to be anti-Communist. They thrive on the Communist Party. I have always considered and have always stated that there is no closer link in Australia than the link between the Liberal Party and the Communist Party.
.- I wish to refer to the amateur radio operators in Australia, and to support the remarks which were made yesterday by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and to-night by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). The nub of the matter can be found in the remarks which were made by the honorable member for Paterson last evening when he said -
The Australian delegation went to the recent international telecommunications conference with a proposal that the band should be still further reduced. This proposal, I am happy to say, the International Telecommunications Union rejected. Nevertheless, the Australian delegation added a footnote to the decision which reserved the right to the Postmaster-General’s Department in Australia to go ahead with its proposed reduction so that in future it would be possible for the amateurs in Australia to find themselves confined to the band between 3.5 and 3.7 megacycles, or only half the area available to amateurs in the rest of the world. This footnote is the cause of the great concern that I now express.
Representations have been made to me by the amateur radio operators in my electorate. I support the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Paterson and the honorable member for Mitchell, without anticipating a decision which may come after the consideration of this report or any future conference that may be held.
At this late hour, I do not wish to weary the House by stating details which have been covered quite fully by the honorable members to whom I have referred. I merely wish to support them in the representations which they have made on behalf of the radio amateurs, who are a vital part of our community.
– Sometimes a very important event occurs without people realizing it, and it is only in retrospect that its significance is seen. During the debate on the motion to adjourn to-night we heard one of the most significant and important speeches which have been made in this Parliament for a long time. I refer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The country has been waiting for some time to learn his attitude on this Communist question. He has now told us. We know now on which side of the watershed the drops will fall. We know - I think the whole country knows - that the Leader of the Opposition is not a member of the Communist Party, that he is not a supporter of the Communist Party, and that he is not even a sympathiser with communism. Let us be clear about that. But the real question was this: Would he have the courage to oppose communism in his own party or would he, for the sake of expediency, go the way that the Communists wanted him to go? To-night he has given the answer to that question.
He has shown by his speech that he, who is not a Communist, and who is not even a Communist sympathiser, is a coward. He is a man who will not stand up for the things which he believes to be right; a man who in this House says for the sake of expediency things which, I fear, he knows are untrue. He does not want to split the Labour Party again on this Communist issue. What did he say about unity tickets? Not one word in reply to the specific charges which have been made! Do you remember the phrase - I think it is in “ Alice in Wonderland “ - “ Jam yesterday, jam to-morrow but never jam to-day “? His reply to the questions in relation to unity tickets is that they are so much in the past that you need not look for them; that they are so much in the future that you need not look for them; but do not do anything about them to-day. So, when the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) refers to undoubted, undisputed examples of unity tickets in the past, there is no reply. They are historical - forget it! When the honorable member refers to something which is happening in the Waterside Workers Federation now, that is something which will happen in the future - forget it! Do nothing now! The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that his party is rent from top to bottom on this Communist issue.
– That is a lie.
– Order! The honorable member for Braddon will withdraw.
– It is a lie. I object to anything like that being said.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. You have just asked the honorable member for Braddon to withdraw a remark which, to my mind, was quite in order. Earlier in his speech, the honorable member for Mackellar referred to the Leader of the Opposition as a coward. Is that parliamentary language? It is quite obvious that it is not. Why was he not called to order?
– Order! I think the honorable member for Mackellar could restrain himself a little. I did not place the same importance on that statement as I did on the remark of the honorable member for Braddon. The Leader of the Opposition is quite capable of looking after himself.
– I shall not have an opportunity to speak, and I ask that the honorable member’s contemptible remark be withdrawn.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Mackellar to withdraw his statement that the Leader of the Opposition is a coward.
– If my remark-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark.
– I do indeed. I have done so.
– You have not done so.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. I did not hear the withdrawal and I want to hear it.
– I withdraw it. It is important to realize that when this issue is placed on the plate of the Leader of the Opposition, he runs away from it. He says he will not answer the honorable member for Moreton. Not one of his charges was answered. Instead, the Leader of the Opposition prevaricates and says, “ I cannot worry about the historical part, I will not worry about the future. There is nothing happening now.” It is happening now. He knows very well that his own party is split from top to bottom on this issue.
I will say something else. He thought as some of us thought that with the retirement of the late leader of the party the Evatt taint would be removed from the party. We now know that it has not been. That is not because the Leader of the Opposition is a Communist - I know he is not - it is not because he is a Communist sympathizer - I know he is not - it is because the new leader is a weak man who is unable to stand up to the forces of communism in his party. He can say what he likes about the Communist Party getting only a few votes and being ignominiously defeated at the polls. The point is that the Communist Party very largely controls the Labour Party.
I want to say one thing specifically because it goes right to the root of communism inside the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party. In the last election in the electorate of La Trobe the endorsed Australian Labour Party candidate was a man by the name of Goldbloom, who was very close to communism. The party did not have a hope of endorsing him this time.
– Will you say that outside the House?
– Yes, I will indeed say it outside the House. He was a man very close to communism. There was evidence before this, brought into the precincts of this House before the executive of the A.L.P. by a Miss Hanbury. who was secretary of the St. Kilda branch of that party, and by a Mr. Weiner, I think, who was also an official of the A.L.P. The way in which that evidence was pushed aside, unfairly dealt with and ignored is a standing disgrace to the A.L.P.
These are events which are on the plate of the Leader of the Opposition, and he has not got the heart or the courage to deal with them. He knows that his party has been infiltrated but he will do nothing about it. This is the issue before the House and the country at this moment. We know that inside the A.L.P. there are many people who are opposed to communism. We know also that there is a determined proCommunist faction inside that party.
Here is the point I want to make: Both Mr. McNolty and Mr. Tripovich were parties to the fraud by which the A.L.P. was prevented from taking action against Mr. Goldbloom. These people are controlling the Victorian branch of the A.L.P. at this moment and they were party to the fraud whereby Communists remain in that organization.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark he made in reference to fraud.
– Fraud in the Labour Party, Sir?
– All right, if this House believes there has been no fraud, I withdraw the remark.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw unreservedly.
– Indeed I have, Sir.
– He has not. He is as contemptible in the end as he was in the beginning, and is, as he always has been, a miserable specimen of humanity.
– He is a garrulous gargoyle if ever I saw one.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw as unreservedly as did the honorable member for Mackellar when directed to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the phrase “ garrulous gargoyle “ unreservedly.
– Order! Honorable members will exercise a little restraint.
.- I wish to speak to-night on a really important matter. I have listened to many speeches from both sides of the House to-night and they have not impressed me at all. The subject I want to discuss is the Australian wool industry. On 15th March last, 1 asked a question in this House of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) as follows: -
Will the Minister for Primary Industry, through his department or some other appropriate organization, make a survey of the Australian wool industry with a view to ascertaining whether Australian wool-growers are receiving full value for their products under the present selling system; whether a change to a reserve price within the auction system would be advantageous to woolgrowers; and whether the desire of wool-growers for a reserve price within the auction system is widespread and of sufficient strength to justify a Commonwealth-wide poll of growers on the subject?
The Minister gave me a fairly comprehensive answer, but at the very end, in the main point of his reply, he said -
In the first instance there should be more unanimity among the various organizations in the industry; because if any proposal were put to them covering a reserve price plan, we might get a repetition of what happened in 1951 unless the growers themselves showed some desire to implement that proposal.
At the present time it appears that the growers are showing some inclination to implement some proposal, but, as the Minister pointed out, there is no agreement among the councils, associations or unions formed by wool-growers’ representatives. 1 am asking the Government to call these organizations together in an effort to get them to reach some agreement regarding the great wool industry. For a long time the Australian Country Party has said that it will not support legislation for any agree ment that concerns primary products or primary producers unless the producers themselves by a vote approve of it.
It is my considered opinion that the Government, through the Minister for Primary Industry, should call these associations together and answer these questions I have asked. They are being asked all over Australia. Having met together and answered these questions correctly, if it is decided that a reserve price within the auction system would be advantageous, then let representatives from the Department of Primary Industry and of the various organizations which represent the woolgrowers work out a plan.
It is futile to ask, “ Are you in favour of a reserve price within the auction system? “ It all depends upon the conditions under which the scheme would operate. First of all, we have to get a scheme put forward and made known throughout the country; and the Government should then conduct a poll of wool-growers to decide whether they want the scheme that has been selected by their own associations in co-operation with the Department of Primary Industry. If it were put to a vote of the growers and they agreed to the scheme, it should be implemented by legislation in this Parliament; but if it were not agreed to by the growers, it would pass like the one which went before.
There is much controversy about this matter in Australia. Some say they want a reserve price plan and some say they do not. The organizations are in disagreement. Let the Government call them together and settle this question, not for all time, but for the next ten years at any rate. If a scheme is formulated and put to the growers, and if they desire it to be put into effect, those of us in this corner of the House will give the proposal our best support, because it is of vital importance that the wool-growers should be satisfied with their marketing methods. If they are dissatisfied with the present system and want a scheme such as that in operation in New Zealand and South Africa, they should be given the opportunity to have such a scheme. I am not prepared to say whether it would be a success, because I do not know, but if the growers approve the scheme, this Government should bring down legislation and put the scheme into operation as soon as possible.
– I want to refer to the case of the radio amateurs and to associate myself with the speeches that have been made on that subject to-night and on other occasions from both sides of the House. As I understand the position, in the past a certain narrow frequency band has been reserved to radio amateurs. The International Telecommunications Union recently held a conference at Geneva to seek agreement between the nations on the frequency bands that it reserves for various communication purposes. Some countries sought to restrict the band available to the radio amateurs and others to preserve this band to them. The House may be surprised to know that the countries which sought to preserve that band to them included the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and a majority of the nations gathered at the conference. Ranged against them were Russia, Poland, Austria, Australia and some others. Australia was the only English-speaking nation that adopted this view.
As has already been said, there are about 3,000 radio amateurs in Australia. I do not propose to enter into any argument as to the value of the services they have given. Their value in war and in time of emergency has been proved on a number of occasions. What I do want to refer to is a simple thing - their right as ordinary citizens. Other nations, more populous than ours and just as extensive, can preserve a wider band than Australia is prepared to permit. Why is it that we are out of step? I will not believe in these circumstances that there is any need for Australia to reduce the band below that permissible so far as the other great nations are concerned. I do not want to enter into any technical considerations. That matter, it seems to me, stands out quite clearly, and anybody who runs may read. There is an attempt to restrict the ordinary freedom of individuals, and I am opposed to any restriction that goes beyond what is absolutely necessary.
It is, of course, understandable that countries such as the Soviet Union, Poland and Austria would want to restrict the band available to radio amateurs, because they pay no regard to the rights of ordinary citizens. In those countries, the rights of ordinary citizens do not matter. It is all- important to them that the State should have every opportunity for propaganda, and that it should have every radio band available open to it for that and similar purposes.
– We are in queer company.
– We are in queer company, as the honorable member for Mitchell has said. The issue boils down, as the honorable member said earlier, to this: Is the Government going to have regard to the clearly expressed wishes of members on both sides of this House or to the views, apparently, of some official in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? That is the issue, as I see it, quite plainly, and I have thought fit even at this late hour to make clear my view. Of course, the Government may, as it frequently does, ignore the wishes of private members of this House, however reasonable those wishes may be, and it may prefer to accept the desires of an official. The day may come, however, when even this Government will wish to have the votes - the vital votes - of members of this House. So far as I am concerned, this is the kind of thing which will mean that my vote will not necessarily be forthcoming.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
h asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
and 4. Those members of rifle clubs who served during the two world wars reflect credit on the movement. However, it is not only essential that a soldier be able to shoot. He has to acquire many other skills and be able to use other complex weapons as well as a rifle. The ability to handle a rifle is phased into a recruit’s training as one item only within a whole range of Army knowledge he must be given and the comprehensive training he must carry out in preparation for war. In the current assessment of training requirements the cost of maintaining the rifle club movement on the original basis is out of proportion to the military advantage involved.
d asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The majority of the properties acquired concerned land on which married quarters were already built or which my department required in order to build married quarters. 2, 3 and 4. In the acquisition and disposal of property, my department, in common with all other Commonwealth departments, utilizes the facilities available within the Department of the Interior, which is the Commonwealth agency for the acquisition and sale of government property.
d asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. I would refer the honorable member to my statement in the House on 31st March during the recent defence debate when I outlined the general principles which would apply to personnel rendered redundant by the cessation of national service and the re-organization of the Army. The general principles which I then outlined will apply equally to officers and to other ranks. The numbers of officers to be retired on this basis is not yet determined but it is expected to be very small.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Normal entry Royal Military College graduates, 575; (b) special entry Royal Military College graduates, 30; (c) (i) former officers of Commonwealth Military Forces, 57; (ii) former officers of Australian Imperial Force, 387; (iii) former officers of British, Indian and New Zealand armies, 27; (d) officers promoted from the ranks of the Australian Regular Army, 86; (e) Officer Cadet School graduates (the first course graduated in 1952), 300.
The term “ battle-trained “ has been taken to mean those officers commissioned in the A.I.F. or C.M.F. who subsequently were appointed to the Australian Staff Corps.
It is pointed out that regular officers, i.e. Duntroon graduates, also have battle experience in addition to having had extensive military education prior to their being commissioned.
Promotion to the rank of colonel and above in the Regular Army is by selection.
The procedure followed necessitates the consideration of groups of officers of comparable seniority, whether R.M.C. graduates or not.
Officers are selected on a competitive basis for employment in a wide variety of appointments without regard to their origin, and promotion figures support this.
When officer recruiting for the A.R.A. was instituted in 1948, applications were invited for officers desiring appointment to the A.R.A. in the ranks of major and below.
Accordingly, it follows that up to the present time only the most senior of the officers appointed have been of sufficient seniority to be considered for promotion to the rank of colonel and above.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 April 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600407_reps_23_hor26/>.