23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has any information about the time at which the Prime Minister is expected to return to Australia. Is he in possession of any news concerning the return of the Attorney-General, and can he say when the House will be given the opportunity to hear a statement on what has transpired at the recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly? I hope the House will be given the opportunity to debate the contents of such a statement, if one is made.
– I take this opportunity to say that the Treasurer will return to Australia to-morrow. It is my understanding that he will come direct to Canberra. I am unable to indicate when the AttorneyGeneral will return. I am not able to give a precise date for the return of the Prime Minister, but I understand that he will almost certainly be returning during the latter part of next week.
As to the making of a statement relating to the debate in the United Nations General Assembly and debate upon that statement in this Parliament, I said only yesterday to the Leader of the Opposition that unless the Prime Minister were returning at a reasonably early date I would arrange for a statement to be made which could be the basis for debate in the Parliament. I think I correctly assess the feelings of the House when I say that if I am correct in believing that the Prime Minister will have returned by the latter part of next week, the House would prefer that the Prime Minister himself make a statement at the earliest convenient opportunity. If the Opposition so desired it, that statement could be the ba’sis for debate in the Parliament.
I shall be pleased to send a message to the Prime Minister stating that it is the desire of the Leader of the Opposition that a statement be made and that it be the basis for discussion in the House.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister relating to a publication that has just been delivered in my box. It is a copy of a weekly statement published in London and is dated 23rd September. lt carries the text of a speech made by Khrushchev at the fifteenth session of the United Nations General Assembly. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it would be possible to give honorable members copies of the speeches made by the Prime Minister at the United Nations and of the speech made by Mr. Nehru of India so that, instead of criticizing these people for what they do, we might try to emulate them in seeking to furnish information which is really desired.
– It is my understanding that roneoed copies of the Prime Minister’s speech have been made available to honorable members.
– Of the second one; nol of the first one.
– 1 refer to the principal speech which was the policy declaration. The other one was an impromptu speech, prompted by a procedural circumstance which existed when the Prime Minister was there. It would be a misapprehension to think that the considered speech” of the Prime Minister had not been made available quite promptly to every one. As to the speech by Mr. Nehru, I would not wish to set out to select which of the speeches of the heads of 99 member countries should be re-produced for circulation. I have no doubt that, in due course, the speeches of all the principals there will be made available.
– My question to the Acting Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer concerns the belief in commercial and industrial circles that the bank interest rate is to be increased. In order to allay fears in this regard, will the right honorable gentleman explain the intentions of the Government in this matter? As an increase in bank interest rates would apply to current overdrafts, and so bring further difficulties to many primary and secondary industries, will the Government, before taking any such action, seriously consider the adverse effect which such an increase would have on the development of industries essential to this country?
– I am sure that honorable members will realize that the Government is fully able to assess, and would regard it as its responsibility to assess, the consequences of any movement in interest rates. It would be quite without precedent, in my experience, for any Government spokesman to make any comment, either in favour of or against such a change. That is my attitude now, but nothing is to be read into the fact that I do not state that any action is in hand. I am observing a policy which has been practised in this Parliament, very properly, by the heads of all governments, regardless of their brand of politics.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is the intention of the Government to establish a special export development bank in order to provide finance for the export of manufactured goods on terms which would not be available from trading banks.
– No such proposal has come before the Government. The attention of the Government has been drawn by various trading interests to the fact that facilities exist in other countries to give Australia’s competitors financial accommodation which is not available to Australian traders. If it were ever felt desirable to consider such a proposal I cannot imagine that any new institution would be called for.
– Can the Minister for Health, for the guidance of Australian parents, express an opinion on the claims made in advertisements about the nutritive merits of the several breakfast cereals made or marketed in Australia? If no scientific investigation has yet been made, will he request the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to analyse and report upon the calorific and vitamin content of breakfast cereals, in the best interests of the dental and general health of Australians?
– I do not think it is really the function of government departments to investigate matters of this nature, but I shall give the matter some consideration and let the honorable gentleman have a further reply.
– Mr. Speaker, are you aware that although grilled steak is readily available in the parliamentary dining rooms, grilled lamb chops are never on the menu? Will you consider having grilled lamb chops included on the menu not only to please senators, members and visitors, but also to set an example to the Australian public? This would assist the fat lamb industry without affecting the beef industry because of the huge demand for beef overseas.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been directed to the statement made by Mr. Warren McDonald, the chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, in its report for 1959-60, that Australia faced a new credit squeeze which would develop from an expected sharp decline in overseas reserves? In view of this statement, is it the intention of the Government to review the high level of imports which, according to Mr. McDonald, will be one of the main reasons for the diminution of the overseas balances?
-I think the whole country is conscious of the inflationary pressures which are incipient in the economy at present. The combination of various measures, such as the relaxation of import restrictions and some abatement of the availability of credit, is part of the Government’s policies in this regard. The operation of these measures will at all times be very carefully watched in the public interest.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that people who desire to emigrate from South Africa to Australia have to wait more than three years for steamship passages? Is there any way in which the Australian Government can assist to provide speedier transport facilities if only as far as Western Australia, where jobs, houses and opportunities are in good supply?
– I am aware that there is a delay in the shipping services between South Africa and Australia, but I doubt very much that it is as long as three years. However, in an effort to cater for those people in South Africa who, in fairly recent times, have been casting eyes towards Australia and contemplating coming here, I was in communication quite a number of months ago with British shipping interests in London, and directed attention to the scarcity of shipping on the South African route via the Cape of Good Hope. I suggested that it might be advantageous if the shipping interests could put more ships on the run around the Cape to Australia, calling at Capetown and, perhaps, one or two other South African ports. Whether they will do so, of course, rests entirely on their own volition, and unfortunately this Government has no control over British shipping interests in respect of the route their ships will take and the ports at which they will call.
In this connexion, I should like to tell the honorable gentleman, and remind the House, that although Australia would naturally welcome very warmly migrants from South Africa, there is nonetheless what you might describe as a gentleman’s agreement between immigration countries of the British Commonwealth. That is to say, we have an unwritten agreement that we will not poach upon one another’s preserves. So, while I repeat that Australia would be pleased to see people of British and European descent in South Africa who wish to settle here, it is not the policy of the Government to undertake an active recruiting campaign in the Union of South Africa.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister received any official representations for the completion of the northsouth railway from the South Australian Government since 20th September, the day on which the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, in the State Parlia ment, attacked the Commonwealth Government for its serious default in failing to carry out its contract? As the Prime Minister recently advised that no official representations had been received from the South Australian Government since the signing of the 1949 agreement for the completion of this line, does the Minister take the Premier’s criticism seriously, or does he regard it as political propaganda for local consumption?
– I am aware of the criticism voiced by the South Australian Premier. 1 am always interested in what he has to say, because I feel that it is said in the interests of South Australia. So one takes notice of it accordingly. I should like to direct attention to the fact that at present we have under consideration another project, lt is one of major importance, and Premier Playford has asked that we come to a definite conclusion on it as early as possible. The north-south railway project would require a tremendous amount of consideration before it could be brought to fruition, and I feel that the Broken Hill-Adelaide-Port Pirie project merits priority. I would say that when that project has been completed it will be time to turn our attention to the other project mentioned. I have no resentment against Premier Playford for bringing this matter to our attention. The criticism is, however, perhaps unduly harsh.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry and refers to the case of Mr. O’Meara, who has gone to prison a second time rather than give away his war service land settlement farm. Is it true that Mr. O’Meara’s farm has been taken to pay debts amounting to £3,028? Has the farm been sold over his head for £26,000, thus necessitating his vacating it? Does the difference between the sum paid for the farm and Mr. O’Meara’s debts belong to Mr. O’Meara or to the Government?
– I am unaware of the case to which the honorable member refers. If it is a Victorian case, obviously it would be handled by the Victorian Government.
– lt is a New South Wales case.
– Both Victoria and New South Wales are principal States under the war service land settlement scheme. The State government concerned would handle the matter in the first instance.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question without notice. Can the honorable gentleman explain why. in the seven and eight years that the Commonwealth has registered them, medical and hospital benefits funds have received some £34,000,000 more in contributions than they have paid in benefits, and why they are still charging 25 per cent, more than they are disbursing?
– I cannot make a comprehensive reply without having analysed the figures that the honorable gentleman has given. It is, I think, obvious that benefit funds - of which there are many, with very large memberships - must build up adequate reserves in order to be able to pay benefits to their members. If the honorable gentleman likes to submit a detailed question with the figures set out so that the meaning is quite plain, I will supply him with a detailed answer.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry give an assurance that the question of staging a comprehensive inquiry into the marketing of wool is being treated by the Government with the degree of urgency that is- warranted by the present condition of the wool industry?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can give that assurance.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Is it true, as was reported on 6th October, that the Division of Agricultural Economics states that Communist China has emerged as the largest single Communist buyer of Australian wool in 1959-60? The bureau says that Communist China bought wool and wool tops worth £12,300,000 in the first eleven months of 1959-60. The division also states that a great potential demand for wool exists in China and there is scope for greatly increased wool imports. If this be so, and in view of our greatly decreased prestige in Asia following the recent meeting of the United Nations Assembly, is it considered that the demonstrations against China which were staged yesterday afternoon by anti-Labour elements in Sydney are in the best interests of the Australian economy and the Australian people?
– I cannot offer any opinion on anti-Labour demonstrations in Sydney.
Distribution in Schools.
– I address my question to the Acting Prime Minister. Will the Government make immediate inquiries and take appropriate action with regard to complaints concerning the distribution of Communist propaganda to Australian schools and other organizations, made obviously with the intention of subverting the minds of the coming generation of Australians?
– I have some scant knowledge of this matter. I understand that Communist literature has been going to a variety of schools and that the principals of some of the schools have confiscated and destroyed it, exercising their own judgment. Others have asked the security service to scrutinize the literature. That has been done, I understand, on a number of occasions, but my advice is that nothing has been assessed by the security service as warranting any intervention, and certainly not by that service. It becomes largely a matter for judgment as to what steps should be taken by the schools which receive the literature. I do not know whence this literature emanates, but I will see what can be gleaned and therefore what, if anything, ought to be done about it.
– ‘My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I preface it by referring to a statement reported to have been made at the week-end by the Minister for National Development. He is reported in the Sydney press to have said that co-operative building societies should not continue in the future to rely on assistance from the Commonwealth Government. In view of the great work being done by the co-operative building societies and the great need for the continuance of government support, is the statement attributed to the Minister indicative of a change of government outlook and does the Government contemplate discontinuing its assistance to the societies on which so many young Australians place dependence?
– I am sure that the allegation contained in the so-called first question of the honorable gentleman is totally inaccurate.
– It is a very good question.
– He asked a political question and the Leader of the Opposition ought to be able to take a political answer. I have not seen the statement alleged to have been made by the Minister for National Development, but I can say that no one in this Parliament has done more for the co-operative building societies than he has done. He is at present having a preliminary look at the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and I can assure you, Sir, that he is taking into consideration the question of what increased role the co-operative building societies can play in the new agreement.
-I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question. Will he suggest to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that it would be much better if it replied quickly and directly to questions asked in this House instead of leaving the opportunity open to others, probably one of the commission’s own news commentators in a recent case, to publish petulant and political diatribes against those who ask the questions? Will he ask the commission to obtain evidence from the commentator concerned, or his business colleague, of the charges made against the honorable member for Lilley and myself so that we can have an opportunity to answer them? Will he also ask the commission to obtain evidence from the same person as to his charge that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is “ staffed in the main by an army of frightened Englishmen “?
– I shall convey to the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission the request made by the honorable member for Chisholm and attempt to obtain a speedy reply for him.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that an effect of the recent increase of5s. per week in the domestic allowance of war widows has been to deprive them of the 5s. part social service pension that they previously received? Is he aware that this loss of eligibility has now deprived such war widows of various other concessions, including concessional television and radio licences? Will he make special provision to enable such war widows to continue to receive the concessions from his department, especially when it is realized that they have gained nothing financially from the domestic allowance increase?
– I am not quite sure whether this is a matter which could be better dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, or whether it is one into which I can inquire. However, it is a point which has not previously been brought to my notice and I shall certainly look into it and advise the honorable member accordingly.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister and is supplementary to questions asked by the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Ryan. Is it a fact that one of the bases upon which diplomatic relations between Australia and the Soviet Union were re-established was that both governments would afford to the respective staffs of the embassies equality of treatment? If that is a fact, will the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has been offered the opportunity to distribute to schools within the Soviet Union information concerning this country? Further, will he say whether or not the Soviet Government would be prepared to have distributed to both chambers of what passes for a parliament in Russia a copy of the speech made by the Australian Prime Minister to the United Nations?
– I think that the honorable member wishes to ascertain whether we have taken the initiative in seeking to circulate information in Soviet schools. I doubt whether we have. With a free post office, this kind of thing can be done not only from one base, but from any number of bases. I will look into the substance of the question which the honorable member raises, which is equality of treatment of the staffs of the two embassies, and will let him have the answer to that.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, concerns the action of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in relation to the suspension of the registration of the waterside workers. Is it a fact that at present there exists considerable, wellbased dissatisfaction among waterfront workers, which could be expected to lead to a general stoppage of work? If this is so, will the Minister investigate the issue I now raise and endeavour to ensure that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority recognizes the need to base its penal powers upon substantiated facts and justice?
– I think that the leaders of the waterside workers are attempting to create some industrial unrest as the result of the application of the suspension clauses of the act by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The honorable member doubtless knows that a meeting was held between representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the foremen and the Australian Council of Trade Unions within recent weeks to discuss this matter. The matter has been fully ventilated, but as yet no report has been submitted for my consideration. I think that in all these cases where there has been a suspension the individual himself has a right of appeal to Mr. Justice Ashburner and I believe individuals do frequently use that right of appeal. That being so, I am quite certain that justice is done to the men and I hope that the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation will in future put the appeals to the judge rather than hold them up as they have done in the past.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by saying that the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry in Queensland announced recently that the Sugar Board will accept for marketing from the 1960 season’s production a quantity of excess sugar, as third quota sugar, equal to 7i per cent, of the peak production of each mill. There will still be plenty of unharvested cane in Queensland. Is it likely that this proportion will be increased before the season is over and, if so, to what extent?
– Any decision about the quantity of sugar to be received is one for the Queensland Government, as it controls the production of sugar. As to the action of the Queensland Government in accepting quantities of sugar, if it wants to avoid unnecessary surpluses its acceptance should be limited to the domestic consumption plus the quotas under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and the International Sugar Agreement. The honorable member also referred to the announcement that the Queensland Government will receive 7i per cent, as third quota sugar. This has been made possible because cyclone damage in Mauritius has rendered producers there unable to fulfil their quota under the International Sugar Agreement.
– I would like to ask a question of the Acting Treasurer. Has the right honorable- gentleman noticed that in the first report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation the chairman expressed concern at the effects on the Australian economy of the increasing degree of land speculation, and particularly its impact on home-building costs? Has the Government really got down to the task of planning ways and means of checking, counter-attacking or controlling this frenzy of speculation, in the public interest? Will the matter be raised at the next Premiers’ Conference, so that the States may plan to tackle the problem collectively, in conjunction with the Commonwealth?
– A speculative wave is not unrelated to the availability of cash in the economy, and it is clear that the Government, by its budget policies and associated financial and fiscal policies, is taking some steps to direct the amount of money freely available in the economy towards the essential needs of the community. That is, in broad substance, the reply to the honorable member’s question from the federal point of view. I have no doubt that there are opportunities at the State level for action in this field, and it is completely within the province of the State Premiers, acting either separately in their own States or collectively through a convention of State Premiers, or even at a Premier’s Conference, to initiate some line of thinking or course of action.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government has received a request from the Western Australian Government for an emergency or special grant for education in that State?
– I greatly regret that I am not in a position to answer the honorable member’s question. Such a request may have been received without my being aware of the fact. I will make inquiries and inform the honorable member of their result.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the Government of Japan, in order to assist exporters in that country, provides for considerable remissions of taxes on money earned from the export of goods from Japan? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that such a practice makes it very difficult for Australian exporters to sell overseas in competition with the Japanese? Will he compare the Japanese policy with the methods adopted by his Government to promote export trade? As the Japanese system is more realistic and more likely to secure success, will he consider granting like concessions to Australian exporters?
– I can assure the honorable member that it is regarded as one of the functions of the Department of Trade to keep itself acquainted with the courses of action and policies which are adopted by foreign governments in relation to their own exports. But this Government has not thought it desirable to embark on a policy of direct subsidy to exports because, as one of the greatest exporting countries in the world, it is in our interests that exports generally should be conducted on the basis of normal commercial competition and not on the basis that the government with the longest purse secures the biggest share of the export markets.
We have argued continuously along these lines bi-laterally with other countries, ana multi-laterally with members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the United Nations, and various other bodies. While we have not had entire success, we have had a pretty fair measure of success. But it would wreck completely our right to argue along these lines if we embarked upon the suggested policy ourselves.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is supplementary to that which was asked by the honorable member for Bendigo. Is it not a fact that before the election of the honorable member to this chamber the Opposition, during the debate on the current Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, strenuously opposed the allocation of funds to building societies?
– Since replying to the question asked by the honorable member for Bendigo I have been reminded that when the current Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was under consideration the official Labour Party, or a group within the official Labour Party, strenuously opposed the granting of funds to co-operative building societies. Now we have further evidence of how divided the Labour Party is. The honorable member for Bendigo advocates a course of action, which in the past has been rejected by the great mass of the Labour Party-
– Downright lies!
– -Order! The honorable member for Barton will withdraw thai remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service who has been handling facts very carelessly this afternoon. Is it not a fact that the objection which the Labour Party took on the occasion to which he has referred was to the diversion of funds from housing commissions to building societies? ls it not a fact also that the Opposition suggested that if building societies were to have the funds which the Government proposed they should have, they should :101 be given those funds at the expense of people who were unable to build their own homes?
– 1 do not care in what way the Opposition attempts to explain away the action that it took in this House. The simple fact is that it did oppose the granting of additional funds to co-operative building societies. It may well have been-
Opposition Members. - That is not true.
– If the Opposition asks a question and does not want to hear the complete answer, that is the Opposition’s lookout.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services is supplementary to the question which was asked of the PostmasterGeneral by the honorable member for Barton. Is it not a fact that all widows, whether in receipt of a war widow’s pension or a social service pension, may obtain a certificate from either the Repatriation Department or the Department of Social Services which entitles them to concession rates on radio and television licence-fees?
– It is a fact that a person who qualifies for a social service benefit can be provided with a certificate from the Department of Social Services certifying that he is a social service beneficiary.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that more than 8,000 applications for naturalization have been refused and that in many instances the refusal has been based on security grounds? Are unsuccessful applicants informed of the grounds for the refusal of their applications and have they any opportunity to refute the subjectmatter of any adverse security report? Does the Minister consider the number of unsuccessful applicants for naturalization to be unusually high, considering that all migrants have been screened prior to their arrival in Australia? Does he think that many intending migrants may be deterred from migrating when it is realized that naturalization is such a risky business? Will the Minister consider the establishment of some independent tribunal in order to provide some redress for migrants whose applications for naturalization have been refused on security grounds?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a whole string of questions and 1 shall reply to them in the broad rather than seriatim. I think that his fears about the effect of the Government’s policy on naturalization are groundless. When I remind the House that more than 250.000 people have been naturalized in Australia since the war and that of the total number of applications only 194 have been refused on security grounds, honorable members will see how very slender indeed is the case of the honorable member for Hughes.
– On what grounds have the other rejected applications been refused?
– The great bulk of approximately 8.000 which have been refused have been rejected on the ground of an inadequate knowledge of the English language. Generally, the Minister responsible has to abide by the criteria laid down in the Nationality and Citizenship Act, and I presume that my honorable friend is well aware of those criteria. If I were to ignore those requirements. should, of course, be ignoring the ruling of this House and a statute of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government is not prepared to change either its policy or its present practices. Experience has shown, as is indicated by the figures that f have just quoted to the House, that this whole matter of naturalization is proceeding fairly and with due safeguards for the interests of the applicants. I conclude by saying that the honorable member’s fears are really quite groundless and that there are no sinister intentions such as he implies.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is he able to advise the House as to the position of Yugoslav refugees in Europe and whether or not it is practicable to increase our inflow of Yugoslav migrants from the alleged pool of some 8,000 Yugoslav refugees?
– Our record in relation to Yugoslav migrants is, I think, on the whole, not an unsatisfactory one. Since the migration scheme began, we have brought to Australia well over 33,000 Yugoslav migrants. The honorable gentleman may agree, when he considers that number against the total number of migrants who come to this country, that this is quite a fair contribution in taking migrants from Yugoslavia. The bringing of Yugoslavs here from the refugee camps is always under consideration, and 1 have no doubt that when circumstances permit, we shall be able to bring in more of those unhappy people.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I ask him: It it a fact that he entertained at luncheon at Parliament House to-day a group which included the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Fawkner, the honorable member for Griffith and Mr. Elliott - a well-known member of the Communist Party of Australia? Is it not a fact that Mr. Elliott is secretary of the Seamens Union of Australia, which recently-
– Order! The honorable member is entitled to direct to the Minister a question about any matter concerning his duties in this House, but he would be out of order if he asked a question about matters outside the scope of the Minister’s duties in this House.
– I shall proceed with my question on that basis. Will the Minister tell us the reason for this friendly collaboration-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether he has seen the statement in the report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation that -
It seemed probable that the Development Bank would need additional resources during the financial year 1960-61 to enable it to continue meeting the calls for developmental assistance within the terms of its charter.
Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the steps the Government intends to take to ensure that the bank shall be able to continue its important work unchecked, particularly in relation to rural industries?
– I understand that some statement along the lines indicated by the honorable member is incorporated in the report to which he referred. Let me put the position in perspective by reminding the honorable member and the House that the Development Bank has at its command for lending purposes, first all the funds that were on loan by the former Mortgage Branch and the Industrial Finance Branch of the Commonwealth Bank. These totalled, 1 think, £17,000,000. I have not the exact amount in my mind. It might be slightly less than that. Secondly, an additional £5.000,000 was made available at the time the Development Bank was established. Thus, in all, something of the order of £20.000,000 is available to the Development Bank. Of course, in industrial finance lending, a great deal of the money lent turns over fairly often, so that this £20,000,000 is not a static amount; it is a revolving amount. In addition, in the statute under which the Commonwealth Banking Corporation was established there are provisions which permit the procuring by borrowing of further funds by the Development Bank, on the initiative of the board of the Development Bank and of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
I assure the honorable member that the bank is sufficiently liquid at present to continue, for the foreseeable future, to lend at something like the present rate, and that both the bank board and the Government will watch the situation carefully because the purpose for which the bank was established is not to be frustrated in the end through any lack of funds.
While dealing with the subject of the bank, I should like to give some information to the honorable member for Wilmot and other honorable members who asked questions which I was not able to answer with precision about the rate of lending by the Development Bank. I am now able to inform the honorable members that from the time the bank was established in January until 28th September last it had provided financial assistance by way of loans to 986 applicants, the total loans being for £6,300,000. These loans were provided to primary producers and to industrial undertakings for a wide range of purposes, having development and improved productivity as essential characteristics. Of the loans made, 855, totalling £3,600,000, were for rural purposes and 131, totalling £2,700,000, were classified as being for industrial purposes. For the three months ended 30th September last, approvals by the bank were running at an annual rate of something of the order of £11,000,000.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 11th October (vide page 1905).
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
.- In the last ten years, this Government has spent approximately £2,000,000,000 on defence. lt has spent that amount at the rate of approximately £200,000,000 a year, and, in the present Budget, that pattern of spending is continued. The Australian public is again being charged at the rate of £20 a head to meet the nation’s defence bill.
In view of the fact that such a large proportion of the nation’s money is being devoted to defence, I submit it is not om of place to ask whether it is being spent wisely and to the best advantage. Looking back over the last ten years, one cannot escape the conclusion that in many cas:s there has been a great deal of unjustifiable and unnecessary expenditure on defence, and that this Government has nothing substantial to show for its expenditure of the tremendous amount of £2,000,000,000. During this period the Government has pursued a policy of delay, oscillation, procrastination and, in many cases, useless expenditure which was not calculated to make for efficiency. During that same period, the Government changed its mind repeatedly. Further, it has been guilty of unjustifiable delays in many directions. First it delayed over the purchase of aircraft. It took many years to arrive at a decision to purchase French planes, and when these planes are ultimately delivered it is problematical whether they will be in keeping with modern trends. Then the Government decided to abolish compulsory military training. After pursuing a policy of compulsory military training for a number of years, it suddenly decided to abolish it!
For a number of years the Opposition demanded the abolition of compulsory training. Our view was ignored for some time, but, suddenly, the Government decided that compulsory training should be abolished. For the huge amount of £150,000,000 which the Government spent on compulsory training, this nation has nothing to show. This result of that lavish expenditure is characteristic of the Government’s defence planning.
The committee is indebted to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for the contribution which he made to the debate yesterday. He showed, in a devastating way, the shortcomings of the fallacious policy of the Naval Board. For this policy, of course, the Government must take responsibility because, in the final analysis, the Government is responsible for it. To whatever extent the Naval Board is culpable, the Government is equally culpable. The Naval Board seems to be following a policy which is out of date and completely unsuited to Australia’s naval requirements. How long will this approach of the Naval Board go on? There are rules and regulations in the Australian Navy which date back to Nelson’s day. The thinking of the personnel of this board displays no sense of understanding of Australia’s commitments.
The Naval Board’s policy would lead one to believe that our naval commitments were primarily in the Atlantic, the North Sea and, to some extent, in the Mediterranean. One would hardly think that we had any commitments in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean. The Government has persisted in following slavishly the board’s English methods and approach to naval matters. One instance is the board’s attitude to the use of submarines. For the last five or six years, this country has had on loan from the British Navy submarines which are out of date. Why does not the board or the Government insist on getting modern submarines? Down the years, it has been the practice to get submarines from the British Navy which are out of date when they arrive in this country. They are kept in Australian service for two or three years, then, hopelessly out of date, they are returned to the British Navy and we get other obsolete submarines.
At present, the Government is considering whether it should purchase more submarines from the British Navy. In answering a question some days ago, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) informed the House that the Government had not yet made up its mind on the type of submarine that it would purchase. It had not decided whether it would purchase modern submarines or whether it would have submarines built to its own specifications. I think that the Government should push on and make a firm decision very quickly. It is quite obvious that, in recent years, submarines have reached a stage of development which has enabled them to take the place in naval strategy which the capital ship formerly occupied.
I suggest that if submarines are to form a vital part of our defence it would be in the best interests of this country if we set about building our own. The Government should send abroad a party of technicians and workers to get experience which they could pass on to others in this country. We have built destroyers and frigates which, for workmanship, quality and performance, match anything of the kind in the world. Because of the growing importance of submarines, it is of the utmost importance that the Government should move quickly in this matter and not allow it to be continually put off. This is a procedure which has become characteristic of the Government in its approach to defence matters.
This policy of procrastination is also in evidence in relation to the Department of Air in which delay after delay has occurred because of the Government’s unwillingness or inability to make up its mind on the purchase of aeroplanes. Because of the Government’s procrastination, the defence of this country is inadequate. We should realize our limitations. Our defence should be based first of all, upon a recognition of the fact that we are a part of Asia. Secondly, we have to ask, “ From whom or from where should we expect an attack upon this country; and what will be the method of the attack? “ We are living in an age of nuclear warfare. People who can cast their minds back to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must recoil from the idea of nuclear warfare. It has been definitely established that there is no known defence against atomic attack. Consequently, it is idle for Government supporters to talk in grandiose and belligerent terms from time to time and completely ignore the situation in which we find ourselves. It is not hard to understand why so many leading scientists, some of whom have played an outstanding part in developing nuclear energy, are now trying, particularly on television in the United States of America, to acquaint the public mind with the terrible effects of atomic warfare.
Time after time, they are to be found appearing on television programmes trying to impress upon the public mind the sheer, hideous facts of nuclear war. These are men who. as a result of their scientific studies and achievements, have contributed to this warning. If they can take time off to try to impress on the public mind what is involved, how important it is that the people of all nations should realize that if humanity persists in nuclear warfare, there is no future for the world. I think it has been said before that there will be no need to talk about armaments should such a war occur, because any war after that will be fought with bows and arrows. In effect, a nuclear war would mean the complete destruction of civilization. On the matter of defence and defence expenditure in Australia, two questions have to be answered. If we are going to spend money on defence -and we are entitled to do so - the policy of the Australian Labour Party is that we believe in the adequate defence of Australia.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before I say something about the estimates for Defence Services which are before the committee, I should like to refer to a mistake that appeared in the daily edition of the “ Hansard “ report of yesterday’s proceedings. When the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) was speaking last night, he said-
The people who must accept responsibility for what has happened in regard to defence are the members of this Parliament, particularly those who support the Government. “ Hansard “ has an interjection by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in these words -
We have not all accepted it.
The honorable member for Perth then continued -
We have to be prepared to accept that responsibility.
Then there was a further interjection by the honorable member for Mallee -
It is accepted under protest, you mean.
The honorable member for Mallee has discussed this matter with the “ Hansard “ officers, and the report has been altered for the subsequent editions of “ Hansard “. Unfortunately, the first edition has already been circulated.
– What is the trouble? The honorable member for Mallee did say that.
– If the honorable member will wait, he will hear the explanation of the honorable member for Mallee. The interjections were correct. The honorable member for Mallee has stated that every word attributed to him in the interjections is correct. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), who is interrupting, can show a little intelligence, which he has never shown in this place, he might get an appreciation of the situation. As I have said, the words attributed to the honorable member for Mallee are correct. Unfortunately, they have been put into the wrong place in relation to the context. This is how the report should read. The honorable member for Perth said -
The basis of this action was that the advisers of the Government gave the advice which it accepted and which, in fact, all honorable members of the parties on this side of the House have accepted - that there is no defence significance in the rifle clubs at this stage of our history.
It is at that stage of the speech that the first interjection of the honorable member for Mallee should appear in these words -
We have not all accepted it.
The honorable member for Perth went on to say -
This decision must be accepted by all of us.
It is there that the second interjection should appear in these words -
It is accepted under protest, you mean.
The honorable member for Mallee has discussed this matter with the honorable member for Perth, who agrees that that is the correct place where the interjections should appear. The interjections in that context give a completely different picture of the statements by the honorable member for Mallee. His interjections were related to the rifle clubs and the attitude of the Government towards them, and they were not related to the other matter of defence in the earlier passages of the speech of the honorable member for Perth.
I want to say something now about the rifle clubs and I support my colleague, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), in the statements he made yesterday on this matter. I also support my other colleagues, particularly the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who have mentioned this matter on previous occasions. Sir, I say quite frankly that one of the criticisms that some of us have voiced is directed not only at the action taken by the Government in connexion with rifle clubs but also at the timing of that action. Some members of the committee might recall our criticism that the statement had been made and action had been taken when the Parliament went into recess, and honorable members were not given an opportunity to say anything about these matters because the House was not in session. That is why there may be an incorrect assumption that some honorable members were in agreement with what was done by the Government.
I wish to point out that there are approximately 44,000 members of rifle clubs, all of whom have taken the oath of allegiance or made an affirmation. Sometimes, there is a misconception about the age of members of the rifle clubs. The fact is that 8.1 per cent, of them are of military age, and approximately 8,000 new members are enlisted each year. At any time there is an estimated total of 135,000 skilled riflemen with five and a half years’ training in Australia. Sir, contrary to an opinion that has been stated by some sections of the community and by some persons, high commendation of the value of rifle clubs has been made by such eminent authorities as General Sir Gerald Templer, Field Marshal Montgomery, General Sir Montagu Stopford, Read Admiral G. ThistletonSmith, General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Slim. On 6th March, 1957, in Melbourne, Lieutenant-General A. R. Garrett said -
In a war we need two things - a well trained army and a well disciplined army according to conventional ideas of warfare - and we will need a civilian population with high morale. A trained rifle-man - whether soldier or civilian - possesses high morale in the confident knowledge of being able to defend himself with a fire-arm.
That was evident in the last two great wars. A large proportion of’the members of the rifle clubs are ex-servicemen. So I say that, irrespective of the statements that are made about the military value of riflemen in this age of nuclear weapons, the rifle clubs should still be given every consideration by this Government. They still have a valuable contribution to make to the defence of Australia. If we consider this matter also in connexion with civil de fence, it is evident that the members of the rifle clubs as an organization could play a valuable and important role in this sphere.
I want to say something about the defence of Australia and statements that have been made by members of the Opposition during this debate on the defence estimates. Yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) criticized the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) on a statement by the Minister concerning a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft being made available to the N.S.W. Criminal Investigation Branch to take two detectives to Ceylon to arrest a person connected with a case in Sydney. Surely, anybody with any appreciation of the situation would have understood what was said by the Minister for Air. I am afraid, therefore, that one tends to feel that either the honorable member for Parkes showed a lack of appreciation of the circumstances or he tried to take political advantage of something that was not there. The simple explanation from the Minister, Sir, was that if it were possible for the officers concerned to arrive in Ceylon in time by civil aircraft, the Royal Australian Air Force did not feel it should make a military aircraft available. So a suggestion was made as to how these folk could arrive at a given time. Unfortunately, because of mechanical trouble in one civil aircraft in Sydney, it was not possible for the necessary connexion with an aircraft at Singapore to be made. It was too late at that stage, however, for the R.A.A.F. to make the arrangements necessary to get the officers concerned to Ceylon in time. That was a reasonable and intelligent explanation. Had the contrary action been taken by the R.A.A.F. members of the Opposition would certainly have criticized the Government for what they would have termed wasteful expenditure of public money.
I want now to pass briefly to one other subject which has been mentioned during this debate - Australia’s need to win friends and avoid war. Many members of the Opposition have tried to make political capital out of the reaction to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at the United Nations, irrespective of whether their attitude is detrimental to the safety and security of this country.
– You ought to have heard what was said on your side when Dr. Evatt was at the United Nations.
– I ask the honorable member for Fremantle: Basically, what did the Prime Minister of Australia say? He said that there should be a meeting of the Big Four instead of the Big Two. Surely, in the situation in which the world is to-day, it would be far better for the Big Four - the United States of America, Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom and France - to meet so that we would have the leaders of those four countries talking things over rather than only the leaders of the two major powers, the United States of America and Soviet Russia.
Members of the Opposition have themselves been suggesting that there should be a summit conference in such circumstances, and basically the suggestion of the Prime Minister was simply that we should have a summit conference of the four major powers rather than a conference of the leaders of the two biggest powers only. In my opinion, adoption of that suggestion would have been at least a contribution to the alleviation of tension at the present stage. Such a meeting would have been better than a meeting of only the President of the United States and the head of the Soviet Union.
Honorable members opposite have stated again and again that we should go all out to make friends by helping the countries to our north which are in need, and with which we have to live. They say that we should try to live at peace with our neighbours. Let me remind members of the Opposition of the contribution Australia has made, under the Colombo Plan, towards meeting the needs of underdeveloped Asian countries. Let me remind them also of the financial, medical and other assistance given by Australia to various United Nations agencies. Let honorable members recollect for a moment the appreciation expressed by the people of those Asian countries for what Australia has done.
I also want to remind members of the Opposition that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that one of the members of the Government and the Liberal Party had gone on with the usual im perialistic clap-trap. Have they forgotten that prior to the commencement of the Second World War the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries did everything they could to avert war?
– Order! This is not a debate on external affairs.
– Well, Sir, we are debating the defence estimates, and surely one of the factors touching defence is our relationship to other countries. Indeed, our relationship to other countries has been referred to in the debate.
– The honorable member may make reference to such matters, but he may not found a speech on them.
– I would say that we must have this country’s defences at a point where we will be in a position to protect ourselves should our efforts to make friends and keep the peace fail. I say that anybody who thinks that Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States would start a war of aggression needs to study further the actions that those countries have taken and the policies they have followed in recent years. Defence preparation is not, with us, preparation for attack on others. It is preparation for our defence should all our efforts to maintain peace fail. We are now in a situation where, because of the colonialistic and imperialistic policies of the Sovet Union, we have to be ready to defend ourselves against attack.
.- 1 think an increasing number of people are becoming sick and tired of talk about defence, because defence means war. It seems to me that what people want to hear is something in terms of positive peace. This Government has continuously placed itself on the side of those who think in terms of war and defence. Perhaps the Government genuinely believes that its policy is correct, but emphasis on positive considerations of peace is totally absent from its statements and its reasoning.
People all over the world, I think, are becoming sick of hearing one side condemning the other - of one side entering into an attack on the other with a verbal battery. They are sick of seeing one side or the other continually concerning itself with developing weapons of greater and greater intensity. I think that what people all over the world want from their leaders is a greater emphasis on the positive factor of peace, and how it could be achieved, and less stressing of suspicion and fear.
– What about Mr. Khrushchev?
– Mr. Khrushchev is responsible for this, too.
– Well, tell him to start with.
– You go on constantly blaming the other side and just as constantly approving your own side, but your own side has contributed considerably to the problem. In this debate, Mr. Chairman, we are dealing with estimates for the expenditure of £198,153,000 on defence this year. This expenditure will bring to a total of £1,966,000,000 the amount expended on defence since the Government came into office. This is two or three times as much as has been spent on education in Australia in that period, and three or four times as much as has been spent on health.
– What has that got to do with it?
– It is a matter of priority, and if your priorities are what they appear to be they are not mine. In debating these estimates it is relevant to show whether the Government is correctly estimating, overestimating or under-estimating the threat to Australia or its interests. It is necessary to assess the nature of this threat, because the degree of threat is fundamental to the amount of money to be spent on defence. So the attitude of other countries is relevant to the debate. It is a factor which determines how much we should spend on defence, and how. It therefore seems necessary that we should concentrate attention on that. I suggest that in this debate, so far, there is a difference of opinion. The opinion put forward from this side, broadly speaking, is that the threat is not nearly so great as the Government appears to assume.
– Are you giving Labour’s policy?
– The submission from this side is that the threat, whatever it might be, is the kind of threat that cannot be met in terms of defence or war. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) quoted a statement made by Professor Oliphant on this point. Professor Oliphant said -
To-day a single nuclear weapon capable of exploding a detonation equal to 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. could be carried in any aircraft or rocket. Weapons could be made which could release detonations equal to 1,000,000,000 tons of T.N.T. which is equal to all the explosives set off in the world since time began. These weapons could be carried by an aircraft or set off by a girl sitting in a bomb-proof shelter deep in the earth. There is no known defence against them.
No one has tried to contradict that statement made by a leading world physicist. No one on the other side of the chamber appears to be even aware of the statement. The statement is there. What will the Government do about it? The Government’s civil defence programme is a sham which seems to indicate to me that it accepts the statement made by Professor Oliphant as correct and that nothing can be done about a nuclear bomb.
I suggest that this is the condition which has changed the attitude of all countries, not only Australia, to war. I suggest that in the world to-day - in this Government as well as anywhere else - there is a confident expectation that there will not be a world war. I suggest that Mr. Macmillan in 1958 came back from Moscow - if this is not true it can be contradicted - satisfied that the Soviet would not begin a war. He came back as an advocate of summit conferences and only a few weeks had passed before he had converted the Prime Minister of Australia to being an advocate of summit conferences. I suggest that this came about as a result of a conviction that neither the Soviet nor the United States of America would use a nuclear weapon. Of course, the Australian Government assumes this to be correct. In its defence statement last year, which is the basis of (his year’s Budget, it told us that we were preparing for limited war. It said, in effect, that we were putting out of consideration the possibility of total war. The basic Australian assumption is that any future war will be a limited war, and the question arises: How can we meet such a war?
The first point to emphasize is the limited capacity of Australia. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said only last night that to obtain sufficient fighter aircraft we would have to spend the whole of our defence allocation of £200,000,000 on this one item. This appears to be a recognition that we cannot provide from our own resources sufficient to meet the threat that may be involved. So, as a result, we undertake the expenditure of £198,000,000 in this year. This is totally inadequate to meet the Government’s assumptions and can never be more than totally inadequate. The spending of this money provides only some kind of a psychological sop to the people of Australia and some kind of justification for feeling that they have something that really amounts to defence. But they have not! I do not think that this is the end of it. Limited war, which is the type of war that these estimates are designed to meet, arises from particular conditions. They are political conditions, the kind of conditions that produced the problem of Syngman Rhee in Korea, and the problems of Laos and Cambodia. How do we meet these problems?
– And Tibet!
– If you would only listen to both sides for once, you would make some progress. We are not economically concerned with affairs in Tibet, but we are engaged in the provision of economic and other matters in Korea, Laos and Cambodia, and we should consider the matters on which we are spending our money, just for a change. What the Government is doing in Korea, Laos and Cambodia is to rely predominantly on military factors when the problem is not a military problem. I recall that last night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said -
You do not defend yourself against communism by big battalions on the one hand or by big defence expenditure on the other.
The problems in Asia out of which limited wars may come are political, economic and social problems. In what way has the Government chosen to deal with these problems? It has chosen a method that is primarily military. It has chosen a method which primarily establishes association with leaders in those countries who are trying to suppress and repress changes there. Syngman Rhee is the classic example. It has been proved to the hilt that the Government supported a man who was reactionary in his own country and who was not supported by his people. In this broad context, the Government is also supporting policies which are against the interests, or which are identified as being against the interests, of those people. Why do honorable members think that Mr. Nehru was so bitter in his criticism of our Prime Minister at the United Nations? Mr. Nehru was opposed to our Prime Minister not so much because he submitted a resolution which was thought by Mr. Nehru to be wrong but because our Prime Minister has shown himself to be sympathetic towards the side that is opposed to all that Mr. Nehru stands for. Our Prime Minister has refused to dissociate himself with South Africa and apartheid, and he took the side against the nationalization of the Suez Canal. All these matters are clearly relevant.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Chairman. This is a debate on the estimates for the defence departments, but the honorable member for Yarra is referring to matters which should be dealt with under the estimates for the Department of External Affairs. The honorable member for Lyne was ruled to be out of order when he referred to similar matters.
– Order! There is no similarity between the statements of the honorable member for Lyne and the honorable member for Yarra. The honorable member for Yarra is getting wide of the mark, but his remarks have been mainly associated with defence matters. The honorable member should confine himself to a consideration of the defence estimates.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the basic assumption underlying the policy of this Government, and on which we are spending more than £198,000,000 this year, is an assumption that we have to meet a limited war situation. I am trying to argue that the limited war situation is not the situation that the Government thinks it is. It is basically a political and economic problem in the countries concerned, and the Government is not giving sufficient weight to that consideration.
– Is not any war a political war in the long run?
– It has to be treated right from the beginning as a political problem, not from the time that war breaks out. It should be thought of not as Communist or anti-Communist but as a problem that is political in the fundamental social and economic factors associated with it. But I want to leave that point. The point I want to make now is that, even considering it as a military outbreak that has in fact occurred, such as Laos or Cambodia may be, and particularly as West New Guinea may be, the method that this Government should adopt is not to try to convey Centurion tanks or even aircraft to the scene, but to place the problem in the hands of the United Nations. The only basic hope we have of solving such problems as this is to take them to the United Nations and to seek United Nations intervention within the principles that govern that body. In other words, I submit that the situation of limited war cannot be met by any kind of military preparations that are possible in Australia. These military preparations are attempted because the Government’s basic policy is not to provide military, air or naval equipment but to integrate itself with the United States.
– Who supplies the troops to the United Nations?
– Well, we have never supplied any troops since Korea. My point is that we should prepare ourselves to supply troops to the United Nations, and that is the only justification that Australia has for supplying any troops anywhere at any time.
– Will you look after the women and children until those troops arrive?
– I would not trust them to you.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Is the honorable member for Yarra in order in making a gross reflection on the honorable member?
– The honorable member is not out of order.
– I know that honorable members opposite like to have things all the one way and I know that where they can they invariably get them that way. I know it shocks them to find that there is a point of view other than their own, and I want to put that point of view clearly to them, even at the risk of shocking them. I say that, even at the risk of shocking you. The submission I am making here is that a belief that by spending £198,000,000 upon military, naval and air force equipment you could meet the situation of the limited war you are aiming at is wrong. I submit that you should think basically in terms of the United Nations. Here I will move on to a point of international relations, in passing. I want to raise for consideration what is happening in the United Nations, because the Government does not seem to realize it. The position is that the United States of America and the Soviet Union are not gaining increasing support. Increasing numbers of people are becoming suspicious of both points of view, and in associating continuously with one of them, Australia is under suspicion too.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) made an extraordinary claim a short time ago, in this debate, when he said that the Government at the present time has nothing to show for its defence expenditure. I think I should direct his attention to the fact that pay and allowances cover about 42 per cent. of the total expenditure and, from the employment aspect alone, we have increased the number of permanent personnel in the services from about 34,000 to 48,000 in the period with which we are dealing. But perhaps the honorable member is not interested in that aspect. I point out that for the first time an effective Navy and Air Force are operating and, for the first time in our peacetime history, Australia has a well-trained Regular Army. I will refer to some of the details of those matters later.
We listened to a rather typical speech by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who made a statement which I think will often be quoted in this House in future, when he said that defence means war. I suppose he knows, as do most honorable members here, that in the Western world it is defence against aggression. The only aggressor at the present time is Soviet communism, allied with the communism practised by red China. If there was no defence to-morrow the Soviet Union could walk over the whole of Europe; and the same thing could happen in the Asian sphere. If there was no defence against aggression in this part of the world Communist China would march straight through Asia and this part of the world, which would include our own country.
The honorable member for Yarra followed the well-known line which is expressed by various peace movements in different countries and by which is meant disarmament for one side only. There has never been any real suggestion or concrete basic proposal put forward by the Soviet Union or Communist China for real disarmament. Those countries mean disarmament for the Western world only as a defence against their own aggression.
We must remember also the particular philosophy which was apparently espoused by the honorable member for Yarra in regard to nuclear disarmament and nuclear arms. Nuclear arms are the only real deterrent against Communist aggression in the world to-day. The Soviet bloc has complete supremacy in conventional arms and, in the absence of nuclear arms, could to-morrow walk across Europe, as it could walk across the rest of the Western world.
The honorable member for Yarra went on to say that defence expenditure is only a psychological sop. I have never heard a more damaging or dangerous statement made in this chamber. It was completely irrational and completely irresponsible and I am sure it will not be appreciated by the 80,000 servicemen in the armed forces of Australia to-day - both regular and Citizen Military Forces personnel. In a few moments I will quote some details of the Services and their roles, which will substantiate just the opposite view. The honorable member also referred rather vaguely to cases where incidents arise and said they should always be referred immediately to the United Nations. He knows that in most cases that has been done by the Western world. But what about
Hungary and the other European nations behind the iron curtain that are under complete domination by the Soviet Union? What about Tibet, North Korea, North Viet Nam and other places where the people have no choice in respect of taking a matter to the United Nations and the Soviet bloc makes no effort whatsoever to do so? I think that is a complete answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Yarra, who is espousing a line followed substantially by Communist groups not only in this country but also in other countries of the world to-day.
I shall deal now with the subject of the defence estimates, which appear to be the last things in the minds of a number of honorable members who have spoken in this debate so far. I point out that there is a number of basic considerations which must be looked at by the Government when deciding defence policy. The first, I think, is the geographical position of Australia in South-East Asia and its relationship to our defence line through this area against Communist aggression from red China. The second is the great British Commonwealth partnership, of which we are a very substantial member in this area, and also our treaties with the other free nations of the world. There is another aspect which must be kept in mind by the Government in formulating defence policy, and that is our great programme of national development, because we have, on a parallel with the consideration of items of a purely defence nature, our expanding ability to provide food and manufactured materials for the defence Services. And still, in relation to this as in other things, in the international sphere we are a small nation with fairly limited resources at the moment.
Another factor is the assessment of possible threats to our security. Still a further factor, which has already been stated in this chamber during this debate, is that a major war at the present time is unlikely as a deliberate act of policy. This, again, is due principally to the deterrent of atomic and hydrogen weapons. But against that is the very sound premise that limited wars are likely in various unstable areas and particularly, perhaps, in the region in which we Australians are living to-day. So the Australian defence policy can only be framed after taking all those considerations into account. It is a policy against aggression and not for aggression, because we realize that the only real threat to the world to-day - to world peace - is from international communism. This is exemplified by the efforts of red China in this particular sphere. Our main defence in this region - as I have said, we are a small nation with somewhat limited resources - lies in co-operation with our great allies; first of all as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations; secondly, in co-operation with our great and friendly ally, the United States of America; and, thirdly, in co-operation with the many Asian nations that are our friends. I quote, as examples of our direct participation in this policy, our belief in and adherence to treaties such as the Australia, New Zealand, United States Pact and the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty in which we are very active participants. At the same time we have a great belief and faith in the United Nations as an institution which we believe can prevent war and settle international disputes.
Let us look at Australia’s defence programme. In doing so we see that it makes provision for the organization and equipment of the three services to enable them to fulfil their approved roles. In considering their strategic roles, let us look first at the Navy. We say its role is to ensure the defence of sea communications and to co-operate with the other services and our allies in the general operations of war. The emphasis in naval policy to-day is placed on anti-submarine capabilities. I also suggest that early consideration be given to the provision of surface-to-air guided weapons for the existing vessels of the Australian fleet. At the same time consideration should be given to guided weapons for surface operations, that is, in the re-equipment of the Australian fleet.
Coming next to the Royal Australian Air Force, I think the most important consideration at the moment is its re-equipment with a new type of fighter aircraft. I understand, from what the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has said in this place, that that will perhaps come about in the not too far distant future. The main operational element of the Air Force, however, is the bomber and fighter squadrons that are stationed at Butterworth, in Malaya, as part of the Commonwealth’s strategic reserve.
Knowing the work that is being undertaken there, and having had experience with them on the spot, I wish to pay tribute to the splendid work that our airmen are doing in what can be classified as the front line defence of Australia.
The provision of the CI 30 Hercules aircraft for transport purposes has been a very successful move. 1 have some knowledge of the work these aircraft are doing in assisting the Army in its activities in Australia, and I can say that the decision to purchase these aircraft was a very wise one indeed. A further step taken by the R.A.A.F. has been the carrying out of modifications to the Neptune aircraft, which now provide us with a modern and effective anti-submarine force. The provision of other types of aircraft. for specialized work, and the development of suitable types of guided missiles, have also helped the R.A.A.F. to perform its role in the Asian sphere in co-operation with the other services.
I would like now to deal with the Army. First, I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) for the part he has played in the re-organization of this splendid service. 1 also compliment him on his very active support of the Citizen Military Forces. Noteworthy success has been achieved in the re-organization programme. The role that the Army will be most likely called upon to undertake in any future conflict will be in limited or local wars. The aim is to provide forces trained and equipped for rapid movement to any theatre of operations in the Asian region. The regular forces will make an immediate contribution, and the re-organized volunteer C.M.F., as part of the new integrated Army, will be more quickly available and better equipped than in the past.
The new Army is re-organized on a pentropic basis. This is a suitable basis for tropical conditions. The Army will be capable, if required in the future, of using atomic weapons as the basis of fire power. However, the present programme for re-equipment is based on new conventional weapons. I shall outline for the committee the basis of Army re-organization. First, there are two pentropic divisions, each of five battle groups. The basic component of each battle group is a strengthened infantry battalion with supporting troops. One of the two divisions consists of two Australian
Regular Army and three Citizen Military Forces battle groups. The other division is of five C.M.F. battle groups. It is pleasing to note that in the location of units greater emphasis is being placed on Northern Command in Queensland, where the Army strength has been greatly increased.
In the Regular Army of over 21,000 men the strength and effectiveness of the combat elements are now being increased, and the strength of command, training and administrative establishments is being reduced. This provides increased strength for the field force, re-organized to improve its tactical flexibility. The battle group organization provides a logistic support force, whilst new light aircraft and watercraft give greater mobility.
The C.M.F. target is 30,000, to be reached by 30th June, 1962. The present recruiting rate is high, and although it will probably slow down to some extent, the indications at present are that the target will be reached. The C.M.F. are now part of one integrated Army with an important role to perform. The new equipment which is now being provided for the A.R.A. will shortly be made available also to the C.M.F. This equipment, which will cost about £30,000,000 over a period of three years, will include the FN rifle, the new general purpose machine gun. new types of artillery, anti-tank weapons and wireless equipment, and many other important items. The Australian Army will be completely re-equipped, and this new equipment will be as up to date as any in the world.
Some incentives to C.M.F. recruiting are being provided. They include the recent pay increases and the new arrangement for members of the Commonwealth Public Service to be given leave with pay for certain training periods. T would offer the suggestion that the Government consider a provision to the effect that C.M.F. pay be free of income tax. If this cannot be accepted, I might then suggest that some standard amount of C.M.F. pay might be decided upon which could be deductible from income for taxation purposes. Apart from the obvious financial advantages to C.M.F. members, such a concession would represent a recognition by the Government of the special service which this force is rendering to Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) has done, of course, what we would have expected him to do. He has tried to justify the policy of the Government that he supports. His speech has given me less cause for complaint than those of many other honorable members on the Government side. I submit that honorable members opposite are not justified in using this debate for the purpose of making simply a critical review of the viewpoints of members of the Opposition, endeavouring thereby to imply that we lack loyalty or are unwilling to act in the best interests of the people of this country. Government supporters have a responsibility to justify the expenditure of huge sums of money on what they call the defence of this country.
I well remember the record of members of this Parliament of. the same political complexions as those who now occupy the Treasury bench, prior to the last war and in the early years of the war. We found that they had done too little too late, and they were incapable of showing leadership to the people of Australia in the time of emergency. It. fell to ‘the lot of the members of the Labour Party, although they did not have a majority in this House or in another place, to undertake the task of providing leadership and of organizing the resources of the nation to meet the emergency. The majority of those on this side who have spoken in this debate are exservicemen. They know something of what was required of the men who answered the country’s call in those perilous times. Those Government supporters who have offered such glib criticism of Opposition speakers have no real appreciation of the task performed and the sacrifices made by these men who served their country during the war. To accuse them of having any sympathy with the ideology of other countries is just too foolish for words. Honorable gentlemen opposite would do well to emulate the service and endeavour that members of the Labour Party have given over the years in defending Australia’s cause and providing for Australia’s security and well-being.
An examination of the estimates that are now before the committee indicates that a more adequate explanation is required of the relevant items than has been given to date. This Government, which failed the people of Australia so badly prior to the last war in matters related to our defence, has been in office continuously for eleven years. In that time it has spent very liberally on defence - a total of £1,700,000,000. By the end of this financial year the amount will have risen to £1,900,000,000. What have we to prove that the money has been spent wisely and well? Have we an efficient Army capable of meeting any emergency that is likely to arise? Is it equipped with the most efficient and up-to-date arms? Is the Navy capable of undertaking even effective patrol work in the waters that surround this continent? Have we an Air Force - the arm of the services from which we would require possibly more effective striking power than we would from the Army and the Navy - capable of fulfilling its role? A most efficient Air Force is necessary to defend the distant reaches of this continent against any aggressor who might threaten our security. During the last war the lack of any fighter force was our gravest deficiency, and we had to look to other countries to supply the striking power that was essential to meet the challenges that confronted us. What has been done to bring our Air Force to modern standards? The Government is still uncertain about the kind of aircraft with which it will re-equip this very important arm of our fighting services.
I agree with honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber who have stated that the first and real strength of our security lies in fostering friendship and understanding with all peoples of the world, and particularly with our immediate neighbours. If we availed ourselves of the opportunities that exist for friendship with other , countries our security would be strengthened, and I strongly support the suggestion that we abide strictly by our obligations to the United Nations. In that international authority exist the opportunities for us to exercise influence on other countries and to improve our relationship with them because representatives of all nations can sit around the table and seek to overcome the differences and difficulties that arise on the international scene. I have some knowledge of the procedures of the United Nations and 1 know the opportunities that exist to bring about improved relations between all nations in the world. If only each nation tried to understand the problems that confront the others, had a little patience in deliberations, and showed a willingness to share in the solution of the problems that arise from time to time, improved relations between nations would follow.
I have already indicated to honorable members that when I had the opportunity to preside over the deliberations of the Security Council we were able to solve four different problems that arose in international relations because we used patience and friendliness in our discussions. The best contribution that Australia can make towards a better world is by giving leadership to the many new countries which, upon achieving independence and nationhood, are becoming members of the United Nations. They have shown their willingness to share in the responsibilities which are borne by the United Nations, and we should give them a lead in the effort to improve international relations.
I realize that some provision must be made to meet our urgent security needs. The suggestion made from this side of the chamber that a certain amount of the money that is being set aside for defence should be used for the development of our country, has a good deal of merit. If any part of this continent requires development, surely it is the north-west, where tropical crops could be grown.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I think that one of the most extraordinary spectacles that I have witnessed in this chamber, and one of the things that have been most revealing to me, is the final, complete line-up that we now have as presented by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who are plugging the one straight Communist line on this issue of defence. Surely no one doubts this. There it is. The line that they have been plugging rings out as clear as a bell. The honorable member for Reid, of course, has consistently plugged this line since he came back from his brain-washing overseas. He is quite sincere about it - very sincere indeed - but the amount of brain-washing that he experienced in the few weeks that he was abroad, and the effect of it on him, have been quite remarkable. Now we have the final line-up that we see presented to-day on this issue of defence by the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Reid - this straight Communist line.
Let us take the case of the honorable member for Yarra for a moment. He says, in effect, “ We on our side of the chamber are sick of Government supporters using a battery of words and talking about bigger and better weapons. Defence is psychological sop.” Those are most extraordinary statements for any one to make. They are in line with the things that the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Parkes have said in this debate. They mean exactly the same thing. One can imagine how pleased Khrushchev must be with his snowy-haired boy from Yarra who propounds this view consistently in this place and behaves consistently as his spokesman on an issue like this. How pleased Khrushchev must be to have a voice in this chamber for this kind of ideology.
The honorable member for Reid says that we have nothing at all to fear. He gives us a complete assurance that we have nothing whatsoever to fear from any nations to the north of us or anywhere else. He says that we can throw away our weapons. These three honorable members whom I have mentioned say, “ What is this silly spending on defence? “ That is their attitude. They cry, “Hold out the olive branch. Peace! “ No one doubts the sincerity of the great majority of Australians who have prayed and worked for peace over all these years, and it is left to the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Parkes to show us that there are still a few who do not believe in these efforts and could not care less about the matter.
We are assured by the honorable member for Reid that we have nothing to fear.
Yet we see in to-day’s Sydney “Daily Mirror “ a report of an extraordinary speech made to the United Nations General Assembly by Khrushchev. Under the headlines, “ We’re ready for war, declares K.”, and “ Speech rocks U.N. assembly “, the speech is reported in these words - “ If the West wants war, the Soviet Union is ready for it,” the Soviet Premier (Mr. Kruschev) declared in a fantastic U.N. speech last night.
Later, after the General Assembly had rejected his demand for a full-dress debate on disarmament, he said the U.N. had taken “ steps closer to the possibility of war.”
Mr. Kruschev’s arm waving speech to U.N. was his most belligerent since his arrival in New York and one of the strongest in the history of U.N.
He said: “ Our rockets come out of assembly lines like sausages . . . “.
Yet the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Parkes cry, “ Peace! “ This peace line may confuse a few fools. It may confuse a few who hold public meetings and peace meetings. It may help those who hold meetings to express opposition to the proposed amendments to the Crimes Act. But these cries of “ Peace! “ just represents red herrings drawn across the trail.
What is the truth of the matter, Mr. Chairman? The truth is that we must be prepared. We must have defence. And any thinking person realizes that. The majority of Opposition members know it full well. We must have defence. So for my part, I dismiss out of hand this peace line. My feeling about the matter is that while we have a nest of snakes about, we need a decent stick to hit them with. That is the essence of my attitude.
– Perhaps a shillelagh would do.
– Yes, we need a good shillelagh, too.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) took a line different from that taken by their three colleagues of whom I have spoken. Apparently there is another bloc in the ranks of the Opposition. I think its views are more in line with the thinking of the Australian Labour Party. The members of that bloc admit that we must have defence forces. Of course we must have defence forces. The members of the bloc which admits this go on to say what our defence forces ought to do. They say that those forces should be used in a police role as part of a police force under the direction of the United Nations. Those honorable members take a view totally different from that taken by the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Parkes, and they say, “ Yes, we must have defence forces “.
Honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber know perfectly well that we must have defence, but we do not hear from them what sort of defence forces we should have. They do not make that at all clear. Should we have defence forces composed of men carrying rifles? Should those forces have supporting weapons? Should they have artillery? Should they have tanks, anti-tank weapons and missiles such as the Bloodhound? Should they have air cover? Should they be able to transport themselves by sea? We did not hear about these considerations from Opposition members. The truth of the situation is that we cannot have defence forces which are just what we might regard as a police force, and it is completely unrealistic to think that we can. We cannot have defence forces which are not balanced forces. I refer particularly to the Army in this context. The Army must be a balanced force. Therefore, it must have supporting weapons on a certain scale which ought to be the limit which we as a nation can afford.
It is all very well for Opposition members to criticize as they have done. No doubt playing what they regard as the proper role of an opposition, they have told us that we have spent on defence so many thousands of millions of pounds over the last ten years. It is all very well to be wise after the event. That is the most simple exercise. It is very simple to be wise after the event and say, “ It is a pity that we spent money on that. We should have done far better if we had spent our money on this.” The truth is, once again, that our chiefs of staff and those who advise us and who make the decisions on these matters are, as honorable members know, completely sincere in their intentions. The decisions which are made are terribly difficult to make. They are extremely difficult decisions, and it is very easy to dismiss the whole matter lightly and say that we should not have done this or that. Thank heaven we are doing something. That is the main thing - that we are doing something.
– What are you doing?
– The honorable member knows full well what we are trying to do. We are trying to provide adequate defence forces for this country.
– I am glad that the honorable member used that word “ trying “.
– Of course we try. The honorable member knows full well that we try. That is what I have been saying - that we try. The honorable member for Wills has just come into the chamber and is trying to interject. I shall give him a mention, too. I felt sure that he would join in. He agrees with me that we should have defence forces. He thinks that view is quite right, and in that he differs from the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Parkes.
There are one or two things to which I want to direct attention, Mr. Chairman. The first is the fact that the Citizen Military Forces are building up very close to the target numbers laid down by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). It is very pleasing indeed to see that we are very nearly on the target. I want to warn the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and the Minister for the Army that in the administration of the Army we must be very careful indeed to see that the C.M.F. fulfil their role and are properly integrated with the Regular Army so that we shall have what we have been told we ought to have - one army into which no distinctions will enter. We should see to it that we do not get back to the old division between soldiers and what were referred to as “ chocos “. That could happen. Certainly it is not happening now, but I do ask the Minister to be very careful to see that it does not develop again. We must make sure that the equipment and clothing of all soldiers are the same. I agree that priority must be given to the first wave, our regular forces, but let us be sure that nothing comes between the two forces to divide them and make it appear as though we have soldiers, and - again I use the term - “ chocos “. That is of the utmost importance. 1 understand that recruiting for the Regular Army is going on reasonably well. At times, the Minister expresses concern about the numbers coming in. There are many young boys from the country who seek to join the Regular Army but, because of the educational standard required and the type of test applied for admittance to the Regular Army, they are just not in the race to qualify for acceptance. That is a very bad feature of the recruiting programme. I do not suggest that good qualifications are not essential, but many hundreds of young men come in from the outback with splendid intentions indeed, genuinely wishing to join the Regular Army and- serve their country, but they have no chance of passing the extraordinary educational and other tests to which they are subjected. The result is that they go back very disgruntled indeed, and are a bad advertisement for the recruiting campaign. I suggest that this matter should be looked at closely and that special consideration should be given to country boys because many of them have not had the benefit of such, educational facilities as are available to city Tads. Despite this handicap, they would make first-class soldiers. I believe that after a short period of training they would become fully qualified, fit into the Army and make as good soldiers as are to be found among men from anywhere in Australia.
– That matter is being looked at very closely.
– I thank the Minister for his assurance.
Another problem is that of wet canteens. This problem will rear its. ugly head very quickly and it must be dealt with without delay. Surely, the Government must make a decision in regard to it. The question whether there are to be wet canteens for the C.M.F. is. not whether the law allows such canteens; it is purely a matter of Army policy and Military Board instruction. The Regular Army has them. It is not a. question whether we think men should or should not drink liquor; it is a question whether we should allow this differentiation between the two forces. Matters such as that must be watched very closely so that there shall never be an opportunity for creating a division between our regular soldiers and the C.M.F. either in thought or in any other way, for that would be indeed disastrous. Let us have one army. Let us all co-operate in making it a most efficient army. Already, as the Minister knows, we have a little better approach by employers to the granting of leave to members of the C.M.F. for camps and schools. This concession must be encouraged, and it is the duty of every honorable member, as the Minister for the Army has told us, and of every citizen, to try to encourage this attitude by employers so that nothing shall stand in the way of young men performing this vital service in the armed forces of their country.
.- I rise for the second time to speak to this group of estimates and to express the policy of honorable members on this side of the chamber. We have advocated a reduction m armaments and the diversion of the money now spent on armaments to such peaceful purposes as national development and aid to Asian countries. That is our policy, and we unanimously support it. There has been no split in the party and there has been no division of personalities on the matter. We believe that we should contribute to the United Nations forces and” that we should support the United Nations to the fullest extent. We have said; - and the Government agrees with us - that there is very little likelihood of the great powers engaging, in. a. global war and that if war should come it will be only a limited war. We say that the United Nations would, be a deterrent to a limited war.
In his defence review last March, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) said’ that the Government had to decide uponpriorities, and that national development was of first priority in any defence scheme. We challenged the Government on that issue because,, since that review was made, we have seen an increase of £10;000,000’ in the- amount allocated1 for defence and a reduction- of £10,000,000 in the greatest of aft our national- development schemes - the Snowy Mountains project. Similarly, there has been no increase in the allocation for immigration, nor has there been an increase in the amount to be spent on aid under the Colombo Plan. I mention these matters to emphasize the hypocrisy of the Government on this subject.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) said, in effect, “ Here is my big chance. I must get out the big stick and hit the boys of the Opposition over the head “. In addition to the attack upon me, attacks have been made on the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– All I ask honorable members to do is read “ Hansard “ and they will see that if my name is mentioned once it is mentioned 150 times in this debate on the defence estimates. The facts are that I spent seven weeks overseas. For three and a half weeks I was in Japan, and for the other three and a half weeks I was in China. When 1 came back and told the simple story of what I had seen while I was in China, Government supporters claimed that I had been brain-washed. I was accused of being punch-drunk. I have also been accused of being a fellow traveller. All these accusations are made against me for having told the simple story of what I had seen in China. I propose to ask honorable members one question, and they can continue discussion of these estimates for so long as they require to answer it. What have we to fear from China? I have said that we need have no fear whatever of the People’s Republic of China. China is concerned only with her own development for peaceful purposes, and with what is in the best interests of her people. The people of China have a real problem. Whether honorable members like it or not, China will become one of the greatest nations in the world. By the turn of the century, China will be the greatest nation in the world. Honorable members on the Government side may be smug about it, but that is what will happen. Both the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and the honorable member for Paterson (Mr Fairhall) were over there. They saw certain things about which they have remained silent. They have neither the courage nor the determination to rise in their places and express their feelings about what they saw there. I ask the honorable member for Phillip, who is interjecting, to tell the true story about his visit. He has the time, and the Government has the numbers on its side to extend the debate for as long as may be necessary.
I propose now to issue a challenge to the Government. During the last war, we fought against the Japanese hordes who were allied with the axis powers of Italy and Germany. They were pretty tough in combat. In their drive towards Australia their one great desire was to become the master race of South-East Asia, to bring South-East Asia into the orbit of their control in this part of the world.
The militarist clique that was in. control was a bad element and it still exists. This Government claims that the only way to answer communism is to rearm Japan. It has no positive proposals to put forward such as those of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Economic, social and human problems have to be solved. We cannot solve them by armies, by fears, or by smears. What is the policy of honorable members opposite? They are guilty men - every one of them. They are supporting the United States of America in rearming the fascist, militarist elements in Japan whom we had to fight and who persecuted and tortured our men.
This rearming is in accordance with their negative policy, the basis of which is the belief that we must defeat international communism. There is no positive proposal. I challenge any honorable member opposite from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), down to the lowest man in the ranks - the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) - to say that he has opposed the re-militarization of Japan.
Tb-day, the cat came out of the bag,. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is a parliamentary secretary, said that nuclear arms were the only deterrent to the drive of communism. It is in accordance with that policy that the United States of America is arming the people of South Korea, the people of South Viet Nam, the militarists of Japan, and certain elements in the Philippines, with nuclear weapons. Recently, while in Japan, I spoke to a young Japanese peace fighter who said, “ We were sinful in perpetrating certain horrors in the last war, but in spite of our own sins we believe that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a crime. Our people were murdered. If we rearm with atomic weapons we will become murderers “.
I hear remarks from the opposite side of the chamber but these are issues on which Government supporters have to become clear. Why have the great powers decided against a world war? Because they fear atomic warfare. They know what it will bring. I have seen the frightening burns inflicted on the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They would make one’s heart cry. But the burns are nothing compared with the genetic effects. That is the frightening thing. If the present mad rearming with atomic weapons goes on, some triggerhappy individual will start a third world war.
– The Japanese killed thousands of good Australians.
– That is true. I have not hesitated to express my opinions in this chamber. I have already said that I hated the guts of the Japanese militarists. I still distrust them. Why is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) supporting a Government which has agreed to give power back to the militarists who killed thousands of Australians? I point the finger of scorn at Government supporters. The Government must do something about this situation. Honorable members opposite may say that I am following the Communist line. I am not going to argue about that. I am a socialist and I believe that in Australia the greatest threat to the Australian people is capitalism. I do not believe the Australian worker needs to fear communism. Honorable members opposite may use that statement as they like. The Government has a negative approach to this subject and can only fall back on its old worn-out story.
Before replying to certain remarks of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) I want to read one of the fine principles of action of the Australian Labour Party. This does not appear in the platform of the Liberal Party; it is in the platform of the Australian Labour Party because we stand for some thing. The Labour Party is not a changeable body such as the Liberal Party. I shall quote from the “ Federal Platform and Objective “ of the Australian Labour Party. Under the heading “ Principles of Action “, clause (c) reads as follows: -
Cultivation of Labor ideals and principles - such as enforcement of human rights, correction of injustice, help for the under-privileged, building Australian nationhood and abhorrence of war.
Last night, the Minister for the Army challenged the Opposition to declare its attitude towards certain treaties. When the South-East Asia Treaty Organization legislation went through this chamber in 1954 the Labour Party supported it, although we made certain criticisms. But I shall quote what was said about Seato at the annual conference of the Labour Party held in Brisbane in March, 1957. Under the heading of “ Foreign Policy and Defence “ the following decision was made by that conference: -
That is what the Labour Party thinks of Seato. I remind the honorable member for Darling Downs who referred to our friends in Seato that the nations in Seato include the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan. These are our Asian friends! But the nations which are not in Seato include India, Ceylon, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Malaya. Now you know why the Prime Minister failed so badly in the United Nations - because he has no basic understanding.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I do. .The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) said, in the course of his speech, that an honorable member andI had visited China. I want to put the record straight. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and I visited Formosa. We did not visit red China as did the honorable member for Reid. It is true-
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation, and is debating the matter.
– I simply want to make the position clear.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Advance to the Treasurer.
.- We commence now the debate on a section of the Estimates headed Miscellaneous Services. I want to point out to the committee that this provides an excellent illustration of the correctness of the report of the Public Accounts Committee which was submitted to this House only yesterday. It is apparent that the contents of the Miscellaneous Services section of the Estimates should appear in the estimates for the various departments to which they relate. When that is not done, virtually every Minister should be in this chamber during the consideration of the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services for no Minister knows what particular subject will be dealt with and a matter may be raised that comes within his administration. So I direct attention to that report submitted yesterday, and I trust that in due course the Parliament may decide that miscellaneous services would be more appropriately placed under the heading of each department concerned.
It is my intention, Mr. Chairman, to speak particularly to the miscellaneous services item 03 in Division No. 636 of the estimates for the Department of Health, and I am grateful that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is available to the committee. This item deals with the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, and the proposed vote is £72,500. As the Minister will no doubt concede, it is not the first time that I have spoken on this subject in this chamber. I want to point out that the vote is the same as it has been every year since 1944. It seems a reasonable premise on which to work that, the financial provision for the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness having remained unaltered, the departmental organization has also remained unaltered.
May I inform the committee that each State has its national fitness council, with key leaders from the community giving time and ability to administer a progressive policy in line with the Commonwealth act? I want to direct attention to the fact that the out-working of these State national fitness councils is through two recognized committees. The first is known as the Associated Sporting Committee, which virtually co-ordinates and brings together every known type of sporting body within a State. The Associated Sporting Committee thus can work in the interest of all sports, and can be the official mouthpiece of worthy sporting organizations. The second committee is known as the Associated Youth Committee, and arrangements have been made for one such committee to function in each State. If there is a State without such a committee that is unfortunate, but to my knowledge such committees function very effectively in most of the States. We have the means by which a tremendous number of varied and estimable youth organizations of a voluntary character are brought together.
These, then, are the recognized channels for the out-working of the national fitness councils. I believe that the States have informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that they value this Commonwealth legislation, that they believe that a central advisory point here in the Federal Capital must be maintained, and that the Commonwealth financial grant - the figure of £72,500 which I have mentioned - might well be amended to a figure comparative to the value that that grant had when it was originally approved. It must be apparent to every honorable member that if £72,500 was an appropriate figure in 1944 the development of activity in the national fitness field, quite apart from the contributions made by each of the State Governments, justifies a comparative increase in the vote so that work of similar value can be done to-day. Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, national fitness, as an activity sponsored by the Commonwealth, gives every appearance of being the unwanted child of the administering department, the Department of Health. I say that not unkindly, and I do not think that the Minister will in any way misunderstand my words. I want to ask the Minister: Does he any longer need the advice of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, for I have noticed again with some concern that the council has not been convened since 1954. The council was designed to be an advisory body to the Minister and the department, and I am wondering whether it is the intention of the Minister to convene the council in the very near future. As I say, there has been no meeting of it since 1954, and we still await its most recent report which, I suggest, has been somewhat delayed in its release. I am wondering also what is the intention regarding the trained Commonwealth national fitness officer who all through the years, as the result of the operation of the Commonwealth act, has been available here in the Federal Capital. Is the officer who recently retired, who was without any shadow of doubt highly qualified for the position that she occupied, to be replaced with a suitably trained officer, or is the only other alternative to apply - namely, that central service to the State national fitness councils is now to be nothing more than the despatch of subsidy cheques each month or quarter. If that were, unfortunately, to be the decision, I want to say very genuinely that I believe that the sort of attitude would surely kill a splendid Commonwealth influence, upon youth in particular. Rather than allow the national fitness programme and the legislation as we see it to-day to be squeezed and gradually to be dropped I want again to appeal for national fitness either to be cut out completely as a Commonwealth activity or for it to be handled in a realistic and challenging manner. I want to ask the Minister whether he is prepared to make administrative arrangements to give national fitness a new look and to establish new targets and, preferably, that a new system of administration be incorporated.
– And more money be given.
– More money is part of this proposal. I have already referred, last year in particular, to the opportunity within the Commonwealth Office of Education, which is administered by the Prime Minister’s Department, to do something along those lines. I want to say again that here is the logical home for the unwanted child, national fitness. I say that national fitness should come within the responsibilities in the youth field which have been assumed by the Office of Education. This does not seem to be an unreasonable proposal.
My friend and colleague the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) followed me in the debate on these estimates last year, and expressed his concern that I should mention the Office of Education. I want to say to him and the committee to-day that he entirely misunderstood my approach. I respect his view as set out in the 26th report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Commonwealth Office of Education, and I recognize the danger enunciated in the conclusions of that report, and on this point I am sure that I agree with my honorable friend. He said that the Public Accounts Committee was concerned that the Office of Education should not be extended beyond what might be regarded as a reasonable size. With that I am in full agreement; but all I am asking for now is the relocation of one specialist officer who, operating at the moment under the Department of Health, could preferably and more logically be located within the Office of Education. I do not think that that in any way indicates that I am anxious to expand the Office of Education unnecessarily. I believe, however, that the Office of Education is the spot where the work could be much more satisfactorily done.
Unless the Government is prepared to handle the legislation realistically I would say: “ Withdraw from the field of national fitness. Do not let us play with it.” If we want to leave it to the States, let us hand it over to them. But while we have a Commonwealth act and an office here, where there is a trained administrator, let us see if we can handle this matter in the interests particularly of the youth of Australia, so that we will stir the imagination of youth and give a clear indication to the public that we as a Government and a Parliament are, with the department, prepared to do things with some vision and activity in the interests of young people. We would do well, I suggest, to study the positive action of the United Kingdom Government in respect of that country’s youth service, which operates apart from the recognized education system. I shall quote a small extract about the activities of the youth service in Great Britain -
Sir David Eccles has announced in London a new £4 million sterling programme for the year 1962-63. This follows good progress under the present £3 million sterling two-year programme for 1960-62 announced last February.
A new national college for training youth leaders will open in the Midland city of Leicester next January, for candidates who will be under the age of 23. The £4 million sterling now to be made available will cover a “ programme of starts “ for projects of the individual value of £1,000 sterling and over undertaken by local education authorities and voluntary bodies.
The emphasis on voluntary bodies leads us into that field which I have already stressed is covered by the associated youth committees of the State National Fitness Council. Apart from this vote of £72,500, the Commonwealth votes a few thousand pounds to worthy youth organizations each year; but, Sir, it stops there! We withdrew some £10,000,000 from helpful training of our young men when the national service training plan was discontinued. No one should, therefore, object when I advocate a more realistic sum of £150,000 up to £200,000 in lieu of the grant to which I am now speaking in these estimates. This figure, in the interests of the national fitness programme under this act which is our responsibility as a Parliament, would enable much better work to be done, and that cannot be denied.
I ask the Minister again - this is not the first time I have asked - first, will he call together the Commonwealth National Fitness Council, to seek the advice of that body? From the trends which are apparent, it is clear to me and to many others that the people in the department for which the Minister is responsible desperately need the advice of those who are personally handling this activity within the States. Secondly, I ask: Will he recommend that the youth experts in the Office of Education in the Prime Minister’s Department be asked to give some research to national fitness and to report to the Government? Thirdly and finally, I ask: Will he take steps to restore to the position of Commonwealth national fitness officer a fully qualified person for these duties and to pursue a progressive rather than a defeatist attitude in the administration of this vitally important Commonwealth act, which is designed to encourage the development of fit and soundthinking young citizens of this expanding Australia.
Australia, in my opinion, must foster her youth. This is one very practical way in this particular area of showing that she confidently looks to her young people to be the effective national leaders of the future.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 622 - Prime Minister’s Department, item 15 “ Royal Life Saving Society - Grant £8,000”. A grant of £8,000 has been made each year to this society and a similar grant has been made to the Surf Life Saving Association. Whilst I have a very high regard for the work of the Surf Life Saving Association, I want to deal particularly with the Royal Life Saving Society.
The beaches in my electorate come within the jurisdiction of the Royal Life Saving Society, as they front the still waters of Botany Bay. I also have in mind the magnificent work done by the society in instructing and examining those who wish to qualify for life saving work. I am moved to speak on this occasion because of the lead taken by the society in promoting the international convention on life saving techniques, which was held in Sydney earlier this year. This was the first international convention of its kind held anywhere in the world. It was a most significant occasion and the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) attended the opening of the convention. Following the convention at Sydney University, the Royal Life Saving Society gave a display on the beach at Brighton-le-Sands of the results of research into new life saving techniques. This practical display was given before a large crowd of people.
The grant to this society of £8,000, distributed all over Australia, is wholly inadequate, when one has regard for the tremendous work that these people do. This society does not rely solely on government grants. Such grants represent a very small part of the resources used by the society in its work. The expansion of the work of the society can be gauged by figures given by Judge Harvey Prior, who is president of the New South Wales branch of the society. Until 1959-60, the number of awards granted annually had been increasing at the rate of 5,000 a year. In the last year of its operations, the number of awards to people who passed the society’s life saving examinations increased not by 5,000 but by 34,470. 1 hope that the appropriate Minister will take note of that. This society has raised the whole tempo of its work to this magnificent level. This is not just an accident. It is the result of the society’s campaign which has as its first objective the saving of lives on beaches other than surf beaches. Its second objective is the training of young people.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) made a plea on behalf of youth organizations and asked the Government to increase the amount of its grants. The work of the Royal Life Saving Society not only provides for the saving of lives but also trains young men and women, lt provides one of the best forms of youth training of a general nature. The discipline involved in patrolling beaches, saving lives and so on, and the gathering together of these young people all provide excellent training of a general character. We know, also, that the presence of life savers gives a sense of security to all those who use the beaches. They may never need the services of a life saver but the presence of life saving patrols gives a feeling of security. This work is undertaken in a purely voluntary capacity by thousands of young men and women who control our beaches throughout the summer months. On the very hot day in Sydney last Sunday, more than 100,000 people visited the beaches. Perhaps, when we are spending all the millions of pounds covered by the Estimates, we should pause a moment to think of the magnificent work being done by these young people who patrol over beaches. As I have said, it is not just an accident or incidental that this year there is an increase in the tempo of the work of the Royal Life Saving Society. This body has taken on the task of teaching our young people not only on the beaches of our main cities and seaside resorts, but also throughout the length and breadth of the country districts where Olympic swimming pools have been built. The society has provided full-lime instructors, who have mobile vans, to teach young people in country districts. Of the 85,000 awards granted last year something like 19,000 were granted to young people in country areas where swimming pools have been built. These are young people who will help in the teaching of life-saving and provide life-saving patrols at those pools.
Last year the Royal Life Saving Society was given two mobile instructional vans, which are very expensive. To send out an instructor in a van of this nature, on a fulltime basis, is indeed a costly business. I repeat that these mobile units traverse the length and breadth of the State, giving young people instruction in the techniques of life-saving. So far, two vans have been provided by the generosity of two very commendable institutions in the New South Wales community. One of those vans - I am glad to relate this in view of the present controversy in New South Wales - was provided by the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which is to be heartily commended for its action. The other was donated by the St. George League Club, which operates in my electorate. Those two bodies have provided the facilities which have enabled 19,000 young people in country districts to have the services of fully trained instructors and examiners in the art of life-saving. In fact, the instruction is not restricted to the saving of lives in the water, but covers other safety measures.
That is why T appeal to the Government not to allow this £8,000 grant to the Royal Life Saving Society for distribution throughout the whole of Australia to remain at the present figure. Not only have the two organizations which I mentioned donated vans, but also private citizens are1 responding to the call and are showing in a practical manner their appreciation of the great work being done by the Royal
Life Saving Society and the Surf Life Saving association. Citizens have increased their donations to those bodies. I make a very strong appeal to the Commonwealth Government to come in now and give further help. I have on many occasions in this place enunciated the principle that the central government and Parliament of this nation are prepared to help those who are prepared to help themselves. I can assure honorable members, with utter sincerity, that the young men and women who run the life-saving clubs and patrol the beaches in their leisure hours, and who go out in a purely honorary and voluntary capacity to instruct other people, are prepared to help themselves. In my electorate and adjoining electorates they are spending their Saturday mornings conducting street stalls, lucky number stalls and so on and are asking the community to make donations to their life-saving clubs. If they are prepared to do that, the least that the Commonwealth Government, which spends more than £1,600,000,000 in a year, can do is to give further consideration to this grant of £8,000 to these clubs over the whole of the Commonwealth, and to increase it substantially in order to help them in the great work they are doing.
– How is the grant distributed?
– I think it is paid to the head body, which in turn distributes it in each State. New South Wales, which has so many beaches near the cities and so many swimming clubs in the country districts, receives, I believe, only £3,000 or less out of that £8,000 grant. When 1 make that statement I am not being critical of the Government, but am drawing its attention to something it may not be aware of, in the hope that it will respond generously. All of us in this place are Australians, no matter to what political party we belong, and when we see good work being done in the community, I am sure that, as Australians, we will respond to it. These clubs are doing marvellous work for the young people, apart from the saving of lives, and I am confident that this or any other government worthy of the name will respond to their appeal.
This country is proud of the efforts its young sportsmen and sportswomen make in international competition, but I do not think it is any less proud of those who engage in non-competitive sport and do so much to provide security on the beaches and in the swimming pools during the summer season. As a matter of fact, their work is not restricted to the summer season, but goes on throughout the year. As I have said, in my own electorate these people spend their Saturday mornings conducting appeals on behalf of the life-saving clubs in that area. At present, two or three of the clubs are making appeals for funds with which to build new premises. One can see the dilapidated premises and hovels in which some of them have to operate. Their requirements have become too big to be served by such inadequate premises and facilities and they need all sorts of lifesaving equipment and boats, which cost a great deal of money. Their appeal, at the annual meeting at which I had the honour to be present, was that I bring this matter before the Commonwealth Parliament in the confident belief that something substantial would be done to meet their needs and that the Government would not just make the gesture of providing a grant of £8,000 to the Royal Life Saving Society for distribution throughout the Commonwealth. One of the greatest developments is the extension of this work from the coastal towns and cities into outback areas. We have all read from time to time of tragedies where youngsters have drowned in swimming pools, and others, without having been trained properly and without the ability to swim, have been drowned also, in an endeavour to save them. If we can prevent even a few of these fatalities by granting increased assistance to such organizations, I am sure that the expenditure will be well worth while. The saving of lives is not the be-all and end-all of these organizations. They provide for their members youth training and discipline. The general physical development of these young people - apart from their social development - is something to be greatly encouraged, and that is why I make this strong appeal. Most country towns to-day - I have visited many of them - either have a modern swimming pool or are conducting appeals in order to raise funds for the purpose of constructing such a pool.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to deal with portion of these estimates under the heading “ Bounties and Subsidies “; and will refer particularly to the sulphuric acid bounty provided under the act of 1954-1960. As we know, this bounty was introduced to encourage Australian firms to manufacture superphosphate - amongst other things - at a time when there was a shortage of imported sulphur and when the sulphur that was obtainable could be had only at a very high price. I am certain that we all subscribed to the provision of this bounty. But I feel that the firms which purchased expensive machinery and plant with which to manufacture superphosphate and other items should not be encouraged unduly to increase that plant and machinery. I notice also that the estimated cost of the bounty for this financial year is about £340,000 less than expenditure in the last financial year. This indicates to me that perhaps the demand for superphosphate is not going to be as great as it was in the last financial year. I think this is a very serious matter for the development of our primary industries.
I am going to make a suggestion that I have made on previous occasions. I suggest that the Government should consider subsidizing directly purchases of superphosphate. I may be asked whether there is any precedent for such a subsidy, and I would answer that there is. A subsidy on superphosphate was first introduced in 1930-31.
– By a Labour government.
– It could have been. The subsidy continued in force until 1949-50. The conditions covering the subsidy varied from time to time. For some time it was paid to consumers other than wheatgrowers; then it was paid to consumers of 20 tons or less other than wheat-growers, then to consumers of 10 tons or less other than wheat-growers, then to all consumers, and then to manufacturers. In the last couple of years in which it was paid the subsidy was shown as a price deduction on invoices covering superphosphate sold to farmers.
As I say, the subsidy continued in force for twenty years, even though the conditions of payment were changed from time to time. In other words, the scheme must have been considered a good one by successive governments. With primary industries, particularly the wool industry, in such difficulties as they are at the present time, I believe that this is one way in which we could not only assist wool-growers to obtain higher incomes, but also encourage a greater volume of primary production, which all honorable members agree is tremendously important to the future of Australia.
I know that various arguments have been put forward in opposition to a subsidy on superphosphate, and some of them have been quite valid, but I do think there are ways of overcoming the difficulties mentioned by those who argue against the subsidy. Some people say that superphosphate is used only in certain parts of Australia. Of course, every State in the Commonwealth uses superphosphate. It is used most extensively, perhaps, in the southern States, but it is certainly used in every part of Australia. It cannot be said, therefore, that the subsidy would benefit only one part of the country.
I am not the only member of this Parliament who has mentioned this matter of a subsidy on superphosphate purchases. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) reminded me a short time ago that he has supported the suggestion very strongly, and it has also been supported by other members of both the Government parties and of the Opposition. I know there is a kind of native objection to subsidies of any kind, and to a certain extent I subscribe to that objection. But we must consider the position of the particular industry we are dealing with when we are talking about subsidies, and if we study the position in other parts of the world we find that a great number of other countries are subsidizing a great many of their primary industries. Wheat production is being subsidized in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the United States of America and West Germany to the extent of as much as 14s. Id. a bushel or as little as 5s. a bushel. The sugar and dairying industries are being financially supported in many countries, as is the meat industry. In the United
Kingdom fat lamb production is being subsidized very heavily.
Representatives of secondary industries will ask, as they have done previously, “ Why should the primary industries be subsidized? “ In all fairness they cannot suggest that the primary industries should not be supported, because secondary industries are protected by tariffs to a large extent, and if tariffs do not constitute subsidies I do not know what would. Similarly in other countries tariff protection is granted. In the United States of America the wool industry is protected by a tariff to a very substantial degree. That country is subsidizing not only its wool-growers but also its textile industries. If it is the accepted belief of economic experts throughout the world that this kind of protection should be afforded, then, in the absence of a better plan, we should subscribe to that belief.
We must keep this matter of subsidies in perspective. We must ensure that any money provided for subsidies is used in the most sensible way. I am going to suggest that a reasonable amount of subsidy on the use of superphosphate would be £2 a ton. I do not suggest any of the conditions that should be attached to the subsidy. I would not contend that it should be paid according to either one of the four methods that operated at different times during the twenty years in which the subsidy was in force. I believe that this would be a matter for expert investigation.
It is not a valid argument, in my view, to suggest that although we are trying to benefit only the wool industry, a subsidy on superphosphate would benefit also other industries such as the dairying and wheat industries. There are two ways of tackling the problem posed by that suggestion. First, we could differentiate between the wheat and dairy farmers and the wool-growers. This has been done in the past. On the other hand, I am informed by the Department of Primary Industry that the cost of superphosphate is taken into account when costs of production in the dairying and wheat industries are worked out. Any reduction in the price of superphosphate as the result of the subsidy would be reflected in the calculation of production costs in those industries. I believe that such difficulties are by no means insuperable.
There is another argument in favour of my suggestion, although I do not submit that it is a very weighty one. Increased production of wool would be followed by higher incomes, which in turn would result in increased income tax payments by the people using the additional superphosphate. In this way the Australian people would be recompensed to a certain extent for the cost of the subsidy. We all realize the necessity to increase production in most of our primary industries. We know, too, that the necessity will increase as the years go by and as world population rises. A subsidy on the purchase of superphosphate would encourage farmers to use more of it. When the subsidy operated in former years there was a notable increase in the amount of superphosphate used throughout Australia. Even though difficulties may arise, and even thought there may be room for argument about the restrictions that can be imposed - they have been imposed in the past and have been approved by a succession of governments over twenty years - I am certain that the Government should have a look at the proposal which has been advanced, not only by myself but by many other honorable members. A bounty should be paid on superphosphate, having regard to the fact that virtually every major primary producing country in the world subsidizes its primary industries, and most countries subsidize more than one industry to a considerable extent.
This is one of the ways in which we can help the wool-growers and the fat lamb producers in particular who. as I think all honorable members will admit, are not enjoying the best of times at present. I ask the Government to keep a close watch on conditions in the sheep industry and on the financial position of the wool-growers, and to do all in its power to help them. In addition, I ask the Government to consider re-introducing the bounty on superphosphate.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Chairman, the first item with which I want to deal in discussing the estimates for Miscellaneous Services is item 4 in Division No. 639 - Deportment of Social Services -
Building of homes for the aged. This item appears at page 102 of the Estimates. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), whom I want to take to task at this stage, has with the support of the Government shamelessly played politics with grants for homes for the aged. Cheques in payment of the Commonwealth grants have been presented to the churches or lodges concerned almost without exception by Liberal or Australian Country Party members of this chamber, or senators. When the home concerned is situated in an electorate held by a Labour member, the cheque for the Commonwealth grant is presented by a Liberal or Country Party senator for the State. One of my colleagues was recently told by the Minister that a cheque for a home in his electorate would be posted to the organization concerned, the excuse being that the money was urgently required. This was done rather than ask the Labour member for the electorate to present the cheque on behalf of the Minister. That is blatant and deliberate playing of undiluted politics.
I want to direct the Minister’s attention to the difference between his attitude and that of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). The member for the electorate in which a new post office or telephone exchange is to be opened is given the honour of opening it on behalf of the Postmaster-General no matter to what party he belongs. At all naturalization ceremonies throughout this great land, Labour members of this place and Labour senators play their part officially along with Government supporters.
– That does not happen in South Australia; so do not say that it happens throughout the country. We are ignored in South Australia.
– Well, it happens everywhere except in South Australia, and I am sorry to hear that it does not happen there. But that is not the attitude of this politically obsessed, this politically driven, this politically one-eyed Minister for Social Services. He plays politics with Commonwealth grants for homes for the aged throughout Australia which are lucky enough to receive the Commonwealth subsidy. The Minister regards this field as his own parochial, political domain, Mr. Chairman. Labour members of this chamber and Labour senators are deliberately insulted by being purposely ignored. When grants are made to homes for the aged in electorates held by Labour, even though the Labour members may represent in those electorates anything from 40,000 to 70,000 people, the cheques are presented by members of the Government parties. One would think that the Minister was granting to these homes his own money and not that of the taxpayers, which is being given in what we all know and agree is a wonderfully worth-while cause.
Labour members represent about half the people of Australia, and therefore they are entitled to share in these ceremonies at which cheques for Commonwealth grants are presented. 1 have been waiting a very long time to say this. I could have said it much earlier, but I preferred to be fair, and I have waited to hear of one instance in which a Labour member of the Parliament has been invited to present on the Minister’s behalf a cheque for a subsidy paid in respect of a home for the aged. I have not yet heard of such an instance, and I shall not let the matter rest any longer. This Minister for Social Services is a humbug in the Parliament with respect to his attitude towards matters of a non-political character. I do not mind if what I am saying goes back to him. Why cannot he act reasonably? Why cannot he do as the Minister for Immigration and the PostmasterGeneral do in relation to matters of national importance? I point out that it is the taxpayers’ money that is involved and not that of Ministers. I leave the matter at that. I have said what I feel and what my colleagues on this side of the chamber feel about it.
– Name the Minister concerned?
– There is no need1 to name him. Everybody knows who he is. This matter has nothing to do with other aspects of his administration of the Department of Social Services. I am concerned only with the Minister’s attitude on this issue.
Next, I want to refer to item 3 under Division No. 637 - Department of Trade - Trade Publicity - United Kingdom. This item appears at page 101 of the Estimates. I am delighted to see that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Department of Trade are increasing by about £60,000 in this financial year expenditure on trade publicity in the United Kingdom. The vote last financial year was £396,250, and the proposed vote for the current financial year is £456,000. For the last three years, we on this side of the chamber have been very much concerned at times about reports from people who have returned from the United Kingdom after holidays and business trips - reports which have indicated that there was a lack of publicity in the United Kingdom in respect of goods produced in Australia and offered1 for sale on the United Kingdom market. I am pleased to say that over the last eighteen months at least the Minister and the department have awakened to the situation. I understand that the trade publicity programme in the United Kingdom is now on a lavish scale compared with the scale of about three years ago. This increase in the allocation for trade publicity there is overdue.
I am sure that the greater publicity will be of wonderful advantage to Australia’s primary producers and others who export to the United Kingdom in the next twelve months. I have seen in trade journals reports of the way in which publicity is given to our goods in the United Kingdom and at the present time I do not find any criticism of it. I think that in the light of the terrific competition now evident in the English market, this increase of about £60,000 is not by any means excessive. We are competing with more and more nations every year for the consumer market in the United Kingdom. I hope that these additional funds for trade publicity there will be wisely spent and will be of great advantage to Australia.
The next item under the same Division is item 4 - Trade Publicity - Other than United Kingdom. The allocation for this purpose is to be increased from £209,856 to £301,800. That is a substantial increase - nearly £100,000. Perhaps the trade publicity provided for in this item is responsible for our increasing trade with Communist countries, about which we have heard something in this Parliament. I assume that some of the funds to be provided under this item will be spent in Communist countries for the purpose of increasing trade with them.
This Government speaks with two voices. At the purely political level, in this Parliament it accuses Labour of having truck with Communists, or communism or the Communist ideology. That, of course, is playing pure politics. Whenever an election is to be held, this old bogy is trotted out. It is like some of the horses that have been run in every Melbourne Cup race for many years. We may even describe it as a kind of election horse. When we on this side of the chamber present the facts about trade with Communist countries, however, the Government and its supporters, especially members of the Australian Country Party, are strangely silent. Let us have a look at the figures for our trade with Communist countries. Our trade with seven Communist countries increased from £33,775,000 in 1959 to £55,120,000 in 1960- an increase of about 66 per cent, in one year. As I have said, the Government speaks with two voices. It will trade with anybody and it considers that trade with the Communist countries is all right, although it believes that politically the Communists are a dreadful lot of people. The Government says it will not have anything at all to do with the Communists, yet we find that there is increased trade with Communist countries and no doubt this is partly the result of publicity campaigns conducted by the Department of Trade in the countries concerned. The seven countries to which I refer are the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Roumania, Yugoslavia and mainland China.
The last matter to which I wish to refer relates to payments by the Commonwealth to the States for relief in cases of national disaster. I have mentioned the matter in this Parliament on several occasions. Recently I asked the Minister how much the Commonwealth had contributed since 1950 by way of direct grants to the States in cases of flood, fire, drought, cyclone, hail damage, and so on. I also asked for details of the amounts paid to each State. I have since received a reply and have broken down the figures contained in it so that honorable members might readily understand the position. The details are to be found on page 97 of the Estimates in Division No. 622 - Prime Minister’s Department. They disclose that last year grants were made to Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria for disaster relief. In the last ten years, there have been 26 occasions on which the Commonwealth has made grants to the States for the relief of victims of fire, flood, drought or cyclone damage. During that period, help was granted to New South Wales on nine occasions, to Victoria five times, to Queensland seven times, to South Australia three times and to Western Australia and Tasmania on one occasion. The total amount involved in the 26 grants over those ten years was £3,403,000. Of the 26 grants, fifteen were made for relief in cases of floods, seven in cases of bushfires, two of cyclones and two of droughts.
I have suggested on previous occasions in this Parliament that there is great need for the establishment of a national disaster fund in Australia, and the figures I have just mentioned illustrate the dire need for placing relief of this kind on a properly organized and business-like footing. I have suggested that each of the States should contribute to the fund each year on a pro rata basis, as is done now in connexion with the National Welfare Fund. I suggested that claims would be made upon the fund only when the Commonwealth declared that a disaster had occurred. My suggestion included the establishment of a disaster committee in each State. Some States already have established such committees. These disaster committees would assess the damage sustained and obtain all the detailed information required to enable the Commonwealth to assess the amount that should be paid out of the fund to the State concerned. Upon making the assessment, the Commonwealth would send directly to the State affected the amount which the Premier of the State, on behalf of the State disaster committee, had suggested was required. Such an arrangement would avoid our having to come cap in hand to the Government making appeals for relief every time a disaster hits a State. I feel confident that my suggestion could be given effect without any great difficulty, and I trust that the Government will look upon my proposal as something worth while and not as some fantastic scheme. The scheme could be administered quite easily with proper co-operation between the Commonwealth and the various State Premiers. These disasters occur so often that I seriously believe that some overall Commonwealth control should be established to lift the matter out of the hit and miss field in which it has been ever since the Commonwealth was formed. I submit that this is the proper statesmanlike way to deal with these disasters that occur from time to time. We have had 26 of them in the past ten years. They are not just occasional happenings. Even now, Queensland is in the grip of another drought and already Queensland representatives have appealed to the Prime Minister for relief. I hope that we shall soon have a national disaster fund for the relief of those who suffer from these happenings.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I must confess that I get no great personal satisfaction from replying to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). Indeed, I have never replied to him before, nor would I reply to him now, but for the flagrant excesses and abuses in his speech with respect to the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act. When, a number of years ago, I became Minister for Social Services and it became my pleasurable duty to administer the Aged Persons Homes Act, and when, in the fullness of time, I had the great pleasure of introducing a bill to amend the act to increase the subsidy from £1 for every £1 to £2 for every £1 raised by the organization conducting the home, and of liberalizing the provisions of the act to induce and encourage churches and charitable organizations to extend their efforts to provide accommodation for an increasing number of our homeless aged men and women, I must confess that I could see no great reason why, when cheques had to be presented, they could not be presented by members of the Opposition from time to time. As was characteristic of what I have done throughout the whole of my life, when an opportunity presented itself, I invited the honorable gentleman who is now Leader of the Opposition, if he would be good enough to do so, to present a cheque issued under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Leader of the Opposition wrote to me in the most courteous terms and said that he did not think it was appropriate for him, or for any other member of the Opposition, to represent me, or the Government, on public occasions of the kind. By that very fact, he established the precedent that was good enough for me to follow that, if he could not do it, then it would be unseemly for any other member of the Opposition to do it.
– This is most interesting.
– These are the facts of the case. The practice was initiated soon after I became Minister for Social Services. But, at the same time, my sense of justice was such that I could see no great virtue in making a crisis out of a situation of that kind; so I decided that, in the normal course of events, when cheques had to be presented to a charitable organization, they ought to be despatched by mail wherever that was deemed to be expedient and consistent with the wishes of the organization concerned. That was my instruction to my department, and that instruction has been faithfully followed.
But from time to time, and for a variety of reasons, invitations are extended to me to present cheques issued under the provisions of the act. It is not always physically possible for me to do that. When it is not physically possible for me to do so, then I reserve the right, as any other Minister or any other member of Parliament would do, to appoint some one to represent me on those occasions, and I have never varied that practice. Whenever an invitation is extended to me to be present on such occasions - and invitations come to me at very regular intervals - if it is not possible for me to be present, I arrange for some one to represent me. Never at any stage could the honorable member for Wilmot be described as a person adequate to represent me on those occasions, or on any other occasions. Because of that, naturally enough, he has never been asked to perform these pleasurable duties.
Every member of this chamber can take great political and personal pride in the Aged Persons Homes Act, a piece of legis- lation which provides for the greatest good for the greatest number. No other piece of social services legislation has given the same quality and quantity of satisfaction to the community. I take pleasure in saying that wherever I have been represented on occasions of this kind, I have been represented adequately and well. That state of affairs will continue.
To-day, for example, I received a communication from an organization in the federal electorate of Cunningham. A fortnight ago I was invited to open an aged persons home in that electorate. Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to be there on the date appointed. I suggested, in the normal course of events, that perhaps i could arrange for some one to deputize for me. To-day I received a reply to the effect that a deputy would be unacceptable and that the date would be shifted to suit my convenience.
That is the normal procedure. There is nothing that I or any other honorable member can do about it. It is the will and pleasure of the organization concerned. The honorable member for Wilmot has no cause for complaint on this or any other occasion. The little man takes advantage of every political circumstance to peddle his own political wares in this place. It is a disgrace when such action is related to a piece of humanitarian legislation such as the Aged Persons Homes Act.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) grossly misrepresented me in the course of his speech. I do not say that he did so deliberately, but that has been the effect of his remarks. The handing out of cheques by Government representatives to denominational or secular organizations which maintain homes for the aged is a system to which 1 have always been opposed. The former Minister for Social Services, now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), started the system. I protested against it then and I was asked by the Minister for Social Services-
– The Leader of the Opposition is not making a personal explanation, so far.
– That is the background. Now we come to the long drop. The present Minister for Social Services thought to trap me by inviting me to present a cheque to a home in my electorate.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition has not shown that he has been misrepresented.
– The Minister told a story about what I did.
– You do not appear to have been misrepresented.
– The Minister misrepresented me by saying that I had agreed with the course that he is following. I did nothing of the sort.
– That is not a personal explanation.
– If you are going to rule me out on one score, I shall rule myself in on another by seeking the call.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) asked me to present a cheque to a Methodist home in my electorate. I wrote back and told him that I was opposed to any member of Parliament presenting cheques to any of these homes as if the money were his personal property. I told him that the right and proper course was for him to send a cheque by post to the organization concerned and not to try to exploit the feelings of aged people for the advantage of tha Government. On one occasion, this Minister sent a Victorian senator in a government car 300 miles into a distant part of Victoria to present a cheque and then be driven back again. That was a gross and wilful waste of public money. I have said in my speeches in this place-
– I rise to order. It appears to me that this is an attack on the Minister, not a personal explanation.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld. The Leader of the Opposition is making a speech on the estimates now before the committee, not a personal explanation.
– I am not, as a matter of form, making a personal explanation, although I am replying to a personal attack. On a previous occasion, I have said that 1 would not be surprised if, when election day came along, the Government put a how-to-vote card in with every pensioner’s cheque. It would have as much justification - or as little justification - for doing that as it has for parading Australian Country Party and Liberal Party members on platforms when a cheque has to be handed over on behalf of the Parliament of Australia. It is the people of Australia who subscribe this money, and it is they who are making the presentation. The Minister for Social Services and all the snivelling little people around him think that they will get some advantage for themselves if they create the impression that the money comes from their largesse; that they are making personal donations to the organizations concerned.
– Order! There is far too much noise in the committee.
– I rather enjoy it. I get on very well with noise.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will get on with his speech.
– It is Government supporters who are making the noise, Mr. Chairman. I think you should throw some of them out. If the Minister is anxious to challenge what I say, let him discover my letter in his files and table it to-morrow. I am quite prepared to let the Parliament and the press see the grounds upon which I stood in this matter. I think that the mild criticism by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was completely justified. I hope that the innate decency of most members who sit behind the Minister will compel them to tell him privately, if they will not tell him publicly, to discard this disgraceful system under which members of the Government try to appear as a Santa Claus ministry by giving out to those who run homes for the aged money which the public has subscribed.
I think that I am the only member of the Opposition who has ever been invited to present one of these cheques. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Edgar Russell) requested that he be allowed to present a cheque at a place in his electorate a couple of hundred miles from Adelaide, but the Minister told him that he could not do it. A Liberal Party senator from Adelaide had to be sent up to do the job. The sooner the Minister stops trying to justify the unjustifiable, the sooner his reputation will rise in this chamber.
– I rise to make a personal explanation on two counts. First, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has misunderstood the discussion which has now arisen. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) made a vicious attack on me and he made a plea-
– Order! Is this a personal explanation?
– Yes, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Wilmot made a plea that he be invited to represent me. The Leader of the Opposition should know that that was the reason for the discussion and that the honorable member for Wilmot could never represent me. The second count on which I wish to make a personal explanation is this: On the question of the presentation
– Order! The Minister is not yet making a personal explanation.
– Mr. Chairman, with very great respect-
– Mr. Chairman, I suggest that the Minister for Social Services should now switch from a personal explanation to a speech.
– With very great respect, Mr. Chairman, if I cannot make a personal explanation-
– You can do so if you make one.
– With great respect, Sir, I have two shots in my locker. If, in your opinion, I do not make a personal explanation, I have the right to speak a second time or any number of times.
– Very well; I call the Minister for Social Services. “
– In the course of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) referred to the presentation of a cheque in the federal electorate of Grey. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) approached me and said that I was to be invited to make the presentation of a cheque in the electorate and he would like to represent me. I said that the Leader of the Opposition - he was then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - had declined a similar invitation that I had proudly extended to him, and because of that, if for no other reason, the honorable member for Grey could not represent me. Superimposed over that was the fact that the organization in the electorate of Grey insisted, as an organization of the kind might do, in generous terms that I should be present to make the presentation myself if it were at all possible. I arranged my affairs in order to be there, and presented the cheque on that occasion myself at the will and pleasure of the organization. That is my invariable practice.
I have held the position of Minister for Social Services now for a longer period than has any other Minister, and that will continue to be my invariable custom. All that I have said regarding this matter is true in every particular. I wanted to do the generous thing so far as the Leader of the Opposition was concerned.
– I declined on principle.
– The Leader of the Opposition declined on principle, and established a principle that I still think ought to be general to every member of the Opposition that he now leads. It would be unseemly if the Leader of the Opposition refused to be associated with a presentation in his own electorate, and if I were to give every member of the Opposition an invitation to take his place. But an invitation of that sort was entirely beyond my power.
These invitations come to me from the organizations concerned. I handle them to the very best of my ability. Perhaps honorable members will be interested to know that invitations of the kind have been extended to me that will take me into July of next year. So far as it is physically possible, I will attend every one of them; but when I “cannot attend every one of them, and when it is requested that I be represented at functions of the kind, perhaps the committee will concede to me the privilege which rightly belongs to the Minister, no matter who he may be, to select somebody appropriate to represent him on these occasions. That could never be the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie).
.- The remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) will convince nobody. The fact is, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) stated quite specifically that, in his opinion, no member of Parliament - either on the Opposition or the Government benches - should be allowed to present the cheques and thereby derive some political capital. That was the gist of the Leader of the Opposition’s case. The Minister has deliberately misrepresented him in suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition spoke only on behalf of the Opposition side. We take the greatest exception to the discrimination in the present circumstances.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) suggested that if it was going to be the practice of the Minister to delegate somebody for the job when he found that he himself was unable to be present, the member for the district in which the home was situated should be given the privilege of making the presentation. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, as the honorable member for Wilmot pointed out, that is done in other spheres of parliamentary activity. But for some reason that only the Minister can understand, members of the Opposition are specifically excluded from this particular and very nice job.
I refuse to believe that on every occasion, the recipients of the Government’s grant would say, “We prefer the Minister to anybody else “. I refuse to believe that, because I am certain that in many electorates throughout the Commonwealth the people who are running the organizations that build the homes, would be very pleased and privileged to see the member of Parliament for that electorate making the presentation. While the Minister might convince himself, he has not succeeded1 in convincing anybody else.
I wish to refer now to Division No. 628 - International Development and Relief. Developments in Africa and Asia over the past tea to fifteen years have highlighted the challenges that are made to the Western economy by the aims and aspirations of the new nations, whose economies are, to say the least of it, underdeveloped. These nations have had, and are experiencing, the greatest economic difficulties, and we, as a group of nations in the Western world, cannot ignore these difficulties. If we ignore them, we do so at our peril; it would be an act of incredible stupidity.
The course to be pursued by the world in the future could well be determined by the success or failure of the newly founded nations. Their techniques, productivity and standards of living are far below those of the Western and Communist worlds, and unfortunately we find that the gap between the highly developed and underdeveloped countries is widening steadily and inexorably.
Because of this very dubious feature of post-war development, the Colombo Plan was proposed in 1950. It has made a very small contribution towards the amelioration of the difficulties of these nations. I use the words “ very small “ because no other phrase can describe the contribution that has been made. The objective is laudable, but unfortunately the results have been very meagre. The Colombo Plan was initiated on 1st July, 1951. In the past nine years Australia’s contribution has totalled £6,500,000 in technical assistance and £25,500,000 in capital aid. At first glance, that may appear to be a creditable amount; but the fact is that when the Colombo Plan was inaugurated, Australia contracted to spend £22,500,000 in six years. It has taken nine years to spend an amount that was to have been spent in six years. This is unfortunate because nobody can say with truth that the recipients of Australia’s bounty did not need the money.
If we compare the aid that has been given by Australia with the assistance given by Canada and the United States of America, we find that Australia has very little reason to be smug and complacent. Australia’s contribution to international development and relief last year was covered by an appropriation of £6,259,000 including £5,500,000 for the Colombo Plan. This total was barely 0.1 per cent, of the gross national product. On the other hand, Canada’s contribution to the Colombo Plan totalled 50,000,000 dollars or 0.17 per cent, of the gross national product which is almost twice as much as Australia’s contribution to all agencies. The United States of America gave 1,265,000,000 dollars or 0.27 per cent, of the gross national product. It can be seen, therefore, that we have quite a lot of leeway to make up if our contribution is to compare with that of those countries.
There appears to me to be a bottleneck in the expenditure of the money we have already earmarked for this purpose. I should like to know why the £32,500,000 was not spent in the first six years, as promised. Why has it taken nine years to spend it, when everybody knows that the people of Asia are crying out for all sorts of industrial development - irrigation, electricity and a hundred and one other things calculated to increase their standards of living.
The difficulties of the African and particularly the Asian nations cannot be overemphasized, because they are very vividly before us. Unless the Western nations make some very tangible efforts to minimize those difficulties I am very much afraid that the Colombo Plan is not going to make a very positive contribution towards the uplifting of the standards of living of the Asian people. In the last report of the Colombo Plan consultative committee, which is available to honorable members, there appears in paragraph 11 at page 22 the following very significant statement -
As population grows, as living standards improve and as diversification and industrialization progress, import requirements grow also. It follows that an increase in the export earnings of the less developed countries is necessary to enable them to maintain their growth.
That is the whole crux of the problem confronting the Asian nations to-day. Their export earnings are not increasing; they are, in fact, decreasing. While their export earnings continue to decrease instead of to increase, the Colombo Plan, even if it were to pour twice as much money into the A’sian countries as it is doing to-day, will not be a success, because the actual drop in the export earnings of the Asian countries exceeds the value of Colombo Plan donations. With respect to primary products the Asian countries are the victims of widely fluctuating price levels. That is the Achilles’ heel of the Colombo Plan. Unfortunately, Asian countries have very few staple products to export to the world market, and in recent years the export prices of these comparatively few staple products has gone steadily down. I put it to the Western nations, and to Australia’s representatives when they attend the next meeting of the consultative committee of the Colombo Plan, that they should have a new outlook on this matter. I do not know whether our cash contributions to the Colombo Plan are of much use. If these great variations in the export prices which the Asian countries receive for their primary products continue, they will more than cancel out the aid that we give. I should like to point out that in this industrialized country of ours we recognize the adverse position of primary producers. All other sectors of the economy, including the secondary industry sector, recognize the difficulties of the primary producers by paying price support subsidies and giving concessions to primary producers. That is done because our primary producers are suffering under disabilities, and the aim is to stabilize their returns. Why not consider such a policy in relation to our Colombo Plan aid? We should see that some form of price stabilization is undertaken by the Western nations which are contributing to the Colombo Plan, in order to ensure a reasonable return to the Asian nations which receive Colombo Plan aid for their exports of primary products. If that plan were adopted the Asian countries would not be victims of these great price fluctuations which are gnawing at their very vitals and which make it impossible for them to increase their exports. This means, in turn, that they cannot increase their imports of the materials needed to improve their productivity. It is a vicious circle. Until this vicious circle is broken all the monetary aid poured into the Asian countries by this country and other countries will not achieve very much.
I should like to illustrate this point by citing one country that was able to achieve great industrial improvements because it happened to have for export a commodity which, up to the time of the depression, commanded a stable price on the world market. I refer to Japan, which up to the depression received a stable price for its natural silk. For twenty or 30 years before the depression the price of natural silk sold by the Japanese was relatively stable, and the Japanese were able, as a result of their export earnings, while their productivity was still improving, to import more and industrialize their country to a great extent. What happened to Japan prior to the depression could also happen to the other Asian countries if we were to ensure stability of prices for their primary products.
I am glad to observe that the InterParliamentary Union, which is now meeting in Tokyo, or met there last week, recognizes this vital flaw in the policy of aid to the under-developed countries, because on the agenda paper there is a matter concerned with the necessity to increase the export earnings of the Asian countries if the Colombo Plan is to do any good and if we are to see the benefits of the Colombo Plan act as a bulwark against the spread of communism in Asia. The Asian countries to-day find that their export prices are falling in relation to the prices that they have to pay for the manufactured goods that they must import. The prices of these imported goods are increasing because wages and standards of living in the countries in which the goods are made are rising. It is impossible for the Asian countries to purchase all the goods they require from countries whose standards are rising while those in the Asian countries are falling.
In addition to receiving decreased prices for their primary products the Asian countries are encountering other troubles. Modern industry in the Western countries is making less and less use of the natural raw materials that they used to import from the Asian countries, and instead is using synthetic materials. This has reduced Western purchases of Asian commodities. I suggest that we have to look at this matter very seriously and very quickly, because unless we do the Colombo Plan will be a completely futile gesture.
I was very pleased to notice in the press that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is suggesting to the United Nations that there has to be a 14 per cent, increase in the export prices on which the under-developed nations depend for their overseas income. This would give the under-developed countries added income equivalent to the foreign aid they are now receiving. Until we can ensure price stability for Asian primary products similar to the price stability that the wheat farmers in this country enjoy-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to speak on the proposed vote of £13,500,000 for the dairying industry under Bounties and Subsidies. I want to say a few words in order to dispel an idea that I find most prevalent to-day, which is that this is a subsidy for the producers. In practice, it is the same as any other form of protection, in that the end result is reflected in the price paid by the consumer. Where the protection is granted to a secondary industry, by way of a tariff, the end result is that the consumer pays more for the article concerned in order to maintain employment and production in a certain industry. Individual employers are able to make profits accordingly, and the employees are able to enjoy very generous wages fixed by the arbitration authorities who seem to consider that the effects of their judgments apply only within the internal economy. Unfortunately for our primary producers, their incomes are markedly affected by the state of the world economy and their returns are in the end dependent on world prices. The result is that at present dairyfarmers, wool-growers and other producers of agricultural products - and also, I might add, some producers of mineral products such as tin, copper and gold - are working on prices which are based on world prices that are below our Australian cost of production. They are placed in a very unfavorable position compared with the manufacturers of the products of secondary industry and people supplying services, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and those engaged in retail marketing in general.
In the dairying industry, the subsidy, as honorable members know, is paid to the factory that makes the butter or cheese. This has the effect of allowing the factory to sell at a lower price. The consumer actually gets the benefit because, without subsidy, the return to the producer would not be any less. It is already ls. per lb. below the cost of efficient production as estimated for use in implementing the stabilization plan for the industry. But without the subsidy the price that the consumer would be asked to pay would be about ls. per lb. more than he now pays for his butter. The producer, of course, gains some benefit from the system. It has been very clearly demonstrated that every increase in the price of butter or cheese results in a reduction of purchases in very many homes. Without the subsidy to keep prices down a little, sales would be less and there would be an even greater surplus to send to the London market, with the consequent lowering of the average return under our stabilization plan.
I find it curious that the Government, while maintaining its subsidy level to the dairying industry for the very clearly defined1 purpose of enabling the industry to provide the people with a good, nourishing, health-giving food, still allows the manufacture of indigestible margarine made either from the surplus beef dripping of our meat works in Queensland or from cheap vegetable oils that are more suitable for use in the manufacture of soap or hair oil. For some curious reason, too, we continue to encourage the dairying industry on the one hand by making a subsidy available, and on the other hand we penalize it by imposing a sales tax on ice-cream. Last year, the margarine industry sold 15,987 tons of table margarine - just on the full quota allowed by law. Naturally, this replaced a similar quantity of butter on our tables. In addition, 25,775 tons of cooking margarine, on which there is no restriction, was sold and this too replaced a like quantity of second and third grade butters that would have given us a much more nourishing food if it had been used, and at the same time would have increased the percentage of choicest butter available for our export trade.
It has been estimated that the removal of sales tax from ice-cream would result in about 1,300 tons of butter fat being sold here instead1 of going on to the London market. Altogether, these two items could use 43,000 tons of our total production of almost 200.000 tons of butter. Last year, our total production was 194,722 tons or very close to 200,000 tons. Thelocal market, which is best market and always will be, is at present absorbing almost 120,000 tons, leaving some 80,000 tons for export. If half of that could be retained in Australia and marketed in replacement of margarine, the effect must be to lift prices. In the past few years, the London market has fluctuated between 200s. and 480s. per cwt. and the overall return to the producer has been up or down accordingly. The price in London at present is 282s. per cwt., which means that producers’ returns at present are at a comparatively low level. But primary producers must make all their purchases in a market that is continually rising. They do not get any adjustment for increases in their costs and, unlike a manufacturer of secondary products, they cannot just add to their selling price every burden that comes along.
The Commonwealth Statistician has just reported that the average weekly earnings of Australian male workers during the June quarter was £22 12s. This is an increase of £2 2s. a week in only one year, although award wages, I understand, rose by only 17s. 3d. This inflated and exaggerated wage item is heavily reflected in prices of goods which primary producers must purchase to carry on with their jobs. Yet they cannot pass on their rising costs in the same way as others do. In the estimated cost of efficient production, the Dairy Industry Investigation Committee figure used for the return to the owner-operator is a little over £1,050 a year, and this is for a man working probably ten hours or more a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, mostly outside in all sorts of weather with little opportunity for a holiday. This is less than the average wage paid in secondary industry, with all its amenities and facilities to make the work easy and attractive.
Mr. Chairman, dairying is an industry that is just as much in need of protection, and entitled to enjoy it, as is any secondary industry protected by tariff. No one would consider steadily reducing a tariff at a time when the costs of the industry are rising because of factors outside its own control. The amount of £13,500,000 is the same as the amount granted in each of the last five years. Surely this should be a figure cal culated to give stability and maintain the level of prosperity and of income of those engaged in the industry. This money is not an amount that is merely handed out for the industry to make the best of it. It must be considered in the light of the conditions under which the industry is required to carry on. In to-day’s conditions of rising costs and falling returns, I submit that, whilst this subsidy of £13,500,000 is a tremendous help to the industry, it is still considerably short of the amount required to give those engaged in the industry - I mean particularly those single farms milking, say, 40 cows - a reasonable return on their capital investment. They certainly receive no return at all for their labour!
– I call the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– I rise to order. Are you, Mr. Chairman, calling honorable members in the order in which their names appear on the list of speakers as supplied by the Opposition?
– The Chair does not have to abide by any list supplied by anybody in this chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked that the honorable member for EdenMonaro be given the call, and I have deferred to his request.
– If you depart from the order in which the names appear on the list, what is the use of having a list? I have been sitting here for a considerable time waiting for the call.
– Will the honorable member for Eden-Monaro defer to the honorable member for Port Adelaide?
– I call the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
– I should explain, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I made special arrangements with the Whip so that I could get the call, because I have something else to see to. I was not objecting to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) personally.
I wish, first, to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), and particularly his reference to margarine. He said that if margarine was not manufactured butter sales would rise by an equivalent quantity, but I can tell the honorable member that he is mistaken. The question of the amount of margarine that is to be manufactured in South Australia is being considered at the present time by the State Parliament. Several of the Liberal supporters of the Government have risen to advocate an increase in the amount of margarine that may be manufactured in that State. They have pointed out the hardship inflicted upon a lot of people by the present restrictions on the manufacture of margarine in South Australia. The honorable member must not think that the competition of margarine is the reason why more butter is not being sold. I agree that every assistance possible should be given to the dairying industry. I worked for years as a dairy-farmer at a time when we received about 3d. a gallon for milk, and I assure the honorable member that I appreciate what is needed in that industry.
My main reason for speaking to-night is to deal with two matters which appear in the estimates for Miscellaneous Services. I hope that this will be the last time that we will see this section of the Estimates as it now appears before us. Parliament has just had presented to it the forty-ninth report of the Public Accounts Committee, which deals with this question. Up to 1924 any matter concerning a department was considered and debated during the discussion on that department’s estimates. Since then, a system has grown up under which various items have been put under Miscellaneous Services. They have been taken out of the estimates of the departments with which they are concerned.
I wish to deal to-night with Division No. 639, Miscellaneous Services, Item 03, Housekeeper service - grant, which appears at page 102 of the Estimates. Under this heading the estimate for 1960-61 is £13,740. Why we did not discuss that item when the general debate on the estimates of the Department of Social Services was proceeding is something that I have not been able to understand. However, I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the housekeeper service. The estimate of £13,740 is not a very great amount, but it is a sum which has been recognized by the Government and by the Department of Social Services as being necessary to assist cases of acute hardship. It is used to provide assistance in the form of housekeeping for persons who are receiving social service grants and whose circumstances warrant it.
If we look further afield and consider the social services provided in Great Britain at the present day, we find there a contributory scheme in matters of health and pensions payments. But there is also in Great Britain what is termed a national assistance fund, which runs into a very large sum indeed. Included in payments from that fund would be this item of housekeeper service, with which I am dealing. If a nurse is required to go into a home or if money is necessary to provide fuel to keep the person concerned warm, payments can be made out of that fund. As I say, there is a fund apart altogether from the pensions scheme and the national health scheme in Great Britain to give such assistance as that when it is needed.
Although this is only a small item with which I am dealing at the moment, it provides me with the opportunity to express the wish that the time will come when we will be able to meet the needs of people who require extra assistance. We know that the Government has instituted a scheme under which it pays in certain circumstances to pensioners a supplementary amount of 10s. a week. However, the payment is limited in such a way that the assistance it provides is very negligible indeed. We need some system under which a person in desperate straits can be given assistance by means of a special grant made for that purpose, and I hope that something will be done in that regard.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is a question raised here to-night by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and relates to the grants that are made for the building of homes for the aged. Last year £2,000,000 was appropriated for this purpose and only £1,871,000 was expended. I do not know why, but instead of the provision of £2,000,000 again, this year the estimate is only £1,600,000.
I wish now to refer to a tendency that seems to be growing and which was not in the original intention of the scheme for building homes for the aged. This form of assistance was not originated by this Government. It was instituted in South Australia before it became the practice here. In that State assistance was given in the form of a £1 for £1 grant to assist in building homes for the aged. It was to provide homes for people who had no means of providing homes for themselves and the assistance was usually given through the various religious bodies in the community, so that they could build a large number of single unit homes and thus provide for a greater number of people.
I find now that a lot of this money is not being used in what I think is the correct way as a social service payment. I believe social services are to assist people who need assistance, but at present if some one goes to one of the organizations that are building these housing units and pays £750 he has the right to obtain one of the units that are built, and the Government subsidizes the cost by paying another £1,500, which makes a total of £2,250 towards the cost of that unit. In many cases - I do not know whether it is so in all - that would provide the cost of the building; but it does not necessarily give assistance to some one who really needs help.
Many people are now saying: “ I am an aged person “ - the age for this purpose is 65 years or over in the case of a male or 60 years or over in the case of a female - “ and I have a home which I will sell for £4,000 or £5,000. I will then give £750 to one of these institutions, the Government will pay the other £1,500 and I will have a home for the rest of my life in return for that payment and a reasonably small weekly payment “. The weekly payment involved would not be as much as that person would have paid in rates and taxes if he had kept his own home. To-day water rates, sewerage rates and council rates amount to anything from £1 to £2 a week. So a lot of the money which is being allotted - while it goes under the heading of social services and is encouraging the building of these homes by institutions - is not meeting the real need at all.
I know people who have been trying for years and years to get into some of the aged persons’ homes that have been built by the State Government in South Australia, and which may be rented for as little as from £1 to £1 15s. a week. They are nice little units, and no capital contribution is required from persons who rent them, because the complete cost of the building of these homes is found by the State. I am afraid that if we are not careful we will find that instead of spending the available money to help the needy folk in the community, we will simply be subsidizing people who sell their own property and who then pay a small proportion of the cost of one of the homes for the aged and obtain immediate possession of it.
– But they do not become owners of those units. They have the right to occupy them for the rest of their lives.
– I will come to that aspect of it. Honorable members may say that I am throwing cold water on the aged persons’ homes scheme, but this is not by any means the case. I have the greatest admiration for the bodies that raise funds by contribution, then obtain assistance from the Government and make homes available to people who have no chance of getting them otherwise. I sincerely hope that more will be done in this direction in the future. The estimated amount of assistance in this financial year is £1,600,000, as compared with expenditure last year of £1,871,748. I do not know whether this indicates that the Government feels there will be a lesser demand for assistance, but it seems strange to me that when more and more people are asking to go into these homes, we are cutting down on the amount being made available. While I am on this subject, let me give credit to one honorable member on the Government side, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), for the great work he has done personally in connexion with the provision of homes for the aged. I know that he is generally respected for his efforts. However, we are dealing to-night with the part that has been played by the Government.
Let me hark back to the comments of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about the manner of presentation of cheques for government assistance to the organizations which build these homes. I amnotconcernedintheleast as to who presents the cheques, but I do not think that when a grant is made by the Parliament from the revenues of the Commonwealth at a public ceremony, and the relevant Minister is not able to make the presentation, then the parliamentary representative for the district, of whatever political affiliation, should have the opportunity of doing so. He would not make the presentation on behalf of the Minister, who, after all, is not finally responsible for the grant, but on behalf of the Parliament, which makes the money available.
– Would you suggest that the cheque should be posted?
– It could be posted; I would not mind that. I do think, however, that if a ceremony is held, then the Parliament should be represented.
I do not want to refer to immigration at this stage because I have not time to do so, but the honorable member for Wilmot stated that at naturalization ceremonies members of Parliament of all parties are given an opportunity to speak. I just want to say that that is poppycock. In my electorate are two municipalities. A year or so ago I attended a naturalization ceremony in one of those municipalities. There was no member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party present to represent the Minister, and in fact there was no other member of Parliament at that ceremony. The person chosen by the Mayor to conduct the ceremony was a minister of religion who, when he rose to speak, said to those who were about to participate in the ceremoney, “ Like you, I am not naturalized; I am an alien “. Then a representative of the Good Neighbour Council spoke on behalf of that organization, but I, as the member of Parliament for the district, was not invited to say anything. When I asked the mayor whether I was to take any part in the ceremony he replied, “No, you are not scheduled to take any part in it at all “.
Recently one of our senators from South Australia attended a naturalization ceremony in one of the municipalities. A member of the Good Neighbour Council, who, I think, was a Methodist minister, also spoke. At one stage of his speech he said, “I will not dwell on this aspect of the matter because there are two members of Parliament here, and no doubt they will speak about it “. The Liberal senator was called to speak, but I was not. Afterwards this senator said to me, “ Why was it that you did not speak? “ I said, “ You do not speak if you are not given an opportunity to do so “. The State member of Parliament who was present was likewise given no opportunity to speak, and in fact was absolutely ignored.
I do not blame the Minister for these things, because the ceremonies are controlled by the municipalities themselves. If the local government authority wishes to treat its parliamentary representatives in this way, that is its own business, and it is not the fault of the Minister. I know that he would have given us suitable recognition.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I intend to confine my remarks to the section of the Estimates dealing with bounties and subsidies, which, as honorable members are aware, are estimated to cost about £17,000,000 in this financial year. After the most careful study of these provisions it must be agreed that the payments are fully justified. In fact, strong arguments could be adduced for a considerable increase of them. The subsidies are most necessary to ensure the economic survival of our valuable primary industries which are so necessary to our financial development. In any case, the cost of subsidies represents only a fraction of the many millions of pounds paid by the agricultural community by way of tariff support of our secondary industries during the last 50 years. The people should be warned, I think, that there is a grave danger that much stronger price support and much heavier subsidies will be necessary for our agricultural products because of steeply rising costs. However, this is a very broad subject and may be approached from many angles. To-night I would like to deal briefly with the wool marketing situation.
– I regret to have to direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the only estimates under discussion under this heading are those in Division No. 661, “ Dairy Products - £13,500,000”. The matter to which the honorable member is now referring is not covered by these estimates.
– With due respect, I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman: Are not all primary products included under the heading of bounties and subsidies?
– If the honorable member will refer to page 106 of the Estimates he will see that the reference is specifically to dairy products in Division No. 661.
– In that case, having prepared my speech to cover only wool marketing,I shall not make any further remarks.
.- I appreciate this opportunity to speak at an earlier time than I had anticipated, because it is very difficult to have one’s remarks reported in the Sydney morning press if one speaks late. The estimates for miscellaneous services amount to £33,500,000, and they cover some hundreds of items. It is unfortunate that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Halbert) could not have nominated just one of those items.
I think it would be helpful, having regard to the large number of items involved, some of which are referred to rather vaguely, if some brief synopsis could be provided, indicating, for example, the particular works undertaken by the organizations which are given government assistance. Financial assistance is given in this way in quite a number of cases, and I am sure that honorable members would be greatly assisted if something could be done along the lines I suggest.
Before I go any further, and repeating my suggestion that further clarity is needed in respect of some of the estimates, I would like to refer to some items included in Division No. 622, which comes under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department. The items relate to visits overseas by Ministers. I am not one who generally takes the view that it is undesirable for Australians to go abroad, particularly having regard to our isolated position geographically. I frequently feel that these visits constitute a most beneficial activity. I think, however, that there is a tendency for some of our Ministers to overdo these visits, and to embark on overseas tours without a great deal of reasonable incentive. It is interesting to note that in 1959-60 some £60,743 was spent on these visits. The Prime Minister went overseas on several occasions, and many of his Ministers also made overseas visits. They included the Ministers responsible for the following departments: - Territories, Repatriation, Labour and National Service, National Development, Civil Aviation, the Army, Immigration, External Affairs, Interior and Works and the Treasury. The President of the Senate, Sir Alister McMullen, also went abroad.
– Would the honorable member say that those visits were unnecessary?
– Some of them were undoubtedly necessary. The matter to which I want to refer particularly is the incredible manner in which Ministers are able to spend almost exactly the amount which has been allocated for their trip. Page 97 of the Estimates gives some examples of this. I do not know how a Minister can judge his expenditure so neatly. He must say, “We can spend £7,050, but so far we have spent only £7,045, so let us order another round of whisky for the boys “. That seems to be the way it works out. Item 36 of Division No. 622, Prime Minister’s Department relates to the visit abroad of the Prime Minister in 1960. The estimated cost of the trip was £7,067 and the Prime Minister spent £7,066 - an incredible piece of calculating. Item 37 relates to the visit abroad of the Minister for Territories in 1960. The estimated cost of that trip was £5,113, and the Minister spent £5,112. Item 38 relates to the visit abroad of the Minister for Repatriation, a gentleman who enjoys a reputation for sobriety. The estimated cost of his trip was £4,933 and the Minister spent £4,933.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member said that the Minister for Repatriation has a reputation for sobriety. That is a reflection on the other Ministers because it suggests that they do not have a reputation for sobriety. I think the honorable member should be directed to withdraw the remark.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Chairman, let me say that this is an extraordinary thing. If you praise one Minister apparently you make a reflection on the others.
– The honorable member’s remark is a reflection on the other Ministers, particularly when he made a reference previously to whisky.
– On the point of order, Mr. Chairman: The honorable member for Hughes remarked that the Minister for Repatriation has a reputation for sobriety. He simply praised the Minister for his reputation and made no reflection on any one else.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! There is no substance in the Minister’s point of order. I cannot accept that the remark of the honorable member for Hughes cast any reflection on any Minister.
-I remind the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) that we are discussing the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and we do not want to be interrupted in this petty way. Returning to visits abroad by Ministers, I point out that the next item relates to the visit abroad this year of the President of the Senate to attend the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Argentine independence. The estimated cost of the trip was £3,357, and the President spent £3,356. Item 41 relates to the visit abroad of the Minister for National Development in 1960. The estimated cost of the trip was £5,120 and the Minister spent £5,119. In 1959 the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, went abroad. The estimated cost of his trip was £8,316 and, remarkably enough, he spent £8,3 16. There may be some explanation for this incredible bit of organizing. If there is, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is so well informed on the habits of members of the Cabinet, should tell us what it is if he speaks in the debate.
In the short time at my disposal I should like to refer to two other matters. The first concerns aged persons homes. On two occasions the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has come into my electorate. On the first occasion he formally opened two little fibro homes. He would not even delegate that job to an Opposition member. I remember well that on that occasion I directed his attention to the fact that we were under-spending our allocation for aged persons homes. I suggested that until we reached the stage when he had stimulated the interest of the Australian people in the scheme some thought should be given to increasing the subsidy from £1 for £lto £2 for £1. The Minister threw up his arms in despair and hurled a tirade of ridicule and abuse at me in public, apparently because I had had the temerity to suggest that the subsidy should be doubled. But a short time afterwards he came into this House and stated that the Government had decided to increase the allocation in the way that I had suggested. Surely this is an incredible state of affairs. The last time he came into the electorate he preened himself like a peacock when he presented a cheque and, as other honorable members have stated, he endeavoured to gain personal kudos out of the situation. This is deplorable.
I want to direct attention now to what I regard as a deficiency in the application of the Aged Persons Homes Act. On one occasion I placed a question on the noticepaper seeking information relating to the beneficiaries under the aged persons homes legislation. I was able to ascertain that assistance has not been given in many parts of Australia where assistance is needed most. The whole basis of this scheme is the spontaneous concern of the community for the needs of our elderly people. This is not good enough. Priority should be given to the people who have the greatest need. The Government should conduct a survey to ascertain the present position. Local government authorities should be encouraged to assist, and representatives of the Government should address shire and municipal councils and let them know the services that are available. At present there is a premium on church membership and membership of other organizations, and the bloke outside does not have a chance. The people with the greatest need should be assisted to do the kind of things that are necessary to attract the subsidy. By this means we shall meet the needs of those unfortunate people who in their old age are not enjoying the accommodation that they deserve.
I should like to make now some statistical references to the controversy that has been in evidence to-night over the presentation of cheques for aged persons homes, and the way in which the Government is making political capital out of this matter.
Page 1547 of “ Hansard “ contains information which the Minister gave relating to the presentation of cheques. In electorates which are represented by Government members grants were made on 121 occasions. The Minister made the presentation on 28 occasions, Government senators on 21 occasions, and Government members of this House on 72 occasions. On no occasion did a Labour senator or a Labour member of this place make a presentation. In electorates which are represented by Opposition members a completely different situation applies. Grants were made on 56 occasions, on eighteen of which the Minister made the presentation and on 31 of which Government senators presented the cheques. I remember an occasion when a Government senator came out to do the job. He was a wheezy old fellow who was wearing odd socks. There were plenty of other people who could have done the job a lot better than he did. No presentations were made by Labour senators and, remarkably enough, on six occasions Government members of this House made the presentations in electorates which are held by Opposition members. What incredible temerity! It is obvious to any fair-minded person that the Minister is endeavouring to squeeze every miserable vote that he can out of this situation.
– He is cashing in on it.
– He is cashing in on it. In his pompous way he endeavours to indict any one who directs attention to this most undesirable situation. When cheques are presented the Government should adopt the procedure which is followed when a new post office, for example, is opened. Every honorable member knows the position. Irrespective of the political affiliation of the relevant member, he is given the opportunity to act on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliament because usually he is the person who has brought the matter to the attention of the Minister.
Neither Opposition members nor the Australian people appreciate the manner in which the Minister for Social Services undoubtedly has exploited this situation. The statistics which I have given cannot be denied because they have come from the Minister. They answer completely the hocus-pocus and nonsense that he has put forward in his own defence.
I shall be unable adequately to make representations on the next matter that I wish to discuss - grants to surf life-saving associations. The Australian Surf Life Saving Association does a wonderful job. It has made very many rescues. In 1959, the last year for which a report is available, 5,523 rescues were made, and it is interesting to note that a grand total of 114,515 rescues have been made by this organization. It has a marvellous record in the training of young Australians in swimming and associated activities, and has made 52,697 awards for proficiency, but unfortunately it is languishing for the want of financial assistance. If you are feeling a little concerned about my dealing with this matter, Mr. Chairman, may I point out that the Estimates make provision, at page 97, for expenditure of £8,000 on grants to the Surf Life Saving Association in the current financial year.
About 18,000 young life-savers in this country are being deterred in their efforts to carry out the job of assisting and protecting swimmers because the funds of lifesaving clubs are inadequate. I have ten clubs in my electorate, and most of them have written to me on this matter. I know that the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) says that these clubs do not need more money, but all the letters that I have received from them contend that they do, particularly having regard to the new life-saving and resuscitation method, known as the expended air or “ mouth-to-mouth “ method, which calls for the use of new equipment known as Ambu-Manikins. Each unit of this training apparatus costs £42.
– The honorable member just wants to make a political football of this.
– I do not. I raise the matter only because so many of the life-saving clubs in my electorate have written to me saying that they are unable to provide the sort of service which is needed. Surf boats cost £500 each and last about two years. In addition to the boats, the clubs have to provide reels, lines and other equipment, and they will now have the new imposition of the cost of equipment for training in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 1 do not know why the honorable member for Phillip does not support the life-saving clubs in this matter. He represents an area in which there are a number of clubs. Indeed, his electorate, together with mine, contains beaches which are the Mecca of the Australians who enjoy surfing - an area in which there is a great deal of life-saving activity. I think that the people of the Phillip electorate need better representation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I do not wish to follow the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) in his course round the world. Apparently, he devastatingly attacks everything that is done to help the aged. I say in no uncertain manner that to attack the sending of Australians overseas to learn something about the rest of the world is to behave scandalously. I think that this Parliament ought to be ashamed of itself for not seeing that all its members learn something of what is happening in the rest of the world. In this place, we legislate not only for a continent but also, I trust, for hundreds of years to come. We must legislate in the right manner, and we should take the fullest possible advantage of our opportunities to send men abroad to see the rest of the world. I have always tried my hardest to have the size of delegations sent abroad by this Parliament doubled. Every man who has gone overseas, regardless of the party to which he belongs, I have found, has conducted himself extraordinarily well and has gathered all sorts of knowledge. Every parliamentarian proves to be a better man on his return from abroad. Therefore, I deprecate this idea of knocking anybody simply because he goes overseas to do a job for Australia. I think this sort of thing is disgraceful and that the remarks made by the honorable member for Hughes in this strain, also, were disgraceful.
I really rose to deal with the particular matter of the place in the Estimates in which items of miscellaneous expenditure are presented. I have a very lengthy knowledge of the history of what has been done in this matter. As Treasury officials have said in evidence before the Public Acounts Committee, T was responsible for the altera tions of procedure out of which the present methods of presentation of these items of expenditure have developed. After the First World War, we had to deal with all sorts of new problems, many of which had until that time been handled entirely by the States, and it was found necessary to ensure that certain items of expenditure were set out in the proper way as miscellaneous items. When I became Treasurer, all sorts of items of expenditure were added together. At the time, we were trying to find the best way of administering our departments, which were growing very rapidly indeed. As an illustration of what I mean, 1 point out that an expenditure of £1,000,000 in respect of the Wembley Exhibition, in England, was provided for. Undoubtedly, that helped Autralia a great deal in advertising itself after the First World War. This expenditure was just shoved into the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department, and the newspapers declared that it was scandalous the way the estimates of that department jumped up by £1,000,000 in a year. This was the sort of thing that was happening all the time.
So I introduced a new method of presenting these items of miscellaneous expenditure, separating them entirely from the expenditure incurred in the ordinary administration of the departments. As a result, we were able for the first time to have our financial problems discussed properly in the press of this country - something that we had been completely unable to achieve previously. The newspapers just added together all the expenditure under the heading of a department, lumping in together potatoes, eggs, apples, melons and so on, as it were, and looking only at the total obtained and ignoring the fact that many separate items, many of which had nothing to do with the routine administration of the department, were included. Indeed, many of these items of expenditure occurred only once, because of their very nature. We had to deal with that position, and we decided that it was better that the miscellaneous items should be put in a place of their own. As a parliamentarian, I considered that they should be put well away from the estimates of the departments in which provision was made for expenditure on matters of routine administration. Had they been p’U with the or:’:nary routine expenditure, they would have been discussed at the same time, and the press would just have added together the two sets of figures and taken the total obtained as the expenditure of the department concerned. Furthermore, as a parliamentarian, and especially as the leader of the Australian Country Party, which sat in the corner in this chamber and which for quite a time was in opposition, I considered it reasonable that we should have in this Parliament a second opportunity to deal with these expenditure items that were non-recurring. Therefore, I made the arrangements that have been adopted.
I notice that various departments, and especially the Department of the Treasury, report that it is a good thing not to have all these items of miscellaneous expenditure lumped together with the items of routine administrative expenditure. In evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, as reported in the committee’s forty-ninth report, which was entitled “ Form of the Estimates: Miscellaneous Services “, Mr. Hewitt, of the Treasury, dealt with the change made in 1924-25 and said -
A change was apparently made in 1924-1925 in order to confine the debate - the discussion on, and criticism of, the housekeeping of the Government - to what was thought to be the annual running costs of Departments of State. There was to be a separate debate on the separate figures which detailed the expenditure arising within the responsibility of the departments and generally on all of the costs of making them run from day to day . . .
That was most sensible.
At the same time another extraordinary change in the presentation of our accounts was necessary, because we found that we had completely altered the whole system of handling our finances. During the First World War, the States had not been able to borrow money because all the available funds were going to the Federal Treasury for the war effort. The States, with all their developmental work to do, were in need of tremendous loans and assistance at the same time as the Commonwealth was faced with the need to convert a huge taxfree war debt. It became obvious to everybody who thought about the matter that there would have to be a common borrowing authority for all the governments in Australia. We therefore created the Australian Loan Council and established the National Debt Sinking Fund. In this way, we arrived at a position in which we were able to enter into the Financial Agreement. This provides that the Commonwealth shall contribute to the National Debt Sinking Fund an amount equal to one-third of that paid in by the States to meet their indebtedness, and one-half of the amount of interest paid by the States on their debts.
Because of the intricacy of these matters, it is necessary that statements be issued in order that the position may be clearly understood. To make the position understandable, we decided to sub-divide the various figures. The first group of items relates to departments and services, the cost of which we are trying to keep down whilst maintaining efficiency. Part 2 is “ Business Undertakings “. It deals with undertakings such as the Post Office and the railways, which are trying to expand and make profits. If those two sets of figures were grouped together, or were bracketed with the provision for pensions - which have been liberalized, I think, every year by every government that has been in office during my time - the Government would be accused of bad administration. To group them together would be too foolish for words, so we separated them.
– Order! Will the right honorable gentleman indicate the item to which he is referring?
– I am referring to the whole of the miscellaneous services of the Commonwealth and endeavouring to explain exactly how the allocations for them should be set out in the Budget.
– You are a bit vague.
– I am not vague at all; I am being quite definite. Then we encountered another problem. That was the question of the assistance that had to be given to the States. This meant that those items had to be set out in another section. Then, as we sought to help the various industries of Australia to organize themselves and sell their products, we found that the only way by which this could be done was to require them to submit to certain levies. The levies covered the expenses involved, but the payments by the Commonwealth had to be set out in the Budget. They were listed under the heading “ Self-balancing items “.
Looking at the Estimates, honorable members will see that the various items are grouped under five headings. That system of grouping is absolutely necessary to the clarity of the Budget. We cannot have too much clarity in connexion with these matters. It is essential that we maintain the present system, for the reasons given in the paper issued to us yesterday. It is generally agreed that the miscellaneous items should be separated from other items, but the question is whether such items should be placed in the estimates for departments or whether they should be kept in a separate category.
– Where is all this?
– You will find it all under the miscellaneous items which we are now discussing.
– But at what page?
– The honorable member will see that if he refers to the table of contents set out at the beginning of the Estimates. These matters should be given the closest scrutiny by the Parliament in dealing with this set of items. This is the time when they should be discussed. I do not see that we have any other opportunity to discuss them. The Estimates contain five different groups of items, each of which is entirely independent of the other. We must ensure that they are kept absolutely independent of one another, not only in the Estimates document, but also when being discussed by us. As a parliamentarian, I believe that it is the duty of the Parliament to ensure that the matters with which it deals are made as clear as possible to the general public. That is the most important thing. It is more important than our forms of procedure.
– Yet the Government applies the gag to a discussion of the Estimates.
– In my time it was usual to devote about 24 hours to the discussion.
– The Government nearly crashed the Commonwealth Bank in your time.
– It did not crash the Commonwealth Bank. The Common wealth Bank grew every day in the year; it increased its revenues all the time. As I have said, the Estimates are divided into five parts. First, we have the items relating to the departments and services, which are trying to keep down expenses. Then we have the items relating to the business undertakings, which the Government is trying to keep up. Then we have the items for the Territories of the Commonwealth, which must increase if we are to do any good. After that, we have the payments to or for the States. These have assumed a far greater - importance since the introduction of uniform taxation. Whereas at one time the amount paid to or for the States was a mere fleabite, it now runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. Then we have the self-balancing items. Miscellaneous items are a matter for separate consideration. Frequently they are nonrecurring items and ought to be dealt with in a special way. My plea is that they shall be dealt with in that way.
– I wish to reply to a statement made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page).
– -Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Cowper?
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman said that I had made a scandalous speech, that I had deliberately knocked people and parliamentarians who were going abroad. I merely want to say that I did exactly the opposite. I said it was a good thing that parliamentarians and others should make visits overseas, although I did say that I thought some Ministers went overseas unnecessarily. I was mainly concerned at the fact that in some cases the estimated cost tallied exactly with the expenditure, or was only £1 above it.
.- I want to know whether we are discussing the Estimates or just talking about them. We now have before us the estimates for “ Miscellaneous Services “, totalling £33,000,000 and covering hundreds of different activities for which fourteen different Ministers are responsible, yet there is only one Minister in the chamber listening to us - and he is not taking much notice of what is going on. Where are the other thirteen? What is the good of our discussing these matters? Why are not more Ministers here? For instance, the item “ Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve” involves the appropriation of £125,743,000. It also involves a consideration of some fundamental principles of public finance, yet neither the Treasurer nor the Acting Treasurer is here. Where is there any one who can answer the questions which a simple perusal of these Estimates poses? Why is it, as the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has pointed out, that the actual expenditure in so many instances is only £1 below the estimated expenditure. That seems very odd indeed. Again I ask: How are we to find answers to some of the questions that are posed by the Estimates themselves? I shall deal with some of those questions as I go along.
One matter of particular importance to me is the division of Commonwealth authority, power and responsibility amongst so many Ministers that in many instances no Minister is actually responsible. I have raised this question before. At this juncture, I make particular reference to the educational activities conducted by this Government. Those educational activities are very extensive, ranging from the Australian National University, the most senior research institution in the Commonwealth, to the conduct of the Lady Gowrie child welfare centres in every capital city. There seems to be no Minister responsible for these things. Scattered through the Estimates are references to the Commonwealth scholarships scheme, but one would have thought that they would have been listed in the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, under “ Commonwealth Office of Education “. We find that part of the provision for that scheme is included under “ Miscellaneous Services “. I see no justification for this division, and we are given no explanation for the variations that take place from time to time.
There is another very important matter to which I should like to refer. It is the item “ Oriental Languages - courses at university “, included in Division No. 626, upon which £57,000 was spent last year. This year the appropriation is only £8,000.
There might well be a good reason for that. The balance may have been transferred to some other part of the Estimates or it may have been handed over to some other authority. There is nobody here to answer our questions about it. That is a cavalier way in which to treat honorable members who are discussing public accounts. We want simple answers to simple questions but they are terribly difficult to get.
If expenditure on training in oriental languages is to be reduced to £8,000 from the £57,000 which was voted last year, that is a serious matter. We know that it is almost impossible for the Department of External Affairs to recruit enough people who can speak oriental languages. Probably, a fundamental change is required in the education system. Instead of teaching French, German and Latin in the schools, we should teach the languages of Asia. This is almost certainly a subject to which the Commonwealth should direct both its influence and its money. This is a vital matter affecting our future relations with the peoples to our north. Why has the Indonesian tongue not become a major language in Australian schools.
Unfortunately a great deal of our education system was inherited direct from Europe and has been accepted uncritically. Children in Australian schools are learning, as their second language, French and, sometimes, German. Unfortunately for the children, these have very little value because it is very difficult for us to come in contact with people who speak those languages as their native tongues. But not very far from our shores are millions of people who speak other languages. I suggest that Indonesian is almost a “ must “ for teaching in Australian schools. Chinese and Japanese are, of course, much more difficult. These are matters to which the Commonwealth should turn its attention. If there is a reduction in expenditure on training in oriental languages, as would appear from the estimates, it is deplorable. Is there any Minister who can explain the reason for this?
– The Ministers should confer the right to answer questions on the civil servants who are advising them.
– It might well be that, if the appropriate Minister is not present, the civil service advisers who occupy seats adjacent to Government benches should be called upon to answer questions on these matters. If the Ministry intends to ignore this committee, somebody else should take up the running on their behalf. 1 take a dim view of this. You have been here a good deal longer than I have, Mr. Chairman, but it seems to me fundamental to our parliamentary democracy that the Government should at least put on a show of consulting Parliament about public accounts. The need for greater Commonwealth activity in the sphere of education is one matter to which I should like to direct the attention of honorable members.
Under the Office of Education, appears the item ‘* Australian Council for Educational Research, £7,500 “. I understand that this appropriation has remained at £7,500 for some years. If there is one field of study which needs support more than another it is research into education. The question which I raised concerning the study of languages other than those ordinarily taught in our schools should be considered by the highest research authorities in the land. I think that this is a niggardly grant to the Australian Council for Educational Research. This is a very important body which has very distinguished Australian educationalists serving upon it and acting as full-time officers. This matter is the responsibility of the Prime Minister but we will have to be very busy to catch him in this place in order to have him answer questions or to turn his procrastinating attention towards the solving of this problem. I suggest that £7,500 is a miserable sum to be granted in a Budget of this magnitude to a body which is carrying out the principal research in the field of education. Unfortunately, the State departments of education are not equipped to carry out research at the same level or to the same extent as the Commonwealth body. Therefore, it is logical that this body should be encouraged to extend its work. I believe that the fact that this vote has stood steady for so long is indicative of the unfortunate attitude of the Commonwealth Government to one of its most continuously expanding activities - that of education.
The Commonwealth has very extensive educational activities, another one of which I wish to draw attention to is the Common wealth scholarship scheme. The vote for last year was £2,170,000 and this year it has been increased to £2,487,000. The Commonwealth scholarship scheme is one of the revolutionary ideas which were handed on to this Government by its predecessors. I understand that Mr. J. J. Dedman was the principal architect of the scheme, lt is, perhaps, to the credit of this Government that it continued and developed the plans that had been laid down. But is it a serious omission and an indictment of its attitude that the number of scholarships has stood steady for some eight or nine years. Despite the fact that the Ministry and its supporters constantly speak glibly of the need for more education, more technicians and more technologists, nothing has been done to increase the number of opportunities that were created ten or eleven years ago by the Labour Government before it departed from the treasury bench. There are still only 3,000 scholarships available and this is inflicting great hardship on many Australian university students.
Another matter to which I think the committee should turn its attention is the Commonwealth Literary Fund. This is one of the more exotic activities of the Commonwealth in education but it should be encouraged. In doing this, the Commonwealth cannot possibly draw objections from any defender of State rights. The Commonwealth Literary Fund is a vehicle with which the Commonwealth can assist literary activities. I suggest that grants to various magazines such as “ Meanjin “ should be increased so that the Australian literary scene may benefit from a wider diffusion of interests and opinions and ideas.
The people who are carrying on these projects in Australia are attempting something which is done overseas amongst much greater populations. It is obviously much easier to produce a literary quarterly in England with its 60,000,000 people than it is in Australia with its 10,000,000. The people who produce these magazines in Australia are the particular victims of the last rise in postal charges. The Commonwealth creates extra burdens but does not take any steps to assist its own children. They are becoming almost fatherless in the face of the inflation created by the Government itself.
The Prime Minister is the person principally responsible in these matters. I believe that the time has come for him to rationalize the educational services of the Commonwealth and bring them all under one ministry so that we can pin the responsible Minister down in this chamber and so that the education services may get the advantage, if there is any, of direction from a Minister who accepts them as a principal responsibility. Whether it is time for a separate ministry for education is a moot point, but it is time that educational activities which are tremendous in their ramifications and which could have a great influence in the whole community were brought under the one head.
We have very little time in which to debate these questions. Every one of these items is big business. Every aspect of Commonwealth activity can affect the lives and welfare of millions of people but at this stage there is only one Minister in the chamber. He is here either because he has a sense of responsibility or because he was told to be here. We are discussing the administrations of fourteen different Ministers. Such a debate seems to be completely pointless.
In the little time remaining to me I want to deal with the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. It has been provided that, this year, £125,000,000 of Commonwealth revenue shall be lent to the States at interest. I do not know how much profit the Commonwealth will make by lending this money to the States but, at current rates of interest, it will probably be £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. It is part of the policy of this Government to treat people as having split personalities in the field of nationhood. They are Victorians when they go to school and Australians when they post a letter.
It is nonsense. The money that is passed to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve will be a burden on every State and municipal instrumentality because of the interest charges. We should be able to have a long and vigorous debate on the subject with the responsible Minister present to answer honorable members. But where is the Minister? We understand that he will be back some time soon. At this stage, I hope that the Ministers who are in the chamber and you, Mr. Chairman, will use whatever influence they and you can exert to bring this matter to the atten tion of the responsible Minister so that this matter, and those that have been mentioned by other honorable members, will receive immediate attention and courteous answers. If the Ministers cannot answer in the House, perhaps they will write to us.
– I wish to speak on Division No. 639 - Department of Social Services - and the item “ Building of homes for the aged - Assistance to approved organizations, £1,600,000”. I do not want to revert to the argument that took place earlier in the committee as to whether it was the job of a member of Parliament to attend certain functions and hand out cheques which, as one honorable member said, in the final analysis represent the taxpayers’ money. Personally, I think it is morally indefensible and materially lowers the dignity of the Parliament; because if we follow out that suggestion to its logical conclusion, we will all be standing outside post offices handing out cheques to pensioners on pay-day. However, that is only an individual opinion and it is immaterial to what I intend to say.
I want to refer to the grant of £2 for £1 that is made by the Government for the construction of approved homes. The Government has done a tremendous lot of good through these grants and much comfort and assistance have been given to people who have not been able to afford a home of their own. Let me make it quite clear at the outset that I believe the War Widows Guild of Australia as an approved organization has done a magnificent job. The members of that organization, and particularly its leaders, have spent many hours of their own time and much of their energy in trying - very successfully - to assist all the war widows. What I have to say does not detract in any way from the job they have done. Nevertheless, I think that something has gone wrong somewhere along the line when I find that, in the electorate of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), every tenant in one particular set of flats has signed a petition asking for certain things to be done. There is either a long delay or a number of things have not been done.
I am sorry that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is not in the chamber. I understand that he is shortly going to present one of the cheques to which I have referred at the opening of this particular set of flats. I ask him to find out while he is distributing the taxpayers’ money the conditions under which buildings for war widows are both built and tenanted; because in this case it is obvious that the architectural supervision has not been sufficient. Every time the wind blows from a certain quarter and rain falls, the tenants have to put towels along the floors under the window sills to mop up the water that has come through. I believe that no baths are provided because it is felt that a shower recess is better for people of advancing years. I know that some doctors recommend that course; but I cannot understand why a tenant should not be allowed to install a bath if she wants to do so at her own expense. In the first place, I understand, a tenant pays the War Widows Guild a comparatively large sum - up to £1,000 - as a .donation towards the flats. The tenants have no claim on that money once they have paid it. The trustees are then able to take action if, in military parlance, anything they might consider prejudicial to good order and discipline occurs. In other words, the tenant seems to have no rights whatever.
I feel that the trustees, who are not closely associated with all the day-to-day routine, cannot maintain proper supervision and administration. I ask the Minister to direct the officers of his department to take a little more interest in what happens before the grant of £2 for £1 is handed out. I rang up the Department of Social Services and was told that the architectural efficiency was nothing to do with the department. “ It is not our responsibility “, I was told. Apparently the terms and conditions under which the buildings are let are not the responsibility of the department either. If we have to pay £2 for £1 we should see that both the tenancy regulations and the finish, both by the builder and the architect, are at least within reasonable limits. I do not think they are in this case.
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, to refer this matter to the Minister for Social Services and see whether something can be done or investigations made to ensure that justice is meted out to the tenants.
Something seems to have gone wrong, but that does not detract in any way from my own admiration of the work that the War Widows Guild has done as a whole.
The second matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the Desert Mounted Corps memorial. I referred to this matter previously under Division No. 632 - Department of the Interior. There was provision under that heading last year for a grant for the removal of the memorial to Australia. In his reply, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) said it was too late to alter the decision on the site for the memorial. I say that it is not too late to alter an illogical and unfair decision to erect the statuary at Albany. Although portion of the base has been erected already on that site, the base does not matter. It could be used for a suitable memorial to mark the departure of the first convoy in the First World War from Albany. At the same time, the question of the site where the memorial is to be re-erected is of great importance as I have said previously. At this point I wish to read a letter that I received from a former light horseman in Western Australia. He stated -
You have the same opinion as I have excepting that my suggestion to the local State R.S.L. was that the memorial be re-erected in the Fremantle Memorial Park where it would be seen first and last by overseas passengers on liners. You are correct; this memorial has no connection whatsoever with the other arms of the A.I.F. We, the Light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Rifles, paid for this and should have been the sole arbiters of its fate.
My local Light Horse Association was apparently advised by the local State R.S.L. but as the association does not represent the whole of the Western Australian members, the matter just rested with a few members. . . .
A batch of us was only yesterday discussing the matter, and our opinion was either Canberra or Fremantle. After all, the New Zealanders have as much right to have it in their own areas. We feel that by the time the memorial is re-erected, the bigger majority of us will be too feeble to do the trip to Albany to see our memorial to the finest lot of men and fighters who ever breathed air.
As I have said, he was a light horseman, of course!
My letter to the State Executive was acknowledged with a promise of a reply by the State Executive two years ago, and there is still no reply.
P.S. - No Western Australian mounted men (Light Horse) left Albany at any time.
So once again I appeal to the Ministry to have this matter discussed again with the federal R.S.L. I advise the Minister that I have sent copies of the speeches made by the only two Light Horsemen who are members of the House of Representatives to every State R.S.L. head-quarters and to the federal R.S.L. head-quarters, because I know that he would be very loath to take any action unless it were recommended by the federal R.S.L. executive. I have also written to the New Zealand Government, the New Zealand R.S.A., and the Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury associations - which are the three concerned - of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. I feel that every member here who has listened to the case advanced by both of us realizes the logic and reasonableness of the request made. We both realize the difficulties facing the Government, and I can only say that I hope that the R.S.L. headquarters will reconsider the matter and make a sensible decision as to where that statuary will eventually go. It is going to be another eighteen months before the statues will be recast and ready for erection so there is plenty of time.
Finally, I want to agree with the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in regard to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Last year £41,382,327 went from revenue into that fund and this year £125,743,000 is to be put into it from revenue. If we use the whole of the £125,000,000, there will be a £141,000,000 surplus as far as accounting is concerned, though not so far as cash is concerned, because this money is to make up loan deficits for housing, war service land settlement and State loan funds. I said last year, I say it again, and I will say it on every occasion when the statement is called for, that it is wrong that the States should be charged 5 per cent, or 5i per cent, interest, whatever the rate is, on money lent to them from this fund. The interest payments go back into the fund, and the States are already paying interest on money which they paid in interest and which was re-lent to them. I realize, of course, that if that was not done the States would probably get less in tax reimbursements, but I believe, and always have believed, that it is a very bad principle to operate on such a basis that eventually, in about ten or twelve years’ time, all the loan funds used for development in this country will be a charge on the States, and the whole of the loans raised by the Commonwealth Government, including war loans, will have been written off, because all our loan repayments at the moment are being made out of revenue.
This has a bad effect on our business operations. Consider, for instance, the report we had recently from the Commissioner of Commonwealth Railways. The Commonwealth Railways put the revenue for the year against the expenditure for the year and arrived at a figure accordingly; but all the State railways are paying interest and sinking fund payments on loans, some of which have been, or should have been, long since written off, and on all the new capital they are spending. We get a far greater amount of money, because we do not have to pay interest and sinking fund charges. So we get a distorted picture of the operations of our semi-government business undertakings. I think that the principle is wrong and should be adjusted.
.- In my submission to this committee and the Government I wish to state that I consider that a matter of supreme importance to the people of Australia, which affects these estimates, is concerned with road safety practices. Tn 1959-60, contributed by the Government to the financing of road safety practices was an amount of £149,663, which I consider insufficient, for reasons which I will give in the next few minutes to further or continue road safety practices.
The figures relating to the number of persons killed and injured on the roads of this nation during 1959-60 are not available, but it can be expected that they will be somewhat similar to the figures for 1 958-59. In that year the numbers of persons killed and injured on Australia’s roads reached almost astronomical proportions. The statistics show that 2,264 persons were killed and 55,359 were injured. These lives lost on the roads, Mr. Chairman, were lives which this country could ill afford to lose. People killed on the roads are usually decent citizens of some importance to the nation. In New South Wales alone 833 persons were killed in 1958-59, and in Victoria 661 were killed. In 1956-57, the number of people killed on Australian roads was 2,119 and the number of those injured was 48,773. In 1957-58, the numbers were 2,146 and 52,213 respectively. These figures will show the committee that road casualties are increasing yearly. That is a matter of national importance.
I consider that not sufficient money is made available to road safety bodies throughout the Commonwealth which are engaged in furthering road safety practices. If these figures that I have given do not warrant an increased grant to the bodies concerned, I do not know what does. As I said previously, deaths on the roads are increasing, and this Government is not measuring up to its responsibilities in this regard. I urge the Government to take a serious view of this important national matter.
In Newcastle last Monday I had the pleasure of being present at a public appeal launched by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle in a drive to get finance for the building of a driving training range which, when established, will be the second of its kind in Australia. There is a similar one in Western Australia.
– And a very good one, too.
– Yes, it is a credit to the people who instituted it.
– How much will the Joint Coal Board donate to this driving training range?
– Later I will come to the question of the Joint Coal Board in this regard. The board does not get the financial assistance it should, because no longer is coal in short supply. This driving training range in Newcastle is the most practical and common-sense step to reduce the toll on the roads that I have heard of. It is to be used for the training of boys and girls of school age - the ten years to sixteen years age group - and to instil into them the necessity of driving vehicles in a proper and safe manner. I think that every honorable member will agree what a wonderful scheme it is. But why should important citizens of Newcastle have to indulge in a cadging campaign in order to provide this very necessary facility? Irrespective of how important a mission may be, no decent citizen likes to go around cadging. I have never been a success at it myself and I have very seldom attempted it, because it is humiliating for a man of character. I urge the Government to make available some financial assistance to these decent citizens who are about to launch this campaign to raise funds for a driving training range. I think that this is the forerunner of similar driving training ranges that will be established in towns of importance throughout the Commonwealth, lt is a practical, commonsense approach to the problem of reducing the toll of the roads.
I turn now to the estimates for the Joint Coal Board. I notice that no increase has been made in these amounts. The same amount of £60,000 is set aside as the contribution to the welfare fund. My electorate of Hunter has been harder hit than any other electorate in the Commonwealth in recent years as a result of mechanization in the coal mines. Some 7,000 miners have been retrenched, and a greater amount of coal is now being produced with half the number of miners. Most of the men who were thrown out of employment have, I am happy to say, been found alternative employment in Newcastle industries, but this involves them in a return journey of “70 miles each day. The amount of travel in which they are involved could be reduced if the grant to the Joint Coal Board were increased and Mr. Cochran, an astute and sympathetic man, allowed to use the increased amount to improve the road from Cessnock to Newcastle. If this were done, the displaced miners could get from their homes to their jobs more quickly and the time they were away from home would be shortened.
The road is two-thirds completed and only a small sum would be required to complete what is regarded as an express highway. The road from Young Wallsend to Glendale is not in a good state. However, the council has used its finances in meeting other demands of the ratepayers and I am told that it is unable to complete this road, although it is regarded as important. However, if the grant to the Joint Coal Board were increased, the burden imposed on the people in my electorate through mechanization of the coal mines would be considerably eased. They have been kicked about probably because of questionable industrial sins in past years, but they are not a communistic people. This was shown in the voting at the Kurri Kurri by-election last week-end. Mr. Booth, the candidate for the Australian Labour Party, reduced the number of votes previously recorded for the Communist candidate by 500. Out of 18,000 votes, only 1,400 were cast for the Communist candidate. That shows that communism has not the grip on this country that honorable members opposite constantly say it has.
– Most of those 1,400 votes would come from Liberal Party supporters.
– That is probably so. They are the only matters I wish to raise on these estimates.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 637 - Department of Trade. The appropriation under this heading last year was £692,000, but this has now been increased to £857,000. This increase of about £160,000 could be said to be a substantial increase, but to my mind the need for exports, the need for publicity and the need to develop our manufacturing industries warrant a much higher amount for the Department of Trade. There can be no doubt in the minds of honorable members that this year’s efforts should be trebled, or even quadrupled, if we are to achieve the estimated figure for exports of primary products and additional secondary production. The figure of £250,000,000 has been bandied about throughout Australia as the amount of additional exports required in the next five years. I believe that this goal can be achieved in three ways, but not without using a predetermined mathematical plan designed to achieve, in reason, the end result required. Of course, to develop this plan, the Department of Trade would need a considerably higher appropriation for publicity than that now made. Such a plan would obviously be based on experience, our knowledge of overseas markets, and our basic raw material potential, and would enable those sections of our industries selected for our drive for exports to start the job now and to begin the necessary planning in their factories to engage in this magnificent export drive.
I believe that it is of little satisfaction for private enterprise to look at its possibilities for export unless we as a government initiate an attainable plan and, as it were, sort out those industries more particularly suitable for competitive marketing overseas. I know that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has referred to this type of plan as one that occurs under authoritarian forms of government, but I would remind honorable members that Great Britain has regulated its home consumption for many years to conform to the need for exports, and for 200 years has built up a process of overseas marketing which is unequalled. Since the war, Japan has operated this so-called authoritarian type of selling to foreign countries, and West Germany has also done so. On looking at the assessment of export value since 1953, we must give serious consideration to adopting what has proved to be a successful method overseas. As I said earlier, I am sure that the Department of Trade would need an appropriation considerably in excess of the figure of £857,000 allowed for 1960-61.
In addition to its present function of publicizing our products, establishing trade posts throughout the world and organizing trade fairs and missions, the department would need to assess from which sections of our Australian industry the best export commodities could be obtained. It could well be true that after an initial period of successful results, private enterprise would carry on with an ever-increasing rise in exportable products. In achieving their successes, the United Kingdom, Japan and West Germany have adopted aggressive characteristics quite unknown to Australia, and in this field we have not kept pace with the expansion in value of world trade. In fact, since 1953 world trade has increased by 36 per cent, and the increases of exports for the countries mentioned are as follows: - Australia, since 1953, has increased its exports by 1 per cent, in value, the United Kingdom by 30 per cent., West Germany by 120 per cent., and Japan by 170 per cent. Clearly, it can be seen from these figures that we cannot hope to compete with those countries for world markets, as each of them has diligently worked out and adopted a plan to achieve such results.
Australia, by its particular environment and conditions, is a large trading nation and will continue to remain so, but much more serious consideration must be given to obtain the desired success. 1 mentioned earlier that there were at least three ways of increasing exports. In the short term and by reason of the fact that the potential market for our coal and iron ore lies almost exclusively in Japan, some further negotiations should take place in this regard. It is realized that we have had an embargo on the export of iron ore for 21 years, initially to preserve our apparently limited resources of ore. At the time of the imposition of the embargo - in 1939 - our iron ore deposits were estimated at 250,000,000 tons, but despite the usage of 50,000,000 tons in the meantime, the present very conservative estimate is 368,000,000 tons. Japan will purchase iron ore, whether from Australia or other sources, because she has the need for it and it is estimated that Japan will make 22,000,000 tons of iron ore ingots this year.
I know that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is launching a mammoth expansion programme and our thoughts regarding the export of mined materials must be methodically planned so that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is satisfied with regard to supplies for present and future needs. At the same time I believe our Government should materially assist in the plans of the company so that ultimately it will export steel sheet and semi-finished products in lieu of the mined ore, thus using Australian labour to advantage. Again, with mined material, a similar set of conditions applies to coal and provided that we, as a nation, increase our port facilities at Sydney and those at the Queensland ports, it has been assessed that we could increase exports of coal to Japan by from 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 tons per annum, with an approximate value of £12,000,000. Right now we are contracted to supply 3,000,000 tons of coal to this customer and the trade with Japan is rising.
The success or otherwise of this continued and increased support will depend largely on whether the ports which I mentioned earlier can accommodate the large bulk carrying coal freighters which the Japanese propose to operate on long hauls for the obvious purpose of reducing freight costs.
A second means of obtaining overseas exchange is by attracting the tourist trade; and various hotel boards of management have set figures which range as high as £100,000,000 per annum of currency for Australia. I know that the Australian National Travel Association is meeting this week and I have no doubt that shortand long-term plans will be drafted as a result. However, the need is there for our Government to sponsor these plans o, encouraging the efforts of these people and by using special incentives such as shortterm depreciation on new buildings and extensions and, if necessary, low interest government loans to initiate approved plans for the future.
It is well known that American tourists, particularly, have “ done “ Europe as far as sight-seeing and vacations are concerned and are looking for new travel areas. Once again, Japan is capitalizing on this trend and we should also be visibly assisting the efforts of private enterprise to encourage American tourists to travel to and throughout Australia.
The Department of Trade would also cover particularly the third and most vital item for long-term export - that being manufactured goods. It has been truthfully said that we are a high-cost country where labour is extensively used. But it is also a fact that all manufacturing countries, with the exception of Japan, are also becoming high-cost countries. The signs are visible, too, that America, the United Kingdom and West Germany will not stabilize their inflationary trends, which would mean that, provided our costs are kept stationary, we would be more competitive over the future years. However, we need a plan - a five-year plan if you like - which would enable potential manufacturers to establish their export possibilities. In this plan there would need ti be an educational period, drafted primarily to wean manufacturing industries from their present thoughts of producing only for local markets. The bulk of our manufacturing plants have been designed to cater for local requirements and are expanding as the local demand increases.
At this point our Department of Trade must adopt some of the techniques used by the so-called authoritarian States if we are to ensure that Australia obtains its share of exports for maufactured goods. It is well known that secondary industry now exports from Australia some £50,000,000 of produce in the form of steel and steel products, motor cars and parts, louvre windows, cameras, electrical goods and many other items. But as the Export Council has reported, the overall world trade in manufactured goods is rising and Australia must obtain its share of this increase. This rise is due to a natural result of expanding world population and the improved living standards of many under-developed countries, many of which can be regarded as natural markets for Australia. This trend of requirement must continue on an ascending scale and our manufacturers must be trained to budget for Australia’s share of this wealth. We could take a leaf from the book used by the Japanese Government, which has used special incentives for those manufacturers who are prepared to cooperate - such as short-term depreciation on machine tools and government-backed insurance schemes to protect those firms against broken contracts. It is my belief that in the Miscellaneous Services for the Department of Trade we need a special section to tackle these problems and to present to selected groups a plan for the future, which would mean handling in an efficient manner the major task of increasing exports.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
– I present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
– I ask for leave to move that the report be agreed to.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Optometrical Services - Training of Blind Persons; - Communism - Bank Advances for Primary Production - Social Services - Words used in Debate - Shipping.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I am concerned about the rather strange relationship that seems to exist between certain members of the British Medical Association in some of the States and an organization called Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Limited, known shortly as O.P.S.M. Although the B.M.A. has a rule which prevents members of the medical profession from holding shares in any drug firm the products of which they may have occasion to prescribe for their patients, the association has not yet had an opportunity to investigate - or, if it has, it has not done so thoroughly - the relationship that might exist between members of the profession and O.P.S.M. A rather startling article appeared in “ Nation “ in the issue of 24th September, 1960.
– Who wrote it?
– It was written by the “ Melbourne Spy “, and it has evoked no contradiction or reply from the medical profession. Neither has anything been heard from O.P.S.M. with regard to the serious allegations contained in it. It seems that a representative of this publication, or the writer of the article - it is not quite clear from the article itself - made some inquiries of the Medical Secretary of the B.M.A. in Melbourne, Dr. Dickson. Dr. Dickson told the person who made the inquiries that as Optical Industries Limited, which is the company that owns O.P.S.M., can sell shares openly on the Stock Exchange, there can be no risk of any strings being tied to them that would oblige a doctor to send his prescriptions to O.P.S.M. The article continues with this important point -
One would like more information on how, precisely, all the doctors did acquire their shares, and whether in all cases it was merely through an order to a stockbroker. Dr. Dickson agrees that perhaps something more than coincidence might be required to explain the presence of such a large number of eye doctors among the shareholders. He agrees also that Rule 38q forbids not only formal agreements between doctors and companies to promote sales, but also “ understandings “. Dr. Dickson says that the present situation arose from what he called a “ feud “ between oculists and optometrists.
That would be all right if it were no more than a feud between the eye doctors and the optometrists, but the matter becomes more serious when one sees the effect of it. I have a letter here from a person who lives in Bentleigh, Victoria, which is in these terms -
I would like to relate my recent experience with OPSM. In June this year I had my eyes tested at the Medical Eye Institute. … I paid35s. for test, which money has to be paid before receiving the eye test. I was shown to the OPSM which has a branch on the same floor. I was shown frames which did not suit me. I was told by the salesman that that was the choice - take it or leave it. I asked him for my prescription back as I would like to go where I had seen what I wanted. He told me I could not have the eye prescription for which I had already paid 35s. but would have to be re-tested elsewhere if I did not accept what they had to offer. Their choice was very small. I had then to take two pairs of spectacles which I did not like, and he knew how disappointed I was with them. I was charged £15 4s. 6d. as well as paying 35s. for the test, yet I was forced to buy what I did not like or pay for another test elsewhere. Surely when one pays for an eye test they are entitled to go anywhere for spectacles. I could show you my receipts dated 13.6.60, for the stated amount and would confirm my complaint if needs be. I was not told before the test that I had no choice in the matter of ordering.
The gentleman concluded his letter by stating that he sincerely hoped that something would be done to expose these sharks. The article in “ Nation “ goes on to say something that fits in rather neatly with the complaint which was made by the gentleman whose letter I have just read. The article states, referring to O.P.S.M. -
When they hear of a young doctor about to set up as an ophthalmologist, they will finance all his expensive equipment (supplied by one of their related companies) on generous terms, and generally establish him in practice. It hardly needs saying that the doctor will send his prescriptions to that supplier . . . Seven out of nine doctors who have rooms in Palmer House above OPSM are eye doctors.
When patients go to O.P.S.M. the doctor’s secretary says, “ Don’t forget your receipt; you can claim medical benefits with it “. So they can, because the doctor’s receipt does not indicate that the payment was for testing and measuring eyes. It indicates merely that the charge was for consultation. Consequently, a claim is made upon the medical benefits fund. However, had the same person gone to an optometrist to be measured for spectacles, the optometrist could not do other than admit that part of the charge was for measuring, and no rebate could be claimed from the medical benefits fund.
This is such a serious matter that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) should consult with the British Medical Association in all States to ascertain the extent to which collusion exists between eye doctors and O.P.S.M. to the detriment of the public generally because this firm overcharges for the spectacles that the patients are obliged to purchase. I went to O.P.S.M. in the silly belief that it was cheaper to go to that company than ‘to an ordinary optician once glasses were prescribed, but I had the same difficulty as had the gentleman to whom I have referred. I was shown a very poor range of frames from which to choose and when I selected the frames I found that I had to pay a very high price for them.
I do not think that the Minister can do anything in this matter by legislation but, as a member of the highly honoured medical profession, I am sure that he is just as jealous of the high reputation that it holds in society as is any other member of the profession. I venture to say that not 5 per cent, of the doctors in Australia would endorse the practice to which I have referred, and I am firmly convinced that if this matter and the article that I have read were brought to the notice of the B.M.A. on a federal basis, that body would institute inquiries and ascertain to what extent eye doctors are shareholders in O.P.S.M. If the B.M.A. found that there is justification for the fears which have been expressed both by myself and in the article in “ Nation “, I have sufficient confidence in the medical profession to believe that it would step in and protect the public from what to me is undoubtedly a racket because people are forced to pay more for their glasses than they should. In other words bush-ranging tactics are adopted which should not be tolerated in this community.
.- I wish to direct the attention -of the House to two matters, and I am certain that honorable members on both sides will agree that the first is important. As a member of the placement and training committee for the blind in Brisbane, I have been concerned for some time that there is no provision in the Commonwealth legislation to enable particularly bright blind persons - I do not refer to ex-servicemen - who have matriculated to go overseas for specialized training which is not available in Australia.
I have in mind the case of a young lady of seventeen who obtained five A’s and one B in her junior examination in Brisbane and now is studying for her senior examination. According to the best information available, she will pass with flying colours. She is most anxious to go overseas to do a course with the Blind Institute of Physiotherapy in London because there is no provision in Australia for the training of blind persons in that profession. Unfortunately, apparently the Commonwealth Government is not in a position to assist this young lady, but some consideration should be given to special cases of this kind. Any one associated with the blind will know that they ask not for pity, not for charity, but to be judged only on their merits. In the case to which 1 have referred merit is so clearly apparent that special consideration should be given to it. Only a few cases would come into this category.
There are some very outstandng blind persons on the placement committee in Brisbane. One young lady, Miss Mercy Griffin, is a Master of Arts. She has been blind from birth. Then there is Miss Betty Allon, who is a Bachelor of Arts, and Dr. David Williams who is a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy. He has been trained at St. Dunstan’s in London. Then there is Mr. Malcolm Bryce, who was trained at the Blind Institute of Physiotherapy in London. He is a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. These blind people have shown what they can do.
As the number of blind people in Australia does not warrant the setting up of an institute such as St. Dunstan’s or the Blind Institute of Physiotherapy, the Commonwealth Government should make a special grant to assist blind people of merit. I hope that now that I have brought this subject before the House, as other honorable members, also, probably will do, the Government will seriously consider the matter and see what can be done for this young lady.
Now I turn to the second thing that I want to mention. Anybody who has made any serious study of Lenin will realize that the figure “ 5 “ has a special mystic appeal to the Lenin school of thought. The first politburo in Russia consisted of five members. Those who study what is now known as the famous Gouzenko report - the report of the royal commission which inquired into the Canadian spy ring in 1946 - which the former Leader of the Australian Labour Party in this House refused to release in Australia, will remember that the royal commission reported that there existed throughout the world five individual spy rings working under the jurisdiction of the Committee of Five, in Moscow. The royal commissioners said that they were able to investigate only one of these spy rings - that about which Gouzenko gave them information. If you make a specialized study of subversive movements, Mr. Speaker, you will find that these groups still work in units of five. Even in their famous training school in Moscow, the students work in groups of five. I want honorable members to keep the figure “ 5 “ in mind, because I shall come back to it in a moment.
We now have leading the Soviet Government a man who, I say quite bluntly, is a butcher and a murderer. He makes to the world threats of all kinds about what he will do and what he will not do. He and the government behind him are prepared to spend vast sums on propaganda. As we know, last year, Russia spent £1,500,000,000 on propaganda throughout the world, circulating the kind of tripe that was contained in his recent speeches before the United Nations General Assembly, as is shown in this journal which I have in my hand. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who knows anything about printing and the distribution of the written word that this report of a speech which was made before the United Nations General Assembly was already set up here in Australia before the speech was made. It was all ready to come out on the streets here before the speech was made.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, may 1 direct the attention of the House to one fact that stands without argument. I know that I shall hear a howl about this. I direct the attention of the House and of the people of Australia to one unarguable fact. It is strange - indeed, it is a terrible tragedy - that in this Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, we have five men who are prepared consistently to follow unequivocally and without deviation the Leninist line, whatever it may be for the moment. I shall name those five men. I name the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). I name the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). I name the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I name the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I name the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). Consistently and without deviation, they follow the Leninist line. I heard an interjection: “What about the honorable member for Wills? “ He is just a cadet. If anybody is prepared to read word for word the speech which is incorporated in this journal which I have mentioned, he will find that the five honorable members whom I have named have consistently followed without deviation the propaganda that is laid down here. At least, they have done so since I became a member of this House. I think it is a terrible reflection on the Parliament that this happens in parliament in a democracy such as we have in Australia.
I believe that these five honorable members will continue to be a source of irritation and annoyance to the Australian Labour Party and that they will keep the party split asunder. I believe that while they follow the line which is laid down by this murderer and butcher who at present runs Russia, what was once called “ the great Australian Labour Party “ will remain on the Opposition benches. The people of Australia would never accept a government which had on the front bench on its side of the Parliament four out of the five members of the politburo that I have named. I. say quite bluntly and frankly that it is to the discredit of these men that they follow this line, whether they are sincere or otherwise. If they are sincere, they must know that they are being used as dupes for the most insidious and powerful force for evil that this world has ever known.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a couple of important matters. Before I do so, I want to say a word or two about the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby), who has just resumed his seat. He talked about the mystic figure “ 5 “. I have always understood that men elected to this Parliament have to be of sound mind and that if they are declared to be insane their seats are to bc declared vacant. Although the honorable member seems to think that there is something special about this mystic number “ 5 “, I should not care to think that there are four others in this Parliament as mad as he is. The amusing part about it is that somebody has been pulling his leg. 1 have now discovered where he got his story from. I am told that to-day, in the guests’ dining-room in this building the honorable member lunched with none other than Mr. Eliot Elliott of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. The lunch was arranged by the Minister for Shipping and Transport - the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman). 1 am informed that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) also were present. 1 do not know who the other one of the five may be. Perhaps the honorable member will now be able to give us his explanation of the conversation which he had with Mr. Eliot Elliott, and he will probably now realize that he has had his leg pulled by one of the prominent Communists in this country. .
Let me turn now to the first of the two matters that I want to raise. In recent weeks, we have heard criticism of the actions of the Commonwealth Development Bank and of the way in which it is treating the man on the land. I have had brought to my notice for ventilation in this chamber the case of a primary producer. On the facts, I am of the opinion that the Development Bank merits strong criticism by every member of this Parliament, as I am sure honorable members will agree when I tell them what has happened in this case. The gentleman concerned is Mr. Lance Davis, who has a property named “ Airlie “, at Bendemeer, in New South Wales. He is a member of the Australian Primary Producers Union. Mr. Davis approached the Development Bank for assistance because his property is affected by drought. He is in the present drought area, and he has used up all his funds in purchasing feed. He asked the bank for a loan to enable him to improve his pastures, but his request was refused.
Mr. Davis had already entered into a hire-purchase agreement with the bank for the purchase of some agricultural machinery that he required. I ask honorable members to keep in mind that we were told that this bank was being established for the purpose of assisting the man on the land and helping him to increase production. Instead of receiving the assistance that he sought to help him over this difficult drought period,
Mr. Davis met with a demand for the payment within fourteen days of an amount of £126 5s. 8d. which he owes on his seeder. He was told that if he did not promptly pay this sum and interest of £6 ls. on the outstanding instalments, his seeder would be repossessed. And it duly was repossessed. I have here the authority given to the person who was sent to repossess his seeder. This farmer has been put out of production. This is what the notice said -
Take notice that as default has been made in the payment to the Bank of instalments of rent amounting to £126 5s. 8d., you are now notified that unless this amount is paid to the Bank within fourteen days from the date hereof together with the amount of £6 ls. which has become payable by way of interest on overdue payments, the Bank will take action without further notice to you to repossess the subject goods.
The authority which was handed to him reads -
The hiring over the undermentioned goods described in Hire Purchase Agreement dated 26th February, 1958, made between the Bank of the one part and you as the other part having been terminated, you are hereby notified that Mr. J. J. E. Breakwell, a specimen of whose signature appears in the margin, is authorized by the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia on its behalf to retake possession of-
Then it describes the seeder, which has been repossessed. This unfortunate primary producer wants’ to know what the Development Bank is doing by forcing farmers afflicted by drought out of production at a time when the Government is appealing to everybody in this country to step up production in the export industries. I hope we will hear some word of support for this unfortunate primary producer from some of the members of the Country Party and some of the other honorable members on the Government side.
Now let me turn to the other matter to which I wish to refer. It relates to social services. I was amazed when I first heard the story. When I heard it, I thought, “ It could not be true “. But when I checked up, I discovered that what I had been told was true. Let me tell honorable members of this Government’s generosity in connexion with social services. I think that the Government’s action in the case I am about to mention is an absolute scandal. I discovered that if an unemployed worker in receipt of the unemployment benefit of £3 5s. a week had an invalid wife, she was entitled, before the recent pensions increases. to an invalid pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week and an allowance of £2 7s. 6d. a week as the wife of an unemployed worker. After the invalid pension was increased, as the result of the new Budget provisions, to £2 12s. 6d. a week, the Government deducted 12s. 6d. a week from the man’s unemployment benefit, instead of 7s. 6d. as previously. Because the wife’s pension has been increased by a paltry 5s. a week, the Government reduces the miserly unemployment benefit paid to the unfortunate unemployed worker by 5s. I should like to know whether any honorable member is prepared to stand up and support that action by the Government.
– State the facts.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who rushes in where angels fear to tread, says “ Quote your evidence; support your case “. I have a letter signed by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to support my case. This is what the Minister for Social Services had to say -
If her husband qualifies for an unemployment benefit of £3 5s. a week, the difference between the unemployment benefit she may receive as a spouse - £2 7s. 6d. a week - and the invalid pension she does receive must be treated as income for unemployment benefit purposes.
An income of £2 a week does not affect the unemployment benefit, but an income in excess of £2 a week reduces the unemployment benefit by the amount of the excess.
Thus, in the case you mention, the difference between the unemployment benefit she would receive and the invalid pension she does receive is £2 12s. 6d. a week which must be treated as income, and 12s. 6d. is thereby deducted from the husband’s unemployment benefit.
– Who signed that letter?
– Hugh S. Roberton, Commonwealth Minister for Social Services. Does the Minister for Labour and National Service want any further evidence?
– I did not use the word “ evidence “.
– I have given the facts in connexion with the matter. If the Minister is prepared to defend this miserable action by the Government, let him rise and do so. How far does £3 5s. a week go to-day? If a man’s invalid wife receives more than £2 a week by way of invalid pension, the amount by which the invalid pension exceeds the £2 is deducted from the unemployment benefit of the unfortunate husband. No government in Australia can defend itself against criticism of such an action. The criticism I offer is based on the Minister’s own letter. Yet we continually hear honorable members on the Government side talking about the Government’s great generosity to the Australian people! I am now pleading the case for the unfortunates right at the bottom of the scale.
This does not affect only the men who are unemployed. In some cases the husbands of invalid wives are not prepared to put them into hospitals or institutions and so they stay home to care for them. There have been instances in which such husbands have been granted what is known as a special benefit by the Government. They cannot get the unemployment benefit as such because they are not available for work.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am very reluctant to disagree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and I shall tell the House why. It so happened that a few months ago the honorable member for East Sydney and I both appeared before the Anglican Synod in Brisbane and, much to my surprise, the honorable member for East Sydney said, in front of one archbishop, 200 members of the clergy and an equal number of laymen, “ My friend, the honorable member for Moreton, has made a number of good points “. I am most reluctant to score off the honorable gentleman after his admission that I am a friend of his.
Now, Sir, I want to say something this evening that touches your authority and also upon the authority of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). A fortnight ago, during a mild exchange of sentiments, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said to me - I was astonished when I read it in “ Hansard “ the following morning - “ Shut up, you rat “. I was very disturbed to read that. It is not the sort of expression to which these walls are accustomed. It is not the downright uncivil language that the honorable member used that disturbs me, but the thought that the honorable member would say, “ Shut up, you rat “. You, Sir, did not hear it in the heat of the debate, but I have been most disturbed about it for the last fortnight, and I will tell the House why.
First of all, the remark did not seem to me to be in character with the honorable member for Parkes. Let me explain why it was not in character. My honorable friend from Deakin (Mr. Davis), who has interjected, misunderstands me. It did not seem to be the sort of wit thought up on the spur of a month ago. I thought, “ This has got great subtlety about it “, andI set out to try to find out what sort of rat the honorable member for Parkes was referring to. This is a matter of great moment, because, to call a member of this Parliament a rat, exposes him to an infinite variety of charges. If you will be patient, Sir, I will tell you the sort of inquiry I have been engaged upon.
When the honorable member for Parkes said, “ You are a rat “, was he referring to a rodent of the larger species? For example, was he referring to rattus, the black rat, or was referring to me as a common grey, brown or Norwegian rat, known to observers of the rat as the decamanus? Or was he using the word in the kinder sense to apply to an animal resembling a rat - for example, the marsupial rat? Do not laugh at me, Mr. Speaker, because one naturalist observed of the marsupial rat that it was a magnificent opossum.
Was the term used as an unkind epithet? The honorable member for Parkes is a poet of no mean note, and obviously he has read E. G. Hood’s “Drop of Gin” and knows the lines -
Hardly acknowledged by kith and kin
Because poor rat!
He has no cravat.
Or was it used in the Shakespearean sense? Was the honorable member for Parkes thundering into this place in the Shakespearean manner? In his “ Merchant of Venice “, Shakespeare wrote -
But ships are boards, sailors but men:
There be land rats and water rats,
Water thieves and land thieves.
Was it used in a political sense in the language of Bentham -
In the language of modern party, Silas was a rat.
There are other important but nevertheless obscure possibilities. Did he mean to refer to me as a plumber’s tool? Did he use it in an objective sense, in a genitive sense, in an instrumental sense, or in a similative sense? Did he have in mind a rat as it indicates “ a strong and rapid current “? I have considered all these possibilities but charity has gnawed at my imagination, and I strongly suspect that what the honorable gentleman really meant to say was -
Lo - with what you say I disagree,
Let silence reign between you and me.
I have been greatly moved by this experience as I search for what sort of a rat I am. Dedicated to this search, I have written this miserable bit of doggerel, which the honorable member for Parkes who has an infinite touch of the poetic, will be able to revise. With apologies to Robert Browning, I have written -
Behold the Pied Piper from Parkes,
A poet and writer of vim.
He re-visited China,
Where “ nought could be finer “-
A pity his sight was so dim!
Behold the Pied Piper from Parkes.
A bright star in his party, thought he.
His ambition fell through
To be Number Two,
For Arthur said “ Gough’ll do me “.
Behold the Pied Piper from Parkes, “ Revenge I must have “, quoth he, “ Awful Arthur I’ll harass,
And Gough I’ll embarrass
By writing for Lang’s “ Century “.”
Still, he couldn’t get rats to respect him,
So, “ Blood on the Wattle “, he penned.
But though tongue and pen
May lash other men,
It’s the rats who will win in the end.
.- I am prompted to speak to-night on the subject I wish to raise because Standing Orders prohibited me from raising it this morning and later when I endeavoured to speak during the debate on the Estimates I was unceremoniously gagged by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). Therefore, in this place which, before the advent of the present Administration used to be a place of democracy, I seek to make known to the people at large the activities of some members of the Liberal Party. I think these activities ill become such honorable members particularly in view of the comments they have made from time to time on the subject of communism. I am further prompted by the remarks that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) made to-night, particularly as earlier this day I witnessed the honorable member partaking of the spirit of vodka with none other than Eliot V. Elliott, the Communist secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. I think that in some way or other the honorable member for Griffith must have transmitted his feelings to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who has just resumed his seat.
In view of the charges that have been levelled at members of the Labour Party that they collaborate with the Communist Party, I was amazed to-day to see none other than the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and also the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) not only collaborating but most convivially joining, joking and drinking with Eliot V. Elliott, who has been described among others by the honorable member for Griffith, as a member of an insidious organization which is the most fearful force for evil the world has ever known. That is the man with whom members of the Liberal Party were collaborating to-day. A senior member of the Government was wining and dining and drinking vodka within the precincts of this House.
These people consistently criticize members of the Labour Party for taking part in unity tickets, but we have a senior member of the Government backed up by backbenchers carrying on in this way. Then to-night, the honorable member for Griffith, who was elected to the Parliament by a majority of 50 votes, comes into this House and lectures the Labour Party on communism. I think, Mr. Speaker, that as a result of to-day’s happenings much of his majority will disappear; and that is why to-night in his tremulous, fearful way, spurred1 by false courage, he sought to save face by attempting to take the people’s minds off his sins of an earlier hour this day.
What did these honorable members speak about at this convivial luncheon? Never have I seen people more at ease and more fortified by the spirit of comradeship and good fellowship than the five Liberals who were crowded around the table. What did they speak about? Did they speak about how they sought in days gone by to buy over a certain miner’s leader to betray his cause? Were they talking about the sum of £500 they tried to get him to accept? Were they discussing how to give peace to the waterfront? Would they have been discussing the speeches in which they have consistently condemned Mr. Elliott for trying to destroy the economy of this country?
– They might have been talking about indemnity payments.
– My leader reminds me that they might have been speaking about indemnity payments. I did not have time to see them all, but maybe crowded among them were other honorable members opposite. It was a most convivial and happy gathering. Probably among them were other honorable members opposite who are most outraged at times by the activities of the people I mentioned a few moments ago. I judge by the interjections to-night that many honorable members opposite were disappointed because they were not on the invitation list for this party. No doubt they are also good fellows when convivially affected, but for my part I do not doubt that it was not a party to miss. I do not think the opportunity should be allowed to pass to point out to the people of this country that the Government of the day is hypocritical in its approach to communism and to those who make up the Communist Party. Who would ever have thought in their wildest dreams that the honorable member for Griffith, who to-night spoke in such terms of the leader of the Soviet, would, a few hours earlier have sat smiling and dining with Eliot V. Elliott of the Seamen’s Union. I do not think that Mr. Elliott will deny that he ranks among the first half dozen Communists in this country. I have no objection to that; at least he admits his position, and he is entitled to his opinions in a democracy.
I do not like to hear Government supporters continually criticize the Labour Party and give lip service to a policy of opposition to communism, and, at the same time, to wine and dine with Communists in the hope of receiving favours. Why was it, Mr. Speaker, that the Government sought to gag me to-night when I wanted to speak on the Estimates for the1 Department of Shipping and Transport? It was simply because honorable members opposite did not want it to be known that they sit cheek by jowl with these people when it suits them, whilst at the same time, they condemn the Labour Party which is the only party in this country that opposes the Communists.
In days gone by when we were being criticized by honorable members opposite we were able to produce a photograph of the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ana others drinking vodka at the Russian Embassy here in Canberra to celebrate the rise of the Soviet. To-day honorable members opposite are following the same pattern. The honorable member for Griffith was ill advised to-night to attack the members of the Labour Party in view of the fact that his own activities condemn him as one who is hypocritical on this issue. I feel, therefore, that I should raise this matter in the interests of the people. I hope that the Minister at the table - and he is a very nice Minister - will rise to defend his action. I hope that he enjoyed his time with Eliot V. Elliott of the Seamen’s Union. I feel certain that Mr. Healy will be envious of his colleague and his contact with honorable members opposite. Also we may well look back to the goodwill that has evidently been created by a long list of visits by Mr. Elliott to the honorable members I have mentioned.
No doubt, instead of opposing the visits cf people from iron curtain countries, we on this side of the Parliament will be endeavouring to stop the Liberal Party from collaborating too closely with the Communist Party in the precincts of Parliament House. It is a dreadful prospect. Just as the Prime Minister became what might be called “ courageous “ in the United Nations, on the home front some members opposite are endeavouring to do effectively with the Communist Party some of the things which he tried most ineffectively to do in the United Nations. Therefore, more in sorrow than in anger, I pass these comments to-night.
I think that we are fortunate that the people concerned came into the open on this occasion, as it were, and dined publicly in the precincts of Parliament House. But how many secret dinners have been held in this place? How do we know that these people have not sat in the precincts of Parliament House where you can have a private dinner party? How do we know that they have not discussed the seamen’s fines and things of that nature in a convivial way in the hope that peace might come to industry? Does the Minister tor Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) have dinners with these people? If so, where does he have them? Have they been held in the private rooms of this place or in private hotels? It is clearly and indelibly recorded to-day that the Liberal Party has the closest contact with the Communist Party, not merely in this country but in this very building, lt is no wonder that the Liberal Party, at ejection time, gets the second-preference votes of the Communist Party. It buys them over these convivial dinners.
The country is entitled to know where members of the Liberal Party stand on this issue. In future, when we hear that they condemn Eliot V. Elliott of the Seamen’s Union, we will know that they are talking with their tongues in their cheeks. An old colleague will be offended when they speak of him in those terms in which they have spoken in days gone by. These things should be well remembered by all members and particularly by those who dined with Mr. Elliott in this building. They should know that, from here on, they are suspect. Knowing how the security service works, Mr. Speaker, do you noi think that the honorable member for Griffith should be investigated? Men have been investigated for less in this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– When the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) with his capacity for playing the political opportunist, rose in his place, I realized that, as usual, he was going to pursue a line of argument for which there was not the slightest ground. Although one does not usually appreciate being criticized, I extend my very best thanks to the honorable member for Grayndler for providing ten minutes of satirical comment this evening, thus enabling me to clarify on behalf of my colleagues the position in regard to the dinner that was held to-day. If this is a serious subject which deserves the consideration which Opposition members who are interjecting evidently expect, I would like them to keep quiet for a while and allow me to explain the situation. That is the least that I can expect of them. The honorable member for Grayndler was heard in silence and he should pay me the same courtesy. The same goes for some of his colleagues in the front bench who should know better.
There is a Marine Council and Crew Accommodation Committee. The council was appointed under section 424 of the Navigation Act and it holds its meetings in various capitals. On this occasion, the council decided to hold its meeting in Canberra. If the honorable member for Grayndler gets any satisfaction from the fact that there were members of the Liberal Party at the luncheon which was held to-day perhaps he will also get satisfaction from the fact that the arch enemy of Elliott, who undoubtedly is a Communist, was also present. I refer to Mr. R. A. Coutts, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Steamship Owners’ Federation. He represents members of the federation which comprises the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Huddart Parker Limited, the Melbourne Steamship Company Limited and Australian Steamships Proprietary Limited, all of which have no reason to be grateful to Mr. Elliott for the losses that they have sustained because of his actions. Also present was Mr. Sweetland, General Snipping Manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Captain R. Menzies, technical assistant to the General Manager of the Australian National Line, Mr. ScottFell who represents the Independent Steamship Owners’ Association, Mr. Barnwell, Captain Martin, and Mr. E. V. Elliott, Federal Secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. It is probably due to the Labour Party that Mr. Elliott represents on this committee the deck and engine room ratings. He was previously appointed as a member of the committee of advice. Another member of the Marine Council is Mr. J. A. Tudehope, Secretary of the Marine Cooks, Bakers and Butchers’ Association of Australia. The council meets regularly in order to consider various matters in connexion with the redress of grievances of seamen.
For instance, the matters considered by the council on one occasion included suitability of persons for engagement as seamen, the disposal of wages held in trust for seamen who have deserted their vessel, and the deck-hand manning of a vessel being constructed for William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited. The council comes under the jurisdiction of my department. It was felt that it was only right and proper that, as the council was meeting in Canberra at Industry House, its members should have the hospitality which can be provided in this building. I take full responsibility for inviting my colleagues, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) to the dinner. They are members of the Government supporters’ shipping committee and it was my desire that they should meet members of the council.
You cannot get away from the fact that Mr. Elliott is a member of the council. What would be the effect of saying to Mr. Elliott, “ You stay outside while the other seven members of the council come into the dining room “? I think it is rather regrettable that an honorable member who has been in Parliament as long as the honorable member for Grayndler should go snooping around and presenting a case in this light when he knows as well as any one else that it was a body that was being entertained and not individuals.
In the eleven years in which 1 have been in this Parliament I have had the opportunity to study various honorable members, as we all have, because we live close to one another. No one is more satirical, no one can take political advantage more than the honorable member for Grayndler, and nobody has ever been less constructive with his speeches. His speech to-night was completely destructive. He did not contribute one iota to the fight against communism. He has no better reason for reprimanding the honorable members who were present than he has for reproaching Mr. Coutts for sitting on the same committee as Mr. Elliott.
The committee is an official one and is not concerned with the political affiliations of the persons associated with it. Honorable members opposite may say what they like, but 1 completely absolve my colleagues from anything arising from the imputations of the honorable member for Grayndler. I think that the explanation I have given - that the committee is an official one, that it has been meeting in Canberra, and that it has accepted hospitality as a committee - completely answers the stupid and irrelevant allegations of the honorable member, who merely wanted to fill in ten minutes by developing a certain theme and making statements that he knew were both insincere and unwarranted.
– I rise to bring before the House certain allegations regarding the Australian National Line vessel, S.S. “ Daylesford “, and to ask for a thorough investigation by the responsible Minister. This ship was laid up in Brisbane, having a twelve-yearly survey, carried out by the A. U.S.N. Company Limited at a cost of between £50,000 and £60,000. Shortly afterwards, the ship came to Port Kembla. Complaints were made to the relevant unions about conditions on the ship and the nature of the work that had been performed on it. I consider that the matter should receive the attention of the Parliament and of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), and that the appropriate authorities should thoroughly investigate the details of the complaints which are in my possession and which I shall make available.
An examination by responsible people revealed the following unsatisfactory conditions: - The control valve on the windlass was not operating correctly and had to be worked from the main steam valve. The guy blocks had to be taken down and overhauled. New guy ropes had to be fitted. Watertight doors and portholes in the living quarters were in such a state of disrepair that the rooms and alleyways were continually flooded on the voyage to Townsville. Library books were a complete write-off. Valuable effects on the deck were irrevocably damaged. On deck, all steam pipes leading to the winches were more or less leaking and many of them were not lagged, exposing members of the crew to permanent injury. Control valves on winches were in such a state of disrepair that the driver could not leave the controls before some one had shut off the isolating steam valve. Without taking this precaution, winches would run on and could cause accidents and very costly damage.
On deck, heel blocks and gyn blocks were in a rusty and neglected state. New blocks are essential for the safe loading and discharging of the vessel’s cargo. Lifeboats had to be overhauled and new falls rove to make them seaworthy. In the engineroom extensive repairs had to be carried out. Tunnel plates had been left out and had to be replaced. The auxiliaries had to be overhauled, and repairs were necessary to the main circulating pump, air pump, emergency sanitary pump, fresh water pump and fuel water heater. The boiler mounting leaked - that is, the blow down valve, water test cocks, gauge glass mountings and main and auxiliary stocks. The main engine broke down at sea, probably due to a faulty automatic lubricator. A complete set of piston rings was broken.
Repairs were carried out on the main engine valve before departure from Brisbane and on later occasions. During repairs the forward H.P. piston was found to have worn and gummed-up rings. The evaporator has not been functioning correctly since the lay-up, despite the cleaning of coils. On doing this job, the spare set of coils was found to be unusable. The coils had been left in an acid bath and the acid had evaporated, causing deterioration of the coils. The fuel control system has been out of control since the lay-up. The emergency - diesel - generator had to be dismantled and repaired. The ventilator fans to the engine room had to be repaired. In short, the ship was found to be in a scandalous condition, despite the expenditure of between £50,000 and £60,000.
A further summarized report relative to this matter which has been handed to me indicates that officials of the Waterside Workers Federation and of other relevant unions were informed by members of the crew that the ship had been laid up in Brisbane for approximately six months and that a considerable sum of money had been spent on the survey by the A.U.S.N. Company Limited. If that is so- and the union officials say it is - some person or persons have been guilty of negligence, because it would be impossible for a ship to deteriorate in such a short space of time. The officials to whom I have referred have stated -
From our observations, we found the heel blocks to be rusty and in a bad state of disrepair.
The steam cylinders on every winch were corroded and some were leaking steam which created a hazard to the winch drivers and a danger to any person in close proximity. Two winches broke down and had to have their cylinders replaced. This meant that these winches could not be used and could have caused a delay of many hours. Fortunately cranes were available to take their place, avoiding any delay. Apart from the delay, a considerable amount of money would be involved in the replacing of the cylinders as Garnock Engineering Company was employed from the time the ship berthed until the time of her departure. All cylinders will have to be replaced so it is reasonable to assume that these replacements will be effected at the various ports of call, thus creating more expense.
Our information is that approximately £50,000 to £60,000 was spent on the survey and if this is the case, on what was the money spent?
That is a very fair question, Mr. Speaker, having regard to the detailed allegations of faulty workmanship - and the absence of work that should have been performed under the contract. There appears to be evidence of a form of collaboration which is nauseating, particularly in view of the fact that the money that was spent on the survey was designed to safeguard lives and to protect men who are doing arduous and sometimes dangerous work with the equipment and accessoriesI have described. The ship should not have been allowed to put to sea until such time as all repairs had been effected. I think there is justification for the matter being brought to the notice of the Parliament, Mr. Speaker. I hope that the circumstances will be examined and that a full report finally will emerge from the authorities concerned.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) earlier in the evening raised some complaints about a company known as Optical Prescriptions Spectacle Makers Proprietary Limited. As far as I can see, his main complaint related to the prices that the company charges for spectacles. Other criticism that he made was that in some way, which was not very clearly defined, members of the medical profession are in league with this company and are deriving, I gather, some nefarious type of benefit from this association. Whether they are or not, I do not know, but the honorable gentleman produced singularly little evidence to support his contention. He did say that some doctors were shareholders in the company, and I understood him also to say that its shares are sold on the stock exchange. If that is so, then of course there is nothing illegal about doctors or any one else being shareholders in the company. All sorts of shares are sold on the stock exchange and no doubt doctors as well as other people buy them.
In regard to the prices charged by this company, I do not know, Sir, whether it charges more than other people do to make spectacles or whether it does not. It may be that the unhappy experience of the honorable gentleman himself was due to the fact that he had to have lenses of a particular type made and fitted, so that, whatever optometrist or optician he went to, he may have had to pay the same price. I do not know. But after all, these are not very serious charges. All that I can gather from what he had to say is that he considers the prices charged by this company to be too high and that, unfortunately for him, he had to pay them himself. Even if the prices are too high, Sir, there is nothing that the Federal Government can do about it.
The question is not whether some nefarious practice is going on between doctors who may conceivably hold shares in this company, but whether the law has been broken. The honorable member did not produce any evidence and let us have it, so it seems unlikely that either the Commonwealth Government or a State Government could take any action about it.
– Professional ethics!
– The honorable gentleman has said “ professional ethics “, and the inference apparently is that if some organization infringes what somebody considers to be the ethics of the medical profession, the Commonwealth Government should do something about it; but the ethics of even such a highly regarded profession as the medical profession are not in the hands of governments.
– Which have no ethics.
– They have no ethics, but this Government does a lot of good. The honorable gentleman also said that doctors were prescribing spectacles and that contributors to benefit organizations were obtaining benefits when they attended doctors who prescribed spectacles for them. At least, that is what I understood from what the honorable gentleman said. It is perfectly true that the National Health Act prohibits the payment of the Commonwealth benefit In such cases, but not the payment of the fund benefit which is a matter for a fund itself, when a consultation takes place at which spectacles are prescribed. Before the Commonwealth benefit is paid - and 1 point out that it is paid out by the fund to which the patient is a contributor - the organization must satisfy itself whether, in fact, spectacles were prescribed or not. Otherwise, it has no authority to pay the benefit. If a charge is to be made that in some way the law is being evaded, either by doctors giving false certificates or by the funds not carrying out their jobs, it is incumbent on honorable members who make allegations of that sort to produce at least some evidence in support of what they have said. As I have stated before in the House, if evidence is produced, I will examine it. but I will not examine charges which are made without any evidence whatever to support them.
.- I was particularly interested in the reference made to-night by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) to certain events in this House. The honorable member named five honorable members on this side and charged them with subversive activity and with being fellow-travellers. I have always wanted to know what the honorable member for Griffith stood for and I realize now, after his dinner with the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, that he is beginning to learn something. Under the influence of some propaganda and vodka, he has come out to-night and started to assert himself regarding these matters.
Before I touch on that matter, however, I want to go back to my old friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who has made the mistake of bursting into verse. It is a very dangerous thing to write a book. Remember the cry of Job, “ Oh that mine adversary had written a book “. Oh that my colleague should write a poem! The honorable member has reverted to Wordsworth or Browning for his authority, but I would take him back a little further to Horace -
The mountain labours and a ridiculous mouse is born.
It was not a rat after all! it was a mouse. It was one of those very little, happy little rhyming mice. You wind them up and they run round the house. They are innocuous, and it is pleasant for us this hour of the night to talk of these things. But as to being dangerous at all-
– A little mouse can grow into a big rat.
– Yes, a little mouse sometimes grows into a rat; but in this case, the gentle chidings of my colleague from Moreton indicate that he is a mouse who is never going to grow up. This is a little Queensland mouse. It is not going to be national in character. It will be a State.righter mouse - one of those that talk about Queensland instead of the Commonwealth. There are always those people that talk their State instead of their country.
We have in this House another curious character. I was beginning to wonder whether “ The Silence of Dean Maitland “ would be consonant with the silence of the honorable member for Griffith. Occasionally, the honorable member gets up and mumbles into his beard, and some Minister replies to what he has said; but I did not know, until he had a glass of vodka and had been stimulated by the secretary of the Seamen’s Union what he was. The secretary of the union probably said, “ Look here, old boy. You have mulcted us in fines amounting to £2,000 under the rotten set up in regard to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. What are you going to do about it? “ What could the honorable member do? He could only giggle as he does in this House. He would not know anything about it. But he has had a pleasant time and when he goes back to Queensland he will say to people, “ You know, really, when I was in Canberra I had a cup of tea or a glass of beer with a Communist “. That will make him so important up there. He will be quite a big mouse in Queensland, much larger than the mouse which was created in a rather woeful piece of doggerel by the honorable member for Moreton.
The point is that I had a little check-up on the honorable member for Griffith to see what he really represented. I found, on examining his early background, that he was a sort of bum journalist. He belonged to the what was known as the Insane Democracy League. He had a little organization and every now and then he wrote something like this: “ Are you sure the people in Canberra are looking after you? Why don’t you write a letter to your federal member?” Surely that fills us with horror! Suppose he sits back and suggests that everybody in Queensland write to some federal member. He wrote something like this: “ Are you dissatisfied with what they are doing in Canberra? Thunder forth with me in your letters to the Federal Parliament. Denounce them for what they are. Are you a Liberal or do you wear a truss? Whatever it is, have a go at them. Let us see what we can do.” Naturally, he writes such letters to the Federal Parliament.
I have always been trying to find out what the honorable member stands for. Tonight we know. It is a wonderful thing that he has been stimulated by the Communist secretary of the Seamen’s Union to come out and do something. He nominates the terrible five and I - poor little inoffensive me - I am a fellow-traveller, a terror, a rampaging genius. How damned stupid and silly!
Thus we hear from the little man from Queensland who is a oncer as ever there was one. I make a bet - and it is Melbourne Cup time and the occasion tq make a wager - that he will not be with us again. We will be raising no more glasses to toast the honorable member for Griffith. A Labour man will return triumphant. All the honorable member has ever done in this House is get up and say, “I think you ought to be very careful about your associates “. Then he immediately associates himself with the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, who would eat him without salt for breakfast. I remember his little futile scraping at the wall of public opinion to this effect. “ If you are not satisfied with your federal member “ - and that goes for the honorable member for Moreton - “ write to him “. He will probably write to the honorable member for Moreton and say he is not satisfied with what happens.
The honorable member for Griffith rose in his place the other day and asked how much cane was being destroyed in Queensland. Destruction of food is a shocking thing when people throughout the world are hungry. What sort of arrangement - Com monwealth or State - have you under which you burn the food of the nation? Yet the honorable member stands up and asks a question of that kind. That is the sort of mind he has. He names five members of this party who he thinks are subversive. No one will ever accuse him of being subversive He has not even the power to be annoying. He sits over there, and for months I have wondered what makes him tick. Behind him is my revered and loyal friend from North Sydney - silent Jack, the clock that never ticks, the man who never says a word but increases his majority from year to year. What a miraculous job that is. I wish I could emulate him. There are other people who, by their crassness, create some sort of background, but the eternal enigma in the House is the honorable member for Griffith. How did he get here? He looks like something from outer space. And having got here, what is the reason for his being here? To-night, he got up and created a most embarrassing situation for himself and the Minister, after having partaken of the good vodka and the good food, when a union leader was entertained in his own right in this building. The union leader had every right to come here, he had every right to put the case of the unionists, and the Minister had every right to entertain him. However, 1 should say that when he looks at his guest list, he should get some one a bit stronger than the honorable member for Griffith, who does not know where he is, in any event.
I shall leave the honorable member with his little problem; I know that eventually he will return to it. To repeat, “ Are you satisfied with your federal member? What has he done about age pensioners? Are you a Liberal or do you wear a truss? “ He said, “ Please write to your federal member. Send your letter through me. because I will be able to frank it to your federal member.” That is his destiny. It is the job that he had done before, and to which he will return. The honorable member has made no constructive contribution in this House. All he does is to wring his hands and say, “ Look at all the Communists on the Opposition side of the House! “ Now hz has been courageous enough - I am sure his courage has come from good solid Russian vodka - to say, “ I am game enough to-night”. Said the little mouse, creeping out from the wainscot, “I will name them to-night. I will say they are Ward and Haylen and so and so.” Then, of course, he tiptoes through the tulips and probably he is now in bed, saying to himself, “ That was a terrible thing I did. I hope everything will be all right in the morning.”
There is nothing more to say, except that we are getting very tired of a defeated Government whose Prime Minister has been belted in the United Nations and reduced to the lowest common factor in an idiotic situation-
– Mr. Speaker, I take exception to that phrase.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
– I am sorry; I was only referring to a factual situation and, being a good reporter, I usually say what I believe. But I withdraw it. My leader has asked me to withdraw it.
– And apologize.
– I apologize, too, if it will help you. But what you told me about your leader does not coincide with what you have said to-night.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) and (b) 25th August, 1955. 2. (a) and (b). Pensioners were received into the pensioner medical service if they applied for a pension and the pension was granted to be paid on or before 31st October, 1955. (c) Yes.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers are contained in the following tables: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The recently announced increase in freight rates applied specifically to the Australia-United Kingdom/Continent Conference. These Conference freight rates are negotiated on an annual basis directly between the shipowners on the one hand and the Australian producers and exporters on the other hand. Conference lines carry, in the main, “ packaged “ cargoes (including, importantly, refrigerated cargoes such as butter, fruit and meats) and undertake to provide a regular and adequate service for Australian shippers. Their rates as negotiated are related to shipowner’s costs (and not, as in the case of charter rates, to the supply-demand position).
s asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 3. I am informed that consideration has been given to proposals of the kind mentioned. So far there has been no decision to depart from the practice laid down under the Chifley Government.
m asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 1,668 R.A.A.F. personnel applied tor married quarters in the last financial year, (b) 998 married quarters were allotted in the same period.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What quantity of (a) petrol, (b) aviation turbine fuel and (c) diesel fuel was imported in the six monthly periods ended on 30th June, 1959, 31st December, 1959, and 30th June, 1960?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
Quantities of (a) petrol, (b) aviation turbine fuel, and (c) diesel fuel imported in the six monthly periods ended on 30th June, 1939, 31st December. 1959, and 30th June, 1960, were as follows:-
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
New Zealand. - 66 i gross packs each 6 oz., 333 i gross packs each 10 oz.
United States of America. - 833 i gross packs each 10 oz.
No information is available as to the quantities ot retail packs proposed for importation in the remainder of 1960-61.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation that the answer to the honorable member’s questions in each case is “ Yes “.
United States Air Force Bases in Australia.
d asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
American Air Force units, as such, have not operated in Australia since the termination of World War II. Individual aircraft and parts of units have visited Australia from time to time and details of these visits have been announced as they occurred. A meteorological unit at Alice Springs has been engaged on meteorological research since May, 1955. Arrangements have been made recently for a U.S.A.F. detachment to operate from R.A.A.F., East Sale, in November, 1960, and in May, 1961. This detachment will be engaged in upper air sampling at high altitudes between 40 degrees and 45 degrees of south latitude.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601012_reps_23_hor28/>.