23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain residents of the Australian Capital Territory praying that action will be taken to remedy the present unjust situation in the allocation of Governmentowned housing.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Is the committee which has been appointed by the Government to inquire into the wool industry vested with powers enabling it to obtain, on request, any necessary papers or documents, and to examine witnesses on oath? If not, why not?
– I am not in a position to answer the honorable member’s question precisely. I will ascertain the facts and will inform him.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. Has the attention of the Government been directed to the disastrous cyclones and consequent floods in the north-west of Western Australia? Will the Government give sympathetic consideration to any request that it make finance available for the alleviation of distress suffered as the result of these calamities? Also, should it become necessary to evacuate the town of Onslow in that area, could the Government assist in that particular operation?
– The Government is aware of and is greatly concerned by the disastrous experience of those citizens of Western Australia many of whom, I gather, are constituents of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The Government, in regard to such matters as natural calamities of this kind, has a policy which has evolved over the years, which is now quite clear and which provides the basis upon which the Commonwealth operates, with the State governments, in affording relief in defined circumstances. If the Commonwealth has not yet received any communication from the State Government, then I can indicate that any request made, conforming to this now clearly understood policy, will be very promptly and sympathetically considered.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. In view of the increasing rapidity with which the Government, having announced a policy, changes it, and the need to keep the public supplied wilh up-to-date information, will the right honorable gentleman approach the authorities with a view to having the weather officers, at the time they broadcast their daily weather forecasts, also announce the Commonwealth Government’s policy for the day? [Question not answered.]
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to representations 1 have made to the right honorable gentleman in his capacity as Minister for Trade, with regard to the large and increasing imports of canned chicken which are causing distress and loss in the already hard-pressed poultry-farming industry. He previously informed me that he was awaiting information from the industry to support the statement of damage. I ask him whether the required information has been obtained. I direct his attention also to the fact that there is a glut of chicken products in America and that for this reason there are reports that these exports are being subsidized by the American Government. Further, would he be good enough to request his officers in America to make an on-the-spot check to ascertain whether or not there is any American export subsidy being paid on these products either directly or indirectly?
– I am not aware of the payment of any direct or indirect export subsidy by the American Administration on canned or frozen poultry products, but I will take steps immediately to clear up this matter so that the Department of Trade and I may know the precise facts. I have at the moment no reason to believe that there is such a subsidy. On the broader issue which the honorable member raises and has raised before, I indicate that facilities exist under legislation which the Parliament passed last spring, under which a temporary protection can be afforded quite promptly to an industry. The procedure for bringing this protective measure into operation is that the industry concerned appoints a representative panel from its members and engages in discussions with officers of the department, who want no more than a reasonably convincing prima facie case - in fact, it is not the officers of the department but the Minister for Trade who must be convinced - upon which a reference will be made to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. The officers of my department met, on 12th January, a panel representing processors and, I think, also producers engaged in the poultry industry. I am satisfied that the information subsequently supplied was inadequate to justify 3 reference. A request for further information along indicated lines was then made, but no such further information has come to hand from the industry. About a week ago I informed the officers of my department that I would like them to approach the industry and to offer to help it establish the facts of the case as they exist.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service and refers to the civilian ‘rehabilitation committees which, as he may know, voluntarily engage in an honorary capacity in helping persons who. for various reasons, have been committed to prison. When these citizens are discharged, the committees endeavour to have them reengaged rn gainful employment so that they may again take their place in civilian life. I understand that the employment branches of the Department of Labour and National Service refuse to help to find employment for such people. If this is a fact, will the Minister say how the citizens so affected can h” rehabilitated when employment agencies refuse to cooperate?
– I believe that the assertions made by the honorable gentleman are incorrect. It is true that there are rehabilitation committees which look after the interests of people who have recently been discharged from gaol. It is a standing instruction to all regional employment officers that when approached on behalf of one of these people they are to do their best, in an unobtrusive way, without making the history of the person concerned publicly known, to see that such people are placed in employment, and to the best advantage. If there happens to be one case of which the honorable member knows in which the divisional officer or employment officer in a district has not done his best, and the honorable gentleman brings that case to my notice, I will have it attended to promptly.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Can he inform the House whether the contractual allocations that have been made for the building of houses are intact, and whether the fact that some 45 timber mills have had to close in the area between the Hunter River and the Queensland border - and I think that many other timber mills have had to close in other parts of New South Wales - is due to some other interference with the credit available for housing generally? Will the right honorable gentleman ascertain the facts with regard to these matters, and, if possible, ensure that the men thrown out of work by the closing of these mills will be re-employed?
– I have kept a very close watch on movements rn the build.ing industry. Of course, one of the barometers of activity in the building industry - perhaps the key barometer - is the movement in the employment situation in that industry. Over the broad field the situation has been that, whereas towards the end of last vear there was an excess of demand on the resources of the industry, both in terms of labour and in terms of materials - imports of materials alone having more than 1 Med over the previous year - there seems to be now a better state of equilibrium between supply and demand, certainly in regard to labour, and some lessening of pressure in the demand for materials. No doubt adjustments of that kind would have had their effects in particular directions, including effects on some of the mills to which the right honorable gentleman has referred.
No doubt he has studied the report of the Australian Tariff Board on the timber industry which would suggest that there is, over all, an excess timber-milling capacity in Australia and that even under the most favorable circumstances the full capacity of the industry could not be utilized. I assure him that it is an aim of Government policy to sustain home-building activity on a basis which is adequate for requirements and which keeps the industry generally in a healthy condition. He will be aware that about £80,000,000 a year is being found from one source or another by the Commonwealth Government for the encouragement of home building. There has been no reduction in that amount, but, of course, we shall keep the closest watch on home building and do what we can to stimulate it where we consider that to be desirable.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that I have received protests from many of my electors at the announcement of the Government’s intention to require the investment of life assurance and superannuation funds in Commonwealth securities. Can the Treasurer say whether the allegations that the contemplated legislation will affect the personal savings of those who provide for retirement pensions, will affect the ultimate benefits to contributors by an overall reduction of interest returns, may result in higher contributions, and may result in immediate capita] loss to superannuation funds, are soundly based?
– The Government is very conscious of the importance to individual subscribers to life assurance companies and superannuation funds of the investments that they make in that way and the benefits that they ultimately secure. These policy-holders have, I suggest, a very direct interest in the stability of the currency of this country. They have a direct interest in ensuring that inflation does not get out of hand. Virtually all of them are also taxpayers and as such they have an interest in seeing that the Government does not require of them contributions to capital programmes beyond the level which is necessary in the circumstances. They expect the Government to secure reasonable contributions to the loan programmes of the governments of the Commonwealth and the States. All these things have been in our minds in our examination of this general programme. When I give the full details of the Government’s proposals, as I hope to be able to do before the House completes this sessional period, I am quite certain that they will be well understood and approved by the overwhelming majority of people who have life assurance policies or who have an interest in superannuation funds.
– I refer the Minister for the Army to previous discussions that we have had concerning the recently vacated base of the Royal Australian Air Force at Rathmines, New South Wales. Has the Army decided whether it will use that base?
– Yes. During the recess this matter has been given every consideration and rt has been decided that the Army will not occupy Rathmines.
– Will the Treasurer tell the House whether he knew that the Prime Minister was to make a statement, before going overseas, announcing the reduction of the rate of sales tax on motor vehicles from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent.? Will the right honorable gentleman further say whether he will be compelled to make all future unpopular economic statements, leaving the popular announcements as the prerogative solely of the Prime Minister?
– I appreciate the concern felt by the honorable gentleman, but I can assure him that throughout my term of office as Treasurer I have worked in the closest consultation with, and with the closest co-operation of, the Prime Minister, and that every significant economic and financial decision taken by the Government has been taken after discussion between us. We do not have a situation in this Government such as that which obtained in the previous Labour Government, when the Prime Minister was also Treasurer. In the absence of such a situation, and having in mind that financial matters are at the very core of government, it is, of course, imperative that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister should work very closely together in all matters having financial significance.
As to the announcement of unpopular measures, it is an occupational hazard with Treasurers that what they say usually causes them to become somewhat unpopular in one quarter or another. I believe that the Prime Minister, who has occupied his high position for a record term, has had to make, in his time, more than his share of unpopular statements. If, occasionally, he can point to a little ray of sunshine, I am only too glad to accord him the opportunity to do so.
– Can the Treasurer say whether, in the opinion of the Government, the Reserve Bank’s directive to the trading banks to meet the reasonable requirements of those engaged in primary and other export industries has been translated into action in the policies of those banks with regard to advances?
– I know the concern which honorable members in all sections of the House feel about this matter. Following discussions with Government party members, when our parties met during the recess, I gave an assurance that not only had the directive gone forward, as announced in this House, and been transmitted by the Governor of the Reserve Bank to the general managers of the trading banks, but I had also kept closely in touch wilh the Governor of the Reserve Bank concerning the practical application of that directive. Subsequently, at my request, the Secretary to the Treasury caused this matter to be discussed fully at two meetings of the Reserve Bank Board. I have received formal advice, through him, from the Reserve Bank, in a communication dated 3rd March, to the following effect: -
The Governor is in a position to assure the Government and any other parties through whom complaints are received that the trading banks are carefully giving effect to the current qualitative credit policy, including preferential treatment to the rural industries and other export producers. This policy is adequately known throughout their institutions, and branch managers are fully aware of the need for appropriate discriminatory application of it, and the head offices of the banks stand ready to examine any complaints directed to them by their customers.
I have quoted a passage from a letter signed by an officer of the Reserve Bank. I think it gives the honorable member an assurance that the matter is firmly in the minds of the managements of the Reserve Bank and of the trading banks.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. It has reference to the ray of sunshine which he mentioned a few minutes ago. In view of the fact that the increased sales tax on motor- vehicles, which has recently been discontinued, was not imposed for revenue purposes, and in view also of the grave injustice inflicted on members of the community who purchased vehicles during the period of operation of the increased tax, as well as on many car dealers who have been left with stocks of vehicles on which the higher tax has been paid, will the Government give favorable consideration to the proposal that those who have received unfair treatment should have the extra 10 per cent, tax refunded to them?
– The Government did give careful consideration to the problem mentioned by the honorable gentleman. After weighing the technical problems and the advice received from the Commissioner oi* Taxation as to how comparable matters have been dealt with in the past, not only by this Government but by governments of which honorable gentlemen opposite were members, it decided that there should be no change in the normal practice which has continued since sales tax was first introduced in 1930. On any occasion on which sales tax is adjusted, whether upward or downward, some people who are close to the point of actual adjustment will feel that they have been disadvantaged or advantaged. However, the consistent practice has been to make no refunds in cases of this sort and I think the practical good sense of honorable members will quickly demonstrate to them the reasons why this well-established practice should be continued.
– The additional tax was imposed for only 98 days.
– If the honorable gentleman is complaining because a tax has been reduced, that is another matter. It is rather a novelty to be criticized because a tax is removed; usually the criticism runs the other way.
While the matter of revenue to which the honorable gentleman has referred was not a dominant factor in the Government’s consideration, it may be of interest to the House to have the facts on this point. If a total refund of the additional tax were to be made, the loss of revenue, on the advice received by me, would be £3,800,000. However, the number oi’ sales of motor vehicles was well down during the relevant period and despite the increased rate of tax revenue collections were actually lower than the Budget estimate for that period. So, if there were to be a complete refund, the total loss of revenue would not be £3,800,000, but £5,300,000. However, the decision was based primarily not upon the revenue aspect but upon these overriding considerations of taxation principle and practice.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of Queensland’s special difficulties, especially those occasioned or aggravated by the recent drought, will the Treasurer consider a modification of credit restrictions in that State?
– I have given special attention to the Queensland situation because at this time of year there is a seasonal unemployment pattern in Queensland which normally is relieved from about March onwards. We do not wish economic tendencies to develop there which would produce a generally unsatisfactory employment position. In point of fact, the registrations for employment at the end of January, 1961, whilst slightly above those at the end of January, 1960, which of course was the year in which the Government felt it necessary to take measures to check excessive buoyancy in the economy, were actually lower than those at the end of January, 1959, and January, 1958. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, will no doubt give details of this shortly, but so far as I am able to ascertain the position, the figures at the end of February showed approximately the same position as at the end of January.
– That was that 3.3 per cent, of workers in Queensland were unemployed.
– As the Leader of the Opposition is only too well aware, under the seasonal unemployment pattern in Queensland there is a body of workers who for much of the year are employed on seasonal work and who receive a wage which is loaded because of their seasonal employment. If he wants to have it both ways and have those seasonal workers looking to full employment throughout the year, he will have to face up to a readjustment of the wage to meet that situation. That, I am sure, he would not wish to do. The honorable member for Wide Bay may be assured that in all the respects that are relevant in Queensland we not only are maintaining a close watch, but also, where desirable, have put in train action to keep the position in balance as far as that is practicable.
– I direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Trade. The Government has frequently denied that there are restrictions on the exporting of goods from Australia by subsidiaries in this country of overseas companies, and I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware of a statement by Sir Norman Kipping, a leading British industrialist, to the effect that although some United Kingdom companies allow their Australian branches to export to New Zealand, the Philippines and the Pacific islands, not many British companies allow their branches in this country to export to Singapore and Malaya. If the Minister is aware of this statement, what action does the Government intend to take in order to rectify the situation?
– I think the point that the honorable member is making is that franchise restrictions are exercised by the overseas principals of certain companies operating in Australia. That is true, and I have spoken of it in this House before. I have said recently, and the Prime Minister himself has said recently, that in the circumstances in which overseas investors in Australia and, indeed, Australian industrialists, produce under licence for overseas principals, this Government does not accept that the climate for profit established here shall be exploited only on the Australian market and that some of these Australian subsidiaries shall be forbidden to export, or be restrained from exporting, from the Australian base. I have said that, and it is now part of my responsibility to get that through firmly to the principals as the view of the Government. I feel that I can put it as the view of this Parliament, also.
– What action do you propose?
– This is not a socialist government. The suggestion that there should be some attempt arbitrarily to compel any Australian industrial entity to export is a different thing. This Government does not contemplate compulsion. We believe that great industrialists overseas who enjoy the industrial climate in Australia can be brought to understand that restrictive franchises are not acceptable to this country.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Services, deals with an aspect of the operation of the merged means test as it applies to a person who is eligible for the age pension. I ask the Minister whether the additional investments in that person’s name are treated as being jointly owned where the spouse has not yet reached the age of eligibility for the age pension.
– Under the Social Services Act, when applying the means test to the income of both husband and wife, half the total income is deemed to be the income of one, and similarly, half the total value of the property is deemed to be the property of each of them. I can see no escape from that set of circumstances. It is the traditional formula that has been used in the application of the means test at all times.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that when the Government introduced its recent credit restrictions an instruction went out from the Reserve Bank directing the trading banks not to restrict the finance to be made available for not only export, to which the honorable member for Barker referred, but also home building? Has the Treasurer received from the Reserve Bank an assurance with regard to home building similar to that given with respect to rural exports? If he has been assured by the Reserve Bank that there has been no restriction of finance for home building, how does he account for the well-known fact that thousands of applicants who had been given promises and undertakings before November have been refused funds?
– Refused funds by the banks?
– Yes, by the banks. Because of that refusal, these people have been forced to go to other lenders, fringe and otherwise, and are being required to pay from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, for the money they are getting.
– I was interested to hear the honorable member for Yarra say that people have been refused funds for home building after having been promised such funds by the banks. But that is what he said, and it is contrary to my understanding of the way in which the banks have operated. The private trading banks are not big lenders in the home building field. The savings and State banks and other financial institutions have, of course, been the major lenders in that field.
It is true that in the course of the directive which went out to the trading banks reference was made to the Government’s intention to avoid restricting lending for such social purposes as housing. A passage from my own statement to this House was incorporated in the letter which went from the Governor of the Reserve Bank to the managements of the trading banks. I have not had the same kind of complaints or queries put to me with regard to home building applications to the trading banks as have come to me with respect to rural credit, but, since the honorable member has now raised the matter, I shall discuss it with the Governor of the Reserve Bank and see what the factual position is.
– In view of the fact that there are still large areas of Australia which have no television coverage, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he can say when a start will be made on the next stage of television development. Further, will the issue of licences in this fourth stage be expedited?
– On several occasions in this chamber I have replied to questions on this subject asked by the honorable member for Farrer and a number of other representatives interested in this matter, and the position is still as 1 outlined it previously. During the recess, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have been moving rapidly towards the stage where the implementation of phase three will be well under way. As I have stated previously, as soon as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has finalized still existent problems such as frequencies - the allocation of sites has been determined - access roads and the amount of contribution by licensees, which will be in the near future, it will apply itself to the determination of the fourth phase. I cannot lay down any specific time when this will be done, such as a month or two months, but I can assure the honorable member that decisions will not be delayed unduly.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, following secret discussions by the Cabinet, the Government has decided to sell the naval dockyard at Williamstown, Victoria. Can the right honorable gentleman advise me whether negotiations have been taking place for the private disposal of this dockyard to foreign interests? If they have, will he advise me of the stage that these negotiations have reached?
– If any discussions have taken place they have been so secret that 1 have not been taken into the confidence of the Cabinet.
– 1 address a question to the Postmaster-General. If, as I under stand the position to be, more and more mail is now being sorted on a suburban basis in order to speed delivery, is it still necessary to use postal district numbers when addressing correspondence and other mail matter?
– This is a question to which the honorable member for Ryan has already applied himself and I am now in a position to give him a little more information about it than I was able to supply previously. Hitherto, the system of using district numbers has applied only in Melbourne and Brisbane and it has not been as successful as was hoped when it was instituted. Therefore, as I notified the honorable member a little while ago, it is being discontinued. It is being discontinued also partly because of the fact that improved sorting facilities now make the use of district numbers unnecessary, but we are still proceeding with some further experiments in this direction in the Melbourne General Post Office. If those experiments indicate the desirability of reverting to this system, we shall do so.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether he will make a statement to this House at an early date with respect to two recent events in New Guinea, namely, the mutiny of certain native members of the Pacific Islands Regiment at Taurama Barracks, near Port Moresby, because of alleged dissatisfaction with their pay, and the imposition of heavy sentences on more than 100 natives at Rabaul for an assault by some of them on a fellow tribesman.
– The Leader of the Opposition will recognize that matters relating to the administration of the Pacific Islands Regiment come under the Department of Defence and the Department of the Army and that it would not be within my province to make any statements in connexion with them. As he has raised the question, however, I should like to say, as Minister for Territories, that so far as our knowledge goes, these incidents were peculiar to a local situation and must not be read as having any significance in connexion with the feeling in the Territory as a whole. I think that possibly the significance of these incidents has been slightly exaggerated. I can give some information about the situation at Rabaul immediately.
– If the Minister would permit me to interrupt him, what I had in mind was that the House should be presented with the facts relating to both situations and that the House should then have the opportunity of discussing the policy being pursued by the Government with respect to them.
– I think that in itself would exaggerate the importance of both incidents, neither of which was of great significance when considered against their background. What happened in Rabaul was that there was a small, detached group of native people which had been practising a cult which became known as the helicopter cult. It was believed that on a certain date some helicopters would land among them bringing them gifts and benefits of a general kind. This helicopter cult was ridiculed very extensively by the native people in the surrounding villages who felt so strongly about it that they carried their ridicule to such a point that the members of the cult, in self-justification, or in resentment at the ridicule to which they were being subjected by their own people, took violent steps against one of the native leaders from another village who was ridiculing them. When this native leader ridiculed them for the silly nonsense that they were talking, they beat him with sticks. In order to avoid a situation of disorder developing, the district officer made certain arrests for public disorder and brought in the offenders. They appeared before the court and were sentenced.
Now that the proceedings are over I do not think that it would be improper for me to venture the opinion that perhaps the sentences imposed were a little heavier than we, administratively, thought necessary, because we did not take the matter seriously. But the question of sentences is left to the discretion of the magistrate, who, on this occasion, apparently took a more serious view of the matter than we, administratively, would have taken.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of some of the circumstances concerning the withholding of assent to the two ordinances of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory which have been tabled to-day with accompanying statements. One of these ordinances is the Licensing Ordinance (No. 2) 1960 and the other is the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance (No. 2) 1960.
Under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act there are some bills of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to which the Administrator can assent and other bills which the Administrator must reserve for the Governor-General’s pleasure. The bills which this Parliament has said must be reserved for the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure are those dealing with the grant or disposal of Crown lands, the grant ing of any benefit to the Administrator of the Territory himself, and laws relating to aborigines or aboriginal labour - section 4v. I shall deal, first, with the Licensing Ordinance to which assent has been withheld. It is an ordinance which seeks to amend the present provisions of the law regarding penalties to be imposed on persons convicted of supplying intoxicating liquor to aborigines. The meaning of “ aborigines “ in this context is people who have been committed as wards to the care of the State.
I hope I can assume that there is no member of this House who will question the Tightness of the law of the Territory which prohibits the supply of intoxicating liquor to those aborigines who are still under the care and protection of the State. There are hundreds of persons of aboriginal race who already have taken their place as full members of the general community and are subject to no restrictions on drink ing other than those which apply to all members of the community regardless of colour. There are still, however, in the Northern Territory, as in some other parts of Australia, some thousands of aborigines who are living close to their ancient form of life and who still require special care and assistance. For such people, in a primitive state, I would say advisedly, after some experience of this matter over a period of years that stretches back beyond my ministerial experience, that there has been no greater cause of degradation or no more frequent agent of exploitation and abuse than the supply to them of intoxicating liquors. It is not simply a matter of having a few convivial drinks, for the traffic in drink among these primitive aborigines is usually associated with other evils and attended by other consequences than getting under the influence of liquor. Just as this community prohibits the supply of intoxicating liquors to persons who are under age, so, for many years past, we have prohibited the supply of liquor to aboriginal persons who are not able to govern their own drinking or to protect themselves successfully against the consequences of drinking.
As I understand the position, the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory does not join issue on this main point, but joins issue only on the question of the severity of penalties to be imposed on persons who are convicted of supplying liquor to aborigines, and the manner in which those penalties should be imposed. The present law provides that a person convicted of supplying liquor to an aboriginal is liable to a penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months and not more than one year for the first offence, and for subsequent offences imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than two years. A first offender, however, has a right of appeal to the Supreme Court which may reduce the sentence of imprisonment or substitute a fine of not less than £30 if the court is satisfied that this should be done on account of the youth of the offender or other extenuating circumstances.
The apparent severity of this law is the result of experience over a number of years. Past experience showed, firstly, that if the option of a fine were allowed the imposing of a fine became the customary penalty, and secondly, that, in a traffic in which good financial returns could be made, a fine did not act as a sufficient deterrent. Furthermore, as has been the experience elsewhere in Australia when a profitable traffic is at stake, it seems to be possible for those engaged in that traffic to make arrangements which result in every person brought before the courts being able to plead that he is a first offender. The present law gives opportunity to the genuine first offender who may have acted without design’ and in ignorance to obtain a mitigation of these harsh penalties, but it allows no opportunity for mitiga tion for the first offender who may have acted knowingly and with a deliberate intention of engaging in this traffic. The Government believes that a severe penalty is needed as a deterrent and that a severe penalty is merited by the abominable offence of making profit out of the degradation of human beings who against this evil are themselves virtually defenceless. The amending ordinance passed by the Legislative Council proposes to give the magistrate the opportunity of exercising discretion, in the case of a first offender, whether to impose a fine or to impose a prison sentence.
The view of the Government is that the penalty of imprisonment, without the option of a fine, should be maintained and that the present provisions are sufficient to ensure that in those cases where there are genuinely extenuating circumstances there is opportunity for the mitigation of the penalty by appeal to the Supreme Court. The Government believes that stringent penalties for the supplying of liquor to aboriginal wards ought to be maintained as one of the means of keeping the evil in bounds. Penalties against the supply of liquor are recognized as being only one means, and perhaps the least satisfactory means, of dealing with this grave threat to the welfare of aborigines, but we feel that we would be lacking in responsibility and would be impeding the work of the advancement of native welfare if we did not maintain this deterrent in its full force.
The second ordinance under notice is the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance, which was reserved by the Administrator for the Governor-General’s pleasure, in accordance with section 4w (d) of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, because its provisions were similar to those of an ordinance on the same subject which previously had been disallowed by the Governor-General. The ordinance provides firstly for the setting up of licensed betting shops at approved places to furnish facilities for off-course betting and, secondly, it imposes more stringent conditions than were contained in earlier legislation regarding the way in which such betting shops should be conducted. Although the Government recognizes that an earnest attempt has been made by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to help overcome some of the abuses that might arise in providing facilities for legalized offcourse betting, the Government still maintains its basic objection in policy to the licensing of betting shops.
After careful consideration, the Government has reached the opinion that it is not prepared to approve of the legalizing of betting shops in the Territory and that its earlier objections on policy should be maintained. In taking this view it has had regard to the fact that it not only has an administrative responsibility in the Northern Territory but also has to consider such social questions from a wider national stand-point.
In conclusion, may I inform the House that, contrary to some opinions that have been canvassed outside this House, the Government has exercised very seldom its right to advise the Governor-General either to disallow an ordinance of the Northern Territory Legislative Council or to refuse assent to an ordinance. In the ten years from 1951 to 1960 inclusive, 286 ordinances have been passed by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, including a number of ordinances based on bills introduced by private members. During that period, although 286 ordinances have been passed, only two ordinances have been disallowed and five have failed to obtain assent. There were five other ordinances from which assent was withheld, but in these cases the action was taken solely in order to provide an opportunity to cure defects in drafting by the re-introduction of the measures and the decision had no relation to the substance of the measures. So out of 286 ordinances, there have been two disallowed and five which have failed to gain assent because of their substance. The two ordinances that were disallowed and two of those which failed to pain assent concerned legalized betting shoos. It is the same recurrent proposal against which the Government has withheld its approval. One which lapsed for want of assent in 1951 concerned lands. Another which lapsed for want of assent in 1 959 r-nd one for which assent was refused wre related directly or indirectly to drink.in. bv aborigines.
From those figures I submit that, in spite of statements that are sometimes made, the Government has not exercised its power or what might be termed the power of veto capriciously. and has exercised it only on these two social questions of drinking among aborigines and the legalizing of betting shops.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of interest to the reasons given by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for the disallowance by the Government of two amendments to legislation recently passed by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, he did nothing to clarify the main point at issue - the right of the Legislative Council to make laws for the order and good government of the Northern Territory. It is not a question of the view of the Government on a particular matter. Rather it is a matter of what a majority of members of the Legislative Council can do in respect of legislation.
It might be well if we recall the fact that the elected members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory are in a minority and, to pass legislation through that council, they have to win the support of two, at least, of three nominated non-official members who have been appointed to the council by the Government itself. If the elected members win the support of two of those three nominated non-official members they become the majority and pass legislation through the council. This is what has happened in respect of the two measures that have been disallowed. These members have, in their wisdom, declared that the measures which they supported were passed in the best interests of the people of the Northern Territory, after due consideration and by a majority decision of that council.
We challenge what has been done in this matter on a question of principle and not on a question of whether or not the Government holds certain views in respect of the legislation. The Government has completely disregarded that aspect of the matter. No mention of it was made in the Minister’s speech. Let us look back a matter of twelve months to the legislation which the Government introduced into this House to amend the set-up of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. That legislation was brought in as the result of a walkout by all the elected members of the Legislative Council, as the result of which the council ceased to function. I quote from page 857 of “Hansard” of the 19th March, 1959, when the Minister introduced the legislation. He had this to say -
The main elements in that reform are: Firstly, a strengthening of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and changes in its structure and membership designed to make it more widely representative of the Northern Territory community- and I emphasize these words - and to end the official majority in the Council.
If that does not presuppose that in future the Government will take heed of the wish of the majority of members of the council, I do not know what it does mean.
In a matter of months the council has passed two very important pieces of legislation - among others - and after a lapse of five months they have been disallowed. The time lapse is significant. I think the Government should at least have said to the council, “ We are not interested in this legislation. Take it back and amend it.” But six months passed before the disallowance provisions were brought into force.
If we examine the licensing ordinance, we find that the elected members, in their wisdom, together with the Government’s nominated non-official members, considered that some discretionary power should reside in the magistrate when trying cases involving the supply of liquor to natives. Is this some unusual provision in the laws of Australia? Certainly not! There is provision everywhere for discretionary power to be exercised by a magistrate. Has the Government so little confidence in the magistrates that it is unwilling to allow this power to reside in their hands? There is provision in existing legislation for an appeal to be brought to the Supreme Court against conviction by a magistrate. Certainly, convicted persons can appeal, but what is the cost involved? Appeals are costly procedures. We say that the power should reside in the hands of the magistrate who in the first instance tries a person for this offence. I would be the last one to water down the provisions for the punishment of a person for supplying liquor to natives, because I know what the consequences are.
AH the members of the Legislative Council know the dire consequences that can flow from the practice of supplying liquor to natives, and they can face up to their responsibilities. Knowing the consequences, they still feel that in exceptional cases a discretionary power in the hands of the magistrate is needed. That is all they ask. We know that from time to time there are cases in which there are exceptional circumstances, and we also know the agitation that has arisen on occasions in regard to particular cases, appeals concerning which have later been upheld by the Supreme Court. At the present time the law in the Northern Territory makes a mockery of the old principle that it is better that twenty guilty persons escape than that one innocent person be convicted. The law in the Northern Territory now reverses that principle, and the hands of the magistrate hearing a case are bound in such a way that he has no alternative to the imposition of a penalty of six months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine.
The members of the Legislative Council who considered these measures are men of experience in the Northern Territory. It is true that officers of the Native Welfare Department have had wide experience in administering the laws applicable to the natives - but so, too, have the members of the Legislative Council. They are all residents of the Northern Territory. Some of them have- resided there all their lives. They, too, have the interests of the natives at heart, and they would be the last persons in the world to wish to see placed on the statute-book any legislation that would be detrimental to the interests of the natives. That is the position at present.
Now I pass to the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance. I remind the Minister of the high moral principle expressed on page 4 of the typewritten copy of his statement regarding the disallowance of this measure. He said, referring to the Government - in talcing this view if has had regard to the fact that it not only has an administrative responsibility in the Northern Territory but also has to consider such questions from the wider national stand-point.
The Minister should know - and I think he does know - that already similar laws exist in Victoria and New South Wales, and that Queensland is also considering legislation along these lines. So apparently the State governments feel no concern such as is felt by the Commonwealth about this kind of legislation. The members of the Legislative Council believe that exceptional circumstances exist in the Northern Territory which make desirable an amendment along the lines suggested.
The amendments to these two laws which the Northern Territory Legislative Council has made were prompted by the constituents of members of the council. The members have not just thought these things up themselves. They have heeded the wishes of the electors whom they represent, and have put these wishes into legislative form. They consider that these measures are not irresponsible. They regard them as measures that would satisfy some of the needs of the people in that part of the world.
The disallowance of the two bills, Mr. Speaker, has already brought about the resignation of the two members of the Legislative Council who were nominated by the Government as members of the Administrator’s Council, which is a vital corollary of the Legislative Council. Those two members have resigned in protest against the disallowance of the two measures, not so much, I believe, because of what is contained in the measures, but as a matter of principle. Their resignation, of course, brings to a standstill the work of the Administrator’s Council, and I feel that in the long run it will also bring to a standstill the whole of the work of the Legislative Council itself.
The people of the Northern Territory are asking what value there was in the words that the Government used when it introduced an amended constitution for the Legislative Council which, it claimed, would widen the powers of the council, thus placing more power in the hands of the people of the Northern Territory. These people are now asking whether they are living in a democracy. The action taken by those two members of the Legislative Council is the only way they have of registering an emphatic protest. That action will prevent the functioning of a very important part of the Northern Territory’s legislative machinery. I say to the Minister that the present situation calls for some prompt action on the part of the Government to restore the position and to widen the power of the Legislative Council so as to allow the people in the north the right that should belong to any people in a democracy - the right to have a say in their own destiny. It is only by giving people in the north, or anywhere else for that matter, an effective say in the control of their destiny that you can have a happy and contented people.
Mr. HASLUCK (Curtin- Minister for Territories). - In accordance with the provisions of section 4z of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1959, 1 lay on the table the following papers: -
Licensing Ordinance (No. 2) 1960.
Lottery and Gaming Ordinance (No. 2) 1960.
These are the ordinances to which assent has been withheld by the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth. I also table a statement of the reasons for withholding of assent in each case.
– I have received the following letter, dated 7th March, 1961, from the Chairman of Committees: -
Acting on the most compelling medical advice, I am obliged to vacate my Office of Chairman of Committees, and in so doing desire to express my appreciation and gratitude for the help and courtesy extended to me by all honorable members and all officers of the House.
– With regret, in the circumstances, I move -
That the resignation be accepted, and that the House proceed forthwith to appoint a Chairman of Committees.
May I, at the same time, Sir, venture to express what I am sure is the feeling of all members of the House - that it is with great regret that we learn that the medical advice tendered to our Chairman of Committees is such as impels him to vacate his office at this time, and to say that we hope and believe that his acceptance of that advice will contribute measurably to the restoration of his health.
I add that we lose, as Chairman of Committees of this place, a very very good Australian, a good and gallant soldier, a good private citizen, a good parliamentarian and a strong and wise and tolerant Chairman of Committees. George Bowden has been a great asset to the House of Representatives during his occupancy of the office of Chairman of Committees.
– I support all that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) has said about our colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). The honorable member is a member of the party to which the Acting Prime Minister belongs, and naturally the Acting Prime Minister would know the qualities of the honorable member for Gippsland better, perhaps, than other honorable members would. But we all know the very many good qualities of the honorable member for Gippsland. We have known him here now since he came in in 1943. He is a genial companion to travel with on the work of parliamentary committees. In the chamber he is always tolerant, as the Acting Prime Minister said, and, without nattering him at all, I think that from the Opposition point of view and, I hope, from the point of view of every honorable member, he is one of the best Chairmen of Committees that this chamber has known. He tried to govern with a light rein, if I may use a term that will appeal to the members of the Australian Country Party. He was not one who wished to use the whip. He always tried to understand the troubles in the minds of people who, at one time or another, may have been at variance with the Chair.
We are very sorry to see the honorable member for Gippsland compelled, under the circumstances, to tender his resignation to-day. We wish him a restoration of good health at a very early date. We know that he was very active in the councils of the Australian Country Party for many years before he came into this Parliament. Tt is only in recent years that he has been afflicted as he has been, but he tells us that his condition is not incurable and that he can be relieved of pain and to enjoy quite a good deal of health for a long time yet. He made the decision to retire from the Parliament some time ago. We wish him well in his retirement, but we will have an opportunity of saying that later.
When I heard, only this morning, from the Acting Prime Minister that the honorable member for Gippsland was about to retire from the office of Chairman of Com mittees my mind went back over the service given to this Parliament by those who, at one time or another, have represented Gippsland in this Parliament. I have not had time to consult any record, but, if my memory serves me rightly, the first three members for Gippsland all served as Ministers. The first was Mr. Allan McLean, who was, before federation, a Premier of Victoria. The next was Mr. George H. Wise, who was once PostmasterGeneral. The next was Mr. Thomas Paterson, who was also a Minister, and a number of us still here remember him well. Then he retired and was succeeded by the present honorable member for Gippsland, who, whilst he did not become a Minister, served with great ability as a Chairman of Committees. On behalf of every member of the Opposition, without exception - I emphasize those words - I wish the honorable member for Gippsland all good fortune in the remaining period of his service in this Parliament. Sir, with due respect to his successor and anybody else who may occupy the chair, we shall miss him greatly in more senses than one.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as leader of the Liberal Party, would wish me, in his absence, to associate him and our colleagues of the parliamentary party with these expressions of good will to the retiring Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). He has enjoyed, as has been so well said, the affection and respect of every member in this place. He has conducted himself in his office with the ability and impartiality which we expect of the occupant of the chair, and in accordance with the highest traditions of the Parliament. Because of his work in this House he has an honoured place in the history of our federation.
My personal association with the honorable member for Gippsland, in this place, now extends over eighteen years, during which we have viewed the scenery from both sides of the chamber. I have many happy memories of a warm, friendly, personal association with him. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has pointed out, it is not required of us to farewell him from the Parliament at this stage. We hope that, with a full restoration of health, he will be able to continue in enjoyment both of this Parliament and of his recollections of this Parliament for many years to come. We of the Parliament say “ Thank you. You carry with you on your retirement from your office the best wishes and affection of every member in this place.”
– Before 1 put the motion I want to say, on my own behalf and on behalf of the temporary chairmen of committees and all the officers who have been so closely associated with the Chairman of Committees, how grateful we have been to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) for his loyalty, co-operation and support. We are very sorry to learn of the circumstances that have made it necessary for him to retire and we all hope that he will recapture his health and enjoy the evening of his life in the best of spirits.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne- Leader of the Opposition). - I move -
That the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion. [There being no further proposals] -
– In accordance with the Standing Orders the bells will be rung and a ballot taken. Ballot-papers will be distributed and honorable members are asked to write on the ballot -paper the name of the candidate for whom they wish to vote. The candidates are Mr. Clark and Mr. Lucock. [The bells having been rung, and ballotpapers being distributed] -
– Is this a ballot. Mr. Speaker, in which I, as member for the Northern Territory, am entitled to participate?
– The honorable member has no right to vote in this ballot. [A ballot having been taken] -
– Order! The result of the ballot is - Mr. Lucock, 70 votes; Mr.
Clark. 42 votes. Mr. Lucock is therefore declared elected.
Mr. McEWEN (Murray - Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade). - As Mr. Lucock has now been chosen as Chairman of Committees, may 1 now offer the congratulations of the House to him and say that we believe he will occupy the position with dignity, with distinction and with credit to the House. As we know, Mr. Lucock has been a Temporary Chairman of Committees and has not infrequently occupied the chair. We know that he rs a master of the Standing Orders and is a man of intelligence and integrity. The House looks forward with great confidence to his sustaining the traditions of this high office.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne - Leader of the Opposition). - The Opposition wishes Mr. Lucock well in the new office in which he finds himself by a vote of the House. We are sure that he will do his best to administer the Standing Orders with ability and with fairness to members of both sides. We give no promise as to what will happen after the next election if we are in the fortunate position of having the numbers instead of being without them as we are at present. Mr. Lucock has been in the Parliament for a number of years now and has acted as a Temporary Chairman. As far as the Opposition is concerned, we have no reason to take great umbrage at his rulings. If the approach that he has adopted while he has occupied the position of Temporary Chairman continues, we have no reason to believe that the relationship between us will be disturbed.
Mr. HAROLD HOLT (Higgins- Treasurer). - On behalf of the members of the Liberal Party in this House, I join very sincerely in the expressions of goodwill and congratulations that have come from the Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to Mr. Lucock. His form is well disclosed and we have every confidence that in his continued occupancy of the chair, now in a more permanent capacity than formerly, he will maintain the same dignity, impartiality and capacity that has marked those occasions on which he has acted as Chairman. He can be assured of the support of all sections of the House, and for my part I know of no reason why he should not enjoy a long term of office, unless his ambitions stretch in other directions.
– May I thank the House for the honour it has accorded to me in electing me to the position of Chairman of Committees. I also thank those who have offered their congratulations and good wishes to me. Like other honorable members, I regret that the situation arose which necessitated the retirement of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) from this office. He is a man who, it has been rightly said, had the affection and respect of members on both sides of the House, and I would pay my tribute to him for the assistance he has given me and the kindness he has shown me during my term of office as Temporary Chairman. All I say is that I will do the best I can to maintain the highest and best traditions of this office and to maintain the high standard of impartiality that has been shown by my predecessors.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 1 7, 1 lay on the table my warrant, nominating Mr. Chaney, Mr. Clark, Mr. Failes, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Haworth, Mr. Luchetti, Mr. Makin, Mr. Peters and Mr. Wight to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
– I have received a copy of the resolution passed by the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea on the occasion of a presentation of a President’s chair by the Commonwealth Parliament. The resolution was as follows: -
We, the Members of the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, in Council assembled, express our thanks to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia for the Chair which they have presented to this Council for the use of its President in the new Chamber.
We were highly honoured to receive the Delegation by whose hand the presentation was made and extend to its members a warm welcome to this Territory.
We warmly reciprocate the greetings brought to this Council from the Commonwealth Parliament, and request the Members of the Delegation to convey to their colleagues our assurances that the Chair, so generously given to this Council, will long be treasured as an historic possession
Mr. Chipp, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator (vide page 9), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I am very sorry that I rise to make my maiden speech in this place in the atmosphere of sadness which obtains at this time. Feelings of great regret and sorrow are in the hearts of all members of this House at the tragic death of our late Governor-General.
I could not pass on to what I have to say without referring to another sad occasion - the death of my predecessor as member for Higinbotham, Mr. Frank Timson. Since my election, the tremendous esteem in which Mr. Timson was held has been continually impressed upon me. The honour of following such a man into the Federal Parliament of this country is indeed great.
I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility at being elected to this Parliament at a time when the most exciting years of Australia’s history and development are about to take place. There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that no country in the world to-day has the potential for growth which we have. Dramatic opportunities similar to those which were available in the United States of America some 30 years ago, and which stirred the imagination of all peoples of the free world, now abound in Australia to an even greater degree. The fabulous fifties set a pattern of success and prosperity which aroused world comment, but I have no doubt that their achievements will be overshadowed and outmatched by our experiences in the sixties which we have now entered. As one who is new to the Parliament and who therefore is still virtually a member of the lay public, as it were, I say that the economic base now established for the launching of this further decade of prosperity and success is sound and solid. The foundations have been laid with meticulous care and attention.
I am convinced that the people of Australia have accepted the Government’s economic policies as being necessary adjustments to keep the economy on course. The people have come to the inevitable conclusion that the economic progress of this country made during the last decade, the maintenance of the high rate of immigration, the ever-increasing development of our natural resources, the continuous upward trend in the standard of living and the maintenance of full employment do not happen by accident but are the result of day-to-day vigilance and attention to the changing economic stimuli which are a feature of twentieth-century economics. I am equally sure, Sir, that the people of Australia overwhelmingly endorse this concept of periodic adjustment in preference to reversion to those old-fashioned policies - or that oldfashioned lack of policies, should I say - which allowed light-headed and carefree booms which inevitably were followed by catastrophic depressions.
I therefore make no apology for not concentrating my attention on the economic situation of the nation at this time, for I sincerely believe that it is basically sound that the economy is straining at the leash to expansion and progress. I would rather direct my attention to a problem which I believe to be most urgent and vital to the future of our country in both the short and the long term. I refer to the need for a more even distribution of the human and physical resources of our nation. T hesitate to use the word “ decentralization “, because, strangely, the thought expressed by so many oft-repeated terms sometimes becomes hackneyed itself, and I believe that if the concept of decentralization ever becomes hackneyed in this place a terrible danger to Australia will immediately have been created.
His Excellency the Administrator referred to the Government’s plans for the Northern Territory, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and northern Australia generally. Having just returned from an extended visit to these areas, I feel impelled to take this opportunity to add my views to those voiced in this place by honorable members who have said before that this problem of the north is one of national urgency. For a member who represents a city electorate in the south, as I do, to choose to discuss in his maiden speech the problems of the far north may seem strange. I do this quite wilfully, because I believe that no other issue is more inextricably woven into the future destinies of all Australians, whether they be city dwellers or whether they live in the remote areas of our country, than is this one.
As I see it, there are two basic reasons why this problem is so urgent. First, there is the sociological aspect, and, secondly, the political aspect. Let me take the sociological aspect first. The more recent years of the twentieth century, with their processes of automation, have brought sociological and psychological problems into the midst of our community. There is undoubtedly a progression towards that state of affairs in which the labours of the work force of to-day are being directed towards more specialized operations. This specialization takes away that very sense of achievement which keeps a man socially alive and stimulates him to greater things.
For purposes of comparison, let us go back to the days when the artisan, at the end of his labours each day, was able to see some identifiable manifestation of the combination of his time, his skills and his abilities. In those days, we would surely have noted a sense of satisfaction - subconscious though it may have been - because of his personal achievement over any given period. Automation, on the other hand, with its techniques of mass production, is creating a work force of highly specialized artisans who apply a specific skill to one operation in the production of a highly complex unit. The artisan of to-day is denied the satisfaction of observing the results of his labours. The oldfashioned cobbler commenced the day with some leather, a hammer, a knife and some tacks. He concluded the day with his completed shoes. The skilled motor mechanic of to-day is denied this satisfaction, because his individual contribution to the completed article - the motor vehicle - appears to him to be infinitesimal.
Sociologists and psychologists who have studied this problem intensively strongly recommend that the leaders of the twentieth century find additional compensations to fill this gap. Obviously, many such compensations are being found to-day. But the challenge of a new frontier, with the inherent satisfaction of a feeling that one has made a contribution towards the development of the remote areas of a nation, would provide a magnificent solution to this problem for the many Australians who still have in them the spirit of adventure.
Those honorable members who have met the territorian on his home ground in the Territories will agree that he has a joy in living and an indefinable quality about his philosophy which, as the poet once said, the city folk never know. If this spirit of adventure which made our country great is not re-kindled, 1 fear for the results of the dehumanizing processes now at work in our capital cities. But the evidence at hand shows that a philosophy of “ Go north, young man! “ will not be developed unless encouragement is given. The determination of the means of encouragement needs the most careful study.
Very important social factors are involved also in the mushroom growth of a capital city. We in Australia are extraordinarily fortunate’ to have maintained a high sense of public morality in all our big cities and elsewhere. However, there are those who estimate that Melbourne and Sydney will each have attained a population of 4,000,000 within the next 25 years. At our present rate of development, this will present us with an unbalanced situation in which we will have a disproportionate concentration’ of people in our southern and coastal areas while the major part of our 3,000,000 square miles is still relatively unused. If the experiences of other big cities can be taken as any guide, we must always be fearful of the possibility of a sudden deterioration in our public morals and social values if our capital cities continue to expand as they are expanding at the present time.
One might well ask the question, “ Why do not people go out of the cities and live elsewhere now? “ The answers to that question could be many and varied but, basically, one line of argument is that people will follow industry. Having had some little experience in my previous employment of trying to induce overseas industrialists to settle in Australia, I know that when they were confronted by their accountants with a summary of the unit cost of producing in a town or country area several miles away from a capital city, the proposition was not and could not be acceptable to them. The simple truth was that, while certain economies such as lower labour turnover and so on could be effected by manufacturing in the larger suburban or country areas, the great increase in unit cost of production brought about by additional transport charges would virtually price them out of the market. I feel that for too long the State governments in particular have regarded this solely as a transportation problem. But the Ministers for Transport in the various States cannot be blamed for not accepting full responsibility for the decentralization of industry. The Minister for Transport in each State is endeavouring to administer his portfolio in a businesslike way and cannot be expected to find out of his vote that amount of money which would be necessary to equate the higher cost of moving industry to the country. The point I want to make is that for too long it has been regarded as a simple transportation problem. I believe it is a most urgent national problem.
Secondly, there is an urgent political need for utilizing our remote areas. I have sometimes wondered at the task that will face our Australian representative at the United Nations ten years from now. I should imagine that he will find considerable difficulty in opposing with any forceful argument the claims of the undernourished and over-populated nations in connexion with our northern areas if, by that time, we have not made a major practicable contribution to the development of the north.
Let nothing that I have said be construed in any way as criticism of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) or his department. From my observations, if the work of any government department cries aloud for praise of the highest order, it is that of the Department of Territories. It has done most commendable work over the past few years. For example, the welfare work amongst the full blood natives in the Northern Territory for the good of their bodies, minds and souls has been little short of staggering, especially when we remember the magnitude of the problem. The success achieved with the assimilation and integration of partcoloured people has been admired and acclaimed by many world authorities. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea a start has been made on the many and varied complex situations there. This has been most encouraging for there is being applied to it that wisdom of approach which has been so tragically lacking in the approach to problems connected with the Congo and other places.
To justify what I have said - it might be looked upon as critical or provocative - let me say in conclusion that there is no doubt in my mind that a well-considered master plan of development for our remote areas, conceived in the broadest of terms, should be adopted immediately. The cost of its implementation will be enormous, but the price of not proceeding with it is unthinkable.
During the past several weeks I have spoken to hundreds of leading citizens of these territories and asked them for their opinions as to how their respective areas could be developed. I was astonished at the range and variety of replies I received. With all due respect to those with whom I spoke, it was obvious that each was motivated by a parochial impulse. This, of course, is inevitable and, as far as the individual is concerned, it is as it should be. Because of the complexity and magnitude of the problem, I believe that the most difficult aspect of conducting a survey and formulating a master plan will be the lack of objectivity of those persons who give evidence, and, indeed, of the architects of the plan who receive that evidence.
I have wondered whether it is possible for any group of Australians, no matter how representative they may be in the commercial, industrial, professional, academic, trade union, government or any other field of endeavour, to view this problem concerning their own country with that complete objectivity and dispassionate thought which I am sure all members in this House would consider vital to such a project. I would therefore suggest that the Government might give consideration to appointing from outside Australia a group of experts who might come in with a completely fresh approach, with no basic prejudices about the possibility of these areas and with no precon ‘ed ideas or notions about their potential. There are many such world-respected organizations in the United Kingdom, in the United States of America and elsewhere. To give one example, the Stanford Research Institute of California, a product of the Stanford University and a well-respected organization, has done similar studies with outstanding results in many countries of the world. Indeed, it was retained recently by t’-° Government of Victoria to report on the industrial and commercial potential of that State.
We all believe that the potential of our far north knows no bounds. Probably we al! have different ideas as to where development should commence and at what rate it should proceed. There are some who believe that the tax instrument should be used more heavily in providing economic relief and encouragement to the citizens of the north. There are others who claim that to declare Darwin and other places on our northern seaboard free ports would give the required stimulus. There are those who believe that tUc growth of citrus fruits in the Alice Springs area, with the consequent production of concentrated fruit juices, would be successful, and there are many other personal and specific ideas as to how certain parts of the Territory could be developed. The co-ordination of these ideas and their compilation into a master plan is, I believe, a vital necessity to the future of our country. Tn my opinion the fresher the mind and the more objective the approach, the more valuable will the finished product be.
The second and final suggestion I have to make is that I believe that the magnificent performance of such statutory corporations as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority might well be borne in mind when the development of our remote areas is being planned. This suggestion is consistent with my feeling that the people who are so close to the problem are sometimes influenced by basic impulses and parochial feelings. The Government, in considering the development of our remote areas, should bear in mind the setting up of a statutory corporation or an independent commission. I am sure that it will. Let us continue to multiply the magnificent work that already is being done by the Department of Territories and by the Government in these remote areas. To do so would make the future of every Australian so much brighter than it is.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I commend to the House the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator of the Commonwealth.
.- Mr. Speaker, I realize and fully appreciate the honour and the privilege that have been extended to me in being called upon to second the motion which has been proposed so ably by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp). The people of Calare whom I represent in this House want me to identify them closely with the expressions of loyalty and goodwill which have been addressed to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II., and to express to Viscountess Dunrossil their sympathy at the passing of the late Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. At this stage suffice it to say that I feel that the finest epitaph came from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Gilroy, who referred to the late Viscount Dunrossil as the very essence of graciousness and a perfect Christian gentleman.
The Administrator’s Speech covered a wide variety of matters of national importance, but I intend to confine my remarks to what I believe to be probably the most important of all - the decrease in our overseas balances. We all know that we have been living beyond our means internationally. To correct that state of affairs we must spend less or earn more, or do both. It is very pleasing, therefore, to learn from the Administrator’s Speech that the Government intends to tackle this problem. Its present financial policy, with which with some reservations I agree, and its proposed policies, which have been foreshadowed for debate in the House, are intended to restore a better balance between supply and demand, and consequently to put a brake on inflation. Economic measures apply certain pressures. “ Pressure “ is an ordinary word, but we should realize that the pressures of anti-inflation measures are felt particularly by some people and very often cause hurt. I hope that the Government will always keep that aspect in mind. Adjustments are necessary as we go along to counteract those pressures.
I should like to refer to ‘the timber industry, particularly that portion of it which deals with our own indigenous hardwoods. The industry is in trouble. I do not know whether the trouble has been caused by the Government’s financial policy, the lifting of import restrictions or the modern scientific approach to the use of wall-boards and so on, but this is an acute problem which the Government must face and tackle realistically in an endeavour to find a solution. Here is an industry that the Australian Country Party has fought for years to preserve. It is just what we want - a decentralized industry with the forests in the country, the mills in the country and the work force in the country. That is where we want to keep them.
I do not belittle the seriousness of the situation or the importance of the steps that already have been taken, nor do I belittle the hurts that some people have suffered as a result of the necessary policies which have been adopted. Nevertheless, the Government’s corrective measures are only shortterm ones, and I believe that in a few months the problem will be resolved.
I am more encouraged by the reference in the Speech to the Government’s plans to overcome the big problems of the future, among which is the problem of how we, as a nation, can earn more than we have in the past. The Government intends to take practical steps towards the development of export industries and my electorate, itself a big exporter of wheat and wool, must be happy to see that the Government’s plans cover both primary and secondary industries. I have been given the great responsibility of representing about 80,000 men, women and children in the electorate of Calare - a magnificent tract of country stretching both ways from the Lachlan River and with the north-eastern portion centering on the city of Orange. We depend largely on pastoral and agricultural pursuits, but we are very proud of the secondary industries in the area which are headed by the Emmco factory, woollen mills, clothing factories, engineering works, canneries, flour-mills and so on. But we need more secondary industries to balance our economy and to stabilize employment. One of the great policy differences in this country is in the emphasis that is placed on the importance of either primary or secondary industry. The correct answer to the problem is that we should have a balanced economy. The only matter of difference is where the point of balance lies. I bring to the House the view of my constituents that we must have more decentralized secondary industries, but we are bound to keep in mind that at the same time there is both a great need and a great opportunity in the face of a rapidly expanding world population, to develop to the fullest both the variety and the volume of production of our primary industries.
When we talk of increasing primary production we must get down to fundamentals. Three things are necessary - warmth, fertile soil and moisture. In this country we have warmth in abundance, and generally we have fertile soils, although over the years experience has shown that rn some parts the application of fertilizers is essential to bring the soil to the desired standard of fertility. That this is realized by the people who work the land is adequately borne out by the fact that the use of superphosphate has doubled in the last fifteen years and over £20,000,000 is spent each year on it. But notwithstanding this, only one acre in six is now being treated in any way with superphosphate. Surely there is a terrific potential for increasing our primary production. Big money is involved. To spread at an average rate dictated by normal circumstances out there it is estimated that an amount of £450 and £600 per living area is involved. The limiting factor is, of course, predominantly finance. While welcoming the Government’s proposals to increase production, I would like to see its thinking directed towards some scheme to make finance available for this purpose. As a man on the land, I say that we do not ask for finance by way of a grant or hand-out; but we ask for finance to be made available by way of an advance at ruling rates of interest, to be returned as results are shown. I believe that would he one of the greatest and most spectacular ways to increase production from the land in this country. I suggest it would be a true business venture on the part of the Government, and one which I say from experience is sure to succeed in greatly increasing production.
Referring still to that portion of the Administrator’s Speech which dealt with increased export income, I wish to discuss the third of the matters which I have mentioned - water. In my opinion, here lie the big work and the big future for this country. The experience of America has shown that her big success is directly tied to her harnessing of her water resources. I refer, of course, to the use of water for irrigation purposes. While I do not attempt to enter into any discussion or give any opinion on the relative cost of water power as against thermal power, or to comment on the prospects of the use of nuclear power in the future on a commercial basis, I do refer to the harnessing of our water supplies as a valuable adjunct to our existing power supplies.
I realize that in this country there is the limiting factor of a lower rainfall. In that regard we cannot compete with the rainfall which occurs in some overseas countries, but I do not think we should rest until we have controlled what we already have at our disposal. I also realize that under our Constitution it is generally the responsibility of the States to carry out these works and I believe that the Snowy Mountains scheme has shown the way. Here is an undertaking which has placed us in world class. It is an undertaking of which every government which has had anything to do with its commencement or subsequent prosecution can well be proud. It is an undertaking of which every contracting firm, every workman and every taxpayer who has contributed to it can well be proud. But already we see that some of the contracts and sub-contracts are terminating and, in fact, the Administrator stated in his Speech yesterday that the Upper Tumut development is close to completion. I wonder what is to happen to these teams of workmen with their brains, experience, specialized equipment and teamwork. I suggest that the Commonwealth should retain the lead in this great problem of water conservation and I am sure that it can be done within the bounds of the present Constitution.
I suggest that the first task is an Australiawide survey of our water resources, to be carried out by Commonwealth authorities. The second task is to lay down Commonwealth priorities. The third and final task of the Commonwealth is to allot funds ear-marked for this priority work. This can be done under section 96 of the Constitution, and, in fact, I refer to a statement issued by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) on 26th February last, that the Commonwealth is prepared, where necessary, to devise special financial arrangements to encourage projects on which export depends, and especially where those projects are of such a size as to place them beyond the resources of a single State. All this does not preclude any one State from carrying out whatever work of water conservation it decides upon.
I realize that my time is short, but I was pleased to-day to hear the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) give notice of his intention to submit a motion on the subject of decentralization and the honorable member for Higinbotham mention the same problem. I do not wish to speak at any great length on this national problem of the evil of overconcentration of our population and industries on the coast. There are many good business and social reasons why the movement has taken place in that direction, but I suggest it is time that the movement was reversed. I say it should be reversed in the interests of the well-being and safety of this country. I very much regret that in the Administrator’s Speech there was no detailed reference giving us any hope of the possibility of a quick reversal of that movement.
It is held, in the main, that the States are responsible for the distribution of their own populations but, with the Commonwealth charged by the Constitution with the responsibility for defence, there should be some positive thought given to this dangerous and growing problem. The three main Services were mentioned in the Speech, but I regret that it contained no mention at all of what is now called the fourth arm of defence - civil defence. From my own small experience of civil defence, as a volunteer, I know there are many people and a number of States waiting for a lead from the Common- wealth in the appointment of a Commonwealth director of civil defence - a position which, to the best of my knowledge, has been vacant for some time. We are looking forward to seeing that position filled. There is one powerful means by which the Commonwealth can give weight to this movement of population away from the coast, and that is through the power of uniform taxation. I would like to see thought given, perhaps in the preparation of the next Budget, to some building-up of a zoning principle in taxing, with the possibility of bringing about some more equitable distribution of population.
Finally, the Administrator’s Speech gives promise of long-range constructive legislation to be debated in the coming session - legislation which I, as a Country Party member and a supporter of the coalition Government am anxious, in general, to support and which, more importantly, I feel sure my electorate will require me to support. I am sure, also, that what I voice by way of suggestions for the building-up of income from primary production is what is sought in my own electorate. Here lies the long-range but certain answer to many of our problems: Greater emphasis on water conservation for the purposes of irrigation and flood mitigation, together with its use as a valuable adjunct to water power. This, tied in with State cooperation in soil conservation and reafforestation, will provide the grand answer to the future of this country.
Here, I suggest, lies boosted production for both primary and secondary industry. Here lies closer settlement, with more men and women with that great gift of their own piece of land. Here lies the longrange answer to the question of decentralization and of wealth and prosperity in this great country of ours which we must strive to develop at all costs before somebody else does it for us.
I have pleasure in seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
.- I should like to offer my congratulations to both the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England), the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, on their very excellent speeches.
I should like also to say how much 1 regret that illness has caused the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) to resign from the office of Chairman of Committees. I, for one, had occasion once to be very appreciative of the tolerance that he extended to honorable members when he was in the chair. I also wish to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Lucock), on your election as Chairman of Committees. I feel sure that we will be given by you the same tolerance to which we were accustomed from the honorable member for Gippsland.
I also express the deep grief of all Tasmanians over the passing of the late GovernorGeneral, Viscount Dunrossil. I know that they all mourn the late GovernorGeneral’s untimely passing.
I shall take the opportunity of this debate on the Address-in-Reply to raise in this House matters of great importance to the nation as a whole and in particular to the island’ of Tasmania, and to my electorate. I refer to the very grim and serious position in which the Australian timber industry finds itself as a result of the present credit squeeze and of the heavy imports of timber from Eastern countries.
The timber industry of Australia is not only a very great industry, but is of major importance to this country. It is interesting to note that this industry’s output is worth £125,000,000 a year to Australia. Almost all the materials used in the sawmills, amounting to a value of some £69,750,000 annually, are provided from Australian sources. The industry is very highly decentralized, and it is most important as an employer of labour and as a means of opening up the outback of Australia. The forests themselves comprise a very great national asset, and with a fall in the demand for timber they will waste, and will also be subject to great fire danger if they are not opened up and used to their economic capacity.
The timber industry is a great primary industry and, when functioning as it should, provides a whole cycle of employment from the fallers and loggers in the bush, the mill hands, transport workers, waterside workers, employees of the shipping companies, and the plumbers, electricians and other workmen associated with home building, right down to the makers of home furniture. All these people have been affected by the pre sent credit squeeze - man-made and imposed by this Government. For credit restrictions, whether they be selective or comprehensive, must affect home-building activity throughout Australia. Wherever credit restrictions hit they cause a reduction of trading activities. They undermine confidence and planned progress, with a resultant measure of unemployment. Like a stone thrown into a pool, they cause ripples which spread until they cover the entire surface.
Sudden dismissals in any industry have a stultifying effect on all employment. This, in turn, affects all economic activity, with home-building first on the list. Recent inquiries have borne out this fact. In Melbourne alone - and Melbourne is the traditional market for Tasmanian timber - the number of building permits issued dropped from 792 in January, 1960, to 388 in January, 1961 - a decrease of 51 per cent. As if that were not bad enough, there are hundreds of uncompleted houses in Melbourne because people are unable to find the money to finance their completion. A survey taken recently showed that these uncompleted homes are being attacked by vandals. That is an indication of the state of affairs in Melbourne. Of course, the Government will say that the credit squeeze was never intended to affect home builders. I quote now a statement by Dr. Coombs, Governor of the Reserve Bank, which was published in the Launceston “ Examiner “ of 26th November, 1960. He sard, according to the “ Examiner “ -
The banks had accordingly been asked to be especially restrictive in new loans . . . where it appeared that advances might be used to finance . . . building construction where social purposes such as housing were not involved.
But we know that the credit squeeze has been imposed on housing. Mr. T. R. Brabin, who is the manager of the Tasmanian Timber Association, advised the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) of this fact in a letter dated 27th January, 1961. He pointed out, among other things that - fa) Hire purchase company money for construction of new homes has virtually dried up.
Mr. Brabin went on to say
The result of these restrictions is the almost complete cessation of commencements of new homes by at least three of the largest building companies … in Melbourne and varying degrees of cuts in all others. All this despite the statement of Dr. Coombs.
He went on to advise the Treasurer as follows: -
You will appreciate that the building industries in Melbourne and Tasmania use the bulk of Tasmanian timber produced and any major drop in demand will seriously affect our industry.
Currently, houses under construction are maintaining a moderate demand for our timber but this is progressively and rapidly falling away.
This letter from the Tasmanian Timber Association written in January goes on as follows: -
I anticipate that within 4-6 weeks we could have a serious depression in our industry - accentuated by the abnormally high competitive imports already here and due to arrive in fulfilment of orders placed prior to December.
Whilst appreciating that it is your Government’s stated intention of “ nipping the top off the boom “, the deeper the economic trough into which we are rapidly sliding, the longer will be the climb back to normalcy.
The letter continues -
On current indications, we could be in trouble for 12-18 months or longer, unless effective remedial action is taken fairly soon.
Coupled with the credit squeeze we have the trouble caused by imports of cheap timber from the East. Together, those two factors have caused a slump, recession, depression, or call it what you like, in the timber industry. They have certainly hit the timber industry in Tasmania worse than anything that it has previously experienced. In my maiden speech in this House I warned the Government of the danger of these imports of timber and since then I have spoken several times about the danger. In the last question that I put on notice I joined the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) in making representations to the Minister for Trade on this matter, but all to no avail. What is the position to-day? I shall quote just a few cases so that they can be put on record in this House. If we use October, 1959, as a base for statistical purposes we find that in January, 1961, holding yards in Melbourne were holding 560 per cent, more Oregon imported from America than they held in the base month of October, 1959. That is to say, they held five or six times as much of this imported material as before. As though to add insult to injury, we find that imported Oregon is being used in the new Reserve Bank building in Launceston. In Tasmania, the timber work of almost all buildings of this nature is of Tasmanian oak. which is stronger, more durable and cheaper than the imported timber. It is from one-quarter to one-half the price of
Oregon. It shows how stupid the Government is when, on the one hand, it talks about the need to reduce imports whilst, on the other it uses imported Oregon in the construction of the Reserve Bank in Tasmania’s second largest metropolis.
Now I turn to private imports. I have here a letter from the Australian Plywood Board concerning this. Honorable members can imagine how that body is concerned. Several plywood mills in Queensland have closed and in my own electorate there has been heavy retrenchment in employment at Somerset. This country is importing plywood, although Australia can supply all the plywood that can be used in this coun try. In its letter, from its head office in Brisbane, the Australian Plywood Board said -
The Australian plywood industry has taken care of the demand for that product in this country for many years past, and has expanded as Australia has developed.
At the present time capacity exists and the industry is capable of supplying the whole of Australia’s needs for plywood and allied products without the need for importations from foreign countries. Figures for imports of plywood during the six months ended December, 1960, are shown below, these having taken place since the removal of import restrictions by the Federal Government.
The list which is given of imports from various countries shows that 6,020,000 square feet of plywood was imported from Japan. The total imports of plywood shown are 20,000,000 square feet. Yet we in Australia can supply all the plywood that we need for our own use. From a total of 200,000 square feet a month, the imports of plywood have increased to the fantastic figure of 800,000 square feet a month, a rise of 400 per cent, since import controls were lifted.
My friend and colleague the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), with whom I have been associated in representations on this matter on numerous occasions, has advised me that the firm Far Northern
Plywoods, in his area, has dismissed 280 personnel and will close down completely if the position is not improved by protective tariffs. This firm uses native timbers. Timber-cutters, hauliers and others will add to the number of unemployed caused by seasonal conditions in Queensland. My colleague advises me that protests from local authorities including chambers of commerce and trade unions have been forwarded to the Government urging the introduction of selective import controls. Similar protests and demands for corrective action have been made from every other area in Australia.
I now turn to sawn timber. The wholesale lifting of restrictions has resulted in the importation of 52,500,000 super, feet of timber from Malaya and Borneo alone during the last six months, compared with an importation of 52,000,000 super, feet for the whole of 1958-59. In other words, we imported a little more in the last six months than we did for the whole twelve months of 1 958-59. As a representative of the people, I am concerned at the effect of credit restrictions and imports on my constituents, but apparently that is of no concern whatever to this Government. In my electorate alone, 97 men were dismissed last Friday night. Some bush mills have closed down. The position is very grim.
Some of our mills cannot sell a stick of timber on the Sydney or Melbourne markets. An agent for wholesale yards in Melbourne told me on Friday that the yards have almost reached saturation point. He was holding 1 ,500 per cent, more Tasmanian timber than he usually holds. He said that he had to hold it. Even if customers wanted to buy it, they could not do so because they could not get the necessary money. Another agent who normally holds 50,000 lineal feet of flooring to-day holds 750,000 lineal feet and a further 250,000 lineal feet is on the water, on its way to him. We cannot sell. We have not a market left to sell to.
To-day, the Tasmanian Timber Association has telephoned us to say that Tasmanian newspapers have head-lined the news that 300 more employees will be dismissed in my electorate alone on Friday because of the Government’s credit restrictions and its failure to re-introduce import controls. I am sorry that this has happened. I have no desire to use the names of mills because the millowners have been doing a wonderful job and I have no desire to bring undue publicity to them. But I want to point out to Parliament the effects of this recession or depression or whatever you like to call it. On Friday, one big mill in my electorate which employs 150 people will commence to employ them on the basis of one week on and one week off. Another will keep fifteen key-men employed on a five-day week. It is afraid that if it loses them they will never come back to the industry. But it will put 70 other employees on to a three-day or four-day working week.
From another mill in the electorate of Bass seven men will be dismissed on Friday. The orders of that mill have been reduced by 50 per cent. From another, ten or twelve men will be retrenched next Friday. Three more bush mills will close in this locality. From another mill twelve men are to be dismissed and the rest will be employed on a three-day working week. Another mill has been operating on a four-day working week for the past two weeks. In another, men in the stacking yard are being retrenched. At a mill in Launceston, between 40 and 50 men are to be dismissed and others will go onto a three-day and four-day working week. Another mill has had a 20 per cent, cut in production. Normally, it takes men on at this time of the year, but it is giving consideration to a further 20 per cent. cut. From another mill, 82 men will be dismissed’ on Friday night.
Is it any wonder that we in Tasmania, who have been hit particularly hard by the Government’s action, are very concerned? Mills throughout Australia have been hit in the same way. Some of these mills are family businesses. I know of one that has been a family concern for 60 years. The whole life of the community has been built up around it. It employs twenty married men. It is not a case of just hiring and firing men as we find in other industries in big cities. Timber milling is dangerous. There is built up between the employer and the employee a bond of friendship and comradeship, born of danger in the bush. So it is very difficult for the employer, on Monday morning, to say, “You, Joe, are to take a week’s notice”.
– Government supporters do not believe it.
– Possibly they do not believe it, but I do. I have lived with these people. Last Thursday and Friday were the worst two days I have experienced, not excepting those of the last depression or the difficult war and post-war days. I went from mill to mill, from one group of persons in the bush to another, to places where mills were about to close down. I saw a company representative come through the bush in a four-wheel drive vehicle and hand out dismissal notices. I have never experienced anything so depressing - such a feeling of hopelessness and despair. Thank goodness that we were able to place at least 28 men in other positions, but I went home late on Friday night feeling terribly sad and upset for those who could not get another job.
It hurts me to think that many of these men are ex-servicemen. Many of them fought on the Kokoda trail, at Milne Bay and in the Coral Sea battle. They fought and beat the Japanese and to-day the Japanese are beating them. It hurts me to see this unemployment caused by people whom we once fought gallantly and defeated. To-day, they are beating us because of the 400 per cent, rise in the quantity of imported plywood. Of course, these men in the bush cannot understand it. They cannot understand why the Government of a country for which they fought and risked their lives now fails to look after them.
Why does not the Government introduce selective import controls? We need imported timbers - that is admitted - but we do not need to have the door wide open all the time. The only solution to our economic problems lies in this Government calling off the credit squeeze and introducing selective import controls. If it were to take this step to-morrow, or even tonight, recovery would take a long time, because there are large stocks held in every capital city and every major holding centre. Every warehouse and holding yard for timber is chock-a-block, and it will take a long time for us to recover after controls are re-introduced, because we will have to use up all these stocks.
There is another reason why recovery will be a slow process. There has been -a decline in the economic confidence of the business community, and it will take a long time for that confidence to be restored. I have spoken about the timber industry, but other sections of the community have been hit by the credit squeeze. Small shopkeepers, and many people in the rural sections of the community, including farmers, have been severely affected. Young people who have been trying to build up businesses, thus assisting in the development of the country, have been visited by bank managers who have told them that they must reduce their overdrafts. I know of a man in the midlands of Tasmania - not in my own electorate, thank goodness - who was sold up the other day because he could not repay a £700 overdraft. That is the kind of thing that will open up the way for big monopolies to come in and take over. In the timber industry, for instance, small mill-owners will be forced to close. The big operators will take over the family mills which have done a tremendous amount of good for community life in the remote districts of Tasmania. Honorable members in this House have frequently spoken of the desirability of decentralization, and I suggest that these bush mills represent one of the best examples we can find of the benefits of decentralization.
Making a survey of the overall position in Tasmania, we find that at the woollen mills of Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Limited in Launceston 100 employees are to be sacked on Friday night, and 1,200 are to go on to a shorter working week. These decisions have been taken only to-day. The employees of the Austral Bronze Company Proprietary Limited m Hobart have been on a shorter working week for some time. The Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited made an announcement only to-day which shows how the credit squeeze is having a snowballing effect, not only in the timber industry but also in every other kind of industry throughout the country. The company has announced that 980 more employees will be dismissed next Friday - 500 in Melbourne, 350 in Geelong, 100 in Brisbane and 30 in Adelaide. This will bring the total number of dismissals in the motor industry to 5.712.
I have no desire to get up in this House and talk about unemployment. It upsets me to do so. I have never made - and I hope I never will make - political capital out of the misfortunes of my fellow men, but I have been deeply grieved by the recession that has developed in my country, the effects of which have started to snowball. I speak from my heart for the people I represent. I am immensely sorry for those who have been thrown out of work, and I sincerely hope and pray that the Government will give heed to the representations I make, and to those that will be made by members of the Tasmanian Timber Association, who will be coming to Canberra during this week. We hope that the Government will ease credit restrictions, first on advances for home building. We hope, also, that it will introduce selective import controls on imported timbers. We may then be able to turn the corner, so that confidence may be restored throughout our economy, and particularly in the timber industry, with which I am intimately associated.
– I would first like to congratulate the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) on having made such successful maiden speeches. I suppose every one of us remembers his own maiden speech and the feelings he experienced when making it. Both of our new members have successfully surmounted the first parliamentary hurdle. Personally, I found it most encouraging to hear from two new members, both on this side of the House and one from each party of our coalition, such thoughtful and welldelivered speeches. It must be equally discouraging to the Opposition to note the quality of the new recruits to our ranks. I congratulate them, and I wish them well in their careers in this House.
I turn now to the remarks of the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). I would not attempt to contradict his description of the conditions in his own electorate because I am not informed about them, but the general gloomy picture he drew of the economy of this country at large was completely exaggerated, to the point of falsity. His exaggeration and gloom cannot be sustained by the facts. The honorable member spoke of “ a recession “. He even used the term “ depression “ in describing the state of affairs in this country to-day, and this description cannot possibly be accepted. I have no doubt that we will hear other similarly exaggerated and gloomy views from other members of the Opposition during this debate, because, in spite of the disclaimers of the honorable member for Braddon, they quite clearly want to build up an impression of calamity in the public mind. They realize that their only hope of attaining office lies in national misfortune, real or imagined. For this reason they encourage a belief in economic calamity, in the vain hope that it is just around the corner. This country is not, as they would suggest, in the depths of economic crisis, let alone a depression. We are not even undergoing a period of deflation. What is happening is that the rate of expansion - a rate of expansion which was growing too swiftly for the country to sustain - is being cut back.
That is the central point that I want to make. This is not a cutting back from an even economic level; it is a steadying down of a rate of expansion which had become too fast for the country to maintain. When any country is growing and expanding at. a fast rate, a tendency to inflation is inevitably present, and the central economic problem for the government of such a country is to restrain the inflation without interfering with the growth. The growth of this country during the last eleven years cannot be denied. During the eleven years of the Menzies Government we have had full employment, rising standards of living and a really remarkable development of our resources. At the same time we have kept going an immigration programme by means of which more than 100,000 new citizens every year have been brought here from abroad. They have been absorbed into the Australian community, and their breadwinners have been employed, without undue strain. This has been done in addition to the absorption, with rising standards of living, of our own natural increase in population - and I remind honorable members that we have a high rate of natural increase.
These have been our objectives - full employment, rising standards of living, increased population and the development of the resources of the country. We have worked for those long-term objectives steadily and consistently, and we will continue to do so.
During the last eleven years economic circumstances have varied considerably. Yet the objectives of the Government have been steadily pursued and have been attained to a very large degree. As the House knows, we are a considerable nation of traders. We export a far higher proportion of our gross national product than do most nations, including even recognized great nations of traders such as the Japanese. Consequently, we must import a great deal. Experience has shown, oddly enough, that the more we manufacture here the more we must import to sustain our growing industries. It has been estimated than more than 70 per cent, of our import bill goes in goods required to sustain Australian industry. For these reasons we are very dependent upon conditions abroad, and periodically we must adjust ourselves to changing conditions overseas.
If the present economic circumstances and the Government’s reaction to them are to be properly understood, the situation must be seen as a whole. So, I want to take the House back over the events of the past year. A year ago, in February, I960, there were all the signs of an inflationary boom developing. This had to be restrained in every one’s interests. So the Government did four things. It cooperated with the Reserve Bank in measures intended to restrain the expansion of credit. This was done, not to cut back credit, but to restrain the rate of expansion of credit. We announced that we would budget for a surplus and so lessen the impact of public spending. The Government intervened in the basic wage case which was then being heard to express the opinion that the economy needed time to digest the then recent wage rise and marginal increases. We felt that the economy could not at that time stand a wage rise without severe inflationary effects which would more than rob the wa!le-earner of the value of any increase that he might be given. The fourth sten the Government took was to abandon import licensing on all but about 10 per cent, of commodities.
I should like to say a word or two about the decision to give up import licensing. At that time, our overseas reserves stood at nearly £550,000,000 and our export income seemed reasonably assured. There were very good reasons to give up import licensing. Under constant pressure from the business community, we had promised for years to do so as soon as we could, because import licensing is a clumsy mechanism with harmful side effects. Opposition members have themselves paraded these harmful side effects before the House again and again in debate, and they know them well. A freer import of goods would, and it will, restrain inflationary demand in times of high buying pressures and it will help to keep prices down. The time was opportune, we believed, to return to the conventional means of banking measures and supply and demand to regulate our flow of imports. That was the situation last February, and the action we took.
Then at home, instead of bank credit being restrained in accordance, with the directives of the Reserve Bank, it expanded by £150,000,000 in the course of the year. The drain on our external balances was sustained and heavy, and by November, 1960, measures more drastic than before were imperative in the national interest. The inflationary pressure was still strong and the boom conditions persisted. The number of vacant jobs still greatly exceeded the number of applicants for work and overtime was being worked in no less than 67 per cent, of Australian factories. The number of homes built last year reached the enormous total of 100,000 and that in my opinion is a rate greater than we can sustain at this period of our history without causing severe over-strain to the resources of the building industry, and without grossly increasing the urban land boom, which we know was in progress. To have continued at that rate would only have meant that the cost of housing would have gone up and up and the young home-seeker particularly would have found the realization of his hopes receding further and further out of his reach.
In this situation, the motor industry presented a special and extreme instance of the boom conditions. The number of new vehicles sold in the calendar year of 1960 was over 310,000. That was an increase of some 33,000 or more than 16 per cent, over the number sold in the preceding year. It is significant that if commercial vehicles are excluded from this figure, the number of ordinary motor cars and station wagons sold last year was 3H per cent, more than the number sold in the preceding year. The rate of increase was still going up towards the end of last year. This Government knows very well that road transport is a basic necessity and we have no idea of trying to reduce it. But I ask the House, could the country go on buying motor vehicles at this expanding rate?
– Why not? Who was it hurting?
– It would inevitably hurt us all for reasons that I can give you. It was estimated that in the September quarter of 1960 the total import bill for the motor industry and for motor transport was running at the rate of £200,000,000 a year. That is for petroleum products, vehicles, parts and raw materials for motor manufacture in Australia. Could we afford to sustain that bill, which was increasing at a very rapid rate? The Government took the special and temporary measure of increasing sales tax on motor cars. This was quite clearly stated to be a temporary measure and we undertook when it was imposed to remove it as soon as we could. Combined with some restraint of credit, this additional tax achieved its purpose quickly. Its removal last month was in no sense a reversal of policy but was in fact the carrying out of the policy which had been previously announced.
Now I want to cover shortly the other means we took, not, I emphasize, to cut back a steady level of economic activity but to check an excessive rate of expansion. Further bank restraint was unavoidable - not, I say again, to cut down a normal level or even a normally expanding level of bank credit, but to reduce the effect of that £150,000,000 of expanded credit which was generated during 1960, notwithstanding the directives of the Reserve Bank. I want to make the point again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that what is sought is not a reduction of the total amount of credit over a long period but a reduction of the very high rate of expansion. The state of bank credit in Australia to-day itself demonstrates my point. In December, 1959, the total advances of the major trading banks were £942,100,000. By October, 1960, they had reached the peak level of £1,092,200,000. My authority for this statement is the Statistical Bulletin of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The present restrictions on bank credit will only partially offset that expansion of £150,000,000 which occurred during the last calendar year.
The principal aim of the Reserve Bank in its present restrictive policy is to enable the banking system to meet the heavy demand which is usual in the June quarter. So it seems very likely that the general level of bank credit at the end of this financial year will be higher than it was in June of last year, notwithstanding the present curtailment. Against that picture, how can the honorable member for Braddon sustain his wail of calamity about a fearful reduction of bank credit in Australia? It is not of much use to slow down the rate of expansion of bank credit if the pressure is merely to be transferred to convertible notes and unsecured deposits at high rates of interest, and to other forms of capital raised either temporarily or permanently, the interest on which is deductible from profits before tax. That form of capital was sought particularly by the hire-purchase finance companies.
As the House knows, we have no constitutional authority to legislate directly to regulate hire purchase. So if this field was to be kept in a reasonable state of order, we were obliged to restrain the finance available for hire purchase. We did this by limiting the deductibility for tax purposes of interest paid on loans of the sort which I have been speaking about and on convertible notes.
The other principal measure taken was to give notice that we would look to life insurance companies and superannuation funds to maintain in future a reasonable proportion of investment - a minimum of 30 per cent. - in public securities. That decision has led to some criticism from people who are generally of our own political opinion. I have not time to deal with this matter in any great detail in this debate, but I want to tell the House that I am convinced that this proposal is quite justifiable from the stand-point of a Liberal philosophy in the conditions which exist to-day.
One should keep several points in mind when considering this particular question of life insurance investment. This year, 65 per cent, of the total public expenditure on capital works by the Commonwealth Government and the States will have to be found either directly or indirectly from current federal revenue. The loan market cannot meet the country’s present needs for capital in this period of great national development and population growth. Life insurance and superannuation enjoy an important tax advantage because the individual taxpayer is able to deduct premiums up to a total of £400 a year in arriving at his taxable income. That concession costs Commonwealth revenue; that is to say, it costs the collective taxpayer, about £35,000,000 a year. Life insurance companies have followed a traditional policy of investing a high proportion of their funds in public securities, but the rate of that investment has been declining steeply in recent years. Unless it is restored and maintained, the 65 per cent, of public capital expenditure already being made from current federal revenue, which I have just mentioned, would have to be increased, and that would mean an additional burden for the taxpayers.
Another point about this proposal which should be borne in mind is that for years we in Australia have accepted the principle that savings banks must invest a minimum proportion of their deposits in public funds. What is fair for them is equally fair for life insurance and superannuation - more particularly when one bears in mind the facts which I have just outlined.
I have sought to establish two things, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The first is that in November of last year, notwithstanding the reasonable action which had been taken in the previous year by the Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia, we had a boom state of expansion which had to be restrained. What we are engaged in is not cutting back the economy but restraining an over-rapid rate of expansion. Secondly, I have sought to show that in the conditions which I have described, the Government has acted reasonably and sensibly. I am confident that this will be generally recognized. I am confident that when this situation is understood, the judgment of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Government will be vindicated and the actions which we have taken will be supported by public opinion.
.- Mr. Lucock, T offer my congratulations on your election to the high office of Chairman of Committees. We on this side of the House trust that you will have a short but merry term in that position. I should like to congratulate also the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) on his very well spoken maiden speech this afternoon. All of us have stood in circumstances similar to those in which he stood to-day, and we all have a very warm fellow feeling for him as a consequence, even though we on this side may not agree with his philosophy of life, his political philosophy and his economic policy. 1 congratulate also the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England), who spreadeagled the plans of the Liberal Party of Australia in the by-election campaign in that electorate not long ago. We commend him on his well-spoken speech this afternoon. I am sure members of the Liberal Party wish that he were in their party.
We all were saddened by the death of our late Governor-General. I suppose it has rarely been the lot of a man who has occupied so high a post in this country to gain for himself such affection and such regard from the Australian people in so short a time. I met him only once or twice at official functions in Canberra, but I have met a lot of people who saw him more often, and from them all I have gained the conviction that he was everything that he was said to be by those who spoke for us yesterday when we paid special tribute to him. I believe that Viscount Dunrossil would have been in the Slim tradition as Governor-General of Australia. In my mind, there is no doubt about that. We on this side of the House certainly sorrow at his passing and we, too, pay tribute to his widow and his sons for permitting his burial in the country which he came to love so much in such a short time.
I want, now, to congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), on a splendidly documented speech which preceded that just made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne). The honorable member for Braddon is doing a magnificent job in his electorate. It is a tough constituency which, under either its present name or the name of “ Darwin “, by which it was formerly known, had not been held by a Labour representative for 41 years until it was won by the present member. The Liberal Party has turned all its weapons on him - all its rifles, cannon, jet-propelled aircraft and rockets, as it were - and is doing its level best to finish his political career at the end of this year. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberal Party will fail in its attempt to remove the honorable member. He is looking after his electorate with great care and diligent attention.
The speech made by the honorable member for Braddon this afternoon came from his own experience. He did not read up his facts in a newspaper. He visited the timber mills and obtained his figures from the executives who are dismissing the employees. As a result, he was able to make a factual and fully documented speech of so much power as to call forth ridicule from the Minister for Repatriation. I think that the Minister descended to a very low level in trying to make out that the speech made by the honorable member for Braddon was a whining and gloomy one which savoured of depression from beginning to end. It was nothing of the kind. Indeed. I suggest to the Minister that if the Government takes note of the words of the honorable member for Braddon and acts on them it may yet save itself at the general election at the end of this year. If the Government ignores those words, it will deserve the punishment that the people of Australia will hand out to it - if not at the next general election, then at the following one.
– What about the one after that?
– I do not make fantastic prophecies in this unstable political world, but I venture to say that the speech made by the honorable member for Braddon will win for the Australian Labour Party a lot of support from people who have traditionally supported the present Government through the vers. The executives in the mills to whch the honorable member referred are not all traditional Labour supporters. However, they now see the end of their industry staring them in the face and they rightly blame this Government for bringing on a vicious credit squeeze at this time.
I believe that the Government has lost its way. Indeed, it is like a man groping blindly in the dark for an electric light switch. The measures which it took in November last are a hotch-potch and they are not able appreciably to alter the situa tion which allegedly triggered them off. We of the Opposition have always said that this is a start-and-stop government, a government that turns the tap on and off indiscriminately, and its recent action has proved us to be right. The dramatic repeal of the 10 per cent, additional sales tax on motor cars is a splendid example of the type of government we have. Certainly the removal of the additional tax was pleasing to all who were likely to be hurt by it, but it was ridiculous for the Government to suggest that this additional imposition had served its purpose within the short period of a little over two months. Either the Government’s action in repealing it is proof that the step was wrong in the first place, as we said it was, or it was removed in panic with a view to stopping the mounting criticism coming from the motor car industry.
Recently, in Melbourne, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) received a powerful deputation from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which presented a strong case for the removal of this tax. He told the deputation that the employment situation had not got out of hand, but things might worsen before they improved. The very next day, the Prime Minister announced that the Cabinet had decided to repeal the legislation it had recently passed to increase the sales tax on motor cars, and in making the announcement he said that the effect of the imposition was bad psychologically and that industry was being hit harder than the Government intended. We believe that in that instance the Treasurer was over-ruled. We firmly believe that the Prime Minister became fed up with the whole business and decided to repeal the legislation before he left for overseas. The reaction of the community now seems to be that the people are doubting the genuineness of all statements made by the Prime Minister. We all remember the fanfare of trumpets with which the Government hailed the introduction of this legislation; we all remember the terrific fight it caused in another place. One witnessing the Government’s fight on that occasion might well have thought that it was fighting for a stake in a gold mine. Now, suddenly, overnight, this hard-fought for legislation is repealed. It is all very well for the Minister for Repatriation (Mr.
Osborne) to say that the repeal of this legislation was planned in the first place. Nothing of the sort!
– We said we would take it off as soon as we could.
– For a special tax to be imposed for only a little over two months is something previously unheard of in this country. It is our firm belief that no matter what argument the Government uses it will never dispel the feeling that the decision to repeal this legislation was made in panic caused by a mounting criticism from industry in general. Perhaps on this one occasion the Government was also afraid of the way in which unemployment was mounting. The Government is still turning deaf ears to the pleas of country districts for relief from other evils that are besetting them. Only a moment ago the Minister for Repatriation pooh-poohed the idea that the economic position had got out of hand. He denied that the situation is becoming desperate despite the fact that all over the country there is piling up evidence that the credit squeeze is not over. Unless it is eased very shortly, indeed, unless it is eased within the next month, the position will become very grave.
The alleged purpose of the little budget in November was to halt imports, to check the activities of hire-purchase companies and to put a credit squeeze on booming industries. When the Treasurer introduced his economic measures he was very careful to point out that the Reserve Bank would be instructed to ensure that the trading banks confined the credit squeeze to those industries that were booming unduly. In other words, the Government sought to have us believe that it proposed to take the top off the boom of certain industries. But the Treasurer particularized and instructed the Reserve Bank to particularize. He also instructed the trading banks to particularize. But what has happened during recent months? The effects of this credit squeeze have seeped down into every section of the nation just as heavy rain seeps through the ground to the subsoil. They have been felt by many industries over a wide range of Australia’s economy. Instead of reintroducing a system of selective import controls similar to that which operated at one dme, the Government adopted a hotch-potch of measures, the most vicious of which were the credit restrictions. It set out ostensibly to halt imports and to curb hire-purchase transactions, but it has hurt thousands of people needlessly, ruthlessly and coldbloodedly in its efforts to do so.
To my mind, the Government’s action resembles that of a boxer who aims a punch at his opponent but hits the referee instead. In other words, this Government has hit people who were not intended to be hit. Certainly if they were intended to be hit, we were not told of this intention last November, and if it was intended to hit them, then the Treasurer did not give us all the facts when he delivered his speech. I repeat that in aiming at a certain objective the Government has hit other objectives which either were not intended to be hit or, if intended to be hit, were not given any notice of the intention. Farmers struggling to obtain credit to produce export crops that the Government said must be maintained and increased, home seekers fighting for finance to build a roof over their heads, builders desperately trying to meet the urgent demands of people for homes - there are still thousands waiting for homes - and the timber industry struggling to compete with a flood of cheaper Imported timber, all received a body blow from this credit squeeze. If the Government intended to hit all these people, why did it not say so honestly and openly in November when the offending legislation was introduced by the Treasurer? I have read the Treasurer’s speech carefully, but nowhere in it can I see any mention of the fact that any of these industries would be affected by the proposed credit squeeze. If the intention was to apply the credit squeeze selectively and only to over-booming industries, then I ask members of the Government whether they would regard the building industry an overbooming industry. Would they call an industry that is battling to give young married people homes, to meet legitimate demands of home-builders from month to month and from year to year, an over-booming industry? Would they call the timber industry, the ramifications of which extend right throughout the economy, an over-booming industry? Would they call primary production an overbooming industry? Of course not! We certainly say they are not. We do not know which industries the Government regards as over-booming industries, but it would seem that the Government certainly includes in that category the basic industries I have mentioned. We agree that speculative industries should be curbed, and the Treasurer did have something to say about them. We also agree that the activities of hire-purchase companies should be restricted and prevented from getting out of hand. If the Government had concentrated only on those industries mentioned in the Treasurer’s speech perhaps this country would have been in a much better position than it is to-day. But it left the floodgates open and allowed the waters of restriction to seep through the entire Australian community. For that, it deserves the criticism and condemnation of the people it has hit. It deserves the censure of the little people it has hit.
We have no objection to curbing the activities of the big chap who is investing in all sorts of mushroom activities, but when the Government’s action hits the little man who wants a home, the farmer who wants credit to extend his small acreage, the timber getter and the timber mills of Tasmania and Victoria, those engaged in one of the few remaining decentralized industries, then the Government is guilty of a criminal act, for it is a criminal act to restrict credit when credit is desperately needed by those people. We all remember what happened in 1928, 1929 and 1930 when special taxes were imposed because of the actions taken by international financiers. Those international financiers were guilty of a criminal act because they were responsible for bringing about unemployment, misery, suicide, bankruptcy and other evils throughout the world. I charge this Government to-day with hitting those people who do not deserve to be hit. It is also hitting savagely at the wage-earners, the people who are being sacked by many industries in Australia to-day. What have those people done to prejudice the Australian economy? They are the consumers. They are the people who buy the products of our farmers.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making the point that the vicious little budget of November, 1960, has hit a smashing blow at the little people of Australia who have done nothing to deserve such heartless, cold-blooded treatment. I said that the legislation which ostensibly was aimed at imports, hirepurchase investment and boom industries had affected thousands of people needlessly and pointlessly. I said also that the Government’s action resembled that of a boxer aiming at his opponent but hitting the referee instead.
What has happened since November, 1960? Imports, which are the real culprits, have escaped scot-free so far. They show no sign of decreasing. In February our imports were of the value of £94,800,000 while our exports amounted to £79,600,000, a deficit in one month of £15,200,000. This was the twelfth successive deficit since import licensing was foolishly abandoned twelve months ago. Imports have been pouring in at a rate which is 50 per cent, higher than it was a year ago. The total deficit for the first eight months of this financial year equals £182,200,000, with our overseas reserves down to £300,000,000. These figures do not include freights and insurance, which amount to £127,000,000, so it is apparent that the culprit at which the Government aimed in November still goes scot-free.
What has happened to the building industry as the result of the drastic credit squeeze? Many builders have gone bankrupt. In the Melbourne metropolitan area there was a 51 per cent, drop in the number of homes started in February as compared with January, 1959. In February last year 800 building permits were issued for that area but in February this year the number dropped to 100. In February, 1961, there was a 60 per cent, drop in building operations in the Melbourne metropolitan area. In one week alone - from 19th to 25th February - there was a 20 per cent. drop. This is only one small section of the Australian economy, and every State can tell the same story of the tragic results that have flowed to the building industry - a vital basic industry in Australia - as a result of the credit squeeze despite the fact that in introducing the little budget in November, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that the building industry would not be affected.
What has happened to the timber industry? In Tasmania 97 people have been dismissed and 300 face dismissal or short-time on the north-west coast alone. Many sawmills are closing down and others are starting to work only part-time. The millers say that their market on the mainland is drying up because of the slump in home-building. Any policy that cracks down on homebuilding and its ancillaries is a dastardly policy in any country. A few weeks ago Mr. C. S. Gibson, general manager of Tasmanian Board Mills Limited, said that his company exported about one-half of its production of dressed timber to Victoria. However, because of Melbourne’s home-building slump, production had dropped by 20 per cent. He stated also -
If the demand continues to fall there is a distinct possibility that we will have to put men off.
Another producer, Mr. John Fitzsimmons who has several mills around Launceston, attributed the slump directly to the Commonwealth Government’s credit squeeze. He said that 75 to 80 per cent, of timber produced at his factories was exported to Melbourne. However, in recent weeks the demand had dropped by 60 per cent. A few weeks ago only one of his six customers in Victoria was interested in buying timber from him. Here is one small section of the building industry that has been affected by the credit squeeze. Next week an additional 200 men employed in the Tasmanian timber industry will be affected when two of Circular Head’s largest timber firms commence working short-time. This information is from Mr. T. Brabin, the manager of the Tasmanian Timber Association. To-day I learned that 140 building workers had been dismissed on the Tasmanian university project.
What has happened to the primary producers? In November the Treasurer claimed that they would not be affected. He made it quite clear that the banks had been instructed not to restrict credit to the primary producers, but I have spoken to small farmers in my own electorate who have been affected. I know two farmers who a year ago obtained a £250 increase in their overdraft, and they have now been asked to pay it back forthwith. One man may have to sell some of his cattle to pay that £250 off his overdraft. Other farmers are worried stiff because they do not know what will happen to them and they live in fear of the future. This position applies over the whole range of primary industries - wool, barley, wheat, oats, peas and dairying. They all are affected despite the Treasurer’s claim that they would not be because of the necessity to build up our exports to meet the cost of our imports.
What has happened in relation to employment? There are 71,000 registered unemployed in Australia and this number is increasing every week at an alarming rate. 1 learned to-day that during the last few days 400 workers have been dismissed in Tasmania alone and an additional 1..500 face wage cuts or dismissal. Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Limited, which employs 1,900 men and is the biggest single employer of labour in Tasmania, dismissed 100 employees yesterday and 1,200 will work only four days a week. This is a direct result of the credit squeeze and has nothing to do with imports from Japan or from any other country.
These facts substantiate my statement that although the Government ostensibly hit at hire purchase and at imports, it also has hit these basic industries. The Government is living in an ivory tower. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) scoffed at the figures that the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) cited in relation to dismissals in his electorate. The Minister claimed that the honorable member had grossly exaggerated the position and had not spoken the truth. Do these Ministers ever get out of their offices or their motor cars? Do they ever move among the ordinary people in Australia and talk to businessmen and farmers? They do nothing of the kind. They listen to their advisers who also live in ivory towers. We are sick and tired of hearing Ministers deny the factual statements that we make on unemployment and the like.
When the number of unemployed reaches 100,000 will the Treasurer say gleefully that he has at last achieved his great objective of stabilizing the economy and beating inflation? At what stage is stability reached? The Government has planned the existing state of affairs deliberately and coldbloodedly. Is this army of unemployed to be used in the near future to break down working conditions and to lower wages? There has to be a stop sooner or later. What is stability in the economy? Does stability mean that 100.000 workers have to be unemployed? If that is the Government’s policy it had better not be in office after the end of this year for the sake of the Australian economy and of the people who are affected, particularly family men with children to support. The Government cannot understand the human side of the problem. It has no humanity left or it would not continue to deny the statements that we make. With interest rates going up and with hire-purchase organizations and land trusts obtaining money at 8, 10 and 12 per cent., the whole economy has gone hay-wire and the Government definitely has lost its way.
– At the outset, Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) - ‘the mover and seconder respectively of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply - upon their maiden speeches. Each of those speakers brought to the House, straight from the people, a refreshing review of conditions in Australia, and gave to the Government and to Opposition members of the House - I am sure - a new and useful glimpse of what is being thought outside the working field of politics as we find it here. I look forward to a long association with each of them in this Parliament.
I take this early opportunity to make a statement to advise the House of measures which the Government has taken recently, or proposes to take, in its overall programme, aimed at improving our external trading position. This seems necessary if honorable members are to debate the Administrator’s Speech with all the available facts before them. I have therefore consciously designed this statement to be non-controversial in its presentation.
In January, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that the Government had taken important steps to intensify the drive to increase our export earnings. He announced that a special committee of the Cabinet had been established to carry through a comprehensive and continuous examination of positive measures to increase exports. This committee has undertaken its work against the background of our already real export achievements. Aus tralia, despite its small population, ranks in the first dozen countries as an international trader. Despite this record we have an intransigent balance of payments problem, related not so much to what would appear to be inadequate exports as to unsatisfactory prices for many of them and, above all, this country’s enormous appetite to import.
To attack the problem further, the Government has decided to intensify its export drive. The measures which it has adopted for this purpose during the last few months have been announced by the Prime Minister. These, together with a most recent decision to provide taxation incentives to encourage exports, which I will describe presently, should be viewed and judged against the broad requirements of our national export needs. These and other measures, to which I will refer briefly, have been designed with the knowledge that any successful export programme must encompass certain essential ingredients.
In brief, there must be certain inducements, based upon confidence of profitable operations, to produce for export; markets must be discovered, and access to them negotiated; then the product must be adapted to the needs of individual markets, presented well and vigorously promoted. The overseas agents must be serviced effectively. The Government’s export planning has always assumed that the great primary and mining industries will continue to earn for Australia the bulk of our foreign exchange. These industries must therefore be assisted to hold and expand their markets. In addition, exports of factory products must be expanded.
The Prime Minister has already announced that certain public works which he mentioned, and to which I shall shortly refer, would require consultation with, and the co-operation of, the State governments and. where necessary, the devising of financial arrangements fair to both parties. These projects are important to the expansion of Australia’s export trade. The Commonwealth is discussing with the State governments concerned the construction of roads in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, to aid the beef and mining export industries. In addition, we are examining whether some Commonwealth assistance to the States could ensure the early completion of modern berthing and loading facilities at coal-loading ports.
The results of efforts to sustain and expand coal exports are clearly dependent upon these loading and berthing facilities. The modernizing and standardization of key railway links in Western Australia and South Australia, which could assist the development of important export industries, are at present under active discussion with those States. By planning now, the way should be clear for us to proceed in 1962 on such projects to increase our export earnings. Discussions are proceeding with the appropriate States. It will be evident that this goes a long way towards giving a decided export bent to national development programmes.
Additions to our export earnings are also expected to flow from the recent decision to permit limited trade in iron ore. Much attention has been given to steel as a product which can play an important role in ‘becoming a regular and substantial export. Encouraging discussions have already taken place with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. But to produce goods is one thing and to sell them is quite a separate task, and continuous energy needs to be devoted to the problem of expanding existing markets and winning new ones.
It has already been announced that legislation will be introduced this session to empower the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to give cover to certain transactions which are at present outside its scope, but which the Government may consider should be covered in the national interest. Large-scale trade development efforts have been authorized in South America and the Middle East. Last year the Government sent a survey mission of businessmen to South America. It reported favorably on prospects for increasing Australian trade, particularly in the countries on the north and west coasts of South America. To permit the pioneering work in these markets to begin, the Government is negotiating with shipping companies for the establishment of a regular shipping service and will do this, even if it entails some financial assistance over a limited period to get the service established. It has been decided that trade commissioner posts will be opened in Lima, Peru, and in Caracas in Venezuela. A trade mission will be sent to the area, and an appropriate trade publicity programme will be undertaken. The Middle East and eastern Mediterranean areas also offer good prospects for the expansion of Australia’s export trade.
A trade mission will be sent to the eastern Mediterranean countries this year and, in co-operation with industry and commerce, a trade display ship will go to the Persian Gulf areas early in 1962. A supporting publicity campaign will also be undertaken. The agreement of the appropriate governments is being sought for the opening of new trade commissioner posts in Teheran and Beirut. The trade commissioner’s office in Cairo, which is already an important one, is to be strengthened. The cost of the Middle East and South American programmes will be in the neighbourhood of an additional £220,000 a year, which will be in addition to the present cost on the current Budget, of £1,750,000, for trade promotion and publicity abroad.
In these days international tourism is rapidly expanding and is becoming a significant source of overseas funds for Australia. The Australian National Travel Association has estimated that some 68,000 tourists spent £12,500,000 here in 1959. In close consultation with the States and the tourist industry, the Commonwealth Government has decided to take an active role in the development of international tourism. It has given an immediate additional grant to the Australian National Travel Association, and has already turned the resources and facilities of the trade commissioners throughout the world, and of the trade publicity programmes overseas, to support tourist promotion abroad. We have just received from the association a programme to intensify tourist promotion, to which the Government will be giving early attention.
I do not want to leave the impression that we have not been vigorous in this field already. The current Budget contains provision for £100,000 to assist the operations of the Australian National Travel Association, and the additional vote to which I have just referred - a prompt and immediate one - represents, if my memory serves me right, which I am sure it does, an additional £20,000.
The Government has given much attention to the need to trigger off an Increased interest in export in which manufacturers must play a bigger part ‘than in the past. It has been decided to stimulate the export drive by certain taxation measures. This is an important decision. First we want to assist the promotion of our products in existing and new markets. To this end the Government has decided to introduce a taxation allowance to give positive encouragement to increased effort in export promotion abroad.
Under prevailing tax laws an expenditure in overseas market development which is accepted by the Commissioner of Taxation is an allowable business expense and, as such, the company is remitted tax at the rate of 8s. in the £1. The incentive proposed is that this rate of remission be doubled. This means that for a period of three years, beginning on 1st July, 1961, a company which has expenditure on market development can expect an allowance of 16s. in the £1.
In respect of visits overseas for this purpose, the Commissioner of Taxation must be satisfied that its bona fide purpose is for export market development. In such cases, fares only will qualify for the allowance. Personal expenses will not qualify. There is also a number of other points of importance on which the Commissioner of Taxation will need to be satisfied. The Government expects that this will provide a major stimulus to overseas market promotion and development. It will apply to all products in all export markets. It is expected to give positive encouragement to the further development of the vigorous merchant exporters on whose skills and knowledge of the overseas markets so much of the expanded national export programme will depend.
A way was sought which would further stimulate export of processed and manufactured products. This is a major objective of the export drive, to encourage all Australian processors and manufacturers to seek to enter export markets; to give some aid and incentive to those whose export achievements will be determined by their export costing. To this end the Government has decided to grant a rebate of pay-roll tax related to the value of export sales achieved.
There will be a formula which, up to a point, will increase the benefits of pay-roll tax abatement as the taxpayer lifts the level of his export sales. The rebate will be allowed according to the increase in the value of the exports which an organization achieves over the value of the average of its exports in the base years 1958-59 and 1959-60. The rebate will be calculated having regard to the proportion which increased export sales bear to total income from sales. The rebate will apply for three years from 1960-61. In the light of the experience of those three years the policy will be reviewed.
I think that I can best explain the way in which the scheme will work by giving an example. Let us assume that a manufacturer has been exporting, say, £100,000 worth of goods, and in the course of his drive for further exports subsequently increases his exports by £10,000 a year in value, to the level of £110,000. If his income from total sales - that is, on both the domestic and export markets - is, say, £1,000,000, then his increase in value of exports of £10,000 will represent 1 per cent, of his gross income from sales.
In choosing a realistic basis for a formula that would give good prospects of achieving the objective of encouraging a worthwhile increase in exports, the Government has decided that where export sales were increased over the base period by 8 per cent, of total income from sales, the exporter would gain exemption from pay-roll tax. This incentive exemption would apply on a pro rata basis for increases up to 8 per cent. The legislation will also include provisions whereby benefits can be obtained by firms supplying materials and components to the final manufacturer. No commodity is excluded from this arrangement.
As a result of these two taxation arrangements there will be both an inducement to search for markets overseas as well as an increased inducement and capacity to bid for business overseas. Legislation to cover these proposals will be introduced.
The Government will, of course, continue, and indeed intensify, all its present programmes of export promotion and market negotiations and is confident that private enterprise will respond with increased energy and activity to the financial stimulus now involved in this.
These, then, are recent developments in the policies which are all integral parts of an intensified export drive. In addition, we are examining proposals further to help the sale of our primary and secondary products abroad by assisting in the development of warehousing facilities for Australian products in important markets. We are calling on the assistance of skilled businessmen and advisers to help us in forming a judgment on this matter. Oil and mineral exploration will be further encouraged and, in general, all possible prospects of earning additional exchange funds will be given close and continuing attention. These are all parts of a positive approach. There is no single touchstone by which all our export problems will be solved. Nothing is more important than the costs and efficiency at point of production and the energy and efficiency of the salesmen.
I give this explanation to the House in order to make members aware that the intensified drive of which we have spoken has taken shape. These are important decisions by the Commonwealth which, I am sure, in due course, the Parliament will endorse, but the concept still requires the co-operation and support of State governments and of Australian industry, both primary and secondary, and, by no means last, the commercial enterprises which finance and sell many of our products abroad.
I would not wish to conclude without paying a tribute to those who comprise the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council, who have been so helpful, and have given so much time to the task of developing a wide export consciousness throughout Australia.
.- Mr. Speaker, this side of the House has listened to the speech of the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) about his new trade plan and the export drive. We shall examine it with a conscientious approach to the problem that he is trying to overcome. We cannot help reminding him and the Government that many of these measures were suggested by this side of the House six or seven years ago. We suggested that there ought to be a revival of trade by means of better public relations methods, issuing trade literature, and sending trade commissioners to new and resurgent countries which were buying more goods and the standard of living of which was rising. Because the Minister has just made his statement on a new policy, we will leave it at that for the moment and I shall turn to the Address-in-Reply and make some general comments of another nature. The Government’s position is undoubtedly a difficult one. The chaos from which it is trying to rescue the economy has been brought about by delayed action thinking and a stopstart way of doing things. However, we shall reserve judgment on the Minister’s cure-all - the trade drive - until a later occasion.
In the years in which I have been in Parliament I have found that the most unusual document ever presented to the House is the address which is delivered either by the Governor-General or, in this case, due to unfortunate and regrettable circumstances, the Administrator of the Commonwealth, whom, nevertheless, we welcome. It has always been a wise habit of all governments, including our own, to issue a most portentous document which usually manages to exclude anything of importance. After having listened patiently to this for half an hour honorable members are left to discharge their “ high and important duties”. As no important duties are mentioned in the address, honorable members may attend to other matters immediately, placing the Government’s plans for the future in the waste-paper basket. I thought that we might have heard some high comment on the international situation, the crisis in unemployment, or the crisis in trade. I thought that we might have heard something about that great international tourist, the Prime Minister, who is now winging his way across the world, or is just landing, or is just taking off for somewhere. I thought we might have heard something about his contribution to tourism.
The Minister for Trade believes that a lot of money can be made out of tourists. He has a great protagonist of his policies in the Prime Minister who is always making great leaps forward. Nobody can say that his jumping is not delightfully accurate because when it is getting hot here you find that he is having a yarn with President Kennedy; and if things become too pressing there, he is soon to be found in London with his friend, Dr. Verwoerd, fixing the affairs of South Africa.
When you look through the Administrator’s Speech you see what an empty .thing it is to present to the Parliament. On the lighter side, I thought we might hear something about “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” Not a word about ‘that! That romance has been deadened, not by the Literature Censorship Board, but by a decision of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) which was based, not on whether the banning of the novel was morally right or wrong, but on the belief that the Government might lose votes if the book were not banned because its release would offend the Democratic Labour Party whose assistance the Government requires in another place. T would say that if “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover” would offend the Democratic Labour Party let it be released at once. But on the serious side of this matter, this kind of action decries us overseas. It indicates that we have some sort of intellectual hill-billy idea that we must prohibit things, just as free discussion on foreign affairs was stultified during the last session of the Parliament. Instead of adopting a human grown-up approach to the question of what books the people of Australia should be able to read, this Government resorts to prohibitions.
I come to a point that gives me a great deal of concern and that is the complete deterioration of our television programmes. When this great benefit to humanity, this new and wonderful adjunct to home entertainment was introduced into Australia we on this side of the House had high hopes that the Government would realize what an important part this medium could play in the national welfare - that it could be a great educator and that it could provide a high standard of information and entertainment. But despite protestations from this side of the House programmes have deteriorated and to-day many people are horrified at the programmes that are imposed on them.
One of the most serious aspects that the Minister will have to attend to - I am sorry he is not here at the moment; he was here a little while ago - is the matter of advertising on television. Not only is advertising material used with murderous cunning, a programme being cut off at the psychological point, particularly when a play is being performed or a speech being made, but the whole of the entertainment is directed towards making money for the advertisers or those who exploit the public. It has developed into a notorious and scandalous practice, and something will have to be done about it. From time to time the Minister has promised us some reforms in this direction. I understand that six minutes an hour is supposed to be the limit of the time during which you can be tortured by these advertisements, but we find that they are so skilfully interlarded in the programme that they seem to appear practically all the time.
A suggestion - and perhaps a very good one - has been made that one should not look at the television programme, but should settle down and look at the advertisements, because they are really good. In other words, you have no chance of getting a sequence in the performance of a play, so you may as well try to enjoy the advertisements. You might ask Doris where the Kwit is. You may as well concentrate on the advertisements, because you will not get any intellectual entertainment.
This would be bad enough, but worse still is the fact that we have made consummate asses of ourselves in regard to the control of television. After we were told by the Government that it was to be a kind of people’s entertainment, with one organization only, we find that it has been grabbed by the great press organizations of the Commonwealth, such as Consolidated Press, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the Melbourne press. The enormous newspaperowning companies, through interlocking directorates, have television by the throat. Despite the fact that the statement was made in this House that it would be an offence to hold more than one licence, we find that these companies have plenty of them. Then when we of the Labour Party want to have some propaganda item broadcast we find that we are up against a brick wall.
But let us not concern ourselves with that point. The important matter is that the entertainment ingredient of television has been badly degraded under the present Administration. Why in the name of Heaven have we created the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board, charged with the duty of looking after and controlling television, when it does absolutely nothing in this direction? The board always has an alibi, of course, but it does nothing in the way of producing a plan to help us.
Recently we have seen reports that certain television advertisements were fraudulent. They were put over television to inveigle people into investing money, not in Commonwealth bonds, the proceeds of which could be used to carry on government and industry in Australia, but in some kind of a plan which would return them 20 per cent, on their investment. Of course, they could never get anything, and the whole scheme has now collapsed. We should ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board how it came about that these advertisements were accepted. We should ask the board whether the scripts were studied and investigated, and what sort of relations exist between the television managements and the advertisers. Can any thug or exploiter have access to television to put over advertisements of this kind?
The particular company I refer to is the one concerned with vending machines. Its activities have become one of the scandals of the age. Now there are other firms, such as coffee firms and paint firms, which are authorizing dubious advertisements in order to get their products to the people. You are told that you can have your house painted, or that you can get 20 per cent, on your investment. These and other fantastic propositions are made, and none of them can work out. The television channels are being used to pressurize the people of the country, in their own homes, in a most questionable manner. It is completely scandalous, and the Government should do something about it immediately. The Minister should be able to give us some explanation of these things. It is regrettable that they have happened, and these dubious practices must be cleaned no. because they are contrary to the law. lt is a kind of immorality that is being practiced, and it must be cleaned up in the legal sense.
Now let us look at the television programmes themselves. Despite protestations from the Government benches that we would, in due course, have fewer overseas programmes, and that the Australian artist would be allowed to get through, we now find that the Australian artist has practically disappeared from the television screens. There is unemployment in the entertainment industry. While our professional entertainers and theatrical artists find themselves without employment, more and more cheap overseas junk is being shown on television than was the case in the early days.
Here is another point: Viewers are faced with replays of comedies, dramas or revues, not once but three or four times. So careless and contemptuous of public opinion have these monopolies become that they do not care whether the people like the practice or not. So a mediocre film, which you would prefer not to see even once, is presented two, three or even four times. There is a game played by viewers - spotting the one you saw last week. In view of the fact that you pay £5 for a licence, and having in mind the fact that programmes have so greatly deteriorated, how can the television companies hope to ram down our necks the proposition that overseas talent is so exquisite, so refined and so brilliant that there are no opportunities for Australians? They have tried every way of getting around the requirement to use Australian talent. They will put on a so-called Australian live show, but they will import artists for that show, who, in many cases, are not within cooee of our own entertainers so far as talent is concerned. Yet we mildly accept them. They come in by plane every day, but they disappear from the country just as quickly, because they do not click. It seems that we have not the moral integrity to demand that our artists get a chance.
It is a sad fact that the percentage of Australian programmes has gone down and down. In the original battle that we waged in this House on the matter, the Leader’ of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), his Deputy (Mr. Whitlam), I and many other honorable members tried desperately to have some kind of quota fixed. We believed then, as we do now, that it is no use giving lip service to the principle, and that it h:is to be tied up with the question of actual employment. We were told, “ Leave it alone and it will work itself out. In time the Australian artist will be seen regularly on television.” Well, he is not seen.
The Australian people must feel outraged at the kind of rubbish they have to look at. Every cowboy in America, it seems, has ridden across my television screen, and the job of getting rid of the bodies in the morning has become quite a difficult chore in the household. All the cowboys seem to be dirtier than the ones in real life that I have seen. All the plots follow the same theme. If you shut your eyes, loll back and listen to the different programmes, you will find that the same hill is being raided by the same Indians, the same sturdy man will shoot from, the hip and the same girl will scream in despair, only to ride off later on the same old horse. Well, it is a bit of fun, I suppose, but should we not grow up in our television entertainment and expect something better?
There is a new Australian series, which has been criticized as having an American slant. Perhaps it has, and perhaps that is because of Australian insistence or demand, or the conclusion that the acquiescence of Australian viewers indicates that they like these western shows. I found “ Whiplash “, as it is called, saved from mediocrity by the magnificent photography of the Australian outback. It is for this reason that I consider it one of the best of the television programmes at the present time. The outdoor scenes shot around Sydney and elsewhere have been really remarkable. It is refreshing to see something of our own country on our own television, even if it is tied to a Yankee script.
I suggest to the Minister that he should consult with his Broadcasting Control Board and have a good look at this matter of better television. Television is great entertainment. The people like it, the youngsters like it. It is something new to our civilization, and it has come to us as a great amenity. But we have slaughtered its potentiality by accepting the rubbish that is shown to us. Are we too easy going? I suggest that honorable members should take a good took at the programmes on the next occasion they view television, and count the ones that do not insult the intelligence. If an honorable member can find more than three in one day, I will be prepared to retract my statements.
We have been outdone in regard to two matters. First, we have not got Australian programmes of decent standards. We have not employed Australian theatrical workers, artists, script writers and others associated with entertainment. We have left them for dead and we have submitted to all sorts of exploitation. We have accepted, for instance, old-fashioned American films. How many morgues have been raided in America for these dead programmes? I saw a programme some weeks ago in which a film was shown, every leading actor in the film being now dead - and dead for about ten years in each case.
– Were they from the Liberal Party?
– They were on the screen, and they had a little more life than the members of the Liberal Party. We thought, when we were originally accepting these junk programmes that had been buried in some archives in Hollywood or elsewhere, that they would work themselves out. But there seem to be thousands of them, and our television programmes are being debased as a result. It is of no use to tell the viewer that you cannot get better programmes. It is quite useless to say that it rs too expensive a proposition, and that the viewers will have to wait until the television stations get organized. The reason why you will never get better programmes, and why you are getting all this trash, is that a monopoly has been created. We will never get better programmes while we have these interlocking directorates and composite ownerships, because their aim is to put on the programmes that they want and to make enormous profits. Profits of £300,000 have been made after an existence of only two or three years. That is a pretty good cop and all they had was a licence from the Government. But a licence is not irrevocable and unless the standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are observed, some of these people in a few years’ time will be wondering whether they will get a licence. That is not a threat; it is an accurate summation of what people think.
I have raised the matter of poor programmes. It is true that we do have some exceptionally good programmes. I congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Commission on its magnificent cricket test series programmes. When the technician is allowed to go out and record the drama of daily life, we have superb entertainment. That is the point that members of the Opposition have been making for many years. We do not want overseas slop and synthetic rubbish when we can have our own good shows. Racing, tennis and cricket come to mind, and 1 believe that this year we will be able to see football on the television screen, particularly in New South Wales. These programmes will provide valuable adjuncts and will be an important advance in television programmes.
This proves our point, that the Australian technician is brilliant. By boosting, he has been able to send programmes over many hundreds of miles. In a more sombre context, we know what was done in telecasting the funeral of Lord Dunrossil. The way that that was televised in New South Wales was a piece of great technical skill. In the same category are our script writers and people who understand Australian humour. But they are not allowed to sell their wares here because this junk from overseas is pushing them out of the market and they must look elsewhere for work. Does this not drive home to the Government that if it desires to create employment it should examine the television programmes now being shown? Australian artists, who have demonstrated that they have talent, should be given a chance to show what they can do. This would be better than showing all these reruns five or six times. Some programmes have been shown as often as ten times, T am told.
We should also consider the content of the programmes. Some people may like a western, but westerns cannot be shown all the time. Then we have infuriating advertisements that pop in to interrupt the whole of the series. The viewers are treated with utmost contempt and pressure is applied to them. People on television practically leap out of the screen forcing goods on the viewers, saying, “You must have this kind of chair in your sitting room “, or “ You must drink this kind of beer” or “You must buy this kind of car! “ There is nothing subtle about it and there is no attempt at sales talk. It is a proper verbal hash, and surely the viewers must at times feel that they should give television away. Perhaps the Government is now getting a verbal bash. The Minister realizes what a verbal bash is, and we will soon be giving it to him. No control is exercised over television stations. What is the point to which we return? It is that this marvellous technical advance which provides us with television has been woefully degraded instead of being built into the wonderful medium that it could have been. It has no artistic significance here, but instead all this cheap rubbishy entertainment is shown. We have heard talk of the banning of books, but there is more of the worst kind of slop, more bodgie music and more inferential smut on television than could be found in a thousand copies of “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover “, which was a work dealing with the preserving of game, but which went a little haywire in the writing, as we all know.
I ask the Postmaster-General, who is a very capable and sincere man, to do something about television programmes. An election will be held soon. The Government cannot do anything about the motor traders or about the investing public. These people have given the Government away. All the Government can do is to give the Australian voter a few services, and it can achieve this purpose by providing a few real Australian television programmes.
The point I make is a serious one. We should look at television as it now exists, because we have been very remiss in not ensuring that the programmes contain an adequate Australian content. What is the good of a book to read if it does not contain some Australian thought? What is the good of a film if it precludes any attitude to be found in the country we all love? If day after day and year after year we have television programmes which contain only Yankee idiom or perhaps scenes of travel through overseas countries but which proscribe the- Australian from his own country, what will we get? What influence will this have on the migrant? What sort of youngster will we have growing up? Our children will have some high-grade inferiority complex. All this will arise simply because control is not being exercised over television programmes.
The other point concerns advertisers, ls it not disgraceful that gangsters are able to defraud the public by persuasive methods used on television? I do not criticize the announcer, who is a member of Actors Equity and is only doing his job. We should be able to see the scripts and tapes of matter concerning the International Vending Machine organization. We should be able to examine the commercial advertising concerning these vending machines and several other branches of commerce which are very suspect. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when the Australian people can be canvassed not at the door but right inside their homes by a persuasive voice, using statements which are not completley true to arouse the cupidity of the public with promises of a return of some substantial amount on the money invested. This company, which has now gone into liquidation with a loss of £1,000,000, was using the money raised through television advertisements to pay those who had invested during the previous week. This is a classic example of a dog chasing its tail and was bound to have the same result - collapse!
We must ensure that we have reasonably good television with a reasonable Australian content. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and others associated with television must ensure that proper standards are observed so that we will have suitable television programmes. We would then have some control of this shy-poo advertising. Tt will be extremely bad for us all rf the present standard continues. I say to the Minister that this is a serious business even in all the welter of unemployment and other problems that face us at the moment. Other points must be considered, and one of these is the cultural aspect. Our cultural level can be utterly degraded if monopolists are allowed to sell their muck to us. It can be degraded by inefficient bureaucracy frightened to take action or by a Minister who adopts the views of his bureaucrats rather than examine the problem himself. If the Minister and other members of the Government, were to sit down in front of a television screen they would realize the truth of my asseverations. He would see the scandalous advertising which is planned to rob the viewer. He would realize that the programmes contain too many westerns and provide too much low-grade entertainment. Even a boy of six years would eventually be revolted bv these programmes. We are treated with insolence by the owners of television stations who think that they are there only to make money out of the Australian people and who do not give a fig for the development of our culture or of an Australian way of life.
.- When Government supporters look at the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator they cannot help but be stirred by the realization that the Government has begun to take up the question of developing Australia completely and entirely. We have seen revolutions in techniques in all types of industry in the past ten years, but this has been particularly so in the rural industries. I would not expect some Opposition members to be aware of them or even to have a clue as to their existence. These revolutions that have taken place have brought to us in this Parliament at this time a vision of the great enterprise which is about to unfold in the north. For the first time in our history, there are in the Speech addressed to the Parliament on the occasion of the opening of a session no fewer than five distinct allusions to this sort of development.
– “ Illusions “, not “allusions “.
– I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition does not join with me in supporting this development, because he has been noted in the past for his championing of the development of the north. I do not think it becomes him to make sniping remarks at this stage. This is an important matter, and I suggest to the honorable gentleman that if he takes it up earnestly, as I want to do and as other Government back-benchers want to do, we shall get somewhere. We want his co-operation and his help rn undertaking this constructive task which will have so many benefits for Australia.
His Excellency the Administrator said -
In the Northern Territory my Government will introduce a scheme to assist pastoralists and agriculturists in the development and improvement of water supplies on their properties. Also within the Northern Territory, research into cattle disease and the most suitable fodders is continuing . . .
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization continues to make important contributions to the solution of many national problems and a considerable part of the organization’s resources is devoted to problems associated with the development of Northern Australia.
His Excellency then referred to a review of the present state of knowledge of the life, culture and history of the Australian aborigines, who are concentrated in northern Australia. Subsequently, dealing with development projects, the Administrator declared -
The projects under particular and sympathetic consideration are road development in the north; improved port and loading facilities to assist the coal export trade; standardization of important railways . . .
Those are the internal communications which enable this great area of northern Australia to obtain its food. Earlier in the Speech, His Excellency said -
The development of Australia’s mineral resources is of high importance, both as an earner of foreign exchange and as a stimulus to the development of isolated areas. My advisers are continuing to encourage mineral development, including in particular the search for oil. My Government believes that the modification of the control over the export of iron ore should promote exploration and discovery of new sources and lead to increased reserves of iron ore for future use in the domestic steel industry.
In the north, at Constance Range and other places, although the full extent of the deposits is as yet unproven, there are known to be tremendous concentrations of ore.
Various important committees have been formed by the large number of Government back-benchers, Sir, and these committees have made valuable contributions in all these spheres of development. One of these committees is the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee, which, on 1st August, 1959, appeared on the Ord River. The Honorable Charles Court, who is Minister for the North-West and also Minister for Industrial Development and Minister for Railways in the Western Australian Government, was waiting there to meet the members of this committee. He told us that he had come to the end of his tether in his efforts to develop the north. However, we appeared like a ray of sunshine for him, because, within three weeks, construction of the first dam on the Ord River had been agreed to. The construction of that dam represented the spearhead of development in the north-west of Western Australia, and after it came many other developments, including the granting of permission for Western Australia to export iron ore, the development of a steel industry in that State, and the extending of a standardgauge railway from Sydney through Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie right to Fremantle. So we have the development of internal communications.
Last year, the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee visited northern Queensland and was welcomed there by fiercely enthusiastic northerners, who saw the possibilities that lay ahead when a large body of federal parliamentarians arrived. Only the other day, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is also Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, announced the establishment by that organization of a beef cattle research station in Townsville which will make a threepronged attack on the problems of the beef industry. There is to be a laboratory in that city, and on a site close to the new university college which has been established by the Country Party-Liberal Government in Queensland, plot development trials are to be undertaken, and there is to be a much larger area of 10,000 or 12,000 acres at another site for field trials. All this is in addition to the research establishments at Belmont, near Brisbane, and at Rodds Bay, in Queensland, and many other research stations, some of which I shall deal with shortly.
On 14th June, members of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee will be leaving on a trip through the Channel country of Queensland, through the eastern part of the Northern Territory, across to Victoria River Downs, back through Katherine and down through the centre of the Territory. Invitations to make that tour have been accepted by 22 Government back-benchers. We have been given much encouragement by the Administrator’s Speech which contained expressions of hope for great developments in northern Australia.
As we have said in this Parliament repeatedly, although development of the north is greatly helped by the development of mineral resources and the increasing of production at centres such as Mount Isa, Mary Kathleen, Rum Jungle, and Cockatoo Island, off the north-west coast of Western Australia, where there are large resources of iron ore, we believe that the beef industry offers the principal prospects for basic development in the north. Beef is of tremendous importance in the world to-day. Present indications are that the world’s markets for beef will never be over-supplied again. It is obvious to even the most uninitiated that while the world’s population continues to increase rapidly and standards of living continue to rise, there will be an enormous demand for red meat. The production of meat not only is not increasing, but in some areas is actually declining, because land which formerly produced meat has been taken over for intensive cultivation. Therefore, there will never again be a glut of beef on the world’s markets.
We in Australia cannot look forward to much greater export returns from wool, but we can expect an enormous increase in the export yield of beef, even on the most conservative estimates. We believe that the cattle population of Queensland can be increased in a very few years from 5,500,000 to 8,000,000 or perhaps even 10,000,000. and that the turn-off percentage can be greatly increased also. We believe that the cattle population of the Northern Territory can be increased to about 1,700,000 head and that of the Kimberley area to about 600,000 head - a total of perhaps 12,300,000 beasts in the north of the continent. We believe that southern Australia can carry 7.700,000 cattle, giving us a total of about 20,000,000 in any year. That is considered to be a most conservative estimate, and with a higher turn-off percentage the production of beef in this country could be doubled. At present prices, our beef industry is worth about £500,000,000 or £550,000,000. In ten years it could be doubled. Such an increase would be of enormous benefit to Australia. We know that if we increase our output of wool we may cause a glut on the world’s markets and the prices that we receive may fall, but this is not so with respect to beef.
We were told some years ago that Australia could never support more than 100,000,000 sheep. To-day, we have 150,000.000 sheep. People who are aware of the benefits of pasture improvement know that, even with 150.000,000 sheep, we have as yet only scratched the surface of our potential. Pasture improvement makes possible enormous increases in the supply of stock foods and greatly increases our sheepcarrying potential.
– The increase in carrying, potential is due also to myxomatosis.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his helpful comment, Mr. Speaker. It is true that the scientists have made a very great contribution to our pastoral industry by developing the myxomatosis virus, but why do we have to listen to this nonsense about rabbits becoming immune to it? They do not become immune to the myxomatosis virus. What actually happens is that the virus strain loses its killing power almost overnight and is no longer so highly lethal to rabbits. If, after a few weeks, a new and more deadly virus is introduced, the rabbits are killed off readily. The various poisons that have been used are just more deadly poisons than the earlier ones were. The myxomatosis virus is the supreme rabbitkilling agent, and it has wiped out so many rabbits that they are no longer of plague proportions. As a result of these developments, our sheep population has risen to 1 50,000,000 and we can continue to develop the sheep industry without worrying again about the rabbit scourge.
I return now to the beef industry, Mr. Speaker. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has told us, and we have been told also by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), of the great importance of animal nutrition. Members of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee have seen much evidence of this. We know that Australia’s soils are extremely deficient in nitrogen. There is a plant known as a legumes which have produced magical of being able to draw down nitrogen from the air. It has the capacity to draw down into the soil of Australia 400,000 tons of nitrogen. Within a few short years scientists have introduced into this country tropical legumes which have produced magical results. And this is only the beginning! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) has told us about the wonderful legume in the far north. There are many others which I could mention. For instance, at Rodds Bay. with Townsville lucerne, a most inferior looking plant, which has this marvellous property of bringing down nitrogen into the soil, they have increased the carrying capacity of the land by eight times. This means that in the central and southeastern part of Queensland where there are 3,250,000 cattle, we could build up the carrying capacity to 26,000,000 cattle. If we extended the project further into the north, the carrying capacity could be so increased until we had more cattle than the Argentine, whose cattle population runs between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 head. In Australia we have only 12,000,000 cattle, yet already we have reached the Argentine’s export total of £100,000,000 worth of beef, veal, mutton, hides and the other produce of the animal production industry. It will be seen, therefore, that we have a tremendous potential for the production of beef which will enable us to settle the north, although this may not come to fruition in five or even ten years’ time.
The first essential to the development of the north, of course, is roads. We already have an all-weather road from Darwin to Alice Springs. We also have a road from near Tennant Creek to Mount Isa. We have about 1,300 miles of good road down the centre and across to the Queensland railhead. What we need is the construction of another 4,000 miles of light road costing about £3,000 a mile or a better road costing about £6,000 a mile to complete that stretch. Already two sections, one 950 miles long and the other 404 miles long have been completed. To complete the rest would cost a total of £24,000,000, but this would mean an expenditure of only £2,500,000 a year if the work were spread over ten years. When completed, we would enjoy a return of 10 per cent, on £2,500,000 a year. The construction of these roads would enable us immediately to move not only young cattle, our trade beasts, but also store cattle into places like the Channel country where the clover is extremely high when it reaches its peak as cattle feed. It will be seen, therefore, that the roads project mentioned in the Administrator’s Speech can be brought to fruition. The men portrayed in “ Kings in Grass Castles “, who went outback 100 years ago, visualized all this development. Both they and their sons died without seeing their dreams become reality, but they will come true before very long. This document makes possible the bringing to fruition of dreams which, when all is said and done, are not so very old after all. We hope that they will come to fruition even faster than we expect, for this project referred to by the Administrator means the creation of employment and the utilization of our steel and other resources in the construcion of roads. It opens up great possibilities. It can also help in the discovery of oil. We have seen gangs of men going out into such arid areas as Innamincka and other districts the names of which remind one of Banjo Paterson’s tremendous faith that oil would be discovered. Now, at last, technical resources are being brought to their aid. We are now seeing conducted surveys which will enable our searchers to ascertain the correct places at which to sink bores and obtain oil. Certainly these are all “ if s but I remind honorable members that only two years ago Australia reached the pinnacle in beef production. Two years ago, it became the most efficient beef-producing country in the world. By “ efficient “, I mean in comparison with other beefproducing countries. Actually, as yet, we are still at the primitive stage. The challenge is now before us. This young country of tremendous vigour, which is renowned for being able to tackle its problems, can now go ahead and solve these problems.
We are told that this is an arid continent. If honorable members care to accompany this mission of ours they will see millions of acres of arid country, especially in the upper reaches of the Gascoyne River, where, near Carnarvon, it will be possible, by using bulldozers, to put in check banks which will move what are now small trickles of water back on to what looks like desert. In a few years, the cattle-fattening capacity of that land will improve tremendously. Again, other land which is now regarded as arid because of its lack of nitrogen will be brought into production because the scientists are introducing new legumes which will bring down into the soil this Heaven-sent fertilizer. Four-fifths of the air we breathe is made up of nitrogen, the most valuable fertilizer of all. It is the principal plant food. The protein part of the legume, its root system and its leaves all combine to put into the soil that humus which enables it to stand up to drought and to produce not twice or three times but ten times as much as it will produce now.
– What about water?
– The honorable member asks about water. That is also a challenge. We are meeting that challenge. My colleague in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Beale, who is the chairman of the Water Research Foundation of Australia Limited, has suggested one possibility. He has spoken of atomic explosions underground to trap the water and prevent it from going out to sea. All sorts of ideas have been suggested. Rain-making is another. They are all aimed at improving the soil, getting more humus into it so that it will stand up to drought.
My colleague, the honorable member for Herbert, who probably has been the strongest advocate of this movement in the north, and the development of the cattle industry, reminds me of the possibilities of water transport in the north. I have a map which shows cattle zones for water transport, and I remind honorable members that at one time the old “ Wewak “ went up the rivers and brought cattle from both sides of the Cape York Peninsula round to Normanton. I remind them that the shallow draft Clausen ships brought cattle from Normanton to Cairns and when the beasts got to their destination they rose in value from £22 to £42 a head in one day because, instead of having to undergo a three months’ drive across the top of the Divide, some of them having to be shot on the way, and arriving muscle-bound, they arrived fresh, tender and fat. By the old system under which they had to be brought across the top of the Divide, they would have to be kept for one year on arrival to fatten and by the time they were marketed they might be anything up to five or six years old. If cattle can be fattened in two or three years instead of five or six years, it is obvious that the turn-off of the country can be doubled. Mr. Clausen has come out from Denmark to investigate the possibilities of water transport. If we do not restore or construct these internal communications the cattle will be taken out by external means. The agents for the “ Wewak “ and other Clausen ships have stated that their ships can take on these cattle, feed them and water them. They say that it will be possible to construct a ship that will be able to load cattle at Victoria River at all times of the year and land them in Smithfield alive and in prime condition in two or three weeks. Those are some of the possibilities before us. Unless we introduce these internal communications, unless we construct roads and develop the railways across the bottom of Australia to take cattle from the Northern Territory down to the south-east and to South Australia and to Western Victoria, we shall lose cattle to our meatworks and they will be lost to us also for internal consumption. The honorable member for Herbert has also asked about off-road transport. When these roads are constructed - when the Minister for Shipping and Transport, his staff and the people with whom he is combining and co-operating can do that job - these cattle will move on wheels. They cannot be allowed any longer to move on foot because it is just oo primitive for words to have cattle of this enormous value - the industry is worth between £550,000,000 and £600,000,000- travelling hundreds of miles on the hoof and getting into such a condition that it takes them a year to recover from the trek and another year to fatten. It is madness to allow that to continue. We have to snap out of it. It is pathetic to see the transport drivers and mechanics battling with the roads and with the terrific amount of maintenance that is necessary on vehicles because of the condition of the roads. Even roads that have been built with Commonwealth money are corrugated to such an extent that the vehicles take a terrific battering. The only solution at present is off-road transport, but that is an extremely costly business. Some men have fitted Rolls-Royce engines to their prime movers and they have done a magnificent job. Each road train carries about 85 large cattle or 130 weaners which are light on their feet and can be packed in fairly tightly.
We are more than delighted to see the reference in the Speech to the development of northern Australia. This is an inspiration to Australians. It is a most stimulating experience to see a subject of this kind incorporated in the Speech which outlines the Government’s intentions. I hope that credit for this can be given to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who has seen a good deal of roads, and not from a powered vehicle. He knows the importance of transport and I am pleased that he is in the chamber now. Members of this Parliament who have been imbued with the patriotic spirit and with the love of their country. and who go to the north will have an unforgettable experience. It is most moving to see this huge country. In the Drysdale River area there are 1,000,000 acres in each block waiting to be taken up for a rental of £88 a year. Where else in the world could you obtain 1,000,000 acres, some of it basalt, untenanted and unused, for £88 a year? Nowhere else in the world could you see such an expanse of country. But the cost of transport and of getting cattle there is enormous. The possibilities of these vast areas all in one continent are unbounded. We are the only people in the world who have been given one continent to ourselves and it is waiting for the plough, pasture improvement, the cattle and the men who have the guts and the courage to go into it. So this party and, I am sure, the Opposition, because no honorable member would dispute this, will develop our north and make Australia the great continent that it should be.
– It was refreshing to hear at long last a member on the Government side say something worth while about our valued north. For ten years the Opposition has sent its members consistently to the north and “ Hansard “ is studded with speeches that they have made in relation to what is necessary there. I remind the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), who is interjecting and who has been referred to so eulogistically for his actions in the north, that at least seven years ago I heard a fellow Queenslander stand in this place and talk about the value of the stock in the north that could be shifted by air - an air-beef lift - but nothing has been heard of it since. I am prepared to say that the great speech that we have heard from the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) will be recorded in “ Hansard “ and, unless a Labour Government comes to office this year to give effect to what he has suggested, that is where it will remain as long as this Government is in office because nothing was done even when a former Treasurer came from Queensland.
It is good to know that 22 back-benchers are going to the Northern Territory, and it is good to know that they have decided to go in June. It is rather a pity that they did not go in January and have a look at some of the difficulties that confront the north in the wet season. They are not going until June when the climatic conditions will be more to their liking. 1 am sick of listening to this kind of talk. To-night we heard the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), a member of the Australian Country Party who should be concerned with the country, tell us that he did not want to be controversial because he understands that something controversial will be before us tomorrow. The Acting Prime Minister spoke about circling the earth looking for markets and about the programme that he has in mind with regard to those things that are essential to Australia’s future and its overseas commitments. In his Speech yesterday the Administrator referred to wool, and to-day the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has a subleader in these simple terms which incorporates statements made by Mr. Scott, president of the N.S.W. Graziers Association of -
The national policy of expansion, said Mr. Scott, would be brought to a standstill if the industry continued to decline in status and efficiency.
The Government should start to do something first about what it already has. The sub-leader continues -
Woolgrowing in its present state was unprofitable; and already the position for some growers was desperate.
That is the position after this Government has been in office for twelve years. Now we have honorable members talking about the north. Why not do something about the rural industry which has been doing something for this country for so long instead of talking about that mythical problem that calls for the Government’s attention? The Acting Prime Minister, who is the No. 1 man in this country at present, said that we have to do something to obtain overseas markets and to improve our manufacturing industries. If honorable members listened to him intently, as they should have done, surely they would have been surprised at the Acting Prime Minister’s statements. Which industry is affected most by the pay-roll tax? Which industry should obtain the concession to which the Acting Prime Minister referred as being necessary in any solution of our overseas problems? Of course, it is secondary industry!
The Administrator’s Speech gives me three reasons to wonder whether this Government has any contact with what is necessary for Australia’s future progress. The first portion of the Speech to which I wish to refer is in these terms -
In the economic sphere, it remains the firm aim of the Government to maintain soundly based national expansion, immigration and full employment.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Capricornia should listen closely to this. The Administrator continued -
There is evidence that the pressures of excessive demand are beginning to abate and my advisers are confident that the action they have taken will be successful in setting the economy on a course of steady growth and progress.
The next portion of the Speech to which I wish to refer states -
My advisers will continue their efforts to encourage industry to promote greater efficiency, and are pleased at the degree to which productivity groups are being formed in particular areas and branches of industry.
That relates to secondary industry. The last extract that I wish to read was referred to in brief by the honorable member for Macarthur, and rather fully by the Acting Prime Minister. It relates to the standardization of important railways in South Australia and Western Australia. Let me take the last one first. It seems to me that this Government, in every move it makes, fails to look at the realities. If any one in this House feels that the mere standardization of rail gauges will be the answer to Australia’s transport problem, he is not giving real thought to the problem.
– It is a start.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON__ Yes, but when a country is in the dangerous situation that this country is in, you must determine the basic causes and use the proper remedies.
– You were a member of the Opposition’s committee on the standardization of gauges.
– I was, but that committee did not say that standardization was the real answer to the problem. It will be recalled that when we dealt with standardization we posed the query: “ Does railway standardization provide the answer? “ Let me remind my friends opposite that what we said - and I quote from the report of the committee in 1956 - was -
The road problem is the major one and it might well be argued that a population of 9,000,000 people or thereabouts will find it difficult to find the huge sum of money required for the roadway construction so urgently needed. Should a near miracle be performed and the material can be found in the next ten years to meet the huge minimum amount required and in addition the £1,340,000,000 can be found, the question posed is “Can 9,000,000 people continue to provide the man-power required to maintain all the requirements of over 2,000,000 vehicles operating over more than 500,000 miles of roads? “
And it is substantially more than that now The report of an American road engineer a few days ago says that it is a sheer impossibility. That is the latest report we have on roads in this country. I can tell the House exactly what the Opposition’s committee said on 2nd November, 1956. It was -
The answer to that would seem to be to take the heaviest loading off the roads and that by the standardization of rail gauges as between the capital cities. But that is not all the answer. There is no break of gauge between Adelaide and Melbourne, neither is there any break of gauge between Sydney and Brisbane, yet all these systems of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales record great financial difficulties. To an extent each State has diesel-electric locomotives, but in the case of South Australia and Victoria the power unit changes at the border. The systems are not co-ordinated and unification of rail gauges without co-ordination might well produce no better result than is being obtained as between South Australia and Victoria at the present time.
That is what we said in 1956, and a further important factor was this -
It does then seem to be that the standardization of rail gauges within itself will not provide the answer to Australia’s transport economic problem. But co-ordinated transport within the control of an Interstate Commerce Commission and the availability of swift cheap rail service worked by diesel-electric locomotives between all capital cities over a standardized railway system would certainly reduce substantially the transport cost content in Australia’s economy.
But it can be valueless unless you set up a transport commission to co-ordinate transport in Australia. The thing which is crying out loudest for attention in this country is co-ordination of the transport system, and until that is faced by some government - we will face up to it when we come to office at the end of this year - the problem will not be solved. There is no purpose in talking about standardization of gauges unless you face up to the real problem, which is the co-ordination of transport in Australia. The interest of the Playford Government in the question of standardization is prompted by fear that Adelaide may suffer as the result of the standardization of the Melbourne-Albury gauge if something is not done. If the Government is not prepared to co-ordinate transport it may easily find that the extension of the standard gauge will be a waste of national funds. I hope the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is paying attention to that. He is the one who should go to Germany and America, where there is complete standardization of rail gauges, but in which countries the authorities also have complete control of transport. If the Minister visited West Germany or America he would return confirmed in the view that standardization, without co-ordination of transport, was wasted effort. That will be proved in this country in the not-far-distant future.
The standardization of rail gauges forecast by this Government now will be an asset, and I have advocated it just as consistently as have any members on the Government side of the House, but I repeat that without co-ordination of transport in Australia we will never resolve the transport difficulties of this country.
Let me return to the Administrator’s Speech. He said -
Tn the economic sphere, it remains the first aim of the Government to maintain soundly based national expansion, immigration and full employment.
A little later he said -
There is evidence that the pressures of excessive demand are beginning to abate and my advisers are confident (hat the action they have taken will be successful in setting the economy on a course of steady growth and progress.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let us look at one page of “ The Sydney Morning Herald “ of Saturday, 4th March, which was published while the Speech was being written by the Government. There we read the following headlines: - “ Five hundred men laid off “, and, in the next column, “ Milperra Mower Factory Dismisses 200 “. On the same page we see the headings “ Australian Deficit Mostly with Dollar Area,” and “Savings Bank Deposits Fall”.
– What about unity tickets?
– Honorable members opposite sometimes try to divert me with their interjections from a subject which stings, but I will not be diverted from this one. This is a matter of bread and butter and starving people and is much more important to me than unity tickets or anything else in this country at the present time. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published the following statements last Saturday: -
Timber authorities yesterday called the slump the worst to hit the north coast in more than 20 years. They said it had been caused by: restricted finance for home-building; unrestricted imports of foreign timbers, particularly Oregon from the U.S. and plywoods and veneers from the Philippines, Japan and Malaya; imports of partly-assembled furniture from Japan.
Let us see what is happening to the north coast where I was born and reared, as a result of this muddling. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ says -
The State Forestry Commissioner, Mr. L. Hudson, said yesterday the commission was “very concerned at the situation “, but there was little it could do. “The timber industry has always been a good barometer of our economic situation “, he said. Last night two more mills in the Kempsey area laid off about 50 men.
You will be concerned at what I am saying now, Mr. Deputy Speaker -
Mills are closed at Wauchope, Grafton, Armidale, Tamworth, Dorrigo, Coffs Harbour, Urunga, Roseberry, Casino, Lismore and Kyogle. In Kempsey, hardest hit area where 250 men have been laid off and five mills closed, citizens have called a public meeting. The Mayor, Alderman R. G. Melville, who is convening the meeting, said the area depended on timber for 40 per cent, of its income.
Yet the Government tells us that there is evidence that the pressures of excessive demand are beginning to abate and that it is confident that the action taken will enable the economy to develop steadily. Is that what you call “ steady growth and progress “? Is that the type of organization we want in this country at this or any other time? Let us look at what is happening at the Victa mower factory at Milperra. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ report states -
Victa Consolidated Industries has laid off 200 workers at its Milperra plant.
The report continues -
Thirty-five workers employed by Courtaulds Australia Limited at Tomago, near Raymond Terrace, have been dismissed.
The report also states -
During February there were 100 dismissals at Burlington Mills, Rutherford.
Some other large establishments were working only four days a week. This had not been done for a number of years.
Let us see now what has happened in the textile industry as the result of this Government’s policy. Last Saturday, while the speech made by the Administrator on behalf of the Government was being prepared, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ had this to say -
Two thousand Australian textile industry employees had lost their jobs this year because of the Government’s credit squeeze . . .
Now let us see what has happened in regard to savings bank deposits. The same newspaper said in a report on that same day -
Savings bank deposits have fallen in three successive months for the first time in at least five years.
Further down in the same report it is stated -
Deposits in all States during the year ended January increased by £100,473,000, or 6.9 per cent.
The largest decrease in January was £1,600,000 in Queensland.
In point of fact, Queensland, the very State about which we are talking to-night, is the State that has been hit the hardest. The drop in savings bank deposits in Queensland was half of the total. I happened to be in Queensland when the Premier, Mr. Nicklin, returned from the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council. The whole of the Queensland press gave three-inch headlines to the fact that Mr. Nicklin blamed this Commonwealth Government for the increase m unemployment in Queensland. For the Minister to rise in his place to-day and tell us that the position in Queensland is not different to-day from what it was in January or February last year is so much rot.
The time of processing in the sugar industry in Queensland to-day is reduced by 50 per cent, as a result of modern technology in the treatment of raw sugar. Men have to seek work elsewhere as a result of automation. In the rail industry, because of the introduction of diesel locomotion, men have been engaged in employment other than their usual employment on the railways. In the town of Gympie I saw thirteen firemen at work in the shed, doing labourers’ jobs. Drivers have to go back to the shovel, junior permanent hands have to go back to labouring and labourers are put off. That is what is happening in Gympie, and you can find exactly the same thing in town after town in Queensland. Yet somebody comes to this House and tells us that the Government is happy about what it is doing. Just take a look at what Premier Nicklin had to say on his return from the Loan Council meeting! Read the press of Queensland and you will see the result of this Government’s policy as reflected in the decrease of savings bank deposits. The position is the same all over Australia, which is suffering from creeping paralysis as the result of this Government’s actions.
In his Speech on behalf of the Government the Administrator said -
My advisers will continue their efforts to encourage industry to promote greater efficiency, and are pleased at the degree to which productivity groups are being formed in particular areas and branches of industry.
It has been my privilege in recent times to take some interest in productivity groups and their activities. I happen to be a member of one of them. In my opinion the Government is fiddling while Rome burns so far as production is concerned. Last Tuesday it was my privilege to sit in on a productivity discussion. Let me read to the House a summary of the remarks of a gentleman whom I do not want to name. He is one of the top employees of Ducor Industries Limited. He was dealing with the question “ Can we afford to have obsolescent plant? “ That company is at the crux of Australian secondary industry. This gentleman said -
In summing up I believe it is absolutely essential that companies to-day are fully mindful of new developments in plant and equipment, and that they must have a sound control over the plant and equipment operated by them.
Probably one of the highest indirect costs in manufacturing industries to-day is caused by the use of obsolete plant, which apart from causing considerable direct costs for repairs and maintenance etc., causes much greater costs because of its low standard of efficiency comparable to more modern plant.
It is useless for the Government to expect the manufacturing industries of this country to be able to compete in the markets around the world enumerated to-night by the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade when their machinery of production is obsolete. With the exception of the steel industry, which is up to date, it is necessary to re-equip secondary industry in this country with modern equipment like the automotive machinery that is available to manufacturers overseas. This would be only the initial stage in increasing the productivity of the manufacturing industries of Australia. We are living in a world of automation. Countries like America, Great Britain, France and other countries which have teeming millions within their borders can profitably run automotive machinery for 24 hours a day because they have the home market to absorb the production. Our home market is so limited that it would be out of the question to attempt to compete with countries of that kind, unless great assistance is given to our manufacturing industries. To-day the electronics industry is the important industry in the world. Changes in production techniques are taking place monthly, weekly and even daily, and it seems obvious that for industry in this country to be equipped with the up-to-date equipment to place it on a comparative footing with industry in America, France and elsewhere, we have to do something to meet the needs of the situation. We must first ask ourselves how we are going to increase our production. It is of little use talking, as the Acting Prime Minister did to-night, about what we are going to do in the various areas abroad that he mentioned. His speech is a failure when it comes to the question of what we are going to do about increasing our level of manufacturing in Australia and so increase our exports. It is quite apparent that up to date the Government has not looked at the impact on world production of automation, which has so greatly reduced costs of production in America and other countries which have home markets to absorb the output of automotive machinery run for 24 hours a day. We have not such a home market in this country, and when we are talking about manufacturers looking for markets in the areas mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister, we must realize that the first thing these manufacturers will find in these areas is that the very same articles that they are trying to sell there are being produced by countries which have intensive automation, sometimes wiith government assistance. So, let not this Government go on putting the cart before the horse. In relation to transport requirements the Government is only touching the fringe; in relation to manufacturing requirements it is not even touching the fringe.
The manufacturing industries are saying to the Government, “ You can save us from disaster “. But the Government is allowing the position of our manufacturing industries to slip further and further back as a result of the imports it is allowing into the country, which are affecting even the manufacturing capacity that this country already has. Our manufacturing industries cannot compete overseas unless they have modern machinery. They have not the wherewithal, and will not have it, to purchase the necessary machinery, and we are not producing that machinery ourselves in this country. So, we are in a cleft stick.
-(Mr. Locock). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I often follow the honorable member for Blaxland in debates in this chamber, and in following him to-night I am glad to be able to make the observation that he is apparently for once putting his faith in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I welcome his trust in that newspaper but, for my part, I would much rather put my faith in the Government’s statement on its measures, and I am absolutely certain that the coming months will show that the Government’s confidence is more justified than the prophecies of doom made by the honorable member for Blaxland. It is a pity that he has not spoken more effectively and to the point on this extremely important subject that was introduced into the House by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen). I welcome the fact that our Acting Prime Minister has highlighted, at the start of this new session of Parliament, the importance of our overseas trade. Everything that he has said tonight affects each one of us. We must congratulate him on bringing forward a new series of measures, aimed at engendering greater confidence in the way in which our exports can be promoted and the way in which the Government will help private enterprise to do this during the coming months. Every one of the measures that the right honorable gentleman foreshadowed this evening is a measure for which we have been waiting for a long time. We are glad now that the whole programme has been put before us so convincingly. Let us consider some of the important measures that were outlined to us.
First of all, those who seek new overseas markets will be able to claim increased taxation concessions in respect of expenditure so incurred. I think that we should congratulate those pioneers of to-day who are prepared to go out into new markets, seeking ways of increasing our exports. They will be greatly assisted by the doubling of the taxation allowance. This could be the most important of all the measures outlined to-night.
The second measure - the concession in respect of pay-roll tax - is one that manufacturing industries and the Export Development Council have stated to be one of the most important ways in which exports can be increased and a keenness for this job can be engendered in industry. Therefore I feel certain that this concession too will play a large part in the development of new markets overseas, particularly for the products of secondary industry. In spite of what the honorable member for Blaxland has said about the need for productivity, with which we would all agree, there are many facets of Australian industry in which the processes of automation have already been introduced. We know that our steel industry and all the industries that use steel can compete on overseas markets. Therefore, we are in a position, if we offer these new inducements, to take advantage of many markets which are already waiting to be developed by private enterprise operating from Australia.
We have heard about the way in which trade commissioners are to be sent to areas in which we have played very little part in the past. The exploration of market possibilities in South America, the Middle East and the Persion Gulf have been mentioned to-night. Those are three important markets which have hardly been touched, so far, by Australian industry. To my mind, the Persian Gulf area is one of the most important of all because it is the area with which we probably have the greatest deficiency in our balance of payments. In view of the amount of oil that we buy from the Persian Gulf it is important that we should endeavour to export to that area a quantity goods similar to that which we import from it. New markets would en able us to take advantage of the tremendous overseas credits that these countries are now accumulating. The fact that we are grasping the opportunities with both hands is something for which the Government must again be commended.
I also welcomed the announcement that we would be prepared, if necessary, to subsidize new shipping services. It is impossible to develop new markets overseas unless there are regular shipping services to these areas. I am certain that we would have done a great deal in the past to develop markets in South America had there been a regular shipping service. Now that this has been recognized, shipping services will be encouraged and the trade. I am certain, will follow the ships.
The news that the Government recognizes the need to spend money on our ports, particularly those concerned with the export of coal, is long overdue. There is no doubt that we could increase our exports of coal to Japan and other countries, including South America, if we could improve the loading equipment and the harbour facilities in the port of Newcastle. This is one of the great announcements that we have heard to-night.
Another important announcement by the Acting Prime Minister was that the Government will co-operate with private enterprise in -the encouragement of the erection of warehouses and facilities in a number of our overseas markets. When I was travelling in Africa last year with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association I found a number of markets in which there was a great possibility for the sale of Australian goods, but one of the great deficiencies was the shortage of warehouse space. There was also the difficulty of breaking into a market when we did not have Australian goods in the shop windows.
– Are there not balanceofpayments problems in African countries?
– Not so much in West Africa and Nigeria and Ghana. With the high price of cocoa, their exports are fairly high and they are anxious to buy goods from Australia. The provision of warehouse facilities not only in Africa, but also in Canada and many other of our present markets, will, in the long term, prove to be one of the most important measures mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister.
It is with those few words that I welcome the speech of our Acting Prime Minister to-night. I feel that it needs to be given all the emphasis that we can command in order to encourage the people who will benefit from these proposals to get behind the Government and renew their efforts to export Australian goods in the coming year. The Acting Prime Minister’s statement reinforces the views that we have all held for some time that exports, particularly to new markets such as South America, the Persian Gulf and Africa, are absolutely vital to the improvement of our economy. I will refer later to some of the problems in our traditional markets. Our search for new markets, possibly to offset difficulties in the traditional markets, is tremendously important.
As the Acting Prime Minister has said, much has already been done to encourage our exports. Much will be done as the result of what has been said to-night. But there is still much to do and I hope that, as the months go by, and these measures start to take effect, we shall again hear of new measures and new ideas whereby we can keep ourselves in the forefront of exporters. I think that already the work of the trade promotion section of the Department of Trade shows that Australia is on the ball with fresh ideas for selling Australian goods overseas. If it keeps coming up with new ideas, on the lines of those that have been brought forward to-night, we shall continue to keep Australia’s name amongst those of the foremost trading nations of the world.
I turn now to the other side of the picture. Having looked at the problems associated with expanding our exports, I think there is another aspect of the balance of payments difficulty which must be considered; that is to say, we must ensure that our imports are kept within reasonable bounds. All those who heard or read the Speech delivered yestereday by the Administrator must have been pleased to learn that the Government has shown once again that it is determined not to inflict on the nation again the inequities associated with the whole system of import licensing. The problems that existed during the eight years in which we endured the import licensing system are well known, and I am certain that the Government is right in doing every- thing it can to see that we shall not again suffer under that system. Its ill-effects, as I say, are well known to all of us. In addition to the problems associated with it which we have to face at home, there are international obligations into which we have entered, and which make it extremely undesirable for us ever to revert to that system.
I must say, however, that there were one or two silver linings to the dark cloud of import licensing. One of the advantages of the system was that it was possible for us to forecast fairly accurately the volume of our imports for many months ahead. We knew exactly where we were going from month to month. Now that the system of import licensing is no longer in operation, we cannot forecast what lies ahead with the same accuracy as we could previously. Having this in mind, I was rather interested to learn that the new Government of New Zealand which took office a few months ago - a government of the same political persuasion as the Australian Government - has indicated that it will introduce a system of forward exchange notification for the more accurate assessment of overseas funds prospects.
To my mind, our overseas reserves are important to every citizen of Australia. We are all affected when a particular person in the community places an order overseas for goods to be imported into Australia. I think, therefore, that it is highly desirable that a similar system to that which is to come into operation shortly in New Zealand should be introduced here. Any person intending to place an order overseas for goods to be imported into Australia would then have to register his intention, giving the date on which his commitments were likely to be incurred. We should then have a knowledge of the commitments that the nation as a whole would have to meet from month to month. If it were found later that the delivery date of the goods was likely to be significantly altered, that fact would also have to be registered.
As honorable members may know, I spent many years in a retail store. As a buyer for that store I always believed that while the stocks on hand, and the sales being made, were important, by far the most important of the indicators available in the business was a knowledge of our forward commitments - what goods we had on order and what payments we would have to make for them after a certain time. When I look at the position of the nation it appears to me that similar considerations arise. 1 believe that as a nation it is most important for us to have an accurate foreknowledge of the bills that we will have to meet in the months ahead.
– You have Buckley’s chance of knowing that, the way you are going.
– That is not entirely correct. We already have a valuable system in operation, and with very little extra effort we can obtain a great deal of valuable information.
In the few minutes that are still available I should like to speak of another matter. While we have rightly directed our attention to-night to the development of new markets, it is important also that we should not forget our traditional markets, particularly those in the United Kingdom and in Europe. I make no bones, therefore, about returning to a subject on which I have already spoken in this House. I refer to the importance to Australia of changes that are taking place at the present time in the European Common Market. Tremendous changes have occurred, even since the House met three or four months ago. There have been changes in tariffs, many in an upward direction, and there has been a movement towards economic self-sufficiency for the six countries in the European Common Market. There has also been a growth in the Euro.pean Free Trade Area, or the Seven, as it is more popularly called. The important point is that there have been increasing signs that
To an extent I believe the United Kingdom has been held back from joining the European Common Market by the effect that such an action might have on other countries of the Commonwealth. If this is so - and there has been some evidence that it is - I think Australia should again emphasize that any rift in Europe is something from which we shall all suffer and something that should be remedied at the earliest possible opportunity. I believe that it is in the interests of everybody that the United Kingdom should join the European Common Market and that “e should encourage everybody who can do so to try to move the United Kingdom towards that end. If it does so, there will be short-term economic problems for Australia as a result, and in due course, and if the rift is healed, we must ensure that these short.term economic problems will be overcome. But ‘et us first make certain that the steps are taken in the proper order. First, we should look at the world problem of saving Europe from being divided into two camps. Having solved that problem, we should then consider all possible ways in which Australia’s interests can be safeguarded.
Other problems will arise, and in this connexion I refer to a short article, by a Mr. Neal, which appeared in the journal “Foreign Affairs”, of January, 1961, at page 249. The passage read -
It is in the economic interest of the United States and of all third countries -
That includes Australia - to bring the E.E.C. and EFTA together in a way which will minimize the degree of discrimination. (The political value of heating the split is obvious.) This requires the calculation of a nice balance between allowing sufficient discrimination to carry out the original purpose of the association and being so discriminatory as to split the industrialized nations of the world and their associated overseas countries into separate trading blocs. I have suggested, pending more complete knowledge of the average external tariffs in all of the areas affected, that an all-round reduction of the average tariff on industrial products to about 10 per cent, might strike this balance so ‘far as the industrial countries are concerned.
To achieve an average tariff level on industrial products of not in excess of 10 per cent, would require cuts in the external tariff of the Common Market, of Britain and of the United States of probably between one-third and one-half.
These are the big problems that still lie ahead. The fact is that tariffs overseas are rising, and this will affect Australia’s trade. The further this goes and the more selfsufficient Europe tends to become, the more Australia may expect trade discrimination against it. Already other trade groups are being foreshadowed. In addition to those in Europe, there are groups in
Latin America, Central America, Africa, South-east Asia and the Arab League. Therefore, these discriminatory practices are likely to increase and we must watch to see that whilst we are developing our new markets we are not neglecting the problems that are likely to arise in our traditional markets, on which we have depended for so long.
If I may, I will sum up what I have tried to say to-night. The Acting Prime Minister has already demonstrated to us the importance of the trade problem. The measures announced by him herald a renewed effort on this very important problem. The Government has shown a determination not to be beaten by this difficult problem of the balance of payments, and it will not resort to import licensing. Instead, it is adopting a positive policy and giving an aggressive lead to the nation, telling us to get out and to export and so pay for the imports that we need. This, I think, is what we expect of a great trading nation and we congratulate the Government on giving us this lead. The problems in Europe to which I have referred are yet another facet of this same task. Though the dangers are growing, I am confident that the Government will ensure that Australia’s interests will again be safeguarded1. With that in mind, let us ensure that the whole of the nation at this time gives the Government every support in the task that it has undertaken on our behalf.
.- The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) in the course of his address to-night said that he would not indulge in controversial discussions. He then proceeded to outline to us certain proposals which he suggested might solve our adverse balance of payments problem. I recall that during the last Budget debate several Ministers said that if we were to achieve a safe position with our balance of payments we would have to stimulate the economy so that we would be able to obtain an additional £250,000,000 from our exports. The assumption now is that the proposals submitted by the Acting Prime Minister and those contained in the Administrator’s Speech provide the answer to our problem.
There is nothing novel in the proposals submitted to-night by the Acting Prime
Minister. They do not suggest anything that the Government could not have done in the years that have passed. As a matter of fact, these proposals could well have been put into effect before without upsetting our economy. To-day, we still have before us the target that was set when the last Budget was introduced. The Acting Prime Minister assures us that our target is still to increase our exports by £250,000,000 a year. But that will not be done in a short time, even assuming that the measures now proposed will achieve the objective at all. At best, these are long-term proposals. 1 was very interested in many of the suggestions contained in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Administrator. I found one suggestion of particular interest and it is contained in the section of the Speech dealing with the economic measures recently introduced by the Government. His Excellency said -
My advisers believe that those measures are having their intended effect.
One effect that it was said that these measures were intended to produce was a reduction of the production of the automobile industry. The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce has suggested thai the reduction achieved is 42 per cent, in the automobile industry. In home building in Victoria the suggested reduction is 80 per cent. Apart from the reduction in the number of homes being built throughout Australia, we find that the economic measures of the Government has resulted in increased repayments on loans obtained by home builders. Interest rates have been increased and this has placed a further burden on the worker who must now pay an additional £15 to £20 a year. The measures, we are told, are having their intended effect. Is this one of the intended effects?
Unemployment has increased considerably as a result of these economic measures. The measures, we are told, are having their intended effect. It is all very well for honorable members to take solace from the little shot in the arm that the Acting Prime Minister has given them, but those people who must now pay an additional £15 to £20 a year, or roughly £450 on the amount that they have borrowed, cannot take much solace from the kind of slush that is dished out here. This is real money to them and it is a hardship to find it. Those who are unemployed cannot take a great deal of solace from the statement that the measures are having their intended effect.
The word “ intended “ means “ deliberate”. The deliberate intention of these measures, therefore, was to create unemployment, to depress the motor car industry and the building industry and to increase the repayments of workers on their homes. Let us not mention, of course, the deliberate effect of the increase of 10 per cent. - from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. - in sales tax on motor cars. I presume that that measure had its deliberate effect quite early. Its deliberate effect was achieved much earlier than were the other effects. Much has been said about that, and I do not propose to say a great deal more about it.
The popular theme of Government supporters can be seen in the speech made by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), who moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Administrator’s Speech. The honorable member said that the economy is soundly based and that the future of this country is assured so long as it is under proper management. I have no doubt about that, but such management would not be the kind that we have at present.
– I would not care to put a fish-and-chips shop under management like that.
– No. Haliburton Investments (Australia) Limited is not sold on the Australian Labour Party and never was. At page 12 of the printed copy of the address given by the chairman of that company to the annual general meeting of shareholders on 20th February, 1961, we find a significant statement under the heading, “ Further Decline Expected “. Was this further decline another of the expected results of the Government’s economic measures? The chairman of the company had just mentioned the disastrous fall in our overseas reserves, and he continued -
The foregoing figures are of the greatest significance because they indicate that Australia remains incapable of financing the maintenance of economic activity from her own resources . . .
This Government has been at the helm in Australia for the past eleven years. The company whose chairman made this state ment is not an irresponsible firm. He continued -
The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, in the issue of its “ Economic Review “ for February of this year, stated -
The general decline in activity was a result of the economic measures brought down in February, 1960, which included the freeing of imports causing a very significant drop in International Reserves and the “little Budget” will hurry the final adjustment.
I do not need to deal at any length with the fall in our overseas reserves, but I do say that it is significant that an authority such as the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, if I may so describe it, suggests that the general decline in activity was a result of the economic measures taken by this Government in February, 1960. So there we see another of the intended effects.
Further reference to this matter has been made by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce in a letter over the signature of Mr. L. A. Armstrong, its general secretary, which I have received. I am sure that all Government supporters in this House received similar letters. The letter states -
Unfortunately our assessment is that conditions in the industry will become even more depressed in the next few months and we believe that this position should be made known to you.
So, we do not have to go to the Australian Labour Party and its supporters, or to those people who always cry calamity, in order to get this kind of story. We get it from what supporters of this Government would describe as reputable commercial institutions. I suggest that the Government and its supporters have some responsibility in what has happened. Only this afternoon, I heard the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) ask a question in which he intimated that 45 timber mills in his electorate were being closed down. Is this another intended effect of the Government’s economic measures? If it is. all that I have to say to the right honorable member is that he should be the last to complain about it, because he supported the Government’s measures up to the hilt and voted solidly in favour of them.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) suggested this afternoon that because of the intended effects of the Government’s measures on Queensland in its particular circumstances, credit restrictions should be eased in certain circumstances in that State. If the credit restrictions are hitting the honorable member’s constituents, all that I have to say to him is that he ought to tell them that he voted solidly for the Government’s measures in every division that took place while they were being considered. He supported the very measures which he now claims should be relaxed - but only for Queensland, mark you! If he could get it even closer to home, perhaps he would want the relaxation to apply only to the constituents of Wide Bay; I do not know. But he has a responsibility in the matter.
– He has been a bandit all his life.
– I do not know about that. I am merely stating what he seems to want.
– The honorable member is quite modest.
– Yes. I now come to a publication by the name of “ Muster “, which is a graziers’ journal, published by some of those who are friends of the honorable member for Mallee. The Government assured us that home-building would not be affected by its credit restrictions, but “Muster”, in its editorial in the issue of Wednesday, 15th February, 1961, stated -
When a. young, man with five children, able to put. down £2,000 as a deposit, can’t get finance to enable him to purchase a £6,000 house, things must be very wrong indeed. This, however, is one case on the home-buyer front for which we can vouch.
So far as primary producers are concerned, the evidence that all is far from well is mounting at an accelerating pace; signs of the gathering storm are all too evident in the story we carry on this page.
Let me tell the. House something of the story that is carried on the same page.
– The intending purchaser chose the £6,000 house, of course.
– The honorable member for Flinders is not affected by any credit restrictions; so he is all right. I may come to him a little later, too. The report in “ Muster “ refers to a statement made to this journal by Mr. R. B. Prowse, research director of the Australian Bankers Association. He is not a Communist. The report of the statement by Mr. Prowse is in these terms -
While the banks are circumscribed by conditions such as those in which they must at present work . . it is virtually impossible for them to do more than they are doing at present.
The article in “ Muster “ continues -
In his report on conditions as he had found them at first hand, “ Muster’s “ Stock Correspondent said: “ The clamp-down on credit is restricting pasture development and re-stocking to the seasonal limit …”
Is that another of the intended effects of the Government’s economic measures? Is that how we shall so develop export trade as to pay for the unlimited flow of imports that the Government is allowing into this country to-day? The report of the observations of the stock correspondent contains this further passage -
A grazier who found his cheque for shearers’ wages, £500, would not be met by his bank received the advance promptly from his wool firm..
Stock dealers are gradually ceasing their activities and the movement of stock from dry areas to handy markets for re-stockers able to buy small lots is depriving drought-stricken stockowners of full values.
That is the story from the country centres, and it is published by the Graziers Association of New South. Wales. The Government still says that it proposes to allow the unlimited importation of goods into this country. The actual position now is that we are importing more than we are exporting and the Government says the answer to the problem is to expand our exports by £250,000,000 a year. It will take a long time to do that and we of the Opposition say that if we want to retain any overseas reserves at all it will be necessary to reimpose import restrictions. Only last week it was announced officially that the adverse balance for the week was £3,000,000. How long can we continue in this way? The flow of imports is not steadying; it is increasing. We concede - we must concede this - that the price of wool has dropped and the Government has no control whatsoever over that, but I also point out that we have little or no control whatsoever over the prices we will get for our export commodities, anyhow. The only way by which we can hope to balance our position is to take steps at our. end. The only way by which we can balance our position is by controlling imports into the country. I leave it at that.
The balance of the Administrator’s Speech contains very little. It makes no approach whatever to the real problems of the community and certainly it is not likely to set the lake afire when it is constructed here. The Administrator’s Speech continues -
My Government will continue to try to promote steps towards universal disarmament . . .
I suppose it will try by sooling the security police on to those people who want to attend the peace conferences. The Administrator said, in effect, that the Government is going to promote friendship and understanding of the Africans and the Asians. How much friendship and understanding did it promote with the Africans and Asians to whom it looks as potential buyers of our goods when the Prime Minister went to a meeting of the United Nations in New York and tangled with the Afro-Asian bloc to such an extent that there were hard words between him and Nehru and between him and the African leader? How much did the Government promote friendship with the Africans when, in effect, the Prime Minister supported Dr. Verwoerd, the South African Prime Minister, in his apartheid policy?
– That is not true.
– I say it is true, but when speaking to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) I make allowances for the heat of the Queensland summer. The Administrator also said that he was pleased to note that his advisers have the state of the economy continuously under review. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), in moving the AddressinReply, said that he was satisfied that the people of Australia realized that it was completely necessary to make changes in economic policy every now and again to meet the requirements of the changing situation. I am not sure that the people of Australia are satisfied that there should be so many changes. I know perfectly well that the back-benchers on the Government side are not satisfied that there should be so many changes. If they were, there would not be so many questions like that asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) directed to Ministers. They are not at all satisfied, and they are seeking some solid approach to the problem. I say to those who are not satisfied that they are responsible for this unsatisfactory position because they voted for the Government’s proposals.
After all, the Administrator’s Speech is an indication of what the Government intends to do between now and the end of the year, and I am bitterly disappointed that the Government has given no indication of any intention to solve the problem of the abuse of the onus-of-proof provision in repatriation cases. Those honorable members on the Government side who are dissatisfied will have every opportunity of criticizing or affirming the Government’s attitude when the motions of which notice has been given are being discussed. They will also have ample opportunity to speak about social services. I remind them that they have neither done anything nor made any suggestions relating to primary and secondary education. Here let me say to those 3,200 delegates who, in the Leichhardt stadium on 21st March last, carried a resolution asking the Government to appoint a commission of inquiry into the education system, that they have no possible hope of seeing the appointment of such a commission while this Government remains in office. Nothing was offered to them, and I tell them now that even if they make further representations nothing will be done about the matter while this Government is in office. I remind them that, at page 2623 of “Hansard” of 12th November, 1959, the Prime Minister is reported as having said in answer to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) - 1 am . . . very satisfied indeed with the arrangements that had been made for them and the funds that they were to receive from the Commonwealth. That is the position, and 100 speeches really will not make any difference.
The Prime Minister said in effect there that he would not give any assurance at all and that Australian children will have to suffer because not enough money is provided by the Government for their education. I repeat that he said that 100 speeches really will not make any difference, and those who are interested in education may obtain copies of the Administrator’s Speech and assure themselves that it contains nothing directed towards further financial assistance for education. It contains nothing calculated to relieve those who labour under the burden of increased interest on loans on the homes they are buying. To those who are complaining about the effect of the credit squeeze, I can only quote the following from the Administrator’s Speech: -
My advisers believe that these measures are having their intended effect.
If one is out of work, if one has to pay more for one’s home, if one is in real trouble as the result of these measures, then these measures are having their intended effect.
Mr. SPEAKER Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
Timber Industry - Communism - Dagger- blade Type Ball Point Pens- Water Conservation - Newspaper Article.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer again to the. timber industry in Tasmania which was mentioned during the debate to-day. Since this morning we have received certain information regarding the drastic dismissal of men employed in that industry from Mr. Tom Brabin, manager of the Tasmanian Timber Association who telephoned to-night to say that the position in Tasmania had deteriorated still further to-day. He asked that the information be conveyed to myself and to the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). As honorable members know, Tasmania is a large producerof top-grade timber which is used on the mainland for home-building.
I mention this matter so that the Government, andthe Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) who is at the table, will know that it is no use saying that the position will right itself to-day or to-morrow or next week. The position is deteriorating at such a rate that unless the Government gets down to business and decides to do something about it my State will be so gravely affected within the next two or three weeks that it will take nine months or more to recover, if it ever does. I cannot see the sense in the Government allowing the situation to get so far out of hand that when it reverses its policy industry takes so long to recover.
These dismissals mean that an increasing number ofmen are thrown on the labour market. Employment in my State, as in other States, is rapidly dry ing up, but on this occasion I am referring particularly to Tasmania. We just cannot find work for these men. Unemployment is increasing at an alarming rate in Launceston. After all, these are timber men and you cannot put a timber man into any other kind of job. This is a life-time job. It is a great shame to think that men who are more or less expert in a particular kind of employment are thrown on to the labour market with no suitable jobs available to them.
I wish to refer now to the Tariff Board inquiry into this industry, not only in relation to Tasmania but also to the whole of Australia. The board occupied the whole of last year in hearing evidence from a wide range of ancillary industries to assist it to decide whether it is right and proper at this stage to restrict imports of timber from overseas countries such as Malaya, Borneo, America and Japan. I have read most of the board’s rather lengthy report and I must commend it for the care and attention that has been given to the questions that were before it but I am absolutely shocked, as would be all people interested in the timber industry in Australia, by the completely negative reply to the question which I have raised. In other words, the Tariff Board refused point blank to do anything about the timber that is pouring in from overseas and which is produced in some cases by cheap labour. This timber is undercutting our own and helping to depress the industry to an alarming degree. Imports of this timber are increasing each year. It would be bad enough if the imports remained at their present level, but they are increasing and competition is becoming keener. Obviously it is the Government’s intention to depress the industry to such an extent that out of sheer poverty it will reduce costs in the building industry. The Government wants hundreds of men to be dismissed so that costs can be reduced.
The Tariff Board’s decision does a great disservice to one of our biggest industries. In all sincerity I wait to ask some questions about this matter »nd I hope that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) will reply through the Minister lor Primary Industry. I ask: First, has the Tariff Board the final say in an issue of this nature? Secondly, does the Government hide behind the Tariff Board? Thirdly, has the timber industry any right of appeal to the Government or to any other authority against the decision that has been given by the Tariff Board? Fourthly, does the Tariff Board assume the government of this country so far as the timber industry is concerned? I wish to know whether the Tariff Board is a law unto itself, or can any of its decisions be overridden by the constituted legal authority of Australia. If they cannot be overriden, then the Tariff Board runs the country at this point in its economy. I claim that this is completely undemocratic because it disfranchises the people of Australia who elected the Government to govern, not to hand over to outside boards, commissions and the like the right to make decisions. How stricken, how depleted and how depressed has this industry to be before it will obtain relief either through the lifting if credit restrictions, which are hitting it at the moment, or through the imposition of import restrictions on the imported timber.
I ask these questions in all sincerity because this is a matter of great concern to a big industry in Tasmania, but I am sure that I speak also for the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in whose electorate 45 mills have closed down. Has not the time arrived for the Government to realize that the Tariff Board is doing a disservice to Australia by continually refusing to restrict the importation of this cheap timber which is undercutting our mills out of existence and putting hundreds of good Australians on the labour market?
.- I want to mention an important matter this evening in which I have become involved quite by chance and quite innocently. Last Sunday night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was on a television session in Brisbane called “ Meet the Press “. I am bound to say that I think he was suitably billed because in the daily paper which heralded his arrival in Brisbane and advised the people that he was appearing on television he was styled in this way - “ Calwell on Meet the Press ‘ Channel 7 10 p.m. Sunday “ and immediately beneath mat appeared - “ Nightmare Comedy “.
When the honorable gentleman was on television and was being quizzed by the gentlemen of the press he adverted to a unity ticket and made what plainly was a preposterous claim. My colleague, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) with his abiding affection for the truth, corrected him. The following day the Leader of the Opposition, with his characteristic trait for putting his foot in it, denied what the honorable member for Lilley had said. What my colleague had to say was simply that the particular example of the unity ticket with which the Leader of the Opposition had been confronted had been brought under his notice by me many months before and the honorable gentleman denied it. In some respects the Leader of the Opposition is quite correct, but his unhappy circumstance is that he has seen so many unity tickets and has taken so little notice of them that he is hopelessly confused.
What are the facts? Last year, as the House wm recall, I asked the honorable gentleman in his new-found role as Leader of the Opposition whether, in conformity with the declared policy of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party, he would take some action in relation to unity tickets. I cited the unity ticket operating in the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union. I also adverted to a unity ticket which had been in the course of preparation in the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria. But now the honorable gentleman, with his affection for abuse and his disregard for the facts, said that this was complete nonsense and referred to me - I thought in rather unkind language - as a Charlie McCarthy. I was deeply upset about it! Whenever the honorable gentleman is put on a spot he resorts to the characteristic line of abusing the individual md ignoring the argument. In Queensland, on this occasion, the honorable gentleman has been confronted with a unity ticket on which the name of one of the Australian Labour Party’s candidates for the Senate election, Mr. Arnell, appears with the names of members of the Communist Party. There is a member of the Australian Labour
Party on a unity ticket with members of the Communist Party, but the honorable gentleman tries to brush this aside, as he has in the past. He wrote to a gentleman in Queensland, who is a member of an opposing political party-
– Which party?
– He wrote to Mr. Judge, a member of the Queensland Labour Party; but that does not matter. What does matter is what you said in reply to him. The Leader of the Opposition said -
In reply to your two letters of July 26th and August 16th concerning an alleged unity ticket which has been drawn up for the election of office bearers in the A.M.I.E.U. and which you sent to me with accompanying documents because of what you were pleased to call “your undertaking publicly given at the time of your TV appearance in Brisbane”, I desire to inform you that my invitation was addressed not to members of the Queensland Labour Party or the Liberal Party or any other anti-Labour group seeking to pry into the affairs of the Australian Labour Party, but to members of the Australian Labour Party who are genuinely anxious to have the facts concerning charges of unity tickets investigated and dealt with.
This is a fascinating situation. What it boils down to is that no member of the public and no member of any political party which is in opposition to the honorable gentleman can bring to his attention the plainest evidence of unity ticket activity, and his party will not heed such evidence. Members of the Australian Labour Party will not act on unity tickets simply because they have consistently supported them. The honorable gentleman is on the spot and cannot get off it. He has had presented to him, time and time again, the plainest evidence or” unity ticket activity and he has simply wiped it to one side.
On this occasion it is not only members on this side of the House who look to the honorable gentleman for an explanation of his indifference, but also the great majority of Australians are looking to him for an explanation. At this moment, a member of the executive of the Victorian A.L.P. is campaign secretary for a member of the Communist Party, Mr. Southwell, who is Communist Party candidate in the election of officers of the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
When the honorable gentleman assumed the mantle of Leader of the Opposition he had a glorious opportunity to emerge as the strong man of the Australian Labour Party, but the fact is that he is a prisoner of the Victorian executive of the A.L.P., a branch of his party that is seeking to have the socalled federal ban on unity tickets removed. This is the executive he is dead scared of. That sums up the honorable gentleman’s position; he is scared stiff. He is a prisoner of the Victorian executive of the A.L.P. and he refuses to act even when confronted with evidence such as this. Having put the honorable gentleman right - he was confused when he was in Brisbane - I reiterate the one point: It is unfortunate that the honorable gentleman has seen so many unity tickets that he is hopelessly confused about what is really going on in his party.
.- I will not endeavour to reply to the remarks of the member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) except to say that, as a relatively new member of this House, I found his speech quite nauseating. I am sure it is plain to the public at large that, as the Government becomes more and more desperate the more we hear of communism, unity tickers and so on. I think, along with responsible organs of information in this country, that the Government - either wittingly or unwittingly - is joined with communism in the greatest unity ticket that this country has known. I refer to the creation of unemployment in Queensland and the discordant conditions in the economy of this country which can be of greater assistance to the Communist Party than any unity ticket could ever be. That is evidence of the hypocrisy of the charges repeatedly made by some of the desperate men on the Government side of the House, knowing that they are about to face the electors.
I wonder what protest has been made by the honorable member for Moreton or by other members on the Government side about the many millions of bushels of Australian wheat that have been sold to China. They found that they could not resort to political expediency when Australia had so many millions of bushels of unsold wheat that it was glad to sell to any one who would buy them. Those honorable gentlemen did not look too closely at the political colour of those who purchased the wheat. I am not suggesting that the Australian Wheat Board did the wrong thing in selling wheat to China, but this political hypocrisy is nauseating to me and to any decent-minded people.
– You are offending the wheat-growers, and accusing them-
– I am not.
– You are. Do you want me to direct the Australian Wheat Board not to sell the wheat? Of course I will not!
– The Government should have done it long ago but preferred to play its little game and indulge in political hypocrisy for as long as it could; but when the economic position became desperate it was willing to embrace any one who would take the wheat.
I wish to refer now to something of far less moment than those subjects that have been debated. The matter is most disconcerting and has caused anguish to a number of parents in my own constituency and probably in other places. I am speaking of the importation of what purports to be a biro pen, or something of that kind, and which sells freely in shops throughout Sydney and presumably also in shops elsewhere. The pens look innocent enough, but an anguished parent came to me the other day, after having been informed by the police that this was a matter for the Department of Customs and Excise, and showed me one of them. What purports to be a biro pen and can be bought by schoolboys turns out, when the end is taken off to be a sharp stiletto. The pseudo alarm expressed by members on the Government side of the House when I make that statement is not likely to relieve the anguish of parents who are disturbed to see a weapon such as this so-called pen. And the pens are imported into Australia when our reserves of funds are relatively scarce. These articles are sold freely in the shops and no restriction is placed on their importation by the Department of Customs and Excise. The advice given to the parent to whom I referred was that the Department of Customs and Excise was the only department which could effectively prevent this stiletto coming into Australia. I am not sure whether it is imported from Japan or from Hong Kong, but I make a protest on behalf of parents who have registered great alarm, and on behalf of the police authorities, who were also reported to express great alarm at the fact that this sort of thing could be available freely to children in various parts of Australia.
I have been asked to make this matter known in the hope, firstly, that the Government will see that the Department of Customs and Excise is more vigilant in regard to the importation of this rubbishy and dangerous stuff; secondly, that the Government will see that scarce Australian funds are not used to buy this sort of thing overseas; and, thirdly, that the Government will appeal to shopkeepers to exercise some sense of ethics and some sense of public responsibility in regard to making such dangerous rubbish available to youngsters.
.- The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) saw fit to deride the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) for having brought to the notice of the House the effect of the unity tickets which are being circulated in most trade union elections in Australia today, and in connexion with which leading members of the Australian Labour Party act in concert with members of the Communist Party who are moving to take over the control of the trade union movement. The honorable member for Barton sought to divert attention from this by making reference to what he called the serious unemployment situation in Queensland. He spoke about the number of people who were becoming disemployed in Queensland. I remind the honorable member for Barton that a great deal of any unemployment which exists in Queensland has been caused by the capricious attitude of certain trade unions. I can refer the House right now to one specific case, that of the Metal Trades Union which was responsible for the dismissal of at least 50 men from the C.O.D. cannery in Northgate. Brisbane. That union brought about the dismissals despite the fact that normally the period of employment of these people is limited by seasonal conditions and by the state of the pineapple crop. With no regard for the welfare of these people the Metal Trades Union saw fit to ensure that 50 employees, and probably a great many more, were dismissed. So h comes poorly from the honorable member for Barton to suggest that this Government is responsible for creating the situation in Queensland. I also remind the honorable member for Barton, who derided the Government’s economic measures, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) himself on a television show last Sunday night stated that rf Labour had been in office and had to meet the economic conditions which at present exist it would have gone further in many respects than this Government has gone. Could we not interpret that to mean that the Labour Party would have caused an even greater degree of disemployment? 1 want to make some reference to the statement by the honorable member for Barton that the Labour Party is quite competent to take care of its own affairs. The dismal fact - and it is a fact - is that the newspapers of Australia have recognized the ineptitude of the Opposition, the complete failure of the Labour Party to be the Opposition in this Parliament, and so they have themselves assumed the role of opposing the Government of this country, disregarding the Labour Party, because they realize that it is too concerned with its own internal problems to be a proper Opposition. How great are the internal problems of the Labour Party? The honorable member for Moreton referred to unity tickets. But what is the principle behind this unity ticket move? Tt is a principle which means, Sir, that the rank and file trade unionists and those who seek to have their names included in a union ballot are being told that men with such a vast knowledge of the trade union movement as the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) - and I doubt whether anybody here has a greater knowledge of it than he has - are no longer competent to represent the trade union movement, and that the control of that movement should be taken away from the Australian Labour Party and given to the Communist Party and its sympathizers. In other words, these people are being told that the Labour Party, which sprang from the trade union movement, which came into politics to represent trade unionists, is no longer competent to do the job, and that the only people who are competent to do it are the Communists. The rank and file of the Labour Party are being led by the nose to support the Communists and the fellow travellers who run with them and who put their names on unity tickets for election to union executives. For how long is the Labour Party going to allow this situation to continue? Are honorable members opposite going to allow the Labour Party to be whittled down by the action of the Communists who are working on a long-term plan to whittle the party down until it is just a solid core of people like the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen)? Are they going to allow the Labour Party to be whittled down to such a degree as will ensure that it will win no elections and that it will continue to lose seats until there is so little of the party left that the Communist Party can move in and become the official Opposition in this Parliament?
We see even in to-day’s newspapers the heading “ Shock Unity Ticket Move “. This follows the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition last Sunday night. I believe that in answer to the Leader of the Opposition the Labour Party executive in Victoria has been asked to discard the ban on unity tickets. The Leader of Hie Opposition appeared to be quite upset, during that television show, by the fact that a member of the Queensland Centra] Executive of the Labour Party was a candidate for a union office and that his name was included on a ticket with Communists such as Albie Graham. The union concerned is the Waterside Workers Federation. The Leader of the Opposition said he had not seen that ticket. I believe that this matter was first raised in the Parliament in 1957, and it was raised again in 1958. Facsimile copies of the ticket were sent down to the table of this House. Sitting at the table on that occasion was the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at that time was the honorable member for Melbourne (MrCalwell), who is now Leader of the Opposition. If the Leader of the Opposition refers to “Hansard” of 13th August, 1958, he will find that this same unity ticket was run, I believe, in 1957, and certainly in 1958. It was run again in 1959, and in 1960 it was again used by the Waterside Workers Federation. On every occasion this man Healy, who is a member of the central executive of the Labour Party in Queensland, had his name on the list with Communists like Albie Graham. When the matter was raised in the House the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, said that it was opposed to the ruling of the Labour Party, and that the matter should be dealt with by the State executive of the party. We challenged the Labour Party to arraign this member of its own State executive and have him explain his reasons for appearing on the unity ticket. The Queensland central executive called him before it, and he explained, in 1958, that the reason why his name was on the unity ticket, and why he was not culpable, was that his name had been placed on the ticket without his knowledge. The Queensland central executive accepted that excuse and forgave him in 1958. But his name appeared again on the unity ticket in 1959, and no action was taken by the Queensland central executive.
It was used again in the election conducted by the Waterside Workers Federation. The same unity ticket was used for three years running, but the present leader of the Labour Party said he had not seen it before he -was shown it during that television show, He saw it in 1958, and if he did not see it in 1959 he has not kept in very close contact with the affairs of the party that he claims to lead here. The same unity ticket was used again in 1960, so it was used, I believe, for four years running, and in each of these four years this member of the Queensland central executive of the Labour Party has been a candidate for election to the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation and has had his name on a unity ticket with Communists. How is the Labour Party going to struggle out of this? How can the party say that a member of the Labour Party can have his name on a unity ticket and a political election not be involved? Who is going to kid anybody that a trade union election is not political nowdays? You have the Communists running a unity ticket with their left wing cobbers in the Australian Labour Party. You have the Australian Democratic Labour Party running an anti-Communist ticket and the other people who do not want to have anything to do with either of them trying to get in between somewhere. Of course, it » a political election! Of course, any Aus tralian Labour Party man who runs for the Communists on an A.L.P. ticket is guilty of a breach of the rules!
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise only to say to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) that we are unmoved. We realize that those two honorable gentlemen are only clowns who are endeavouring to persuade the people of this country that the Labour movement and the Parliamentary Labour Party are Corns, or Com. sympathizers. I have had a long political career. I have been a long while a member of the Australian Labour Party. I have never known an election that was fought without the anti-Labour parties, whether in opposition or in government, using as their major armament the allegation that we were Corns., Com. sympathizers, pale pinks, left wingers and all the descriptions that can be used to conjure up some fearsome monster in the minds of the electors.
Let us look at the historical record of this country. Despite all the allegations of honorable members opposite, despite all their innuendoes, despite all their endeavours to blackmail and blacken decent, honorable, honest men, the Labour Party has, from time’ to time, both in peace and in war, governed the destinies of the Commonwealth itself and of the respective States. Indeed, whether we are Com. sympathizers, or Communist tinged, or left wingers, or anything else, we have been so successful in guiding the destinies of the country, in co-operation with the trade unions, that a major portion of the social welfare legislation of Australia has been due, directly and indirectly, to no other party than the Australian Labour Party.
Let me conclude in a friendly vein, and this will show how deeply this dirty thing runs. The son of a candidate for parliamentary honours was attending a high school. During the course of the campaign he came home and said, “ Dad, what is an anarchist? “ Dad said, “ As I know the meaning of the term, an anarchist is a man who believes that society can be so perfect that you do not need any government at all. In other words, under anarchy, everybody is a law unto himself but he is so well behaved that you do not need any law makers or parliaments. However, the new understanding of the term is that an anarchist is a man who runs round and throws bombs and destroys human life - a dangerous and nefarious character.” The son said, “ Oh.’ What is a socialist? “ He was told that there had been a variety of different brands of socialists and socialism. Then he asked “ What is a Communist? “ He was given the definition of a Communist. His father inquired why he had asked these questions. The boy smiled and said that he just wanted to know. The candidate took a tumble. When he came home successful from the election he said to his son, “ You can go and tell your school friends that the old man may be an anarchist, he may be a Communist and he may be a socialist, but he brought home the bacon “. That is what this party will do at the next election despite all the mud slinging.
– I wish to introduce something constructive into this debate. The main incentive for increased development, production and export earnings and decentralization is water conservation. It is on this subject that 1 desire to speak to-night. We have heard it said over the last few weeks that the Government has certain plans to increase export earnings. I believe that the proposition of which I will speak would increase export earnings considerably. We have heard of roads to be built in the Northern Territory, and of the export of beef they will bring to the markets. I fully agree with the remarks in that connexion. But this proposition concerns Australia’s greatest waterway - the Murray River. In spite of everything that has been said about conserving water in different parts of Australia, it must be remembered that all governments, whether Labour or Liberal or a coalition of Australian Country Party and Liberal have not conserved enough of the water of the great Murray River and that water, in large quantities, is still going to waste by running into the sea.
For a long time Victoria and New South Wales have been endeavouring to come to some agreement to build a high-level weir on the Murray River to be called the Marra- boor Weir because it would be on the Little Murray or Marraboor River and would conserve the waters of the big Murray. It has been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the weir should be built under clause 20 of the River Murray Waters Agreement because there are only two States that will receive benefit from the weir. 1 do not agree with that statement because 1 believe that if two States get a certain benefit from it, the Commonwealth must benefit also by way of taxation and other means if the weir brings greater production. We are endeavouring to have this Marraboor Weir built but agreement cannot be reached between the two States.
I am asking the Government to convene a meeting between the Premiers or the appropriate ministers representing New South Wales and Victoria in order to thrash this matter out and get this weir built. We cannot have some misunderstanding or lack of finance holding up a project that will bring great development and production. It is reported that the Victorian Government has said that it will supply at least one-third of the money. The New South Wales Government, although it has not made any statement, will, no doubt, supply a certain amount. We are asking that the Federal Government supply, say, a third of the money by way of a grant. The first move should be taken by the States but I believe that if the Federal Government will convene a meeting with the States on this proposition a successful conclusion could be reached.
I was very interested in the speech of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) who mentioned that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen on 26th February had said that the Commonwealth was prepared, if necessary, to devise special financial arrangements to encourage projects on which export depended, especially where those projects were of such a size as to place them belond the resources of a single State. I take it that the same position will apply if a project is beyond the resources of two States. I rose especially to request the Federal Government to call this conference. It is of vital importance. The weir would, be in the vicinity of Swan Hill’, Victoria. It would benefit New South Wales tremendously and it would benefit Victoria considerably. It would bring into production thousands of acres of country which are suitable for the growing of many primary products. There are good railways and airports adjacent to the area that the weir will serve. The roads are fairly good. Some money will have to be spent on them, but it will not be an excessive amount.
So far as the primary products are concerned, it will be possible, with the water that will become available, to grow cotton, rice, wheat, sheep - especially fat lambs - cattle, both for fattening and for dairying purposes, and fruit and vegetables of all kinds. Products most in demand for export could be grown, and in encouraging the growing of such items the Government would be taking a very definite step towards increasing production and increasing also our export earnings. What we want is some action. If someone would give me £1,000,000 I could bring all that country into production and so provide Australia with greatly increased export earnings. Recently we had completed in the electorate of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) the great deep-water port of Portland. The goods from the area in question could be transported by rail to that port and shipped overseas from there.
Honorable members of the Opposition are continually interjecting. It appears to me that if one speaks of unity tickets or something of that kind that does not, in my opinion, matter very much, everybody listens with rapt attention, but if one speaks of something progressive, such as water conservation, the Labour Party considers it a tremendous joke. If I were to reply tonight to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who spoke about the great Australian Labour Party and what it stands for. I would ask him only one question, and it is this: Will the Labour Party make a special point in its platform at the next Federal election of its great objective, the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange? Every member of the Labour Party says in this House that he is a socialist, but we never hear them say it at election time.
– You are spoiling a good speech
– The honorable member for Scullin says that I am spoiling a good speech. I should say that I am spoiling what was a constructive speech, but I am doing so only because whenever one speaks of something constructive, such as water conservation, the Labour Party makes a tremendous joke of it.
– We were responsible for the Snowy Mountains scheme!
– The honorable member for Lalor has reminded me of another interesting point. The building of this weir would put to the greatest use the waters that will be made available by the great Snowy Mountains scheme which the Labour Party initiated but on which this Government has spent millions of pounds and has done all the work in its implementation.
However, I am not here to bandy words with the Labour Party, the members of which are obviously not in agreement with my advocacy of this water conservation scheme. That is obvious from their interjections to-night. I put it to the Government that my suggestion is worthy of consideration. Many men are eager to see this weir built. It would bring many settlers to the area. According to the Murray Valley Development League, a million people can be settled in the Murray Valley. I suggest to the Government that it should call this conference, despite the provisions of the Murray Waters Agreement. Have the States contribute liberally, and then the Commonwealth Government can provide the balance. It will not regret doing so.
.- I wish to point out a few of the inconsistencies of honorable members on the Government benches. Before doing so, however, I should like to say that I think a most unfair comparison was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) between the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and Charlie McCarthy. I think it was a grave reflection on Charlie McCarthy, whom I have seen on many occasions.
Let us consider the inconsistencies of honorable members opposite who continually indulge in red-baiting. They have complained over the last couple of years of the aggressive tactics of the red Chinese army. They have been very critical of the inroads made by that army into other countries. They have now agreed to the sale to red
China of 1,500,000 tons of wheat and 40,000 tons of flour, and I presume that some of that food would be used to keep the red Chinese army going. The very people opposite who criticize these murdering butchers are the ones who make it possible for them to keep doing the things complained of. In 1956, the honorable member for Moreton, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) talked about the murderous, bloodthirsty Russian butchers. But what did their Government do? It waited until after the last election and then restored diplomatic relations with these murderous, bloodthirsty butchers. And now the leaders of the Government go to their embassy and drink vodka with them. They are the best of friends. When people from the Russian embassy go to Melbourne, Mr. Bolte, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, makes a limousine available for them and a police escort while they drive through the city. The people who provide these amenities are the so-called Communist haters.
We heard the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) interject while the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) was speaking. He said, “ Wouldn’t you sell this wheat to red China? “ The Labour Party has always advocated the recognition of red China for trade purposes, but we believe in trading with that country through the front door, and not by the back door, as this Government does because it is afraid of losing a few Democratic Labour Party preferences. My friend the honorable member loT Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) asks why the Labour Party does not mention socialism at election time. Let me ask this question: Why does not the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who represents a swinging electorate, get up at election time and advocate the recognition of red China and trade with that country? He does not do so because he is not game to do so.
To-night we see the honorable member for Mackellar obviously ready to participate in this debate. Wherever he goes the honorable member makes trouble. He went to the United States of America, and as soon as he arrived in that country Marilyn Monroe had a nervous breakdown. He went to London and what happened? Elizabeth
Taylor collapsed and is now gravely ill. Wherever he goes there is trouble, and there is no doubt that he will come into this debate with some more red-baiting tactics. But despite these smear tactics I can tell the House now that the Labour Party will win the next election because the people have had a belly-full of this Government.
– I can assure the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) that I confuse him with neither Marilyn Monroe nor Elizabeth Taylor. The debate on unity tickets has been remarkable both for the things that have been said and for the things that have not been said. The most remarkable feature of it has been the silence of Dean Calwell. He has said nothing. In the early part of this debate he was sitting on the front bench, but he was afraid to enter the debate because he knew he was on weak ground. The Labour Party has said two things about unity tickets. The first, through the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), was to the effect that there was no such thing as unity tickets. The honorable gentleman does not believe in them; he must have evidence that they exist. The second thing that the Labour Party has said, through the mouths of members of the Opposition who have spoken previously, is that unity tickets do not really matter, and that there is nothing wrong with them anyway.
Let me consider those two propositions. First, the Leader of the Opposition does know that these unity tickets exist. In May of last year, in his presence, one was laid on the table of this House. This evening I got it from the Clerk, and it is here. It was laid on the table of the House, and it has since been in the records. Tt is stamped with the seal of this House. It is quite clear that the Leader of the Opposition has known all along that these unity tickets exist. That is a statement of fact, and any hedging, vacillation, or any kind of half-denial on his part that he does not know they exist is false ?nd a fraud on this House and on the country. He does know that they exist. He knows all about them, and the fact that he is frightened to say so and hedges is evidence of the kind of terror which the Communist Party has been able to inspire even in the Leader of the Opposition, a man whom T do not concede to be in any way a Communist sympathizer.
It is unfortunate that even this likeable and good man in many ways is frightened to stand up when the Communists threaten; and this fact is evidence of the way in which the Communists have gained control over the soul of the Labour Party. The Leader of the Labour Party is frightened to admit even the demonstrable proof, even though it be in the rceords of this House. It was laid on the table of this House by me in his presence. This, of course, is not an isolated instance. He knows very well that during the last few years there have been unity tickets all over the place, and yet he is frightened to admit it. This fear, which can make a dissembler of even a man like the Leader of the Opposition, is irrefutable evidence of the way in which the Communist Party has gained control of the soul of the Labour Party, even though I know that many members of the Labour Party are personally opposed to communism.
Let me come to the second point - that members of the Labour Party get up in this House and elsewhere and put forward the thesis that there is nothing wrong in this association. This is the next stage. It is not very long ago since members of this House were made to withdraw remarks to the effect that Labour was associating with Communists. That was said to be offensive to the Labour Party. Tt is offensive no longer because members of the Labour Party are now getting up and asking. “ What is wrong with that? “ If it be true, as is reported in the press, that the Victorian branch of the A.L.P. is demanding from the federal body that it endorse unity tickets as a matter of policy, it is only the next stage in the process which we have seen taking place before our eyes. Members of the Opposition have passed from the stage where they indignantly repudiated any association with communism. They are afraid to admit that association, and they hedge when challenged, but they are no longer indignant about it. They simply ask, “ What is wrong with that? “ What is wrong with it is that no party associated with Communists is fitted to sit in this Parliament much less to control the government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
- Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation. I claim I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Watson.
– If the honorable member wishes he can take advantage of receiving the call in this debate.
– I claim I have been misrepresented and I think I should point out-
– Order! The honorable member has not spoken in this debate so he could not have been misrepresented.
– The honorable member for Watson misrepresented me.
– Order! The honorable member for Chisholm is r.ot in order in claiming that he has been misrepresented because he has not spoken in this debate. However, he will get the opportunity to say what he wants to say.
.- My reason for rising to-night is to refer to a visit by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), on 16th February, to an important part of my electorate. At the invitation of the Cessnock Rotary Club, he addressed that club in Cessnock. The attendance was splendid, 94 per cent, of the club’s members being present. Following the address, the Leader of the Opposition was invited by the Mayor of Cessnock to visit him on the morning of the 17th. The Cessnock Rotary Club had arranged the honorable gentleman’s itinerary, and I was present when he informed the Mayor that he did not know what arrangements the club had made for him, but that we would find time to visit the Mayor before lunch, sometime after 11 a.m.
I was with the Leader of the Opposition when he addressed the Rotary Club, and the following morning I accompanied him and members of Rotary to the vineyards about seven miles west of Cessnock. The honorable gentleman arrived back at the Cessnock Council chambers at approximately 12.15 p.m. The mayor was absent at the time and left an apology for his absence. Although the Mayor kept the Leader of the Opposition waiting, there was printed in the Maitland “ Mercury “, of 17th February, one of the filthiest and most rotten pieces of untruthful journalism that I have ever read io my life. The heading of the article reads “ Calwell Snubbed
Cessnock Mayor “. That is a filthy untruth. I use those words in this Parliament because I was present and I know the real facts of the visit of the Leader of the Opposition. This newspaper has only recently been taken over by Australian Consolidated Press Limited which sponsors this Government and has kept it in office at successive general elections by leading along the Commo horse which, I understand, is again in the stable at the back of the House ready to be run at the next federal election. The honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Killen), Lilley (Mr. Wight) and Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) have indicated that they intend to run the Commo horse again. If they do I will consider bringing in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I take this criticism of my leader very seriously. The article rn the Maitland “ Mercury “ reads -
Federal Opposition Leader Mr. Calwell today failed to keep a scheduled appointment to discuss Coalfields’ employment.
Instead he discussed wine samples at Pokolbin vineyards.
Every member of this House knows that the Leader of the Opposition is a man of sober habits. He is more closely allied to teetotalism than is any other honorable member, and the accusation implied in this article is just as absurd as that which was made against the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) some time ago by a senior criminal lawyer in Sydney. Let me refer again to this filthy article. Before the “ Mercury “ was taken over by Australian Consolidated Press Limited it did have some principles, but it has none now. The matter has been taken up by Mr. Neilly, the member for the State electorate of Cessnock, with the Ethics Committee of the Australian Journalists Association. This article is repulsive to all decent people on the coal-fields. Many have defected from the Liberal Party of Australia as a result of its publication. It has left a stench in the nostrils of all decent-thinking people and has increased their hatred for the capitalist press. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that my remarks this evening will have some effect on the conscience of the person responsible for this filthy piece of journalism.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said that the honorable member for Chisholm had been seen drinking vodka in the Russian Embassy.
– No, I did not.
– Well, what did the honorable member say?
– I said that the leaders of the government which the honorable member supports had been drinking vodka.
– The honorable member said that the honorable member for Chisholm had been seen drinking vodka. I see no great crime in drinking vodka in the Russian Embassy, Mr. Speaker, but I have not been inside the Russian Embassy. I want to make it quite clear, at the same time, that because I have not been inside the Russian Embassy I was recently told by a member of the embassy staff that I was afraid of being brain-washed and that the only people who understand the Russians are those who belong to the Australian Labour Party.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1961, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610308_reps_23_hor30/>.