23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain electors of the Australian Capital Territory praying that the Government will review recent rent increases in the Australian Capital Territory and relieve the hardship being imposed.
– 1 ask the
Prime Minister whether it is true that in addition to chicken, ham, edible snails and pheasants in aspic we are now importing reindeer steak cooked in Spanish wine, which is being retailed in Melbourne at 2s. an ounce. Can such imports be justified on the ground that Australia is unable to produce sufficient meat to meet local demand? If they cannot be justified on this ground, does the right honorable gentleman not agree that there appears to be some merit in the demand by the Chamber of Manufactures for the reintroduction of restrictions on non-essential imports as a means of preserving our rapidly dwindling overseas balances?
– The latter part of the question plainly relates to a matter of policy, and therefore cannot appropriately be answered at this time. As to the first part of the question relating to these strangesounding edible meats, apparently I do not move in the right circles because I have just heard about them for the first time. I must look into them.
– I preface my question to the Acting Attorney-General by stating that I was disturbed to learn that a gaol sentence imposed on a person who allegedly threatened to blow up a Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft with gelignite in June last was set aside on the ground that the offence took place outside the boundaries of the
State in which the sentence was passed. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has power in matters relating to civil aviation, is there not a Commonwealth act under which such offenders may be prosecuted so that people who travel by air may be afforded reasonable protection if a similar situation unfortunately should arise in the future?
– I was not aware of the decision to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I should imagine that either a State or a Commonwealth court would have jurisdiction in such a case. 1 shall have a look at the matter to determine what is the constitutional position, and whether there is any provision in the Air Navigation Act which gives jurisdiction to one of the Commonwealth courts, and 1 shall advise my honorable friend as soon as I can of the result of my investigation.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the statement is correct that our overseas balances now stand at £328,000,000, and that included in them is a recently negotiated Canadian loan of 20,000,000 dollars. Was this Canadian loan negotiated for the express purpose of including it in our external balances? If this is so, what benefit in the form of capital goods or equipment can Australia derive from this loan? Is it not correct that, in the long term, a financial policy of this kind must adversely affect our economy in that loans such as this only increase our overseas indebtedness?
– The honorable member has not stated accurately the level of Australia’s overseas reserves, and the rest of his question again seems to reveal the confusion which exists in the minds of honorable members opposite about where they stand on the question of investment from overseas, whether it be by way of loan or industrial investment. As I pointed out yesterday, at this moment the Treasurer of the Government of New South Wales is most assiduously combing various countries in various parts of the world trying to induce people to invest money in Australia which will, in turn, as I pointed out yesterday, involve us in more future external commitments.
As I think I told the House on an earlier occasion, the Canadian loan was not solicited by this Government. An offer was made to us of a lending on terms which we found acceptable, and the loan has the useful purpose of strengthening our overseas balances at this time, lt will be used, of course, in aid of the programme of works and housing which the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the six State governments, has agreed to carry out. As honorable members know, the total of our loan raisings both overseas and inside Australia is quite inadequate to meet the total cost of the State housing and works programmes, let alone the capital programme of the Commonwealth. The Canadian loan will be applied to those purposes, and it will have the effect of reducing the gap between what we can raise by way of loan and what we have to find out of the revenues of the Commonwealth.
– Some time ago, the Prime Minister announced that the Government was appointing a committee to inquire into the possibility of employing physically handicapped persons in the Public Service. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he can inform the House when the Government expects to receive the report of that committee.
– I regret to say that I cannot answer that question offhand, but I shall at once make inquiries so that I may be in a position to state something to the honorable member at the next sitting.
– In view of the fact that we are now importing almost half of our tin requirements, I ask the Treasurer whether he will consider granting to those engaged in tin mining, especially in the marginal areas, income tax concessions similar to those which apply to the mining of other metals. Does the right honorable gentleman agree that such concessions could stimulate the mining of tin, and so assist in the conservation of Australia’s overseas reserves?
– The honorable gentleman raises what is quite, obviously a matter of policy, and an aspect of policy which it would not normally be the Government’s practice to determine except in conjunction with its general budgetary programme. However, I shall have the request examined. It is my impression that over recent months there has been some increase in the world market price of tin and this, of itself, may provide some inducement to tin producers, who were formerly not finding production highly profitable. However, the wider aspect which the honorable member has. raised will be carefully examined.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has his attention been directed to the fact that owing to the closing of practically every saw-mill on the tablelands- and the north coast of New South Wales there has been unusual and heavy unemployment in that industry? Has his attention also been directed to the fact that owing to the same factors which brought about this closing down there is a slackness in the building trade? Can the Minister inform the House whether any steps have been taken by his department to try to rectify the position and assist the unemployed in those areas?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that my department, with the Department of Trade and the Treasury, has carried out a detailed survey of both the timber industry and the housing industry in all the States of the Commonwealth and, in particular, has carried out a detailed survey of the timber industry in northern New South Wales and Queensland.
– We have had enough reports. How about a bit of action?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney must cease interjecting.
– I am sure the honorable gentleman will be aware that the Treasurer has announced that already action has been taken to stimulate the housing industry, and that such action must in time have an effect on the timber and saw-milling industries. In addition to that, I think it has been stated that the problems of the timber industry as a whole are being looked at. Particularly, my colleague, the Minister for Trade, is looking at them. I will obtain further details about what has been done in respect of the timber industry and will pass the information on to the honorable gentleman.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. A few moments ago, he said that the loan from Canada would assist the housing programme in this country. The honorable member for New England has pointed out that there is unemployment in the building industry. Members from Tasmania have pointed out that there is over-production of timber. In what way will this loan from Canada place one brick in a wall, put one man to work or take anything from the surplus stocks of building materials in this country?
– If the honorable gentleman cares to check the language I employed in answering the question, he will see that was not the way in which I put it. I said that the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the six States - and I remind the honorable gentleman that they were all parties to the discussions on the subject - arrived at the decision to raise this Canadian loan and agreed on its terms. This was a decision of the Australian Loan Council, upon which all those governments are represented. I said that this loan would have the effect of reducing the gap which the Commonwealth Government would have to bridge out of revenue for the total State programmes. I said it would assist-
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is audible in his conversation, and I ask him to restrain himself.
– I said that we had an agreed programme for works and housing of £230,000,000. The total borrowings of the Commonwealth, overseas and internally, will amount to something less -than £150,000,000. There is, therefore, a gap to be bridged. To the extent that that :gap can be narrowed, the Commonwealth has resources available to it. Mr. Speaker, are you going to allow this disorderly conduct to continue?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is not restraining himself. He is transgressing by not observing the ordinary rules of conduct. I warn him that I will not allow this disorderly behaviour to continue.
– I could not help laughing.
– I name the honorable member for East Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that an Australian champion greyhound has been flown to America from Sydney to compete in a world championship race, and that his owner, who is travelling with him, has said that he and the dog will come back together? If this gentleman is given a permit to bring the dog back to Australia by air, will the Minister extend a similar privilege to me, and allow me to bring dogs by air from the United Kingdom?
– I am sorry that I am not up to date with movements in the greyhound world. I did not know about this trip to America of a greyhound. I do know, however, that it is not possible to import dogs from America to Australia. If the honorable member wishes to import a dog from England he can do so if he satisfies the quarantine regulations.
– Has the Treasurer seen a publication recently issued by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, directing attention to the steady increase in local government rates and the financial crisis which has beset local government authorities? Does the Treasurer agree with the association’s contention that over the last ten years local government rates have been increased, on the average, by 333 per cent, while State taxes have risen by 291 per cent., Commonwealth taxes by 185 per cent, and general price levels by 145 per cent.? In view of the alarming deterioration in local government finances, as revealed by this report, will the Treasurer say whether the Government has yet concurred in the suggestion of the New South Wales Government that Commonwealth, State and local government representatives should meet to devise a new financial arrangement for local government?
– As I think the honorable gentleman is aware, when the Australian Loan Council meets, the State Premiers and Treasurers discuss with myself and the Prime Minister, when he is present at these meetings, the level of borrowing for the year which is to apply to the local government authorities. Over recent years, there has been an increase in that total amount.
– I am not talking about loans.
– Then the honorable member is talking about the revenue that local government authorities derive from rates and the obligations they have to assume. That is a matter which, as he knows, comes directly within the province of the State governments. If my recollection is correct, at an earlier point of time the head of the Australian Government asked the various State Premiers whether they would favour a meeting of the kind to which the honorable member has referred. The response at that stage was unfavorable. It is interesting to learn that the New South Wales Government apparently is now disposed to hold such a conference. Whether or not that is the attitude of the State Premiers generally is a matter of which I have no recent knowledge; but of course matters of that kind are directly within the province of the Prime Minister rather than myself. Perhaps at some suitable time the right honorable gentleman could enlighten the honorable member on the subject.
Behaviour of Members
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. As the majority of honorable members on both sides of the House are anxious to preserve the status of the Parliament and would support you in any steps you might take under the Standing Orders to protect the parliamentary institution, is there any action you can take in respect of the gross disrespect to the Chair and the Parliament which we witnessed during the division that has just been taken?
– Unfortunately, unlike Army regulations, the Standing Orders make no provision in respect of dumb insolence on the part of an honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that non-payment of local government rates by Commonwealth Government instrumentalities is contributing to the heavy burden being borne by property-owning ratepayers? Now that the Government has decided to run the Post Office on what it calls normal business lines and is charging £15,000,000 interest on the capital debt of this public utility, does this mean that henceforth the Post Office will pay local government rates and State taxes that are commonly paid by other commercial enterprises? Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Bank pays local government charges?
– As the honorable member for Barton well knows, there is a long-established practice concerning the payment or otherwise of rates by Commonwealth instrumentalities. That policy was applied also by the previous Labour government. The position will not be changed so far as the Post Office is concerned. It is this: When we are occupying, for residential or other purposes, properties which are not the property of the Post Office, we make an ex gratia payment in lieu of rates. That practice will be continued.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Has the Commonwealth Department of Health issued a publication entitled, “ Eat Belter for Less “? Does this booklet describe bacon as a luxury food, and does it say that butter and margarine are equally good sources of fat?
Speaker, there is a section of the Department of Health which is concerned with research into food and nutrition. This section is responsible for a pamphlet which recently appeared. The pamphlet begins by recommending as staple articles of diet foods which are the product of Australian primary industries. It then goes on to point out in effect that it is not necessary always to obtain these foods in their more expensive form, but that there are other cheaper forms in which they are almost equally effective. If is in this context that statements such as those about which the honorable gentleman has just asked me, and which appeared in the press yesterday evening, should be considered, and not as isolated unequivocal statements in themselves. The pamphlet is, in fact, a follow-up of one that was issued some years ago, and the whole tenor of it is to advocate a general use of Australian primary products. If the advice is followed, the pamphlet should do a good deal to promote the consumption of those products.
– I ask the Minister for Territories: What assistance is given by the Administration of Papua and New Guinea to foster sport amongst the indigenous people’ in the Territory? If assistance is given, do those bodies supporting Australian rules football receive their fair share?
– I myself would agree wholeheartedly with the implication in the honorable member’s question that the bringing of Australian football to any part of the world would be one of the most beneficent acts we could perform. We are committed in the Territory to a policy of no discrimination in matters of religion. Possibly that tolerance extends to matters such as football and prevents us from favouring one code. The method of fostering sport amongst the indigenous people is mainly in the provision of playing fields and facilities for sport, and with certain institutions such as schools or barracks, in the provision of sporting equipment. In providing these supplies, we do not discriminate between one sport and another.
As the honorable member has raised this matter, I should like to say in passing that a very great debt is owed by Australia to quite a number of public-spirited Australian citizens in the Territory who devote a good deal of their leisure time voluntarily to promoting sport amongst the indigenous people, playing the game with them and acting as coaches and referees. I would suggest to the honorable member and followers of the Australian game that there really is a field wide open for those interested in this great Australian game to get in touch with the many voluntary workers in the Territory and help to foster this branch of civilization.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories. Has the movement of cattle from the Northern Territory to Queensland commenced? If not, when is it expected that this move will commence? Will the number of cattle moving from the Territory to Queensland be as high as, or higher than, in previous years? Will there be an increase in the number of cattle transported by road trains this year?
– The movement of cattle along the stock routes of the Northern Territory has commenced. The information available to me is that the number of cattle available for movement during this season will be about normal. So far as movement into Queensland is concerned I should think that the only limiting factor would be the conditions in Queensland itself. As the honorable member knows, some of the stock which move out of the Northern Territory into Queensland do not go immediately to meat works but are transferred to other properties in Queensland. Having regard to the poor season in parts of western Queensland it may be that not so many cattle will move on to Queensland holdings as normally, but that will be the only limiting factor. The use of road transport for cattle, has shown a steady increase over recent years in the Territory. I should imagine that that trend would continue. Of course, the biggest increase in the use of road transport has been in the centre in the delivery of cattle to the railhead at Alice Springs, for eventual transport to the Adelaide market or to southern farms. There has been some increase of the use of road transport in the more northerly part of the Territory, and I expect that that also will continue. I know of one proposal for the use, in the current season, of road transport for the transfer of weaners from the Territory into Queensland, that being, I believe, a new departure.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral’s attention been directed to attempts by the management of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to acquire the “ Newcastle Morning Herald “, the Newcastle evening newspaper “ The Newcastle Sun “, and Western Newspapers Limited, a company that controls several mid-western New South Wales daily newspapers and radio stations; also its take-over of the “ Illawarra Daily Mercury “ and the Wagga “ Daily Advertiser”, with a view to owning and controlling country broadcasting stations and country television stations after the applications by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ management for television licences in the areas covered by those newspapers had been rejected by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in favour of companies with which the country newspapers and country radio stations are closely associated, and in which they hold large interests? If he is acquainted with what is going on, what action does he propose to take to prevent the broadcasting and television licences which the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ now seeks to acquire from falling into its hands and coming under its monopolistic control?
– I have no official information about the variation in shareholding to which the honorable gentleman refers, or about any proposed transfers to which he also refers. However, in replying generally to his rather lengthy question, I point out that the act provides that no material alteration in the share-holding of either broadcasting or television stations may take place without the approval of the Minister. Therefore, if it were proposed at any time to make a material alteration, such as the honorable gentleman spoke of, the proposal would have to come before the Minister for determination, and at that point I would see to it that the Government’s policy on the matter of monopolistic control of these mediums - a policy which has been well known and pretty clearly expressed in the last twelve months or so - was carried out.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Can the right honorable gentleman say what progress has been made in localizing and defining areas in which specific industries in Victoria need particular attention and assistance?
– I think that the honorable gentleman has misunderstood something that was said earlier if he has the impression that there is in progress an analytical operation of the precise kind that his question implies. Broadly speaking, I believe it to be true that economic policies bear differently on various areas and in particular on various industries. Sometimes, a reduction of activity in a major enterprise in a provincial centre, where the diversity of industry and the number of enterprises is by no means as great as in the major capital cities, would perhaps have disproportionately great effects compared to the same sort of reduction of activity in one of the major capital cities. In considering what can be done within the limits of the available resources in order to assist housing, for example, one of the aspects we have had in mind has been the question whether some of the provincial centres have experienced a proportionately greater reduction of activity than has occurred in the major capitals. The study of such factors is proceeding as rapidly as is practicable.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say whether the report that Canada has sold some 186,000,000 bushels of wheat and 46,000,000 bushels of barley to red China is correct? If it is, does this sale mean that no further sales of these commodities to red China will be effected by Australia?
– My understanding of the statement by the Canadian Minister concerned is that Canada has made a contract for the immediate sale of 750,000 tons of wheat, which is the equivalent of 28,000,000 bushels. That is in addition to the earlier sale of wheat made by Canada and the sale of barley which the honorable member mentioned. Canada and Communist China have agreed on a long-standing arrangement, but, as I understand the situation, the Canadian Minister has stated that each subsequent delivery will be open to negotiation as to quantity and price. The sale of wheat immediately in question represents only 28,000,000 bushels in addition to the quantity which has already been sold.
As to Australia’s position, a delegation from the Australian Wheat Board has gone overseas in order to try to negotiate a further sale. The commercial arrangements that it may make and the possibility of sales are matters for the board itself to determine.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Bowman. I ask the right honorable gentleman: Is he aware that physically handicapped persons trained for rehabilitation by the Department of Social Services are unable to obtain permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, and that the only employment open to them is in private enterprise in positions in which there are only limited opportunities? As it is more than two years since the Boyer report on Public Service recruitment recommended a method of offering permanent employment in the Public Service to physically handicapped people, and as the Public Service Act has been amended since that recommendation was made, are we to understand that the Government has no intention of amending the act in order to permit permanent employment in the Public
Service to be offered to physically handicapped persons?
– As I indicated in reply to an earlier question, I think the best thing for me to do would be to have a short statement made on this matter, because it is important, and the statement then would be available to all honorable members.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I am thankful that Grievance Day has come around once again because I now have an opportunity to bring to the notice of the House the plight of people in my electorate who are out of work and are waiting for social service and other assistance to enable them to keep body and soul together. They would receive little consolation if I were to tell them that from 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon until 6 o’clock this morning we discussed the Electoral Bill, the sole purpose of which was to meet the wish of Government supporters to have the limit on electoral signs raised from 60 square inches to 1,200 square inches. The enlarged signs will enable them to spend more of the thousands of pounds that will be available to them in their efforts to prevent the Australian Labour Party from occupying the treasury bench after the election in December next. But money does not win all the time. I am sure that the people who have heard all the fine talk without seeing any results will return the Australian Labour Party to office.
Not only Labour members have complaints about the unemployment situation. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has told us that 40 saw-mills in his electorate have closed down, and this morning the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) referred to a similar position in his electorate. They are only two of the many honorable members on the other side of the House who could direct attention to the unemployment position but unfortunately, although they have been in this place for 20 or 30 years, they wait until election time before they try to do anything to assist the struggling mass of the people. Then they trot out their old statements of what they would like to see done.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has given the number of unemployed as 80,000, but in actual fact, as a result of the destructive policy of this Government, the number of unemployed is double that figure. In the clothing industry alone 10,000 people are out of work. Not included in that number are those who have been stood off for three or four days. They are not classed as unemployed. Similarly, when a man of 65 years of age is stood off, he is not classed as unemployed. He is told that he should draw the age pension. I should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to know that when people apply for the age pension a period of four, five or six weeks elapses before they receive it. In the meantime they have to subsist on the paltry £3 a week that is allotted to them.
Departmental officials in Sydney are very helpful to me and to other honorable members who call on them. They do the best that they can, but at a time when thousands of young people are unemployed, would it not be possible for the officers to work overtime or even to work round the clock so that people will not starve while waiting for this hand-out? Women who lose their employment when they are over 60 years of age are not registered as unemployed. They are told to go to the pension office. Exservicemen who are over 60 are told that they are entitled to the service pension - the burnt-out pension. Yet this Government claims that we are living in conditions of full and plenty! For the last eleven years this country has had the greatest prosperity that it has ever known, but the Government still is not able to give the people sufficient to enable them to keep body and soul together. This is the most damning indictment of any government that has ever controlled this country. We are only waiting until December when the people will show the Government what they think of it. 1 appeal again to the Minister foi Social Services to work his staff round the clock, if necessary, so that people may receive money for which they have become eligible. Every one knows that thousands of people are out of work, but the Government does nothing to help them. Day after day and week after week deputations have come to the Government stating the plight in which the timber mills find themselves, yet many thousands of Australian people are living in the most shocking housing conditions in every State of the Commonwealth! Surely a demand exists for timber.
Another serious anomaly that exists in Sydney relates to returned soldiers who already have arranged to build their own homes but are unable to obtain immediate finance from the War Service Homes Division. I have received many complaints about this matter during the last three or four weeks, and at least five ex-servicemen have told me that they have been advised by the War Service Homes Division that they will not be able to obtain their finance from the Government for eighteen months or two years, but that they can see a solicitor about borrowing from a money lender the necessary funds to tide them over the waiting period. Does it not look very fishy that a returned soldier - the man who went to the war and fought for us - should be told fifteen years after the war that the Government cannot advance him money, but that he can obtain it from a money lender at 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, interest? Shame on the Government which has done such an atrocious thing to the returned soldiers!
Another section of the community on whose behalf I wish to speak is the pensioners who have been deprived by the Government of a medical card. They have been stabbed in the back. We hear many hypocritical statements in this House about help for the pensioners, but if a pensioner earns £2 a week he must pay the £1 or £1 10s. fee when he visits a doctor, and then pay the 5s. prescription fee when he goes to the chemist for his “ free “ medicine. Is that a health scheme deserving of praise from those who are suffering in my electorate? Take the case of two men living in separate rooms in a boarding house, one of whom is earning £2 a week above his pension and the other £2 10s. over and above his pension.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the ten minutes allotted to me in this debate, I should like to raise matters affecting two of my constituents, because I believe that those matters involve important principles. The first concerns a young man who is at present a research student at the Melbourne University, and who has endeavoured unsuccessfully to date to obtain nomination by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for a nuclear science fellowship. These fellowships are awarded by the International Atomic Energy Commission, and they are administered in Australia by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the Department of External Affairs. They are awarded each year to candidates from member countries, of which Australia is one, for the purpose of training overseas as scientists in the field of atomic energy. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that there are at least 70 member countries.
A booklet relating to the fellowships, of which I have a copy, and which was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 1959, discloses that for the year ended 30th June, 1959, Australia pledged herself to contribute 10,000 United States dollars to the scheme. In that year, 36 countries pledged themselves to contribute a total of over 1,000,000 dollars. The booklet to which I have referred also discloses that in 1958 there were 287 nominations for scholarships from 30 countries, and that in 1959 there were 568 nominations from 44 countries. Although such small countries as the Dominican Republic and Monaco submitted nominations, and larger countries like the United States of America, Italy and Japan also nominated students, Australia did not nominate any one in either of those years.
My constituent has recently graduated as a Master of Science, but he has been told by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to make another application for nomination after he has obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree. The booklet to which
I have referred also mentions research grants, and states -
In addition to research training fellowships, the Agency will also grant a limited number of “ research grants “. These grants will be awarded to scientists and engineers who have active research interests in the field of nuclear energy.
The aim of these grants is to give the holders opportunities to carry out original research, using facilities which are not yet fully developed in their own countries. Applicants for these grants should possess at least the equivalent of the M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree and extensive experience in a pertinent field of research substantiated by the quality of their published scientific papers.
Presumably, if the qualification for the more valuable research grant is a degree as Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy then that required for the fellowship should be something less, and my constituent naturally asks whether all of the 568 nominees in 1959 were Doctors of Philosophy. He believes that not all of them would possess a Master of Science degree. If the standard applied by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is that the applicant should be a Doctor of Philosophy, then these scholarships lose their value, because there is no lack of opportunities for overseas training for students possessing the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. In fact, some very lucrative scholarships are available to them. If Australia really needs nuclear scientists, as I believe she does, then the Australian Atomic Energy Commission should provide the opportunity for overseas training for those students possessing the degree of Master of Science who are interested enough to request nomination for these international fellowships.
The second matter to which I wish to refer relates to the Social Services Act. A lady in my electorate, whose only income is the age pension, has a husband who has been an inmate of a mental hospital for eighteen years. Although he is not a voluntary patient, he is allowed to come home each week-end, and his wife is happy to look after him each week from Friday morning until Monday afternoon. This means, in effect, that the wife keeps him for almost four days in every week.
The Social Services Act provides that where an age pensioner becomes an inmate of a mental hospital his pension shall be suspended. Unfortunately, the law prevents the payment of a pension to this man until such time as he is formally discharged from the mental hospital. As I have said, he has already been an inmate for eighteen years, and there is apparently no likelihood of his being discharged. The effect of this is that his wife, who is an age pensioner herself, and who has no income other than her pension from which she has to meet the instalments on the home in which she lives, has to keep her husband for virtually four days every week. She could, of course, elect to leave him in the mental hospital for seven days a week and so pass the cost of keeping her husband on to either the State Government directly or, through tax reimbursements, to the Commonwealth Government indirectly, but as she obviously places great value on her marriage vows, she prefers to struggle on in the way in which she is going now.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) clearly has no power under the act to authorize any payment with respect to this man, but I ask the Government to give serious consideration to amending the act, on purely humane grounds, to provide for cases such as this.
.- As this is Grievance Day, I should like to take the opportunity of discussing the important matter of telephone communications as they affect the electorate of Banks. There can be no denying that those whom I represent, as well as those whom other honorable members represent, have been very tolerant about this matter of telephone communications. We all expected that there would be shortages of equipment and apparatus immediately after the war, but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has now had fifteen years in which to overtake the lag in telephone installations. It is disgraceful that every field of industry, whether it be primary, secondary or retail, and pensioners who are sick and whose doctors require them to have telephones installed in their homes, are unable to obtain this necessary service. They have been waiting far too long for telephones now, and the position has reached serious proportions in my electorate where some people have been waiting ever since the war ended. I have brought the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) repeatedly. The last communication I had from him was in 1958, when he said that in the three main exchange areas of my electorate - Peakhurst, Revesby and Bankstown - there were 1,010 people waiting for telephones. These people are still complaining to me that, notwithstanding a promise by the Postmaster-General’s Department that telephones would be installed this year, they are still waiting for the service. And the waiting list is growing in the meantime. The position now is that, instead of 1,010 applicants waiting for service, we have 1,510 people waiting in the exchange areas to which I have referred. The Hurstville exchange does not serve all my area, but the post office itself is in my area and about 260 people there are waiting for telephones. I had a reply from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) about these areas, and with regard to the Peakhurst exchange area he said -
Practically all of this exchange area is in the Banks electorate. Altogether, 90 applications and 78 telephone orders are outstanding. All of the orders and IS of the applications will be satisfied during the year and the remaining 75 applications will be relieved in approximately two years.
That period has now elapsed, but the reply which I received from the PostmasterGeneral on 2nd May indicates that 435 people are still waiting for telephones, so the number has increased considerably. With reference to the Revesby exchange area the Postmaster-General said -
All of this exchange area is in the Banks electorate. There are 585 applications and 51 telephone orders outstanding. All of the orders and 82 of the applications in the northern area will be cleared during the year.
That was 1958. The Postmaster-General’s communication continued -
Relief in the Panania-East Hills area depends upon major cable works (approximately £58,000) which will be commenced this year-
That is 1958- and completed in 1959-60. That promise has not been fulfilled, because the Postmaster-General’s reply of 2nd May indicates that 886 instead of 585 people are now waiting for telephones. I pass on to the Bankstown exchange area. Promises were made that the outstanding applications there would be satisfied by 1959-60, but 189 people there are still waiting for telephones. So a total of 1,510 people are waiting at those three exchanges. In my opinion there is no good reason for this shortage of telephone communications, because the last annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department indicates that the department does not lack revenue. It makes so much profit that it is not only able to repay capital expenditure but also to pay interest on it, as if it were a private business.
The department, on the one hand, has plenty of revenue, but on the other hand plenty of people are wanting jobs and are available to do this kind of work. On the admission of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), 81,000’ people are looking for work at the present time, and we have plenty of material. There is no need for any restriction by the Government on the expansion of this service. I think it is just a matter of the department having an effective plan. I know the department has a planning committee. I donot know whether it is the fault of that committee or whether it is due to lack of support from the Government that the department does not overtake the lag. I have pointed out that we have both primary and secondary industries which want to produce goods for export but are hampered by lack of communications.
One other matter to which I wish to refer I brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the other day. I refer to faulty junction cables in the metropolitan area of Sydney. As I pointed out, almost daily when one dials a subscriber, instead of getting through to the number, one strikes a crossed line due to faulty cable. My information from the technicians is that in such circumstances the call registers against the subscriber. One makes contact by dialling and although one does not get the service, the call is registered against the caller. The Postmaster-General’s reply to me on this matter was most unsatisfactory. I have a letter from a person who heard the question which I asked the Postmaster-General in this House, and he had this to say -
The Minister’s reply was, I thought, not only very casual but equally as evasive and I together with many others, trust that you will not allow the matter to rest until you get a saner and more concrete reply.
Wilh that thought in mind I have taken the liberty of setting out hereunder a few facts which may prove helpful.
Over the past three (3) months the number of wrong numbers we have encountered at our office would average 6 per day. The girls at “COMPLAINTS” are most efficient but all tell the same story, - on wet or humid days the number of complaints is indeed very high as the cable is apparently affected by such conditions.
Mechanics on visiting your office or home to check up on your complaints, all say the same, “Cables are so overloaded that they are more or less helpless.
On quite a number of occasions when you dial out a number CORRECTLY, the mechanical voice comes on the scene to tell you that the number you are dialling is no longer existent and to telephone COMPLAINTS. On other occasions you dial the first four or five numbers and you are automatically cut off and back to where you started.
Either the P.M.G. is not conversant with the true state of affairs or he is just another example of a Minister of this present Government who couldn’t care less. Perhaps it would have been more to the point if your question, Sir, had been put thus: “ Is it a fact that the half million profit recently made by the P.M.G.’s Department came mainly from the wrong numbers charged and paid for by suffering subscribers.”
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, just recently we were all very interested to receive a copy of a publication by the Victorian Council of Social Services, in which was quoted a number of case histories of families. It points out how 56 low-income families live. It quotes the case histories of families who are obliged to make do on restricted incomes. I was thinking of the implications in respect of social welfare. [Quorum formed.] For the benefit of honorable members who have just come into the chamber, I point out that I was referring to a publication circulated by the Victorian Council of Social Services. I will quote from it some of the council’s findings in respect of hospital benefit insurance. The publication states -
A major obstacle to hospital and medical insurance appears to be the requirement that bills must be paid before they can bc recovered from insurance associations.
The money is simply not available to pay the account, and insurance therefore has little appeal. In view of the importance of our “health services I think that this is a very great shame. Following on that complication, Mr. Lewis, a director of the Hospital Benefits Association, made a statement which was published as follows: - “ All hospital and medical insurance organizations provided for benefit payments to be made direct to doctors or hospitals in cases of hardship”, said Mr. E. Lewis, Director of H.B.A.
He said hospital insurance organizations did not want to make direct payments their general rule because of the amount of work involved and because people might then fail to appreciate that they were being helped by their insurance. “It would become commonplace just as the national insurance scheme has in Britain “, said Mr. Lewis. “ We feel that the average person wants to pay his bills himself and we have always had provision for cases where hardship is involved “.
Mr. Lewis purports to speak for all the hospital organizations, but this view is not in accord with the policy of the La Trobe Valley Hospital and Health Services Association. This progressive organization is willing and anxious to help any of its subscribers to pay their doctors’ accounts by making the amount of benefit available direct to the doctor as is so often done in respect of hospital accounts. This policy of payment direct to the doctor is based on the theory that members should be able to receive medical attention when they need it and should not have to wait until they can afford it. There is ample evidence that this policy has resulted in members of the La Trobe Valley Health Service shortening their stay in hospital because they were able to obtain attention in the early stages of a disease when surgery was comparatively simple rather than allowing a disease to develop until a major operation was required, by which time they would have saved sufficient money to be able to pay the doctor for it. I repeat, Sir, that the La Trobe Valley Health Service is willing and anxious to give its members this very desirable service.
However, the statement of Mr. Lewis clearly demonstrates that his organization, the Hospital Benefits Association, is not working in accordance with the intention of the act by introducing the unauthorized limitation that this facility shall be extended only in cases of hardship. His organization has introduced its own means test for members. It has done all that it can to discourage this method of payment. I have mentioned this matter in the House before and I remind honorable members that section 23 sub-section (2.) paragraph (b) of the act clearly indicates the Government’s intention that an organization should have the option of paying claims direct to members or of paying the appropriate amount direct to the doctor, in which case the patient would pay the balance of the account. The patient clearly has this choice open to him as a right. It is part of the service that he should and does expect of his organization if it is to give him the utmost help. I point out, as further evidence that Mr. Lewis’s organization is out of step with Government policy, that a booklet of the Department of Health, issued in 1953, set out to explain in simple language what was meant by the act. To the question of how the benefits would be paid, the answer in the booklet was -
Approved organizations will be free to decide for themselves whether the benefits including the Commonwealth subsidy will be paid directly to the member when he produces the receipted account from the doctor or directly to the doctor on the authority of the member who presents an unpaid account.
Mr. Lewis, in his statement, said that his organization was not prepared to give members this privilege of choice which is inherent in the act because he felt that members might not appreciate what was being done for them. I contend that the members of the La Trobe Valley Health Service which offers this very helpful assistance in meeting the large bills associated with surgery are very appreciative of their association’s action in complying fully both with the spirit and the letter of the law. They recognize that this progressive benefit organization is motivated only by a desire to offer its members the utmost benefit for their subscriptions.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to direct the attention of the House to the position that has arisen throughout the Commonwealth of Australia in the timber industry generally. Although I intend to deal mainly with the situation in Tasmania I recognize that this is a national problem. I believe that that statement has been substantiated, at least in part this morning, by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) who, in directing . a question to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), pointed out that New South Wales timber mills had been forced to cease production, employees had been thrown out of employment, and the situation generally in that State had gone from bad to worse. So the problem is not confined to Tasmania. It applies to
New South Wales and I know that it also applies to Queensland. Most certainly South Australia is feeling the introduction by the Commonwealth Government of a policy deliberately designed to curtail production in the timber industry.
Let me take the Tasmanian situation In order to indicate to this House how far this, position has drifted. I shall cite one or two figures to indicate that the seriousness of the situation certainly warrants the comments that have been made by Tasmanian members. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) will be able to quote later figures than mine, but let me deal with the position at the end of March. At that stage, practically every mill in Tasmania had been forced to reduce its production by between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent. Seven mills had already dismissed 178 men and 666 employees were then working part-time. A further 125 men were to be dismissed by the end of April. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that represents loss of employment by almost 1,000 men in seven mills in Tasmania.
It should be clearly understood by the House and appreciated by the Minister although, unfortunately, I do not believe it is appreciated by him, that those whowork in the saw-milling industry largely live in isolated areas. The great majority of mills in Tasmania are situated in isolated areas. I have no doubt that this is so in New South Wales and Queensland also. If men are dismissed from the timber industry in a remote area, obviously they have very little opportunity of obtaining alternative employment. That is the situation in Tasmania to-day. As I said last week when speaking on the subject of unemployment, the present conditions in this industry havebeen deliberately created by the Government. They are a direct result of thepolicy outlined in the economic statement or little Budget of November, 1960. The Government’s policy was clearly designed, at the time, to reduce the output in thetimber industry. It was designed to prevent people from obtaining finance from banks, and other recognized institutions in orderto build homes for themselves.
Yesterday, the Minister for Trade indicated to the House that a substantial drop had occurred in, timber imports from overseas. The figures referred to by the Minister, however, do* not. give the full facts. Obviously the Minister has given figures relating to only a proportion of the timber that has been brought into Australia.. I prefer to use figures shown in the “ Timber Supply Review “, a publication issued by the Forestry and Timber Bureau of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior. I have before me a copy of that journal bearing the date July-December, 1960. On page 12 are given figures showing the total quantities, in thousands of superficial feet, of timber imported into Australia from overseas. Figures are given for logs, undressed timber, weatherboards, other dressed timber and box shooks. Of course, all imported timber, whether in the form of logs or of weatherboards, dressed or undressed, must have some material effect on the Australian timber industry generally.
For- the three months ended December, 1959, total imports amounted to 72,626,000 super, feet. In the same quarter of 1960, the amount showed an appreciable increase, the total being 108,199,000 super, feet. Then, for December, 1959, we see a total of 157,054,000 super, feet. There is a gradual increase in every quarter over the preceding quarter. Turning now to June, 1960, we see total imports of 210,167,000 super, feet, an increase of more than 50,000,000 over the preceding quarter. For December, 1960, the figure given in the official document published by this Commonwealth instrumentality is 252,987,000 super, feet.
Now, let us look at the figures cited by the Minister in this House yesterday. He said that, for the December quarter of 1960, imports - and I should think he was referring to total imports - amounted to only 108,000,000 super, feet, although this official document shows that not 108,000,000, but more than 252,000,000 super, feet of timber was imported in the December quarter of 1960.
I suggest, therefore, that we have not been given the true story concerning timber imported into this country. Obviously these imports have seriously affected the output of timber in Australia. These greatly increased imports, together with the Government’s credit squeeze policy, have had a severe effect on our timber industry. After, giving the figures that. I have cited to the House, the “Timber Supply Review” adds the following comment, which I think I should read to the House: -
In total the quantity of timber imported during the half-year under review was a record. If the last three six-monthly periods are considered as a series there appears to be such a strong upward trend in imports that it would be disastrous to the native timber industry if the trend continued.
This is the Commonwealth’s own publication. What has the Minister for Trade done in connexion with the matter? He has refused to give any assistance at all to the Australian timber industry. I said earlier, and I repeat, that it is not only the Opposition in this Parliament that has directed the attention of the Government to the serious situation; honorable members of the Government parties have themselves done so.
A direct result of the Government’s credit squeeze has been a decrease in the number of homes being built. I have before me a newspaper article headed “ Big Drop in House Building “, which says -
Fewer new houses and flats were begun in the March quarter than in any similar period since the end of 1958, the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. S. R. Carver) reported yesterday.
There were 19,928 compared with 23,594 in the December quarter and 22,569 in the March, 1960, quarter.
In other words, while timber imports have increased each quarter, the number of homes being constructed has decreased. It is completely futile for the Minister to argue that the industry is not in a serious situation, or that there has been a fall in imports which has had the effect of solving the industry’s problems. We of the Opposition say that if there has been a fall in imports it has been due to a lack of demand.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. BANDIDT (Wide Bay) [12.01.- In the short time available to me this morning I propose to discuss the special difficulties of Queensland. From time to time over recent months I have been in communication with various Ministers, pointing out the special difficulties that Queensland has experienced and is still experiencing. Let me mention some of them.
The first main difficulty was caused by the very severe drought that lasted for most of last year. As honorable members know, a State that relies principally on primary production for its income is very severely affected by drought The State’s income drops according to the severity of the drought. The worse the drought, the lower the returns, and, as 1 have said, the drought that extended over the greater part of Queensland last year was quite severe.
A further difficulty was caused by the restriction of credit. It is well known, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the banks have been doing a good job generally and that they have restricted advances. But when one studies the available figures, it seems clear that over a fairly recent period the value of the advances made by the banks to persons engaged in primary industry, expressed as a proportion of the total advances, has declined. In short, the banks regard primary industry as a less attractive field for investment than they did in years gone by. The decline in bank advances to primary industry, coupled with the fall in incomes due to the drought, has created obvious difficulties for primary producers. The position will not be greatly improved this year, apparently, because within the past few days the Department of Agriculture and Stock in Queensland has stated that weather prospects for the coming winter are poor. In fact, at the present time in my electorate, and in many other parts of Queensland, a partial drought is still being experienced, and it is likely to continue through the winter and the spring. In Queensland, on the average, four out of five winters and springs are very dry. We may be lucky this year and have a wet winter and spring after the dry time that most of the State has been experiencing, but this is unlikely.
I concede that the Government should be commended for the courage it displayed in imposing certain credit restrictions. It did so for a purpose. I think the position is well summed up in the words of Mr. Ian Connell, who is reported in “ Canberra Comments “, the official organ of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, as having said -
There is no reason to doubt that Australia will be able to stem the drain on her international reserves without sending the economy into a forced recession.
The report goes on -
The balance of payments problem, he said, was not a new one and was certainly not caused by the removal of import controls. It bad, in fact, been mainly due to the combined effects of a fall in export prices and the increased demand for imported raw materials and capital equipment resulting from the internal boom which developed rapidly in 1959-60.
Mr. Connell continued
The credit restraints which have been applied are, in fact, an orthodox weapon of economic policy. If Australia is to keep her costs in line with costs overseas, she cannot afford to become a hotbed of inflation in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive.
I cannot go into this matter in detail, but I will say that the Government has been successful to a marked degree. In the first place, the Treasurer has made it clear to us that the overseas balance position can be expected to be better at the end of June than it was at the end of December last. That is a remarkable achievement.
– It is borrowed money; it is not ours.
– Money has been borrowed in the past also, and members of the Opposition have stressed that we are borrowing ?200,000,000 a year overseas. That applied to our overseas balances last year just as it applies this year. In fact, the money that is coming from overseas and will continue to come in, is a constant when you compare the position with what it was twelve months or two years ago. So the first thing to take into account is that the Government is achieving what it set out to achieve regarding our overseas balances and the Treasurer is confident, it appears, that our position will be better at the end of June than it was at the end of December. But a further important aspect of the credit position that has been brought out is the improvement in our internal national position. The figures produced only recently in the White Paper indicated that the Government will achieve a much better credit in its national balances this year than it did last year.
So on two counts, the Government has done very well indeed. But that does not get away from the fact that you cannot afford to apply the pressure too hard to a sick person. Queensland is in that unfortunate position, and it is reflected in the unemployment figures there. We know that
Queensland is a State where there is seasonal unemployment, and therefore it is to be expected that at certain times during the year, the unemployment figures will be greater in Queensland than they are in other States. The tendency appears to be in Queensland now that the unemployment figures are relatively greater than they were last year or two years ago. That is the point I am concerned about.
We have heard from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) about the timber industry in Tasmania. My electorate is an important timber-producing area and my inquiries have revealed that there is considerable difficulty in the timber industry in the Wide Bay district. What can be done to correct this situation, particularly in Queensland? I suggest that the Government should expand credit. It should release more credit than it is releasing now. I will concede that if you overdo the expansion of credit, you merely fan inflation, but I think there is a happy medium between overdoing it and underdoing it. I suggest that more credit should be released for Queensland and particularly for housing and primary industry. There is one point to remember in connexion with housing. You cannot plan and build houses quickly. It all takes time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in saying how much we in Tasmania deplore the recent action of the Government in refusing to grant tariff protection to the timber industry in Tasmania. I know that the same dismay and disappointment that we felt in Tasmania has been felt throughout Australia. The timber industry is not only a very great industry but it is also of major importance to Australia. The industry’s output is worth £125,000,000 a year to Australia. Almost all the materials used in sawmills, amounting in value to about £69,750,000 annually, are provided from Australian sources. That includes maintenance. The industry is highly decentralized and is most important as an employer of labour and a means of opening up the outback. Yet despite its national importance, the Government is crippling , me tim ber industry by its policy. It has recently refused to give adequate tariff protection. Its economic credit squeeze policy has severely affected the timber industry and by removing import restrictions, the Government has permitted the influx of excessive quantities of imported timber from lowwage countries over the past twelve months.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission, a government instrumentality, conducted a survey on 24th April which showed that the situation in the timber industry is very grave and is worsening daily. This survey revealed that in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria alone, 103 timber mills have been closed and more than 2,300 workers have been dismissed. In Tasmania, where my electorate is situated, forest products form by far the most valuable and important industry. The annual output of the industry in that State is valued at about £30,000,000, of which sawn timber accounts for about £10,000,000. Yet this Government apparently could not care less about the industry or the men employed in it. In the past six weeks - and these figures are for Tasmania alone - the number of men dismissed in the timber industry has risen from 483 to 700. The number of men working a short week or rostered one week on and one off has risen from 482 to 800. These men are mostly married men and they are taking home about £8 a week. They have hire-purchase commitments and are in a difficult position. In addition, there could be as many as 2,000 other persons affected because many smaller mills are not covered in the latest survey that was conducted by the Tasmanian Timber Association.
– flow would this affect the retail trade?
– It affects the whole community because the sawmills are the centre of many of these communities. The port of Stanley is an example. Last year, a ship took regular weekly shipments of timber to Melbourne. An immediate repercussion of the recession in the industry was that we do not send timber away now in sufficient quantities to justify the weekly run of the E class ships. The waterside workers are affected as are also small shopkeepers, taxi drivers, hotelkeepers and indeed the whole community. The revenue of the
Circular Head Marine Board is reduced also. A large number of mills throughout Tasmania have been closed or placed on reduced production. Most processing plants and particularly those in northern Tasmania are operating at reduced rates.
Let us look briefly at the three actions of the Government which have forced this industry gradually to close down. First, there was the refusal of the Government to give the industry adequate tariff protection. The present tariff on imported timber could be described in the words of the president of the Tasmanian Timber Association as “ mere peppercorn “. These rates have applied since pre-war days and with presentday prices of timber are no impediments to imports. The rate of duty on the most common of imported timber is 12s. per 100 super, feet. It was fixed when the f.o.b. prices were about 40s. per 100 super, feet. To-day f.o.b. prices range from 120s. to 140s. per 100 super, feet. The equivalent rate to-day, therefore, would be 36s. to 40s. instead of 12s. Yet the Government refuses to face up to this problem and denies adequate tariff protection for our product.
The second factor causing the recession in the industry is the credit squeeze imposed by the Government. Melbourne is the traditional market for our timber, but lack of finance for home building has resulted in a disastrous decline in home building. The number of approvals for building in Melbourne and the metropolitan area in Victoria fell by 51 per cent, in January of this year compared with January of last year; by 46 per cent, in February of this year compared with February of last year; and by 60 per cent, in March of this year compared with March of last year. What is the Government doing to assist? On 1 1th April, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced that funds for home building were to be increased, but only one week later, on 18th April, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr. Coombs, said there was to be no change in the current restrictive policy. This week, the Treasurer said that some stimulus would be given. We hear this mass of words, but no action has been taken, and the ball has been kicked back to the feet of Dr. Coombs.
While all this goes on, we cannot sell our timber and our stocks accumulate. The seasoning stocks in the timber racks in Tasmania, over and above the normal demand, rose by 7,000,000 super, feet in the September quarter of last year, by 6,000,000 super, feet in the December quarter and by 2,000,000 super, feet in the March quarter of this year. In addition, over 3,000,000 super, feet above normal requirements are being held in Melbourne. In all, we have a total of 1 8,000,000 super, feet over and above the normal demand for our timber. We must bear in mind that other States are in exactly the same position. The accumulated stocks and the large holdings of imported timbers must be sold before our mills can attempt to rehabilitate themselves.
What a shocking indictment of any government it is that this great industry has in the past ten years experienced four years of buoyant trading and six years of depressed activity, either in or slowly emerging from slumps. The years 1951-52, 1957-58 and this year have been three periods of great depression in the industry in the past ten years. All of these periods of depression have been man-made and all have been caused by this Government. Any government worthy of the name would have avoided causing these adverse conditions for the industry.
In the time remaining, let me turn to the third factor causing our troubles. This is the question of unrestricted imports, which was dealt with so well by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass. In normal years, Australian producers supply about 80 per cent, of the timber sold in Australia, and we import about 20 per cent. If by its actions the Government cuts production by 60 per cent., as we have shown, then it is reasonable to ask that it cut imports by the same amount. But the Government refuses to do this. We imported 20,000,000 square feet of plywood in the first six months of this financial year and imports from Japan rose by the astronomical amount of 400 per cent, a month. Yet in Australia we can manufacture all the plywood we require. The position with sawn timber is the same.
Let me give one instance, apart from the competition angle, to show how this affects us in Tasmania. An increase by as much as 5 per cent, in the proportion of imports to the apparent demand represents about 85,000,000 super, feet, which is more than we export from the island in any one year. We agree that imports have fallen, but they have fallen only because holding yards have reached saturation point. In his statement refusing protection, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), expressed the opinion that in view of the fall in the rate of imports, the industry should not be suffering from import competition now. This is not the true picture. At present there are huge stocks of imports unsold in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) directed attention to the important fact that Queensland is now suffering from a drought. I want to devote my attention, in the time available to me, to the subject of water. Many plans for the expansion and development of Australia have been advanced, but one plan that is lacking is a comprehensive plan for ascertaining the extent of Australia’s water supplies. I do not think that the extent to which we are dependent upon water is widely realized. Australia is the world’s most arid continent, and we should have some idea of the way our expansion is limited by lack of water supplies and water facilities.
It has been estimated, for instance, that the production of 1 ton of grain wheat requires something of the order of 1,100 tons of water; that the production of 1 ton of wheaten hay requires 325 tons of water; and the production of 1 ton of subterranean clover requires 525 tons of water. On the industrial side, the production of 1 ton of steel requires the use of 65,000 gallons of water, the production of 1 ton of paper requires the use of 15,000 gallons of water, and one barrel of oil requires eighteen barrels of water. The total weight of water used in secondary industry is 50 times greater than the total of all other materials.
Finding the enormous volume of water that we need for the development of primary and secondary industries poses very great problems. We must face the issue that it is estimated that Sydney will have extreme water difficulties by 1980, when the next major augmentation of water supply is planned. Facts seem to establish that Adelaide, unless it can obtain more fresh water, will be in a serious plight by 1970 and will have to choose whether to limit primary industry or secondary industry. It is frightening to realize the extent of Australia’s problem. The average rainfall in various parts of the world is as follows: -
The annual river flow in the United States of America, with ten main rivers, is 900,000,000 acre feet. The Danube River in Europe alone has an annual flow of 200,000,000 acre feet, the Mississippi River in the United States of America has an annual flow of 474,000,000 acre feet and the Amazon River in South America has an annual flow of 1,780,000,000 acre feet. But the total flow of all rivers in Australia is only 200,000,000 acre feet. If the annual run-off in Australia were spread over the whole of the continent, it would give a depth of one and a third inches. The run-off in the United States of America spread over the whole of that continent would give a depth of 9 inches, and the run-off of all other land surfaces would give a depth of 9J inches. Our annual rainfall is terribly irregular. For instance, the mighty Fitzroy River fluctuates from a capacity of 219,000,000 acre feet to 28,000,000,000 acre feet. How are we to overcome the irregularity in our rainfall? There is a very definite and urgent need to establish a national water resources council. We must have a new national water concept. The national water resources council should consist of the appropriate Commonwealth and State Ministers, with a standing committee of appropriate senior departmental officers. It should have four major objectives. These should be, first, to determine what our water resources are; secondly, to discover where water flow could be increased; thirdly, to reduce water wastage; and, fourthly, to impose water use efficiency.
At the same time we badly need an Australia-wide national development committee. Such a committee should include the best that is available in scientists, technicians, engineers, agriculturists and so on, to work hand in glove with the national water resources council. If we do not do this we shall be faced with the fact that, much as we want to develop Australia, especially the north of Australia, including the provision of roads in Queensland and the Northern Territory for the movement of beef, we shall be limited to expansion in those areas where water is always available. At the present time, that means mainly two major areas in Australia - those in the vicinity of Melbourne and Sydney - because, with the exception of the very far north of Queensland, those are the areas where water is approximate and readily available. Those are, therefore, the only places where rapid industrial expansion can take place.
The water position in this country has produced various problems with which we have been faced over the years, because as industry expands in the major centres of population we shall get a further concentration of population in those areas. We shall also continue to have the wrangles that arise frequently in this place over which State or which area should get most money from the Commonwealth.
This is a particularly important problem, and not enough attention has been given to it. There has been no comprehensive survey of our national water resources, and there should be no further delay in setting such a survey in motion. There are also one or two other factors to be considered. We are told that unless we develop our great north we shall be in danger of invasion from Asia, where there are nations that want more land and would like to take over Australia. That is completely untrue. There are vast undeveloped areas in Asia which have great water resources. The problem that faces the people of Asia is that their countries are undeveloped. If they are given a chance to develop their countries there will be no need for them to look to our empty north.
Because I feel that the matter is so urgent and so important to Australia I want to stress again that we must develop, with the greatest possible speed, a national water resources council charged with research into our water problems, and with tracing the pattern of those resources. Look what happened at Mount Isa in connexion with the East Leichhardt lake, which was created as a result of the dam that was built there. It was expected that it would take about two or three years to fill the lake from known water supplies, yet it was filled in one night as the result of a storm. Such storms are not infrequent, but we do not know the pattern of rainfall, storms and so forth.
Unless we get down to doing these things very soon, no matter how much we talk about credit squeezes, shortages of timber and the wastage of our timber assets - important as these matters are - we shall get nowhere without water.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Recently, I made representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on behalf of superannuated Commonwealth public servants, particularly those receiving small pensions, and pointed out the hardships that these people were experiencing. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will give that matter his personal attention, but I am mentioning it here to-day because I hope that my representations will not be snowed under by other important matters that may require his consideration and that of the Cabinet. Representations in regard to this matter have been made to me, and I believe that there is great merit in the claim that retired Public Service officers are experiencing considerable difficulty in making their superannuation benefits meet even their basic needs.
It is with the desire to ensure the sympathetic consideration by the Government and the Parliament of the problem that besets these people that I raise the matter at this stage. These people have rendered great service to the Commonwealth in various ways during their long lives. That is particularly so in regard to former members of the postal service, like postmen, mail sorters, workers in the telegraph branch and postal administration generally, and the great army of former clerical workers who were associated with public administration generally. After giving loyal service, and contributing towards their superannuation rights in their desire to help themselves in their retirement, they have reached the stage of life at which they merit the most sympathetic understanding and consideration of this Parliament. They are not only afflicted by the inadequacy of their superannuation benefits, but also face other difficulties because of the provisions of our social services legislation. During its term of office, the Government has introduced an alleviation of the property means test which affects the recipients of age and invalid pensions. If the Government could see its way clear to give consideration to people who possess capital means in excess of what they need to live on, surely the recipients of superannuation, who during their working lives contributed towards the payments that they now receive, should be exempt from the property means test in the same measure as are age and invalid pensioners.
To-day, unfortunately, superannuation payments received are reckoned as income under our pensions scheme. Since the person who receives superannuation has himself contributed much towards it, I consider that these payments should not be reckoned as income in the assessment of pensions. Certainly, the person who receives some income by way of superannuation has a more direct claim to sympathetic consideration by this House and the Government than have people who receive income from property by way of rent. Yet such people have received more sympathetic consideration from the Government than has been extended to former Commonwealth employees who receive superannuation. The ever-increasing cost of living is making it more and more difficult for superannuated persons to stretch their income over the various expenses that they incur in living from day to day.
We know that all sections of the community have suffered as a result of the inflationary trend during the period in which this Government has been in office, but no section has suffered more than have the people on the lower incomes, and it is for them that I make an earnest plea to the Government to consider, when the next Budget is being prepared, the introduction of a supplementary allowance in order to balance the scales for people on superannuation and enable them to live according to the standards which they expected their contributions to superannuation would ensure for them on their retirement. As a result of recent inflation, superannuation benefits received are worth less than were the contributions made. This is one of the unfortunate effects of this Government’s having allowed prices to rise to the inordinately high level that they have attained as a result of this Administration’s policies. The Government has a responsibility to correct this anomaly to which many people who gave good, honest service to the Commonwealth are now subjected in the days of their retirement. They have a right to expect from this House and the Government the consideration that they merit as former loyal servants of the Crown.
For the reasons that I have stated, I present this matter to the House in the confident expectation that this supplementation of the representations that I have already made will bring sharply to the Government’s notice the great urgency of the need for relief to the people whose circumstances I have outlined this morning.
.- Mr. Speaker, I am prompted to join in this debate by some remarks made on Thursday last by the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin), who on that occasion discussed decentralization in country areas. In my view, his proposal for Commonwealth support for the principle of decentralization and assistance in giving effect to it is a firstclass one. I understand from inquiries I have made that the problems of decentralization cannot be easily overcome.
Discussion of this matter prompts me to bring to the notice of the House the urgent need for assistance to industry in the town of Maryborough, in Victoria, which is in the Wimmera electorate. This town has a population of some 10,000 people, and it is chiefly an industrial centre which is surrounded by an extensive area of land well suited to the production of wool, wheat and cereals generally. Two large industries in this industrial town are experiencing some difficulty as a result of certain actions taken by the Government in recent months. The firm of Patience and Nicholson Limited manufactures various kinds of tools and employs some 400 to 500 workers. The firm has been endeavouring to expand by exporting tools, but, naturally, the credit squeeze has caused it some difficulty in maintaining its sales. Another large enterprise in the town is Maryborough Knitting Mills (Cuttle) Limited, which employs between 500 and 600 people. This establishment is in rather dire distress because it cannot sell enough of its output to enable full-time work to continue. Some weeks ago, the working hours were reduced from 40 to 30 a week, and on Monday of this week, the management was forced to reduce the hours still further to 24 a week. Naturally, a reduction of working hours from 40 to 24 a week means a corresponding reduction in the income of the employees, and such a drastic reduction in the income of between 500 and 600 people has far-reaching effects throughout the town.
In knitting mills, a lot of female labour is usually employed, and there is no alternative work for the women employed at this establishment in Maryborough. The management, I feel, has been very generous, because, instead of dismissing large numbers of employees, it has reduced the hours of work in order to enable every worker to receive some income at least. Unfortunately, the reduction of the income received by these people means a corresponing decline in their spending power, and this has had damaging effects on all businesses in the town. Such a happening at this stage is most unfortunate, because Maryborough is to be declared a city on Saturday next. The situation that I have outlined has thrown a spirit of gloom over the celebrations arranged for this event. That, however, is secondary to the important consideration that workers are suffering financially, not only in the establishments that 1 have already mentioned, but also in numerous other enterprises such as a wire works which employs between 100 and 200 men, and the firm of W. Phelan and Sons Proprietary Limited, which constructs prefabricated houses and which has been in existence for many years.
Naturally enough, all the people concerned, including those who manage these enterprises, are very worried, and 1 urge the Government to consider extending assistance to these industries in the way suggested by the honorabie member for Ballaarat. I suggest that the Government assist the knitting mills in Maryborough by purchasing portion of their output for the defence forces and for other Commonwealth instrumentalities and to meet our commitments to the Colombo Plan.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - On Tuesday, 2nd May, the honorabie members for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and Wills (Mr. Bryant) asked for information regarding undertakings given by the Australian Government to the International Monetary Fund in connexion with the drawing and standby credit arranged with that institution last week.
As 1 informed the House on 27th April, the Government has arranged a drawing from the International Monetary Fund of foreign currencies equivalent in value to 175,000,000 United States dollars, or £A.78,125,000 and a further “stand-by” credit equivalent to 100,000,000 United States dollars, or £A.45,000,000 available for a period of one year.
The drawing, which was completed on 28th April, took the form of the purchase of various foreign currencies from the fund in exchange for Australian pounds. The foreign currencies were received by the Reserve Bank of Australia and added to Australia’s international reserves on that date and, on the same day, the fund’s account with the Reserve Bank was credited with an equivalent amount of Australian pounds.
The stand-by credit entered into force on 1st May and gives the Government the right, should it choose to do so, to make further purchases of foreign currencies against Australian pounds equivalent to 100,000,000 United States dollars during the following twelve months. lt is customary to include in the fund’s stand-by arrangements some limitations on the rate at which purchases of foreign currencies under the stand-by will be made. In the case of the stand-by obtained by Australia, it has been agreed that we will not seek to purchase foreign exchange exceeding the equivalent of 20,000,000 United States dollars in the first two months, 40,000,000 United States dollars in the first four months and 80,000,000 United States dollars in the first six months. This scheduled rate of drawing would permit the Government, if it so wished, to augment its reserves progressively over the next six months by drawing up to the full amount of the stand-by credit.
As 1 said in my earlier announcement, these transactions were arranged, not because of any real anxiety on the part of the Government that our first line reserves will prove insufficient, but because the normal seasonal trend of our overseas business will produce extra calls on our reserves during the slacker part of our export season. The Government believes it only prudent to put quite beyond doubt the strength and liquidity of our overseas resources in the period ahead.
As to the details of the transactions, I shall deal first with the drawing and then with the stand-by credit.
The formal request for the drawing was made, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, in a letter dated 21st April from the Secretary to the Treasury, to the managing director of the fund. The text of that letter is contained in attachment A to the statement which has been circulated to honorable members.
The letter refers to the amount to be drawn and the relevant fund articles of agreement under which drawings by members are granted, including the waiver by the fund required because the drawing would have the effect of increasing the fund’s holdings of Australian currency by an amount equivalent to more than 25 per cent, of Australia’s quota.
The letter also contains the standard undertaking that the currencies drawn by Australia will be used for making payments which are consistent with the provisions of the fund agreement. The fund, of course, makes its resources available to its members for temporary support of their balance of payments.
The letter also includes the usual undertakings to place an amount of Australian pounds, equivalent to the drawing, to the credit of the fund’s account with the Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney, and to pay the service charge of one-half of one per cent, in gold to the fund’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Both the lodgment of Australian currency and the payment of the service charge were effected on 28th April, the day on which the foreign currencies were received from the fund. Finally, the letter contains the standard undertaking that the Government will comply with the principles set forth in sub-paragraphs a, b, c, and d of paragraph 2 of the decision of the executive board of the fund of 13th February, 1952. The full text of this decision is contained in an appendix to the fund’s annual report for 1952 which is available to honorable members in the Parliamentary Library.
The decision referred to is concerned with the time within which drawings from the fund should be repaid, and states that repayment should take place “ within an outside range of three to five years “. The decision also requires countries to consult the fund on repayment when the interest charges of their drawings reach 4 per cent, per annum. In Australia’s case this point of consultation would be reached after three years if Australia had itself not already arranged repayment of the drawing before that time. The decision does, however, provide that when unforeseen circumstances beyond the member country’s control make unreasonable the application of the principles of repayment to which I have referred, the fund will consider extensions of time. I should add that, although the letter does not refer directly to the payment of interest charges, under the fund articles of agreement Australia is required to pay charges on the amount of its drawing in excess of its gold subscription that is outstanding at the end of each quarter. The amount upon which Australia will have to pay interest charges until repayment of the drawing commences is 102,000,000 United States dollars or about £A.45,000,000. No charge, other than the initial service charge, is payable for the first three months, a charge of 2 per cent, per annum is payable for the next fifteen months, and from then on the charge rises by i per cent, per annum in each succeeding period of six months. If no repayments were made for three years the average effective rate of interest over that period, taking into account also the initial service charge of one-half of 1 per cent., would be 2i per cent, per annum.
Following receipt of the formal request for a drawing and stand-by credit the Board of Executive Directors of the fund met on 26th April, in Washington, lt agreed to the requested drawing equivalent to 175,000,000 United States dollars and granted the necessary waiver under article V, section 4 of the fund agreement to which I have already referred. The foreign currencies actually drawn on 28th April included 40,000,000 United States dollars, the equivalent of 10,000,000 United States dollars in Canadian dollars, the equivalent of 30.000,000 United States dollars in pounds sterling, the equivalent of 55,000,000 United States dollars in deutsche marks, the equivalent of 15,000,000 United States dollars in French francs, the equivalent of 15,000,000 United States dollars in Italian lire, and the equivalent of 10,000,000 United States dollars in Netherlands guilders. These foreign currencies and their amounts were suggested to Australia by the fund. They are all readily convertible into any other currency.
At the same time the fund board also agreed to the request of the Government for the stand-by credit requested for one year, and approved the terms of the standby arrangement. As in the case of the drawing, the board also granted the necessary waiver under article V, section 4, of the Articles of Agreement. Attachment B to the statement I have circulated contains the text of a letter dated 21st April from the Secretary to the Treasury to the managing director of the fund formally requesting the stand-by credit on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and enclosing a memorandum setting out the present policies and intentions of the Government. Attachment C to the circulated statement contains the full text of the stand-by arrangement agreed to by the fund board.
These are significant portions of the story, and indeed they form one section of the memorandum setting out the Government’s present policies and intentions which, i think, probably will have the greatest interest for honorable members. I think it would be convenient if all honorable members had the full text of these documents before them. Therefore, with the concurrence of the House, I shall have them incorporated in “ Hansard “ at the conclusion of my statement.
The amount of the stand-by credit is to the value of 100,000,000 United States dollars or £A.45,000,000. lt is subject to a service charge of one quarter of 1 per cer.t. per annum. This amount was paid in dollars to the account of the fund with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on 1st May. If subsequently a drawing is made under the stand-by the amount already paid would be credited against the service charge on the drawing, up to a maximum of one quarter of 1 per cent, of the transaction.
As honorable members will see, the memorandum stating the policies and intentions of the Government retraces in some detail the course of events in the Australian economy since the beginning of 1960, and gives an account of the various policy measures that have been adopted by the Government. It also states the Government’s current broad intentions with regard to future policy. In doing so, it emphasizes that economic conditions in Australia are subject to rapid change and are influenced by a number of external factors outside the control of the Australian Government. The policy declarations as to our future intentions contained in the memorandum are therefore to be read as applying only to conditions as they now appear.
The Government’s freedom of action to change its policies to meet changing circumstances is in no way limited; but it is provided, as it is only reasonable it should be, that, should any major shift in the direction or emphasis of policy become necessary during the currency of the stand-by credit, the Australian Government would, at the request of the managing director of the fund, be ready to consult with the fund and, if necessary, reach new understandings before any request for a further drawing under the stand-by was made.
The consultations with the fund confirmed that the fund strongly endorses the broad policy objective of tne Government, which is to promote the growth of the economy in an environment free from inflationary pressure. If changing circumstances should require any major change in the policy intentions outlined in the memorandum, any new measures will naturally be aimed at achieving the same general objective and, for that reason, they are likely to secure the continued approbation of the fund. The adoption of policies which might endanger our internal and external stability could, of course, be expected to lead to a suspension of our continued access to further drawings under the stand-by credit: but 1 can give the House, as well as the fund, a firm assurance that the present Government will continue to follow policies which will be dictated by an informed and responsible judgement of what is best calculated to achieve the objectives which we have se; for ourselves and which the fund has so handsomely supported.
I conclude with the observation that I believe it was recognized by the executive directors of the fund, when they came to consider Australia’s application, that this was, in their view, a classic illustration of the way in which the fund and its resources should be employed. It would not be proper for me to give the House details of the discussions which took place at the meetings of the executive directors, but I can say that there was general commendation of the steps Australia had taken to put its own house in order, and the readiness with which the fund met these requests reflected, I believe, this common judgment that, while this was a good and indeed a classic illustration of the way in which the fund’s resources should be employed, and represented a recognition that we ourselves had gone commendably about the business of meeting the difficulties connected with the level of our overseas reserves.
Finally, I pay tribute to the work performed in connexion with this matter by our very able Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Roland Wilson. He played a major part in the negotiations, and the smooth and successful outcome is a tribute to the ability he brought to bear on those negotiations.
The documents to which J referred earlier are as follows: -
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
Department of the Treasury 21st April, 1961.
Dear Mr. Jacobsson:
As fiscal agency of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, we desire to purchase from the International Monetary Fund currencies equivalent to US$ 175 million, in accordance with the terms of Article V, Sections 3 and 4 of the Fund Agreement.
The currencies to be drawn and the accounts to which they are to be credited will be specified by me in a communication prior to the meeting of the Executive Board.
We do hereby represent that the currencies are presently needed for making in such currencies payments which are consistent with the provisions of the Fund Agreement.
The equivalent of the amount of desired currencies in Australian pounds, namely £A78,125,000 will be placed to the credit of your No. 1 Account with the Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney, on the value date to be specified by you.
With regard to the charges payable under Article V, Section 8 (a) of the Fund Agreement, we will instruct the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York, to earmark for your gold account approximately, but not less than, 25,000,000 fine ounces of gold.
We further state that this request is made in accordance with the arrangements described in paragraph 2 of the decision of the Exe-utive Board of the Fund at Meeting 52/11, February 13, 1952, and that we will comply with the principles set forth in sub-paragraphs a, b, c, and d of paragraph 2 of that decision.
Yours sincerely, (Roland Wilson)
Secretary to the Treasury.
Mr. Per Jacobsson Managing Director International Monetary Fund 19th and H Streets N.W. Washington 25, D.C.
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
Department of the Treasury 21st April, 1961.
Dear Mr. Jacobsson:
On behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1 wish to request that the International Monetary Fund agree to a stand-by arrangement in the amount of United States $100,000,000 and for the duration of twelve months.
A memorandum setting forth the policies and intentions of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia is attached.
I shall appreciate it if you will submit this request, together with the request for a drawing contained in my other letter of today’s date, to the Executive Directors at the earliest opportunity.
Yours sincerely, (Roland Wilson)
Secretary to the Treasury.
Mr. Per Jacobsson Managing Director International Monetary Fund 19th and H Streets N.W. Washington 25, D.C.
POLICIES AND INTENTIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE COMMONWEALH OF AUSTRALIA
During the course of1960 the Australian economy felt the impact of a strong domestic boom. A rapid rise in fixed investment expenditures, coupled with increases in nonfarm stocks and in consumption expenditures led to a rise in total demand which outstripped the growing capacity of the economy.
As a consequence, the situation in the labor market became very strained, with . a high labor turnover, much overtime working, labor shortages and a substantial increase in earnings.
At the same time, the balance of payments position deteriorated. Imports, which had been running at an annual rate of about £A900 million in the second half of 1959, rose to an annual rate of over £A1,100 million in July-December 1960. Not only was there the normal rise in imports which was to be expected when output was rising rapidly but, with many domestic producers unable to give early delivery, purchases were turned to imported supplies even when those were dearer. In addition, certain exportable goods, such as steel, were diverted to the home market.
A fall in the world market price for some primary products, especially wool, adversely affected the value of exports which in the second half of 1960 was running at an annual rate of some £A100 million below that for the corresponding period of 1959. Notwithstanding the continuation of a high rate of capital inflow, gold and foreign exchange reserves fell in the second half of 1960, by £A136 million, to £A376 million.
The basic aim of Australian economic policy is a sustained growth of population and production within a framework of a balance between domestic demand and available resources and between external receipts and payments. Since early in 1960 the economic policy of the Government has been directed to reducing the excessive rate of increase in demand and to arresting the rise in costs and prices. The main lines of policy were as follows:
In February 1960 the Goverment decided to terminate import licensing, except for a limited range of goods, in an effort to enlarge the volume of available supplies and to help to moderate the rise in costs and prices. The Government has since reiterated its intention to adhere to this policy.
Arbitration Commission in February 1960 when that body was hearing a claim for an increase in the basic wage. The Government contended that the economy needed time to absorb the effects of two wage increases made in earlier months and that a further increase would accelerate the rise in demand, and in costs and prices. The Commission essentially accepted this view in rejecting the claim.
November 1960, the maximum overdraft rate being raised from 6 per cent to 7 per cent and the average of rates increased from 5½ per cent to 6 per cent in an effort to discourage the use of overdrafts which contributed to inflationary pressures or to sustaining the flow of imports. Rates on deposits were also increased in order to encourage the holding of deposits with banks rather than with other financial institutions through which funds might be channelled into consumer credit and land and share dealings. The rates on public issues late in 1960 and early in 1961 were also raised.
The aggregate effect of the policies outlined above has been to improve the balance between supply and demand. The extreme labor shortage has been relieved and overtime work reduced. In the building and motor vehicle industries, which led the boom, demand has fallen off; and there fc general evidence that the pace of advance in both fixed investment and consumption demand is slackening off. Bank advances have fallen since late in 1960 and the banks’ liquidity will be under severe pressure in the quarter ending June 1961 as a result of the combined effects of the seasonal flow of tax payments to the Treasury, the expected fall in international reserves, and the repayment of advances made by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank.
There is, however, a considerable delay between the placing of orders overseas and the arrival of goods in Australia, and some speculative importing has been arranged against the possibility of a reimposition of quantitative restrictions (despite strong government statements to the contrary). Consequently, the impact of the internal measures on imports has only recently begun to show and although further reductions are expected, it is thought that the effects of this delayed impact, and of the seasonal pattern of Australian exports, will be such as to lead to a ontinued decline in reserves, at least until September 1961. It is in the light of these considerations that the Australian Government is requesting assistance from the Fund in the form of a drawing equivalent to $175 million and a stand-by arrangement for $100 million.
The Australian Government wishes to promote the growth of the economy in an environment free from inflationary pressure and its general economic and financial policies will continue to be framed so as to maintain a balance between supply and demand. In present circumstances, the Government attaches particular importance to the objective of bringing the fall in reserves to a halt by restoring a sound balance of payments position.
Economic conditions in Australia are subject to rapid change and are influenced by a number of external factors outside the Government’s control. Policy has therefore frequently to be adapted to meet a shift in conditions. The declarations of policy made here must therefore be understood as applying only to conditions as they now appear. Should any major shift in the direction or em phasis of policy become necessary during the currency of the standby arrangement the Australian Government would, at the request of the Managing Director, be ready to consult with the Fund and, if necessary, reach new understandings before any request for a further drawing under the standby arrangement is made. Subject to this, and having regard to current economic conditions, the present intentions of the Australian Government as to major areas of policy are as follows:
It is the view of the Australian authorities that, subject to what is said above as to changes in economic conditions, present policies, as indicated above, are adequate to restore domestic and external equilibrium in the near future. If further action were needed major reliance would be placed on fiscal and monetary measures. 21st April, 1961.
For a period of one year, from May 1, 1961, Australia will have the right to purchase the currencies of other members from the Fund in exchange for its own currency in an amount equivalent to US$100 million provided that:
.- by leave - The Opposition expresses its great opposition to the stand that has been taken by the Government in connexion with this matter. Whilst it may be conceded that, in the event of temporary difficulties in our balance of payments situation there may be a case for recourse to the International Monetary Fund, we believe that Australia’s balance of payments problem is of a more deep-rooted, permanent kind and arises from the internal activities of the Australian Government. In passing, I note that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) says himself that action is being taken at the moment not because of any real anxiety on the part of the Government that our first-line reserves will prove insufficient but because the normal seasonal trend of our overseas business will create extra calls on our reserves during the slacker part of the export season. If there were no real anxiety on the part of the Government, with our overseas funds still in the region of £ A .400,000,000, it is hard to understand why recourse should have been had to this fund.
It is hard to understand also why the 175 drawings that have been availed of are being taken out in a variety of currencies, in United States dollars, Canadian dollars, Deutsche marks, French francs, Italian lire, and Netherlands guilders, when the Treasurer says in the same sentence that all these currencies are readily convertible into any other currency.
– The fund has a variety of currencies.
– That is also true of the existing £400,000,000 reserves which we hold in sterling. That, too, can be converted into any of the currencies that have been drawn here. It would seem to me that there has been a different approach by the Treasurer in giving information to the Australian people, to that which he takes when giving information to the managers of the bank. I draw the Treasurer’s attention to the document which he has asked us to consult and which is to be found in the library. It is the annual report of the International Monetary Fund for 1952. Appendix I. of that report, which relates to the use of the fund’s resources and to repurchases, contains a statement by the then chairman which reads -
However, even at the outset I think it must be clear that access to the Fund should not be denied because a member is in difficulty. On the contrary, the task of the Fund is to help members that need temporary help and requests should be accepted from members that are in trouble in greater or lesser degree.
– The thinking has moved on since then.
– I am not arguing now about how the thinking has moved; I am merely quoting from a document that has been tabled. Attachment A to the Treasurer’s speech is a letter dated 21st April, 1961, from the Secretary to the Treasury to Mr. Jacobsson, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and reads in part -
We do hereby represent that the currencies are presently needed for making in such currencies payments which are consistent with the provisions of the Fund Agreement.
When honorable members consult, as they will have opportunity of doing when they get their copies of “ Hansard “ - I thank the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for his courtesy in letting us have a preview of the document - the memorandum which was submitted in association with this submission cataloguing the history of economic difficulties in Australia, it will be apparent that the responsibility for those difficulties must be laid at the door of the internal conduct of the Government of Australia. Page 1 of the memorandum draws attention to the deterioration in the balanceofpayments situation in Australia. It says -
Imports, which had been running at an annual rate of about £A900 million in the second half of 1959, rose to an annual rate of over £A1,100 million in July-December 1960.
Why did the rapid rise take place in the balance of payments situation and in the rise of imports from £900,000,000 to £1,110,000,000 between the end of 1959 and the July-December period of 1960? It flowed inevitably from the consequences of the removal of import controls by this Government in February, 1960. The memorandum continues -
Not only was there the normal rise in imports which was to be expected when output was rising rapidly, but, with many domestic producers unable to give early delivery,-
That is the local producers - purchases were turned to imported supplies even when those were dearer.
We in this country were told that the reason for the relaxation of import controls was that imports would be brought in which would be competitive with Australian industry, yet in this document we are told that imports have been made by Australian importers even when they were dearer. I think that goes to the very root of this problem. The deterioration that is taking place in our balance of payments stems in the first place from that decision of the Government. But the more interesting factors which are contained in this document, sent on 21st April, give indications of the future Budget policy of this Government in the next three or four months, which have not as yet been presented to this Australian Parliament. Again, I think that only serves to indicate once more that this Parliament is being treated with contempt by the Government of the day, because what is said in this document indicates that the Government intends to follow certain courses in the next few months.
I also ask honorable members to ponder on the validity of this statement, which was submitted in the memorandum -
The Australian Government wishes to promote the growth of the economy in an environment free from inflationary pressure and its general economic and financial policies will continue to be framed so as to maintain a balance between supply and demand.
Would any one suggest at the moment that the situation in the Australian economy is one of growth and that there is an antiinflationary circumstance in the community? We have the evil of unemployment associated still with inflationary tendencies and the reason for this is that the monetary and fiscal weapons which the Government is relying upon so far are inadequate to handle the problems in Australia. Those indirect instruments have to be buttressed by more selective and direct approaches. Yet, in the submission given to Mr. Jacobsson, the intention is to continue in Australia, and carry into the next Budget, which will be presented in August, with the sort of measures which have brought the economy of Australia to the position in which we find it. The memorandum also states -
In the field of fiscal policy the Government intends to make every effort to keep the growth of Government expenditure under restraint. It is envisaged that programmes for expenditure on development will be given a special bias towards expansion of exports.
Precisely what does that mean? The second proposition stated in this portion of the memorandum is -
Some action will be necessary in the June quarter of 1961-
We are now in that quarter - to assist the banks in meeting the severe seasonal pressures that will fall on them. Seasonal needs apart, however, the monetary authorities intend to keep a firm control over the liquidity position of the banks, with a view to limiting during the year ending June, 1962, the outstanding bank advances to a total that would be consistent with the maintenance of financial stability.
The monetary authorities, while having regard to the need for a reasonable degree of flexibility within the interest rates structure to meet changes in market conditions, do not .intend to take an action directed to a lowering of the general level of interest rates. It also remains the concern of the authorities as part of their overall responsibility for the control of credit to discourage, so far as lies within their power, any excessive flow of funds into financial institutions other than banks.
It is admitted that in some fields there is not the power so to act. The memorandum continues -
The Government has repeatedly stated and now re-affirms its intention not to re-impose restrictions on trade or current payments-
I ask honorable members to mark this - except in the event of a very serious balance of payments emergency necessitating a major shift in policy.
Finally, the memorandum states -
It is the view of the Australian authorities that, subject to what is said above as to changes in economic conditions, present policies, as indicated above, are adequate to restore domestic and external equilibrium in the near future. If further action were needed major reliance would be placed on fiscal and monetary measures.
I suggest that that is a gloomy forecast so far as the next few months in Australia are concerned - no relaxation of credit; the continuance of taxation on existing and possibly at higher levels and no attempt, if the balance of payments position continues to deteriorate, to grapple with the essential problem which is that too much imports are coming in, in terms of our export earnings, and coming in as this document suggests sometimes in such ways that they are dearer than what is available on the Australian market. This only shows, as we have said in this House over the last several months, that this Government is prepared to act by using monetary restraint and imposing taxation and allowing the wage earners to be the burden-bearers so far as its ills are concerned.
As I have said, there might be some case for a temporary borrowing if the circumstances were temporary; but all that the present action is doing is serving further to camouflage what has continued over the last five years so far as Australia’s balance of payments situation is concerned. In the five years from 1955-56 to 1959-60- T take the figures from the November issue of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s statistical bulletin - there was a deficiency in Australia’s current accounts. That is .the difference between exports and imports, allowing for what we call “ invisibles “. In those five years there was a deficiency of £755,000,000, and that deficiency was made up by direct investment in Australia, that is by foreigners digging into Australian industry to the extent of £450,000.000 and other borrowing, r.ot into new industry but flowing into old established Australian industry, at the level of £300,000,000. The net effect over that period appears to have been an increase of £80,000,000 in Australia’s balance of payments.
As I have said, this camouflages very real difficulties which face the Australian economy at the moment. The central problem is our internal economy. The responsibility for this should be sheeted home to the responsible government. It is culpable for this deterioration. The Opposition considers that recourse should not have been had to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund. This course is being taken only because the Government is failing to face up to the economic realities of Australia in 1961. It is time that this position was clearly understood by the people of Australia. In conclusion, I say that it is to be regretted that more indication is given about Australia’s future economic policy to a foreign organization than is given to the Australian Parliament.
Where is the economic survey, “ Australia 1961 “, the corresponding issues of which have been made available to the Parliament in the last two or three years? Will it be brought in on Thursday night of next week, two hours before the House rises and too late for us to say anything about it? I suggest that it is time that the Government of Australia took the people into its confidence. That should not be done through surreptitious statements made in the press, at television interviews, or in the boardrooms of overseas banks. It should be done here, in the Parliament, so that the matter can be argued out here and the Government’s sins pointed out to it. This is only a further indication of the errors of omission and commission of this Government.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1373), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bil! be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the measure now before the House for consideration is a very brief bill consisting of a couple of pages of amendments to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1954. I remember very well the last amendment which was made to the act in 1954. It was designed to grant additional powers to the Australian Wine Board which controls the export of wines and brandies, to enable it to promote, by advertising and other means, the sale of wines, particularly within Australia. This bill is designed to vest the board with powers that will enable it more effectively to market wine and to promote its sale in the United Kingdom and other countries.
The wine industry is of very great economic importance to Victoria and South Australia in particular, to New South Wales to a lesser degree, and to Western Australia to some degree. The industry is fairly well organized. As far back as 1929 this Parliament enacted legislation empowering the collection of a levy. That legislation has been amended from time to time to permit the collection of increased levies. As far as I know, the work of the Australian Wine Board, generally speaking, has been of a high order. Now, with the substantial expansion of the industry following the last war and the great production available, it is essential that facilities for promoting sales in the United Kingdom should be expanded. This bill provides for that action to be taken.
According to the second-reading speech by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) the immediate and main purpose of this legislation is to allow the Wine Marketing Board to .acquire property in London and to stock it with wine which it will be empowered, under this bill, to acquire. I take it that this wine will be purchased from the owners. Presumably the objective is solely to promote the sale of wine in the United Kingdom. I cannot see any objection to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
It is realized by the wine industry that very large vested interests in the United Kingdom are not very interested in fostering the sale and consumption of Australian wines in that country. I was in the United Kingdom with my friend, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) some three years ago. Although we are not wine bibbers, we made it our business to make some inquiries about the availability of Australian wine in the provinces of the United Kingdom. On inquiry at hotels and other places at which we stayed overnight, we found that Australian wine was almost entirely unknown. Pursuing our inquiries, we were told by one innkeeper that he considered that one of the main reasons why Australian wine was not more popularly known and more readily available was that the great wholesale and retailing houses of the United Kingdom had direct financial links with wine-producing interests in France, Portugal, Spain and in other countries. Therefore, it was in their interests to show a decided preference for wine which has its origin in continental countries. They cop it both ways. They get the profit on the distribution of wine in Britain and they profit from their interest in the overseas wine-producing enterprises. The honorable member for Blaxland and I ascertained that the merchants who purchased Australian wine, in the main, were not interested in preserving its Australian identity. But because its quality was so good - it was better in many instances than continental wine - they utilized it in the blending process. However, the consumer in the local inn or cafe never saw Australian wine in the bottle, labelled as such.
As I have said, the central purpose of the bill before the House is to enable the Australian Wine Board to acquire property in London and, perhaps, in other parts of the United Kingdom and in other countries, and to stock those centres with representative samples of Australian wine under their own attractive label. The authority will be able to bring to the notice of customers and others the virtues inherent in Australian-produced wine. I think that the measure is desirable, and I support it.
However, a very great power is vested in the wine-marketing authority. Previously, it had no authority to assume ownership of wine. Under this legislation it will be vested with powers of acquisition. It will be allowed to utilize funds which are obtained from a levy on grapes delivered to wine distilleries in acquiring quantities of wine. That is a very vast power. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, admittedly qualified this power to acquire wines, by adding the words “ solely for promotional purposes “. However, I have not been able to find any limitation in the bill on the amount of wine that the board may be able to acquire. Some vignerons may entertain a fear that the board could possibly abuse this acquisition power. As far as I can see, although admittedly I may be wrong, the whole question comes down to a matter of interpretation.
Just how much wine may it be necessary to acquire for promotional purposes? The board might consider it desirable to acquire and sell on behalf of Australian wine producers the whole of the amount available for export in a particular year. Would it be possible for the board to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
– The board will have the normal powers of a marketing board.
– I want to be quite clear on this matter. Is the authority to be allowed to acquire only a certain quantity of wine solely for use for promotional purposes, or does this act in reality empower the authority to purchase any quantity of wine, and to engage not only in promotion but also in direct marketing activities? The position is rather obscure. This is an important matter. Personally, I would not oppose such a power, because I think it is desirable.
– There is no thin line of demarcation. The board has a power to acquire.
– As the Minister knows, until the present time the board’s power has been limited to control over, but not extending to acquisition of, wine.
– The chief deficiency in the present act lies in the fact that the board can sell but not receive and disperse the funds resulting from such sales. The funds have to go into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The board, therefore, cannot actually work as a promotional body.
– It can act as an agent on behalf of a particular owner. I agree that that is so. But under the bill before us it will be able to acquire the wine of a particular grower without consulting him - although, of course, notice must be given - not only for promotional purposes but for purposes of selling the wine and ultimately dispersing the funds to the growers. That is what I want to be clear on.
– It is desirable to have stocks available, and to ensure continuity of supply.
– I follow that, but I want to have the position made absolutely clear. What does this provision mean? Does it mean that the authority is empowered to acquire any quantity of wine it wishes, and to hire or purchase wine stores in London and store vast quantities of wine?
– It would be limited by the availability of funds.
– That is so, but the honorable member for Hume knows as well as 1 do that with even a limited amount of finance, which the board will have, it is possible, on the security of the product itself, to secure finance to purchase considerable quantities. The money raised on the security of the wine can be recouped fairly readily when sales are effected.
– That would be a good thing, would it not?
– To my mind it would, and I would not object to it. 1 am merely wondering whether the Government is using a quick method of securing these powers for the authority, and departing from a widely observed principle which requires that before the produce of primary producers is acquired, a poll is held of the producers concerned.
– The primary purpose is to take over promotional activities, which have previously been conducted with limited powers. This provision is intended for promotional purposes only. An irresponsible board, of course, could abuse the power, but how long would it continue to function if it did so?
– The Minister says, and I accept his statement, that it is intended that the board should acquire only such quantities of wine as are necessary, perhaps, to stock a shop window or to prepare some other display in property acquired by the board in The Strand or some other place for the purpose of exhibiting Australia’s wine products. But the Minister adds that it is up to the board not to abuse its power. I do not think it is usual to equip a board with such a wide power as would enable it, subject to financial limitations and its ability to raise money on the security of wine purchased, to acquire, in effect, the whole of the export wines of Australia and market them in such manner as it wishes, and, in due course, to recoup the original owners of the product.
– I think an additional protection is available. Board members are appointed by the industry organizations, which in themselves are opposed to the board having wide powers of acquisition.
– It is true that members of the board are appointed by the industry. They are nominated by the various organizations that are represented on the board, and the nominations are endorsed by the Minister himself. That is a protection, I agree. But the bill envisages a rather unprecedented state of affairs, if I have read it correctly. I admit I have not had time to investigate all the legal ramifications of the bill. One has little time to indulge in such research when one must remain in this House until 6 a.m. But if these wide powers are to be given, without a frank statement to the Parliament that the board will be able to acquire all Australia’s export wines, it appears to be rather a sensational departure from the practice hitherto adopted.
– I think the honorable member missed the point of my last statement. The organizations that appoint members to the board are themselves opposed to general acquisition powers. Their representatives are not going to abuse the acquisition power when they know that their organizations are opposed to general acquisition.
– From what the Minister has said, it would appear that this is a matter solely for the discretion of the board. If the board decides, because of a certain set of circumstances, that it is desirable to acquire the whole of the annual wine production available for export, it may do so. It is rather an unusual provision. Personally I would not object to it, providing the wine-growers generally were consulted and a poll were held. It might be a very desirable reform. Tt is certainly rather unusual. b’.it T do not oppose it.
The Opposition supports this measure, despite what appears at first glance to be the vesting of a very wide power in this authority. I believe that the authority will be able to do very useful work for our wine industry. The legislation will result in economy in advertising, uniformity of policy, co-ordination and co-operation between various sections of the industry, and will make available much wider powers to deal with the unfair competition that this industry undoubtedly faces in the United Kingdom and other countries. If the desirable objectives enunciated by the Government can be achieved by this measure, I am all for it. There is no doubt that our wines and brandies, in the opinion of very many connoisseurs, are equal to those of any other country, and it. is the fervent hope of the Opposition that this measure will prove of great benefit to the industry and to the whole of Australia by resulting in increased export earnings.
I leave it at that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because there are other honorable members, chiefly from South Australia and New South Wales, who wish to speak, and who can speak with more feeling on this subject than I can.
.- I was pleased to hear the Opposition’s view on this measure that was expressed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The Opposition supports the bill; it is not a big measure but is recognized by both sides of the House as a desirable piece ot legislation. My interest in it can be expressed under two headings. The first is that the electorate of Wakefield includes an important wine-growing district. lt incorporates not perhaps the biggest portion of the Barossa Valley but probably the better part of it. Secondly, I have recently returned from a visit to the United Kingdom, and while there I had an opportunity to see the need for the promotion activities to which the honorable member for Lalor has referred. There is no doubt about the quality of our Australian wines, but there is also no doubt that Australian wine loses its identity by the time it is sold. Certainly, the selling of it has lacked force. This measure is designed to remedy that situation.
After I finished the official part of my tour of the United Kingdom, I went to considerable trouble to get from Australian Fine Wines in Soho a considerable quantity of wine, the best of which naturally came from Wakefield, and distributed it to my friends. They were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Australian wines 1 took to them. They all asked me where they could get it. They said, “ We did not know that you produced such wines in Australia. We would like to obtain more. Where can we get it? “. I was able to tell them where they could buy Australian wine, but I could not say to them that its sale was being promoted with any great force in the United Kingdom. For that reason I warmly welcome this measure.
This is another case of an industry trying to help itself. The growers are prepared to raise money to do their own promotion work. That is a proper principle in theory, and also in fact. People who are levied take a greater interest in activities for which they are helping to pay. More interest will be taken in the wine promotion plans in this instance for that reason. I believe that our wine will be sold more efficiently overseas. For that reason I have pleasure in supporting the measure.
.- The purpose of this bill, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has explained, is supported by this side of the House, as has been stated by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led for this side of the House. This is a new deal which is to provide once and for all a proper authority for the marketing of Australian wine, a proper censorship of the quality of wine and a proper organization with a thoroughly-based publicity campaign to do something for the development of the wine market. To-day in the drive for exports there are only a few places where we can develop our trade. The organized trade in wheat, wool and meat can get a lift from more clearly defined and positive planning and salesmanship and drive, but here is a case where we have something very important to sell and which is unique so far as Europeans are concerned. We have at last decided to do this.
Clause 4 of the bill which will replace sections of the principal act vests certain powers in the Wine Overseas Marketing
Board. The board is grower-controlled, and it has been thought by viticulturists that they should have some new authority to promote a better apreciation of our really good product overseas. It is their belief that we should break into the European market and do something about developing markets generally while maintaining the level of quality of the wines that are served. Clause 4 provides that the board which is to be created shall have additional powers to -
make arrangements, with other persons, authorities or associations in Australia or elsewhere, likely to be conducive to the achievement of such a purpose.
That is extremely reasonable because one of the things we have always encountered is the universal snobbery of the. European continent in relation to wine. If you dream of port, it must come from Oporto in Portugal. Sherries come from Jerez where they were christened. Champagne must come from the Champagne country of France. That is one of the impassable barriers to promotion that we have met in Europe. However, our wine has slowly progressed and now we are selling 1,500,000 gallons of wine in the United Kingdom alone for £1,500,000. There has been a considerable increase in exports and the figures can be lifted. We sell to Canada, and the market there can be developed with proper advertising and representation. We sell only a little wine to Europeans. I can see why we do not get that trade and what has happened to our wines in the years gone by.
I am a strong supporter of the Australian wine industry, both personally and politically, and over many years of a misspent youth I have thought of this problem. The South Australian countryside, particularly in the Barossa Valley, approximates the Mediterranean soil and the climate in suitability for wine production, and but for the fact that we are far flung, it could take its place anywhere in the wine-consuming world but for two factors - what happens to our marketing campaigns, and a certain snobbery in drinking.
I could tell the House some amusing stories which are rather for the club than for the Parliament about people who believe they can judge wines and how false their judgment has been when they have chosen wines for their snob value and have not been guided by their taste appreciation. We have to thank the wine-growers who have got us out of a position that was apparent after the Second World War by their own energy and initiative. People do not like to mention it now, but we know how bad our marketing was. We know the difficulties of shipping after the war, and by some queer twist of fate we had the worst wines that were selling at that period. People had a desire to live. We had won the war. We were able to go to a cafe in places such as Soho mentioned by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) and have a nice night out, but what we were able to buy was obviously doctored.
One of our troubles has been that the good stuff does not get on to the market in its pure state. Everybody knows - nobody better than the Minister for Primary Industry - that our products which go overseas and which are good and wellconditioned are vulnerable. The blending of butter for years caused us considerable trouble. Australian butter was blended with cheap Danish butter or some other product horribly concocted in Europe and sold in bulk. It was a surprise if one could see Australian butter advertised as such. We were able to defeat such practices by canning products such as fruit, but where a product came from Australia en masse it was blended. The great importers and the great sellers in continental ports are past masters at blending and at putting a standard quality into a product, although destroying some of its original pristine purity. This activity shows up in its worst light when it is applied to wine. Cheap Algerian wines have been mixed with good Australian wine and in other instances under-grade wine from France has been brought into England and our label popped on the bottle, to the detriment of an industry and the displeasure of those who wanted to drink Australian wine.
I would say to the Minister, although he probably knows this better than I do, that our wine markets in the United Kingdom and in Canada are capable of very strong expansion. I would like to see the market in West Germany canvassed, because our fruits are already accepted there. Australian apples and other goods are tops in West Germany. We should realize that we have been the victims of exploitation by blending, and of bad publicity. Then there was the cargo or two of wine which arrived in the United Kingdom during the war and assailed and assaulted the palates of the British wine-drinkers. We have a lot of leeway to make up. We can take a lesson from the way in which South Africa has improved its wines. South Africa’s exports of wine are just about double our exports, because the growers there have specialized. A particularly fine South African sherry is accepted on the tables of all discriminating diners in the United Kingdom and in Canada, and already this wine is breaching a little the ramparts of wine conservatism in Europe.
Europe has the great tradition of the champagnes and the beautiful moselles from the Rhine Valley. A good vin du pays - the red wine of the country - is produced and sold in the Italian cantonments of Switzerland. We have formidable competitors against us, but if we tackle the problem properly, we can meet them and match them and eventually we will get a strong share of the market. There is no doubt that Australian wines have a good future, but sales promotion absolutely screams for development. There must be a central authority with strong powers to display wine, acquire wine and, I hope, reject wine, because that is the essence of the contract. If some of these “ plonks “ and wines of that sort which have circulated around the world in casks are sent to Europe, they will not do us much good. Wines sent to Europe in bulk are open to manipulation by the Algerian and French wine merchants and other professionals dealing largely in the cheaper wines. If our wine is treated in this way, it will never be favorably received on the dining tables of the English people who have been completely co-opera tive and who are completely sold on our wine so long as it is the right kind of wine.
One has only to talk to the United Kingdom High Commissioner here, or his predecessor, to know that this is so. The publicity men and other officers who work for the High Commissioner can tell of the feeling for Australian wine overseas. This feeling derives partly from sympathy for a developing industry and partly from the palate and from an understanding of the good Australian wines that have some of the beautiful sunshine of our countryside in them. Our wines are doing very well. I think our moselles and other light white wines are equal to the world’s best. Their preparation is good, but the vintage is, of course, scanty. Sometimes it has not the benefit of having other communes and counties to draw on, as has Europe, and sometimes a vintage that starts well tapers off, particularly if it is sold wholesale. We must watch this and be rigid. Of course, the wine-producers themselves have long since realized this.
We have the right through the London office to display our wines. We have efficient people there who can explain the special virtues of the wines and hold winetasting ceremonies and functions of that sort to publicize our wines. It is a very happy feature of salesmanship to be able to do this with such pleasant commodities in such pleasant surroundings. However, we must be most careful that our publicity is not of the lollopy sort. I have seen large sums spent overseas on publicity. I beg to remind the House that 1 have some experience in advertising. Some of our wool publicity is absolutely too lush. It over-sells a basic staple commodity which has the virtues of warmth, durability and tensile strength. Mannequin parades and that sort of thing are auxiliary and supplementary to the fundamental advertising. In the main, of course, with a product that is as distinct as our own fine merino wool, we need only hold the front against the synthetics.
However, when we come to selling our wine, we must keep in mind that our competitors are deeply entrenched in the field, and that tastes have been developed over many years. I wonder what the old squire down in Kent would say if his butler laid down his cellar with all Australian wines. He would declare war on the countryside, because for years he has been taught where his port, champagne and rare old brandies should come from. But we can, amongst the level of the people of England, find an extremely good market if we are fair dinkum in our marketing methods - and I use an Australian term which can aptly be applied to this matter. We should not over-state the case or pretend that we have the best commodity in the world, but we should show the potentialities of all our wine.
I hope that a very good, effective and, if necessary, costly public relations organization will be created, because in this highly competitive world an export commodity cannot be sold unless it is backed by supersalesmanship. Our publicity campaign should be properly done with booklets and so on, and the entertainment side should not be forgotten. We must have, as we will have, a show window in London and we must keep control over the sales of our wines. If we do this, we will do very well indeed. I am very hopeful for the future of the wine industry and I congratulate the Minister on bringing down this simple bill which gives fairly strong powers to the Australian Wine Board. The board is grower-controlled and grower-inspired and therefore we need have no fears about it. There is an element of risk in all adventurous undertakings designed to increase our exports, but I hope that every effort will be made to develop our overseas wine markets.
I should like to make a suggestion to the Minister and to those associated with him. I hope it will be relayed to the wine authorities, the vintners who have nothing so precious as the goods they sell, as Omar Khayyam put it. I suggest that they consider the distinctive quality of their wines and not concentrate on the development of wines that are similar to those in Europe. One of the real tragedies in our industry has been that we produce Australian port, Australian claret, Australian chablis and Australian sherry. All these names are known and almost copyrighted in the minds of Europeans. In some instances, the name comes from the locale in which the grapes are grown and the wine produced.
It is a tragedy that in our ingenuity in the past we did not develop our own wine of the country, say a red wine from the Hunter Valley or the Barossa Valley called Murrumbidgee or Yarralumla or whatever you like. It could have been an Australian standard wine of the country and I am sure it would have had an immense sale. The red wines from these areas are good. There is also a rough claret, which is the sort of thing the European likes to drink. The wine produced in the better vineyards is consistently good and if it had been sold as a single line it would have attracted a great deal of attention overseas. Our wines must compete with wines from Portugal, Spain and other countries, which are accepted not only for their bouquet but also for their snob value. The board has quite a little problem facing it and T am sure that, with the new powers conferred upon it, it will be able to do what has to be done.
If our red wine was sold as a wine of the country, a vin du pays, it would create quite a sensation in Europe. That is where we must go for our wine markets because that is where the wine drinkers are. Our wine markets will be found in France, Italy, Switzerland, West Germany and similar countries. They may not be so successful in the colder Scandinavian countries, although a considerable amount of wine is consumed there. But we should try to get into these markets with one product, not a hundred. We should not try to sell the brandy, chablis. port and other wines already available there, but should try to have our favorable lines accepted. We have two good wines, the polite white wines such as the moselles, and the red wines which come prominently, to my mind, from the Hunter Valley, the Barossa Valley and parts of Victoria. So, without unduly stressing this, I feel rather pleased that we are able to discuss the question of the overseas market for Australian wines and the deployment, into this market, of our first-quality wines. I hope, as I said before, that the board will be merciless on this subject with these merchants from Algeria, these fellows from the Levant, who grow a few grapes on the Mediterranean shores and along the borders of Arabia. They have their gourd wines, as they call them, which come in earthenware casks and are used to break down superior quality wines. We have been the victims by millions of pounds of this bad marketing, and I have no doubt that the Minister is quite aware of that position, and so will be the board that is to take over.
On the other hand, as I said before, the blending is one of the important matters. Blending is a practical matter that requires not money but vigilance. The second important thing is the necessity to take a leaf from the book of the South Africans, and learn from the way that they push their sherries. One can buy South African sherry in the refreshment room - the plug is entirely without solicitation - at a very reasonable price, lt is well labelled, it looks like sherry, and it tastes like sherry. We could do the same thing by specializing in promoting some of our lines, not necessarily sherry, but some of the others.
Those are the points that give me a feeling that we will go places in our export of wine. Admittedly the export of wine will not be tremendous, but we could get up to £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 in exports in a few years time, and £10,000,000 eventually, with the development and the sophistication of Australian wine. This will give us a market among people who formerly did not drink our wine.
To sum up, my points are, firs:, that the board has a duty to perform. There is no good giving it almost plenary powers and’ then letting it rip. The Minister must supervise this, if 1 might be so bold as to make a suggestion, by seeing what is doing. I do not say that he should go so far as to make himself the honorary taster for the Commonwealth, because I know his convictions in these matters, so perhaps I could be his spokesman, in the friendliest way, in relation to this. The second point is to see that there is no deterioration in the product, and that there are no deleterious actions taken against the purity of Australian wines. The product must be at its prime when it leaves this country. The board will know all about shipboard deterioration, but if it has the authority, and the central storage for wine, to refurbish it as it were, to let it rest and then sell it, that will be all to the good.
Nearly all Australian wines have a quality of their own, but I believe that we have erred rather sharply in not giving an Australian title to the ordinary glass of red wine, lt does not have to be claret. Wines are disguised under various names in various countries, but the fact is that if it is drinkable and suited to the dinner table you will sell it in tremendous quantities. The sharpness of the lesson that we can learn from South Africa is there to be seen. I hope that the Minister will look at South Africa’s wine propaganda - the very beautiful posters, the strong, dynamic public appeal - which has resulted in doubling us in regard to overseas sales. 1 would submit, in all fairness to both sides, that I think Australian wines, with the exception of the sherry, are superior to others. They carry better, they taste better, in my opinion. Therefore, Sir, 1 congratulate the Minister on having a reorganized look, as it were, at the wine industry. 1 think that the wine-growers are completely in the right in having control and overlordship of their own industry, since they find the money, but the fact that their powers are pretty extensive in regard to acquisition is something we should answer. I know that they are going to develop a market for brandy. Some of my statements in this House on the subject of brandy, in other connotations, have not been fully acceptable to everybody, but 1 believe that we have a very strong market for a light brandy. Do not run away with the idea that we will ever catch up with cognac. There will never be anything in the world like Auger Freres at £6 15s. a bottle. There will certainly never be anything like it in this country, as far as I can see. But when it comes to a drinking brandy of quality, the purity of our brandies will enable them to take their place with our red wines, and when they are fully known and properly marketed they will give us a distinction overseas.
Our country has a diversity of products. Imagine what can be won from the north of Australia. Imagine what we can get from Tasmania and from those good mediterranean soils in South Australia and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, and over towards the Horton vineyards in Western Australia, and in other isolated spots on the continent, all capable of producing beautiful wine - -irradiant wine, still wine, effervescent wine - for consumption by people overseas. There is a market for it - not a tremendous market, but a select and very fine market, a market full of potential, a market that will give us the right kind of publicity. When you bring tourists to this country you have to show them something. You cannot just show them Yankee films- and Yankee books, because they say: “ What makes Australia tick? Where is your idiom? Who cares about your social services? Who writes your books? Who looks after your general standard of living? Where are your special foods? “ By developing our wine industry and sending the surplus product overseas we shall be doing a very good job for this young and progressive country. 1 am glad to see that the bill provides for a combination of authorities that will co-operate in order to create a favorable market overseas for our wine - not just a.. export market that we are frantically searching for, not just trying to get such markets because we have something to sell, but getting them because we have something good to sell and we want the rest of the world to share it. [Quorum formed.]
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have just heard from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) a speech of delicate bouquet, generous body and brilliant lustre. I hope that I will not be misunderstood if I describe it as a better than average dry red. I am glad that this bill is receiving commendation from both sides of the House, because I am sure that, although it is not a bill of tremendous importance, it nevertheless deserves commendation as a constructive attempt to help a very worthwhile Australian industry. We have no need to be ashamed of our Australian wines. They are up to world standard and we, who are guilty of drinking them, know this. Here I follow the honorable member for Parkes in saying that it is a pity that they do not receive more identifying recognition. It is a pity that sometimes they are blended without the blenders saying what has happened to them. Very often they may be sold under French or other labels, and people who drink them with the proud relish which the honorable member described as, I think, “ snob value “, may not always realize that they are in point of fact drinking Australian wine. This is a pity, and this bill and the organization to be established and continued by it will help to cure that state of affairs.
Unfortunately, the amount of good wine that we have for export is likely to be limited by two factors - first, by the increasing wine consumption in Australia, which one can well understand, because it is not only natural but is also right that our best vintages should be consumed on the home market; and also because, unfortunately, many growers are tending to get rid of their table wine grapes in favour of a brandy grape. This is a pity, and one hopes that a bill of this kind will help to reverse this tendency in the production of Australian wine.
My friend, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), is an authority on the very fine wines which come from the Hunter River valley, for example, and has frequently helped me to appreciate them. He is never tired of pushing them. Fine wines come also from South Australia, the home State of my friend, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who has some interest in the Australian wine industry. Australia’s wines need no advertisement here. Unfortunately, they do need advertising in London. I hope that not only in London but also in New York the kind of promotion that is envisaged in this bill will be adopted. I know that if this Government gives a lead, the industry will follow that lead and cooperate, and that is as it should be.
I want to make one point about a matter on which I differ - I hope in the most friendly way - from my friend, the honorable member for Parkes. I refer to the naming of wines. I believe that wines should carry a label which identifies them. I want all Australian wines sold abroad to be labelled clearly and pushed as produce of Australia. I want them to be labelled clearly and distinctively with their typename, their place name and their vintage name. The English people have a right to use the ordinary English word in describing a wine sold in> the United Kingdom, when that is the only word with which to describe it. I noticed, for example, that the honorable member for Parkes used - quite rightly - the word- “ sherry “ continually to describe that kind: of Australian wine. He did this because there is no other word in the English language which describes that kind of wine.
Wines are labelled with the descriptions “ port “ or “ sherry “, for example, which are derived from place names. In all instances, the places referred to are not the places where these wines originated. They may be places where these wines were produced so well as to cause the place names to be used as a description of the wines concerned. This is very similar to the case of muslin. Do we think that only the merchants of Mosul should be entitled to use the word “ muslin “ as a description of their products? Do we think that nobody except the natives of Tangiers should be able to use the word “ tangerine “ to describe a kind of small orange? Do we need the permission of both Nationalist China and Communist China, or, indeed, of either, if we wish to describe a china article by the use of the word “ china “? Of course we do not. So why cannot we use the ordinary type descriptions of “port”, “sherry”, “ champagne “ and the like in describing our own products in a market in which no other English words are used to describe these wines? This matter has come to the forefront as a result of a case which was decided in England only a few months ago. I think it was commonly known as the Spanish champagne case.
I feel that Australians have a right to insist on the use of the ordinary English word as a description of their product which is on sale in the English market. If the English law, in its present form, does not permit this, we have, I think, a right - and, indeed, a duty - to ask the United Kingdom Parliament to make the necessary changes in that law. After all, we in Australia are subjects of the Queen. We have a right to use the Queen’s English in describing our products in the English market, and I think that we have some claim on the United Kingdom Parliament in this respect. We are entitled to ask it to ensure this right to us. It is a natural right.
I do not mean to suggest for one moment that place names should be appropriated to Australian use. If a word has not passed into the normal English vocabulary, we have no right to use it. If there is an English word to describe wine of a certain type, we do not want to use another description which is a place name. All that we want is the right to use an ordinary English word, which has passed into English usage, in describing our products in the British market where there is no other word by which to describe wine of the particular type. I do not propose for one moment that we should not label our wines clearly according to their origin. We do not want to pass off our wine as French or German wine. It does not need such a subterfuge. Our wine is good enough to stand on its own feet, as it were, and make its own reputation.
– It sometimes makes it very difficult for a person to stand on his own feet.
– It could even occasion the honorable member difficulty in sitting in his own seat.
That is the only point I wish to make, Sir. This is a thoroughly commendable bill. I think that the Government should follow it up by making representations to the United Kingdom authorities to ensure for Australians, who speak the Queen’s English, the right to use the normally-used English word in describing their product which is sold in the English market. 1 agree with the honorable member for Parkes, of course, that we should identify our wines with a place name and a vintage name. Above all, we should endeavour to keep their Australian identity in selling them overseas.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to enter into this debate for just a few minutes, mainly because of what I regard as the more extravagant statements that have been made about the prospects for exports of Australian wine which are likely to spring from this measure. I thoroughly approve the bill and I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on its introduction. But the Minister, in his secondreading speech, did not make claims anything like so extravagant as those made, for instance, by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) about the results that this measure is like to achieve.
I thoroughly enjoyed the speech made by the honorable member for Parkes. It was a vintage contribution by a man who knows his wines and appreciates them, and who obviously is very proud of the wines that we produce in this country and anxious, as we all are, to see that a superlative Australian product is known to people overseas. He is subject to the same frustration which we all experience at the realization that Australia’s splendid wines are not readily obtainable in the United Kingdom and in other countries, as many of us have found on journeys overseas. As the Minister said, the establishment of Australian wine centres in overseas countries, which will be authorized by this bill, will help to solve this problem. The honorable member for Parkes went on to suggest that as a result of this measure, the marketing of Australian wines overseas under Australian brand names, and publicity work overseas, our export income from wine would rise in the reasonably near future to, I think, £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a year. In my view, that suggestion gets completely away from the realities of the situation.
In my opinion, Sir, much of the. criticism directed at Australian publicity and marketing methods in the United Kingdom by people who have visited that country has been completely and absolutely unjustified. That comes about in this way: Some one visits the United Kingdom and there tries to buy a bottle of his favourite table wine but is unable to do so. He then learns that some of the best known wine-sellers, and the people in general, have never heard of it. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that this is because our wines have not been adequately publicized and marketed in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that to be correct. Much more fundamental matters affect this problem.
If publicity and marketing methods are to be effective they should be directed towards the principal market and the source of supply. On the whole, our wine publicity in the United Kingdom has followed that trend because the market for Australian wine, in the past at any rate and I believe substantially for the future, has not been in the better-class table wines but in the lower standard fortified wines that are sold principally in the industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire and in other industrial centres in the United Kingdom. Ninety-five per cent, of Australian wine that is sold in the United Kingdom and, for that matter, in Canada, falls into that category. The reason is that there is a ready market for that kind of wine and that we can meet the competition.
In addition, that grade of wine is supplied by Australian companies, the great majority of which produce almost exclusively for the United Kingdom market. By far the biggest export wine producer in Australia is the Emu Wine Company Proprietary Limited, which is located in my electorate. That company does not sell any wine on the Australian market although it does sell Marie Claire brandy. As I have said, the whole of its machinery is geared towards satisfying the United Kingdom market.
– It once sold on the Australian market, did it not?
– It may have in the past, but I am pretty sure that it does not to-day. It produces for overseas markets the kind of wines that it can most readily and profitably sell in the United Kingdom, Canada, Malaya and other places. To most of the traditional wine makers in Australia exports have been marginal to their production - particularly exports of the betterclass table wines. Why should this be so? There is a very good and basic reason. They find it very difficult to compete, not with the Algerian and other low-cost Medi.terranian wines but with the better-class table wines that are produced in Europe.
As in almost everything else, the wine industry in Australia is at a basic disadvantage in relation to the cost of production, the cost of transporting the finished product to the United Kingdom, storage and so on. The shop in Soho which the Australian Wine Board is taking over sells good standard table wines, dry white or dry red, at something between 9s. and lis. a bottle. Let us assume that the cost is 9s. a bottle. If you deduct from that price ls. 3d. duty and make an allowance for the cost of transport and of storage, the Australian wine maker receives a return which is very much lower than he would receive if he sold the wine in Australia. The truth is that as things stand at present the export market, particularly in the United Kingdom, is not attractive to the Australian producer of good table wines. Most of the wines in that category which are exported to the United Kingdom are exported for one of two reasons - either because of what 1 would almost call the patriotism of the wine makers and their desire to see the better products of their country flying the flag in a large centre like London, or for the more economically based reason that they can reduce their cost of production in Australia by having a larger output. In other words, they send to the United Kingdom whatever they cannot sell on the Australian market.
The cost problem has existed for a long time and it is becoming increasingly difficult for manufacturers of good-class table wines to produce at a cost which makes them an economic proposition to export to the United Kingdom and still sell at a price which is competitive with that of comparable wines from other countries. The increase in costs that has taken place in all primary industries in recent years has hit the wine industry as hard as any other industry. We can talk about publicity in the United Kingdom and about establishing the outlet which this bill proposes, but any hope of a substantial increase in our export of good-class table wines depends basically not on publicity and not on establishing a retail outlet but on being able to produce at a reasonable cost and being able to stabilize the costs that must be borne by the Australian wine makers. As in everything else, this comes back to the Government’s attempts to stabilize the Australian cost structure.
If we are to increase our export income from wine to the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 that was mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, it will be necessary for us to overcome this cost of production problem because, unless we overcome it, exports of wine to the United Kingdom, however much we publicize the product and however many retail outlets we may have, will decline rather than increase. Indeed, as we know, they have declined substantially when compared with the pre-war figures.
We must get down to earth. The flights of imagination in which some honorable members have indulged make splendid listening in this House but they will not help to overcome the problem of increasing our wine exports. The basis of the problem is the cost at which we can produce the finished article in Australia. Let me conclude by giving a practical example. There is one company in my electorate which produces substantially for the Australian market but which, over the years, has established quite a good trade in the United Kingdom. Its product does not come within the category of the wines about which we have been speaking. It is a good class of wine, mainly a fortified wine, and it is sold in bulk to a company in the United Kingdom which has retail outlets spread throughout the country. The managing director of the Australian company told me the other day that, although this sale to the United Kingdom has been an essential part of the company’s operations for many years, it is now seriously considering whether it should abandon the sale of wine in bulk to the United Kingdom. Costs of production are beating the company in its efforts to take advantage of an export outlet which has developed and increased over a long period. And the position of that company is typical of that of Australian wine exporters in general.
I end as I began. I commend the Minister upon bringing down the bill and upon the step he is taking, but I reiterate my view that the bill will not solve the basic problem. The increase in exports that will follow from this bill will be largely marginal. Whether there will be a substantial increase in export income from the sale of wine overseas will depend basically on whether we can solve the cost of production problem in Australia.
– in reply - It is evident from what has been said that the House desires the passage of this measure, and that honorable members appreciate the value of having a marketing organization. I emphasize, however, that it is essential, when marketing any of our primary products overseas, that we market them under a particular name, and that we depend upon quality for our sales. I am not an authority on wines; I am not competent to express an opinion upon their merits, but I do know the value of winning markets on the quality of our products. As honorable members have said, too many of our products - this is not confined solely to wines - have been blended and sold in other countries to the disadvantage of the market that we desire to develop. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has mentioned blended wines. We can never hope to extend our market for wines if we sell them in blended form. We must attract sales by the quality of our products. The only way by which we can hope to expand our markets is to stand behind the quality of our products and to produce the article that is required. The Austalian Wine Board is alive to its responsibility in this direction. At the moment, we dispose of 1,250,000 gallons of wine each year, and our export income from this source is approximately £1,000,000. One important factor that must be appreciated is tha! any extension, firming or stabilizing of the wine market has a beneficial effect in stabilizing to a degree not only the grape industry, but also certain sections of the dried fruits industry, because an expanded market for wine provides an additional outlet for surplus production of unprocessed grapes. In that way, one industry can do much to help another.
The Australian Wine Board is not concerned with the manufacture of wine; it is concerned only with the finished product when it becomes available for marketing. Even then, the board is not engaged in the actual handling and marketing of the wine. That is the province of the commercial interests. The board’s role is to see that the export trade in wine is conducted in an orderly manner. While this bill seeks authority for the board to acquire and sell wine, this is purely for promotion purposes through the operation of the wine centre. The great bulk of normal wine exports will remain in the hands of commercial exporters, and will be sold under the particular trade brands and names of those exporters.
For the information of the House, and in reply to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), I point out that the United Kingdom law provides that, with the exception of port wine, there is no objection to the use of such names as “sherry”, “chablis”, “claret”, “burgundy “, “moselle “, and so on, provided the country of origin is displayed equally as prominently on the label as is the name of the wine.
As to port wine, under the United Kingdom-Portugal Trade Agreement, Portugal has the sole right to use the term “ port “ in isolation. Australia and other countries are required to label their particular products “ port type (Australian) “ or “port style (Australian)”.
The suggestions put forward by the honorable member for Barker, the honorable member for Mackellar and others have been noted by a representative of the wine board, who happens to be in the advisory corner of the chamber, and no doubt the wine board will give them every consideration. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1954.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- The Opposition agrees that the bill be taken as a whole, but I propose to exercise my right to speak to the measure. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) was kind enough to classify me as a medium dry red. Well, I accept that definition and I hope the honorable member lives long to enjoy me. But in relation to him, I would say that he is obviously liebfrau milch, which is mother’s milk; and if any man needs a cellar of human understanding that he could imbibe from freely and with the approbation of this House, surely it is the honorable member for Mackellar.
I was very interested in the reasonable remarks made by a man who lives in the wine country, the Barossa Valley and its environs. He thought some of my prog.nostigations were a little imaginative. But if we do not approach the development of our country in that way, in what way can we approach it? On the point I raised in regard to marketing I still think we should have a vin du pays, a wine of our country, something distinctly different - a claret - there are millions of them in the world; and we should give it an appropriate Australian name. If we did that I think we would be surprised at the way we would lift our sales in England from the fortified wine trade, the Midlands trade, and get a universal trade in England. I think the position has only to be explored to do something about it When the honorable member talks about the naming of things there is an English name; there is a port or a chablis. If we have an English name for our wine, port is appropriate, or sherry; and I think English names should be adhered to.
As the Minister points out, the law says that we must label our wine as Australian wine and we run into a certain essence of snobbery there, but if we are going to keep these names, why’ not go back to the good old gustatory Elizabethan days. What is wrong with selling Australian sack abroad? We have sold it very effectively here. One recalls the old Shakespearean phrase, a turbot and sack; I am sure the scholarly Minister for Labour and National ‘ Service (Mr. McMahon) would know something about it. Then there is canary. It is a beautiful term, and it is only a light wine. I leave those suggestions to honorable members.
.- I hope, indeed, that I shall live long to enjoy the honorable member’s medium dry red, but he has been laid down a little long and I am afraid he is going off.
– That is a question of palate. The honorable member has had his tongue in his cheek too long and cannot taste it.
– The situation has been a little changed, I am afraid, by the decision in regard to Spanish champagne in the English courts, during December last. Although I am not quite clear on it, I think that decision may perhaps inhibit the use of not only the word “ port “, but also “ sherry “ and “ chablis “ and the other wine types which the Minister mentioned. That will be very regrettable if it is the English law. If that is so, I think we have the right to ask the English Parliament to intervene and change the law in the way I have described, because this is quite a serious matter so far as the Australian wine trade is concerned.
We do not want to misrepresent our wine* as coming from anywhere but Australia. We believe they should be labelled and identified as Australian as clearly as pos sible, but we feel that we have the right to use the only ordinary English word to describe our wines. I am, of course, familiar with the circumstances which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) mentioned. I am not clear - I do not think any of us is clear on the point at the moment - how far the implications of that Spanish champagne decision will go ia regard to the use of normal wine-type names by Australian producers on the London market.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1374), on motion by Mr. McMahon - That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– As the result of the agreement which has just been reached, this debate will cover the Coal Excise Bill and the complementary State Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill, and Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 1.) now before the Committee of Ways and Means. The three measures provide for the implementation of the Government’s plan which is designed, so it is said by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), to encourage the development of coal export markets and at the same time - here I use the specific words of the Minister - make a practical contribution to reducing costs in the Australian coal-mining industry.
I want to revert later to that quotation from the Minister’s second-reading speech because this Government cannot take any credit for this phase of national cost reduction, as I propose to show. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, went on to say that the Government’s decision was taken against the background of a review of the revenue collected from the present coal excise against the current and likely expenditures chargeable against those revenues. He said also that arising from that examination it had been decided that the current rate of excise, 5d. per ton, could safely be reduced.
In my view those statements by the Minister are insufficient to enable the Parliament to make an intelligent decision on this very important matter. So I propose to put the record straight on this score. Let me take first of all the reasons why this money is being collected by parliamentary action. The excise duty on coal originated in circumstances with which the majority of members of the present Parliament are not familiar. Apparently, the Government proposes next week to introduce a measure of extreme importance to employees of another industry. As that industry is vital to the needs of the Australian community, but so turbulent in character, it is most appropriate that Parliament should bring itself up to date on the reason why excise duty on coal is being collected at all. The duty which it is now proposed to reduce from 5d. per ton to 4d. per ton was first imposed by the Chifley Labour Government in 1949. The coal-mining industry, turbulent in character the world over, was found during the stress of the Second World War and in the post-war period to be unable to meet the needs of the nation. A great hue and cry was raised by the then leaders of the coal-mining unions in an endeavour to force the Labour Governments of New South Wales and of Queensland and this Parliament to nationalize the coal mines.
It will be remembered that a minor exercise was indulged in on this level by the then Governments in co-operation, but that the spending of not inconsiderable funds failed to give the material results that were desired. Against this background, Labour Governments then in office stated their views against nationalization of the coal mines in that year. Recognition, however, of the need for changes in the industry was readily forthcoming. After all, we had Labour governments in both Federal and State spheres - I am speaking specifically of New South Wales I have no doubt that if the Commonwealth Government of the day had believed that nationalization was the answer to Australia’s current problem it would not have hesitated to take the necessary steps. But the Chifley Government, having tried to a minor extent, to test the validity of the type of coal-producing organization to which I have referred, set out on a plan designed to settle, once and for all, the never-ending feud which kept flaring “ up between the mine-workers* unions and management.
This ‘excise impost was first imposed in 1949. The need for it arose fundamentally out of the decision taken by the Chifley Labour Government. Before the excise was imposed, the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth - the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland all had Labour Administrations - decided, in 1949, that action should be taken to try to settle this great feud. I think the Minister will be the first to agree that, as a result of the policy followed by the Labour Governments, this country set a pattern for the solution to the never-ending feud which existed the world over between mine workers and management. There was a good deal of doubt, as I shall show later, about the policy being followed by the then Commonwealth Government, but that policy was followed pretty assiduously and nobody will have forgotten the national hold-up which occurred in June, 1949, as a result of decisions taken by the mine-workers’ leader.
It was in the face of those events that the Chifley Government found itself tested as to whether the machinery that it had set up would finally prove to be the answer to the continued feud which had to be settled if this nation were to proceed along the developmental lines that were so essential for it. The Government set up two authorities - the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal. It was arising out of the wide powers given to the Coal Industry Tribunal to deal on a national basis with the settlement of disputes in the coal mining industry, that the Commonwealth Government, as I will show later, gave an undertaking that this Parliament would provide the necessary machinery to finance such things as long service leave in the mining industry.
Mr. Speaker, the two authorities in the coal-mining industry were clothed with different powers and functions, and because of the importance of the proposal to lower the excise figure from 5d. to 4d., it is my view that we should clear our minds concerning these powers and functions. It is necessary to understand the singular part that both authorities had to play in bringing about the desirable and satisfying situation in the coal-mining industry which, in fact, underlies the very reasons why the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) was able yesterday, on behalf of the Government, to introduce this measure. I gather from what the Minister said, I think, last Thursday night and from the notice of motion he gave earlier to-day, that next week we will embark on an attempt to find an answer to the problems that beset another turbulent industry.
Let me repeat what I said earlier: Because there are many members in my own party and I feel sure, on the Government side, who, owing to the lapse of time, have not caught up with the real work that has been done in connexion with the coal-mining industry, and because of what may flow from the action which the Government proposes to take in relation to another industry, I think it would be a profitable exercise for all of us to look at the functions of the two authorities that were set up to deal with the turbulent coal-mining industry. Let us examine the reasons why this excise was imposed, how it has been distributed, and, finally, its results. The Minister referred only briefly to these matters and I feel sure that he would not expect me to rise in my place without canvassing the lessons that can be learned from what was done in the difficult year of 1949. The memories of many members of this Parliament are perhaps not so vivid as yours, Mr. Speaker, or mine, or those of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and they may have forgotten what happened in 1949.
– Some of us were in it.
– I nearly was in it. The powers with which the two organizations set up by the Chifley Government were clothed were very broad. In order to understand clearly the movements which have made it possible to reduce this excise from 5d. to 4d., and in order to understand why the amount had first to be collected, I think it is necessary to understand pretty clearly, first, the powers and functions of the Joint Coal Board. I think, Mr. Speaker, that the short cut to an appreciation of the powers laid down for the Joint Coal Board is to be found in the thirteenth annual report of that body - the report for 1959-60 - at page 7. Credit marks must be given to the framers of these powers, when we recognize that they remain unchanged in principle to-day.
I think it is appropriate, at the end of the thirteenth year of operation of this organization that was planned and established by a Labour government, to read to the House the statutory powers laid down for this first arm, as I shall call it; I shall refer to the other one later. The organization was set up to solve, once and for all, the problems of the coal-mining industry.
Before I proceed to deal with the powers of the board, I think we should pause for a moment and consider what might have happened to Australia had we failed to get all the coal and all the power that we wanted. This did not happen, of course, due to the fact that the framers of the legislation at the time of the establishment of the board were bold enough to provide the authority with powers wide enough to settle the basic differences that had existed for centuries between mine-workers and mineowners. The purpose of the Joint Coal Board was to settle these differences, in conjunction and co-operation with the Coal Industry Tribunal. The powers of the board are set out in the introduction to the Thirteenth Annual Report of the board, in the following terms: -
The statutory powers and functions of the Joint Coal Board are set out in identical sections of the Coal Industry Act of the Commonwealth Parliament and the Coal Industry Act of the New South Wales Parliament. These are as follows: - “ The powers and functions of the Board are to include the taking of such action as, in the opinion of the Board, is necessary or desirable -
to ensure that coal is produced in the State in such quantities and with such regularity as will meet requirements throughout Australia and in trade with other countries;
Pausing there for a moment, it will be remembered that the Government now proposes, amongst other things, to remove the excise duty from coal that is to be exported, for the purpose of making our coal more competitive in the world markets. Here in 1961 we are taking an action that was actually planned in 1949. The report continues -
The board then adds three paragraphs which are most interesting -
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said in his secondreading speech that the bill was designed to encourage the development of coal export markets and to make a practical contribution towards reducing costs in the Australian coal-mining industry. That statement by the Minister should be considered in conjunction with the paragraph I have just read from the report of the Joint Coal Board. This organization was set up thirteen years ago by a Labour government, which turned its face at that time against the nationalization of the industry as a means of solving its problems. Thirteen years after that government took this commendable action, the organization that it set up is now able to present a report of this character. We might be excused for taking some pride, Mr. Speaker, in the fact that a Labour government was responsible for legislation which, after thirteen years of operation, has put the country in the position so aptly described by the Minis ter in his short contribution to this debate. The board’s report continues -
I specifically direct the attention of the House to the paragraph that follows: -
I take pride in being a member of the party which provided the Government the members of which were responsible for the establishment of this authority, and also in being able to stand here now and repeat those remarks of the board, paying tribute to those who went before.
I now turn to the other arm of the organization. That is not a proper term to use, perhaps, but it is, in point of fact, a fairly accurate description of the Coal Industry Tribunal, whose activities are so closely related to the work of the Joint Coal Board. The measure before the House concerns the collection of excise duty on coal. This duty was originally considered necessary to cover the cost of long service leave, a claim for which had been made to the Coal Industry Tribunal, not only by the mining unions but also by the mine owners and the Joint Coal Board itself. Let me say at this stage, for the benefit of persons who are prone to be led astray with regard to the facts surrounding the dispute in the coal industry when the Chifley Government was in office in 1949, that the judgment of the Coal Industry Tribunal on the long service leave application had been prepared and was ready to be handed down at the time when the coal strike commenced.
Sometimes the Australian Labour Party is criticized for having put the. leaders of the miners in gaol. Those leaders were not put in gaol by the Labour Government for going on strike. They were gaoled by the Chifley Labour Government because they had determined that democratic control of the Parliament was not going to succeed. The words that were used by Mr. Chifley, who was then the Labour Prime Minister at that time, are almost identical with those that 1 am using now on this matter.
After the miners had gone back to work, the Coal Industry Tribunal on 14th October, 1949, made provision for long service leave. The Chifley Government saw that the collection of excise on coal was then essential. The Coal Industry Tribunal had power over industrial conditions affecting all sections of the coal-mining industry in Australia except South Australia, Wonthaggi and perhaps one other small mine; but otherwise the Coal Industry Tribunal had full industrial authority in all States, including Western Australia. The Chifley Government, in conjunction with the Labour Government of New South Wales, at the time realized that once a decision was given on long service leave for the coal-miners, this Parliament and the Labour Government that was then in office had the responsibility of providing finance to meet the costs involved in the decision that had been handed down by the tribunal. Great difficulties were evident. Miners moved from one district to another and from one employer to another. The mining industry was at a low ebb. It was inefficient and unprofitable. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong with it under private enterprise. The Chifley Government had to find the answer to the problems presented by men who transferred from place to place and from one employer to another, and also to meet the problems of the small mine-owners who could not pay for long service leave. The Government decided that an excise duty should be placed on coal at the rate of 6d. a ton and the plan was endorsed by the Parliament. A trust fund was set up on a national level so that payments could be made through the State governments for long service leave irrespective of who em ployed the miners. Provision was also made to reimburse the State governments for administrative expenses.
If we cast our minds back to the problems that faced a series of Labour governments, but principally the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government, I am sure the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will agree with me that the credit can never be taken from those who framed the enabling legislation. I say that particularly in the light of the legislation that is now before us. The Opposition of that time had grave doubts about the proposal and when we think of the problems that faced the Chifley Government then, we might be excused for looking back on history. I say that deliberately because it may well be that on Tuesday I will be criticizing some of the intentions of the Minister in relation to new legislation that is to be presented. I am only guessing in that connexion, but I believe that any plans in this direction that the Government might have in mind can be effective only on a national level. I do not know what forms the Government proposes to use, but I am proud of the methods and the forms that were adopted by the Chifley Government. It put industrial control in the hands of the industrial authorities as a right.
– And with no penalty.
– There was a penalty in respect of what happened in 1949, but it was imposed, not by the Labour Government, but by the Coal Industry Tribunal which handled industrial matters. I may be saying something similar to statements that were made in 1949 and 1 might be proved wrong in 1975 because nobody can be absolutely correct always. We all make mistakes somewhere along the line. I know the Minister will not object to this sort of exercise knowing what is to take place next week. This is a serious matter. We are to take another step next week and this is a golden opportunity to consider what was done previously, what happened and what was said. During the debate on the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill 1949, the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) led the second-reading debate for the Opposition of that day, and he said -
The subject of coal is one with which this Parliament has become unhappily familiar in recent years. I suppose that no industry in the Commonwealth has had more attention paid to it by the Parliament, or has been the subject of more legislation, than has the coal industry. This bill is another instalment of legislation to deal with that industry. Although we have had an increasing volume of legislation coverfing the coal industry, it has been associated with a decreasing volume of coal production, lt is for the Parliament to examine whether the legislation now before us is justified and whether it will bring us any nearer to the objective which we, as a Parliament, have set ourselves on other occasions - of so increasing the production of coal in Australia that our essential industries can be maintained and transport and fuel services can be adequately continued.
That was said on 26th October, 1949, in the teeth of the determination of the Chifley Government to find an answer to the problems of this turbulent industry. I do not propose to relate all the troubles that beset the industry. They are clear in my mind and in the minds of those who were associated with the growth of Australia at that time. In the same speech, the present Treasurer, who was then the honorable member for Fawkner, said -
I ask at the outset whether the coal-mining industry should be selected for special treatment in this connexion, whether such treatment is justified, and whether the method of approach that has been adopted by the Government in relation to this matter is one which the Parliament should commend. The method of approach to this subject by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) was utterly irresponsible. The principle of long service leave is a very important industrial principle.
If we do not agree with the bill which the Minister will introduce next week, I do not think that our language will be any stronger than that. We will not tell any one that his statements are utterly irresponsible. The Treasurer also said -
Had the Minister referred the matter to the Coal Tribunal we would not have been satisfied, because that tribunal is not a suitable body to determine matters of that kind. The Coal Tribunal was established to deal with problems that pertain solely to the coal-mining industry. We on this side have criticized the functions of such bodies in the past. Their establishment cut right across the principles that we applied when we were in office.
Those views were held by members of the present Government when the Chifley Government introduced legislation in 1949. If the Minister succeeds in his attempt next week to achieve in another important industry, in which there is some turbulence, the sense of satisfaction that followed the legislation of the Chifley Government, I will be the first to congratulate him, because the future of this country is most important. However, I urge the Minister to adopt the principles of the Chifley Government. Do not put tags on the benefits that are given to the workers; leave industrial matters to industrial tribunals and give some benefits to those who toil in the interests of the nation year in and year out.
Let us look at what has happened to the fund since it was established. If I looked at this matter as a union advocate, I would say that the long service leave entitlement should be better than that provided in 1949 and that the workers in the industry are entitled to better compensation than that granted in 1949 because of what has happened since then. The long service leave entitlement fixed on 14th October, 1949, has not been varied by the tribunal. The embargo placed on it by the tribunal still remains. The provision works now as it worked then. Leave of one hour is allowed for every five consecutive days that the miner remains in employment But then we have the embargo that was tied to the provision in 1949 not by the Chifley Government but by a tribunal. Although leave is accumulated at the rate of one hour for each five consecutive days worked, long service leave is not allowed to the employee until he has accumulated 65 days. However, after eight years’ service, the employee is entitled to some benefit if he is retrenched. I understand that an additional 57 miners will be dismissed tomorrow. I do not want to deal extensively with this subject, because it will be dealt with by other honorable members on this side of the House who represent electorates in the coalfields. The fact is that on Friday night there will be 600 fewer men employed in the coalmining industry than were employed on 15th January, although the total number employed has fallen from about 20,000 to 12,500. Production has increased in the same period.
The Coal Industry Tribunal provided for retrospectivity. However, it was not intended that the long service leave provisions would operate until 1954. Because of the number of retrenchments following the introduction of mechanization, it was found that the long service leave provisions had to commence in 1953, a year earlier.
As a precaution, the excise was increased from 6d. to Sd. in 1952, so that funds would be available to meet the payments that followed the earlier introduction of the scheme. The fund was commenced by the Chifley Government with an appropriation of some £206,000. The first payment from excise at 6d. a ton was made in 1950-51. Excise continued at this rate until 1952 when it was increased to 8d. In 1959, it was reduced to 5d. In every year except one, payments into the fund have exceeded payments out of it. The only year in which expenditure was heavier than income was 1954. Those who advised the Government on this matter were most scrupulous in their calculations. They told the Chifley Government that the heaviest demands would be made on the fund in 1954-55 and again in 1960. We now have 1960 behind us.
The surplus moneys in the fund have been invested and are earning interest. I do not want to take the credit for this away from the Government because it introduced the legislation which enabled the fund to invest moneys. As a result of receipts from investments, it is now possible to reduce the excise from 5d. to 4d., and other honorable members who represent the coalfields areas will show how still further reductions are possible. In less than two years time, we will be able to reduce it substantially, because almost all of the 600 men who have left the industry since 15th January have been retrenched. They will be entitled to long service leave, but they will now be off the pay-roll.
Subject to what my friends from the coalfields may say, I think it is fair to say that the coalminers have co-operated since they have had tribunals standing between them and the dastardly actions of the owners. The Minister must be proud of being in a position to introduce legislation of this nature. These men are a body of Australian workers who have not been found wanting for thirteen years because they received justice as a result of legislation that was introduced to kill for ever the diversity of opinion and thought and the bitterness that existed between the coal miners and coal mine owners. I pay tribute to the Labour Government for having the courage to do what it did in 1949 in respect of this industry.
I know that the coal miners and their leaders to-day would want me to say that they are very pleased that the fund has reached the stage at which the excise on export coal can now be removed in order to make the price of coal more competitive. They are always ready to play their part in the national interest. They are just as pleased as I am that as a result of their efforts, their acceptance of mechanization and higher production levels it is now possible for them to say, “ We will go on producing coal without receiving what is our due “. That is what it amounts to. They are entitled to something more than long service leave, but they are happy to be associated with an improvement for the benefit of the nation.
.- We are debating the Coal Excise Bill 1961 and the S’.ate Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill 1961. Before I address my own remarks to the measures I should like to say something about the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). The first thing I wish to say is that it shows how far the coal industry has come in the last ten years when we can listen to a reasoned, calm and well presented case, such as the honorable gentleman has just presented. Although I do not agree with many of the things that he said, a comparison between his speech to-day and some of the bitter debates that have taken place in this chamber over the years shows the great improvement that has occurred in the coal industry.
The honorable gentleman said, with respect, that few supporters of the Government understood to the full the problems of the coal fields. I do not say that I understand them fully because I think there would be very few people who do. However, I have lived near the coal fields for the greater part of my life. I went to school with sons of coal miners who later were employed in the coal mines. I even had the honour of fighting beside quite a number of coal miners during the war. I think I have some understanding of their personalities and their problems.
Une has to realize that until recently coal-mining families lived within a community group of their own and had very litt:c contact with people in other fields of employment. The situation of the coal mines and the nature, of the coal-miners’ employment made that individual community life possible. Indeed, coal-miners often proceeded on holidays in family groups or with their friends who were also coal-miners.
We should also keep at the back of our minds the very great sense of loyalty to another that exists within the coal-mining fraternity. Sometimes it has been said that this loyalty has been too strong and has acted to the detriment of the coalminers and the nation, as a whole. It certainly exists. It is a good trait and one that we must realize at all times. When talking about the difficulties to which the honorable member for Blaxland referred, we have to realize not only that there are the problems of the industry and industrial unrest, but also that some days men feel that they just do not want to go down the coal mine. That is quite an understandable feeling. I have been down coal mines every working day for four or five weeks, and just every now and then, for no particular reason, one has this feeling, “ I would give anything not to go down the mine to-day “. I believe that on some occasions that feeling has been the cause of what have been called strikes for very little reason, when the billy has been emptied at the pit top.
The honorable member for Blaxland made constant reference to the Chifley Government’s policy to end what he termed the continual feud between mine managements and the miners federation. We have to acknowledge what happened in what we call the bad days when the industry first started in Australia. I will say something about those days in a few moments. We also have to realize that during the last fifteen years in particular a change has come into the management of the industry. A new generation of younger men who previously worked as miners at the coal face have undergone various forms of training, sometimes as cadets, and have finally become mine managers. So, one finds a completely different approach to management problems and a true sense of seek ing the co-operation of everybody engaged in the industry so that it can progress instead of continuing on the downward path as was the case for quite a number of years before this Government took office.
I am quite willing to agree with the honorable member for. Blaxland that the Chifley Government, in its planning, assisted a great deal in bringing greater prosperity and greater industrial peace t> the coal-mining industry. But we must also give credit to the present Government. We realize that the last year of the Chifley Government’s term, 1949, was probably one of the most disastrous years for the coal-mining industry. It went through that bad stage which the honorable member described to the House a few minutes ago, and the government of the day had to put troops into the coalfields. I hope that what the honorable gentleman said about the Chifley Government not nationalizing the industry in 1949 does not mean that the Labour Party will consider nationalizing the industry if it should become the government of Australia in the near future.
In mentioning the achievements that have been attained, especially the achievements of this Government, may I remind the House through you, Mr. Speaker, that it was this Government that opened new mines, both open-cut and deep mines, and eliminated the very great shortages of coal and the resultant black-outs with which we are all familiar and from which people throughout Australia suffered. This Government has at all times acknowledged the co-operation that we have received from the Government of New South Wales and from the Joint Coal Board.
The Commonwealth Government, in cooperation with the board, has been able to introduce mechanization into the coal mines, and this has made possible more efficient production and new methods of mining. It is true that in this new phase in the industry, a number of men have been displaced from their employment on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales over the past seven or eight years, but approximately 500 of them have been placed in alternative employment. Furthermore, a whole series of measures has been adopted by the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Government’ of New South Wales and the Joint Coal Board, in an attempt to ease the problems resulting from this displacement of miners. I mention just a few of these measures in order to put in proper perspective the remarks made by the honorable member for Blaxland. The measures to which I refer include the improvement of transport between Cessnock and Newcastle, the financial assistance given by this. Government through the Joint Coal Board in order to make possible additional public works in the area, and assistance given by both State and Federal Governments in various ways in order to encourage secondary industries to go to Cessnock. Lastly, I come to one of the most important of these measures - the encouragement of exports of coal. The purpose of the Coal Excise Bill and the complementary States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill is to encourage exports of coal by promoting the development of additional markets overseas. At the present time, our exports of coal total 150,000 tons annually, and there are good prospects of increasing this export trade.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), in his secondreading speech, said that the purpose of these two bills and an associated Excise Tariff Proposal is to encourage the development of coal export markets and at the same time make a practical contribution to reducing costs in the Australian coalmining industry. As a member who represents a coal-mining district, I thank the Minister and, through him, the Government for introducing these measures, which will benefit the industry. I think it is well known, Sir, that New South Wales is Australia’s greatest coal-producing State and that the northern coal-fields of that State produce the greater part of the New South Wales output of coal. I refer particularly to the Cessnock, Maitland and Newcastle fields.
As the honorable member for Blaxland has indicated, these fields have had a very sad history for many years. In the early days of the coal industry in Australia, as we know, many of the coal-owners treated the miners badly. Conditions of work were very bad, hours were long and the pay was poor. This was the time that saw the start of the feud which the honorable member mentioned. We came then to the second period in the history of coal-mining in these districts, when conditions improved. Nevertheless, the industry went through many anxious years in this period because, as has been proved, the miners themselves were badly led. There was a long series of pittop stop-work meetings and rolling strikes, and the Australian consumers of coal looked for other sources of coal and alternative fuels. During this period, to all intents and purposes, we lost our export trade in coal. I can remember the days when many ships were to be seen lying at the dolphins or at anchor elsewhere, two and three deep, waiting to move to the coalloading points in order to load coal for overseas and for the interstate markets. In this period of which I am speaking, we lost our overseas markets and our Australian markets were greatly reduced. The Yallourn coal-field in Victoria and the Leigh Creek field in South Australia were developed and the New South Wales Government railways changed from coal to diesel power as a result of the inefficiency in the coal industry, the high price of coal and the irregularity of supplies.
We are now in the middle of what I term the third phase of the coal industry. We can say with complete confidence that the industry as a whole is improving. I agree with the honorable member for Blaxland that some of the credit for this improvement is due to the planning of the Chifley Government in 1949, which led to the establishment of the Coal Industry Tribunal and the Joint Coal Board. As a result of the excellent co-operation between this Commonwealth and the New South Wales governments and the Joint Coal Board during the past eleven years, conditions of work have improved greatly, production and efficiency have increased and we are once more exporters of coal. It is well known that overseas markets for coal are highly competitive as to price. Fortunately, the quality of our coal - especially our coking- coal - is good. As I have said, we now export approximately 150,000 tons of coal per annum, and we have good prospects of increasing our exports as a result of this Coal Excise Bill and the associated measures.
I recognize that excise is not the only factor involved, but the reduction of the excise will reduce costs and help us to develop more overseas markets. I support the bill wilh pleasure, because I realize that it will add to the stability of the coalmining industry and assist in the drive to increase exports which has been announced by the Government.
.- Mr. Speaker, the bill now before the House is the Coal Excise Bill 1961, the purpose of which is to amend the Coal Excise Act 1949. I appreciate some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) who dealt briefly with the exploitation of the employees by the coal-owners in the early days of the coal-mining industry. I should like to remind the House of the factors that caused much of the bitterness that existed between the employees and the coal-owners prior to the introduction of sympathetic legislation by the Chifley Government in 1949 in the Commonwealth sphere and, long before that, in the Stale sphere, by Labour governments in New South Wales. In the early days of the coal-mining industry, children of about ten years of age worked in the mines pulling skips from daylight till dark. This kind of life instilled into those children as they grew older a hatred of the exploiters - the coal bosses - throughout Britain, the United States of America and Australia. In the book of Clarence Darrow’s speeches and addresses entitled “ Attorney for the Damned “, there appears an address by Darrow in which he quotes Abram S. Hewitt, who was a coal mine operator in the United States before the turn of the century. Apparently, Hewitt was a humane man, for he said -
In 1876, during the days of the Molly Maguires, I made a tour of inspection through the mining region. I found terrible conditions there. I found the men living like pigs and dogs, under wretchedly brutal conditions. If the same spirit of sacrifice which has sent out our missionaries into every heathen land had been shown in the coal regions, and the same efforts had been made to establish and maintain the schoolhouse, the church, and, above all, the Sunday school, which have borne such fruits elsewhere in this broad land; if the hospital for the sick and the comfortable refuge for the unfortunate had been carefully provided; if reading rooms and night schools and rational places of amusement had from the outset been maintained for a growing and restless population, the coal regions to-day might have been a paradise on earth instead of a disgrace to civilization.
During the last parliamentary recess I spent almost a day down the Pelaw Main mine. That was a week before the air was due to be turned off in the mine. I saw for myself evidence of the exploitation of the coalowners in the early days, who ripped out the coal for profit without any regard to the loss of rich gas coal.
The original bill to grant long-service leave to miners was brought down by the Chifley Labour Government in 1949. That bill was the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill. The Labour Government in 1949 acted in the interests of the whole community, but the present Government acts only in the interests of the wealthy sections. The present bill is designed to reduce the excise on locally consumed coal by one penny a ton and to remove completely the excise on coal exported, lt is to be hoped that the bill will lead to a greater export of coal and will arrest the chaos now being experienced in the coal industry. We on this side of the House do not oppose the bill; nor do the leaders of the Miners Federation. However, I seriously doubt whether the bill will lead to one miner being re-employed on the northern coal-fields. I do not think it will place one extra pound of butter on a miner’s table, or one extra chop under his griller. The only people in the community to-day who are getting grilled are the miners on the northern coal-fields. Many other people are in a serious economic plight, but nowhere are conditions worse than in the area that I represent.
Since 1952 approximately 10,000 miners have been retrenched because of sweeping changes in the industry in the centre of my electorate. Those changes have in the main been due to mechanization, automation and the inroads made on the gas coal industry by the use of oil. Honorable members should know why the unfortunate mine workers followed the advice of their leaders and resisted for some considerable time the introduction of mechanized methods of mining. The miners knew that with the introduction of mechanization they would be thrown out of employment, although they agree that mechanized methods of mining are more efficient than, and are an improvement on, the drudgery of pick and shovel mining. Oil has become more popular as a fuel, and one must confess that it is probably more efficient than coal in many respects; but the crucial point is that Australia has no natural oil resources. Almost daily in this chamber some reference is made to the continuing decline in our overseas reserves. Would not oil extracted from coal relieve to some extent the drain on our overseas reserves? 1 have referred to this matter before, but always to no avail. When this bill becomes law I will be watching carefully to see whether it stimulates the export of coal, as the Government expects it to do.
Sweeping changes have taken place in the coal industry since 1954. In 1954 there were 20,310 men employed in the industry, and they produced 12,500,000 tons of coal. At the end of 1960 there were 13,000 men employed in the industry, but they produced 17,000,000 tons of coal. Increased production has been brought about by increased mechanization. I am reliably informed that in the period from 1st January to 15th April this year 500,000 tons more coal was produced than in the same period last year. That production was achieved with 1,000 or 1,200 fewer men employed in the industry.
Some men whom I meet on the coal-fields adopt a nonchalant attitude towards conditions in the industry. They are few. Their attitude is that nothing can be done to improve their lot. I say that proper economic planning by this Government could have cushioned the impact of mechanization in the mines. Had the Government acted wisely the effects of mechanization on the people on the northern coal-fields would not have been so severe. The changes that have taken place in the industry were not expected by many employees. The employees were assured that the high-quality gas coal produced in the Cessnock area would always be in demand, but the use of oil by gas works in Victoria and at Mortlake and on the Sydney North Shore in New South Wales placed the gas coal industry of the northern coal-fields in a sorry plight.
The Government could have ascertained when changes in the industry were likely to take place and could have acted in advance by providing finance to the State to enable coal by-products industries to be established on the New South Wales northern fields. Action of that type has been taken in the Netherlands by the Dutch Government. I am aware that petro-chemical plants are entering into competition with modern oil-from-coal plants. I see no reason why the Government could not have induced the oil cartels, whose commodity has brought about the plight of the people on the northern coalfields, to set up a petro-chemical industry in the Cessnock-Kurri area. We concede that a petro-chemical industry operated by private enterprise on the northern coal-fields would not be as profitable as one operated on the coast - for example, at Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle.
To-morrow, in my electorate, a further 57 miners will be discharged from the industry. A week ago they c’id not know that they were to receive notice. Many of the men involved are married with families. Many of them are paying off homes, refrigerators and other necessary commodities. A short time ago it was possible for a large number of retrenched miners to obtain alternative employment at the Newcastle steelworks, but I can assure the Minister, and the House, that it is now very difficult to obtain employment there because of the large number of men who have been absorbed over the last four or five years. Only last Friday, 150 men were given notice at the Stewarts and Lloyds works in Newcastle. No doubt, many of them are men who obtained alternative employment there when they were retrenched from the coal industry. It is expected also that in the not too distant future another mine on the South Maitland coal-field, Hebburn No. 2, will close down and that about 300 men will be thrown out of work.
– I remind the honorable member that much of what he is saying now is not within the scope of the bill. While his remarks are permissible to illustrate a point, I ask him not to devote so much of his speech to the particular subject with which he is now dealing.
– I thought that unemployment was allied to the bill because the bill is designed to prevent further retrenchments in the coal-mining industry. However, I shall conclude my remarks on that aspect. Based on the January-April figures that I mentioned previously, it is expected that if things continue as they have been going 12,500 men will produce 18,500,000 tons of coal. There will be greater production with fewer men, and no alternative employment will be found for those who will be retrenched through no fault of their own.
It is pleasing to see from the AuditorGeneral’s report that the miners’ long service leave fund is financially stable and that at 30th June, 1960, the balance was £2,109,298, of which £1,190,000 has been invested in Commonwealth Government inscribed stock and fixed deposits.
If the benefits that are sought by the abolition of excise duty on exportable coal are not obtained, the Government should do something to help the miners who have been affected by the sweeping changes that have been made in the industry by permitting them an allowable tax deduction of £50 a year to cover the cost of travelling to work because many of them are travelling daily from Cessnock to Newcastle and Vales Point, which is a round trip of approximately 80 miles.
– That is part of our election policy.
– Yes. Homes have been deteriorating in value as a result of the changes that have taken place on the coalfields, and things look very bleak in the Kurri Kurri-Cessnock area. People expect to return to the dole queues and soup kitchens that they saw in the early 1930’s.
The honorable member for Robertson referred to the fact that this Government relieved the blackouts that were experienced in the 1940’s, but I thought that the New South Wales Labour Government was responsible for easing that chaotic situation by establishing its own power stations and opening its own mines at Awaba, Newstan and Newdell. The Country Party, when electioneering in the State, bitterly attacked the New South Wales Labour Government for spending so much money on its own mines, but members of the Country Party failed to tell the people that as a result of the initiative that was displayed by the State Labour Government the people of New South Wales have been provided with cheaper electricity.
The people of my electorate have been loyal to the respective governments that have been in office. Some people have a tendency to brand them as Communists, but in the last Kurri Kurri State by-election following the death of the late Mr. George Booth the Communists obtained only about 4,000 votes out of a total of 18,000 that were cast. Only two candidates contested the seat. One would expect that because of the sufferings that they had to endure as a result of these sweeping changes they would be inclined to become rebellious and to further the interests of the Communist Party, but that is not the case. However, whether they will continue to be so tolerant and whether this Government will make any permanent contribution towards relieving the sufferings of the people whom I represent, remains to be seen.
I sincerely hope that this legislation, when enacted, will brighten the lives of the people on the coal-fields and enable them to live without fear of unemployment and insecurity because fear breeds hate and hate is a bad adviser to any one. They are not hateful; they are tolerant. I am sure that they will continue to be tolerant if this Government will only extend to them a greater degree of human sympathy than it has done to date.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Income Tax.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and the associated measure, the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1961, the details of which I will explain shortly, is to introduce taxation concessions as financial incentives to export. The reasons why it is vital for us over the years ahead to secure a steady increase in our export income will be familiar to the House.
We cannot achieve our basic policy aim of building up the population and industrial strength of Australia as rapidly as possible, unless we can find the means to finance the growing volume of imports that will be needed to sustain such a rate of expansion. Less than 20 per cent, of our current imports are consumer goods and within that 20 per cent, there are many substantial items which cannot be produced in Australia. The great bulk of the remaining 80 per cent, of our imports are goods required to sustain Australian industries. Without a rising flow of imported capital equipment, raw materials, components, fuels, fertilizers and the like, the expansion of both our primary and secondary industries would be seriously retarded.
Imports of overseas capital can assist us in financing the imports needed for steady economic growth; but fundamentally we must look to export earnings not only to pay for imports but also to meet other commitments abroad. Increased export earnings are thus an essential pre-requisite if we are to maintain our immigration programme, build up our industrial strength and provide adequate employment opportunities for our growing work-force. It is for that reason that the Government has been pursuing a broad programme to encourage and assist the growth of exports of all kinds and is now adding to the measures already taken these new export incentives.
Honorable members are, of course, aware that the Government has been considering ways of increasing export income and other measures which would assist our balance of payments situation. As part of this programme, it was announced recently by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that the Government has decided to introduce taxation concessions to assist Australian Producers and provide them with an incentive to increase their exports. It is proposed that the measures should operate for an experimental period ending at 30th June, 1964. They will then be reviewed in the light of the results achieved and a decision will be taken on whether or not to continue with them.
Our exports of processed primary products amount at present to about £230,000,000 a year and our exports of other manufactured goods to about a further £100,000,000 a year. The Government is however convinced that there is considerable additional potential for expansion of exports by Australian manufacturers. There is evidence that, in the past, many Australian manufacturers have not been interested in export but have tended to concentrate upon the domestic market. Consequently in the field of industrial products Australia is a relative newcomer to the export field and there is no tradition of export or accumulation of technical skill and experience in the export field which exists in the older industrial countries. Further, Australia is geographically remote from most markets. One of the purposes of these measures is to induce manufacturers to reassess their attitude towards exports.
Considerable thought was given to the best methods of encouraging a change in this attitude on the part of manufacturers. In the light of discussions with representatives of the Export Development Council, the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and other industry associations - and I should like to pay a tribute to the assistance afforded by these bodies - it was decided that the measures which I am now introducing would provide the most effective incentives. One concession, which involves rebates of pay-roll tax, is designed to attract businessmen to the possibilities of export and to persuade them to examine closely the export potential of their own products. The other concession, in the form of a special income tax allowance for market development expenditure, is designed to encourage and assist firms to enter new overseas markets’. The Government considers that, taken together, these two taxation concessions should direct the attention of manufacturers to export possibilities and encourage them to seek markets for their products overseas.
Both concessions may apply, irrespective of the commodities exported or the markets to which those commodities are exported. All countries outside Australia - including, for example, New Guinea - are covered by the scheme. The term “ exports “ will include re-exports where the goods concerned have been in some way processed in Australia or incorporated with other Australian products. However, goods which are re-exported in precisely the same form and condition as when they were imported will not qualify as exports for the purposes of the scheme. Goods which are supplied in Australia to overseas ships and aircraft for use outside Australia will qualify as exports.
The proposed pay-roll tax rebates, details of which I will be explaining shortly, will arise only as a result of exports of physical goods together with patent rights, trade marks, designs, and copyrights. The income tax allowance for market development expenditure, however, which is designed to encourage export promotion, will apply also to specified expenditure on the supply of services outside Australia including technical assistance. Producers of rural products in general pay very little pay-roll tax and, for this reason, will obtain the benefit of a rebate of pay-roll tax only in isolated cases. However, primary producers have, for many years, had the benefit of special taxation concessions which are not available to other sections of the community. Although the main purpose of the proposed measures is to stimulate an expansion in the export of manufactured and processed products, primary producers should nevertheless gain indirect benefits from the proposed measures through the assistance afforded to exporters of both processed and unprocessed primary products.
The income tax allowance for market development applies to specified expenditure incurred by all exporters and potential exporters. Entitlement to the allowance for market development expenditure is not dependent in any way on the results achieved in the form of export sales. The allowance is specifically intended to encourage firms to incur promotion expenditure in advance of sales and to build up methodical and regular selling arrangements and to ensure the continuance of sales. All market development expenditure incurred on and after 1st July, 1961, will qualify for the allowance.
On the other hand entitlement to the rebate of pay-roll tax will be dependent on export achievement. It is no part of the Government’s intention merely to provide a reward for firms who export no more than they have in the past. For this reason firms will have to achieve an increase in the value of their exports in order to qualify for the rebate. This principle ensures that firms will be given a financial incentive to increase their export business. It also ensures that taxpayers generally will only be called upon to meet the cost of rebates when increased exports have been achieved. These export incentives form part of the Government’s programme to increase exports, and we feel confident that, along with other action being taken, they can make a useful contribution in that direction.
As I have said, I will be explaining the operation of the proposed scheme of payroll tax rebates when I introduce the relevant bill shortly. The bill currently before the House will authorize an income tax allowance for specified classes of expenditure incurred in promoting the sale overseas of Australian goods and services. I do not propose at this stage to give more than a broad outline of the proposal as details of the allowance are fully set out in the explanatory memorandum to be circulated for the information of honorable members.
Briefly, the income tax allowance will be in the form of a special deduction to be allowed in addition to the deductions ordinarily available in respect of the specified classes of expenditure under existing provisions of the law. The special deduction will be equal in amount to the existing deduction so that a total deduction of £2 will be allowable for each £1 of expenditure qualifying under the new provision. The maximum tax saving from the double deduction will be limited to 16s. for each £1 expended. The special allowance will be available in respect of expenditure incurred during the period of three years from 1st July. 1961, to 30th June, 1964. In particular, it will apply to costs of carrying out market research or obtaining market information; advertising, securing publicity or soliciting business; supplying samples or technical data, without charge, to persons overseas: and preparing tenders.
I should mention that the opportunity has bern taken to include in this hill two minor amendments on other matters. The first will extend for a further three years, to the end of the income year 1967-68. the present exemption from tax of income from the mining and treatment of uranium ore in Australia or Papua and New Guinea. The second amendment is designed to make clear the obligation of persons in Australia to make deductions for withholding tax purposes from dividends received by them for crediting to non-resident investors. Further details of both these amendments will be found in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1957.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As I have just explained, this bill is the second of two taxation measures to introduce taxation concessions as financial incentives to export.
This bill proposes to authorize the allowance of a rebate o£ pay-roll lax which will be available not only in relation to increases in the export of physical goods but also where additional income is earned from the grant or assignment of rights exercisable overseas in respect of patents, trade marks, designs and copyright. The rebate is to apply in relation to increases in exports during the current financial year 1960-61 and for each of the three succeeding financial years. The amount of the rebate will be ascertained from a formula set out in the bill.
Perhaps the simplest way of expressing the matter orally is to say that the fraction “ increase in export sales over the gross receipts of the trade or business carried on in Australia “ will be applied to the pay-roll liability of the year for which a rebate is claimed. The resultant amount will be multiplied by 2 in order to arrive at the rebate allowable. For the purposes of these calculations, interest, dividends, rents and other receipts in the nature of income from property will be excluded from the gross receipts of the business.
The formula means that if the value of a firm’s exports increases by I per cent, of its gross income from Austral ian trade or business, it will be entitled to a rebate of 121 per cent, of its pay-roll tax liability. This applies proportionately so that if the increase in export sales in a financial year is not less than S per cent, of gross receipts from Australian trade and business, the total pay-roll tax liability will be rebated. Stated in broad terms, entitlement to a rebate will be available in the first place to persons who by manufacture, production, assembling, processing, sorting and grading, or by packing in an original container, bring goods into the form or condition in which they are exported.
It is, however, a feature of the proposals that a producer having the primary entitlement to a rebate, and who had increased his export sales, will be entitled to issue an export certificate to a person who has supplied components physically included in the final product exported from Australia. The export certificate may specify an amount in relation to the value of the components supplied and the supplier of the components will be entitled to have that amount treated, for the purposes of any rebate he may claim, as an increase in his export sales for the year concerned.
Each producer of goods that have been exported will be entitled to specify in export certificates for any year amounts which, in total, are no greater than tie increase in his export sales for that year. The amounts specified will, however, be deducted from the producer’s increase in export sales for the purpose of calculating the amount of any rebate to which he may be entitled. A corresponding procedure will be available where a supplier of components wishes to issue a certificate to a person who has supplied to him materials physically included in the final product.
The bill does not contain provisions requiring the issue of export certificates and the question whether a certificate should be issued will be a matter for determination by the person having the prior right to claim a rebate. The amount of an increase in export sales will be determined by comparing the export sales of the year for which a rebate is claimed with the average of the annual export sales of a two-year base period that ended on 30th June, 1960. In order that a measure of flexibility may operate in the ascertainment of the base period export sales where abnormal circumstances have applied in that period, producers of goods exported will be entitled to have the amount of those sales reviewed by an independent taxation board of review.
The bill includes a number of special provisions relating to marketing authorities which export goods, to gold produced in Australia and to procedures by which producers may obtain particulars upon which to base claims for rebates in respect of goods exported by an export merchant. A detailed explanation of the provisions of the bill is given in the explanatory memorandum which will be available to honorable members.
I should, however, add that, in addition to authorizing the rebate in relation to exports, the bill proposes to extend the list of international organizations exempt from pay-roll tax. The various specialized agencies of the United Nations Organization and the South Pacific Commission have for a number of years been entitled to such an exemption. It is now proposed to add to the list a further three organizations of which Australia is a member. These are -
The International Atomic Energy Agency The South-East Asia Treaty Organization The Customs Co-operation Council.
At present, none of the three organizations pays salaries or wages in Australia that attracts a pay-roll tax liability and the amendment will not involve a cost to revenue.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed (vide page 1554).
.- Mr. Speaker, there will be no public holiday in the coal-mining areas as a result of the introduction of this measure. The proposals outlined by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) relate directly to excise on coal. In relation to coal used for home consumption, the excise will be reduced from 5d. per ton by1d. per ton - a reduction of 20 per cent. In relation to export coal, it is proposed to abolish the excise altogether - a reduction of 100 per cent.
In considering the bill, we should look not merely at the matter of excise but also at the coal-mining industry generally and the problem of developing our export trade. Whilst this belated token assistance to encourage the export of coal will be welcomed by those who are engaged in the industry, much more requires to be done to increase sales at home and abroad. People who have been forced to leave the coalfields because of the closure of mines will say that too little has been done too late.
When dealing with the subject of excise, we must consider not merely our search for markets, the desire to build up external and internal trade, the desire to save our mining towns and communities and the desire to retain in employment men who to-morrow, a week later, or the week after that, will lose their jobs; we must consider also our balance of trade and the economy of the nation as a whole.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has dealt effectively with the history of the long service leave provisions. He referred to the legislation that was introduced by a Labour administration, the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, and certain other legislation related to this important phase of the economic development of our country. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in a very telling speech in which he referred to the trials, tribulations and problems of the people who live in the area he represents, discussed the need for positive development and the need to preserve the industry. When we consider in retrospect the loss of our mine workers and mining towns and communities with all their fine organizations, and when we consider just how members of the mining communities have had to struggle to live, we will find that the speech delivered by the honorable member for Hunter will have made its mark in the annals of this Parliament.
The Menzies-McEwen Government has failed this country and the coal-mining industry. It has not faced up to its responsibility to protect the interests of the miners and the mining communities. The remarks that I make and those which have been made by the honorable member for Blaxland and the honorable member for Hunter are supported by Sir Edward Warren, who represents the coal-mining interests of this country. Why has it been necessary to introduce this measure? The honorable member for Blaxland, in a very thoughtful speech, dealt with the background of the Government’s proposal. He stated very tellingly that funds were available to provide for long service leave - a benefit to which mine workers are entitled. I look back over the long years that have elapsed since I was a boy living in a miner’s home. I can recall seeing my dad go to work before it was daylight and waiting for him to come home in the evening. Despite the evident feelings of those honorable members whose emotions do not rise above their own well-being, let me say that the people who lived in the mining villages and communities felt, deep down, that any day could be a day of tragedy for those who had left their hearts at home and who went out to earn their living in the mines. As I look back upon those distant days, I feel thankful to the stout-hearted people who worked in the mines, who strove to raise our standards, who played such an important part in the moulding of this nation, and who eventually were able to obtain long service leave and other benefits that were essential to their well-being.
The long service leave fund is in a very healthy state. The balance as at 30th June, 1960, was £2,109,298. Of that sum, £1,990,000 was invested in Commonwealth inscribed stock or on fixed deposit. That fact shows that the legislation which has just been introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service is capable of being put into operation. No actuarial problem is involved. The Government’s proposal can be put into effect with every confidence and it is deserving of the support of every member of the Parliament.
We ought to be grateful to those persons who over the years have produced the coal, the heat, the energy, the power and the refrigeration that have been necessary to maintain the nation’s economy. We should be grateful in particular to those who, through the difficult days of war, provided the power and energy that were necessary for the development of this country. What I am saying will, in many cases, fall upon deaf ears and will not move those cold-hearted people whose thoughts do not rise above themselves and above the attainment of power and importance and the reaping of profits. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), for example, will remain unmoved. The hardships experienced by those who have been employed in the coal-mining industry have never touched him. He has always belonged to the privileged class.
Even the honorable member for Hume, and others who are like him, ought to give some thought to the Government’s proposal to abolish the excise of 5d. per ton on export coal so that the coal-producers will be enabled to meet competition from Canada and various other countries and to sell their product to Japan or any other country which might wish to buy it. Whilst the proposal might help to stimulate the export of coal, I believe the Government has ignored what might be done to stimulate the sale of coal on the home market. We are concerned about selling overseas primary products such as wheat, wool, butter, eggs and cheese, or any other commodity, at give-away prices so that we may meet the fierce competition of our rivals, but very often we forget the importance of selling our goods internally at the right price. We should enable our consumers to obtain local goods at reasonable prices and thus help industry to obtain its raw materials at prices that would encourage secondary industry to stimulate production and go forward with an effective export drive. These are facts which are very often overlooked. It is possible that this proposal, in the long run, will do no more than provide cheap coal for overseas manufacturers
In this way the Australian Government will reduce the cost of production of our manufacturing competitors. We have been constantly reminded of the cost of production in Australia and the need to reduce costs if our export drive is to succeed.
What will this bill do for the home market? It will reduce the excise duty on coal by Id. a ton, that is a reduction of 20 per cent. It will reduce the excise duty on coal exported to our competitors, by 100 per cent. Therefore, if an advantage is to be gained by anybody, it will obviously be gained by the people who obtain our coal on overseas markets. The coal industry in New South Wales has suffered. There has been a loss of employment, and towns and villages have suffered. The economy of many communities has been ruined. People have been compelled to leave their homes and villages in search of work elsewhere, and turmoil has been created in the affairs of the coal-mining industry.
Coming now to the problems connected with coal and the competition it has been called upon to meet on the home market, the question of competition from oil seems to have been neglected by this Government, which has failed to face up to its responsibilities. The coal industry in Australia needs assistance, but the best the Government can do it to reduce the excise duty on coal by only Id. per ton. A Tariff Board report dealing with this important matter referred to the attitude and actions of overseas oil monopolies - the cartel which deals with oil - and to the pattern of production in which they are engaged. They go out of their way to produce large quantities of oil for our great industries in competition with coal whilst petrol and other petroleum products are kept at a high price level. The pattern of production is known to the Government as a result of that inquiry. The Labour Party does not object to coal for export being exempt from duty, but it asks, “Why not extend the same benefits to coal used in the production of Australian goods and services? “. If we are going to make our coal available at give-away prices in competition with various other countries of the world so that manufacturers elsewhere can buy if at keenly competitive prices, why not help our own Australian industry?
We have heard much about the need for a drive to develop our export trade, but as power plays such an important part in the manufacture of our goods, the same measure of consideration ought to be given to coal for use in Australia. Under this proposal we go only one-fifth of the way to help our home industries whereas we go the whole distance in dealing with overseas traders. If we are to meet the challenge from overseas, we must go the whole distance in helping local industry. Overseas one finds that the British authorities are not content to deal with the matter in this fashion. They really roll up their sleeves and face their responsibilities in this matter in a workmanlike way. The Macmillan Government in the United Kingdom, which has given us leads in other matters, gives us the direction and shows how we ought to meet the problem of the challenge of oil in this country.
Under the recent Budget proposals in the United Kingdom it was decided to levy a tax of 2d. per gallon on all petroleum products other than gasolene which is used for the motivation of motor vehicles. This means, in effect, a levy of £2 15s. per ton on all oil other than that used in motor vehicles in the United Kingdom. If that can be done in the United Kingdom under a Budget which is designed to yield from this item £50,000,000, it is about time that in addition to the proposals now before this Parliament, if we are concerned about the balance of payments, we ought to follow the British Government’s example of raising additional revenue by similar means and at the same time help the coal-mining industry to meet the challenge which now confronts it. The coal-mining industry in this country has been beset by many problems. Facts and figures prove that grave disaster faces this industry despite the fact that those engaged in it increased production to record levels.
I shall cite significant figures dealing with this matter. In 1950, 12,798,000 tons of coal were won in New South Wales and 16,548,000 tons were won throughout Australia. In 1960, production had increased by just on 5,000,000 tons to 17,737,000 tons in New South Wales and to 22,580,000 tons throughout Australia. In 1961, this figure is running much higher. Whilst we deserve a great measure of satisfaction from the fact that the Joint Coal Board and the instrumentalities created by the Chifley Labour Government have in the long run won their reward, we must also look at the dismal side of the picture of despair and destruction in mining communities. In July, 1950, 18,208 persons were engaged in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales and 24,418 persons were engaged in the industry throughout Australia. In October, 1952, which was the peak period, 20,802 persons were engaged in the industry in New South Wales, compared with 13,315 in I960; with 18,556 persons engaged in the industry throughout Australia. The latest figures that I can find show that on 22nd April in New South Wales only 12,745 people were engaged in producing a record amount of coal. That is to say, 8,057 fewer persons were producing that tremendously increased output. What has been the lot of those people, who were promised full employment, security and never another care? They have lost their jobs. They have been moved to other communities. They are travelling vast distances from Cessnock to Newcastle. They have left Lithgow to go to Port Kembla and Wollongong. They have gone to Camden. Muswellbrook and elsewhere. They have been torn up by the roots. I say to members of the Country Party, who are interjecting, that if the same brand of economics as has been applied to the coalmining industry were to be applied to the butter industry there would be a terrific outcry from them. May I also say that if the policy of this Government is pursued, and if it supports margarine instead of butter, the same sort of thing as has happened to the coal industry will happen to the butter industry?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay). Order! The honorable member is getting a little away from the bill.
– I shall not elaborate upon that point. I was provoked by members of the Country Party. This bill is designed to deal with the export of coal. It proposes to remove entirely the 5d. a ton excise. That is an important consideration. In the financial year 1950-51, 67.000 tons of black coal were exported from New South Wales. Tn 1959-60, 1,149,000 tons were exported from New South Wales and 38,000 tons from Queensland. In the 1960 calendar year, 1,554,000 tons were exported from New South Wales. The exports are running higher this year. I can only hope that the proposal before the Parliament will lead to the provision of further employment opportunities for those who are engaged in the industry, and that I shall not suffer to hear my colleagues from the coal-mining areas, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) speak - as the honorable member who represents the Collie field would speak if he were articulate - of the despair of the people in those areas. I can only hope that this reduction in excise will make a contribution towards overcoming their problems.
I have referred to the great problems facing the industry internally. The bill proposes the abolition of the excise of 5d. a ton on coal exported. The levy on coal consumed in Australia is to be reduced by 20 per cent., or Id. a ton. The real problem facing the mine workers of this country is the unequal challenge represented by the competition of oil. Every patriotic Australian, irrespective of party, must recognize that if this country is to be secure and free, and if it is to play its part, whatever that part may be, in the Seato, Anzus and other alliances, it must possess the strength to control its own economy and its own defence organization. How can that be accomplished if we go along in the present fashion being utterly dependent upon the importation of oils?
Figures relating to the utilization of coal in this country show that in 1954 oil gas produced 3,600,000 therms out of a total of 218,000,000 therms produced from oil, coal and water gas: but in 1959, out of a total of 249.000,000 therms, oil supplied 44.000.000 therms, while brown coal produced 20,000,000 therms. This shows conclusively and positively the trend in this country and the effect that the use of oil is having upon the economy.
In relation to the consumption of coal in competition with other fuels we find that in 1953-54 51.8 per cent, of heat produced came from New South Wales black coal. Other black coal deposits provided 15.1 per cent., making a total from black coal of 66.9 per cent. Brown coal represented 8.9 per cent., petroleum products 16.2 per cent., firewood 3.8 per cent, and hydro-electric power 4.2 per cent. In 1959-60 New South Wales black coal was used for only 43.2 per cent, of heat production, as compared with 51.8 per cent, in 1953-54. Other black, coal accounted for only 12 per cent., making a- total of 55.2 per cent, for black coal. Brown coal accounted for 11 per cent., petroleum products 23.7 per cent., firewood 2.5 per cent., and hydro-electric power 7.6 per cent.
It may be topical to mention that I have every reason to believe that in this building, where heating is required, this Government is so patriotic that it plays its rightful role in upholding the oil cartel and monopolies by using oil rather than coal for heating purposes. That is the sort of thing that is going on.
The Government may claim that it is lacking in power to remedy the coal position. Let us look at an article in the issue of the Melbourne “ Age “ for 7th November, 1960. This paper, like one or two other great dailies in this country, is an outstanding publication. It deals effectively with the Government’s failure to face up to the problems of the coal industry. That article states -
The Federal Government has reacted in a surprising manner to the interim report submitted recently by the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee. The Government set up the committee in June last year to advise it on all aspects of research into the utilization of Australia’s extensive black and brown coal resources.
It goes on to prove that not only has the Government failed to face up to its responsibilities but also has failed to tell the truth in regard to the position. It has failed to publish the report of this very important committee, which included such eminent scientists as Dr. R. S. Andrews, chairman of the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation, who has done so much for the coal industry at Yallourn and Morwell, and who is a prominent personality in the field of gas and fuel requirements in Victoria; Dr. F. W. G. White, chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; and Dr. H. K. Worner, director of research for the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited. Their report was hardly given the respect it deserved. It did not see the light of day.
I point out that these matters do not go unnoticed. Other people in the world seem to have noticed them. The Sydney “ Sun “, directing attention to the problems facing the coal industry and the need to take urgent action, has. pointed out in a clear and positive way that instead of measures of a tiddly-winking kind, such as the’ one that is before us this evening to abolish the 5d. a ton excise on export coal and’ reduce by Id. a ton the levy on coal consumed internally, more effective steps should be taken. Under the heading “ Better Loading. Plan to double coal export “, the newspaper states -
Australia could double coal exports in the next two or three weeks if adequate loading facilities were available, chairman of the Australian Coal Association, Sir Edward Warren, said to-day.
This Government cannot claim, that it lacks power to deal with this matter, because the Coal Industry Act, which constitutes the Joint Coal Board and gives it authority, provides ample power for the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and others to take appropriate action. Section 14(2.), paragraph (e), provides that the board has power to make provision for - the effective and economical distribution of coal, including its purchase, sale, marketing, acquisition, disposal, supply, storage, reservation, pooling, transport, carriage, conveyance, delivery, handling, loading, discharge and reception.
Paragraph (f) gives the board power to make provision for - the efficient and economical use of coal, the development of uses or markets for coal, and the recovery of by-products of coal.
I had very great pleasure and satisfaction in working with the Parliamentary Labour Party’s committee which travelled throughout Australia. From New South Wales we went to Collie in the west and through to the northern coal-fields. That committee was composed of people who were prepared to devote themselves to dealing with this matter.
The late William Morris Hughes, in dealing with the problem of oil, referred to the fact that Australia, both in peace and during war-time, was’ held to ransom by seven major oil companies which formed a cartel. We are faced with a challenge to go beyond pettifogging in relation to New South Wales and abolishing excise duty of 5d. per ton on coal exported. We must look at the internal problem involved in the development of this nation. We must strike a blow for decency by providing something worth while for the miners, who contributed so greatly to our war effort. If we do not do that we shall betray them, we shall betray ourselves and we shall betray the nation.
.- I am sure that the House has been inspired by the speeches of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The warm-hearted enthusiasm with which those three members have spoken is obviously in sharp contrast with the attitude of those who sit opposite, who find it difficult to raise a sufficient degree of enthusiasm to ensure a continuity of speakers in this important debate relating to the coal-mining industry. It is most regrettable that, due to the attitude of this Government, the Australian people have not been encouraged to exploit fully our great national deposits of coal. Our great national heritage is being denied to them in a most irresponsible way.
Honorable members on this side of the House long for the introduction of a real national development programme of the type that we hear about in so many countries of the world. We should like to know whether the Australian Government has any such plan in prospect. What a wonderful thing that would be for the miners of this country. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is concerned primarily with the administration of war service homes, the atomic reactor at Lucas Heights, in my electorate, and the administration of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Can any one recall any comprehensive national programme in relation to coal and the great mineral deposits lying in the Australian soil having been outlined by the Government? Such a programme would contribute much to the uplifting of our living standards. Its implementation would pro vide better living conditions for ourselves and for other peoples who live in close proximity to us. The neglect of issues such as this has characterized the administration of this Government.
The mining community and many other communities, recognizing the potentialities of this great nation, will have come to realize that our Government has been found wanting. The failure of those who sit opposite to demonstrate any genuine interest in this subject is a classic example of their general conduct.
The bill before us proposes to reduce the excise duty on home-consumed coal from 5d. to 4d. Of course, this has been made possible by the solvency of the fund. The proposal is related to the reduction of the number of people employed in the coalmining industry.
I think it is important to remember that this excise duty was imposed by the Chifley Government in November, 1949. From the fund established by this means, it has been possible to provide for long-service leave for coal-miners, which is a very worthy provision. The Chifley Government might almost be said to have pioneered the field of long-service leave in Australia. The honorable member for Blaxland and the honorable member for Hunter, who are taking such an intelligent interest in the debate at the moment, referred to this matter earlier. They tried to get the Government to acknowledge that long-service leave could be introduced for another contentious and difficult industry. I refer to the stevedoring industry, which we will be discussing next week.
We know the mumbo jumbo that has been uttered by those who sit opposite. I refer to proposals embracing all sorts of tricks and hocus pocus in order to fool the Australian workers. The mining community has been given the benefit of long-service leave as a result of the imposition of excise duty on coal, and it has vindicated our faith in it. The coal-mining industry has a great record. This Government could’ emulate what the Chifley Government did for that industry by doing something similar for the waterside workers. The excise duty scheme has worked with’ great success; no one could deny that it is a great credit to the Labour’ Government which devised it.
In thinking of the coal industry at the present time, most of us automatically and immediately think of unemployment. A most unsatisfactory employment condition is prevailing in the industry. We have heard from honorable members opposite, especially members of the Ministry, some casual references to the mining industry. Like calculating machines, they churn out statistics, but never go beyond them. The realization that human beings are involved, that there are mining communities devoted to the exploitation of the resources in the ground never seems to come to those who sit opposite. We hear about the figures but we never hear any exposition of the great home tragedy involved in this situation.
The mining industry has been dissipated, unemployment has become the order of the day, and all hope and aspiration for the young people in mining towns has gone. A clergyman came to our mining committee which was chaired by the honorable member for Macquarie. Representatives of local government bodies in mining towns also came to us. They told us that the whole situation is demoralizing. The towns of Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Maitland - and many other places - are experiencing a degrading atmosphere, which has been superimposed on them because of insecurity. What happens to a breadwinner when a mine closes down? He goes away to work, perhaps in my electorate, or at the mining fields at Coledale, Clifton, Helensburgh or Scarborough. The youngsters are left to themselves. There has been no continuing endeavour to provide suitable employment for the womenfolk and the youngsters in mining towns. It is quite heartbreaking.
Honorable members opposite could go around coal-mining areas, as so many of my colleagues went with me, and see ghost towns, such as Cessnock and Kurri Kurri - houses without inhabitants; churches and hotels closed down. Roads and footpaths are going to waste. There has been a walkout; a ghost town is left. This is happening on a large-scale, one town after another. This is the order of the day as a result of the lack of interest and concern demonstrated by those who sit opposite.
Apparently there has been no realization that we have in this country these great coal deposits which need exploiting and developing in a worth-while way. What a heartbreaking experience it is for anybody who goes to the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. I suggest to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), who is attempting to interject, that he should go to that area and have a look at the coalfields. If he does so, he will find that the mine-owners have exploited the coal where it has been profitable to do so. After they have ceased to reap the kind of dividends which can now be provided by activity in the hire-purchase field, or in some other field of financial manipulation, they have abandoned the mines and have left them on fire, or have sealed them off on fire, or have left them flooded. These deposits, which represent a part of the wealth of this country, have been denied to the Australian people and to the people of the world, now and for evermore. How can that kind of thing be justified?
I emphasize the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), that the Government has a very great responsibility in respect of these matters. That responsibility has been vested in it by virtue of the Coal Industry Act of 1946 - another Chifley act, by the way - which provides for co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government in the administration of the coal-mining industry. As I look through that act I see provisions which should indicate to the Government the degree of responsibility that it has in the matter. The act clearly indicts the members of the Government as guilty men, so far as this situation is concerned. Amongst other things, the act provides, that-
The Prime Minister may, in agreement with the Premier of the State, issue directions to the Board-
That is, the Joint Coal Board - on matters of policy and it is to be the duty of the Board to observe and carry out any direction so given.
Those clear-cut words indicate that the Government has a responsibility in the matter. If the Prime Minister issues to the Joint Coal Board a direction in relation to coal industry matters, the board automatically has power to do whatever the Government has decided it should do in the interests of the coal industry of Australia. The act goes on to state -
The powers and functions of the Board are to include the talcing of such action as, in the opinion of the Board, is necessary or desirable -
to ensure that the coal resources of the State are conserved, developed, worked and used to the best advantage in the public interest;
The promotion of the welfare of workers engaged in the coal industry in New South Wales also is provided for by the Coal Industry Act of 1946, which this Parliament administers. If there is anything wrong with the coal industry - and nobody can deny that what has happened to it is a crying shame - the guilty men sit opposite us to-night. They have a responsibility to take advantage of the opportunity which was presented to them by the Labour Government of 1946. I suggest that, in the interests of the Australian economy, because of the need to increase exports of coal, and in the interests of the people who have devoted their lives to the coal-mining industry, the Government should get on with the job and demonstrate a sense of responsibility.
It may not be generally appreciated by honorable members, especially those on the opposite side of the chamber, that Australia is not a wealthy country so far as coal deposits are concerned. In some parts of the world it is contended that it is wasteful even to burn coal because coal has such enormous potentialities, lt is said that we in Australia have 100 years’ supply of coal and that in addition, unknown reserves could provide another 50 to 100 years’ supply. What is a period of 100 years in the lifetime of a nation? I suggest that, while the Government is the custodian of Australia’s affairs, its responsibility does not end with the people who live in this country. Australia could become one of the great coalowning countries of the world, and in that sense the responsibility of the Government is a wide one.
An atmosphere of stagnation has been permitted to pervade this very important industry. We have witnessed the dispersal of families and many other undesirable features. I think that the problems of the coal-mining industry fall within four main categories. First, there is the problem arising from the increased output of coal, from the fact that there is excessive production or over-production. In other words, more coal is being produced than we really need at the present time. We have to overcome that problem. In the short time at my disposal I intend to say something on this matter. Secondly, there is the factor of diminishing outlets for coal. That matter was referred to by the honorable member for Macquarie in his very inspiring speech. He stated that the decline in outlets for coal is due principally to the competition of other fuels.
The third factor that I wish to mention is the failure to develop other uses for coal. In this respect, the Government has fallen down on the job very badly. I refer particularly to the failure to recognize the prospects that exist for the establishment of great coal by-products industries, which are the order of the day in so many countries of the world. Fourthly, there is the important consideration, in my view at least, of the need to stimulate coal exports. I do not know whether I shall have sufficient time to summarize my views on each of those four matters.
First, let me refer to the question of excessive production. We have witnessed the advent of mechanization in the coal industry. It is true that there were many people in the mining communities who did not welcome the possibilities inherent in the innovation of mechanization. They felt that mechanization would result in wholesale unemployment on the coal-fields - and how right they were. Their fears have been justified because thousands of miners have lost their employment in recent years. That loss of employment has occurred at the rate of about 1,000 a year.
We have seen the introduction of the mechanical continuous miner. I was looking through a copy of the magazine “ Harbour “, which comes to us from the Colliery Owners Association, only recently, and I saw an advertisement for a continuous miner which indicated the effectiveness of mechanization. The fact that we are able to produce coal at a fast rate contributes to the over-production problem that we have at the present time. The advertisement in “ Harbour “ stated that the machine had an output of 800 tons per shift. It was described as a machine with a deep-ripping 24-in. sump and a wide, heavy-duty conveyor which ran the full length of the machine. It was stated that two motors drove the conveyor and the 7-ft. cutting head which was able to mine to a height of 10 feet above the floor level. Imagine that great thing biting its way into the coal seam! I have seen machines such as that in operation many times, and so have all the twenty members of the Parliamentary Labour Party mining committee. We have visited almost every mine in New South Wales and mines in other parts of Australia in an endeavour to find the answer to the problems of the industry. When we have come back here with our conclusions, the Government has been so miserable that it has not even facilitated the printing of the committee’s report. The Government has indulged in political skullduggery to that extent. The use of mechanical devices is one of the reasons why coal production has reached such great heights.
It is interesting to consider the figures relating to the production of black coal in Australia. For the year ended December, 1960, production reached the figure of 22,500,000 tons, an increase of 2,200,000 tons, or 11.1 per cent., over the production figure for the preceding year. That was a good performance by the miners and also justification of the mechanized processes which they have come to handle. The miners have been doing their job, as the figures indicate. Let us have a look at the figures for the year 1938. At that time, there were 19,679 employees in the industry, and they produced 11,600,000 tons of coal. In 1960, there were 18,556 employees, and they produced 22,500,000 tons of coal. Therefore the 1960 output was almost double that of 1938, although in 1960 there were 1,123 fewer employees in the industry than there were in 1938. That is not a bad record. I think it is the kind of record which deserves a reward. The Government has continued Labour’s proposal in regard to long service leave arrangements, but I suggest that it has far greater obligations to the industry than it has so far acknowledged.
The 1959-60 report of the Joint Coal Board shows that coal production in New South Wales increased from approximately 11,000,000 tons in 1939 to 17,000,000 tons in 1960. It is obvious from the report of the Joint Coal Board that there has been additional and even excessive production. Reserves held by consumers and by the collieries themselves, by government departments and merchants, have reached an alltime record. The quantity of coal held in reserve has reached 3,000,000 tons.
As to productivity, there is a pretty good indication that the miners have not done a bad job and do not deserve the maligning and vilification that they get from honorable members opposite. In saying that I happened to glance at the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). His name came automatically to my mind in this connexion. The report shows productivity in terms of tons per man-shift. In New South Wales the average in 1953-54 was 3.4 tons per man-shift worked. In 1959-60 it had increased to 5.2 tons per man-shift. This is a fair accomplishment.
– The figure is 5.26.
– The honorable member for Blaxland is quite right; the correct figure is 5.26 tons if you want to be dead accurate. Since 1951 the rate of increase in output per man-shift worked has been .47 tons per annum. In other words, to put it in language that honorable members opposite may understand, output per man-shift increased by 12 per cent, during 1960.
It is obvious from these figures that honorable members opposite have no reason to vilify the miners for the job they are doing. I suggest that this Government stands indicted as the guilty party responsible for the problems of the coal industry, since the miners have done everything that could be expected of them.
The Joint Coal Board had something to say in its report about industrial disputes. Honorable members opposite always think of industrial disputes when they think of the mining industry. They never think of the positive achievements of the miners, but they always refer to the occasions when miners went on strike because of some provocative action taken against them. The report said -
New South Wales coalmines continue, in the year under review, to have an excellent record in regard to industrial disputes. This has been a major factor contributing to the industry’s record of achievement and reflects creditably on management and the unions and employees concerned.
– For what year is that report?
– This is the last report available. Do not get the idea that we want to indulge in any kind of humbug. We are here to put an honest and sincere case for an industry about which we feel very deeply. The report shows that the proportion of man-shifts lost through industrial disputes steadily declined from a peak of 14.28 per cent, in 1949-50 to 2.16 per cent, in 1958-59 and 2.03 per cent, in 1959-60. This shows that the miners have adopted a very responsible attitude.
Let me now say a few words about the question of diminishing outlets for coal produced. The Joint Coal Board considered this problem in connexion with the recent Tariff Board inquiry into the petroleum refining industry. It has been established that petroleum is making great inroads into the markets for Australian coal. On page 5 of the Tariff Board’s report on the petroleum refining industry there is a summary of the submissions made by the coal industry. There we find the following statements: -
At that inquiry the coal industry made another point. We ask the Government to consider this matter seriously and to do something about it. The following comment appears in the report: -
In other words, too much crude oil is being made available to compete with coal, and not enough of it is being refined for other ;purposes.
On page 14 of the Tariff Board’s report there are some more very interesting figures. They show that in a period of three years oil has so successfully invaded the coal industry’s former markets that the use of New South Wales black coal has declined by 1,600,000 tons. There are some other impressive figures given in the report. The share of the fuel market enjoyed by oil has increased by 25 per cent, in three years. This has been achieved at the expense of coal, the indigenous fuel, which is lying in the Australian ground waiting to be exploited.
I think I have demonstrated clearly to honorable members opposite that there is much to be done. The Joint Coal Board has given serious consideration to the displacement of coal by oil on the fuel market. It has made a survey of the fields in which oil is being used instead of coal. It is being used extensively for raising steam in power houses, for the provision of heat and electricity in factories, in the manufacture of cement and in the firing of metallurgical and other types of furnaces used in the chemical and other industries. Ships’ bunkers are now being filled with oil instead of coal, and it is also being used to fire steam locomotives. Diesel electric engines, which are competing strongly with coal-fired steam locomotives, use fuel oil. The oil companies are doing their best to take markets away from coal, and they are being aided and abetted by this Government. The Shell Company of Australia Limited, for instance, is conducting its competition in a most unreasonable manner. A Geelong cement company, for instance, is buying oil fuel at £6 12s. a ton, although the list price is £9 10s. a ton. Discounts as high as 30 per cent, are being offered, in order to force coal out of the market.
It is obvious that a great deal needs to be done. Coal mines have been steadily closing down. On the northern coalfields collieries such as Hebburn No. 2, Abermain, Aberdare, Pelaw Main, Kalingo, Bellbird and Aberdare Central have closed down, and only two now remain in operation. It is obvious that this trend will continue. In other .parts of the world various countries are taking remedial action. In West Germany an excise has been imposed on heavy oil fuel in order to encourage the use of coal. In Belgium there is a 12 per cent, equalization tax on heavy oil, for the same reason. France has placed an embargo on heavy oil discounts and has fixed the price of this commodity. In the United Kingdom even the nuclear energy programme has been slowed down in order to encourage wider use of conventional fuels. In the United States of America a quota system has been introduced in respect of crude oil imports. Japan has taken similar action. There is a great deal that Australia will have to do in connexion with this matter, but we seem to be unable to impress on the Government the urgency of the situation, and make it realize that Australia cannot afford to ignore the great wealth that lies under the ground.
We must think of this problem in connexion with our efforts to improve our balance of payments position. We should be exploiting our own raw materials instead of bringing in unnecessary oil imports which cause unemployment, not only in the mining industry but also in other industries, lt should be remembered that increased imports of oil have been responsible to a large degree for our own adverse trade balance and therefore for the introduction of the Government’s credit squeeze policy, which has resulted amongst other things in decreased home building and consequent widespread unemployment.
We say to honorable members opposite, “ Wake up to yourselves, because it is much later than you think “. The Government must consider every aspect of this problem. What of coal by-products? Industries based on these by-products have been established in many countries, but Australia is dragging the chain. Government supporters just do not seem to be interested. They are so disinterested, in fact, that they will not even rise and join in this debate. In the United Kingdom there is an extensive coal by-products industry, and industries of this kind have been established in Holland, West Germany, Soviet Russia, New Zealand and Hungary. In Czechoslovakia there is a big enterprise of this kind at present being established. I can tell honorable members opposite that no fewer than 4.000 different by-products of coal can be developed. These products can be sold on the world’s markets. However, the Government has been concerned only with developing the petro-chemical industries, thereby increasing our imports bill. A most unsatisfactory state of affairs now exists.
When people come from overseas, like the president of Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated of New York, they cannot understand why we are doing nothing to develop our coal resources and our coal by-products industry. They ask us why we do not get on with the job. They point out that we have been importing goods that we could have produced from coal by-products. In one year, Australia imports £4,000,000 worth of artificial fertilizers such as ammonia nitrate, calcium nitrate, sodium nitrate and superphosphates. We import plastics which could be made from coal, and last year they were valued at £5,000,000. In the same year we imported £17,000,000 worth of synthetic rubber which could be obtained from our coal. Experts say that tires made of synthetic rubber have 30 per cent, more wearing capacity than tires made of natural rubber. Shoes with heels of synthetic rubber are so superior that a person can walk 2,000 miles on them compared with 300 miles on heels made of natural rubber.
Miscellaneous chemicals valued at £7,000,000 are being imported each year. They include naphthalene, calcium carbide and various organic solvents and the Government is doing nothing about it. The Opposition is not unreasonable when it charges the Government with having no programme for national development. The Government has denied the coal industry its just rights and brought about hardship.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
.- While production in the coal industry has increased over the past three years, there has been a constant fear in the minds of the members of the mining unions and the coal owners alike that residual oil may well one day take over from the coal-mining industry. As recently as last month, Sir
Edward Warren, chairman of the Australian Coal Association, made this statement -
The coal and oil industries jointly will ask the Federal Government to convene a conference to discuss the loss of coal markets to cheap residual oil . . . The dumping of residual oil could result in the closing of more collieries on the South Maitland field.
The Joint Coal Board, in a statement issued last month, said the oil industry was cutting its prices with increasing severity to oust coal from established markets.
Then Sir Edward summed up in these words -
The marketing of residual oil at “ give-away “ prices is weakening the economy of the coal industry. The coal industry claims:
Price cutting by the oil companies is reducing the home market for coal.
A shrinkage of the home market has caused several mines in the Cessnock area to close since last December.
More unemployment in the coal industry is inevitable if more local industries switch from coal to oil fuel.
When one realizes the serious plight of the coal industry it is difficult to understand the claim that all the credit for the expansion of the industry rests with the Government. Only two honorable members on the Government side have spoken on the bill and one of them, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) praised the Government for the expansion of the industry. That claim can hardly be substantiated. When all is said and done, New South Wales is the greatest coal-producing State in Australia, and New South Wales has been governed by Labour for 21 years. It has developed the coal industry to the greatest extent.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) took only a few minutes to read his second-reading speech on this bill and that cursory approach indicates the attitude of the Government to this industry. The measure before the House is simple in character, although two important acts are being amended. The main points made by the Minister were that th? Government was now giving effect to its earlier intention of encouraging the development of the coal export market and, secondly, that the Government proposed to make a practical contribution to the reduction in costs of production in the coalmining industry. The Minister then told the House that the Government hoped to assist the export of more coal by abolishing the excise duty on coal which was being produced for export, and that a reduction of Id. a ton on coal produced for home consumption - that is, from 5d. to 4d. a ton - would considerably help to reduce production costs in the industry.
Then the Minister referred to the fact that the bill removed from the Coal Excise Act the machinery which had previously prohibited the removal of coal from mines for export without the payment of the levy.
That was the sum total of the Minister’s second-reading speech. Not a word of explanation was given to the House by the Minster to indicate why a reduction in the current rate of excise was necessary. The Minister did not say a word about the money that was still in the Long Service Leave Trust Fund, or whether the Government was sure that the new rate of excise was sufficient to meet the future calls on the fund under all circumstances.
Frankly, I am suspicious of the real motive behind the Government’s move. Honorable members well know that the excise on coal was introduced for a specific purpose. The honorable members for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), Hunter (Mr. James) and Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) have already told the House about that purpose.
The history of the coal industry in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales, has shown that, until they were rescued by the work of the Joint Coal Board, the workers in the industry suffered extreme hardship. The conditions of the workers in the mines were very bad. They endured many difficulties through lack of markets and irregular employment accompanied by lock-outs and depression. I believe it is encumbent on some of us in this Parliament to ensure, if it is at all possible, that there shall be no return to those days. My experience of these things accounts for my suspicion of this measure.
I pay a tribute to the work of the Joint Coal Board and its energetic band of officers, all of whom have done marvellous work for the coal industry, often in the face of great difficulties. Only those of us who come from coal-field areas can really appreciate the work that the Joint Coal Board has done since its creation by a Labour
Government some fourteen years ago. I hope it is never fettered in its work or that it is never put out of existence by any Government.
If the Joint Coal Board is allowed to continue its work, free from Government interference, it will do much more in the field of industrial- research than we can now anticipate. I suggest that up to- the present this Government has not co-operated with the experts of the New South Wales Government in coal utilization research to the degree that it should have, despite what the honorable member for Robertson has said. As a result, the Joint Coal Board has been greatly handicapped in the performance of much of its work.
More coal is being produced now than was produced previously. About 16,340,000 tons were produced from all sources in 1959-60; or 578,000 tons more than the amount produced in the previous year. This increased production came from four fewer mines than were operating in the previous year and from 65 fewer employees. This shows the greater effort that is being made by the men in the industry. In the last few years, there have been fewer industrial disputes than there were in earlier years. But the Government, on the pretext of encouraging the export of coal, has decided to reduce the excise duty on coal for the second time in two years. In 1959, the charge was reduced by 3d. a ton, from 8d. to 5d., and now in 1961 it is again being reduced by a further Id., making the new rate 4d. a ton. As two reductions in the excise rate have taken place within a matter of two years, the rates must have been wrongly calculated in the first place. At present there is a surplus in the long service leave fund of more than £2,000,000 and it appears to me that the Government will make a present to the mineowners of about £100,000 next year, or a total of about £500,000 since 1959, if we take into account the previous reductions in excise payments.
What consideration has the Government shown for the men who produce the coal? What of the thousands of men who have been retrenched from the industry over the past few years? Allegedly in the interests of the economic working of the coal-mining industry, dozens of mines have been closed. It was said that they were uneconomic to work, but at the same time new mines have been opened and in these new mines, automation and mechanization have greatly cheapened the production of coal. No one with any sort of judgment would oppose the changes that have taken place in production methods. However; as the Government has given back to the mine owners the magnificent present it has given them through reduced excise rates, both the Government and the mine owners owe a great deal to the mine workers who produce wealth. Every one knows that the owners in modernizing their mines have spent many millions of pounds, but the greater part of this expenditure has come from the huge profits they have made out of the industry.
– That is not true.
– It is completely true. The profits of the mine-owners are now being greatly enlarged as a result of the mechanization of the mines and of the greatly increased production of coal each year. The Government, instead of reducing the excise on coal to encourage greater exports, should set up an export committee with power to investigate possible overseas markets and the profits of the colliery owners. I am certain that an investigation of such profits would reveal some interesting facts. Of course, any such committee would need to be representative of the New South Wales Government, because it is the Government of the major coal-producing State and a partner in the Joint Coal Board.
To my mind there are numerous possibilities for the use of coal industrially. The blending of coal for overseas uses, the synthetic uses of coal and the numerous other uses to which coal could be put are excellent reasons why the excise charge should not at this stage be reduced. This reduction is only a means of making a present to the colliery-owners. ‘ Let us return to an examination of what employees obtain from their record production, and let us look at the sacrifices that retrenched employees have made in the re-organization of the industry. Many of them have lost their homes or have had to sell at depressed prices in order to go elsewhere to find alternative employment. When we consider those facts we are able to understand why the Government should properly investigate every aspect of the excise duty before it again reduces it
I wonder whether the Government has ever considered the future of coal production, especially if a third world war were to occur and this country were cut off from overseas oil supplies. In that event, the men with less than eight years service who have now been retrenched from the coalmining industry could be taken back into the industry. Hundreds of miners with less than eight years service received no payment whatever for long service leave on their retrenchment. Yet every one of them, if again working in the industry in the future, could qualify for long service leave provided a minimum of eight years service in the industry was completed.
Coal production is increasing rapidly despite the competition from oil, and some authorities estimate that by 1970 annual production will top the 21,000,000 tons mark. Such an output of coal must mean greatly increased industrialization of the industry. On that score, if war again occurred there would be no knowing to what extent the Australian coal industry would be called upon to play its part in the war effort. On the northern New South Wales coal-fields to-day only about half of the 10,000 mine workers who a few years ago worked in the industry still remain in it. Therefore, it is assumed that hundreds of these men may one day again enter the industry. Should they do so and qualify for long service leave, will there be funds to meet the cost of the leave? It is my view that the Government should have paid every mine worker who was cavilled out a proportion of the long service leave payments, because it was not the fault of the worker that he was retrenched from the industry.
As I see it, the Government by continuing the present rate of excise duty and by applying it for the benefit of the coal mining industry, could earn for itself much credit and praise from the Australian community. This could be done in many ways. For instance, because of retrenchments, the miners’ superannuation fund is .finding it increasingly difficult to meet its commitments. I understand that at present mine workers should be receiving an increase in pensions, but because the fund is so low, its stability can be undermined if care is not exercised in its administration. I am told that the contribution paid to the fund by the miners is 9s. a week and that the colliery proprietors pay about 38s. But because of the severity df the retrenchments over the past few years, contributions may have to be increased if pension rates are to be increased. The Government might well consider the position. I know that it has no legal obligation to do so, but in view of the great job that has been done by mine workers generally in continually increasing output over the last few years, some consideration could well be .given to helping the fund to regain its financial strength. Because of retrenchments, hundreds of mine workers have lost the whole of the contributions they have paid into the superannuation fund. That should not be allowed to occur.
If honorable members look at the report of the Joint Coal Board for 1959-60 they will readily see the great job that the board has performed. In my opinion it would be a tragedy of the greatest magnitude if the board went out of existence. Instead of the fund derived from excise being reduced, some of the surplus money could have been applied to the work of the board. According to the report, that work includes dealing with employment changes in the New South Wales coal industry, solving unemployment problems and handling incentive schemes, the welfare fund and the medical service. For many years now the Joint Coal Board has operated a medical scheme under which, before he enters the industry, each man is thoroughly medically examined, and thereafter has regular examinations to make sure that he is not suffering from sclerosis, tuberculosis or nystagmus. The report also refers to miners’ co-operative building societies and savings and loan societies as well as the work that the board has done for the welfare of the miners generally. The report is full of the achievements of the board, and I commend a study of it to honorable members so that they may have a fuller appreciation of the difficulties that confront this great industry.
I turn now to what I believe could be another means of reducing the costs of the coal-mining industry, if this Government would co-operate with the New South Wales Government in the matter of capital costs. In my electorate of Shortland there are vast deposits of coal. I believe that coal from the many seams that exist in the area could be blended so that it might be used in almost every industry. At the present time the main producing collieries are Burwood, Lambton B. and John Darling which all belong to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. They are all very large producers. Further out there is another big producer in the Wallarah colliery which belongs to J. and A. Brown Limited.
A new power house is in the course of erection at Vales Point, and in the next few years a still larger power house is to be built. Those two power houses between them will consume 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 tons of coal a year. Both collieries will be highly mechanized. The coal will be brought to the top of the colliery, crushed and then taken to the boilers on an endless belt. A tremendous saving of freight and manpower will be made, and consumers of electricity will obtain cheaper power. Surely, in the light of those facts, the men employed in the coal industry should be entitled to enjoy, by having better superannuation and long service leave benefits, some of the wealth that they help to produce.
For a number of years until quite recently when I, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) or the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) ever spoke of the need for financial assistance to bc given by this Government to facilitate coal handling at Newcastle, or for improved port facilities to expedite the turn-round of ships, we were almost always met with a curt but firm refusal and told that the provision of port and coal loading facilities was the responsibility of the State government. I am very pleased to know that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and, apparently, the Government, have at last had a change of heart about port development. I hope that the Government will now do something of a concrete and genuine nature to assist this most urgent work.
Let me refer again to the huge deposits of coal on the coastal fringe of the Shortland electorate which I believe could be mined and exported or used for Australian industry at a cost much cheaper than the cost of coal from anywhere else in Australia. On the coast between Newcastle and Budgewoi there are two or three natural coal loading anchorages which I believe could be developed in conjunction with proposed new mines from which coa) could be loaded by conveyor belts direct into ships, without recourse to other means of transport. 1 understand that a man has been trying for years to obtain financial assistance to develop a coal-loading anchorage near the township of Mawson, south of Swansea, but without success. If this Government would take action to assist financially in the building of anchorages along the New South Wales coast for coalloading purposes, a brighter era would dawn for the coal-mining industry and every one in that industry would be able to participate in the benefits that would flow from such action.
The development of mines and power houses in the Swansea-Budgewoi area of the Shortland electorate will bring in its wake an undreamt-of prosperity for many hundreds of families who will be able to build homes and business premises on the foreshores of possibly the most beautiful lakes in the world. Around Lake Munmorah, Lake Macquarie and the Tuggerah Lakes is some of the best home-building land in Australia. I suggest that if the Government delays any longer in providing funds, as I have suggested, for the development of ports and anchorages to assist the further development of the coal industry of this country, it will show itself as being unworthy to govern, and it should be dismissed from office by the people at the earliest opportunity.
.- 1 did not intend to speak on this bill, but with the exception of the previous speaker, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), members of the Opposition who represent electorates which have coal mines in them worked themselves up into a frenzy of synthetic passion in speaking on this very simple bill. The honorable members for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) worked themselves up into a synthetic passion in accusing the Government of failing to do things which are no concern of the Government’s at all. 1 wondered what was behind this forced passion. To my knowledge, I was the only person in the chamber who was listening to their speeches, and as a result of my fascinated listening I drew abuse on to my innocent head. I have a very warm respect and admiration for the coal miner. He is second to none. 1 saw coal miners in the war. They are very good soldiers and very fine men. [Quorum formed.]
When I was rudely interrupted, I was speaking about the synthetic passion into which members of the Opposition had worked themselves on this very simple bill. They accused the Government of being responsible for all the failures in the coal industry. They forget that the Labour Government of New South Wales has a Minister for Mines who handles these matters. They have completely wiped him out of their consideration as if he were of no value at all. They talk about nothing but the tragic history of the coal industry since the war. For years and years, before and subsequent to the war, the coal-mining companies made no profits. When I interjected to that effect during the speech of the honorable member for Hughes, he said that I was not telling the truth. I am telling the truth. No industry showed a poorer return on investment than the coal industry. It is of very great credit to the investors in the mining industry that they put more and more money into what was apparently a sick industry. They had the courage of their convictions. The mines were mechanized, and from that time on, with the boost that was given to the industry, they have been successful. Members of the Opposition forget about the great strikes in the time of the Chifley Government. They also forget about the blackouts and the fact that the first thing that this Government had to do when it came into office was import coal. In two or three years, we had to import millions of tons of coal. These are the facts, but none of these things is brought out when these synthetic attacks are made on the Government. I wonder why there has been all this talk. There must have been some deepseated plan behind it. Do Opposition members think that just talking to the air was worth while? They certainly were not talking to anybody in this chamber - except perhaps to me!
The honorable member for Hughes quoted production figures which were achieved after the mines were mechanized. He said that the average output per man shift rose from 3.4 tons in 1953-54 to 5.26 tons in 1959-60. How did that increase come about, and who was responsible for it? It was the result of efforts which made coal able to compete with alternative fuels, whereas, before, it could not contend with competition from them. Coal lost its markets because of the turbulence that existed in the industry in Chifley’s time - that golden era of strikes and shortages! Opposition, members forget that the New South Wales Government Railways, which were entirely under the control of a Labour government, found that coal was too expensive a fuel and that supplies were too uncertain, and so changed to diesel power. This change was made under the administration of a Labour government; yet thi: Government gets the abuse the whole time. I do not know the reason for this attitude on the part of honorable members opposite. I do not know whether it was predetermined in some way of whether they were merely talking to the radio audience that they hoped was listening. Apparently, there was some subtle reason behind their attitude. I have never seen the honorable member for Hughes so worked up, so voluble and so fluent.
As soon as coal became able to compete with alternative fuels, what happened? Labour began to agitate for a 35-hour working week, four weeks’ leave and all sorts of other things which would make coal again unable to compete with these other fuels. I think it is time members of the Australian Labour Party grew up. Their attitude is of no help to the coal industry or the country. We have no hope of building up Australia’s strength if Labour adopts tactics of the kind that we have seen exploited in this House to-day.
There is peace in the coal industry at the present time, and this reflects great credit on all concerned. I join with the honorable member for Shortland in giving credit where it is due. However, we have-still to develop export markets for our coal, because we are at present producing more than we ourselves can use. This bill and the measures associated with it are designed to create export markets. For years and years, representatives of the coal industry have been asking the New South Wales Government, which is responsible for loading and other facilities at ports, as well as for the ports themselves, to develop ports and provide proper loading facilities for the coal export trade. But, because of the ineptitude and lack of interest of that Government, which is too busy buying votes by wasting money in other activities, the Commonwealth Government has offered to provide the necessary loading facilities in order that Australian coal may compete on the world’s markets. If we ask for a 35- hour working week, and then a 30-hour working week and so on, we shall not be able to compete on the world’s markets. It is time members of the Australian Labour Party woke up to this fact. We have a high standard of living, and we can retain it only if we keep our costs down and enable our products to compete on the world’s markets.
The honorable member for Hughes praised the coal-miners and told us how well he believed they were working. I have never heard him say one word in praise of those engaged in our primary industries, who produce the wealth which enables us to provide employment for our workers in this country. We never hear one word about that. All that Opposition members want to do is to abuse this Government. I do not want to prolong this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I just want to say that I cannot understand the synthetic passion that has been displayed by Opposition members. I am forced to conclude that they were really addressing themselves to a radio audience which they hoped would be interested to hear the things that they had to say. They certainly did not have an interested audience in this chamber.
This bill will remove from coal exported the excise duty of 5d. a ton now imposed. This reduction is designed to bring down costs of production and so make it easier for our coal to compete on the world’s markets. The reduction by Id. a ton of the excise duty on coal used in Australia will bring down the price of coal on the internal market. These are the simple purposes of the bill, and because its purposes are so simple, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) needed to say very little about it. Goodness knows where all this other stuff that we have heard from the Opposition has come from! Whatever the Opposition may say. one thing has been made evident in this debate: Peace has come to the coal industry as a result of this Government’s good work. It is time the Government received from the Opposition a little credit for that good work. (Several honorable members having risen in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker-Mr. B. M. Wight.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- As I was denied an opportunity to speak on the motion for the second reading of the bill, I propose to say a few words now. Honorable members may be interested to know that Tasmania produces coal as well as apples, potatoes and sheep. All the mines are in my electorate. Tasmanian coalminers are beneficiaries under the longservice leave legislation of August, 1949. At present there are ten coal-mines in my electorate, although in 1955 there were twelve. Some of those mines are producing only part-time. In 1955 Tasmania produced 299,221 tons of coal. In 1958 production had dropped to-
Order! I remind the honorable member for Wilmot that we are at present discussing the bill in the committee stage. This is not the appropriate time for honorable members’ to make second-reading speeches. T ask the honorable member to confine his remarks strictly to the clauses in the bill.
– Sir, I feel that you are very hard on us. When the committee deals with a bill as a whole, we are usually allowed some latitude.
– Order! If the honorable member for Wilmot disagrees with my ruling, a certain course is open to him. Even though the bill is dealt with as a whole, honorable members must confine their remarks to the clauses of the bill. This is not an opportunity for honorable members to make second-reading speeches.
– I rise to order. The historical interpretation of the Standing Orders is that when the committee is considering a bill as a whole too many restrictions should not be placed on an honorable member wishing to deal with the bill. Since the honorable member for Wilmot was prevented from speaking during the secondreading stage, I suggest that it would be an honorable thing to let him have his say now. If he is denied the opportunity to make his speech during the committee stage he will take advantage of the motion for the third reading of the bill.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honor able member for Parkes. What happened in the House is of no concern to the committee. Honorable members are restricted during the committee stage to a discussion of the clauses of the bill. They may not make second-reading speeches.
– There is still a chance for me to say what I want to say on this bill. I will wait for a few minutes.
.- I wish to raise a few matters in relation to the bill. Let me refer to profits. I have taken the trouble to ascertain how the long service leave fund has accumulated over the years. From a humble beginning - from nothing -the fund has grown to £2,109,298. Of that sum, £1,990,000 is invested in Commonwealth bonds and inscribed stock. I am concerned . to know the Government’s policy in relation to the excise on coal. What will be the effect of reducing by Id. the excise duty on coal consumed in Australia and of completely removing the excise duty on coal exported? I would like to know, first, how the coal companies will benefit from the reduced excise duty. Will they pass on the reduction and reduce the cost of coal to consumers in Australia? During the second-reading stage the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) said that the coal industry was a poor field for investment because profits were low. I would like to know how the J. & A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle is committing an offence similar to that committed a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Wilmot. His remarks are developing into a second-reading speech. He must confine his remarks to the clauses of the bill.
– I am concerned to know what will happen when the excise duty on coal is reduced. Will the Id. a ton go into the coffers of J. & A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited and help to swell that company’s profits?
– Order! I rule that the honorable member for Newcastle cannot continue along those lines. His remarks are out of order unless he confines them to the clauses of the bill.
– Am I entitled to refer to what will happen as a result of this reduc- lion in excise duty? What will happen to the Id. reduction? Will the Government ensure that the producers will reduce the cost of coal by Id. a ton, or are they to be permitted to continue on their merry way and make large profits? The J. & A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited made a substantial profit in 1958- 59. That company made a free bonus issue of one for four and at the same time increased its dividend rate from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent.
– Order! The matter referred to by the honorable member for Newcastle is not covered by any clause of the bill. I rule that the honorable member is out of order.
– I am sorry that you will not permit me to mention these matters. I now turn to exports. When the government of the day decided-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle is still attempting to make a second-reading speech. If he continues to speak in this manner, without dealing with the clauses of the bill, I will be forced to ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not propose to say anything further about the profits that obviously will be derived-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
.- As I do not have a copy of the principal act, I would be obliged if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) would tell me what was contained in section 11 of the act, which is now to be repealed and replaced by a new section 1 1 , which reads -
A security shall be given in a manner and form approved by the Collector and may, subject to that approval, be by bond, guarantee, cash deposit or any other method, or by two or more different methods.
Will the Minister explain why section 11 of the principal act has been repealed and replaced by that new section? Exactly what does the new section mean?
– The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has asked me to read the old section 11. It is in these terms -
Where any security is required to be given, it may, at the discretion of the Collector, be by bond, guarantee or cash deposit, or by all or any of those methods.
The new clause states that a security shall be given in a manner and form approved by the collector and may, subject to that approval, be by bond, guarantee, cash deposit or any other method, or by two or more different methods. This is only a drafting amendment to bring the wording of section 11 of the Coal Excise Act into line with the comparable section 17 of the Excise Act 1901-1958.
.- I wish to deal with matters relating to the export of coal and possible increased competition. By waiving completely the excise on exported coal the Government is creating a situation in which further competition will arise. The chairman of the Joint Coal Board has stated that at present overseas competition is particularly keen, but abolition of the excise on exported coal will mean that the Australian consumers of coal will have to pay for the long service leave of the men who are mining and producing the export coal. The point that greatly concerns me is that keener competition from overseas will be provoked. All honorable members know that to-day Japan is the greatest purchaser of coal in the Pacific area. She is trying to make deals with various coal-producing countries. She has told the New Zealand Government that if New Zealand can produce a certain quantity of coal, and is prepared to carry out certain work, Japan will be prepared to purchase coal from that country. Japan has also approached the United States of America, Canada, Communist China and the Soviet Union. She has also approached various Australian companies in an endeavour to encourage them to open up new fields and plants at Newcastle, Balmain and Port Kembla. So, the game will go on until eventually we shall have to sell coal to Japan at less than cost.
The Government should try to convene a conference of representatives of the various coal-selling nations, particularly those in the Pacific such as New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America,
Communist China and the Soviet Union, in an endeavour to reach an agreement by which we will sell coal at a figure not less than the cost of production.
– The 35-hour week cost!
– Since the honorable member wants to raise the question of the 35-hour week, I may say that I believe that miners are entitled to, and should have, a 35-hour week. If honorable members were to read the speeches- -
– Mr. Chairman, I rise to take a point of order. Is the honorable member for Newcastle relating his remarks to the clauses of the bill? I fail to see how he can be dealing with the matter before the committee.
– Clause 7 refers to “ other than coal exported “, so the honorable member for Newcastle is in order in referring to exports. However, he is out or order in replying to a disorderly interjection in relation to working hours. I again ask the honorable member for Newcastle to confine his remarks to the bill and not to develop the theme on which he is at present concentrating.
– I am dealing with the bill as I see it. I was pointing out that the Government’s decision to waive completely the excise on export coal is fraught with danger. The Government will certainly make Australian coal competitive with the overseas product, but what will happen when the competition becomes so keen that other countries cannot compete with us? They will pay a subsidy. At present Canada is paying a subsidy of two dollars a ton. No doubt this will be increased to 2 dollars 25 cents or even to 2 dollars 50 cents so that Canadian coal will be able to compete with ours. Then we in turn will have to provide additional assistance.
– That will break down working conditions.
– That is true. We shall have to subsidize coal. As I have said, the Government should try to convene a conference of all coal-producing countries in the Pacific area and devise some means that will make unnecessary these tactics of paying subsidies and so, in effect, enabling coal to be sold below cost. Then it will be only a matter of imposing fair and reasonable charges to cover the cost of production.
There was an agreement that the coal miners would be paid long service leave and that the necessary funds would be found by the imposition of an excise. Now, to make our coal more competitive with the product of overseas countries, we are to abolish the excise on exported coal. We should sell our coal at a fair and reasonable price and allow ourselves a fair and reasonable margin so that improvements can be made in conditions in the industry from time to time.
When supporters of the Government were in opposition they criticized continually the Labour Government’s efforts to improve conditions in the coal-mining industry. I remember reading a speech that the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made when he was in opposition. He stated that the Chifley Government was continually introducing legislation relating to the coal industry and, in fact, that it had introduced more legislation relating to the coal industry than to any other industry in the Commonwealth, lt is true that the Chifley Government increased the miner’s sick leave to two weeks, granted them long service leave, paid them for all statutory holidays and gave them three weeks’ annual leave, and that the present Treasurer continually criticized Labour for granting these improved conditions. But now the members of the present Government claim all the credit for increased productivity. The Joint Coal Board does not agree with the Government in this because in its report for the financial year 1959-60 it states in paragraph 44 -
The increase in productivity is, of course, not due solely to more or better capital equipment. It is the result also of improved industrial relations within the industry.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I suggest that the honorable member for Newcastle is defying your ruling. He is making a second-reading speech on the report of the Joint Coal
Board which has nothing to do with the clauses now before the committee.
– The honorable member for Newcastle has again moved away from the clauses that are before the committee. A passing reference to the principal act is permissible, but he has remained on his passing reference for too long.
– There has been this increased productivity and the coal industry has been granted improved conditions over a long period. If this Government can sell the coal at a more competitive price as the result of the removal of this excise, why should we not improve conditions in the industry? Why should we not consider the imposition of some other duty and use the proceeds to finance long service leave, annual leave or sick leave? We could also provide additional amenities in the coal-mining industry. Some of the money could be used for the improvement of port and transport facilities, and to subsidize the establishment of new industries on the coalfields.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) last Thursday made a plea for decentralization-
– Order! The ho. orable member’s time has expired.
.- My remarks relate to the rate of duty. Proposed new section 24a reads -
The Excise duty on coal shall be paid at the rate in force when the coal is entered for home consumption or, if the coal is removed from the coal mine in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of the last preceding section before entry for home consumption, at the rate in force when the coal is so removed.
I have been impressed by the comments of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) who, coming from a great industrial city, has a sound knowledge of the coal industry. He has pointed out that the amount of excise on coal for export is to be abolished whereas the excise on coal for the home market is to be reduced from 5d. to 4d. per ton.
In .my own constituency there are huge manufacturing interests, such as brickyards where many persons are producing goods and materials for the home market. Those industries will receive the benefit of a reduction of only / J. per ton in the price of coal whereas a reduction of 5d. will be allowed in reject of coal sold overseas. It appears to me to be out of all proportion that people producing goods for the home front will receive a reduction of only Id.
– Do you not want coal exports?
– We certainly want exports, but I am one of those who believe that charity begins at home. I am also one of those people who do not believe that we should sell Australian butter in England at 2s. per lb. while having to pay 4s. 6d. per lb. for it in Australia. A similar position exists in regard to coal. I desire to quote the remarks of another excellent member of this Parliament who represents a coalmining constituency. I refer to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) who has a great knowledge of the mining industry. In fact he is an exminer. During the course of a very fine speech this evening he made reference to proposed new section 24a. I quote his remarks about this excise duty on coal, as follows: -
What will this bill do for the home market? It will reduce the excise duty on coal by Id. a ton, that is a reduction of 20 per cent. It will reduce the excise duty on coal exported to our competitors by 100 per cent. Therefore, if an advantage is to be gained by any body, it will obviously be gained by the people who obtain our coal on overseas markets. The coal industry in New South Wales has suffered.
– 1 rise to order. Is the honorable gentleman in order in quoting from the “ Hansard “ script of the speech of the honorable member for Macquarie? I ask also whether he is in order in engaging in tedious repetition.
– The Chair is not in a position to rule on the second point of order taken by the honorable member for Hume. In regard to the first point of order, I rule that the honorable member for Grayndler is in order.
– I do not wish to transgress in any way, Mr. Chairman. I was only quoting from some notes that the honorable member for Macquarie gave me on proposed new section 24a. I come back to the contention of the honorable member for Newcastle and other honorable members from coal-mining areas that the reduction of1d. a ton on coal supplied to the home market is not enough. I had the opportunity on one occasion to represent this Parliament, and the Labour Party, at a coalmining conference at Geneva. I know the conditions under which miners work and I know of the need to keep up production. I know, too, that we must have export markets for coal, but I claim at the same time that the people on the home front are entitled to consideration. Those who are producing coal on the home front and using it for the expansion of industry are entitled to just as much consideration as people who use our coal abroad, yet the Government is giving preference to Japanese buyers over Australian manufacturers and Australian producers. That is why it is important that I should stress the tremendous advantage that people abroad who buy our coal will have over those who buy on the home market.
It is no good saying that we can disregard this matter. The coal industry is suffering. The honorable member for Newcastle favours the introduction of a 35-hour week. The Labour Party in New South Wales follows a similar line. There has been increased production and increased work. Fewer men are employed in the industry, but output has risen. Mechanization-
– Order! The honorable member is again getting wide of the clause before the committee. Matters such as hours, increased production and mechanization are not referred to in this clause.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. The bill, generally, deals with the question of excise, and this particular clause appeared to me to have particular reference to the matter 1 was discussing. I have no wish to delay the proceedings of the committee. I consider that the question of this excise duty is an important one. It affects not only the coal-mining constituencies but also people in my own electorate. I mentioned previously that in my electorate there are huge brickworks where bricks are manufactured for use in the erection of homes and factories. These industries will receive the benefit of a reduction of1d. per ton in excise whereas Japanese buyers of our coal will receive a reduction of 5d. a ton. People in Marrickville, St. Peters and other industrial areas in the heart of Sydney or in other parts of the Commonwealth will receive only a reduction of1d. per ton.
If the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) knows the answers to these questions, he should inform the committee. It is significant that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has not bothered to come into the chamber during the committee stage of this bill in order to explain why a reduction of only1d. per ton is given to Australian industries whilst 5d. per ton is allowed to buyers abroad. I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport probably has an excellent knowledge of cycling, but such a matter is far removed from coal and excise. I should like to have the Minister’s explanation of proposed new section 24a. Why has the Government not been able to grant to Australian manufacturers the same reduction of excise as it grants to foreign users of our coal? Regardless of the attitude of the Government I see no reason why we should give people abroad greater concessions than we are prepared to give to those on the home front. Although there may be a need to increase our export markets we want the home producers to have a fair go. If this were a question of margarine versus butter, Country Party members would be on their feet.
– Order! The honorable member is again getting away from the clause which the committee is discussing.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak for only two minutes.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker- Mr. B. M. Wight.)
Majority . .15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1375), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1375), on motion by Mr. McMahon-
That the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-1960 be amended as set out in the Schedule to these Proposals . . . (vide page 1375).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Opperman and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Opperman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already indicated to the House the reasons for this measure. The tariff proposal has been agreed to by the Committee of Ways and Means. I commend the bill to the House.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is now at the table, whether the passing of this bill will be the last business to be transacted by the House to-night. It is about time we had a little bit of order in the proceedings of the House.
– It was agreed that the three measures should be discussed together.
– I am not arguing about whether the three measures are being discussed together. I am trying to ascertain what business is to be dealt with next. The business paper indicates that the next item listed for discussion is Supply 1961-62. That item is of some significance. Also listed on the business paper are the Additional Estimates 1960-61, which cover additional expenditure amounting to approximately £57,000,000 for ordinary services, and the Additional Estimates for
Works and Services, which cover the expenditure of some £3,000,000.
– Order! The remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports are not applicable to the bill that is now before the House.
– I am simply using the procedures of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask whether at this stage the Government will indicate what will happen if the Opposition agrees to the passage of this bill. If this bill is agreed to, is it proposed that we should proceed to debate a motion for the adjournment of the House?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had intended to speak to the motion for the third reading. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is in charge of the bill, did not move that it be read a third time.
– I did.
– Order ! I put the question, “That the bill be now read a third time “. There were no dissentient voices. The bill has been read a third time.
– Snide work!
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Wilmot to restrain himself.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to direct the attention of the House to a number of factors that affect my electorate and adjoining electorates in the Newcastle area, and which are creating a considerable amount of unemployment. The figures which have been published by the Department of Labour and National Service show that between October, 1960, and 30th March last, the number of unemployed rose from 640 to 1,093. Since then, other men and women have been laid off in the rayon industry and the steel industry. 1 ask the Government to give further consideration to its policy of allowing the unrestricted import of goods into Australia.
Order! There is too much audible conversation. It is very difficult in the circumstances for the “ Hansard “ reporter to record the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle. I ask the honorable member for Reid in particular to remain silent
– I would not hurt my colleague.
– Order! The honorable member is engaging in audible conversation, which is out of order.
– An example of what is happening in the steel industry is provided in the fact that at the end of this week 150 men will be laid off by Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited because the company has lost certain orders. On referring to the overseas trade statistics issued by the Department of Trade, I find that in March. 1961, the imports of pipes, tubes and fittings were valued at £2,860.000, compared with £1,582.000 worth imported in March, 1960 - an increase of £1,278,000 worth of these items. During the same period, exports declined considerably. In March, 1961, we exported £2,637.000 worth of these items, compared with £4.392,000 worth in March, 1960- a decrease of £1,655,000. The increased importation of pipes, tubes and fittings into this country followed this Government’s lifting of import restrictions. As a result, 150 men will lose their employment at Stewarts and Lloyds, in Newcastle, at the end of this week. There has been a decline in production in the industry to the value of almost £3.000,000.
I appeal to the Government to reconsider its policy of unrestricted imports. It should restrict the importation of pipes into this country so that the men engaged in the industry will retain their employment. More Australian piping would then be used.
It is all right to talk about allowing a free flow of goods into this country, but for these men who are receiving dismissal notices it is most unsatisfactory. The same applies to the rayon industry. It was recently announced that Courtaulds (Australia) Limited had dismissed 258 men in the past twelve months, and that certain sections of their works had been placed on a four-day week. The company put this down to the Government’s policy of allowing unrestricted imports and said that only by the re-imposition of import controls and the easing of the credit squeeze could any relief be given.
Imports of man-made fibre in the first eight months of this financial year were valued at £7,299,000, compared with imports worth £4,216,000 in the corresponding period of the last financial year. Once again, we see the effect of unrestricted imports.
I make a strong appeal to the Government to reverse its policy in this regard as soon as possible. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) and I, over the last two weeks, have directed questions to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on this subject, but he has hedged and refused to answer them. He makes out he has no knowledge of these matters. The statistics that have been issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that this matter, which we have been bringing to the attention of the House by way of questions, and during adjournment discussions, requires the urgent attention of the Government. In the pipe-manufacturing industry similar action is required.
I would like now to draw the attention of the House to another matter. I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to speak on it on a number of occasions. In relation to oyster wire, I wish to point out to the House that. the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) does not know what he is talking about when he makes statements in this House or writes letters to members. On 27th April, the Minister wrote to me in these terms -
In the course of the Adjournment debate on 23 rd March, you referred to a shortage of wire netting for oyster farmers. I have had the position checked with the manufacturing interests concerned and their advice is that, because of the falling off in orders towards the end of I960, it was found necessary to reduce the output of certain products, and in particular wire netting. It is also stated that during early February a breakdown occurred in the 1-inch netting equipment, and production was resumed only at the beginning of April. They expect that supplies of this wire will be available at an early date.
At the time when various members, including the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) raised this matter by way of questions in this House and pointed out that there was a shortage of wire - for the information of the Minister - there were 50 rolls of oyster wire netting lying in Newcastle, yet the people who wanted it were unable to buy it. Either the Minister did not know that the wire was there or, through a blunder on the part of the people distributing it, fifty 50-ft. rolls of wire were allowed to lay there without being used.
– Where was it?
– At Sorby’s, one of the concerns in Newcastle. It was said that there was a breakdown and that the wire was not available. I have stated the real position. I am also concerned at the large quantities of wire that are being imported into this country. In the first seven months of this financial year, compared with the previous year barbed wire imports have grown from £21,000 worth to £177,000 worth, yet the barbed wire section of the factory in Newcastle has been closed down. Why have we to import barbed wire into this country when a barbed wire manufacturing plant has been closed down? This is something which the Government should look into. A similar situation exists in regard to wire netting.
The firm of Rylands at Newcastle is not working at full production. When I first raised this matter a month ago, the firm was working at only one-third capacity. There was only the equivalent of one shift working out of the three shifts that could have been working at that time. During the first seven months of this financial year, we imported £192,000 worth of wire netting, while the figure for the corresponding period last year was £141,000. I shall not go into the retail prices of the different types of wire. Imports of 15-gauge wire, or finer, increased from £19,000 worth in January, 1960, to £35,000 worth in January. 1961. Imports of 15-gauge, and finer, galvanized wire rose from £41,000 in January, 1960, to £125,000 worth in 1961.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House and of the country to certain events which are alleged to have occurred at the University of Melbourne and which, in my view, require further investigation to decide the truth or otherwise of the allegations made. These events centre around a charge that academic freedom in the university has been gravely menaced by a Communist conspiracy. It is a conspiracy in which a Communist faction has been exploiting the natural feelings of the people and has been conducting a course which would be susceptible of other explanation were it not for the motives and pattern behind it. There have long been murmurs about communism at the University of Melbourne. The Sydney “ Bulletin “ brought the matter to a head on 12th April when it published a letter from Professor Crawford of that university. It is worth while reminding honorable members that Professor Crawford is a man with great experience of the Communist Party. I am not saying that he is or was a member of the Communist Party. He has been associated with it. For example, I think he was president of Australia-Soviet House in Melbourne. He is not without experience of the way in which Communists go on. I shall quote extracts from his letter. After stating that there were two sets of questions, he said -
The first is whether freedom of opinion in Australian universities is in some way restricted by Right-wing pressures. In all the Australian universities known to me, and that is the majority, the answer is certainly no.
He then went on to the second question, concerning the behaviour of Communist Party members and whether academic selection committees may justly take party membership into consideration. He answered that question generally in the affirmative, but with some qualification. In the course of his answer he stated -
I have in recent years seen a dissident group, which I believed to be Communist-led and to have used the known tactis of fractional politics, attempt to drive the heads of two small departments and those loyal to them either into acquiescing in the faction’s control of departmental policy, or even into resigning and leaving the field clear.
This is not my allegation. This is the allegation publicly made by Professor Crawford. Subsequently, on 19th April, the Sydney “ Bulletin “ published details of the incidents to which Professor Crawford referred’. This was written by Mr. Home, the editor of the “ Bulletin “. I shall not traverse it in detail. The allegations are allegations of fact. If they are substantiated, they prove that there was such a Communist faction at work inside the university. The article includes allegations that one member of the staff was compelled to leave an organization called the National Council of Women because of the disapproval expressed. Her own activities were being circumscribed because they were inimical to members of the Communist Party. The article includes the allegation that documents had to be put away in a safe to prevent their being stolen by Communist Party members. Indeed, the story is right throughout the university now - it is known to hundreds of people at the university - that it is alleged that on three or four occasions documents inimical to communism were stolen from university safes. Various other things are stated in this article.
I shall not attempt to go through the full story. It refers to Miss A, Mr. B and Miss C. There is no point in concealing these names. From the descriptions given, the people concerned are known to everybody at the university. Miss A is Associate! Professor Ruth Hoban, who, in her private life is Mrs. Crawford, the wife of Professor Crawford. Mr. B is Geoffrey Sharp, a man who is definitely a Communist, by reason of his published material and by reason of his activities in Prague, for example. There is scarcely any doubt that Mr. Sharp is a Communist operative. The Miss C referred to is Miss Alice Hyde. I believe that members of the House should read this article and that the public should also read it. I shall not traverse it in detail. The allegations - I do not know of my own knowledge whether they are right or wrong - are very serious allegations and they are backed in point of fact by the implied authority of Professor Crawford.
– Why does not Sir Garfield Barwick take action?
– The honorable member anticipates the point that I am endeavouring to come to. If he possesses his soul in patience, I shall come to it in due course. To-day further allegations were published in the Sydney “ Bulletin “ and again these were of a serious nature. They were to the effect that a Communist faction was endeavouring to penetrate the Department of Criminology in the University of Melbourne and to get access to police records and particulars of prison practices inside the State of Victoria. This again would be right on the Communist Party line. It is known, for example, as this article states, that Communists endeavour to infiltrate what they call the punitive organs of the capitalist state.
– Why did these things appear in a Sydney gossip sheet?
– This is not only gossip, because, as I say, it rests on the authority of Professor Crawford. Let me tell the story, if I may. The other thing that happened to-day was that a Mr. Turner, who happens to be the husband of the person referred to as Miss D in the Department of Criminology, circulated a quite extraordinary document in the university. I have it here. It seems to have been aimed at diverting the university from making any public inquiry into these matters. It refers, in terms which I can scarcely describe as other than blackmailing terms, to the possible consequences of such an inquiry. I shall read an extract from it -
Such an inquiry would be still more destructive than a court case. Many academics would be subject to a more gruelling experience than any they have hitherto experienced. From a long-term view, with which most of us are concerned, it would have widespread and unfortunate results in worsening personal relations within the university and in withering many a reputation - not only those of persons within the department itself but also those of other persons associated more remotely with incidents in the department. From one side or another every human weakness, big or little, would tend to be exposed. Few people can survive with dignity the experience of being subjected, in the sight of their own community, to a merciless examination of their attributes and their past records - their rigidity, their ineptitude, their vacillations, their obtuseness, their lack of objectivity, their laziness, their lack of humour, their pomposity and self-satisfaction, perhaps their cowardice and their dishonesty, their pettiness and malice.
These are practically blackmailing terms, used to ride the university off any inquiry.
This document ends with a plea for whitewashing without inquiry. We know that Professor Crawford is at the present moment a very sick man. We know that Communist pressures are being brought to bear on him and his wife to ride them off.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have had a tirade from the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in relation to bis Communist phobia. He has talked about where there are Communists and where there are not. I think that we can dismiss them, because I have a serious question to discuss, relating to the employment in this country of artists, cartoonists -and others. If honorable members read their newspapers in the morning, and if their wives, children and friends read their newspapers in the morning, they hope to have not only the news but the idiom of Australia represented to them by the cartoonists and by other Australians who are employed as creative artists by those newspapers. To-day, because of the incidence of syndication and the cheapness of overseas rubbish, the Australian cartoonists, creative artists and commercial artists are losing their jobs. While we have perhaps 80,000 or 100,000 unemployed Australians, we should look at the sort of pabulum that is served to us. As a federal Parliament, we should look at the mass media that comes to this country. What do we get? We get the Joe Palookas and the 101 other Americanisms. Since they are clever, entertaining, amusing and whimsical they have a place in mass media and journalism. But we should be careful that we have not. crushed the creative urge of Australian artists, cartoonists and others who create in the minds of the Australian an Australian way of life.
I have been asked by the federal executive of the Australian Journalists Association to issue a warning to this Parliament that we should have consideration for the employment of Australian artists and cartoonists. What sort of a spirit have we when United Kingdom comedy, United States comedy and bodgie stuff is slopped into this country and we gobble it up? I think not so much of adults as of the children and the juveniles who are loosely called teenagers. The East Sydney Technical
College provides some of the best art training in Australia. From it 50 students recently graduated. Only two of them have jobs, because the syndicalists - those who want to import cheap and nasty American comics - have robbed the Australian of a great medium of artistic expression.
Let me take honorable members back to the era of “Smith’s Weekly” and of the “ Bulletin “ in its heyday. In the days of Low, in the days of “ Hop “, in the days of Cecil Hartt, in the days of Stan Cross and a dozen other Australian artists humour was created for us which was distinctly Australian and of our own soil. It was something to laugh at and something that we understood. What do we get to-day? We get a sort of rubbishy syndication which has no relation to our own country nor to our own idiom. I plead to-night for an opportunity for the employment of Australian artists. They are a queer group. Australian cartoonists and Australian writers of comic strips are not regimented. I would say that the political allegiance of many of them was unpredictable but surely, theirs was the peculiar genius and application that ought to be in the mass entertainment media of this country.
Much of the material that comes from America and the United Kingdom is cheap and nasty and I plead to-night, for a quota for the cartoonists and artists of this country. You might impose that quota in order to meet a spiritual desire to see something of our own country, something of the Australian idiom, something of the laughter and beauty and terror of this land of ours so that you can laugh and say, “That is right.” If it is a knock against the Labour Party or against the Liberal Party what does it matter, so long as it is something Australian and a more vital comment? The deadpan westerns, the Joe Palookas and the 101 other strips that represent the American idiom are not for us.
There is no party political argument in this. I merely say that surely, now that we are approaching the 200th year of Australian sovereignty, we should have some representation of our own country in our newspapers. Australia is continuing to lose its greatest artists, commericial artists and cartoonists who are going abroad because of the lack of opportunity in this country.
Imported comic strips are being extensively used. The “ Daily Telegraph “ happens to be my particular bete noire but it will serve as an illustration. It spends £200 a week in buying Yankee material. There is nothing wrong with the American sense of humour but it is not our idiom, it is not our feeling and it is not Australian. We have to do something about this.
What happens to our artists? Last week a number of artists came to my office in Sydney to discuss the situation. They included Mr. Hanna, Mr. Beck and Mr. Sprod who has a job with “ Punch “ in London - the acme and essence of democratic humor. But he could not get a job in Sydney. Nobody would employ him. Why do we export our brains in this way? We have Mr. Romain, Mr. Horner and Mr. Pieremont and a dozen others whose names come to my mind. What a waste that we should sack these fellows because the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, or the “ Daily Telegraph “ or the Melbourne “ Age “ decides to buy syndicated material. I have no barriers against art work wherever it comes from. If it is humour of the type of Arno of the “ New Yorker ** and is clever and subtle, good luck to it. Let it come in. I never approved of the censorship of “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. It made us look ridiculous. I do not want to dwell on that subject except to suggest that honorable members should look in the Library and read the “ Memoires of Hecate County “. They will see there something infinitely worse than “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover “. But D. H. Lawrence was an artist and it makes us fee] sick when the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senatory Henty) who I understand is a Tasmanian crockery merchant decides to censor “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover “. All we get from cultured people around the world is a horse laugh. But in addition to this, we prescribe and dismiss our clever men and cartoonists and writers.
The Parliament must be seized of its duty in this matter. We are the voice of the Australian people. If an American, an Englishman or an Asian comes to this country, he asks what makes us tick and be real. He asks what we have that does not exist in other countries of the world. He asks, “Where is your literature, where is your art, where is your idiom, where is your ethos? “ Are we so miserable that we can have nothing? Have we imposed on ourselves a sort of colonialism, thinking that all is right as long as we can get what we want overseas?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I had some sympathy for the case presented by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but he took away some of that sympathy with his description of D. H. Lawrence as an artist. However, I do not want to dispute that assertion with the honorable gentleman now. I want to advert to the matter raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) but before I do so may I say this to the honorable member for Parkes. While I share his sympathy for the circumstances of the Australian writer and artist, how on earth can a Parliament legislate to force newspapers throughout the country to use Australian material?
The honorable gentleman has long pushed the barrow of Australian background material for television. A lot of that material simply does not go over. That is not only my opinion; it is an opinion based on the ratings supplied to television stations. Let me give the honorable gentleman one example. On Sunday evening in Brisbane we have a film called “Time to Remember”, which I believe is produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. I think that it is an excellently produced film. It is instructive and it brings back a host of memories to a wide range of people.
That particular programme, at the time it is presented, has a rating approximating four. At the same time as that programme is being presented, there are two other programmes, one being a psycho drama, produced in America, which has a rating of from 30 to 40. And so it goes on. It is one thing to say that you have sympathy for the position of the Australian writer and the Australian artist and all the other people who are ancillary to the world of entertainment, but it is an entirely different problem to cultivate the Australian mind to accept Australian material.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I want to return to what the honorable member for Mackellar had to say. The honorable member for Parkes cannot dismiss the comments of the honorable member by describing them as a tirade and an expression of his phobias. The subject that the honorable member for Mackellar has raised this evening is a very serious one indeed. It very properly should concern every person in this Parliament. To say that the allegations which have appeared in the Sydney “ Bulletin “ are disturbing would be to put it very mildly. The allegations are most disturbing. Strangely enough, they have a connexion with something that I had to say on 12th March, 1958.
In the second last “ Bulletin “ article, dealing with the University of Melbourne, reference is made to a Mr. B. I do not know who Mr. B is. We may form our own conclusions; but an allegation is made concerning him. He is described as a lecturer in economics from the University of Melbourne, and he was so described by a Czechoslovakian newspaper known as “ Plzenske Noviny “. Mr. B happened to be in Czechoslovakia and conducted lectures throughout that country. The effect of his lectures was to present to the people of Czechoslovakia a monstrously distorted picture of Australia. For example, he said that Australia was better off than other capitalist countries because of the good work of the Communist Party, in cooperation with the Labour Party. Does that please honorable gentlemen opposite?
Honorable members may wonder why Mr. B happened to be referred to in that particular Czechoslovakian newspaper. The facts are simply stated. The Communist Government of Czechoslovakia has for some time been conducting a campaign designed to attract back to Czechoslovakia Czech refugees who have come to this country. Mr. B fitted into the pattern of this campaign being conducted in Czechoslovakia. What he said in Czechoslovakia was reported in the newspaperthat I have mentioned, and a cutting from that newspaper was sent, together with a letter, to a Czech migrant living in. Western Australia.
The tie-up with my statements of 12th March, 1958, is as follows. On that occasion I directed the attention of the House to a book writen by, or alleged to have been written by, a Czech by the name of Bures, who came to this country for the Olympic Games. The title of the book was “ We Meet under the Southern Cross “. Amongst other things in it, the author stated -
The short Australian history is full of cruel human tragedies. One of them is the fact of imported white slaves from the refugee camps in Western Europe.
Honorable members may remember that he went on to describe the then Leader of the Opposition as a progressive man. It is interesting that statements in the book “ We Meet under the Southern Cross “, which was printed and published in Czechoslovakia and banned for purposes of export to this country, bear a remarkable similarity to the line of argument followed by Mr. B, who is alleged to have been a lecturer in economics at the University of Melbourne and who lectured in Czechoslovakia on life in Australia.
I should have thought that whatever the range of political differences that may exist in university circles, at least every one would have one thing in common, namely, recognition of the old principle that great is truth and mighty above all things. If it is a fact that a lecturer from the University of Melbourne went to Czechoslovakia and presented to the people of that country a monstrously distorted picture of life in Australia, nothing short of a public inquiry into the whole range of allegations should be made. After all, this Parliament contributes a great deal of money to university life throughout Australia. Because of miserable things of the kind 1 have mentioned, genuine academic freedom can be restricted. It is particularly noticeable that the anti-anti-Communists have shown great anxiety to hush up the allegations that were triggered off by Professor Crawford and which have continued. I earnestly support the appeal made by the honorable member for Mackellar for a public inquiry into the allgations.
Motion (by Mr. Pearce) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 3rd May, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) asked a question in the following terms: -
I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question regarding the setting up of United Nations centres in New Guinea. The resolution to set up these centres was sponsored by Burma and was carried in the General Assembly of the United Nations by 70 votes to nil with eight abstentions.
Will the Prime Minister say how Australia voted?
If Australia abstained, what was the reason for this?
I now furnish the following information in answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
t asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Is anything known of any Australian organization supporting the American Nazi Party and circulating by post anti-Semitic propaganda in this country?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is not possible to say whether there is an Australian organization which precisely fits this description. The Australian Workers Nationalist Party, which is insignificant in membership and influence, was reported to have invited the selfstyled leader of the American Nazi Party to Australia in January, 1961. Although there have been no reports that this party has distributed its own anti-Semitic literature, there are instances where overseas anti-Semitic literature has been distributed stamped with the party’s name.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610504_reps_23_hor31/>.