23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CALWELL presented a petition from certain electors of New South Wales praying that the House will take immediate steps to implement the following programme: -
Petition received and read.
– During question-time yesterday I was asked about the receipt of protests relating to the resumption of nuclear tests by the Soviet Union. I said I did not recall having received protests from honorable members opposite. An interjection by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) put me on inquiry about the matter, and I therefore think it proper to say that on 13th September the honorable member did forward to me a letter ofprotest signed by a number of eminent citizens, and also by himself as the first signatory, and that he also sent a personal letter to me associating himself fully with the protest. I say this so that the record may be clear. One of the signatories is the honorable member for Yarra.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. What action does he propose to take on the request of the 28 archbishops and bishops of the
Church of England in Australia, whomet last week in conference in New South Wales, for special financial assistance to that Church to enable it to help the unemployed, many of whom are in serious want? Will the request meet with any better fate than that of a similar request for much the same purpose made by the heads of ten denominations in Victoria about four weeks ago?
– The financial provision being made by the Government was expressly stated in the Budget, and the Estimates arising from the Budget are at present under consideration. I would not have the honorable member believe that we change our policy because of particular representations on a problem to which we have already given a great deal of close and sympathetic attention.
– I wish to address a question to the Prime Minister as Acting Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth cash loan of £40,000,000 has been oversubscribed by £33,500,000? Does this indicate that the peak of high interest rates may now have been reached? Is this further vindication of the Government’s economic policy? Does this hold out some hope that, if present tendencies continue, the Government may be able in future to finance its capital works out of loan funds instead of from revenue as in the past?
– The result of the cash loan was, as the honorable member points out, very satisfactory, there being an oversubscription of £33,500,000. That, of course, is in itself a very good sign, and it holds out prospects of a downward pressure on the long-term and medium-term bond rates. It is to be remembered, however, that there was also a conversion loan and that the volume of redemptions is pretty high. There was still a very handsome net return on the cash loan, but the amount of money for redemption is not yet clear because a number of people have not disclosed their minds on it. The redemptions will probably be of the order of something over £40,000,000 which, of course, will be a contra-entry to the over-subscription on the cash side. At the same time, the honorable member is quite right. The success of the cash loan indicates a state of affairs in which we may hope for a downward pressure on interest rates and, indeed, for greater success in getting in loan moneys. That, of course, will be of help in the direction to which he referred.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Has he received, through His Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory, further representations from citizens of Darwin seeking a review of deportation orders against two Malays who are due to leave shortly for their homeland? Can the Minister state whether a final decision has been made in this case?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. Two days ago, I received from the Administrator of the Northern Territory a telegram the context of which was as the honorable gentleman has intimated. Three weeks ago, we discussed this matter on two occasions in this Parliament, I think fairly fully. All that I can say to him now is that I have arranged for the deportations to proceed, and I hope that within a very short time these two Malays will be returned to their own country.
– 1 address my question to the Prime Minister. It is understood that the Netherlands Government has offered to hand over West New Guinea to the control of the United Nations under guarantee of the right of self-determination being given to the people of West Irian. Has the Australian Government considered this offer? If so. has it come to any decision regarding details of the proposal? If it has. what is the decision? Has the Prime Minister any information relating to the attitude of the Indonesian Government to the constructive proposal which has been advanced by the Netherlands Government?
– We know, of course, the terms of the speech which was made by the Netherlands Foreign Minister. It did not include any formal resolution, but it did outline a programme which was designed to lead up to self-determination for the people of West New Guinea, after a period in which the administration which the Netherlands suggested might be under the general authority of an international body, but with the Dutch themselves continuing to participate and to find the money that they have been finding amounting to about 30,000,000 dollars a year. This proposal is associated with a suggestion that the United Nations should send a commission to West New Guinea to investigate the problem there, to report on the prospects and, perhaps, to lay down in a general way a timetable to be followed in achieving self-determination. We think that this is a very constructive proposal.
Of course, we, in common with other people, will have the opportunity to discuss the form of any particular resolution. As every one knows, we are ourselves deeply attached to the principle of selfdetermination, which we regard as a vital ingredient in what the Netherlands Foreign Minister has said. Australia’s representative at the United Nations, Mr. Plimsoll, made a statement yesterday in terms which have been reported accurately in the cables. If honorable members so desire, I can have it circulated for their information.
The honorable member for Isaacs has asked me what Indonesia’s reply is likely to be. It is very difficult for me to speak dogmatically on this, but I could make a good guess. The guess would be that Indonesia, having all along the line rejected the principle of self-determination for West New Guinea, is quite likely to maintain that position. Honorable members will realize that Indonesia’s argument is that this is not a case in which the question of selfdetermination can arise because she claims that West New Guinea is part of Indonesia and therefore nothing is left to argue about. Outsiders are not to ask for selfdetermination for West New Guinea, according to Indonesia, any more than they are to ask for self-determination for Java, Sumatra, the Celebes or any other part of Indonesia’s territory. That is Indonesia’s argument. From first to last we have said, “ Selfdetermination for these people “. That is where we stand.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by stating that Sir Philip McBride, president of the Liberal Party, recently stated that constant employment at good wages should be available to all who were willing and able to work. Having regard to the fact that there are 110,000 registered unemployed in Australia, I ask the Minister how he reconciles that position with the statement that was made by the Prime Minister in a broadcast on 8th June, when he said -
While admitting that there is a little unemployment and some loss of confidence, is this too great a price to pay for controlling our overseas funds and controlling inflation.
– The Opposition seems determined to continue to try to compare incomparables. There is no direct relationship between the statement made by the Prime Minister and the statement made by the president of the Liberal Party. I think that the Prime Minister summed up the problem very well when he stated at the Liberal Party meeting that our main difficulty in looking at this problem is that of the individual and of his dignity and welfare. If one man able and willing to work is out of work, that is a matter of great regret to us and a matter in which we have a very deep personal interest.
Having said that, 1 should mention that the action taken by the Government both before and through the Budget was designed to ensure that our objective of full employment would be achieved to the greatest practicable limit. Last month, there was an improvement in the employment figures. If we leave out temporary problems such as those at Mount Isa and General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and the seasonal position in the meat industry in Queensland, we will find that the longterm trend continues to be favorable. I think that answers the honorable gentleman’s question. We are very sensitive to this problem of individual registrants for employment, and we will continue to do all we can to maintain a high and effective level of employment.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. As wheat-growers must enter into long-range financial commitments, will the Minister, as soon as possible, announce the amount of the first advance on wheat deliveries from the 1961-62 harvest? Will he also regard as extremely important the need for the first advance to be paid in one instalment and to be not less than the combined amount of the first two payments received by wheat-growers for the 1960-61 deliveries?
– I have taken preliminary action on this matter. I have already asked the Australian Wheat Board to give me its firm estimate of the crop so that I may prepare for consideration by the Government a submission on the amount of the first advance. When that is done, steps will need to be taken to make arrangements with the bank.
Purchase of Side Drums
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Supply, ls it a fact that an order was given recently for 317 side or marching drums for the Army, valued at £6,000? Why were tenders called only in the Sydney and Melbourne press? Why was no advertisement inserted in the Brisbane press? Is it a fact that the contract was let to an English company? Is it also a fact that the Dandy Drum Company of Brisbane has announced that it could have made the drums quicker and cheaper than they could be made elsewhere? Why this discrimination against Queensland?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. As to tenders not being called in Queensland, 1 point out that for a considerable number of years the main sources of supply of musical instruments in Australia have been Melbourne and Sydney. On this occasion, a tender form was sent to the agents of the Dandy Drum Company in both Sydney and Melbourne, and they expressed the belief that this company was unable to supply the requirement.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister outline the position at the moment in regard to the industrial dispute at Mount Isa? If the dispute continues, when is the effect of it likely to be felt by employees at the copper refineries and wharfs at Townsville, and at other places in Queensland such as Collinsville?
– The unions associated with the Mount Isa works have made a claim for an increase in the lead bonus of from £8 to £25 a week. When this claim was refused, they decided to take strike action to have their demands met. At the same time, they imposed an overtime ban. As a result, the company claimed that, because of lack of production of ore, it could not continue to run the works efficiently and satisfactorily. For this reason, the works were closed. Yesterday, the matter was considered in consultation before a conciliation commissioner, but the parties were unable to agree. The commissioner decided that no lock-out had taken place. I cannot make any comment other than this: I hope that the parties will look at this matter in terms of their national and local responsibilities and I hope further that a decision will quickly be made to go back to work. Yesterday’s conference was stood over until, I think, 2nd October for further consideration. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question relating to the effect upon the refineries, I think there is no doubt at all that unless the men go back to work - or unless the works are opened, if I may put it that way - there must be very quick effects at Townsville and other places.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Since the right honorable gentleman has described as constructive the Dutch proposal that the United Nations should superintend the transfer to self-government of West New Guinea is it now the intention of the Government to make a similar proposal to the United Nations in respect of Papua?
- Mr. Speaker, that, I must say, is a very remarkable question. It must astonish the Leader of the Opposition himself. Is not the honorable member aware of the fact that we administer our trust Territory under the Trusteeship Council, and that that is one of the agencies of the United Nations itself? Is he not aware of the fact that we have, by a perfectly voluntary action, associated both our trust Territory and the other area in one general scheme of administration? And is he not aware of the fact that we have, from first to last, and I think with the great approval of all members of this House, stated that in respect of both our Territory and the trust Territory the objective is selfdetermination after an adequate preparation of the native population to exercise that right?
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received a report submitting suggestions on the fourth phase of television services extension? If so, will this report be made available for perusal by members of this House? Can the Postmaster-General say when a national television station will be established in decentralized, but highly productive, north-western Victoria?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, the report referred to by the honorable member for Mallee has recently been received by me - very recently, as a matter of fact, since I received it only yesterday. After I have had a look at it myself it will, of course, be referred to Cabinet for discussion and decision. Until such time as a decision is made I cannot tell the honorable member when and where the stations in the fourth phase will be established, but no time will be lost.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works: In relation to tenders for the new Reserve Bank head-quarters in Sydney was any performance bond lodged by any of the tenderers, including the successful tenderer? Was such a bond a requirement in the contract?
– The actual terms of the contract were decided by the Reserve Bank of Australia and I do not know the details. I imagine that what the honorable member mentions would be a usual clause in a contract.
– I address ray question to the Minister for Trade. There is a grow ing concern in the community over the drain upon Australia’s overseas reserves as a result of the repatriation of profits and dividends by overseas investors in this country. Will the Minister consider proposals that all or, at least, a proportion of these profits be repatriated in the form of Australian-made goods?
– This matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Treasurer, but I am perfectly sure that adoption of the honorable gentleman’s suggestion would not be in Australia’s interest.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the honorable member for New England has made constant representations on behalf of the navy bean growers of the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales? Is it also a fact that on his own initiative he referred this matter to the Tariff Board, and that it has been before the board for some time? In view of the fact that the planting season will shortly be in full swing and preparations must be made for planting, will the Minister inform the House whether any decision favorable to the future planting of the beans might be given so that the farmers, and those concerned with the Navy Bean Marketing Board which has its headquarters in Guyra, might proceed satisfactorily with their arrangements?
– I can confirm that the honorable member for New England has been indefatigable in making representations to me in the interests of the navy bean growers of his electorate and of Australia generally. As a result of his representations, this issue was referred to the Tariff Board. I understand that the board has concluded its hearings but the report has not yet come to the Government. I can assure the honorable member that there will be no delay whatever in the Government’s dealing with the report of the board just as soon as we have received it; but my recollection is that when the Tariff Board hearing was held, the New South Wales Navy Bean Board did not proffer evidence whereas the Queensland Navy Bean Board did proffer evidence.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the growers’ contributions to the Wheat Stabilization Fund since1 its establishment have been adequate up to the present to meet all calls upon the fund? Is it a fact that the resources of the fund are now so depleted that the Commonwealth Government will be required to contribute between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000 to meet the calls in respect of No. 23 pool and will also have to supplement the1 fund to meet the payments from the No. 24 pool? If this is the insolvent state of the Wheat Stabilization Fund, will the Minister state whether it is a fact that the wheat sold to China was sold at a price below the declared Australian cost of production, and that the1 loss sustained will be met from the fund which in turn will be subsidized by the Government, so that in the final analysis, the loss will be met from taxation levied upon the Australian community? Can it be assumed, therefore, that the Government has now changed its policy of hostility to China to one of aid to that country?
– The honorable member’s question is quite comprehensive. What I do remember is that the wheat stabilization scheme, as designed by the government in which the honorable member was a Minister, provided that the return to growers would be such as to give them £6 10s. a week wages for more than a 50-hour week. That was the1 consideration for the Australian wheat-growers shown by the honorable member for East Sydney when he held ministerial responsibility. I am glad to say that when this Government came to office, it arranged a much more reasonable and appropriate stabilization scheme under which the contributions by the growers, until quite recently, have been adequate to cover the guarantees, but within the terms of the legislation for which the honorable member for East Sydney voted, my memory reminds me, more than once. There is now a situation in which the Australian taxpayers may, and indeed will, bp required to make a contribution as provided in the Budget this year as an offset to the fact that for 10 or 12 years the wheat-growers have supplied the Australian community with wheat at prices less than they could have obtained had they exported it overseas. In respect of the price paid by Communist China, could I appeal to the honorable member for East Sydney to make representations to his friends to give us a better price?
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has he had any formal request from the Queensland State Government to establish a C.S.I.R.O. branch at Townsville to investigate north Queensland plant and animal problems, which it can do so much to solve? Can the honorable gentleman indicate when the C.S.I.R.O. is likely to establish a branch at Townsville on land which it already owns there, to look into the many problems in north Queensland?
– I have not had a formal request from the Premier of Queensland for a specific operation which would involve expenditure of Commonwealth funds, but I have no doubt that if the Premier of Queensland had such a thing in mind he would communicate direct with the Prime Minister. What he has done is to write to me as Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O. asking, in general terms, what assistance the organization could provide towards the Queensland Government’s own plans for the expansion and development of the pastoral industry generally and in particular the beef cattle industry. 1 have replied to the Premier, outlining for him what the C.S.I.R.O. is already doing in this regard in Queensland; namely, that it has a pasture research laboratory at St. Lucia in Brisbane, from which its research and work radiate out into other parts of Queensland, and that there is a large cattle research station of about 7,000 acres at Belmont, near Rockhampton, which supplements the work that is being done. Also, the plans of the C.S.I.R.O. envisage, as a third stage the establishment of a laboratory and other research establishments at Townsville, adjacent to the new university which is being developed there. This is a project of considerable magnitude, but is regarded by the organization as one of immense importance to the development of the cattle and pastoral industries in general, not only in north Queensland but also in north Australia generally. It will be pursued by the organization as soon as funds, personnel and resources are available. The honorable gentleman will realize that the preliminary steps have already been taken, but that as it is a large project I cannot give him a definite date upon which it will be brought to completion.
– My question to the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Acting Treasurer, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Sturt. Is it a fact that in the overall result, the recent £40,000,000 cash loan and the £147,900,000 conversion loan have not been the success which the Government had hoped they would be? Will he explain where the funds are to come from to meet the amount of £37,600,000 which bondholders have redeemed, or what is to be done to make good the £12,500,000 about which bond-holders are still undecided? In other words, has the Government been ringing the changes in this instance for electoral purposes? Alternatively, if the loan has been the success that the honorable gentleman claims it to have been, will he immediately supply more funds to all States for the relief of unemployment?
– That the cash loan was a resounding success cannot be doubted, and I would have thought that al! honorable members would have got some satisfaction out of that. The loan was raised in accordance with the loan works programme arranged with the States at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council. That loan programme exceeded the estimate that was made for probable loan raisings and that has involved the Commonwealth in finding the difference - the short-fall - out of the Budget. Honorable members will realize that that was one of the problems in the Budget, as indeed it has been over the last ten years, ever since the Commonwealth began, in the time of this Government, to subsidize the works programmes of the States by finding the short-fall that the loan market did not provide. The more money we can get from the loan market on these raisings, the better pleased we all will be because that success will help us to justify, in result, the rather optimistic estimate of loan raisings that is given in the Budget.
The honorable member is in somewhat of a dilemma here because iti one breath he suggests that the loan was a failure because there was a number of redemptions, and in the next breath he says, “ What about blowing up the excess by altering the Budget? “ 1 am very delighted to announce the results of the loan because it shows that the estimate of loan raisings made in the Budget is likely to be found correct.
– I address to the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Acting Treasurer, a question related to that asked by the honorable member for Sturt concerning the heavy subscriptions to the recent Commonwealth loan. He suggested that the success achieved might result in a lowering of interest rates. Could the Acting Treasurer give the matter of the lowering of bank interest rates his close attention with a view to giving an added boost to the timber and plywood industries? I mention these two industries because they are experiencing difficult times owing to the present heavy build-up of stocks, and it is only by boosting demand that their problem can be solved.
– 1 can assure the honorable member that the question of interest rates is constantly under discussion, first, of course, in the Reserve Bank itself, secondly, with the Treasury, and thirdly, between the two. The significance of the matter, of course, is very well understood.
One of the advantages of having a healthy loan market, as the honorable member knows, is that the upward pressure on the bond rate of interest falls away and, if there is substantial over-subscription, you can in fact develop a series of pressures which will enable you to reduce the longterm bond rate, and that is something we have always looked for. I believe that the last loan encourages a moderate feeling of optimism with respect to that problem. 1 can assure him that we are thinking about it daily.
– 1 preface a question addressed to the Minister for Trade by saying that as from next Monday 408 employees in the viscose spinning and tire yarn processing section of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, of Newcastle, will be placed on a four-day week, that 100 employees in the acetate section have been on a four-day week since April, and that the total number of employees has fallen from 1,550 to 1,150 since April. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the company’s statement that the unemployment and short-time employment have been brought about as a result of the Government’s credit squeeze on the automotive and textile industries, and the lifting of import controls which has permitted the importation of tires and textiles from overseas. Will he grant an emergency hearing by the Tariff Board, as suggested by this company, so that full employment may be restored in this important industry?
– I have not seen the statement which the honorable member, no doubt correctly, alleges was made. I do not challenge his assertion that it was made by this company. All I can say is that whatever unemployment there is in Australia would be much worse if the economy were not preserved on a sound and healthy basis. The policies of this Government are designed deliberately to keep employment on a stable basis. As to granting the company temporary duty relief for its products, I can tell the honorable member that if the industry applies to me, as Minister for Trade, in the normal mariner, its application will receive very prompt consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Has there been any significant increase in the movement of cattle by road transport during this year from the Northern Territory, both to Queensland and to South Australia? I further ask whether there is any prospect of killing works being established in Darwin in the future.
– During the last few years there has been quite a dramatic increase in the number of cattle being transported by road in the Northern Territory. I think one can sum up the position by saying that whereas in some other parts of northern Australia road transport is still talked of as a prospective way of shifting cattle, in the Northern Territory, both in the’ centre and on the Barkly Tableland and the Victoria River area, it has become the customary and established way of transporting cattle. Tens of thousands of cattle are being moved by road every season. I do not have in my mind the figures for the current droving season, but 1 may mention as a matter of interest that the full value of road transport has been demonstrated this year, when drought conditions have struck the centre and road transport has been used to shift cattle to the railhead for agistment on southern Australian pastures. Whereas in former years cattle in drought seasons stayed on the run until they were too weak to walk, and probably died on the run or died when attempts were made to walk them Out, this year, with a Government subsidy on freight, many drought-stricken cattle have been moved by road to the railhead and by rail to southern pastures for agistment. One trusts that when the1 drought conditions are over they will be moved back into the Northern Territory by rail and road and returned to the stations from which they came.
As to the abattoirs in Darwin, the position is that abattoirs legislation has been passed, land has been set aside for abattoirs and we are very hopeful, as a result of inquiries we have received, that substantial interests will themselves come in and invest in abattoirs in the Darwin area, possibly starting with abattoirs for local killing, with an export annexe, and gradually developing into substantial works.
MEDICAL SERVICES IN THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY. Mr. J. R. FRASER. - I ask the Minister for Health: Will he give further sympathetic consideration to the problems faced by certain residents of the Australian Capital
Territory who, suffering from major diseases of one kind or another, must travel at regular times either to Sydney or to Melbourne to receive deep ray therapy or other treatment that is not available at the Canberra Community Hospital? Does the Minister realize that these people do not have available to them the sources of assistance that are provided by State governments or State governmental agencies? Does the Minister have any authority to provide assistance for these people at his discretion? Does he also realize that they can receive no assistance by way of income tax deductions or through medical benefits schemes? Further, does he realize that people suffering from grave illnesses may be unable to receive corrective treatment because of inability to provide money for fares to and from Sydney or Melbourne? I know that the Minister has had other questions addressed to him on this matter, but I ask him to have another look at it. Is there any way in which he can assist individual cases if I put them to him?
– This problem is similar to one which arises from time to time in the Northern Territory, where we have taken reasonable steps to overcome it. If the honorable gentleman has specific cases to put to me I will, of course, consider them. I will also have a general look at the problem that he has raised.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that about 90 per cent, of Australia’s raw cotton requirement is imported? Is it desirable that the production of cotton in Australia be substantially increased? If so, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Primary Industry and other appropriate Ministers with a view to submitting to Cabinet a plan designed further to encourage cotton production in Australia?
– It has been the policy of this Government from the outset to encourage the production of cotton in Australia. Indeed, the Government has introduced to the Parliament at regular intervals, and the Parliament has approved, legislation for payment of a bounty on the production of raw cotton. This policy is resulting in progressive increases in cotton production in this country. I hear my colleague from Capricornia saying “ Hear, hear! “ I know that a great deal of cotton is being grown in his electorate, but I also know that the cotton industry is developing in the electorate of Mallee. It will be interesting to watch competition developing. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, tells me that a further report addressed to him, and, through him, to the Government, on the prospects of further expansion of the cotton industry, is at present being prepared, and I believe the interim report is expected in the near future.
– I move -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) on the grounds of public business overseas.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule out of order any questions concerning the restoration of the Post Office clock in Sydney during the honorable member’s absence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition 1 bring to the notice of the House what we of the Opposition regard as an attempted infringement of the rights of this chamber in the control of money bills, and what we believe to be a violation of the spirit, if not of the letter, of the Constitution by certain proceedings which are now being conducted in the Senate. I direct the attention of the House to certain parts of section 53 of the Constitution, which contains the following provisions: -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. . . .
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
Section 56 of the Constitution states -
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
In our view, therefore, the obvious intention of the founders of our federation was that the right to initiate money bills, and the power to control expenditure, were to rest with the House of Representatives, because only this House has the power to make or unmake governments.
During this week, the House has resolved itself each day into the Committee of Supply - a committee of the whole - to deal with the Estimates. The Senate, by adopting a new procedure which we think is unconstitutional, is debating the same Estimates simultaneously with this House. But the Senate is not doing that because of the receipt of any message from the Governor-General or because it has before it any bill passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate is acting on a resolution which it has presumed to pass as if its powers were equal with those of the House of Representatives in all respects where money bills are concerned. The resolution which the Senate passed reads as follows: -
That the Senate will resolve itself forthwith into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, and the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, with the exception of Estimates of Special Appropriations and of Expenditure from Loan Fund.
Senator Spooner, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, cannot be excused for not knowing that message No. 25 from the Governor-General to this House reads -
In accordance with the requirements of Section fifty-six of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Governor-General transmits to the House of Representatives Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-two and recommends an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund accordingly.
In the view of the Opposition, it is not ignorance but presumption and the desire to usurp the functions of this House which impelled Senator Spooner to proceed in the way about which I complain to-day. i should like to digress briefly, Sir, to say that upper houses or chambers of review, by whatever name second chambers are known, are with few exceptions, the most notable of which is the United States Senate, denied any right to reject, or amend, or send any messages to the lower houses to consider, money bills at all. lt is also safe to say, I think, that the British Parliament Act of 1911, which formally deprived the House of Lords of any power to deal with money bills, merely gave legal sanction to a convention which had existed for 30 years previously, and to a situation which went back to the days of the Stuarts. Maitland’s “ The Constitutional History of England “ deals with that. I feel justified in saying, too, on behalf of the Opposition, that had this feeling in the United Kingdom been more generally recognized at the time when our federation was formed, the powers which the Senate now possesses might have been curtailed by our Constitution. I make this observation merely to show that Government leaders in the Senate are trying to reverse the trend of history in order to make the Senate more important than the Constitution intended, or intends, it to be in money matters, and more important than it ought to be in the context of modern history.
Two things have happened in recent years which have directed attention to the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives in money matters. The first was the presentation of a report by a senate select committee appointed to consider and report on a bill which dealt with a proposed alteration of the Constitution for the purpose of avoiding double-dissolution deadlocks. That committee, which consisted of Labour members only, recommended, among other things -
That when the circumstances have arisen that would under the broad provisions of section 57 of the Constitution justify the granting of a double dissolution, or if an ordinary Public Bill has not become law within six months - and two months in the case of what, without precise definition, we call a Money Bill - of the receipt of such Bill by the Senate from the House of Representatives, then the dispute or the Bill as the case may be should be referred to a joint sitting of the two Houses, at which the will of an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives shall, prevail.
There was also a recommendation that dealt with “ ambiguities in the present wording of section 57 (notably in connexion with the phrases ‘ fails to pass ‘ and ‘ an interval of three months ‘) “.
The second happening to which I refer was the presentation of the report of the Constitutional Review Committee to both Houses of the Parliament on 26th November, 1959. That was a joint committee appointed by this Government, too. It consisted of six Government supporters and six members of the Opposition - four senators and eight members of the House of Representatives. The committee made many recommendations, almost all of which were unanimous. In the matter of the relationship between the two Houses, it recommended alterations to the Constitution to provide for an accelerated procedure for settling differences between the Houses when deadlocks on money bills occur. This recommendation had the unanimous support of the committee. I emphasize that.
– That does not necessarily make it right, though.
– No. But it would still be right even if the honorable gentleman opposed it. This recommendation, as 1 have said, had the unanimous support of the committee, which, I remind the House, consisted of six representatives of the Government and six members of the Opposition.
Sir, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to consider just what should be done about this matter because other questions arise with respect to the working of “Hansard “ and minor matters. A constitutional issue is involved. We, at least, think so. And we think that it is worthy of attention by the House.’ In 1909. for the first time, the Senate had presented to it the Budget Papers. Before that, the Senate did not debate the Budget until the House of Representatives had finally passed the Appropriation Bill. It was only after that bill had been passed that the Senate discussed the Government’s financial measures at all. Under the procedure which has been adopted since 1909, the Senate debates the Government’s financial proposals at the same time as the House discusses the first item of the Estimates in committee. But the Senate is less than half the size of the House of Representatives. It sits for just as long as does this House and it clutters up the work of the Parliament.
Government Supporters. - Oh!
– That is our view. The more the Senate is allowed to continue in the way in which it is going by discussing the Estimates simultaneously with this House, the more the Senate will presume or try to take control of financial affairs. It may be that a conference between representatives of this chamber and the leaders of the Government parties and the Opposition party in the- Senate might find some way out of the difficulty. The executive of the Federal Labour Party felt so strongly about this, matter that it opposed the adoption of the new procedure in the Senate. If it were not for the political risks involved in- boycotting the procedure, Labour senators certainly would have absented themselves from the Senate chamber, altogether. But, if we did that, our attitude might have been misunderstood. So we are compelled to take part in a procedure which we regard as unconstitutional and quite improper. My argument may not appeal to some honorable members. But I think it is most important that the power of the purse be exercised by the only chamber that has the power to exercise it, and that the provisions of the Constitution be safeguarded at all times. I do not deny - I anticipate any observation on this question - that the policy of the Labour Party is that the Senate be abolished. If we had the power to abolish it, we would do so. If we cannot abolish it, we will give effect to the recommendation of the joint committee relating to joint sittings of both Houses so that we will not reach- the situation in which the business of the country will be held up because of disagreement over money bills, in particular, and others.
– by leave - I rise now not to commence a debate, because this is not the appropriate time, but to say that one can readily agree with much of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said about the predominant position of the lower House in financial matters. In fact, I hope that he will continue to be of that state of mind in the future.
As I understand it, what has been done in another place is to take into discussion the items of the Estimates by a procedure which has been ruled, in another place, to be correct and to come within the ambit of its Standing Orders. I do not profess to be an expert on the Standing Orders of the Senate, but clearly the procedure that has been adopted has been ruled as being in order. What the Senate does under its own Standing Orders cannot limit the powers of the Parliament or of the House of Representatives. That is quite clear. So what has been done on this occasion in the Senate as a matter of convenience and within the ambit of its Standing Orders, does not reduce the authority of this chamber in any way and does not affect the course of discussion in this chamber in any way. Therefore, I cannot understand entirely why any warmth should be engendered by the Senate’s action. Indeed. I confess to having a sneaking regard for what is in the mind of senators on both sides of the Senate. No doubt it is this: Here we are in an election year with Parliament having only four or five weeks to run. The House of Representatives is still discussing the Estimates. If the ordinary procedure were followed, the Estimates would arrive in the Senate very near the end of the sessional period and the Senate would be expected either to postpone the election by sheer force of circumstances, if it could, or face up to the facts of life and deal with the whole of the Estimate’! about a day and one-half.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member says, “ Hear, hear “. but if I were a senator - one of the few things I have not been-
I thank the House for its forbearance.
– We wish you were
– I thought I might consider it one of these days.
– You are almost old enough.
– That is right, I feel that I am qualifying for it. If I were a senator I think I would welcome a procedure which enabled me to discuss the details of departmental estimates in the almost leisurely fashion that we permit ourselves in this House instead of being caught up in a mad rush in the last moments of the sessional period. Sharing, as I do. the belief in the tremendous importance of the authority of this lower House in financial matters, T think that if I were a senator I would prefer to be able to discuss these matters at leisure or in a reasonable time to having to debate them in 24 hours or 48 hours at the tail end of the sessional period. After all - this may seem a remarkable thing to say - when we make speeches in this House we sometimes hope that people will listen to them. We have the sneaking idea that some one outside may pay a little attention to what we are saying, and our chances of saying something to which some one outside will pay attention are very much greater if we can take three weeks instead of two days to deal with the Estimates.
I do not worry about this matter. It does not affect our affairs; it does not reduce our prestige, and I think that it is a pretty sensible arrangement for the Senate to make once it has discovered that it can be done under its Standing Orders.
– lt is the first time that it has been done, is it not?
– I believe that it is the first time, but apparently it has been proved as coming within the Standing Orders. Do not forget that no standing order of the Senate and no interpretation of the Standing Orders of the Senate can affect to the slightest extent our powers in this chamber, the overall powers of the Parliament or the nature of the Constitution. Therefore, I think we might regard this almost as a rather pleasant academic exercise on a quiet Thursday morning.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal section sixteen of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1960.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1960.
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 Cattle and Beef Research Bill, is to introduce certain amendments to the existing legislation to meet the position arising from the issue by certain meat interests of a High Court writ challenging the validity of the cattle and beef research legislation of 1960. It may facilitate consideration of these bills if I review briefly the situation which has held up the active approach to beef research that is so important to the welfare of the Australian beef cattle industry.
The cattle and beef research legislation provides for the collection of a levy on all cattle slaughtered for human consumption over 200 lb., dressed weight. The levy is payable by the person owning the cattle at the time of slaughter. The maximum rate of levy is 2s. per beast. The research scheme was developed on the premise that while the owners of the stock at the time of slaughter would be responsible for the payment of the levy, the impact of the levy would actually be borne by the cattleproducer section of the industry through adjustment of the live-stock purchase price in the same way as allowance is made by the meat works operators in the ordinary course of events for changes in the supply and demand situation, overseas market price trends and outlook, killing charges and freight or other operating costs.
After the slaughter levy came into operation on 1st July, 1960, meat operators began to deduct the amount of the levy from the selling agents’ invoices in respect of cattle purchased at auction. The result was that the selling agents, with no legal right under the legislation to deduct the levy from the account sales of the vendor of the cattle, had in many instances to be*ar the impact themselves. In the case of private treaty sales, meat operators were deducting the levy from the account sales of the1 producer without any apparent difficulty.
Following representations to me by various interests, I met a combined deputation of meat industry and cattle producer representatives on 28th July, 1960. The meat operators contended that they could not make allowances for the amount of the levy in their buying limits at auction sales, and like the selling agents’ representatives, they requested that the existing legislation should be amended to ensure that cattle producers are made directly responsible for financing the research plan, since the major producer organizations had sponsored the plan and had indicated the willingness of the cattle raisers to finance it. The cattle men in turn maintained that in fact the producer interests would bear the levy through adjustments in the purchasing limits of the meat operators. I informed the deputation that, if after a reasonable trial the scheme proved to be unworkable, I was prepared to consider an alternative method of collection if the industry as a v/hole submitted and supported a satisfactory proposal.
Subsequently, an announcement by the selling agents that they intended to take concerted legal action to recover the short payments that had been made by meat operators in respect of the cattle slaughter levy culminated in the High Court action. Following the issue of the High Court writ, I agreed to suspend the collection of the cattle slaughter levy as from 14th October, 1960, pending the decision of the High Court as to its validity.
In an endeavour to find a satisfactory solution to the problem, various alternative methods of collection other than by way of a slaughter tax were examined, including a stamp system on cattle sales and a tax at the point of purchase with authority for selling agents to make an immediate deduction. It was found that all the alternatives examined contained serious practical or legal difficulties. The fact that some of the big operators own large properties and breed cattle themselves for slaughter is an added complication. The crux of the problem, therefore, is that the meat operators and the selling agents both want the legal authority to pass on the incidence of the slaughter levy to the last vendor of the live-stock.
The main meat producer organizations have now agreed in principle to the amount payable in respect of the levy being deducted as a separate charge from the account sales of the vendor and the amendment proposed has the full support of all sections of the industry.
This bill provides for the present scheme to be extended to give meat operators and selling agents the legal right to relieve themselves of the incidence of the levy at the time the cattle are purchased for slaughter. The levy itself will be payable by the owner of the stock at the time of slaughter, but the amendments proposed will ensure that the impact of the levy will in fact fall on the vendor of the cattle as was the original intention of the plan.
As a further practical step towards resolving the present issue the Government on the recommendation of the industry has decided to exempt all parties from financial obligation as from 14th October, 1960, when the collection of the levy was suspended, until 14th October, 1961. In order to implement the recommendation of the industry, it will be necessary to provide for the revocation of the levy for that period and at a later stage I shall be introducing the Cattle Slaughter Levy (Suspension) Bill for this purpose.
Representations were also made by the industry requesting that the levy collected prior to the High Court challenge should be refunded to the selling agents in all cases where documentary evidence established that the agents concerned had in fact borne the impact of the levy. The Government was not agreeable to this course and meat operators have since indicated to me that they were prepared to forgo any claims to refund of levies paid by them to the Commonwealth and that they would negotiate with the selling agents regarding moneys that had been deducted by them in respect of their purchases of the cattle on which they had paid such levies in the period concerned. This offer was made by the operators in the full knowledge that if the agents were not satisfied with the settlement arrangements they would still have the right of recourse to legal action.
On the general issues relating to the HighCourt action, the principal concern of the Government was to overcome the present impasse and get the scheme operating again as quickly as possible with the maximum of good will all round. This attitude was also evident on the part of meat operators and consequently no action was taken by either party to proceed with the High Court writ. The Commonwealth legal advisers did, however, hold the view that the Commonwealth may well have succeeded in maintaining the validity of the existing legislation, but in order to remove any doubt as to its validity, provision has been made to amend the Cattle and Beef Research Act by describing the research that may be undertaken as research that would be of benefit to the export of beef and the raising of cattle in the internal Territories of the Commonwealth rather than as research described in general terms not expressly related to Commonwealth powers, as in the existing legislation.
While it is regrettable that the active approach to beef research has been delayed through the present unfortunate stalemate, the important consideration is to get the beef research scheme on the move without further waste of time. As recently announced, the Government has agreed to make available substantial finance for cattle roads in northern parts of Australia to assist in developing the beef industry. It is essential that increased research activities should go hand in hand with these developments.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to revoke the imposition of Cattle Slaughter Levy in respect of a certain period, and for purposes connected therewith.
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 is to revoke the cattle slaughter levy in respect of cattle slaughtered on or after 14th October, 1960, and before 14th October, 1961. As some meat operators have continued to pay the levy after 14th October, 1960, provision has been made for the refund of levies collected in respect of the above-mentioned period from the Cattle and Beef Research Trust Account. In addition there is provision for meat operators to refund to producers all express deductions for the levy in respect of cattle slaughtered during the period specified.
I commend the bill to honorable members as a necessary complement to the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Cattle and Beef Research Acts 1960, and for other purposes.
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 is to amend the Cattle and Beef Research Act so as to describe the research that may be undertaken as research that would be of benefit to the export of beef from Australia and the raising of cattle in the internal Territories of the Commonwealth rather than as research described in general terms not expressly related to Commonwealth powers, as in the existing legislation. I have already explained the reason for the amendment in my second-reading speech on the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill. The provisions in the legislation will not place any practical limitation on the activity of the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Com- mittee I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser; adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 27th September (vide page 1428).
Proposed Vote, £13,253,000.
Proposed Vote, £3,622,000.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to that section of the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and. Transport which covers merchant ship construction subsidies. The amount made available for this purpose this year is to be £1,546,000 compared with last year’s provision of £3,000,000. So the subsidy is being cut almost in half. I believe that this reduction will accelerate the existing decline in the Australian shipbuilding industry, which has been steadily going on for some years now. We have seen our shipbuilding industry deteriorate from a very strong position to a position where, although previously in most parts of Australia the industry was flourishing and vigorous, to-day many shipbuilding firms have gone out of business and others are unable to get orders. This has naturally brought about a decline in employment. The position is gradually deteriorating, and I had hoped that in view of the evidence of this decline given to the Government over a considerable time some impetus would have been given to the industry by way of a substantial increase in the subsidy. Instead of that, the industry is being allowed to go downhill steadily, and just where this will end is hard to say.
This position becomes all the more paradoxical when one realizes that while there are shipbuilding yards in Australia crying out for orders the Government places orders for ships overseas.
– Which ones?”
– Recently, the Government placed orders overseas for two destroyers which will cost £40,000,000, and an order for six minesweepers to be built in the United Kingdom.
– But which civil ships?
– Civil orders have been placed overseas in recent years. 1 cannot recall any one of recent date, but if the honorable member will study the history of the shipbuilding industry he will find that we have ships operating in this country to-day that were built in the last three or four years in such places as Hong Kong and Great Britain. Before such shipbuilding orders can be. placed overseas the interests wanting the ships built must have the permission of the Government. Notwithstanding the declining state of the Australian shipbuilding industry the Government, for reasons best known to itself, allowed those orders to go overseas within the last three or four years.. The question at the moment is just what the Government proposes to do to stimulate our shipbuilding industry. To judge from the Estimates it does not propose to do anything in that direction.
At present we have the shipbuilding yards at Whyalla working at full capacity with orders which will keep them working for the next two or three years. I think that the same thing can be said of the State shipbuilding yards in Newcastle. But there is no work for the other shipbuilding yards that are scattered throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, the position has become so serious that only three or four months ago the managing director of the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited in Sydney claimed that for the first time in twenty years the yard had no ships under construction. This indicates the gravity of the situation. Also, about two weeks ago “ Manoora “, the last of the Australian passenger ships on our coast, was sold to Indonesian interests, and henceforth will sail under the Indonesian flag. With the departure of that vessel there is no Australianowned passenger vessel operating on our coast.
– What about “ Princess of Tasmania “?
– That ship has a limited run. It does not serve the whole of the Australian coast. I repeat that with the sale of “Manoora “ there is no Australianowned passenger vessel operating around our coast. The Minister’s interjection does not refute my contention, because of the limited activities of the ship he mentioned. With the sale of “ Manoora “ this country is in a unique position. Here we are, a mercantile nation with 13,000 miles of coastline, dependent on the sea, not only for our imports, but also for the sale of our exports, and having to meet the most vital need to preserve our lines of communication with the rest of the world, and we have no passenger vessel owned in this country operating around our coasts. All this is a further development in the complete control of our shipping industry by overseas interests. Before the disappearance of “ Manoora “ and other vessels of its type, the Navigation Act provided that overseas passenger vessels could carry interstate passengers only under certain conditions. But now that “ Manoora “ has been sold not only are our shipping links with the rest of the world dominated from overseas, but our interstate passenger traffic by sea is similarly dominated. That is a very serious situation.
In view of the growth of overseas control of our shipping I think that the Government should be more vigorous in protecting the Australian shipbuilding industry. It is not sufficient for it to claim, as it has done in the past, that if there is a case for increasing the subsidy it is a matter for the Tariff Board to determine. When the subsidy was raised from 25 per cent. to 331/3 per cent, this is the procedure that was followed, but the Government always seems to avoid responsibility by delegating authority when there is no need to do it. When this question of a subsidy was first introduced by the Chifley Government, this matter was not referred to the Tariff Board. It was brought down and introduced through legislation.
The position of our shipbuilding industry to-day is so serious and alarming that it warrants immediate action by the Government. Countries in other parts of the world with mercantile marine activities to protect, defend and expand are not so dilatory. They do not hesitate to take action to protect their national interests as does this Government. I think it is important to place on record for the information of honorable members some of the methods that are adopted by other countries to protect their shipbuilding industry. The Tariff Board report on the shipbuilding industry published on 16th
June, 1955, states at paragraph 27, page 32 -
The most important methods used to assist the shipping and shipbuilding industries and the countries employing these methods are -
Shipbuilding Subsidies. - This is one of the methods used in the U.S.A., France, Italy, and a number of other countries including Australia.
Indirect Subsidy to Aid Shipbuilding. - In Japan, the Government and the steel industry subsidise steel used in the construction of vessels.
Subsidies on Ship Operation. - Operational subsidies have been applied for many years by the U.S.A. and to a lesser degree by Canada, Italy, Japan and other countries.
Long-term Government Loans. - A widely used method of assistance adopted by overseas countries including the U.S.A., France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, India and Germany is the granting of financial assistance to shipowners by way of longterm government loans at low interest rates to enable shipowners to purchase ships locally.
Taxation Concessions. - Taxation and other concessions on new vessels purchased from local shipbuilders are granted in some countries. Special depreciation allowances operate in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Argentina and the U.K. An investment allowance also operates in the U.K.
“Trade-in” Allowance.- The U.S.A. Maritime Commission frequently pays a tradein allowance considerably in excess of world market value for an obsolete vessel to assist the shipowner to replace the old vessel with new tonnage built in the U.S.A.
Restrictions of Coastal Trade to National Vessels. - Countries adopting this method include the U.S.A., Japan, Canada and Australia.
Restriction of Coastal Trade to Locally Built Vessels. - Countries adopting this method of protection are the U.S.A., Japan and Canada.
It is obvious from that rather comprehensive list of assistance that is given in other countries for the protection of their shipbuilding interests that they are prepared to assist more dramatically and more effectively than is this Government. After all, it is a matter of national interest. To-day, the passenger trade in Australia has ceased completely so far as Australian interests are concerned. They have given it away. It is true that we have a National Shipping Line operating in the cargo trade, but the passenger trade is now dominated and controlled by overseas interests. When one considers overseas interests and the influence they have on trade, one would have expected that the Government would have done something to protect our coastal shipping from reaching the state that has been reached by our overseas trading.
Further, on the question of costs, certain supporters of the Government are always complaining that something drastic should have been done to protect Australian interests. These honorable members have had available to them the report of a committee of inquiry dealing with the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954 which was presented to the Parliament in 1957. I think it appropriate to read one of the conclusions that was reached by that committee in dealing with the question of costs as they affect our overseas trade. At page 131 of the report among the conclusions dealing with this particular phase of its activities, the committee stated -
In the absence of further information the Committee finds it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate determining factor in the setting of freight rates in the Australia/ United KingdomContinental trade has been “ what the traffic will bear “ having regard to such alternatives as are available.
So we find to-day that the exporting interests -
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I propose to refer to Division No. 373 - Ship Construction - Other Services, item 1, “Merchant Ship Construction, subsidy, £1,546,000 “. I do not think this Government has any need to be ashamed of its record in shipbuilding. In 1941, the Menzies Government instituted a shipbuilding programme and a policy in that connexion that has been followed throughout the years. In the last twenty years, 84 ships have been built in Australia valued at approximately £68,000,000. In my own State of Queensland alone, Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited has produced a ship a year for the last twenty years. That is not too bad a record for a country the size of Australia with the population we have.
When this Government was elected to office in 1949, it confirmed the Tariff Board’s recommendation that a subsidy of 25 per cent, be paid on ships built in Australia. In 1955, the Government again accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation that the subsidy be increased to 33i per cent. In 1959, it again accepted the recommendation of the Tariff Board that the subsidy of 33i per cent, be retained. As we know, the Tariff Board will be considering the subsidy on ships built in Australia again early next year. Since 1956, it has been the policy of this Government to prohibit the importation of ships that could be built in Australia at comparable cost. As a result of that prohibition, no new ships have been imported into Australia from overseas. I think we should keep that clearly in mind.
Of the total of 84 ships built in Australia since 1941, we find that 35 were built between 1950 and 1961 during the present Government’s term of office. Those 35 ships were valued at £49,000,000. I believe, therefore, that we have nothing to be ashamed of in our shipbuilding programme despite what members of the Opposition have said. The Opposition is treading on very thin ice indeed when it tries to place on this Government any responsibility for the decline in Australian coastal shipping. Everybody in Australia knows the reason why shipping on the Australian coast has declined. It has nothing to do with this Government’s policy on shipping. Shipping has declined on the Australian coast and the Australian passenger lines have gone out of existence because the ability of ship-owners to charge competitive prices has been destroyed by the series of troubles that the Australian waterfront has experienced over the years. The result has been that most of the cargo, excepting bulk cargo which is being carried largely by the Australian National Line, is being carried by road. In fact, road transport has taken over to such a tremendous extent that the State governments throughout Australia are screaming to the Commonwealth Government for money for roads, because heavy vehicles are knocking the Australian road system to pieces. I again stress that the decline in coastal shipping has nothing to do with our Government’s policy, and that the blame can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the waterside workers’ leaders and to some extent the seamen.
– You are saying this for the last time.
– I take anything you say about me as a compliment. You have been a bad prophet all your life.
– Do not get annoyed.
– I am not annoyed. It has been suggested that we have been helping the overseas shipping, lines to cut in and take trade away from our coastal shipping. We have also heard references to freights. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has estimated that shipping freights are costing us £200,000,000 a year. According to the Commonwealth Statistican’s figures for the year ended December, 1960, our total freight expenditure on imports was £145,000,000. Therefore the other £55,000,000 - if the figure of the Leader of the Opposition is to be taken as correct - was spent on freight on exports. This would then leave a net debit, according to the Opposition, of £113,000,000. But do not forget that the overseas shipping lines in the same year spent about £87,000,000 in Australia, on harbour dues, port charges, labour, stores and so on. This was not a bad amount of money to have coming back into this country.
There has been a suggestion that Australianbuilt and operated ships should enter into overseas competition. I hurry to point out that the people who advocate this have no concept whatsoever of what it would cost us. The capital investment alone, to set up our own shipping line to compete with the ships of other nations would be no less than £300,000,000 and our operational and subsidy costs would be not less than £18,000,000, so all we would save would be £10,000,000.
– But the Opposition could always use the printing press.
– Yes. There would be an investment of £300,000,000 and a subsidy of £18,000,000 to save £10,000,000! As the Opposition is screaming so much about the alleged widespread unemployment and the need to develop the north of this country, I suggest that it could have made out a better case by advocating that we should spend this money in Australia instead of in trying to compete where we clearly cannot compete. Let us not forget that due to the peculiar circumstances in this coun try our shipbuilding costs are practically the highest in the world.
– What rot!
– It is true. Our shipbuilding costs are about the highest in the world, and yet the Opposition wants us to compete against low cost countries and to try to take business away from the overseas shipping lines.
Let us remember that although we might take cargoes out of Australia in our own ships, whether we would get return cargoes is an entirely different matter. Overseas exporters to this country would certainly want to use their own ships and if we were to say to them, “ Unless you put your goods in Australian ships you cannot send them to Australia “, we would face an extraordinary set of circumstances. But this is what the Opposition is trying to convince the Australian people that we must do - that we must make a capital investment of £300,000,000 in shipping although we have a taxpaying population of only some 8,500,000. We already have a budget of just under £2,000,000,000, all derived from taxation in one form or another, quite apart from the amount of money which we have to raise on the loan market for the States and for our own purposes. Yet members of the Opposition have the temerity to say blindly, “ Let us establish our own overseas shipping line. It is quite easy. Why should we be paying out £200,000,000 a year in freights? “ I repeat again that to enter the overseas shipping trade would mean a capital investment of £300,000,000 a year, and subsidies amounting to £18,000,000 a year, merely to save £10,000,000 a year. I think the Australian public would like to have a closer look at that proposition.
Another point that I want to bring forward is that last year we had 182 cargo ships travelling between Australian ports and the United Kingdom and the Continent - I am disregarding other parts of the world entirely. In addition, we had nineteen passenger lines operating. In thetwelve months ended 31st August of thisyear, 269 cargo voyages were made between. Australia, the United Kingdom and the Continent as well as 53 passenger voyages. Bearing in mind that Australian ships are- among the most costly ships in the world to build, and the most costly to maintain and operate, how could we hope to compete against well-established shipping lines which can buy cheaper ships and operate and maintain them more cheaply? lt is an impossibility. It is a wild, theoretical pipe dream - one of the many pipe dreams with which honorable members opposite like to delude themselves and seek to delude the Australian people.
Getting down to practical economics, let me say again that in shipbuilding this Government has a very proud record indeed and can stand up to all the criticism which the Opposition likes to throw at it. We have not done too badly. That is not to say that we do not want to do better, because nobody wants to rest on his record. But you do not just build ships out of air, nor do you build them simply for the sake of building them. I think we should have a look at the cargo side of the problem to find out to what extent our present ships are being used to their maximum capacity.
It is all very well to talk about having these ships, but it has to be remembered that we must have cargo for them, and they must not only meet expenses but also return dividends. Even the Australian National Line has got to return dividends. Under the present system by which most Australian goods, other than such bulk cargoes as sugar, are transported by road, there is no possible hope of getting regular cargoes for shipping. Perhaps the only way by which the coastal trade can be developed is by the use of special goods containers, but no doubt other honorable members will deal with that matter.
One important thing to remember - and this is important if we are to develop the shipping of general cargoes - is that it is essential that after a ship enters a port it shall be able to leave that port on schedule so that, subject to weather and other special sea-going conditions, it may have a reasonable opportunity of arriving at its port of destination on schedule. If there cannot be some reasonable assurance of that, then, no matter how much money is poured into shipping, more and more ships will become idle. Again, I say that we have a proud record in Australia, and I am very pleased indeed to be able to place on record the fact that the big shipbuilding yard in the electorate of Griffith has constructed twenty ships in the last twenty years.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In his attempt to defend the Government against our criticism of its shipbuilding programme, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) has just delivered a speech, full of qualifications. On this occasion the Government has relied upon a very weak reed to put its case, although it was a pleasure to hear the honorable member for Griffith talking about ships and not the hovercraft on this occasion.
Recently, I visited the Wide Bay electorate in Queensland, where I found that they were greatly disturbed at the decline in shipbuilding at the Maryborough shipyards.
– They are very pleased about the order for the new ship.
– That was given to the Maryborough shipyard merely as an electioneering stunt. In order to save the honorable member for Wide Bay from losing his seat at the next election, something had to be done to provide employment at the Maryborough shipyards. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is sitting at the table, paid a visit to that electorate on his pushbike at the time I was there. He knows that, despite what the honorable member for Griffith had to say, there has been a great decline in shipbuilding throughout Australia. He knows, too, just how scandalous was the Government’s backdown in connexion with the building of two destroyers, which I mention in passing. He knows that it is all poppycock to suggest that in Australia we have neither the facilities nor the skill to enable us to build those destroyers, which will be costing the Australian taxpayers £20.000,000 each. There must have been some special bargaining between Australia and the United States of America which induced the Government to spend £40,000,000 of the Australian people’s money in America. No doubt the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who will be speaking after me, will have something to say about shipbuilding facilities at such places as Cockatoo Dockyard.
One argument put up by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and others, against the building of these destroyers in Australia was that we have not the technical knowledge, the facilities or the men qualified to build destroyers in which special missile equipment has to be installed. I point out that we built ships in Australian yards during the war, and I am confident that these destroyers could be built here. If we do not have the knowledge, if we do not have the qualified experts, why does not the Government bring men from America and build the ships in our own yards?
– Order! I remind the honorable member that, strictly speaking, the matter to which he is making passing reference is not covered by the proposed vote under consideration. I suggest that he now deal with those matters which are covered by it.
– I am sorry, but I was only making passing reference to the matter. I have a great regard for the Australian National Line. It is a splendid example of socialism which this Government has sought to keep in operation. For years, the Opposition fought against the sale by this Government of the 40-odd ships which were owned by the Commonwealth when Labour left office. Year in and year out, we attacked any move to sell them, because it did seem at one stage that this Government would have sold them. The only reason why they were not sold was that the Government could not find a buyer for the ships at the price it wanted. It was then faced with the necessity of establishing the Australian National Line. No doubt this gave the Government many headaches and caused it many heartburnings but, although it is not run just as a Labour Government would run it, we do approve of the Australian National Line.
– We make a profit with it, and a Labour government would not.
– A Labour government would make a profit. The Australian National Line is an excellent example of an extremely well-conducted government enterprise, and I congratulate its officers on their splendidly produced annual report. It is one of the best reports we have seen in this Parliament for some time. It is an attractive document, prepared by businessmen who understand the technique of properly presenting a case. Last financial year, the line made a profit of £1,433,739 compared with £1,314,376 for the previous year, and this despite those dreadful waterside workers whom the honorable member for Griffith blamed for the run-down of shipping on the Australian coast. To talk in the way he did about the waterside workers is no more than poppycock. Why, the waterside workers of Hobart, Devonport, Burnie, Bell Bay and Beauty Point have been complimented by the overseas apple shippers and others upon the excellent turn-round of ships. Many tributes have been paid to those workers by the apple growers, merchants and shipping companies for their splendid co-operation over the years. All this talk by the honorable member for Griffith about how the dreadful waterside workers are destroying our coastal shipping trade and forcing overseas shipping lines away from Australian ports is nothing more than exaggerated, distorted political propaganda, as is clear from the fact that the Australian shipping line is able to make a profit of almost £1,500,000 by employing those very same waterside workers at the ports where its ships operate.
I come now to the cargo carried by the Australian National Line. Last year, the coastal tonnage carried by the line’s ships amounted to 5,991,862 tons, which was an increase of 761,935 tons over the total carried the previous year, and the overseas tonnage lifted by them rose from 50,133 tons to 56,242 tons. It is splendid to see our National Line ships despatching cargoes at record speed and with the least possible delay. I feel that this line is doing so well that it could be made a model for shipping lines in other parts of the world. That is how proud I am of our National Line.
Let me mention also, in speaking of the profits of the line, that it has had to pay to the Government in taxes £969,000 in each of the last two years. That was the result of one of the vicious provisions written into the legislation, of which we did’ not approve. In the same way, we now have the Post Office paying interest on capital moneys. It is simply Peter paying Paul. What a ridiculous bit of bookkeeping! Here we have the National Line tied down, having to pay 6 per cent, on its capital expenditure. In spite of that, however, it has made a profit of nearly £1,500,000, after paying taxes.
There is also a matter of depreciation amounting to £1,471,000. From every possible viewpoint, therefore, the men who are running this National Line deserve the commendation of all honorable members, no matter what their political views. When one reads this report one must feel proud of the way in which the men of the National Line are discharging their responsibilities on behalf of this Government. As a socialist enterprise, the National Line is a magnificent example of what can be done by proper management, by men dedicated to their jobs.
I am also very interested in the matter of overseas voyages undertaken by National Line ships. The line is pushing out towards other countries, and this is a trend that will be accentuated when the Labour Party comes to power. We want to send our overseas ships to countries like the United Kingdom and other European countries. At the present time National Line ships may make overseas trips only with the Minister’s approval. That is fair enough. The Minister has shown during the last eighteen months that he is not a stick-in-the-mud. He has some vision. He has allowed seven overseas trips by ships of the National Line. We have sent four cargoes of bulk sugar to New Zealand, two of pig iron to Japan and one of steel products to Taiwan, and we have brought a load of chrome ore from New Caledonia to Australia.
The matter of freight is of very great importance, and it is most encouraging to see that the National Line has reduced freight rates, while all the overseas companies are asking for higher and higher rates for carrying our primary products overseas. Here we have a line, operating with the assistance of the waterside workers who were criticized by the honorable member for Griffith able to reduce freight rates. That is a splendid performance. The line has had to cope with some increase in costs and in wages, but in the main it has been able to absorb these increases and to reduce freight rates. The report says -
In some cases, indeed, it has been possible for the Line to reduce its charges.
On the “ Searoad Service “, as it is called, between the mainland and Tasmania, using the famous “ Princess of Tasmania “ and the “ Bass Trader “, there has been an average reduction of at least 20 per cent, in freight rates. The freight rates for passengers’ cars have also been substantially reduced. It is really something, in this modern age of rising costs, to find our National Line reducing its freight rates. This reduction has enabled one of our industries in Tasmania, manufacturing cement, to rise out of the doldrums in which it had found itself as a result of the credit squeeze. The manager has told us that the reduction in freights on the “ Bass Trader “ and the “ Princess of Tasmania “ had enabled his firm to survive the credit squeeze. He said that the company is sending more and more of its product to Victoria and selling it in competition with other cement, because of the reduction in freights. This is a most commendable trend indeed, because the economy of Tasmania depends almost entirely for its imports and exports on sea transport.
I commend the National Line very sincerely for what it is doing in reducing freights. It has also, by judicious planning, and careful transfers to reserves, enabled the commission to finance additions to its fleet without calling on the Commonwealth for more capital. This calls for another great tribute to the management. It has not had to come to the Treasury and ask for money to build new vessels, such as the “ South Esk “ and the new rollonrolloff passenger ferry for the SydneyHobart run. It has been able to finance these new ships out of its own reserves.
– Where are these ships being built?
– In our own ports. Here again the National Line is showing commendable foresight by having the new vessels built in our own shipyards. Here we have a socialist enterprise, of the kind that this Government despises and condemns, and about which it pours out adverse propaganda at election time, giving us a-n example of how to run a modern shipping line. It has 44 vessels under its control at present. Perhaps the Minister for Shipping and Transport is a better socialist than some of his colleagues. The line has been able to absorb all increased charges and still make substantial reductions in freight rates.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to confine my remarks to Division No. 373 in the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport. This has to do with ship construction. Before going on to that matter, however, I would like to comment on one or two remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) suggested that the high level of shipping freight rates in Australia was due to trouble on the waterfront, or to increasing costs on the waterfront. 1 do not think he said at any stage that every waterside worker was somebody whom one could not respect, or somebody who was not any good. Nor did he intend any such meaning. I think it is obvious to everybody that for a long time the Waterside Workers Federation has been in the wrong hands. I believe at present there is a move afoot to take it out of those hands. It is wrong to attribute to the honorable member for Griffith motives with which he was certainly not imbued.
The honorable member for Wilmot said he was looking forward to the time when Labour came to power, so that an overseas shipping line could be established.
– That is right
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear you all agree. You should go to Western Australia and talk to timber merchants and other merchants who are battling against high freight rates on Australian coastal shipping as compared with rates for overseas shipping.
– That is just an attempt to protect private enterprise.
– Keep on! We hear the old, old story about the protection of private enterprise. Let me tell the committee that you can bring timber from the west coast of America to Adelaide for about the same freight cost as is involved in bringing timber from Fremantle to Adelaide.
– You can bring it for less
– That is so. This is the kind of problem that you have to face. If you visualize an overseas shipping line established in Australia, with everything going overseas and coming here being carried in Australian ships, I trust that you also visualize that the crews of those ships will be Australians, working under Australian awards. This means that you will have no chance of competing with overseas freighters. In those circumstances what will you do? You talk about favouring private enterprise. I take it that this includes any individual who, by his own enterprise, manages to rise in his job, whether he becomes the manager of a departmental store, or a floor-walker in that store, or a deputy headmaster in a school, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) will be next year. These are all examples of private enterprise. These are the people you have to protect. You will certainly not be protecting private enterprise and the ordinary individual in the community by instituting some sort of shipping line which will require a tremendous amount of taxpayers’ money. These are matters that honorable members opposite must realize.
Twice this morning in this debate references were made - passing references, I believe they were called, so I will make only a passing reference - to the building of a couple of destroyers overseas, or to the purchase of those destroyers built overseas. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) said that this would probably cripple the Australian shipbuilding Industry, or at least damage it. The honorable member for Wilmot said that we should not entertain any idea of buying these vessels overseas and that we should build them in Australia. I refer the Opposition to the “ Hansard “ report of the Senate proceedings on 10th May of this year, where Opposition members will see recorded a statement made by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) after questions had been asked about the matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) had asked a question about it on 26th April in this chamber. That statement by Senator Gorton is available for honorable members to read, lt gave some very enlightening information about the situation in naval dockyards and about shipbuilding generally in this country. I want to quote particularly a passage in the last paragraph, which, I think, provides a lesson that Opposition members should keep firmly imprinted on their minds. The passage is as follows: -
The Navy believes its responsibility is to acquire, from the money voted to it by the Parliament, the greatest possible modern defence potential in the quickest possible time . . .
This is the key to the decision to buy ships overseas. The Australian shipbuilding yards, it is true, with the Government’s financial backing on a tremendous scale, could possibly undertake to build the vessels that we require. But. other factors must be considered.
– The time factor provides a weak argument.
– Of course, it would seem weak to the honorable member. 1 have just quoted for him a key passage from a statement made by the Minister for the Navy. I suggest that the honorable member get the “ Hansard “ report of that statement, which was made in the Senate on 10th May last. He can even borrow my copy, if he wishes. The honorable member ought to read that statement slowly three times, I am sure that the details will filter through at the: third reading and that he will then understand it.
Why do Opposition members always try to win both ways all the time? Since I first became a member of this place, I have heard the honorable member for Wilmot making remarks such as, “ If it was not for us, you would have lost the war. We prepared the country for war. You made no preparations “. Yet, when this Government explains the basis of some extremely good defence preparations, the same honorable member reverses his earlier argument and criticizes the Government for making preparations. There is absolutely no consistency in him. I think that he is only playing politics.
The vessels which are to be purchased overseas are destroyers of the Charles F. Adams class. It is true that £40,000,000 is involved in the transaction. The first of the two new vessels will join the Australian fleet on 1st September, 1965, and the second on 1st March, 1966. These vessels, even if they could be constructed in Australia as cheaply as they can be built overseas - and that would be nothing more than an assumption - would have to be paid for while they were being built here. This consideration brings up problems of payments out of the vote for the Department of the Navy. As honorable members no doubt know, the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Naval Board do not consider for one moment that the Navy receives enough money for its construction programme.
– I rise to order. After discussing this matter for about one minute, I was prevented from continuing, but the honorable member for Perth has been allowed to discuss the same subject for about four minutes now.
– Order! The Chair contends that the matter now being discussed by the honorable member for Perth does not come within the scope of the estimates now before the committee. However, as two Opposition members had mentioned the subject, I felt that it was only fair for the Chair to allow at least one honorable member on the Government side to make some comment on it. I have merely permitted that to be done. I state now that, in future, the Chair will rule that this subject does not come within the scope of the estimates now being considered and that it can be dealt with only when the estimates for the Department of the Navy are being considered.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir, and, therefore, I proceed. When I was rudely interrupted by the honorable member for Wilmot, I was about to say that if the funds available to the Navy were spent on the construction of these ships in Australia, the purchase of the helicopters to be carried by H.M.AJS. “ Melbourne “ would be prevented and other defence preparations which the Chiefs of Staff agree are necessary would be delayed. These all are salient points which have to be considered in arguing about whether the vessels could be built in
Australia. The estimated cost of building a type 12 frigate in Australia to-day is £9,400,000. I think that that estimate would not be excessive. I understand that the Department of Shipping and Transport would in some way come into the construction work. A type 12 frigate is half the size of destroyers of the Charles F. Adams class, and has less than half the horse-power and much less armament, especially guided missiles and the electronic equipment to control them. Those missiles and that electronic equipment, incidentally, could not be manufactured in Australia.
– Of course, they could.
– There we have another typical interjection from the ranks of the Opposition. We must bear in mind that ships of the Charles F. Adams class have not previously been constructed in Australia, the techniques of building them are not known to us and many problems would have to be overcome. Therefore, it is practically certain that the cost of building such vessels in Australia would exceed the known cost of constructing them in the United States of America. Certainly, we could state no cost for construction in Australia that would be worth the paper on which it was written.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to Division No. 373 which relates to ship construction. I had almost concluded my reply to the statements which had been made by the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Wilmot relating to the building of destroyers in Australia. The time taken to build the Daring class vessels in Australia varies between seven and nine years. The time taken to build type 12 frigates varies between six and seven years. If the Charles F. Adams type were built at the same rate, they would not be commissioned before the 1970’s, assuming that they could be built. If it was sought to speed up construction by two-thirds, not only would the financial implications I have mentioned arise, but also, with the dockyard problems involved, it would certainly delay delivery by a period which is unknown but is likely to be considerable.
This brings me back to the reply which was given to the Leader of the Opposition by the Minister for the Navy in another place which states, inter alia -
The Navy believes its responsibility is to acquire, from the money voted to it by Parliament, the greatest possible modern defence potential in the quickest possible time.
I think most honorable members will agree with that.
The honorable member for Wilmot read the portion of the annual report of the Australian National Line relating to tonnage carried overseas. The line’s vessels successfully undertook seven overseas voyages. I understand that some of those voyages were run at a profit and some at a loss. I do not think we would be happy to see that kind of thing occur, and I do not think the fact that the vessels ran overseas can be used as conclusive proof that an overseas shipping line could be established, with any degree of success, to carry our freight overseas. I rose only to put on record the true position relating to the building of ships for Australia in Australia because honorable members opposite have referred to the subject repeatedly. I know that rightly this subject comes under the heading of defence and that this matter perhaps can be carried a little further. I thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chairman.
– It is rather amusing to listen to the remarks of honorable members opposite in relation to fostering Australian industry, and to learn their outlook towards anything Australian. In the first place, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) went right back to the time when the Commonwealth, under the control of the Bruce-Page Government, owned a shipping line. Of course, we all remember the sabotage by the BrucePage Government in selling the ships to a lord who was later incarcerated for his part in the deal. That is history. The BrucePage Government went to the people just after the sale of those ships and was thrown out of office unceremoniously, having been wrecked by a popular vote of the Australian people. Mr. Bruce was made a lord. That was his pay-off for his part in the sale of the ships to those edified lords in Britain. The game still goes on.
The honorable member for Perth read from a report, which originated with, the
Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), relating to the building of our destroyers. The Minister shows a lack of imagination. The first thing the Government wants to do is to tell us how much the ships cost. I think that the Minister for the Navy in another place should obtain more accomplished advisers-
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith that earlier in the debate I gave a ruling that the matter to which he is now referring should be discussed when the estimates for the Navy are before the committee. While leniency was shown by the Chair in regard to certain honorable members, from now on the Chair rules that this matter of the destroyers shall be discussed when the estimates for the Navy are before the committee.
– I appreciate your tolerance, Mr. Chairman. You were tolerant enough to give the honorable member for Perth the right to continue reading the report that he had, and I humbly suggest that you should give me the right to reply to the statements that he made. However, I shall leave that matter until later.
From time to time we hear in this Parliament a lot of talk about what will happen when Great Britain enters the European Common Market, and the preparations that the Government has made to meet the position which will then arise. I think this matter comes within the scope of the estimates that we now are discussing. We have heard of the grandiose plans, which have originated with the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and his board of experts, to the effect that we will chase markets, find markets all over the world after Britain dumps us and puts us in the position of having to sell our goods elsewhere.
– What has that to do with it?
– This is what it has to do with it: If we set up a trade commissioner in every city of the world who builds up trade to the extent of £5,000,000, £10,000,000, £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 in all kinds of goods, how will we get the goods to the ports serving those cities? The honorable member for Mallee did not think of that, of course. If these goods have to be carried to all ports of the world, how will we get them there? I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who has a hand in shipping, coastal navigation and so on, that it is time the Government started thinking big and thinking in terms of sea transport. It should set about now laying the keels of fast cargo carriers so that we will be ready to transport our goods, of course after we have sold them through the trade commissioners in the Far East, the Near East, all over the eastern area, South America, North America and wherever the trade channels may be opened. Would not the Minister be better employed by suggesting to the Cabinet that it set aside a certain sum of money for the building of fast 20,000-ton cargo carriers which can travel at 20 knots so that we will be ready to carry our cargo to all parts of the world and will not be relying on the overseas shipping conferences as we have to do now? Of course the Government asks, “ Where will we get the money? “ The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby), who is now interjecting so vociferously, should remember that since this Government has been in office we have paid £2,400,000,000 in freight charges-
– We have paid £2,400,000,000 in twelve years in freight charges, interest and insurance.
– That is a lot of money.
– It is a lot of money. We could lay a lot of keels in the different shipyards in Australia and could build our own ships with the money that we are now paying to foreign shipowners for the service that they are supposedly rendering to us in carrying our goods - of course, when they see fit. They seem to think that they are paying us a compliment by doing so. What a price to pay for the compliment! But when we enter into competition with any of their subsidiaries, we are met with activities such as those now taking place in New Guinea. When Burns Philp and Company Limited, a subsidiary of one of the overseas shipping conference lines, finds that a competitor has goods to ship in competition with its goods, it arranges for the competitor’s goods to be left on the wharf while its goods are sent to the market.
The Government has agreed that we now have 112,000 unemployed. Amongst them are many craftsmen. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) says that our future is bright and that in 1962 the Government will create a boom - if it is returned at the next elections, of course.
– A little while ago you were saying we would not get back.
– That is a good line of talk, particularly as the election is not very far away. The Prime Minister says that if he gets back, he will create a boom. Naturally if we are to have a boom, we must have trade. To have trade, we must have the means of production. To have the means of production, we must create all types of construction. And then we will need craftsmen of all kinds. To support them we will need a great many apprentices. But what do we find to-day? We find all around us that our means of transport are stultified simply because of the stagnation in the manufacturing industries. Parents are unable to find employment for their sons and daughters.
What would be our position if war broke out? The Prime Minister speaks frequently of the dangers of war - a small war in some place. It may be that Australia would find itself dragged into such a conflict. What would happen then? I had personal experience of these problems in 1939, when I was out of work, thanks to the activities of the Metal Trades Employers Association. I was a shipbuilder but no work at all wa< offering for me. The position was much the same as it is now. with all sorts of excuses and all sorts of reasons being advanced for the sorry state in which we found ourselves.
The simple fact is that we are under the thumb of foreigners who are lending this country unprecedented sums of money. Though we pay high rates of interest on this money, we are in their power and this Government must do what they say. If war broke out to-morrow, we would have no means of communication. We would have no way to transport our troops and equipment to the theatre of war and we would be left at the mercy of foreign shipowners. We know what the foreign shipowners do. The transport of troops calls for a high degree of organization and to provide for this we must build ships. We must open the dockyards that are now closed. As a matter of fact, several of our dockyards are up for sale. I refer, as 1 have referred before, to the dockyard at Cockatoo Island and the dockyard at Williamstown. I notice that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) is in the chamber. As he knows, negotiations are proceeding for the sale of these dockyards to the Vickers engineering organization, an overseas company.
We hear the old, old story day in and day out. Grandiose plans are placed before us, but nothing is done. Government supporters are trying to drag through this weary period before the election, but they will go into recess and forget these matters. I make a plea on behalf of the Australian trade union movement and the men who are faced with a long period of unemployment. These craftsmen spent years attending technical colleges and learning their trades so that they would be of some use to their country. I know my plea will fall on deaf ears, but it will at least be placed on record. I ask the Government to open a dockyard and build more and more ships. In this way the means will be at hand to further the great plans we should have for the development of Australia. But what do we find? This morning, three honorable members spoke in this debate. All they did was to decry and discredit their native land, the land of their birth, in order to foster the interests of foreigners who provide their subsistence. I am talking now of the funds of the Government parties. The great list of donors to these funds includes overseas shipowners. But let us look at the record of these shipowners and note the ease with which they get everything they seek, including an increase of 14 per cent, in freight rates twelve months ago.
We know that members of the Australian Country Party do little in this chamber other than talk about communism. They make no suggestions that would be in the interests of their great country. There is a shipyard in the electorate of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), but the men who should be working in it are now walking the streets.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 should like to congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) on the substantial profits made by the two large undertakings under his control - Commonwealth Railways and the Australian National Line. It is not surprising that they should make such profits because, after all, members on this side of the chamber subscribe to the doctrine of efficiency as a way of life. Every one of us, whether we be farmers, graziers, businessmen or professional men, have made our way through efficiency. Honorable members opposite may scoff at this suggestion if they wish.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that the Government tried to sell the shipping line, which it inherited from Labour, but was unable to do so. 1 have some figures here which show the performance of the government-owned shipping line when it was administered by a Labour government. In 1945-46, it showed a loss of £1,874,000; in 1946-47, its loss was £4,226,000; and in 1947-48, its loss was £4,447,000. In three years of socialist trading it showed a loss of £10,000,000. No wonder this Government attempted to sell it. When it could not sell the ships, it set about putting the line on a business-like footing. The Minister running the line is a successful businessman, and he is running a successful business undertaking. Honorable members preach that we should have an overseas shipping line. This claim was answered very well by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) when he pointed out that it would require the investment of something like £300,000,000 to establish such a line - and that from a country like Australia, which is crying out for money to develop its production so that it may earn overseas income in order to keep its factories working. The freights charged by the National Line are just double the freight charges offering to-day on the Baltic exchange, so an overseas shipping line operated by Australia would not have a hope of getting cargo.
The importance of an overseas shipping line from the defence point of view is often stressed. Many countries subsidize their shipping lines as a weapon for defence which will enable them to carry their supplies of material in wartime. But look at the history of the Commonwealth shipping line in the Korean war. The seamen refused to take war materiel to Korea, so how would we be better off from a defence point of view with our own line? When honorable members opposite were in office, and were administering the national shipping line, they even had a Communist on the Stevedoring Industry Board, and the waterside union leaders controlled the foreign policy of the Labour Government. The waterside workers refused to load ships taking materiel to the Dutch in Indonesia: They, and not the Labour Government of the day, decided the foreign policy of this country. If we adopted the suggestions of the honorable member for KingsfordSmith, who would pay for the tremendous investment and the tremendously high freights? Either they would have to be paid for by the taxpayers, or by the primary producers direct. If the primary producers had to pay the high freight rates for their export produce which would have to be charged by a Commonwealth shipping line every primary producer in Australia would go out of business.
– What rot!
– “ What rot”, says the honorable member. Let us go back to the First World War. A Commonwealth shipping line was established in 1916, and it had the same unfortunate history as the shipping line established by the Labour Government in the 1940’s. As a result of a report by the Public Accounts Committee on the Commonwealth shipping line in 1929 it was decided to sell the line. The figures given in the committee’s report show that the cost of running a “ Bay “ steamer, as the Commonwealth ships were called, was £3,725 a month compared with £1,654 a month for running a British vessel of the same class - more than double. To-day the monthly cost of running a National Line ship is £11,640 a month, and the cost of running a similar British ship of 10,000 tons is £6,150 a month - almost half. So how on earth are we to embark on an undertaking such as an overseas shipping line, which would be so expensive to the taxpayers?
The history of our coastal shipping trade is a most tragic one. Forty or 50 years ago, the coastal shipping trade was a tremendous asset to Australia. We had reliable and cheap shipping round the whole of our coast. To-day, we are left with no Australian-owned passenger ship on our coast, simply because of the unreliability of Australian-manned vessels. Every year, the shipping companies would advertise tourist cruises around Australia, which provided a great source of income to many people, particularly in north Queensland, in places which relied on the tourist trade. But the companies were in the unfortunate position of never knowing just when their ships would sail, and almost invariably if people went one way by ship they would have to return by air or train, because of industrial trouble. As a result of that kind of thing, we have no Australian-owned passenger ship on our coast. The same thing applies to general cargo vessels. 1 do not want to detract from the record of the National Line. As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has said, it has made a profit, and has reduced freight charges while paying income tax. On the face of it that looks a splendid achievement, but we have to remember that the National Line carries mainly bulk cargoes, the most easily handled cargoes possible. Where a company strikes trouble is in the handling of general cargo, and that is unfortunately where the privately owned shipping lines are striking trouble. As 1 say, I do not want to detract from the efficiency of the National Line, because the people controlling it are highly efficient operators. In most cases, they are making use of facilities provided by free enterprise, and of agents established by the private shipping lines.
– They would make more profit if they did not.
– No, they would not. In Brisbane, most of the wharfs are owned by the private shipping lines, which have to face depreciation and other costs. I repeat, the history of Commonwealth-owned ships is an unfortunate one, but honorable members opposite want to see this kind of thing extended into the overseas shipping field, thus placing a burden on the whole of the community. The capital that would be required to establish an overseas shipping line could be better employed in the development of Australia. I hope that no attempt will be made by the Government to establish an overseas shipping service, when to-day we have the fastest and most efficient shipping services to and from Australia that exist anywhere in the world. We have this service to Australia, and I am proud also that our National Line is working at a profit and supplying a need in our coastal trade.
.- Before I speak on a subject dear to me, I want to answer briefly the submission made by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes). Despite what he has said to the contrary, events and circumstances will force the Commonwealth Government to enter into overseas shipping. I am satisfied that in spite of the political philosophy of honorable members on the Government side, the time will come when it will be necessary in the national interest for us to build ships and compete with the combine companies. At present there is no competition on the overseas shipping lanes from Australia, and whether we like it or not, we will have to take up the challenge that has been thrown out so often by overseas shipping companies. From time to time, they increase freights irrespective of the interests of the Australian Government or the people. The time is not far distant when the Australian mercantile marine flag will go to the four corners of the world under the control of the Australian National Line. From the point of view of pounds, shillings and pence, it will be a good thing for the Australian taxpayer when that happens.
I wish to direct my attention to the activities of the Australian Transport Advisory Council of which the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is chairman. This body is concerned with many aspects of Australian transport. It consists of six representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the six State Ministers for Transport. They meet from time to time and I must say that when one considers the report that the council issues on problems associated with roads and road transport, one can find little to cavil at. The reports are certainly the finest that could be conceived as an analysis of the problems of roads and road transport. They sum up the situation by pointing out that more money has to be obtained before we can have an adequate road system in Australia. But apart from that submission, nothing has come from the council that gives any hope for the immediate future. I know that this Government is resting on its oars.
– On its laurels.
– There are no laurels about Australian roads, and I am surprised that a member of the Australian Country Party should think otherwise. The honorable member for Mallee is always talking about decentralization. One of the problems associated with decentralization is that transport costs from decentralized industries to the harbours are always very high. Costs will be lowered immediately we have a decent system of roads in Australia. If anybody should support the improvement of our roads, it is the Australian Country Party; but any one who suggests that more money should be provided for roads is immediately assailed by members of that party with the statement that nothing good can come out of nationalization.
There is widespread discontent over the present situation, so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, and it does not exist only in the ranks of the Australian Labour Party. I want to quote a statement by a gentleman 1 have often quoted before. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) knows that I am referring to the Victorian Minister for Public Works, Mr. Petty. He is a Liberal Minister in the Victorian State Government. Recently, Mr. Petty urged a new scale of Commonwealth assistance for road works. This is what one newspaper reported of Mr. Petty’s remarks -
He said that otherwise the increase of traffic would outpace the inadequate rate of road improvement with freight losses to the community in transport costs and road safety.
Australia’s road needs for the ten-year period 1960-70 would cost £2,350,000,000. Victoria’s portion was £560,000,000.
But on the present scale of finance, Victoria would be £126,000,000 short of this total - a deficiency of £12,600,000 a year.
What was required were additional funds to finance the works programme.
So you can see that I am in good company when I express dissatisfaction with our roads, and I am glad to see that the honorable member for Fawkner nods acquiescence. I regret to say that the Australian Transport Advisory Council is not giving a national lead in this regard. The lack of a planned national approach to this problem will cost the nation very dearly in future. Loose unco-ordinated efforts in providing finance for the road system show no evidence of the immensity of the problem. The Commonwealth Government has said that it will give so much a year under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which was enacted a few years ago. It provided for a certain amount of money to be given to the States each year, increasing at the rate of £2,000,000 a year over the next five years, and so the Commonwealth Government says, “ We will do no more for the next three years “. That means that for the next three years we will be in a state of stalemate in connexion with the improvement of our roads.
The method of obtaining finance for roads is well-known The Commonwealth makes a grant which ostensibly is not made now from the petrol tax although actually it is, because the Commonwealth Government is paying the same amount now as it would have done from the petrol tax. In addition, revenue is collected by the State governments from the registration of motor vehicles, and the motor tax. Last year, the Victorian Government collected £34,115,000 from motor registrations and £3,288,000 from drivers’ licences. Such collections by the Commonwealth and the State governments comprise the bulk of the money that is spent on roads in Australia, plus an amount that is expended by local municipal councils. When we look at the Australian contribution to the road system, we should be ashamed of ourselves. A United Nations survey shows that the average expenditure on highways among member nations is increasing at the rate of 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, a year. But Australia, which claims to be doing a wonderful job with roads, spends nothing like that proportion of money and there are no adequate plans for the future.
What is the nature of this problem? Mr. Petty and other State Ministers say from time to time that they are quite unable to do the job because they do not get sufficient money from the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth keeps one-third of the proceeds of the petrol tax and puts it into general revenue instead of paying it to the States for roads. Australia has half a million miles of roads. Of those roads, 49 per cent, are cleared only, 18 per cent, are formed, 24 per cent, are paved and only 9 per cent, are of concrete or bitumen. In addition, quite a number of the main arterial roads are only single road’s. Everybody knows that in any decent civilized country the main arterial roads are two-way roads with a plantation in the middle. It is much easier for traffic to move along such roads, and there is less danger of accidents. I need mention only the Hume Highway. Five out of six accidents that occur on the Hume Highway are head-on collisions. There is no possibility of a head-on collision on a two-way highway. The Victorian Government is preparing to establish two-way roads, but there is not much prospect of marked advancement unless the Commonwealth Government does the right thing by the Victorian Government. In addition to our great mileage of roads, there are registered in Australia to-day 2,862,000 motor vehicles or one vehicle to every 3.63 of population. Those figures will increase yearly. I heard recently a television broadcast by the traffic commissioner in Melbourne, in which he said that the number of cars in Melbourne would double in nine years - by 1970. lt is quite obvious that provision has to be made for this additional traffic. Other countries are recognizing that more money must be spent on roads, but this Government is sitting back on its haunches complacently saying, “We are giving you £44,000,000 a year “. It does not say why it is doing this, nor does it explain that this system had its genesis in 1923 when the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia enacted legislation to collect petrol tax themselves. The Commonwealth Government then objected on the ground that it was unconstitutional for the States to collect petrol tax. It said that it would collect the petrol tax and hand tha money over to the States. That is the history of the petrol tax. Successive Commonwealth governments ever since then have taken a certain proportion of the petrol tax and have used it for other purposes.
We must go back to the stage where we were in 1923 when all the petrol tax was given back to the States. That is the fairest thing to do, because the petrol tax is a meter tax. You use so much electricity and you pay accordingly. You use so much water and pay according to the meter. Similarly, the more you use your car on the roads the more you pay in petrol tax, and the more should be spent on the roads. So, the petrol tax is in conformity with many other charges. The more you use your telephone the more you pay for it. If you go only a short distance by rail you do not pay as much as if you go a long distance. In other words, you pay in accordance with the mileage travelled. The petrol tax is therefore the fairest way of assessing the use of motor cars on the roads and it is the best method of collecting the money from the people who use the roads and wear them out. I therefore suggest that we have to look ahead in this matter for the next twenty years. I know that this Government lives almost from day to day and is not concerned about looking ahead.
In 1980 our population will have increased by 50 per cent, to about 16,000,000. The number of vehicles registered will then be two and a half times what it is to-day, or about 6,250,000. Highway usage will be three times what it is to-day and the share of transport on the roads will be bigger than ever because of the ever-increasing use of road transport. It is incontrovertible that where highway facilities are not available economic demand is stifled and expansion hampered. The causes of the road problem in Australia can be epitomized in three points. First, traffic has outgrown road capacity in weight, speed and density, and extreme congestion in city and urban areas is an everyday occurrence. I repeat that the number of cars in Melbourne will double in the next nine years. Secondly, there is no national concept of a strategic highway system as part of our national security measures. This Government is always talking about spending money on defence, but when we suggest that some of it should be spent on strategic highways so that if an enemy landed in northern Australia we could send our forces up there expeditiously we are laughed at.
At the present time in the wet season most of our mobile equipment would be stuck in the mud if it attempted to move about in northern Australia. Thirdly, the gigantic needs of the next decade or two have barely been estimated, let alone planned for. Other countries have given far greater recognition to road requirements over the next twenty years than we have. The Commonwealth Government’s attitude to the State governments in this matter is one of condescension or of looking down on poor relations. The Commonwealth knows that it has the whip hand because the States have not the power to impose a petrol tax. They have to depend on the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- On reading the fifth annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, my attention was directed to the section dealing with trade prospects, in which the following statement appears: -
The older types of general cargo ships are finding it difficult to compete with road and rail transport, but the Line is continuing to investigate specialized types of vessels which will enable it to maintain its place in the carriage of general cargo and its contribution to national development.
The Australian National Line has one container vessel that I know of. That is M.V. “ South Esk “, which operates between Melbourne and the northern Tasmanian ports, lt is a modified type of container ship, having been converted from a conventional general cargo ship. I want to refer specifically to the standardization of containers, a matter which comes within the province of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) through the Australian Standards Committee, which operates under the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
The economic transport of goods is one of the many important problems to be solved during the next ten years, and I would appreciate some information from the Minister, towards the close of the debate on this section of the Estimates, regarding any action taken by the Standards Committee to consult with similar organizations overseas on the universal standardization of cargo containers. The aim of the standard container system is to transport raw or processed materials from the point of production to the customer’s door in sealed undisturbed containers so that the goods will arrive in exactly the same condition as they were in when they began their journey. Any containers arriving in this country from overseas can be handled by our port facilities, but they should conform with Australian motor vehicle transport standards in regard to type and size so that they may be carried on the roads in this country.
The need for a standard container for all types of transport has resulted from the many disadvantages associated with the procedures now being used and which have been used in Australia foi many years. I feel that the Government must take some greater interest in this matter, because the reduction of transport costs by road, rail and sea is possible by the use of the standard container method. The cost of packaging for transport by present methods continues to rise and there is a tendency for shippers of all kinds of goods to economize in their packaging materials. For instance, bottles are being made of thinner glass and tin containers of lightergauge metal, and there is a marked increase in the use of thin expendable packaging film. The forwarding of more goods in smaller lots and in lighter, flimsier packs has resulted in greater loss through damage. Further, as more separate consignments of goods are in transit, increasing quantities of goods have been stolen. If we examine the records of the world’s major ports, we find, for example, that the Port of New York Authority reported that in 1959 over 3,000,000 dollars worth of goods were stolen from wharfs under its jurisdiction. There have also been considerable thefts of goods consigned by road and rail, particularly where goods have not been despatched under the container system, but in individual packages which can easily be stolen.
The heavy insurance premiums which must be charged to cover losses due to damage or theft is another factor which is incorporated into the cost of the goods to the consumer. The one system that permits a reduction of these high-cost factors is the container system, which is now being used in varying degrees throughout the world. It has been calculated that 50 per cent, of all goods now transported are suitable for packing into standard containers. At present, only 20 per cent, of all such cargo is packed in this way, but there is growing evidence supporting the acceptance of standard containers as a means of co-ordinating goods transport systems throughout the world.
Many American shipping lines, particularly the well-known Matson Line, and many American railroad companies, are co-ordinating their services for the transcontinental operation of standard containers. At the present time, an intercontinental container service operates between the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States of America, and it is possible that such operations will soon be extended to India and the Near East, as well as Australia, provided Australia has the facilities necessary for co-operation.
The benefits of the container system can be simply stated. First, the time spent by ships in port is cut by 20 per cent. Secondly, the rate of cargo handling is increased considerably. For example, the time taken to load and re-load 225 24-ft. containers is only twelve hours. Again, the time taken to lift a container weighing 50,000 lb. on to or off a ship is just three minutes. With a single sealed container of 20 tons only one unit has to be accounted for, whereas, if its contents were transported under other carriage systems, they would represent a multitude of small packages, which would have to be lifted and checked several times, especially where customs examination is involved. In the United States of America, the marine insurance rate for 100 dollars worth of goods shipped loose is about 55 cents. If the goods are shipped in standard containers, this premium is reduced to 20 cents.
It is interesting to be reminded that the shipping of goods in containers has meant a considerable reduction in the packaging required for such goods as tinned milk, soaps, sauces, vegetables and so on. As a result, pilfering has been almost entirely eliminated, and damage considerably reduced. After only a few years’ experience with containers, the American shipping companies have been able to cut their freight rates. If goods are handled in standard containers in Australia the cost to shippers will be less, and consumers will get cheaper goods. As the use of standard containers is one of the answers to Australia’s need to export more goods, the Government must see what assistance it can give in the provision of special facilities for bringing this beneficial method into operation. I suggest that perhaps the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) might consult with the States on this very important matter, because the installation of port facilities, as distinct from the provision of special ship’s cranes, is a matter for the State authorities. With our export problems in mind, we must appreciate that there are many cargoes which do not lend themselves to handling by conventional methods, but which, by the introduction of special types of containers, could be sent to places that are not normally regarded as markets. For example, by the use of refrigeration, dairy products, eggs, deep-frozen vegetables - even cut flowers - and other produce which perishes rapidly in the absence of refrigeration, could be sold to distant and remote markets, particularly in the Asian countries. A self-contained refrigerated container unit could, in fact, become a temporary store in a tropical area till its contents were distributed locally, when it could then be used to transport local produce back to some other centre or some other port. Refrigerated and temperature-controlled containers are flexible in their operation, and would make a country like Australia a potential market garden for the undernourished populations in the countries of Asia who need many of our agricultural products.
In 1960, 40 per cent, of Australia’s export trade took place with countries situated around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. This could increase to 50 per cent, by 1970. I know that the Australian Government is aware of the importance of increasing our exports, and I feel sure that the adoption by this country of a standard container system similar to that used by the United States of America, Japan and other Pacific trade areas would help us to secure additional overseas markets for many of our products. In the United States of America, they have been using a container 24 feet Iona, but I understand that the latest recommendation of the Standards
Association of that country is that basic units 8 feet by 8 feet by 20 feet long, 8 feet by 8 feet by 30 feet long, and 8 feet by 8 feet by 40 feet long be used. With the increased use of containers between the American continent, the Hawaiian Islands, the Philippines and Japan, Australia should endeavour to become a participant country in an international container system which would permit of the interchange of equipment and other services and offer common handling facilities in each centre or port. Cargo in containers will come to this country in some circumstances in ships equipped with their own special cranes for handling that type of cargo, and I suggest that the Australian Shipping Line might consider building some such vessels, in addition to modifying existing ships for the handling of cargo in containers.
Cargo undoubtedly will come to this country in vessels specially equipped for the transport of cargo in containers, and the unloading of that cargo would be greatly facilitated by the provision of special port cranes. The best known and most used crane of this type is one manufactured in the United States of America, but I was very pleased to learn recently that a licence has been granted to Vickers Hoskins Limited to manufacture this equipment in Australia. I know that one private concern in Western Australia is having a special crane made for handling containers.
I ask the Minister and the Government to give serious consideration to this question of transporting cargo in standard containers, because this method would not only help to increase our export markets, but would also establish a reservoir of standard transport equipment that would facilitate the movement of materials for domestic or military purposes in the event of any national emergency, whether it be due to natural o- war causes.
I leave those thoughts with the Minister and the Government in the hope that they will discuss the matter with the Australian National Line with a view to doing something in this direction in the near future.
.- I rise to discuss the Commonwealth Railways. The interim report on Commonwealth Railways operations, which was tabled yesterday, discloses that one of the most striking features emerging from the review of operations is that the working profit, or excess of earnings over working expenses, has increased from £1,172,890 in 1959-60 to £1,407,490 for the year 1960-61. I take it that this is one case in which the dedicated anti-socialist Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is elated at the splendid efficiency and magnificent returns which can be achieved by a socialized undertaking. And I remind honorable members that this undertaking was established by a Labour government.
I remind honorable members also that the profit of £1,407,490 as disclosed by the interim report is far below the actual profit earned. To prove my assertion, I propose to refer to the rate charged for transporting coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta, in South Australia. The 52nd report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, of which I am a member, contains this statement -
In paragraph 102 of his Annual Report, the Auditor-General said -
In 1956, on completion of the new standard gauge railway, the Government of the State of South Australia entered into negotiations with the Commonwealth Government regarding the cost of freighting coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. These negotiations resulted in agreement that the rate should be lis. 6d. per ton which is slightly more than one-third of the standard rate.
It has been the practice of the Commissioner to show as earnings, the difference between the contractual rate of lis. 6d. per ton and the standard rate of 33s. per ton for all coal transported under the agreement.
In other words, this Government agreed with the South Australian Government to transport this coal for 1 ls. 6d. a ton, whereas the standard rate charged by the Commonwealth Railways is 33s. a ton. The standard rate, therefore, is nearly 200 per cent, higher than the rate that the South Australian Government is charged under the agreement. In answer to a question that I placed on the notice-paper the Minister said that a total quantity of 985,069 tons of coal was freighted from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta in 1960-61. The rate for this coal was 1 1 s. 6d. a ton, as against the standard rate of 33s. a ton charged by the Commonwealth Railways. The difference between the rates is 21s. 6d. a ton, and if the standard rate had been charged the freight on this coal would have been increased by £1,134,764. This should be added to the announced profit of £1,407,490, and the real profit of the Commonwealth Railways for 1960-61 would then be shown as £2,542,254.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not opposed to this concession that is enjoyed by the South Australian Government, because I realize that cheap power is essential to the economy of that State. I do believe, however, that this Government is trying to conceal the fact that it is giving a subsidy to the South Australian Government which this year has amounted to more than £1,1 00,000. I believe that this amount should be credited to the Commonwealth Railways and written off as a straight-out subsidy. That would be the honest way to deal with it. What is the use of taking away the profits of a Government enterprise by giving the money to a particular State,
I should also like to make a few remarks about the Department of Civil Aviation. Recently I placed a question on the noticepaper in this form -
This is the answer I received -
In other words, the taxpayers of Australia have provided £91,273,668 during the last five years for civil aviation in Australia. Income received by the department in those five years amounted to £8,706,565. The taxpayers of Australia, therefore, have actually subsidized civil aviation to the extent of £82,567,103 over the last five years. Yet we hear honorable members of the Australian Country Party claiming that if the Australian Government established an overseas shipping line we would lose money on it. I believe that overseas shipping is every bit as important to us as is civil aviation, if not more important, but the fact remains that we have not an overseas shipping line. As I have said, the taxpayers of Australia have contributed £82,000,000-odd towards civil aviation over the last five years, and if one goes back another five years one will find that the amount contributed is abou! £150.000.000 for the total period of ten years, lt is obvious that the people who use Australian airlines are being subsidized to this extent. As I have said, one could not compare the importance of internal avia tion with that of overseas shipping. If you would protest against the subsidization of an overseas shipping line, you must also protest against the subsidization of civil aviation.
There is one other point 1 want to make. As every one knows, internal civil aviation at the present time is used predominantly by businessmen. Very few people other than businessmen use the airlines constantly. As a matter of fact, many Australian taxpayers have never been in an aeroplane in their lives and they probably never will be in one in the future. Many others travel by air only once in many years. As I say, the overwhelming majority of the Australian people do not use the airlines to any great extent. Yet the taxpayer has to subsidize businessmen who travel bv air. I believe we could get more money from this source. Admittedly navigation charges were increased last year in order to raise more money, so that we could get a better return on the money paid out by the taxpayers. I remind the committee, however, that only a couple of years ago the Government introduced special surcharges to cover capital expenditure by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Postage rates were increased, and this affected all sections of the community, because we all have to buy postage stamps. Telephone charges and telegraph charges have also been increased over the years to provide a return on capital used in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Why should we impose charges of this kind on the people and not do so in respect of capital expenditure by the Department of Civil Aviation?
In many countries overseas one has to pay a special embarkation fee when travelling by air. This is paid at the various airports and is used for the maintenance of those airports. It has nothing at all to do with the airline companies, and is in no wa added to their income. It is a charge made on the traveller by the government of th: particular country. I believe, as I have said, that in the interests of the taxpayers of Australia we should get more money than we are getting at present from those who benefit by civil aviation. During the last year taxpayers have subsidized civil aviation in Australia to the extent of £15,000,000 a year, and that is no mean sum.
– That is on capital expenditure.
– Of course it is, and we want a return on it, just as we get a return on capital expenditure by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. You cannot make fish of one and flesh of the other. You must be consistent. Every man, woman and child in Australia uses the postal services, and we all have to pay surcharges for those services to cover capital expenditure. But the Government imposes no such charges in respect of civil aviation.
As every one knows, the money used to build an airport is practically a dead loss, because the airport can be used for no other purpose than to provide services for the airlines and the people who use them. If the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport were moved from the present site, the aerodrome could not just be picked up and carted away. It could be sold only for the value of the ground and perhaps of some ancillary buildings and facilities which would have a limited resale value. The great bulk of the capital investment in civil aviation is worth nothing except for civil aviation purposes. Expenditure on civil aviation cannot be likened to the capital expenditure of the Post Office. Capital expenditure by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department provides assets which could be realized on to-morrow if a decision to sell the facilities, plant and buildings were made.
I emphasize again, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that if members of the Australian Country Party are to be consistent, they ought to remember, when they declare that an overseas shipping line would lose money, that the taxpayers of Australia subsidize civil aviation very considerably.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the improved results of the Commonwealth Railways over the last financial year afford pleasure to all honorable members. Our railways are at present passing through a period of great development. In the next few months, we shall complete the first of three vital new standard-gauge rail links - that between Sydney and Melbourne. Construction of the second link - that between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle - has now been approved, and will begin in the near future. This leaves only one link remaining - that from Broken Hill through Port Pirie to Adelaide. The completion of the link between Sydney and Melbourne and the decision to proceed with the one between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle make it imperative that we push on as quickly as possible with plans for completing a standard-gauge line over the 180 miles between Broken Hill and Port Pirie to close the remaining gap in the standardgauge system. Unless we do this, our standard-gauge system will remain fragmented’ into two distinct parts. That cannot be allowed to continue.
I, of course, enthusiastically support the Government’s decision to go ahead with the Western Australian standard-gauge line. But this emphasizes more strongly than ever the need to complete the missing link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. The provision of that link would considerably augment the flow of traffic over the TransAustralian Railway and further improve on the good results which we have seen in the last financial year. It would help the whole of the trade of Western Australia. If we can link the steel centres on the east coast of Australia and the new steel centres which are developing at Whyalla and Kwinana by a standard-gauge railway system, we shall be able to use that standard-gauge system to great advantage during the formative periods of the new centres for the transport of construction materials and the like. Furthermore, the link would be a form of insurance in case of war or other trouble, because it would enable iron ore to be transported from the west to the furnaces of New South Wales without running the hazard of all the troubles to which shipping may be subjected at some stage.
The proposed standard-gauge link from Broken Hill to Port Pirie stands on its own merits, because it will provide adequately for the carriage of ore from the mines at Broken Hill. Furthermore, this link is necessary for the development of Adelaide, which, without it, is likely to wither on the industrial vine. Indeed, this railway is necessary for the development of the whole of South Australia, because the economy of that State depends very largely on industrial development at Adelaide and Elizabeth. An additional factor is the facilities which the link would provide for the transport, without change of gauge, of pastoral and other products from the centre of Australia to the Adelaide markets.
Adjustment of difficulties associated with the branch lines will be required, of course, because they are of different gauge. I shall not weary the committee with details now. Let me just say that the last scheme proposed by the South Australian railway authorities, and endorsed by the Commonwealth Railways, for the adjustment of these difficulties over branch lines seems to me to be adequate and satisfactory and to have been thought out with due regard to the economics of the situation. I do not think that these details will cause us any trouble. The whole question of this standard-gauge link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, of course, is at present before the courts on the petition of the South Australian Government, and accordingly is sub judice. Therefore, I shall not trespass on it further. I only express the hope that, whatever may be the outcome of the legal action that has been taken, this vital standard-gauge rail link will be completed as soon as possible.
Let me now turn to the Victorian scene. Probably about the beginning of January of next year, the first freight trains will run over the standard-gauge line between Sydney and Melbourne. It is hoped to have passenger trains running only a few months later. 1 do not regard the passenger traffic as unimportant, but I consider it to be far less important than is the freight traffic. No doubt the airways will continue to make inroads into the passenger business. But there is, I think, no reasonable substitute for a rail link between these two major centres without change of gauge. Longdistance road transport does not seem to me to have a proper place in this kind of transport between our two major capital cities. The freight traffic is the important thing. It is heartening to find that at Dynon-road, on the northern side of Melbourne, the Victorian Railways Commissioners are laying out an adequate freight terminal. This will contribute very largely to the success of the scheme, and the way in which this terminal and corresponding ones in Sydney and Brisbane function will have a critical influence in determining how the entire scheme works out in practice.
In my view, what is needed more than anything else is a proper system for the transfer of containers between road and rail vehicles at the terminals in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. This is something to which I hope the Government and the committee of Government supporters which is investigating the standardization of rail gauges will turn their attention. I do not intend to go into the technicalities that are involved, although I have certain ideas about them. When I was overseas, I took the opportunity to see what was being done in this regard in Europe and America. I think that we must have not only an efficient railway and an efficient system of transporting goods in containers, but also a proper system for the transfer of containers from railway trucks to road vehicles and vice versa. This is the essence of the matter.
I turn now to a further aspect of the standard-gauge link between Sydney and Melbourne. I believe that there will now be in Victoria a demand for an extension of standard-gauge rail facilities to certain key industrial centres, such as Dandenong and Geelong, and perhaps to the wharfs in Melbourne. I think that if this be so we may have to go back to a report which was submitted to this Parliament by a special committee in 1926. We may have to consider for these limited applications - I emphasize the words “ for these limited applications “ - the advantages of incorporating a third rail so that the same goods trucks can run over both the standard-gauge 4- ft. 8½-in. rail track and the Victorian 5- ft. 3-in. track. I know there are difficulties in this. The report of the committee, which was delivered in 1926 and which is available to honorable members, discusses these difficulties. I believe that the third rail is not a suitable solution for through lines. It is probably not a suitable solution in marshalling yards and in other complicated positions, but for the dissemination of slow freight traffic from a terminal over short distances to industrial sites it may well be an expedient which requires further study. Again, I ask honorable members to look at the details of that 1926 report which indicates the advantages and the limitations of the system. We have been a little too ready to dismiss the third-rail system even as between the 5-ft. 3-in. and the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauges, not as applied to through or main lines but to branch and shunting lines and the last few miles of a track into a city terminal.
Finally, let me say something about freights. As honorable members will know if they read the report of the Railways Commissioner, a great deal of the success which the trans-Australia railway has had over the last twelve months has been due to what is known as the piggy-back system. By this system a wheeled road vehicle is run on to a flat-top railway truck and, over the section from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta or Port Pirie, it does the journey by rail on top of that railway truck. This system is used very widely in the United States of America and in Europe, but I do not think it has much applicability in Australia other than on the trans-Australia line. The reason for this is fairly plain. The height of the loading gauge over most Australian railways is 2 feet or 3 feet lower than it is in the United States. This means that on the main lines in the Australian States there is not sufficient clearance to allow an adequate load to be put on to a trailer and the trailer stand on its own wheels on a flat railway truck. If the trailer is properly loaded, the height is too great to pass through tunnels and under bridges and other obstructions. That is not the position in the United States, where the loading gauge is 2 feet or 3 feet higher than it is here, and it is not the position on the trans-Australia railway which does not have tunnels, over-bridges and other obstructions along its length. The United States practice has been applied successfully on the trans-Australia line. Although it may be applied to some extent on our main railways between our capital cities, I do not think that it can be applied so successfully. The loading gauge is too low.
I admit that the system does have some application. I have taken a spot check at some of the lorry loading stations of the heights of loads which are carried on semitrailers between our capital cities, and quite a considerable number of them could be carried piggy-back. Although the system has some possibilities, I do not think it is the complete answer to our problems in Australia where our loading gauge is low. As far as the railways are concerned, the container system is the better one to adopt. Not only must we elaborate a system of containers, including large containers, but also we must institute a proper system for the transfer of containers between road and rail vehicles. This is of the essence of the whole problem. Recently a committee of the standards association met in Australia. It decided on a set of standards for Australian containers for large loads. I sat as a member of that committee in its earlier stages but owing to my absence at the United Nations 1 was not able to continue to do so.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to congratulate the manager, officers and staff of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission on a year of excellent activity in this highly and exclusively socialized industry. Honorable members opposite so often go to such great pains to criticize the Labour Party’s policy of socialization but the Government continues to operate this socialized shipping line which the Labour Party was so happy to establish some years ago. At this stage the achievements of this line are worth recording. Over the last five years the Commonwealth has received a total dividend of £4,365,461 on its investment in the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. That in itself is a clear indication of the efficiency of this organization which, after paying taxes, just as any other shipping line is required to do, and meeting all the normal depreciation charges is still able to function, declare a 6 per cent, dividend and pay to the Commonwealth Government dividends amounting to £4,365,461 over five years.
No one can deny the value of the service which it provides on the Australian coast. Other shipping lines have not been prepared to accept the responsibility of providing a service in the unprofitable ports of Australia - there are a number of unprofitable ports - but the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has done so and thus has played a part in helping to develop the Commonwealth as a whole. I take great pleasure in congratulating the management of the commission on the excellent work that it is doing. It is showing that a socialized industry can be run efficiently and provide a most valuable service to the people in the outports who are not served by other shipping lines which are not interested in them.
I should like to refer now to shipbuilding and the need for the Commonwealth to take a greater interest in this matter and ensure that our shipbuilding yards are maintained and guaranteed a continuity of work which will be reflected in a continuity of employment. Only by this means can the shipbuilding yards continue to function. In the first place, let us consider the number of ships that have been built overseas for Australia since 1955. I took the trouble to compile a list of the vessels that have been built since 1955 in overseas shipbuilding yards, with overseas material and overseas labour in times when Australian shipyards have had no guarantee of continuity of work. The list covers one and a half pages. It indicates that 31 ships of a total tonnage of 143,967 tons were constructed, eight of which totalling 67,293 tons were used in the Australian trade but not the Australian coastal trade. The number of ships built overseas to be used exclusively in Australian coastal waters was 23 and the total tonnage was 76,674 tons.
Those ships should have been built in Australia in an orderly programme. The Minister should have been able to say to the various yards: “ You will be required to build ships of this tonnage. We want tenders from you to ensure that the work is done economically and there is no exploitation.” That is the only real way to build ships. Under the present haphazard system in Australia, the State Dockyard in Newcastle, for example, has not had a run of building the same type of ship for the past four years. With the exception of two ships built recently, every ship built there has been of a different design or with some alteration to design.
The overseas shipping lines realize that ships cannot be built economically in this way. They realize that ships must be built as cheaply as possible so that the capital invested in each ship, as well as the running costs, is kept as low as possible. They set out to build a particular type of ship - a ship of 10,000 tons, 15,000 tons and so on, depending on the requirements. They build a number of the same type and the yard that builds them is able to use the same plans, moulds and so on. This results in a considerable saving. The various shops know precisely what they must do. Obviously the marking off of a number of ships of the same type results in a considerable reduction of labour costs. Those supervising the construction of the ships are able to correct any errors that are made from time to time. And honorable members should not get the idea that people do not make mistakes. It does not matter whether the work is undertaken in Australia, in England, or in America; mistakes are made in the construction of ships just as they are made in all types of construction.
But the number of mistakes can be reduced, and ships built more economically, if the programme of shipbuilding provides for a number of ships of the same type to be built on the one order by the one yard. This obviously results in a saving in cost and increased efficiency, and this method should replace the present haphazard method of building one ship of 10,000 tons, another of 3,000 tons and possibly a third of 7,000 tons. This old method does not lend itself to efficiency, but unfortunately these are the conditions under which ships are built in Australia. These methods should be revised so that shipyards will know where they are going. They form a great national asset and should be preserved.
In adopting the method I have advocated, the Government should also ensure that shipbuilding yards are correctly fitted out. Some of our yards are not up to international standards, and the Government should provide finance for their development and for the introduction of new machinery and new ideas. If the general layout of a yard is not satisfactory, money should be made available to effect the necessary improvement so that the yard can compete with overseas shipbuilders. What is needed now is for the Government to make money available to develop our yards and, most important of all, to adopt an orderly programme so that continuity of employment can be guaranteed for the men and continuity of orders guaranteed for the company.
Let us consider for a moment the recent order for a 7,500-ton bulk carrier for the Australian National Line. This order was placed with Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited, and a newspaper item referring to the order reveals the state in which our shipbuilding yards find themselves to-day. On 9th August of this year, a newspaper reported as follows: -
Evans Deakin and Co. Ltd., joint managing director (Mr. L. McDonald) said to-day that if the yards had not obtained the contract it was possible they would have closed early next year.
The order would prevent wholesale retrenchments, which would have been inevitable.
What would these inevitable dismissals mean? They would mean that skilled and trained labour would transfer to other fields of employment. Skilled draughtsmen and the like would take employment elsewhere and would not be willing to return to the shipbuilding industry. If the shipbuilding industry becomes unstable, people will not work in it. Investors who otherwise might wish to place their money in shipbuilding would not be prepared to do so, because their money would be tied up in an unstable industry where it would lie idle because of lack of orders. I appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to the shipbuilding industry in an effort to ensure longrange planning so that the shipyards will know that they will be called on to build a certain number of ships over a given number of years. The present hit-and-miss policy should be abolished. If my suggestion is adopted, we will have a stable and economical shipbuilding industry in Australia.
Another matter to which I wish to refer relates to the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line. As I have said, I believe the Australian shipbuilding industry, developed along the lines I have suggested, would be capable of meeting the needs of Australian coastal shipping. It would also be capable of meeting the needs of overseas shipping. Honorable members who have taken part in this debate have said that we could not compete with overseas shipping lines. All I say is this: Qantas Empire Airways Limited is an international airline, and if it can compete successfully with private overseas airlines, an Australian shipping line would be able to compete with overseas shipping lines. Members of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties refer constantly to wages, but we know that their friends in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and similar companies employ cheap labour. They employ coloured people and pay them, as one might say, with a handful of rice. I have worked on ships and I know the conditions under which these men are required to live. Let me say this to honorable members on the other side: Your time is running out, you cannot continue to exploit these people. A man is entitled to receive a fair and reasonable wage for the work he does. But the coloured men who work on these ships operated and controlled by overseas shipping lines are not paid a fair and reasonable wage.
Let me return to a consideration of the profits made by overseas companies so that I may show the extent to which Australia is being exploited. Government supporters talk about our overseas balances, but freight in 1960-61 cost this country £150,000,000. Overseas shipping companies spent £86,000,000 in Australia, so we actually lost £64,000,000. The figures relating to this matter are contained in a publication distributed by the Commonwealth Statistician. They show that over the last five years we have paid £620,000,000 in freight on goods transported to and from this country. Deducting the approximate amount spent in Australia by these companies, we find that the charge against our overseas balances is some £290.000,000 Let us now consider the profits made by the shipowners. I have here a report of the P. & O. line for the year 1958, which shows that its profit in that year was £6,646,000 and that it declared an 11 per cent, dividend, which took £2,279,000 of the profit. The remainder - £4,367,000 - was paid back into the firm’s various reserves. And 1958 was a bad year for the P. & O. line, because the year before, after paying tax, it made a profit of £10,514,000. That is where our overseas balances are going, and the thing that worries members of the Government is the fact that a Commonwealth shipping line would provide the necessary competition.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Propaganda is a remarkable weapon. Since I came to the Parliament I have never ceased to be amazed by the methods employed to spread propaganda. Propaganda is, of course, the art of making black grey or white, or of making a little foal into a big horse. Let us consider one or two ways in which propaganda has been used in respect of shipping. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) used a very illogical argument. He said that because so many millions of pounds were spent in Australia on the provision of aerodromes and other civil aviation facilities we could spend a sum, which the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) worked out at about £300,000,000, on the provision of another line of ships. The honorable member for Watson entirely overlooked the fact that if aerodromes in Australia provided by the civil aviation authorities were removed there would be no others to take their place, but that while we deprive ourselves of the luxury of having a Commonwealth overseas shipping line we still have plenty of other ships operating from overseas to do the work required.
Not only would it be necessary to spend £300,000,000 on ships in order to provide the suggested overseas line, but it would also be necessary - and again I am relying on the figures given by the honorable mem ber for Griffith - to find about another £10,000,000 a year, or even more, to make up the losses on those ships. So we would have to find an initial amount of £300,000,000 for this mythical shipping line, and at least another £10,000,000 a year for every year of its life and, of course, the amount that would have to be found annually to meet the losses would increase. The capita! expenditure of the Department of Civil Aviation, on the contrary, is final, and the department does not have to carry millions of pounds in operating losses on particular services. I am still waiting for the time when the honorable member for Watson will come to Canberra by buggy, because there is no more justification for what he has said than there would be for a contention that honorable members should deprive themselves of the use of aircraft because such things as buggies are available. If the honorable member cannot find a buggy for himself I will find one for him, and I would say that with his antiquated ideas he would look just right in it.
Other statements have been made, too. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made a statement at Maryborough on 7th August regarding shipping. His statement was reported, in part, as follows: -
In the last four years, during which Walkers had been awaiting orders, five other 2,000 ton ships had been imported into Australia.
This propaganda statement was misleading because it did not reveal the whole truth. The truth is that no permits have been issued for the importation into Australia of any new trading vessels since 1956. But the honorable member said that certain ships had been imported since then. He did not say - and this is what is important - that no permits had been issued since 1956. I have it on the authority of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) that during 1955 and 1956 some permits were issued because, at that time, even with the subsidy, it was not possible in many cases for Australian builders to quote competitively, particularly as to delivery date. The reason was that at that time shipyards in Australia had plenty of orders. In those circumstances, the then Minister had little choice, in a period when Australian shipbuilders seemed assured of continued full production for some years ahead, but to approve construction in the United Kingdom.
The new trading vessels imported from 1957 to 1959, for which permits were issued in 1955 and 1956, were as follows: - 1957. -“ Koonya “, “ Macedon “, “ Rona “, “ Wongala “. 1958. -“ Koolama “, “ Kooliga “, “ Kooyong “. 1959. - “ Meringa “, “Pateena”, “Poolta”, “ Risdon “.
This information has been given to me by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and if any honorable member claims that permits were not given in 1955 and 1956 for any of those ships that I have mentioned, I have made it easy for him to check, since I have given their names. No new trading vessels built overseas were imported into Australia in 1960 or 1961. In this context it is important to remember that the vessel “ North Esk “ was not completed at Walkers Limited until 1957, and the vessel “South Esk “ was not completed at the same yard until 1959. During the same period, a limited number of second-hand trading vessels were imported into Australia to meet special circumstances. They were - 1957. -“ Viria “. 1958. - “Pattawilya” (ex “Sugar Transporter”). 1959. - Nil. 1960. - “ Blythe Star” (ex “Tandik”), “ Cobargo “ (ex “ Kopua “), “ Yalata “ (ex “Slevik” ex “Judith Mary”), “Sumatra”, “ Ewen W. Alison “.
Of the vessels imported in 1960, “ Blythe Star “ was imported to replace an earlier “Blythe Star” lost at sea on 17th May, 1959. Urgent replacement was necessary to enable the Bass Strait Shipping Company to maintain its service between northwestern Tasmanian ports and Melbourne. The “ Cobargo “ was imported from New Zealand by Hethking Steamships Proprietary Limited to provide urgently needed capacity for the lifting of sugar from the New South Wales northern rivers district. Construction of a new ship of appropriate size could not have been completed in the time available to the company. The “ Yalata “ was imported by Coast Steamships Limited of Adelaide to replace the “ Yandra “, which was wrecked in January, 1959. The “Sumatra” was imported by the Tasmanian Government as an urgent replacement for the “ Naracoopa “ in the trade between the east coast Tasmanian ports and Flinders Island. All those ships were imported because of great necessity, and they were used ships. The “ Ewen W. Alison “ is a vehicular ferry built in Australia by Poole and Steel Limited, Sydney, in 1930, and re-imported from New Zealand by the Tasmanian Government to operate between Bruny Island and the mainland. I am sure that the honorable member for Wilmot would not object to that importation.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said - and I quote again from the report in the “ Maryborough Chronicle “ -
Last year five smaller vessels of 500 tons or over were imported and so far this year another three such vessels have been imported.
This statement again is misleading. As I stated earlier, no new trading vessels were imported during 1960, but five secondhand vessels were imported and apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was referring to them. It is incorrect to say that three vessels have been imported this year. I am assured by the Minister for Shipping and Transport that no trading vessels, either new or second-hand, have been imported in 1961. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition apparently is confusing the vessels purchased by Burns Philp and Company Limited in Hong Kong for trading in the New Guinea area. New Guinea is not subject to Australian customs control, and vessels entering New Guinea waters are not subject, therefore, to the jurisdiction of the Department of Shipping and Transport. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was also reported in the “ Maryborough Chronicle “ to have stated -
Ships could be imported into Australia without the written permission of the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
I am assured by the Minister that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is completely wrong-
– That was a misprint. I said that they could not be imported without the permission of the Minister.
– I have not noticed any statement in the newspaper that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition corrected the published report; but if he says that it was a mistake, there is no need to go further on that point. If he published a correction, I did not see it. It must be appreciated by shipbuilders that tenders for new ships to be built in Australia are called on a competitive basis, and that the industry in Australia has increased its efficiency to such an extent that there is keen competition for the available business. If three shipyards in Australia can build a ship, it is impossible in general for the Minister to say, “ I have received tenders from each of you. You are all reliable companies and A company has submitted the lowest tender, but I cannot give it the contract because B company needs a ship to build “. How would tenderers operate under those conditions if you called for tenders and had to refuse a ship to A company because it already had a ship to build? So, obviously, the shipbuilding industry is one in which some difficulties do exist because it is open to all the yards, and they can tender for the ships that their circumstances enable them to build.
With regard to the importation of ships into Australia, as long ago as 1951, the Government amended the Third Schedule to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations to include ships, imposing a condition that an intending importer of a ship must first obtain the written permission of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. This provision still applies and generally is used to ensure that an accurate comparison may be made of the overseas and Australian costs of a new ship which any shipowner may wish to import in preference to building in Australia, and to ensure that government policy of support for the industry is not undermined by an influx of second-hand ships, many of them in near-new condition, which sometimes can be bought overseas at less than the cost of a new ship built in Australia. It is significant that since the Minister for Shipping and Transport took up his portfolio, he has not permitted the importation of any new ships. He has not given a permit.
Honorable members are aware that the subsidy granted by the Government is quite considerable. For example, in appropriate conditions, the subsidy on a ship that costs £600,000 in an Australian shipyard is £200,000. That applies to ships of 5d0 tons or over. I am pleased to see that the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) is in the chamber be cause I am sure he will learn something about shipping. He paid a visit to Maryborough only recently, but he did not take the trouble to find out what sort of ships they were building at Walkers Limited. Later, the honorable member rose in this chamber and said that as soon as the ship that Walkers Limited was building was launched, 1,000 men would lose their jobs. In the first place, he should have read the reported statements of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is extraordinary to find the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) justifying the neglect which the Government has shown of the shipyard at Maryborough in his electorate. The position in relation to orders for merchant shipping can be seen very clearly from the publication issued under the direction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) entitled “ Australian Shipping and Shipbuilding Statistics “. The last edition was issued in June last year. Seven vessels have been built at that shipyard and are listed in this publication. Two of them were completed in 1948, two in 1949, one in 1950, one in 1957 and the last one in 1959; so five of the orders were placed by the Chifley Government and two by the Menzies Government.
The honorable member has quoted certain passages from an interview I gave at Maryborough early last month which resulted, I am glad to say, in a Seato order for the Philippines being placed at the yards of Walkers Limited at Maryborough. If this order had not been placed, the remaining 75 men engaged in shipbuilding at Walkers would now be out of a job. Four years ago there were 250 men working in the shipbuilding section of Walkers Limited.
The honorable member referred to the importation of ships. I have asked questions on this subject for some years past. I do not remember the honorable member framing any. I shall quote answers I have received from the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. No ship can be imported into Australia without the permission of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Two years ago, I was told that in 1958-59 six ships were imported with his permission. The Minister’s permission was given in one of those cases in 1955, in another in 1956, in two cases in 1957, once in 1958 and once in 1959. Some of the ships were of considerable size, having a gross tonnage of 5,459, 2,881 and 2.099 tons. Last year I was told that the Minister and his predecessor had also given permission for the importation of many ships in 1959-60. Permission was granted in two of those cases in 1955, in ten case ;- 1959 and once in 1960. Again, some of the ships were quite large. One was of 4,125 gross tons, another 2,085 tons and a third 1 ,500 tons and there were three between 300 and 500 tons. I was told this ye?r that nine ships were imported in 1960-61 with the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
Approval was given in each case last year. Again, Sir, some of these ships were particularly suitable for construction at Maryborough. Five of them were just under 400 gross tons. Honorable members will surely agree that it is quite wrong that ships should be imported into Australia when we are well able to build them ourselves. Australia is a country which should depend more than most other countries on a merchant marine, because it ranks tenth among the trading countries of the world. All our imports and exports are carried by sea. We have the longest navigable coastline in the world. Our centres of population and our manufacture are on the coast and we could build and operate any ship required in overseas or coastal trade in our existing shipyards. The shipyards of Australia, with the existing facilities and skilled men, could build ships of any category up to 40,000 tons.
Since 1949, during the term of office of the present Government, there have been constructed overseas eighteen ships of over 2,000 gross tons, ten of over 1,000 gross tons, and four of over 300 gross tons, which are now operated by Australian owners. That was until the end of June, 1960. I am quoting from a publication of the Minister’s own department. Can anybody justify this? The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has in his electorate at Whyalla the largest shipbuilding yard in Australia and it gets very good orders. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr.
Jones) has another fine shipyard in his electorate and it, too, gets good orders. But the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) seeks to excuse the fact that the shipyard in his electorate, which is the only yard close to the tropical regions of Australia, does not get adequate orders.
The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the position in New Guinea. It is true that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) does not have to give permission for ships to be imported or constructed for the New Guinea trade. I never said he did. I am not picking out the Minister as an individual, nor would I pick out even such an insignificant Government supporter as the honorable member for Wide Bay. I am blaming the Government as a whole, because it is due to its lack of prudence and patriotism that this vital industry is languishing.
A couple of days ago I received from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) a list of all the ships which have been brought into the New Guinea or island trade in the last ten years. There are scores of them, and a very great number of those that could have been built in Australia were imported from overseas. We find that in June last three vessels were being imported from Hong Kong by Burns Philp and Company Limited, an Australian company, for the New Guinea trade. All three could have been built at Maryborough. A year before that the “ Ian Crouch “ was lost on a delivery trip from Hong Kong to South Australia. Such a vessel could have been built at Maryborough.
Let me cite some instances of slightly larger ships being imported into New Guinea for the island trade during this Government’s term of office. The “ Viria “, the “ Papuan Explorer “, the “ amor “ and the “ Natone “, all 300-ton ships registered in that Territory were constructed outside Australia in the last ten years. Perhaps Che honorable member for Wide Bay would like to explain why those ships were not built in Maryborough or elsewhere in Australia. These ships are not being built in Papua-New Guinea - I would be the last person to complain if they were - but they are not being built in Australia either. They are being built overseas, and we could build them.
The situation has been brought to the attention of honorable members again and again. The committee will recall the Tariff Board reports which have been made on the shipbuilding industry. The last of those was given to the Government in June, 1959, and was tabled in November, 1959. It stated there was no doubt that the local shipbuilding industry required assistance. The report added -
The Board, from the evidence before it, believes that without some additional special measures of government policy being taken the objectives of the shipbuilding subsidy may well not be achieved.
The board, although it had no right to do so, did in fact fortunately presume to make suggestions as to where we could get extra shipping orders for our Australian shipyards. It suggested that Australian companies which employ shipping primarily in the overseas trade might order ships in Australian shipyards, and that Australian subsidiaries of overseas oil companies might order ships in Australian shipyards. It stated also that Australian bulk cargo vessels could be built to engage in twoway overseas trade in certain limited commodities. Lastly, it suggested that new vessels might be built in Australia for the New Zealand shipping trade and that New Zealand ships could be repaired in Australia. The then Minister for Air, now Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), in tabling the Tariff Board’s report in this chamber stated -
The Tariff Board made certain observations on measures which could assist to generate demand if it was decided to have a greater level of occupied capacity in the industry. The Government has considered these observations and does not propose to take any special action on them, but the existing subsidy assistance will be continued.
The very extra steps which the Tariff Board reported two years ago as being necessary to effectuate the objective of the subsidy have not been taken and, in fact, were rejected at the time they were reported to the Parliament.
The necessity for a coastal shipping service in Australia, both publicly and privately owned and operated, is acknowledged by everybody and some honorable members have also mentioned the desirability of having some Australian ships engaged in overseas trade. Nobody, as far as I have ever heard, has suggested that the whole of Australia’s inwards and outwards trade should be carried in Australian ships, but we have suggested that some of Australia’s overseas trade should be carried in Australian ships. We are the only trading country of any significance whatever which does not operate a single ship between our shores and other countries, although we depend on shipping for all our imports and exports.
Why does this Government continue to be so improvident and unpatriotic when it comes to international trade? This position is brought home to us again and again and again. The various marketing boards make annual reports on the subject. On occasions we have had specific reports such as that from the Tait committee of inquiry which told us in March, 1957 - . . the ultimate determining factor in the setting of freight rates in overseas trade is “ what the traffic will bear” having regard to such alternatives as are available.
Since there are no Australian alternatives available we are completely in the hands of foreign shipping companies, which are primarily interested in looking after the countries where they are owned. I do not blame them for that, but I do blame this Government for leaving us completely defenceless. There is no other trading country in the world whose trade is entirely in foreign hands. Some other countries such as Canada have similar trade problems to ours, but they at least have their own overseas shipping lines to alleviate the position. Last year the Australian Canned Fruit Board reported -
Australian exporters of canned fruit already are at a serious disadvantage on the score of marine freight charges in comparison with those payable by their main competitors on the United Kingdom and Continental markets.
The Australian Egg Board reported last year that the 1960 United KingdomContinental freight rate represented close to 40 per cent, of the c.i.f. value of the product. To-day the Australian Apple and Pear Board has reported to us that the industry could not carry the 7.5 per cent, increase on the 1959-60 rates, but that after an appeal under the hardship clause of the formula agreement, and subsequent protracted negotiations, the industry had obtained a token concession on the basis of hardship. The increase was fixed at 5.8 per cent, instead of 7.5 per cent. This is going on all the time. The Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited reported a fortnight ago, referring to overseas freights -
Australia continues to labour under a considerable burden in that regard, and in our business the cost of delivering steel to such relatively close places as Singapore and Hong Kong is in excess of the similar costs incurred by European producers. Other markets, such as those in South America, are almost inaccessible because of the high cost of freight.
Bourbons, like the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), are so dedicated to the doctrinaire notions of private enterprise that they would prefer to have private enterprise when it is entirely foreign than to have an Australian enterprise which happens to be a government enterprise. If it is a matter of choosing between their own government and a foreign company they will choose the foreign company every time.
Yesterday, the report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission was submitted to this Parliament. It indicated that in the last five years there had been only one increase in the freights charged by the commission as against four increases in those charged by the conference lines.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was amazed to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) talking about this Government’s lack of patriotism, and about the shipbuilding industry languishing. His colleagues have also had a good deal to say about the way in which this Government is allegedly selling out our shipbuilding activities to overseas interests. Among other things, they have referred to the fact that certain destroyers are being built overseas instead of in Australia. Let us get it clearly on record that the type 12 frigates which were built in Australia took from six to seven years to build.
– That is not true.
– It is true. Further, the Daring-class destroyers took from seven to nine years to build. As the Charles F. Adams class destroyers are more technical and complex they would probably take twice as long to build in Australia as they will take in America. If that is the form of patriotism to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is referring, I am surprised that he should talk in that way. He knows perfectly well - probably better than any one else does - how urgently these destroyers are needed. I am also surprised that he is being supported by other honorable members of the Opposition.
I wish to address my remarks mainly to Division No. 372 - Marine Branch. In particular, 1 wish to refer to the item “Navigation Act - Miscellaneous expenses “. As Townsville is an A-class port, 1 submit there is one matter which the Minister should investigate. 1 refer to the lack of safety in the handling of cargo. Under the Navigation Act, it is laid down that in loading anil unloading operations certain responsibilities rest with the personnel on the ship. They are responsible mainly for masts, derricks and certain gear for the loading and unloading of cargo. Apparently, they ako have certain responsibilities for handling equipment which is on shore, but they do not seem to exercise those responsibilities. On the other side of the picture is the machinery inspector, who is an officer of the State machinery inspector’s department. He works on snore. There is a wide gap between the functions of the ship’s personnel and those of the machinery inspector, and the waterside workers are caught in the middle of that gap. That is not a very satisfactory situation, and I ask the Minister to examine it with a view to cleaning up the position. The State machinery inspector’s authority extends only to the inspection of the mechanical equipment on the wharf and the examination of the operator of that equipment. He is also supposed to have some role with relation to safety, but, apparently, if there is something wrong with the handling of the cargo on the wharfs, he has no jurisdiction over it. Recently, some disputes arose because of this problem. Whilst it is often said - and 1 think it can be generally agreed - that much of what happens on the waterfront happens because the Communists controlling the union want it to happen, there is no doubt that the vast majority of waterside workers have no desire whatsoever to hold up shipping. In fact, many of them come forward at times with very sound suggestions for improving conditions on the waterfront. When the Minister was in Townsville recently one waterside worker there showed him a device which I think could be of considerable value in contributing to greater safety in the handling of cargo. I sincerely hope that something will come of it. 1 repeat that there are many watersiders who desire to see good industrial relations on the wharfs, and to see their means of earning a livelihood kept steady. At the present time, it is impossible at Townsville to keep things running smoothly, because it would seem that a dispute over the safety measures being taken must first arise before the safety officer can be called in. This should not be so. Surely there should be more ready access by the union to the safety officer to ensure that an opinion can b? given before a dispute arises. I am firmly convinced that more ready access to this safety officer would contribute greatly to more peaceful industrial relations on the wharfs at Townsville.
I come now to another matter which concerns the Minister to some extent. I refer to the wooden pallets used for the handling of cargo, of which there are stacks on the wharfs at Townsville. I do not know who owns them, but they are transported from port to port, and many of them are made of the most rubbishy materials. Again, I do not know who manufactures them, but I do suggest that an investigation should be made into the materials used in their manufacture, for it often happens that they break and this constitutes a great danger to the men handling the cargo on the wharfs. I have inspected them, and found that many of them are made of soft wood which would snap after one or two handlings. They are extremely dangerous.
Once again I must refer to the Townsville wharfs in speaking of safety, but 1 mention them because I take a great interest in them. It sometimes happens that the operators there are required to handle cargo in a manner which, in my opinion, does not accord with safety regulations. For instance, I understand that the lift of a fork-lift truck should not be raised any higher than 10 inches while the truck is in motion. I have seen instances in which only one fork-lift truck has been used to lift such things as long, wide flat sheets of steel, some of them 20 feet long. In those cases, it has been necessary for the lift of the truck to be raised to the maximum height, but even then these long sheets of steel bend down and drag along the ground as the truck moves along. That is extremely dangerous. The operators have asked that this method of handling such cargoes be improved, but as yet nothing has been done. It is a great shame that we should think always in terms of placing the blame on the waterside workers’ union. I know that it has a turbulent history, and that most of what happens on the wharfs happens because the Communists controlling the union want it to happen, but the waterside workers are not always to blame. We are inclined to think - and this is the attitude of many of our employers - that because the union is Communist-controlled, then every difficulty that arises is just another Communist trick to cause disruption on the wharfs. This, of course, is not by any means the case.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is that of cargo freights. It is an extraordinary fact that it costs as much to send goods from Townsville to, say, Port Moresby, as it does to send similar goods from Brisbane or Sydney to Port Moresby. This is an extraordinary and ‘ ridiculous position. Take the case of a manufacturing firm in Townsville that wishes to tender for, say, a steel fabrication job in Port Moresby. For a start, the steel has to come from the south, from Sydney or Newcastle. The manufacturer suffers all the internal cost disadvantages at Townsville, and then he gets no advantage whatsoever from his geographical location or from his proximity to the northern markets. When he submits a tender he must compete against manufacturing firms in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, who get their steel far more cheaply, and who pay freight at the same rate per ton from those centres as the manufacturer in Townsville pays.
I do not think we can truly say that we are offering any substantial incentive to industry to establish itself in the north when we allow a situation to continue in which these stupid anomalies exist. All sorts of arguments may be adduced with respect to freight loading, and so on. These arguments may have been valid at one time. Perhaps Townsville was once a difficult port. It is not so to-day. Millions of pounds have been spent by the Harbour Board in providing port facilities. It is now an A-class port. The costs of operation at the port of Townsville are no higher, I understand, than those at any other port, and 1 believe that shipping companies have no valid excuse for charging the same freight rates from Townsville to Port Moresby as from Melbourne to Port Moresby.
– Another Communist trick.
– Well, fair enough-
– Would the ship start from Townsville?
– In actual fact, until just recently all sorts of additional charges have been made just for calling in to the port of Townsville, quite apart from anyactual freight charges. I do ask the Minister to look at this matter, because I think it constitutes a very serious handicap to the north of Australia. The same conditions apply to all sections of northern Australia. If we are going to take advanta.se of markets close to us, surely we should not penalize those who wish to set up industry in the north, with the disadvantages of internal costs, by making them pay the same freight charges as are paid by southern industries, with no advantage for geographical location and proximity to markets. I ask the Minister to do something about the matter. The sooner something is done the more incentive will be offered for industry to establish itself in the north, particularly in conjunction with those industries that are now developing so well. I refer particularly to the copper refining industry, which attracts other industries around it. The Minister has surely noticed that Townsville is now the No. 2 city of Queensland. It is going ahead rapidly, and now is the time for us to offer incentives to industries in that area.
– Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the very lively interest that has been taken in matters with which my portfolio is concerned. I was particularly interested in the matters raised by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) with regard to the ports in his electorate. I can assure him that I will give close attention to what he has put forward.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has made a number of statements concerning future developments in shipping. I think my colleagues on this side of the committee have produced effective arguments concerning the costs of establishing an overseas line and the competition we would have to meet. They have emphasized the high wages and overhead costs that have to be met by the Australian shipping industry, and they have effectively set out the difficulties of establishing an overseas shipping line. I do not think, therefore, that there is any need for me to stress those points further. The outlay that would be involved at this time, the competition we would have to meet, the fact that we would’ have to carry seasonal freights and have empty ships on the return journeys are all arguments that at this stage in our development, with a population of only 10,000,000 and with so many other things to be done, we should not try to run our own overseas shipping line. Every Opposition speaker to-day has given us his idea of the necessary monetary outlay, and if the various estimates were considered together they would amount to an astronomical sum.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I have traversed the same ground from time to time. We have looked at the same places. I would like to correct one impression that he has given with regard to a vessel that is shortly to be constructed at Maryborough. The construction of this vessel was a matter of negotiation for quite a considerable time before either of us made his inspection at Maryborough. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), with his personal requests for action to be taken, was influential in bringing the matter to the point at which an earlier start was made on the vessel. I believe the honorable member effectively prevented the disemployment of men at that centre. I would not like to sail under false colours, and I am sure I will not allow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to sail under false colours, by giving the impression that either his visit or mine made a difference in the placing of the order.
With regard to the coastal shipping aspect, I want to clear up one impression left by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor). He implied that the lower amount of subsidy on the Estimates this year indicates that we are cutting down the amount which would be allocated for subsidy and that, no matter what eventuated, this would be the maximum amount that would be allotted. This is not so. The amount shown is an estimate of what will be necessary for subsidies this year. However, we have already arrived at the stage at which the 7,500-ton vessel at Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited will be attracting a subsidy. The amount of the estimate will be increased to this extent.
The Australian Shipbuilding Board is constantly endeavouring to arrange for ships to be built at the various centres, and I hope that it will meet with success. If it does, we will have to increase this estimate. The amount shown, therefore, is not a ceiling, and the committee should not be left with the impression that the Government envisages this amount as a ceiling. I give due credit to the Australian Shipbuilding Board for its interest and enthusiasm in the merchandising of ships in Australia. Shipbuilding to-day has developed to the stage at which intensive study must be given to the building of specific ships on modern lines with speeds applicable to the type of transport for which they will be used. It is impossible for the shipbuilding firms or shipping companies to maintain the staffs that would be necessary to draw up suitable plans. The staff of the Australian Shipbuilding Board has been constantly employed in this way, and the board is contributing very greatly to the shipbuilding industry. I should like to emphasize this and pay tribute to the board.
There have been suggestions from honorable members opposite that, in some ways, the Australian shipbuilding industry has slipped back because government interest is lacking. I impress on the committee that such is not the case. There is at present a world-wide depression in shipbuilding. The tonnage of shipping available throughout the world is now at an all-time high because of the great deal of shipbuilding that has been done since World War II. Last year, the shipyards of the world launched 2,020 ships, but the total tonnage launched was 389,000 tons less than in the previous year. The saturation point has been reached in shipbuilding, and many of the overseas shipyards which have the construction efficiency that we have been told about are lacking orders. They are searching the world for orders. The Chief of the Bureau of Ships in the United States of America has predicted that this situation will prevail for the next few years. I suggest that in these circumstances the rate of shipbuilding in Australiareflects credit and not discredit on us. It has been maintained at a remarkably high level in the circumstances.
Programmes have been planned ahead. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), in whose electorate there is a large shipyard, suggested that a number of vessels of the same type and size should be planned to come off the production lines at the same time. Anybody who is associated with shipbuilding in Australia knows that that is not possible. But perhaps I may direct attention to what has been done in the planning of three ships for the lighthouse service. They will be in use, I think, in 1965. Instead of ordering them one at a time, we have ordered the three together so as to keep costs down and enable the construction to be more efficiently planned and undertaken. That is the way in which we are working.
Practically every vessel constructed inAustralia is built for a specific purpose and there are wide variations in size and equipment. We just have not in this country the demand for uniform shipping that the honorable member for Newcastle, with his theoretical views, envisages, however desirable it may be to undertake shipbuilding on a large scale. We have under construction in our shipyards at the present time a number of vessels. At Whyalla, a tanker of 32,000 tons displacement is being built for Ampol Petroleum Limited. Other vessels under construction are “Wollongong” and “Mittagong”, each of 16,000 tons. Two bulk carriers are to be completed in 1963 and 1964. Even in the current period of depression in the shipbuilding industry, we have a considerable tonnage under construction. I mentioned earlier the vessels for the lighthouse service which are to be constructed by the State Dockyard at Newcastle.
This Government has been charged with lack of interest in the shipbuilding industry, but it has exerted considerable pressure for the construction of, and given particular attention to, the vessel which is to be built by Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited. At this point, may I say that at a time when Opposition members are declaring that shipbuilders will be put out of work, and when it is essential that the construction of this vessel be commenced as quickly as possible, the metal workers at the Evans Deakin shipbuilding yard are planning a strike which will put more of their workmates out of employment. I think that at the present time they could be more co-operative and considerate in their attitude towards their workmates, even though they perhaps feel that by striking they will themselves gain some benefit.
I have been very gratified to hear the eulogies from both sides of the committee on the conduct of the Australian National Line. I hesitate to wear the socialist cloak even very lightly, but I do not hesitate to accept on behalf of the staff the very complimentary references to the conduct of the line which have been made by honorable members. The staff deserves commendation. When I took over the portfolio of Shipping and Transport from my colleague in another place, everything associated with it was in excellent order. I am assisted by first-class administrators, and any success achieved by the Australian National Line has been due to the way in which it is conducted under the control of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission with a maximum of efficient business administration and a minimum of ministerial and political interference. There has been ministerial scrutiny. There has to be. However, the line has been conducted not as a socialist enterprise but as a business enterprise, operating in competition with other concerns. I emphasize that the line has met competition and that it has done so successfully. It has entered the bulk-carrying trade, which is a profitable and fast-moving trade.
The line has also had the enterprise and judgment to enter the Tasmanian trade with the passenger ferry “ Princess of Tasmania “. I should like to say at this point that Tasmania can be very grateful to the Commonwealth Government for the interest that it has taken in Tasmanian shipping services. The very efficient operation and frequent turn-round of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ have undoubtedly caused a tremendous uplift in the tourist trade and the general business outlook in Tasmania. Here is a further answer to this reproach by Opposition members that the Govern ment is not taking a proper interest in shipping and shipbuilding. I refer to the calling of tenders for the construction of a vessel similar to the “Princess of Tasmania “ to provide a service between Sydney and Tasmania. That vessel will be in service in a couple of years.
The loss of passenger vessels from the Australian coastal trade has been mentioned. We cannot shirk the truth. That loss has been due largely to the high overhead costs of operating Australian-owned ships along the Australian coast. Differences of opinion about this have been expressed here to-day. These high operating costs have been brought about by wharf stoppages, seamen’s strikes and the like. In the ultimate, people who have capital invested in coastal shipping services and who want to make a profit on their investments have come to the conclusion that they can no longer afford to participate in the coastal passenger trade. However, we are not deprived of passenger services along our seaboard. Overseas vessels are playing an increasing role in providing these services, particularly for tourists, as I know from the many applications by overseas shipping companies and tourist services for permission to book interstate passages on overseas vessels. However, any one who wishes to construct a vessel similar in type to the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and provide a coastal passenger service is free to do so and will be afforded the protection of the provisions of the Navigation Act if he wishes to break into that trade.
I return now to the Australian National Line. The morale of the staff is very high indeed. The line is all the time looking for business in a constructive and progressive way and, as is evidenced by the balancesheet, is operating profitably. It is good that the line competes with other shipping services. Opposition members have directed some criticism at the fact that it has to pay income tax and a dividend to the Government. I say emphatically that those requirements provide a target at which to aim and keep the staff of the line on its toes. The line has attained the target, and deserves commendation for having done so
I shall now deal briefly with the subject of containers for the transport of goods, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash). William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited operates between Tasmania and the mainland what is known as a container ship. The advice and help given by the Australian Shipbuilding Board was of inestimable value to the company in enabling it to put this vessel in service. Roads were mentioned by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who has devoted a lot of time to this subject but whose ideas on the amount of money that can be allocated to this aspect of our development are, I feel, always out of proportion to the actual position. It cannot be overlooked that under the Commonwealth aid roads programme £250,000,000 has been allotted over the last five years, in addition to allocations which are made where it is obvious that improved or new roads are needed. I have in mind the allocation for beef roads, which is completely separate from the Commonwealth aid roads grants. In Australia with its demands for hospitals, improved education facilities and all the other things that go to develop a nation, only a specific amount can be allotted to the construction of roads without getting that matter out of balance with others. Although we appreciate that roads are a great asset to this country, we cannot spend more money on them than we can afford.
It is not right to claim that roads in Australia are not improving. Any one who drives a motor car, any one who travels over our roads or any one who lets his memory go back a few years, knows very well from his own practical experience that there has been a great development in our roads. They have improved considerably. There are many signs of additional miles of roads being laid and of existing roads being widened and straightened. This is evidence that progress is being made and that the amounts which have been allotted are playing their part. At the same time, the development of our roads is a matter which is constantly in mind. I repeat that the amount which has been allotted to road works has played and is continuing to play a tremendously important part in our development.
I have mentioned the high morale amon. the officers and staff of the Australian National Line. The same may be said of the Commonwealth Railways. There is a first-class spirit among the staff, good executive control and an imaginative outlook. This is evidenced by the development of the piggy-back system of transport which was mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Without being able to go very deeply into the rail standardization project, in relation to which the Government of Western Australia is now preparing legislation, I should like topay a compliment to the standardization committee which was headed by the honorable member for Mackellar. It investigated this subject very thoroughly and: its information was of great advantage to me in the administration of my portfolio. As he stated, matters in relation tothe standardization of rail gauges are at present under legal scrutiny and so cannot be discussed at this stage.
Shipbuilding was one of the main themes of this debate and I should like to emphasize that the Government has a very real and a very live interest in shipbuilding. Over the last twelve months the wages paid to employees in the industry have increased, a greater tonnage of ships is being constructed and we are looking forward to future orders based on Australia’s needs. This indicates that the position is not asgrave as some honorable members opposite tried to make out. Instead, there is room for optimism that the shipyards will continue to develop in the future. Australianbuilt ships are recognized as being among the finest and most outstanding in the world.
Mr. WHITLAM (Werriwa) [5.01.- We on this side of the committee share the pride of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) in the Australian Shipbuilding Board, the Australian National Line and the Commonwealth Railways. They are all outstanding in their technical and managerial skills. They have shown the way in which public enterprise can help to develop our country further.
The Minister has stated quite rightly that Tasmania should be grateful to the Commonwealth for the interest which the Commonwealth has taken in providing ships to ply across Bass Strait. This is an example of private enterprise, of its own free will, vacating the field and public enterprise occupying it. If public enterprise had not done so, there would have been no sea transport to Tasmania. There are many other places on the Australian coast, particularly in the northern areas, where there would be no regular shipping service if it were not for public enterprise. That is a field in which private enterprise either is not providing a regular service or is providing it at too high a cost. When we have referred to this great socialist enterprise of the Australian National Line, we have not merely meant that it should be or will become the only coastal shipping service. We have meant primarily that in its pioneering and competitive aspects it has performed the inevitable role of public enterprise.
When we have advocated an Australian overseas shipping line we have merely pointed out that public enterprise - the only Australian enterprise which seems likely to emerge in this field - will be able to compete with the foreign companies in whose hands we now lie exclusively. There is no other country in the world whose trade is entirely in foreign hands. Last financial year we paid £150,000,000 in freight on our imports. The amount which we paid in freight on our exports was deducted from the amount that we received for them. Every one who has commented on this field has indicated that less freight would be paid on our imports and increased revenue would be obtained from our exports if we had Australian ships competing with foreign vessels. This is not a question of whether they should be public or private Australian ships. It is simply a question of having Australian ships. If we assert that in the absence of private ships we will not have any public ships, we will be handicapping ourselves as a nation in our trade and development.
It may be true that Australian wages are high, but they are only one-half as high as those in Canada and the United States. They are no higher than the wages paid in New Zealand. They are certainly no higher than the wages paid on the American ships registered in Panama, Liberia, Honduras or Costa Rica. It is not to be believed or tolerated that Australia could not succeed in international trade.
The cost of providing our wharf facilities has sometimes been mentioned. This cost is due to the mechanical element, not the human element. There are no ports on the European-Australian run which are so inadequate mechanically as those at the Australian end. Ships which trade between Australia and Europe have better facilities at Hamburg, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Southampton, Genoa and Naples than they have at any of the Australian ports at which they call. This is not a matter for which one can blame the waterside workers or the longshoremen. It is not even a matter in which one can blame wholly the stevedoring companies which, as we know, are owned by the overseas shipping lines and whose inefficiency was frequently admitted by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he was Minister for Labour and National Service. The pure fact is that our ports are underequipped.
I know that this Government commonly pleads that ports are a State matter. But the first power this Parliament is given under section 51 of the Constitution is to pass laws and to spend money with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. Where overseas or interstate trade is concerned, this Parliament has just as much authority, and therefore just as much obligation, as any of the State Parliaments had. At last the Commonwealth has accepted that. It is at last providing funds for the re-equipment of some of our ports through which we shall be able to gain extra export income from minerals and the like. But the same decision could apply to every port. This has been advocated by those honorable members in whose electorates the Australian ports are - nearly all of them on this side of the chamber - and the Government has only recognized that opportunity in this present financial year. 1 was interested in the illustration given by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). He quoted the disparity in freights between Townsville and New Guinea and Townsville and Melbourne. One would have thought that labour Costs at the New Guinea end would have been considerably lower than those at Townsville or Melbourne. One would therefore have thought that, as far as the waterside aspect was concerned, freight would be lower going north than going south. The fault resides, therefore, with the shipping companies. This is also borne out by the position between Australia and Europe. As the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission reported to us yesterday, in its five years of operation there has been only one increase in its freights, and in some instances it has been possible for the line to reduce its charges. In the same period, there have been four increases in freights by the United Kingdom-Continent conference lines and no reductions whatever. The increases have been considerable - 7± per cent, in 1955, 14 per cent, in 1957, between 7 per cent, and 31 per cent, on exports in 1958, and between 5 per cent, and H per cent, last year.
The significant point is that the Australian National Line has to pay stevedoring costs at the Australian rate at both ends of its trips. The conference lines pay them at one end only, lt is quite extraordinary, therefore, that the freights should go up so very much more between Australia and Europe when our wharf costs affect one end only than do the freights on the Australian coast where our wharf costs affect every stage. The lesson is plain. We have competition and Australian ships on the Australian coast; we have a cartel and foreign ships internationally.
This Parliament can deal with our coastal costs. I regret that the Minister for Shipping and Transport did not deal with this subject. When the honorable member for Herbert refers to the disparity of costs on the Australian coast and between Australia and its Territories, he is referring to a matter that is completely within the competence of this Parliament. I suppose it could be theoretically said that the Commonwealth Parliament, since it can pais laws concerning trade with other countries, could regulate the freights between Australia and other countries. The consequence of it doing so, however, might be that no foreign ships would come to Australia. Since we have noi yet bought, built or chartered any ships for ourselves for overseas trade, we would then be left without any transport at all.
But on the Australian coast we can in fact superintend or regulate the freights which are charged between one State and another or between any State and a Territory. If the private companies do not like it, they just go out of business, because their ships in general are not suitable for nonAustralian runs. Some might be sold to the
Aegean or to the Indies, but in general they would obviously not leave the Australian trade. Even if they did, the Australian National Line could provide the service.
The regulation of freight should not be regarded as anything tyrannical or unusual. It is something which the American federation has been doing for over 70 years. The American Interstate Commerce Commission regulates interstate or territory freights by road, rail, sea and air. This Parliament could do exactly the same. It already does it as regards air transport. It has not yet done it as regards sea or road transport. It has, if it re-establishes the Inter-State Commission, no power to do it as regards rail transport. I would hope, Sir, that the plea of the honorable member for Herbert in this matter will stir this Government into action which the American federation has always accepted as its responsibility and which is also the responsibility of this Parliament under our Constitution.
I have no time to go in detail into the references made by the Minister regarding railways. I merely point out - I think he will be swift to acknowledge it - that the report presented by the Government members’ committee on rail standardization proposals on 31st October, 1956, was accompanied at the same time by a report from members of my own party. The recommendations made by the two committees were practically identical in their proposals and in their estimates. I think that all members take satisfaction that something is now being done on several of those proposals. The only regret that members of committees on both sides have is that those proposals were so long resisted and so long deferred.
I want to conclude by a reference to the road position. It is true that the amount of money being provided for roads from the petrol tax is constantly increasing under the 1959 act. It would have increased just as much - in fact a little more - under the 1954 act. Queensland in particular would have received more from the petrol tax under the old agreement than it receives under the agreement which succeeded it two years ago.
More particularly, I want to point out that this Parliament can take more interest than it has in roads, particularly in coordinating roads between one State and another and in building development roads.
This Parliament can make grants to States for specific roads. We have done so in New South Wales and we are doing so with Queensland. We also, of course, could ourselves build interstate roads or roads between a State and a Territory. There are many instances where such roads ought to be built, particularly in the northern part of the country.
This has now been recommended by the Division of Agricultural Economics and by the Australian Meat Board, by the former to Cabinet in January and by the latter to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in March. They have urged that roads should be built through the Channel country. The Commonwealth could make grants to Queensland for the purpose and presumably also -could itself build roads between Queensland and New South Wales and Queensland and the Northern Territory. The grants that have been announced in this year’s Budget provide for substantial roads not in the Channel country, but in the Gulf country. I cannot quote at any great length from what have been retained as confidential documents, but I ask honorable gentlemen to use their own endeavours to obtain these reports by the Division of Agricultural Economics and the Australian Meat Board on these Channel roads. I believe it is regrettable that we in this Parliament are not given these reports openly; they would awaken us to what has to be done in this field. The Government prevents us from learning the cost of necessary road construction in the north and the returns in export income.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is a member of this House, I want to pay a tribute to him in his presence at the very start of my remarks. My tribute is to his unfailing courtesy. Every time that I have gone to him with any proposition or problem he has given me great assistance in every possible way. He has co-operated in an extremely pleasant way, and I know that all honorable members will support me in my tribute :o him.
The two proposed votes which we are considering - those for the Department of
Shipping and Transport and the Department of Civil Aviation - are both connected with transport in one form or another. 1 want to make some remarks about statements made earlier in this debate by certain members of the Opposition. Speaking on the Federal Aid Roads Agreement the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) sal: that the Government was now resting on its oars. I interjected, “ On its laurels “. He said in answer to that interjection, “ The honorable member for Mallee preaches decentralization but does not want better roads “. Could there be a greater misconstruction than that? When it comes to misconstruing what anybody has said I think that the honorable member for Batman’s misconstruction of my interjection is a gem. If I say that the Government has laurels - and I am prepared to prove that it has - that does not mean that I am completely satisfied with what is happening. A representative of the people in this Parliament has to be continually unsatisfied, but docs not have to be dissatisfied all the time. Let us compare what happened under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement in 1948-49. the last full year of office of the Labour Government, with what is happening to-day. In 1948-49, the total amount allocated to all the States under the Federal Aid Roads Act was less than £8,000,000. This year, the amount allocated to Victoria alone is well over £9,000,000. The Minister is to be complimented on that, because we have a new agreement that has given £100,000,000” more for roads in Australia over the present five-year period than was given in the previous five-year period. He is also to be complimented on the fact that this year Victoria will get more for roads under the agreement than the whole of Australia received in the last year of office of the Labour Government. Surely that deserves laurels? But I do not think we should rest on them, and I do not think that the Government is resting on them.
One Labour member said that, in respect of roads, the Government just goes on from day to day. The Government’s five-year programme shows that the opposite is the truth, because under that programme the States will be able to plan ahead for road maintenance and construction. That is the very reason for the programme. Aid to the States for roads is not allied to the petro! tax, though the amount of aid can be expressed as a proportion of the revenue collected from petrol tax. When Labour was in office, just a shade over one-quarter of the amount paid in petrol tax in the various States went back to the States for use on roads. The Labour Government kept almost three-quarters. I know these things because I was here, in Opposition, from 1946 to 1949. Looking round, I see that of the Labour members now in the chamber only one - the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) - was a member at that time. He knows what happened then, and he also knows how the then Opposition fought so strongly to get a better deal for the States in connexion with road works.
It is only necessary to travel through various parts of Australia in order to see how roads have improved since this Government came into office. We have continually advocated the allocation of more money for expenditure on rural roads, and as a result the act was amended to provide that 35 per cent, of the total allocation had to be used for rural roads. As a result of further advocacy the percentage has been increased to 40. Rural roads are not main roads; they are just what the term implies. Shire councils and boroughs and others interested in roads are getting a very much better deal than they ever got before.
I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is very interested in overcoming the road toll, which has become such a menace to-day that everything possible must be done to reduce the number of casualties. The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics has recently issued road traffic accident statistics for 1959-60 which, interestingly, show that the number of accidents in that year attributed to road conditions was 2,231 involving the injury of 3,099 persons and the deaths of 75. The number of accidents for which drivers were held responsible was 26,687, involving injury to 39,050 per .ons and death to 1,535. I know that bad road conditions contribute to accidents, but those statistics show very clearly that the people in charge of motor vehicles are the chief cause. The number of accidents that occurred on straight roads was 20,075 involving injury to 25,475 people and death to 1,268. The strange thing - and I have tried to work this out - is that on bends or curves where the view was open there were 5,024 accidents but that where the view was obscured there were only 1,142 accidents. Deaths in accidents at bends or curves with the view open numbered 414. lt appears that where the view is obscured there were fewer accidents, but of course that does not necessarily give a true picture because there would be more curves where the view was not obscured than curves where the view was obscured. That fact, and the fact that the majority of accidents are on straight stretches of road, proves the truth, of the old saying that it is not the miles you travel, it is the pace that kills. Yet State Ministers and road boards have been straightening out curves in order to try to cut down the road toll, and roads are now being built, as far as possible, without curves, lt is doubtful whether this will in any way prevent accidents on the roads.
Now I turn to the subject of shipping. The Labour Party has been advocating very strongly in this debate that we should have a Commonwealth overseas shipping line. As the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) has said, the first Commonwealth shipping line failed because it could not be run economically. It was said that the wheat-growers and other primary producers were able to send their produce overseas more cheaply than they could when using other shipping lines. The fact was that they had concessional freights, but the cost of operating the line came back on the people and in the aggregate it cost them more in taxation. Therefore, it was sold.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said the shipping lines make profits now because they pay low wages to those who work the ships. That might be true. The honorable member said, “This is coming home to you “. How is it coming home to us? We are sending our goods overseas in these cargo ships. If we built a new Commonwealth line and manned the ships with Austraiian crews we would probably have the slowest turn-round in the world as we have had in the past. We would have many strikes on the waterfront, such as those that honorable members on the Opposition side sometimes seem to aggravate by speeches in this chamber. We would have what we had before - high costs. That might be satisfactory to a socialist Labour government, but this Government looks at the economy of the country and plans its
Budget. Although a Commonwealth shipping line might seem to be desirable in the light of some statements that have been made but cannot be substantiated, the records of the past and the prospects for the future show that in present circumstances the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line would not be in the best interests of Australia.
Speaking of roads, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that if you compare roads in other parts of the world with those in Australia, you find that in other countries they have two- and three-lane roads and everything is better than ours. I know that we have not the best roads in the world. They have been improved and in some cases they are very good; but other things must be taken into account. When Labour members compare Australia with other countries, they forget the hours that are worked in the various places they are comparing. In Japan, the average working week is 50.2 hours. Japanese do not work a 40-hour week. West Germany has built itself up by long hours. We might not agree with labour conditions in those places, but you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have people working short hours and expect the production that you get from those who work long hours. The average working week in West Germany is 44.5 hours and in France it is 45.1 hours. The Italians work an 8-hour day, but they work more than five days a week. The figures for Russia are not available.
Members of the Opposition make statements to the detriment of Australia when comparing it with other countries without taking into consideration the more favorable conditions we have in Australia. These things must be taken into consideration if you want to be completely fair.
– You are always running down the Australian worker.
– That is one thingI have never done in this Parliament.
– You did it five minutes ago.
– I did not, andI would like the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to tell me when I did that. I said the Australian workman was favoured.
– You spoke about the slow turn-round of ships.
– If the turn-round of ships has been slow, much of it was due to propaganda and the aggravating speeches of Communist union leaders on the waterfront. Everybody knows that.
– The honorable member for Wills has said, “ Rubbish “, but he has the record to read. I believe that we must continue to improve our roads.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £467,000.
Proposed Vote, £7,939,400.
Proposed Vote, £5,005,600.
Proposed Vote, £52,000.
Proposed Vote, £17,465,400.
Proposed Vote, £43,500.
Proposed Vote, £100.
– The estimates that the committee is about to discuss hold out very little comfort or encouragement for the people of northern Australia. I know that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the Government will say that the expenditure proposed in the Estimates represents an increase of some £2,000,000 on the vote last year, and that therefore the Government has been very generous to the north. Whenever the Estimates have been presented, the implication has always been that the north is very well treated and that it contributes very little, if anything, towards its own upkeep and development. I want to impress on the committee some of the ways in which residents of the Northern Territory contribute to the development and upkeep of that part of Australia. There are various ways in which they pay towards the expenditure on the Northern Territory. What we do not contribute in actual cash towards our own development we certainly make up for in other directions.
Like every other person in Australia, we contribute towards Commonwealth revenue. We pay income tax just as everybody else does. Certainly, we have a zone allowance which gives some minor relief; but we pay gift duty, estate duties and pay-roll tax as well as petrol and diesel taxes. I remind the committee that the ratio of vehicles to people in the Northern Territory is the highest in Australia. Therefore, the people of the Northern Territory use more petro] and dieselline per head of population than do the people anywhere else in Australia. Motor transport is the only means of transport in the Northern Territory and the people there are compelled to use it more than do residents in the more settled parts of Australia. We have no alternative means of transport such as railways and ships which are normally available in the south. Since we have to rely so heavily on motor transport, our commitments in the way of petrol and diesel taxes are as high if r higher than those per capita in other parts of Australia.
We pay sales tax, and in that connexion 1 point out that sales tax is levied on the landed cost of commodities. In the areas adjacent to the capital cities of Australia, where freight is not a big component in the actual cost of the commodity, people do not have to pay the sales tax that residents of the Northern Territory have to pay afterthe landed cost has been computed. Because of the long distance that commodities have to be hauled in the Northern Territory freight is a very large component in the overall cost of goods. As sales tax is computed on the landed cost, the proportion of sales tax paid in the Northern Territory is high. Therefore, people in the north pav more sales tax per capita than is paid in most other parts of Australia.
All these impositions add up and when we consider other costs such as stevedoring charges and wharfage, it can be seen that Northern Territory residents make a sub stantial contribution towards the Commonwealth’s expenditure in the Territory. The total expenditure for the year 1960-61 was £9,900,000, which included all recurring charges and capital works. For 1961-62 the estimate is £11,900,000, an increase, on paper, of £2,000,000. But out of that has to come the £350,000 for expenditure on developmental roads. That leaves £1,650,000 and a substantial part of that additional expenditure will be taken up in the construction of an administration building in the Northern Territory. Year after year, considerable sums of money remain unexpended in the Northern Territory vote, so in actual fact, I do not think we will get a great deal more work done with the money provided this year than was performed last year. There will be very little money indeed for real developmental work in the Northern Territory.
Dealing with developmental activities under various headings we find that £56,000 is provided for mining this year, which is £2,000 less than was provided in 1958-59. It is certainly a few thousand more than the figure for last year, but we have not as yet got back to the figure for 1958-59. A sum of £95,000 has been set aside for agricultural research and this is £10,000 less than the figure for 1958-59. Here again the figure is slightly greater than it was last year, but the fact remains that we are spending £10,000 less this year than we spent on agricultural research in 1958-59. The vote for pastoral work is split up under various headings and cannot be easily ascertained, but I doubt very much whether it is any greater this year if we exclude, of course, the £350,000 of expenditure on developmental roads.
There is another important heading to which I wish to draw the attention of honorable members. I refer to item 14, “ Educational services and scholarships “. Here the estimate for 1961-62 is £429,000. In September last I asked the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) how many scholarships and exhibitions were available to school children in the Northern Territory, how many children had qualified for those exhibitions and scholarships, and how many had been able to take up those scholarships and exhibitions. The Minister’s reply read, in part -
Thirty-iwo Intermediate and twenty-seven (N.T.) students qualified (for exhibitions and scholarships) academically. In 1961, three Intermediate exhibitions and two Leaving Honours scholarships were awarded.
Out of a total of 59 students who had qualified for exhibitions or scholarships, only five were able to take advantage of them. This, of course, is the result of the imposition of the means test, which makes it impossible for most parents to allow their children to take advantage of the academic qualifications that they have attained. It is a shocking state of affairs and one which should be altered at the earliest possible time. All this amounts to the fact that very little is happening in the way of actual development in the Northern Territory.
When we consider the amount of work anc! effort that has gone into research into developmental programmes and policies in the Northern Territory over recent years it is difficult to realize that virtually no money is being expended in that direction. If we take the comprehensive Forster report which was presented in this chamber as long ago as October last year, read the recommendations contained in it, and then consider the complete lack of action by the Government on those recommendations, we realize the extent of the interest that this Government is taking in the development of this part of Australia. The Forster committee laboured for twelve months or perhaps two years - I do not know the exact time - and put considerable effort into compiling its report. Its recommendations were most valuable. I do not know that the committee revealed a great deal that we did not know previously, but at least it confirmed in no uncertain manner the things which had to be done in that part of the continent, particularly on the agricultural side. I wonder what the feelings of the members of that committee are when they have to sit by and see that report tossed about and eventually find a resting place in some pigeon-hole where it will probably never see the light of day again.
I pay a tribute to the work of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). I know that he rolled up his sleeves and got out into the sun and into the fields and did much physical labour. He spent quite a lot of time on the task and I do not think it can be of much solace to him to peruse the Estimates and the Budget
Papers and see the Government’s complete disregard for the work that he did. Nothing has been done about the recommendations. Nothing has been done about farmers organizations, although there is a move at the moment in regard to land tenure, agricultural credit, financial assistance and transport. In respect of transport the committee has this to say -
Any means by which transport costs can be reduced, including public works in the form of roads, railways and airfields, should be accepted as one of the major contributions which the Commonwealth Government can make to the development of the Northern Territory.
There is a small move in that direction, but that is all. The committee then suggested a course of events which would have the effect of reducing the cost of superphosphate fertilizer to the farmer. It went on to state that because the use of superphosphate fertilizer is the fundamental basis of farming and because of the excessive cost, a subsidy should be paid on superphosphate in the Northern Territory/ But nothing has been done about that. We have heard talk of the role of pilot farms in the Northern Territory, but nothing has been done about them. Nothing of any consequence has been done about the report and I do not anticipate that anything will be done. There could, of course, be some withholding of announcements until just before the forthcoming election. I do not know about that, but up to the present time nothing has been done.
Then a scientific liaison conference was held in Darwin. Scientists attending it considered at great length various aspects of development in the Northern Territory, and here again I fear that their very valuable contributions will be virtually thrown interne waste paper basket. And these men were experts in tropical science. That conference was held in February of this year, and I propose to quote from the address given on that occasion by the Minister for Territories, because it is very illuminating when we compare what he said then with the provision that has been made in the Estimates. Amongst other things, the Minister for Territories said -
If the nation chooses to take bold and determined measures to develop northern Australia-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has allowed himself the luxury of becoming very gloomy about the development of the Northern Territory. Because he is in opposition, and because many of the required reforms present great problems, perhaps we can forgive him for his gloom, but I should like to say to him that many honorable members on this side will support whatever action the Ministefor Territories (Mr. Hasluck) chooses to take to do those things for the Northern Territory which must be done during the life of the next Parliament. I suggest that the honorable member approach this question in a constructive way. The speech he has just delivered was of the type tha’ one would expect to hear from a man who has almost given up hope. I do not blame him for that, because the position certainly is most difficult, but I say to him, “ Cheer up, be of good heart, have courage, help is at hand “.
For 100 years now, people have been looking at the Northern Territory and suggesting that something should be done to develop it. I remember seeing on one occasion a cartoon entitled “ The treasure house of the north “. It depicted Lord Casey, who was then Minister for National Development, confidently approaching a door studded with gems, in the hope that he would receive large sums of money to spend on developing the north. But nothing happened! The time for which all these people in the past devoted all their efforts is now at hand. The time for the development of the north has arrived, and the Minister has done everything possible within his power to promote that development. I implore the honorable member for the Northern Territory to adopt a different attitude, to help us to develop and build the north. The Minister has done everything he possibly can do, but there are many department involved. He has improved conditions fothe public servants employed there, he ha<seen to it that provision is made in the Estimates for better homes in the Northern Territory and for vast improvement in housing generally.
I have never lived in the Northern Territory, but as one who has visited there and inspected the area, I pay tribute to the Minister for the fact that there is no colour bar in the Northern Territory. Recently I had the privilege of attending a garden party in Darwin where I met Mr. Bas Wie the Indonesian who came into Australia on the undercarriage of an aircraft, and who later married an Australian girl. 1 also met the Roberts brothers, who are courteous gentle, polite, lovable and efficient members of the Public Service up there. I also met a young lady named Happy Cook, who was entered in the Miss Australia quest. All these people are goc.! citizens and it was a delight to have them with us. In the schools up there we see whites and aborigines playing together naturally. There is no segregation in the north, and no difference in the treatment of the people there.
– I think you should restate that.
– I shall restate it. 1 said that there was no colour bar in the Northern Territory, and all credit for that is due to the present Minister for Territories. The general situation up there is good, and we are proud of it. It makes for a happy, contented population, and the one thing we do need in the north is population.
The country up there is ready for a change, lt is growing and maturing. The people of Sydney, Melbourne, the lush south-east, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth know that the pattern for development has been prepared. They know that the money is available, and they know where we are going. From now on, development in the Northern Territory will be rapid. The people of Australia are beginning to wonder how secure we are in the north. They are asking what has been done to develop the north in the interests of defence. They are also asking what has been done in the arc of islands across the north. They are wondering whether, if West Irian goes to the Indonesians, our own borders will be secure. They are asking whether we have enough people up there to ensure that we are adequately defended. They are wondering whether we have accepted our responsibilities, whether we have seen the challenge, whether we are taking adequate steps to exploit the immense resources which have been uncovered up there. We appreciate all these things, and are making provision for the development of the north. The time for development has arrived, but the problem is vast. The Minister has told us that he has gone as far as he can, that he has been cribbed, cabined and confined by the Australian Constitution. The Northern Territory is not a State, and it is extremely difficult when the Commonwealth Public Service Board, for instance, decides who shall be employed up there, to determine what the salary shall be and what working conditions shall obtain. The Administration in the Territory cannot override the Public Service Board in these matters and the task is therefore left to the members of this Parliament, supporters of the Government and members of the Opposition alike. The more one looks at this question, the more fascinating it becomes, especially when we consider the administrative problem confronting us there. There is no need to read all the reports made about the development of the Northern Territory. They are legion. But we do have, for instance, the report that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) had some part in preparing, and we have the 36th and the 37th reports of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts on Northern Territory administration. These reports go back to the time of Sir George Pearce, and even before that. For 100 years people have been saying that we should develop the Northern Territory. The people of Australia are saying to the Government that this job has to be done, but it involves more than the question of money. It is a question of people, of flesh and blood, of research. Of course, money is important, but it is of no use to send money to the north unless you first send up the people who can handle it, and know what to do with it.
Certain people have suggested that we should have a northern development authority. Well, let us look at that suggestion. If you are to have a northern development authority you will have to get first-class people for that authority and pay them first-class sums of money. Well, why not? Now that Western Australia and Queensland are starting on the development of the northern areas, why should we not do this job with the Northern Territory Administration? Why not add to the attractiveness of the job? Why not make certain that we bring in more first-class people? This means, of course, that we will have to provide first-class educational facilities and first-class conditions in other directions. Why not let us do this now? Let us make the Northern Territory Administration work. After all, it does not matter how much time the honorable member for the Northern Territory or honorable members on this side of the House spend in talking about better housing or better roads; it is the people on the spot who will make the decisions. You can pour countless millions into this part of the country, but you will do no good unless you have an administration that can stand up to the job and make a success of it.
In these reports that have been made available for us we see details of the various activities that are being carried on. This year the mining industry’s production was worth £5,800,000. That amount will surely be doubled. The production of the pastoral industry was worth £4,300,000. With the advent of road transport, and with any sort of decent luck with seasons, that will also be doubled. That will give us £20,000,000 income at once. If you are talking about dividends, then I say that money spent there, under first-class, efficient conditions, will yield a dividend for the Government of Australia. That is without any consideration of security matters, of looking to our borders, of accepting the challenges, of satisfying the markets of the north where the great population explosion is taking place, where rice and beef are in demand. We can produce these goods. We can produce magnificent mineral wealth from our reserves in the northern areas. New mineral discoveries are being made every day. There is excitement in the air in the Northern Territory when people talk about minerals.
Let me repeat that it is our job to do just one thing. It is the job of this Parliament to see that the Constitution, the Commonwealth Public Service Board and the 30 departments involved are all brought into line. This is not a job for the Minister for Territories alone. It is a job for the whole group of people involved. In this year’s Estimates we find that £19,000,000 is to be spent in Canberra compared with £14,000,000 provided for the Northern Territory. This city of Canberra is to be made into a superb environment for men and women to live and work in. It will be more attractive for people than the Northern Territory will be. Men who want good conditions in which to live will come here and will not go to the Northern Territory until the conditions there have been improved. This means that every part of the whole fabric, from the Constitution right down through the Parliament and the Administration to the Public Service, will have to do the job that is required. It must be done quickly, because if it is not done quickly it will be too late to do it at all. Every one is aware of that fact. Every one knows of the march to communism and of the enormous increase in population in South-East Asia. The people in those countries want the goods that Australian energy, vigour and intelligence can produce. Let us, therefore, get on the job and do it. Let us improve the administration. After all, it is not a matter of money alone; it is a matter of having first-class people and a first-class administration to carry out the will of the people.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Chairman, I want to say something about the Territories, and I begin with the Territory of Norfolk Island. Here we have an Australian Territory which is an island out in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 miles almost due east of Coolangatta. The nearest island to it is 500 miles away. In my opinion, Norfolk Island has been sadly neglected by the authorities in Australia which are responsible for publicizing the tourist resorts that are available to people who wish to avail themselves of an opportunity to take a holiday in a quiet, pleasant and enjoyable place. I have been to practically every place in Australia that can be called a tourist resort, and I know of none in this country that can equal Norfolk Island for a quiet and enjoyable holiday.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that the Minister agrees-. No other place in Australia can equal Norfolk Island as a holiday resort. The air fare from Sydney is only £49 return, and I recommend the trip to anybody who wants a pleasant, restful and inexpensive holiday.
One of the reasons Why more people do not go to Norfolk Island is that no agency anywhere in Australia is telling the people that we have in this Australian Territory probably the finest spot in the world for a holiday. I believe that Qantas Empire Airways Limited is neglecting its duty because it is not advising tourists of the advantages of Norfolk Island and of its potential as a holiday resort. This is a beautiful little island, about five miles by three. Its climate is probably the best to be found anywhere in the world. The temperature is never hotter than 85 degrees and rarely colder than 65 degrees, and the island is green with luxuriant vegetation for 52 weeks of the year. It is a delightful island with the prettiest scenery that I have ever seen. The Paradise Hotel there is a first-class hotel. It is conducted by Mr. Jim Hamilton, who is without doubt one of the finest hosts that I have ever met. One of the problems is that people believe that at a place like Norfolk Island they will have to pay holiday tariffs something like those charged at Surfers Paradise and other places where the rates are as much as £7 or £8 a day. The fact is that at Norfolk Island tourists have to pay only £15 15s. a week for full board, which includes a really first-class table. Excellent entertainment is provided every night of the week.
I do not blame the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for the failure to publicize the advantages of Norfolk Island as a holiday resort. It is not his job to advertise tourism. However, I believe that the Minister who is in charge of Qantas Empire Airways Limited should do more than he is doing to advertise to the Australian people Norfolk Island’s potential as a holiday resort. Hundreds of Australians are looking for somewhere to go for a quiet holiday, but they have never been told that the best, and possibly the cheapest, place is Norfolk Island.
One thing that must be done if we are to get any real advantage from the tourist trade on the island is to provide a much better airstrip than is there at present.
Again. 1 admit that this is not a job for the Minister for Territories. The Government ought to have a look at the position. The airstrip on the island has plenty of length and all the other qualities that are needed, except a sealed surface, which would prevent it from becoming boggy in wet weather. There is a big rainfall on the island. Modern aircraft could call at the island if the airstrip were sealed. Qantas already provides a service to the island, and other airlines, such as Ansett- A.N.A., might provide services if the airstrip were sealed. At the present time, the only aircraft operating between Sydney and Norfolk Island, and thence on to New Zealand, are DC4 machines, which, in these times, are considered to be almost antiquated.
– They are good aircraft.
– Yes. The DC3 is a good aircraft, too. But, measured against Viscount and even DC6 machines, DC4 aircraft are antiquated. The Government ought to provide the funds needed for the sealing of the airstrip at Norfolk Island so that more modern aircraft can be put into service. I am certain that if this were done the Australian people would be afforded excellent opportunities for a really first-class holiday there. Furthermore, by providing Australians with opportunities for a good holiday on the island, we would help the people of the island, because there is virtually no industry there other than the tourist industry.
– The honorable member has sold me. I shall go there.
– I am glad to hear it. I am sure that when the honorable member has been to Norfolk Island he will agree with all that I have said about it.
– Can a member of the Parliament get there by using his gold pass?
– I do not know whether he can. I am never interested in that sort of thing. But I do know that one can get to the island for an air fare of £49 return. And it is the best £49 worth that I know of. r mention, only in passing, that one of the attractions at Norfolk Island is that there is no sales tax or customs duty.
Honorable members will understand in a moment why I have so much to say about the exorbitant rates of sales tax that this Government imposes on many commodities in this country, for I propose to illustrate what the absence of sales tax means. A Grundig tape recorder of a type which sells in Australia at £67 4s. can be bought on Norfolk Island for £19 10s. A Grundig T.K.I machine, which is an excellent type, and which sells in Australia for £93 4s. costs only £31 on the island. One can buy there for £22 10s. a Canone camera, which is probably one of the best automatic cameras made, whereas the price in Australia is £49 10s. Due to the absence of sales tax and customs duties, some people find that even after paying the fare to Norfolk Island, having made a few wise purchases there, they can show a handsome profit on the trip. That is something worth remembering.
Before I leave the subject of Norfolk Island, I want to pay a tribute to Mr. Leydin, the Administrator, who, unfortunately, is at present ill in hospital in Melbourne. He has discharged very well the duties of the most onerous job of dealing with the local people, who have their own characteristics.
– They are very nice people.
– They are, but they do not think that the Minister is a very nice person. As a matter of fact, they think that he is a terrible Minister. Nor do they think very much of Mr. Leydin, but that does not mean that he is not a good Administrator. I believe that he is doing a really first-class job.
I may say that I went to Norfolk Island in a somewhat critical frame of mind, almost expecting to see another little New Guinea, but I found that the situation was just the reverse. The Administrator is doing a man-sized job under the most difficult circumstances.
I compliment the Government for disregarding the local opinion about the historic value of the old convict settlements on the island. To the Government’s credit. I am very pleased to note that it has set aside some £20,000 to restore the old convict relics. It is all very well for Norfolk Islanders to say, “ Let us forget about them “. It was a tragedy when the early
Pitcairners decided to set fire to the old relics and to burn the settlements because, if ever we have an opportunity to remember how inhuman were the rulers of the British Empire not much more than 100 ago, we have only to go to Norfolk Island to see the evidence of it. I am one of those who likes to keep fresh in every one’s memory, especially the generations yet unborn, the trials and tribulations that the convicts experienced, convicts whose only crime was to fight against the obnoxious British rule in Ireland. The great majority of the tombstones in the cemetery at Norfolk Island carry the names of young Irishmen in their early twenties - the William Bourkes from Tipperary and some one else from County Cork - whose only crime was to object to the British Government ruling the Irish people in the way that was characteristic of the day.
Remembering the history of Norfolk Island and the convicts who were kept there, it is a good thing that these relics have been maintained and are to be kept in order. I give the Minister full marks for maintaining their historic value. There will come a day long after the Minister, myself and all other members of this Parliament are dead and gone when generations yet unborn will thank the Minister for his foresight in preserving the historic value of the old convict buildings on Norfolk Island. I should like to see money spent to preserve the house in which the original W. C. Wentworth was born. His father, Darcy Wentworth, was a convict who escaped going to gaol because he was a surgeon and it was decided to send him to Australia as a doctor. In the course of his journey across the Indian Ocean he fell in love with a convict woman, took her to Norfolk Island and there fathered three children, the first of whom was the original William Charles Wentworth. Whatever we might think of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the name of William Charles Wentworth will never be forgotten in Australian history. I should like to see preserved the little cottage in which this convict woman and Dr. Darcy Wentworth between them were able to produce William Charles Wentworth so that all can see it and so that we will never forget our humble beginnings. We will remember that from the tiny acorn the mighty oak eventually grows.
Another aspect of the administration of the Department of Territories to which I should like to refer relates to New Guinea. Here we have a picture altogether different from that of Norfolk Island. Here we have a picture of a government which, in my view, has allowed private exploiters to go into the Territory and to take up the great bulk of the worthwhile land there, thus dispossessing the native people and imposing upon them a form of colonialism which I should have hoped would have gone out of fashion at least a century ago.
– Less than 3 per cent, of the land has been alienated.
– That could be true because only 20 per cent, of the earth’s land is suitable for agricultural purposes. One-fifth of the land is too cold, one-fifth is too arid, one-fifth is too steep, one-fifth is suitable for cultivation-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to do something which probably is unwise. I shall try to summarize the Forster report because when we wrote it we were confident that people would read it. However, we are becoming increasingly aware - I say this with no feeling of criticism - that honorable members have far too much to read and 1 would go so far as to say that only the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has read the report. For that reason, I feel that to try to summarize in fifteen minutes what took us eighteen months to prepare may be unwise. I should like to pay a particular tribute to the two people with whom I worked on this report, Professor Forster and Dr. Don Williams, because I have received credit to which they, more than I, are entitled.
With ridiculous brevity I shall try to discuss what I believe are the salient points in the report. We were asked, first, to indicate the prospects of promoting agricultural settlement on an economic basis in the Northern Territory. The phrase “ economic basis “ caused us great concern. We asked a Commonwealth department for a definition of “ economic basis “’ and we were told that an economic basis of development is that which can be undertaken with reasonably sound prospects of the commodities concerned being marketed at prices adequate not only to cover the cost of production but also to provide a reasonable margin of profit. If we bad accepted that definition we would have written almost no report. If we had accepted as an economic basis that something had to be done profitably in the present situation with roads unmade, land clearance costs unknown, the killing works unbuilt and the port handling facilities practically non-existent, we would have had to say that nothing was economically possible. However, we did say that we took as an economic basis those things which we thought would be possible economically when development had proceeded. We felt very strongly that a certain amount of government encouragement must precede the strict definition of “ economic basis of development “.
We dealt with the agricultural history of the locality. We should not believe that many things have not been tried. Indeed, it is a very sobering thought to realize how much has been attempted in the past. It has not been by a lack of effort that no great advancement has been made. Chapter 3 of the report relates to the examination of resources. This is an examination of the climate, soils, pastures, and water supplies. I have time to mention only the climate. Darwin at the top end of the Northern Territory has an annual rainfall of about 60 inches while Katherine, which is further south, has only 35 inches. This is something which is important for southerners to realize. The report states -
People in southern Australia who are used to thinking of a country with a rainfall of fifteen inches as safe country should realize the particular limitations of the top end rainfall of between 35 and 60 inches. It is not nearly as good as it looks. The fact that the dry season is so very dry imposes rigid limits on what crops and pastures can be grown. These limitations should be clearly realised at the outset
The next chapter deals with land clearance. We set up a land clearing exercise to try to find out the techniques and costs of land clearances. We think we could clear land for peanuts, with modern methods, at about £14 an acre. To do it for pastures, when not so much work is necessary on stumps, the cost would be about £9 an acre.
The next chapter, dealing with pastures, can be summarized in this way: The pastures are so poor that it is not worth fencing the land. Many people are critical because Territory cattle-raising has not gone ahead. It is still in a primitive condition, with the hunting of cattle instead of the mustering of them. To fence a block of 100 square miles, which is not an over-small paddock, would cost £14 5s. per beast sold in depreciation of the fence and interest on capital. When only £15 to £20 is obtained for a beast, we can realize that that, and that only, is the reason why the land is not developed under the present system. The pasture is just not worth fencing.
I come now to beef cattle. We know how cattle are run at present. They gain weight during the wet season and lose it during the dry season. We know we can grow an improved pasture of, say, Townsville lucerne and buffalo grass. We know that if we run the cattle on the native pasture in the wet season and put them on the improved pasture during the dry season, they will continue to gain weight. However, to our regret, it does not seem as though we will make money out of it. The complete break-through in this work - it was only done as we were writing the report - was to find from the experiments that beasts can be run at the rate of a beast to the acre if they are run on the improved pasture during the wet season while it is growing. On the experimental scale, we know that we can add over 200 lb. a beast per acre in this way. We believe that that is a profitable exercise. All the costing we did was done with a proper appreciation of the fact that we were guessing in many instances, but it was done with all the realism at our command. We think we can make money out of this venture.
I turn to rice. We all know the unhappy history of the rice industry, stretching back over many years. The old company, Territory Rice Limited, ran into difficulties. But it is our considered opinion, for what it is worth, that if these sub-coastal plains were divided into smaller areas to give the sharefarmer the feeling that he must do everything correctly, because he would have the incentive of working his own property, money could be made out of it under the marketing conditions that we think would be available once settlement proceeded.
It was a great disappointment to us to have to turn away from the growing of peanuts. This is a crop that fits exactly the climatic conditions of the area and it is the crop on which most of the scientific work had been done. We set ourselves the target of producing the crop at 6d. per lb., nuts in shell. We found, to our surprise, that we thought we could do this. However, the factor that broke us in the end was our inability to find an economic use for the peanut meal. Some day, we hope, we will be able to do this and then peanuts will be a satisfactory proposition.
We then deal with a great many other crops. I will not burden the committee with any details about them, because obviously I have not the time to do so. We went through crop rotation, fruit and vegetables, water supplies and fertilizers, which were mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). We made a firm recommendation on land tenure. We said that in our opinion, after covenants for development had been fulfilled, the proper way to hold this intensely worked country was as freehold.
– We have now approved of that.
– I am glad of that. We went through credit facilities and also considered what government service would help in the development of the area. We considered the errors that had been made in the past with closer settlement in other parts of the country. Then we came to a matter that I think is vital, and this is the only matter on which I will have time to touch now. The two possible ways of using the land are for growing improved pastures to be fed to cattle, and for growing rice. However, we are the first to admit that we have no firm basis of knowledge and do not really know whether this is possible. We must consider how we can discover this.
In my opinion, there are three courses open to us. We can let settlers move in and take a chance. We would not recommend this. We say at this stage of our knowledge we would not encourage any settler to go there. At the moment, there are great gaping holes in our knowledge. If that course is not followed, then could we learn what we want to learn through a government experimental farm? A governmental experimental farm is a suitable means of finding out many things - what crops can be grown and how to grow them - but we say quite categorically that no government experimental farm can measure the cost of growing crops.
For that reason, we came back to what I think is one of the most important recommendations in the report. It is that, if we are to learn these things, we can find them out only by a well-run pilot farming scheme in which each pilot farmer has the incentive to work and yet has a guarantee of certain conditions. Let me put it in this way: We know that any farmer growing beef would find that the price of his beef was limited because he has nowhere to kill his cattle. We believe the Government should guarantee a price - not a price that would make the farmer rich but the price that would be available if a killing works were there. If the farmer went in with a guarantee that he would get this price, although the killing works were not there, he would have confidence to go on. We believe that, because he would be doing something for the Government that the Government cannot do for itself, he should have an income of, say, £1,000 a year guaranteed to him. But then we must give him the incentive to go ahead under his own steam, to use his own initiative and to prove as no Government farm can prove whether the things we say are possible are in fact possible.
I think - I would emphasize this - that the whole success of the next step forward, assuming the next big step will be land development, is bound up with a soundly based pilot farm scheme. This is the main break-through. We have never seen this put in any other report of this kind. It is a new development. In most other parts of the world, one can observe farming going on around the area concerned, but in the Territory there is no farming as we know it. We have to carry out experiments, but the farmer must have the incentive to do his best so that he can reap the rewards of his efforts. If this scheme proves successful, we feel the time cannot long be delayed when land settlement must go on.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I speak to the estimates for the Australian Capital Territory. As honorable members will know, the development of Canberra as a national capital has, for the past three and a half years, been in the hands of the National Capital Development Commission, which was established in March, 1958 The total vote for the Australian Capital Territory including the vote for the National Capital Development Commission come to a large sum of money. Some people say it is too large, and that there is too great an expenditure on the National Capital. That criticism comes not only from outside the Parliament, but also from inside the Parliament. Canberra still has its critics within both Houses of this Parliament, and the criticism is directed not only at Canberra, but also at the residents of Canberra. Members and senators seem to forget that those who comprise the population of this city are people who have come here from the States and the electorates which senators and members themselves represent.
The estimated expenditure of the National Capital Development Commission for the year 1961-1962 is £11,000,000. Last year, the vote for this commission was £10,500,000, and it managed to expend £10,498,000. I suggest that the proposed vote of £11,000,000 is not enough. I suggest that the Government, having created the National Capital Development Commission, and having set it tasks to perform, has failed to make available funds adequate to permit the commission to carry out those tasks properly.
The Government sets the tasks by its decisions to transfer departments from Melbourne to Canberra, and the personnel of those departments from Melbourne and other places to Canberra. Those transfers, quite obviously, are not the only factor in the growth of Canberra, but they are the cause of other factors in the growth of the city. Not all of those who come here are public servants or Commonwealh employees. There are others who come here to provide the services, to carry out the works in this city made necessary by the increase of population brought about by the transfer of departments. The population of this city is rapidly increasing. The present population is approaching 57,000 people. It has doubled itself in the last seven years, and the latest estimate is that
F.76 13/61. - R. - 156
by 1969-70 this city will have a population of 100,000. The increase in the past three years has been 16,000, or 12 per cent, pei annum.
I pause to point out that I am speaking to the items contained on pages 140 and 141 of the Estimates, in case there is any doubt that I am in order. The Commission is given the task of providing all that is needed in the development of this city; that is, all that is physically needed in the development of the city. First of all, it must provide housing for the increasing population, schools and other public facilities, engineering services, roads, streets, footpaths, and water and sewerage reticulation systems and extension^. In addition, it must undertake the construction of major developmental works - bridges, dams, lakes and business undertakings conducted by the Government. It must go ahead with planning for new suburban development and new city and district shopping facilities. I suggest that the money provided in the Estimates is just not sufficient to enable it to perform all these tasks. Admittedly, there has been encouragement to private enterprise to undertake housing and business construction, but the Government has brought people here at a rate faster than the rate at which Government and private enterprise combined can provide the necessary housing in this city There are still more than 3,000 people with their names on the waiting list for house?. The waiting time for a house is still something over three years, and for a flat something over two years. The commission has had to balance out its funds, and has not had sufficient money for the housing that it is called upon to provide because of the increasing popualtion.
The commission has produced housing units which are or, I suggest, will be, inadequate to the needs of families and for which future generations will curse it.
– Do not be silly.
– I am trying to be factual, and if the honorable member will look at some of the houses I think he will agree. It is unfortunate that Canberra’s development has not progressed steadily. It has suffered from a stop and go, fits and starts approach due to the vacillation of successive cabinets reacting, I suggest, to State pressures.
It is unfortunate that the exigencies of spasmodic development have led to the construction of much that is shoddy in this city where nothing should be shoddy. In the immediate post-war years the Labour Government erected 400 demountable homes at Narrabundah. They were built to house the British building tradesmen being brought out here to build this city. The same Government built the serried ranks of Riley-Newsum prefabs in the suburb of O’Connor. These were housing developments carried out under pressure. The Government of those days had to say to the authority in charge of the city at the time, “We must have housing”, and that hurried development was the result. The present Government, against all local advice, continued to build monocrete homes, which had proved to be quite unsatisfactory. It also sprinkled all the suburbs with patches of the Riley-Newsum prefabricated type of housing. During the ministerial term of the present honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) it built what have become known locally as the “ Narrabundah hen houses “, and during the term as Minister of the present honorable member for Patterson (Mr. Fairhall) it proceeded with a crop of monocretes and the repetitive brick veneers which have become known locally as “ Fairhall barracks “. They can be seen by any honorable member in the suburb of Griffith.
Under all Ministers for the Interior during the present Government’s term the Government has continued with the construction of huge blocks of flats when people want houses, and under the construction programme of the National Capital Development Commission we have seen a lot of shoddy and unsatisfactory home construction. One has only to drive round the city to be able to pick out quite clearly the types of construction to which I am referring - for instance, the type of brick veneer construction where the faulty roofing timbers have caused a sag which has given house after house the pagoda-like appearance which has become a feature of this city in a period of construction when homes have had to be provided under pressure, and when that brick veneer construction was taken on with unseasoned timber, with the result that nearly every roof of these homes has had to be repaired because of the shrinking of the roofing timber.
Fortunately, I think, the era of shoddy construction in Canberra is passing. Not all shoddy construction was the fault of the Government or the commission, let it be said, because a great deal of private construction in Canberra has been extremely shoddy. Many people here have been taken in by speculative builders, who have constructed homes that can only be described as jerry-built, and have lost a considerable amount of money over those purchases. There again, I think that the Government should have regard to the need to provide proper supervision not only over Government construction but also over private construction in Canberra. If the Government is not able to do the job by providing staff and funds through the Department of the Interior it should provide them for the National Capital Development Commission so that it will be able to prevent the construction of faulty and shoddy jerry-built homes. However, as I was saying, I believe that the era of shoddy construction in Canberra is passing. I believe that the commission is now proceeding to construct housing units of which it may be proud. I know that architectural beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I do not necessarily agree with many of the things that the commission does. I do not like the appearance of many of the flats that are being constructed, and I particularly dislike the appearance of the vertical apartments, flats, maisonettes or three-story huts, call them what you will, that the commission is building along Northbourne-avenue, the main entrance to this city. I think the appearis most unattractive, but I have inspected these homes with one of the associate commissioners and I believe they are home units which will provide attractive, welldesigned and roomy living quarters for families.
For years I have contended that it should be possible to reduce the cost of construction of housing without detracting from the appearance of the units. I understand that the Minister for the Interior will open an exhibition of this low-cost housing in Ainslie to-morrow. I have not had an opportunity of seeing these homes myself, although I have had them described to me, but I shall certainly attend the exhibition. I believe that in these low-cost homes, the commission may have found some of the answers to the needs of families for attractive, comfortable and cheaply constructed houses. According to the information I have, these houses will cost up to £3,800. At that figure, most tenants should be able to negotiate the purchase of a house once they have been granted the tenancy. If this first batch of low-cost houses proves satisfactory, I hope that the Minister and the National Capital Development Commission will see that there is an expansion of this type of housing construction so as to give the majority of the community an opportunity to buy homes of their own or at least to purchase them over a period. They can then develop the properties to their own needs. I commend the National Capital Development Commission for its work in that regard.
I believe that the commission should be given an opportunity to develop this city as it should be developed. I believe the present personnel of the commission and the staff it has gathered around it can undertake the task, but it cannot be done under the constant pressure that is being applied by the continuing transfer of departments before the commission has had an opportunity to catch up with the lag in home construction and the provision of office accommodation and other amenities. Working under pressure has produced the results I have described in home construction. It has produced, under the former government and under the present Administration, the temporary offices in parts of this city. It has produced unattractive styles of government buildings. I am referring to the dreadful similarity of the Russell Hill offices, the offices at Civic Centre and other government buildings of that kind.
But the commission cannot carry out the task of building this city or providing adequate housing in sufficient numbers for the people who are being brought here for governmental work and to provide services for the community unless it is provided with sufficient funds. I admit that the vote of £11,000,000 for the National Capital Development Commission this year seems to be a very substantial figure, but when you analyse the task of the commission and the need to provide the facilities that must be provided for a rapidly expanding community, the vote is not enough. The tragedy is that the paring of the vote must come on the housing and accommodation section of the commission’s work because, as I have said, the commission has been faced with the task of completing as many homes or home units as possible with the funds it can allocate to that form of construction. Thus, we have seen houses built not only of the shoddy and unsatisfactory type, but too small in area for the needs of a family to-day or for the future needs of many of the families who will be occupying them
I offer these views to the Minister for the Interior and through the Minister to the National Capital Development Commission; but I believe that the need is for the Government to realize that the commission as it is constructed cannot operate properly unless its vote is increased. Once again I suggest that instead of being tied to an annual vote, it should be given an opportunity to operate on a five-year plan as does the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to refer to the vote for the Northern Territory. Like many other honorable members, I believe that the Department of Territories is doing a very good job in the administration of the Northern Territory under the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck); but I believe that it is not doing the job that it could do if it had more resources. There has to be some fresh thinking on the development of the Northern Territory. We cannot expect to hold those huge empty spaces if we do not step up development. The present Administration is doing a very good job as far as its resources permit under the policy of the Government. We want people in the Northern Territory, but we must give them some incentive to go there. They must have something to occupy them when they settle there.
It is well known that Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, and other places in the Territory, are most expensive because of their remoteness. It is true that the last census revealed that there had been a big increase in the population, but I wish to submit again a proposition that I have made before. Something drastic must be done to step up development in the Northern Territory. My proposal is that we should make Darwin a free port for everything but immigration. This might seem radical but we can do it under our Constitution. It is true that making Darwin a free port would bring with it certain other problems. We would have black markets in some goods, for example, but the advantages would more than offset the disadvantages. If Darwin were a free port, it would be one of the cheapest places in Australia in which to live. People would be anxious to go there to settle and this would automatically help in the development of the whole of the Northern Territory. Other places in the world have been developed on that basis. Singapore, Penang and Hong Kong were free ports for many years and are almost free ports to-day. I invite honorable members to consider the huge development that has taken place in those areas.
Darwin is 1,000 miles from Brisbane and further than that from Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide. As I have said, we would have black-marketing problems in smaller articles, but the cost of transporting major articles would be so prohibitive that it would counteract black marketing tendencies. The cost of living is high in Darwin now mainly because of transport costs. This proposition might sound fantastic but I believe that more people are beginning to think, as I do, that if we are to develop the Northern Territory we have to adopt some new method. We all hear about the teeming millions of people in the north, with hungry eyes on Australia. That menace is becoming more a reality every day and, if we do not do something about the north of Australia, probably those people have the right to do it. I think the House should give that matter some thought. Let us take the risk of any disabilities that may arise from making Darwin a free port, because I believe that the benefits that would result would outweigh them.
I wish to pay a tribute to the wonderful work which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing in the Northern Territory in its experiments and research. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has told the House what that organization has done there. It has laid the foundations and has proved that most of that country can be put to very useful purposes. A few years ago I happened to be in Katherine and I knew the scientist in charge of the experimental station there. What he had done on that experimental farm was remarkable. I do not know what the cost of producing the farm products commercially would be, but this officer has demonstrated that they can be produced. I repeat that if we make the Northern Territory a reasonable place to live in, with a reasonable cost of living, we will encourage people to go up there and further these experiments and profit from the work which the C.S.I.R.O. has already done. I want next briefly to mention communications in the Northern Territory because at present communications are one of the drawbacks to living there. Something further should be done to enable stock to be brought down more readily from the Kimberleys in Western Australia and from the Northern Territory, north of the pleuro line. Most of that stock comes down through Queensland and, as practical men in this chamber who know something about the matter have pointed out, most of the stock is aged before it can be driven out by road. You cannot get young stock out earlier. If progress is made with the construction of the roads about which we have heard so much during debates on transport, the development of the Northern Territory will go ahead much faster. A road from the Barkly Tableland through Newcastle waters to the Kimberleys would facilitate the movement of stock and would benefit not only the people of those areas but also the nation as a whole.
I shall recapitulate briefly the three points I have made: First, I do not for a moment believe that the idea I have put forward about making Darwin a free port is as wild-cat a scheme as some people might think. I do not think it has been given sufficient study and thought. Secondly, more encouragement should be given to the C.S.I.R.O. in its experimental and research work; and, thirdly, more development should take place in the Northern Territory, particularly in the provision of better roads and communications. I hope that some notice will be taken of the views that I have put forward.
.- My remarks, like those of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), will be confined to the Northern Territory. The honorable member is not alone in his advocacy of Darwin being made a free port. I have had this idea put to me on a number of occasions when I have been in Darwin. Probably the idea would bear a lot of investigation but in view of all the problems that appear to be associated with it, it is not my intention to discuss it to-night. I believe that the need to develop the Northern Territory becomes more imperative every year. The vast untapped mineral resources and the tremendous pastoral and agricultural potential of the Northern Territory are such that this nation cannot neglect to develop them as quickly as it can. Other members have said during this debate that there are people outside our shores who are very interested in the Northern Territory, with its rich, almost untapped resources. It is only natural for them to be most envious of such a large area of land lying there unworked, in fact practically unclaimed, as it were, while they are striving for all the things which are so abundant in that part of Australia.
I have no illusions about the difficulties associated with the development of the Northern Territory. I realize the immensity of the area, its terrific potential and the frustrations that must go with its development. I can, therefore, together with other members, have some sympathy for the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in the tremendous job he is doing in urging much more rapid development of the Territory in the interests, not only of the people who live there, but also of those whom he hopes will go there to live in the future, and of the nation as a whole. Certain projects in the Northern Territory were mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa and, as the member for the Northern Territory can confirm, I have had the privilege of looking at all the worth-while projects that are being carried on in that part of Australia. I am interested in what is being done for native welfare in the Territory and for what is taking place on the mining and agricultural side and at the Katherine
River, the Adelaide River and other projects.
There is no doubt that, having seen these things, one cannot fail to be impressed by what is being done. One cannot fail to become enthusiastic also as to what should be done to further the development of the area and to help the people who are courageous enough to go up there and settle down and try to develop the country. There is one action which I suggest we should take to more speedily develop the Northern Territory. I believe there is a necessity now to establish a commission, something similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority, with authority to bring down a master plan to control and develop all of that area.
No doubt many things in the Northern Territory do not lend themselves to quick development of the best kind, but it would appear to me that an authority of the type I suggest could do much to bring some sort of controlled development to the area and to avoid the unnecessary spending of money. For instance, it could do much to solve problems relating to native welfare, housing, education, health, roads, and, above all, the conservation of water. The main requirement for solving these problems of course, is money. Engineers, scientists and technicians have often said, “ Give us the money and we will achieve anything you want “ That statement of principle could be applied to the development of the Northern Territory. Although, to all intents and purposes, development in the Northern Territory has been slow, it may be truly said that, 25 years ago, one would never have visualized the amount of development that has taken place there to date. I do not think any one will disagree with me when I say that considering the wonders that scientists and technicians can perform to-day, it is unrealistic to call the Northern Territory the dead heart of Australia. I am sure that all will agree, too, that the two greatest immediate needs in the Northern Territory are roads and water, as was emphasized by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe).
Here I must offer some criticism of what has been done by this Government about water conservation in the Northern Territory. I think it is to the everlasting disgrace of the nation that we have not taken any action to impound some of the billions of gallons of water that finds its way either into the sea or into the parched lands of the centre from such rivers as the Adelaide, Katherine and Victoria, for water is urgently needed in that area. As an indication of the great waste of water in the north I quote the following statement from Volume 13 of “ Overseas Trading “ -
During the wet season in the Kimberleys the Ord River pours 7,000,000 gallons of wasted water each second into the Timor Sea. A £20,000,000 scheme plans irrigation to grow cotton and rice for export.
That statement relates to the Ord River project, which embraces the construction of the Bandicoot Bar and it gives some indication of the amount of water that could be conserved by the construction of reservoirs, from which it could be reticulated through irrigation channels, to the parched areas further south.
Last year, I had the opportunity of travelling from Fremantle along the western coast of Australia to Darwin. Whilst at Wyndham, I inspected the Bandicoot Bar project in the Kimberleys, and what caused me great concern was the colour of the water in the gulf upon which Wyndham is situated. I think I am safe in saying that for 5 miles along the coastline the water was badly discoloured by soil that evidently had been washed down from the watershed of the Ord River during the wet season. It led me to the conclusion that it was probable that a great deal of erosion was taking place in the catchment area of that river. I was shocked to think that such valuable topsoil was being washed down from the Kimberleys and being wasted because nothing was being done by way of experiments with grasses, trees and other methods to prevent erosion.
It is my opinion that the Government should consider building a chain of reservoirs throughout the Northern Territory, although I do admit that at intervals of about 15 miles along the stock routes bores have been put down, and they have proved wonderful life-savers to the drovers bringing cattle down to agistment paddocks in Queensland. Scientists have evolved means by which evaporation can be overcome and the construction of the resorvoir on the Ord River is an example that the Common wealth Government might well follow. But the first thing we must do in the area is to give people some incentive to go there, lt is of no use whatever asking people to leave all the amenities they enjoy in the southern States in particular and put up with all the handicaps and evident shortcomings of the Northern Territory. The Western Australian Government has shown a great deal of vision in going ahead with the construction of the dam on the Ord River. As part of this project, that Government proposes to build a satellite town complete with all possible amenities with a view to inducing people to go there and take part in developing the area.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before mentioning the points I have in mind, I should like to deal with the suggestions made by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) relating to irrigation in the Northern Territory. For his benefit. I propose quoting from Chapter 12 of the report of the Forster committee on the prospects of agriculture in the Northern Territory. The particular passages to which I direct his attention appear on page 133 of that report. [Quorum formed.] The passage to which I wish to refer is as follows: -
But we should make it plain that any idea of the development of the Northern Territory on a grand scale by irrigation is far from reality. The plain fact is that if water costs more to apply to the soil than the return from the irrigated crop will justify, then its use becomes just as economically impossible in the Northern Territory as elsewhere. And because the north has greater problems of transport and isolation than other areas and has the additional problem of exporting the major part of its production to markets elsewhere, then either the water must be cheaper or the value of the product greater than in other areas. Undoubtedly, there is a place for irrigation for special purposes, but on the basis of present knowledge and resources, we can see no justification for believing that irrigation can make the deserts of the north “blossom like the rose”.
I can agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, with all that has been said in general about the north. I suppose we can all say that we have heard these things said many times. In my view the first approach that we must make to the north is at the same time a simple and a complex one. We must develop an attitude of mind towards the north. Let me repeat that: We must develop an attitude of mind towards the north, not only here in this Parliament but also throughout the length and breadth of Australia. We must make Australians realize that the north must take priority in their thinking. When that attitude of mind becomes universal among the people of Australia, then and then only can we get the north developed, because I can assure honorable members that mere opinions about the development of the north will not achieve any results. This is plain common sense. It will require more than mere opinion; it will take solid conviction, and solid conviction can be achieved only when all of the Australian people have made up their minds that no matter what it costs them, no matter what they may be called upon to contribute, the job must be done, the north must be developed. That, Sir, is the first step towards developing the north. I appeal, as I have appealed before, to the free press of this country. I ask for the co-operation of the press in stressing this need day by day, and in giving far wider publicity to it than the newspapers give to-day to matters that are hardly worth reading about.
The next step that we must take is to persuade the public servants of this country that the north is not as it was in the old days, when people were transported from Great Britain to Australia. It is not a place where one goes to serve a kind of penalty. Neither is it a place to which you go for twelve months or two years, and which you leave as soon as you possibly can. We must inculcate an attitude of mind amongst public servants that the north is not a place in which to reside for twelve months or two years, but a place in which they can make a major contribution to the development of their country. In order to assist in the development of that attitude of mind, this Parliament should ensure that the conditions that public servants will meet in the north will be comparable, as far as it is humanly possible to make them, with the conditions enjoyed by public servants in the Australian Capital Territory. I believe these first two steps will go a long way towards achieving the development of the Northern Territory.
The next thing we must do, I suggest, is to review our method of financing northern development. I honestly believe that the annual budget system that now operates will never achieve results, and that, in fact, it will, as it does in many other fields, merely ensure that the country will not go ahead. I believe we must prepare a plan on a three or five-year basis, so that those who have the responsibility of planning in the north can set about carrying out their plans with a feeling of security. As a fourth step towards the development of the north of Australia, I believe we must give the bodies responsible for the administration of the north an assurance that there will be a minimum of the pin-pricking and timewasting red-tape methods that have been indulged in in the past, as investigation has clearly shown. Those are the four major steps that we have to consider.
I now wish to deal with comments that have been made about the development of agriculture and the development of mining. I, too, have had the privilege and the pleasure of seeing most parts of the great northern area represented by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). He has a vast problem there, and I fully sympathize with him.
– He is doing a good job, too.
– I do not disagree with that. I do want to say, however, that it is one thing to talk about growing crops and producing minerals, but it is quite another thing to find markets for them once they have been grown and produced. You must not only achieve production; you must ensure that the market exists once the production is achieved. In my own State of Queensland, for instance, we can grow cotton, and we can grow peanuts. I believe we could undoubtedly grow rice if we put our minds to it. We can grow all the things that can be grown in the Northern Territory. But then so can Western Australia, and possibly other States also. If all the States grew these commodities, we would all be competing for the limited markets. We must, therefore, have some kind of plan so that we may decide what we are going to do with the commodities we propose to produce. Consider minerals, for a start. The world is loaded with minerals. Australia is rich in minerals. but from recent indications I venture to suggest that we will have difficulty in disposing of our minerals unless we can find new uses for them.
Let me turn briefly to problems of stock and of roads. 1 know that my next suggestion will raise a laugh, but, having carefully examined the Northern Territory, I say again what I have said many times, that expenditure of many millions of pounds on roads in the Northern Territory is not the answer.
– The honorable membe has picked it in one. The cost of taking cattle from Victoria River Downs to the Adelaide market is £25 a head. That is sheer economic stupidity. There is only one road over which the animals can be transported. I can honestly claim to know what I am talking about and I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that it is not a technical impossibility to carry stock in the Northern Territory by means of a hovercraft with a pay-load of 170 tons, moving at about 90 or 95 miles an hour. We can make that a practical reality if we are prepared to spend the money. That kind of transport will save many millions of pounds in the moving of stock in the Northern Territory and will enable beasts to be turned off at an even younger age than that at which they can be taken out by road transport to-day.
I turn now to the problem of water supplies, with which I shall deal briefly. I agree with everything that has so far been said about this problem by honorable members. There is no scientific or technical reason why we cannot build huge mountains in the Northern Territory to precipitate rain from moisture-laden air. That is a technical possibility, but whether or not it is an economic possibility is another question altogether. Some honorable members may laugh at the idea, but scientists who are engaged in studying the problems of water supply and rainfall know that such a thing is technically possible. However, again, it is all a matter of economics. We may talk as much as we like and think up all sorts of ideas for providing water in the Northern Territory, but, as the Forster committee’s report so clearly states, if the cost of providing water supplies is greater than the return to be derived from them, the whole thing is economically unfeasible.
Finally, I return to the point at which I started: Unless we can inculcate in the minds of the Australian people a conviction that the Northern Territory must be developed, no government or political party, whatever may be its political complexion, will ever succeed in developing the north, because a prerequisite is the unanimous and wholehearted support of the Australian people.
.- Mr. Chairman, I, also, wish to discuss the Northern Territory, which comes within the scope of the estimates that we are now considering. At the outset, I should like to make three summary points as a result of the observations that I made in the north a few weeks ago as a member of a Parliamentary Labour Party group that went there to study developmental projects. First of all, I think that we have to recognize - this point, at least, is getting through to many people - that the task of developing the north and the inland of Australia is an urgent one. The people in those parts of the continent bring very dramatically to the minds of visitors the feeling of isolation that the local residents endure. They remind us that they are closer to some of our near northern neighbours than they are to the National Capital here in Canberra. They feel the isolation in which they stand so many thousands of miles away from the populations of the south. So, solely on the score of the isolation of the uninhabited north, we have to recognize that the task of development is urgent and that we must get on with it.
The second point that I want to make is, I think, a fairly obvious one. Development of the north will be costly. I think that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) was quite right when he said that we must make a determined bid to get public opinion on side and to get the Australian people to recognize the urgency of the tasks that confront us. We have to realize that the job will be costly and that it can be done only with the cooperation and by the sacrifice of the people of the southern part of this continent. We have an important responsibility on our shoulders in trying to bring that realization to the people generally. We must persuade the taxpayers of the south that if they want the north to be developed, if they want to shelter under the protection of the north and if they want the great pay-off that can be gained by the economic development of the north, they will, in the long run, have to meet the cost. There are no two ways about it. Later, I propose to mention a few ways in which the people of the south will be called upon to help develop the north.
The third summary point that I want to make at the outset is that, having recognized the urgency of the task and the fact that it will be costly and that all of us will have to bear the cost, we must come to the conclusion, as those of us who have visited the north have done, that there will be a very rich and rewarding pay-off for any investment that is made in the north. On present indications, cattle and minerals will be the backbone of the economy of the north for a considerable time. I think we are all fairly well aware of the mineral resources that have already been discovered in northern Australia. We all know that at Weipa, on Cape York Peninsula, the richest single deposit of bauxite in the world has been discovered. Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited, which is commonly known as Comalco, has already spent £2,000,000 on preliminary survey work and before long the output of bauxite will be substantial. The company intends to spend between £200,000,000 and £400,000,000 by 1965-66. That indicates the degree of confidence that private enterprise has in the potential of northern Australia for development.
It is regrettable that power, which is an essential ingredient of development in the north, is not available cheaply enough or in sufficient quantity to permit the local production of aluminium from the bauxite. There is a great demand for aluminium and, as a consequence, the raw material will be transported from northern Australia to New Zealand for processing. This high lights the allied urgent task of the Australian people and of this Parliament - the. task of discovering some new and possibly cheaper source of power so that we ourselves may exploit our mineral resources by processing minerals in the north instead of merely mining them and sending them elsewhere for processing.
A number of honorable members have mentioned the great need for population in northern Australia. Population will not be attracted to the north by agricultural, pastoral and mining activities alone. People can be attracted to the north and sustained there economically only by the development of secondary industries allied to mining, the beef industry and certain aspects of agriculture. This offers the best hope for the development and settlement of northern Australia. This fact is illustrated by the situation at Mount Isa, where there are very rich resources of copper and, to a lesser degree, of lead and zinc. We have seen what a private company has been able to do there, given capital and water resources, to sustain mining activity and a community of 13,000 people. The company has spent £5,000,000 on providing power, and a thriving town has developed in the desert at Mount Isa.
This Government has taken a long time to come to the assistance of the mining industry at Mount Isa by helping in the rehabilitation of the railway from there to Townsville. What a boon the reconstructed railway will be! Fancy quibbling about it. Fancy having even second thoughts about the Commonwealth providing the £20,000,000 that was required to re-lay that railway line. Even now, according to the Mount Isa mine authorities, the job will not be done as efficiently or to such lasting effect as should be the case. We are still being pinch-penny about the programme. They foresee that within fifteen years the railway line will be outmoded and will not serve the purpose of transporting even the raw copper ore, the blister copper which is partly processed copper, to the big smelting works at Townsville. This is an indication of our need for a far-sighted plan for the development of the north. There must not be a bitsandpieces kind of development. There must be a co-ordinated kind of development.
When we were looking at the gold mine at Tennant Creek I was reminded vividly of the need for a co-ordinated plan. The manager of the mine said that it is all very well for the Commonwealth Parliament to be allocating funds and to be drawing up plans for beef roads, but it would not be a bad idea to have some overall plan to coordinate the needs of the cattle industry and develop our mineral resources at the same time. This need for co-ordination has been brought out very strongly. We do not want a single-minded purpose catering for the cattle industry alone by putting down a beef road from Camooweal to Bourke. The mine manager suggested that it would be an unfortunate decision to construct that road. He claimed that the road would serve a better purpose if it went in another direction to the coastal district of Queensland, thus providing an outlet in that direction and serving the dual purpose of developing our mineral and cattle resources. The need for an overall plan exists. Whether we set up a board, an authority or a commission, something must be done to lay down a plan covering at least five years. And that will be all too short in any case, but at least the immediate programme should provide for a five-year coordinated integrated plan for the development of the north.
Let me now dca! specifically with cattle. An attempt should be made to co-ordinate development of the cattle industry in the north and north-western part of Australia with the available fattening resources along the eastern coastal belt of Queensland. It was very heartening for those of us who went to the north to see what can be done when there is public investment, and when finance is made available, when credit is made available to private enterprise, and when our full-blooded research activities are made available. If these resources were at hand, the north could be developed into a worthwhile area.
I too should like to pay a tribute to the work that has been done by the C.S.I.R.O. It has done a magnificent job in the north. Not only the men who work there but also their wives and children who accompanied them, sometimes to outback isolated areas, seem to have a joy and satisfaction that can come only to the scientist and the research man who gets satisfaction in seeing the results of his planning and his hunches that have been put into effect. At nearly every research station I was told that the main difficulty was the extreme shortage of trained personnel and, to a lesser extent but still very importantly, the shortage of equipment. I hope that the C.S.I.R.O. report which was tabled in Parliament a week or two ago highlighting the need for additional research personnel will receive the attention that it deserves.
Obviously, water conservation is a very important aspect in the development of the north. If people in the south could only go to the Ord River and see what has been achieved in a barren, dry, harsh wasteland when water is dammed and made available for irrigation, they would be most surprised. Rice is grown there two seasons in the year. The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area type is grown in the wet season and the long, much more nutritious type which has been developed in the north is grown in the dry season. If they could see the rice, the safflower that is grown for cattle fodder and the fields of linseed which grows prolifically in the north, I do not think that the taxpayers in the southern part of the continent would begrudge the diversion from other channels of some millions of pounds for the development of the north. I have my own ideas about this. I believe that if we cannot obtain the finances from any other avenue, we should divert £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 from the defence vote of £200,000,000. I cannot think of a more eminently sensible way of populating and developing the north while at the same time aiding our national economy. I would have no qualms about diverting £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 from the defence vote. We must weigh up these things. What is the marginal effect of £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 in our defence? It is a sizeable sum of money when compared with what has been provided so far for the north, but weigh up that aspect against what can be done if an additional £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 were used to construct beef roads, to co-ordinate mineral development and to provide irrigation.
There will be limitations to what can be done in the construction of dams for irrigation purposes, but we can do a lot more than we have done to date. What we are doing is highlighting the gloriously beneficial effects that flow from investment in these projects. If the people of Australia realized the tremendous potentialities of the north which is awaiting development, they would be wholeheartedly in favour of either increased taxation, the raising of public loans or the diversion of a portion of the present defence vote. This project could be regarded as providing defence and economic development at the same time. Private enterprise is very unhappy that it has not been able to obtain the kind of credit which it needs for development. Let us have no humbug about developing the north. In a large measure this can be done only by large-scale enterprise. It is useless to think that small firms will develop the cattle and mineral resources in the north. The work must be undertaken by large enterprises, more often than not by companies. Honorable members would understand what I mean if they could see what has been done on Brunette Downs cattle station, in which a large amount of capital has been invested. It costs £5,000 to put down a bore and £200 a mile for a three-strand wire fence, to say nothing of the cost involved in introducing new strains of cattle - which has been done- - and putting in the station’s own beef road. Having seen this station, it is silly to talk about having small-scale farming in that part of the continent.
– -Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- What a fantastic speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). Surely one of the interesting things about his speech is to learn that he now hals joined the ranks of those who discover the north in the course of a five-day or ten-day trip and then return with this wonderfully enthusiastic attitude, believing that they have solved all the problems of the north and have learned all that there is to know about it. It is extraordinary. We have been seeing this kind of thing for years.
Let us consider some of the points that the honorable member stressed. He spoke so enthusiastically about Brunette Downs. He welcomes the capital - this wicked oversea^ capital of which the Opposition wants no part - which has developed that station and has produced a new strain of cattle. He welcomes this great company, which is financed very largely by overseas capital, that is developing the north. This large project which has been financed by overseas capital is acceptable to the honorable member because it is tucked away nicely from the electors of Barton. He has now joined the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Yarra (Mr. Cairns), Wills (Mr. Bryant) and Reid (Mr. Uren) who claim that there is absolutely no need to worry about the hordes to the north of Australia. He said first that the people of the Northern Territory live in isolation and that the countries to the north of them are a worry and a problem. Then he said we could slice £30,000,000 off the defence vote because he agreed with his colleagues that we had no worry about the hordes to the north; they were only developing their countries for peaceful purposes. Honorable members opposite are going around in circles all the time; they do not know where they are going. I was very disappointed in the speech of the honorable member for Barton, but I am pleased about his enthusiasm. I hope he sustains it
I note that he agrees that the whole attitude of people in the south must change if the north is to be developed. This has been said in this place repeatedly in the three years I have been a member, and probably it was being said for a long time before that. I have voiced this sentiment myself on a number of occasions. Of course the attitude of people in the south must change. A considerable sacrifice will have to be made by them if the Northern Territory and the north of Australia generally are to be developed. We will have to go short of something in the south, something that we had planned on getting and something we wanted. There is no doubt about that.
We must first decide what our intention is. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) dealt with this aspect. Having decided what our intention is, we must decide whether we are prepared to accept it. Do we intend to pour money into the north for economic reasons only? Do we intend to do this for political or defence purposes? Perhaps the real truth is a combination of all these factors. But we must get pretty clear in our minds what we want to do. A tremendous amount of mixed and woolly thinking is done in regard to this matter. I support the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), who urges a good deal of caution in the development of agricultural projects in the north. The honorable member for Barton said that these projects involve a big capital outlay. To do what? People have been searching for the answer to this question for the last half-century.
– It is time you found out,
– We are trying to find “out, and you know that perfectly well. We have had a succession of investigations, one after another, and your side of politics is as much to blame for the present situation a.« ours is.
We must have a new line of thought on this subject, if we really want to develop the north. But first let us get our reasons for developing the north clear. I say again that I support the view of the honorable member for Wakefield on agricultural development. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) spoke about the vast agricultural potential of the area. No doubt this potential does exist. Many people can see quite clearly that the potential is there. Much of the area has a good rainfall, but I suppose one would look twice at only about one-third of the Northern Territory. About one-third is desert, about onethird is rock and probably something could be done with the remaining one-third. Perhaps the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) would agree with this statement. I say “ desert “, but it is really agricultural or pastoral country being used in a most extensive form. Very little can be done with it, unless water can be brought to it economically. The honorable member would know this perfectly well. It is an extensive form of pastoral occupation. Further to the north, we get into the onethird that is rock and then we have the one-third that is reasonably useful as it stands.
Possibly the useful part has a good potential. It has a good rainfall of 30 inches or so. We know when it will fall. We know we will have a drought and a wet season every year. Much can be done with the area because of this certainty of rainfall. But the answer to the problem cannot be found in five minutes; it is a slow process. It is only recently that we have been directing our research projects towards the tropical environment. Not much has been done in other parts of the world in regard to the grazing of stock in tropical environments. In very high rainfall areas such as we have on the north-east coast of Queensland, we have broken through in a number of ways. Work similar to that done in this area is also done in other parts of the world.
Parts of South America, for instance, have a similar type of country. But the rest of this vast area is, generally speaking, pretty bare, and no one has ever wanted to do much about it. The honorable member for Wakefield has pointed out that the cost of fencing a beast area is about £14 in many parts of this region.
These are the economic problems and these problems explain why the area has not been developed. The honorable member for Barton would surely agree that the good areas throughout Australia, which have held a truly rich reward, have been settled quickly. What is happening now? We are examining the techniques explained to us by research workers, such as topdressing and the application of certain elements to the land. We are starting to do that now with the poorer areas, but all the easy, rich river flats and the good country of Australia were taken up pretty smartly. It should not be thought that any one can walk into the Northern Territory, the north of Western Australia or the north of Queensland and start farming. That is impossible. People with large lumps of money cannot walk in and simply start agricultural projects. The answers to many questions still must be found. We are urging the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to go to Townsville. We think that in the north of Queensland we are getting along pretty well in our efforts to find the answers, but there is still a tremendous amount to be discovered over the range and in the type of country that stretches across the Northern Territory and into the north of Western Australia.
The honorable member for Wakefield has certainly shown what can be done with Townsville lucerne and perhaps one or two other legumes. But if a man wanted to introduce Townsville lucerne on to his property to-morrow, where would he buy 1 lb. of seed? Seeking the answer to that question would be a useful exercise for the honorable gentlemen opposite who say that the development of the north is simply a matter of pouring money into the area. Townsville lucerne seed cannot be bought. If it is the answer, it will be years before any one will be able to supply even a few pounds of seed.
– You would be busy developing 1,000 square miles!
– You certainly would. Many people in Queensland are trying to get Townsville lucerne because of its recognized value, but the use of it in an extensive form would be a slow and costly process.
I think we should stick to the activities we are obviously good at in this area. We know a good deal about existing deposits of minerals and, as the honorable member for Barton and others have said, we will obviously find tremendous additional deposits. The search is on for iron ore and other minerals will be found. No doubt, we will have to supply port facilities and assist with roads to help this development, but mineral development will go along with further discoveries by private enterprise. The use of cattle is another problem altogether. We could put in thousands of miles of roads and heaven knows, we need them. But the building of roads will not be the whole answer to the problem of beef cattle; roads in themselves will supply only a part of the answer. As the honorable member for Wakefield said, it is the nutritional side that counts; it is what goes down the beast’s neck that counts.
The big problem is the development of the whole of the north of Australia, not merely the Northern Territory. However, we have an opportunity in the northern Territory. It is free from the frustration of Commonwealth-State arguments, and we can get on with the job of doing something there. I believe that we must support the thesis put forward by the Forster committee, which is a good and sound one. We as a parliament should do what we can to get on with the development of the Northern Territory - not pull the thing around so much, because if we keep pulling it around we shall get nowhere and the committee’s report will end up just like some other reports. All the reports on the Northern Territory have had a good deal of merit, but I believe that the Forster report is particularly good because it has new findings in it, and is very courageous. We should support the committee’s findings and do everything to ensure the implementation of the report.
Let us be on guard against woolly thinking on the development of the Northern Territory. Let us decide just why it is to be developed. If the reasons are purely economic then let us go cautiously with respect to agriculture and grazing, because there are stacks of areas in Australia that we could develop more profitably, both from the economic point of view and from the point of view of the national good. But if the reasons for its development are purely political or strategic, that is something else again, and we must do something else about it.
Shipping has not been mentioned to-night in this debate, but I believe that shipping in relation to the Northern Territory should be investigated with a view to providing loading points for the transport of cattle. It will be a long time before we shall have effective roads up there, and the encouragement of shipping lines like the Clausen line would be of great benefit to the north - both short-term and long-term benefit. We lack roads there, and shipping would certainly be the answer to that problem. We have many accessible rivers like the Roper, the Daly and the Adelaide, which could provide points for the embarkation of cattle for the market.
I think we have been lazy in our thinking about off-road transport, which is a very cheap means of transport. We have never been prepared to give it a go. Even when the roads are established off-road transport, subsidized by the Government, could still do a great job. There are many private operators willing to undertake it with a government subsidy. The cost of providing offroad transport is infinitesimal compared with the cost of construction and maintenance of roads. The beauty of off-road transport is its great mobility, and its ability to switch from one point to another and help out where needed, whereas a road could be absolutely useless during some years.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray). If his thinking, as propounded in his speech, is indicative of the thinking of the Government, it is quite clear why the north of Australia will remain undeveloped. The honorable member immediately set about destroying or ridiculing every constructive suggestion made here to-night by members of the Opposition about development in the north. He pulled every suggestion to pieces.
– I live up there.
– I know you live up there, but I can tell you that you will not be representing the people up there for much longer. You can take that thought away with you clearly in your mind at the end of this Parliament. I wonder whether the honorable gentleman has set out to try to sabotage proposals for action to develop the Northern Territory because he has some hare-brained scheme for his own electorate which he is hoping to sell. That might be the answer to the question why he has attacked all the constructive suggestions made to-night, particularly the suggestions of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds).
I turn to the proposed vote for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. A good deal of thought has to be given to New Guinea, because I believe that our time h fast running out. We have accepted responsibility for the development of New Guinea, but we are not fully discharging that responsibility. I believe that what has been done has been done reasonably well by the Administrator, but much more has to be done. Let us not forget what has taken place in Africa - in the Congo for instance - and in other countries like Malaya and Laos where people have demanded their independence. It is obvious that we cannot sit idly by and hope that things will go all right in Papua and New Guinea So this Parliament should give some serious consideration to what has to be done up there.
One of the first things we should do in Papua and New Guinea is to provide better educational opportunities for the people. We know that work is being done in the education field there, but it is not sufficient. We have to provide much more money for education in Papua and New Guinea, just as we must provide more in Australia. More money is needed from the Commonwealth to help the States provide education, and similarly more money is needed from the Commonwealth to help the New Guinea Administration to provide education.
Statistics supplied to us for the purposes of this debate show clearly the need for increased expenditure on education in Papua and New Guinea. In the year 1959-60, for instance, in Papua, Administration and mission schools at the primary level had 64,259 pupils, whilst intermediate, secondary, technical and teacher training schools had 2,268 pupils - a total of 66,527 children being educated out of a total child population of 167,398. In New Guinea in the same period 128,301 children were attending Administration and mission primary schools, and 2,932 were attending intermediate, secondary and teacher training schools - a total of 131,233 out of a total child population of 533,516. It is obvious from those figures alone that we are not providing sufficient money for necessary education services.
Recently, when I visited the Territory. T found as I moved around that some of the schools were excellent and good in general lay-out. 1 make a passing reference to the Port Moresby High School, which would compare with almost any normal high school in the Commonwealth, though possibly not with some of the luxury high schools in the Australian Capital Territory. Although many of the schools are good, at the same time there are many native schools where conditions are primitive. So we have to show greater drive in our efforts to ensure the education of the indigenous peoples up there in order to fit them for the self-government which they will demand after they have become educated and realize that it is just not good enough for them to be governed from Australia. We should start by teaching them more than they are being taught at the moment.
Now I turn to the subject of transport, which I will deal with briefly, because one has to rush through these points fairly quickly in the limited time available. One cannot complain about present New Guinea transport facilities, because there just are not any. The roads should be adequate to ensure the development of this Territory, lt takes about five hours to travel 70 miles in some of the outback areas between populated centres. If that state of affairs continues, obviously the Territory will never be developed except around the coastline where shipping can gain access to centres of population. Much more money should be made available for this purpose. If we ouselves cannot find what we require, we must look elsewhere. What has been done in the way of health has been done reasonably well, but it is not sufficient. There should be more health facilities.
Another point is this: The indigenous people of New Guinea are individuals Th<;y do not fit into a general pattern of employment by companies and white employers. Therefore, I believe they should be allowed to develop their own individuality. We should foster the cooperation movement. This is a field in which the Government should show greater interest by providing finance and technical assistance to help these people to run their own affairs through co-operatives. This could be done through co-operative copra plantations, coffee, cocoa, rubber and other production. Research is needed into the improvement of crops and to train the natives to produce cocoa, coffee and the many other crops that could be grown and must be grown if Papua and New Guinea is to develop as an independent nation.
The Government will probably say that it cannot provide more money and that our allocation is already growing year by year. I believe that Papua and New Guinea must be treated as other underdeveloped countries are treated. This Government should not be too proud to call upon the United Nations for assistance. 1 believe we should ask the United Nations for financial aid in developing the Territory of Papua and New Guinea so that it can progress to the point where the native people can be given their independence and run the country in their own way in the near future.
We are building up many problems in the Territory. I talked to many persons in responsible positions and in various walks of life. I found that the native people feel very strongly the discrimination in relation to drinking. Many of them said they had no desire to drink alcoholic liquor but they felt very strongly the discrimination against them. On one occasion we went to a sports club. The Europeans immediately opened bottles of beer, and those who wanted it sat talking over a glass of beer. But the native people were not permitted that luxury, if you might call it that. Beer was taboo to them and they felt this was an unnecessary discrimination. I do not indulge myself and I believe that the Territory would be much better off without grog. I am not advocating complete prohibition but I believe thai when a reception is being attended by native people and Europeans, all of those present should be able to drink the hard stuff or only soft drinks should be provided. That would break down some of the discrimination against the indigenous people, and our relationships with the people would be improved.
I believe that we should terminate immediately the policy of long-term land leases in the Territory. Companies and European individuals are being granted long-term leases of land up to 99 years. How stupid can you get. Surely we do not expect to be administering the affairs of Papua and New Guinea 99 years hence. Surely our thinking is more progressive than that. Let us have something more practical and realistic than a policy of long-term leases. We should set a target date by which we shall get out, probably in a maximum period of ten years but preferably in five years; and leases should be granted accordingly. Land that is occupied by the natives should not be taken from them and leased. Any land that normally belongs to tribal groups should be retained for their own use. If they cannot u-e it now, it should be allowed to lie idle until they can use it. Land is important to these people; it is wealth. We should respect their customs and should not take the land from native people and hand it over to Europeans for development.
In the limited time at my disposal I wish to refer to the rioting that has taken place from time to time in the Territory in recent years. I hope that this problem will be studied impartially and free from politics. It is a matter that should be of great concern to the Government. It is certainly a matter for concern to the Opposition. A case in point was the rioting by the Pacific Islands Regiment last year. I am pleased to see the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) at the table. This affair came within his responsibility. We do not have to treat these people as we treat Europeans and members of the Citizen Military Forces, the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy. The natives are very excitable and of a different temperament. If something is granted to them they should get it without delay or red tape. When the trouble broke out last year, the Government cut red tape and made the extra pay available to the men.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Like the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) I should like to dis cuss Division No. 786 of the Estimates covering miscellaneous services for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The taxpayers of Australia are being asked to provide £17,445,400 for that Territory. This is a very important and, I believe, substantial grant. This burden is being imposed on the people of Australia to enable us to stand up to the obligation we have undertaken to take the people of Papua and New Guinea out of a stone age atmosphere - to race them through 1,000 years of development and present them with the complexities of life with the possibility of selfgovernment in the modern principles of democracy. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, with your wide knowledge, will realize immediately the implications of that simple statement of fact.
The honorable member for Newcastle said quite a lot about education in New Guinea. I do not think anybody would disagree with him on the point that education in the Territory is vital if we are going to achieve the objective we have in mind. I think many of us who have possibly given it more thought than he has will realize the difficulty of bringing these people forward from a stone age mentality. There are psychological problems associated with the introduction of new ideas and modern complexities into their minds, and care must be taken to ensure that they will not be reduced to a state of bewilderment in which they will not know where they are going, what education is, or where they stand in relation to their old ideas. I think that is a simple statement of fact and that the sooner people in this place and in other parts of the world, who have a say in this business realize this, the sooner we will get down to sound and factual thinking about what the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), through his department, is doing for the benefit of the people of Papua-New Guinea.
There are two sides to this problem. First of all, we have the responsibility of bringing these people up, through good administration, to a standard of political, educational and economic development that will enable them to look after themselves. I do not think anybody in this chamber or elsewhere in Australia has any thought other than that as the objective of any Australian government, whether it be this Government or, God forbid, a government of the party on the other side of the chamber. Secondly - and this is a much more complex problem with which we are faced at the moment - certain pressures of outside world opinion are being exerted through, I believe, unqualified votes at such places as the United Nations, where there has been an uninformed and dogmatic attitude on the old principle of anti-colonialism. These people say “ You must let these people have their independence immediately, whether they are ready for it or not “.
So we have these two forces. The Minister, with his responsible and, I believe, effective administration, is going through the processes of achieving, with the assistance of the Australian taxpayer, a vast degree of development in this very difficult area. I think that you will agree, Mr. Acting Chairman, that he does not have an easy people to deal with. The people of Papua-New Guinea are not docile. They are people with minds of their own and people who, with a little bit of learning, can achieve quite a bit of, shall we say, cunning. Nevertheless, they are a responsibility.
On the other side we have arguments being produced in the United Nations Trusteeship Council and in other bodies that we should try to pressure-cook these people up to the stage of independence by a time which we, who, I believe, are far more qualified to express an opinion, consider to be far too premature. This could lead to injury if not complete disaster to the little people who are concerned in this problem.
That leads me to my next point. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) made one very pertinent remark tonight, and I think it is possible that other members might have failed to appreciate the philosophy behind it. He said we could reach a point at which we would say to the United Nations organization that Australia should no longer be saddled financially with the whole of this burden, and that some assistance should be given by the United
Nations Organization itself. I think I heard the honorable member rightly on that point.
– Yes, you did.
– I regard the honorable member’s remark as particularly pertinent to the development which has taken place in the last 24 hours. I refer to the statement of Dr. Luns, the Netherlands Foreign Minister, that Dutch New Guinea should be handed over as a United Nations protectorate, or to be administered under the aegis of the United Nations. There has been some thinking along these lines already in Australia and it has been reflected in one or two articles in this morning’s press which suggests that now is the time for Australia to adopt the same attitude in regard to the trust territory of New Guinea. Obviously, if the offer of the Netherlands in regard to Dutch New Guinea is accepted, it may equally be argued in the United Nations that New Guinea should be administered by some body appointed by the United Nations.
As you, Mr. Makin, will realize from your vast knowledge of the United Nations in which you served, this introduces a completely new philosophy into what we are tryng to do. The attitude of the United Nations to Holland’s offer remains to be revealed, and we can only imagine what is going to happen. I have no idea what the General Assembly will decide to do when the vote comes as it obviously must come one of these days. But if the proposition is accepted by the United Nations, it is certain that there will be in the minds of many people the question why the same principle should not be applied to the territories administered by Australia under trust. I think that is a pretty pertinent argument. You could even carry it a little further and say that as Australia has already accepted that Papua, her own nominal territory, should be a sort of reporting centre for the United Nations, that territory, too, should be included. I think that is something which all members should think about be cause it is a subject of very great importance.
In the meantime we carry on with our own administration, which we believe is right. I think the Minister has shown an extraordinarily sympathetic and efficient approach to the task of developing the people of Papua and New Guinea to the best of their capacity so that they will reach the stage of self determination within a reasonable time.
– Do you not think it desirable to bring the three territories together?
– Yes, I think the honorable member is right. I think anybody who has given thought to this question will realize that, logically, if New Guinea is to have any future as an island these territories must eventually come together. It is quite easy to say that the people of New Guinea are all one people but, as the honorable member knows, there are about 500 different languages there and if the people of one district come into another district they are liable to be eaten. They are not received with the mat of welcome. It is our responsibility to try to dispel that atmosphere and I think we have achieved a lot; But do not let us kid ourselves that we have gone the whole way. I think that only in January of last year there was a case of cannibalism in Wewak in the northern part of our mandated territory. So, whatever has been done, we have still a tremendously long way to go and it is hard to define the task in terms of money. There is a limit to how much the Australian taxpayer can afford and the suggestion made by the honorable member for Newcastle, that perhaps we might induce the United Nations Organization to play a part in the development of our area, is certainly an attractive one from the point of view of the Australian taxpayer. But who will provide funds for the United Nations to do this sort of work? We have to be realistic about this. The money must come from somewhere, and it is obvious to me that if the Australian taxpayer is relieved from one angle he might be hit from another angle. The next point I want to make is that recent developments in the United Nations Organization have brought about a situation in which every discussion of every issue, especially in the Trusteeship Council, is absolutely loaded with political issues. For instance, when the problems of Nauru come up for discussion in the Trusteeship Council the Soviet and her satellite countries immediately attack Australia’s administration of Nauru. I believe that we do send a very efficient team to the United Nations, and to the Trusteeship Council, but we must never forget that these people who have the gun pointed at us the whole time with the magazine fully loaded never relax. Irrespective of how logical our arguments are, irrespective of how much we can show we are doing for these people, irrespective of how earnestly we emphasize that we are prepared to settle them in Australia or wherever they want to go, pressure is put upon our officers the whole time by the representatives of the Soviet and her satellite countries. Continually they ask our officers: “When are you going to give them independence? When are you going to do this, or do that? When are you going to settle all these things? “ I feel that if we are to maintain Australia’s prestige at these conferences, which are very important, irrespective of the stupidity of many of the arguments adduced there, we have to make certain that we have a whole regiment of our best men there so that we may have reserves ready to take up the bowling as our representatives get worn down by this constant barrage to which they are subjected.
I am not speaking purely hypothetically now; I know what is going on there. I know that at the last meeting of the Trusteeship Council the attack from Russia was bitter the whole time. The Russian delegates used every known procedure within the Trusteeship Council in their attack upon us. For instance, by using in the Trusteeship Council the same vote as they had used in the General Assembly against colonialism, they put our delegates in a very difficult position. Although the members of the Trusteeship Council had accepted clearly the accuracy of the arguments adduced most efficiently by the Australian delegates, they said, “ You realize what the vote of the General Assembly was on the question of colonialism-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It has become increasingly clear, from listening to this debate, and from considering the details of the Estimates, that the Government is trying to develop the Northern Territory on a financial shoestring. The provision this year is only about £2,000,000 greater than that for the previous year. The proposals propounded by honorable members on the Government side and their supporters at various levels in the community merely echo what we have argued in all sincerity over the the years - that the north must be developed. But it must be developed completely, and we must provide whatever funds are needed for that development.
When speaking of the north, we take the Northern Territory as our pivot and cast our eyes across the tropical north of Australia. The main ingredient necessary for the proper development of the Northern Territory is population, and that is lacking there. At the best, the growth of population in the Northern Territory has been sluggish. Taken over the period, it has been almost static, as the figures show. We cannot hope to induce more people to go to the Northern Territory, because the area lacks industry. By that I mean that it lacks factory development. Whether they be migrants from overseas, or Australian natives, we cannot ask people to move to the Territory unless they can be assured of all essential amenities, the main one of which, of course, is employment at adequate rates of pay and under proper conditions. Because of the absence of industry, population and development are stagnant.
In my opinion, the first great need in developing the Northern Territory is the establishment of a copper prefabricating industry, a copper smelting industry. A classic example of the benefits that such an industry can bring to an area may be found at Townsville where, even though the prefabricating side of the copper smelting industry is only in its infancy, that unit is employing between 300 and 400 men. The Pekoe mine at Tennant Creek is producing over 30,000 tons of concentrates, and at the moment the entire production is being exported for processing. That processing should be done in the Northern Territory. As private enterprise seems to be hesitant about establishing such an industry there, this Government should make money available for that purpose and so provide work for 300 or 400 men, who are not now living in the Territory and who will have no reason to go there at any time in the future if there is nothing there to employ them.
Recently, we read in the Northern Territory press of the discovery of a huge iron ore deposit at Mount Wells. On information available at the moment, it is estimated that this deposit contains over 100,000,000 tons of iron ore. Government experts say that it is probably the greatest iron ore deposit in the Commonwealth, although it has not yet been thoroughly tested. The important point is that iron ore is the basic essential for a steel industry, and we need factory development in the north. Nothing else will populate the area. It will never be populated by the cattle industry or by agricultural development in our lifetime, at any rate, and until we get people in the north we shall have neither development nor security. As a matter of fact, at the present time we are dangling before the eyes of other people in the world a very tempting prize, and we should be developing the great wealth of this area, which is under the control of this Government.
We must consider these questions in a practical way. It is of no use talking about the potential of the north, for potential is really only a figment of the imagination. It means nothing. It becomes of value only when it is converted to tangible activity producing wealth in some form or another. That is not being done to the extent that it should be, and the basic foundation upon which development of the Northern Territory must rest is obviously expenditure by this Government. Naturally, we are asked where the money is to come from to develop the north on a large scale. The obvious answer is that it must come from the Australian taxpayer. This Government, or our government - and we will be the government after the end of this year - must tell the Australian taxpayer that he has got to pay for the development of the north. That is a proper responsibility that we people in the southern areas of Australia owe to the people in the northern areas. Unless we acknowledge that responsibility we shall divorce ourselves from our right to retain and control that part of Australia.
The development of the cattle industry obviously points the way to the establishment of an abattoir in the Northern Territory. Again, I am thinking in terms of factory development. Many kinds of processed meats could be produced there. At the moment, cattle are being moved out of the Territory in great numbers. They are being slaughtered and the meat processed elsewhere. We should be commencing such processing in the Territory and directing production towards the Asian markets, instead of sending it south to compete against the production of the southern areas of Australia.
We are permitting the vast and valuable buffalo herds of the Territory to be destroyed by every gun-happy person who cares to go to the Territory and blow out the brains of a few of these harmless animals. The herds should be preserved. There is scope in this respect for an industry to be developed. Agriculture, based on the Katherine area, is capable of development. The activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that much can be achieved in the way of certain forms of agricultural production. That production should be encouraged by the Government, because private enterprise will not go to the Territory to do the things that need to be done. It will go there only to rifle the Territory of its wealth. It will take what it can as quickly as it can, for the least expenditure of money and effort. That has been so with the cattle industry from its inception. If we look at the average cattle station in the Territory we find inefficient management and neglect because of a lack of understanding by absentee control. The great cattle stations should not be in the state they are in at present. They are not producing as much as they should be.
The rice-growing industry at Humpty Doo has taken a nose-dive. It has proved a colossal fiasco. I think it was suggested in this Parliament, and it was my opinion from the very first time I saw it, that the undertaking provided a grand opportunity for land speculation only. It was never intended by the people who obtained the lease to develop rice-growing to the fullest extent. That was my opinion originally, and it has been borne out by the passing of time. We need to re-establish that industry. Rice can be grown in the Territory and is being grown on a miniature tonnage basis. More rice should be grown with a view to selling it on the markets of the East. We must think in terms of the advantage to be gained, from a national point of view, in exploiting the Asian markets.
The points I am making, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are real ones that must be taken into account. I think, too, that when we are considering the estimates for the Northern Territory we should have a look at the governmental set-up there. Although there are more than 20,000 white people in the Territory, the honorable member for the Northern Territory in this Parliament is denied full status. I think that every Government supporter will agree with my submission that a more industrious and able person than the present honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to place the views of the Territory before the Parliament could hardly be imagined. Because of the stagnant policy that is approved by the Minister, the residents of the Territory are being denied the right of self-government and the right to say which laws shall or shall not apply to them. Because of the climatic conditions of the area, and its isolation, the people of the Territory are best fitted to determine the way of life they should follow. Yet, they are being denied that opportunity by the policy of this Government.
When Labour is elected to office, some radical alterations will take place in the method of government in the Territory. Unless we stimulate in the people of that area the idea that they are citizens in their own right, with power to control their destiny to a major extent, they will become second or third-class citizens not only in our eyes but also in their own eyes. There is an obvious need for a ministry for the Northern Territory, irrespective of the political party that is in government. There should be a Minister who is concerned only with the development of the northern or tropical areas of Australia. There is a great sympathy of interests and outlook among the people of the northern part of Western Australia, north Queensland and the Northern Territory. Those interests must be co-ordinated. The climatic conditions, the geography and the economic outlook of those areas are all entirely different from those of the southern parts of Australia. The establishment of a ministry concerned with the northern areas of Australia is essential for the development of full governing rights and the coordination of economic and material affairs. I suggest that that could be done in a manner similar to the way in which the Snowy Mountains Authority operates.
The Legislative Council for the Northern Territory is a hybrid type of body. It is as out-of-date as stovepipe hats in this day and age. It is dominated by governmentelected officials, whereas it should be elected by the people of the Territory themselves. Surely, like the people of any municipality or shire in New South Wales, they should have unfettered control of their domestic affairs. I believe, too, that the aboriginals should be given voting rights. Due to the neglect of this Government, those people have been placed more or less in an economic vacuum. There is very little employment for them in the Territory. There are not many employment opportunities for the white people, but there are even fewer for the aboriginals. They should be able to take part in the mining industry, the cattle industry and the agricultural industry. Yet, we find no more than a handful of them so engaged. The granting of voting rights to them is essential if they are to have dignity and feel that they are sharing responsibilities. Without going into details, we know that many people in electorates all over Australia do not understand the electoral law and the implications of the right to vote. These matters must be looked at in the proper perspective.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Earlier this evening I went through, as quickly as possible, the agricultural problems outlined in the Forster report. At the end of last year we signed that report which, it will be admitted, is of formidable length. It sets out, in perhaps rather too great detail, the problems that face the Northern Territory. Having signed the report, I went overseas. I returned through Nepal and spent a most interesting and exhausting time clambering about the hills of that remarkable country and seeing the problems it faces in growing grain sorghum, peanuts and rice, crops that we can grow in the Northern Territory. I came back through Darwin and flew from there to Katherine.
Flying across that country I have got to know it pretty well. I looked down upon it that day, knowing something, and more than most, of the problems of developing the area. But this time I saw it spread out, flat, beneath me. I knew that land was available in large tracts on proof that it could be developed properly. I knew that a road and a railway ran through it, with a port at the northern end of the railway. That day, the difficulties did not seem so overwhelming as perhaps they seemed when we signed the Forster report. I want to add that as a postscript to the outline of agricultural problems given in the report.
There is another problem which is not dealt with in the report and which I think ought to be posed to the committee this evening. It relates to the political aspect of this problem of development. We have to remember that there are two heads to this problem. One of them has a political aspect. We have a political responsibility. I can quite understand that the agricultural problems that I have mentioned are perhaps beyond the experience of some honorable members, but all of us in this place ought to have an active interest in the political problems that face us in developing this vast, empty and challenging area of our continent.
The first part of our political responsibility is a federal responsibility for the Northern Territory as part of the mainland of Australia. All the talk about the empty north that we have heard to-day highlights a federal problem in relation to this part of the mainland. Then there is the question of our fiscal policy. Our policy of protection has a very great effect on the development of these outlying areas. I am not saying that we ought to abandon the policy of protection, but we ought to recognize that it bears hardly on those parts of the continent that have no industry to be protected. And the white Australia policy bears hardly on the Northern Territory. Before federation, the area that now comprises the Territory was rapidly going ahead. But then the white Australia policy came into force and development stopped dead. I do not say that the white Australia policy is wrong or that it ought not to apply in the Territory, but we ought to recognize that that policy imposes on us additional responsibilities in relation to the Territory. Then there is the effect of the Navigation Act, which makes the transport of goods to and from Darwin much more costly than it would . otherwise be. That bears hardly on the economy of the Northern Territory. We ought to recognize that for these reasons we have a special responsibility for the Territory.
I have already stated that we have a federal responsibility for the Territory by reason of the fact that it is part of the Australian mainland. But we have a wider responsibility than that. We have a peculiar responsibility for the Territory because we are the only authority which can do for it what is done for a State by the government of that State. We ought to recognize this responsibility to attend to the mundane needs - the mundane problems of development, if one likes to describe them in that way - which are attended to in a State by the State government. We, through the agency of the Commonwealth civil service, have to shoulder the responsibility of attending to these more intimate needs of the Territory in the way in which the government of a State attends to the more intimate needs of that State.
So we have dual responsibilities. How are we discharging them? Looking back over the past and considering the present, I say that we have no reason for complacency. But neither have we any reason for shame. I think that we could have done better. Indeed, that could be said of all human effort. But I emphasize, turning to future development, that if agricultural development is to proceed, we must re-think our responsibilities in this direction. Many other reports on the Northern Territory have been presented. In fact, it is almost a joke in the Territory that mere have been so many reports. In order to illustrate the feeling that exists, I should like to quote the views expressed in 1887 in a written report by the man in charge of the botanic gardens in Darwin - known in those days as the Government Garden. At the front of the report of the Forster committee, there appears this passage from that gentleman’s report -
I really do not know whether another appeal to the Government and the honorable members of Parliament will have more success than my previous attempts to rouse sympathy with the efforts I have till now made, to prove the suitability of the Northern Territory for tropical agriculture, or shall my report have again the fate of its precursors.
I want honorable members to absorb that. I imagine that it was written with the heart’s blood of this man who had submitted many reports which had come to nothing. The Forster committee’s report, too, will come to nothing unless we re-think our responsibilities for the Northern Territory.
What is wrong with our present administration there? I suggest that there are two particular problems. The first is the division of powers. Powers are divided between the Northern Territory Administration, under the Minister for Territories, and other departments under other Ministers, such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Health. That unfortunate division of powers, I would say, militates against our ever getting efficient administration in the Territory. There is also a division of powers between the authorities in Canberra and the Northern Territory Administration at Darwin. This will cripple future development if it is allowed to continue. There is a further division of powers between the Administration and the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. So the division of powers poses a particular problem. Unless we can think out the implications clearly and solve this problem, agricultural development or, indeed, any other worth-while development, will never come to pass.
I come now to the second point that 1 wish to make on this aspect of the problem of developing the Northern Territory. It relates to the machinery and operation of the Public Service. The present arrangement is not good enough, because it hampers any real step forward. The report of the Forster committee makes several criticisms of this situation. I do not propose to go over them in detail. I should just like to point out that eighteen steps which have to be taken to obtain seed in the Northern Territory are set out in the report. The procuring of seed usually takes many months. I state this as an example of something that cannot be allowed to continue. Then there is the question of the allowances and salaries paid to public servants in the Territory. This, also, is dealt with in the report. Allowances and salaries must be sufficient to induce the better classes of public servants to go to the Territory. The present rates are not, in the opinion of the members of the Forster committee, sufficient to induce highly qualified officers to go there.
There is an even more fundamental problem related to the Public Service. If the Commonwealth is to shoulder its responsibilities for development in the Northern Territory, the Public Service must adopt a different outlook. The Commonwealth Public Service has no tradition of development. Such a tradition has been developed only in the State services which are so close to the farmers in the States and to the ordinary everyday needs of agriculture and development. I do not decry the Commonwealth Public Service. I merely point out that it has behind it no tradition of development to induce it to do the job properly.
I am not sufficiently experienced to survey for honorable members all the details of the changes in administration that are needed, nor have I sufficient time to do so. But I should like to quote a passage from the concluding chapter of the report. It is as follows: -
If, after consideration of these broader issues, the Government decides to embark on a development programme, there are two warnings which we think should be sounded. The first is this - the Commonwealth is not equipped at present to do a pioneering task such as this. It is the States and not the Commonwealth who have developed the land resources of Australia. The States have a tradition of land development. They live close to their farmers and by experience know the hard road of land development - not so the Commonwealth.
We do not think that this problem is insurmountable. But it should be recognized as a problem now - any large development will call for a change in viewpoint by the Commonwealth, especially with respect to delegation of authority and freedom to operate without undue restrictions of public service procedure . . .
The second warning is this. Tt will not just happen. To do the job well will take a considerable effort and it will not be enough to have a dedicated few who devote themselves to the task. The people of Australia will have to believe that it is a job worth doing and worth making some sacrifices to do.
It may be that, as a people, we have lost our pioneering instincts, that these have withered in the concrete jungles in which most of us exist. But it may be that the pioneering spark is still alive in us. If it is, then the development of the Northern Territory is a challenge which we should take up.
It is not a task for civil servants alone, or the Commonwealth alone, but a task for a nation.
That is the end of the report. It will indeed be the end of it in more ways than one unless we in this Parliament realize that we have an extra responsibility to this country and are prepared to work and sacrifice for ourselves and for the country. We all talk glibly about what we shall do, but the development of this Territory will take a great deal more hard thinking and sacrifice than we generally recognize.
– I am sure that most honorable members can well appreciate the concern of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) at the lack of imagination and inspiration being displayed by this Government in respect of the great developmental prospects confronting us in the north of Australia, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the other Territories which this country administers. In the last ten years we have become accustomed to status quoism. We have become accustomed to the technique of abandoning the setting of targets. We ceased long ago to do the kind of things that the Commonwealth did, for example, in the 1940’s and in the period preceding the war, when the Snowy Mountains Scheme was undertaken and when we established the Commonwealth Bank, built the transcontinental railway, and started shipping lines and other undertakings of that type. Now that we have come to recognize to some extent the enormous prospects in the north of this country, we are all starting to feel impatient and hoping to high heaven that it will not be long before we get a government that will give effect to the aspirations and yearnings of the Australian people.
I think at the moment not only of the Northern Territory - which I visited a few weeks ago with my Labour colleagues and which I should like to talk about at some length - but also of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is very apparent that much remains to be done in this area. Papua and New Guinea is an area about twice the size of Victoria. It is 184,000 square miles, as against Victoria’s 90,000 square miles. It has great resources. It produces gold, silver, zinc, lead, copper, manganese, copra, coffee, rubber and timber, and there may also be great deposits of oil - many people think so - lying dormant and untapped under the ground. In this area, we are proposing to spend this year only £17,000,000, while in Victoria we shall spend £150,000,000, apart from Commonwealth aid and aid from a local government standpoint. In New Guinea there are about 2,000,000 people and in Victoria about 3,000,000. The extent to which we are behind in Papua and New Guinea is apparent. We have not even started to think of matters like social services and the amenities of life that we now take for granted in this country.
As we have accepted responsibility for the development of Papua and New Guinea, we should be greatly concerned that that development is proceeding so slowly. When all is said and done, our particular interest in the Territory is the responsibility that we have accepted on behalf of the United Nations to do something for the area. It is no longer important from a defence standpoint, as most people would surely concede, in this age of rockets and intercontinental missiles which can carry nuclear weapons. In fact, we know that this Government has disregarded the Territory from a defence standpoint. Moving around the area, one sees nothing of defence significance apart from the Pacific Islands Regiment, playing its Scottish band, and half disciplined, as recent events have proved. No one thinks of the value of the Territory from a defence standpoint. It is about time that we started to be a little realistic. We have abandoned, from a defence standpoint, not only the mainland of New Guinea but also Manus Island. We must recognize that our real interest is the welfare of the people and the development of the country for their sake. In this regard, Australia and the other countries on whose behalf we are operating are falling down on the job.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is genuinely interested in Papua and New Guinea. We do not all agree with his attitude; I certainly do not. He talks fairly glibly in this place about a partnership. To my way of thinking, it has always been a very unbalanced partnership, with 2,000,000 indigenous people and 20,000 Europeans going hand in hand. The only aspiration we have in this regard is to go hand in hand so that the Europeans can reap profits by the exploitation of the native people and the resources of their country. That is the aim of honorable members opposite.
We have set about the task of predetermining the way of life of the indigenous people to too great an extent. We have a tendency to believe that the people of Papua and New Guinea will want to develop a capitalistic society such as we have developed in our own country, but already we see a fairly sluggish growth of cooperative societies. This kind of community spirit is, of course, in accordance with their natural inclinations and it has existed ever since people have been in the area, but it is not being encouraged to the extent to which it should be encouraged. The Minister, in his preliminary reports - they are far from adequate and are really sketchy little notes in which we cannot find anything of consequence - refers in glowing terms to thefact that capitalism is moving into the area, that a cement works has been established, that large areas of land have been leased, that the brewery monopolies which are holding the Australian people to ransom have moved in, and that paint works have been established. These monopolies will develop there to the extent to which they have developed in Australia, with the result that in a few years no indigenous native will be able to start a business.
We are pre-determining the future way of life of these people, who have a natural inclination towards socialism. Some say that this partnership may lead to the establishment of a seventh Australian State. That would be a distortion of our obligations and responsibilities. Some very bad features are involved in that prospect. Although it is an idealistic concept, to which I would subscribe, 1 am not sure that most Australians would like the idea of freedom of travel throughout Australia by Papuan and New Guinea people. I do not know whether Australians would be anxious to assume responsibility for the social services that the indigenous people of the Territory would require if they were on equal terms with us. I am not sure that we would be happy in meeting the great cost involved in the equalization of industrial conditions. I would be personally but I am not sure that people who are anxious to see our association with these people continued would want to see that proposition perpetuated. I am satisfied that a second-class citizenship would develop if we encouraged this idea of a seventh State. Our responsibility is to encourage independence and selfgovernment for these people. This is something in respect of which the Government has been insufficiently forthright.
T think that events in other parts of the world close to the Territory - in West New Guinea for example - will set the pattern of events there. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) dealt with this matter when he referred to the Netherlands going to the United Nations and indicating its preparedness to relinquish its sovereignty over West New Guinea in favour of a trusteeship arrangement. Such a trusteeship arrangement would encourage world interest in West New Guinea and in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea generally and would stimulate the idea of setting target dates for the accomplishment of various facets of development such as political development and development in the fields of housing, education and communications.
The attitude of the Netherlands towards West New Guinea will have an important bearing on our Territory. We will have to start thinking along similar lines. We will be forced to adopt a time-table for the development of our Territory similar to the time-table that will be observed by the United Nations or whichever body controls the development of West New Guinea on behalf of the United Nations. The fact that we spend only £17,000,000 a year on such a large number of people will cause concern.
It is time the Government recognized that it is not sensible to develop Papua and
New Guinea in accordance only with the amount of money that the Government feels can be spared for the purpose. Lack of finance is retarding the development of the Territory. We must obtain financial assistance for this purpose from the United Nations. Knowing that the world wants an intensification of development in territories such as Papua and New Guinea we should go to the United Nations and seek assistance for this purpose. We should tell the United Nations that we do not want to prolong our tenure of occupation. We want to develop the Territory as quickly as possible.
It is wise to look at developments that have taken place of recent years in other parts of the world. The history of Africa shows how areas are influenced by the surge of nationalism in neighbouring areas. We must anticipate what will happen in West New Guinea because th2 same pressures will be brought to bear in Papua and New Guinea. Independence was scheduled for Nigeria and Cameroun in the 1960’s. The knowledge that independence was to be granted to those areas influenced the actions of the people of countries in the vicinity. We know that France’s African colonies became involved in this great surge of nationalism in the 1960’s. Look at what happened in the Belgian Congo. The Belgians were forced to leave. The same thing may happen in Papua and New Guinea.
Our relations with the people of the Territory are more important to us than the relations of other countries with the people of their colonies. The 25,000 indigenous people of Port Moresby and Rabaul- not the 1,750,000 people of the hinterland - will determine the political progress of the area. The political progress of the area will be determined by the people who have had a close association with Europeans. It will be those people who will be influenced by world opinion and who will stimulate the progress towards self-determination.
Those people are unhappy about many things. They are unhappy about the large amount of land that has been alienated from them. They are unhappy about the discrimination that takes place in the Territory. They are unhappy about exploitation in respect of industrial conditions and resources generally. We have seen some evidence of this dissatisfaction in the riots that took place among members of the Pacific Islands Regiment. It is fair to expect that disturbances of that kind will increase in the future. The best way to placate these people is to define our objectives clearly and to give them clear target dates for development and ultimate self-dependence. Australia should seek some assistance under the Colombo Plan to develop the Territories we administer. We contribute to the Colombo Plan and if we sought assistance from the plan we would be aided in the development of the Territory.
I want to make a brief reference to the discrimination that takes place in the Territory at present, because there is not much time to talk about anything else. As a result of my visit to the Territory I know that discrimination is rife. I saw discrimination in respect of hospital treatment. There are separate hospitals for the native people and for Europeans. I saw discrimination in hotels and restaurants, and in respect of housing, lt is still an unfortunate fact that although Europeans live in well-designed contemporary style homes, out in the backyard is the dog box which is referred to as the boy house.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) ill. 7]. - I was interested to note the tone of comments passed by Government supporters when they were dealing with the developmental problems of the Northern Territory. I was accused of being gloomy in my outlook towards the estimates for the Northern Territory but in my opinion the outlook of Government supporters was just as gloomy and pessimistic as mine. They constantly referred to the difficulties and problems associated with development of the north. Certainly the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) was more optimistic. He thought there was considerable scope for development in the Northern Territory and he urged the Government to make a greater effort in that regard. He called for a greater effort to increase the population of the Territory. If the poulation is increased the Government must do the necessary work to sustain that population.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) continued his summary of the Forster report which has recently been presented to the Parliament. The original draft of the report was available in October last year but we have only recently received the report in its present form. The honorable member for Wakefield referred to various difficulties associated with development of the Northern Territory. He adverted to the difficulties associated with the large-scale growing of rice. I agree that the experience of the present occupiers of the land in the Northern Territory has demonstrated beyond doubt that ricegrowing is a small-time proposition and that it should be approached in no other way. Unfortunately the area on which rice is grown at present is held by a monopoly company. The area involved is 1,500,000 acres. Through the concession held by the company over that huge area of country, the land is locked up for some considerable time. I have been trying to elicit from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) what breaches the company has committed in its occupancy of the land but I have not been able to ascertain the facts.
The honorable member for Wakefield referred to the Forster committee’s findings on its inquiry into the peanut industry. The committee came to the conclusion that although peanuts were a natural crop for the Northern Territory, the economics of peanut growing were marginal and the committee could not recommend the commercial growing of peanuts in the Territory. It is futile to base the economics of an industry in a developmental area like the Northern Territory on the assumption that it will be 100 per cent, successful. Where would northern Queensland be to-day if the people of Australia had not subsidized the sugar industry to the extent of millions of pounds over the years?
We have an established industry in north Queensland to-day. Without that industry, north Queensland would probably be in the same position as the Northern Territory now is - a series of cattle stations, and that is all. It was only by initiative and bold action that the industry was established, but there is now a thriving industry in a prosperous community. This has been of great advantage not only to the economy of
Queensland but to the economy of Australia as a whole.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) deplored the cost of irrigation schemes in the north. But irrigation schemes would not be installed until a basis of agriculture had been established. First, the possibility of growing a crop in a certain place must be established and then the possibility of an irrigation project would be examined. But no effort to irrigate the land is being made at the moment. The proposal of the honorable member for Wakefield that pilot farms be established has apparently not yet found favour in Government circles, because no provision for this is made in the Estimates.
– Do you concur in the idea of pilot farms?
– Yes, I most certainly do. I have advocated that idea for a number of years, and it has been accepted generally in the Northern Territory as the proper approach. The committee has recommended it, but no action has been taken.
My colleague, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), deplored the lack of cheap power to process the products of the Northern Territory. He pointed out that we cannot rely solely on primary products but must also develop secondary industries. We have not yet satisfied ourselves that the use of atomic energy in the north is beyond the realms of possibility. With the difficulties surrounding the production of atomic energy, the north would be a logical area in which to establish atomic energy plants for the treatment, first, of the bauxite deposits that exist in unlimited quantities on the Territory side and the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) chided the honorable member for Barton for being a tourist in this part of Australia. I have been informed that the honorable member for Barton spent eighteen months in one stretch in the Northern Territory when he was in the Army. Certainly he recently toured the area in company with other members from this side of the chamber, but I point out that Government supporters also organized a tour of the Territory. I think they came back very favourably impressed.
Honorable members opposite point to the difficulties associated with the development of the north and say that we must not go too fast, that we must go step by step. We have been doing so for 100 years, but I cannot see that much progress has been made. It is no wonder that we who live in the north become despondent and believe that nothing will ever be done. However, I want to quote the exact words of a man who should know something about these problems. He said - . . I would say that if to-morrow a decision was taken for major expenditure in the north, it would not take us years or months but only days to produce and submit practical and authenticated proposals for development measures, whether it be in roads, the testing of agriculture, mining or the pastoral industry, and we could put them into practice without recourse to any new instrumentalities or the starting of new inquiries.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Territories said that as recently as February of this year. At least the Minister has no doubt that the ball is at the Government’s feet. It is only a matter now of some bo!d action being taken to do these things thai we have been seeking to do. At least the Minister has indicated that the Government has fallen down on its job on this occasion in not providing the funds, in not taking the initiative and in not taking bold action to adopt a policy of development in the Northern Territory. Nobody can gainsay that the Minister himself feels toe is possessed of all the facts and all the knowledge, and that he lacks only the funds. He lacks only the word to go ahead. If that is not an indictment of this Government, I do not know what is. We believe that we are only being humbugged, because the Minister has intimated that if he had the funds to-morrow, he could start on a development policy to open up the Northern Territory on the following day. Such a policy would open up new vistas of development and prosperity for this part of Australia.
I have not much time remaining, but I shall outline a basic policy for the Northern Territory that could be started immediately. The first point is the need to give full voting rights to the member for the Northern Territory in the Federal Parliament. We pay taxes and we are obliged to fulfil the same obligations as are other citizens of Australia. Let us be part of the community, let us be full Australians and not half Australians. The creation of a Ministry for North Australia is necessary to implement the plan that the Minister has at his fingertips. The Commonwealth has the power to develop the Northern Territory and it could co-operate with Queensland and Western Australia in the development of the northern parts of those States. The Commonwealth should provide the finance for this development. Let us set up also a North Australian Development Commission to take charge of the plan. Time after time we have been told that the Australian taxpayers must find the funds to develop the north and therefore the taxpayers must have the means of supervising the expenditure. We are denied local control of the funds and local direction of policies, but the creation of a commission would provide a means to safeguard the Australian taxpayers. We should have the top brains of Australia on such a commission. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is a glorious example of the way a major project should be tackled.
Then let us establish in the Northern Territory a fully elected Legislative Council to take care of local problems associated with the every day affairs of the Territory. No longer should we have remote control from Canberra. At present, legislation passed by the Nothern Territory legislature is sent to Canberra, rejected by the Minister, sent back to the Northern Territory, passed again and rejected again by the Minister, although it has been passed by duly elected members of the council working with the nominated members. Only persons who live in the Territory can really appreciate the frustration that this process causes.
As a means of encouraging industry and to get people to go to these parts, we should grant taxation concessions. This would provide a terrific stimulus to industry and would attract the right type of worker. It would, in addition, compensate for the disability under which people live and work in the Territory. The ordinary amenities that are taken for granted in the south should be provided in the north. The standards of health in the north should be as good as the standards in the south. Social services should be as good in the north as they are in the south. Some system of zoning in social services, similar to the taxation allowances zones, should be implemented. We recognize that in certain zones people live and work under difficulties that do not exist in other parts of Australia. The taxation principles of zones should apply to social service benefits such as age, invalid and service pensions, in which fields the disabilities are more acute in the north because of the physical condition of the recipients.
The education standard in the north should also be brought up to date and a vigorous housing policy, based on low rentals and with a rental rebate system similar to that existing in the Australian Capital Territory should be implemented. Let us establish in the Territory a development bank to provide the finance that is so greatly needed. At present, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Development Bank are in Sydney, and the delays that occur in the processing of applications for loans are so frustrating that many applicants give up in disgust. Let us also have roads, railways, ports and airline facilities, all of which are necessary in a developing country. We need to have road and rail links with the south so that we may sell our commodities in the south and so that the commodities we require in the Territory may be forwarded up to us at the lowest possible cost.
Let us develop our natural markets - the markets in the East to which reference has been made to-night. It has been determined beyond doubt that we can grow rice in the Territory. We have in the East a market for that commodity. Let us realize, that in the East we have a market for all the beef we can produce at present and all that we are likely to produce in the future. If the markets are exploited and the shipping that is necessary to carry our products to those markets is provided, we will be able to sell those products.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman -
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Mr. STEWART__ I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Acting Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Order! There is no substance in the honorable member’s point of order.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Ordinary postal articles- 12,208,011.
Registered articles - 49,599.
Postage stamp sales - £84,322.
State duty stamps- £14,754.
Tax instalment stamps - £56,341.
Postal notes- 30,692.
Money orders - 34,699.
Pensions paid - 20,448.
Child endowment payments - 21,172.
Broadcast and television licences issued - 5,394.
The hours of business which now apply are - Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
Ordinary postal articles - 4,034,578 (increase).
Registered articles - 39,141 (decrease).
Parcels - 18,724 (decrease).
Telegrams- 85,067 (decrease).
Postage stamp sales - £52,392 (increase).
State duty stamps - £9,052 (increase).
Tax instalment stamps - £28,271 (increase).
Postal notes - 101,293 (decrease).
Money orders - 18,996 (increase).
Pensions paid - 16,870 (decrease).
Child endowment payments- 424 (increase).
Broadcast and television licences issued - 1,110 (increase).
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
At the time of the question, the total of grants approved for expenditure did in fact exceed £10,600,000. The actual total up to 18th August, 1961, was £10,659,224. Grants are not paid on approval. They are paid in progressive instal ments during the course of the construction of the building and the final instalment is paid when the building is completed. Payments made on grants to 18th August, 1961, totalled £8,646,458.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In respect of what committees appointed under the National Health and Therapeutic Substances Acts have the names of members been (a) announced to the public, or (b) revealed to the drug companies?
– I have not announced to the public or revealed to the drug companies the names of members of any committees appointed under the National Health Act or the Therapeutic Substances Act.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
How much (a) penicillin and (b) insulin was supplied as pharmaceutical benefits in each of the last two financial years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Penicillin and insulin are prepared in a variety of forms and strengths and it is impracticable u> calculate the quantities of these drugs contained in the preparations supplied to patients at. pharmaceutical benefits.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610928_reps_23_hor33/>.