24th Parliament · 1st Session
The House met at 10.30 a.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Clerk read the proclamation.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that the Deputy of the Governor-General for the Opening of the Parliament requested the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith. (Honorable members attended accordingly, and, having returned) -
The Deputy authorized by the GovernorGeneral to administer the oath or affirmation entered the chamber.
The Clerk read the commission, under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth, authorizing the Honorable Sir William John Victor Windeyer, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., a Justice of the High Court of Australia, to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Queen required’ by the Constitution to be taken or made by members of the House of Representatives.
– I lay on the table returns to 124 writs for the election of members of the House of Representatives, held on 9 th December, 1961.
The following honorable members, with the exception of Mr. Alan Bird, who was not present, made and subscribed the oath of allegiance: -
Adermann, Charles Frederick, Fisher, Queensland.
Allan, Archibald Ian, Gwydir, New South Wales.
Anthony, John Douglas, Richmond, New South Wales.
Armitage, John Lindsay, Mitchell, New South Wales.
Barnard, Lance Herbert, Bass, Tasmania.
Barnes, Charles Edward, McPherson, Queensland.
Barwick, Garfield Edward John, Parramatta, New South Wales.
Bate, Henry Jefferson, Macarthur, New South Wales.
Beaton, Noel Lawrence, Bendigo, Victoria.
Beazley, Kim Edward, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Bird, Alan Charles, Batman, Victoria.
Brimblecombe, Wilfred John, Maranoa, Queensland.
Bryant, Gordon Munro, Wills, Victoria.
Buchanan, Alexander Andrew, McMillan, Victoria.
Bury, Leslie Harry Ernest, Wentworth, New South Wales.
Cairns, James Ford, Yarra, Victoria.
Calwell, Arthur Augustus, Melbourne, Victoria.
Cameron, Clyde Robert, Hindmarsh, South Australia.
Cameron, Donald James, Lilley, Queensland.
Chaney, Frederick Charles. Perth, Western Australia.
Chipp, Donald Leslie. Higinbotham, Victoria.
Clark, Joseph James,Darling, New South Wales.
Clay, Lionel Daniel, St. George, New South Wales.
Cleaver, Richard, Swan, Western Australia.
Cockle, John Simon, Warringah, New South Wales.
Collard, Frederick Walter, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Comber, Jack, Bowman, Queensland.
Cope, James Francis, Watson, New South Wales.
Costa, Dominic Eric, Banks, New South Wales.
Courtnay, Frank, Darebin, Victoria.
Coutts, Wilfred Charles, Griffith, Queensland.
Cramer, John Oscar, Bennelong, New South Wales.
Crean, Frank, Melbourne Ports, Victoria.
Cross, Manfred Douglas, Brisbane, Queensland.
Curtin, Daniel James, Kingsford-Smith, New South Wales.
Daly, Frederick Michael, Grayndler, New South Wales.
Davidson, Charles William, Dawson, Queensland.
Davies, Ronald, Braddon, Tasmania.
Davis, Francis John, Deakin, Victoria.
Dean, Roger Levinge, Robertson, New South Wales.
Downer, Alexander Russell, Angas, South Australia.
Drummond, David Henry, New England, New South Wales.
Drury, Edward Nigel, Ryan, Queensland.
Duthie, Gilbert William Arthur, Wilmot, Tasmania.
Einfeld, Sydney David, Phillip, New South Wales.
England, John Armstrong, Calare, New South Wales.
Erwin, George Dudley, Ballaarat, Victoria.
Failes, Laurence John, Lawson, New South Wales.
Fairbairn, David Eric, Farrer, New South Wales.
Fairhall, Allen, Paterson, New South Wales.
Falkinder, Charles William Jackson, Franklin, Tasmania.
Forbes, Alexander James, Barker, South Australia.
Fox, Edmund Maxwell Cameron, Henty, Victoria.
Fraser, Allan Duncan, Eden-Monaro, New South Wales.
Fraser, James Reay, Australian Capital Territory.
Fraser, John Malcolm, Wannon, Victoria.
Freeth, Gordon, Forrest, Western Australia.
Fuller, Arthur Neiberding, Hume, New South Wales.
Fulton, William John, Leichhardt, Queensland.
Galvin, Patrick, Kingston, South Australia.
Gray, George Henry, Capricornia, Queensland.
Griffiths, Charles Edward, Shortland, New South Wales.
Hansen, Brendan Percival, Wide Bay, Queensland.
Harding, Ernest William, Herbert, Queensland.
Harrison, Eli James, Blaxland, New South Wales.
Hasluck, Paul Meernaa Caedwalla, Curtin, Western Australia.
Haworth, William Crawford, Isaacs, Victoria.
Hayden, William George, Oxley, Queensland.
Haylen, Leslie Clement, Parkes, New South Wales.
Holt, Harold Edward, Higgins, Victoria.
Holten, Rendle McNeilage, Indi, Victoria.
Howson, Peter, Fawkner, Victoria.
Jack, William Mathers, North Sydney, New South Wales.
James, Albert William, Hunter, New South Wales.
Jess, John David, La Trobe, Victoria.
Johnson, Leslie Royston, Hughes, New South Wales.
Jones, Charles Keith, Newcastle, New South Wales.
Kearney, Victor Dennis, Cunningham, New South Wales.
Kelly, Charles Robert, Wakefield, South Australia.
Kent Hughes, Wilfrid Selwyn, Chisholm, Victoria.
Killen, Denis James, Moreton, Queensland.
King, Robert Shannon, Wimmera, Victoria.
Leslie, Hugh Alan, Moore, Western Australia.
Lindsay, Robert William Ludovic, Flinders, Victoria.
Luchetti. Anthony Sylvester, Macquarie, New South Wales.
Lucock, Philip Ernest, Lyne, New South Wales.
Mackinnon, Ewen Daniel, Corangamite, Victoria.
Makin, Norman John Oswald, Bonython, South Australia.
McEwen, John, Murray. Victoria.
McGuren, Francis William, Cowper, New South Wales.
McIvor, Hector James, Gellibrand, Victoria.
McLeay, John, Boothby, South Australia.
McMahon, William, Lowe, New South Wales.
McNeill, Neil, Canning, Western Australia.
Menzies, Robert Gordon, Kooyong, Victoria.
Minogue, Daniel, West Sydney, New South Wales.
Monaghan, James Edward, Evans, New South Wales.
Nelson, John Norman, Northern Territory.
Nixon, Peter James, Gippsland, Victoria.
O’Brien, Reginald Charles, Petrie, Queensland.
O’Connor, William Paul, Dalley, New South Wales.
Opperman, Hubert Ferdinand, Corio, Victoria.
Peters, Edward William, Scullin, Victoria.
Pollard, Reginald Thomas, Lalor, Victoria.
Reynolds, Leonard James, Barton, New South Wales.
Riordan, William James Frederick, Kennedy, Queensland.
Roberton, Hugh Stevenson, Riverina, New South Wales.
Russell, Edgar Hughes Deg, Grey, South Australia.
Sexton, Joseph Clement Leonard, Adelaide, South Australia.
Snedden, Billy Mackie, Bruce, Victoria.
Stewart, Francis Eugene, Lang, New South Wales.
Stokes, Philip William Clifford, Maribyrnong, Victoria.
Swartz, Reginald William Colin, Darling Downs, Queensland.
Thompson, Albert Victor, Port Adelaide, South Australia.
Townley, Athol Gordon, Denison, Tasmania.
Turnbull, Winton George, Mallee, Victoria.
Turner. Henry Basil, Bradfield, New South Wales.
Uren, Thomas, Reid, New South Wales.
Ward, Edward John, East Sydney, New South Wales.
Webb, Charles Harry, Stirling, Western Australia.
Wentworth, William Charles, Mackellar, New South Wales.
Whitlam, Edward Gough, Werriwa, New South Wales.
Whittorn, Raymond Harold, Balaclava, Victoria.
Wilson, Keith Cameron, Sturt, South, Australia.
– Honorable members, it is now the duty of the House to elect a member as Speaker.
– I propose to the House, for its Speaker, Sir John McLeay, and I move -
That the honorable member for Boothby (Sir John McLeay) do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
– I second the motion.
– I accept nomination.
– Is there any further proposal? (There being no further proposal) -
– The time for proposals has expired, and I. declare that the honorable member proposed, Sir John McLeay, has been elected as Speaker. (Members of the House then calling Sir John McLeay to the chair, he was taken out of his place by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Turnbull and conducted to the chair) -
– 1 should like to express a deep appreciation to the House for the great honour it has conferred upon me by electing me to the honoured office of Speaker. (Mr. Speaker having seated himself in the chair) -
– I should like, on behalf of the Government and, I am sure, of all honorable members, to congratulate you once more on your assuming this office. You know us, or such of us as have survived, and we know you - and it is because of that mutual understanding that you have been unanimously replaced in the chair by the members of this House, who know you and know your work, and who respect you profoundly.
– On behalf of the Opposition I support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). .In the several parliaments over which you have presided you have filled the office of Speaker - if I may say so without patronage and with deference - with dignity and fairness. There have been occasions when we have had reason to dispute your rulings, when we have thought that you were harsh, but those occasions were very few and far between. Afterwards, having made allowances for human emotions and that sort of thing, we have realized that our criticisms were due perhaps at times to the excitement of the occasion, and perhaps to some impetuosity. When all is said and done, we have every reason to be satisfied with the way in which you have treated the Opposition. The duty of the Speaker is to hand out justice evenly to both sides of the House. The task of the Speaker is made easy by the co-operation of honorable members; the task of honorable mem bers is made much easier bv the manner in which the presiding officer discharges his duties. We wish you well during the lifetime of this Parliament however long, or however short, it may be.
– I desire to associate the Australian Country Party with the congratulations expressed to you, Mr. Speaker, by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that the Parliament is fortunate to have so distinguished and experienced a Speaker to preside over its deliberations. We know rhat you will discharge the duties of your high office wilh dignity and with great skill. I wish you three happy years of office. Sir, and I express genuine sympathy that you have so many new faces with which to familiarize yourself.
– I thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Trade for their expressions of congratulations. I would say, as 1 gaze upon this scene, that I will need, more than ever, the tolerance and understanding and, -above all, the cooperation of everybody to see that the institution of Parliament functions properly. However, I am sure that you all have as one objective the general welfare of our country and the interests of our people.
– I have ascertained that it will be the pleasure of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to receive you, Mr. Speaker, in the Library of the Parliament this day at 2.42 p.m.
– Prior to my presentation to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral this afternoon the bells will be rung for three minutes so that honorable members may attend in the chamber and accompany the Speaker when they may, if they so wish, be introduced to His Excellency.
Sitting suspended from 11.23 a.m. to 2.41 p.m. (The House proceeded to the Library, and, being re-assembled) -
– I have to report that, accompanied by honorable members, I this day proceeded to the Library ofthe Parliament and presented myself to His Excellency the Governor-General as the choice of the House, and that His Excellency was kind enough to congratulate me on my election as Speaker.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer to members of the House the oath, or affirmation of allegiance.I now lay the commission on the table.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered a message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith. (Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly and, having returned) -
– There have been certain changes in ministerial arrangements, and I think it would be desirable from the point of view of new members in particular if 1 could have these changes stated in the form of a complete list of Ministers, departments and representations in each House. Therefore, I would suggest that it might be advantageous if, instead of my reading out the list, it were, with the concurrence of honorable members, incorporated in “ Hansard “. It occurs to me that it might be a convenience to many honorable members if the list were also circulated as a separate document.
The Ministry consists of 22 Ministers as follows: -
Minister for Trade - Right Honorable J. McEwen.
Minister for National Development - Senator the Honorable W. H. Spooner, M.M.
Minister for Labour and National Service - Honorable W. McMahon.
Minister for Civil Aviation - Senator the Honorable Shane Paltridge.
Minister for the Army - Honorable J. O. Cramer.
Minister for Customs and Excise - Senator the Honorable N. H. D. Henty.
Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works and Minister assisting the Attorney-General - Honorable Gordon Freeth.
Minister for the Navy, Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs - Senator the Honorable J. G. Gorton.
Minister for Health - Senator the Honorable Harrie Wade.
Minister for Air and Minister assisting the Treasurer - Honorable L. H. E. Bury.
The first twelve Ministers I have named will constitute Cabinet but we will continue our practice of co-opting other Ministers as required. Mr. Holt will continue as Leader of this House and Senator Spooner will be Leader of the Government in the Senate and Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council. Senator Paltridge will be Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.
In the Senate, Senator Spooner will represent the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Social Services. Senator Paltridge will represent the Treasurer, the Minister for Territories, the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Repatriation. Senator Henty will represent the Minister for Immigration, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Supply. Senator Gorton will represent the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for External Affairs and the Attorney-General. Senator Wade will represent the Postmaster-General, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for Works and the Minister for Air.
The Minister for National Development will be represented in this chamber by the Minister for Air, except on matters which concern war service homes. These matters will be handled by the Minister for Social Services. The Minister for Civil Aviation will be represented by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Customs and Excise by the Minister for Supply. The Minister for the Navy and Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be represented by the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Health by the Minister for Repatriation.
– I have the honour to announce that I have been elected Leader of the Opposition, and that my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), has been chosen as Deputy Leader.
– I have the great honour of announcing that I have been elected Leader of the Australian Country Party, and that my colleague, the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), has been elected Deputy Leader.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Designs Act 1906-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I have to report that the House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament. The Speech will be included in “ Hansard “ for record purposes. (The Speech read as follows) -
Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:
Following upon a general election, the Parliament has assembled to deal wilh important matters affecting the welfare of Australia and the Australian people.
This is the first occasion upon which I have had the honour of addressing honorable senators and honorable members as representative of Her Majesty the Queen at the opening of the Parliament. I am proud to be here and to be able in this way to continue my association with Parliament, to which all the British peoples look to safeguard their freedom and advance their welfare.
The Parliament meets at a time when there are still great tensions in international relations. My advisers believe that the security of Australia depends upon reliance on three central principles of international policy.
The first is that we should be faithful and contributing members of the United Nations, upholding the principles of the Charter. Australia’s voice will always be raised in support of the peaceful settlement, on a just basis, of international disputes.
The second is that we should cultivate, and maintain, friendly and helpful relations with our neighbours, seeking wherever we can to help in the peaceful removal of avoidable causes of difference; and encouraging wherever possible the development of free institutions of government in those many nations which have recently achieved political independence.
The third is that, to guard against resort to war by those who reject these principles. Australia should have powerful and friendly mutual association with those nations which are best equipped to defend a free peace.
Associated with, and of course giving a special character to, these principles of policy is a further central principle - steadfast membership of and support for the Commonwealth of Nations.
My advisers desire that the issue relating to West New Guinea should be settled without force or the threat of force, and upon a basis which will give the indigenous inhabitants, at an appropriate time, an effective voice in the determination of their own future.
They support the establishment by negotiation of a free, independent, and neutral Laos.
They will continue to support the South-East Asia Treaty Organization alliance in planning designed to assist countries in the treaty area should they be exposed to armed attack or external interference wilh their sovereignty. There are great and aggressive Communist pressures in South-East Asia.
My Ministers continue 10 observe sympathetically the negotiations for the creation of a greater Malaysia. They are profoundly interested in the new nations in the African continent; in some, diplomatic representation has already been established, in others either resident or visiting missions will be arranged.
Defence preparedness continues to engage the active attention of my Ministers against the background of our mutual security arrangements and the need for us to be able to act promptly and effectively with our allies.
The aim of the defence programme is to develop highly trained, well-equipped,, mobile, and readily available forces of all arms, backed by scientific research and productive capacity.
A substantial proportion of ‘ all equipment is produced in Australia in both government factories and private industry.
In the Navy, action has been taken to acquire new guided missile destroyers, minesweepers and helicopters. Work in Australian shipyards will continue on two type- 12 anti-submarine frigates and a new type survey ship. The conversion of 1-I.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ as a fast transport will shortly be completed.
The Army has just carried out a major reorganization. The volunteer Citizen Military Forces continue to attract recruits and should reach the target of 30,000 by June, 1962. The Army will continue with its successful policy of training regulars and Citizen Military Forces together.
During 1962 the Royal Australian Air Force will receive 12 Neptune maritime reconnaissance aircraft and eight Bell Iroquois helicopters ordered from the United States. Arrangements are well advanced for local production of the French Mirage 111. supersonic fighter. Deliveries are expected to commence in 1963. The first Bloodhound surface to air guided missile unit will be handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force by the end of this year.
Turning now to economic matters, my Ministers have, after many consultations with industry, recently reviewed the stale of the Australian economy in the light of measures taken during the last Parliament.
It is their view that the base of the Australian economy has been significantly strengthened in at least four ways.
The trade balances have been greatly improved; the run-down of Australia’s overseas reserves has been arrested, and those reserves have in fact increased in a most satisfactory way.
The internal price level has been brought to a point of stability - a fact of great value and significance to the public and to industry.
The loan market is more buoyant than was anticipated in the 1961-62 Budget. This will reduce the drain upon revenue to support the State’s works programme.
The banks have a high degree of liquidity, and there is a strong improvement in the availability of finance for business and individual purposes.
Nevertheless, my Government believes that recovery in business activity and employment has been too slow. It accordingly has recently announced a scries of special measures designed to increase employment and business confidence. To give effect to those particular proposals which require legislative authority, bills will be introduced. These will refer to Slate grants, unemployment benefits, a rebate in personal income tax for the income year 1961-62, reduced sales tax on motor vehicles and most accessories, and increased loans under the War Service Homes Act. Bills will also be introduced to set up a system of investment allowances in respect of new plant and equipment for manufacturing production, and to increase the capital of the Development Bank.
The Tariff Board Act will be amended to permit, in particular cases, protection of Australian industries by quantitative control in addition to, or in substitution for, customs duties. In special circumstances where the Tariff Board after a full inquiry finds that the tariff would not give the necessary measure of protection it will be empowered to recommend quantitative restrictions to the Government. Still further, a special advisory authority, who has already been chosen, will be given similar powers to recommend temporary quantitative restrictions upon particular commodities where temporary protection is under consideration. Further changes are contemplated to ensure that requests for protection are handled with the minimum delay.
My Government anticipates that there will be a substantial response to all these measures in the manufacturing field and in the economy at large. National development and growth, the maintenance of a substantial migration programme, and the assurance of growing employment, cannot be achieved without a constant increase in manufacturing activity and production.
Means must be devised to assist efficiency and to reduce unit costs. This will help manufacturers to meet import competition at home and to enter export markets. The bill relating to the investment allowance has special relevance to these objectives. The allowance will take the form of a deduction from assessable income of 20 per cent, of the cost of new plant and equipment used in manufacturing production. It will give not only general encouragement to investment in the field of manufacturing, but particular assistance in the pursuit of higher efficiency and lower costs.
It will also be important to effect a close liaison between government research and private manufacturing industry, in order to facilitate a diversification of manufactured products for use and export. A complete review of tariff-making policy and machinery in their relationship to national economic policy will be put in hand.
My Ministers believe, moreover, that the objectives of efficiency and cost reduction are important, not only for manufacturers, but for the great primary export industries, for which an avoidance of rising costs of production is vital.
My advisers will therefore direct prompt and particular study to such matters as the more effective extension to the man on the land of the results of the scientific research conducted by such bodies as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This, of course, requires co-operation with the States, which my advisers do not doubt will be willingly given. The overwhelmingly important fact is that the whole national and international balance of the Australian economy requires that primary production should continue to increase in quantity and, by the most scientific use of the soil and improved methods, hold down costs.
My advisers express full confidence that these varied but related measures, acting together with the great resilient strength of our economy, will lift industrial activity and employment again to an all-round satisfactory level. They recall how often in the past the Australian economy has surpassed all expectations in its capacity to produce, to export, to absorb labour and to recover from business setbacks and they do not doubt that these earlier achievements can and will again be equalled and indeed exceeded.
In the field of exports and of trade promotion generally, my Government is and will be engaged in negotiations of the highest importance to the nation.
Great Britain’s application to join the European Common Market, and the negotiations which are now being carried on, have given rise to major problems affecting Australian exports, particularly those to Great Britain. My Government has approached these problems constructively and with determination, on the one hand consulting with Australian exporters to devise possible arrangements to protect our interests; and on the other taking every opportunity to press home to the Governments of Britain, the countries of the European Economic Community, and of the United Sates, the importance of trade as a factor in maintaining the countries of the Commonwealth as a source of strength in the free world.
My Ministers have made strong requests for direct Australian participation when discussions affecting Australia’s trade interests are taking place. They will be prepared, at the appropriate time, to associate Australian advisers from industry with our teams of representatives overseas.
Meanwhile, under the aegis of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, certain commodity negotiations have been commenced which my advisers hope may lead to some fulfilment of their long-standing policy of stable, profitable and reasonably predictable prices for some major export commodities.
Other new matters of significance in trade promotion include the current trade mission to the Middle East, the sending of a trade ship to the Persian Gulf, a major trade drive in SouthEast Asia, the introduction of direct shipping services to West Africa and South America, and continued investigation and consultations wilh industry on the feasibility of establishing Australian warehouses in selected markets overseas.
In terms of production, the primary industries, the greatest source of exports are generally in a healthy state. The volume of rural production in 1961-62 is expected to be slightly less than the record level of 1960-61, but may exceed the volume in any other previous year. As the rural work-force has remained practically static, increased production reflects improvement in farm methods and efficiency.
My Ministers re-affirm their policy of encouraging and supporting the financial stabilization of the primary industries. They propose the continuation for a further five years of the special 20 per cent, per annum depreciation allowance to primary producers in respect of items such as plant and machinery, certain buildings, including nouses for farm employees, and fences.
The current five year plan for the dairying industry expires in June, 1962, and the current five year wheat plan ends with the marketing of the 1962-63 wheat crop. Negotiations will take place with each of these industries for the development of new stabilization plans. Similarly my Ministers are discussing with the Queensland Government the terms of a new sugar agreement, since the present agreement expires next May. They do not propose to accept those recommendations by the Committee of Enquiry which would have had the effect of reducing the current retail price of sugar in Australia.
The Government’s scheme of assistance to the gold mining industry, which also expires next June, will be extended for a further period of three years.
My Ministers re-affirm their conviction that the migration programme is an essential factor in the national and economic growth of Australia, and, although fluctuations must be expected from time to time, they will do all they can to maintain the flow which has already done so much for our prosperity, our culture and our security. They are accordingly negotiating for renewal of assisted passage agreements with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy and Malta.
Discussions between Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in relation to monopoly and restrictive practices in business are continuing. So soon as these discussions have ended my AttorneyGeneral will make a statement to the Parliament on the problem, with the purpose of obtaining constructive discussion of this admittedly most complex problem from the various sections of the community who may be affected.
The twenty-six national and commercial television stations which comprise the third phase of the overall plan for television development are now either operating or under construction. All will be in operation by June, 1964.
Good progress is being made towards carrying out the new telephone plan which will ultimately provide a nation-wide subscriber dialled automatic network. The system is already operating between a number of important centres.
Work on the submarine telephone and telegraph cable linking Australia wilh New Zealand and Canada is well up to schedule. Service between Australia and New Zealand will be opened in July. The extension from New Zealand to Canada is expected by January, 1964.
The Government will continue the development of the social services which has for many years been a prominent feature of its policy. Legislation will be introduced, pursuant to the promise made by my Ministers at the recent election, to reduce the residence qualification for age pensions from 20 to 10 years, and similar terms will be applied to claimants for invalid pension who were incapacitated before they came to Australia.
Legislation will also be introduced to increase unemployment benefits, particularly in respect of unemployed with family obligations.
My Government is continuing to consolidate and develop the national health services. For this purpose, it will maintain a close contact with State health authorities, professional bodies, and other interests.
Similarly, my advisers will continue to have a lively concern for the welfare of our ex-servicemen who have fought in two world wars and in the more recent conflicts in Korea and Malaya and of their dependants; in particular they are aware of the special problems of the care and treatment of ageing ex-servicemen.
My Government has continued its support for university development. Currently the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education is carrying out its important investigation and expects to report next year.
In the field of medical education, the Australian Universities Commission has received the report of the committee which inquired into the teaching costs of medical hospitals, and my Government will examine it at the first opportunity.
The Government has established an Interim Council for an Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. This body will pursue scientific studies of the life and culture of the aboriginal race, and will endeavour to preserve and extend our knowledge of them.
My Government continues to have a deep concern for the social and economic development of the peoples of Asia, and particularly for the improvement of their education and skills. With the co-operation of the States we are sending increasing numbers of experts under the Colombo Plan to advise and (each in a wide range of disciplines. Australia was also represented at the recent Commonwealth conference on co-operation in education. My Government agreed there to increase our efforts in the scheme, particularly in the field of teacher training.
Special efforts will be made in Papua and New Guinea to achieve the targets of educational, social and economic advancement announced by the Minister for Territories in October, 1961.
The first election of Legislative Council members by the indigenous peoples will be followed up by further discussions wilh the people themselves as to the next step. Native local government will be extended.
A new Department of Trade and Industry has been established in these Territories to encourage secondary and tertiary industries and trade.
There will be an increasing native participation in administration.
The Northern Territory, which has progressed rapidly in recent years, will continue to share in my Ministers’ concern for the development of
Northern Australia; and the welfare and advancement of the aborigines will receive full attention.
Having considered the report of a parliamentary select committee, my advisers propose to extend the franchise to all aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who wish to take advantage of it and exercise this primary right of citizenship.
My Government is pressing on with the vital task of the development of the nation’s resources. Right at the outset of their administration they created a special department of State for this purpose, and the work of its instrumentalities and officers has borne much fruit in the last dozen years.
A great deal of remarkable work has been done. The recent discovery of oil at Moonie in Queensland and the progress in oil research in other parts of Australia have owed a great deal not only to the encouragement given by Commonwealth subsidies but also to the outstanding work of the experts in the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources. That we all now have substantial hopes of the presence of oil in commercial quantities is in no small degree attributable to the work of the department and of the bureau.
My Government strongly believes in the development of our north. It regards this as essential, and is determined to continue ils efforts in that field, ll has given great assistance to basic public works in the area. In addition, it has for long been engaged in important research work through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It will continue economic and scientific research and survey work wilh a view to the production of developmental plans. In these matters, the co-operation of the State governments is, of course, essential, .and will be sought.
My Government has taken up with the Slate . Premiers and with the Territorial authorities a proposition to establish a Water Resources Council so that the greatest possible amount of basic information on Australian water resources can be scientifically secured and made available.
Work is in progress on the reconstruction of the Mount Isa-Collinsville railway in Queensland. This reconstruction will be vitally assisted by the agreement of my Government to find up to £20,000,000 towards its cost. My Ministers made this agreement because of their belief that this railway will not only make possible a vast expansion of the Mount Isa mine and the transport of ils products but will also offer transport facilities for other industries including cattle, in the northern part of Queensland.
Work is also going ahead on the improvement of certain New South Wales coal ports, and the construction of “ beef roads “ in Western Australia and Queensland, and is in hand for the improvement of coal-loading facilities at Gladstone, Queensland, the conversion to diesel of the Broken HillPort Pirie railway, and the Western Australian standard gauge railway project. These add up to a formidable total of Commonwealth expenditure, in some cases over a period of years. The principle which my advisers have applied and will continue to apply is that they will be prepared to examine with State governments special works of a kind calculated cither to add materially to export trade and income or to save imports.
My advisers are able to report rapid progress in the works of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The first major section of the scheme, the Upper Tumut works, will be brought into full operation one year ahead of schedule. The second major phase, the Snowy-Murray development, is already in hand, and large contracts have been let. So far the money for the Snowy Mountains scheme has come from revenue, but my advisers were recently able to effect a borrowing of 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in respect of the next section of the scheme. The securing of this loan is itself a tribute to the soundness of the Snowy Mountains enterprise.
The River Murray Commission has prepared a report on technical aspects of constructing a dam on the river Murray at Chowilla, which would store 4,750,000 acre feet. Preliminary examination with the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia is already occurring. If construction is accepted as a River Murray Commission work, my Government will contribute one-quarter of its capital cost.
It is further worthy of note that Australia will before long have petroleum refineries operating in each of the mainland States.
In all this my advisers have an abounding faith in our present and a sure hope for our future.
I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties, in the faith that Divine Providence will guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That a committee, consisting of Mr. Cockle, Mr. Nixon and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the committee do report this day.
– As honorable members know, Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page died on 20th December, 1961. He was born in 1880. He became a notable surgeon. He served in the first Australian Imperial Force as a surgeon in Egypt and France. Urged on by an enthusiasm for national development and particularly rural growth, which marked the whole of his public life, he entered this Parliament in 1919 as the member for Cowper, a seat which he held continuously until the recent election. He became Leader of the Australian Country Party in 1921, an office which he held until 1939.
On 9th February, 1923, Sir Earle Page became associated as Treasurer with Mr. Bruce, as he then was, in the Bruce-Page Government which held office until October, 1929. During this period, in 1924 and 1925 he led an Australian delegation to the United Kingdom and the United States of America to examine banking, electricity and road and rail transport. In 1923, and again in 1926, he was acting Prime Minister. In 1934, he entered tho Lyons Government as Minister for Commerce, an office which he retained until April, 1939, doing much significant work in the field of orderly marketing. He was also Minister for Health from November, 1937, to November, 1938. He was leader of Australian ministerial delegations to London in 1936 and 1938. He acted as Prime Minister once more in 1935 and in 1937.
On the death of the Right Honorable J. A. Lyons, Sir Earle Page became Prime Minister from 7th April to 26th April, 1939. From October, 1940, to October, 1941, he was Minister for Commerce, first in my own Government and then in the Fadden Government. He was a member of the Australian War Cabinet from January to May, 1941, and of the Economic and Industrial Committee of Cabinet from June to October of that year. In 1941 and 1942 he represented Australia in the British War Cabinet. He was a member of the Australian Advisory War Council from August, 1942, to September, 1943, and again from February, 1944, to August, 1945.
In December, 1949, Sir Earle Page became Minister for Health in my own Government and he retained that portfolio until 1956 when he expressed a wish to retire from ministerial office. From July to September, 1951, he visited Canada and the United States of America to study problems of health administration. In August and September, 1953, he visited the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and attended a conference of the World Medical Association at The Hague. He represented the Government at the inauguration of the Republic of Pakistan in March, 1956. Of interest to this Parliament is the fact that over a long period - from 1923 to 1934 and again from 1937 onwards - he was a member of the Standing Orders Committee of this House.
Sir Earle Page’s public career, even as stated in this summary form, was a very remarkable one. Few men have served Australia with such distinction in so many ways over so long a period of time. But the record does not end there. It is a difficult task to select the outstanding features of the versatile work he did, but perhaps I might venture to refer briefly to three of a number of matters which should be on the record. The first is that, conscious of the need for strengthening the rural economy, he was largely responsible for many taxation and other provisions designed to encourage capital improvement on the land and with it the essential improvement of efficiency and production. The second is that as Commonwealth Treasurer he was a leader in the formulation of the Financial Agreement and the establishment of the Australian Loan Council, each of which has had a permanent and far-reaching effect upon the financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States. The third is that he was the prime author of and the driving force behind the Commonwealth medical and health schemes which are now successfully operating in Australia.
His labours were recognized when he was made a Privy Councillor in 1929, a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1938, and a Companion of Honour in 1942. But, Sir, even more importantly, he will be honoured and remembered with gratitude for his great contributions to the development of the Australian nation, its institutions and ils policies. All honorable members, both new and old, and of whatever party, will, I know, join with mc in expressing appreciation of his public service, and in expressing to his family our sense of recognition and of loss. Mr. Speaker, I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 20th December, 1961, of the Right Honorable Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, G.C.M.G., C.H., a member of this House from 1919 to 1961 and a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his wife and family.
– On behalf of the Opposition, 1 support the motion proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), expressing our deep regret at the unexpected demise of the late Sir Earle Page. Although he was 81 years of age, nobody who saw him in the last Parliament realized that death was so near for him. He was always physically fit and mentally alert, and it came as a great surprise to every member of this Parliament, to his many friends outside the Parliament, and to all those who had known him and served with him in this Parliament, to hear that he was so seriously ill. It was with great regret that we heard later that he had died. He entered this Parliament, as the Prime Minister said, in 1919. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) came into the Parliament on the same day.
The late right honorable member for Cowper was a member of every Parliament from the eighth to the twenty-third, inclusive. In other words, he was a member of sixteen of the twenty-three Parliaments of our Federation. He came here not just to fill a seat. He came with a missionary’s zeal. He came as a founder of a new movement. He came, indeed, as the inspiration of a new party. He came to bring a challenge to the existing order, as it were, and he lived to make great changes in the governmental life of Australia. He was the author of one of the two great changes in our Constitution - the 1926 amendment of the Constitution, to which the Prime Minister has eloquently referred. That alteration, in respect of financial powers, changed the whole relationship of the Commonwealth to the States and affected the whole development of our country.
The late Sir Earle Page was dedicated, above all else, to decentralization, to the creation of new States, and it seems fitting that his last speech in this Parliament was in support of a motion that he had moved to the effect, among other things, that this House should give consideration to the recommendations, in relation to the formation of new States, of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Little did we think that that would be the last time we would hear him in the Parliament. I supported him on that occasion on behalf of the Opposition. I had no thought then that I would to-day be supporting a resolution of sympathy to his relatives and friends because of the great loss they have suffered in his death. His work will live on. He will be remembered not merely for his service to the Parliament; he will be remembered for his great achievements as well. As the Prime Minister said, he was truly a remarkable man whose interests were considerable and diversified. In the time he was a member of the Parliament he was a Minister for more than twenty years and he was Prime Minister for a period. He never seemed to age. His interest never flagged and he never seemed to lose his enthusiasm or his pristine fervour for any cause in which he believed.
Not only have we lost a distinguished Australian by the death of Sir Earle Page, but indeed we have lost one of those men of whom there are but few in a generation. This Parliament was the richer for knowing him and the nation is the poorer by his death.
– I desire to associate my colleagues of the Australian Country Party with the motion moved by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition, both of whom I thank for their comprehensive references to the very long record of service of our late colleague and former leader. They have reminded the House and the country of his record, of the honours conferred upon him and of the distinction accorded to him over the years.
In the history of a nation and its parliamentary system, it can rarely be said of one man that he was the architect of a great parliamentary party and the first national leader of a significant political movement. But this can be said of Sir Earle Page. This identifies him as an outstanding Australian. The Australian Country Party, and all it stands for, and the name of Earle Page will always be associated. He was its first parliamentary leader. He imbued it with a sense of purpose and brought out with real clarity its policy objectives. That assures for him a place in Australia’s history. Wherever he went, he brought a constant awareness of rural life, communities and industries, and of that great sense of personal independence which many of us feel flourishes at its best in the country.
He also fostered a wider understanding of the peculiar disabilities of life in isolated communities.
He was, of course, a country man. Earle Page was born at Grafton in New South Wales. From early life he was obviously a person of distinction. He won a bursary to Sydney High School and a scholarship to Sydney University. There he took a course in medicine and graduated at the top of his year at the age of 21. Then he proceeded to practise as a country doctor at Grafton. While so practising in 1908 he attended a medical congress in New Zealand and there became interested in the generation of hydro-electric power. He brought back with him an appreciation of the possibilities of the generation of hydroelectric power in his own locality in the Clarence Valley. This carried him into public life, first in the field of local government, and in 1915 he personally was largely responsible for launching the Northern New State Movement at a conference in the city of Grafton.
In the First World War, Sir Earle, as the Prime Minister has reminded us, joined the Australian Imperial Force. He served in Egypt, in France and on H.M.A.S. “ Ballarat “. He was a surgeon at No. 3 Australian General Hospital in Egypt and was the operating surgeon and surgical specialist at No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station in France.
After the war, in 1919, Sir Earle Page stood for and was elected to this Parliament. He came into the House of Representatives as a member of the Australian Farmers Federal Organization. After the 1922 federal general election, having become Leader of the Australian Country Party, he became Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer in what was known as the Bruce-Page Government. Earle Page, from his earliest appearance as a Minister in this Parliament, displayed vision and boldness in thinking and certainly displayed courage in action. We of the Country Party always regarded him as a distinguished leader, and he had this long record of constructive action which is embodied in the history of parliamentary government in Australia.
Sir Earle, during his period in office, was responsible for many monumental changes in the Australian political structure. The Federal Aid Roads scheme is one of the monuments to his record. As Treasurer, he was responsible for remodelling the Commonwealth Bank to a large extent and bringing in the concept of a Commonwealth Bank Board. He invested the bank formally and in the first place with the functions of a central banking institution. He initiated the thinking that produced the Australian Loan Council, of which he was the first chairman. The National Debt Sinking Fund was established during his term as Treasurer. During his term in that office, as the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have reminded us, that great and important amendment to the Australian Constitution which brought about the Financial Agreement of 1927 was approved by the people at a referendum. This led to the establishment of the Australian Loan Council, of which, as I have said, the right honorable gentleman was the first chairman.
This was the record of a man who for four or five years before the mid-1920’s had been a member of a farmers’ party. He joined, as 1 joined, what was then known as the Farmers Union. This record of achievement lifts his activities and the party which he led, I think all will agree, far beyond the level of mere concentration on any narrow rural concept. His vision was broad, and in his thinking of the need to support Australia’s overseas marketing operations is to be found the concept of aid embodied in the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Commerce in the Lyons Government of 1934, Sir Earle Page did much to bring stability to the Australian wheat industry. Perhaps his greatest direct personal achievement in promoting continuous study of the problems of primary industry and achieving constant consultation between Federal and State authorities for the betterment of Australian primary industry was the establishment of the Australian Agricultural Council, of which, like other bodies, he was the first chairman.
In 1940, he became a Minister of a government led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In that year, he became Minister for Commerce. In 1941, he served as a Minister under Sir Arthur Fadden, who was then Prime Minister. While a Minister of that Government, Sir Earle Page went to the United Kingdom during the war as the special envoy of Australia, and there he took a seat in the British War Cabinet. Sir Earle Page had the unique experience of being retained in that high and distinguished’ office after a change had taken place in the Government of Australia for, when the late Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister of a Labour Government in Australia, he asked Sir Earle Page to continue in his office as Australia’s envoy in the United Kingdom war council.
In 1949, as Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page was responsible for devising, launching and consolidating the current national health scheme. By his ingenuity, and his close association with the medical profession, he was able to break through the tension that had existed between governments, the medical profession, chemists and friendly societies, and bring into being a harmoniously working health scheme which has enjoyed wide acceptance by the Australian people, as is evidenced by the now tremendously wide membership of the voluntary organizations that have been established.
Not the least of the achievements to be remembered to his credit is the policy which he induced the Government to accept with respect to the scourge of tuberculosis. There is no need for me to remind the Australian people just how successful that policy has been. These fleeting references to his achievements reveal Sir- Earle Page* as one figure working in the public scene who is absolutely assured of a place in the annals of the constructive development of the Australian nation and the Australian federation. He will long be remembered by all as a great man and colleague. No matter with which political party we were associated, those of us who worked with him were aware of his warm, human personal qualities. I suppose the regard in which he was held as a colleague is best revealed by the fact that no matter what office he may have occupied, no matter what honour was heaped upon him, Sir Earle Page was known to all of us as “The Doc”. He never wished to be known as other than “ The Doc “. In my opinion, this reveals him as a real man.
I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in supporting the motion of regret at the death of Sir Earle Page, in recording appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and in tendering, on behalf of the Australian Country Parly our most profound sympathy to his widow and family.
– Most of the more notable features of Sir Earle Page’s life have already been presented to the House this afternoon, and I should like to speak of him as a homespun character who has become almost a legend within the area where perhaps he was best known - the Cowper electorate.I speak of Sir Earle Page as one who has known him literally all my life. At one time, he was our family doctor. Having regard to the fact that Sir Earle Page served Australia in three spheres - as a doctor, as a soldier and as a statesman - I can truly say that I have had the pleasure of knowing a really remarkable man.
News of Sir Earle Page’s death was received only a few hours before the poll for Cowper was declared and this imposed upon me an ordeal worse than any I had faced during the election campaign, because although we differed politically, as I have explained there was a long family relationship. We Graftonians were proud of him. Amongst people of all political opinions there was great regard and respect for “ The Doc “ in the Cowper electorate. With his passing begins my advent to Canberra. Whether I am destined to follow a political career for as many years as he only the future can tell, but let me say that any man, regardless of his politics, who can leave his mark on the statutes and become as notable as did Sir Earle Page, sets a tremendous hurdle for him that follows. I extend my sincere sympathy to his family.
-I associate myself with the motion of condolence which has been proposed by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party. A great deal has been said, and a great deal more could be said, about the career of this most remarkable man but I propose, as briefly as possible, to refer to my personal association with him which has extended over a great part of my lifetime.
In the first place the electorates that I have represented, both Federal and State, have marched with the division of Cowper. in the earliest days and before cither of us entered Parliament I became aware of the mental and intellectual powers which were possessed by Earle Page. I worked with him politically, even when I was in the Suite sphere before I entered this Parliament. We entered politics within a few months of each other, he into the Federal Parliament and I into the State politics of New South Wales. During my association with him, although he did not speak about this matter, I learned that as a result of his experiences in the 1914-1918 war, the carnage that he saw as a surgeon and the crippling effects of war on many of those who returned, he, like many other exservicemen of ability, was inspired with the thought that if Australia was a land worth fighting for, Australia was a land to which he would devote his powers in its interests. With his deep understanding of the legacy handed down by those who made the supreme sacrifice or who, in many respects, made a sacrifice more harrowing, he gathered around himself a band of people, mostly returned soldiers, who were mentally well equipped. To them he gave a new philosophy, a basis of political thought which has been the inward strength of the Country Party since he first entered it. He brought into public life, inspired with his ideals, two men who, to my knowledge, have been Ministers in this Parliament - I refer to the Honorable V. C. Thompson and the Honorable J. P. Abbott - and into the State Parliament of New South Wales, Colonel the Honorable Sir Michael Bruxner, the Honorable Roy Vincent and others who have retired. I was included among the men whom he gathered about him.
The political basis of thought that he gave to the men with whom he was associated was a vision of Australia as it is and of Australia as he hoped to see it moulded. So he became the apostle of constitutional reform, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has correctly said, and the real driving force over those early years of the New States Movement. He believed in the development of the country areas and he believed supremely in using all the water which could be found in this country and conserved for the purposes of irrigation, hydro-electricity and general use. He had the idea - as I recall the words of Henry
Lawson - that the day might come, if we neglected this side of things, when we would find ourselves with a savage foe at the harbour gate and a raging drought behind us. For that reason, up to the time of his death - in the last speech he made in this House - he referred to the clamant need for Australia to face up to this most important aspect of the development of our hinterland and inland country districts.
If I might strike a personal note I would say his outstanding characteristic was a wide and far-seeing vision. He saw the constitutional changes required, far ahead of any other man in his own party or in most other political parties. He saw the form of necessary development, and that is why the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee made to this House were really expressive, in very large measure, of the ideas that he had promulgated 30 or more years before.
His next great characteristic was his remarkably constructive mind. He was indeed a realistic dreamer. He was a man who had a vision and a practical idea of how to carry it into effect. It is notable that, in 1928, when the political circumstances made it possible, he brought about by agreement between New South Wales, Queensland and the Commonwealth, the first connexion by standard gauge railway between our capital cities, in this instance Brisbane and Sydney. It is a measure of his vision that it has taken us over 30 years to link two other capitals together in this way,
I pass on now to what I think was one of his greatest qualities. I refer to the natural and deep humility of mind which always marks the truly great. I could see no difference between the way he met men as an apostle, as it were an evangelist, of his political ideas 40-odd years ago and the manner in which he met them right up to the end of his career, when almost every honour that can be heaped upon a public man had reached him. He had that humility of mind which marks the real and intellectually great. Because of what he knew he understood what a fragment it was of the mighty knowledge which lies beyond human comprehension.
So, Sir, I pay my tribute to him. As statesman, humanitarian and patriot he stood head and shoulders, I believe, over his contemporaries of the past 40 years. It is indeed, Sir, the irony of things that I never heard this man, with whom I campaigned on more occasions than I can think of, refer to any opponent in disparaging terms. To the policy of an opponent - yes. He could be as analytical and forceful as anyone in dealing with what he believed to be the weaknesses of an opponent’s policy, but I never heard him attack an opponent personally. It is one of the extraordinary things of life that perhaps the one break he made in that record is very often remembered against him. I would commend to those who may find, on closer analysis, some weaknesses in this man, who was human as we all are but who had qualities supremely better than most of us have, the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, the man who was the Quaker poet of the United States of America, in his great and memorable poem on Robbie Burns -
Let him who never erred regret
His fault in vain bewailings
Great soul of manI own my debt
Uncancelled by my failings.
I am not, by that, Sir, suggesting that there was much room for that kind of criticism. I pay my own tribute to a man who had an extraordinary influence on my own political life, a man who placed the whole of his own great reputation, political and otherwise, behind the first embryo university outside a capital city in Australia, gave to it his own prestige, gave people a belief in its possibility, became its first chancellor, and left his stamp for good upon that university. I pay my tribute, Sir, even as I offer my condolences to those who have been left behind.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I suggest, Sir, that as a mark of respect the House suspend its sitting until 8 o’clock.
– I feel sure that the suggestion made by the Prime Minister meets the wishes of the House. As a mark of respect for the memory of the late Sir Earle Page the sitting is so suspended.
Sitting suspended from 4.24 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that he received a congratulatory message from Mr. Khrushchev, the Russian leader, on the re-election of his Government. Also, is it a fact that the Prime Minister, in return, expressed his personal thanks for this message of goodwill? Did the Prime Minister, in his reply to Mr. Khrushchev, express his pleasure and appreciation at the success of the unity ticket between the Liberals and the Communists and especially thank him for the 95 Communist preference votes in the Moreton electorate without which his Government would have been defeated?
– My reply, of course, will have none of the charm of novelty because as usual all the facts, or supposed facts, stated by the honorable member are wrong. 1 did not have a message of this kind from Mr. Khrushchev. 1 did hear a rumour that he was inquiring for the address of the honorable member foc East Sydney.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and concerns the artificial limb factory in Penh which, I believe, is to be handed over to the Western Australian Government under some arrangement. If this is a fact, have adequate arrangements been made to meet the needs of disabled ex-servicemen in Western Australia?
– The honorable member was quite correct when he said that the Repatriation Department had been asked to vacate the building which is at present occupied by the Repatriation Department artificial limb and appliance centre in Perth. However, arrangements have been made for the establishment of a new centre which will be constructed at the Hollywood repatriation general hospital as was recently announced by my colleague, the Minister for Works. This will be the most modern centre of its type in Australia when it is completed. Work on it has already been started. The work at this centre will be carried out on the same basis as previously. Principally, it will be for repatriation cases, but some civilian work will also be carried out through the Department of Social Services.
– 1 direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has further consideration been given to assisting Western Australia by sharing the cost of extending the comprehensive water scheme to the central and Great Southern areas of that State? The Commonwealth gave assistance for the original scheme and requests have been made for an extension of the scheme. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House what has been done about this matter?
– As the honorable member knows, we did give a substantial amount of assistance in the original comprehensive water scheme. He asks me now about more recent developments. I cannot answer the question off-hand, but I will find out what is the present position and advise him to-morrow.
– Has the
Attorney-General been informed of the latest moves taken by the Australian Council of Wool Buyers to boycott the Portland wool sales? If so, has he taken, or will ne take these events into serious consideration in putting forward his proposals on restrictive trade practices? Will the Attorney-General inform the. House whether he will be able to make his proposals known during the current sessional period?
– I have followed the course of events in connexion with the Portland wool sales and have taken them into consideration to see whether they came within what 1 was contemplating. I have not yet made any decision about the matter. I propose to make a statement in this House during this session and, if possible, early in the session.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. ls he aware that during the debate on the legislation to provide long service leave for waterside workers and up till 6th June, 1961, on which date was notified the Royal assent, a considerable number of waterside workers resigned from the industry owing to ill health and war injuries and were denied any benefits under the legislation although many of them had spent a lifetime in the industry? If so, does the Minister intend to introduce a special provision to award these unfortunate men their full entitlements?
– During the discussions I had with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and with the Waterside Workers Federation I said that if any anomalies were discovered after the act had been working for some time I would have a look at them and would, if I thought it desirable, bring recommendations before the Cabinet. I also told the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation that if they could point out to me any injustices that had occurred as a result of the legislation, I would bring those matters also to the attention of the Cabinet. During the last few weeks I have had discussions with the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation and with the executive of the A.C.T.U. The matter mentioned by the honorable member is, I think, one of many problems that have been put to me for examination. I give the House my assurance that if, after careful consideration, I find that there has been any injustice, I will have the matter brought before the Cabinet for consideration and, I hope, ultimately brought before this House for decision.
– Can the Minister for Trade tell the House what stage has been reached in negotiations for the renewal of the Australian-Japanese trade agreement? In deciding the form of any renewed agreement, will the sale of Australian meat to Japan be given consideration, and will the Minister endeavour to have a suitable provision concerning this matter inserted in any renewed agreement?
– And also a suitable provision concerning the sale of Japanese textiles to Australia.
– During the election campaign spokesmen for the Labour Party suggested that they wanted more trade with Japan. Apparently the parry’s view has altered. The Japanese-Australian trade treaty has been kept in operation by intergovernmental negotiations. There will be negotiations to determine the form and the duration of an extended treaty. These discussions are expected to commence, I think, about next July. I understand that Japan has been opening up as a useful market for Australian meat during the last two years. Increasing quantities of Australian meat have been sold to Japan within the general terms of the present trade treaty. The honorable member can rest assured that when negotiations are conducted to determine the provisions of the renewed treaty I will bear in mind what he has said, and will endeavour to safeguard the interests of the Australian meat industry.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral explain why the aerial division of the Postmaster-General’s Department in Queensland has been disbanded, while the counterparts of that division in other States are in some cases being expanded? Is the Minister aware that 100 men, who have been employed for as long as fourteen years mainly on the provision of telegraph routes in Queensland, are being absorbed by other divisions, in some cases in localities unsuitable for their family requirements, and without any guarantee of length of employment in those areas in the case of exempt employees?
– I am afraid I must say to the honorable member for Bowman, although I do not like doing so, that the tone of his question suggests that he does not yet know the overall plan which the department is following. He suggests that our aerial department has been disbanded. Of course, Mr. Speaker, we are going more and more-
– More and more up in the air!
– No, underground, as a matter of fact. We are developing to a greater extent the use of cable transmission as distinct from aerial transmission. That does not mean that we are putting off people who were engaged on aerial work. It simply means that we are using a better kind of transmission than has been used in the past. If the honorable member cares to look at the figures he will find that we are not reducing staff. We are continuing to use at least the same number of employees, and in some instances are even expanding the staff. In the present state of affairs, particularly, we will continue to do all we can to help improve the situation by employing more and more men in the provision of our services.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the success of the mission of the trade ship “ Straat Banka “ to south and south-cast Asia last year, not only in making substantial on-the-spot sales but also in making Asian buyers aware of the range and potential of Australian primary and secondary industry, I ask the Minister whether the business community is following up this “important market, especially as the Government has already provided much encouragement in the form of tax incentives in relation to exports.
– On the information given to me, I can assure the honorable member that the Australian business community is actively taking advantage of the trade opportunities that were revealed by the visit of the Australian trade ship “ Straat Banka “, and that increasing business has been written since then.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. May I by way of preface say that I recognize that the Commonwealth is bound by the provisions of the Constitution and that it is not always possible for governments to secure the ease of movement that is necessary in the administration of a Territory. With this in mind, I ask the Minister: Will he administer the impetus that is necessary to secure action to remove from Constitutionavenue a sign which brands the highway as Constipation-avenue, so that it may be clear to the people that the road is not closed to traffic, although there is some congestion there at times? Can the Minister say why this misleading sign is still in position to-day, a week after attention was directed to it publicly, and a photograph of it appeared in the “ Canberra Times “?
– I am well aware of the constant attention that the honorable member gives to detail in his electorate. I know that these fascinating little trivia in trigue him. I am afraid I do not share his knowledge of this incident. However,
I will look into it and let him know the result of my inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the gravity of relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia arising from the dispute over West New Guinea, will the Minister make a statement to the House at an early date so that it may be used as the basis for a full debate on the subject?
– It is my purpose to make a comprehensive statement to the House on this subject which, I agree, is a matter of great gravity and concern to Australia at the moment. I will speak to the Leader of the House about providing an opportunity for a debate on the question.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. In view of the urgent necessity to find work for building industry tradesmen and others at present unemployed in Ipswich, will the Minister give early and favorable consideration to having the housing programme in the Royal Australian Air Force housing area at Amberley, near Ipswich, carried out on the system of day labour instead of contract labour, as contractors employ outside labour and so destroy the job opportunities of the unemployed in Ipswich?
– The Government has already taken action to expedite the housing programme around the main air bases in Australia. The details of this programme fall within the province of my colleague, the Minister for Works.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. As a number of wool-growing organizations meet at this time of the year to formulate their policies for the ensuing twelve months, I ask: Is the Minister in a position to say when the long-awaited results of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry will be made available to those who are interested?
– I inform the honorable member that I received the report from the committee this afternoon.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. Has the Government any plans for the settlement of Nauruan people on Fraser Island off the Queensland coast, and is it likely that the Nauruan chief who is reported to be at present in Australia will visit Fraser Island to assess its suitability for his people?
– An announcement was made in this Parliament last session regarding the Government’s proposals on the resettlement of the Nauruans. The proposal that was then put forward was not immediately acceptable to the Nauruan people. They have since asked whether they may look at certain sites in Australia which may be suitable to them as a new home. With the agreement of the Government of Queensland, the head chief of Nauru, and, I think, one or two companions, recenty visited two places on the Queensland coast, but their visit involves no commitment on the part of either the Queensland Government or the Commonwealth Government. The discussions with the Nauruan people about a future home, which have been proceeding for some time past, will continue.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. Will he consider the payment of a subsidy to Meals on Wheels to enable that wonderful organization to build additional kitchens for the provision of meals for aged and sick people on a domiciliary basis?
– I regret to say that there is no provision in the Social Services Act at present for assistance to the project that the honorable member has mentioned. The matter has been considered in the past, of course, and it will be considered when the Social Services Act generally is again under review.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Government made any decisions on the report of the committee that inquired into the dairying industry? If so, when will those decisions be announced to the House? If not, when will the Government get around to an examination of this report?
– The matter of a further five-year stabilization scheme has been under consideration by the Government and there have been discussions between the Government and leaders of the industry. I hope that we shall bring forward legislation for consideration by the Parliament this session.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I ask: Is it true that technical experts of the United Arab Republic are negotiating to purchase television-station equipment in Australia? Can we expect this kind of equipment manufactured in Australia to be competitive in price and quality? What will be the approximate value of the United Arab Republic’s total requirements?
– I do not purport to be familiar with all the commercial negotiations that go on, but I do know that overseas countries have made a succession of purchases of Australian telecommunications equipment, this country having proved on a number of occasions that its products can compete in both price and quality with those of other countries in this field. I have complete confidence that Australia will receive orders for the high-quality television equipment produced here.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether he is able to make a statement relating to the suggestion that the aircraft annexe operated by Chrysler Australia Limited, at Finsbury, be closed down and future work done in Melbourne, ls he aware that many of the men now doing high-precision work there have had years of experience in that work, and that they are becoming concerned at the thought that they will be thrown on the scrap heap because there will be no other work available for them at Finsbury? Has further consideration been, given to this matter in the light of representations made by both the unions concerned and Chrysler Australia Limited? What is the present position?
– There are available at the works of Chrysler Australia Limited at the moment, 1 think, some 130 people who are engaged on aircraft construction, chiefly on the Canberra and Jindivik aircraft. I am happy to tell the honorable member that the Jindivik has become so reliable that the loss rate has decreased, and that as a consequence orders have fallen off and there is, therefore, not a great deal of work at Adelaide.
This question has been looked at with the management, and with the trade unions, and the workers in the industry have been advised that employment will be curtailed over the next twelve months. It is not proposed to close down the factory until 1963. I am also happy to be able to tell the honorable member that, in the meantime, as a result of the recent action taken by the Government, some people who had been displaced from aircraft work were absorbed almost immediately in automotive production. The management of the Chrysler company has stated that in its opinion the company can absorb most, if not all, the displaced workers in automotive production.
– 1 address a question to the Prime Minister relating to parliamentary privilege. As an example, I refer to what has become known as the Brown-Fitzpatrick case. Subsequent to the action taken by this House, the Prime Minister indicated that it might be desirable for the Committee of Privileges to review the whole ambit of parliamentary privilege. Can the Prime Minister say whether this action has been taken by the committee? If no action has been taken, will the right honorable gentleman consider referring the matter to the incoming committee?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for reminding me of this matter at this early stage in the new Parliament, and 1 will certainly take it into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether he can give any specific details regarding proposals that have been approved by the Government for the allocation of additional funds to accelerate development and employment in the Northern Territory. I ask this question in view of the lack of any information on the subject in statements made by the Prime Minister when outlining proposals dealing with unemployment problems as they affect the States of Australia.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory will realize that, along with the rest of Australia, the Northern Territory will share very considerable benefit from the various concessions proposed to be given. 1 refer in particular to concessions relating to sales tax, income tax and so on. The honorable member has in mind the particular allocations made to the States. The Northern Territory does not share with the Stales in those allocations. Proposals affecting the Northern Territory have been prepared in my own department for consideration in duc course by Cabinet. I cannot forecast Cabinet’s decision.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation in a position to state whether any definite programme has been adopted by the Department of Civil Aviation for the development of the Tullamarine area in Victoria as an international air terminal for Melbourne? If such a programme has been laid down, would it be possible to furnish some particulars of it to the House?
– I am aware of the honorable member’s intense interest in this matter, but it is something that I shall have to refer to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, in another place. I shall see that the honorable member gets an answer as quickly as possible.
– Will the Minister for the Interior explain to the House why the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has not full voting rights? In view of the fact that the population of Canberra is now approximately 57,000 when will the honorable member be entitled to Hull voting rights? I can assure the Minister that the Australian Labour Party, which now has 62 members in this House, would appreciate the granting of such rights.
– This is a mutual preservation pact. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory knows full well that as soon as the Labour Party obtains a majority in this House his difficulties will increase because he then will not be able to make his daily pontifical utterances through the press. The subject of the question is a matter of policy, and the Government will give consideration to it in due course.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Bearing in mind the tributes which were paid to-day to the late Sir Earle Page for his monumental work in and for Australia, and bearing in mind the fact that our splendid road system throughout the Commonwealth owes a considerable amount to the federal aid roads development scheme which was initiated in his time, will the Prime Minister consider approaching the State Premiers with, a view to naming the main connecting road between the capital cities of Australia the Earle Page Highway, each section being known as, say, the Brisbane to Sydney section or the Sydney to Melbourne section of the Earle Page Highway, and so on right round Australia?
– Naturally I will give proper attention to any proposal that the honorable member advances, but, without being dogmatic on the matter, I am under the impression that most of these highways already are named. There might be a little difficulty in discarding names already attached to roads in honour of celebrated people.
– Build another highway!
– That is a very interesting suggestion
– Call it the Menzies Highway.
– Oh no! I would be prepared to name it the Calwell Highway because it would begin somewhere and end nowhere.
– Has the
Minister for Labour and National Service become aware of the creeping paralysis which has been overtaking job opportunities in almost every country town and centre of consequence? What plans, if any, has the Government in mind to overcome th;is alarming situation in country towns as distinct from unemployment in our cities? Are the present recipients of unemployment benefit to continue along the road they travelled during 1961? Has the Government any plan? What is the position in relation to school leavers in the centres where there are already between 500 and 1,000 persons receiving unemployment benefit?
– The honorable gentleman asked one question that I could understand and two which, frankly, I could not understand. With regard to his question relating to the creeping paralysis of job opportunities, I think that if he cares to read the latest statements and reports relating to the employment situation for the month of January he will see that the number of job opportunities or vacancies becoming available in Australia is very nearly an all-time record. The facts are there. The job opportunities notified to us numbered over 10,000 per week during the month of January, and that is something about which wc should all have some degree of pleasure.
As I understood the honorable gentleman’s question, he also asked whether special arrangements had been made in respect of country areas. Already the Prime Minister has announced the help that is to be given to local and semigovernment authorities, the grant of £7,500,000 for homes and the assistance to be given to States and areas, particularly country areas, where unemployment is highest. This proves the Government’s intentions with regard to employment. As Minister for Labour and National Service, I believe that the highest objective of Government policy is to help unemployed people back into employment as quickly as possible. I believe and now repeat the words of the Prime Minister - the foundations are sound and we have now given the necessary stimulus to a rapid improvement in the employment situation. What is now needed is confidence. I believe that if we all pull together - the Opposition and ourselves - and if the volume of criticism is reduced a little, we shall see a substantial improvement in the employment situation this month. I repeat that one thing that is heartening for us is that the number of job vacancies that has been notified to my department is at a high level. If this continues, and provided confidence is restored, I believe the action taken by the Government will quickly lead to a rapid reduction in the number of unemployed in this country.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I remind him that the adjourned basic wage case from last year was re-listed before the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Commission to-day and certain decisions were taken. I ask the Minister: Was the Government represented at the hearing to-day? What is its attitude to the adjustment of the basic wage by reference to an index? How is the Government’s attitude affected by the decision given today?
– As the honorable gentleman has said, the basic wage case was resumed to-day. The matter before the commission was not an application for an increase in the basic wage, because there had been no increase in the consumer price index. In substance the issue between the parties - the employers and the Australian Council of Trade Unions - was the question of automatic adjustments of the wage on a quarterly or annual basis. Both parties stated their position. The Australian Council of Trade Unions wanted quarterly cost of living adjustments and the employers expressed a desire to reserve their rights so far as annual adjustments were concerned. As the honorable gentleman will know, the Commonwealth was not a party to the hearing but an intervener and, consequently, we merely stated our position and reserved our rights with regard to the statement previously made by the court as to annual adjustments. The matter was then stood over with the full concurrence of all parties and the rights of all parties on these matters were reserved by the commission.
– Will the Minister for Social Services endeavour to speed up the payment of unemployment benefits? It has come to my notice that in some instances almost one month elapses before the benefit is paid; and in those circumstances great hardship is experienced by the persons affected.
– I can assure the honorable member that social service payments are made, to those who qualify for them, with the utmost expedition and despatch.
– Not in all cases.
– If there are isolated instances of undue delay I should be most grateful to the honorable member for Bonython, or any other honorable member, for directing my attention to those cases, which I will investigate and for which, I hope, I will provide a completely satisfactory explanation.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, at the call of Mr. Theodore, who was Treasurer of the Commonwealth at the time, certain pensioners in 1932 relinquished their benefits in order to assist the country, and that in some cases this voluntary forfeiture of income would exceed £3,000? Since, with the passage of the years, unexpected commitments have brought embarrassment to some of those people, might an ex gratia payment be made in those isolated cases of need, thus demonstrating the nation’s gratitude?
– I do not claim to be familiar with the facts to which the honorable gentleman has referred. If he can bring any particular case to my notice I shall certainly have it examined, see what the story relating to the matter is, and then consider the request that the honorable gentleman now makes.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. As part of the belated attempt of the Government to remedy the grave economic condition of this country, will the Prime Minister direct banks and insurance companies to lend councils and semi-government institutions the money they require in order to provide work for people at present unemployed? Otherwise where are they going to get the money that the Government talks about?
– I would hesitate to give a series of orders of that kind, even if I could, but I am bound to tell the honorable member that when those matters were discussed last week most, if not all, of the State Premiers felt that with the letting-out of the limit of borrowing by local government authorities, particularly with the removal of the ceiling completely in the case of loans of under £100,000, a great deal could be achieved in four months and a great number of people put to work. If the honorable gentleman has some particular case in mind concerning some particular local authority, all he has to do is to let me know about it and Iwill have a look at it.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Wimmera. Will the Minister assure the House that the report of the Wool Marketing Committee of inquiry, which he received to-day, will be considered with the urgency that the present position of the industry, particularly that part of it in the high rainfall zone, dictates? In particular, will he guarantee that the report will be placed in the hands of honorable members in the very near future?
– As I have just received the report, and as it is about1½ inches thick, it will be some time before it can be fully perused. I think it would be fair to say that Ministers ought to see the report first. I assure the honorable member that it will be dealt with expeditiously.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that a special committee was recently set up in the United States for the purpose of inquiring into the display of crime and violence films on television, and their harmful effect on the youth of America? Is the honorable gentleman aware that a series of films entitled “ The Untouchables “ which has been and is currently being shown in Australia is to be one of the main subjects of this inquiry? Will the honorable gentleman consider setting up a similar committee of inquiry in Australia for the same purpose?
-I do not think it is necessary to set up any inquiry into matters of the sort raised by the honorable member for Watson for the simple reason that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been carefully watching the type of programmes provided for the Australian viewing public.
– They are pretty poor.
– I do not know that you would knowvery much about it. First of all, we have a system whereby all films coming into the country are classified according to whether they are suitable only for adult viewing, or suitable also for juveniles. Under our existing system, anything of the nature mentioned by the honorable member can be properly dealt with. Therefore, I do not propose that any sort of inquiry should be instituted to deal with this matter.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Lyne(Mr. Lucock) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I second the motion.
– Is there any further proposal? (The time for further proposals having expired) -
– There being only one motion for the appointment of a Chairman, I now put the question, “ That the honorable member for Lyne be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) on his election as Chairman of Committees, but I want to tell him that this will not be quite so simple a job as it was in the last Parliament.
– What do you know about it?
– I know a lot about it. Much more than you do. It reminds me of an experience which I had in the Victorian Parliament when the numbers were very close and mischievously minded members - I hesitate to say there are any such people here-
– You would not think of it!
– Mischievously minded members - you and I are both in that category - in the Victorian Parliament fell into the habit of moving an amendment to an amendment, and then an amendment to the amendment to the amendment. Then they would call on the chairman of committees to state the position. The Chairman of Committees was an old friend of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and myself. He was the Labour member for Carlton, Mr. Robert Solly. He was a short man with a shock of silvery hair and a lively mind. One day, somebody moved an amendment to an amendment to an amendment and then got up and asked the Chairman of Committees to explain what the question before the Chair was, whereupon Mr. Solly stood up quite briskly and said, “I would have the honorable member know that my name is ‘ Solly ‘ not ‘ Solomon ‘.” I pass that on to the honorable member for Lyne and I hope that he will recall it in whatever miseries he endures in the chair.
– The Opposition associates itself with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in congratulating the re-elected member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) as Chairman of Committees. As the Prime Minister has indicated, this job has become much more exacting in the last few years. The moment of glory - or the month of glory - of the Chairman of Committees is the period of consideration of the Budget and associated bills. It used to be the habit in British democracies to have one budget a year. In recent years it has become fashionable to have as many supplementary budgets as there are budgets. It may be that the re-elected member will not have many months in which to carry out his duties. If, Sir, in those months, he carries out his duties as well as he bade fair to do last year and as his predecessor did for some years before that, I feel that he will have the satisfaction of all honorable members.
. -I desire to extend, on behalf of my colleagues in the Australian Country Party, our congratulations to the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). We have every confidence that he will discharge his duties as Chairman of Committees for a long time and as effectively as he did in the last Parliament.
– First of all, I thank the House for having accorded me the honour and privilege of appointment to this position. I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for his advice, for his words of wisdom and for his congratulations.I shall remember his story but I hope that it will not be necessary to do so on too many occasions. I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) for his words on behalf of the Opposition andI thank my own leader, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) for his words of kindness and confidence.I shall endeavour to carry out my duties in such a way as to uphold the tradition that has been established by my predecessors in office from both sides of the House. As you reminded us this morning, Mr. Speaker, not only the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, but also each member of the House, has a responsibility to assist in upholding the dignity of this noble institution.
Mr. Cockle, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral (vide page 14), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I deem it a very great honour and a very great privilege to be called upon to move this motion in. the tension which exists in this House under the present circumstances and at a time when there are very great tensions throughout the world. May J. say, Sir, that, to-day, I witnessed outside this House a ceremony in which it was my privilege to take part in May, 1927, when this Parliament was opened? On that occasion I was a member of the guard of honour and represented the town of Mackay in Queensland. To-night, taking my place in this chamber, I look back over those years and realize what tremendous development is taking place in Canberra under the commission which has been set up for this purpose. One reads with great pleasure that the population of Canberra has now reached 56,000. 1 regard the development of Canberra, ihe capital city of Australia, as commensurate with the development of Australia as a nation.
May I, at this stage, Mr. Speaker, wholeheartedly extend to you dual congratulations. I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, first upon your elevation as a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George; and secondly, upon your re-election as the Speaker of this House for the third time. I am certain that the honours bestowed upon you have been fully deserved. Might I extend to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) my congratulations upon the fact that he has held his very high office for a record term. According to my calculations, as at this date he has been Prime Minister for twelve years two months and one day.
In taking up my duties as a member of the House of Representatives, I feel that a great responsibility rests upon me as the representative of Warringah for I am aware that my two immediate predecessors made a niche for themselves in the political history of Australia. The first of them was Sir Percy Spender who is now a judge of the World Court. My immediate predecessor was Professor F. A. Bland. He is held in high esteem in Warringah, an esteem that was heightened by the tremendous job he did as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The people of Warringah whom I represent do not forget that Professor Bland has played a tremendous part in preserving the political and economic well-being of Australia by his conscientious activity on this committee.
At this stage I should like to direct attention to a passage in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which I consider to be perhaps the most important in the Speech, although the Speech deals with a wide variety of matters of great national importance. I refer to the section of it which relates to measures to get men back into employment. Many of them have not had work for some time; and this is a matter of great human significance. I refer to the following passage in the Speech: -
Nevertheless,’ my Government believes that recovery in business activity and employment has been too slow, lt accordingly has recently announced a series of special measures designed to increase employment and business confidence.
These measures are well known to honorable members, and no doubt they will be debated early in this sessional period of the Parliament. Basically, they will permit an easy flow of money through the economy so that businessmen, manufacturing concerns, public works and local government authorities will be able to use these funds to provide work for those who unfortunately have been unemployed. Among the recent activities of the Prime Minister and some of his Cabinet Ministers, I have been most impressed by the consultations that have been held with businessmen, manufacturers, bankers, primary producers and representatives of the trade union movement. These consultations at this time indicate that the Government is anxious to do a job of work that will benefit not only the unemployed but also the nation as a whole. I commend the Government for arranging these consultations, and I hope it will continue to follow this pattern of consultation in the interests of all of us.
One of the grave dangers that may arise from the injection of this money into business and other activities to get men into employment is the possibility that it will again commence an inflationary spiral. I firmly believe that if we are to prosper as a nation we, as Australians, must get down to work. We must co-operate one with the other, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said tonight. All sections must pull their weight. However, I am afraid there is a tendency in some fields of employment to consider as good and brave any attempt to cheat the boss. Australia is not in a position i>. which we can afford to consider cheating the boss as the smart thing to do. We all h.ie a job of work to do and we must g.t dcm to it. On the other hand, the businessman - the employer generally - has to be completely unselfish in what he does with the money that is now being made available. He must not look for exorbitant profits; he must utilize the money that becomes available to the best advantage and not regard the making of profit as his main objective.
However, there has to be sincerity and honesty of purpose on the part of the trade union movement to ensure that when men are put into employment as a result of this Government’s measures they shall work the prescribed hours. They also must cooperate in this great national effort. Unfortunately, I have found in my experience in business and industrial relations that there is a grave tendency in a time of labour shortage for the employer to go on the auction block for his labour. He is prepared to pay anything to get it. This is a bad thing. It is an ingredient of inflation and an employer who is prepared initially to pay a sum we will call X for labour often will go to X plus £10 to attract labour from some other employer. Then again, we all know that when there is a shortage of labour, the trade unions endeavour to exert pressures to get more money and more leisure for the workers. The employer, faced with a situation where he must get work done, succumbs to these unfortunate pressures. These are systems showing a lack of co-operation and of honesty of purpose. We cannot allow ourselves to get into a situation where the employer is selfish or where the trade unionist is selfish. All who are interested in the economy of Australia and its stability should pull their weight and not act only for self-interest.
One very serious question arises in considering the matter of pressure exerted by either employees or employers. It is frequently overlooked that in Australia we have perhaps the best possible system for resolving differences between employers and employees. I refer to our system of conciliation and arbitration, which has stood the test of time. Too often do we find that certain organizations - this could, perhaps, be said particularly of unions which like to think they are militant, or which are in fact militant - spurn the court, regarding it as an instrument which does not mete out justice. I recall speaking, not so very long ago, to a trade- union leader who was very critical of a judgment delivered by the court on a wage issue, and who said that there was no justice in the arbitration court. I said to him, “ How would you suggest that justice be done? Would you consider that if you submitted an exorbitant demand, and that demand was acceded to, justice would be done? “ He said, “ Yes. Our demands are always based on justice.” That, of course, is quite a wrong belief, but it is one which obtains throughout the trade union movement, and it can be very misleading.
As I have said, the conciliation and arbitration system has withstood the test of time. On some occasions employers, for the sake of expediency, are willing to succumb to the dictates of a band of employees and to enter into agreements - not agreements registered in the court, but agreements entered into simply for the sake of industrial expediency. The grave danger in agreements so entered into is that no protection whatsoever is provided for the public interest. The very fact that the court is there indicates, to my mind, that the Government has provided an instrument to protect the public interest.
What do we mean by the public interest? Surely we have in mind the people on fixed incomes, the pensioners. Surely we refer also to the primary producers - the men who cannot, unfortunately, pass on excess costs. The court is, therefore, very important in ensuring stability in our economy, and I sincerely hope that, with a freer flow of money, employers and employees will get together if there is a grievance concerning wages or employment conditions, and agree to take such a grievance to the court so that it can be ironed out by the third party, the impartial party, the party that is there to protect the public interest.
Not so very long ago I read a report to the effect that a person holding a high position in an important industrial organization had said that during the course of a year his organization had entered into 120 agreements with employees’ organizations. He expressed his concern about those agreements, because he said they had been entered into as a matter of industrial expediency. That statement supports my contention that unless agreements are registered in the court, which has an opportunity to see what effect they may have on public interest, they can be quite dangerous.
I believe the word “ conciliation “ is frequently misconstrued in its application to the system of conciliation and arbitration. I have heard trade union leaders complaining that an employer did not enter into the spirit of conciliation because he did not concede the demands of the unions. That is a misconception which gains ground in industrial circles, and it should be corrected. Those who are associated with industrial matters should realize that the word “ conciliation “, in its application to the conciliation and arbitration system, refers only to an attitude to which both parties should subscribe. They should see whether agreement can be reached with regard to differences that arise. If agreement cannot be reached, those differences should be taken to the court so that they can be adjudicated upon properly.
Much has been said about unemployment, Mr. Speaker, and many figures have been cited. I wonder how many honorable members have taken the trouble during recent weeks or months to discover just what a wonderful job of work is being done by the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service in attempting, very often successfully, to place men in employment. From inquiries I have made, and from my own observation, I can say that the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service are men of real human understanding who do splendid work in assisting those unfortunates who are out of a job. I have no compunction whatever in paying a tribute to those men for the work that they do.
Let me now go back, Mr. Speaker, and repeat what I set out to emphasize in the first place. With the easier money that will now be made available to the economy, there is the utmost necessity, in the interest of national economic stability, for all parties associated with the job of getting men back into employment to go about the task with complete sincerity and honesty and to try to do a job which will be of benefit to Australia. I have chosen to comment upon this, out of the many matters dealt with in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-
General, and I commend the Speech to the House.
.- It is with pleasure that I second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, so capably moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle). I am sure that I speak for everybody in this House, and for all my electors in Gippsland, when I say it is very gratifying to note in the terms of the motion an affirmation of loyalty to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen. I would like to welcome Lord and Lady De L’Isle. I hope that their stay in this country will be long, happy and fruitful.
Here, Mr. Speaker, let me add my congratulations to you, first, on your welldeserved knighthood, and secondly, on your ejection as Speaker of this House for a further term. I trust that you will bear with new members of the Parliament with the patience and fortitude that you have shown in the past.
As I stand here to-night I am conscious of the fact that there have been but five members for Gippsland in this Parliament before me. Four of them left their particular marks on the economy of this country and occupied outstanding positions in the House. The first federal member was Mr. Allan McLean, who was Minister for Trade and Customs. He was followed by Sir George Wise, who was Postmaster-General. Sir George lost his seat in 1913 to a Mr. Bennett, but regained it in 1914. He was then followed by Mr. Tom Paterson, who left his mark on the economy of the country with the implementation of the Paterson plan which later became the foundation of the dairy equalization scheme. Honorable members who were in the House prior to the last election will have known Mr. George Bowden, a colonel and the winner of the Military Cross, who later became Chairman of Committees here. During my campaign many electors said it was unfortunate that Colonel Bowden had been forced to retire from the Parliament through ill health.
Gippsland is an electorate with tremendous natural resources of. timber and brown coal, and we hope some day to strike oil. It is an electorate with a vast tourist potential, having snowcapped mountains, along its northern side and beautiful rivers, streams lakes and beaches around its coast. I may say, Sir, if you have never been there for a holiday you should go. It is in the main a primary-producing electorate, and it is as a farmer that I, a newcomer to this House, would like to direct attention to the fears that are in the minds of farmers, not only in my electorate but generally throughout the nation. They want to know where they are heading and what their long-term prospects are.
Over the years we have seen the development in Europe of a trading bloc commonly called the European Common Market. There is tremendous political significance in the development of this market, because there is no doubt that if Europe is to withstand the pressures and advances of communism, it will do so only through unity and economic strength. There is tremendous economic strength in the Common Market countries. With a possibility of England joining the Common Market, there is no doubt that the remainder of the seven nations in the European Free Trade Association will try to join the six nations already in the Common Market. We will then have a very populous and wealthy trading bloc which at present has an external tariff barrier against the free entry of Australian goods. To read in the newspapers of the possibility of a common tariff arrangement between the Common Market and the United States of America chills my blood. With the exception of wool, our primary industries would have surplus production.
We in Australia face the European Common Market with an external tariff barrier against Australian goods, Communist countries in a populous bloc buying only selectively from Australia, and the great market of the United States of America also restricting the free entry of Australian goods. But we have not only this worry; we have also to worry about the possibility of these trading blocs dumping their surplus production on what is left of the world’s markets. This prospect is just as alarming for secondary industry as it is for primary industry. How can our secondary industry gain more of the world’s markets and thus earn more of our national income, in face of the mass production methods that will no doubt be used behind the Common Market wall to satisfy the internal market and to subsidize exports to the rest of the world? As a newcomer to this Parliament, I wish the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the delegations that go overseas the best of luck in their efforts to gain recognition of this problem. There is no doubt that the whole economic security of Australia depends on the results they achieve.
As a primary producer, I wish to refer to another matter, which was raised by the honorable member for Warringah. This is the continuing light against the rising cost of production. We have seen a tremendous change come over Australia in the past ten or twelve years, with most of a great influx of immigrants being employed in secondary industries. I was pleased to notice in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intends to give some protection to secondary industry, but I was more pleased to notice that it is not being stampeded into giving complete protection to secondary industry. It is my belief that such protection helps to create inflation, and it certainly has caused an unrealistic price relationship between primary and secondary industries. The economy of the country is rather like a diesel train, with the engine representing the primary industry price structure and the carriages representing the secondary industry price structure. The engine is quite happily towing the carriages along for some time, when suddenly, by some unaccountable force, the carriages become unhitched and get on to another set of tracks. They go down these tracks at an increasing and uncontrolled speed.” If the carriages were allowed to crash, we could be met with a calamity because the old diesel engine following behind would pile up on top of them. If such a situation had faced the country, we would have met ruin. Fortunately, the Government has applied the brakes over the last few years in an effort to maintain an even relationship between the price structures of primary and secondary industries.
This problem does not face Australia alone. It is common to all Western countries. I read with interest in the fifth report on agricultural policies in Europe and North America by the Organization for European Economic Co-operation that there has been an increase in agricultural subsidies and aids since 1955. This is very important and must be watched closely by Australia. We cannot afford to allow primary industry to become the poor relation of secondary industry in this country - the poor relation that can acquire only finance that cannot be invested in the more profitable secondary industries, which have controlled profit margins; the poor relation that cannot pass on its increased costs of production; the poor relation that is still expected to earn most of the export income of Australia; and the poor relation that is certainly expected to feed the increasing population of the world in the years to come. If the States can get together to stabilize the dairy industry and if an international scheme to stabilize the wheat industry can be implemented, surely the time must come when the Western nations will adopt a basic price plan for agricultural products.
I read with interest in the report to which 1 referred earlier the remarks of the secretariat concerning the difference between agricultural producer price levels and consumer price levels. The Government should not allow our economy to be endangered by the margin between producer and consumer levels becoming too great. I can give some live examples, lt is common for the fishermen in my electorate to sell flathead for lid. a lb., after paying the freight involved in carrying the goods ISO miles to Melbourne. The fish is then retailed in the shops for 3s. and 3s. 6d. a lb. 1 have had the personal experience of selling green beans on the market at the equivalent of ls. 6d. a lb. after paying freight for 240 miles, and seeing them sold in the shops at a retail price of 4s. and 4s. 6d. a lb. The grower gets ls. lOd. a lb. for bacon which the retailers sell at 6s. to 8s. a lb. while ham goes as high as 12s. a lb. This position should not be allowed to worsen. The total effect on the cost of production is too great. I read in the press that the main reason for the reduction of 2s. in the basic wage in Victoria was the drop in the price of beef. With better organized marketing and less profiteering, I am sure we could reduce the cost of living and put more money in the pockets of the wage earners. The fight that we are waging with the Communist countries is an economic one and, as I said before, we cannot let these Western-type abuses ruin the economy.
Sir, I believe that the proposals outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech are just and humane and that, with the implementation of the Government’s legislative measures, we shall return eventually, if I may borrow a term from the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), to a period of dynamism like that which has characterized the growth of this country over the last ten years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mclvor) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of a Social Services Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1961.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the House incorporates two sets of amendments to the Social Services Act. The first will relax the residence qualification for agc and invalid pensions and the second provides for increased benefits for adult and married unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and their families.
Honorable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) foreshadowed the introduction of the first proposal relating to residence in the joint policy speech on 15th November of last year, when he said that the Government would legislate to reduce the present twenty-year period to ten years. Mr. Speaker, if I may remind the House of the words used by the Prime Minister on that occasion, he said -
For 50 years the Australian law has been that, to qualify for an age pension, a person, whether Australian-born or not, must have lived in Australia continuously for twenty years.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
The great stream of migration since the war, so valuable to Australia, has produced its own problems. One of them has been that it is felt by elderly migrants, who have worked and paid taxes in Australia for fong periods falling short of twenty years, that it is unreasonable that they should not qualify for age pension. We have examined this matter. We attach great importance to family migration, since it helps assimilation in the new country. We will legislate to reduce the twenty years period to ten. Naturalization will, of course, continue to be a condition for those coming from foreign countries.
In fulfilment of this undertaking the bill before the House provides that the general residence qualification for age pensions will be reduced from twenty years’ continuous residence to ten years’ continuous residence. Further, the bill will liberalize certain existing concessions.
In addition to the residence qualification for age pensions the Government has examined the residence requirement for invalid pensions. It has decided that the residence qualification for those who become permanently incapacitated or blind while outside Australia should be brought into line with the new, more favorable provisions which will apply to age pensions.
I regret to say, Mr. Speaker, that in spite of any preconceived ideas to the contrary, there is no simple way to reduce the residence qualification under the Social Services Act from twenty years to ten years without adversely affecting those who may have a total residence far in excess of ten years but no continuous period of ten years. Largely due to the introduction of a formula, designed to meet particular cases of hardship as they have arisen from time to time, the present residence qualifications have been aptly described as being of almost devastating complexity. My only observation on that description is to say that it errs on the side of moderation. I shall, however, try to cast a little light on the existing provisions, first in regard to age pensions, which will include the formula to which 1 refer.
The general residence qualification is that a person should have resided in Australia continuously for a period of not less than twenty years. Some periods of absence from Australia count as residence. These are: - absences due to war; absences during which the claimant was regarded as a resident of Australia for income tax purposes; and absences during which the claimant’s home remained in Australia, provided that during his absence, in the case of a married man, he maintained his wife and children, and provided that, in the case of a widow or divorcee, she maintained her children. The bill before the House leaves these provisions, which also apply to invalids, untouched.
The effect of the reciprocal agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand is, broadly speaking, that residence in either of these two countries counts as residence in Australia for the purpose of the grant of pensions under those agreements.
Then we come to an involved provision relating to continuity of residence contained in section 21 (2.) of the act. This provides a formula under which a period of notional residence is calculated in respect of a person who has not been continuously resident in Australia for twenty years, but who first arrived in Australia at least twenty years prior to claiming pension and has resided here for periods exceeding eighteen years in the aggregate. This period of notional residence, where it is great enough, is applied either, to bridge periods of absence so as to build up the period of continuous residence to twenty years, or to add to a period of continuous residence to build it up to twenty years. The formula for calculating the period of notional residence is two years for eighteen years residence, plus six months for every year of residence in excess of eighteen years. The period so calculated must not exceed the total periods of absence after the date of first arrival in Australia.
The formula does not appear to be based on any consistent principle. It depends for its successful application on fortuitous groupings of residence and absences. For example, where an applicant has a total residence of 21 years, but no continuous period of twenty years, the formula concedes three and a half years “ notional “ residence, that is, two years for eighteen years and one and a half for three years. If, in this instance three and a half years added to the longest period of continuous residence give a total of twenty years or if the three and a half years were adequate to bridge any periods of absence to give a total of twenty years, the applicant qualified. But, on the other hand, if the three and a half years “ notional “ residence failed, in either instance, to give a total of twenty years, the applicant failed to qualify. The bill sweeps away this present formula for the calculation of “ notional “ residence and replaces it with a simple and much more liberal provision under which as a person’s periods of total residence in Australia, including absences treated as residence, rises above ten years so the period of continuous residence required of that person is reduced below ten years, by a period equal to the excess of residence above tcn years, subject to a minimum period of five years continuous residence.
Thus a person with eleven years actual residence would qualify if there were a period of nine years continuous residence in the period of eleven years actual residence; a person with twelve years actual residence would qualify if there were a period of eight years continuous residence in the period of twelve years actual residence; a person with thirteen years actual residence would qualify if there were a period of seven years continuous residence in the period of thirteen years actual residence; until we come to the person with fifteen years actual residence who would qualify if there were a period of five years continuous residence in the period of fifteen years actual residence. It may be said therefore that the maximum period of continuous residence required will be ten years, which will operate where a person’s period of actual residence in Australia is ten years only; and the minimum period of continuous residence required will be five years, which will operate where a person’s actual periods of residence in Australia are fifteen years or more in the aggregate. Of course, in addition, certain absences as mentioned will continue to count as residence.
The qualifying periods of continuous residence or actual residence may be served at any time. There are no strings tied to them such as that they must be served after or before a particular age or immediately before applying for a pension. To put it briefly, as the period of total residence exceeds ten years, so is the required period of continuous residence reduced by the excess, subject to a minimum period of five years.
I now turn from age pensions to invalid pensions. The bill does not alter the existing provisions that apply lo a person who became permanently incapacitated or permanently blind while in Australia or during a temporary absence from Australia. The residence qualification for them will remain, subject to existing conditions, five years continuous residence. It does however liberalize the provisions thai apply to a person who became permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while outside Australia.
At present such a person must have resided in Australia for twenty years, whether in one continuous period or in broken periods, before he is deemed to have become permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while in Australia. This provision will be brought into line wilh the more favorable residence qualification for age pensions. Such a person will be deemed to have become permanency incapacitated for work or permanently blind while in Australia if he has resided in Australia continuously for ten years. The period of continuous residence required will be reduced by the period of total residence in Australia in excess of ten years until the position is reached whereby such a person with fifteen years actual residence in Australia will be deemed to have become permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while in Australia if he has resided here continuously for five years.
It is mathematically possible, though in practice extremely improbable, that a person could satisfy the existing requirements under the old formula and not satisfy the requirements set out in the bill. For this to occur the claimant, whether for age or invalid pension, would need to have had total periods of residence in Australia well in excess of eighteen years yet no period of continuous residence of five years or more. In the unlikely event of such a case occurring, a claimant who satisfied the existing residence requirements under the formula immediately prior lo the commencement of the new provisions, and who then has, or who subsequently acquires the other necessary qualifications, will be granted an act of grace payment at the rate of pension otherwise payable to him. He will of course, after a very short space of time, satisfy ihe new requirements. For the information of all honorable members, a brief explanatory note on this aspect is immediately available.
The second provision in the bill gives effect to the Government’s intention, as announced by the Prime Minister in his statement issued on 6th February last, to increase the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits payable to adults and married beneficiaries and to increase the additional benefits payable to beneficiaries in respect of their children. As already announced, the rate of unemployment or sickness benefit payable to an adult person or married minor will be increased from £3 15s. to £4 2s. 6d. a week - an increase of 7s. 6d. a week; the additional benefit for a dependent spouse or unpaid housekeeper will be increased from £2 12s. 6d. to £3 a week - an increase of 7s. 6d. a week; the additional benefit for the first child will be increased from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week - an increase of 2s. 6d. a week; and, for the first time in the history of our country, additional benefit will be made available for each child other than the first. This will also be at the rate of 15s. a week for each child. Thus, the total weekly benefit received by a married beneficiary with three children will be increased from £7 to £9 7s. 6d. a week, which, together with child endowment will increase the total payment to £10 12s. 6d. The payment to a married man with four children will be increased from £7 to £10 2s. 6d. a week which together with child endowment will lift the total payment in this case to £11 17s. 6d.
Honorable members will note that the emphasis has been placed on the unemployed who have a family to support. Whilst, however, the timing of this measure has been largely due to present circumstances, the opportunity has been taken to introduce what the Government has already had in mind for some considerable time - an improvement in the circumstances of the unemployed person, man or woman, with the larger family. This is a major step forward. At the same time it is necessary to emphasize that unemployment and sickness benefits were never intended to be permanent in character. They are of little or no sociological value unless they are accompanied by a concerted effort to end the period of unemployment as rapidly as possible and to restore the sick to a state of good health without undue delay. Up to the present, additional benefit has been payable only in respect of the first child. In the future, additional benefit will be paid for each child at the same rate as for the first, and the beneficiary or his wife will, of course, continue to receive child endowment in respect of these children as well.
The extension of additional benefit to all children has made it necessary to insert a provision whereby the additional benefit payable for a child may be reduced where a Commonwealth social service payment, other than endowment, is being paid in respect of that child. The question of dual payments for children would arise where a person having the custody, care and control of the children is receiving additional unemployment or sickness benefit, child’s allowance, additional invalid or Class A widow’s pension, additional tuberculosis allowance or service pensions for the children and another person contributing towards the maintenance of the same children is qualified for unemployment or sickness benefit and claims additional benefit on their account. The circumstances in which a reduction may be made in the rate of additional benefit payable are spelt out in the bill, but “ dual payments “ only relate to dual payments to two different persons in respect of the same child.
The new rates I have stated will of course apply to special benefits granted to migrants and others as well as to unemployment or sickness benefits, since part VII. section 125 of the Social Services Act provides for the payment of a special benefit at a rate not exceeding the rate of an unemployment or sickness benefit.
I come now to the question of the date of commencement of these alterations to the Social Services Act. The new provisions regarding residence will come into operation on the day the act receives the Royal Assent. Unemployment and sickness benefits are payable in respect of a period of eligibility, payment being made weekly. The bill is worded so that the higher rates of benefit will be payable for all periods of eligibility commencing on or after seven days prior to the 1st March. Thus a person whose benefit week finishes on the last day of February will be entitled to receive a week’s benefit at the higher rates on 1st March. To that end, T would appreciate the cooperation of all honorable members in both
Houses of the Parliament in according this legislation the urgency that is undoubtedly its due. It is not always administratively possible actually to make payment of benefit on the day immediately following the end of the benefit week, since applications and income statements have to be processed but, wherever possible, payments at the higher rate will commence on 1st March.
Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House brings a memorable change to the residence qualifications for age and invalid pensions from which both native-born Australians and migrants from any part of the world who become naturalized citizens of our country will benefit. It has never been clearly understood that the residence qualifications have always had a common application to every Australian citizen regardless of origin and that at no period of our history has there ever been the slightest semblance of discrimination against any migrant who has accepted Australian nationality. The nationality requirement remains unaltered and the reduced residence qualifications will continue to have a common application to old and new Australians alike - if I may be permitted to use terms which have now become colloquial - although the relative advantage will accrue to new Australians since, except in unusual circumstances, native-born Australians should have no difficulty in satisfying the residence provisions.
The increase in unemployment, sickness and special benefit rates will do much to assist those adversely affected by unemployment, sickness or the circumstances which would qualify them for a special benefit, but a permanent solution to problems of the kind is only to be found in reemployment, restoration of health and the removal of the causes which have rendered special benefis necessary.
It is not possible to give any exact estimate of the costs involved in the proposals. If all of those estimated to be able to qualify by residence for an age or invalid pension under the new provisions were qualified in all other respects, the additional cost for 1962-63 would be some £3,000,000 rising to some £10,000,000 in 1969-70. As, however, some of those qualified by residence will not be qualified in such other respects as means or nationality the actual expenditure should on the estimates for 1962-63 be somewhat less than that mentioned and may approximate £2,250,000. During the remainder of 1961-62 the cost is expected to be not less than £700,000.
Again, in regard to unemployment and sickness benefits it is not possible to give a firm estimate of costs. It is expected, however, that the additional costs of the increased rates wm be in the vicinity of £700,000 for the remainder of 1961-62.
By way of conclusion I should like to assure all honorable members that the provisions of this bill are additional to the normal and annual review of the Government’s social services programme. We will pursue the policy which had its origin some thirteen years ago when the Government was elected in 1949 and which, year by year, has transformed the general scheme of social services from an exclusive and restricted programme, confined within the limits of an expenditure never in excess of £81,000,000, to a vast category of services affecting the lives of more than 4,500,000 people - men, women and children - and involving an expenditure that approximates £365,000,000 a year, or £1,000,000 per day. The achievements of the Government in social services during the last twelve years are set out in a document which is in general circulation and has created very great interest. They include no less than 69 separate items, most of which run through the entire range of qualifying beneficiaries. This bill adds two additional items to this impressive list, bringing the total to 71, but here again the new residence qualifications will bring within the scheme of social services different categories of people who have previously been excluded from age and invalid pensions and the increase in the rates of unemployment and sickness benefit will encompass three different categories of people who qualify for these particular benefits. These are proud achievements and, with a sound economy and an industrious community, we have cause to look to the future with confidence.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 33).
.- I congratulate the two new members of the House who made their maiden speeches this evening. Their remarks indicate that they are worthy successors of the illustrious members whom they have succeeded. I also extend congratulations to you, Sir, on your election as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, and also to the honorable member for Boothby (Sir John McLeay) on his election as Speaker of the House.
I was interested in the references of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) to discussions between employers and employees. I remind the honorable member that the conditions which the workers of this country have to-day were not lightly won. The incentives that have been given to them have been justly earned. They have only one commodity to sell, and that is their labour. From the remarks of the honorable member, it appears that there is a great need for this Government to investigate the profits that are made by the businesses to which he referred. It is evident that if those businesses can offer incentives, the profits they are making warrant investigation. Perhaps they could be reduced, to the benefit of all concerned. I ask the honorable member to give that matter some consideration.
It was also interesting to listen to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) postulating a Labour policy in relation to supply and demand. Labour policies seem to be in vogue with the Government. I wonder how long the honorable members who spoke this evening will continue to voice such policies. Since the people of Australia spoke so strongly against measures for which each and every supporter of the Government had voted, the Government has seen fit to adopt the policies of the Australian Labour Party as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) at Melbourne on 1 6th November last. It was also interesting to hear the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the question that I addressed to him at question time to-day. I asked the right honorable gentleman where he thought the semigovernmental institutions and municipal councils were to get the money that would be necessary for them to give incentives or to bolster the economy of this country.
The Prime Minister replied that he had no authority to direct the banks or the insurance companies to lend to such institutions or councils the money that they will require to take care of the unemployed in their districts. He went on to say that the Premiers, at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council, were satisfied that the objective could be achieved, but he did not state that the Premiers also have no control over the banks and the insurance companies. I again ask the right honorable gentleman: Where are they to get the money, since they have to compete with people who want 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. for any money they are prepared to lend, and since semigovernmental institutions and councils can pay only 5 per cent?
Perhaps the best one can say of the Speech that was presented to us by His Excellency the Governor-General this afternoon is that it was a re-hash of statements that this Government has made to the people of Australia over the last ten or twelve years. For those who arc on the sidelines, those to whom the supporters of the Government have referred as the temporary unemployed, and those on whose toes it was necessary to tread in order to achieve economic stability, it does not offer a great deal of inspiration. A document of this kind, which has taken nearly three months to bring forward and in which there is nothing which provides for any great lift for industry and commerce, is an indictment of the Government. It is something like three months since the Prime Minister made that policy speech without a policy, but since that evening the winds of change have blown very strongly. They have stripped an arrogant government of its large majority and left if with a majority of only two. As a result of this inglorious defeat - I use that term purposely and I notice that it is greeted with silence from the Government side - the Government became panic stricken and now is seeking to bring down legislation to put into effect many of the things which the Labour Party advocated during the election campaign.
Three months after the election campaign we still see headings in the newspapers such as, “ Jobless at peak in January “. The Government rightly could be called a pirate government. It stands condemned on its actions and its words during the election campaign. It went so far as to resort to an old, old political trick prior to the election day. lt indulged in character assassination in order to try to write down the policy enunciated by the Australian Labour Party, but such was the response of the people to that policy that the Prime Minister saw the writing on the wall. He tried to deceive the people. He is still trying to deceive the people by the economic measures foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech. In the first place, he said that the Labour Party’s policy could not be implemented; he said that it would cost £200,000,000 and, later, that it would cost £300,000,000. To-night the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) introduced a bill which contains aspects which every member on the Government side voted against when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) submitted them as amendments to the social services legislation prior to the election.
Let us consider now the pool of unemployed to which the Government has referred. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has gone to some trouble, as he has done in the past, to show that everything in the garden is rosy. The Melbourne “ Sun “ of to-day, referring to the subject, had this to say -
Mr. McMahon said that employment in the larger private factories surveyed by the department rose by 5,884 in January - the largest rise ever recorded for that month.
He went on to say -
The department reported that there were few vacancies for boys and girls leaving school.
What he did not say was that, taking an average of 6,000 more people employed per month, it will take twenty months to absorb the total number of unemployed in Australia. Is there any relief in sight for the unemployed in view of that statement? Does it give them any hope that the Government will do anything for them? Is there any immediate hope of employment? We have read about the beef roads in Queensland and the other public works which will be undertaken to relieve unemployment, but how long will it take to complete the plans, specifications and all other things necessary to be completed before those works can be commenced? The Government has told the people, “ We will give you an extra few paltry shillings a week for putting you out of work and on the dole”. lt is interesting to note that Mr. H. J. Souter, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, denies the statement which was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. He points out that there are 150,000 out of wo:k at present and goes on to say -
The Government should have taken action to absorb school leavers in career occupations or training.
In the big industrial electorate which I represent, employers have told me that eighteen months or two years ago they would have gone down on their knees to get boys with the qualifications possessed by those who are offering to-day, but now they can pick and choose from boys who have their leaving certificate and have passed their matriculation examination. Those boys are taking practically any jobs to tide them over until they can obtain positions more suited to their qualifications. What will be the outcome? As a result of the Government’s policies, which brought about the credit squeeze, will the boys and girls of to-day, who will become the men and women of to-morrow, be forced to become dead-end kids? Honorable members on the Government side are now trying to give the impression that they are lily-white - does every one remember Mr. Wight, the previous honorable member for Lilley? - and will do everything to help the people if only the people will forgive and forget. The Government cannot right the wrong it has perpetrated on the people of this country.
No mention was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech about automation. I was interested to read an article in one of the Melbourne newspapers recently which pointed out that in America in the next ten years the workers, as a result of automation, will be working a twenty-hour week and that the children will spend more time at school than their fathers or parents will spend at work. But in spite of the indications from overseas of what the future holds, the Government has no plans in mind to cope with something which is quietly infiltrating industry and driving men and women out of work. Recently I saw in the electorate of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) a pipe foundry which, by using a special method of producing spun cast iron pipes, can produce more pipes in three months than a factory which uses the old method of sand casting can produce in three years. The Government is prepared to turn a blind eye to those things. It wants a surplus of labour on the market because this creates a fear complex, and it hopes that because of the fear complex the workers will be prepared to accept lower wages and poorer conditions.
In his Speech, the Governor-General referred to the Government’s purchase overseas of two destroyers. It is a well-known fact that the hulls of these vessels and most of that which goes inside the hulls could have been produced in Australia, but the Government saw fit to spend £40,000,000 outside our shores when our own shipyards, particularly that at Williamstown, are struggling lo keep their staffs employed.
Let us consider Labour’s policy as announced on 16th November, 1961. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) told the people of Australia that the Australian Labour Party would introduce a budget to provide for a deficit of £100,000,000 to enable it to achieve its objectives. He promised restoration of full employment
Within twelve months, increased social services, costing £150,000 a year without having to impose extra taxation, increased payments to the unemployed, more funds for housing, selective import controls, tariff protection and a reduction of sales tax. Because of those promises 400,000 more people voted in favour of the Australian Labour Party’s policy than in favour of the Government’s policy.
I propose to read an article in the Melbourne “Herald” of 12th February in relation to the Government’s pick-up policy. The article refers to a statement made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in which he pointed out that a certain gentleman has been appointed to act as a gobetween between industry and the Tariff Board. The Australian Labour Party wanted selective import controls to be introduced. But we and manufacturing industries, in spite of the fact that they had asked the Government to introduce measures of that kind, were denied the benefit of them.
In an effort to deceive the people again, Sir Frank Meere has been appointed to a position which is similar to one occupied earlier by another gentleman. Sir Frank will do the same class of work. According to the press article which I have mentioned, the general manager of the Chamber of Manufactures has said -
The extent to which industry would be given the protection it needed to employ adequately (hose at present out of work, including many thousands of school leavers, must remain to be seen.
In relation to the announcement by the Minister for Trade, the newspaper in question had this to say -
But now that the Federal Government, under a threat to its existence, has moved away from its deflationary policies of 1960 it must be said, without recrimination, that it was the Government and not industry which brought the recent great setback to manufacturing.
In spite of the fact that the Government is trying to tell us that there is a new wave of confidence in the country, it would seem that those persons who condemned the Government for its policies are not convinced that as yet it is doing the right thing.
The Government proposes to pay out £5,000,000 to stimulate the house-building programme. An article which appeared in one of the Melbourne newspapers only within the last few days and which refers to the state of affairs in Adelaide stated -
The President of the Building Trades Suppliers’ Association of South Australia said to-day that more than 20 Adelaide building contractors had “ gone broke “ in the past three years, leaving debts totalling more than £1,250,000.
In the most recent big failure an Adelaide building firm, engaged mainly on Government work, owed creditors about £200,000, he said.
Many small sub-contractors who had worked industriously for many years had lost their life savings.
Where will they get confidence to start off again? Everything points to the fact that there is only one means by which the Government can try to lift this country out of the mess it has put it into, and that is by revitalizing the building industry. We recently had here a visitor from America who said that low deposit housing finance backed by the Federal Government housing authority had resulted in a high level of home ownership in the United States of America.
The only way in which we will be able to help home-builders will be by reducing interest rates and enabling them to build at a price which they can afford. Within the last few weeks a co-operative housing society, of which 1 am a director, made an appeal to the Commonwealth Bank for a loan of £100,000. We made a similar appeal approximately fifteen months ago. The Commonwealth Bank told us that it could not let us have the money at the moment. We received a similar reply from the State Savings Bank of Victoria, which had before it 182 applications by housing co-operatives for loans. That bank has not lent money for this purpose to any extent since 1957. These are the facts that the people of Australia want to know but which the Government is not telling them.
If these matters are not righted, the Australian economy, which this Government has ruined, will not see any change within the next twelve months or two years. I should say it will take twelve months or two years to put the building industry, which supports 87 other industries, back on its feet. If the Government is able to put the building industry back on its feet, it will get somewhere. The Australian Labour Party is prepared to do that. If the Government is sincere in its efforts to clean up the mess in which it has placed the country, the first thing it will do will be to make homes available to the people at low rates of interest and on low deposits.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chancy) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620220_reps_24_hor34/>.