24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a statement made by the Minister for Education in the Victorian Parliament that of those who applied for admission to Victorian universities and were qualified, only 65 per cent, were able to obtain admission this year? Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the position in other States, and is it similar to the position in Victoria? If this is so, does the Prime Minister propose to initiate any action which would enable accommodation in universities to be increased so that the acceptance rate of 65 per cent, can be considerably increased?
– I was not aware of the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall be very glad to collate such information as we have on the matters he has mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that there has recently been some recrudescence of anti-semitism in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Is this apparently officially inspired by the Soviet authorities or does it at least have their concurrence? What is believed to be the real motive behind this Soviet policy? Will the Minister have a white paper on these matters prepared for the information of honorable members, and will he provide an opportunity for discussion on it in this House?
– There are some indications of a recrudescence of antisemitism in Russia as the honorable member has said. As for the rest of his question, I think it better that I should’ say I will consider laying a paper on the table of the House on this matter. If and when I do, I shall speak to the Leader of the House about an opportunity to discuss it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Is he able to inform the House to what extent expansion of activity is likely to take place at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow? Because of the large number of unemployed in the Lithgow city and Blaxland shire areas, and the fact that many unemployed have been compelled to leave their homes, will the Minister say what amount of work may be found for local unemployed in the near future?
– I am afraid it is rather difficult to give the honorable member any fixed idea of the forward work and whether it will permit an increase in the staff at the Small Arms Factory. As the honorable gentleman will know - and I am glad to tell the House - production has been very good, particularly of our F.N. rifle. Production has reached a point where we can successfully export to markets that have been developed for this weapon, and I am hopeful that there will be continued orders from overseas. If that should be so, we shall be able to increase the number of employees at the Small Arms Factory. In the meantime, the honorable member may be satisfied that everything possible is being done to maintain employment at the factory and, where opportunity offers, to increase it. (
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade whether the trainee scheme for trade commissioners has yet been introduced and whether, in addition to the personnel to be trained under this scheme, future trade commissioners will be selected from other sources.
– I appreciate the interest which the honorable member has shown in matters of trade, particularly as he is so closely associated with the Government members trade committee. It is a fact that an announcement was made a couple of weeks ago that a trainee scheme for trade commissioners would be introduced. In fact, advertisements are appearing in the newspapers in all States at the present time calling for applications. The closing date for applications is 30th April next. This trainee scheme will not replace the present system of appointing trade commissioners. In future, they will also be selected from persons experienced in the business world and from among some members of the Public Service. The trainee system is designed to supplement or complement the existing system.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Social Services by referring to the plight of the wife of an age pensioner who is several years his junior and, not having attained the age of 60 years, does not qualify for a pension or allowance. As many of the wives in this category have had no business training, and therefore have no earning capacity because they find it impossible to obtain employment, will the Minister consider introducing legislation during the next budget session to provide for an allowance at least equal to half the age pension rate to alleviate the distress suffered by such wives of age pensioners?
– I am aware that the honorable member for Bowman is a comparatively new member in this place, and may not know that the question of social services is examined regularly every year. Due consideration will be given to the particular question that he now raises. It is not competent for me to enter into any obligation to introduce legislation to achieve the end he suggests.
– In addressing a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade, I refer to a question which I asked him on 15th March last relating to the number of Australian manufactured motor cats that had been exported during the year 1960-61. In his reply, the Minister gave the figure as being well over 3,000 vehicles. I now ask him whether that figure includes completely assembled as well as unassembled or partly assembled vehicles.
– The figure which I gave to the honorable member a couple of weeks ago referred to completely assembled vehicles only because they are the only vehicles recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician. I am pleased to inform the House that, in addition to that number, completely knocked down or unassembled vehicles which were exported during last year were valued at £2,300,000. Unfortunately, there is no separate record kept of the numbers. Indeed, for obvious reasons, it is not possible to keep a record of the number of such vehicles exported. The only record possible is one indicating the value of vehicles. The number of countries to which completely assembled, partly assembled and completely knocked down vehicles were exported was something over 40. That is a most creditable effort indeed on the part of the Australian motor industry, and I know it will continue that splendid work in the future. “
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for. Trade whether he is aware that citrus grower organizations are in the course of registering emphatic protests against the importation of Californian citrus juices at a time when the Australian citrus juice industry is depressed and has 1,000,000 gallons of such juices in stock. Also, is he aware that distributors of these imported juices have launched a vast advertising campaign which includes television advertising and full-page colour advertisements in many well-known weekly and monthly publications, the lavishness of which it is impossible for the distributors of the Australian product to match?
– Order! I think the honorable member is now giving information. I suggest that he ask his question.
– Accordingly, will the Minister initiate whatever action is necessary to protect this important Australian industry against the imported Californian fruit juices?
– I am sorry, but I am not aware of the facts as stated by the honorable member. I will certainly have some investigations made to ascertain the position. However, I think the honorable member will appreciate that the industry, as such, has access to the special authority which has now been set up by the Government to handle cases which require some form of emergency protection. The industry could approach this authority in the normal way if it required some emergency protection. I will have inquiries made regarding the present position and communicate with the honorable member later.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. I understand that, sot”’; ;..ne ago, his department carried out a medical survey of ex-prisoners of war. Has anything further been done in this regard of late?
– The honorable member is probably aware that in 1947 the Government undertook a survey of ex-prisoners of war who had been in Japanese hands, for the purpose of promoting the reestablishment of these people in normal community life. At that time the committee, which consisted of a panel of medical officers headed by Sir Albert Coates and was assisted by some administrative personnel, submitted an early report and advice on the rehabilitation or re-establishment of former prisoners of the Japanese. The committee advised that a 10 per cent, test survey be undertaken. This advice was adopted and, following the 10 per cent, test survey, an Australia-wide survey was undertaken to examine the 14,000 former prisoners of the Japanese at present living in Australia. This was carried out by medical boards which were established in all States. The survey occupied the period between 1958 and 1961. As a result of that survey, a special booklet on the medical treatment of former prisoners of the Japanese was issued and was widely circulated among repatriation medical officers and other interested medical personnel. - Later, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association asked for another Australia-wide survey. It was considered that this was not necessary, in view of the advice that had already been received, but a special medical research committee was established. This was headed by Dr. Nye from my department and assisted by administrative personnel. The committee undertook a further protracted study of the medical problems of these former prisoners of war. The work continued until a short time ago when Dr. Nye, unfortunately, died. The work has ceased until a new medical officer becomes available to replace Dr. Nye. As soon as a replacement is found, the work will re-commence.
– I ask a question of the Postmaster-General. The honorable gentleman will recall that last year difficulties with the Government constrained the Australian Broadcasting Commission to give notice of its intention to withdraw from Intertel, the joint British, Canadian and United States television organization which makes and circulates documentary films in constituent countries. Since there are now apparently several Intertel films available for viewing in Australia, will the Postmaster-General arrange for some of them to be made available for showing in Parliament House so that members may judge for themselves whether the commission should be allowed to retain its membership of Intertel?
– The question of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s membership of Intertel has been discussed on several occasions between the chairman of the commission, the Prime Minister and myself. A considerable degree of agreement has been reached, but at present I am not in a position to give to the House any further indication than that. The question is still under consideration because of various matters which it has been decided to clear up. As to the possibility of showing in this building any films available from Intertel, I shall be glad to see whether such films are available and to make suitable arrangements.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Can he say what stage has been reached in the search for a suitable site for the television station in the Albany-Katanning area of Western Australia? What sites are being investigated, and when does the Minister expect to be able to make an announcement about the site chosen? Will he give an assurance that due regard will be given to providing adequate coverage for areas which are otherwise poorly provided with other forms of public entertainment?
– As I have stated previously, investigations of possible sites for the stations to be established in the fourth phase of television, which would include the one referred to by the honorable member, have been proceeding for some time, because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board wishes to be able to indicate to applicants for licences in the fourth phase where the sites are likely to be. Already, a number of sites have been chosen, but final decisions on all the sites concerned have not been made. Regarding the area referred to by the honorable member, I know that investigations have been made by technicians and engineers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, acting in conjunction with the Broadcasting Control Board, in the area of the Stirling Ranges. I think that the area likely to be favoured is that known as the Mount Barker area. However, the matter has not yet been brought to finality and I am not in a position to intimate to the honorable member at present exactly when the final decision will be made. As I said a moment ago, we plan to make this information available to those who are interested in the fourth phase of television before they finally make their applications. With regard to the final question asked by the honorable member, I can say that in selecting the site the departments concerned are actuated by the desire to provide the widest possible service for viewers, not only in the metropolitan and larger provincial areas, but also in the more sparsely populated country districts.
– I wish to direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. The Minister for Trade is reported in to-day’s news as having issued a warning that Australia may be on the edge of a precipice in respect of the European Common Market. Will the Minister in this place make an early statement to the House on this important matter?
– I cannot comment on any press reports which have been released in Europe. As soon as the Minister for Trade returns he will make a full and comprehensive statement on these matters to the House.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question with reference to the lodgment by the Municipal Employees Association of Victoria of a log of claims which contains, inter alia, demands for a 35-hour working week and wage increases of up to 50 per cent. Is the Minister aware of the instruction issued by the central executive of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party to its members on Labour-dominated municipal councils to implement these demands forthwith, and that in fact several councils have already done this?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to put his question without giving information.
– If this is so, does it represent another clever tactical move by the Labour Party to destroy our arbitration and conciliation system?
– I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the people of this country believe in the system of industrial arbitration. I am equally sure that they bitterly resent efforts to undermine the system of arbitration and destroy the authority of our arbitration tribunals. Consequently, I was disturbed to learn that the central executive of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria had directed the Labour Party members of the Preston City Council to agree to a log of claims that had been filed, without reference to arbitration. This, Sir, is surprising. It is especially surprising in view of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition during the recent election campaign that when a Labour Party candidate is elected to a parliament or to a local council he is not subject to outside domination. The direction to which I have just referred contradicts the statement made by the honorable gentleman. I hope, Sir, that the Preston City Council will do what it says it will do, and that it will uphold the authority of the council itself, which is elected by the people, and also the authority of the Australian arbitration system.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Will the Minister consider an exchange of ambassadors between Australia and Ireland? During the period of office of the last
Labour Government this diplomatic arrangement was in operation, and I have repeatedly asked the two previous Ministers for External Affairs to re-establish such an arrangement. My representations, however, have met with no success. If Canada and England can send ambassadors to Ireland, why cannot Australia do likewise?
– I do not know why the honorable member should think me easier to deal with than my predecessors.
– He does not.
– He probably does not, but I am pleased to tell him that I am prepared to give some consideration to the question. What the answer will be, I do not know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. I refer, by way of preface, to the fact that in the several States various concessions and benefits are available to ex-servicemen pensioners, the production of a repatriation pension card generally being accepted as proof of entitlement to these benefits. As repatriation pensions are now being paid generally by cheque, and as ex-servicemen pensioners do not have pension cards, will the Minister consider issuing some other form of identification which would be useful to ex-servicemen when applying for the various concessions and benefits available from Commonwealth, State or local authorities or from private organizations?
– This is a matter that has been raised on several occasions by ex-servicemen’s organizations and also by individuals. I have carefully considered the matter in the brief time in which I have been associated with this department, to ascertain whether it would be possible administratively to issue some form of identification card. I find that it would be quite a big task, from the point of view of administration, and that it would involve additional employment in the department. There would also be some problems if cards were mislaid, since they would not be cards regularly used in the collection of pensions. However, I feel that it is possible to solve the problem. Many of the people concerned are in the habit of using the badges of their organizations as means of identification. For instance, the badge of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association is generally accepted when claims are made for benefits such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Moore. In addition, a person receiving a war pension or some other form of benefit usually has some kind of document that was sent to him when he was originally granted the benefit, and this can be used for identification. If a person had not such a badge or document, my department would be prepared to write to the organization or the department concerned on his behalf, or to give him a special letter of identification if a request were made for one. In one or other of these ways I believe that the problem can be solved.
– I address my question to the Minister for Supply. I have noticed a recent statement that the Department of Supply will endeavour to obtain employees in Melbourne to manufacture the frames, &c, for the new Mirage aircraft. As we still have a branch of the department in Adelaide which has done this work but which it was intended to close next year, will the Minister give further consideration to the question of having the work done at the Finsbury workshops?
– We have had a very close look at this matter and on a number of grounds, including economy and the type of work involved in the manufacture of air frames for the Mirage aircraft, which calls for a higher standard than was required in aircraft built previously in South Australia, it seems unlikely that the work in question will be done in Adelaide. However, to satisfy the honorable member, I shall have another look at the matter to make sure that our decision is soundly based.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that during March a record number of men was placed in employment around
Sydney by the Commonwealth Employment Service? Is be aware that at one semi-government institution which put on 1,400 men, only 300 lasted more than a few days? Is be aware that a large government department has found it difficult to obtain suitable staff and that advertisements for staff in the “ Positions Vacant” columns of the newspapers are becoming quite common?
– I was not aware of the information contained in the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question. As to the last part, I do know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to rerecruit administrative personnel and that it always has been difficult to recruit technical and skilled staff. The first part of the honorable gentleman’s question relates to the number of people placed in employment. It is worthy of commendation that the Commonwealth Employment Service is, for the time being, placing over 10,000 people a week in jobs. I think that is one of the reasons why the number registered for employment fell so substantially in February. I hope that there will be a further reduction in the number of registrants in March.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate briefly to the House the reasons which he gave to the Premiers’ Conference in February for rejecting the unanimous request of the Premiers in the previous June for an inquiry into the problems of primary, secondary and technical education in Australia, along the lines of the Murray committee’s inquiry five years ago into the needs of university education?
– I will do better than that. I will make available to the honorable member the full verbatim transcript of what I said on that occasion and what was said to me.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. Has the honorable gentleman received a report from Mr. Warren McDonald, the leader of a trade delegation to the Middle East? If so, when will the report be made available to honorable members and to interested exporting industries?
– Mr. Warren McDonald, the leader of the recent trade mission to the Middle East, has submitted a report. As the honorable member no doubt is aware, another trade mission ship is also at present in that locality west of Pakistan. The department at present is studying Mr. McDonald’s report. To the best of my knowledge it will be available for circulation in the near future, after it has been printed. I shall make sure that copies are provided for honorable members.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it correct that in the United States of America the Supreme Court has ruled recently that damage to the health of persons, or to persons or property, by aircraft or noise from aircraft, is a matter for which the airport authority is now to be held legally responsible? Can he say who is responsible for damage to the health of persons, or to persons or property near airports in Australia resulting from aircraft or noise from aircraft?
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place and will see that he receives an answer.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation: As repatriation pensions are now paid by cheque under the punched card system in all States except New South Wales and Tasmania, when is it proposed that these facilities will be introduced in those States?
– Arrangements have already been made for the payment by cheque under the punched card system in New South Wales, and the first payment will commence on 10th May. After that my department will be working on the problem of payment by cheque in Tasmania. The arrangements will be completed by the end of this year or perhaps early next year.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that the press was banned from a recent native local government conference in Port Moresby? Was the ban imposed on his instruction or with his approval? What was the reason for banning the press from a conference of a type to which the press is readily granted admission on the mainland?
– I know nothing about the exclusion of the press from any meeting in the Territory. That would be a matter entirely within the jurisdiction of the Administrator or whoever was arranging the meeting. It is customary for people to hold meetings, and if they wish the press to be present they invite the press. If they do not wish the press to be present the press is not invited. That is entirely a matter for them. Perhaps the honorable gentleman would advocate that all meetings of his own party be open to the press; that would possibly produce the same results as closing them to the press.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question in his capacity as Leader of the House. Has his attention been directed to a charge reported to have been made by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the Government was rushing the Parliament into recess? Can he say upon what grounds he thinks the Leader of the Opposition may have based his charge?
– The first knowledge I had that the Leader of the Opposition harboured any such unwarranted thought was when I heard a statement over the national television news on Sunday night. I immediately got in touch with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and said I would have expected that, in circumstances where allegations of that sort were being made, an opportunity would have been taken to ascertain, from the person responsible in this place for Government business, what the facts were and what he had to say in relation to this charge. I have made it clear, whenever asked by those who had some good reason for inquiring, that the Government was not seeking to rush the business of the House and that this business was being conducted in an orderly fashion with reasonable opportunities for representative viewpoints to be expressed in the Parliament.
Every parliament conducted as a democratic institution must, of course, have some management of its business if it is to proceed with its legislative programme in a satisfactory way. In the past this has largely been the outcome of negotiations between me, over recent years, representing the Government, and the deputy leader for the time being - formerly the present leader and currently the deputy leader - of the Labour Party, speaking on behalf of his side of the House. Now, Sir, as recently as Tuesday of last week a group of pressmen asked me how long this session would continue. I said, “ Don’t put that question to me, put it to the Labour Party “. So far as we are concerned, we are here to carry on business in an orderly fashion.
When, later in the day, I was discussing these matters with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as is our custom, I invited him to indicate how long the Opposition wished to sit. He took the line which he takes, I understand, on instruction from his party, that it is not for him to say how long the Parliament shall sit, that being a matter for the Government to determine. I said, “ Well, on the business before us, what is your expectation as to how long the proceedings would take? “ Sir - and I make this comment in view of the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition - his reply then was, “Well, on what we can see of the business we would not expect it to go beyond the next three weeks “. That is, the period leading up to Easter. I said, “You have not seen the full programme of business”. I took him, then, through the business item by item, indicating those items which could, if necessary, be deferred until the next session, and he said, “ I still think we could be finished in the next three weeks “. It was not until after that that I conveyed to the Government and the Government parties what our expectation of the sessional period would be. Before the end of the week, and without further reference to the honorable gentleman, I conveyed the opinion to the
Government Whips, and also to the Prime Minister, that on what I could see of the progress made during the week it would not be practicable for the Parliament to rise this side of Easter. That remains my view.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. A week ago, the Leader of the House told me how many bills he thought would have to be brought down by the Government in the next month, and which bills he thought he would be able to persuade his colleagues to defer until the budget session. He then asked me for my view as to how long it would take to have the former bills debated by the House. As he has said, I said then that I saw no reason why they could not be passed in the three weeks before Easter. I added, Sir, as the right honorable gentleman will recollect, that he could not expect us to agree to getting up then while so many bills of which we ourselves had given notice remained on the notice-paper, and that we would expect to have those debated before we would agree to the House rising.
– Does the Minister for Immigration realize that a vote is being organized in the universities on the question of Australia’s restricted immigration policy? Can he tell the House who is organizing this poll? Will he see that the students are fully informed on what our policy is and on the reasons for that policy, as many of them seem to be ignorant about it? Will he also see that they are informed about the restricted immigration policies of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and almost every Asian country?
– I have heard that an inquiry or poll of the nature to which the honorable gentleman refers is being conducted, I take it, by students of the University of Melbourne belonging, presumably, to a body known as the Immigration Reform Group. I shah” certainly bring the matters referred to by the honorable gentleman to the notice of people in the University of Melbourne and other places who may disagree with the basic Australian immigration policy - a policy which, I may say, has been endorsed over the last 60-odd years by both sides of the Parliament, and which I hope will continue to be so endorsed.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is true, as reported, that the Australian Capital Territory Police Force is at present under strength or below its authorized numerical establishment. In the circumstances, can the Minister say why it has been found necessary to increase the strength of the police stationed at Parliament House from one constable who was on duty last week to one sergeant and three constables? Has the need for this additional protection arisen since the adoption by some members of this House of the 5BX method of keeping fit?
– Arrangement for the stationing of police in Parliament House are made through you, Mr. Speaker, and I do not know anything about them.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer, as Minister in charge of the House, a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Moreton. It is asked in view of certain misconceptions by some honorable members opposite. Is it not a fact that the time allowed for an adjournment debate has absolutely no relation to the length of time for which the House sits?
– That, of course, is true, Mr. Speaker. I have attempted to regulate the hours of sitting with some regard to the health and convenience of members of all parties. In the previous Parliament, when there was a very large majority on the Government side, elderly or temporarily infirm members who found late hours uncomfortable and detrimental to their health were able to leave the precincts without any great consequence resulting. However, at a time when every member is expected to be in the chamber, clearly the hours must be reasonable. That is the sole purpose behind the moves made last week. Throughout the life of this Parliament we have allowed the full time allotted under Standing Orders for private members’ business. We have also given the Opposition a courtesy which it has not extended to us. Of the last two urgency debates initiated from the Opposition side of the House, one was introduced at 12.30 p.m. with the requirement that it be debated immediately after lunch. The second one is listed for to-day, and up to the time of my asking the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this morning for the text of the letter to Mr. Speaker, it had not been received. When we introduce Government business, honorable gentlemen opposite insist that there be an interval for caucus consideration of it, but when they initiate a debate they expect us to deal with it immediately.
– I ask the Treasurer, in his capacity as Leader of the House, for an assurance that the adjournment debates on Wednesday and Thursday of each week shall be of at least an hour’s duration.
– I will be very glad to discuss with the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy-
– Or his deputy!
– Yes- or his deputy. I am glad to learn that the deputy leader is now to be clothed with authority, at least for this purpose. I will be glad to discuss the question of allowing a reasonable period for the adjournment debate. I would just add that this Government has had no cause since the Parliament met to wish to have the Housein recess. We feel that so long as it is doing business, it is doing business that favours the Government, at least in the eyes of the discerning voters of Australia.
– Is leave granted?
Government Supporters. - No.
– Leave is not granted.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Rebate) Bill 1962.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Provisional Tax) Bill 1962.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The necessity that Australia’s oil resources should be owned and controlled by Australians.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– The discovery of oil at Moonie highlights the need for Australia’s oil resources to be owned and controlled by Australians. Public satisfaction at the find has been tempered by very considerable uneasiness at the disclosure that two American companies have acquired 80 per cent. of shares in the operating company at Moonie. In addition to that, an undisclosed number of shares bought by Australian investors have also passed to foreign hands in recent weeks. While the company is called Australian, therefore - it is known as Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited - it is Australian in name only.
The profits, if any, from an Australian oil-field at Moonie will be sent overseas instead of nurturing the Australian economy. That will apply not only at Moonie, for at this moment negotiations are proceeding to give the same American companies equal control of all other leases held by Australian Oil and Gas.
Attention at present is spotlighted on Moonie, but ever since the possibility has been shown of collecting oil wealth from Australia the representatives of foreign companies have been at work behind the scenes here to obtain control of all the favorable locations in the Commonwealth and in New Guinea. They have no interest whatever in Australian welfare. Their sole interest is profit. They are out to exploit the Australian people and their object is that for every £1 or dollar they put into Australia they will take out ten if possible.
Government spokesmen have said from time to time that we should be grateful and deferential to these overseas people. They have said that we should recognize these people as benefactors and do nothing to cause them to take offence and go away. There is as much chance of that as there is of offending the vultures when they are poised ready to swoop upon a carcass. Nothing will drive these foreign investors away from Australia while the smell of profit is in the air - and not our profit but theirs, not a small profit but the maximum profit. Every last shilling of it is to be squeezed out of Australian resources and out of the Australian people. It is to come from no other source. The dividends are to be exclusively distributed in other lands and not among our people. I think that at least we should be realistic about this and stop building an image of American oil men as philanthropists.
Australians are pictured as happygolucky, enjoying basking in the sun and dreaming of riches that will be theirs when oil is found; but this is a distortion of the true picture. Australians have pioneered this country, have searched out its secrets, have sweated and toiled to build this nation. Now they are awakening to the realization of. how much of their birthright they have been deprived while this Government has either stood idly by or has actively promoted the deprival.
This applies not only to oil; it applies to many other resources which, during the term of the present Government, have been taken out of the ownership and control of the Australian people. Australians, however, are not yet by any means fully aware of how close they are to losing the whole of their oil heritage. This Government knows how close they are and foreign financiers know it. I shall quote from a circular letter issued by Dempsey Tegeler and Company, of Houston, Texas, very large sharebrokers, well known in the oil industry. Their circular stated -
As we see it, the beneficiaries of Australia’s oil discovery for the most part will probably not be Australians, but will probably be Americans.
Nearly every acre of basin land in the whole country is already taken.
That is a fact. The circular continues -
It is almost too late for newcomers, no matter how large or how rich, to find a seat at the Australian oil show.
The oil companies have one thing in common - so far as Australia is concerned, they have tied up nearly all the land there is, even the offshore blocks.
They have been allowed to tie up the land in such a way that no obligation is imposed on them even to develop it. The circular continues -
The Government claims a reasonable royalty of 10 per cent, as compared with the customary 121 per cent, in the U.S. and far higher percentages in such places as Venezuela and the Arab Nations.
Leases in Australia have been granted in large, unbroken tracts. The smallest exploration permit is measured in several million acres. The larger ones are in hundreds of millions of acres. Leases of this size are on the scale of whole States in the U.S.
I have not time to quote the whole of this document, but it ends -
A friendly, responsible Australian Government is offering every incentive for the oil hunters to come in and drill. The drillers have gotten the message and are now at work.
Multi-million acre exploration permits have been granted at no cost except an obligation to explore.
It is understandable that American sharebrokers should refer to our Government as “ a friendly and responsible “ government. It is friendly, of course, to foreign financiers. It recognizes its responsibility to promote the profits of big business; but in the process it is completely neglecting the interests of the Australian people. In its twelve years of office, the Government has done absolutely nothing to ensure that oil resources are owned or controlled, wholly or even in part, by Australians. So far as I know, during the whole of that time no Australian metropolitan newspaper has taken the trouble to endeavour to awaken the Australian people to what is happening to their interests in oil. But after the Australian people fully realize the extent to which they are being sold out on oil by the sloth, and worse, of this Government, then I believe this Government will feel fully the weight of the Australian people’s anger. Not only has the Australian Government done nothing to protect the interests of the Australian people in the development of their oil resources, but it still refuses to do anything, and here I quote from that extremely well informed news sheet, “Inside Canberra”, of 29th March, 1962, which says -
Cabinet will make no move against overseas investment in oil in Australia. . . . Cabinet accepts as inevitable the control of Australia’s oil from abroad.
The proposition that we cannot control the development of our own oil resources is an affront to Australian patriotism. It is an insult to Australian nationhood, and it is a very grave injury to Australian welfare.
If you wish to find a parallel anywhere In the world to the inaction of the Australian Government in protecting the oil resources of this country, you can find it only among the most backward countries. Enlightened countries everywhere - many of which, supposedly, are not nearly so enlightened as Australia - have taken steps to ensure that their oil resources remain in their own control. Take America as an example. Americans who come here to exploit Australia’s oil riches know that nothing of the kind would be permitted in their own country. From the very beginning of oil development in the United States, the law has provided that a substantia] part of the ownership and control of companies engaged in the industry must be in American hands. Similarly, the Philippines have passed a law to protect their people from exploitation by American oil interests.
Canada, which has had, I suppose, one of the most bitter experiences in this regard, can provide an object lesson for us in action taken to protect the interests of Canadian people, although, admittedly, -the action is taken very late. In Canada, capita] employed in the oil industry at present is controlled in this way: Inside Canada, 20 per cent.; inside the United States, 73 per cent.; elsewhere, 7 per cent. So that 80 per cent, of the capital employed in the oil industry in Canada is foreign-controlled. The Canadian Government is now taking what steps it can to remedy the position and, on 23rd July, I960, the Canadian Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Mr. Hamilton, made a statement, which I shall quote, when introducing new legislation to protect the rights of Canadian people in their own oil industry, and would to God we could hear something similar from our own Minister for National Development, Senator Spooner. Mr. Hamilton said -
The relevant sections are intended to ensure to Canadians an opportunity to participate in the realization of this great potential source of wealth. This is the first part of the government’s over-all plan to build up Canadian ownership of resources . . .
In return for all the lures and inducements to go into the north I told the oil industry in public and in private that we, the people of Canada, expected to get more out of that oil and gas than what they gave in other places. I talked in terms of half this land coming back to the Crown, and the oil industry accepts that. I talked in terms of having the right to dispose of the half that came back to the Crown in any way we saw fit. If we wanted to give special privileges to Canadian companies to enable them to get that land, it would be done. If we wanted to put it up for tender to the highest bidder, it would be done. If we wanted to offer it to a company on the basis of gross and net royalty, it would be done. If we wanted to give special concessions to the one who made the original discovery, it would be done. This was our land coming back to us and it was our land to start with, which gave us a tremendous opportunity to fulfill this concept we have that Canadians want and demand the right of ownership to their resources.
On the same occasion, the Canadian Prime Minister said -
The question has been asked on more than one occasion can a country have meaningful independence in a situation where interests outside that country own an important part of the country’s basic resources, and are therefore in a position to make important decisions on matters affecting that country’s economy.
That is exactly the position that applies in Australia to-day. Mr. Diefenbaker went on to say -
Our policy is not anti-Americanism; it is proCanadianism. It is a policy which believes in Canada maintaining her sovereign rights and maintaining her sovereignty over the resources that providence has given to this nation. We wish to ensure that the vast but exhaustible resource shall provide not only for economic expansion in our country . . . but at the same time maintain for Canadians their sovereignty over their country because no nation worthy of the name can maintain its political sovereignty unless it has every regard for the maintenance of its economic sovereignty.
This Government has provided several millions of pounds in subsidy towards the cost of finding oil in Australia - to the end of the financial year it will be about £6,200,000- but the only condition that it has made has been that if a company finds oil it must return to the Government the amount of subsidy paid to it. In other words, the Australian people have been made substantial partners in the expenditure, but the Government has deliberately excluded the Australian people from any share in the profits of the enterprise. The Government had every opportunity to make partnership agreements with these companies for the Australian people. It now has every opportunity to impose such conditions as it pleases under Commonwealth law, on the investment of foreign funds in this country. More than that, in our opinion, there is an obligation on the Government to invest public funds directly in the search for oil because, to find oil in commercial quantities in Australia is essential not only for our trade but also for defence.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Although he did not mention it, I hope the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is aware, as most honorable members on this side of the House are aware, that control over exploration for, and the development of, petroleum within Australia is entirely a matter for the States.
– The control of investment is in the hands of the Commonwealth.
– Honorable members opposite find it very awkward when I point out the fact that, except in certain minor respects, this is a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the States. It is true that the Commonwealth does control these matters in the Northern Territory, but the only authority it has in connexion with them in the States is that which it may exercise under our petroleum search subsidy legislation. I remind honorable members that even the Bureau of Mineral Resources works in very close association with State instrumentalities when it makes surveys and undertakes other work in connexion with oil search - and very rightly so. Any one who knows anything about oil exploration knows that, in substance, companies connected with the search for oil come under the control of the State governments, as do mining companies.
And what have the States done in connexion with the search for oil? It is not true, as the honorable member for EdenMonaro said, that the whole area has been handed over to overseas interests, and I repeat that the State governments, not the Commonwealth Government, make the laws and lay down the conditions under which the companies operate. In fact, of the total of just over 2,250,000 square miles of tenement, 45.5 per cent, is in the hands of Australian companies and the remaining 54.5 per cent, in the hands of overseas companies of various kinds.
The basically tragic part of the kind of stunt that the Opposition has pulled this afternoon is the apparent assumption that we already have vast proven oil-fields and that all we have to do is to decide how the spoils should be divided. It would be very nice if the problem were as simple as that. All we have in fact is the hope that we may have oil-fields. Certainly we have a good prospect of one commercial oil-field - just one - but that field, if proven, could supply only a small part of our eventual requirement. We need immense oil-fields to make us even substantially self-supporting, and the oil-fields that would do this still remain hidden. Many millions of pounds are still needed to explore for them and to exploit them. We also require on a very large scale technical competence and experience. At this time, Australia has a very limited supply of both. We are building up both our capital and our know-how in the industry. We have already a very notable band of enthusiasts whose faith and perseverance have remained despite great discouragement. We have such .people as Reg Sprigg, Eric Avery, Sir Kenneth Coles and John Fuller, and let us not forget also the work of Dr. Raggatt and his faithful staff in the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
The Government has taken a close interest in this matter. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and members of the Government Members Mining Committee have been very active over the years. Geological work has been undertaken and subsidies have been paid, including large subsidies paid to Australians to help find oil. These subsidies to Australians have been opposed and voted against in this House by the Australian Labour Party. But, so far, all that this activity amounts to is just a noble beginning.
Our own Australian pioneers have led us to the threshold and have opened up good prospects before us. But in so doing - let honorable members who have other views note this - they have gone to great trouble to enlist the support, partnership, knowledge and capital of overseas oil interests, especially in America. It is said that it is wicked that we should risk some of the profits from an Australian oil-field going abroad. But to the end of 1961, of a total of £83,000,000 spent in the search for oil in Australia, overseas interests had spent about £51,500,000; Australian private interests, despite the very favorable taxation concessions granted to them by the Government, had spent £22,000,000; the Government through subsidies had spent £3,000,000, and the Department of National Development had spent nearly £5,000,000. Prior to 1945, the total of Government assistance given for this purpose was £1,600,000.
So, who has provided the bulk of the money, let alone the knowledge? More than half of the money has been found by overseas companies. But these sums are negligible when compared with the amount that is needed for further search and development. Up to this point, if it had not been for the efforts of overseas oil companies, oil would still not have been found in Australia. In other words, if the policy just put forward by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had prevailed over the years, the Opposition would have had no occasion to raise this question to-day.
What about capital for further development? The Australian demand for crude oil is already about 88,000,000 barrels per annum. By making optimistic assumptions, this could be multiplied many times. Even a fairly careful estimate based on present trends shows that by 1973 consumption of oil is likely to be 180,000,000 barrels of crude oil per annum. Considering overseas experience and assuming optimistically that the remaining exploration for oil is reasonably easy, it is probable that it will need about £2,000,000,000 to locate and develop oil-fields and ancillary services that will produce this amount of crude oil.
Where will we get this capital? I know that over a year the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) advocated measures to be taken by the Government which would spend the national income twice over. But more realistic people will undoubtedly assume that Australian resources will not be able to find enough money. It would be wonderful if we could. What is the alternative? Every one in this House wants Australia to have a large say in exploiting oil, and this is certainly the policy of the Government. No one but a fool would turn away and fail to welcome foreign interests and assistance in the search for oil. Any one who did would deny Australia the resources needed for the exploitation and development of any oil-fields that were found. More important than who owns it is that we gain a large, thriving oil industry in Australia. It shows pretty poor faith in the wisdom of future Australians to say that they will not be able to look after themselves in this situation.
Overseas interests contemplating the investment of time and money in the development of oil in Australia are taking a long and careful look at the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. The Opposition bears a big responsibility in this matter. Fundamentally, overseas investors are in a weak position. Many businessmen, including Americans, have seen their large investments in oil, built up over a long period, confiscated at the stroke of a political pen, sometimes without any compensation. In every country, there is strong national feeling about these matters. If the Australian Labour Party seeks to score a few cheap political points by exploiting this feeling, its responsibility in this matter will be heavy. It lies well within Labour’s power to dissuade overseas oil interests from helping to develop oil-fields in Australia. It has only to proclaim that if and when it comes to power it will nationalize the oil industry or confiscate oil interests. That would stop American investment in oil in Australia here and now. If Labour objects to what is being done about our oil, it does not need to be able to form a government in order to do something about the situation. It may only have to say, perhaps, that it will introduce restrictive legislation, if it gets the constitutional power to do so, which is questionable - and that it will exercise political control over the future development and operation of the oil industry. If it does that, it will reduce this investment to a trickle.
Where does the Australian Labour Party stand? Why has it thrown this vital issue into the ring to-day. Has it done this just to snarl, bicker and protest? Not only is the Government entitled to know what Labour would do. The people of Australia, also, are entitled to know, not in terms of vague nationalistic generalities, but precisely. The torrent of words full of emotion that we have heard on this subject means very little. The veiled threats behind the proposal made to-day do nothing but breed uncertainty. They upset confidence and put nothing in its place. Let honorable members opposite who will speak subsequently in this debate say exactly what a Labour government would do about the oil industry. Until Labour makes its intentions known it will be a blight on the future development of this industry.
– Mr. Speaker, the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) need not wait much longer to find out what the Australian Labour Party would do about the oil industry in Australia. We intend to do everything humanly and physically possible to see that the oil of Australia belongs to the people of Australia. We intend to take firm and effective steps to see that the oil of Australia does not pass into the hands of the United States oil monopolies in the same way that the oil of Canada has passed into the hands of the United States of America. We will see that the kind of thing that happened to the Philippines does not happen to Australia. In order to do this, we do not visualize the nationalization of the oil industry. In any event, we could not. That would not be constitutionally possible for anybody who wanted to do it. We intend to see that the Commonwealth Government, in cooperation with the State governments, goes into the business of oil exploration, and, in the event of oil being discovered, we shall establish oil refineries owned and controlled by the people of Australia for the benefit of the people of Australia and not for the benefit of the millionaires who live overseas and who have no real interest in this country.
I disagree entirely, Sir, with the statement by the Minister that it does not matter who owns the oil of Australia so long as we have a flourishing oil industry. It does matter. It matters a lot who owns the oil of Australia, just as it matters a lot who owns the lead, silver, zinc and other natural resources of Australia. If the lead, silver, zinc and other natural resources of this country are to be owned and controlled by millionaire companies in other parts of the world, we as a sovereign nation shall immediately lose control over this country. What utter nonsense it is for the Minister to say that it does not matter who owns the oil of Australia!
– I said that having it matters more.
– No, you did not. You said that it does not matter who owns the oil of Australia. I say that it does matter. I say that the people of Australia ought to own the oil of Australia. Let me remind the Minister that nearly every person in Australia is a consumer of oil and, as a consumer of oil, is entitled to have some stake in the ownership of the oil of this country. Australians ought not to be required to sit idly by while a hopeless government like this allows the oil of this country to be exploited by foreign investors. The Australian Labour Party made its attitude perfectly plain in a statement issued at the last federal conference. It is in these terms -
It is only prudent and patriotic that the Commonwealth government should now, either directly or through the States, search for oil within Australia, arrange with foreign governments for the supply of oil, charter and then build a fleet of tankers and establish an independent and competitive oil refinery. The refinery could appropriately be established in Queensland, which is the only mainland State which does not yet have an integrated refinery and which has so far been promised the smallest refinery in Australia.
This can be done. It is of no use for the Minister to say that the Commonwealth has no responsibility in the matter and that the power rests entirely with the States. The States, of course, have the power to control the leases in their respective territories. But that is only half the truth. The Commonwealth has the money. Here we have an instance in which the States have the power and the Commonwealth has the money. We ought to establish a joint Commonwealth-State oil exploration enterprise in any State that is willing to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth, the State controlling the enterprise to the extent that it has sovereign rights over its territory and the Commonwealth supplying the money. This kind of project did in fact operate in Victoria many years ago at Lakes Entrance. It has already operated at Bell Bay in Tasmania, where the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Government, established an aluminium industry. The Commonwealth supplied the money - or the major part of it - and the State Government supplied the power and the other necessary facilities.
Unless we move now, Mr. Speaker, unless this Parliament gets off its hind-quarters and does something about oil in Australia, we shall wake up and find that it is too late. I repeat that we are not spending enough on oil search. Since the search for oil began in Australia about 40 years ago, expenditure on this work by all the companies engaged in oil search throughout Australia and New Guinea has totalled no more than £70,000,000, and 60 per cent, of this has been spent in New Guinea alone. It would not matter if the Commonwealth Government spent £70,000,000 a year. That is well within its capacity. If it did so, it would be doing more for the defence of this country and more to give Australia a viable economy in time of war than it has done by buying Centurion tanks and a lot of other junk which nobody wants. Yet that is what the Government is content to call a defence effort.
– Did not the Chifley Government buy an oil-drilling rig?
– As my honorable friend has reminded me, away back in 1949 the Chifley Government bought an oil-drilling plant in order that the Commonwealth could engage in the search for oil. But no sooner did the present Government come into office than it sold that oil rig before it had ever been used.
– This Government sold it for a song.
– The Government sold it, not for a song, exactly, but for less than it was worth. That is the sort of thing that this Government can always be relied on to do in these matters. The Commonwealth Government, instead of selling oil rigs, ought to be buying more of them. It should say to the governments of the States where there is oilbearing country, “You have the power. We are willing to put up the finance to enable you to engage in an active search for oil.” When oil is found, we should establish our own oil refineries and provide our own tankers in order, if need be, even to export oil to other parts of the world one day. It is sheer nonsense for the Minister for Air to say that it does not matter who owns the oil of Australia.
– I say that it is more important to have it.
– The Minister is now trying to twist and wriggle out of what be said. His view typifies the thinking of the Liberal Party of Australia in this and other matters. They do not mind if the people are exploited. That does not matter two hoots so long as somebody else is able to get enormous profits.
When we look at some of the newspaper headlines, we realize that here we have a Government that is doing absolutely nothing to push ahead with oil search in conjunction with the States. We see headlines like these -
U.S. Company Obtains Oil Rights in Queensland.
U.S. Oil Search in Queensland.
U.S. Firm to Drill for Oil in N.S.W.
New U.S. Oil Venture for Queensland
Americans to Join Oil Search
Oil Search Project by U.S. Firm.
U.S. Co. Plans £im. Oil Search
All of our prospective oil-bearing basins in Australia have been monopolized by these overseas oil prospecting companies, which know very well that they will finally be in a position to control completely the production and distribution of oil in Australia.
This is a matter that affects every man and woman in this country. This Government has no right to sit idly by, doing absolutely nothing to exploit possible oil resources in Australia. Let me tell the House what the Australian Labour Party said at its last conference. We said that
Australia imports aa ner oil because she has not yet been able to find oil in commercial quantities. Australia now has several oil refineries, all of which are owned by foreign companies which have concessions in oil producing countries and operate tanker fleets.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock).
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The question inherent in the Opposition’s proposal of this matter for discussion as being of urgent public importance is whether Australia ought to attract overseas investment. I say “ overseas “ because I think the word “ foreign “ is objectionable. I think it would ‘be objectionable to people like the late Mr. Cahill and to Mr. Heffron and Mr. Jensen, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who went overseas to attract capital investment in this country. At the present time the people of the world, and particularly of the Common Market countries, are trying to break down barriers and work together, and anybody with a grain of commercial sense would never make the unbridled, unrestrained and irresponsible remarks made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
Nothing could be more calculated to damage Australia than the statements made by these honorable gentlemen. What is more, they have shown themselves to be bad sports, and we do not like bad sports in Australia. A few months ago these gentlemen were among those who went around saying, “You will never find oil in Australia “. As soon as people with confidence and courage and strength come in and find oil, they stand up and abuse them. Did these honorable members risk any of their capital? There is no law to prevent Australians from investing their money. But of course these honorable members would not do so, because people like those who occupy the Opposition benches content themselves with doing damage such as has just been done by the unbridled, irresponsible and unrestrained speeches that we have heard. Those speeches have blackened the names of our friends, the Americans, who have been called vultures, and who have been described in the worst possible words that could be thought up by the honorable gentlemen who made those speeches. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro now laughs when he is accused of blackening the names of the Americans. What did Mr. Curtin say about the Americans? He did not blacken their names. When he, a man of great decency, was the Prime Minister of Australia, he said -
Notwithstanding our traditional kinship with Great Britain, we now look to America for help.
Those were the words of the Prime Minister of a desperate nation, a people frightened for their skins. Those people looked to America. Yet to-day the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says that the Americans are not our friends. He says that they come here to exploit Australia. Vultures, he called them, living on the carcase of the people of Australia. It was a different story when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was in the press gallery in this House in 1942, when Mr. Curtin said, “ We now look to America for help “. Now the honorable member uses the word “ vultures “ in referring to the people who were game enough to invest their money in the search for oil in Australia. Of course these people took very great risks when they invested their capital, because honorable gentlemen on the other side of this House have all signed a pledge, agreeing with the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange in Australia. Any investor who comes here takes the risk that a Labour government may come to power and implement that policy. I know that it has been watered down. I think one honorable member opposite walked out of the chamber saying, “ It is different now, we have watered it down “. But of course what is important is not what the Labour Party says it will do but what we know it will do. The people who come to this country and invest their money are protected by the Australian Constitution, which says that the taking over of assets shall be on just and fair terms. Thank goodness they are protected by the Constitution at all times. At the moment, of course, they are protected also by the Menzies Government.
– It will not be for long.
– After the two speeches that have been made this afternoon,
I should say that the Labour Party will be another ten years in the wilderness.
One of the most significant factors to be considered is the increase of the amount of overseas investment in Australia since this Government came to power. Australia is a country that needs allies overseas. It needs overseas capital and know-how. Since this Government came to power there has been a great increase in the amount of investment in Australia by our friends who have an interest in our welfare. Australia, of course, must become a great country, but the fulfilment of its destiny must be delayed by statements such as those expressed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, whose views, I am glad to say, are not the same as those of some other members of the Labour Party. That is a statement which I will prove in a moment.
Since this Government came to power there has been a great increase in overseas investment in Australia. In 1950 the amount of overseas investment was £68,000,000. It increased to about £100,000,000 in 1955 and it is now £189,000,000. That is money which is not going out of Australia. It is being left in this country. The people investing in oil search in Australia leave their money here, and that money, of course, is providing more jobs.
By way of contrast with statements made by honorable members who sit opposite, let me tell the House what happens when a responsible Labour premier goes overseas to try to attract investment. Let us see what Mr. Cahill said in 1958. The late Premier of New South Wales was then trying to build up his State. A report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 28th July, 1958, which said, amongst other things: -
Asked whether the value of the new industries would be more than 10 to 20-million dollars, Mr. Cahill said he thought it would be “ much more than that “.
Mr. Cahill at that time spoke of all the things that his Government was doing to attract overseas capital from our allies and brothers, the American people. On 5th August, 1958, a report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of statements made by the late Premier of New South Wales concerning a proposal by an Ameri can corporation to establish a £250,000 factory at Ermington. Mr. Cahill went on to speak of Australian companies being established in the United States of America. Of course, the two honorable gentlemen who have spoken this afternoon would like to see Australian investors in such companies getting their dividends from America, and let me say that Australian investment in America is now reaching sizeable proportions, dividends amounting to £4,000,000 or £5,000,000.
The war-time Labour Government was, I believe, a responsible government, because it had the enemy at the gates, and it was eager to keep this country as safe as possible. Let me quote from a letter written by Mr. Curtin to the General MotorsHolden’s organization on 3rd February, 1945:-
With reference to the question of the ownership and origin of capital, I should be interested to have details of what your firm proposes. You may be assured, however, that the Government would not discriminate in any way against General-Motors-Holden’s in the enterprise under discussion because of the origin of capital and the nationality of ownership.
There was a principle laid down. For good measure, let us go over it again -
The Government would not discriminate in any way . . .
This was Mr. Curtin, the Prime Minister of Australia, writing to L. J. Hartnett, Esq., O.B.E., managing director of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, Fishermen’s Bend, Port Melbourne, Victoria We are speaking now of the company which has made the most successful intrusion into another country in the history of the world.
– How much money did it bring it?
– You may not know anything about Mr. Curtin, but there are some people who do. Mr. Curtin said this: -
The Government would not discriminate in any way against General Motors-Holden’s in the enterprise under discussion because of the origin of capital and the nationality of ownership.
I believe that that statement protects the oil investors. I am one who believes that if Australians had not the guts to risk their money when there was no oil, th»y ought not to object to our allies coming in anil investing money to find oil.
– Don’t run down your own people! Don’t run down Australians!
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter and other honorable members who now are interjecting will restrain themselves or the Chair will take action.
– But he is running down Australians.
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter will remain silent.
– I am entitled to speak for Australians just as is any other honorable member. If I wear a returned soldier’s badge and if I have been in the Army for five years I am entitled to speak. I know that Australians are cynical about these matters. The Labour Party, and the people generally, believed that there was no oil in Australia and that we should not risk our money searching for it. Then to Australia came a group of dedicated men from California - from the country which saved Australia when a Labour Prime Minister sought its help. They found the oil.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the most extraordinary aspects of this debate is that honorable members on this side of the House are defending Australia, Australians, and our right to own and control our own industries, while apparently honorable members on the Government side are very anxious to give control of our industries to some one else.
– That is not right.
– Well, let us have a look at the matter. The majority of the capital invested in oil is not Australian.
– That is for oil exploration.
– Of course, there is a difference. People invest money in oil exploration and people speculate after the oil is discovered. Do not let us confuse the two. It may not be out of place at this point to remind the House that the millions of pounds invested in oil exploration by this Government by way of subsidy could have been invested a little more prudently. Would it have been out of order for the Government to insist that it be given shares for the money invested? To-day, Ss. shares are worth something like £5 and the Government would have had £100,000,000 or not less than 10 per cent, of the total capital which it expects will be required to develop the oil industry in Australia. Points like that may have been worth considering.
We are told that Australians have not the money to invest. Of course, that is not true. It is much more to the point to say that Australians could not invest in some of the companies concerned if they had the money and were willing to invest it. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) became very excited about General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited. He read from a letter which a Labour Prime Minister wrote to an official of the company relating to investment. I remind the House that Mr. Curtin wrote that letter long before General MotorsHolden’s kicked all Australian shareholders out of the company. To-day we have the spectacle of profits being transferred out of this country every year by General Motors-Holden’s greatly exceeding the amount that the company ever brought into Australia. That process will be repeated with the development of oil. Does any one imagine that foreign interests are investing money in Australia just to develop this country? If they invest £100,000,000 here to develop the oil industry we can take it without fear of contradiction that they expect to receive £200,000,000 in return. It is a matter of exploitation and profit.
We on this side of the House take the view that it is not only a matter of profit. It is a matter also of developing the oil industry so that Australia will have its own resources. Although we are interested in something apart from profit, that does not mean that we would exclude people from making money out of the industry. We are interested to know whether this development will make any difference to the price of oil in the bowsers. Will the motorist who eventually will buy the oil and petrol receive any benefit? Have we any guarantee that the products will be cheaper? As yet, no one has made that suggestion. Have we any guarantee that
Australians, if not the Government, will control the industry? Have we any guarantee that our wells will not be kept out of production even if oil in commercially payable quantities is discovered? Do not forget that 60 per cent, of the wells in the United States of America which are capable of producing oil do not do so. Who wlil control production in Australia? Do not forget also that the four major companies importing and refining oil in Australia are not the companies which are involved in the search for oil. What is the true position?
– We have not got the oil yet.
– No, but we have a good prospect of getting it, and before production gets into full blast let this Parliament have some say in the terms under which it will be produced if it is available in commercial quantities. Surely that is not a point to which even honorable members on the Government side will take objection. The Opposition believes that the Parliament should have a say in the control and production of oil. This is important, not only from the point of view of the price of the product but also from the point of view of meeting our defence requirements. We want our own oil supplies. So far, there is no guarantee of this.
As was pointed out by my colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the country which proposes to invest money in our oil wells to the extent that it will control them does not permit this process to occur within its own borders. It has laws which state that no foreign country shall control a domestic industry. If it is good enough for America to have such a law, it is good enough for us to have one. Obviously, it is not a sound principle for any country to have overseas interests controlling its domestic industries. I think it was the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) - the representative of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in this place - who said that we need the technical know-how and the personnel to assist us. The Opposition believes that while we remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations we could be, shall we say, patriotic enough to look for these technical experts in Great
Britain and Canada. Would there be anything particularly heinous in doing that?
Even at this stage the Government could still play a bigger part in the search for oil despite its statements that the States control the leases on which drilling is carried out. Perhaps the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, could make a more direct approach to the matter through the Bureau of Mineral Resources. If it had done so earlier, it would have made a profit on the investment and would not to-day be in the position, not only of giving away our oil to a foreign country but also of approaching that same country to borrow money, thus placing ourselves further in its debt. It is still not too late for the Government to take steps to correct the error into which it has fallen in relation to the search for and the exploitation of oil. When the Government uses the taxpayers’ money to subsidize companies, whether foreign or domestic, engaged in the search for oil, at least it should ensure that the money is protected to the extent that the taxpayers will benefit if the search is successful. Surely no one could quibble at that. We have not started on this yet, let alone finished it, because we have not taken the necessary steps. In Queensland we have a history going back 40 years in the search for oil. There has been more than a suspicion in the past that the fact that the oil search has been under the control of outsiders has been the main reason why it has not previously succeeded. People in my State, perhaps being closer to the source, will recollect that there used to be rumours in the Roma district that oil was about to be struck. They did find gas. At one time motor cars were driven around Roma with notices on their sides saying, “ Running on Roma oil”. But always some one would drop a spanner down the well.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not think this question would have been raised in this House to-day if the prospects of commercial oil had not been found in the Moonie No. 1 and Moonie No. 2 wells in the Surat basin in Queensland. As the honorable member for Capri,cornia (Mr. Gray) said, the history of oil exploration goes back for over 40 years in Queensland. He mentioned the Roma basin where all sorts of rumours were heard; but some of the most eminent geologists in the Commonwealth, experienced in oil exploration, were sceptical about oil being found in commercial quantities in the Roma area. Some honorable members may recall that at one time there was a forest of derricks there, with all sorts of companies drilling for oil. And at one time they found gas and ran cars on it in Roma, and the whole town was reticulated with gas from the bores.
I do not think the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was happy in raising this question to-day. I give honorable members opposite sufficient credit to believe that they want to see oil found in this country as quickly as possible and want to see our people participating in the benefits which would flow from the discovery of oil in Australia, whichever way one likes to look at it. But the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had his orders to bring this motion forward because it is in conformity with the thinking of the Labour Party. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that if the Labour Party becomes the government in the future it will nationalize the oil industry in this country. I do not believe that the gentlemen from the oil world who came out here recently came just to look at Moonie No. 2, because the geologists could have given them all the knowledge they needed about that. I do not think they came here just to look at the oil, but to find out whether there was any security or guarantee or any backing from the Government of Australia if they invested their money in this country.
We have heard a lot, particularly from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, about the position in Canada. I read an article by a prominent trade unionist from overseas who was in Australia recently and who was entertained at a function by the Lord Mayor of Sydney. He referred to American capital in the oil industry in Canada. I will not put this forward 100 per cent, as an argument, but this trade union representative, who represents 171,000 members of the Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers of
Canada, spoke at a press interview at a Sydney reception by Lord Mayor Jensen given for an eighteen-man Canadian trade delegation. This man, Mr. Stephens, who represented Labour on the delegation, said that the criticism of the United States investment in Canada came from a disgruntled few, like some honorable members we have heard in this House to-day, who are afraid that these people who have invested their money here will make a few pounds profit.
Nothing was said 40 years ago, when the Shell Company invested £1,000,000 in Roma, about compensating those people for the money they lost there; but as soon as some one starts to make a profit honorable members opposite say they are trying to suck the country dry. We want the investment of this money and we want these people, with their know-how, to come here. Even the French Government could not handle alone the search for oil in the Libyan desert, but had to call in other countries to invest their money in order to develop that oil-field. We are doing the same thing in this country. We know from the experience of past years that the Australian people will be well looked after. This Government will ensure that Australia’s interests shall be well protected when we get the oil. That is the main thing - to get the oil. This man, who was a member of the Canadian trade delegation, said that Canada welcomed American investment in its oil industry, and that that industry is practically 100 per cent, controlled by American interests. The Canadian Government is well satisfied and the people’s interests are looked after and Canada is making 190,000,000 or 200,000,000 dollars a year from the oil worked by American investors.
First of all we must get oil in this country and it is important that we should give every encouragement to these people and not just in regard to the visit which has been talked about in this House to-day. Honorable members opposite call these people all sorts of things when they are prepared to risk their money in this country. Who knows yet whether this oil-field will be a commercial proposition? We do not yet know whether it will. These people who are working in my electorate have been perfectly fair, and in every press statement they have made they have said they have yet to explore the extent of the basin. They cannot be accused of trying to mislead the people about the known source of the oil in the Surat basin in Queensland. If we do get oil on a commercial basis we will save a terrific amount - about £140,000,000 a year - in exchange. Is that not worthy of consideration? Of course it is. Let us get the oil first and talk about these other matters afterwards. While overseas investors are risking their capital here every encouragement should be given to them, and they should be guaranteed security with respect to any profit they may make. Members of the Government of Queensland, who I think are reasonable businessmen, are quite happy about the position. There is no guarantee yet that commercial oil will be found, although the prospects are good. Let us give every encouragement we can to the people who are prepared to risk their money in the search for oil in Australia.
.- The difference in the approach of the Opposition and the approach of the Government to our oil resources is becoming very clear. In the opinion of the Opposition, it is the responsibility of this National Parliament to exercise some influence in relation to the retention of oil resources on behalf of the people so as to ensure the economic future of the nation. On the other hand, the Government takes the view - and I quote directly the statement of the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury), who spoke officially for it - that it does not matter who owns oil in Australia as long as we have a flourishing oil industry.
According to the Government the only things that count are private ownership and profit. The Labour Opposition takes the view that a sense of public responsibility for the future is the vital thing in this issue. Our position is that Australia must reserve its oil resources for the Australian people, and that the Australian Government must take action to reserve our oil resources in the trust Territories for the people of those Territories, and not merely allow concerns which are interested in to-day’s profit and rate of profit to have the sole say in what happens to the assets of the Australian people and, in particular, to the assets belonging to the people of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. So the distinction between the Opposition approach and the Government approach is clear indeed.
It is of great importance that this question of oil be raised in the National Parliament. Some honorable members speaking for the Government have deprecated the raising of this issue here. They would say that this is a matter concerning private business and private profit, and not a matter about which this National Parliament should be concerned. We say that the significant thing about the discovery of oil in Australia is the matter of control. Unfortunately, in this country, because we have had laisser faire methods, capitalist profits have concerned governments for far too long. The position is that the control of exploration, the control of production, the control of transport, the control of refining and the control of the distribution of oil in Australia is almost completely in private hands, and almost completely in foreign hands. There is nothing necessarily wrong with those concerned, but very often the interests of people in other countries, and the interests of large capitalist corporations in other countries, will conflict with the interests of the Australian people.
It is not enough for the Opposition - and it will not be, and is not, enough for the people of Australia - that all the control should be left in the hands of those concerns. For the position to-day, in all those respects that I have mentioned, is that oil in Australia is controlled by a cartel consisting of the Caltex, British Petroleum, Shell and Standard Vacuum interests. In addition, the search for oil in Australia is predominantly under the control of foreign companies. They control the oil-fields now in Australia. They control all the channels used in the oil trade. They control all the refining capacity in Australia and they control some 97 per cent, or 98 per cent, of the distribution machinery in Australia. How do they use all this power? They produce oil overseas in rich and most economical oil-fields. The price of that oil when it comes to Australia is fixed by the price in the United States Gulf area, so that in fact the chief oil that comes to Australia is priced according to the high price of oil in the United States Gulf area, in other words, the Australian price of oil is inflated by some 25 per cent, or even by one-third above what it needs to be. You can see that the effect of this is a conflict with Australian interests. It is done to keep American producers in the Gulf area in business. The price is fixed so that oil will not be sold anywhere in the world at a price less than that at which those producers can win it. This is in their interests, but not in our interests. This is an example of how the interests of Overeas companies and the interests of Australia can conflict in a matter such as this. This system gives the cartels that control the situation enormously greater profits through which they can extend their power.
How can any one simply assent to this growth of power? Is there no national pride on the other side of the House? Are Government supporters prepared at all times to accede to the growing power of overseas interests? Have you honorable gentlemen opposite no national feeling at all? Have you no feeling for the powers of this Parliament and the democratic powers of the Australian people expressed through this Parliament? Government supporters apparently do not want to see any kind of public influence in this field. As the Opposition has said, the matter is not only one of fair prices; it is primarily one of the future of oil production in this country. That is because the refining and distribution machinery in Australia - containing perhaps £340,000,000 or £350,000,000 of invested capital, and most of this from excess profit - is geared to the low-cost oilfields overseas. So the cartels who operate this machinery have in this the strongest possible motive to discourage the exploration for and discovery and exploitation of oil in Australia. Australian oil cannot enter into this refining and distributing field unless those overseas cartels are prepared to assent. This, perhaps, would involve the cartels in buying out some of the oil exploration concerns here in Australia, and they would have a powerful motive for closing down oilfields in Australia, or a motive to raise the cost of oil produced in Australia so that it will not compete with oil produced in the Gulf area of the United States.
For many years there has been mora than a suspicion that some of those oil concerns know where oil is in this country. There has been much more than a suspicion that the Shell-Wapet interests know where there is oil in Western Australia. For many years, there have been people in Australia who believe there is oil in this country, and that overseas corporations which are geared to low-cost fields overseas have been refusing to allow this oil to be used.
– Have you any basis for that statement at all?
– There is a great deal of evidence. If the Government would only be more concerned to examine this evidence than it is to defend overseas interests the position might be somewhat different, but all the time Government speakers like the honorable member for Fawkner speak with a foreign voice in this matter. At all times the honorable member is prepared to support foreign exploiters, but he and his colleagues will not for one moment support any kind of investigation to establish a case which should be very strongly established. I do not know where there is loyalty in this financial set-up. It is quite easy for those foreign oil concerns to obtain control of other capitalist concerns in this country. The “ Financial Review “ - and this is a paper which surely ought to know what it is talking about in these things - said in its issue of 9th January, 1962 -
There are few Australian holders who could not be induced to part for a few pounds with share* for which they may have paid only a few shillings. For a few millions pounds most Australian companies would jump at an offer of a take-over or a major partnership.
That journal presumably knows what it is talking about. So Australian capital does not necessarily behave in a manner consistent with Australian interests. The point that this resolution moved by the Opposition establishes is that we must be concerned with some exercise of public power in this field and to put public money into oil search through the Bureau of Mineral Resources or the States so that we can go out and find oil. Then we shall know whether or not there is anything in the suspicion that oil search in Australia is being deliberately obstructed. We can ensure that when we pay out money for oil search that money will not simply be handed over to private concerns to do what they like with, but will represent a shareholding by the Commonwealth Government which has provided the money. Thirdly, Commonwealth money must set up an oil refining industry in this country so that oil can be brought to the refineries in Commonwealth tankers and refined there and put on the market at low prices. That is not nationalization or restriction. In fact, it is competition, which the people on the other side of the House are supposed to stand for. But honorable members opposite really do not want competition achieved by using the great public power of this nation to set up our own system of producing, refining and transporting oil.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We have heard reiterated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) the talk about preserving the oil resources of Australia for Australians. What we have not heard from them is the old advice, to paraphrase Mrs. Beeton, “ First find your oil “. We have not heard anything from honorable members opposite about what the Opposition would do to find oil. The honorable member for Yarra, quoting from the “ Financial Review “ of the week before last, said that for a few million pounds private enterprise might be encouraged to invest in oil search. In examining the reason why it is so difficult to get people interested in oil search, let us look at the Labour Party’s policy, which was enunciated by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) when we last discussed this question on 26th October, 1961. He then went out of his way to emphasize that Labour’s policy was to undertake the development of oil resources nationally and not to encourage private oil companies. If that is the policy of the Labour Party, how can we expect people to put their money into oil search? The first thing that would happen if a Labour government were elected to office would be that any oil that had been discovered would be nationalized. That has been forecast by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
What have we done? The Government’s policy, first and foremost, is to find oil in Australia and everything possible to that end has been done during the last three years. It is noticeable that the Labour Party raised no objection to the Government’s policy before oil was discovered. It was only when oil in commercial quantities seemed likely to be found at Moonie that these matters were raised by the Opposition. Never in the last twenty or 30 years have we heard that the oil search policy was wrong. Only now that oil has been found have these scares been raised.
What a different story concerning oil search has been propounded by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Yarra to that concerning the establishment of an automobile industry in 1945! As the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has pointed out, the object then was to get the industry established. What did the Labour Government do? It sold out to an overseas monopoly. That was its policy. The Labour Government wanted to get the industry established; it did not mind whether it was owned by Australian or overseas capital. But now, when Labour is in Opposition and it does not have to do the job, it tries to put a completely different complexion on the whole matter. Opposition members who theorize about these problems without having the practical responsibility for doing anything about them should make their policy consistent with that which was adopted by the Labour Government.
The policy of the present Government has been to see that money is spent in Australia on oil search. Quite rightly, the Government has endeavoured to see that the search is carried out by private enterprise, both Australian and overseas, with Government support. Of the £80,000,000 that has been spent already in oil search, over £30,000,000 has been provided from Australian sources and £50,000,000 has come from overseas. As a result of the Government’s recent policies, in 1961 £2,250,000 was spent by Australian private enterprise, £2,250,000 by the Government, and £4,000,000 by overseas companies. Thus, a partnership of all three has spent money in reasonable proportions.
As the Minister for Air quite rightly pointed out, this is also a responsibility of the State governments. We have not heard any State government of any political complexion say that the policy adopted in relation to leases for oil prospecting has been wrong. That has not been said in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, or in any other State of the Commonwealth.
The Opposition has failed to mention some of the things that the Government has done in order to encourage Australian participation in the search for oil. Look at what has been done even over the last three years! We have encouraged Australian investors to invest in Australian search companies by granting complete deductibility for income tax purposes of calls paid to oil search companies. The Government has gone out of its way to subsidize drilling on a £1 for £1 basis. We have subsidized geophysical surveys on the same basis. What has been the result?
First, there has been a vastly increased expenditure by Australian companies on the search for oil during the last three years. Secondly, the knowledge gained by all companies, whether Australian or overseas, which have carried out drilling has increased. As a result of accepting a subsidy, they have had to carry out certain drilling and have had to publish the information that they have obtained. If they did not publish the results of their discoveries they would lose their rights in the prospecting areas. In answer to what the honorable member for Yarra said about Shell and other companies not disclosing information to the public, 1 would emphasize that every person who accepts a subsidy for drilling under the terms of his lease has to disclose what he has learned. That is the effect of the legislation brought in by this Government during the last three years.
As a result of what the Government has done, oil has been found at Moonie, probably in commercial quantities. We would not have advanced the development of this industry as far as we have if we had carried out the policies advocated by the Opposition in this debate. What is important, also, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is the fact that vast areas still remain to be prospected. The Minister has said that nearly half the total useful areas for prospecting are still in Australian hands. It is fortunate that we have been able to find oil at Moonie so cheaply compared with the cost of oil search in other countries.
It is important to realize that the future cost of oil search will be tremendously high. The Minister has said that it will probably be nearly £2,000,000,000. Surely that sum can be found, not by Australians alone, but by Australians in partnership with our overseas colleagues. Australia cannot meet this cost by itself. It needs overseas help. Our hope, above all, is that there will be an increase in funds for oil search - an increase on a partnership basis both by Australian and overseas companies - and a greater development of discovered oil fields. Having found oil at Moonie as a result of the payment of a subsidy, the company concerned has to develop the bil itself. Those are the terms of the lease. It is quite certain, therefore, that, as a result of our policy, oil will be developed rapidly in Australia. I wish to ask the Opposition one question: Are Opposition members scared that the activities of overseas interests will result in oil not being developed in Australia? If that is so, let them say so.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It has been abundantly clear during this debate where the loyalties of members of this House lie. It has become increasingly obvious where the support of the parties in this House is directed. We have the Opposition defending the national interest as opposed to servility to overseas finance which epitomizes every statement of Government supporters. Every time members of the Opposition voice criticism of overseas finance coming into the country, avowedly and abjectly espoused by the LiberalCountry Party Government, we hear howls of protest and horrified roars as though we were committing sacrilege at the altar of high finance where supporters of the Government worship. It was obvious where the loyalties of honorable members opposite lay when we heard the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) say that the Australian people had no guts.
– You are a liar.
– The honorable member said that was why the Government he supports was not prepared to adopt the proposal of the Australian Labour Party. The honorable member has interjected that I am a liar. The interjection is objectionable to me, and I ask that he withdraw it.
– Order! The honorable member for Macarthur must withdraw his statement. He will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation later.
– I withdraw my statement, and I will make a personal explanation later.
– The facts were exposed clearly when the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) said that we must have overseas investment in Austrafia. He meant that we must have unconditional investment from overseas in Australia, and if the trend espoused by the Government continues there will be nothing left in Australia in which our own people will have any vested interest.
I remind supporters of the Government that the people elected them to represent their interests. They are not divorced from the needs, the demands and the interests of the people of Australia. This country will be developed in the future only by the work of the people in jobs who get callouses on their hands and bend their backs at toil. It does not matter how much overseas investment is brought into the country if the people will not work. The people are the backbone of the country and will develop it. When honorable members opposite talk about the need for unconditional entry into Australia of overseas investment, they are talking poppycock. We realize very clearly the situation concerning oil in Australia. We understand the importance of the discovery of oil and its ramifications. Up to the present, huge sums of money have been expended on the importation of oil. This money has been spent not only on the commodity itself but on high freights as well. Under present legislation - and I refer particularly to my home State of Queensland - royalty of only 10 per cent, is to be charged the oil companies for any oil they exploit. Our position will be very little better than it is now if oil production is developed commercially. In the past, money has been going out of the country for oil and freight charges on oil; now it will go to overseas investors. This is a very serious situation.
When this Government introduced dual taxation legislation, it said hypocritically that the legislation would be of mutual benefit to the countries concerned, but we will find that there will be a greater flow of money from Australia to the United States of America, with marked advantage to that country. The latest figures on dual taxation available to me cover the period from 1953-54 to 1958-59. They show that Australia received from the United States of America exactly £1,600,000 in dividends, whereas the United States of America received £83,600,000 in dividends from Australia. As a previous speaker said in this debate, we do not want to see Australia lapse into the position of Canada, where 70 to 80 peT cent, of the wealth from oil belongs to outside foreign interests. As 1 have said, the Queensland Government will obtain royalties of 10 per cent, once oil is proved there. I do not think there is any doubt, from the stories that are being circulated, that oil will be found in commercial quantities; but when we consider the position in the Middle East it seems to be abundantly clear that Australia has missed out badly. In the Middle East, the sultans and other rulers of oilbearing country are extracting 50 to GO per cent, royalty from the overseas interests which are exploiting their oil deposits. By contrast, we will derive only meagre financial benefits from any oil that may be found in Australia.
I remind supporters of the Government that overseas investors do not come here simply because they love us or think we are a great people. They come here to derive profit - mainly for their own benefit - and our interests are subsidiary to theirs. Actually, we are in an excellent position to bargain with them, contrary to the Minister’s thesis that we need overseas capital to be invested unconditionally. These overseas financiers want to come here quite as much as we may want to see them invest in Australia. Therefore, we are in a position to demand that they make a greater contribution to the wealth of this country. We are in a position to bargain, to see that their entry is subject to conditions which suit us.
It is also up to the Government to play its part in a vigorous search for oil. Just how the Government has failed in this connexion is apparent from the figures that were released by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) last week. Of the total of £81,000,000 expended on oil search to December last year, overseas investment represented £54,000,000 and Australian investment £20,000,000. The Government’s rather poor contribution was only £7,000,000, or a little over 8 per cent, of the total amount expended. The Government should take a much more active part in the search for oil. In Tasmania, there was a drilling outfit suitable for oil-drilling and of world standard, but it was sold by an anti-Labour government. In Queensland, the Mines Department, under a Labour government, was expanding its mineral research section and its drilling section. The drilling section included many men who had taken part in the search for oil in the United States of America, Canada and the Middle East. They had the technical know-how to conduct this research.
While I think it is within our province to accept overseas finance to stimulate the search for oil in Australia, we must make sure that the interests of our own people are served. Government supporters believe that there should be an unrestricted flow of money. But of what use is it to prostitute the national wealth of Australia to overseas interests if they plunder the virgin assets of our country and we do not get a proper return? Every Australian has a vested interest in the future of the country. I say to our critics on the Government side who oppose the Labour Party’s proposals for government activity in the search for oil that many successful ventures in Australia have been sponsored, initiated and conducted by the Australian Labour Party.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden), who stated that I had said that Australians have not got guts. I actually said that if Australians had the guts there is nothing to prevent them investing in oil. The honorable gentleman twisted and distorted my remarks and gave them quite a different meaning. I have been in a position to know whether Australians have guts or fear or anything else.
– I rise to order. Is it possible to impound the “ Hansard “ proofs before they are altered by the honorable member? I heard what the honorable member said, and I am quite certain it was not what he now claims that he said.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member.
.- The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) seems to look upon overseas capital as something to be abhorred, something to be shunned, but it is interesting to note that during any period when a Labour government has been in office that government has gone out of its way to attract overseas capital to Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) pointed out that General Motors-Holdens Proprietary Limited - which is perhaps not the best example of the investment of American capital in Australia in that that company is completely owned by American capital, not partly by Australian and partly American capital - was established here at the instigation of the late Mr. Chifley. We know, too, that the New South Wales Premier, Mr. Heffron, has done his utmost to attract overseas investment to New South Wales, and he has sought to attract American capital in particular. He even set up an office in America with a view to inducing the investment of American capital in New South Wales. Again, at every State election, every Premier endeavours to point out to the people just how much money that might have gone to another State he has been successful in having diverted to his own State. It would seem that the Labour Party believes that when you are in office you should do your utmost to attract overseas capital and take kudos for having attracted it to the country but, when you are in Opposition, you must throw mud at every one who attracts capital into Australia from overseas with a view to helping the country to develop. One of the brightest stars of the New South Wales Government, Mr. Renshaw, has just been round the world trying to attract overseas capital to Australia, yet the honorable member for Oxley says we are selling out Australia’s birthright. How absurd his argument is
He complains also because we are to receive a royalty of only 10 per cent, from these leases. Surely he knows that Mr. Gair and his government were responsible for laying down the conditions of the leases. Yet the honorable member for Oxley speaks here as though the Commonwealth Government were responsible for the fact that only 10 per cent, is to be paid in royalties here as against higher rates overseas. He complained that Canada is suffering from overseas ownership. How different is that outlook from the statements made only last week, some of which were quoted by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe)! Why, one trade union official in Canada said that United States investment had helped to develop Canada and to create employment. He went on to say that people had wondered how long Canada could carry on with industries that were controlled by overseas groups, and he said -
We do not feel that there is any real danger in this overseas ownership. The oil industry in Canada is almost completely controlled by the United States. But American investors in this and other industries have behaved, and by making profits for themselves they have also made profits for our country.
What a different story that is!
The same sort of thing was true in the early days of the United States of America. Recently, the Sydney “ Sun “ published an editorial in which it said that in the early days the United States had to pass laws to try to prevent overseas capital from entering America. When the Sydney “ Sun “ was asked to point out when this was done, the publishers were unable to do so, and I believe had to make an apology because never at any stage has the United States of America prevented the entry of overseas capital. Why, many of the railways in the United States of America were developed as a result of the investment of
British capital! I think even Queen Victoria owned a railway line in the United States of America at one time. So I submit that we have nothing to fear from this overseas capital that is coming in.
It is interesting to note that this attack comes just at the time when oil is being discovered. We know that oil exploration has been going on in this country for the last eight years or so, and it is only after oil has been discovered that the Labour Party wants special legislation to be introduced. Why did not the members of the Labour Party ask for this legislation seven or eight years ago if they did not want overseas capital to be invested in Australia? As yet they have said nothing about the loss of £11,000,000 by companies which have engaged in the search for oil. To the Labour Party, it is quite all right to bring money in here and lose it, but the moment the long-shot comes home, they want the bookmakers to welsh! If the production and control of oil is to be in Australian hands, then the search for oil must also be in Australian hands, and we all know we just have not got the facilities, the ability, the capital or the know-how to carry out the search for oil in Australia by ourselves, unaided. One of the greatest authorities in Australia on this matter, the Managing Director of Ampol Petroleum, Mr. Walkley, said this in 1954 -
The nationalization policy of the Australian Government seven years ago delayed the discovery of oil in Australia. In 1946 we did not have the amount of risk money or the knowledge to search for oil in Australia. A Californian company was on the point of providing the money when Australia’s nationalization policy became news. The Californian executive immediately drew out saying he had lost 20,000,000 dollars through nationalization in Mexico. We could not interest American, Canadian, or British companies in the Exmouth Gulf prospect.
That is the story of what happened under Labour! We have encouraged overseas capital to come in since then. We welcome overseas investment, especially for the development of our resources, but it is generally considered desirable that there should be Australian participation in ownership and management, and a great many of the companies engaged in the search for oil are, in effect, a partnership between Australian interests and American interests. We know that a tremendous amount of money will be required to develop to the stage where we are producing enough to meet Australia’s oil needs. At the present time, Australia is using something like 88,000,000 barrels of oil a year. If we assume that the increase in consumption will be at the rate of 6i per cent, per annum, and if we are to be self-sufficient in our oil production within ten years, then it will be necessary for us to produce 180,000,000 barrels of oil a year, or about 500,000 barrels a day. If we assume that each well will produce 250 barrels a day - and this rate will decline slightly as time passes - then it will be necessary to have not two as at present but 4,000 producing wells. If allowance is to be made for wells getting out of order and requiring repair, then a total of 5,000 actively producing wells will be required. If we are to benefit from American experience, then a total of 12,000 wells will be necessary if we are to be sure of having at least 5,000 wells actively producing all the time. The cost of one well is about £150,000. It will be seen, therefore, that something like £1,800,000,000 will have to be expended before we can expect to be even self-sufficient so far as oil requirements are concerned, and that leaves nothing for export. If we add to this about £200,000,000 for pipelines and other equipment associated with the production of oil, it will be seen that something like £2,000,000,000 will have to be invested in oil in this country. That is a fantastic figure, and one which we cannot hope to provide entirely from our own resources. But we can make some contribution to it. After all, about 45 per cent, of the area being prospected is already in Australian hands. As the “ Bulletin “ said this week -
There must be something wrong with a country which, when faced with the economic event of the century - the discovery of oil at Moonie - can do little more than make carping criticisms of people like the Queensland Minister for Mines who backed his faith in the search by buying a few shares.
It went on to say -
Nobody seems to be excited about the dawn of a new industrial age in Australia, about the prospect of wiping £140,000,000 off our imports bill, or about our finally finding the one commodity needed to make the country viable in wartime.
.- Before replying to the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this is a debate on the necessity for Australian oil resources to be owned and controlled by Australians. It is quite obvious from the arguments advanced by the Opposition that we want the oil resources of this country to be owned and controlled by Australians. But it is quite obvious from their speeches that honorable members on the Government side of the House are not concerned about who owns or controls them.
Honorable members opposite make picturesque and fighting speeches about the defence of the country. But the most vital part of our defence is the ownership and control of oil supplies. If supplies of crude oil - never mind about refined products - were cut off in time of conflict, what would happen to road and rail transport, or for that matter to sea transport around the coast? Is it any wonder that we on this side of the House are concerned about oil supplies from the point of view of defence? But honorable members on the opposite side of the House do not consider this aspect.
Another matter of concern to us is the fact that distribution of petroleum products over the years has become virtually the close preserve of the cartel - of the Shell Company of Australia Limited, Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited, B.P. Australia Limited and Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited. The cartel controls 90 per cent, of the distribution of petroleum products in Australia; but what contribution has it made over the years to the search for oil? It is only in recent times that overseas interests have invested large sums in oil exploration in Australia.
The Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) this afternoon referred to the policy of his Government. He said that the Government was responsible for the finding of oil in Australia at Moonie. But as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) said, oil was found at Roma about 50 years ago. The Labour Government when it was in office, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) pointed out, established the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Drilling machinery was purchased, but then the Labour Government went out of office. The Menzies Government came into office and the machinery which had been purchased to assist in the search for oil was left in crates and cases on the wharfs. What happened? This Government sold it just as it sold its interests in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to enable the cartel to obtain a firmer grip on the distribution of petroleum products in Australia.
It has been said that the Australian Labour Party wants nationalization. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) spoke about discrimination. He certainly grabbed the flag with both hands and waved it in support of the Government’s policy on the search for oil - but it was not the Australian flag. Government supporters have spoken of capital coming to Australia from overseas. But, on 15th November, 1960, because of the condition of our overseas balances, the Government found it necessary to impose an economic squeeze. If this terrific investment of overseas capital is to continue in the future, what will be the position when dividends are declared on the production of oil in Australia and the profits are remitted abroad? It will then be necessary for our primary producers - the producers of meat and wool and so on - to step up production so that overseas investors who to-day are investing money in the search for oil may receive their dividends.
If the Government were anxious to contribute to the search for oil, it would have advanced more than the paltry £7,000,000 that it has made available so far. Why did the Government not invest money in this search to show the world that it had confidence that oil would be discovered here? This would have given the lie to the statement made over the years that oil would never be found in Australia. This propaganda was put out by the cartel because Australia is the best retail market in the world for petroleum products. The Government should have demonstrated that it had confidence in the search. After granting leases, it should have contributed to the search by Australians. Instead, it is assisting overseas companies on the understanding that if oil is eventually found, these companies will refund the subsidy they have received.
Much capital has been made in the debate this afternoon of the fact that the
Government has granted large sums as subsidies. The Minister for Air claimed that the Government’s policy had been responsible for the finding of oil in Australia. If the Government is vitally concerned about the production of oil here and if it wants a real exploration of our resources in the hope that oil will be discovered, it should increase the paltry sums that it is paying to-day.
When oil is discovered in Australia, what action does the Government propose to take to have it refined? The Parliament is interested in the answer to that question. It is all very well to say that royalties are a matter for the State governments. That may be so. The honorable member for Farrer referred to the Gair Labour Government in Queensland. But the Gair Labour Government has been out of office for four years, and the discovery of oil at Moonie has occurred since it went out of office. If any government is responsible for the 10 per cent, royalty fixed to-day, it is the Government now in office in Queensland and not the Government that was in office four years ago.
But let us consider what this Government proposes to do if oil is discovered in commercial quantities. What action does it propose to take in regard to the refining of the oil? It is true that the whole of the refining of oil to-day is in the hands of the distribution cartel. What action does the Government propose? No doubt “ free enterprise “ will be the cry. But what will it do to ensure that none of the oil will go away from Australia in crude form - as bauxite is leaving Australia now - to be refined and treated in other parts of the world? It is Australian oil and it should be refined here for distribution in Australia. The cost of petrol to the consumer should not be fixed by the American interests that refine it. Two-thirds of our crude oil to-day comes from the Middle East. It is the cheapest in the world; but nobody knows what the crude oil costs the cartel. We cannot find that out. It is true that portion of our supply comes from Indonesia, but again the cost of the oil to the companies who import it cannot be ascertained. The ships that bring the oil here go back to the oil-fields with water ballast. We on this side of the House want to ensure that crude oil produced in Australia is refined here.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly patent from the remarks of honorable members opposite that if the Australian Labour Party guided the official policy on oil in Australia we would not have an oil industry at all. History is very valuable in these matters. The very policy which the Opposition advocates was followed by the Argentine in handling its tremendous deposits of oil. Oil deposits have been known there for many years, but the Government has never allowed outside interests to come in and develop the oil. Only in recent years has this been permitted, and oil is now starting to flow in the Argentine. Obviously, the same thing would happen in Australia if the Labour Party were in control.
Then there is this business about not bringing in foreign capital. Surely the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) would know, if they had studied the development of Queensland, that we depended on the expenditure of millions of pounds of foreign capital for the development of the gold-mining industry in that State in the latter part of last century. On the Etheridge field in north Queensland, at Gympie and Croydon, and even at Trekelano and Mount Cuthbert in the territory of the honorable member for Kennedy, English interests lost millions of pounds. But no one bemoaned their fate or thanked them for that development. Obviously, they came here to make profits, but they also developed this country. What would happen to-day if we did not have vast sums of foreign capital invested in the development of the Mount Isa mine? Foreign investment started that tremendous industry in north Queensland, and the honorable member for Kennedy should realize that.
We in Australia have not the means to pay for development costing many millions of pounds. I think that the honorable mem ber for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and others mentioned £2,000,000,000 for the development of the oil industry. We in Australia have not that sort of money. To us, it is a staggering sum. We need more population in Australia quickly. There is no doubt about that. It is needed not only for our military safeguard but also to expand our economy and promote prosperity. An oil industry in Australia would save us £100,000,000 a year on present prospects.
– Order! The time allotted for the discussion of this matter under Standing Order No. 92 has expired’.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Wor-ks for investigation and report: - Erection of permanent accommodation for the Australian Regular Army at Kapooka, New South Wales.
The proposal involves the provision, at an estimated cost of £1,886,500, of permanent accommodation as shown by the master plan which I lay on the table.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting (a) Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, and (b) Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving capital expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £15,825,000 for the services of the year 1961-62, viz.: -
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £7.352,000 for the services of the year 1961-62 for additions, new works and other services involving capital expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Cramer do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and of the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to obtain Parliamentary authority for certain expenditure for which provision was not made in the 1961-62 Estimates. The various items contained in the additional Estimates can be considered in detail in committee and I propose at this stage to refer only to some of the major provisions.
Some re-allocation within the defence vote has resulted in further appropriations of £3,546,000 being sought, but it is expected that total expenditure will not exceed the Budget provision of £202,859,000 by more than £300,000. There is a need for further appropriations for departmental votes of £6,347,000. There will, however, be savings on other items, and net additional expenditure is not expected to exceed £2,500,000.
Included in the provision is £1.500,000 for additional grants to eligible organizations under the Aged Persons Homes Act; £586,000 as a further contribution to the cost of the United Nations force in the Congo; an additional subsidy of £240,000 for shipbuilding as a result of the construction of an additional five vessels; £267.000 to be paid to Commonwealth. Hostels Limited, mainly because of a shortfall in hostel tariff revenue; Department of Works salaries, £253,000, due largely to the engineers’ determination, increased salaries for juniors and increased district allowance; and £100,000 for settlement of a damages claim arising from a collision between the vessels “ New Australia “ and V France Stove “.
An amount of £2,612,000 is sought for repatriation services. This sum includes £1.673,000 for war and service pensions, and allowances as a result of an abnormal rise in new grants and applications for increases; £240,000 for the maintenance of repatriation institutions; and an additional £85:000 for the scheme for the education of children of deceased soldiers and of permanently and totally incapacitated soldiers.
Under business undertakings it is necessary to seek additional appropriations of £2,704,000 for the Postmaster-General’s Department, although the overall increase in expenditure is not expected to exceed £1.743,000. The major component in the increase is an amount of £1,300,000 to meet higher rates of pay and allowances. The additional £197,000 sought for Commonwealth Railways mainly arises from increased maintenance being undertaken and from the recovery of rails and material along the abandoned section of the Central Australia Railway.
The amount sought for the Territories is £308,000, which includes an amount for the Northern Territory of £199,000 which wm bt largely offset by equivalent savings in other items, and for the Australian Capital Territory, £106,000.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
BUI Resented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.——
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain Parliamentary authority for additional expenditure in 1961-62 on certain items of capital works and services. Additional appropriations of £7,352,000 are sought. After allowing for savings in other appropriations and for the additional capital of £5,000,000 provided by special appropriation for the Development Bank, it is anticipated that total expenditure will exceed the Budget estimate by about £9,400,000.
It is proposed to subscribe an additional amount of £1,500,000 to the share capital of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. This amount, together with an original appropriation of £150,000 in this financial year, will increase Qantas’s share capital to £16,450,000.
Several factors have combined to place Qantas in the position of needing further capital funds this financial year, the main one being that operational requirements on the trans-Tasman service have made it necessary for Qantas to retain two Lockheed Electra aircraft which it had earlier intended to sell. The provision of additional funds is essential for Qantas to meet its contractual obligations and to maintain sufficient working capital for the proper conduct of its business. Qantas will also repay to the Commonwealth, before the end of the current financial year, a temporary advance of £500,000 made during 1960-61.
An amount of £1,792,000 is included in the bill for a subscription to United Nations bonds. The United Nations General Assembly last December authorized the issue of bonds up to 200,000,000 dollars because the United Nations was facing bankruptcy as a result of the unwillingness of some members, particularly the Communist countries, to pay their assessed contributions. The greater part of the deficit is due to non-payment of contributions to the United Nations emergency force in the Middle East and the United Nations force in the Congo. The Government has decided to subscribe 4,000,000 dollars to the bond issue. This is 20 per cent, more than Australia’s share on the basis of the scale of assessments to the regular United Nations budget. The bonds bear interest at the rate of 2 per cent, and are to be repaid over a period of 25 years.
The amount of £830,100 under the Department of the Interior includes the purchase of Siddely Chambers in Sydney, £425,000, and £250,000 to meet accelerated progress in the construction of the first stage of the new Commonwealth offices in Sydney.
An amount of £86,250 is required under the Department of the Treasury for the acquisition of a site in Perth for the Taxation Branch, and under the Department of Shipping and Transport £85,000 is needed to meet payments on lighthouse supply vessels under construction.
Under business undertakings £2,014,000 is sought for the Postmaster-General’s Department; £640,000 of this sum results from the Government’s decision to accelerate works; £374,000 relates to the replacement of the Canberra automatic telephone exchange destroyed by fire; and £1,000,000 is being provided as an additional working advance for the Post Office Stores and Services Trust Account.
One hundred and fifty thousand pounds is included under broadcasting and television services to meet accelerated progress on the provision of transmission facilities in the provincial centres.
Provision is made for an additional working advance of £200,000 to the Commonwealth Railways Plant and Stores Suspense Trust Account to finance increased holdings of 94-lb. rails, which have been occasioned by increased deliveries from manufacturers.
For the Territories of the Commonwealth, £398,000 is sought to meet better progress than was expected on the approved works programme in the Northern Territory. A provision of £30,000 is included for loans for private dwelling construction or purchase in the Northern Territory, and £87,000 is included to provide loans to ex-servicemen in agricultural enterprises in Papua and New Guinea.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr, Crean) adjourned…….
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £281,436,000 for or towards the services of the year 1962-63.
Supply (Works and Services).
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £64,554,000 for or towards the services of the year 1962-63, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a fir,st time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £281,436,000 to carry on the necessary normal services of government, other than capital works and services, during the first five months of the financial year 1962-63. These are services placed before the Parliament in the Appropriation Acts 1961-62. The several amounts provided for ordinary services are -
In general, these amounts represent approximately five-twelfths of the 1961-62 appropriations. However, the amount of £90,761,000 for Defence Services makes allowance for heavy contractual payments in the first five months of the financial year. The amount of £47,184,000 for War and Repatriation Services includes provision for the payment of war pensions at existing rates and has regard to the incidence of pension pay-days.
There is no provision for new services except in the Defence section. However, in accordance with established’ practice an amount of £16,000,000 is sought for an advance to the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £64,554,000 to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first five months of the financial year 1962-63. This will enable the Commonwealth works to be continued until the 1962-63 Budget has been considered by Parliament.
The bill will provide funds for Commonwealth works in progress at 30th June, 1962. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will provide funds to ensure the orderly continuation of those programmes of work and to continue daytoday purchases of plant and equipment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 15th March (vide page 866), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no dissentient voice, that course will be followed.
.- Mr. Speaker, the measure before the House to-night for discussion and consideration is a bill to amend the Tariff Act 1921-1960. The Government claims that this amendment will provide means by which it may more effectively protect Australia’s industry, both primary and secondary, than has been the case in the past. The Government claims that the measure will provide urgent temporary protection and that this is a holding measure pending permanent action by the Tariff Board. At this point it might be appropriate to emphasize that on the occasion of the introduction of a somewhat similar measure - I think in 1960 - I then expressed substantial objection to the power conferred upon the Minister to impose a tax on the community behind the back of the Parliament. This measure re-affirms the policy then adopted by the Government. In effect, I think for the first time in Australia’s history, in order to remedy or improve the situation which, incidentally, is of the Government’s own creation, it provides the right of the Minister after receiving a recommendation from what is called a special advisory committee or authority, or a number of authorities, to merely impose a tax, a tariff or a duty on goods imported into Australia. It does not sound much, in itself, but if you consider the situation for a moment it means that a Minister has the right, granted under this legislation, to impose a tax of considerable magnitude in many cases.
Let me quote a hypothetical case. It may be that on the advice of this special advisory authority to be set up a commodity being imported is considered a danger and a menace to existing Australian industry. This special authority is empowered to make recommendations to protect that particular local industry. It may happen that in the case of a commodity worth £1,000 the special authority might recommend the Minister to impose a temporary duty of 10 per cent. And lo and behold, without any consideration by the Parliament of the merits of the special advisory authority’s report, the Minister forthwith places on that commodity an impost of £100. The impost could be £2,000 in the case of a particularly valuable commodity. If Parliament is in recess and if the special authority or authorities - because this measure authorizes the appointment of a wide number of special authorities - so advised the Minister, the total sum collected without any prior consideration by the Parliament, within the right of the granting of this power would be great because the measure allows the collection of vast sums of money. I think that is a situation which, apart from the measure introduced in 1960, is unprecedented in any part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It does not sound of much importance, but it sets a precedent which the Labour Party itself may follow in the future to give a very wide range of protection to Australian primary and secondary industry. The Government does not need to consult Parliament on the matter at all; it has already selected its special authority. In this case and to deal with the existing situation I understand that Sir Frank Meere is to be one of the special authorities. I do not know that you could pick a more capable man or a more experienced public servant, but after all he is not Parliament, nor is any other authority. I point that out by way of explanation.
However, the Labour Opposition is convinced that this country and its industries, following the economic measures imposed by the Government, are in such need that we propose at this stage to grant this authority. However, we express the strongest objection to this type of measure. Some honorable member may rise on the Government side of the House to-night and say, “ Oh well, there are precedents for this sort of thing “. He will point out, perhaps, that the Australian Meat Board or the Australian Dairy Produce Board or some other semi-governmental instrumentality is empowered under certain legislation to collect levies or moneys or export taxes on meat or dairy produce. I want to point out, in anticipation of that sort of example, that in almost all the cases I can recollect the amount that any of those authorities can specify as an impost has already been fixed and approved by the Parliament. Let us take the wool promotion levy, for instance. There is authority for a sum to be collected for wool promotion, but Parliament has said that it shall be between the figures of 5s. and 10s., or whatever the amount is. But under this measure there is no limit. The Parliament does not approve until later, when it meets. Summed up, this is a device designed by a government, that has created chaos in Australian industry, in a hasty endeavour to remedy the position and stop the gaps in the wall which have allowed the chaos I have mentioned.
It is advisable before we go into the details of the measure that we should take a few minutes to look at the history of the Tariff Board, created in 1921, by the then government to divest itself of the difficulties of dealing in detail with tariff problems. The Minister of the day - just the same as Ministers of to-day - found that tariff problems were of such magnitude that it was considered that the Parliament could not adequately and efficiently deal with tariff duty problems. It was therefore considered a good idea to set up a board or special authority vested with certain powers. I am bound to say, as far as I know from my reading of the work of the Tariff Board since 1921, that I think the decision taken at that time was a good one. Overall the work of the Australian Tariff Board has been substantially good, and the Government acted wisely in appointing such an authority. But I cannot overlook the fact, without reflecting on members of the Tariff Board in any way, that tariff boards and other semigovernmental authorities tend, perhaps, to adopt largely the philosophy and economic outlook of the government which they serve.
I think it can be said that at the present moment there is a feeling that the existing Tariff Board has been somewhat niggardly in some of its recent recommendations, and that the present Government has shown itself prepared to remove a measure of protection from Australian industry. I am not prepared to confirm that suspicion, but I think it is substantially justified. It is true that the Tariff Board is an excellent machine that serves a very good purpose. At the time that the original legislation to establish the Tariff Board was introduced a Minister in the Senate said -
Nothing affects a country as much as a tariff, yet I know of nothing that receives less consideration on the floor of the Parliament.
That was the situation before the Tariff Board was created. Honorable members no doubt realize how much less consideration is given to-day on the floor of this Parliament to recommendations and decisions to impose or increase rates of duties.
It is essential to look at the powers of the Tariff Board as we know it at the moment. It is quite true, as the Minister who introduced the legislation in 1921 said, that nothing affects a country as much as a tariff. That statement was perhaps a bit too wide, but a tariff certainly affects a country very greatly indeed. Let us look at the powers under which the Tariff Board has been operating. We find that, on reference from the Minister, the board shall investigate the necessity for new increases or reduction of duties and the deferment of existing or proposed duties, the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia and the effect of existing bounties, or bounties subsequently granted, the effect of any proposal for the application of the British preferential tariff, and so forth. In addition, the board shall also, on a reference from the Minister, investigate any case where a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the tariff, and of any case where a manufacturer is charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods or is causing any restraint of trade to the detriment of the public, or acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer.
I know that cases of that kind crop up from time to time, but I have yet to learn of the Minister making a point of referring to the Tariff Board a question concerning people acting to restrain trade to the detriment of the public. We have heard a lot about worthy intentions in this Parliament, but these intentions have not been brought to fruition. We have had the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) telling us about action to deal with restrictive trade practices, but we do not expect to hear any more of that.
– You will.
– We were going to get some legislation to effect constitutional amendments, but we have not got it.
The act provides as follows: -
The Minister may refer to the Board for their inquiry and report the following matters - the general effect of the working of the Customs Tariff and the Excise Tariff, in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth; the fiscal and industrial effects of the Customs laws of the Commonwealth; the incidence between the rates of duty on raw materials and on finished or partly finished products; and any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff.
And so on. I remind the House that an important amendment was introduced at the end of 1960, to which I have referred earlier, to provide that the Minister may, after consideration, refer to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board, for special consideration, the position of Australian industries likely to suffer from heavy imports. That was the objectionable legislation introduced in 1960 to amend the act. I might mention that this act has been amended only twelve times since 1929, some of the amendments being minor amendments only. In 1929, the Scullin Labour Government, finding itself in great difficulties after having inherited a country impoverished by excessive borrowings overseas and by neglect of Australian industries, amended the Tariff Board Act so as to give a measure of protection to Australian industries, which at that time faced almost complete extinction. In a very similar situation created by the same causes the best that the present Government can do is to vest in a special authority the right to make investigations not to exceed 30 days and to bring down a report and to authorize the Minister, if he thinks fit - there is nothing compulsory about it - to impose a particular rate of duty; or, alternatively - and this is interesting - to recommend the prohibition of imports, the restriction of imports, or a selective quota for imports as the case may be. It would now appear that the temporary measures imposed in 1960 have failed to give the protection that Australian industry so urgently requires. So the Government adds something more to the law and the special authority - not the Tariff Board, mark you, but Sir Frank Meere, or any other gentleman who may be constituted a special authority, is authorized to make a recommendation not only to increase duties but also to impose import restrictions, or a combination of duties and import restrictions. I should like to know exactly what type of import restrictions this special authority is authorized to recommend to the Minister. Will they be quantitative restrictions? Will they be quota restrictions? Perhaps the Minister can inform me of that.
– I told you that already in my second-reading speech.
– It is rather vague. Whatever you may have said in your speech, there is no indication in the amending bill itself, beyond a reference to import restrictions. We are left completely in the dark as to the manner and means by which the import restrictions will be imposed. We have to be satisfied with the bland statement by the Minister in his secondreading speech, and by the terms of the amendment that action may be taken by the Minister - again, if he thinks fit - to impose import restrictions. What type of import restrictions? Who are to be the administering authorities? Are they to be efficient people? Are they to include the officers who carried out this work prior to 1960? Has a nucleus of these people been retained in the department? Will quotas be increased over the existing quotas? Just what does it all mean?
Before imposing provisional duties the Minister must refer to the Tariff Board their connexion with the general matter of protection to a particular Australian industry. After he has referred it to the Tariff Board he refers it to the special advisory committee for its opinion and a quick decision and the imposition of a temporary duty.
– No. It is the other way around.
– That is right. But he must refer it to the Tariff Board for a report.
– It goes to the special authority first.
– Yes. But he must subsequently refer it to the Tariff Board for general consideration, which may take twelve or eighteen months. In the meantime, the temporary duty - the tax imposed behind the back of the Parliament - is operative. The remarkable thing about this business is that whereas the special authority may recommend the imposition of import restrictions, the Tariff Board itself is not empowered to do that. The Government has dodged the question of import restrictions like a plague. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Repatriation said, quite frankly, that the Government was not in favour of quantitative restrictions or restrictions of any sort, but instead of authorizing the Tariff Board to make a recommendation as to whether or not it thinks that quantitative restrictions are desirable - not as a temporary measure but perhaps for a considerable period - the Government denies the board that power. Members of the board are good enough to trust with the function of recommending a duty - a tax, a deterrent to imports - but they are not good enough, in the eyes of the Minister, to recommend, if they think fit, quantitative or any other form of restrictions.
– That matter is under consideration.
– It is under consideration! There must have been a brawl in the Cabinet. In the “Canberra Times” of 10th February there appeared a report of a speech by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who, incidentally, is supposed to be saving Australia abroad. The more trips he takes abroad the worse the economy of this country becomes. The Minister for Repatriation may deny this report if he wishes or the Minister for Trade may do so when he comes home, but it reads as follows: -
The Government would amend the Act so that the Board, after a full inquiry, could recommend that protection should include import restrictions where the tariff would not give enough protection, he said.
There must have been a brawl in the Cabinet because the Minister for Trade did not get away with that intention. There is no provision in this bill for the Tariff Board to have that” power.
– This measure deals wilh a separate matter.
– Are we to have a whole series of Tariff Board measures? Why not do the job properly? If reports are correct, the Tariff Board is completely cluttered up by work. It is true that this bill will remove an obstacle to the expeditious handling of inquiries. Under the 1960 legislation, the Government weakened the Tariff Board by imposing on the two deputy chairmen the obligation of reporting quickly on difficulties being experienced by Australian industries. These difficulties are mighty serious, but the end result has been that the Tariff Board’s ordinary routine work has been seriously delayed. Members of the Tariff Board are only human and they have not been able to cope with all the work.
So, the normal work of the board which was increased by the Government’s economic policy and by the act of 1960 was hampered by having two deputy chairmen set aside to study urgent cases for recommendation to the Minister. The Government has now retraced its steps and has restored the fulltime services of the two deputy chairmen to the Tariff Board. Despite that, it will take some time before the Tariff Board is able expeditiously to deal with the overall position of Australian industries. It is claimed - I have not checked the truth of it- that at 1st July, 1961, the Tariff Board had only one case before it that was more than a year old. There are now believed to be fifteen cases more than one year old before it.
– That is according to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ last year.
– I said “ it is claimed “ and the “Sydney Morning Herald” is usually fairly accurate. I have not seen a solitary denial from the Minister for Trade or any honorable member opposite of the truth of that statement. If it is true, considering the position of industry to-day, it should have been challenged immediately. Action should have been taken similar to the action taken by the late Mr. Chifley. When a lying statement appeared in the press he rang up the managing editor of the newspaper concerned and told him it was a lie. But what did the Minister for Trade do about this report? Nothing! I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he had any communication with the editor.
– I spoke to Arthur about it.
– He spoke to Arthur Calwell about it! I thought that the Minister was a member of a responsible government! It has been claimed that industry has to supply too much statistical detail. This costs too much for the smaller businesses to prepare. Unless this situation is remedied the Tariff Board will be placed in an unhappy position, irrespective of its own desires. Powerful industries which are able to employ capable cost accountants and statisticians will be able to produce their case to the board quickly and in detail. The board will deal promptly with these matters and will grant the measure of protection that is sought. But the men who count only in the aggregate, the men who are being ruined by the economic measures of the Government, are the small men with 250 or 500 employees. They will not be in such a good position to supply this information. Let me cite a case in point. I have here a copy of a Tariff Board report on internal combustion engines not exceeding 10 horse-power. Reporting on the case of Ronaldson-Tippett at Ballarat, the board said -
Sales of Ronaldson-Tippett engines fell by onethird in the first eight months of 1961 compared wilh sales in the corresponding period of 1960 with a consequent reduction in employment of men engaged in the manufacture of engines from 90 to 63.
Then there is the case of Villiers in Ballarat. The Tariff Board reported that the company’s total employment had been reduced from 310 persons in March, 1960, to 140 persons in August, 1961. It is these smaller firms whose cases drag on for very long periods before the Tariff Board.
– Did you read the recommendation?
– I read the recommendation for the imposition of a 10 per cent, increase of duty, behind the back of Parliament when Parliament ought to have been in session considering, and if necessary imposing, such a duty. Alternatively, until the Parliament did meet a quantitative or total restriction could have been imposed on the importation of engines in that category.
The other day I came across figures of the Commonwealth Statistician which indicated that there were 200,000 men, women and children in the constituency of Lalor which I represent. There is probably a larger assortment of secondary industries in that area than in any other area of Australia although I do not base that statement on the Statistician’s figures. The industries range from Ford to Massey-Ferguson, to Mitchell, to O’Connor Shea in the agricultural implement-making line, to the Vacuum Oil Company and all the smaller ancillary industries that are largely dependent upon these big undertakings. The action of the Government in loading extra work on to the Tariff Board, in withdrawing its two deputy chairmen, and its general muddle-headedness in relation to the economy has affected my constituency most adversely.
It is not an exaggeration to say that in Australia there are, registered and unregistered, at least 200,000 unemployed people - a number equivalent to the number of people resident in my large electorate. That number of people is either unemployed or partly employed at the present moment largely because of the lack of employment in secondary industry. When is this Parliament going to take into consideration the astonishing fact that there are only 250,000 rural holdings in Australia? Most of them are mechanized. There is no possible outlet in the primary industries for our growing population. There is no outlet for the migrant influx. In my electorate there are three migrant hostels - Williamstown, Brookland and Broadmeadows. Not 1 per cent, of those immigrants will look for work on a farm in Australia. All are de pendent on secondary industries which have been plunged into a chaotic state. In 1959, this Government went into the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and indicated that it did not want a rise in wages; but it did not do anything about the increase in bank rates or the institutions which were offering 8, 9 or 10 per cent, for money to be spent on land speculation. The Government did not do anything about those matters or capital gains on rotten land transactions. The first attack by the Government was on wages, and that in turn reflected itself in unemployment in the secondary industries.
I have some of these industries in my electorate. Prior to the economic measures, one of them was employing 500 persons; to-day it is employing 250. Another industry was employing 50, but it is now employing 28. I could cite dozens of similar cases. Yet the Government has done nothing but cripple the Tariff Board. I am not reflecting on the present chairman, but previously it was presided over by Dr. Westerman. This Government took him from the board to help its incompetent Minister to prepare a case for Australian trade as he could do so better than the Minister could have done. He took with him some of the most competent staff from the Tariff Board and now the tariff machinery is in one big muddle. Never let it be said that Australia is a country that has run amok with tariff protection. I am indebted to the Associated Chambers of Manufacturers for a circular I received yesterday which may surprise some honorable members representing the Australian Country Party in the farmers’ corner of the House. That party is notoriously a non-protection party and the circular to which I have referred might throw some light upon protection in Australia for its supporters.
According to these figures, the average tariff in Australia is 12 per cent, compared with 19 per cent, in Japan. There seems to be hesitancy on the part of this Government to protect us against Japanese imports. Supporters of the Government seem to believe that if they protect Australian industry against Japanese imports they might do something detrimental to the sale of Australian wool.
– That is wrong.
– It is not wrong; it is factual. Many people have it at the back of their heads that Japan is dependent for its economic existence on the manufacture of Australian wool and its export to other countries. That is not true. I picked up the publication of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics to-day. It is an excellent publication, the work of an instrumentality wisely established by the Chifley Labour Government. I found - and’ I admit I was in ignorance on this matter - that of all the wool imported by Japan, nine-tenths is used within the confines of Japan itself and not in international trade. The consumption of wool is increasing in Japan. If Japan suddenly felt inclined to drop out of the market, vast similar markets would most probably open up on the Chinese mainland. So why is there all this fear that we will hurt the Japanese if we protect Australian industry?
– Do you approve of the Japanese trade agreement?
– I am uncommitted. At the time the relevant legislation was passed by this Parliament I was abroad. I disagree strongly with this lack of effective protection for Australian industry. Everybody knows that the moment import restrictions were lifted by the Government, aircraft travelling to Japan were loaded with people going there to buy knick-knacks to sell to the Australian community. Factories were closing all over the place and have been closing ever since.
Now let me look at the bill itself. Government supporters laugh at that statement but they were not laughing after the elections in December. We find that special advisory authorities are to be set up. The rates of salary and the term of office are not specified. Any number can be appointed. The Minister has to be satisfied that urgent action is necessary to protect an Australian industry. If an industry says to him, “ We are going bung. We are in a precarious position “; he will say, “ Consult your industry panel “. If the industry concerned is a big monopoly organization, that would not be a bad idea because the advisory authority would do the work for it. But if the person con cerned was a little fellow battling against a monopoly, what sort of an advisory panel would he have? Such a person would be at a disadvantage. It is true that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said in his second-reading speech that the Department would assist in the preparation of cases. But imagine the humiliation of departmental officers. They would have to prepare a case for a big fellow and then be the adviser of some of his little competitors. If the Minister was satisfied he would then refer the matter to the special advisory authority. Then, as I read the bill, he may impose forthwith the special duties. Perhaps the Minister can inform me whether “ may “ means “ shall “ in that case.
– It means “may”.
– That means that the Minister may not impose the duties if he does not think fit. So the whole thing is a sham and Australian industry will recognize it as such.
– That provision has been operating for eighteen months.
– The Government has been in such a jam that it has been frightened to do anything else, but the moment it gets confident and impudent, the Minister will say, “If I impose this duty on an import from another country “ - it does not matter which country - “ it might harm the sale of Australian wool “. He will not put on the duty :.nd the Australian industry will perish.
– You know that does not apply.
– That is the situation. The Minister ought to know if he gives the matter consideration, that the Australian wool producer is absolutely secure. Despite the scare stories, Australian wool is in demand. Its consumption is increasing. The one thing lacking is action. What is the Australian Country Party doing to stop the operation of pies and monopolies on wool? I find that the Japanese in their home market are consuming 2.5 lb. of wool per annum; and that is as much as the people of the United States of America are consuming. It is true that we consume about 5.8 lb. per annum, but we are exceptional.
The standard of living in Japan also conies into it. I read in the publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that it requires about a week’s work in Australia to earn enough to buy a suit of woollen material. In the United States of America, it takes seventeen days, but, lo and behold, in Japan it takes two weeks. In Japan, of course, many of the workers receive, in the form of payment in kind, things that wage-earners in Australia and other countries do not get. Therefore, the capacity of the Japanese worker to buy Australian wool is almost as great as that of the Australian worker because, very often, the Japanese worker lives either at the factory or in houses provided by the employer, and frequently receives 50 per cent, in wages and 50 per cent, in kind.
The special advisory authority is to report as soon as practicable, but not later than 30 days. This authority is to have the right to advise on the imposition of temporary duties, or import restrictions, or a combination of both, but a link is missing. The Tariff Board, which is to deal with the matter in the long run, is not given any authority to consider or make recommendations in connexion with the imposition of quantitative or any other form of restrictions.
– Do not be impatient.
– The Australian people have become impatient. They are fed up to the neck. The Government talks about the improvement in our overseas balance of trade, but I advise any member of the Government just to walk into any retail or wholesale establishment to see how things really are. The people in those establishments are not so well disposed towards the Government, and things are not quite as bright as the Government would have us believe.
I do not think I need prolong the debate at this stage. I am quite satisfied to say that, reluctantly, and because of the terrific urgency of the position, the Opposition will condone the wickedness of the Government in imposing duties before Parliament considers them because, in effect, much of what the Government is now proposing is already in operation. The Government is proposing to take power to impose taxes behind the back of the Parliament of
Australia. In any case, we know that we cannot defeat the Government’s measure, but the Government could give effect to its desires in other ways. For instance, it could impose temporary quantitative restrictions, it could impose partial restrictions, or it could impose total restrictions. It has the machinery for doing these things, but it refuses to do them.
I hope that it will not be long before the Government awakens to the need to improve substantially the facilities for the Tariff Board itself to deal with these problems, and that it will call this Parliament together more frequently. It is rumoured that Parliament is to adjourn before Easter and not resume sitting until August. Why does not the Government attend to the nation’s work? Is it afraid that the situation will deteriorate shockingly in the next six months? Is that the reason why Parliament is not to be called together sooner? AH the Opposition can say is that we hope this measure will operate justly and fairly, although I have grave doubts about that.
– I do not wish to strain unduly the credulity of the House, but I do think the House will agree that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has been more confused than usual in his treatment of this bill. Indeed, he has said very little about it. But when he has turned his mind to it he has been torn between his hatred of the Government and his hatred of Australian industries. On the one hand, his hatred of the Government made him denounce, perhaps falsely, the lack of protection which Australian industries have enjoyed. On the other hand, his hatred of Australian industries has made him say that this measure is playing into the hands of the monopolists. It has also made him endeavour to criticize to some extent the measure which the Government is now introducing for the protection of Australian industries.
I confess myself to be unashamedly a protectionist so far as Australian industries are concerned. I believe that we should have a high and effective measure of protection. The honorable member for Lalor is as confused on this occasion as he was in 1960, when the last bill relating to these matters was before the Parliament. I took the trouble to look through “ Hansard “ of 17th and 18th August, 1960, to see how the Labour Party voted in those days against the Government’s measures to protect Australian industry, and I detect in the confused and unhappy attitude of the honorable member for Lalor to-night the same dilemma as that in which honorable members opposite found themselves then.
The bill before us now has two purposes. The first is to speed up the machinery of the Tariff Board in connexion with the imposition of temporary duties to protect Australian industries. It seeks to do this by the appointment of an authority which will take the place of the deputy chairman who will be freed for the normal duties of the Tariff Board. In this way, the normal duties of the Tariff Board will be prevented from falling into arrears owing to the accumulation of applications, and that is desirable. Secondly, this bill provides some machinery - not authority, but machinery - to control the existing authority in connexion with the imposition of temporary quantitative restrictions upon the importation of goods into Australia. I take it from the Minister’s speech that it is the Government’s intention that this measure is to be purely a temporary measure, a holding measure until we can get more effective and complete machinery before the House.
I agree that a temporary measure is necessary, and I support the Government’s view in this. Whatever we do, we must give to Australian industry at the present time that confidence necessary to induce it to expand, to employ labour and to replace imports, and so increase the stability of the Australian balance-of-payments position. I do not think we should do anything to give to Australian industry any doubt about the sincerity of the Government in this matter, and I do believe that the Government is right in saying that this is a temporary measure which will be superseded by something more effective and comprehensive during the next sitting of this Parliament. That is something which I think is germaine to the nature of this bill. It is necessary, of course, to give this protection quickly because, following upon the removal of import controls on the last occasion, there was a flood of imports into Australia. That flood disrupted Australian industry and disrupted Australian employment. It has ceased now, but the important point is that, in order to give to Australian industry the confidence necessary to induce it to expand, we must not only say, “This flood has ceased now “, but we must say, “ This flood will not return when conditions of full employment and full prosperity are created again in Australia “. For that reason, this temporary measure is very necessary, and I am a little distressed - I cannot say I am very surprised - at the equivocal attitude taken by the Opposition, which parallels its equivocation in 1960 when a somewhat similar bill was before the House. I believe that we must look to Australian secondary industry as the main employer in Australia and the main dynamic force behind Australia’s growth. Anything that represses this dynamic force, that does not give it full and complete play, is not in the interests of Australia. This does not mean, of course, that we have to be uncritical in applying protection, whether it be through temporary duties or through quantitative restrictions. We must be critical; we must look at costs. Of course, the original act, which this bill amends, does give to the board the duty of looking at costs. This occurs in section 15 of the original act, as honorable members will know.
But here again I think we must look at the economy as a whole. We can no longer subject the entire tempo of our economy, the pace of our development and the dynamic of our national existence to the requirements of our overseas balances and our overseas trade. I believe that we must help the export industries just as we help the industries that are manufacturing for the local market. But whatever we do we cannot afford to allow pressure on Australian industry as a whole to flag or to fade.
Having said that, let me turn to some aspects of the bill before us. I do this not principally to deal with the bill, which I regard as a temporary measure, but rather to look at the kind of permanent measure that will undoubtedly replace it. May I retrace for honorable members something with which they are perhaps fully familiar, and I apologize for doing so. Under section 50 of the Customs Act, the GovernorGeneral may, by regulation, prohibit the importation of goods into Australia. A subsequent section gives him power to prohibit the importation of goods absolutely or from a specific place or on specific conditions or unless specific conditions are complied with, and so on. Honorable members will be familiar with the full text of the section and I do not intend to read it at the present time. What happens? Under the section, certain statutory rules were issued, and I refer to the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations which are still current. Under these regulations, which were passed as regulations and do not therefore come before the review of this House again, the Minister in section 7 took power to prohibit “ the importation of any goods (not being goods which are excepted from the application of these Regulations) . . .” This importation was prohibited unless a licence to import the goods was issued under the regulations and the conditions and restrictions to which the licence was subject were complied with.
Once that had been done, the Minister had, and still has, the power without going to the House of prohibiting the import of any category of goods and of giving licences to any person who wishes to import goods that are in the prohibited category. These regulations, as tb» House knows, have been gradually relaxed. Some two years ago, there was a rather spectacular relaxation of them, by exempting classes of goods from the regulations. But the power still resides in the hands of the Minister and is not subject to control by this Parliament.
The bill before the House endeavours to create the machinery that will give to the House, and to the Tariff Board, some effective power by controlling the arbitrary authority that at present lies in the Minister’s hands. As this bill is a temporary measure, it does not firmly trench upon the Minister’s power as contained in the regulations following upon the Customs Act, which 1 have cited to the House. It does not take that power away, but it sets up a parallel power which I hope in the permanent legislation which will follow this bill will supersede the arbitrary power under the present Customs Act. It gives under proposed section 18f the power to the Minister to “ take action for the purpose of the restriction of the importation of goods “ where an authority appointed under the act has made a report of a certain kind in relation to it.
As I have said, this appears to me at present to be a parallel power and not a power in substitution for the powers existing under section 50 of the Customs Act. I hope that when this temporary act has been operating for some time, this will turn out to be not simply a parallel power but a power in substitution for that under the Customs Act. That can be done very simply by the repeal of the statutory regulations, No. 93 of 1956. I hope in due course - not yet - that that will occur.
Now let me turn to the question of the quantitative restriction of goods entering Australia. Why is this necessary? Let mc say in the first place that I believe it is necessary for the Minister, or for the Minister with the consent and advice of the authority, to have this power. This 1 do not contest. But 1 do believe that we need to scrutinize carefully the conditions under which this power can be exercised. 1 have quoted to the House the act and the regulation under which the Minister took this blanket control. The present control is meant to be quite different. This is not a blanket control for the protection of our balance of payments. It is a specific and exceptional control to be imposed from time to time for the necessary protection of Australian industry. It is a full employment control. That is what it is meant for and it is what it should be.
If honorable members will look at the terms of this bill they will see that quantitative restrictions are imposed only where a tariff is not appropriate. In other words, such restrictions should be the exception rather than the rule. Where will they be the exception? I can think of two sets of conditions either one of which might require the application of quantitative restrictions. The first set of conditions is one in which there is what is known popularly as dumping from abroad.
I do not know whether honorable members realize how much of the economic theory which is currently accepted is based on the very simple premise that the costs of production are proportionate to the volume of goods produced. This is the presupposition for most of the theories of the classical economists. But in the modern world, where goods arc produced in a factory where fixed charges are high, and ma” be much higher than the current charges for wages, &c, this presupposition no longer holds good. This means that industrialists abroad may elect to recover only part of their complete costs, if that part is greater than their marginal costs, and thus they may be able temporarily to under-sell in the Australian market. This is what dumping is.
Conversely, the Australian manufacturer may find that in order to keep his costs down he must have a high throughput in his factory, because, otherwise, these fixed costs tend to bank up over his marginal costs. This means, purely and simply, that we have to legislate against the foreign manufacturer who may want to dump on the Australian market, and we have to legislate for the Australian manufacturer who may need the continuity of a market in order to get his costs down through high output or to establish an industry which may be new to Australia but which may be suited to Australian conditions.
Here are the conditions under which the tariff is inappropriate but quantitative restrictions, temporary though they may be, may yet be the best way to deal with the situation. This is not a condition which is peculiar to Australia. Other countries have found by experience - bitter experience, sometimes - that quantitative restrictions are necessary. This is particularly necessary for the primary industries because, for those industries, marginal costs very often are rather less than are fixed costs. For a farmer who has a property, it may cost very little to grow an extra bushel of wheat or to produce an extra pound of butter or an extra pound of wool, but he has still to meet the fixed costs which are tied up in his land. This is particularly true for all the primary industries, and this is why agriculture overseas has tended so much to claim protection in its local market by means of quantitative restrictions. The principle I deduce is most applicable to our great primary industries.
We have to keep up production if we are to keep costs low. If this be so, Sir, the mere existence of this power to impose quantitative restrictions may make their application less necessary. Manufacturers abroad may find it less attractive to dump goods on the Australian market if they know there is no future in this because, once they start, quantitative restrictions can quickly be applied against them. This is true not only of manufacturers abroad but also of the producers of primary products abroad who are rightly kept out of the Australian market by quantitative restrictions in one form or another. This goes for the primary industries just as much as, or perhaps even more than, it goes for the secondary industries.
However, let me pass away from these theoretical considerations and say simply that in my view the very existence of this power may mean that its application will not often be necessary, whereas, if this power did not exist, the conditions which would make the exercise of it desirable might occur fairly frequently. The tariffs and the power to impose quantitative restrictions which we now have may be described as something like the “ twohandled engine at the door” - something which stands ready to strike and, because it stands ready to strike, may need to strike very infrequently.
In the Tariff Board Bill now before us we have provisions giving authority to impose a mixed system - a system partly of tariffs and partly of quantitative restrictions, if quantitative restrictions be found necessary. But we have in this measure no machinery for the manner in which quantitative restrictions are to be applied or in which, if they are applied, licences are to be allocated. Here again I believe that the Government may be wise in putting before the House a temporary measure, because probably only in practice can the best ways of operating this system be worked out. I confess that without experience it would be very hard to determine what would be the best way.
Once you have quantitative restrictions, to whom do you give licences? I believe that they should not be allocated purely on a historical basis - purely according to who imported goods in the past. Some people have suggested that licences should be given by auction. This is not a bad way, although it may imply some increasing costs in the local market. The consideration of increasing costs would be important and, indeed, vital if you were talking about a wide range of prohibited goods. But if you are talking only about a few goods which are being subjected to quantitative restrictions for the protection of local industry, and where the costs of local industry lie, as they lie under the terms of the principal act, within the purview of the Tariff Board, it may not be so important to provide against a rise in costs of the things which are important. This may make the issue of licences by auction not unattractive. The Tariff Board has the powers under the existing act. It may perhaps be willing to exercise them. This is a matter of experience.
I would not be happy about this measure as a permanent one, because it is too indefinite. It does not spell out what is to be done. But I am happy with it as a temporary measure - a measure which will operate only until we find out what needs to be done. We have not the experience. It is all very well to talk about import licensing in the past. That was in a quite different context, and it has provided no experience for the operation of import licensing, as conceived under this new proposal, by means of quantitative restrictions. There is a difference in purpose. Under the old act, import licensing was a blanket thing. It was there for the protection of the balance of payments. Under this new measure, it is part of a full-employment policy for the protection of specified and identified Australian industries. I would say one thing, however: I believe it to be essential that when licences are issued under the terms of this new measure particulars be published, perhaps in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “.
I do not want to go into detail as to how this should be done or the extent to which it should be done, or as to requirements concerning disclosure of prices of imports, but if these import licences are here for the protection of Australian industry we need not think of them as things that have to be adapted to the needs of the Australian importer. These licences are now going to be an exception rather than a rule. The fact that the power to impose them exists should make them the exception rather than the rule.
So far as Australia’s balance of payments is concerned, I feel that we should be looking more for import replacements than for exports. I do not mean for one moment that we should not be looking for exports. Let me not be misunderstood in this regard. I simply say that while we should be looking for exports, greater emphasis should perhaps be placed on import replacements. The position might have been quite different a few months ago. Before there was a prospect of indigenous oil we had to maintain a large volume of exports to pay for our imports. To-day, with a real prospect of indigenous oil, this does not seem to be such a weighty consideration. Exports are less important if we can supply from our own local Australian sources oil which formerly was imported. This should change the whole outlook of the Government and the whole outlook of the economy.
I have made my very brief observations. In conclusion, I say that I support the bill unequivocally and that I am a little shocked at the equivocation that we have heard from the Opposition with regard to a measure which is surely most important for the preservation of Australian industry.
.- We have just listened to possibly one of the most uncomfortable speeches ever delivered by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Listening to him to-night, it would be difficult to decide what side he was taking in respect of this bill. What seemed to me significant was that he was apparently addressing his remarks to the second section of the coalition government, the Australian Country Party and the freetraders who compose it. On matters of trade and tariff, the Government is made up of two distinct sections. The first is the Country Party, which is a free trade organization, and the other is the Liberal Party, which believes in profit, irrespective of where the goods from which the profit is derived are obtained. These two conflicting outlooks have no doubt confused the honorable member for Mackellar and caused him to deliver his rather complicated speech.
I was reminded of a statement made by the Victorian Minister for Transport, Sir Arthur Warner, Leader of the Liberal Government in the Legislative Council in Victoria. This statement was made on 1st August, 1961, and the honorable member for Mackellar recalled it to my mind. This is what Sir Arthur Warner said -
Many of Australia’s economic problems have resulted from the free trade policies of the Minister for Trade and Federal Country Party Leader, Mr. McEwen.
I cannot help but think that the honorable member for Mackellar endorsed that view in the contribution that he made to the debate.
The honorable member has referred to many provisions of the bill, and he has expressed the fears that are entertained by members of the Opposition in relation to certain of those provisions. No doubt we will have a better opportunity to debate them fully during the committee stage. However, the honorable member said that the provisions of the bill did not state precisely what should be done administratively. While we endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and while we join with him in hoping that this legislation will meet the needs of the economy to-day, we have a great number of reservations, particularly with regard to those matters that are left to the discretion of the Minister, who, while being a free trade advocate, will have the power to say whether certain things shall be done, lt is significant also that the honorable member for Mackellar said the Government’s decision made not so very long ago with regard to imports was responsible for the disruption of the economy and was the cause of unemployment in Australia. That was a striking denunciation of the policies being followed by this Government.
The Minister told us in his secondreading speech that this measure is designed to give, through a Special Advisory Authority, on request, urgent protection against imports, within the framework of the Tariff Board Act, and this protection is to be afforded by a limited tariff, subject to a certain approval by the Minister. Provision is also made for quantitative restrictions in cases in which industries are being affected. While the Minister did not make a long second-reading speech, he did refer to certain clauses in the bill with respect to the two provisions I have just mentioned. He said that the imposition of emergency tariffs or quantitative restrictions from time to time by the Special Advisory Authority would overcome some of the urgent problems facing industry in these times, problems that have been caused by the flood of imports following the removal of import controls. I do not wish to speak at great length on these provisions at the present time because we can go into them in more detail in the committee stage, when we will be discussing these and other parts of the legislation about which many members of the Opposition, and also some Government supporters, including the honorable member for Mackellar, have some misgivings.
Let me at this stage ask why the legislation is being introduced. The most important reason, as the honorable member for Lalor has said, is undoubtedly the result of the election held in December of 1961. This legislation represents a further attempt by the Government to halt the ravages of the policies in respect of imports and tariffs that have brought this country economically to its knees and have practically destroyed many Australian industries, many of which were built up under great pressure in times of stress by people who believed in the welfare of Australia and the employment of Australians in Australian industries.
I think we should take this opportunity to remind the Government that when import controls were lifted in February of 1960, fears were expressed by all sections of the community, including leaders of the trade union movement, that the stability of the economy would be shaken and that unemployment would result. When the announcement was made on 22nd February, 1960, that import controls would be abolished, statements expressing these fears were made by many people. They included the Secretary of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures and the Federal Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, the Secretary of the Toy Manufacturers’ Association and Mr. Erskine, the Federal President of the Textile Workers Union, who directed attention to the disastrous effect that the new policy would have on industrial activity and employment. The only people who welcomed the policy were members of the Retail Traders Association, who took advantage of the opportunity to buy unlimited quantities of goods from the cheap labour countries, even though this had a disastrous effect on the jobs of Australian workers. The Government cannot suggest that it was not warned of the probable results of its policy.
Let us consider this legislation and see whether it is likely to solve the problems created by the Government’s action in lifting import restrictions. An industrial survey made by the Department of Trade in August, 1961, revealed the following facts: -
In the first’ half of 1961, output of Australian manufacturing industries fell sharply. This was the first time since 1952 that the manufacturing output had shown an overall decline. The decline took place in all manufacturing groups.
On 28th August, 1961, a survey by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce revealed this-
In the seven and a half months from 30th November, 1960, to 14th July, 1961, employment in the 1,700 firms which submit weekly returns to the Chamber had fallen by 15.4 per cent.
The Australian Industrial Development Report of October, 1961, stated -
We are losing by this misguided policy over £250,000,000 in annual production.
The federal council of the Australian Textile Workers Union issued a document which no doubt was distributed to all members of Parliament. It stated -
Flood of imports plus credit squeeze - 3,600 textile workers SACKED, 10,200 on SHORT TIME.
It’s a Menzies blunder but you can help. Be Australian, buy Australian.
These are some of the things which have happened under this Government’s legislation. So great was the shock to industry generally and to the textile industry in particular, which is one of the major Australian industries, that the Australian Textile Workers Federal Council as long ago as May, 1961, sent to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament a letter requesting them to take the most urgent action so that the Government might repair the damage done by its blunders which had destroyed the jobs of Australians and interfered with the great textile industry. But that was a long time before 9th December, 1961, and the Government would not listen. I mention this case to highlight the blunders which must be repaired by this legislation. Like the honorable member for Lalor I hope that the measure will achieve its purpose but I am extremely doubtful because of the Government’s attitude on these issues in the past and its sorry record in relation to the protection of Australian industry.
Let us consider the position in relation to employment which the Government has to remedy. In January, 1960 the manufacturing industries employed 1,162,000 people. By 1962 the number had fallen to 1,156,000, but in that period the workforce had increased by 200,000 persons. Generally 31 per cent, of the work-force is absorbed in the manufacturing industries and another 30 per cent, is employed indirectly by the activities of the manufacturing industries. Had the manufacturing industries flourished, had a decrease in employment not taken place and had the Government not practically destroyed the employment of thousands of Australians, 122,000 would have been employed in the manufacturing industry to-day. In other words, there would have been no unemployment had the Government by its deliberate policy not created a depression. What has been the effect of this policy? To-day officially 113,000 people - many more if you take the actual figures - are unemployed. There is very little prospect of the slack being taken up. This indicates that had the Government continued to protect industry an additional 122,000 people would have found jobs with the prospect of many more workers being absorbed in industry.
What was the effect on some of our major industries of the policy that this legislation seeks to remedy? Let us consider only three items which were affected by the lifting of import restrictions in February, 1960. For the year 1959-60 when restrictions applied imports of paper and board amounted to £40,000,000. When controls were lifted imports rose to £53,000,000. The import of textiles rose from £78,000,000 to £86,000,000 and imports of timber rose from £18,000,000 to £20,000,000. These figures alone prove the effect of lifting import controls with the consequent rush of imports which reacted against the better interests of the Australian people who then were forced to buy cheap goods at the expense of the jobs of Australian workers.
What has been Labour’s policy in regard to tariff protection? I was interested to-night to hear the honorable member for Mackellar chide the honorable member for Lalor on his attitude towards Australian industry. The honorable member for Lalor, from the time of the Scullin Administration, has made a great contribution towards the protection of Australian industry. The Labour Party is the only party in this nation which continually has fought for the protection of Australian industry. Had it not been for the Scullin Administration of 1929, very few Australian industries would have flourished. Had it not been for a Labour government during the last great conflict Australian industries would not have had the power and the support necessary to enable them to become such peacetime assets. Although I do not think it is necessary to repeat Labour’s policy on this question I shall do so. In his policy speech the Honorable A. A. Calwell said -
Labour will reimpose selective import controls and afford adequate tariff protection to established industries … we borrow money to import unemployment while our own workers walk the streets and our factories remain idle.
As long ago as 22nd August, 1961, Mr. Calwell, during the Budget debate, stated -
Once the decision to abandon import licensing was taken, the economy was left to seek its own salvation . . . unemployment and the closeddown factories are the direct result of excess imports and the credit squeeze.
This Government would not listen because it believed itself to be infallible. It believed that the men and women out of work would have money to purchase goods from Japan and from other cheap labour countries. The Government cared little for the will of the Australian people. Even at this stage it does not believe in full employment. It believes in economic conscription and in having more men than jobs to bring efficiency to industry. The Government’s policy was opposed and condemned by Mr. R. J. Vicars, chairman of Sydney Woollen Mills Limited, and managing director of John Vicars and Company Limited, a huge textile firm. When addressing the fortyfirst annual general meeting of shareholders held on 27th October, 1960, Mr. Vicars said -
The only point where correction can readily be made to save us if it is not already too late, is by the reimposition, at once, of the control of imports, allowing to come in only goods which cannot be adequately produced in Australia … it is essential for our economy that we use to the full our potential for replacing imports by goods made locally.
That statement was made by the head of a huge Australian industry which suffered because of the Government’s policy. As a member of the Labour movement I believe that Australian industries are entitled to full protection because they are the basis of our employment, our development and our security in peace and in war. Any government, such as this Government, which did not protect those industries but instead threw them into competition with countries with living and working conditions a long way below ours, deserved the crushing blow which it received on 9th December last.
I was interested to read the information contained in “ Canberra Letter “, the journal of the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia. This indicates that in 1959-60 the total net value of all rural production was £1,012,000 and of all factory production £2,074,000. In January, 1962, manufacturing industry employed 1,156,000 and the total civilian employment was 3,039,000 persons. This latter figure excludes rural employees, but it gives an indication of the number of people who depend on industry for their welfare and of the contribution which industry makes towards the employment of the people. These industries are subject to competition from countries whose working conditions are well below ours. When the Japanese Trade Agreement was introduced into this House Opposition members spoke forcefully against a number of provisions which undoubtedly have proved to be detrimental to our manufacturing industries.
As the honorable member for Lalor has stated, for some reason this Government does not seek to protect Australian industries against Japanese industries. Nor does it seek to protect them against imports which are sold at such a low price that we cannot possibly compete with them. In that regard it is interesting to refer to the “ Canberra Letter” of 28th March issued by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. On the question of Japanese competition this comment in that journal is of particular interest. Under the heading, “ Japanese Employment Practices “, it states -
It is common knowledge that Japan, unless the entry of her goods is controlled through the use of import quotas or barriers other than tariffs, can penetrate the markets of most countries, Japan can penetrate the markets of the highly industrialized and sophisticated trading countries of the U.K.. and the U.S.A. and Germany; the markets of the developing countries such as Australia and the huge domestic markets of the low cost countries such as India and Italy. She can practically disrupt at will the normal commercial trading practices of most countries by sales made at low but not necessarily dumped prices.
That, in itself, should give the Government an indication that Australian industries must be protected against this form of competition, because it is one which can penetrate any barriers erected by customs. The article continues -
It might reasonably be asked that if Japan is able to do this, why then does she not? The exercise of “ voluntary restraint “ by Japan has been a wisely used limiting factor but it does not detract from the statement that Japan can outsell any other trading nation in the world in a wide range of products of manufacturing industry.
I would ask that this document be incorporated in “ Hansard “ if I were hopeful of the results. Time does not permit me to read the article in full, but it instances how the Japanese set out their organization of permanent and casual employees. It instances also the temporary types of employees they have and how they have organized their small-scale firms. It gives a survey of the reasons why Japan can completely out-manoeuvre and out-sell even the low-cost countries such as Italy and others. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who is at the table, seems a reasonable man - he is new to the Ministry and no doubt is anxious to win friends and influence people - ! ask for leave to incorporate in “ Hansard “ this article on the Japanese trade situation as printed in the “ Canberra Letter “ of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia.
Government supporters. - No!
– Leave is not granted.
– I am not surprised and, like other members on this side of the chamber, I too, can say “ No “, and some present Minister may get a shock later. I can understand why the Government, which favours the employment of Japanese at the expense of Australian workers, does not want this matter to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ in order to show the Australian people that the Government encourages imports from cheap labour countries - the Japanese are former enemies of this country - in preference to the employment of Australian men and women and the protection of industries designed to employ Australians. Japan is a country whose products are imported in competition with those of this nation, which has an average weekly wage earning of about £24, according to the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ for December, 1961. That is an indication of the competition we have and of what should be done to meet it.
Some time ago I went into a Sydney store and found it impossible to buy a tie made in this country. I was about to go abroad to represent Parliament at an InterParliamentary Union meeting and I found I could not buy an Australian tie in this Sydney shop. Had I gone abroad and offered my tie to some person as a memento of Australia I would have been giving him a tie made in Japan or somewhere else and purchased in a Sydney store. On another occasion, after the import restrictions were lifted, I sought to buy Christmas cards and saw some which bore beautiful pictures of Sydney Harbour. I intended to send them to some American friends until I found that they were made at Fifth Avenue, New York. Under the policy of this Government, Australians were out of work and in some cases we were sending to America Christmas cards made 100 yards from where the recipients were receiving them; and they were selling in Sydney at prices cheaper than those at which we could manufacture them. This Government prefers to see all these goods dumped on the market while’ Australians are unemployed. I instance also the need to protect Australian industry because of imports coming in from cheap labour countries where wage standards are1 low.
On 17th August, 1961, Mr. R. Erskine, M.L.C., president of the Textile Workers Union of Australia, instanced in the State Parliament of New South Wales the ravages made by this policy of free trade on the textile industry. He produced a bath-mat selling at 9s. 1 Id. retail in Australia, whilst the cheapest Australian product one could obtain was priced at 17s. or 18s. He produced a Japanese-made towel selling for 13s. 6d. whilst the Australian equivalent cost of 24s. He produced a shirt manufactured in Hong
Kong and selling at 8s. 6d. and stated that it could not have been made here at anywhere near that figure. He produced pillowslips of which the landed cost was 23s. 9d. a dozen whilst the Australian retail price was 54s. a dozen. Those articles were manufactured under standards not comparable with those in this country. He stated that towels from Czechoslovakia, selling at 8s. lid. could not have been purchased, if made here, at an Australian price under 19s. or £1. These examples indicate the need to protect Australian industry. I notice that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who is interjecting, is now awake. He was asleep in 1960 when Australian industry went to the wall. He is a classic example of members of the Liberal Party which is responsible for our having 113,000 unemployed to-day. He is just not interested.
I refer to the open letter to the Federal Government published in an advertisement which appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ in April, 1961. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) rushed hysterically into the House and said, in effect, that the people who published that advertisement ought to be gaoled. It was a monstrous thing to do; it was a shocking thing to attack the Government in that way. The honorable member for Perth was one who, with the Treasurer, demanded that action be taken against the industrialists who sought to protect themselves and the jobs of Australian workers against the policy of this Government which caused unemployment. In addition, Sir, will you ever forget the “ fear ads “ shown to the House by the Treasurer. Will you ever forget how he went into the party room and exhibited some photographs which were reproduced in a photostat issued by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures? Will you ever forget the hysterical indignation of honorable members opposite when this infallible Government was challenged on its policy which was causing unemployment. Will you ever forget those things?
The Government tells us that it has brought down this legislation out of the goodness of its heart. But it has been forced on the honorable member for Perth and on the free-trade Minister as a result of the election of 9th December. If the
Government had not been practically eliminated at the last federal election it would not care how much of these cheap goods from Hong Kong, Japan and other places came to this country so long as the interests it represents made unlimited margins and exploited the Australian worker because of the price at which they could bring in these cheap commodities. These things must be remedied, and it is as well to bring home to the Government what is happening in this respect. The Government will have an immediate problem on its hands in respect of these matters, because from July to October, 1961, a total of 218,000 pairs of shoes came into Australia from Italy, Japan and Hong Kong, all at about half the price of the Australian product. When unlimited quantities of them come in in the not-distant future our shoe industry may well be affected by such imports as other industries have been.
Let us now look at the Japanese cars which will flood the Australian market, in exchange for our wool. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise a question on this subject. My question was -
The Minister’s reply was -
Yet the Japanese were our enemies during the last war and they work for a fraction of what Australian workers are paid. When we raise the question of the importation of these cars the free-trade Country Party Minister wants to refer it to some committee. We might find that the cars could be dumped in Australia, and the motor industry would suffer again through this
Government, which has taken so much out of that industry.
I regret that my time to speak on this important matter is limited, but at the committee stage I expect to say more about it, with particular reference to a number of clauses. At this stage, I merely re-echo the sentiments that have been expressed by the honorable member for Lalor. I hope that the measure will remedy many of the great difficulties affecting Australia’s industries under this Government’s policy. I hope that it will make up in some way for the damage that was done when the Government lifted import restrictions almost overnight, and that it will in some way help to reduce the great number of unemployed in this country, whose plight has been brought about exclusively by the Government’s policy.
Broadly, the measure has been accepted by industry, it appears; but the measure does not represent the policy which Labour would have implemented. We believe in selective import controls and in affording adequate protection to Australian industry. Industrialists know that Labour has always given them such protection, irrespective of the pressure groups which have been organized against Australian industries from time to time. When we find representatives of the workers, the Australian Chambers of Manufactures and men like Mr. J. R. Vicars and others speaking against the Government’s policy, we realize the need for some reform. I express the hope that this measure will go some way towards doing what we believe to be necessary for the restoration of full employment and security for the workers of Australia, and to assuring Australian industry that it will be protected, provided it manufactures efficiently at competitive prices in keeping with what the community can afford and with the needs of the people.
With these reservations I, like the honorable member for Lalor, support the measure. I am sorry that the Opposition is not in a position to give effect to such a measure as a government, because then the measure would be much more extensive and much more satisfactory to all of us. Finally, I say to the Government: Let this be a lesson. You cannot trifle with Australian industries or with the jobs of Australian workers, and any government that believes in providing employment in cheap labour countries at the expense of our own people deserves condemnation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This bill proposes to amend the Tariff Board Act as a result of experience gained since 1960. It has been ostensibly supported by the Opposition but it appears to me that the Opposition has used the debate purely as a vehicle to carry it on an excursion all over the world, as the last Opposition speaker used it - an excursion during which he voiced a gratuitous insult to our very best wool customer, a nation which has played the game throughout in the trade treaty that we have with it. I am sure he will feel very happy with the result his speech will have on the rural population of this country.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led for the Opposition, spent half an hour on a similar excursion. He freely admitted in the last ten minutes of his speech that he thought it was time for him to get back to the bill. I do not wish to pay any more attention to the remarks of honorable members opposite, because I think they were quite irrelevant to the measure. This is a very simple bill. It proposes to amend the act as a result of experience gained since the last amendment of this nature - which provided for emergency action in certain cases - was introduced two years ago. [Quorum formed.] There has been a considerable degree of criticism of the measure, but I point out that in most cases the criticism was made before the introduction of the bill, or at least before circulation of copies of the bill, and that a great deal of it has since been withdrawn. There was, for instance, the suggestion that the bill would reintroduce import rationing. It is quite evident to honorable members who have read the bill that import rationing as we knew it will not be re-introduced by this measure. Tariff policy is not an issue in the bill. The measure is purely of an emergency nature, and I shall go through its contents and explain it further. As general tariff policy is not an issue - I understand that that policy will come up for revision later in the year - I do not propose to deal with it.
I noticed that two previous speakers devoted almost the whole of their time to discussing general tariff policy but, I repeat, that is not a matter which comes within the scope of the measure. However, any mention of the tariff does invoke from primary producers objections to duties. Primary producers are particularly sensitive in this connexion because their present costs of production, which are the- result of many different factors, are causing them great concern.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the Australian wool-producer was now secure. I know that he will win no prizes for that because any Australian woolproducer listening in when he made that statement would know that the industry is very far from secure to-day. The woolproducer is interested to know whether this legislation will affect his industry. There is no reason for him to have any worries on that account, because there is nothing new or revolutionary at all in the measure. There is no reason for any primary producer to take exception to it. As a matter of fact, the bill provides assistance for both primary and secondary industry, and consequently there is an opportunity for primary industry to take advantage of the measure. It has taken advantage of similar measures in the past, and a great number of primary producers are receiving the benefit of tariff protection.
Mention is continually made of the old war between free trade and protection. To my mind, that has all gone by the board. Unquestionably, in days gone by people were divided into two sections - the protectionists and the free traders - but the change that has taken place in the world over two or three decades, and particularly over the last few years, has made people realize that the primary and secondary industries have a great complementary duty, one to the other. We realize that the home market is without question the best market for both the primary producer and the manufacturer.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, is it in order for the Opposition to send all its members out and then call for a quorum?
– There is no standing order covering that point. [Quorum formed.]
– It is most remarkable that although the Opposition is supporting this bill, its members cannot come into the House to listen to speakers on the Government side who may have something useful to say. As I have remarked before, they have very little to say of any value themselves but they use the bill as a vehicle to criticize the Government on extraneous matters.
The free trde-protection argument is obsolete. We all realize that secondary and primary industry are complementary. If one fails the other fails. The home market is the better market for both. The farmer certainly does not want to see secondary industry fail, knowing that it is buying his products, any more than secondary industry wants to see the wool producer fail, knowing that it depends on exports of wool for the raw materials and machinery needed from overseas for its own work. I speak as a practising farmer who depends on farming to a very large extent to make some contribution to the cost of representing a large country electorate.
The present legislation provides for a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board to hear requests for urgent relief for an industry which claims to be suffering unfair competition from imports. Whether an industry be primary or secondary, if its existence is threatened by imports it has the right to apply for temporary assistance. This bill alters the system to some extent. While the old system worked particularly well, the use of deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board depleted the board’s resources to some extent. The present legislation proposes to appoint a person as a special adviser to relieve the drain on the Tariff Board.
No one will complain of the machinery under the present tariff policy, lt is equitable and fair but it is thought that an amendment might make it more efficient. The first portion of the bill deals with machinery matters. Proposed new subsection (6.) of section 11 of thi act contains the following words: -
Before the Board commences to hold an inquiry referred to in sub-section (4.) of this section, the Board shall give reasonable notice in each State and in the Austraiian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, by advertisement published in the “ Gazette “ and in a newspaper circulating in the State or Territory, as the case may be, of its intention to hold the inquiry, the subject of the inquiry and the time and place at which the inquiry is to be commenced.
It is something new to require that the time and place of the inquiry shall be published in the “ Gazette “. It is most essential that the board should have ali the evidence before it in making decisions. I counsel producers’ organizations to take advantage of this provision. They should appear before the board. The board should have all possible evidence before it to enable it to make suitable decisions. I hope that the special advisory authority will adopt the same procedure and see that not only the parties to the application but other interested parties will be notified in the public interest. The appointment of the special advisory authority is dealt with in clause 13. Then follows machinery to deal with remuneration and allowances. Clause 15 provides for the insertion of a new section 18a in the principal act to read as follows: - -
Where it appears to the Minister that urgent action may be necessary to protect an Australian industry, in relation to the importation of any goods, pending receipt and consideration of a report of the Board in relation to those goods-
Those latter words convey to my mind the necessity that there shall be a report of the board. In other words, there must be a hearing by the Tariff Board. The proposed new section continues -
And the Minister may request the authority to make certain recommendations to him.
Proposed new section 18a, subparagraph (b), reads as follows: - if such urgent action is necessary - whether, having regard to the public interest, the protection can appropriately be provided by means of a temporary duty or, if it cannot be so provided, whether it can appropriately be provided -
The important words in sub-paragraph (b) are “ having regard to the public interest “. If any one feels that he is suffering a dis advantage under any recommendation that may be made by this special authority he has a perfect right to appear before the authority and show how the public interest could be affected. The authority may conduct an inquiry in such a manner as he thinks fit. I feel sure that there will be an opportunity for the authority to post to people who may be interested, advice that an inquiry is to be held, so as to give every one the opportunity of being there. It is suggested that the authority might not treat this matter with the importance that it deserves. If an applicant knows that there1 will be a general Tariff Board inquiry he will have that fact in mind when giving evidence.
Another important point that has been mentioned, but not very much, is the general procedure oi this inquiry. The special authority has to give his report not less than 30 days after the receipt by him of the request for the inquiry. That limits the time which may be taken up and makes the inquiry an urgent one. It makes it necessary for a report to appear within a reasonable time so that the industry will not suffer as much damage as it might suffer if a longer time were to elapse. As I mentioned earlier, it might be said that import restrictions could be introduced under this bill, but I invite the attention of the House to the fact that the first condition is that a suitable protection may be given to an industry by means of a temporary duty. The bill is very specific. Proposed new section 18d provides -
If the authority reports that the protection can appropriately be provided by means of, or by means of measures that include, the temporary restriction of the importation of those goods - the authority shall also indicate in the report the extent to which the protection should be so provided.
The next condition in the bill which is very significant is that the special advisory authority has to report to the Minister making certain recommendations. The inquiry having been held co-incident with the Tariff Board’s hearing, it is laid down that within 30 days of the report by the Tariff Board to the Minister, any recommendation which has been made and acted upon by the Minister shall cease to have any effect. Nothing could be more clear-cut than this. The procedure is laid down simply and it is to be carried out simply.
When the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) complained, as he did, that this gave to the Minister what he called a penalty which the Minister could levy behind the back of the Parliament, he pointed to the clause which provides that the Minister may impose restrictions or duties. The honorable member wanted to know whether this meant that the Minister may or shall impose the provision or whether he would have some right to withhold his hand. Considering the honorable member’s knowledge of these matters, it surprised me that he did not know that when the present Tariff Board has made submissions to the Minister, the Minister may not necessarily follow their recommendations. He may accept them or reject them. So there is no variation in that connexion.
There appears to have been some objection to this measure, but now that the bill has been introduced and circulated, I fail to see how anybody could take objection to it. I cannot see why primary producers should have any fears of this bill because it does nothing more than make more efficient the procedure which is at present in operation and ha9 operated successfully for a period.
The points which appear to stand out are these: If you are going to have an industry, secondary or primary, which is going to suffer grievous harm as a result of imports, it is only fair that it should be given quick and adequate protection to save it. I do not think anybody can cavil at that proposal. The second point is that despite the fact that quick and urgent attention has been given to a problem, the Tariff Board will still hear the case and make a decision. Any decison made by the authority - a temporary measure - will expire within 30 days of the Tariff Board handing its report to the Minister.
The only other point I wish to emphasize is that ample opportunity is given to everybody who might be concerned to be represented at the hearing of this authority. I suggest that full opportunity should be taken of that provision. The bill provides that any decision made by the special authority should be in the public interest, and as I have said, that seems to me to safeguard the interests of those who might feel at present that they are likely to be embarrassed by this measure. 1 understand, of course, that the Australian Labour Party approves of this measure, but it appears that it is going to stonewall this debate and use it simply as a vehicle to put over some propaganda inimical to the Government. I support the measure.
.- I believe this bill could be used as a weapon to protect or to assist in the protection of Australian industries if other economic measures were taken by the Government at the same time. In his Budget speech of 1951, the Treasurer stated -
Protected from overseas competition (during the war and postwar periods) Australian industry set out to provide any and every article that would sell … It has to be recognized that the time has come to impose protective restraints on the indiscriminate production of less essential goods . . . The broad aim of the Budget is to ensure that both long-term capital and working funds find their way to more essential forms of enterprise.
Briefly, the object was to kill some industries and to expand others. You remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) recently pointed out that the unemployment resulting from the economic measures of the Government in 1961 was more than the Government hoped for or expected. The measures adopted in 1951 were more successful in restricting some Australian enterprises and less successful in expanding others than the Government anticipated. By March, 1952, country branches of textile industries were closed and they have not since been re-opened. City branches were on short time and over 100,000 textile and other workers were unemployed. Our overseas funds had been reduced to a dangerously low level, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in a broadcast to the nation said this country was in danger of international insolvency. For the first time in the history of this Government and this nation savage import restrictions were imposed on an extensive scale. These were quantitative restrictions by import licensing. They were not to protect Australian industry or employment; the Prime Minister and his Ministers were most emphatic that their sole purpose was to safeguard our overseas funds. As our overseas funds increased, import restrictions were eased and, ultimately, lifted altogether.
Overseas funds again diminished. The restrictions were re-imposed and overseas funds increased. Again they were eased and lifted, only to be imposed again.
Early in 1961, import restrictions were not merely lifted but abolished. Government supporters insisted that they were gone for good. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in March, 1961 -
We believe that we should not have such an arbitrary control as import licensing - a bad control which was acknowledged by everyone as working unfairly, which produced all sorts of anomalies, which led to racketeering which is contrary to fair practice. We do have the obligation under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade not to maintain import restrictions except for balance of payment purposes.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said -
The modifications on urgent protection proposed in this bill are procedural and do not involve any change of fundamental nature. They will, however, provide more clearly for the use of quantitative restrictions as a temporary protection measure and lay down certain safeguards on their continuance.
I make it clear that as late as March, 1961, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that import restrictions were subject to racketeering, that they were a bad form of control, that they were an arbitrary system of control. But now, only a few months later, the Government introduces quantitative restrictions! What are quantitative restrictions if they are not tantamount to import licensing? How are we to determine the quantities of goods that are to come into this country under this Government’s system of quantitative restrictions? Does the Government propose to say to one particular person, “ You shall be allowed to bring into this community the total quantity of goods that may be imported “? Or does it propose to allow a number of people to bring in, between them, the total permissible quantity? If a number of people are to be allowed to bring them in, then it will be necessary to determine a quota for each firm or each individual in exactly the same way as quotas were determined under the ordinary system of import licensing - the system which, a few months ago, was described by the Treasurer as a method of racketeering, as a most undesirable method of deciding the quantity of imports to come into the country. After all, the trouble with this
Government is that it wishes to solve a number of problems per medium of the restriction of imports. For example, it wants to govern the rise and fall of our overseas funds by the process of regulating imports. When we have restriction of imports and, therefore, a greater demand for the goods produced in this country, prices in Australia rise. Then the Government abolishes import restrictions. Thus, the Government uses the regulation of imports as a means of price fixation or price control. Such a policy is, of course, utterly absurd.
But what has this Government done during the last ten years? It has allowed overseas funds to come to Australia. Honorable members on the Government side proudly boast that they desire overseas funds to come to Australia in increasing quantities. During the past ten years, overseas funds totalling £1,200,000,000 have come to Australia, but those investments have not come from America, for instance, in the form of American dollars, or from England in the form of sterling, nor have they come from other countries in the form of money. They have come to this country in the form of goods. So, when this Government encourages capital investment from overseas, it encourages imports. The same is true of loans. For instance, the Government has raised 140,000,000 dollars in New York and £140,000,000 in the United Kingdom. It has also raised millions of pounds in Switzerland. It has raised millions of dollars in Canada and it has raised 40,000,000 guilders in Holland. These loans all came in the form of goods. For instance, there are on sale in the shops of Melbourne Swiss shoes at 15 guineas a pair. There are also Swiss watches, Swiss confectionery and exotic goods of all descriptions on sale in Melbourne. This is the result of loans raised in Switzerland. Also on sale in the main stores of Melbourne are packaged peas from Holland - the result of loans raised in Holland. When I asked the Treasurer whether there was any relationship between the 40,000,000 guilders raised in Holland and the packaged peas that come from Holland, the Treasurer said, “ No, there is no relation between the two transactions “. But the 40,000,000 guilders was borrowed for the purpose of increasing our overseas funds; our overseas funds were depleted by the purchase of the packaged peas, and the overseas loan went to replenish the overseas funds that had been depleted by the purchase of the packaged peas. And that is the position with all these loans and investments. They come to Australia in the form of canned chicken, canned ham, canned peaches, and canned fruits of all kinds. Then, when our industries are destroyed by the importation of such things as textiles, machinery and boots, this Government pretends it is a protectionist Government and says, “We will apply import restrictions”. First it encourages the evil, and then it seeks to cure the evil. Having created the evil and having employed some measure to cure it, the Government then says, “Ah, we have cured the evil, we will remove the remedial measures “. Then immediately the country starts to become confronted with the very problem that faced it not so long ago. But that is the history of this Government - a history of the application of import restrictions, the easing of import restrictions, and the ultimate lifting of import restrictions. Then follows a flood of goods into the country, the destruction of overseas funds, the destruction of employment, and once again the imposition of import restrictions.
All these happenings are not the result of one particular problem; they are the result of a combination of problems and they cannot be cured by one particular bill. As I have pointed out already, the economic problems of this country cannot be solved by encouraging the importation of millions of pounds worth of goods at one fell swoop through the importation of overseas capital, whether it be in the form of loans or in the form of investments. The absolute sham of the position of the Government is revealed by the fact that we will soon have to consider a bill to secure a loan overseas of 100,000,000 dollars. This 100,000,000 dollars or £44,700,000 will come to this country in specific goods from specific countries determined by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Government says it will keep goods out of the country by passing this legislation, which will allow the rapid application of duties or the quantitative restriction of imports. In reality, of course, if we obtain this loan, goods must come to this country.
During its period of office, the Government has borrowed more by way of overseas loans than did any other government in the history of Australia. The total of overseas loans in the period of Australia’s greatest difficulties, the depression, was £160,000,000. Interest on and repayment of these loans amounted to £28,000,000 a year. In the ten years that this Government has been in power, it has borrowed overseas more than £300,000,000. Our overseas debt to-day is £750,000,000. Overseas investment in Australia - we did not have this in the depression days - totals £1,200,000,000 and our annual obligation in dividends amounts to approximately £150,000,000. Then we have £50,000,000 in instalment and interest payments on overseas loans of £750,000,000. Having destroyed Australian industry and our work force by the importation of goods and by the introduction of overseas capital, the Governments says that by this pettifogging bill it can remedy the position and protect Australian industries from overseas competition. Of course it cannot
Measures such as this are essential, but they are effective only when we also adopt other financial and economic measures. The Government wishes to serve the predatory capitalist interests who put profit and the expansion of their own industries before the welfare of the nation. Because the Government serves those interests, and those alone, it is not sincere in its protestations in this bill that it is out to protect either the primary or secondary industries of Australia. The primary industries are affected by the importation of chicken legs, canned fruit, pork ribs and other exotic foods.
– Tinned vegetables!
– Yes, tinned vegetables, as my friend points out. The import of these goods costs tens of millions of pounds annually. So we of the Australian Labour Party, who protest against the Government’s actions, do so to protect not merely the secondary industries but also the primary industries of this country. During past years, there has been no outcry from members of the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party against the import of goods, though this has destroyed our primary industries. We of the Labour Party believe that the protection of secondary industries is essential to the maintenance and the expansion of primary industries. The two are interdependent. One cannot expand or be prosperous without the other. The Government cannot destroy our secondary industries, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and taking their purchasing power away from the market for primary produce, and at the same time pretend to be serving primary industries.
In reality, the expansion of primary production determines the expansion of secondary industries, and in the same way the expansion of secondary industries determines the expansion of primary industries. We of the Labour Party have always preached the interdependence of these two basic forms of industry in the community. Without them, the community cannot develop or expand. These industries are the measure of all types of development. They determine the number of houses and schools that will be built and the water supplies that will be provided. They determine the standard of living of the people right throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
While we say that this measure is not obnoxious, it does nothing that could not have been done previously by the Government. If it is to be effective as a measure to protect Australian industry, it must be accompanied by other financial and economic measures. But the Government has no intention of implementing such measures.
.- I would, first, like to congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who is now at the table, for introducing his first bill in this House. Since he has represented the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in this place, while the Minister for Trade has been away, it has been obvious that his long apprenticeship as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade has not been wasted.
Although I congratulate him for bringing in this bill, I am afraid I cannot congratulate him on its contents. Before 1 deal specifically with the provisions of the bill, 1 wish to make one general comment. I would imagine that the main justification that the Government would use for bringing in this legislation would be that it would ease the unemployment situation. The imposition of a tariff is usually justified by saying that employment is created when a factory is operating. But if the protection that leads to the establishment of the factory is unwise, the economy is harmed and the unemployment thus created will outweigh the employment created by the protection. A more subtle form of unemployment is created. A man is put off in this agency, a waterside worker is dismissed and a railway worker loses his job. This is hard to measure, but it is not unimportant.
If honorable members want historical confirmation of this, they should look at the records of the early ‘thirties when the Scullin Government imposed an emergency tariff on almost every item in order to cure unemployment. But employment did not pick up until the economy picked up. Good employment figures cannot be obtained in a sick economy and the surest way to get a sick economy is to try to force the growth of one section at the expense of others, particularly at the expense of the exporting sections.
In our present employment situation we make a serious error if we think that only secondary industry, and particularly protected secondary industry, can take up the slack in employment. Manufacturing industry does not employ one-third of our work force now. Another two-thirds are employed in primary industry and in providing the services that a developing economy demands in the way of roads, houses, electricity generating plants and so on. We should realize that as a country becomes more industrialized a smaller and not a greater proportion of its people is engaged in factories. In 1922 the United States of America employed 35 per cent, of its nonrural work force in factories. In 1960 the figure had fallen to 30 per cent. Australia’s comparative figure for the non-rural work force employed in factories is 38 per cent. - and this in a country which depends on primary producers for its exports! Indeed, many of us have questioned whether we have gone too far already and have too great a proportion of our people in factories and too few providing the badly-needed services.
I shall now look at the Tariff Board Bill in more detail, Sir. Firstly, I admit that it is necessary to have some machinery for inquiry into requests for emergency protection. I made no complaint in 1960 when the principal act was amended. I have in the past been, and will be again, critical of some of the reports presented by deputy chairmen under section 17a. But the idea was sound. It kept the responsibility for recommending protection out of the political field and it enabled decisions to be arrived at with reasonable speed - within one month. More important than that, because the recommendations were made by deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board, the whole thinking about protection, emergency and otherwise, was kept under one roof, as it were. Now, after only nineteen months, this machinery is to be scrapped, and this bill is designed to introduce another piece of machinery to do the same thing.
This bill, Sir, will validate the appointment of special advisers who will do the sort of thing that was done by the deputy chairmen under section 17a of the principal act. Surely one is justified in asking why this change is being made. Were the deputy chairmen not giving the Minister for Trade or the Department of Trade the answers that they wanted? Were the deputy chairmen not sufficiently amenable to ministerial direction? We all remember how the wrong answer came back after three inquiries - into polyethylene, artificial fibre piece goods and pile carpets - and how the Minister sent those matters back to the deputy chairmen for another trial, as it were. In two instances, the desired answer came back the second time. But, in the case of pile carpets, the deputy chairmen stood firm. Are these new special advisers to be more amenable to ministerial direction and to come back quickly with the desired answer in their hot little hands? Only one special adviser has yet been appointed. The bill specifically lays down that the Minister may appoint as many special advisers as he sees fit. If the present special adviser is not giving the right answer is another to be appointed? If an industry problem looms up and poses particular political problems, and it seems likely that the report of a special adviser will be unfavorable, is another special adviser to be appointed to solve the particular knotty problem? I do not say that our present Minister would use such tactics, but I object to putting on the statute-book legislation which would allow another Minister at another time to have a completely free hand in this way.
We must remember that the special advisers are to be allowed to hold inquiries in any way they see fit. Tariff Board hearings are held in public. There is great merit in this. It enables argument to bring out the facts and to ventilate the case. But the hearings of a special adviser may be held in any way he sees fit. What an engaging picture emerges! The Minister may choose a special adviser to fit a particular case, and then the hearings may be held in private. These methods seem to me to be a complete negation of the principle of independent inquiry on tariff questions. But this may not be the reason for the changed procedure, Sir. We are not told what the reason is. We have heard that the Tariff Board is getting behind with its work. One of the reasons may well be that the continued use of the deputy chairman and the staff on emergency inquiries has slowed down the general work of the board. I can well imagine that this would be so. But surely the proper answer to this would be to appoint another deputy chairman or to increase the staff of the board. The appointment of a special adviser who will be allowed to use the existing office staff seems to me to be almost exactly the same as the appointment of another deputy chairman, except, of course, that the special adviser would not be bound by the board’s thinking.
We should be clear about what we are doing in appointing a special adviser who is outside the structure of the board but can use its facilities. There will be no connexion between them, except that they will use the same office staff and records. The special adviser will not be aware of what special problems he will create for the resultant full-board inquiry. His thinking will be quite untrammelled by having eventually to meet the full board’s comments on his recommendations. In other words, the left hand of the tariff instrument will not know what its right hand is doing. It seems to me to be an act of utter folly to divorce the two aspects of tariff-making in this way.
We have been told that in the present setup the full board may hesitate to reverse decisions of deputy chairmen made at emergency inquiries. This does not seem to have happened in the five cases in which the full board has reported on an industry following a deputy chairman’s emergency report. All the recommendations of the deputy chairmen were altered by the full board in some way or other, lt does not seem as if the board felt any diffidence about altering the recommendations of the deputy chairmen. Indeed, why should it? An emergency inquiry is made on quite different grounds. The deputy chairman has to measure the damaging effect of imports and is not asked to make any assessment of whether the industry is efficient and economic. The grounds of the two inquiries are quite different. Why should the full board feel hesitant about reversing the recommendation of a deputy chairman which was made on quite different grounds?
I repeat, Sir: What is the reason for the change now proposed? We have not been told. Is it that the Government is critical of the standard of the work of the Tariff Board and seeks better answers by getting in an outside expert? I know that there is room for improvement. But surely the proper course is to improve the standard of the board’s work and increase its staff, and not to work outside it. I submit that by getting in an outside expert the Government weakens the morale of the Tariff Board and weakens our confidence in the board. We have not been told what has led to this radical change which is now proposed. Is it designed to get reports more quickly? Does the Minister for Trade think that the 30 days allowed for in the principal act is too long a time? We have been told that we should regard this emergency action as fire-brigade action. It is a pretty simile. However, I have seen more nasty accidents caused by people rushing to fires than I care to remember. A drum of water may fall over and kill an operator, or a sudden change of wind may turn a fire-break into another fire that has lo be put out by more emergency action.
The truth is that if an emergency hearing is to have any value it must take at least 30 days. If the job is done any faster it is not worth doing. Let us imagine that there is to be an emergency inquiry into nitrogenous fertilizers - as indeed, to our sorrow, there was! The manufacturers have their case at their finger tips. All the figures are worked out. All their home work is done when the case comes up for emergency inquiry. What kind of a case can those opposed to the application prepare in less than 30 days? Departments of Agriculture should be consulted to see whether there is an increasing demand for nitrogenous fertilizers. Chambers of Commerce and representatives of farmers’ groups ought to have time to prepare a case. 1 say that if a special adviser expects to get the facts in less than 30 days the scales are truly weighted against the consumer. But if the Government wants reports churned out like sausages out of a machine without any regard for the meat content of the sausages, let the inquiries be completed in a week by all means.
What happens if the person making the emergency inquiry recommends a certain duty and the full board considers that that is unwise? Does the industry, after hearing the result of the full board inquiry, go to the special adviser and get another helping, which will mean another full board inquiry later? Of the eight emergency reports that we will be asked to consider under a customs measure shortly, five have been the subject of full board reports in 1960 or later. If 1 wanted to break down the morale of the Tariff Board and overload it with work, I could think of no quicker way of doing so than by this proposal. Surely there should be some legislative limit to the length of time that should elapse after a full board inquiry before an industry can ask for an emergency hearing.
My main objection to this portion of the legislation is that it strikes at the morale and efficiency of the Tariff Board. Anything that does that weakens public confidence in what is a tremendously important piece of fiscal machinery. Any action that gives the board less power and the Department of Trade more power should be regarded with grave suspicion. There is another great danger in the legislation, lt opens the way for the use of quantitative restrictions or selective import licensing - call it what you will. Both terms mean the same. The Government makes it clear that it does not expect the special adviser to recommend quantitative restrictions unless tariff protection is unsuited to the particular case; bin they can be used if necessary.
Let us look at these quantitative restrictions more closely. The classical case for their use runs somewhat like this: Let us suppose that the Australian market for stationary engines is 1,000 engines a year. Of course, the market is many more than that, but let us assume that figure. Let us imagine that the Australian industry has the capacity to make 600 engines and if that number is made and sold the factory machinery is fully employed. So the Australian engines are made at their most economical price. But engines are being imported cheaply and are under-selling the local product. Therefore, the Australian share of the market falls from 600 to 400, production becomes comparatively uneconomic, the price of locally manufactured engines rises, their competitive position becomes worse and even more engines are imported.
This position may be remedied in two ways. One is to impose a higher tariff which makes the imported engines dearer and so improves the competitive position of the Australian engines. That, of course, is the usual method under the present tariff system. “ But “, says the advocate of quantitative restrictions, “ it does not have to be done by tariffs. There is another way. It can be done by quantitative restrictions.” His argument runs like this: Australian production is geared to produce 600 engines, but we are selling only 400. Let us allow 400 engines to be imported under licence and leave the Australian producers with a market for 600 engines. Then there will be no need for an increased tariff and therefore the imported engines will not be dearer. You can get the most economic use of factory space and machines with no increase in price. That is what he says. I think the Minister for Repatriation will agree that I have put the classical case for the use of quantitative restrictions fairly.
Unfortunately, that argument is quite fallacious. The reason why imported engines were eating into the local market was probably that they were cheaper than the Australian engines. What happens if quantitative restrictions are imposed? The importer of the 400 engines that are allowed in under licence looks around and realizes that there is no sense in reducing the price of his engines. He cannot increase his sales because he is allowed to import only 400 engines. So his price automatically rises to the price of the local product. The local manufacturer looks around and sees that the price of the imported product will follow increases in his price, so his price is increased also. The effect of competition in keeping prices down disappears as soon as quantitative restrictions are used and the crude, clumsy hand of the administrator is left to adjust the supply and demand position.
– There is only one manufacturer in Australia.
– There are many more than that. When we come to the use of quantitative restrictions as a long-term measure - this has been foreshadowed - the position becomes much worse. What happens? Let us assume that permanent quantitative restrictions are imposed to keep the Australian production at the economic output of 600 engines. The industry settles down on that basis and prices go up a little. The Australian manufacturer starts to pay dividends and over-award wages again. Another potential manufacturer looks at the market and sees that 400 engines are still being imported and that local production is profitable. So he sets up a factory and he, too, has factory machines that have to be kept employed economically. Who is to say nay to him? This is a free country and he has as much right to make engines as the first manufacturer has.
The only justification, in the first place, for quantitative restrictions is that they will adjust the Australian production to the economic factory output. But if factory capacity was increased, as it would be by the second man beginning to manufacture machines, the quantitative restrictions would have to be altered. The only way that quantitative restrictions can be justified is by having a continual review of them to regulate imports to the changing capacity of local industry. The back of the Tariff Board would be broken if it was given that task. If the Tariff Board is not to do that, is the Department of Trade to do it? If so, the department will take over recommending what protection should be granted. I repeat that that is very dangerous.
Mr. Speaker, I am not imagining things. If you want an example of this kind of situation, look at what happened to refrigerators when the market was sheltered by import licensing. Australia now has enough capacity to produce far more refrigerators than the market can take. The refrigerators that are made are dearer than they should be because they have to carry the overhead cost of machinery that is not fully used. So, the demand for refrigerators becomes less than it would be if they were cheaper and factory capacity is even less economically employed than it was before.
I can imagine the Minister for Repatriation saying, “ There may be something in this, but after all this is only an emergency measure “. Is it? What happens if the special adviser recommends quantitative restrictions in an emergency? When the Tariff Board examines the case later, it finds that it has no power to fix quantitative restrictions. So the industry has to be re-adjusted when the board makes its full report. The Minister says: “ We are looking at this problem. We are thinking of giving the Tariff Board power to use quantitative restrictions as a permanent protective device.” That is what we have been told. So, unless we stop these temporary quantitative restrictions now, they will be used as an argument to justify their permanent use later. Metaphorically speaking, the camel of quantitative restrictions will get its head into the tent under this legislation and will lie down in the tent in a few months’ time when the foreshadowed legislation comes forward.
So far I have dealt only with the internal economic effects of quantitative restrictions. What about their international repercussions? I must assume that the Government intends to use them, as we have been told it will, as a permanent device. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) with all his splendid eloquence, is now in Europe thundering against the wicked Europeans who do exactly what he and the Government intended to do. What happens to our obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? What happens to the Japanese Trade Agreement, in respect of which the present negotiations are so delicately poised? Are we to expect that Great Britain will fight our battle with much conviction in the European Common Market if this legislation is aimed against imports from that country? Or is it aimed against the United States of America where President Kennedy is now looking as if he really means what he says about the liberalization of world trade and the possibility that the United States will lift the import duty on wool and, we hope, not impose duty on meat? Of all times, this is surely the most disastrous time to embark on such a mad adventure!
So far, Sir, I have dealt only with the economic effects of quantitative restrictions. What are the administrative problems associated with them? I have already mentioned the difficulty of measuring the correct size of the import quota. I notice that the bill says that a special adviser is, in the case of quantitative restrictions, to recommend what should be the level of protection. I am not quite sure what that means, but I understand that the special adviser is not expected to decide the quota. Does the department do it? The department fixes the quota and, having done that, parcels out licences amongst the importers, resulting in trafficking in licences again and all the special pleading which we remember so clearly from the import licensing days. Who is to get the licences? Will it be the importer who, when import licensing was lifted, joined in the mad scramble for imports in case licensing was imposed again? I should have thought that this was a responsibility which any wise department would be glad to forgo. It appears that the department is grasping at it again.
When discussing these questions with my colleagues I am often taunted with the protection given to primary industries. I admit that much of the protection so given is sloppily conceived and untidily executed. But it is worth remembering that in almost every case in which primary industry is protected there is a limit placed on the price that can be charged for the particular commodities in Australia. In this regard, butter and sugar are clear examples. The Minister for Trade seemed conveniently to forget this when he made his attack on Mr. Havard, the president of the National Farmers Union of Australia. If the Government were to impose price and output controls in the case of those products of secondary industry in respect of which it grants quotas, my guns would be silenced. But 1 have heard nothing of this.
There is one particular group which stood by us in 1960 when the Government took what was obviously unpopular action for the sake of the economy. The farmer organizations felt that this action, though unpopular, had to be taken in order to keep inflation in control. Is this to be their reward? They having stood by us in our most difficult time, will we now enact legislation which rightly fills them with apprehension, and which is certain to add to their costs?
I oppose this bill, Sir, but I will not vote against it. What is the use? If I did so and the Government were to fall, we would have a Labour Government, committed to selective import licensing as a matter of course, not as an exception, as is the Government’s stated intention here. But I appeal to the Government to have a careful look at this matter during the time that must elapse before the bill is again brought before the House, and to weigh carefully the criticisms that I have made against the legislation. I can see no reason for the proposed alterations, and I see great danger in them. It seems to me that the Government has bowed to a well-mounted, unprincipled attack by the chambers of manufactures. I admit that our political majority is precarious, but to seek popularity at this price will erode the morale of our parties and rightly alienate the support of the exporting section of the community.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clay) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. I understand thai the heavy supplies of both bananas and citrus fruits available for the Sydney market in recent months have created marketing problems. However, I have not had any approach from the industry organizations concerned, which is quite logical since internal marketing within any State is constitutionally the responsibility of the State concerned.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The resources of the Snowy Mountains Authority will be fully committed for some years at least in completing the formidable programme that lies ahead of it. It is impossible to predict what development projects might appropriately be carried out by the authority. For these reasons the Government has not under consideration at the present time any particular new assignment for the authority. Already the authority is being called upon to carry out a growing number of specialist assignments appropriate to its particular skills and experience, such as arc described on page 32 of the authority’s annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1961, which was tabled in Parliament recently. These calls upon the authority’s services are expected lo increase.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– I have received from the Acting Minister for Trade the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Importation of Motor Vehicles from Japan.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
son asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– As honorable members will know, in a number of countries in which we have diplomatic missions two or more languages are in official or accepted use. For the purpose of answering this question I have interpreted “ the language of the country “ as referring to a language used by the Parliament or analogous institution of the country concerned. The answers to the honorable member’s questions therefore are as follows: -
Mr. D. O. Hay, High Commissioner to
Canada (French and English).
Dr. E. R. Walker, Ambassador to France (French).
Mr. H. N. Truscott, Charge d’Affaires, West Germany (German).
Mr. B. C. Ballard, High Commissioner to Ghana (English).
Mr. K. T. Kelly, Acting High Commissioner to India (English).
Mr. H. D. White, Charge d’Affaires, Republic of Ireland (English).
Mr. A. M. Morris, Minister to Laos (Lao and French).
Mr. T. K. Critchley, High Commissioner to Malaya (Malay and English).
Vice-Admiral Sir John Collins, High Commissioner to New Zealand (English).
Mr. A. P. Renouf, High Commissioner to Nigeria (English).
Mr. J. C. G. Kevin, High Commissioner to Pakistan (English).
Mr. A. T. Stirling, Ambassador to the Philippines (Spanish and English).
Mr. G. A. Jockel, Commissioner to Singapore (English).
Mr. O. L. Davis, High Commissioner to South Africa (English).
The Hon. Sir Howard Beale, Ambassador to the United States of America (English).
Australian Embassy, Burma. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Embassy, Cambodia. (French is widely used for official business and all diplomatic officers at the Embassy speak French.)
Australian High Commission, Ceylon. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Embassy, Israel. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Embassy, the Netherlands. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Legation, Sweden. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Embassy, Thailand. (English is widely used for official business.)
Australian Embassy, United Arab Republic. (English and French are widely used for official business and all diplomatic officers at the Embassy speak French.)
Australian Embassy, Viet Nam. (French is widely used for official business and all diplomatic officers at the Embassy speak French.)
Australian Embassy, Burma. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Cambodia. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Indonesia.
Australian Embassy, Israel. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Italy.
Australian Embassy, Japan.
Australian Embassy, the Netherlands. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Legation Sweden. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Thailand. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Australian Embassy, United Arab Republic. (See comment above in Section 2.)
Australian Embassy, Viet Nam. (See comment above in Section 2.)
on asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. The department does not have any plans for the establishment of a restaurant in the international terminal. Some consideration has been given to the establishment of a cocktail lounge in that terminal, but no firm plans have been made.
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he have prepared for the information of honorable members an explanatory statement setting out the salient features of the uniform company legislation which was agreed by the Commonwealth and State Governments would become operative this year?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The draft model companies bill forms a sizeable book, intended to replace laws of widely varying dates in the several States and Territories of the Commonwealth. I shall prepare an explanatory table for circulation when the bill is applied to the Australian Capital Territory. -Meantime the honorable member may find a note of the principal changes in New South Wales if he refers to the second-reading speech of the Minister introducting the model bill into the Parliament of New South Wales, reported in “ Hansard “ of that Parliament on 16th November, 1961.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Radio Station in Northern Australia.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As I have previously stated, following informal discussions concerning the possibility of establishing a United States naval radio communications station in Australia, two United States technical survey teams, and a number of other technical personnel, have visited this country to study problems associated with the construction of such a station. These investigations are continuing without commitment. Certain proposals have now been made by the United Stales authorities and are being studied by the appropriate Australian authorities. There is no intention of using anything but a conventional power source.
Buka Island. - Mr. L. R. Johnson asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
k. - The answers that follow assume that the honorable member is referring to incidents at Buka Island early in February. As has been explained it is misleading to refer to them as “ head tax “ incidents - much more than taxation was involved. 1. (a) 461, Cb) nil.
b asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 April 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620403_reps_24_hor35/>.