24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will the Government consider removing the restriction in the income tax law which now prevents a taxpayer from claiming the age allowance when his wife has not reached 60 years of age?
– The question relates to an item of policy with which it is not usual to deal in answer to questions without notice. However, I shall examine the matter and see whether there is any information which I can usefully pass on to the honorable member.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, concerns the decision of the United Nations Economic and Social’ Council, at its thirty-fourth session, to summon a conference on world trade. Can the Minister say what progress has been made in this matter and what follow-up action has been taken? Secondly, can he say at this stage how the proceedings of such a conference will fit in with the activities of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Finally, can the Minister say whether this matter will come up for discussion during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly?
– The United Nations Economic and Social Council, at its thirty-fourth session, held at Geneva., resolved that there should be a conference on trade, and it established a preparatory committee, the members of which are the members of the council itself. Australia is one of the member nations and supported the proposal that the preparatory committee meet in the early part of next year. The relationship between this committee and the- proposed conference on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has yet to be worked out, and no doubt will be worked out, perhaps during the deliberations of the preparatory committee, but certainly later. I ought to say that, in addition to this proposal, there has been quite a deal of pressure for an earlier conference from countries which depend on the sale of primary products. These countries have suffered from the down-turn in the terms of trade, as we have, and they consider that Gatt has not provided for the primaryproducing countries results of the sort that it has been able to provide for the industrialized countries. Lastly, the honorable member asked me whether this matter would be on the agenda at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. I can tell him that the subject is on the agenda, and no doubt it will be discussed.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman will have noticed the differences between the rates of salary in the recommendations which the committee on university salaries made to the Australian Universities Commission a year ago and the rates in the award which the Industrial Commission of New South Wales made for the staff of the University of New South Wales a week ago. He will also remember that the High Court, a generation ago, adopted his argument in the State school teachers case that the teaching profession is not an industry within the Commonwealth’s arbitration power. I ask him whether the Government will respect the decisions made by the only tribunals to which university staffs can resort, or whether it will follow only the recommendations of ad hoc committees which it appoints from time to time. In short, does the Government accept the principle of arbitration in respect of university salaries?
– What I know about the award that has been referred to, I have read in the newspapers. It struck me as being quite possibly a sequel to the recent engineers award. I have not seen it and I have had no opportunity to consider it. When I see it I shall consider it, but I am not prepared at this moment to make any statement varying the procedures that have been followed in the past in relation to professorial salaries.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. In view of the shortages of labour, especially skilled labour, that are becoming apparent in many parts of Australia, will the Minister take every possible step to increase the number of suitable migrants being granted permits to enter Australia? In particular, will he urge the Government to remove the restrictions which at present prevent many suitable people from migrating at their own expense from certain European countries because they have no close relatives in Australia?
– I am very conscious indeed of the problems that my honorable friend has raised this morning and I can assure him and the House that the Government is doing everything possible to attract and maintain a supply of skilled labour to Australia. I ask the honorable gentleman to possess himself with his customary patience just a little longer, because I hope within the next fortnight or so to make an announcement in this connexion which I am sure will meet with his approval and, I hope, with that of the House generally.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it anticipated that installation of equipment at the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television station in Canberra will be completed for handing over by the contractors to the Postmaster-General’s Department on 22nd October?
– That is the transmitting station?
– The television station on Black Mountain. Is it expected that the aerial top will have arrived from Germany in time to permit the telecasting of test patterns to commence in November? Is it normal for test patterns to continue for three months and, if so, does this mean that programme telecasting may not commence until late January or early February? As the station presumably will be operable in November, will the Minister endeavour to ensure that even if regular programming has not commenced, arrangements will be made for the telecasting possibly of the first cricket test match in Brisbane at- the end of November, but certainly of the second test match in Melbourne at the end of December, and of the Davis Cup matches in Brisbane at Christmas time?
– It is certainly our plan to commence the national service from Canberra before the end of the year. I have not had information during the last couple of weeks regarding progress in this matter. It is correct, as the honorable member has suggested, that there was a hold-up in the delivery of equipment from Germany. It is on that point that I am not quite clear at present, but I shall obtain the latest information available and pass it on to the honorable member. I can assure him that every effort will be made to commence telecasting on time.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. As background to the question, I wish to inform you that at about 5.45 p.m. yesterday the Government Whip telephoned me and said that a division was imminent. About ten minutes later he telephoned me again and said that the division had been held in my absence. I was working in my office, I heard the telephone ring and I was on the qui vive for the division bells. I am certain that the bell in my room did not ring. My question is: Could you have the division bells checked? From time to time, not only in my case but, I am sure, in the case of other honorable members as well, mechanical defects do occur. In this case, the results were particularly unfortunate.
– When a matter such as this is raised, it is dealt with promptly and efficiently. I should imagine that if the bell in the honorable member’s room did not ring and he complained about that in the right quarters, the matter was handled immediately. We have had complaints about the bells in other rooms, and those complaints have been handled immediately. Unfortunately, in most cases we have found that the bells were in working order.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister, for Defence, by saying that on Tuesday last the Minister for Territories issued a statement on northern development and that on page 3 of the statement, under the heading “ Total expenditure on major works for 10 years, 1951-61 “, defence expenditure is set out as being of the order of £3,800,000 for that period. Does the Minister for Defence consider that this amount, out of annual defence votes of £200,000,000, is adequate to provide for the defence of the most vulnerable part of Australia? Does this expenditure indicate, in view of current developments to the near north of Australia and the apparent satisfaction of the Government that enough is being done to meet them, that in the event of any future crisis the whole of the north of Australia will be considered expendable?
– I am not aware of the statement to which the honorable member has referred, which is said to contain the figure of £3,800,000. I can assure the House that defence expenditure in the north is very much in excess of £3,800,000.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I shall be very brief. The figure of £3,800,000 mentioned in my statement refers only to defence expenditure on works, not to total defence expenditure.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Did the honorable gentleman hear my speech last night during the adjournment debate in which I said that members of the electorate of Isaacs, as well as reputable Jewish organizations throughout the world, believe that the Soviet Union is carrying on a determined persecution of 3,000,000 Jews in Russia to force them to abandon the faith of their fathers and the teachings of their people? Will the Minister examine the material which I brought forward and ascertain whether there is any way in which this matter could effectively be brought before the United Nations, or any of its agencies, in the hope that a solution would be found to this problem, thus putting an end to inhuman, uncivilized, and barbarous treatment of human beings because of their religious faith?
- I did hear the honorable gentleman’s speech last night. If it is proper for me to congratulate him, I do so. I most certainly will do as he asks. I shall examine the material he has, and any material that I have, to find out whether something effective can be done. I am sure that the honorable member realizes, as does the House, that the United Nations Charter has its own limiting factors. It has a domestic concern article, which we feel must be respected always. Nonetheless, as the House will remember, the Prime Minister has expressed in this place the Government’s complete abhorrence of antisemitism wherever it takes place. I shall see whether there is any way in which something effective can be done.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the profit returns of farmers operating in the Lockyer valley in Queensland, producing onions and potatoes, as well as the profit returns of onion and potato producers in other parts of Australia, are affected adversely to a most serious degree regularly each year as a result of consumer price fluctuations? Does the Minister consider that it is reasonable to permit the continuance of this situation, which causes so much loss to primary producers and their families, when a national system of stabilized marketing would overcome the difficulty? Will the Minister investigate the proposal that a national system of stabilized marketing of onions and potatoes be established? Such a system, to meet with the approval of the producers, should allow them to participate in the control of the marketing of their products and thereby achieve a measure of stability.
– Onions and potatoes are two commodities the growers of which do not enjoy a stabilized system of marketing. In Queensland at one time a board was established to control the marketing of onions, but the growers decided to sell interstate and break up the organization. They thereby lost control of the stabilized form of marketing that they had been enjoying. They have chosen free marketing and, unfortunately, when there is a glut, they suffer. The honorable member for Oxley knows as well as I do that this is a matter that comes within the jurisdiction of the State Government. The Commonwealth is involved only when the product is marketed under a Commonwealth form of stabilized marketing. Of course, the Commonwealth is also involved with regard to exports. However, Australia does not export onions to any significant extent.
So far as potatoes are concerned, recent prices have been more than satisfactory. The honorable member knows that in times of glut prices are low. Knowing that, the growers should be encouraged to seek a stabilized system of marketing. Rather than attempt to make political capital out of the situation the honorable member should be trying to help the growers by encouraging them to seek stabilized marketing.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that the Government of Ceylon has forbidden migrants to Australia to transfer private funds in excess of £150 to this country? As many Ceylon-born migrants are now Australian citizens, and in view of the generous financial and other aid that Australia has given, and is giving, to Ceylon, will the Minister make representations on this matter to the Government of Ceylon on behalf of Ceylon-born Australian citizens, who are now making an excellent contribution to the development of Australia?
– I am aware that the exchange control regulations of Ceylon prevent the movement of funds out of Ceylon to this country except within fairly tight limits. I have had occasion to make representations in particular cases that have been brought to my notice. I am not aware that the restrictions are specifically aimed at migrants to this country, but I shall examine this matter to see whether this is so, and I shall make any representations necessary to ensure that migrants are not singled out for differential treatment. Although the situation may be that migrants are not being singled out for special differentiation, nonetheless, if particular cases are brought to my attention I will make representations to see whether migrants coming from Ceylon to Australia may be permitted to bring more of their funds with them.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Dawson, whose electorate is proposed to be eliminated under redistribution, soon will be appointed Australian High Commissioner in London? If so, will the Prime Minister say whether his benevolence in this regard is to be confined to supporters of his Government, or will this “ Jobs-for-the.Boys “ policy extend to all honorable members whose electorates are in danger?
- Sir, this is a very happy suggestion. It has the charm of novelty to me. I have not read the newspaper which has dealt with my colleague’s future so handsomely. I do not know who will be appointed, in due course, to any of . these posts. 1 gather that the honorable member, looking at the redistribution, is anticipating that he, himself, after the next general election will be available for a post. If so, I shall have his application in mind.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question. There have been reports that if the United Kingdom enters the European Common Market special arrangements will be made for the sale of New Zealand butter. Is there any truth in these reports? If so, what arrangements will be made? Will they apply also to Australian butter?
– New Zealand’s dependence upon butter and lamb - both items that may be affected by the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Common Market, is very great and is widely recognized. There have been suggestions, which I think have some ground, that the plight of New Zealand if she were to be placed at a great disadvantage in respect of those items would be recognized. To quote words that have actually been used, “something must be done for New Zealand “, and I hope that something will be done for New Zealand in respect of these items. Frankly, having regard to the world-wide acceptance these days of policies of non-discrimination in tariff treatment, I just cannot conceive that whatever might be done for New Zealand in respect of butter and lamb will not also be done for other suppliers such as Australia.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question in regard to trade with China which in the past year has become our fifth greatest customer. Is the Minister aware of the statement made by the chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau, Sir William Gunn, that in the near future China would become the leading purchaser of Australian wool? If he is aware of the statement, does he agree with it? In order to improve the relations between the two countries will his Government give serious consideration to reversing its attitude in opposing China’s admission to the United Nations? Will the Government consider supporting China’s admission to the United Nations this year, and will it also enter into diplomatic relations with that country?
– I have not heard from Sir William Gunn nor have I read a statement such as that to which the honorable member has referred. But I know, as Sir William Gunn knows and the whole country knows, that China has been a useful buyer of Australian wool. Having regard to the very great population of that country, I should think that if there was a quite modest increase in the consumption of apparel wool there, Australia, which is the greatest producer in the world of apparel wool, would obviously benefit. Wool is not an item on which any restriction has been placed by the Western Powers in respect of sales to Communist countries. The policy of the Government is that normal trading shall occur in items in respect of which there is no strategic reason for preventing sales to Communist countries. I am sure there is no need for us to consider other than the trading aspects of this matter.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether the Government has removed restrictions on the export of scrap iron and steel in view of the fact that there appears to be little demand overseas, and supplies to local users are assured. Can he inform me whether it is possible to take immediate action if a sudden demand overseas or an increased price offered by overseas buyers were to cause a shortage to local users?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. For a period, this Government and its predecessor in office maintained control of the export of scrap iron and steel from Australia for two reasons. One was to ensure that there was sufficient scrap for Australian foundries and steel makers. The other was to ensure that an excessive price was not maintained for steel used in Australia. A state of affairs has developed in which there is an excess of scrap steel beyond the Australian demand. Prices are low at home and overseas, and in those circumstances the Government terminated the restrictions. I point out that the restriction does not involve the repeal of any legislation. The control was maintained under the general power of the Customs Act and could be removed at any time that circumstances warranted such action.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the House of the facilities made available in small country towns for persons wishing to apply for war pensions or, in the case of those already in receipt of pensions, wishing to receive medical treatment? Is it a fact that complaints have been received that many such persons are forced to travel many miles to the nearest large centre to receive medical treatment, or to apply for pensions? If this is a fact, will the Minister take steps to ensure, for the convenience of exservicemen in such areas, that arrangements are made for regular visits to these areas by officers of the Repatriation Department?
– Apparently I must have anticipated this question by the honorable member as the arrangements he suggests have been made already. During the last six months the department has arranged for regular visits to be made to all the principal country areas in each State by senior officers with the object of giving the people of these districts the opportunity to discuss repatriation matters and, if they wish to do so, to submit their applications on the spot. However, the fact that an ex-serviceman lives in a distant area, whether in New Guinea, Papua, the Northern Territory or a distant part of any
State, does not preclude him from submitting an application at any time. The department has received very good cooperation from organizations such as the Returned Servicemen’s League, mostly through sub-branches of these organizations, and through offices which have been established in various centres. Application forms are available and can be submitted through these offices to the department. In addition, as I have stated, officers of the department visit country centres.
As far as medical treatment is concerned it is desirable, where major hospital treatment is necessary, that a patient be transferred to the repatriation general hospital in the State concerned, but where an emergency arises the patient can be treated in the local hospital at the expense of the department. The department has also in operation a system whereby local medical officers are appointed through the length and breadth of the country. Persons entitled to any form of medical treatment are given the names of the local medical officers in their district and they can report to these officers for treatment for their accepted disability. If treatment in hospital is necessary, in an emergency a person can be treated in the local hospital at the expense of the department, but it is preferable, for various reasons, to have such cases transferred to the capital city of the State involved. In such cases the cost of travel to the capital city in each State is borne by the department.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has he seen a report attributed to Mr. David Fleay the wellknown naturalist, that 10,000 kangaroos are killed each week throughout Australia, and that if this rate of killing continues, kangaroos will soon become extinct?
– I rise to order. I have a question on the notice-paper in almost identical terms.
-Order! The honorable member’s question is already provided for on the notice-paper.
– With due respect Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. At the moment 181 questions appear on the notice- paper and it is not possible for the Chair to recall the substance of each of them. If a similar question is on the notice-paper, the question which the honorable member now asks is out of order. However, if the honorable member’s question contains anything additional to the relevant question already on the notice-paper he is entitled to ask for additional information.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The question I wish to ask is in different terms.
– Order! The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I have been asked to inform the Postmaster-General that it is the considered opinion of the people in the Cairns and Tablelands areas who are interested in the telecast station that instead of Bell’s Peak, which has been suggested, Mount Bartle Frere, the highest peak in Queensland, should be the site for the television transmitter so that the majority of viewers can get a clearer picture.
– Considerable investigation to determine the best site for the Cairns station has already taken place. As the honorable member is aware, I also know that area very well and so can appreciate the point of his question. Mount Bartle Frere has been given close consideration as the site for a transmitter, but initial investigation shows that the cost of access would be very high. In fact, various methods of access, other than road access, have been considered to see whether that site could be used. There is no doubt that a television transmitter on Mount Bartle Frere would give a very wide coverage, which is our desire, but at the same time it is essential that we take into account also the factor of cost before finally determining the position. That is how the matter rests at the moment.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister heard of the operations of certain export meat wholesalers in Melbourne who, it is alleged, are applying to their domestic fat lamb retail market the rebate in the pay-roll tax given by the Federal Government to these companies as an export incentive, thus forcing small retail butchers out of the trade? Does the Minister recognize that these companies can gain control of the fat lamb market by these methods, thus jeopardizing the price to producers?
– I should like to say in reply to the honorable member for Gippsland that if some exporters are getting incentive benefits by way of export rebates obviously they are doing a good job for Australia. They could not get the rebates unless they had increased their exports, and an increase of exports is indeed desirable.
The other point of his question is that as wholesalers certain companies arc seeking to undermine prices and are using the incentive payments to enable them to cut out the smaller wholesalers. I suppose that is a normal form of business which is not necessarily a desirable one. The only answer that I can give to the honorable member is that I will look at the matter to the extent that it comes within my jurisdiction and see whether there is any conflict in regard to export arrangements with the guaranteed prices set down by the Australian Meat Board for the current lamb export season.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government’s attention been directed to the statement of the chairman of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association in which he refers to the great savings in social service payments that could be made and the increased national production that could result from the proper provision of training facilities and suitable workshops for physically handicapped persons? Will the Government consider making grants to assist in the establishment and maintenance of training and workshop facilities, and will it request government dedepartments and statutory bodies, wherever possible, to provide work contract opportunities for these organizations?
– As I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable member, and as he obviously has raised a matter of some substance, I should be glad if he would put that question on the notice-paper so that I may have a chance to study this report and give him as much information as I can.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. lt refers to the attention that was directed in the sixth annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to the need for new and modern accommodation to be provided for the commission and its members in Sydney. Will the Minister tell the House whether any plans are in hand or are contemplated to provide accommodation in keeping with modern requirements and commensurate with the status of the city of Sydney?
– So far as I am aware, no proposals have yet been agreed to for the provision of modern accommodation for the commission in Sydney. I will discuss this matter with my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, and let the honorable gentleman know the results of the discussion. What is much more important - I should like to emphasise this part of the report of the commission, Mr. Speaker - is that the work of the commission is up to date, and the president has reported that the objectives of the act are being fully achieved. I believe that that should be brought to the notice of the House.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to instances in which unauthorized persons have appropriated income tax rebate cheques without the knowledge of the persons to whom they were mailed, and some time has elapsed before the latter persons became aware that the Taxation Branch had mailed their assessments and rebate cheques? As the branch refuses to acknowledge any responsibility in such instances, will the Treasurer recommend that income tax rebate cheques be sent by registered mail?
– Tt is not clear to me whether the honorable gentleman is referring to the difficulties in Melbourne which received some publicity.
– No. This request came from Ayr.
– I can only suggest to the honorable gentleman that he bring the details to my notice. If he does so, I shall go into them fully for him. I am not able to give him any information on this matter at present.
– I preface my question, which’ is directed to the Minister for Immigration, by pointing out that there are unsettled portions of Australia that desperately need population, and that committees working in Australian Citizenship Conventions have advanced some proposals for settling such areas. Is it a fact that, before any projected policy in this respect could be put into operation, an eminently suitable group of magnificent refugees arrived in Sydney - their arrival had no connexion with the proposals I have mentioned - and that there is a danger that those refugees will be lost to this sort of settlement? Can the Minister take any action to contact the Queensland Government in respect of the brigalow lands development, and the Western Australian Government in respect of the very large areas in that State that should be settled?
– In reply to the honorable gentleman I can only say, as I said in response to a similar question that he asked in this House two days ago, that I am very conscious of the necessity to settle on the land as many of our migrants as is feasible and as is economically practicable, and am very sympathetic to proposals directed to that end. I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall certainly do what I can to see that the new arrivals whom I think he has in mind are placed in rural employment. But I hope my honorable friend will realize - I am sure he does - that these things are not easy to do. I can assure him of my good intentions, because my desires run in the same direction as his own.
– Has the Minister for Social Services issued an instruction requiring persons in receipt of social service payments to seek employment in a manner satisfactory to his department or have their payments stopped? Is it the intention of the Minister that this rule should be enforced when it is obvious that no work exists in the relevant locality? Does the Minister agree that no person should be denied payment unless he has failed to accept suitable employment offered by the Commonwealth Employment Service? If his department insists that unemployed persons seek work independently, will he state officially what will be accepted as evidence of a person having so sought employment?
- Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honorable member for Capricornia that no supplementary instructions have been issued by me or by any one in the Department of Social Services with respect to the payment of unemployment benefit. The qualifications for receipt of unemployment benefit have followed the traditional pattern laid down by successive governments. There has been no variation except an increase in the rates.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are negotiations to form a plan to stabilize the Australian dried fruits industry still proceeding? If so, what stage has been reached? If not, is the Minister prepared to meet representatives of the industry in an endeavour to establish a stabilization plan acceptable to the Government and to the Australian dried fruits industry?
– Negotiations between the Government and the dried fruits industry really commenced in 1955, culminating in a referendum concerning a proposal in August, 1957, in which about 80 per cent, of the growers who cast votes, voted in favour of the proposal. But, because about 40 per cent, of the growers were indifferent to the proposition and did not vote there was not a simple majority in favour, so it was not proceeded with. Since that time the Government has, on two occasions, offered a slightly improved form of stabilization, which the industry did not accept. The most recent discussion was about two months ago, but arising out of that discussion there have been no requests or proposals submitted to the Government by the industry. The honorable member can be assured that the Government is always prepared to meet representatives of She industry for further discussion.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by alluding to the annual report of the Tariff Board, which disclosed that there was evidence of the existence of uniform price lists compiled under agreement between certain groups of manufacturers. Under these arrangements distributors, wholesalers and retailers fixed margins bearing little relationship to the costs of production and distribution. I ask the Prime Minister: Has he or any of his Ministers received complaints from local government councils that when” they call tenders for the supply of tires, oil, petrol, timber, electric cables, &c, identical tenders are received? Furthermore, he may recall that in September 1939 he said that the problem of profiteering “ will be attacked by the Government with vigour”. When can we expect that this vigour will be applied to the introduction of restrictive trade practices legislation?
– I have not seen the report referred to nor, of course, am I familiar with the facts suggested by the honorable member. But I will find out from my colleagues who deal with the relevant departments whether there is any information on these matters.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether the Commonwealth Government has power to legislate for the protection of Australian flora and fauna, or does this subject come only within the jurisdiction of the State governments?
– I think there is a standing order against giving legal opinions. I now have a very good legal authority in my left corner here, and I will find out from him something about this matter.
– Order! I ask for the co-operation of all honorable members in dealing with questions. I would say in this case every part of the kangaroo is protected.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that the Associated
Chambers of Manufactures of Australia has criticized some Australian manufacturers for importing goods at dumped prices at the expense of Australian suppliers. Also, is it a fact that for the first two months of the current trade year Australia had a trading deficit of £32,400,000 compared with a trading surplus of £20,200,000 in the first two months of 1961-62? Further, is it a fact that many luxury items are being imported to the detriment of our overseas trade? If all these are facts, will the Minister consider reintroducing selective import restrictions?
– The answer to the first question is, “ I do not know “. As to the second question, I shall try to ascertain the figures for the honorable member. As to whether the importation of luxury items adversely affects our overseas trade, I do not comprehend the honorable member’s question.
– by leave - On 30th April, 1959, I made a statement in the House outlining the Government’s policy with respect to the extension of television services to country and provincial areas of the Commonwealth. In that statement, I indicated that, as a first stage, national and commercial stations would be established in thirteen country areas and that the remaining provincial and rural areas would be given consideration when that stage was well under way. Commercial stations have now commenced operations in eleven of the thirteen areas and considerable progress has been made with the establishment of national stations in those areas.
Subsequently, on 18th October, 1961, in conformity with my undertaking, I announced that national stations would be established in an additional twenty country areas and that applications would be invited for the grant of a licence for a commercial television station in each of those areas. These areas were -
Southern Agricultural Area (KatanningAlbany).
Central Agricultural Area (NorthamYork).
Accordingly, applications for the licences for the commercial stations in these areas were invited on 30th November, 1961. In the cases of the Upper Namoi, South Western Slopes and Eastern Riverina, GraftonKempsey, Upper Murray, Wide Bay and Spencer Gulf North areas, applications were required to be lodged by 4th May, 1962, and those in respect of the remaining areas by 27th July, 1962. These dates were arranged so as to give all intending applicants for licences plenty of time to prepare their applications and, in particular, to give those in the areas of smaller population the longest possible time to investigate the issues which were likely to arise in those areas.
Ten applications were received in respect of the six areas to which I have specifically referred, while twenty-eight applications were received in respect of twelve of the remaining areas. No applications were received for licences in the Southern Agricultural and the Central Agricultural areas of Western Australia. All of these applications were referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, pursuant to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1960, for public inquiry and report to me. Because of its commitments in respect of other inquiries relating to capital cities, the board has been able to deal only with the applications for the first six areas and has submitted to me its report and recommendations which I now lay on the table of the House.
Following consideration of the board’s report, the Government has authorized me to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the five areas indicated: -
The constitution of these companies is set out in the board’s report. In the sixth area - Spencer Gulf North - the only applicant was not prepared to proceed with the application on the ground that it would, at this stage, be uneconomic to do so. He stated, however, that he wished to have the opportunity of re-applying in 1965. Consequently, I am not in a position at present to grant a licence for a commercial station in this area, but I propose to keep the matter under review with the object of re-inviting applications as soon as circumstances indicate that such a course is warranted.
The licences will not be granted until I am satisfied as to the directors and shareholdings of the respective companies and as to their compliance with the provisions of the act. I shall also require that an assurance be given that no exclusive arrangement will be entered into with any metropolitan station for the provision of programmes or the sale of station time or advertising. This conforms with the conditions prescribed in respect of other country stations which have been licensed. Each company, to which a licence is to be granted, will be required to offer at least 50 per cent. of its shares to the general public residing in the area to be served by the station, although it appears from the board’s report that each of the proposed licensees has already expressed this intention.
I should point out that the board, in its report, recommended some modifications to the proposed shareholding in Riverina Television Limited. No conflict with the provision of the act was, however, involved in the proposals of that company and the Government did not, therefore, adopt the board’s recommendation.
As was done in the case of other areas, I propose to make it clear to the companies concerned that the fact that a licence for only one commercial station in each area is being granted now is not to be taken that further licences will not be granted in the future, should circumstances justify such a course. I am not in a position, at present, to say when the board will be able to deal with the applications which have been received in respect of the remaining areas to which I have referred. I can only assure the House that no avoidable delays will occur.
As I stated earlier a national station is to be established in each of the twenty country areas which I have mentioned. These include, of course, the Spencer Gulf North area in South Australia and the Southern Agricultural and the Central Agricultural areas of Western Australia. The erection of the national stations will proceed as quickly as po’ssible.
I lay on the table the following papers: -
Extension of Television Services - Ministerial Statement, 4th October, 1962.
Australian Broadcasting Control Board - Report and Recommendations to the Postmaster-General on Applications for Commercial Television Licences in Upper Namoi, South-western Slopes and Eastern Riverina, Grafton-Kempsey, Upper Murray, Wide Bay and Spencer Gulf North areas. and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
– by leave - For the information of honorable members, I lay on’ the table the texts of the following treaties -
Agencies, accession to which the Government has under consideration.
International Atomic Energy Agency which the Government has accepted.
August, 1962 between Britain and Australia, which entered into force on 1st October, 1962.
Extending the Operation of the Trade Agreement between Australia and Indonesia, which is effective as from 1st July, 1962.
– Will the Minister move that these treaties be printed, so that the House may have the opportunity to express its views on them, as the Prime Minister promised it would have when he announced this new procedure on 10th May, 1961?
– If you will give me an opportunity to consider that matter I will say on the next sitting day whether I will do so.
– I lay on the table of the House the following paper: -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports, with Maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into electoral divisions the States of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. and move -
That the reports be printed.
I may add that due to delays in the Government Printing Office I am unable to give all honorable members copies of these proposals to-day. However, they will be available probably on Tuesday of next week, and maps will be displayed in all the party rooms. Honorable members will, of course, have an opportunity to debate the proposals when the Government’s resolutions are submitted to the House.
– I take it that the motion which the Minister has proposed is merely formal, for the purpose of enabling the papers to be printed, and that it will not in any way prevent consideration at a later stage of any of the proposals in respect of any of the States.
– This is purely a formal matter. The procedure is exactly the same as that which has been followed on previous occasions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-196 1.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of permanent accommodation for the Australian Regular Army at Kapooka, New South Wales.
The proposal provides for the erection at an estimated cost of £2,067,000 of permanent living, messing, recreation, administrative and training accommodation in accordance with the master plan for the area. The committee has reported favorably on the proposal, and upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution the detailed planning in accordance with the committee’s recommendations can proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Opperman) - agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In introducing this bill covering amendments to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, I point out that many of the amendments proposed are of a relatively minor nature, but there is one major amendment to which I would like to refer in detail. Section 30 (1) of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956 provides that the commission may borrow money for temporary purposes on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or from such other bank as the Treasurer approves, the aggregate of the amounts borrowed and not repaid not to exceed £1.000,000.
In February, 1959. . the Treasurer’s approval, pursuant to section 30(1), was obtained for the commission to borrow on overdraft from the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia. Since that time the commission has used this medium to meet its fluctuating needs for liquid funds to satisfy recurring commitments for income tax. dividends and, on occasion, progress payments for the purchase of new ships. It has become evident, however, that the limit of £1.000,000 imposed by the act is too restrictive. In June, 1959. for instance, it became necessary to seek approval for the temporary deferment of the 1958 dividend payment of £975,876 due to the Treasury.
Clause 3 of the bill amends section 30 (1) of the act to increase the existing overdraft limit from £1,000,000 to £5.000,000. This figure, it has been assessed, would be adequate to meet all foreseeable demands for liquid funds. The increased borrowing power is sought primarily because of the heavy capital expenditure which will be incurred by the commission on the new tonnage construction programme due -for completion progressively over the next two or three years.
Apart from vessels already on order for the commission, I recently announced the acquisition by the commission of the first of the 21,400 ton vessels, to be known as the “ Musgrave Range “, currently building at the shipyards of the Broken Hill company at Whyalla. Thus the commission’s capital expenditure on new tonnage for the period between the present time and up to 30th June, 1964, is an estimated £6,578,500. This figure does not include any provision for expenditure on further orders which it may be assumed the commission is likely to place within the next three or four years.
The commission is expected to operate in all respects on a commercial basis and should be conceded the normal facility of access to funds to meet temporary peak demands, within an acceptable ratio as between fixed capital and outside borrowed money. Even at the top limit of overdraft of £5,000,000, it gives a ratio of better than 3 to 1. Net assets of the commission, as at 31st December, 1961, were £20,700,000 and any overdraft arrangements entered into by the commission could be adhered to, and ample security could be given.
Other matters dealt with in the bill are, as I have previously stated, of a minor nature. In the main they bring the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act into line with the practice adopted since- 1957 whereby sections of legislation relating to the bank accounts of statutory authorities are prepared or amended in a form that requires the authority to maintain its account with the Reserve Bank of Australia or other banks approved by the Treasurer.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 3rd October (vide page 1132).
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £66,442,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed Vole, £16,000,000.
.- I move -
That the amount of the vote - “ Department of the Treasury, £66,442,000 “-be reduced by £1-‘
As an instruction to the Government -
To make an immediate grant on a £1 for £1 basis with the New South Wales Government for the urgent and imperative work being carried out by the county councils to mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in the northern rivers of New South Wales, in order to preserve the valuable production of the great north coast farming areas and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
This question of assistance from a federal source has been raised before by me in this chamber. The answer I received was rather surprising and, to say the least, not very helpful for this most important aspect of our economics on that particular part of the north coast of New South Wales. I refer to an answer I received to a question some time ago, in which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that the making of special grants for such purposes was not customary, although frequent applications had been made by various States for special assistance for specific reasons. He went on to refer to the effects of the creation of the Australian Loan Council and to the fact that some £2,036,000,000 had been made available to the various States through that body. He stated also that consideration was given to special loans from the Commonwealth Government for special works to assist exports. I would not object if in this instance certain conditions were applied, because the economy not only of this area but of the whole of Australia would be assisted.
It is rather interesting to note that on the north coast of New South Wales, that is, from the Queensland border to Maitland, the value of sugar production alone is some £5,000,000 annually. Beef production, most of which is exported, is valued at £5,000,000, and dairying yields produce to the value of about £5,000,000. Another aspect that is of great importance in relation to the export market, apart from the beef, is the offals from the abattoirs.
In making a plea on behalf of the people on the north coast of New South Wales, I wish to submit the following facts. - From Maitland to the Queensland border, an amount in the vicinity of £1,000,000 is being expended each year on unemployment relief. If that money were applied each year to the projects contemplated, for the period of some ten years that they would take to complete, it would give some tangible return, and useful work would be done. That would not affect the Budget as a whole. We see in the Budget recently presented that an amount of £13,000,000 is being provided for unemployment relief. The amount of £1,000,000 annually to which I have referred would be sufficient to subsidize the State Government, which is doing this job by supplying two-thirds of the cost.
The unfortunate feature is that it will take some 30 years to complete these projects under the present system, due to the small amount of money which is being ploughed in each year by the people who make their contributions to the county councils, and by the State Government in the form of assistance. I suggest that if, by the use of unemployment moneys, the period of completion of these projects could be reduced to some seven or ten years, we would be doing a lot from a federal point of view to effect a saving. This would be not only in the assistance that is given when there are floods and money is provided on a £1 for £1 basis with the State Government for flood victims. The Government would also save by reaping, for ever and a day, the benefit of extra tax payments from that area. This financial assistance would not be a gift. It would be an investment not only for the people who live in that area but also for Australia as a whole.
We must realize that one of the most difficult situations we face is the effect of these floods on the dairy, sugar and beef industries. This is not a matter that we should consider lightly. It is not something that the Government should not pass over, as the Treasurer passed it over in reply to the question I asked, by saying that special provision had been made in 1950 and 1952 for Loan Council assistance to the States, and that under certain conditions concessions had been made in the form of grants to assist export industries. In this particular instance, exports would be assisted. It is important to note that at present both Nestle Company (Aust.) Limited and Peters Ice Cream Proprietary Limited, two big companies exporting milk and condensed products, are now actually sending to Asian markets tremendous amounts of milk products from this area.
In submitting these facts, I wish to say that this is a three-way contract. The people in the area are making their contribution to the county councils. The State Government is making its contribution in the shape of supplementary assistance to the people who form the county councils. But these people expect - in fact, I suggest that they will demand - assistance from the Commonwealth. The thoughts I express do not come from the State Government. They come from the people who live in the area, who are fed up and who are tired of seeing their properties washed away over the years.
They have lost not only farm products as a result of flooding, but also the whole of their businesses, their buildings, their furniture, and every other possession associated with life in a modern community.
From time to time we have seen in the newspapers pictures of flood devastation, and read of the troubles and losses suffered by the people, but unfortunately we seem to have very, very short memories. We read in a newspaper to-day of a bad flood or a disaster of some other kind, but within a few days it is forgotten.
A flood mitigation scheme would ultimately benefit the people and would be to the credit of any government willing to give assistance. In making this appeal for aid, I point out that some of the best land in the world is being ruined by floods. Let me give one example. On the Ulmarra road, an area of some 10,000 acres was usually under water for six to nine months, and sometimes longer, after a flood. Two drains were constructed at a cost of about £70,000 and the area is now drained in a matter of two to seven days. That means that the farmers can bring their cattle back to the land much more rapidly than they could previously. During a flood, the cattle are turned out on to the range, and now they can be brought back quickly because the feed is not destroyed.
When these lands were created by nature, floods possibly played a part in making them rich; but it is now up to man with his ingenuity to control the floods. Progress in the area is being delayed only because of lack of money. The people have made their contribution by paying to their county councils and the State Government has made its contribution. Unfortunately, flood mitigation projects are being left for so long that a generation of farmers will suffer. Floods have prevented the dairy farmers from becoming prosperous and have reduced them to poverty-stricken conditions over the last 100 years.
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) has raised this subject. It is a matter of importance to the people of northern New South Wales. I know only too well the vast devastation and damage caused by floods in that area. I have lived there and have seen the damage.
A large part of my farm is regularly completely inundated by flood waters. I know that a flood in March or April means that the grass will become rotten and stinking and the cows will get dysentery and scours, and the farmers are lucky to pull them through the winter. I know how important this subject is. But the honorable member for Cowper, in raising the matter to-day, highlights the deficiency of the New South Wales Government, which has not given priority to this vital work.
Under uniform taxation, about which I spoke yesterday, certain matters are specified as State responsibilities. These responsibilities are quite clear. When requests for aid to control floods were made to Mr. Chifley, the Labour Prime Minister at the time, he clearly laid down that this was a State responsibility. The States were given tax reimbursements and loans with which to carry out this work. The States receive very handsome tax reimbursements. They also receive very handsome loan moneys from a field that the Commonwealth has vacated completely. Nonetheless, the Commonwealth Government has subsidized loans to the extent of £800,000,000 over the past ten years. Despite this, the State Government of New South Wales cannot find an additional £300,000 a year to spend on flood mitigation in that State as requested by the Premier of New South Wales.
When the honorable member for Cowper rises in this chamber and says that the Commonwealth should enter this field, he is only trying to create a diversion. He is trying to pass the buck on to the Commonwealth Government, although this is a State responsibility. What is the difference between the State undertaking flood control and building dams such as the Glenbawn dam and the Keepit dam?
– Or the Snowy Mountains scheme!
– I will come to the Snowy Mountains scheme in a moment. The dams 1 have mentioned are partly flood control measures. The New South Wales Government has no difficulty in finding millions of pounds to spend in areas where it wants to spend the money. But how much did it spend in the north of New South Wales last year? It spent only. £120,000 on flood mitigation. Is it any wonder that the people in this area are concerned? . Yet this member for Cowper comes here and has the audacity to say that the Commonwealth Government should give money, for flood control works.
I am very sensitive about this matter, because the county councils are being hoodwinked into thinking that they should press the Commonwealth Government for money, although they should be addressing their requests to the State Government. This approach only causes delay. When the councils are led to believe that the Commonwealth may give assistance, they decide to press the Commonwealth instead of pressing the State Government. Of course, the State Government encourages them to do this.
Honorable members opposite argue that we contribute to the cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme and so should contribute to other schemes. They know very well that if the Commonwealth had not joined the States in the Snowy Mountains scheme it would never have been started. This scheme concerns three States, and that is why the National Government is part of it. It is interesting to note, however, that flood mitigation work on the Snowy river is still the responsibility of the State concerned. What difference is there between dredging rivers and undertaking flood control work? The dredging of rivers is still a State responsibility. The State Governments engage in the dredging of rivers and build dams. I think it is a pity that the local government authorities in northern New South Wales have been asked to give support on a £1 for £2 basis. I think the State Government should find the whole of the money. However, the local government authorities have offered to give financial support because they desperately want this work to be undertaken. They know that the livelihood of farmers is involved.
When honorable members say that the New South Wales Government has not sufficient money for this work, how do they justify the spending of £14,500,000 on an opera house in Sydney? How do they justify the State Government buying coal-mines when a surplus of coal is being produced in New South Wales? How do they justify the New South Wales Government buying votes by granting to the workers such additional benefits as extra leave and shorter working hours? These benefits cost the State millions of pounds, and some of this money could have been used for flood mitigation work in the areas to which I have been referring.
It is all very well to say that the Co’mmonwealth Government should give assistance to the States for this purpose; but where would H end? The need for flood mitigation work is widespread. Flood mitigation is the drainage of water and the control of water. Any local authority anywhere in Australia which had a bit of local flooding could come to the Commonwealth Government and say, “ You should give us aid for this on a £1 for £1 basis.” No! The uniform taxation scheme clearly lays down that the States have certain definite responsibilites and they are given the finance to meet these responsibilities. The difficulty is that the New South Wales Government does not give a sufficiently high priority to this vital work.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Cowper to seek sympathy for the dairy farmers in New South Wales, who are being hurt by floods. Let him go back and ask the State Government for aid. I wonder whether he has said one word to the State Government about this subject. He argues that the State Government has not enough money. Last year, tax reimbursements to the States amounted to £137,000,000, and this figure does not take account of additional grants. I said yesterday that in the last year of office of the Labour Government, the Commonwealth returned to the States in grants and tax reimbursements 3.4 per cent, of the gross national product. Last year, this Government returned to the States in grants and tax reimbursements 5.4 per cent, of the gross national product. That is a tremendous increase! Yet the New South Wales Government says it has not enough money and the Commonwealth should give a further £300,000 for flood control. This would create a precedent for all time and the Commonwealth would be obliged to enter the field of water conservation and of flood mitigation. These matters are completely the responsibility of the States. If the Commonwealth were to accept these responsibilities, the whole of the tax reimbursement scheme and all the functions of the Australian Loan Council would have to be altered.
Much of the money that goes to the States is used in the building of dams and canals. This is shown by the amount spent by New South Wales on these works in recent years. The Glenbawn dam cost £14,000,000, but the State Government cannot find £300,000 a year for flood mitigation! I consider that flood mitigation work would give a greater return to the State than would any other investment. It would help relieve the hardship being suffered by many farmers who are on very low incomes. But the honorable member for Cowper has the audacity to say that the Commonwealth should undertake this work, that the Commonwealth should give aid on a £1 for £1 basis. How ridiculous! The State Government cannot find £300,000 because it does not give this work the priority that it deserves. It gives the opera house a high priority and is willing to spend £14,500,000 on it. It did not worry about hurting the farmers when it introduced the 40-hour week, although the farmers now cannot afford to employ labour. If a person gets sick on the farm nowadays, he cannot even afford to pay a temporary worker the award-rates for a 40-hour week in New South Wales. Yet the honorable member asks for sympathy for the farmers who need help and are affected. Let the honorable member go back to his own party and to his big brothers in the Labour movement in New South Wales. Let him talk to them about margarine and getting milk from his area into Sydney. Those are some of the things to be talked about if he wants to help the farmers. But, above all, he should talk to the New South Wales Government about getting extra money for flood mitigation. To expect the local government authorities to contribute £1 for £2 with the New South Wales Government is to place an unnecessary burden on local government.
The local government authorities will come in willingly enough to support the proposal to get it going. They realize the urgency of the matter; but I doubt very much whether the local government authorities could continue to contribute to the scheme for ten or fifteen years and to meet the interest and repayments that will be necessary. 1 think they could not. They have had to allow themselves to be tricked into this by the New South Wales Government because they realize that the only way they can get the work done is to agree to contribute £1 for £2. The whole responsibility should be on the New South Wales Government. If that government is not willing to give a high priority to this work, that is an indictment of it and the way it handles tax reimbursements and loan money so freely given by the Commonwealth Government to the States for work of this sort.
.- I support the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) and congratulate him on his well-reasoned speech. The honorable member has broken new ground. He has spoken for his people. He has told the committee of the losses, devastation, ruin and heartbreak suffered by the people on the north coast of New South Wales. He has made a well-reasoned plea to this committee to rally to the support of the people, to heed their cries, to help them in their travail and to overcome their problems.
I was disturbed and disappointed by the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who comes from the north coast of New South Wales and knows these problems. As he expressed himself to-day, the honorable member has deserted his colleague from the north coast. He failed to stand by the honorable member for Cowper in this important matter. In the final analysis, Mr. Chairman, it does not matter who provides the money. The important thing is that there should be flood mitigation on the north coast of New South Wales. If the New South Wales Government has for some reason or other failed to spend its money on the north coast, or lacks the money to spend, is this Commonwealth Government absolved? Is this Parliament freed of responsibility to do the right thing for the people of the north coast? That responsibility rests upon governments. Too often have we had passing of the buck. It is said that some work is a State responsibility or a Commonwealth responsibility, or the responsiblity of local government; but this is a humane responsibility resting on the governments of this country.
If the New South Wales Government is prepared to find two-thirds of the money needed for this work, the Commonwealth Government should rally to the support of the people of the north coast. These people have had their crops ruined and their homes spoiled. Mothers have had to try to restore order in devastated homes. What encouragement can these people derive from the thought that the necessary work is a State responsibility? The important thing is that something should be done.
The honorable member for Cowper has directed attention to the great wealth that has been won from the north coast of New South Wales. He mentioned £5,000,000 from dairy export earnings, £5,000,000 from beef and £5,000,000 from sugar. All these things are of the utmost importance in pounds, shillings and pence, but the human factor is also of the utmost importance. I pose this question to the honorable member for Richmond: Is he for or against the people of the north coast? Where does he stand on this matter? Does he stand by the honorable member for Cowper or does he desert him? Does the honorable member for Richmond desert the people of the north coast?
In the final analysis, the important thing is to get something done. We all know that these floods recur and recur. It has happened this year once or twice, and it will certainly happen once or twice next year. It will happen every year until flood mitigation is financed by the responsible governments. As we all know, since uniform taxation was put into effect the responsibility of collecting taxes, apportioning the revenue and arranging loans has rested on the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government collects the taxes. The Australian Loan Council apportions loan moneys. The responsibility lies here, and this Government should not allow this matter to pass.
The present honorable member for Cowper is continuing a proud tradition in this Parliament by supporting pleas which were made by his predecessor, the late Sir Earle Page. We recall that right honorable gentleman’s many pleas to this Parliament concerning the Clarence Gorge scheme. He often spoke of the need for water resources to be controlled and for the development of the north coast of New South Wales.
The proposal that money should be provided for flood mitigation on the north coast was originally put forward by Sir Earle Page when he was the member for Cowper. He brought these matters to the attention of the people in that district and supported the people of the Clarence area when they wanted action taken. I commend the present representative of the Cowper electorate for maintaining that tradition and continuing the fight for the people of the north coast. Instead of being attacked as it has been, this proposal should receive the support of the whole committee. I can only hope that, on reflection, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who has now taken his place in the committee, will heed the requests that have been made and will see that action is taken.
Under section 96 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has power to make money available for specific purposes. Here is a very special purpose for which money should be made available. The question is: Do we support the continuation of this devastation by floods each year, or do . we believe that action should be taken to correct it? We cannot close our eyes to this great loss of production and the heartache of the people of the area. The important point to be considered is that this Commonwealth Government has no policy on flood mitigation and the planned development of our water resources and such matters. It is true, as some honorable members have said, that we have the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project but that was planned, started and developed by a Labour government. We remember that the opening of that project was boycotted by the antiLabour forces of that time. This is all true and it is well known. The fact is that the Snowy Mountains project stands as a monument to the Australian Labour Party. I suggest to the committee that what has been accomplished in the south-eastern corner of New South Wales by careful planning could also be applied to the development of other regions of Australia. This old, rich area of the north coast of New South Wales merits special attention. The provision of one-third of the necessary funds would not be too big a contribution for this Government to make to the welfare of the people of the region.
I make a plea, too, on the ground on which the honorable member for Cowper pleaded for assistance for the people of the north coast. He directed attention to the fact that this very important work of flood mitigation is needed not only to prevent the flooding of the streams and the consequent destruction of the results of the effort of years, and, sometimes, the effort of a lifetime, by the people of the area, but also to provide work for unemployed persons. I think that the employment trend in this country is most disturbing, and finance is the key in this instance. Although the level of unemployment throughout Australia has been reduced over the last twelve months by something like 50,000, from about 130,000 to roughly 80,000, unemployment in country areas is higher to-day than it was twelve months ago. The figures for various country towns and provincial cities throughout the nation, and especially in New South Wales, reveal that labour is available in country areas for the kind of flood mitigation work that has been described to the committee this morning by the honorable member for Cowper. In Maitland, the number of unemployed workers has fallen by only two over the last twelve months. In Lismore, the number has risen by about 30.
Order! The honorable member may illustrate his argument by the use of these figures, but I do not think that he should develop the theme.
– I am just trying to illustrate my argument that there are in country regions people who are anxious and willing to work. The figures show that there are more unemployed people in country districts now than there were before. I appeal to the Treasurer and the Government to try to overcome the attitude that this matter is a State responsibility. Instead, let us look at the need for the the work to be done. Let us look at the problem objectively and see how neglect is hampering the development of this country and limiting our export income.
– Does not the honorable member believe in a federal system?
– I am suggesting that here we have an instance in which, under the system of government that we have at present, the Commonwealth has power, under section 96 of the Constitution, to deal with an important national problem as one which concerns the federal system. I suggest that the Commonwealth ought to use the presently available machinery to deal with this problem. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to do so and is content to sit idly by and close its eyes to these matters, it adopts that attitude on its own responsibility and it will have to answer to its masters, the people, when it has to face them some time in the near future.
I consider that the honorable member for Cowper to-day has stated a case which is irresistible to every reasonable person. Here is a job to be done in solving a problem that affects good citizens who are descendants of the great pioneers of this country and who are engaged in producing foodstuffs and other commodities on which we depend for our export earnings. This Parliament, through the Commonwealth Treasury, finances the export of products from this country. We concern ourselves with winning markets overseas and with maintaining the flow of exports of goods that we can market abroad. Each year, we see great devastation by flooding of the crops and soil on which we depend for production to maintain our export trade. Yet the Commonwealth Government remains unmoved, despite the appeals that have been made. I recall the pleas that were made by the late Sir Earle Page, the former member for Cowper. They are now being courageously and wisely continued by the present member on behalf of the people of the north coast of New South Wales. I can only trust that the Cabinet, on reflection, will accept the case that has been made out, realizing that it is a good one.
This is not a question of an investment on which a loss may be sustained. Expenditure on flood mitigation represents an investment that cannot fail to return dividends. Let us, instead of arguing about whether the State authorities ought to find all the money, or anything of the sort, go forward and do the job as Australians. This is a national problem which concerns all the people of Australia, and particularly the people of the north coast of New South Wales.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I ask this committee to support the proposal made by the honorable member for Cowper and to help him in the great work that he is undertaking in this Parliament on behalf of the people whom he represents. Let us see that victory is won, not for his sake but for the sake of the people of the north coast of New South Wales, who, year after year, have to fight against devastation and ruin by flooding which so widely afflicts the people of the area.
.- Mr. Chairman, the committee is now discussing the estimates for the Department of the Treasury. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) has intervened in the debate to bring up a matter which affects his electorate in particular and which is well known to many of us because of our association with the problems of flooding in our own areas. The problem is not confined to the electorate of Cowper. Flooding occurs on rivers along a great stretch of the east coast of Australia in New South Wales and Queensland, but particularly in some parts of New South Wales. You, Mr. Chairman, represent an area through which flow the Macleay, Manning and Nambucca rivers, which, also, are subject to flooding. The honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) suggest that the financing of flood mitigation works is an activity which it would be proper for the Commonwealth Government to undertake. The honorable member for Macquarie twice said that, under the terms of section 96 of the Constitution, it is proper for the Commonwealth Government to allocate funds for flood mitigation works in the electorate of Cowper.
– For works on the north coast of New South Wales.
– The area is now being extended over the whole north coast of New South Wales. Why restrict the argument to the north coast of New South Wales? Let us adopt a national approach to this problem. Why ignore the Shoalhaven River and the Queensland streams which are subject to flooding? Flooding of our rivers represents a vast problem. If it is to be discussed during the consideration of the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, let us look at the subject in its proper perspective.
This is a vast problem, as I have said, and the financing of flood mitigation works does not represent an investment at all. The problem is one of recovering ground that has been lost. I illustrate this in simple terms by pointing out that sailing ships used to navigate the Hunter River as far as the Belmore bridge at Maitland in the early years of this century, and at that point one can now walk across the river because its level is so shallow. The silting of river beds is common to all these flooding streams, as a result of deforestation and erosion on the upper reaches. This is especially the case with the Clarence River, which flows through Grafton. The silt resulting from erosion in the upper reaches has been deposited on the river bed in the lower reaches in all these flooding streams, and, in many instances, the river bed is virtually level with the river bank. As a result, immediately a body of water comes down stream to the lower reaches the water spreads across the surrounding land. The problem, then, is a relatively new one and it represents one of the penalties that we have to pay for the settlement which has taken place adjacent to the upper reaches of the coastal rivers. The honorable member for Macquarie knows this as well as I know it, and he is well aware that a great many of the rivers on the eastern coast of Australia are similarly affected.
At this point, I should like to mention what has been done about the problem in some districts. A research foundation has formed a committee which is examining the problem as it affects the Hunter River. The local residents have raised £100,000 to finance the research and the New South Wales Government has come to the party with a grant of £25,000. A university professor is a member of the committee. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who is now Minister for Supply, is one of those who were responsible for initiating the work of this committee. The Minister is a most capable member of this Parliament, and he has approached the problem of flood mitigation in a constructive way. Stimulated by competent and forward thinking by the representative in this place of the Paterson electorate, the local people have already set in motion a project for the study of all the factors relating not only to erosion and flood mitigation, but also to navigation on the lower reaches of the Hunter River. The committee is learning a great deal by undertaking a basic hydrological survey. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the way to approach this problem is to find out all the factors that are involved in it, such as rainfall and run-off, and the way that they affect the rivers. This is a special problem affecting one part of Australia. It has now been raised in the Parliament by the honorable member for Cowper. I am glad to see that he has returned to the chamber.
Some honorable members may remember that the late Sir Earle Page, who used to represent Cowper, once took to the Clarence district a party of members of Parliament and other people interested in flood relief. The present honorable member for Cowper may remember that occasion. I went with Sir Earle Page. When the conveyances which took us to Grafton arrived there, the mayor, the town clerk and other local people looked at the party and then at an empty vehicle. Somebody was missing. Somebody who was vital to the success of the proposal was not there. It was the late Mr. George Weir, the Minister for Conservation in the New South Wales Government. Although he was directly responsible for the proposed work, he did not attend; he was not sufficiently interested in the flooded north coast rivers.
This is a long-term problem. It is not a bit of use coming along now and trying to start the work here. There must first be a great deal of investigation over a long period. A vast amount of work is involved. It is not merely a matter of making it a relief job for unemployed persons. This work could not be done except by an enormous amount of machinery and as a result of great expenditure. It involves the dredging of the lower reaches of the rivers and conservation work on the upper reaches. The honorable member for Macquarie knows that this is not a case of a sudden emergency which can be met by a flood relief grant, on the basis of £1 for £1, to people in necessitous circumstances. The Tennessee Valley Authority and other similar authorities all over the world have spent thousands of millions of pounds on work of this kind.
The Clarence River problem is a separate problem, as is the problem of the Macleay River and the Hunter River. A scheme for flood mitigation on the Shoalhaven River is now in operation. Funds are being arranged and it is proposed to take out the silt in the bottom of the river to allow the water to run away. That is a simple approach to the matter.
– Who is doing it?
– The local people will service the loans. The State Government will subsidize the work from funds given to it by the Commonwealth Government. The scheme is being put into operation after years of planning by people who have used their brains and experience, and the technical knowledge which is essential in projects of this kind.
We have heard moved an amendment to the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury for the purpose of dealing with flood mitigation in the Clarence River district. We have the utmost sympathy with the difficulties of the people who live in that area. I might say, Mr. Chairman, that I went to Grafton at the request of the late right honorable member for Cowper, who had asked me to go there to see what could be done. We studied this problem year after year. Some people support the theory that the greatest amount of damage is done at the crest of the flood which momentarily goes through the district. They believe that if something could be done on the upper reaches of the Clarence River to hold back part of the flood waters it would prevent two feet of water from entering the towns, flooding houses and ruining stocks in the shops. I do not have to remind the honorable member for Cowper of these matters, because he has seen the floods that occur. I also have seen them, and I want to reiterate and emphasize that they pose a vast problem. I say, however, that it is a problem which is separate from those that arise when we are discussing the estimates for the Department of the Treasury.
There is not the slightest doubt that the local people have a part in the work of flood mitigation. Let us appeal now to the honorable member for Cowper to initiate a research foundation like the one initiated by the Minister for Supply, to which a contribution was made by Senator Sir Alister
McMullin, who comes from the Hunter River district. Let us see whether the honorable member for Cowper is prepared to make a move of his own volition, with the people who support him contributing to it. I am informed that local contributions for flood mitigation in the Hunter River area amounted to £75,000 in one year. Another appeal will be made to officials of the Department of Conservation, the Maritime Services Board and the Public Works Department, who have specialist knowledge of the matter. They are the technical people who handle these problems. It is of no use to appeal to the officers who sit here while the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, which, of course, range over the whole of the nation’s finances, are being discussed. I hope that the honorable member for Cowper will listen to my words. I point out to him that other members of the Parliament are doing similar work in their areas. I have been to the Clarence River district to try to help with the problem there. Of course, when I went there, I found that the late Mr. George Weir, the Minister for Conservation in the New South Wales Labour Government, was missing. I still remember the look of flat disappointment on the faces of the mayor and town clerk of Grafton when they saw that Mr. Weir had not been sufficiently interested to go along. I suggest that the present position has been reached largely because of the neglect of country areas by the State Labour governments. After such a record of misrule, neglect and maladministration by those governments, it is a little late in the day to raise the matter here. Of course, the New South Wales Government has suddenly become interested in the Clarence River area. Something has happened there, but no doubt the interest will be of brief duration and the matter will soon be forgotten again.
The people in the Clarence River area know that self-help pays, as do the people in the Shoalhaven River area, who are now borrowing money with which to undertake the removal of the silt. This silt problem is an enormous one. In some instances, there is a barrier at the mouth of the river which catches the silt until it builds up and becomes level with the banks. Only a few inches of rain is needed for a vast flood to occur. We are trying, Mr. Chairman, to get back to the position that obtained 50 years ago. The expense, of course, will be enormous. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) is attempting to interject. He is a part of the Labour machine in New South Wales which has wasted £160,000,000. To take just one example of that waste, let me refer to the Glenbawn dam. The first estimate of its cost was £1,250,000. In fact, it cost £16,000,000. Throughout the whole gamut of State works in New South Wales we see the complete wastefulness of the day-labour system. Let the honorable member go back to his caucus and speak about the matter instead of sneering in this Parliament when a constructive view is being presented. It is very easy to sneer when you know nothing about the subject that is being discussed. The New South Wales Government, which has received hundreds of millions of pounds from the Commonwealth, has simply let the money go. Of course, the final cost of all these works is greater than the original estimate. Although £160,000,000 has been wasted in New South Wales, just a few thousand pounds have not been available for the Clarence River area, the electorate of the honorable member for Cowper.
There is a constructive way to handle this matter, Mr. Chairman. We cannot continue to allow this dreadful flood damage to occur. The necessary work must begin right at the head of the river. It must begin with the rivulets and streams which dry up except when it is raining. When rain falls, those rivulets and streams carry small quantities of water which gradually build up into larger streams and creeks, then into small rivers, and finally into a mighty stream which rushes through towns such as Grafton, Kempsey and Maitland, flooding the lower floors of buildings and even rising to the second floors. Honorable members who have been through flooded areas after the floods have receded will know of the distress that is caused by the black silty mud that is left in buildings, and of the courage and enterprise that the people display in trying to get rid of it. We have to bring to bear on this problem scientific knowledge, and we also have to undertake research.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The New South Wales State Government is not shelving its responsibilities on this important matter of flood mitigation. All we are asking is that the Commonwealth provide the third prong of the weapon to be used in the battle against the wasting of land and water. We commend the honorable member for Cowper (Mr, McGuren) for raising this matter for discussion in the Commonwealth Parliament in the form of an amendment to the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury. In case some honorable members were not present in the chamber when the amendment was proposed let me now repeat it. The honorable member for Cowper moved -
That the amount of the vote - “ Department of the Treasury, £66,442,000 “-be reduced by £1-
As an instruction to the Government -
To make an immediate grant on a £1 for £1 basis with the New South Wales Government for the urgent and imperative work being carried out by the county councils to mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in the northern rivers of New South Wales, in order to preserve the valuable production of the great north coast farming areas and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
– What about Victorian rivers?
– We are dealing with New South Wales now. We cannot deal with the whole of Australia at the one time. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) in a very cunning speech tried to make out that this problem was so vast and the undertaking so expensive that the best thing was to do nothing about it. It was a very cunning speech. He referred to the millions of pounds which he claimed would be necessary for flood mitigation, but the county councils have reclaimed thousands of acres of land for a total cost of £170,000. In the grandiose manner which he adopts in this Parliament the honorable member for Macarthur tried to build up this problem to such enormous proportions as to convince us that the best thing was to do nothing at all. What a humbug he is to speak as he does!
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who now occupies the chair, are vitally concerned in this area in New South Wales under discussion; I hope that you, Mr. Chairman, will join in the debate later in the day to help us to understand more fully the details of the problem in your electorate.
– Where does the honorable member for Lyne stand on this matter?
– We should like to hear what he feels about this. The honorable member for Cowper won for Labour a seat which has never been held by the Labour Party since federation. What was the reason for that? The prime reason was that this problem has not yet been tackled by this Government although the State Government has been hounding the Commonwealth continually for assistance. I believe that the change in political representation in the Cowper electorate was due largely to the fact that the previous occupant of the seat never seemed to do anything practical about flood mitigation and the construction of dams on the Clarence River although he talked a good deal about it. That is the whole point. That is why there has been a change in the occupancy of a traditional Country Party seat. The people of the electorate tossed the Country Party out of the window and elected a Labour candidate to the seat. That is most significant.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Richmond, who is interjecting, to increase his blood pressure, but let me remind him that the honorable member for Cowper raised this issue, not he. The honorable member for Richmond is definitely on the spot. We believe that a great service has been rendered to the cause of the farmers on these river flats by the raising of this matter this morning. We hope that the honorable member for Richmond will consider the subject closely and vote with us when the vote is taken later in the day.
The Hunter River in New South Wales is notorious for flooding. In the last 47 years this river has been in flood on 21 occasions, culminating in record damage in the flood of February; 1955, when losses sustained in the Maitland area were between £6,000,000 and £10,000,000, in the Singleton area and surrounding districts £2,000,000 and in the Muswellbrook, Scone and Denman areas £3,000,000. These are fantastic losses to be sustained in one river valley alone. This flooding has been going on every second year, on the average, for 47 years, but this Commonwealth Government, after thirteen years in office, has not yet decided that the problem is so important as to warrant a grant to the New South Wales Government on a £1 for £1 basis. What is the reason for the delay in tackling this problem? As the honorable member for Cowper truthfully said this morning, unless we get the third prong of the weapon - co-operation by the Commonwealth Government - we shall not win the battle for 25 years and, on the present average, we shall have had another twelve floods by then. So, this Government actually is contributing to another twelve floods in the area and the consequent losses sustained by the residents because it has not been prepared so far to assist the State Government to tackle the problem.
I want to congratulate the county councils in the area. They have shown tremendous initiative. They have adopted the attitude that as the Commonwealth Government will not agree to assist they will do their bit on the ground level. They are receiving assistance from the State Government. The men in the county councils receive no financial reward for the work that they are doing because probably they are volunteers. They deserve our very sincere commendation. It is to the credit of the new representative of the Cowper electorate that he is backing these men to the hilt by proposing in the Commonwealth Parliament the amendment now under discussion, which was ably supported by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti).
In the last ten years £2,500,000 has been lost in milk production in the Clarence River area. Such a sum would pay for the scheme which is needed there. The State Government is prepared to meet some of the cost and has asked the Commonwealth Government to assist on a £1 for £1 basis, but this request has been refused. I have in my hand a letter which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) sent to the honorable member for Cowper intimating refusal of the request and the reasons for the refusal.
– It is tragic. As the honorable member for Macquarie stated in his speech, the Commonwealth’s assistance would be an investment in the economy of this part of Australia which would be recovered completely in a few years in the form of increased production on the farms along these river systems. It would not be a waste of money; it would not be a loss; it would be a glorious investment.
The honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Richmond seem to think that it is outside our jurisdiction to assist in a scheme such as this, but what is the Government doing and what has it done in relation to similar schemes throughout the Commonwealth? The Government proposes to provide £1,750,000 to clear the brigalow country in Queensland, and £5,000,000 to be expended over five years for the construction of beef roads in the north of Queensland and Western Australia.
– Do you not agree with that?
– I agree with it. I am merely showing how hypocritical have been the statements which have been made this morning by your colleagues. The Government proposes to provide £5,000,000 for a mighty irrigation scheme designed to harness the waters of the Ord River in Western Australia for a land settlement project. It also provided millions of pounds for irrigation works in the southwest of Western Australia. It supplied money for the development of coal-? loading facilities. Those facilities are an important part of national development, which the Labour Party wholly supports. We go even further in relation to national development and say that, when returned to power, we will establish a water conservation authority to co-ordinate national water conservation schemes.
– What has all this to do with the estimates for the Treasury?
– I am simply telling honorable members, in passing, what a Labour Government will do. The scheme mentioned by the honorable member for Cowper is but a segment of a great scheme of national development. We say that the Commonwealth could assist this scheme in the same way as it has assisted other developmental schemes.
Let me comment now on Commonwealth and State relations. It is almost incredible that the Commonwealth Government is dealing with modern problems with outdated weapons. The Commonwealth budget now involves about £2,000,000,000 annually, but the Commonwealth is functioning under a Constitution that has remained almost unaltered for 61 years. The Commonwealth urgently needs additional constitutional powers to cope with rapid expansion in population, secondary and primary industries and other fields. Naturally the States are very jealous of their rights and powers. The States have great powers - in many respects greater even than those of the Commonwealth. But this is the middle of the twentieth century. We cannot expect the Commonwealth to deal with modern financial and economic problems, using the weapons of the nineteenth century. To-day the Constitution, 61 years after its inception, puts the Commonwealth in leg irons. The situation may be likened to that in which a two-stroke motor is used to propel a Rolls Royce car. We are asking the Commonwealth to propel itself with a two-stroke motor.
The demands on the Commonwealth now are far-reaching and varied. They were completely undreamed of by the framers of the Constitution. The field of Commonwealth and State relations is still a field of battle. The Australian Loan Council is a battleground on which the contestants are the Commonwealth and the States. In view of constitutional limitations, it is a miracle that the Commonwealth has been able to achieve its present stage of economic and financial development. During the last 24 hours I have re-read the recommendations made in 1959 by the Constitutional Review Committee. That committee met over a period of two years and closely studied Commonwealth and State relations. It found many weaknesses, stresses and strains in the present system, and it made some very statesmanlike recommendations. It recommended that the Commonwealth should have greater powers to deal with growing problems. The committee’s report shows clearly that the present constitutional limitations on the handling of economic and financial matters could bedevil the Commonwealth for years to come.
Let me remind honorable members of changes that have taken place in the banking system over recent years. Professor Arndt, in a lecture entitled “The Banks and the Capital Market “, delivered in the University of Queensland in September, 1959, showed that in the five pre-war years ended in June, 1939, the trading banks provided about 56 per cent, of all credit. In the five years ending in June, 1958, they provided only 21 per cent, of all credit. In the same two periods issues on the stock exchange jumped from 18 per cent, to 36 per cent, of all credit. In the periods mentioned hirepurchase finance has risen from 2 per cent, to 16 per cent, of all credit. Those are illustrations of the dramatic change that has taken place in the financial face of Australia in the last ten or twenty years. The Commonwealth must have adequate powers to cope with changes in the economy and with hire-purchase activities, consumer credit and capital issues. The Commonwealth needs powers to deal with those problems. The Constitutional Review Committee said in effect that the Commonwealth’s powers are at present inadequate.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Members of the Opposition have submitted reasons why the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) should be supported. The main reason for the moving of this amendment should be obvious to anybody with a modicum of understanding. Not very long ago, the honorable member for Cowper surprised himself and other members of his party by being successful in a contest for the seat of Cowper.
– It will happen in Lyne next.
– Allow me .to inform the honorable member for Wills that such a thing will not happen again. The honorable for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) accused some of us on this side of the committee of indulging in hypocrisy. I ask honorable members to judge for themselves, having regard to the proposed amendment, who is guilty of hypocrisy.
– That is obvious.
– Possibly the honorable member for Wills and some other persons in this committee know a great deal about hypocrisy. It is obvious that the amendment has one main purpose. It is designed to present the honorable member for Cowper as a magnificent champion of the people of the area concerned. If effect were given to the proposal of the honorable member, the result would be detrimental to the people of this area and to the rest of Australia. Opposition supporters have often told Government supporters that they should face up to their responsibilities. If ever I go before the people and attempt to bribe them to vote for me, 1 hope somebody else will nominate against me and be successful.
The State governments have responsibilities in these matters. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) says that it does not matter who puts these proposals into operation; what matters is that the jobs shall be done. This is the prattle that the Opposition has been giving us about education. This is the nonsense that it has been giving us about many things. The Labour Government of New South Wales has been shirking its responsibilities. Does the honorable member for Macquarie mean that if a State government shirks its responsibilities and wastes money - as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) have shown that the New South Wales Government has done - the Commonwealth Government should increase taxes in order to finance a project that should be financed by that State government? Before they are misled as to where the responsibility in this matter lies, I ask the people of the area concerned whether they are prepared to allow the New South Wales Government to waste money and still ask the Commonwealth to find extra money to carry out works that are basically the responsibility of the State. That is the issue. As the honorable member for Richmond pointed out, the State Government is evading its responsibilities and is passing the buck to the Federal Government. The State Government is delaying work that should be done in the area. As the honorable member for Richmond pointed out also, the people of the area have not brought pressure to bear on the State Government because they think that the Federal Government may accept responsibility.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I was speaking to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper. The honorable member said that his proposal was non-political. If that is so, and if he wants to do something to help the people in his electorate, I suggest that he point out to his colleagues in the New South Wales Labour Government that they have not yet brought forward legislation in respect to the manufacture of margarine in New South Wales. This is affecting to a large degree the people whom the honorable member said he was intent upon representing, and representing well. He should also bring before his party colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament the fact that moves for increased long service leave and increased annual leave will result in increased costs for the people whom he is supposed to represent. This will increase the difficulties they already face in establishing themselves in markets, particularly overseas markets. These are things which I should have thought the honorable member for Cowper would have considered.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) spoke about the late right honorable member for Cowper, Sir Earle Page. I suggest that the honorable member for Macquarie and other Opposition members should go further into this matter and examine some of the discussions which Sir Earle Page had with members of the New South Wales Labour Government in relation to damming the Clarence River and doing other major works needed in this area which are of major importance and beside which the work of flood mitigation is only a minor requirement. These are factors which cause me to view the presentation of this amendment as something which is not really in the interests of the electorate of Cowper. They make me suspect that this is purely and simply a political stunt in an endeavour to make it appear that the honorable member for Cowper and other Opposition members are concerned about the situation in the north of New South Wales.
I have had the privilege of representing in this Parliament, for over ten years, an area on the north coast. During the whole of this time the problem of flooding has exercised my mind. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who is interjecting can keep quiet and listen for once, which I admit will be difficult for him, I will tell him that I have had discussions with local government representatives and other people who have been in the area for many years, and I know that one of the problems, particularly in regard to the Macleay River, is not the amount of water that comes down but the pace of the water. I invite the honorable member for East Sydney to go and talk with the people in the area. It would be an interesting exercise. Members of the Labour Party were there during the by-election of 1952. The honorable member for East Sydney and the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, made many statements there, every one of which showed that they had no appreciation of the economic conditions and circumstances of the area. I am sure that anybody who read those statements would appreciate that that is perfectly true.
There is no group of people in the area who are firmly of the opinion that only one course of action should be taken. Many people hold different views as to the best way in which to approach the problem of flooding. The honorable member for Cowper is a new member of this Parliament. He certainly will not be here much longer. Not only as a member of this Parliament, but also as one who says he has lived in the area, he should know what is needed there.
I congratulate the honorable member for Cowper and the Opposition on . one point: The shrewdness of their move. The amendment places members of the Parliament almost in the position of a witness who is asked by a lawyer in court, “ Have you stopped beating your wife? “ .If we oppose the Opposition’s proposal Opposition members will say that we are not sympathetic to the people of this area. Perhaps honorable members opposite have been in Opposition for so long that they cannot understand the position because they have forgotten their experience of government. They should know that all such matters as this are discussed by the Government and its supporters at a party meeting. Suggestions are made, investigated, and talked over.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) pointed out that the problem of flood mitigation is not confined to this one area. It is a problem which confronts the whole of the Commonwealth, and it has to be examined in broader and deeper terms. I congratulate the local government authorities on the work they have done. We have seen quite remarkable achievements by local government people. Within the resources available to them they are coping with some colossal problems. I suggest that the honorable member for Cowper look at what is happening in Victoria, where the Liberal-Country Party Government gives £5 for every £1 spent on flood mitigation by local governments. The New South Wales Government gives only £2 for each £1 spent in this way. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Macarthur and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the New South Wales Government claims that it is not able to increase the amount given.
I say without hesitation that the facts show that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper is purely and simply a political stunt. No matter what may be said by members of the Opposition who follow me in this debate, I am giving a factual presentation of the case. I say that the. honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) who is interjecting has no understanding of these matters whatsoever.
What is the reality of this situation? First, the New South Wales Government must exhibit a sense of responsibility in this connexion. Secondly, as the Commonwealth Parliament we cannot, and should not, blithely throw money away to the States without a sense of responsibility. I said in my speech on the Budget that for twelve years the Commonwealth Government has handed 20 per cent, of the loan moneys to which it was entitled to the State governments. What has New South Wales done with that money? It has thrown it down the drain. It has wasted it in giving effect to irresponsible legislation. We have a sense of responsibility.
– That money was available to all State governments.
– I was talking about the New South Wales Government. I have already given evidence of its irresponsibility. If the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) is able to assess the content of my previous remarks to the effect that the Victorian Government gave assistance at the rate of £5 for each £1 spent on flood mitigation and that the New South Wales Government gave only £2 for each £1 spent in this way, he will see that the action of the Liberal-Country Party Government in Victoria compares very favorably with the action of the New South Wales Labour Government. If the honorable member for Petrie cannot understand that, he is not capable of making a true assessment.
I say again that we, as the Commonwealth Parliament, must have a sense of responsibility as far as the finances and the economy of this country are concerned. It is easy for an irresponsible opposition - as irresponsible as the State Labour Government - to talk about throwing money away. People in areas represented by Government supporters know that we have a sense of responsibility, first to our electorate and secondly to the Commonwealth of Australia. These matters will be given due consideration, and the people may rest assured that what is done will be done in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.
.- It was with some degree of disappointment that I heard the attitude adopted by both the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). May I for a moment remind the honorable member for Lyne of a meeting that he attended in Kempsey three or four months ago? At that meeting there was a team of 60 or 70 persons, all interested in flood mitigation in New South Wales. The honorable member for Lyne promised them that he would support a request for federal aid for flood mitigation. Kempsey, of course, is in his electorate. The honorable member apologized for the -absence of the honorable member for Richmond, who had been invited to attend the meeting. The honorable member for Richmond apparently did not have the courage to go along and make a promise even if he did not intend to keep it.
The unfortunate position that the honorable member for Lyne is in is not the result’ of political shrewdness on the part of the Opposition, as he suggested to the committee. I have been in this chamber for only a short time whereas he has been here for many years; but I do not think that the people of his electorate will appreciate his failure to do anything about this important matter in that time. Anything that looks like a progressive move he calls political shrewdness. That is his assessment of the value of this matter, and I leave it to him to. explain his position to the people who elected him.
I did not raise this matter without giving it a little thought. Let me tell honorable members its history. The late Sir Earle Page, my predecessor, took a keen interest in the Clarence, and particularly in flood mitigation. He attended many meetings before the formation of the county council. It was Sir Earle Page who suggested that he would support in this Parliament federal aid for flood mitigation. It was from Sir Earle Page that the idea came to me. So I learnt all about this matter from a member of the party to which the honorable member for Lyne belongs.
– You told a different story at election time.
– The honorable member for Richmond says that I told a different story at election time. I had no occasion to tell any story at election time, nor have I had occasion since. I leave story telling to the honorable member himself. The subject has been brought before this chamber as a matter of urgency and necessity, to help not only the people of Cowper, but also the people in the electorates of Lyne and Richmond. I am very disappointed that an attitude of hostility should be adopted by people who should be supporting this project. It is only a month since the Lismore City Council asked the honorable member for Richmond to support federal aid for flood mitigation. i
– What answer did he give?
– He gave no answer then, but he has given an answer here to-day; he has said that he is against Commonwealth assistance for flood mitigation. We have to come back to reality and face up to the situation if we are to make this country worth while. Since the last election, the Government has made special grants to Queensland and Western Australia for beef roads and other projects, and previously it provided money for flood mitigation in South Australia. Must a State government be of the same political colour as the Commonwealth Government before consideration will be given to assisting in these matters? Is the Government playing politics with important projects in Australia or is it representing the Australian people as it should? These are things that I want to know. Answers should be given by the Government. It is all right for the honorable member for Richmond to blow his top about a lot of irrelevant matters and talk about what the Government of New South Wales has or has not done. The fact is that he is living in an electorate where the State Government has done more in the last two or three years than was ever done before. Has the honorable member given the State Government credit for that?
These two Australian Country Party members sitting adjacent to me - the honorable member for Lyne and the honorable member for Richmond - have to face up to their responsibilities. They should realize that for many years they have been flying kites. Now that they have been found out, they are squealing. The necessity for this project is obvious. The request has come from the people living in the area. It has come from citizens at a meeting attended by the honorable member for Lyne. It is only a matter of time before this area will be regarded as one of the most important in Australia. The land is possibly the best in Australia, but the opportunities for using it are being frittered away by people like these two honorable members who are afraid to face up to their responsibilities.
It is all right for the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to say that on one occasion he went to the Clarence
River district and to talk about the nonappearance of a State Minister. I do not know how many years ago that was, but I do know that this project would not involve the Government in a large amount of money. The whole scheme on the Clarence River would involve a sum of only £1,500,000. What is that in a federal budget? It is merely a bagatelle. Yet these people have the effrontery to try to draw a red herring across the trail in order to save their political hides! How stupid do they think the electors are? I did not want to say what I have said. I did not wish to attack the two men concerned, but they have forced my hand. I have brought the matter before the Parliament in the hope that it will be dealt with logically, as any sane government should be expected to deal with such a matter.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [2.331. - The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) made a very good fist of covering up for the New South Wales State Government, but he rather gave himself away in the last few sentences he uttered. If this matter, which comes within the sphere of State responsibility, is only a small one as he said, why has the New South Wales Government not done something about it? I submit that the honorable member stands convicted out of his own mouth.
– He said that it is a minor matter.
– I do not think it is a minor matter. It is a major matter for the New South Wales Government. New South Wales has not had a fair go for a number of years because of the incompetence of its Government. This is not a small matter and I am sorry that the honorable member considered it to be so. I do not.
I want to address my mind to two matters of general financial policy which come under Treasury jurisdiction although, of course, they impinge upon other departments. I am sorry that in this Budget - I have said this before - the Treasurer did not put a more constructive plan of general finance before the country. The opportunity could have been taken to clean up a number of small anomalies in the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. I hoped, too, that the Government would do something to put the savings situation into proper perspective. This is at the root of our financial imbalances in Australia. I realize that it is not popular to say that, any more than it seemed reasonable in the olden days to ask for the destruction of mosquitos in order to clean up malaria. But when one understands the chain of cause and effect, one realizes that the so-called stop-go policy has been imposed on this Government by the consequences of its failure to face up to the savings situation. I say therefore that I am disappointed that the Budget took no measures to deal with this long-term problem.
Let me turn now to the matter of housing. It is most important that our housing programme should go forward at a greater pace. If one looks at a dissection of the population by age groups one sees that those coming forward into the 21-year- old class have for some years been about 135,000 a year. That figure will rise over the next six years to 200,000 a year, which is a most significant rise. This is not the sole determinant or the major determinant in the housing demand. It is true that the big demand is still five or six years ahead of us, but we should be preparing for it. We should have, in point of fact, a more vigorous housing policy, particularly for lower cost houses. In addition, Sir, we all hope that the migration programme will continue or even be stepped up, and the main trouble about attracting migrants is the housing situation.
For all these and other reasons there is good cause to see that the finance available for low cost housing is kept up. We know it has not been; we know, for example, that co-operative housing societies are short of funds. It is a matter of concession now to be able to borrow through a housing society. We know there is a limited amount available through trading banks, but only a limited amount. There is a limited amount available through savings banks, but again it is only a limited amount. From insurance companies there seems to be a much smaller amount available than there was in the past. This is quite unreasonable at the present moment when building materials have been over-supplied and building labour has been surplus, a position that has existed over the past two years. We should have reacted more quickly to this. We should have seen that the funds were available. I know of many cases in my own electorate in which buildings have been postponed, simply because long-term finance was not available at a reasonable interest rate. I have no doubt that what I have experienced in my own electorate is in common with what is experienced by other honorable members in their electorates. This is a general situation in which housing finance has been unreasonably and unnecessarily tight. What are we going to do about it? I believe that we have to think of some practical plan to deal with this situation. What can we do? First, we might think of some kind of interest concession to co-operative societies which operate under the guarantee of the vote by the State Government. I do not suggest that there should be any widespread concession, but one kept within reasonable bounds. Here it is a case where a little marginal difference would make this a more attractive investment.
We could think of a further selective release of trading bank funds from their special accounts, perhaps with some special arrangements for them to be invested in treasury-hills carrying a reasonable interest rate, provided that keyed alongside this were extra finance made available for housing purposes. We could think, perhaps, of changing the definition of “ Government securities “ in the section of the income tax assessment legislation which refers to the investment of insurance companies, so that for the purposes of that section Government securities included moneys lent for housing purposes under the guarantee of the Federal or a State government.
We could do something towards increasing the flow of money available through the War Service Homes Division. I do not see any reason why there should have been any brake on this at all over the last two years. The financial considerations that the Treasury has invoked seem to me to be entirely wrong and unreasonable. I know very well that when you have a state of over-full employment, when you have the resources of the community fully committed, then there is a good reason for clamping down the financial brakes; but this has not been the position over the last two years. Why was not something done about it on the war service homes front? I do not know. It does not seem reasonable at all. We could think, perhaps, in terms of special short-term grants or loans to State governments for housing purposes, in addition to what has been given as a shortterm measure, to be adjusted to the employment situation as it developed. It may well be that the employment situation is better now. I know that it is better. However, I do not think it has yet improved sufficiently to be able to shrug it off and talk about a situation of over-full employment.
The causes for acting in the future on this may not be as good as were the causes for doing something significant about housing over the past two years, but they are still good causes. When you look at the pattern of population divided into age groups and see the changing demand for housing, and when you look at this in relation to our migration programme and realize that as a matter of practical politics the difficulties of attracting migrants are very largely housing difficulties, then quite apart from the need for full employment and the resurgence of the building industry there are sociological and national reasons for having an increasing housing programme over the next five or six years. It is true enough that there are a number of big city buildings being erected at the moment, that the building industry is much better employed than it was; but there is still some stickness - some uncomfortable stickiness - in residential building, particularly of lower cost houses. It does not seem to me to be reasonable that this should be allowed to continue. I do not find any good explanation of our failure to act more vigorously on this front in the past and, although things have improved, there is still a margin in which we should have more vigorous action.
I had hoped to deal with one other matter; I shall mention it. only briefly, because I hope to have an opportunity to deal with it in the debate on a later estimate. I speak of the vexed question of our balance of trade. If one looks at pages 18 and 19 of the balance of payments teatize prepared by the officers of the Department of the Treasury, one will see that our balance on current account, which used to be somewhere near line ball, or not too far from it, has in the last years gone very bad indeed. Let me read the figures for the last four or five years. The balance for the year ended June, 1958, was minus £152,000,000; for 1959 it was minus £181,000,000; for 1960 it was minus £224,000,000; in 1961 it was minus £369,000,000; and in 1962 it was minus £8,000,000. The figure for 1962-63 will be not less than minus £300,000,000.
The result in 1961-62 was entirely fictitious. There were three or four contributing factors, namely, sales of surplus wheat when stocks no longer existed; the slow tempo of internal activity - we hope that that will not be continued; and the running down of imported stocks which cannot run down much further because at 30th June, 1962, they did not exist in big quantities. Those are the factors that show that the small figure of minus £8,000,000 in 1961-62 was not a genuine figure but simply a displacement as between two years. The balance of minus £300,000,000 or more that we will have in 1962-63 simply is not good enough. I know that capital inflow covers part of the deficiency. I hope to have something to say about that later.
I suggest to the Treasury that we should not allow this problem to mount up and then hit us with a bang. If we do nothing about it for a year and just let thing3 run, the problem will not seem too bad and then it will hit us with a bang. We should be doing something about it now. We should not be doing something about it by damping down internal activity or by reintroducing credit restrictions. We should be taking action now. We should not allow these problems to accumulate until they become almost unmanageable and drastic action has to be taken in regard to them.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I support the amendment to the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren). He is to be congratulated for bringing before this Parliament a matter which members of the Australian Country Party have refused to deal with for years, despite their professed support for the rights and interests of people in country districts. The amendment contains certain provisions in regard to floods and those provisions, if they were implemented, would be of great importance in the area represented by the honorable member for Cowper and also the areas represented by the honorable members for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I never dreamt that in this Parliament I would hear Country Party members, from districts which in this year alone have suffered two great floods, refusing to support a proposal which must bring unlimited benefit to the people in those districts.
The honorable member for Lyne had to be goaded to get out of the chair and speak on this matter. It was only when the Opposition demanded to know his views that he was prepared to enter this debate. When he did so, he attacked the honorable member for Cowper in a personal way. He said that the honorable member for Cowper moved the amendment for the purposes of political propaganda. His speech was one of the weakest cases that I have heard put up by a man representing an area that is gravely affected by floods.
The honorable member for Richmond spoke hysterically. He went off the floods and talked about margarine and everything else. His own political organization is demanding action of the kind suggested by the honorable member for Cowper. For years the father of the Country Party, the late Sir Earle Page, told us in this Parliament about the need for flood relief and mitigation. To-day we see people from the same political party and from the same areas refusing to support a proposal which is essential according to the policy of their own organization, the Country Party.
The country people of New South Wales need to see the hypocrisy of the so-called representatives of the Country Party in this Parliament. Those representatives do not care what happens to the country people, particularly in respect of the matter that we are now discussing, as long as they remain in this Parliament to occupy certain important portfolios and to use bushrangin: and stand-over tactics on the Government, irrespective of their effect on the populace at large. The members of this uneasy coalition are going to vote against the Government’s redistribution proposals because they say that the proposals have not been rigged in the interests of the Country Party.
The members of the Country Party fear the legislation introduced and amendments moved by the Labour Party on these questions because our actions and words show them up as people who sit in this Parliament under false pretences and with no interest at all in the country districts, although they are in this Parliament supposedly in the interests of the people in those districts. The proposal made by the honorable member for Cowper to-day ought to be supported. In this day and age there is nothing unusual in demanding assistance for a State on a £1 for £1 basis in order to ensure that the money that is necessary to prevent the great tragedies of flooding that occur in northern New South Wales from time to time will be available.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) attacked the New South Wales Labour Government. I wonder how that Government has remained in office for twenty years and consistently increased its majority if it is as bad a government as supporters of this Federal Government say it is. The fact of the matter is that the State Government, to the limit of its resources, is giving protection and aid to the people in this area. The State Government seeks to give aid and to receive support such as that referred to in the amendment before the tragedies occur and not after they occur, which is the policy of the Country Party. Whatever aspect of national legislation we look at, we find that whenever any proposal affecting the interests of the country people is brought to this Parliament it is opposed by members of the Country Party because they do not believe in the policies for which they stand. They are only a pressure group.
What is the real extent of their power? It is no wonder that the honorable member for Richmond is worried about a member of the Labour Party presenting this proposal, because a few of his colleagues have been caught in floods in the northern rivers district in days gone by. Those have not been floods of water; they have been floods of votes against the Country Party. To-day a Labour minister in the New South Wales Government represents the former Country Party citadel of Lismore. He will represent it for all time while he lives because the people of Lismore and the northern rivers district realize that action of the kind proposed by the honorable member for Cowper is only possible when Labour governments are in office in the State and Federal parliaments. The late Sir Earle Page was also caught in the great flood-tide towards Labour because of the misrepresentation of men like the honorable members for Lyne and Richmond and other honorable members who have sat in this Parliament under false pretences and have refused to bring forward proposals of this kind in the interests of the country people.
What is wrong with the proposal, Mr. Temporary Chairman? Why should we not introduce in this Parliament a measure which, if implemented along the lines that have been suggested, will not only give to these districts great protection against floods in the future but also increase tremendously their potential and productive capacity compared with what is now done by making relief grants to assist people affected by the floods.
In this day and age in this great primaryproducing country of ours, this proposal should have the endorsement of all members of the Parliament. We cannot expect the State governments to find all the necessary resources. Everybody knows that this Government gives a State Labour government the least possible money as a result of Premiers’ Conferences and Australian Loan Council meetings. This Government seeks to sabotage politically governments like the New South Wales Labour Administration because it knows that, if those governments were given their heads and money was made available as it should be, Country Party representation would be eliminated for all time by the most democratic method, that is by the representatives of that party being voted out by electors who realize their incompetence and inability to govern.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) - the yo-yo member of Parliament who is here by accident every time he wins his seat - would never be here if he did not receive Labour support now and again. In a few minutes he will probably stand up and oppose something which, when he goes back to his electorate, he will say ought to be introduced. I have checked the records of all the Country Party members individually and collectively, and I find that whenever a proposal that money which is essential to country interests is to be made available, they refuse to vote for it.
The history of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is well known. In opposition he made magnificent speeches; in government we never hear him. These days he is as silent as the grave. His voice is unheard. I do not think he will raise it even on the question that is now before the committee. I think he has been talking to the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) and has caught the complaint that that honorable member has.
I should like to hear members of the Country Party tell us to-day their alternative to the proposal advanced by the honorable member for Cowper. Do they intend to allow the problem to go on unchecked? Do they intend to allow people’s farms to be destroyed and production eliminated and then say, “ We will appeal to the Treasurer for £1,000,000 or £500,000 for flood relief “ ? Would it not be more practical to act in a positive way - to make money available to eliminate the cause of the flooding and, at the same time, prevent great distress to the people concerned? Should we not do the things that ought to be done to prevent occurrences of this nature, which are all too frequent in this country to-day?
This is a matter upon which the Country Party cannot defend its attitude. I can understand the Liberal Party not being particularly interested in the matter. The Country Party is not exactly friendly with the Liberal Party at this moment, and the Liberal Party is lucky to hold city seats, so it is not concerned about country seats. I exempt members of the Liberal Party from the criticisms I am levelling. I am referring specifically to the honorable gentlemen who sit in a corner of this chamber. They want the electoral commissioners to gerrymander electoral boundaries so that they may remain in this Parliament. They are members of the Country Party, which says that it stands, above all else, for the man on the land and the interests of the people in rural electorates, but they oppose everything they should stand for. They are traitors to the cause of the countryman. We see this exemplified to-day. We have been able to pick out of the Budget one item upon which we can test the sincerity of the Country Party. We will be interested, when the vote is taken, to see how many of these so-called stalwart supporters of the interests of the country people stand up and vote with the Labour Party in favour of a proposal designed to bring great relief to the people of the northern rivers area of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said that the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) was propagandizing and electioneering on this issue and was bringing it up for political reasons. The recent success of the honorable member for Cowper is an indication to members of the Country Party of what will happen to them, even without a redistribution of electoral boundaries, if they continue to oppose proposals of this nature. By bringing this matter forward in this Parliament, the honorable member for Cowper has shown the people of the Cowper electorate that he knows at first hand what they require and has given an indication of what will be done for them when the Labour Party comes into office. He has also made it clear that the honorable gentlemen who sit with him in this chamber as Country Party members representing some of the people in this far northern part of New South Wales are opposed to the interests of the people they are supposed to represent. The honorable member for Cowper has brought this matter up at public meetings, and public meetings in the electorate of Richmond have endorsed the stand he has taken. Public meetings in the northern rivers district have demanded action of this kind.
The Government has been in office now for nearly fourteen years and, fortunately, is on its way out. During that time it has never done anything in a positive way to prevent the things which our proposal is designed to prevent. We have taken this opportunity to point to what is needed and to show that it can be done. We have also taken the opportunity to reveal the shortcomings of the Country Party on the issue and to show that it is opposed to the interests that we seek to support by means of our amendment.
This Budget will involve the expenditure of £2,000,000,000- a record expenditure for Australia. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has the responsibility of administering the finances of this country. The fact that the Government says that it cannot make available the amount of money that we have suggested should be provided does not mean that it is impossible to provide the money. It means that the Government does not care for the interests of the people in the country districts and is not prepared to give effect to a policy which would suit those people. I wonder whether many honorable members opposite have ever lived in country districts among country people, and so come to know their problems, instead of just visiting them occasionally from the cities. If they have lived among country people, I cannot understand why they are not supporting our proposal.
We can offer further criticism of this Government, and particularly of the Country Party element, for its lack of interest in the general welfare of country areas. If we study the history of the Country Party, we find it is the party least interested in the development of this nation. It has never sought to promote decentralization - to bring industries to country towns and provide greater employment opportunities for people in country districts. The Country Party has never sought to develop and expand the great country towns of Australia. Had it not been for a Labour government in New South Wales there would have been no worthwhile industries in the great country towns of that State. There would have been no wheat stabilization schemes and no prosperous farmers. It was not until Labour took over in 1941 that any man on the land got a fair return for his efforts or any wage-earner got a fair return for his work. The fact is that the Country Party is a low-wage and long-hours party. If it had its way everybody in country districts would be working for the minimum wage and under the worst conditions. Those with only their labour to sell would be exploited in every possible way. The Country Party’s opposition to everything associated with Labour stems from that background. One of the reasons why members of the Country Party oppose proposals of this nature is that they know that the Labour Party is making great inroads into the Country Party vote in the great rural constituencies because of the service it gives to the people who produce the goods there and the returns it makes possible, as well as the protection it gives to those with only their labour to sell and those who conduct businesses in the country towns. These are things which members of the Country Party ought to stand for. It is with great regret that I reveal to-day the attitude of Country Party members on this issue.
Quite frankly, I am somewhat in sympathy with the Liberal Party at this moment. It has to put up with the Country Party, and that is too much of a burden for anybody to bear. When you have to run the country on a Liberal Party policy and carry the Country Party as well, you are really up against it. I recall some famous words uttered by the late Billy Hughes. Somebody asked him, “Why is it that you have been in every party in this country except the Country Party?”. He replied: “ Good God, man, you have to draw the line somewhere “. When you look at it, that is right.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have sat in this place for six years and on many occasions during that time I have heard this matter raised in a constructive and thoughtful way by members on this side, particularly the honorable members for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and Sir Earle Page, the predecessor of the present honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren). Although 1 had heard the matter raised many times by those honorable members, I had never until to-day heard it raised by a member of the Labour Party. I had not heard the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) mention it. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) heard it for the first time about 24 hours ago. Certainly the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had never before raised the matter in his life. Those honorable members did not even know about it until the honorable member for Cowper, impelled by the memory of his great predecessor, decided to bring it before this Parliament purely as a political stunt and a political trick. One of the reasons why the Labour Party has been in opposition for so long in this Par liament is that it thinks the electors of Australia, particularly those in country areas, are dumb. They are not. They can see through this sort of political stunt.
However, that is not what I rose to speak about on these estimates. I want to bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), to-day, as I have on a number of previous occasions, my dissatisfaction with the rural credit facilities which exist in Australia to-day, particularly those available through the banking system, which I believe are inadequate and have not kept pace with or adjusted themselves to the changes in the principal financial institutions concerned or the changing needs of the rural industries.
I contend that rural credit facilities arc inadequate for the needs of the rural industries. They must be tailored to the needs of those industries if they are to remain efficient and produce returns on capital comparable to returns obtained in other sections of the economy.
I would like to say emphatically to the committee, and to the Treasurer, that this is not a question, as many people seem to believe, of bolstering up uneconomic farms by filling up the gap between receipts and expenditure with borrowed money. On the contrary, it is a matter of making farming more efficient by making it more capitalintensive. It must have become obvious to all honorable members that the amount of capital required to engage in farming has increased enormously in recent years. This is not only, .or even mainly, due to an increase in money values. It has resulted from a process of achieving greater efficiency and productive capacity by increasing the amount of capital in the various elements that go to make up the farm economy. There is no doubt of the gains which can be made by the investment of capital in the right places, whether it be borrowed or otherwise, in rural industries. In this connexion I would like to refer the Treasurer to an article by Professor J. N. Lewis of the University of New England, who is one of Australia’s greatest authorities on this subject. He had this to say -
A characteristic of the farm problem is that low returns to labour and capital are obtained in agriculture relative to earnings in other occupations.
These relationships are symptoms of excess labour and of inadequate capital inputs in agriculture. There is sufficient recognition of the truth of the latter part of this statement amongst both bankers and primary producers. Too often low average returns to capital in farming industries are taken as evidence that lending for rural purposes is a doubtful proposition and that further farm investment will not be profitable.
The appropriate criterion for investment decisions is not the average rale of return on capital but the marginal rate, that is to say the return from additional capital expenditure.
There is ample evidence that high returns on further investment in farming can be obtained in many areas and that average returns on total investment (even valued at current market prices) can thereby be raised to levels comparing favourably with those achieved in other sectors of the economy.
Professor Lewis then goes on to discuss two surveys that were made in the New England district of New South Wales and to give details of the enormous increases in return on capital which have been obtained by the investment of quite large amounts of money. I have not time this afternoon to give the committee full details of those surveys, but the point I want to make - and I rose this afternoon for the purpose of making it - is that at a time when it is vitally necessary for farmers to invest more capital in their properties, the advantages of which are apparent from the article by Professor Lewis to which I have just referred, capital on appropriate terms is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.
There are two principal reasons for this. The first is the cost-price squeeze, which we all know so much about, which has reduced the surplus income which has been the traditional source of farm investment. By far the greatest proportion of farm investment has been made traditionally from surplus income. In the situation that has been created by the cost-price squeeze there has been less of this income available for investment in farm improvement and other rural activities. The other principal reason is that at the same time as the costprice squeeze has operated there has been a perceptible change in the role of the institutions that have traditionally provided credit for the rural industries. I refer particularly to the trading banks. They are no longer providing as much intermediate and long-term credit for development and land purchase as they did hitherto. This is of tremendous importance, particularly when it is realized that banks still provide well over half of the total credit provided far rural industries. Banks now regard their principal function as the provision of short-term working capital. Let me read to the committee some remarks made by Mr. Merry, the economist for the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited, who was one of the “members of the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry. He had this to say -
The post-war period has also seen marked changes in the type of business undertaken by the trading banks. The Central Bank, in its coordination of the banking system, has concentrated consistently on the necessity for the trading banks to limit their activities, as far as reasonably possible, to the provision of working capital, leaving market sources to provide funds for fixed capital purposes. Perhaps the only exception for this more or less uniform rule applied by the authorities, has been realization of the particular needs of housing in the past decade of rapid population growth.
This is perfectly true. It can be shown that the average duration of advances made by one leading bank is now about four to five years, compared to an average of eight to nine years before the war. From the bank’s point of view, of course, this shift towards short-term lending is part of a rational adjustment to make better overall use of its financial resources in conditions of chronic pressure upon capital supplies in a rapidly expanding economy. However, it leaves a major hiatus in credit facilities for rural development and property purchase.
There has been some recognition by the Government of this change. This is shown by the establishment of the Commonwealth Development Bank and, more recently, by the negotiation of the new term loans with the trading banks. But are these measures enough? The Development Bank, although it has done wonderful work in its field, is clearly intended to be marginal. The Development Bank does not come into the field unless money cannot be obtained on reasonable terms elsewhere. Admittedly, the resources of the Development Bank when compared with the amount of money made available by the trading banks to the rural section of the economy, are small. Even the term lending fund is small when it is remembered that it is not confined to the rural industries and is related to needs or to the extent to which ordinary trading banks have vacated the field of intermediate and long-term loans, confining their activities to short-term lending. Nor is the maximum term for these long-term loans, eight years, long enough for the most efficient use of a development loan for most agricultural purposes.
We have seen the development of many desirable features of loans granted by the Development Bank. These have included variable terms, a repayment holiday, the establishment of a line of credit so that a carefully worked out programme of development can be carried through to its conclusion - not only the development of pastures, for instance, but also the purchase of the stock to put on them. Failure to realize the importance of this latter feature has been one of the faults of trading bank lending, and even pastoral company lending, for rural purposes. All these desirable aspects of Development Bank loans should be features not only of marginal loans by the Development Bank but also of all intermediate and long-term rural credit transactions.
This is not a question of providing some preferential hand-out to the farmers. It is, I believe, one of the principal factors which will ensure that Australian primary industry remains efficient in the conditions that exist to-day and that the large amounts of money that we are spending on research and extension will be effective. If the money is not available to make primary industry more capital intensive, we shall certainly have on our hands the sort of farm problems which so many other countries have and which we have so far been largely able to avoid, and sections of our rural industries will be in danger of deteriorating into a peasant-type economic activity. We in Australia have avoided this for a number of reasons. The fact that in recent years, when required in the face of the cost-price squeeze, farming has become more capital intensive and farmers have been prepared to invest more in development and improvements, has been one of the reasons.
What I am suggesting to the Treasurer is that changes in the practices of the traditional sources of credit for rural industries make it vital that we have a close look to see whether in the future these financial institutions will provide the sort of credit that is necessary to enable agriculture to become even more capital intensive than it is at present.
– I should like to congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren), on the way in which he has stated here to-day the case of his constituency and his State for the provision of funds for the mitigation of flood relief. When we contemplate the sum mentioned - £300,000 per annum - in the light of a Budget approaching £2,000,000,000, it is difficult to know why the moderate request cannot be met. Government supporters, of course, have attempted to divert his case. They suggest that the matter is one for the State Government. One thing that we have learned from Government supporters over the years is that when there is anything, at the level of federal government, state government or local government, for which credit can be taken, they want to take it; but when criticism is aimed at any level of government, they want to blame either local government or the State for any deficiency. They have suggested that we ought to talk and think nationally. I agree with that, but I should hope that, this matter having been raised here to-day, some relief at least will be given in the situation that exists in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government is the only government that we, as members of this Parliament, can influence. I hope that it will look at the problem and see whether or not, in conjunction with the States, it can remedy the deficiency.
One or two honorable members, in speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, have pointed to deficiencies that they see in the economy. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) pointed to a deficiency in the provision of finance for housing. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) indicated deficiences in the provision of credit for rural activities. I would agree with each of them and I suggest again that these conditions show deficiences in the overall economic policy being pursued by the Government. There is nothing new in a deficiency of housing finance for certain income groups. The position has merely become more acute now, because inflation has raised building costs and particularly the price of land. Above all, we have a much higher interest structure than is healthy for these sections of the community. This, too, points to deficiencies in the economic action taken by the Government. The cost of credit in Australia is still far too high. That is highlighted by those two examples - the provision of finance for rural activities and the provision of finance for home building. This is part of the overall question of economic co-ordination for which the Treasury is responsible.
If honorable members look, as they should do, at the back pages of the Estimates, and not always at the front pages, they will see on pages 177 to 180 particulars of the administrative structure of the Treasury and the sort of activity that this department is supposed to encompass. There is a Central Secretariat, a Budget and Accounting Branch, a Banking Trade and Industry Branch, a General Financial and Economic Policy Branch, a Loans and Investment Branch, a Social Services Branch, an Insurance and Actuarial Branch, a Defence Division, and an Advertising Division. There are Sub-Treasuries in all the various States and there are also overseas branches of the Treasury. That gives a picture of the administration of the Treasury.
– It all adds up to a lot of work.
– It adds up to a lot of work and to a lot of money. There is also the other important side of the Treasury, namely, the Taxation Branch. If you are to have money to spend, you must collect it in the first place. In addition, the Treasury embraces the Superannuation Board, the Bureau of Census and Statistics and the Government Printer. This gives some indication of the ramifications of the Treasury, and seems to imply that there still needs to be greater co-ordination of our diversified economic activity.
When I was abroad recently, I had the opportunity to talk with people in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France and Italy. In those countries there is a recognition that there must be some activity that might properly be called central economic planning. We do not yet have that in Australia, and I suggest that that is the reason for the continuation of some of the inadequacies that are being ventilated here. One of the aspects in which we can see evidence of lack of overall direction is the field of banking and monetary control. Some months ago, by a mere stroke of the pen, the Treasurer was able to augment the income of the banking system by some £2,500,000. I repeat that that was done virtually by a stroke of a pen, merely by transferring funds from such avenues as the special accounts into what is called the term lending fund. Thus, the I per cent, interest that was being earned on the special accounts was converted into a potential 5 per cent. The mere dropping by i per cent, of the rate of interest paid on fixed deposits augmented the profits of the banks by some £500,000. That was all done by the administrative act of the Treasurer. It was one alteration of the banking structure in recent times.
– I thought your leader commended it.
– What I want to do is to contrast it with another step that has been taken recently. This recent action was taken by the banks themselves, apparently on their own initiative and without consultation with the Treasurer. The Treasury seems to imply that it has no control over this action, and there seems to be a lot of mystery associated with it. I think the Parliament is entitled to some clarification. The decision was made while I was away and I have only been able to read since what the action embraces. However, if it is as simple and as open as the Research Directorate of the Australian Bankers Association suggests, I cannot understand why the banks have not been much more frank and have not said precisely why they have done this and what the cost is in the various branches. Mr. Prowse, the Research Director, has said that the purpose of the scheme is -
The spokesmen for the banks have tried to suggest that nearly 80 per cent, of the customers will not be affected by the new arrangements. The incidence of the new arrangements apparently falls on 20 per cent, of the customers, though not necessarily on 20 per cent, of banking activity. According to figures that are given by the banks, the elimination of the inland exchange is estimated to mean a loss of revenue to the banking system of some £5,000,000. Therefore, by implication, at least £5,000,000 must be recouped from 20 per cent, of customers. This is a considerable sum, even in terms of the inflated Australian economy. The banks have done themselves a disservice on the public relations level by not giving more information about the reason for these changes. One of the ironies of it all is that the Commonwealth Trading and Development Banks, State and free-enterprise banks and the foreign banks operating in Australia, as Mr. Prowse describes them, are all disposed to adopt identical terms in these new arrangements.
The Treasurer may feel he is not answerable for the private banking system or the free enterprise banks, as they seem to call themselves collectively on television advertisements and in other places. But if he is not directly answerable for the free enterprise banks, at least he is answerable for the policy pursued by the Commonwealth Trading Bank. I would have thought that he would have obtained from that bank a memorandum setting out why, in the opinion of the bank, the new charges came within the grounds suggested by Mr. Prowse. Perhaps there is some case for the banking system trying to adjust its costs of operation to the costs of the services actually rendered rather than having to rely, as it generally has had to rely, upon the interest structure as its main source of income. Perhaps if the banks met actual costs on a day-to-day basis by measures such as this, more flexibility would be given to the role of interest rates in the overall economy.
By and large, banks survive not because they .charge for keeping accounts or for what was formerly described as inland exchange; basically, banks survive because they invest the money that they receive as deposits - they pay no interest on about two-thirds of this and pay some interest on the one-third or one-quarter that is held on fixed deposit. Banks derive their main profit from lending money either to individual clients in the form of overdrafts or investing it in government and other securities that return interest. By and large, the fortunes of the banks have been involved in the overall rate of interest as it has operated in the community. The interest rate that was chargeable on government bonds or was current on the majority of overdrafts determined the profit rate of the banking system. It has been possible to manipulate the profits of the banking system merely by raising or lowering the interest rates.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I would like to direct some remarks to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren). I think most of us realize why the amendment has been moved. When we know the background of the situation, we will all realize that the Australian Labour Party is very concerned about the ability of the honorable member to hold his seat at the next election. Labour must be very worried about this because of the long history of neglect of northern New South Wales by Labour governments. The Australian Country Party has been particularly strong in northern New South Wales. It has sponsored the interests of the whole of the area against the city of Sydney. The unfortunate fact for the people of New South Wales is that the State Labour Government is a government of the city of Sydney. It has neglected most of the country areas in New South Wales.
The amendment has been supported by one Opposition member after another. Obviously, this is a concerted drive to shift the responsibility for flood mitigation in New South Wales from the State Government to the Commonwealth Government, because the Treasury of the State Labour Government is in such a desperate plight that finance for the work cannot be found. The work may not be undertaken, also, because to do so would cut across the policy of the State Labour Government of not spending its surplus funds outside Sydney.
A thread of falsehood runs right through the arguments supporting the amendment. The honorable member for Cowper said that the honorable members for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and Lyne (Mr. Lucock) were completely opposed to flood mitigation. When both honorable members spoke they stressed that they favoured flood mitigation. But they believe the responsibility for flood mitigation lies with the State Labour Government. Of course that stand can very easily be misrepresented by any honorable member who rises to speak. The honorable member for Cowper also said that the Commonwealth Government assisted South Australia in flood mitigation. That was a complete falsehood. The Commonwealth Government assisted South Australia with flood relief, not with flood mitigation. Such arguments are absolutely false and so also is the whole case.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) posed as a champion of the country people and said that the New South Wales Labour Government assisted the country people. How has the New South Wales Labour Government shown generosity towards the country people recently? It has introduced measures for a 40-hour week for farm workers. Is that an act of friendship towards the farmers at a time when costs are rising? The State Government has increased freight rates and fares on the railways. Will that assist the farmers? It has provided for three weeks annual leave and long-service leave. Will that help the farmers? In its recent budget the New South Wales Labour Government increased taxes by £3,400,000. I know that honorable members opposite do not like these facts but they are there to be read in black and white.
Why has one of the wealthiest States in Australia increased taxes? The answer is: Because of the irresponsibility of the New South Wales Labour Government. I have some figures which show how money is squandered in New South Wales on government undertakings. Honorable members opposite probably find this tedious but it is worth while reviewing the various projects which were started by the New South Wales
Government as long as 21 years ago. These State works were very convenient. They were started just before a State election and afterwards were shelved or just kept going. The difference between the original estimated cost of these undertakings and the present estimated cost is £165,000,000. That means that £165,000,000 of New South Wales public money has gone down the drain because of the irresponsibility of the State Labour Government.
Let me cite a few of these projects. The Burrendong dam on the Macquarie River near Wellington was estimated in 1946 to cost £2,000,000. The cost at 30th June, 1960, was £14,000,000. Here is a really good one - the overall rail scheme linking the city of Sydney with Mascot airport, Coogee, Bondi Beach and Vaucluse. All this is within the city, I remind honorable members. The estimated cost in 1947 was £44,000,000. But the estimated cost at 30th June, 1960, was £132,000,000. 1 hope the people in the electorate of Cowper are listening to these figures. They show how money has gone down the drain under inefficient Labour governments in New South Wales. In addition, they have neglected the country areas.
– What about Queensland?
– I shall give the honorable member the Queensland figures in a few minutes. I want to give a picture of what happens in the country areas of New South Wales. Many honorable members, and particularly the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), make doleful complaints about the state of education in New South Wales. I know it is bad, but simply because the funds which could have been used for education are squandered in all sorts of government developments. Take the Sydney Opera House for example. When it was started, the estimated cost was £2,500,000; now it is about £15,000,000. Goodness knows what it will cost when it is finished. I know that I come from the country, but I would prefer a hayshed to the shape of the Sydney Opera House. However, that is a matter of opinion.
Let us compare the budgets of the States where there are Liberal-Country Party governments with those under Labour administration. The New South Wales Labour Government has imposed new taxes to balance the budget. Let us compare the record of the Queensland Liberal-Country Party Government.
– What has it done for the outback?
– I shall tell you. The Queensland Government has granted concessions on succession duties. It has improved workers’ compensation benefits and reduced land taxes. It will increase the number of high schools to 73 catering for 40,600 pupils compared with 36 high schools catering for 14,300 pupils six years ago under a Labour government. I point out that these new high schools are to be erected in country centres, right out as far as Charleville. The Liberal-Country Party Government realizes its responsibility to the outback. It does not increase freight rates and taxes and impose burdens on the country people. Moreover, this excellent budget of the Queensland Government has been introduced against a background of two years’ drought. Queensland admittedly is rich in natural resources but it has no industries. Because of inefficient Labour government administration for 40 years, it could not attract industries, but that problem is being overcome rapidly. Queensland is on the way back.
In concluding my remarks on the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper, I want to say that I know he is in a difficult position. The Australian Labour Party is anxious for his political future because the history of northern New South Wales has been bound up with the Australian Country Party and the New State Movement which has been organized to protect northern New South Wales from the city of Sydney. That movement still exists and anybody who supports a Labour candidate in those areas is against the best interests of northern New South Wales.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on these Estimates. They are most comprehensive and will be of tremendous assistance to the man on the land. This Government has held costs, which have been one of our greatest problems. But costs are rising in New South Wales to the detriment of primary producers. It is not generally appreciated that the situation in Australia has been very difficult. It has been one of the most difficult in the world to deal with because we have had a tremendous growth in population and national development. To-day, Australia is the tenth greatest trading nation although it has only 10,000,000 people. The sort of thing that I have been discussing puts pressures on any economy, and especially on an economy such as ours. In many economies, inflation rushes away with savings and destroys values. This Government has attracted unpopularity by the measures that it has taken to save Australia’s economy, but the policy of the Treasury has succeeded. Our economy is the most stable in the world, as is indicated by the success of the loan recently obtained overseas, which was oversubscribed by £30,000,000. That loan was raised to enable us to provide the things that we need for the development of our resources.
In discussing these estimates, I want to mention one thing in particular that I should like the Treasurer to consider - income tax deductions for education expenses. I raise this matter for two reasons. The expense of educating children has been a great problem for farmers and graziers in outlying areas. A few years ago, even before the costs of education increased as they have done recently, the financial burden of sending children to the cities to be educated was very great when one takes into account the cost of board and makes allowance for other costs. The burden has now become very much heavier. I know of many people from western Queensland who have taken a house in the city and moved the family there, or have even sold their country properties so that they may move to the city and be able to educate their children properly. This is only one of the factors involved.
The programme of development now being undertaken, particularly in the development of mineral fields, has taken large numbers of people to very remote areas. Many of these are executives, engineers and metallurgists whose ages range from the late twenties to the middle forties and who are at the stage in life when they are educating their children. A family living in a remote area bears a heavy financial burden if, say, several children have to be educated in the city. Consequently, these professional men face a big decision in deciding whether to take positions in the remoter parts of Australia at the stage in life at which they have the greatest need of the highest earnings they can command.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, which we are now discussing, include provision for the expenditure of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, which provides a lot of very interesting information in various voluminous documents. Occasionally, at the direction of the department that supplies specific information, the format and the terminology in which the information is supplied to the people of Australia are changed by the bureau. Until 1956, particulars of our balance of international payments were supplied in such a way that the difference between the total amount paid out to other nations and the amount received from other nations was shown as the net increase or decrease in our indebtedness to the rest of the world. If the amount paid out exceeded the amount received, the difference was preceded by a minus sign and represented a decrease in our indebtedness to the rest of the world. In the financial year 1956-57 the terminology was changed and the phrase “ surplus on current account “ was adopted. There must have been some reason for the alteration. I have asked previously for the reason and have not been told. I now ask again: What was the reason for the alteration? Did the amounts shown in the past not represent the net increase or decrease in our indebtedness to the rest of the world? If they did, why was not the former clear terminology retained? It showed at a glance how the financial transactions of this country with the rest of the world were going.
I think that each year we should show not only the net increase or decrease in our indebtedness to the rest of the world, but also, in big black print, our total indebtedness at 30th June each year and how much we have to pay to the rest of the world each financial year in order to liquidate our obligations. If that were done, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who is now at the table, would not be able to mislead the Australian people in his public utterances. The Melbourne “Age”, in its issue of 1st
October, 1962, reported statements made by the right honorable gentleman in the following terms: -
It appeared likely, he said, that Australia would raise a loan in London this year, even though, when the budget was introduced, it appeared conditions would not be favorable . . .
Mr. Holt said he expected when he was preparing the budget that Australia would raise at least one loan in New York this financial year.
Because it would be brought on the market this month, another was possible before the end of the financial year.
That is three loans for the financial year. The newspaper report concluded - “ Some people, knowing that Australia has been able to borrow successfully, have the impression that we are borrowing to excess,” Mr. Holt added. “ But liabilities in interest on overseas borrowings are 2.8 per cent. of the value of our exports, compared with 3.3 per cent. in 1949, and 20 per cent. just before World War II.”
The object of that statement was to convince the people of this country that, as a result of the way in which this Government had handled our financial transactions with other countries, our sales overseas of export commodities had left us with more money available to meet overseas commitments than we had in 1949, and that conditions were improving. In reality, this Government has obtained two loans on which we have not paid any interest at all. One was a loan of 100,000,000 dollars obtained from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. The other was the loan of 40,000,000 guilders that was raised in Holland. When the three loans to be raised in the current financial year are added to all the other loans that this Government has obtained since it took over the treasury bench, we shall probably find that the present Government has doubled our loan indebtedness to the rest of the world.
What is the position with respect to the proportion of our export earnings absorbed in the payment of interest overseas to-day compared with the proportion in 1949? I have before me a document entitled “National Income and Expenditure 1948- 49 “, in which I read that public authority interest was £20,000,000, net interest payments were £1,000,000, and net dividends and undistributed profits were £20,000.000 in the financial year 1948-49. This makes a total of £41,000,000 payable overseas in that financial year. In that year the value of exports of merchandise and of gold production was £536,000,000. This means that our overseas interest commitment in 1949 was about 7 per cent, of the value of our exports.
Let me refer to the figures for 1961-62. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has pointed out, that was an exceptional year. It was a year of record exports. The figures show, under the heading “ Invisible debits “, amounts of £155,000,000 in respect of investment income, £56,000,000 in respect of government sources, and £72,000,000 in respect of other sources. Actually, the interest payable overseas in 1961-62 was 11 per cent, or 12 per cent, of the value of the exports for that year. That is to say, on that item alone depreciation of 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, occurred.
When we consider the invisibles that were payable in 1949, including freights and charges of that kind, and compare them with the amounts that we received for our exports, we find that the deficit on invisibles in that year was about £80,000,000, or approximately 15 per cent, of the export income of the community. To-day the invisibles payable overseas amount to £487,000,000, or approximately 25 per cent, of our export income. There has been an increase of 10 per cent, or more. This means that we are receiving for our exports to-day considerably less than we received in 1949, if we compare the value of money then with its value to-day. In 1949, when the value of our exports was £536,000,000, the basic wage was £7. To-day, when the value of our exports is £1,080,000,000, the basic wage is more than £14, or more than twice as much as it was in the days when, according to the Treasurer, it was relatively difficult to raise overseas loans.
The policies of this Government have had a continually worsening effect on our overseas financial operations. I await with interest the examination that has been promised by the honorable member for Mackellar. It will be remembered that he referred to the increase in our indebtedness to the rest of the world and indicated the deficit on current account for three successive years ending in 1959-60, when the amount was £360,000,000. The honorable member said the deficit was only £8,000,000 in 1961-62 because of exceptional circumstances. There was a deficit of £8,000,000, although we received for our products nearly £200,000,000 more than we paid for imports. This is an untenable position, but of course it is worse than is apparent to the people of Australia. We do not know exactly the amount that is going out of Australia by way of dividends, in addition to the amount that is shown in the documents to which I have referred, but there is certainly an amount going out. Similarly, we do not know how much money is building up and is payable overseas annually on investment capital that is not shown in the documents.
At page 29 of the “Annual Bulletin of Oversea Investment: Australia 1960-61 “, which has been prepared under instructions from the Treasurer, the following statement appears: -
It has not yet been possible to measure some types of investment, particularly investment in real estate in Australia by non-residents other than companies included in this Survey and loans by non-resident individuals to Australian individuals.
Such investment could amount to an immense figure. There has been available, I believe, a vast amount of capital that has had its centre in Hong Kong. Those concerned have been seeking avenues of investment in other countries where they think their capital might be more secure. Therefore, they are seeking methods to transfer it to countries such as Australia. As a result, many big station properties and primary industries in this country have changed hands. The extent of those transactions, of course, is not recorded in the statistics that I have before me at the present time.
Every person who lives in a metropolitan area will see, as he walks about the streets, houses and other buildings being destroyed on almost every second corner in order to make way for petrol stations. We know that the destruction of those buildings and their replacement by petrol stations is being brought about by the re-investment of capital by oil companies which find difficulty in sending capital to investors overseas. This capital amounts to many millions of pounds. Nobody is able to estimate how many mil-1 lions of pounds are being spent in that way, supposedly for the development of this country. Is it assisting our progress in developing the country to demolish homes and other buildings? Does that make for national development? Of course it docs not! I think that the Treasurer, through the Bureau of Census and Statistics, should see to it that the extent of investment of this kind is set out more clearly than it is at present.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Having regard to the way in which the discussion has proceeded during most of the time that has been devoted to the estimates for the Department of the Treasury I feel that it is almost an intrusion to enter the debate at all. Although the Estimates cover the expenditure of more than £2,000,000,000, the first nine speeches from the Opposition side were devoted to a matter which finds no place in the Estimates and which, indeed, having regard to the nature of our federation, would not normally be regarded as a matter of Commonwealth administration. It became apparent early in the discussion that the Australian Labour Party, with the whole field of the Treasury estimates open to it, had taken the traditional method of moving, in effect, a motion of censure in respect of a particular aspect of administration. Tnt Opposition has moved that the vote be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to take action in relation to a matter which falls directly within the jurisdiction of the Government of New South Wales. We have been told that annual expenditures in respect of such action should not amount to more than about £300,000. As Treasurer, I feel that I can find a little comfort in this matter. If the Opposition, with the whole area of Treasury administration to choose from, finds that, to make some kind of debate, it has to turn its attention to a matter that is neither in the Estimates nor properly within Commonwealth administration, there cannot be anything seriously wrong either with the administration of the Treasury or, for that matter, with the general economic situation of this country.
– We have not finished yet.
– You are probably closer to being finished than you know. There is plenty of opportunity-
– Is that a threat? Do you intend to gag the debate?
– The honorable member for East Sydney tries to play blind Freddy on these matters. He knows that there is a broad allocation of time for the debate or, the Estimates this year as there has been in every other year, and that we are making available for discussion this year the same period as we have made available in other recent years. Yet knowing that, the first five speakers from the Opposition side of the chamber devoted their time to supporting the political petition of the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren).
I am not unsympathetic towards those who have the misfortune to suffer from time to time from the effects of floods, whether the floods occur in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia or in some other part of the Commonwealth. I am not unsympathetic towards those who are unfortunate enough to be in the path of floods and suffer damage. This matter has been canvassed for many years. No one can deny that in our federation the division of responsibilities has placed the matter of flood mitigation within the jurisdiction of the State governments. That is clearly understood. By proceeding as they have done to-day honorable gentlemen opposite say in effect that they do not believe in a federal system. We know that they are unificationists Unification has been Labour policy for very many years, but it is a policy which is not supported by the people of Australia as a whole. I doubt very much whether it would find support among members of the Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament. In addition, over recent years the trade union movement, from my contacts with it, apparently has abandoned its former support for a unification policy. In effect, what is being put to us to-day is that we should ignore the responsibility of the States in this matter and ourselves assume that responsibility.
Would we be justified in doing that? Do the States lack competence to do the job? I do not think the States would welcome a charge by members of the Labour Party in this place that they Jack competence to do the job. What is standing in the way of the States? We have been told that it is a shortage of finance. Let us consider that aspect for a moment. In this financial year this Commonwealth Government has provided to the State governments record sums by way of revenue grants and loan fund allocations. No State receives more of those moneys than does New South Wales. As it should be in a federal system where there is a constitutional division of power, the New South Wales Government determines its own order of priorities for spending the funds which fall directly under its control. If it chooses to devote them to some particular purpose it must accept the electoral responsibility for this, and those who feel that they have ground for complaint in this matter should place the responsibility where it squarely rests.
If the charges were that this Government has been niggardly and unreasonably parsimonious in the allocations made to the States by way of loan funds or revenue grants, that would be a matter on which I would have to offer some justification and defence. But that has not been put by honorable gentlemen opposite. In fact, after the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council I recall some critical comment from the principal daily newspaper which supports the Labour Party to the effect that we had been unduly generous to the States. So I think that we can accept this manoeuvre for what it really is - an attempt to prop up the political fortunes of the honorable member for Cowper. A political fluke brought him into this place and apparently only the most desperate measures will retain him there for the Labour Party. For that reason the Labour Party is proposing what is, in effect, a censure motion on the Treasury estimates on a matter not within those estimates and not even within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. However, I put that to one side.
My friend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) raised a matter of very considerable importance to which I think I should refer in some detail, namely, the adequacy of rural credit at present available on reasonably long terms. I do not claim that the situation is completely satisfactory from the point of view of the man on the land. We still have work to do on this problem, but so that the means of study at least may be available in the facts which can be supplied, it may be useful if I put on record a broad outline of the facilities which exist at present and the policies which have been followed by this Government and the financial institutions directly under its control.
The main sources of credit for the purchase, development and operation of rural properties in Australia are the trading banks, the Commonwealth Development Bank, pastoral finance companies, insurance and trustee companies, various governmentsponsored schemes, hire-purchase organizations in relation to certain items of equipment, and the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia which gives assistance for the marketing of primary produce. The major trading banks, including the Commonwealth Trading Bank, have been by far the largest group of suppliers of rural credit and remain the major source of new rural credit. In recognition of this, it has been the consistent policy of the Reserve Bank, even at times when general restraint on bank lending was called for, to make it clear to the trading banks that they should give preferential treatment to the special needs of rural borrowers. The banks appreciate their responsibilities in this field and shape their lending policies accordingly.
The trading banks make loans by way of overdraft up to approved limits and, since April, 1962, from their term lending funds. In form, loans by way of overdraft are short-term credit, with the banks always retaining the right to repayment at any time, but in practice much of it is longer-term, and over many years their activities have enabled a great deal of longer-term rural development to be achieved. The advances of the major trading banks to the rural sector usually represent between one-fifth and one-quarter of their total advances. Total advances, excluding term loans, at June, 1962, were £1,031,000,000 of which rural advances were estimated at £240,000,000.
Early this year the trading banks expressed to the Government their desire to play a wider and more constructive part in the growth of Australia and the expansion of its trade abroad. This desire featured prominently in the series of discussions that were subsequently held between the Government, the Reserve Bank and the trading banks. As the result of these talks, arrangements that are entirely consistent with the banks’ own approach to the matter were agreed upon. It was agreed that the banks should expand their facilities for term lending to meet growing developmental requirements, particularly in the field of rural industry, and for the financing of exports. Honorable members may recall that I made a statement in the Parliament on 12th April, 1962, explaining these arrangements. Briefly, loans from the banks’ term lending funds established under these arrangements will be for fixed periods of from three to eight years or possibly a little longer. No fixed ceiling has been set on the size of individual term loans. Normally these loans will be amortized by regular instalments, but provision has been made for departures from this practice in recognition of the fact that rural loans may not produce income in the early stages.
The term lending arrangements have been in operation for only a relatively short time, but loans amounting to £3,000,000 had been made by August, 1962, whilst the amount of loans approved but not yet drawn is very much greater. It is understood that a significant proportion of approved term loans is for rural borrowers. Under current interest rate arrangements between the Reserve Bank and the trading banks, the trading banks are permitted to charge a range of rates up to a maximum of 7 per cent, per annum, except in cases where an exemption is agreed on to meet certain special requirements. Preferential rates apply to overdrafts provided to meet the reasonable requirements of various classes of rural and other borrowers.
The Commonwealth Development Bank was established under the Government’s 1959 banking legislation. The bank came into operation on 14th January, 1960. It took over the business of the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department of the former Commonwealth Bank. It was, however, provided with an additional £5,000,000 of capital and given a new charter for assist ing primary producers and industrial undertakings. In 1961-62, the Government provided for an increase of a further £10,000,000 in the bank’s capital, bringing its total capital to £25,900,000. The function of the Development Bank is to provide finance for the purposes of primary production or for the establishment or development of industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings, where finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The bank may not provide finance for persons to acquire goods other than for use in the course of their business. The bank is enjoined to have regard primarily to the prospect of success of the undertaking and not necessarily the value of the security.
Between the commencement of its operations and 20th September, 1962, the Development Bank has approved rural loans amounting to nearly £20,000,000 out of total loans approved of £27,000,000. In addition, the bank has provided substantial hire-purchase assistance to farmers for the purchase of agricultural equipment. The interest rate of 6 per cent, per annum which has been charged on loans by the bank since its inception is within the existing arrangements between the Reserve Bank and the trading banks. Pastoral finance companies, which generally comprise wool brokers, stock and station agents, produce merchants, &c, have become, in recent years, an important source of credit to the rural sector, particularly the wool industry. They normally provide short-term and seasonal credit for their clients. The. main sources of their funds are their own reserves and internal resources in addition to credit funds held for clients and loans from trading banks. Outstanding rural advances by these companies amounted to £104,000,000 at the end of June, 1962. Insurance and trustee companies are not a very important source of rural credit, although they do provide some finance through rural mortgages. The Australian Mutual Provident Society has invested substantially :n land development in South Australia, but there are no indications that this type of investment by life insurance companies is likely to be extended. Outstanding loans of life insurance societies for rural purposes at the end of June, 1962, amounted to nearly £25,000,000.
Substantial rural credit has been provided under ex-service settlement and reestablishment schemes and by State banks and special State rural lending institutions. Estimated outstanding advances under exservice settlement schemes amounted to £58,000,000 at the end of June, 1962, whilst outstanding rural advances by other government institutions, including State banks and State savings banks, amounted to about £73,000,000 at the end of June, 1961 - the latest date for which figures are available. Hire-purchase finance is frequently used by farmers to finance the purchase of motor vehicles, tractors and other agricultural equipment. No figures are available, however, as to the volume of rural business done by hire-purchase operators.
The Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank does not make loans direct to farmers as do the previous groups of lenders mentioned. The department’s functions are to assist “ the marketing of primary produce or the processing or manufacture of primary produce “ by making loans to co-operative organizations of primary producers or to statutory marketing authorities. The department possesses its own capital but it operates largely on funds provided by the Reserve Bank. The loans of this department fluctuate seasonally within wide limits. In 1962, those loans reached a peak of £110,000,000 in February and had fallen to £52,000,000 by July. The seasonal pattern of loans reflects, in particular, the sequence of operations in harvesting and marketing the wheat crop, the Australian Wheat Board being the department’s principal customer.
I hope that those facts may prove useful to honorable members in dealing with this matter. Their views on the subject will be welcomed by me.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - the shadow Treasurer in the Labour executive - came late into the discussion and devoted most of his time to a criticism of the action taken by the trading banks in revising their system of bank charges. I have already dealt with this matter in the Parliament, first before I went overseas and more recently in answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I find it difficult to follow the reasoning of the Labour Party in relation to this matter because the criticisms of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports seem entirely at variance with the view quite firmly expressed in this place by the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke about banking arrangements on 17th May last. The honorable gentleman was taking part in a debate that flowed from a statement that I had made on 12th April about trading bank facilities and arrangements. He said -
As the law stands we have no alternative to working strenuously for the rehabilitation of a strong banking system as the foundation for our whole money supply. This may involve some increase in bank profits, but I cannot see that this is a very important issue.
Hire-purchase profits are not controlled, nor are those of oil companies and unit trust companies. Why should it be thought necessary to single out the banks for special attention when the only effect of that policy will be to make credit more costly for the ordinary citizen, to favour the big man against the small man and to break down the whole fabric of monetary control? If one wants to control bank profits, or those of any other business, one has a powerful weapon in the form of income tax law. We shall not hesitate to use it.
If those words mean anything they mean that the Leader of the Opposition has, in effect, given his blessing in advance to whatever internal arrangements the trading banks may wish to make. My opinion is that the increase in the income to the trading banks is likely to be of a marginal order. The banks are relating their charges to the degree of activity in a particular account. They have abolished inland exchange charges, which I think most people will agree were an anachronism in this day and age. Because of the conflicting statements to which I have referred, I find, as I say, some difficulty in ascertaining just what it is that the Australian Labour Party wishes to do in this particular matter.
I assume that the views put forward in this place by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) on overseas borrowings represent the considered policy of the Labour Party. He has a phobia concerning overseas borrowing. He sees no virtue in it. As I interpret what he said, Australia has derived no developmental value from funds raised overseas. I ask the Labour Party to let us know where it stands on this matter. We have made it clear that we welcome overseas borrowing of money which, in effect, represents the savings of other people when we can put those savings to good developmental use in this country.
In recent times, I have given figures showing that, far from our position worsening over the years in which this Government has been in office, the servicing of our overseas debt has entailed a very much smaller interest liability relative to our national income than when we took office. In point of fact, interest on overseas borrowing represents less than one-half of 1 per cent, of our national income. In 1949, when we took office, it was .9 per cent, and just before the war it was 3 per cent.
My colleague, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), had some criticism to offer of the economic policy being pursued by the Government. Of course, he does not hesitate to express his firmly held opinions. But I must say that it seems to me that his own recommendations in one direction ran counter to his recommendations in another direction. He was clearly urging a much livelier tempo of economic growth. In other words, he would presumably have increased the deficit which we have estimated will be the outcome of our accounts this year.
I would believe that from the programme he put forward we could expect greater pressure of imports, and greater pressure on the price and cost level. We could also expect that the stability which we believe to be so necessary to steady growth would have been threatened had we greatly increased our present rate of economic activity. The honorable member counselled savings, but savings cannot be encouraged if the price level is not reasonably stable. We are gettings savings at the present time. We are getting the best support for government loans that we have known in any peace-time period in the history of this country.
It seems to me and, I think, to most of my colleagues, that we have got the economy in just about as perfect a degree of balance as we are ever likely to get it at any particular time. That does not mean that we are not working to reduce the present level of unemployment registrations and provide work opportunities for those who will register at the end of this school year. But we do have a stable level of costs and prices. We have a com fortable overseas balance at the present time. Capital is moving steadily into the country and we have a good level of production in manufacturing industries. We have anticipation of a good export year. Our export industries are held competitive under the present cost-price structure and we must work strenuously to preserve that situation for them.
I shall conclude, Sir, by saying a word about the remarks which both the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Scullin addressed to the deficit on current account. It is true that we have been assisted in recent years to offset deficit on current account by the very strong rate of capital inflow. What the honorable gentleman from Scullin omitted to bring into his observation was the fact that the terms of trade have moved against this country more, I think, than against any other country in the last decade. If you take 1953 as the base for purposes of comparison of movements in the terms of trade, then our terms have worsened from an index figure of 100 to 67, which is the figure for last year’s export income. The total value of our exports was of the order of £1,080,000,000. Had we received the same price for that volume of exports last year as we received in 1953 there would have been an additional export income of upwards of £500,000,000 and we would not be worried about deficits on current account.
– If your internal costs were back to what they were in 1949 you would have nothing to worry about, either.
– I am glad that the honorable member for East Sydney is concerned about the level of costs. One ground of criticism which is fundamental to our charge against the Labour Party is that its economic policy would destroy cost stability in this country and drive out of overseas markets- the export products of Australia.
We have this acknowledged worsening in the terms of trade. Are we to adopt policies which would assume that those terms will never improve, particularly in a period in which we are able to sustain a comfortable level of reserves through capital inflow; or are we to go steadily ahead, encouraging the development of a greater export income and pursuing policies which keep our export industries competitive? That is the course which the Government has chosen to adopt and it seems the soundest course to pursue at the present time.
I shall not attempt to answer what was said on the matter of housing because I do not want to take up unduly the limited time available to the committee. I merely make this point in reply to the honorable member for Mackellar: While much, perhaps, remains to be done in the field of housing he should not ignore what this Government has done through its own instrumentalities, through action taken in relation to the banking system and in various other ways in order to maintain a good level of home construction in this country. Figures resulting from the last survey of the Commonwealth Statistician suggest that this country has about the highest level of room availability in proportion to its population of any country in the world. That is not to be taken as giving us grounds for complacency nor grounds for resting on our efforts in this direction. But at least we should acknowledge that much of value has been done.
I am glad, Sir, to find that this annual review of the Treasury estimates has produced so little ground for criticism by Opposition members that they have resorted to the political manoeuvre to which I referred earlier. I hope that all honorable members on this side of the chamber will recognize it as the device that it is and join with me in resisting it.
– Mr. Chairman, it is a particular pleasure to be able to support the amendment now before the committee which is designed to mitigate the injury caused by floods and to provide for flood relief. As Government supporters have said, it is quite true that there has been a good deal of talk about this matter in previous years by those occupying the Government benches. What is particularly satisfying now is that this proposal has come from the first Labour member for Cowper and that it is the first proposal for action that we have had, instead of a continuance of a flow of idle words. If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and if you, Mr. Chairman, will put your duty to your electorates and to this nation above your narrow party allegiance, then for the first time we will have these words translated into effective action to prevent and mitigate flood damage in the parts of the country that have been referred to this afternoon.
It is my intention to refer briefly to the new bank charges, but before I do so I must say that I think that one sentiment expressed by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) this afternoon should be given a little more attention. I refer to what might be one of the most extraordinary statements made in this Parliament, even by the present Treasurer. I shall quote his exact words. He said -
We have the economy in the most perfect state of balance that we are ever likely to be able to establish.
This perfect state of balance includes over 80,000 registered unemployed, and a total of well over 100,000 unemployed. This is the state of balance which the Treasurer describes as “ most perfect “ and says is the best that his Government is ever likely to achieve. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) knows, there will undoubtedly be another 50,000 unemployed when the school-leavers take their places at the factory gates unless the present state of balance is altered.
– Is that why you ignore what I said on the question of unemployment?
– I am quoting the exact words of the Treasurer. This situation of tragedy, injury, suffering and semi-starvation represents to him the most perfect state of balance - the best that his government is ever likely to be able to establish in Australia. I will let it go at that.
I turn now to the subject of bank charges. I do not propose to deal with the equity of the alterations that have been made, because I am not in a position to judge their effects. It is because the Treasurer has been notoriously recreant to his duty that this Parliament has not been provided with the necessary information on which to judge the effects of the change upon the profit system of the trading banks. Every one is glad to know that inland exchange is to be abolished, but mounting evidence in the community indicates that a greater burden is to be imposed on so large a proportion of the customers of the banks that the banks are going to be great gainers and the community as a whole is going to be a great loser. However, in the absence of precise information I do not make any judgment on that issue.
To me, the most significant feature of the alteration of bank charges has been the complete solidarity of the trading banks on the issue. There has not been the slightest divergence between them. Each bank is making exactly the same alterations. There is not sixpenny worth of competition in this matter between the lot of them. The second point to notice is that in the face of widespread and bitter criticism of the new charges every bank has stood unshakably firm. Not one bank has made even a gesture in modifying its new charges, even though that would unquestionably have attracted to it a multitude of new customers. There has been instead a marvellous unanimity among all the banks in Australia. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, do you consider that to be strange?
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro should have been in this Parliament long enough to know that, under the Standing Orders, it is not permissible to ask the Chair to express an opinion.
– I have been in the chamber long enough to know that I must address the Chair. I ask: Is not this strange? I cannot ask the question of anybody else; I must ask it of the Chair. What kind of commentary does this provide upon the costly advertising campaign conducted to persuade the Australian people of the importance to them of maintaining independent banks, private banks or free enterprise banks, supposedly providing healthy competition in the banking structure and freedom of choice for bank customers? Of course, I think you would agree, Sir, if you are able to express an opinion, that it makes absolute nonsense of those claims. What choice has any bank customer in this continent to-day? He has no choice at all.
All the trading banks of Australia to-day are speaking with one voice. If every nightmare conjured up by the opponents of bank nationalization became a reality, there could not be more compulsion or more regimentation than that which the trading banks are imposing upon their customers, the people of this continent, at the present moment. If every nightmare on bank nationalization that the Treasurer has had - and he has had more than anybody else - came true there could not be more regimentation, compulsion, lack of freedom or lack of choice than the trading banks are imposing on the people of Australia to-day.
– Are you still in favour of bank nationalization?
– If you are asking me, I have never changed my opinion on the subject and I am not likely to do so. I am always impressed by the example which really big business sets in taking direct action. The bank charges provide a most conspicuous example of direct action. There was no preceding negotiation with the industrial and commercial organizations which represent the majority of bank customers in Australia. There was never a suggestion of settling the dispute by conciliation or arbitration. The banks did not even deliver an ultimatum. They went further; they simply announced a fait accompli.
– What price public interest?
– The public interest was nowhere. If the most militant trade union in this country had dared even to threaten direct action along the lines that the trading banks have taken, the law would have been invoked instantly. A compulsory conference would have been convened immediately. An order would have been issued for a return to work on pre-dispute terms. Defiance of the order would probably have brought fines of thousands of pounds. But this Government has stood idly by while the great bank robbery has occurred. It has not stirred a hand or a foot to aid the victims of that robbery. Why? Obviously because this Government regards the forces of monopoly capitalism as being above the law. They can pillage and despoil the community with complete impunity and immunity from any action by this Government. Indeed, the Treasurer rises in his place to defend the banks. If the lesson is learnt, and if the example of direct action is followed by the workers of this country, let the Government not be astonished or raise its hands in hypocritical horror. The example is set by the greatest instruments of big business in the whole of the Commonwealth.
Of course, the most shameful feature of the whole affair has been the degradation of the people’s bank in the process. The Commonwealth Bank was established as the people’s watchdog to counter the depredations of the associated banks which, even then, were not competing with each other but were joined together in one tight organization. The mandate that the Commonwealth Bank was given by the Fisher Labour Government was to be an independent bank, to function in the interests of the nation, to provide vigorous competition with the private bankers who were concerned solely with the profit of their shareholders and not at all with the people. And the Commonwealth Bank of Australia worked exactly along those lines under the mandate given to it by Andrew Fisher and carried out by Denison Miller. It refused every suggestion that it should join with the associated banks. It never in all those years until after the end of the First World War took any action in conjunction with the private banks. It announced that it would set its own rates and fix its own terms to provide the competition that the people of Australia needed to safeguard them from the activities of the private trading banks.
Now we have the Commonwealth Bank itself shackled by this Government and by it agents appointed in the management of this institution. So we have the great Commonwealth Bank in the shameful position of being dragged at the heels of the private trading banks and compelled to accept the charges and the rates that they are now fixing and enforcing on the Australian people.
The lesson of this whole sorry exercise is quite plain. There is one unmistakable verdict for the Australian people to reach.
It has been demonstrated that there is not to-day one vestige of competition between the trading banks of Australia - that the pretence of private enterprise and free enterprise is a mockery and that the banking reality in Australia to-day is a rigid monopoly which ties the customers of the banks hand and foot. In this situation the immediate aim must be to restore the freedom of operation of the Commonwealth Bank so that it can again engage in full and free competition in all aspects of the banking business. Can any one doubt in the present situation that if the Commonwealth Bank had that freedom to-morrow to fix its own rates it would immediately attract at least 1,000,000 new customers?
.- I do not want to keep the committee very long, but I do want to reply to the amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren). To the surprise of honorable members on this side of the chamber, the honorable member for Cowper made a gentle, calm speech, making out that he was a martyr for his part of the world in trying to seek special Commonwealth assistance for flood mitigation.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it.
– Then what are you going crook about?
– Let me follow on. It is all right to make these suggestions. It is all right to encourage people along a certain line of thinking; but it is a pretty poor show to do so when you know that there is no chance of their getting the money they want from the sources from which you say they should get it, and when you know that there is a party other than the Commonwealth Government responsible for the provision of that money. Honorable members opposite are not game to point the bone in that direction.
After having been answered by honorable members on this side of the chamber the honorable member for Cowper, who was trying to win political kudos, realized that the biter had been bitten. When he rose to make his speech in reply to the debate on the amendment we immediately saw a changed man; we saw a desperate man who realized that he was going to lose very valuable support which he had been able to gain in his area by hoodwinking the people in that part of the world. He became bitter. He became personal and, to support his arguments, he brought in irrelevant inaccuracies.
– Such as?
– Such as his statement that I had no sympathy in respect of flood mitigation.
– Neither you have.
– That is not true. In my opening remarks I pointed to the importance of it. I have a vested interest in any flood mitigation, because I have a farm that goes under water during floods. I know what it is like to have the property covered by 20 feet of water and to have cattle stranded and drowned, so do not say that I have no interest in it. The honorable gentleman said that South Australia received Commonwealth aid for flood mitigation. That is a complete inaccuracy. Of course, it is all right to grab hold of any argument when you are in a desperate position. Why I am so concerned about this matter is that the leaders of local government in the northern part of New South Wales are looking for leadership, and they want to know where the responsibility lies. But what have they got in their federal member? They have a man who is willing to lead them along in the wrong direction, a man willing to lead them away from where the responsibility lies.
One good thing to come out of this debate will be that when those people read what has been said they will know that the responsibility of raising money for flood mitigation lies directly on the shoulders of the New South Wales Government and that the blame for not raising sufficient money for that purpose belongs to that Government, which will not give a sufficiently high priority to the work. It is hypocrisy to lead people along a line when you know there is no hope at the end of it. It is all very well to say that the Commonwealth should come into the matter. That can be followed to the nth degree and all you would have would be unification in Australia. There would be no State government at all then.
The honorable member said that I was not game to attend a conference at Kempsey. I sent an apology for my inability to attend through the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). The honorable member for Cowper accused me of being a coward for not going to that meeting. I will tell him who is the coward; it is the honorable member for Cowper who is the coward because he is not game to face up to where the responsibility lies in respect of flood mitigation. All he wants to do is to keep passing the buck on to the Commonwealth and thereby win himself a little political kudos.
One benefit coming out of this debate is the fact that we have learnt that the Victorian Liberal and Country Party Government supports local government expenditure on flood mitigation by granting £5 for every £1 so spent. Honorable members opposite can try to laugh that off. I hope that when people read my speech they will remember that the New South Wales Labour Government supports local government to the tune of only £2 for every £1 for flood mitigation. Although there is only minor flood damage in Victoria compared with what happens in the coastal areas of New South Wales, Victorians spend more on flood mitigation than is spent in the coastal river areas of New South Wales.
One thing that impresses all members of this committee is sincerity. If a man is a socialist, and genuinely means what he says, he gets the respect of all honorable members; but to say that the farmers need help from the Commonwealth while completely ignoring the fact that the responsibility for helping themlies with the New South Wales Government shows complete insincerity, and such conduct will not gain the respect of any honorable member.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the vote proposed to be reduced (Mr. McGuren’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Mr. Chairman, continuing the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury, I wish to spend a little time-
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . .1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In May of last year I brought into this House a bill to provide for long service leave for waterside workers. It is well to remember that, but for this legislation, waterside workers would not, except in Tasmania, be entitled to long service leave. One objective of the bill was to encourage greater regularity of work on the waterfront and thus speed the turn-round of shipping so vital to our economy. There is no doubt that the scheme was, with some reservations, welcomed by the rank and file of the Waterside Workers Federation and by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. As I explained at the time, the provisions to which objection were taken would not have been included but for the policies the then leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation had been pursuing. I shall have more to say about this later. For the moment, I want to confine my attention to the long service leave benefits.
Broadly, what the legislation did was to grant long service leave to those waterside workers whose conditions of employment were similar to regular full-time employees in industry to whom leave is granted under State legislation. Our legislation covered roughly 95 per cent, of all waterside workers.
When the Australian Council of Trade Unions talked to me at the time of the legislation I admitted that its provisions were complex - naturally so, as this is a highly complex industry - and it would have been a miracle if we had been able to foresee all possible contingencies.
So I agreed with the A.C.T.U. that in all probability some anomalies would be brought to light and that if the legislation were given a fair trial I would be prepared to consider amendments.
A number of honorable members will recall that they brought to my attention some anomalies and I said I would examine them or was already doing so as a result of my department’s study of the legislation in operation. Towards the end of last year, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation made a series of suggestions to me about the legislation. Subsequently there were a number of conferences between the council and the federation on the one hand and with me and my department on the other. Each time additional suggestions were made.
By February this year my study of the problems was sufficiently advanced to enable me to inform the council and the federation that I was prepared to agree to a number of changes; that I was sympathetically disposed in principle to others, but desired suitable practical solutions to be evolved between the council and federation and my department; and that I was continuing my study of other suggested alterations. Despite this, in April a series of stoppages were organized by the Waterside Workers Federation and a great deal of propaganda was directed against the very provisions I had already promised to amend. To me this was a saddening and revealing experience; it brought me face to face with this issue, so vital in the conduct of all industrial relationships: How far was it possible to expect fair dealing and the honouring of agreements by the Waterside Workers Federation! I might well at that stage have taken the view that until I was certain about this I should defer further consideration of amendments.
Two considerations persuaded me to go on. First, I was convinced that the A.C.T.U. had no sympathy with the behaviour of the federation, though I often wished it would have said so publicly and in clear terms. Second, I thought that it would be wrong not to correct the anomalies because not to do so would have been unfair to the individual waterside workers themselves, particularly those waterside workers in ports other than Sydney and Melbourne.
In mid-June I had a further conference with the council and the federation. At that conference we had a long discussion about industrial lawlessness on the waterfront; what could be done to avoid port stoppages; and about changes in the long service leave legislation. During that discussion with the council and federation they said they recognized the importance to the Australian economy of avoiding port stoppages and consequently would do their utmost to try to settle disputes by negotiation between the parties which, given goodwill on both sides, would render port stoppages unnecessary. For my part, I indicated what the Government was prepared to do about amendments to the long service leave scheme. I shall refer later to events on the waterfront since that statement.
Let me deal, first, with the changes relating to anomalies which I informed the A.C.T.U. I was prepared to submit to Parliament for approval.
The Government has agreed to this.
I said earlier that the 1961 legislation covered about 95 per cent, of waterside workers. Less than 1,000 men of a total work force of about 22,000 were not provided for; they are the men at B class ports and some irregulars at A class ports. When we considered the position of these men last year we were disposed to regard them as being casuals in the literal sense of that word and therefore, like casuals under State legislation, not eligible for leave. Closer examination shows that this analogy is imperfect. The fact is that no other group of workers in Australia can be compared with these men. They are subject to the whole system of regimentation and regulation that is of the essence of the stevedoring industry scheme. If, for example, men at B class ports do not attend when they are required, they can be deregistered. If they misbehave on the job they may be disciplined and lose their attendance money. Now the idea behind long service leave is that of a reward for long and continued service. It would be difficult to deny that any of these men had not given long and continuous service if they had continuously served the stevedoring industry sufficiently long to accrue twenty years’ qualifying service, the basic period of service for three months long service leave entitlement.
Moreover, irregulars in the continuous ports may now count the days they work towards qualifying service for long service leave if they have already had eight years’ qualifying service as a regular. The truth is that regulars only become irregulars because of medical unfitness and age, and it seems to me unfair that because a man becomes unfit - the more so if he became unfit through injury on the waterfront - and, on this account was transferred to the irregulars, he should not be entitled to count the days he works towards qualifying service without the need for having accrued eight years’ qualifying service as a regular. Also relevant is the fact that these men at B class ports and irregulars get annual leave and sick pay and public holiday pay benefits. In addition, they can be deprived of attendance money. Viewed from the employers’ side - they pay the stevedoring industry charge in respect of the men.
In all these circumstances the Government felt that these men should not be distinguished from those already covered by the long service leave legislation. So it has decided to extend the long service leave scheme to men at B class ports, the days on which they work or receive attendance money or are on paid leave counting as qualifying service, and to remove the present requirement of eight years’ qualifying service as a regular before irregulars can accumulate qualifying service. The Government is satisfied that for the reasons already briefly explained its decision does not depart from the principle that long service leave has no place in the case of purely casual employment.
Besides these provisions relating to the existing leave scheme the bill proposes some other amendments to last year’s legislation. The present legislation provides for appeals from decisions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority on medical grounds, for example, transfer from the regular to the irregular register, to be to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is now proposed to substitute an appeal to medical boards.
Last year the commission was empowered to direct the authority to pay compensation to a waterside worker whose appeal against suspension succeeds. It is now proposed to extend this to successful appeals against cancellation of registration where the appellant establishes that he should be compensated. Provision is also being made for compensation where an appeal is upheld against transfer on medical grounds from the regular to the irregular register.
Prior to 1958, the authority and its predecessors assumed they had power to revoke or vary a suspension order by a delegate, for example, the local representative, but in December of that year the High Court decided that it had no such power. Occasionally circumstances do arise where the authority recognizes that the decision reached by its local representative was in error and what happens now is that a formal appeal has to be made to the commission which the authority does not oppose. This is a rather cumbersome process and it is proposed to restore to the authority the power which it formerly exercised - it will, of course, be exercised only in unusual circumstances - and to give the authority the same power to award compensation as the commission has now when it allows an appeal.
The bill contains a number of provisions of detail which I need not traverse except to mention one. The extension of the scheme to B class ports and irregulars presents administrative difficulties in relation to the calculation of qualifying service, in that in those ports there are not always complete records of the service of waterside workers. After all, when the stevedoring industry scheme was introduced it was expected to be for the duration of the war. Records were not kept beyond those required for immediate needs.
From records available, and other records in the hands of various authorities, like harbour boards and employers, it will be possible to piece together much useful information from which to calculate qualifying service for periods before detailed records were kept. The data varies from port to port. So it is not possible to describe any definitive uniform formula for the calculation of qualifying service. It is therefore proposed that subject to principles the Minister determines, having regard to the data that is available from port to port, the authority will determine the qualifying service. In general, what is in mind is that regard will be paid to the experience of employment in times when detailed records are available and then apply this to earlier periods, corrected as necessary by the information that can be collected.
It is a matter of common knowledge that from the outset two provisions which the 1961 legislation introduced attracted a deal of attention. The first allowed suspension of attendance money as an alternative to suspension of registration. I explained last year that suspension of registration was useless when there was a labour shortage; in these circumstances, to suspend registration merely destroyed the main purpose of the stevedoring scheme, to achieve expeditious turn-round of shipping.
The second provided that where there was a port stoppage, that is to say, a stoppage involving more than 250 or one-third of the men at a port, the men involved would forfeit four days’ attendance money and their qualifying service for long service leave could be deferred by that day and such further period not exceeding 30 days as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determined, unless the commission decided that the stoppage was excusable.
In my second-reading speech last year I emphasized that this double-barrelled penalty was severe. I explained that this would never have become necessary - and I quote my words - . . were it not for the tactics - the deliberate tactics and objectives - of some of the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation to continually disrupt and disorganize working on the waterfront. It is they who must carry the responsibility for what is proposed.
In my speech I also pointed out that in 1959-60, 47 per cent, of the total manhours lost were in 107 24-hour port stoppages. Elsewhere I said that over the previous five years 29 per cent, of the total days lost by industrial disputes had been lost by the waterside workers who constituted less than 1 per cent, of all wage and salary earners.
What has happened since the legislation was passed has completely vindicated my expressed opinion that stoppages are deliberately organized, and1 all too frequently without any industrial purpose.
Look at the record! The average monthly man-hour loss on the waterfront in the two years 1959-60 and 1960-61 was 83,296. The 1961 legislation became operative on 6th June, 1961. From July, 1961 to March, 1962, inclusive, the average monthly man-hours lost were 4,765. Except for the legislation no mysterious change had come over the waterfront. The employers were the same, the men were the same, the authority was the same. True, a change in the general secretaryship of the Waterside Workers Federation had occurred. Yet in April, despite the fact that it was well known that I was in process of reviewing the legislation and that a further conference with the department had been arranged for 9th May, a series of organized stoppages was commenced. In April, 149,125 man-hours were lost. In the first ten days of May another 94,129 man-hours were lost.
On 9th and 10th May the permanent head of my department conferred with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Waterside Workers Federation. He then pointed out that useful discussions could not proceed without satisfactory assurances that port stoppages and other protest stoppages against the legislation would stop. Assurances were given; the protests stopped, and man-hours lost for all industrial disputes fell dramatically.
Then came my conference on 15th June when the statement about the importance of avoiding port stoppages was made. True, there were no more port stoppages about the legislation but instead at the end of June in Sydney and from mid-July in
Melbourne, a series of new stoppages of work commenced - a number involving port stoppages.
No jews than 99.7 per cent, of the manhours lost in June and July were lost in these two ports. There was nothing spontaneous about them; they were carefully organized by the Communist elements in the Waterside Workers Federation - especially strong in Sydney and Melbourne.
The stoppages did not involve new industrial issues - they involved claims dealt with some years earlier by the Arbitration Commission. They represented flagrant breaches of the award and downrig’ht refusal to take advantage of the provisions of the award which exist to enable matters like those at issue to be resolved. Finally the Australian Council of Trade Unions intervened - virtually to require the Waterside Workers Federation to return to arbitration on these issues.
The waterside workers elsewhere are no different from their fellow workers in Sydney and Melbourne. Nor are the employers. Yet if you take the three months June to August only 83 hours were lost in all Western Australian ports, 105 in Tasmania, 813 in South Australia and 2,070 in Queensland. Set against these figures the 182,631 man-hours lost in Sydney and 50,633 in Melbourne in the same period! Why should there be such differences in behaviour at different ports? It is not to be explained by the numbers of men in the various ports. The reason is, I suggest, simple - the Melbourne and Sydney branches are under the control of members of the Communist Party and they have been using their offices in the federation in a personal struggle for power and for political purposes - purposes alien to the Australian way of life.
The House might ask: Why in these circumstances is a bill being introduced to vary the provisions that deal with port stoppages? In the first place, let me say that I have been much influenced by the representations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - that it was unjust to attach strings to the grant of long service leave - and particularly by the fact that while it has constantly pressed its views on me in relation to this matter it has given no support to the irresponsible and utterly futile campaign of direct action by the Waterside Workers Federation. In keeping with this, following my June conference with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation, the council demanded of the federation that it adhere to the assurance given me at the conference.
Next, I myself felt that in the light of experience of the legislation, given any sort of reasonable behaviour on the waterfront, the double-barrelled penalty was unfair. And, finally, I considered, against the background of the good performances in most ports, that I should do what I thought was right in the hope that we might get some sanity in this industry. This bill therefore provides for the elimination of the provisions in section 52a dealing with the deferment of long service leave.
At the June discussions the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation asked that the whole of section 52a should be repealed - that is to say, hot only the part dealing with the deferment of long service leave but also the provisions dealing with automatic forfeiture of four days’ attendance money in the event of a port stoppage. Failing that they asked that having regard to the increased value of attendance money three days should be substituted for four. I informed the meeting that I would take to Cabinet their request for substitution of three days for four days’ forfeiture of attendance money.
The Government considered this request carefully. It took into account the conduct of the Waterside Workers Federation to which I have referred. Its conclusion was that this bill should not go further than I have described.
I do not believe that this industry must inevitably be subject to industrial turmoil. There can be peace on the waterfront - honorable peace, not peace procured by appeasement or peace procured by duress, coercion, or direct action.
In New Zealand in the last 10 years the average loss through industrial disputes has been 3 hours per man per year. In Australia, for the three years to June, 1961, the loss was twelve times that. In Australia itself the loss between July, 1961, and March, 1962, was at the rate of 2.6 hours per man per year. For the three months June to A r gust this year, leaving Sydney and Melbourne out, the loss was at the rate of 1.5 hours per man per year.
Peace in the stevedoring industry in Australia is possible! Surely sooner or later the rank and file of the waterside workers, even in Sydney and Melbourne, must realise where their best interests lie.
A continuance of senseless stoppages must inevitably result in less work and fewer men being required. Does any one imagine that the designing of new ships and equipment to avoid the use of labour has not been powerfully influenced by the stoppages that have plagued this industry, or that the same stoppages have not encouraged resort to alternative methods of transport? By the same token, a continuance of stoppages will harden public opinion against the waterside workers. Is this the sort of atmosphere in which waterside workers can hope to receive continued improvements in their working conditions?
More and more we must find ourselves dependent on building up our export trade. Our waterside workers have a stake in this. But if they do not pull their weight Australia’s future will be prejudiced and it will not be only waterside workers who suffer but trade unionists up and down the country and the community as a whole.
The problem of our waterfront transcends party politics. If the Opposition would play its part in exposing and defeating the Communist elements in the Waterside Workers Federation whose purpose is unchanged - to create industrial trouble and chaos whenever they can and to stir hatred between employer and employee - a mighty change would come over our ports. This is as much in the interests of the Opposition as it is of the Government.
I do not think the opinion can be challenged that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation welcomed the Government’s decisions to remove anomalies, extend the long service leave scheme to the remaining waterside workers and cancel the so-called strings on long service leave. The rank and file, too, have expressed their satisfaction. I hope that this measure will prove to be but an instalment of a move towards more settled working conditions on the waterfront. There can be little doubt that this will be so if the Opposition plays its part and helps to destroy the influence of the Communists in the Waterside Workers Federation, particularly in the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
– I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 46).)
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 47).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 48).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 49).]
mean the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced
[Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Amendment (No. 8).]
The resolutions which I have just introduced relate to proposed amendments to the customs tariff. Details of these amendments are now being distributed to honorable members.
The first three tariff proposals cover tariff changes arising from the Government’s consideration of reports made by the Tariff Board on furnishing fabrics, textiles of man-made fibres, woollen piece goods, copper and brass in sheets or strips, and conveyor and transmission belts and belting.
In accordance with the Tariff Board’s recommendation, the ordinary protective duties are being increased on furnishing fabrics of man-made fibres and on moquettes. [Quorum formed.] The duties provide a protective level of 50 per cent, ad valorem applicable to imports from mostfavourednation countries with British preferential rates determined in accordance with international commitments. Temporary duties on furnishing fabrics will be removed but the new duties will provide increased overall protection on woollen moquettes and retain the existing overall level of protection on a wide range of other fabrics.
In its report on man-made fibre piece goods, the board recommended the removal of the temporary duties and a return to rates of 2s. 6d. per square yard British preferential tariff and 2s. 8$d. per square yard mostfavourednation tariff.
Concerning woollen fabrics, the duties recommended by the board are lower than the existing combined ordinary and temporary duties but somewhat higher than those which applied before the temporary duties were imposed. The Tariff Board has concluded that the industry warrants longterm protection and has recommended new duties which are designed to safeguard the local industry against imports of both highpriced and low-priced fabrics. The Board’s recommended duties on woollen piece goods apply only to fabrics containing 20 per cent. or more by weight of wool.
In its report on furnishing fabrics and on textiles of man-made fibres, the Tariff Board referred to evidence which it had received of competition from imports purchased overseas at “close-out” prices; that is, at prices which have been reduced below normal levels to enable goods to be cleared at the end of a run of production. The Government is studying the Tariff Board’s suggestion that special measures might be considered in order that protection afforded to the Australian textile industry will not be nullified by practices of this kind.
The Government has also noted the board’s suggestions that it would be advantageous if a means could be devised whereby all fabrics containing reclaimed wool would be clearly labelled as such. I can tell honorable members that this was attempted previously but it was found that difficulties of identification precluded practical enforcement.
In these reports, some mention has been made of the general textile reference now before the Tariff Board. This reference envisages a general revision of the textile items of the customs tariff. It was not thought appropriate to introduce a redraft of textile tariffs at this juncture, but I would hope that the opportunity will arise before the Parliament goes into recess for the introduction of a redraft of the nomenclature on the textile fabric items of the tariff. Such a proposal will not involve any changes in duty and will be essentially a drafting measure. Its introduction should, however, materially assist the board in its examination of the general textile reference and will certainly improve departmental administration.
Arising out of the board’s report on conveyor belts and belting, increased protection is being accorded by way of normal duties on conveyor belts and belting other than of leather. The temporary duties imposed on these goods earlier this year are being removed.
The recommendations contained in the board’s report on copper and brass sheets or strips have been adopted by the Govern ment. The temporary duties imposed in August last year following a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board are being removed. To assist the local industry without unduly penalizing users of thin copper and brass strip, the board has recommended assistance by means of bounty. Later in the current session it is intended to bring down a bill to provide for payment of a bounty at the rate of £45 per ton to producers of copper strip or brass strip not exceeding 15 inches in width and not exceeding . 012 inches in thickness produced in Australia and sold for use in Australia on and after 1st October, 1962. [Quorum formed]
Tariff Proposals No. 49 provides for the introduction of temporary duties on certain weedicides and insecticides, including those commonly known as 2,4-D and D.D.T., in accordance with a recommendation by a special advisory authority. The duties will take effect from 25th October and will, in effect, continue the existing temporary duties imposed following a previous report by a special advisory authority. The authority had been asked to report on the situation of the Australian industry following the Government’s decision to ask the Tariff Board to hold a further inquiry on these products.
The New Zealand Preference Proposals are complementary to Customs Tariff Proposals No. 46.
At a later stage I shall table the reports which gave rise to the foregoing tariff changes. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Reports on Items.
.- I lay on the table of the House reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Conveyor and transmission belts and belting.
Copper and brass in sheets or strips.
Textiles of man-made fibres and interim report under the general textile reference on textiles of man-made fibres.
Woollen piece goods and interim report under the general textile reference on woollen piece goods.
I move -
That the reports be printed.
– I ask the Minister whether honorable members will be given an opportunity to debate the Tariff Proposals and these Tariff Board reports in the very near future.
– I can advise the honorable gentleman that the Tariff Proposals will come up for debate under their own separate bills, I think on Wednesday of next week. There will be ample opportunity to discuss them then.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 1196).
Proposed Vote - Attorney-General’s Department, £2,793,000 - agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
.- I understand that the Department of the Interior controls the Commonwealth electoral machinery. I am of the opinion that the method of voting for Senate elections causes the casting of too many informal votes. I have raised this matter on two previous occasions and suggested that the method of voting should be altered with a view to reducing the number of informal votes, which increases when the number of candidates, the number of parties and the number of independents increase. It is becoming more and more difficult for certain people to cast formal votes.
In order to record a formal vote, the voter must fill in all the squares on the ballot-paper with consecutive numbers commencing with one. If he marks his ballotpaper with two fours, two fives or two threes, his vote is informal. If he marks it from one to five, and then proceeds to seven and eight, his vote will be declared informal by most returning officers. There may be people who will say, “ Well, everybody ought to be able to cast a formal vote “. The fact is, however, that in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, as many as 8,000 of the 40,000 votes cast in particular electorates, or one in five, are informal. In some instances, the number of informal votes cast in a State for a Senate election is almost as great as the number of votes received by the candidate who is the third to be elected. It could happen that the number of informal votes was greater than the number of votes received by a candidate who was elected.
– Would it not be better to abolish the Senate?
– I am decidedly and strongly in favour of the abolition of every upper chamber in this country, whether it be the Senate or a Legislative Council.
– What about the seat of Scullin?
– We can always rely on a supporter of the Australian Country Party to make a particularly silly interjection when we are proceeding with a discussion. The seat of Scullin has nothing whatever to do with the Senate. For the benefit of Country Party members, let me explain that the Senate consists of representatives of the States.
The reason that more and more candidates are standing for election to the Senate particularly is that it is possible to make money by doing so. Unfortunately, I have to declare, so that every one may hear me, that it is possible to make a profit by standing for election to the Senate and failing to be elected. All that it is necessary for a person to do is to put in his nomination and lodge his £25 deposit. Unless he receives a certain number of votes he will lose his deposit, but under the law he is allowed £500 electoral expenses. He may show £500 for electoral expenses in his income tax return, and that will be allowed as a deduction. If he is subject to tax at the rate of 15s. in the £1, he will be entitled to a deduction of £375. So, it is possible to make more than £300 merely by putting in your name and standing as a candidate for a Senate election.
– It all depends on your income.
– That is right. I referred to a person who was paying 15s. in the £1 by way of tax. If he were paying 10s. in the £1 he would make about £250. If he were paying only 5s., as I pay, he would still show a profit of £75. The point is that, merely by standing for election to the Parliament of this country, a person may make a profit. There may well be people who say to themselves, “ If I can make a few bob in that way I will make it”.
The Government should endeavour to evolve a system in which that kind of thing is not possible. This aspect of the matter is not nearly so important as my first proposition regarding the need to secure the maximum possible number of formal votes. After all, we claim credit for being a democracy, and in a democracy those who receive the majority of the votes win an election. However, if one candidate at an election receives 200,000 votes and another 200,500, while there are 50,000 informal votes, it is obvious that the number of informal votes was sufficient to determine the election. In reality, all the 50,000 voters who voted informally may have desired to vote for the person who failed to secure election. It could be that their votes were not counted as formal merely because their attention was diverted from the task in hand, their eyesight was failing, or they were the victims of mishaps which might happen to any of us on occasion.
For any of those reasons, the voters concerned might have left out one of a string of numbers between, say, 15 and 50. Though I am not a great admirer of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), I think that this is a state of affairs with which he is capable of grappling, and I now leave it in his hands.
.- I wish to make some observations concerning the operation of the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. I claim the support of the Australian Country Party in the matter that I propose to advocate this evening. I know that the Country Party Government in Queensland is very definite and firm in its support of the proposition I am about to put forward because it is applying such a policy. I refer to the abolition of preferential voting. This is the policy of the Australian Labour Party, as written into its platform. It is the policy of the Australian Country Party, in government in Queensland. While that party has been in power there it has refused continuously to implement preferential voting in State elections, so I am compelled to accept that, in conscience, it believes there should not be preferential voting. I have studied the way in which preferential voting has applied in recent elections in the Commonwealth sphere. I am sorely aware of its application in the 1958 general election. I had no occasion to be so aware of it in the 1961 election. Having observed the way in which it has applied, particularly in Queensland in electorates other than that of Griffith, I am convinced that the electors are not concerned about working out how their preference votes will apply in the final count should the result of the election, be close.
Let us consider the position in the electorate of Moreton. It has been said in this place that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is indebted to the Australian Communist Party for his election. The figures indicate that this is true. The honorable member for Moreton received enough preference votes from Australian Communist Party supporters to ensure his election. After examining the reports submitted to us by the Chief Electoral Officer relating to the way in which voters applied their preferences, I am convinced that the Australian people have shown their disinterest in the application of preference votes and that they merely take the advice of party scrutineers and number every square so that their votes will be formal. In some cases people vote for a candidate who is eliminated very early in the count because his party has no standing in the community, but in order to record a formal vote for that candidate they must number every square on the ballot-paper. Ultimately their effective vote may go to a candidate in whom they have no interest and for whose party, in many cases, they have a great deal of contempt.
In my own case, in the 1958 general election, I was some thousands of primary votes ahead of the Liberal Party candidate in the Griffith division, but, because of the bias which existed and because the voters were told to number every square on the ballot-paper, I found myself in the unfortunate position of just failing to gain sufficient preferences from a candidate who was eliminated in the early stages of the count, notwithstanding the fact that we both bore the same political title. Returning to the position in the electorate of Moreton, which I think is a good example-
– Why not forget about that.
– I do not think that I should forget it because it bears out the point I am seeking to make.
– We had a wonderful member for Griffith in the intervening period.
– The people of Griffith expressed themselves differently from that. Returning to the position in the electorate of Moreton, there were, I think, five candidates for election. The name of the Labour Party candidate, a Mr. O’Donnell, was put at the bottom of - the ballot-paper. As I have said, the voters were compelled to number every square in order to make their votes formal. Because of the votes which were cast, I am convinced that the majority of the electors in that division desired to elect Mr. O’Donnell as their representative. However, Mr. O’Donnell was handicapped alphabetically and found his name at the bottom of the ballot-paper. For that reason, and because people voted straight down the ballot-paper irrespective of names and parties, Mr. Killen remained the member for Moreton. He was elected, not by the choice of the electors of that division, but by an alphabetical accident. His name commences with a letter earlier in the alphabet than does Mr. O’Donnell’s the Australian Labour Party candidate. As my friend, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) informs me, the election of Mr. Killen has created an accidental government.
When people go to the polls they know the persons for whom they wish to vote but they do not know that their No. 4 preference votes may be the votes which will count in the election of a candidate, as in the case of the Moreton election. In that electorate some voters gave their first preferences to the Communist Party candidate, their second preferences to the independent candidate, their third preferences to the Queensland Labour Party candidate and their fourth preferences to the Liberal Party candidate. I believe that those voters never intended to cast a vote for the Liberal Party candidate, but in order to cast a formal vote for the Communist Party candidate they were compelled to number every square, and ultimately their votes went to a candidate for whom they had not intended to vote. They never intended to vote for Mr. Killen; they intended to vote only for the candidate for whom they cast their No. 1 votes.
I am confident that the Australian people, particularly those in Queensland, are not preference-vote inclined. They want to see the preferential voting system abolished. The system which operates in Queensland in State and municipal elections eliminates preferential voting. When an elector goes to the polling booth he casts his vote for a certain candidate who is a member of a certain party, and he is not obliged to vote for any one else. That system should be introduced in all Commonwealth elections. It would make for simpler voting. As my friend the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has reminded me, the system of first past the post would apply. The results under this system reflect the real opinions and wishes of the electors. If introduced, it would eliminate or, if not eliminate, reduce to a great degree the number of informal votes cast,
– How would you apply that system to the Senate candidates?
– I shall come to that aspect. An amazing position arose in relation to the election of candidates to the Senate. In some States 10 per cent, of the votes cast were informal. When you assess the allocation of preferences for candidates for the Senate, you wonder at the way in which electors wander all over the ballotpaper with their pencil, giving their first preferences to the Liberal Party candidate, their second to the Communist Party candidate, their third to the Democratic Labour Party candidate, their fourth to an independent candidate, and so on. In Queensland the preferential ‘ voting system for election to the Senate had really amazing results. To my mind, that proves that the electors want no part of that system. They want to vote for the candidate who is a member of the party which they support, but they are compelled to accept the decision of this Parliament and to number every square in the ballot-paper. They do that, without giving any: thought to the possible result when their preferences ultimately are distributed.
As I said earlier, the Australian Country Party in Queensland firmly believes that the preferential voting system should not be introduced. Its decisions in government support that belief. The Australian Labour Party believes that preferential voting should be abolished. In a very short time I hope to be associated in this Parliament with a government which will take early action to abolish preferential voting.
.- As honorable members know, over the past seven or eight years when we have been discussing the estimates for the Department of the Interior I have referred to redistribution of electoral boundaries. We have recently had a survey of electorates in this country and in some cases there has been a redistribution of boundaries. New electoral maps have been submitted and certain objections have been lodged to the new boundaries. Only to-day the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has tabled other maps and information regarding the final decision of the electoral commissioners. I have always advocated that the commissioners should pay full regard to the 20 per cent, permissible variation in the quota of electors necessary for an electorate. If the average quota were fixed at 40,000, applying the 20 per cent, variation principle, an electorate could have as many as 48,000 electors or as few as 32,000.
I have always contended that we should do all in our power to encourage people to move away from the cities into country areas. The only way to achieve decentralization is by decentralized political representation. I have advocated that step for years. Most of our people live in the cities. Most votes are to be found in the cities. That is why, despite all the talk about decentralization and the appointment of committees to go into the matter, decentralization proposals are always defeated in the Parliament. I have always advocated decentralization of the population. The only way to achieve it is by decentralizing political representation. This would increase the number of voters in country areas and lead to improved living conditions in country areas, and the establishment of factories. This would attract still more people to live there. I have become reluctant to use the word “ decentralization “ because it has become a catchcry of politicians.
After years of fighting alone for decentralization of political representation I am forced to admit that I have been unsuccessful. The electoral commissioners whose maps were tabled to-day have completely disregarded the 20 per cent, permissible variation in the quota of electors. The Electoral Act clearly provides that the 20 per cent, variation may be used when necessary. Surely, with more and more of our people moving into Melbourne, Sydney and the other capitals, decentralization is urgently needed. I have been endeavouring to persuade the Parliament and the people of Australia for years that only by decentralization of political representation will we be able to spread the population throughout this country.
Whenever I have risen to speak on this subject some honorable member opposite - at times it has been the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - has stated, “Do not take any notice of the honorable member for Mallee. The Opposition believes in the principle of one vote, one value “. I represent an electorate which comprises more than one-fifth of Victoria. Many country electorates, such as the electorate of Wimmera, are vast, fertile and highly productive areas. Does anybody suggest that one vote in an electorate embracing 5 square miles is as valuable to this country as one vote in the electorate of Wimmera or the electorate of Mallee? Of course not, because the primary produce of this country is the basis of our stability, our prosperity and our progress. In my opinion one vote in a vast electorate such as mine, comprising about one-fifth of Victoria, is worth more than one vote in an electorate comprising less than 3i square miles of territory. There is in Melbourne an electorate as small in size as 3i square miles.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) is interjecting. I expect that from him, because he represents a very small area. Let me tell the committee how small are some of the electorates in Victoria. The electorate of Yarra embraces 5.71 square miles. Wills embraces 7.62 square miles. Higgins embraces 8.26 square miles and Fawkner 5 square miles.
Chisholm embraces 7.68 square miles and Balaclava 7.95 square miles. Some city electorates are even smaller than those. Such small electorates cannot possibly produce the wealth that is produced in a vast country electorate. In the primary sense, small city electorates do not produce any wealth, although they may process the products of the country areas. In view of the fact that the commissioners have already made their recommendations with regard to redistribution it may seem rather late to talk on this subject. I admit that, but I will never abandon my campaign for decentralization of political representation because I believe that decentralization would be in the best interests of Australia.
Let me deal now with the remarks made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts). I agree with what he said. He claimed that candidates’ names should not be arranged alphabetically on ballot papers. He said that candidates should draw for positions on the ballot-paper. That would be much fairer than the present system of alphabetical arrangement. I do not hold this view simply because my name starts with the letter “ T “ - and when the proposal has the support also of a man whose name starts with the letter “ C “ there must be some merit in it.
I would now like to refer briefly to civil defence.
– You are not on the right subject now.
– yes, I am.
– Civil defence does not come under this head of expenditure.
– Of course it does.
– Order! The honorable member will be more in order if he deals with civil defence expenditure during the discussion of the estimates for the Defence Services.
– Mr. Chairman, I rise to order.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson will resume his seat. The point that we are now discussing was raised last year in the debate on the
Estimates. Although the Department of the Interior has administrative control over civil defence, financial provision for civil defence is made under the vote for the Defence Services. For that reason a ruling was given that any reference to civil defence should be reserved until the debate on the defence estimates.
– I have before me a copy of “ Hansard “ showing that civil defence was referred to last year during the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– Order! The honorable member for Mallee should realize that what may have been done at any particular stage of the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior last year does not affect in any way the decision that I may make now. If the honorable member so wishes I will rule that expenditure on civil defence may be referred to only during .the debate on the Defence estimates.
- Sir, I bow to your ruling. I was prompted to raise the matter of civil defence because of what happened last year. If I cannot speak on that subject, Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by saying this: As far as the electoral law is concerned I hope that, in time, we will come to realize in this country that the distribution of population is of paramount importance, and that a better distribution can be brought about only through adequate political representation. While I have been speaking, members have been interjecting and asking how I intend to vote on the proposed redistribution of electoral boundaries which will come before the House shortly. I can say with every confidence that when the proposals come before the House honorable members will have their answer.
.- I wish to deal briefly with two items. One concerns the Electoral Branch of the Department of the Interior and the other concerns the Department of Works. The first matter is the broadcasting of general election results on the fateful Saturday nights when we are sitting around our tables with pencil and paper listening to our destiny being decided as the votes come in.
– You will not get back next time.
– You have had a hard time trying to unseat me at the last seven elections but I have increased my majority on each occasion.
– Order ! Laudable as the honorable member’s record may be in his personal estimation, it has nothing to do with the estimates now before the committee. I suggest that the honorable member for Perth should cease interjecting and allow the honorable member for Wilmot to make his speech.
– Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I take back everything that I said this afternoon. I should like the Minister for the Interior and for Works (Mr. Freeth), who is in the chamber, to correct me if I am wrong on this matter. At about 10.30 on the last election night, the expert commentators who are employed, some by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and some by the commercial stations, had the Government returned with a majority of seven or eight seats. But later in the night, as further results came in, it became obvious that their predictions had been very wide of the mark. I wondered why those commentators had been so sure at 10.30 that the Government would be returned with a majority of seven or eight seats.
A commentator has written to me on this point which I raised in a speech in this House on 28th February. Incidentally, this commentator’s predictions were much nearer the truth than those of the others. I will not mention his name but he was nearly correct in forecasting the result. He told me that the reason for the predictions being so far astray at 10.30 p.m. was, largely, the slow arrival of figures from the various States. He said that the new Federal Electoral Officer had directed that all returns from all over the Commonwealth had to come to Canberra first, whereas in previous years, with the possible exception of 1958, they had gone to State capitals and then to Canberra. The commentator pointed out that this new unfortunate rule meant, for instance, that returns from north Queensland had to be sent to Canberra before they could be sent to Brisbane. Similarly, returns from Hobart suburban booths had to come here before they could be announced in Hobart. Consequently, by 10.30, returns posted in Canberra from all States were very meagre, and this commentator claimed that it was impossible to give any accurate prediction of the result of an election at that early stage. However, other commentators who gave the impression of knowing what they were talking about, had the Government returned with a majority of seven or eight seats by 10.30 p.m., largely on the very inadequate figures they had received at that time.
– Were those commentators giving an Australia-wide assessment?
– Yes. They were giving an Australia-wide assessment on inadequate figures.
– If they did not get Australiawide figures they could not give an accurate assessment.
– I invite the Minister to answer me when I have finished. I should like to hear his views on the matter then. The commentator who wrote to me has been covering federal elections since 1940, that is, for 21 years. He had never known returns to come in so late as they did on the last occasion. I should like the Minister to tell the House whether what I have said is correct. If not, why were returns so late in becoming available at the last election? With modern methods of communication one would think that returns would be coming in faster than in previous years. I noticed too, that television reports and figures were far behind those of the radio.
The other point that I wish to raise concerns Commonwealth works. The Minister knows about this but I would like to mention it in this debate. There is an urgent need for the construction of Commonwealth offices on the site at the corner of Collins-street and Argyle-street in Hobart. The need for this has been impressed upon the Government by all kinds of bodies including the Hobart Trades Hall Council and the Australian Labour Party Executive. At present the various Commonwealth departments are located, higgledy-piggledy, in various part of Hobart. lt is interesting to note that a report of the Public Works Committee submitted to this Parliament in 1949, said that the need for a Commonwealth offices building in Hobart had become urgent in 1944. Admittedly, the Labour Government was still in office in 1949 and it had not done anything about it. I am not apologizing for our delay; but another thirteen years have since gone by. Whether we made a mistake or not, the Government of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has had a chance to fulfil this need during that thirteen years.
Current representations about this mattei arc inspired largely by the unemployment in the building trades which could be taken up if the Commonwealth instituted a big, new, building programme at this time or, say, within the next twelve months. Another reason is the high rents that the Commonwealth is paying for the offices that it is using in Hobart at present. In 1949, Mr. Chairman, the annual rent for Commonwealth office accommodation in Hobart was £12,954. By May, 1961, this figure had jumped to £46,768. Since then total rent payable has further increased because more accommodation has been secured. The Minister for the Interior was interviewed by a substantial deputation of Tasmanian members just before Parliament rose for its recent recess and he gave us a very good hearing. He understood the problem. He gave us reasons why a building could not be started, say, within the next twelve months. But 1 should like him, if possible, to tell the committee whether, since we met him about eight weeks ago, he has gathered any further information, and whether he can give us a firm promise as to when the Commonwealth office building will be begun in Hobart. I must commend the Government for the way it is building modern structures in the capital cities to house Commonwealth departments. I am all in favour of the centralization of Commonwealth departments for the sake of people who come from the country and the city to meet heads of departments. At present they have to wander all over the city to find Commonwealth officers, departmental heads and so on. The centralization scheme is excellent and this Government has pushed it ahead by erecting magnificent buildings in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. It is a vast programme of works. I think the Minister told us that the Government was spending more than £2,500,000 a year on such new buildings. Whatever government is in office this problem must be faced. We cannot go on paying exorbitant rentals to private enterprise to house our officials. All the money we are spending could be used to build our own structures for which no rents would be paid at all. With the centralization of all Commonwealth services in each State, the public, who depend on these services for information and advice, will have easy access to the officers of whatever department they wish to interview. As the Minister for the Interior is in the chamber, I am putting these two points forward in the hope that he will give the committee information on both the cases I have raised when he replies later in the debate.
My colleague from Queensland, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), raised the matter of the preferential system of voting. At the last two declarations of polls in Launceston I referred to the same matter. The influence of splinter groups in Australia is far greater than their numerical strength justifies. One of these splinter groups, with a vote of about 7 per cent, of the population, can, as a result of the preferential system, determine which party shall hold office in this country. That, in my opinion, is a denial of true democracy. In effect it enables a minority to override the majority. This scandalous state of affairs has been emphasized since the formation of the splinter group to which I am referring. The preferential system of voting has kept this Government in office at the last three elections. Without that system the Government would not be in office to-day. The preferential system is the Government’s greatest weapon at the moment, and we do not expect the Government to change the system. If it did so, the political strength and influence of this splinter group would disintegrate. That would mean that the people’s will would be truly represented in the party governing here in Canberra. That is not so at the moment. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was elected by, I think, 32 votes.
– He was elected on the preferences of 234 votes cast for the Communist Party candidate.
- His final majority was 110. If 111 extra votes had been cast for the Labour Party we would have won that seat, and there would have been a deadlock in this chamber. Another election would have been inevitable in April, 1962, and the Labour Party would have won it. Those are the facts of the situation. I am not boasting when I say that. That would have happened had it not been for the preferential system in that particular electorate. I think that the firstpastthepost system which the Queensland State Government has used for many years is the most democratic elective system.
.- On the first Tuesday in November a very famous Australian sporting event takes place. About 3.30 o’clock in the afternoon literally thousands of Australians say, “ If only I had backed another horse, I would have won”. I think that has a bearing on the argument that has been put forward against preferential voting. In theory, of course, the preferential voting system elects the candidate for whom most people want to vote. Take the following simple case: You have four candidates with everybody voting for them. The candidates could share the number one vote equally, or one of them could receive a greater number of votes than the others. One candidate could receive every second vote, and yet in a first-past-the-post system such a choice could not even be indicated. Under the preferential system, I think such a candidate would win. In theory you have four people to choose from, and an elector says, in effect, “ If I cannot have this one, I would rather have that one “. That is what it simply amounts to.
I io not think it is logical to say that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was elected on Communist preferences. If you go right through the figures for the 124 seats in the House of Representatives you could say that a member who was elected on 90 per cent, of the Communist preferences was 90 times more a Communist than the fellow who received only 10 per cent, of such preferences. It must be realized that in the preferential system, as in every system, there is a leakage of votes. Again, in every system there are informal votes, because human beings are not infallible. Therefore we must try to get a system which will give us the person whom most people prefer to represent them.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that the Australian Democratic Labour Party controlled the government of the country although that party obtained only a small percentage of votes. Let us assume that the Democratic Labour Party was not in the election at all. If people are voting sincerely, the position is that they will vote for Smith, 1; Jones, 2; and Brown, 3. If Smith is not in the election, Jones will get the No. 1 vote. That is all it amounts to. It is just a matter of sorting the thing out. If we had an election to-morrow and there was not one D.L.P. candidate in Australia, no one could say, in regard to any particular electorate, that if there had been such a candidate the voting would have gone one way or the other. The decision would be made according to the issues at the time.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made a suggestion with which I do not agree. If I understood him rightly, he suggested that a country vote should carry twice the weight of a city vote.
– I think it is more valuable because of the products of the electors.
– I admit that Australia depends on primary producers; but primary producers in Australia depend on other things too. The primary producer would not last one minute without the transport system in Australia. In Western Australia, as in other States, we had a re-distribution and certain protests were lodged, and rightly so, as everybody is entitled to say what he thinks about a re-distribution. I think that the protests were based mainly on two grounds. The report of the commissioners is at present with the Clerk of Papers and honorable members will have the report in their possession on Tuesday. The protest was based, first, on the ground that inequitable distribution of enrolments gave excessive numbers to metropolitan divisions; and secondly, on the illogical amalgamation of urban metropolitan districts and adjacent rural areas. Those lodging the protest said that this cut across the provision that there should be a community of interest in electorates. I do not know which particular party submitted that protest, incidentally.
The document does not say so. It just says that objections were presented by the Australian Labour Party, the Australian Country Party, the Wyalkatchem Roads Board, the Australian Communist Party and so on. I cannot say who made this particular protest. The commissioners had this to say - . . inasmuch as the domicile of approximately 60 per cent. of electors is in an area of less than 200 square miles constituting the Metropolitan Area, while electors comprising the other 40 per cent. are scattered unevenly over the vast balance of the State in an area of more than 975,000 square miles, it will be seen how basically impracticable it is to completely apply the guiding principle of allocation in terms of community of interest and, at the same time, satisfy divisional quotas.
In other words, it is a physical impossibility. If you take this to a logical conclusion, in Western Australia, with an area of 975,000 square miles, there would be seven seats. For one area of 200 square miles there would be one seat; also, 60 per cent. of the population would be defranchised and 40 per cent. of the population would have, not one vote, but the equivalent of ten votes.
I know it has been remarked that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) said it was wrong to increase the size of the Kalgoorlie electorate, which takes up about seven-tenths or eight-tenths of the State. In actual point of fact, if a member is to represent a country electorate in Western Australia, the easiest one to represent would be Kalgoorlie. I would rather have the difficulties of representing the seat of Kalgoorlie than the difficulties of representing the seat of Canning. If the honorable member for Canning (Mr. McNeill) wants to visit the farthermost limits of his electorate he has to get into his motor car and drive all day and perhaps half the night. When he finishes the visit he drives all the way back, and at his own expense. The electorate of the member for Kalgoorlie has a number of centres. He can go to every one of those by air upon filling out a travel warrant. The other day some one said there was an over-use of warrants. I think this is ridiculous nonsense. No member of this Parliament writes a warrant to travel by air unless it is absolutely necessary, because he gets enough travel as it is. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is fully entitled, whether he be a member of this side of the chamber or the other side, to use warrants for travel to visit parts of his electorate, not merely because he is able to do this but because the people of his electorate are entitled to be represented with the same ability and same capacity and to reach their member as any one in an electorate of a few square miles, such as mine.
Therefore, Kalgoorlie is actually, in terms of physical effort, an easier seat to represent than the seat of Canning, and so in a re-distribution you have to get somewhere near this quota. To do this the metropolitan electorates must have a country element. I, for one, believe that in this national Parliament the best thing that can happen is to have members who represent a bit of the urban area and a bit of the metropolitan area, or a bit of rural area, because I believe that if you have a complete community of interests you cannot adequately represent a seat and adequately do your job in this Parliament. Nobody here has the capacity to do so. Nobody suffers as a member. A member with a large town in his electorate and a slice of rural area does not become useless as a representative of the metropolitan area if he is a person from a rural area, nor does he become useless as a representative of the rural area if he is from the city area. To suggest that he thereby becomes useless is illogical. Honorable members should realize that the commissioners have a rather difficult task to do. One thing is certain. No commissioners, no matter who appointed them or who they were in the community, could bring down a re-distribution that would satisfy every honorable member of this Parliament, for the simple reason that we are all personally involved. What pleases one will not please another.
– Why favour one party more than another?
– I believe that if the honorable member had the task of appointing the commissioners it is doubtful whether he would get one commissioner whose integrity could be questioned; and honorable members should not forget that these commissioners were appointed by no one else but the people who sit here. If there is anything wrong, we must bear the responsibility. We appointed the commissioners. Their appointment was made by honorable members unanimously. No one raised any objection. Of course, if a member’s seat disappears he says the commissioners must have been wrong, but if his seat is built up to a blue ribbon one he says these are the fairest commissioners he has ever seen. I believe that if honorable members look at this logically they will realize that a difficult job has been done.
– They have just about finished Labour in Western Australia.
– I can remember in the 1948 redistribution something like this happening and the position being completely the reverse. If any honorable member can tell me how to manage ballot boxes or to juggle figures so as to be able to give an absolute judgment on this, I will be extremely surprised. 1 am expressing an opinion that is slightly different from one or two other opinions, and thank goodness I can retain the right to express that opinion, which is one that I will not change.
The other thing I wanted to speak about in connexion with these Estimates is a section of the Electoral Act with which I strongly disagree. I refer to section 151, which 1 think should be removed from the act. That section reads - (1.) Within eight weeks after the result of any election has been declared, every candidate at the election shall sign and declare before a Justice of the Peace and file with the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State a true return of his electoral expenses, showing -
Most honorable members know what it says.
– They ought to know.
– I think it is quite obvious. I do not know how long the figure has remained at £250, but I do know that most honorable members can submit a return showing £250 and have it signed before a justice of the peace without committing any great crime.
– I have never signed one in five elections.
– I do not suppose you would have to, really. But what I am saying is that any candidate can sign a return setting out where the £250 has gone, knowing that some one somewhere along the line has spent £250. If one were to examine the figures for the amounts spent on television alone during the last election campaign one would find that if it was divided up between the number of candidates, senators and members of the House of Representatives, the figure for each candidate would probably exceed £250, but probably nobody claimed any of this expenditure.
– The Liberal Party did not use television in the election.
– I remember that, during the 1958 election campaign the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) asked a question about the amount spent on television advertising. At that time television was pretty new, but the figures indicated that the parties ran almost neck and neck in their expenditure on television advertising. One party might have spent slightly more than another. That was still a great amount of money. What we want to find out is the effect of electoral advertising. The man who can find this out will become a millionaire overnight because, I believe, most of the money spent is wasted in trying to influence people whose minds are already made up. I think this section of the act is quite unnecessary and should not be retained. If we do not limit the amount that can be spent for an election, as we have done, and say what advertising shall be permitted, surely the people of Australia can be the judges of these things. I believe that if the average Australian is bombarded with literature, pamphlets and everything else it does the candidate more harm than good. The limiting factor in this is the candidate himself, whether he thinks something is worth while or not.
It is pleasing to know that since last we considered the Estimates an important change has been made. Within the period of twelve months this Parliament, following a move by the Government, has granted to natives the right to enroll and to vote. Even if nothing else had been achieved in electoral matters since this Commonwealth came into existence, we could describe this as an extremely satisfactory achievement.
. - I am interested in this discussion on electoral matters, and informal voting in particular. It has been suggested that if electors were required to mark their ballotpapers with a simple cross or if our voting system were otherwise simplified we would not have informal votes. Recently I took the trouble to look at some voting figures for the election in about 1932 of a senator to take the place of a South Australian senator who had died. The vote was taken at a joint meeting of members of the two Houses of Parliament. All 62 members were present, and all of them voted. There were three candidates for the position and members had to vote for one of them. When the 62 votes were counted it was found that three of them were informal. So 5 per cent, of the members of Parliament who had met for one purpose only - to elect a new senator - had voted informally.
I have been a candidate at quite a number of elections. The greatest number of informal votes that were ever cast in an election that I contested were registered when there were two candidates only. If a voter had placed the figure 1 against one candidate and forgotten to put the figure 2 against the other, that vote would still have been informal. I should like to emphasize this point about the informal votes on that occasion. The greatest number was cast when there were only two candidates. I forget the percentage now, but it was a big one. Of course, there were reasons for that. One of the reasons was that I was a Labour candidate and the other man was a Communist candidate. In the centres which traditionally cast the biggest Liberal vote there was the greatest informal vote that had ever been cast in an election in my district. So more than the difficulty of picking out the candidates comes into the question of the number of informal votes. Many informal votes are made informal deliberately.
There is an advantage in having first place on the ballot-paper. One experience in a Senate election in South Australia provides a real example of the advantage gained from occupying that position. To-night we heard it stated that a person can nominate for the Senate, lose his £25 deposit and still make a handsome profit by claiming a taxation deduction for alleged electoral expenses. On the occasion to which I am referring there were about eight groups of Senate candidates. A large number of senators was required. Two gentlemen from Sydney nominated for the South Australian seats in the Senate. They were grouped together. Their names were in the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper, right on the left-hand side. Those two gentlemen did not come to Adelaide to hold a meeting; they did not have an advertisement in the newspapers; they did not have a committee working for them; and no how-to-vote cards were printed for them. In short, there was no publicity to vote for them. I went carefully into the voting figures afterwards and dissected them. I found that 1.7 per cent, of the people who cast valid votes in that Senate election voted for the two men who were in the No. 1 position on the ballotpaper and who, if they had reasonable incomes, made money out of the election by way of income tax deductions. They gained an advantage of 1.7 per cent, of the formal votes from first position on the ballot-paper.
I have a bit of a grudge against the present system. I do not think my name has ever been anywhere but at the bottom of the ballot-paper, because my name starts with the letter “ T “. I found that because my name was at the bottom of the ballotpaper, if 1.7 per cent, of the people just voted down the ballot-paper, I was being penalized and I did not have a chance to increase my majority. At the last election I scored only 72 per cent, of the first preference votes. I admit that I had a Liberal candidate, a Communist candidate and a Democratic Labour Party candidate against me. Because my name was at the bottom of the ballot-paper I did not receive my maximum vote.
I contend that the system should be altered and the names should be drawn from a hat. I can understand the attitude of our party to the placing of names on ballot-papers. Honorable members may check up and find out that what I am saying is correct. The last election was pretty close. If the name of the
Labour candidate appeared on the ballot-paper above the name of the Liberal candidate for a seat at the last election, at the next election the Liberal Party will see that the name of its candidate appears above that of the Labour candidate. That advantage of 1 .7 per cent., or roughly 2 per cent., of the formal votes could easily make all the difference in a very tight struggle for an electorate. Since wc have decided that we will draw lots for positions on the Senate ballot-papers, to be consistent we should draw lots for positions on the House of Representatives ballotpapers. If that was done, I would have a chance to get a better vote. The way the system works for me shows me how it could work for other people, too.
One difficulty arises in going back to the first-past-the-post system. Under that system we will go back to the old method of using crosses. I would not be happy about the use of that system because in order to be uniform we would have to abolish proportional representation in the Senate. We cannot have proportional representation if we have a first-past-the-post system. If we introduced the firstpastthepost system for House of Representatives elections, we would have to introduce it for Senate elections and people would go back to using crosses. However, our party has decided that because of what has happened in the past the first-past-the-post system is belter than the preferential system. 1 am a firm believer in preferential voting. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). Time and time again I tell people that, under preferential voting, if they vote No. 1 for Brown they should then say to themselves, “ If Brown’s name was not there, for whom would I vote? “ and then put the figure “ 2 “ opposite that man’s name. If his name is Black, they should say to themselves, “ If the names of Black and Brown were not there and only the names of Green and White were left, I would have to vote for either Green or White “.
We must remember that we believe in compulsory voting. What is the good of a system of compulsory voting if we do not ensure that every vote that is cast is counted in arriving at the ultimate result of the election? Although for years we were great exponents of preferential voting, we have seen the difficulties in that system, but we can also see the difficulties in the old first-past-the-post system. In 1937, when the present Sir Richard Butler was Premier of South Australia, he made a visit to England. When he returned he made this statement: “After seeing what is done in England, I would go back to the British system of first past the post.” He said that the most settled Parliament in the world was the British Parliament, which was elected on the first-past-the-post system, not the preferential system. That supports much of what our party says and does not support my preference for the preferential system.
I am not amazed by the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) because I know that all he thinks about is the country districts. He wants country roads to receive a bigger share of the revenue from the petrol tax than city roads receive. He wants to give everything to the country districts. The Legislative Council in South Australia is elected on the basis of a property qualification or a residential qualification. That system has existed for years and years. Yet within the last fortnight the Premier of that State has said that he thinks that system should be altered. He thinks the spouse of the elector should be given the right to vote. The Premier has now come to the conclusion that, if a man and his wife are living in a home and the husband has the right to vote but the wife has not, it is fair and reasonable that the wife should have the same rights as her husband, or if the wife happens to have the right to vote her husband should also have that right.
I repeat that people who talk about the country districts having special representation or disproportionate representation are getting away from equity. I have had a long experience of such representation in the South Australian Parliament. At present 40 per cent, of the people in South Australia live in the country districts. I am just giving round figures. The 40 per cent, who live in the country elect 26 members and the 60 per cent, who live in the city elect thirteen members. That is evidently the kind of thing that the honorable member for Mallee wants. The honorable member spoke of the factors that favour the Labour Party or the Liberal Party. The system I have mentioned has been kept in existence by the Liberals in South Australia because, while it continues, although Labour can get a huge majority of the total votes cast, it still cannot get the appropriate number of seats in the parliament. It may be asked why Labour did not alter that system while it was in government in South Australia.
– You must be a city man, too!
– I am a city man, although I have lived in the country. But when I was in the country I did not believe I was entitled to an extra vote any more than I do now that I live in the city. I was no better a man in the country than I am in the city. You have only to go to South Australia to see how a parliament can be dominated by a special qualifications vote. In South Australia there is both a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council, and every piece of legislation has to pass through both Houses. In the Legislative Council of South Australia Labour has four seats out of twenty, simply because there is only one electoral district - central No. 1 - where Labour has a chance of winning a Legislative Council election. On one occasion we had an extra member elected from the northern division, and about 40 years ago we won an extra seat in central No. 2. Apart from those two occasions, when we had five out of twenty seats in the Legislative Council, I do not think we have ever had more than four seats there. I feel I am competent to reply to the member for Mallee when he claims that the country should have more, or better, representation than the city. I am glad that those who decide these matters here do what is reasonable.
The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) has an electorate which covers about three quarters of South Australia and in parts of it you can drive all day without seeing a single house, so there is reason for the present position. The greatest proportion of that honorable member’s electors are in the bigger towns of that electorate, and those are the people for whom he has most business to attend to. Most of his electoral work comes from the people in the towns, not from those in the homes scattered here and there throughout the electorate. 1 believe it is reasonable that in some electorates there should be a slight advantage because of the tremendous area involved, but I think the honorable member for Mallee was far short of the mark in his remarks to-night.
– Why was the permissible variation of 20 per cent, provided for in the act?
– If the variation is more than 20 per cent, the electorate has to be altered. That is one of the reasons for the provision being in the act.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– The honorable member says that that has nothing to do with it. There can be a re-distribution of electorates within a State although the total number of electors in that State may not have altered. It may be brought about by movements of population.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It was not my intention to take part in this debate to-night, but I feel obliged to do so in defence of my colleague, the member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). For years he has continually put forward a case for the better representation of rural areas. He has done so conscientiously. The main emphasis in his contribution to the debate with regard to redistribution is interesting, because I believe many members of this chamber and many people outside it are inclined to forget the wording of the Electoral Act. I will therefore quote section 19 of the act. It states -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interest,
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of Divisions and Sub divisions,
State Electoral boundaries; and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may-
I repeat the word “ may “ - adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than 1/ 5th mora or l/5th less.
My point is that at no stage has the honorable member for Mallee requested unreasonable representation for rural areas.
– All Country Party representation is unreasonable.
– The honorable member for Mallee has made reasonable representations over the years. We have heard from several members regarding this matter, and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has cited the problems associated with certain electorates, including the electorate of Kalgoorlie which, as he said, is the largest in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Perth said that the Kalgoorlie electorate would possibly be easier to represent than some of the smaller country electorates or even metropolitan electorates. I can agree with that to some extent, but we must remember that there are certain electorates which are neither small nor large, and it is those which, I think, concern members, and particularly Country Party members, most, as well as the individual constituents of the electorates.
I wish to confirm the statement of the honorable member for Mallee that there are metropolitan electorates with an area of as little as three and a half square miles. Then there are the middle-sized electorates of from 5,000 to 10,000 or 20,000 square miles. I would call my own electorate - which I know best - a middle-sized electorate. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said one could travel through the Grey electorate for hours without seeing a house. Portions of such electorates are hard to represent. In electorates such as Wimmera and Mallee the population is spread throughout the electorate. In the Wimmera electorate there are at least twenty sub-divisions containing 50 or 60 centres which I visit regularly. In my electorate there are eighteen or twenty newspapers and twelve or fourteen councils, some of which cover areas which extend beyond its borders. An interjector from the Opposition seems more interested in the hotel angle, but I am afraid I cannot give details in that regard because I am not concerned at this juncture with how many hotels there are in my electorate. I am dealing principally with the amount of travelling I have to do, and this is a factor which is not peculiar to me as the representative of a rural electorate. I have travelled up to 25,000 miles in my car at my own expense to cover my electorate, but I wonder how many miles members of the Opposition who have electorates covering three, four or five square miles have to travel. Some of them do not even own a motor car, so they cannot have to travel very great distances.
But when we look at the electorate allowances what do we find? The country representative receives something like £200 more than the metropolitan member. If honorable members cast their minds back a few years, to the time when there was quite a bit of strong feeling with regard to increases in parliamentary salaries, they will remember that I said on several occasions that if I were paid fully for all expenses incurred by me in electoral work I would be prepared to continue to serve for about half my present salary.
It is obvious that the member representing a rural electorate must meet greater costs than other members, and I believe it is high time that more consideration was given to members representing rural electorates. I believe that every elector in Australia has the right to meet and speak to his representative, no matter what political party he belongs to. The way things are going at the present time, it will not be long before the bulk of rural constituents will be denied that right.
.- I should also like to speak about electoral matters. I support the views of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who said that positions on the ballot-paper should be decided by a draw out of the hat rather than by alphabetical order of names of candidates. I should like to show honorable members what a great advantage it can be to have one’s name at the top of the ballot-paper. I shall refer first to the general election of 1955 and to numbers of votes cast for Democratic Labour Party candidates and a Communist Party candidate. I think I can readily convince the House that there is a great advantage in having one’s name at the top of the ballot-paper. In the 1955 election Democratic Labour Party candidates had their names at the top of the ballot-paper in fifteen electorates out of 40 that they contested in New South Wales. They received the following proportions of votes in those electorates: -
In those fifteen electorates they averaged 9.03 per cent, of votes cast. In the other 25 electorates, where the Democratic Labour Party candidates did not have their names at the top of the ballot-paper, they received the following proportions of formal votes: -
The average proportion of votes cast for Democratic Labour Party candidates in those electorates was 4.83 per cent., as against 9.03 per cent, in the electorates in which the candidates’ names were on the top of the ballot-papers. The difference between the proportions was 4.83 per cent.
But the most forceful illustration is to be found in the case of the Communist Party candidate, Clancy, in the electorate of Banks, in the 1955 and the 1958 elections. In the 1955 election, when Clancy’s name was on the top of the ballot-paper, he polled 3,356 votes out of a total of 41,875 formal votes cast. This represented a proportion of 8.014 per cent. In 1958, when Clancy’s name was not on the top of the ballot-paper, he polled 1,634 votes out of a total of 48,701, or 3.355 per cent. The difference between these proportions was 4.659 per cent. I will say, without fear of contradiction, that if a person has his name in the top position on the ballot-paper in a federal election, when two ballot-papers have to be filled in, he will get at least 3 per cent, more votes than he would if his name was not on top of the ballot-paper. If 40,000 formal votes are cast, he will get at least 1,200 more if he is lucky enough to have his name on the top of the ballot-paper.
The position becomes completely absurd when we find people actually changing their names by deed poll fo gain a position at the top of the ballot-paper. We find various splinter parties, after discovering who the candidates for the main parties will be, nominating candidates whose names, they know, will appear at the top of the ballot-paper. I admit that the Australian Labour Party gained an alphabetical advantage many years ago in a Senate election, but the injustice was corrected by an anti-Labour government when it saw what was happening. I believe that it is equally unfair in elections for seats in the House of Representatives when a person is given an advantage simply because his name starts with A, B or C, and his opponent’s name starts with T, V or W, or X, Y or Z.
That is the simple position, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Let me say here and now that I personally have nothing to complain about. My name starts with C and I have been in the top position on the ballot-papers in three out of the last four elections. But I can appreciate that other persons could be at a grave disadvantage. Many political parties are taking advantage of the present position. In the 1955, 1958 and 1961 elections the Democratic Labour Party, for the purpose of trying to increase the votes cast for their candidates, and in an attempt to convince the Australian
Labour Party that it was gaining in strength, picked candidates whose names were likely to be at the top of the ballotpapers. As I said previously, I support the contentions of the honorable member for Port Adelaide and the honorable member for Mallee in this regard. 1 should also like to speak about the great numbers of informal votes cast in Senate elections, lt should be the duty of this Parliament to simplify voting methods. If necessary, a parliamentary committee should be appointed to take evidence from people interested in the system of voting for the Senate. Let me cite figures showing the numbers of informal votes cast at the last Senate election. The following table gives the number of candidates, the total numbers of votes cast, the numbers of informal votes, and the proportions of informal votes, for the various States -
It is quite logical, of course, that the fewer the candidates in the field the fewer the informal votes will be. It is a scandalous position that this Parliament has taken no action to simplify the method of voting for the Senate. The first thing that a person in business does is to simplify his methods of producing goods. The man on the land simplifies his methods of production. Why should we not simplify this method of voting so that the people may go to the poll and know for whom they are voting? In my own electorate at the last election there were over 7,000 informal votes. This, of course, was no doubt due to the fact that there are on the roll so many elderly people, including age and invalid pensioners. Many of these people, of course, have not the technique to vote from 1 to 25. At the count, one could see that people were trying to vote formally but just had not the ability, because of their age in many instances, to vote from 1 to 25.
I shall illustrate how simple it is to make a vote informal. I was inside scrutineer for my predecessor, the late Tom Sheehan, at the 1949 election, when there were 23 candidates, and I took an elderly person in to the presiding officer, who asked how he wanted to vote. The voter said, “ I want to vote this way “. He described the manner in which he wanted to vote. The presiding officer marked the ballot-paper for him but inadvertently - not deliberately - put the number 17 twice. Had I not noticed it, that vote would have been informal, even though it was marked by a presiding officer.
– He must have been thinking of St. Patrick’s Day.
– No, he was a Scotsman, like you. That shows just how simple it is to make a mistake when voting at Senate elections. I appeal to the Parliament to appoint a committee to take evidence from interested people on ways of simplifying the procedure. From time to time every member of this Parliament has been circularized on the subject of circular ballot-papers. They might be a means of simplifying the procedure. The fact is that we are doing nothing about simplifying the method of voting. There is no doubt that we must do so, if we are to retain democratic government in this country.
– I rise to discuss this section of the Estimates, with particular reference to the difficulties associated with our system of voting. I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) describe how the allocation of electorates was made in South Australia. I thought that there was one outstanding flaw in his logic because, as everybody realizes, South Australia is the best managed State economically, whatever may be the defects or merits of the distribution of its electorates. This rather invalidates the honorable member’s claim that the distribution had somehow worked to the State’s disadvantage.
Reference has been made to the considerable number of informal votes. In Switzerland, which does not have compulsory voting, it is very rare for a poll, either at referendums or at genera] elections, to exceed from 42 to 48 per cent, of the population. If we got down to tin tacks, we would probably find that not many more than that percentage of people in our own community have reached political maturity and are interested in the welfare of their country to the extent of really desiring to vote and thus take part in the country’s affairs. Whilst 1 know why compulsory voting was introduced here, quite frankly I have always considered it to be something of a mockery of what we believe is democracy, for the simple reason that if we are compelled to exercise a privilege it ceases to be a privilege. But I would say that while we retain compulsory voting and compel every person, under penalty, to vote, there can be no better system than the preferential system. This is not for the reason suggested by some speakers, namely, that it is of particular benefit to some parties, but because it gives electors a chance to vote against the machine if they think that the machine is sufficiently out of order to warrant this course and if there is a candidate of integrity and character whom they prefer to the party nominee. One of the most brilliant men who ever sat in this chamber and one of the greatest statesmenwe have produced, the late Sir Earle Page, formerly the right honorable member for Cowper, was himself an independent who challenged the machine and won an election, probably because of preferential voting.
I believe that if the system of preferential voting, whether for the House of Representatives or for the Senate, is retained, it will be retained for excellent reasons. In spite of the defects associated with Senate voting, mainly in respect of informal votes, I still think that the system is preferable to any other system that we have had. In the past, we have had the farcical position of just two or three members from one party being left in the Senate to represent a great body of electors. This was under the system of first past the post. I shall not labour the question. I reiterate that if the Constitution had been given effect as its founders intended, a great deal of the trouble in regard to the Senate would have been obviated. If we had even only one more State, much difficulty would be avoided. If we had, as we ought to have, at least three or four more States, the electors would have a better chance of knowing for whom they were voting in their own areas.
I want to pass to the points made in a very temperate and clear statement by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who challenged the validity of the argument of my friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) that there should be, to a greater extent, a differential quota as between metropolitan and rural areas. Those who have criticized the suggestion have not given consideration to the current distribution. There is something extraordinarily anomalous in the fact that in the metropolitan area of Sydney, which has the greater number of members and very close to two-thirds of the population of the State spread over about 300 square miles, there should be electorates with smaller quotas than an electorate such as my own, which is about the size of Belgium, Holland and Denmark combined. I would say my electorate covers about 22,500 square miles; and it is by no means the largest electorate.
It seems to me extraordinary that proposals should be made to wipe out the great electorate of Gwydir. The first vote I cast as a callow young man was cast in the electorate of Gwydir some 51 years ago. It is extraordinary that, with the progress that has been made in New South Wales, as in every other State, it has taken 51 years not to reduce the size of the electorate because of the growth of population in it but to wipe it out because people have been drawn to the metropolitan area. When my friend, the honorable member for Mallee says that there is a case for using the lower quota for country areas, I think of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who represents a vast area. I understand it is proposed to tack further areas on to his electorate. In country areas, there can be no “ one vote, one value “ when people are scattered throughout an area. It is difficult for people to come together in vast country areas in that easy fashion that is common to people who live in an area of some three, four or five square miles. It is a reflection on this country that a great electorate like Gwydir, which has been in existence, I believe, since federation, should be wiped out - not reduced in area as one might have expected but wiped out - and other country electorates enlarged.
The lower Clarence, which is merely a suburb of Grafton and has always belonged to Grafton, has been taken out of the Cowper electorate, and instead Inverell, 200 miles away, has been tacked on. The electorate then extends to the Queensland border. What community of interest can there be in an electorate such as that? What factors are taken into consideration when determining representation? What about the dairying areas that would normally be associated with this electorate? These decisions trouble those who do not regard Australia as a reserve of a few square miles around the capital cities but say that Australia cannot hope to become a nation unless there is a more equitable distribution of population. This objective will not be reached if we keep expanding the areas represented by those, be they on one side of the chamber or the other, who speak with the authority of country electorates behind them. No specious argument about the differential will obscure this fact.
The act makes it possible for us to escape from the constant pressure of the flow of population to the capital cities. My honorable friend from Mallee attempted to discuss an aspect of this matter - the effect of the aggregation of people in small areas on the defence of the country. I cannot deal with that aspect, but I can say that if we are going to escape from it we must carry the Constitution into effect as the founders intended, with a greater number of States and greater representation for rural areas, including, if you will, the Northern Territory, north Queensland and the north of Western Australia.
.- I have been interested in the discussion that has taken place on electoral matters. I am somewhat disturbed to learn that members of the Australian Country Party seek to impose upon the country the situation that exists in South Australia, where 6,000 votes in the country are worth 22,000 or 23,000 votes in the city. If anything is a negation of democracy it is the principle applied in the gerrymandered electorates of South Austrafia under the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government.
In this Parliament, members of the Australian Country Party have advocated that one vote in the country should be equal to two or three votes in the city. As a city member, I say that any one of the voters in my electorate is as good as any one in a country electorate. Whether or not the Australian Country Party or the Liber.il Party likes it, the Commonwealth Electoral Act lays down the principle of one vote one value. If the commissioners do their job entirely as they should, there should be an equal number of electors in the city and the country electorates. I agree with the proposal put forward by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is now at the table, in 1955 when redistribution was being considered. I believe on that occasion he voiced an opinion that was true.
I do not know why the commissioners divide the States into metropolitan and extra-metropolitan divisions. The Commonwealth Electoral Act says only that the commissioners must divide a State into a certain number of electorates, and the separation of the city from the country is quite contrary to the provisions of the act. This opinion is borne out by a statement by the Minister for the Interior, who is a man of great legal eminence, I am assured. Speaking in this Parliament on 2nd June, 1955, the Minister said - I quote from “Hansard” at page 1403-
Another aspect, which has particular application to Western Australia, is that a rigid line has been drawn around the metropolitan area. That has had the result of putting all suburban and metropolitan electorates in one group, and all rural electorates in another. That principle may be good; it may be bad. I think that it merely creates additional problems for the commissioners. It makes it more difficult for them to apply fairly the other principles laid down in the act, so far as the whole of the State is concerned. In effect, they have, in interpreting their duties, created a principle that has not been laid down in the act.
I am in complete agreement with the Minister on that matter. I do not criticize the commissioners for acting as they have, but I say that there is nothing in the act that gives them the right to separate the city from the country. The Commonwealth Electoral Act, determine it as you will, lays down that there should be an equal number of electors in the various electorates. This is completely opposed to the principle adopted by the Liberal tory Government of South Australia. In that State, one vote in the country is worth three in the city. If this principle is inflicted upon the rest of Australia, it will be a retrograde step. It will give the bushranging pressure group of the Australian Country Party complete and dominating control of the affairs of the country whilst it remains part of the coalition.
I direct attention to these matters because I think we should recall the past. I shall not pass any comment on the present redistribution proposals because I have not had an opportunity to study them carefully, but I was very’ interested to note that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who spoke on redistribution to-night, referred to it also in 1955. I quote the honorable member now from memory, but his actual words are recorded in “ Hansard “ for all to read. The honorable member said in 1955, 1 think, “ I have been in and out of the Parliament for nigh on 30 years. The Electoral Commissioners have sometimes affected me well; at other times, not so well. But never have I disagreed with the umpire’s decision “.
Those were very pious words from the honorable member for New England, but now he is jumping to the crack of the Country Party whip and is prepared to join in the tirade against the Electoral Commissioners because the members of the little pressure group in the corner are threatened by reason of the fact that commissioners will not gerrymander as they would like them to do. Look at the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). He has been in and out of the Parliament so often that we have to be introduced to him again after every election. This is what he said in 1955, as recorded in “Hansard” at page 1405- 1 assure the honorable member for Forrest and other honorable members that neither of those gentlemen lacks anything in personality, strength of character or ability to make a decision for himself.
That, of course, was said after a bitter attack had been made on the commissioners by the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who is at the table and now has charge of these matters. At page 1406, the honorable member for Moore is reported to have said -
However, one cannot blame the commissioners for that sort of thing. They are required to carry out the provisions of the act. If anything, 1 should be inclined to blame the commissioners in Western Australia for a too-rigid adherence to the provisions of the act. They followed religiously the State electoral boundaries, believing that there was a community of interest in those areas . . .
Then he went on to say -
I commend the commissioners on the capable manner in which they have completed a very difficult job.
I think that redistribution was just prior to one of the elections at which the honorable member for Moore survived. He must have had a good look at the work of the commissioners and considered it to be very commendable. He must have said to himself, “ They have gerrymandered me very nicely on this occasion. Let us sink our principles while things are good and support this redistribution. Maybe I will change my attitude when things are not so good “. It is interesting to recall pithy comments of that kind by members of the Country Party who now, with their partners in crime, are wondering how they can survive after the next redistribution. The Labour Party does not need a gerrymander in order to win. We can win the next general election in our own right. If it were not for Communist Party preference votes, the Government would not be in office now. So why should we of the Australian Labour Party worry? Whatever boundaries are fixed for the next general election, after that election many people who are now on the Government side of the chamber will be missing and we and a few more will be sitting over there.
It is interesting to consider the situation about which the Australian Country Party is so worried. I suggest that supporters of that party study the Electoral Act. For my part, I do not want to see electoral boundaries fixed in such a way that we would have comparatively small numbers of voters in country electorates and much greater numbers in city electorates. That would be contrary to the principles of democracy and would give to a pressure group a degree of representation out of all proportion to its requirements.
I have a fair knowledge of what I am talking about when I refer to redistributions of this kind. I have been in three redistributions and have been, so to speak, abolished twice. I was a bit like Jimmy Carruthers. I knew that if I stayed in long enough, I had to win a fight some time. It is interesting now to see that those who were responsible for my near political demise on a couple of occasions are very much concerned about the effect on themselves of the actions of the Electoral Commissioners. I have no complaint on this occasion, but that, of course, is merely a personal matter. Members of the Country Party have felt that way on many occasions and have not seen fit to try to prevent the injustices that have been inflicted on the Labour Party. It is interesting to recall what was said previously by Government supporters who then were not very concerned about what might happen to the Labour Party but to-day are very concerned because certain of their interests may be affected by an electoral redistribution.
Why should there be more voters in city electorates than in country electorates? Under this redistribution, I will have 55,000 electors in my constituency, compared with 40,000 or 41,000 in some constituencies in country districts. That is a tremendous difference. As the Honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) said earlier to-night, we who represent metropolitan electorates represent a great variety of interests. We represent people from all walks of life, including those engaged in industries which are providing export income and are contributing to the development of Australia. To say that a small pressure group, representing, in the main, graziers and wealthy pastoral interests, should dominate and control this Parliament, is a negation of democracy and something to which no democrat could subscribe.
Fancy a person like the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) being returned to the Parliament by about 30,000 voters when reputable persons like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) have to get 55,000 or 60,000 votes. Everybody knows it should be the other way round. You want three people like the honorable member for Mallee to make up for the honorable member for East Sydney, yet the Government wants the honorable member for Mallee to be able to be elected by about a quarter of the votes that would be required by the honorable member for East Sydney. Democracy could not stand that. It would not be fair to the people. These are things to which I, as a democrat, am opposed. I would like to see the Electoral Commissioners interpret the Electoral Act correctly, on the basis of one vote, one value, with no differentiation between city and country electorates. Let them start at the coast and work right out. Then we would see a reasonable distribution of electoral boundaries in accordance with what the Minister at the table has stated to be his interpretation of the act.
– 1 did not do the redistribution.
– I am in agreement with you. For heaven’s sake, do not say I am wrong on the one occasion when I say you are right. I cannot see any reason why a metropolitan electorate should be treated differently from a country electorate, lt is only a matter of judgment as to what is a metropolitan area and what is a country area. I can only assume that in the dim past the Australian Country Party exerted pressure to have this kind of differentiation made and, having found it to be favorable, is pressing for it to be extended. Do not forget that in Western Australia a challenge over a redistribution was upheld in the courts. I think that if this matter were tested in the courts, it is doubtful whether the commissioners could justify treating the cities and the country areas differently under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That is something that is worth considering when this matter is being reviewed. At present, all that the differentiation does is to maintain in existence a pressure group that is constantly endeavouring to take away the value of city votes compared with that of country votes. That is something to which we cannot subscribe.
– Quite right.
– That is a reasonable statement from a member of the Country Party. There are one or two other matters to which I suggest the Minister should give consideration. I believe that the amount that can be claimed for electoral expenses is out of all proportion to actual costs. I doubt whether any one contesting either a safe seat or a borderline seat would spend less than £250 to-day. I subscribe to the view that to allow a Senate candidate, for electoral expenses, double the amount allowed a candidate for the House of
Representatives is quite contrary to the expenditure of time, energy and money involved. I think that a change in these respects would be beneficial, having in mind the decline in the value of money under this Government’s administration. I direct the attention of the Minister to these matters and hope that he will give consideration to them.
There is no denying the fact that the Government is troubled over these redistribution proposals because it has overlooked the need to amend, or has refused to amend, the Electoral Act in accordance with the growth of the nation. We have more people than we have ever had before. Our population has passed the 10,000,000 mark, yet we have the amazing situation that the Government is reducing the number of seats in the Commonwealth Parliament. After the next general election, there will be 120 instead of 122 voting members in the House of Representatives. The correct approach would have been to fix a reasonable quota for electorates, increasing the size of the Parliament in conformity with our growth and providing better representation of the people. The Government must accept full responsibility for the reduction in the number of seats. It has failed to see the necessity to increase the number of seats, rather than to reduce it.
I feel that I should remind the Australian Country Party that it has had privileged treatment for too long. I think we should look at the Electoral Act to see whether there is provision in it for differentiation between city and country electorates. I think that an increase in the number of members of Parliament to meet the needs of our growing population and the requirements of electoral representation is a matter that the Government might well have considered before this redistribution was made. I am not one to cast aspersions at the distribution commissioners. I suppose they have done their best.
It is very interesting to see the attitude of members of the Australian Country Party, who willingly endorsed the appointment of these commissioners. Members of that party now complain because they have not been given exactly what they want, and they criticize the integrity of the officials concerned. I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for Moore on this matter. He had plenty to say in 1955 on the occasion of the last redistribution of electoral boundaries. Let us hear him this evening. Let him commit himself now. We should like to hear what he has to say on this important issue now under discussion, in view of what he said in 1955.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I rise to support very briefly certain remarks made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and, I think, other honorable members who have taken part in the discussion on the estimates for the Department of the Interior. Those remarks related to the unfair advantage given by our electoral system to those whose names begin with an early letter of the alphabet. The honorable member for Watson was most altruistic in raising this matter, for his name begins with the letter “ C “. I cannot claim similar altruism, but I agree with the general conclusion that he brought forward. He said that in an electorate with an enrolment of 40,000 voters the first place on the ballot-paper was worth no fewer than 1,200 votes. I agree entirely with that conclusion.
Let me bring to the notice of the committee certain facts about the 1961 federal general election, which was held on 9th December last. In New South Wales there were only two seats in which a Communist was at the top of the ballot-paper. Those seats were Grayndler and my own electorate, Mackellar. If one looks at the voting figures for the Grayndler electorate, one finds that the Communist candidate for the House of Representatives obtained just on six times as many votes as the combined vote in that electorate for the Communist candidates for the Senate. This showed, I think, quite clearly, that the electors were voting “ 1 “, “ 2 “, “ 3 “ and “ 4 “ straight down the ballot-paper. In my electorate of Mackellar, the Communist candidate for the House of Representatives obtained, not six times, but five times the combined vote for the Communist candidates for the Senate. I think that this result shows quite clearly what has been happening. It was only in these two electorates where the Communist was at the head of the ballot-paper that the
Communist candidates polled well. I am able to say, in relation to the electorate of Mackellar, that a scrutiny of the ballotpapers shows that the majority of those giving their first preference vote to the Communist candidate for the House of Representatives voted “ 1 “, “ 2 “, “ 3 “ and “ 4 “ straight down the ballot-paper, although the Communist how-to-vote card was not marked “ 1 “, “ 2 “, “ 3 “ and “ 4 “ straight down.
This example makes it transparently clear that what the honorable member for Watson and other honorable members have said in this chamber this evening is true: The first place on the ballot-paper is worth a very considerable number of votes, particularly when there are more than two candidates. In the 1961 election, there were four candidates for the House of Representatives in each of the electorates of Grayndler and Mackellar. For the reasons that the honorable member for Watson gave, and for the reasons that I add to them, there is no doubt about the correctness of the conclusion at which the honorable member has arrived on the basis of the facts.
What should be done about the matter, Sir? I suggest two things. First, we ought to adopt for the House of Representatives the system that we have adopted for the Senate. The position of the names on the Senate ballot-paper is decided by lot and an advantage due to the alphabetical order of the first letter of the surname cannot be automatically claimed. This system prevents the kind of abuse to which the honorable member for Watson directed attention and which occurred in a Senate election in which a team of candidates whose surnames began with the letter “ A “ was, as I think he said, unfairly selected, with consequent injustice. This proposal would not, of course, eliminate the element of chance from the ballot-paper, because some one would still have his name at the top, though the order of the names would be decided by lot.
I think that the Parliament could give more attention, therefore, to a proposal to include on the ballot-paper the party affiliations of the candidates. I know that it is not easy to include this information. The proposal has its difficulties and it will create certain problems over rights to party names, and so on. But in the United States of America and other countries this sort of procedure is adopted. These mechanical difficulties can be overcome, and I do not see why, in order to help people to cast their votes in the way in which they intend to vote, we should not adopt the additional precaution of printing the party affiliations of the candidates on the ballot-paper. As I have said, there are technical difficulties, but I do not believe that they are insuperable. After all, our objective should be to help the voters to vote in accordance with their real wishes. On the evidence submitted by honorable members on both sides of the chamber this evening, it seems to me that we are getting what is known as the donkey vote, which is recorded by voting “1”, “2”, “3” and “4” straight down the paper, much too often. This does not represent the real wish of the electors; it is simply an accident.
What I have said about elections for the House of Representatives may be said even more emphatically about elections for the Senate. The need for the party labels on the Senate ballot-paper may be of even greater moment than for the House of Representatives. I think that this matter cannot be determined off the cuff. I have no doubt that the Government has given close attention to it in the past and I think that it could be considered further now with benefit to all the voters.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall probably not take advantage of the full time available to me, because I wish to mention briefly only two points of view that have not been mentioned already. With respect to the question of the position of names on the ballot-paper, I should like to say that, naturally, with a surname beginning with the letter “ R “, I, too, have a strong interest in the adoption of some objective method. The present procedure, under which people whose surnames begin with early letters of the alphabet are given the higher places on the ballotpaper, is undemocratic, because in these days, in electorates in which political support is fairly evenly divided, the political parties tend to give preference to prospective candidates whose names will earn the highest places on the ballot-paper. I am sure that if we considered the names of the present members of this place, especially those who represent seats in which electoral support is relatively closely balanced, there would be a very high proportion whose surnames begin with “ A “, “ B “, “ C “ or “D”. I do not intend to go through the names now. They have been analysed before. This applies not only to those who are members of this place but also, it is substantially true to say, to all the candidates that are selected to contest elections.
We pride ourselves on living in a democratic community in which all have an equal right to enter Parliament. That is a rather crude way of putting the situation, I suppose. However, in fact, things do not work out in this way. Every candidate who contests the pre-selection for nomination as the candidate for any political party knows that, other things being equal, preference will probably be given to a candidate for preselection whose name begins with an early letter of the alphabet.
Like other honorable members who have spoken to-night, I should very much like to see some alteration of the system of voting for the Senate. The fact that we have so many thousands of people voting informally to-day must have the effect of cutting down respect for our democratic system. I cannot really see why it should not be possible for an elector simply to vote for the number of candidates that is to be elected. If ten senators are to be elected in a particular State, as is the case after a double dissolution, and an elector votes for ten candidates, that ought to be sufficient. If there are only five candidates, as there were at the last election, and if an elector votes formally for five and signifies a definite preference by marking his ballot paper 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, his vote might well be regarded as formal. I know that these are rather complex and intricate matters and that sometimes they do not lend themselves to simple solutions, but with appropriate modesty, I do not feel very ashamed in putting forward such a simple proposition when I see the colossal number of informal votes that is cast under the present system.
A point has been made to-night about preferential voting, as against the firstpastthepost system. I suggest that consideration might be given to another alternative - something in between, or what I might call a modified preferential system. I am speak ing at the moment of elections for the House of Representatives. Instead of a second preference or even a third preference carrying equal weight to a first preference, I suggest that a second preference should have half the value of a first preference and that a third preference should have one-third of the value. In other words, it should take two second preference votes or three third preference votes to equal the weight of a primary vote. After all, the voter gives his second preference to the candidate whom he regards as his second choice. He does not regard him as being as desirable a candidate as the person to whom he gives his primary vote. His voting follows a certain logic. In another sense, I should imagine that the adoption of this system would have the effect of cutting down the number of splinter parties that infest ballot-papers and contribute towards the number of informal votes. I think that this suggestion has a certain amount of logic to commend it, and I should like to see it considered.
Another point that I wish to mention, Mr. Chairman, concerns a matter that has been put to me by two organizations recently. It is not my own thought. It relates to young people who first enroll for a vote when they turn 21 years of age. The thought derives from the practice adopted at naturalization ceremonies of issuing a booklet to the persons who are being naturalized, indicating to them the great advantage that they are about to enjoy by being able to participate in the election of their government, since that is a part of the democratic system. Speakers at naturalization ceremonies invariably direct the attention of the newly naturalized person to this great advantage. He is reminded that no longer does he live in a dictatorship, as, unfortunately, some migrants have in the past, where he had no chance to remove the government from office if, in his opinion, it was not ruling the country in a just way.
One of the organizations to which I have referred - I think it is known as the League of Voters’ Rights - has suggested that, besides giving a young person the authority to participate in elections by permitting him to enroll for such-and-such a sub-division of an electorate, it ought to be possible to issue a little brochure, or even a modest leaflet, informing him that he has been granted a very prized possession - the right to vote in the election of the government. He should be reminded that there are in the world to-day countries where this right does not obtain, and that it is a right which many people in the course of history have given their lives to try to preserve sacrosanct.
This is a thought that could be given consideration, not in a party political way, but objectively and dispassionately. It has often been said to me, and no doubt also to other honorable members, that the schools should do much more to inculcate in our young people a greater respect for the democratic right to vote; and that by giving more tuition in our schools in the correct way of registering a vote we should try to eliminate the present situation in which many electors cast their votes only because they want to avoid a fine of £2. As one who has had an opportunity to teach young people, I realize that this is not a very realistic matter to children. They are not very much concerned about going to cast a vote, or with going out to earn a living. If they were, they would see that the business of earning a living and of fitting into society is very much controlled by the Parliament. It is very difficult to get young people, even those in the higher levels of schooling, to realize what an important thing it is to be able to vote.
If it is good enough for our soldiers and others in time of war to sacrifice their lives in order to protect this right to vote, I think we should do all we can to communicate to our young people the importance of it, and to try to pass on to them the heritage that has been fought for and preserved by their forefathers. I think there is something in this idea that young people who are casting their first vote should be given a statement which directs their attention to the prized privilege that is being accorded to them as mature citizens in a democratic society.
– I am afraid I shall have to disappoint some honorable members in that I do not propose, at the outset of my remarks, to discuss the question of redistribution which apparently is the 64-dollar question with most honorable members at the present time. I wish to refer to an announcement which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) made recently with regard to the installation of a radar storm-warning unit on the tower of the new Redmond Barry building at the University of Melbourne. The Minister stated that the unit was designed to provide forecasters with continuous information concerning the development of rainstorms approaching and passing over central Victoria. In addition, it would later have something to do with tropical cyclones. That is very interesting, but I suggest to the Minister that, as he administers the Bureau of Meteorology, the most important place in Australia for the installation of a long-range radar forecasting unit is on the coast of Western Australia.
– We have just installed one at Ashmore Island.
– Something more is needed than the equipment we have at present and the Minister is aware of that fact. Western Australia has to rely, to a very considerable extent, on the chance that a ship will be sufficiently far out at sea to give the weather bureau advance warning of weather changes, particularly of storms and cyclones. Perhaps if the Minister has been out at sea with fishermen he will know that storm warnings in Western Australia are given at too short notice. The time of warning is often much too short to enable people at sea to make for safety. Storms blow up suddenly in coastal waters without the bureau even being aware of them, because no ship has been in the area to warn it of the approaching storm. If the longest range radar equipment it is possible to obtain is needed anywhere, it is needed on the Western Australian coast. Most of the weather experienced in that State eventually reaches the eastern coast. If honorable members from Victoria studied the weather in Western Australia, and allowed for three days on the average, they would be able to forecast the weather in their own State pretty accurately.
Another matter under the Minister’s jurisdiction which I want to discuss is the present very unsatisfactory procedure in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land. The Commonwealth has power to acquire land, as the Minister very well knows. The land owner is served notice of the Government’s intention to acquire or buy his land and he is asked to set his price on it. The land owner advises the Department of the Interior of his price but if the department claims that the price is too high it sets its own price on the land. This the land owner refuses to accept because he believes it to be only a fraction of the land’s true value. The department then st:.tes that it will acquire the land. There should be a period of negotiation at that stage between the land owner and the department, particularly when the land in question is under production.
The Government’s intention to acquire the land is then gazetted and, as I understand the position, from the date of gazettal the Ownership of the land passes to the Commonwealth. The land owner then loses the whole of his equity in the property. Twelve months may elapse before negotiations are completed and the Government acquires the land, but the land owner does not know this at the time and if the land is under production he cannot continue operations and prepare the land for the coming season. In nine cases out of ten the land owner and his backers are out of pocket. The negotiations which now take place after the acquisition notice is gazetted should take place before that stage so that both the department and the land owner may have an opportunity to call in their valuers and try to reach agreement. This would give the land owner the opportunity, if his land is in production, to carry on for some months or for a season and thus avoid serious financial losses.
I do not think that the next matter I want to raise will worry the Minister very much. Primarily I raise it on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, and I suggest that he convey my remarks to his officers. A careful reading of the Auditor-General’s report will reveal mention of the tremendous number of cases of inaccurate estimating of the cost of certain works. There may be reasons for this over-estimating or underestimating. When I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee this was a matter which concerned me greatly. Inaccurate estimating, particularly in relation to works, must be eliminated. There is a weakness somewhere. I agree that very often the weakness may lie in the department for which the Department of Works is estimating, but if the Department of Works has to carry the burden of explaining the reason for inaccurate estimates when the particular project is put in hand or completed, it should insist that the departments for which it works submit firm proposals on which estimates can be based. Eventually this would result in a satisfactory report by the Auditor-General. Estimating is one of the most important phases of the activities of the Department of Works. As a great responsibility rests on the department, it should insist that reasonably accurate proposals are submitted to it when requests for estimates are made. If this were done, the Department of Works would not be blamed for something for which it was not responsible.
Referring to the reply of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) to the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) relating to the 20 per cent, quota margin provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and the suggestion that this should operate in favour of the rural areas rather than apply generally as is now the case, let me remind the honorable member for Perth that traditionally in Western Australia the rural vote is two for one in relation to the metropolitan vote. In effect, it is one vote one value, not one man one vote.
– That is not right.
– Yes, it is. If you look at the act you will see that in arriving at the quota in Western Australia-
– A federal redistribution is not carried out under the Western Australia act.
– If you look at the “ Hansard “ report when the Commonwealth Electoral Act was first introduced and this quota aspect was first mentioned, you will find that the Commonwealth legislation was more or less based on State practices and that these still apply. The intention and spirit of the act should be observed rather than the actual wording of the act. At no time have any members of the Country Party cast any reflection on the integrity of the commissioners who conducted the! redistribution of electoral boundaries. I repeat what I said in 1955: The three commissioners in Western Australia are known personally to me and I hold them in the highest regard. I am sure every one will support my remarks. So much for the disgraceful suggestion which was made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
Let me reply to some of the statements of the honorable member for Perth. I agree that the commissioners had a very difficult job in Western Australia. I agree also with the contents of the extract which the honorable member read from the report of the commissioners, but he should have read also that part of the report in which they said in effect - I do not have their actual words - that they were reluctantly obliged to do something which they thought was undesirable. They had to relate two parts of the State in which there was no community of interest. I remind the honorable member for Perth, who speaks about the brotherhood of man, that the city areas and the country areas have divided interests. At times their interests conflict. One must remember that the city areas and the country areas have the relationship of buyer and seller. The buyer is always anxious to obtain his goods at the cheapest possible price and the seller is always hoping to obtain a price that will cover his costs and leave him a reasonable margin of profit on which to live. The man in the metropolitan areas works for all that he can get, but the countryman - the seller - must take his chance on making a profit.
The relationship of buyer and seller is something that can be understood by everybody, but in many other respects there is no community of interests between the city and the country. For example, residents of the metropolitan area, at least in Western Australia, have never contributed one penny, other than through taxes, to the cost of establishing hospitals in that area, but we all know that hospitals in the country areas of the State have been financed by the residents of those areas. This is a fact. I was chairman of a hospital board for many years and I know what I am talking about. That situation does not prevail to the same extent to-day as it did some years ago. Nevertheless, to-day the Government finds only a percentage of the cost of country hospitals whereas it finances the complete cost of hospitals in the metropolitan area.
That is what happens in Western Australia and it illustrates the different conditions under which country and metropolitan residents live. In many respects there is a community of interest between city and country areas, but in many other respects there is a conflict of interests.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I will not detain the committee for very long. I was disappointed that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) did not speak at greater length about re-distribution because we all know that he is most anxious about this matter. I understand that he is waiting to see whether the Liberal Party will promise him immunity at the next election. If that can be arranged he will say that the re-distribution has been quite fair.
I would like to know why the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) has changed the views that he held when he last spoke in this chamber about re-distribution. On that occasion he claimed that the chief electoral officers should not be members of distribution commissions. I think that the Minister put forward a reasonable suggestion in 1955 when he stated that perhaps a chief electoral officer should be appointed in an advisory capacity to draw up maps, after which the independent commission could set about the task of re-distribution. The Minister spoke at great length on this matter on 2nd June, 1955, and his parting words were -
I suggest that it would be wiser to provide that the-
That is, the electoral officer - shall act merely as an advisory officer to the electoral distribution commission. Finally, I suggest we should have a uniform set of principles which would have a better application throughout all the States.
Those were wise words. I think there should be a better application throughout all the States. It is obvious that the distribution commissioners do not apply the same principles in every State. In some States they give consideration to community of interests but in other States they do not appear to do so. In some States the commissioners adopt the lazy man’s approach to re-distribution. In some cases it is far easier to transfer an entire subdivision than to pay regard to local government interests. We know that the commissioners are reluctant to change boundaries where it would mean that an electoral office would be re-located in another electorate. That is because the commissioners feel that it is difficult to obtain suitable buildings as electoral offices. That is not the right approach.
I will be interested to hear the Minister say why he did not give effect, in the appointment of the distribution commissioners, to the principles that he enunciated so forcefully and clearly in the debate in June, 1955. Some people suggest that there has been a gerrymander. I am not competent to express an opinion on that but I know that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) asked the Minister questions about a Liberal Party publication which clearly hinted that after the re-distribution the Government would be in a safe position and would be able to win back many seats that it lost at the last elections. If gerrymandering has taken place I will be disappointed in the Minister. I am hopeful that he will explain why, now that he has the power, he did not set up a distribution commission along the lines proposed by him in 1955.
I rose to-night mainly to support the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) regarding the declaration that candidates are supposed to make concerning their electoral expenses. Some members of this Parliament do not make that declaration. What happens as a result? Nothing! Perhaps it is not a great crime to fail to make the declaration but nevertheless, if we fail to comply with the law in this regard we should be dealt with. If an ordinary citizen makes a false declaration he is promptly dealt with. Members of Parliament should not be exceptions. The member who refuses to make this declaration should be dealt with. Those who make a false declaration should be dealt with. If the law relating to the making of this declaration is unsatisfactory, it should be amended. I would like the honorable member for Perth to tell us whether he has, after each election, made this declaration. We know that many successful candidates cannot make the declaration. If the law is wrong it should be amended.
I want to deal with the electoral offices. In this respect, I can speak only of South Australia because I do not know the conditions in other States. I wish to deal with the work that the electoral officers do, and with their office accommodation and their furnishings. First of all, I think that we should commend the staff of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. They do an excellent job, particularly on election days. They do excellent work leading up to the conduct of the election, during the actual election, and afterwards. In recent years a huge amount of extra work has been pushed on to the Electoral Office. We have the compulsory court-controlled ballots for trade unions. We have numerous elections conducted by the Government for certain bodies. All this work flows in to the electoral offices, but no additional staff has been provided for them. With a great increase in our population, they are desperately trying to cope with the increased work. I think that additional assistance should be provided for them.
I should also like the very poor accommodation provided for electoral officers, at least in South Australia, to be improved. I refer both to the main office and the various district offices. These offices are not furnished adequately. The accommodation is not good enough for such an important section of the Public Service. It is a Cinderella section. These people deserve better accommodation and better assistance. I should like the Minister for the Interior to see that it is given to them. I should like him to make inquiries to see whether they need additional assistance - I am sure they do need it - to cope with the additional work that has been forced upon them. I hope that the Minister will make those inquiries in the near future.
The last matter that I should like to mention concerns the advantage of a candidate in an election having his name at the top of the ballot-paper. Of course, that is an advantage. I have had my name in the middle of a ballot-paper and, on some occasions, at the top. On one occasion when the present honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) was my opponent, by virtue of the fact that his name begins with an “ F “ it was placed on the ballot-paper before mine. Having one’s name at the top of the ballot-paper results in an advantage of at least 1,000 votes. Even if the position of names on ballot-papers were decided by drawing the names from a hat, it would still be a matter of chance. I agree with the remarks that have been made on this subject by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). I commend his work. He went into the matter in great detail and furnished us with information which clearly shows what happens to a candidate who is favoured with the first position on the ballot-paper. This is something that we should go into. I hope that we can devise some means of giving a fairer chance to all candidates who contest future elections for this Parliament. I hope, also, that the Minister for the Interior will tell us why he has changed his attitude to redistribution since he spoke on it in June, 1955.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to make some comments regarding the report of the special advisory authority on the inquiry into citrus juices. The report was submitted in response to a reference of 17th August from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on the question of whether there was a necessity for urgent action to be taken to protect the Australian citrus juice industry in relation to the importation of citrus fruit juices and syrups classifiable under tariff item 16 (a) (2) or 16(b). The special authority who prepared the report was Sir Frank Meere. I want to make some comment on the various sections of the industry referred to by him. First of all, let me say that I have in my hand a letter sent to Sir Frank Meere from Mr. G. E. K. Kerr, secretary of the Australian Citrus Growers Federation. It contains the following statement: -
Juice imports from Japan. - We confirm our telephoned report to-day that a prominent citrus executive has reported to us that, in the course of a visit last week to Tasmania, he purchased a 30-oz. can of “ Sun Sweet “ orange juice, the product of Japan (made for World Wide Foods), at 4s. 6d. This price compared with a similar can of Berri juice at 5s. . . .
That juice is from South Australia. The letter continued -
It will be a very serious matter if imports force a reduction in the price of concentrated juice, because the producers will receive less for their citrus fruits.
The report of the special advisory authority states that there were very little imports of citrus juices into Australia during August. There were some in July. It appears that there may not be very much imported in the near future. But because of the citrus juices that have been imported there has been current among the growers of citrus fruits a lack of confidence in the market. I would say it it is very necessary that something be done immediately to give them some assurance that the market in Australia will not be flooded at short notice. The finding of the special authority was that there was no need for immediate protection. He suggested, however, that import statistics be carefully watched over the next few months and that the matter again be referred to him if the picture then disclosed differed from the one he had drawn.
I consider that two or three months is too long a time for the industry to wait to see what is going to happen. Sir Frank Meere went on to say -
There is no doubt that the citrus industry is economically important to Australia and it cannot progress unless the growers are assured of a profitable average price for their fruit.
They cannot be assured of that if there is a chance of imports in the next few months. Sir Frank Meere continued -
Seasonal fluctuations are a problem to the industry and I believe that greater consideration should be given by the growers to the possibility of expressing juice in seasons of surplus and storing it for later use,
If that is to be done growers must have the confidence that they will get a good price if they process the juice and hold it. Otherwise they would be in a worse position than if they sold it at a cheaper price in its raw state. Sir Frank Meere went on to say -
Growers would have an incentive to do this if the level of protection ensured a satisfactory average floor price for the fresh fruit.
I agree that they would have an incentive if they could get a good price, but without the knowledge that they are going to get a good price they are in a very awkward position and do not know whether to express their juice or not. Sir Frank continued -
The level of £20 per ton suggested by the growers appears not unreasonable but a duty to ensure this level is in my opinion a question of permanent rather than temporary protection.
That is all right, but the industry cannot get permanent protection straight away. That takes some time, and Sir Frank Meere has suggested that the industry should wait two or three months to see what is going to happen. However, in that time a large amount of citrus fruit juice could be imported, and it is my contention that the industry should be granted temporary protection immediately. Then, if the necessity for permanent protection is shown, the protection should be made permanent. That cannot be done overnight, as the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) will realize. I am pleased to see that the Minister is in the chamber. These things are very important because the citrus industry in Australia can be made or marred very easily. Referring to temporary protection Sir Frank Meere said -
In calculating these rates the growers believed that they would be sufficient to equalize the landed cost of imported juice with the cost of local juice made from citrus fruit for which the processors had paid £20 per ton.
Referring to this Sir Frank said -
At my inquiry the growers asked that a duty on all citrus juices other than lime be increased to 5s. per gallon when imported in containers of one gallon and over, and 6s. per gallon when imported in containers of less than one gallon. This would mean an additional temporary duty of 2s 6d. per gallon in one case and 3s. 6d. per gallon in the other.
That is the case presented to the special advisory authority with my interpretation of the authority’s finding.
Putting that to one side altogether, let me say that the citrus industry is very important to this country, and we must not allow it to languish through lack of confidence. There is not the slightest doubt that at the present time there is an oversupply of the products of the industry, and we do not want imported citrus juices spoiling the market for the local producers, particularly when the local industry is in a very poor state.
I suggest to the Minister that it would be a splendid thing if, at the present time, we could have some temporary protection immediately pending the provision of permanent protection. Some one may say that it may work out that we would have a smaller supply of juice than we need in this country if imports were restricted. A survey of the industry at the present time would show that that is not so. The industry must be protected and the people actively engaged in it all over Australia look to this Parliament, as I look to the Minister, to give this matter his immediate attention.
I hope that the Minister will reply to me to-night and state what can be done for an industry that is in a very poor position. lt is a valuable industry to Australia and is vitally in need of assistance.
.- We all know that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is always zealous to defend the interests of industries within his electorate.
– I rise to a point of order. It is my desire to speak on the same subject as that on which the honorable member for Mallee has spoken. The Minister for Trade, who has received the call, is on the same side of the chamber as the honorable member for Mallee. I think, Sir, that I should have received the call.
– Order! The Minister is within his rights. I ask the Minister to continue.
– I was saying that the honorable member for Mallee is always zealous to look after industries within his electorate, and he has given further evidence of this to-night. Due to a combination of circumstances, prices in the citrus industry have been low and growers were apprehensive that their marketing position might be further adversely affected by a flood of imports. A prima facie case having been made out, eventually the matter was referred to Sir Frank Meere, the special advisory authority, who heard evidence submitted by the citrus-growers.
The honorable member for Mallee has referred to the report that was subsequently made to the Parliament, in which Sir Frank Meere, in short, conceded the importance of the industry. He conceded also that growers had grounds for worry about the possible danger from imports, but on the evidence before him he came to the conclusion that there was no necessity at the present time to recommend temporary protection. Speaking from memory, I think the words he used were “ at this juncture “. However, he added, as the honorable member for Mallee has said, that a very close watch should be kept on imports and if necessary the matter could be referred back to him.
That is precisely the advice that the Government proposes to act upon. The honorable member for Mallee, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) and other honorable members who speak for this great industry can convey to citrus-growers the information that the industry’s own chosen representatives have been invited to keep in close contact with the special officers of the Department of Trade, whose duty it is to work in cooperation with the leaders of various industries. They will watch the situation to see whether a sudden flow of imports could threaten the industry. If such an eventuality did happen, or if prima facie evidence were produced to show that the occurrence was imminent, I give the undertaking on behalf of the Government that, in accordance with the recommendation of Sir Frank Meere himself, there will be a further immediate reference of the case back to Sir Frank. Second references have taken place in the case of certain industries. If the case is resubmitted and evidence is available to show that the industry is in danger, then I have no doubt that Sir Frank will recommend that appropriate action be taken. It is within his competence to recommend a duty or quantitative restrictions, whichever he thinks is appropriate in the circumstances. In accordance with the policy of the Government and the legislation passed by this Parliament, if temporary protection were granted the Minister for Trade would be required to refer the matter immediately to the full Tariff Board for a normal Tariff Board inquiry.
I think the present case is a good example of how the policies devised by the Government provide a dual opportunity for a quick look, in an emergency, at an industry which is in trouble, with the assurance that there will be a competent review of the industry and a decision given within 30 days. The legislation provides that if a case is not proven it can be re-examined later, and if it is then proven the industry can be assured that it will be given long-term protection. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and other members who are interested can assure those in the citrus industry that under these policies that industry will be looked after.
.- I am very pleased indeed to know that the honorable member for Mallee has now raised this question and, of course, I completely and wholeheartedly support his remarks. Possibly one can be excused for believing that he has turned his attention to this matter at this late stage because of Labour’s chiding of the Country Party. Since last March, the matter has been raised in this House time after time but members of the Country Party have been silent on it. Their attitude may have changed because a great deal of emphasis is now being given to the problem. But that is not the point. The important thing so far as this industry is concerned is that something should be done in this Parliament, and more honorable members should be supporting me. As I have said, this matter was raised as far back as last March, and it is now October. I am very pleased to see that at last we have a member of the Country Party helping Labour members in this House in support of the industry.
– I raised the question before you ever came here.
– I am speaking of this Parliament. This matter was first raised in this chamber in March of this year, and we are now in October. I believe that the existing machinery is inadequate to handle a serious problem such as this. I should like to hear the views of members of the Country Party on this question as they appear to realize now that some form of permanent protection has to be given to the citrus juice industry. Some months ago they opposed permanent protection for not only this industry, but industry generally, in the form of import licensing. I should like to hear their views now, bearing in mind the claim of the honorable member for Mallee that some form of permanent protection should be given to the citrus juice industry. I should like to know whether that honorable member would support the re-introduction of import licensing or quantitative restrictions on imports of citrus juices, because it seems to be quite obvious that this is the only method that can be applied to protect the industry.
This country is once again beginning to face a serious balance of payments problem. The reports coming in now show that we have an adverse trade balance. Knowing how our overseas funds can run down, we must realize that we could be faced with a quite serious problem in a very short period. This also gives support to my contention that the only real means by which we can help this industry is by imposing quantitative import restrictions on citrus juices.
The report on the citrus juice industry by the special advisory authority mentions that seasonal fluctuations present problems for the industry, and expresses a belief that greater consideration should be given by the growers to the possibility of expressing juice in seasons of surplus and storing it for later use. This task is now left exclusively to the processor. The report adds that the growers would have an incentive to do this if the level of protection ensured a satisfactory average floor price for the fresh fruits. I think that a very basic question has been overlooked there. Unless the growers can get an adequate return for their fruit they will not be able to afford the capital expenditure required for the expression of juice in seasons of surplus. That is common sense.
– That was the very reason for my contribution.
– I quite agree with your contribution and I am very happy that you at last have joined with me. I am only sad that you did not join with me last March. The fact is that this particular aspect has been overlooked. It is quite obvious that the industry is not in a finan cial position to stand the capital expenditure that is required. We have also the Minister’s own press release on this matter in which he drew attention to ‘the opinion expressed by the advisory authority that the protection required by the industry to ensure a reasonable return to growers could more appropriately be given through the normal Tariff Board procedures. Surely, that in itself is an admission by the Minister and by the advisory authority that some form of protection is required. Yet we have this buck-passing from one authority to another, and the industry cannot get a quick decision in order to protect its interests.
I appeal for something to be done about this. I believe that in the final analysis there is only one answer to the problem of what might be termed non-essential imports, and that is quantitative restriction. I should be very pleased indeed to hear from Country Party members whether they are prepared to support quantitative restrictions as the only way of giving longterm protection to this industry.
There is another matter in which I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is very interested. It vitally affects the citrus-growing industry. The basis on which the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee now proposes to pay the domestic sugar rebate virtually excludes the main citrus products on which the rebate was previously paid. I refer to the 25 per cent. rebate in respect of citrus fruit cordial and citrus peel. The industry feels that the proposal is nothing less than a victimization of the citrus-growing industry. That is the attitude of the New South Wales Citrus Growers Council.
There are quite a few aspects of this problem. For example the adverse com- ment by the Sugar Enquiry Committee on the continuation of the domestic sugar rebate on citrus fruits used in processing is causing a great deal of concern and I think it is high time the Minister for Primary Industry looked at that committee’s report to ascertain whether or not some sort of relief can be given. I think it quite likely that other honorable members also have received representations from the growers on this question.
In conclusion I repeat that I am very glad to have the honorable member for Mallee supporting us on this problem. However, I greatly regret that he did not do so last March. He sat silent while appeals were made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) and other honorable members. I think this is an issue on which he could have assisted us long before now, and I feel that it is because at last the citrus growers in his electorate have been kicking up that he has been forced to support the Labour Party in its submissions to the House. Finally, I make this point -
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Jack) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
Middle East is an expression of the Professor’s own opinion; results of exploration to date, even after the expenditure of £36,000,000, do not support this optimistic view; Professor Rudd’s statement that the Puri Well blew in unexpectedly is not correct. The report on the Puri operation, issued under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act as Publication No. 6 is available in the Parliamentary Library, where the honorable member may find a complete history of the operation.
Taxation concessions to companies are not available until they have achieved income from which deductions can be made. Under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, concessions may be available to oil search companies when they earn income from the sale of petroleum mined by them in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The New Guinea international border is defined by two international agreements:
A convention in 1895 between the Queens of the Netherlands and Great Britain defined the border between Papua and West New Guinea.
An agreement in 1936 between Australian and Netherlands authorities defined the border between the Territory of New Guinea and West New Guinea.
Embodied in the 1936 agreement was the recognition of an obelisk on the north coast as a key marker, and in 1958 an Australian astronomical station was set up at the mouth of the Bensbach River, on the south coast, where a Netherlands station had already been established two years before. Netherlands and Australian surveyors recently placed markers at the two remaining key locations on the banks of the Fly River. The border is therefore clearly defined and is marked on the ground at the key points. In 1958 agreement was reached between Netherlands and Australian authorities as to the division of responsibility for the photography and mapping of the border. Australia has been carrying out the photography of her area in conjunction with mapping for resources surveys of large areas of the Territory. Most of the border has already been photographed, and the remainder will be completed when weather permits. The almost continual cloud cover in much of the border area means that conditions for photography occur very infrequently.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
It is assumed that the question refers to persons of the aboriginal race and not solely to those who are wards under the Welfare Ordinance. As our policy is not to discriminate between aborigines and other children in the normal administration schools and as some aboriginal children from the Territory have been transferred to the southern States it is impossible to give complete figures. It is known, however, that 36 children have passed the Junior, and five have matriculated and two are at present at university. There may be more.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, 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: -
Homes for the Aged.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Mr. Roberton: The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. See attached schedule No. 1.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621004_reps_24_hor36/>.