24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John.. McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GRAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the pension increase of 10s. proposed in the 1963 Budget be granted to all age, invalid and widow pensioners.
Mr. GRAY presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
– ) wish to ask the Ministerfor External Affairs a question seeking information about the statement made by him this week in which he announced the appointment of the leader of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition’s party at Mawson Station during 1964. Does the Minister’s announcement of the appointment of a New Zealander as leader of this party mean that Australia has no one qualified to lead it? If so, will the Minister take steps to ensure that in future trained Australians will be available to lead Australian expeditions of this type?
– The recommendation for this appointment came from Dr. Philip Law, who is in charge of the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs. As I understand the situation, the gentleman whose name was proposed was the best person available for the task. I shall look at the matter again, but not to reconsider the appointment.
– Dr. Law is an Australian.
– Yes. Dr. Law is himself an Australian. I shall look at the matter again and sec whether any Australian who had the required qualifications was passed over.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he say how the Government regards the proposal put forward by the Government of Tasmania for Commonwealth financial assistance for the building of an access road to the Gordon River area of south-western Tasmania for developmental purposes, and whether a decision has yet been reached? Will he say also what is the Government’s attitude to the request for assistance in the construction of a thermal power station in the Fingal valley?
– Perhaps I may take those two matters in reverse order. A proposal that the Commonwealth should, in effect, provide the money for the capital expenditure on a thermal power station in the Fingal valley was put forward, and I received a deputation that embraced a number of honorable gentlemen opposite and other Tasmanian members to discuss the matter. We first looked at the proposal in 1961, and we have looked at it again recently at the request of the Premier of Tasmania. It is agreed, not only by the Premier but also by those putting forward the case, that this is not an economic proposition. It could become feasible,I understand, only if the whole of the capital required was provided by the Commonwealth on non-repayable terms. That is scarcely a definition of an economic proposition, and I think the Premier himself realizes that.
The other proposal arises in these circumstances: For some time now we have bad propositions put to us by the Government of Tasmania and by other authorities about various works in that State. We have maintained the genera] principle that we want to see in progress works that will develop the resources of the country, the export potential of the country and so on. We found ourselves very interested in the proposal relating to the Gordon River. The south west of Tasmania, as all honorable members know, is pretty wild, wild in the physical sense. It is rather inaccessible, and information about it is very difficult to obtain, but it is thought that there is a great hydro-electric potential in the area, a great possibility for exploiting timber resources - this has been put to me more than once by the honorable member - and a great possibility of further mineral discoveries.
The proposition of the Tasmanian Government is that we should reach some financial arrangement for assisting in the construction of a road of access to the area. It is not a cheap proposition; about £2,500,000 would be involved in it. We have looked at the proposition and I have now informed the Premier of Tasmania that, having regard to all the possibilities involved, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to provide the cost of the road of access, £2,500,000, and to do this by way of a non-repayable grant.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. It concerns certain tenders called by the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. I preface the question by saying that, in the calling of some tenders, the board lays down as two of its conditions, first, that the Commonwealth shall be under no legal obligation to purchase any or all of the supplies shown as estimated to be required; and secondly, that the board reserves the right to purchase supplies of the item from other sources during the contract period. I ask the Treasurer: Is it fair that the Commonwealth, after accepting a tender, can desist from making any purchases from the successful tenderer and at the same time purchase supplies of the item from some other source? In such circumstances, what is the point in calling for tenders? Does the Government realize that in the case of small firms particularly this procedure either deters them from submitting tenders or involves them in the risk of a critical loss of capital and stock production outlay in anticipation of orders that are not honoured?
– I think this question would have been more appropriately addressed to the Minister for Supply, who handles this section of the Administration.
I can tell the honorable member only that, for my part, I think these rules are soundly based. It might be as well if my colleague supplied a detailed set of answers to the questions asked by the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is he in a position to inform me of the progress that has been made on the installation of an automatic telephone exchange at Mudgee, New South Wales? Can he say when the cut-over from the manual system to automatic working will take place?
– From time to time the honorable member for Lawson has inquired as to the progress of this important work in his area. Some time ago I advised him that we hoped to cut over before Christmas. I regret to say that a delay has occurred in the provision of the equipment required to bring this exchange into operation and it will not now be possible to effect the cut-over before Christmas. Nevertheless I anticipate that the cut-over will take place early in the New Year. I am sorry that I cannot give a definite date.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister whether he recalled having said in March, 1956, that the Commonwealth lacked adequate machinery powers to deal with certain major economic problems, particularly inflation. The right honorable gentleman replied that he could not be expected to remember what he said in 1956. That, of course, was not an unreasonable observation.
– Do you remember what you said in the past about defence?
– I stand by anything that I have ever said on defence. I do not wriggle like the Treasurer. I will deal with the Treasurer in the appropriate place. To-day I ask the Prime Minister: Has the right honorable gentleman acquainted himself since yesterday with the fact that the statement to which I referred yesterday was made by him in the course of his speech on 14th March,”’ 1956,’ in which he announced the Government’s economic proposals that became known as the little horror budget? Will the right honorable gentleman now say plainly and unequivocally why the Government has not sought the powers or developed the economic machinery which he admitted two credit squeezes ago were necessary for the protection of the national economy and vital to the protection of the interests of producers and consumers alike?
– The Leader of the Opposition, for well-understood professional reasons, has a credit squeeze on the brain. As far as this matter is concerned he is like a man getting around with a clamp around his head. If he is in the slightest degree interested, I have not been reading “ Hansard “ since question time yesterday. 1 have many more important things to do, although I look forward very much to reading the “ Hansard “ record of some of the modest proposals that the honorable gentleman has been putting forward. Having regard to the obvious limitations upon Commonwealth power I think the Commonwealth Government has a remarkable record of having achieved in this country not only an unrivalled period of prices stability but also an unsurpassed period of national growth.
– My question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, refers to the establishment of national television stations in rural areas of Western Australia. Has the honorable gentleman received additional communications from certain shires in the southern agricultural area of Western Australia protesting against the decision to locate the national television station at Mount Barker? Also, will the honorable gentleman confirm that there are no other suitable topographical features in the area from which to provide a better and wider coverage? Will the Minister give an assurance that where satisfactory coverage is not provided by the proposed station, translator or similar facilities .will be established as early as possible?
– I have received many representations about this matter from the honorable member! , for Canning, . other honorable members and local government authorities in the area concerned. The honorable member has asked whether I have recently had further representations from local government authorities. I have, and recently proposals have been put to me to reconsider the decisions I have already conveyed to those bodies. I will do that and will again communicate with them. The honorable member referred also to the site which has been chosen by the board and the department at Mount Barker. I have already advised those who made inquiries that this choice was made after a very exhaustive investigation of a number of sites; All I can say in reply to this part of the honorable member’s question is that, as a result of the reports that have been made to mc by the investigating authorities, who used very extensive equipment to determine the best site, I think that this is the best place for the station to be established. The honorable member asked also whether it was appreciated that certain areas would not be adequately serviced when the stations were established. I have referred to that problem from time to time. It is realized that there will be areas which arc not properly covered by the services as we extend them. When those areas become quite evident it is proposed to use translators and other systems io provide services for them. That will be done in this case.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. Will legislation giving permanent statutory form to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies be introduced before the dissolution of this Parliament? If not, can he give assurances concerning the future of the institute, which would enable it to appoint a permanent director?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member is, I assure him, under very close current examination. It has a few complexities, as he knows. I do not think I can undertake to say that legislation will be introduced this week, but he may be perfectly certain that whatever government is here after 30th November will direct its attention to this matter very quickly.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the very welcome announcement that tenders are to be called for the construction in Australia of two very large bulk-carrying ships, each of 47,000 tons, which will provide a very large volume of work for our shipbuilding industry and which will be available for the carriage of overseas cargoes. Will these ships embody the latest features of automation developed overseas, which reduce very substantially the running costs of such vessels? If so, will this tend to remove some of the excessive crew costs and exaggerated manning requirements which hitherto have dogged our shipping industry and prevented us from becoming a successful maritime nation?
– Over the past years there have been developments concerning automation and automatic devices in ships - particularly in Europe, the United States of America and the United Kingdom - and it has been evident that we must keep an eye on those developments. Fortunately, just recently the chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, Captain J. P. Williams, and the deputy chairman, went abroad to study these developments. The honorable member can be assured that what they saw overseas will be borne in mind when ships are being constructed for the Australian National Line. The reduced manning possible in overseas vessels as the result of the use of automatic devices has given those ships an advantage over vessels constructed here in earlier years. If our shipping is to remain on an economic basis, obviously these developments will have to be incorporated. Without wishing to engage in a discussion of the very detrimental effects of the tactics of the Seamen’s Union in other years, one can say that undoubtedly these automatic developments will call for smaller crews and therefore there will be a better opportunity for Australian ships to obtain charters for voyages overseas in competition with other ships.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Franklin. Was the existence of large deposits of iron ore in the region of the Savage River on the west coast of Tasmania one of the reasons why the Commonwealth decided to provide financial assistance for the construction of an access road to the west coast? If so, does the Government intend to provide assistance in the future to develop these iron ore deposits, having regard to their undoubted importance to the economy of Tasmania and to our balance-of-payments position?
– All proposals of this kind are accompanied by such information as is available. They then receive a great deal of study by the Commonwealth’s own authorities. The proposition that the honorable member has in mind no doubt will receive careful study. He will forgive me if I do not try to make some anticipatory judgment of the ultimate decision. In the case to which I referred a great number of details were put forward by the Government of Tasmania. We examined the case very closely for quite a lengthy period and arrived at the decision that I indicated earlier. I am sure the honorable member welcomes that decision.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Interior. Is it a fact that Western Australia, which comprises one-third of the total area of Australia, is represented in this House by only nine members? Is it correct to state that the redistribution proposals which he introduced into this Parliament recently would have reduced Western Australian representation from the present inadequate nine members to only eight? Does the Minister intend to introduce legislation to amend the Representation Act so as to protect Western Australia against the loss of a seat in any future redistribution? If so, will he introduce such amending legislation before the House of Representatives is dissolved for the forthcoming election?
– I think it is well known that a formula is laid down in the Constitution and in the Representation Act which provides that in certain circumstances, because the representation of the States is in proportion to their populations, some States must lose seats. ‘ That would have happened under the last redistribution proposals, which were framed according to the formula. Not only Western Australia but also Queensland and New South Wales would have lost seats. Those proposals were not proceeded with. I think it is also well known that the Government has under consideration an amendment of the Representation Act to avoid this loss of scats occurring in the future. I cannot say any more than that. Despite our present very tight legislative programme we may be able to introduce the legislation in this sessional period, but that is a matter for consideration.
– In addressing my question to the Prime Minister I refer him to reports that three former members of the West Papuan Council now in exile in West Germany, in a letter to the President of the Eighteenth General Assembly of the United Nations alleged mistreatment and brainwashing of West Irian patriots by Indonesian officials. In view of the Prime Minister’s reply to a question by the honorable member for Kingston last Thursday to the effect that the Government is fully aware of the position in West Irian, can he now state whether these allegations are groundless or factual?
– I cannot positively, but I share with the honorable member a belief that considerable pressure is probably being put on a number of people in what is now called West Irian. We have no illusions about these things; what we can do about them is a different matter.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Presumably the right honorable gentleman saw the very favorable report on the Australian economy in the London “ Times “. This report mentioned that some stimulus may be required with regard to housing. Can the Treasurer advise the House of the latest trends in housing?
– I was very glad to see the highly favorable comments which appeared in this authoritative English journal. This report and others in responsible economic and other publica tions are, I think, indicative of the regard in which Australia is held at the present time around the world, lt was a little unfortunate from our point of view that the period covered by the “Times” review ended, I think, about I he end of June; because the economic indicators since that time have revealed a very much more buoyant state of the economy, including the housing aspect of it, than was apparent at that earlier time. Housing approvals for the three months ended last August showed a sharp increase over those for the comparable three months of the previous year. Housing loans from financial institutions for the three months ended last July shewed an increase of £32,000,000. This represented an increase of 60 per cent, in total amount and an increase of 49 per cent, in the number of loans. The total value of building approvals for the three months ended last August, £194,000,000, was an all-time record figure for this country. So the honorable gentleman will perceive that housing activity is now proceeding at a high rate. Indeed, our resources of man-power in the building trade are fully engaged. I would just like to add, while replying to this question, three other pointers which confirm the very healthy trend towards sound progress to which the “Times” referred. Unemployment, which was given as 1.8 per cent, of the work force in the “Times” review, is now down to 1.4 per cent., on the basis of numbers registered for employment. The price stability to which tribute was paid has been confirmed by figures for the September quarter, which showed a rise of only one-fifth of 1 per cent, in the quarter. Motor car registrations for the -September quarter were 19 per cent, higher than in the record September quarter of last year. All this reveals, I suggest, very healthy progress in the Australian economy.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. Why does this Government speak with two voices about the likely success or otherwise of an Australian overseas shipping line? Why has the Government decided to build two 47,000-ton bulk carriers for trade with Japan and claim that they will operate successfully and competitively when its favourite theme, which it emphasizes ad nauseam, is that an overseas line of Australian ships would be impracticable, uneconomical and incapable of competing effectively with other shipping lines? In view of the Government’s decision in relation to these bulk carriers will it reconsider its attitude towards an Australian overseas shipping line, or will it leave this great project to the incoming Labour government?
– The honorable member has completely misunderstood the announcement. The announcement was that these 47,000-ton vessels are to be built for the Australian coastal trade, but that they would be built in such a way that they could be engaged in the overseas trade because they could be run more economically as a result of automation and the automatic devices that would go into them. That is just a possibility. They are not to be built definitely for the overseas trade at all. That is in the background. It could be done if it were found possible to do it.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the practice of setting aside annual amounts in order to spread evenly the effect of stock losses through fire at main Postmaster-General’s Department stores has been discontinued? Was the balance of the provision which has been absorbed in accumulated profits, namely £506,000, considered to be inadequate or unnecessary? Why was this change in the commercial accounts considered to be advisable?
– I noticed this item in the statement on the commercial accounts of the Post Office, which I tabled yesterday. I made some inquiries about it. The honorable member asks whether the amount of £506,000 which was transferred from the provision for losses of stores was considered to be inadequate or unnecessary. The answer is that the transfer was made because the provision was considered to be unnecessary. The provision relates only to losses of stores and not to losses of buildings and so on. I think it is right to say that in accounting practice there has developed recently the theory that the charging of 1 prospective fire losses against current income is undesirable and that that practice should be discontinued.
The adequacy or otherwise of the amount which has been transferred will be shown, first of all, by the fact that every building in which stores are kept or housed is adequately protected by certain fire prevention devices which are inspected regularly and kept in good order. The result can be seen in the fact that in the last ten years it has been necessary to charge against this item only a little more than £4,000. Therefore, it is obvious that there is no particular point in keeping the amount of £506,000 in that provision.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. The right honorable gentleman indicated in his Budget speech that he would bring down a bill to amend the Superannuation Act. This Parliament has only a few more days to go, so it does not seem that honorable members will be given much chance to study the bill. 1 ask the Treasurer whether he will be bringing down such a bill? If and when he does so, will he see that the agreement between the Public Service Board and the Commonwealth Public Service unions to increase the value of the unit from 17s. 6d. to £1, as was promised in 1957, and as the States have done already, is put into effect? Also, will he see that the five-eighths pension that is paid to widows is attended to in the bill?
– I think I have indicated within recent days that the bill is currently in the hands of the Parliamentary Draftsman, who informed me that he was awaiting some final Treasury instructions. I have seen to it that those instructions have gone forward; so that there need be no delay in going ahead with the drafting of the bill. The honorable gentleman referred to a promise made in 1957. I would be glad if he would direct my attention to that promise in specific terms. I am not aware of any promise to the effect that he indicated. I very much question whether such a promise would have been given, knowing something of the implications of an increase from 17s. 6d. to 20s. in the value of the unit. However, Sir, the honorable member can rely on me to do my best to see that the bill is introduced into this House as early as is practicable.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it not a fact that the continued presence of cattle tick in northern New South Wales has caused the expenditure of a tremendous sum of money by the New South Wales Government and, in latter years, also by the Commonwealth Government? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that the chairman of the Australian Meat Board and other well-informed persons have expressed the opinion that it will not be possible completely to eradicate ticks in this area unless the present buffer areas in northern New South Wales are continued and extended to Queensland? A number of my constituents who have been engaged in tick eradication have complained to me that they will shortly be retrenched. I ask whether consideration has been given by the Minister to the economic value of the progressive destruction of cattle tick through the extension of buffer areas in northern New South Wales? The tick has cost this country a tremendous sum of money through loss of cattle condition and loss of production.
– The Commonwealth’s administration of cattle tick eradication lies with the Department of Health. However, I am reasonably acquainted with the assistance that is given by the Commonwealth Government to the New South Wales Government in the work of trying to reduce the incidence of cattle tick. It must be appreciated that the various activities have been designed to eradicate the tick. Expenditure directed merely to control of the tick does not necessarily fulfil the purposes and the desires of both governments. The Commonwealth has been very generous in its payments to the New South Wales Government in this regard, but in recent years we have indicated that payments will not be maintained at the present rate. It is intended to expend more money on the scientific aspect of tick eradication, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and other avenues, in the hope that we can achieve this desirable purpose. , . .4l ‘
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the accumulating scientific evidence of the great danger to Australia of the proposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific. Can the right honorable gentleman reconcile the general opposition of the United States of America and Great Britain to this independent line taken by France, and the Australian Government’s statement of opposition, with the fact that although the Prime Minister of Japan add the Prime Minister of New Zealand recently protested against the proposed tests no similar protest was made by himself and the Prime Minister of Japan?
– On this matter the Minister for External Affairs has, I think, on more than one occasion expressed the view of the Australian Government. I seem to remember that this .view was stated in the House. All I can say is that the Minister spoke on behalf of this Government.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. Has the attention of the honorable gentleman been drawn to a statement to the effect that the Administration of Papua and New Guinea is considering the introduction of a separate currency for the Territory, to coincide with the change-over to decimal currency in Australia?
– Yes, I have seen the report, and I am glad to have the opportunity of saying that it is completely untrue. In July and August last, a committee within the Administration was asked to examine the question of the effect on the Territory of the change to decimal currency in Australia. In September, the committee recommended unanimously that no separate currency should be introduced into Papua and New Guinea at this stage and that we should adopt the Australian decimal coinage.
The reasons for that were partly to avoid confusion, partly to save costs and partly to avoid the complications of having two different currencies in adjoining countries. Another reason was to avoid the possible consequences of those elements in discouraging investment, or leading ‘to/difficulty in the understanding of modern economic conditions by the people of Papua and New Guinea.
– What about the banks?
– Let me say in answer to the honorable member’s interjection that both the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks in the Territory are joining with us in a very well devised campaign of economic instruction for the people of the Territory, and I would welcome the opportunity of putting him in touch with some of the work that is being done.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. It is supplementary to that which the honorable member for Moore asked him. I understood the Minister to say that he would see whether the crowded legislative programme would permit him to introduce, this week or next week, an amendment of the Representation Act which provides for the number of members in this House from each State. I now ask the Minister whether he has prepared a bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act which provides for the number of electors in each division and whether he will ascertain whether that bill can be introduced this week or next week.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition understood me quite correctly. A draft bill has been prepared to amend the Representation Act. I did not make it quite clear to the honorable member for Moore, but I take the opportunity to make it clear now that the act will be amended, either in this session or, we hope, early in the new Parliament to provide that any fraction of a quota will allow a State to have a member. As to the Electoral Act, amendments to it are under consideration, but we do not propose to introduce a bill in this session.
– I preface a question addressed to the Minister for Trade by referring to a recent warning to Australians by Mr. Warren McDonald, chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, that an excellent opportunity which existed for profitable investment in South-East Asia was not being fully accepted and this was allowing foreign investors to get in ahead of us. Can the Minister say whether there are indications of an awakening interest by Australians in trade and investment in South-East Asia?
– I think I can say that there is a high level of interest in trade in South-East Asia and that, as a by-product of that interest in trade, there is an interest in the kind of investment which is conducive to increasing trade. I refer to what is known as joint venture investment. It is known by the Department of Trade that at the present time there are quite a number of Australian companies interested in the possibility of establishing joint enterprises in places like Malaysia and Hong Kong where the established company would become a customer for Australian goods. This is a good trend. It is a trend which is being encouraged, and already a number of successful ventures are in operation. This is the kind of thing in respect of which Mr. Warren McDonald was speaking, but it is obviously not the kind1 of investment which is made merely for the sake of making profit on the money invested. In the jargon of the people in the trade, it establishes a captive market, which is very good.
As to trade between South-East Asian countries and Australia, I point out that we have exhibitions and missions going across to South-East Asia constantly. Next month 25 businessmen will be coming from Singapore to Australia to see what can be done both with respect to increased purchases from Australia and increased sales to Australia. There will also be promotional activities by the Department of Trade, in conjunction with private enterprise, at the food festivals in Malaysia and the forthcoming Hong Kong Exhibition. A building materials mission has recently gone across to the area and the trade ship “ Centaur “ has been there also. A special trade commissioner is devoting his full time to trade promotion in South-East Asia. A gentleman who is very experienced in trade matters has been brought in as a trade consultant and he, also, is devoting his full time to promotion activities in SouthEast Asia.
– Mr. Speaker, I lay on the table the following papers: -
Forty-second Report of the Commissions of
Taxation, dated 1st October, 1963. Taxation Statistics, 1961-62- and move -
That the papers be printed.
As a result of the proceedings in the High Court of Australia in the Magrath case, it is not desirable that copies of the report be made available to honorable members or published until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. I have mentioned this aspect to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and he has agreed to support the motion in order that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– Mr. Speaker, 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: - The southern extension of the 16/34 runway at Mascot airport, New South Wales.
The proposal provides for the southerly extension of the north-south runway across the existing Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board’s sewers and also General Holmes-drive into Botany Bay. The committee has reported favorably on the proposal and, in addition, has recom- mended that the runway- be further extended to provide 8,000 feet of pavement and 500 feet of over-run, thus increasing the cost of the proposal from £4,500,000 to £5,000,000. It is proposed to accept the committee’s recommendation, and, on the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 22nd October (vide page 2103).
Proposed expenditure, £5,582,000.
Proposed expenditure, £113,821,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed expenditure, £15,703,000.
– Is it the wish of the committee to consider the proposed expenditures for Business Undertakings as suggested by the Minister? There being no objection, that course will be adopted.
– Mr. Chairman, I want to address my remarks this afternoon to the business undertaking known as the Commonwealth Railways. I believe that sometimes when this group of estimates is being considered the importance of this organization fails to attract the attention and public interest that it merits. The interim report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for 1962-63, particularly, as well as previous annual reports, has set a pattern in providing, on a very high plane indeed, the answer to Australia’s transportation problems. We should first of all remember that the Commonwealth Railways undertaking is not a railway undertaking in the ordinary sense. It is not required just to meet the needs of a State and a State government. The Commonwealth
Railways organization controls 1,108 miles of line from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie, linking the east with the west, 822 miles of line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs and 316 miles of track from Darwin to Birdum.
I suppose that in South Australia there is no general appreciation that in the financial year 1962-63 electric power in that State was made cheaper by the capacity of the Commonwealth Railways to transport coal between the Leigh Creek coal-field and the power stations in Adelaide as required over a standardgauge line at low freight cost. The interim report shows that in 1962-63 almost 1,500,000 tons of coal were hauled in this traffic. It will be remembered, of course, that, in the early stages, the transport of coal over this line by the Commonwealth Railways was subsidized by this Parliament. But, some years ago, the subsidy . was withdrawn. However, there was no increase in the freight charges on’ the coal carried, and the South Australian community as a whole enjoys a low freight charge on coal used in the generation of power that is not enjoyed by any other section of the Australian community.
The interim report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the financial year 1962-63, reporting the financial results of the organization, records a profit for last financial year of £360,000. It ought to be remembered that this is being shown as a profit for this year after the undertaking ploughed back into its own activities £1,000;000, in round figures, in re-equipment, resleepering, re-laying of plates and so on. We can appreciate the high level of organization of the undertaking when we see that its total income exceeded £7,000,000.
The report for this year, like those that went before it, brings home to those who care to analyse it the great advantages that flow from diesel-electric traction in rail transportation. Dieselization has brought with it new wonders in the economic structure. Despite the increase in the amount of goods hauled in 1962-63, the financial results show that the amount of salaries and wages dropped from £3,074,000 to £3,052,000. The upward trend in income and the downward trend in wages has continued ever since 1951, when the Common wealth Railways became the first railway in Australia to adopt dieselization. The lines of the Commonwealth Railway run east from Kalgoorlie, from one State to another, from the south of South Australia to the heart of Australia, and from the north to the south. Any one who looks at the structure of the Commonwealth Railways and at the improvements accomplished since dieselization was adopted, must realize that in the last decade we have neglected a great potential for our future development and it still lies untouched.
The Commonwealth Railways adopted dieselization in 1951. In that year, the undertaking employed 2,550 persons. In 1961, a decade later, there were 2,739 employed, an increase of a mere 180 railways employees in the whole of the system. If we want to ascertain the economic value of a rail system, we look at the gross ton miles. The figure for gross ton miles in 1951 was 827,000,000 and in 1961, 1,984,000,000. In other words, the productivity of this rail service increased two and one-half times in ten years for an increase of man-power of a mere 180. While we are thinking in terms of production, let us compare the cost of dieselelectric locomotion with the cost of steam locomotion. In 1951, when the system handled 827,000,000 gross ton miles, the cost of loco power was £936,000. In 1961, with the system fully dieselized the cost of handling 1,984,000,000 gross ton miles had fallen to £672,000.
Labour is very proud of the activities of the Commonwealth Railways. If we look back, we find that it was a Labour government, in 1911, that decided to proceed with the legislation that gave us the present system. The remarkable feature was that at that time most praise came to the Labour Government from the Western Australian representatives, who said that for ten years they had been trying to have the railway commenced, but it took a Labour government to introduce the measure. The history of the trans-continental line is interesting. The bill was introduced on 20th September, 1911. The first sod was turned by the Governor-General, at Port Augusta, on 14th September, 1912. The late Andrew Fisher turned the first sod at the other end of the line, at Kalgoorlie, on 1 2th February, 1913. The finks were joined on 17th October, 1917, and the first pa.ssenger train across the line ran five days later.
As I said in another debate yesterday, when we consider the need for transport in the development of central Australia, we must wonder why so much time has gone by and so little has been done to open up the country. The Government should construct a railway to run north and south just as the Fisher Government constructed one to run cast and west. It is true that a measure was passed in this Parliament in 1911 guaranteeing that a north and south line would be built. The section to Alice Springs was built, and it is interesting to note that more than 30 per cent, of the increased productivity of the Commonwealth Railways is now coming from that dead-end line. A line was also constructed from Darwin to Birdum, but this Parliament played no part in that venture. Full credit must go to South Australia for being more Australia-minded in this field than this Parliament ever has been.
We all talk about the need to develop our north. If we were as active in 1963 on a government level in Canberra as the Fisher Government was in 1911, in five years from now the north could be linked with the south and with Townsville and Rockhampton by a standard gauge line. The mileage is not so very great. Surely, when we want man-power in the north, as we do now, the time has come to renew the Darwin to Birdum line. A new industrial organization should, could and must be set up at Darwin to provide in the course of the next two years, anyhow, for the manufacture of concrete sleepers and all the other equipment that will be required to renew the line from Darwin to Birdum. Of course, if by some mischance this Government is re-elected, it will undoubtedly decide to let the line rot. We should be thinking of the construction of railway lines in the north. A line should be pushed through to Tennant Creek, because about £3,000,000 worth of ore each year is hauled by road from Tennant Creek to the railway at Alice Springs. The extension of the line is economically warranted. But above all we need a standard gauge line from Darwin south and from Marree north. If in fact the line which now comes to a dead end in the centre of Australia accounts for 30 per cent, of the productivity of the Commonwealth Railways, think what a financial advantage it would be if we took the line through to the cattle country. If we came down the other way and linked Townsville and Rockhampton with the cattle country and provided access for those parts of Queensland to the Northern Territory, we would really be doing something worth while about the immediate development of the northern portion of Australia. Honorable members from Queensland should be interested in this matter.
There is in 1963 a call for the type of planning and activity in the northern part of Australia which the Fisher Labour Government met in 1911 when the pressure was for an cast-west link. It will require a Labour government to set up at Darwin the type of organization necessary to create a work-force to build a railway south from Darwin, because a railway can be built from Darwin as cheaply as it can be built from the other end. Such an organization would create a new era in the development of Darwin because one industry attracts another. I hope, even at this late stage in 1963, that if by some mischance this Government is returned to office it will pursue Australia’s development with the vigour with which the Fisher Government pursued it so that the undertakings given in 1911 in respect of the north-south line may be honoured just as they were honoured by the Fisher Government in respect of the east-west line. If the Labour Party is returned to office those undertakings will bc honoured. If this work is undertaken it will be a major step forward in the opening up and development of the northern part of this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to some matters that are the responsibility of the Postmaster-General’s Department. To-day I received a telegram from a group of people all of whom but one work in the Division of Robertson. They describe themselves as postmasters, senior postal clerks and members of the Third Division staff. They protest against consent award No. 57 of 1963 which they allege declassifies officers, abolishes gradings and places a new low ceiling on the Post Office salaries and classifications structure. They allege also that the consent award did not have the approval of State branches of the Postmasters Association nor was the Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Branch, whose members also are affected, consulted. They allege that this action has been taken with the approval of the Public Service Board and that the award was irregularly substituted for the log of claims that was lodged earlier in this regard. The persons concerned request that the determination be disallowed and returned to the Public Service Arbitrator for further consideration. Because they stress the urgency of the matter, believing that the matter is at present being considered by the Public Service Board, I ask that their request be given consideration.
The next matter to which I refer concerns outstanding telephone applications. Some time ago I wrote to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) about this matter and the honorable gentlemen was good enough to reply in detail regarding proposed work and future planning for telephone services. In many respects the information supplied to me is very pleasing and I wish to express my appreciation not only of the detail of the reply but also of the work that has been done in my widespread electorate. I realize that the dates of completion as supplied to me concerning the various projects are tentative and may be subject to alteration. I am aware that the unusual weather that we have experienced in the past six months in my district would have disrupted the department’s timetable. I think we had more than our average annua] rainfall for the year by 31st March. This is one of the difficulties with which the Postmaster-General’s Department has to contend. As an example of some of the pleasing factors in the information supplied to me I direct attention to the fact that at The Entrance, which is a fast growing area, there are no deferred applications. At Buff Point, 29 applications are outstanding. I am informed that the cable relief required in connexion with the Buff Point exchange is expected to be in place by March, 1964, and that the manual exchange will be replaced during 1963-64 by an automatic exchange. That is an example of the work that is going on in the district.
At Gosford, 306 applications are outstanding. The major cable relief necessary should be completed by March, 1964. The exchange capacity will be extended by 300 lines in 1963-64. I refer to this matter because local information - I realize that this is sometimes a matter of rumour and conjecture - derived from employees of the department indicates that the work was originally scheduled to be completed twelve months earlier than is now estimated. I shall be grateful if further consideration can be given to this work to see whether the target dates can be brought forward. Residents in the Hornsby exchange area are suffering most in my electorate. In the Hornsby exchange area 551 applications are outstanding. The Minister has advised that 50 services will be connected by November, 1963, and that 98 applications will be met early in 1964. The Minister has advised also that 403 applications in the Hornsby North to Mount Kuring-gai area will not be met until late in 1964. I would like more definite information about these matters. I am informed that this work was to have been completed twelve months earlier than is now scheduled. I would be grateful if the Minister once again would investigate the position in relation to Hornsby to see whether the services required in that exchange area can be provided at an earlier date than is scheduled.
On a number of occasions in the last two years I have referred to the need to restore frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. I have discussed this matter with the Postmaster-General and with officers pf his department whom the honorable gentleman was good enough to ask to discuss the proposals with members of the Parliament who have been promoting the re-introduction of this service. Since I last spoke on this subject I have received a number of letters from various places in Australia and I propose to quote from two of those letters. One letter is from a former listener, but it is indicative of the. type of letters that I have received from, many people. - The second letter from which I will quote is the result of a request made to a delegation that waited on me to put its submissions in writing. The first letter states that the British Broadcasting Corporation has been experimentally transmitting stereophonic broadcasts on its frequency modulation system with a view - to permanently spreading stereo-radio over Britain.
The letter states that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, having re-organized its amplitude modulation radio networks to provide a better service to listeners, has recognized that more people are listening to radio despite the introduction of television services. The letter continues -
The commission, however, despite its recognition of the need, has failed to play its part in pressing for the restoration of frequency modulation broadcasting, with its known superiority as a method of transmitting radio broadcasts. You appreciate therefore, that despite all the progress being made in broadcasting, which cannot be developed here unless members of Parliament are made aware of the true position, that the decision to abandon F.M. broadcasting was ill advised and disastrous. I therefore urge you to continue your efforts for the restoration of F.M. broadcasting.
I suggest to the Postmaster-General that a conference be called by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and that officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department and representatives of interested outside organizations should be invited to attend. The second letter to which I refer says, in part-
The problem is not yet solved, and has been recently highlighted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s recent re-organization of programmes. It is clear that there is a need for a high fidelity noise-free channel in all capital cities and in country districts also.
Tho Australian Broadcasting Commission has produced two separate programmes over the last 30 years and there is now so much programme material that a third programme is necessary. The transmission technique has been the same for the last 30 years and there are in Australia at present no transmissions of international standards. The A.B.C. uses the best studio equipment and highly skilled performers produce first-grade musical programmes and then is not responsible for the next link in the chain. The Postmaster-General’s Department takes over and does its best with the techniques allowed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Unfortunately the listeners, who pay the licence fees, find that part of the programme is left behind and the great deal of realism and fidelity has vanished on the way. In Great Britain, where there are over 60 F.M. transmitters in operation further expansion and improvements are talcing place. The B.B.C. is experimenting with stereo F.M. and in the near future a decision will be made on the particular type of stereo F.M. which will be standard in the European area. At the International Audio Festival in May 1963 in London much interest was shown in a demonstration of equipment for stereo broadcasting and reception. In the U.S.A. 300 of the 1,200 F.M. transmitters are now giving stereo programmes. In April 1964 in London the first B.B.C. television service in the U.H.F. band is due to commence and the total of 64 television stations in this band have ‘been allowed for.
The deputation to which I referred, asked “ Why is Australia lagging in the development and usage of these frequencies? “ The letter continues -
The Postmaster-General has said there is no frequency space available in the V.H.F. band for broadcasting. If this be so, then what developmental work is at present being done by the control board towards the employment of F.M. in the ultra high frequency band? As far as is known Australia is the only country to have planned on using the U.H.F. band for this purpose. As this may involve new techniques and these may take some months to evaluate, would the PostmasterGeneral consider using the A.B.C.’s television sound transmitters for multiplexing a separate F.M. audio programme? This would provide a temporary service or services without prejudice to the existing television programmes.
The only thing I wish to add is that there has been increasing support for the reintroduction of this service and I believe a conference such as I have suggested would be of great assistance in seeing whether this service can be restored to Australian listeners.
This is the last occasion upon which the present Postmaster-General will be sitting at the table during a discussion of these estimates, because he has informed us that he intends to retire from the Parliament at the end of this term. He took over the portfolio of Postmaster-General in January, 1956, and so he has presided over this department during a time of great development and many difficulties and problems, including the development of television in Australia. Before I close I would like to be one of those who express great appreciation to the Postmaster-General for the work that he has done on our behalf. I know his job has been a very difficult one. It is curious that when people are developing or establishing new industries they make sure that they have such services as water, power, and roads, but seldom look to see whether there is a telephone service available. When the industry is established they write to the Postmaster-General or to their local member and say that the lack of a telephone is ruining their business. This adds urgency to the problems that the Postmaster-General has to cope with.
I would like to thank the honorable gentleman also for the manner in which he has co-operated with members of Parliament. His practice of immediately acknowledging the representations we send him, writing follow up letters telling us of the progress that is being made, and then notifying us of the final decision is appreciated. I thank him also for the personal friendship he has shown to honorable members of this House. I offer him our very good wishes in his retirement.
.- The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) has spoken of the impending retirement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). From this side of the House we can support what he has said. My duty is to say, with pleasure, that the PostmasterGeneral, who is a personal friend of mine and a very fine man, has done a remarkable job. Nevertheless we believe that his department and the problems he has faced have made his task much harder. That is all I need to say on that matter to-day, but because this Parliament will shortly go to the country, I would like the Minister to say something here and now on certain other subjects.
Other honorable members will deal with the vexed question of telephones; I want to talk about television and to lay on the line something which should be said before this Parliament is dissolved. I realize that because the party which has been kind enough to make me its spokesman in regard to television, and because I have insisted that the Australian content of television should be enlarged, some people have an idea that I am plugging some sort of line. That is quite wrong. There is a basic duty for any government, of whatever colour, to see that a culture that is Australian to the fingertips is screened on television. Profits, hatred of me personally, or any other such consideration has nothing to do with the case.
It is the duty of honorable members of this House to see that this, the greatest medium of diffusion of ideas, entertainment and knowledge, provides programmes that are evenly balanced with an Australian content reflecting the Australian concept of life. That is not being done at the moment. It is not being done because, commercially, it is easier not to do it. If the commercial stations - I make no differentiation between one or the other - would not attack members of this House on the issue the position would be belter. Recently the “Sunday
Telegraph “ ran a full page of derogatory reference to me, personally, because of my advocacy of Australian television programmes. We have the staff, the writers, the talent and the desire to produce Australian programmes, but too few are being produced. I am being pursued in my electorate by a man whose name escapes mc but who is alleged to be Packers’ pea for Parkes. I would welcome a battle with him on the issue of Australian television programmes. There is little difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition on this issue, but the Minister just cannot seem to force himself to be tough enough with the licensees.
I am very hopeful that the long awaited report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television will be released before this House is finally dissolved, because I am sure that the committee has come to many worthwhile conclusions. I hope that it has come to conclusions which we all have come to and that some of my conclusions will be embodied in the report. The committee has conducted a most painstaking and exhaustive inquiry and is now being pressed a little to make its final report available before the House of Representatives is dissolved. I am sure that we will obtain some guidance in this matter before this House goes into the limbo of forgotten things.
The point I make in regard to Australian television content is that although we do not have the answer in this country to all kinds of entertainment problems, we should not accept that we have no answers to any of the problems, that we have nothing to sell, that we have no kind of humour to portray and that we have no kind of drama with which to entertain the world. If television is a mechanical kind of theatre in this mechanical kind of world, “where is our place in it? Australia has been squeezed out because it is cheaper to buy programmes overseas. This problem was faced by the Americans, who are a much more logical people than we are and can stand up to criticism and like it. Let no one say that I am speaking in this way only because I want jobs for members of Actors Equity and for certain other reasons. The Americans had a solemn and steady look at why television programmes in the early days - we are still in the early days - were not as good as they should have been. It is well worth repeating what was said by Mr. Newton Minnow, chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission. Mr. Minnow did not mince matters. Addressing the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, he said that if a man were game enough to sit at his television set from daylight to dark he would sec -
A vast wasteland, a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials many screaming, cajoling and offending. And, most of all, boredom.
Is not that the -position with television today?
– You keep at it all the time. This is boredom.
– I will continue to bore you until you do something about it. All you do is sit in your place and think about fat cattle. According to “ Time “ magazine of 19th May, 1961, Mr. Minnow commented that you have to look at the rackets surrounding television. Some station licensees say: “ This is a good show. Think of its rating. We have examined the rating that it has received.” Mr. Minnow states that a rating is only a collection of data culled over the telephone by some organization which gets paid to come up with the right answer. Mr. Minnow stated -
There is some doubt as to what the public wants and ratings are at best only an indication of how many people saw what you gave them . . . I am not convinced that the people’s taste is as low as some people assume.
It is nc good television licensees saying that any show must be good because the people watch it. The fact is that the people have no alternative. They have to make the best of what is offered to them. Mr. Minnow continued -
If people would more often prefer to be entertained than stimulated or informed your obligations -
He was referring to television station licensees - arc not satisfied if you look only to popularity . . it is not enough to cater to the nation’s whims - you must also serve the nation’s needs.
That is why the Government grants television licences. It is not enough to make profits and to show muck on television. The stations must do something better than that if we are to have a national television service of which we can be proud. Mr. Minnow then went on to say -
The people own the air. They own it as much in prime evening as they do at six o’clock Sunday morning. For every hour that the people give you, you owe them something. I intend to see that your debt is paid with service . . . never have so few owed so much to so many.
I would like the Minister, as a final act before retiring, to make the licensees realize that they owe a debt to the viewer and to see that the debt is paid to the viewer, who makes television possible and who has made the industry what it is. They invade the sanctity of the home with the box in the corner, so they must provide some entertainment which has an Australian content. Actors’ Equity has one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia. Too many of its 3,000 members are out of work. They have been squeezed out of radio and out of television, if they were ever in television. The Minister imposed a quota of Australian content. Last year he said that 40 per cent, of programmes must be Australian. Next year the Australian content will be up to 45 per cent, and I suppose the following year it will be 50 per cent. He is right on the ball but his objective is being defeated because the television stations are putting on cooking demonstrations and news and weather bulletins to make up the Australian content. What we want in Australian television is Australian drama, with Australian artists. Even our great artists who have made names for themselves overseas have been crowded out.
We are not complaining about the Australian documentary. I saw one on Channel 9 the other night called “ Spotlight on Indonesia”. It was a magnificent effort. I am not given to praise lightly. Some of our documentaries are not worthy of praise but “ Spotlight on Indonesia “ was excellent. There was also a magnificent film of the Bolshoi Ballet. No one in his senses believes that there should be nothing but Australian programmes. There must be a balance of art. When an Australian programme is good, it must be shown on Australian television. We are complaining because there is too much muck now and no place for good Australian drama.
The licensees claim that Australian programmes are not good enough and not technically up to standard. That is rubbish. All they have to do is to provide the money for the scenery and equipment. Australian photography in television is the best in the world, lt is flawless; it is peerless because of good lighting and magnificent technicians. Do you mean to tell me that we cannot follow on and get script writers and playwrights to supplement the technicians? That is not to bc thought of in a country like Australia. The fact is that commercial pressure is applied and it is claimed that it would cost a good deal of money to present Australian plays. There must be an Australian standard. It must not be on the sweated labour level nor on the basic wage level. It will cost plenty to produce good Australian plays. If the industry cannot stand the expense unaided, let us remember how many industries we subsidize. Let us remember the range of primary and secondary industries which are subsidized.
The Government has . made no move in any direction except to present voluminous reports which contain mostly statistics that prove nothing. Wc have television, which could bc a great educative force in the community. When do we intend to use it to do what every other nation does - to sell our story to the world? The Americans have their story; the Asians have their story. Various propaganda agencies circulate their stories throughout the world through the medium of good, bad and indifferent plays, but we have no voice. We are satisfied with a second-hand coverage because that is cheaper. The claim that good programmes are so costly that we have to buy them where we can is no longer valid, because all television companies are now making very handsome profits.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), quite unfairly, said that I bored him by pressing this matter. But he is a good Australian and he knows that we must press on. You have no vitality left if you have no concern for your own country and its destiny. The only way to arouse that concern is through the institution of Parliament, the institution of democracy and the institution of letters. Men put their ideas on paper and those ideas are then turned into plays and films for entertain ment, propaganda, education and culture. If the Government vacates that field, it should not licence television sets. This is a question of the responsibility of governments on the educational side of this great mass medium. Every one recoils from the word “ education “ but there are different kinds of education. There is a bad influence on education - the television quickies - and there is a good influence on education - decent drama.
Then we come to the economic side of the question. How can we develop in Australia a great writer class such as exists in Great Britain? The British are the most literate race in the world. They have ennobled and enlightened the world with their stories. They are as competent to produce an ordinary television script as they are to produce a great play. We in Australia have the same tradition, and I resent and reject entirely the suggestion that we cannot do a good enough job without the expenditure of a great deal of money and a great deal of sweat. The point is that while you can get cheap and nasty things, little things, trifling things, without having a quota to protect Australians you will achieve nothing. I hope that the report of the Senate select committee will give us some guidance in this matter. I am confident that the groups on both sides of the Parliament who are working together on this subject are earnestly trying to devise a formula that will result in better television programmes. This is not a hate session directed against anybody who has a television station or licence. It is an attempt to ensure an Australian culture that we should be proud of, by means of our greatest educative force, the television screen.
– I join in paying a tribute to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). His term of office in this honorable Parliament is drawing to a close, and I say in all sincerity that while he has been administering his portfolio he has done a remarkable job for the Postmaster-General’s Department. During his term of office many reforms have been introduced, and I shall refer to just a few of them. Television is one of the great services that have been put on the map in Australia since the PostmasterGeneral has been in office. He has been responsible also for the introduction of the extended local service areas system and for other reforms. Some of them had a rather stormy introduction, but the people have come to realize that they have been of great advantage and benefit to the whole community. The Minister is a member of my party, and we certainly will miss him. I wish him all the best in his retirement from politics and from the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Now I would like to say a few words about that department, and I may be a little critical of some of the things that are happening in it. I believe that this is the right place to voice such criticism. I want to refer, first, to the Broadcasting and Television Act. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the act provides certain penalties for the broadcasting of objectionable matter. I think I should read to the committee a portion of section 117a of the act - (1.) Where the Commission or’ a licensee broad casts or televises matter relating to a political subject or current affairs, being matter that is in the form of news, an address, a statement, a commentary or a discussion, the Commission or the licensee, as the case may be, shall cause a record to be made, in writing or by means of a device for recording sound, of the matter or, if the matter is televised, of the matter insofar as it consists of sound. (2.) Subject to this section, the Commission or a licensee, as iiic case may bc, shall retain in its or his custody a record of matter made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section for a period of six weeks from the date on which the matter was broadcast or televised or for such longer period as the Minister, in special circumstances, directs.
The commission or the licensee must make a recording of the matter broadcast and must retain it for six weeks, for the purpose, in my view, of having it available as evidence against the commission or the licensee if the person making the broadcast departs from his script and broadcasts objectionable matter. If this happens, the licensee is held responsible, not the person who makes the broadcast. I do not think this is fair to the licensee. If a person, whether he be a politician or anybody else, presents a script and says, “That is what I want to talk about”, and then departs from the script and makes an objectionable statement over the air, he should be held responsible and any penalty decided upon should be imposed on him, not on the licensee. I think the committee would agree with me in this regard, and would agree that the licensee should be able to compel the person who intends to make a broadcast to sign a statement to the effect that he will accept responsibility if he departs from his script. The Postmaster-General has only a short time left in bis portfolio, and I appeal to him to give these people a break.
I also want to make a brief reference to the position of subscribers to certain country telephone exchanges which may be compelled to close, through no fault of the subscribers themselves. These subscribers are then transferred arbitrarily to another exchange in respect of which a higher scale of charges operates. These people still want to retain communication with the rest of the world and they do not want to be disconnected, but because of circumstances beyond their control their charges are increased. In my view they should not be penalized in this way. This happens only in country areas, where many exchanges are nonofficial, the subscribers having to rely on the services of somebody who is not an employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In those circumstances all sorts of things can happen. A person in the country cannot afford to be without a telephone to-day. At one time it was looked on as a luxury, but now it is an absolute necessity. People in the country, particularly in the far western areas, do not use their telephones just for the purpose of having conversations. The charges are very high, and subscribers have to be careful to use their telephones for specific business reasons only.
– It is tough when people have to wait three or four years for a telephone service.
– My friend talks about people waiting three or four years. I put it to him that if some city subscribers would pull their weight and assist the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as people in the country do, they would be better off. In many cases people in my area have said to the department - and the department has accepted the offers in most cases - “ We will give our own labour free in erecting a line. We will supply poles and we will do certain work without any charge to the department.” That is what is done in the country. Country people should not be criticized in this connexion. They arc prepared to make a community effort to help the country and help themselves at the same time. I have heard criticism of them in this chamber and in other places. But they deserve all that we can give them. Why do they want to live in country areas? The answer is, “ Because it is their way of life “. If they did not go out to those areas, God help some of the people who are relying on them to produce the export income which enables those people to be kept in employment.
I agree to a certain extent with what the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said about railways, particularly in the northern part of Australia. I am a great believer in railways. I believe that they have, and always will have, a very important part to play. I believe that his suggestions for railway links between Alice Springs and Birdum and between Mount Isa and Birdum across the Barkly Tableland should be implemented. I do not intend to criticize any particular government in connexion with this matter. This work should have been done years ago. Wc hear a lot of talk about the development of the north and of the inland. A great many of the transport problems that face us to-day would have been overcome if this work had been done years ago. Had these railways been built when they were proposed and when plans were prepared for them, they would have cost only about one-quarter of what they would cost to-day.
Most honorable members have read reports on the desirability or necessity of providing rail transport in the inland. The line from Mount Isa to Birdum across the Barkly Tableland would present no construction difficulties at all. Its construction would be a simple process. I am not as familiar with the area between Alice Springs and Birdum as I am with the Barkly Tableland. Although I have travelled over the road between Alice Springs and Birdum I am more familiar with the road between Mount Isa and Birdum. I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Blaxland, without any political taint at all. The fact that those lines have never been built represents a great mistake made by past federal governments. I believe that the honorable member’s suggestion should be considered not only from the point of view of opening up this country and developing it as it should be developed but also from the point of view of defence.
I rose mainly to speak about broadcasting. I say to the Postmaster-General that I think I have put forward a case to show that there is some deficiency in section 117a of the Broadcasting and Television Act, under which a person who has no control over what another person says is held responsible if that person departs from his script in a broadcast and commits a crime. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to have a look at that deficiency and to rectify it.
– I wish to speak to the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in protest against the Government’s television policy as it applies to the Newcastle and Hunter valley area of New South Wales. My remarks do not reflect in any way on the administration of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who I acknowledge has done an excellent job in that portfolio. I wish him the very best of good health in his retirement. However, it must be clear to every one who wants to understand something of the Government’s television policy that there has been serious bungling somewhere in the establishment of television services in the area to which I have referred. That fact has been established by the successful appeal which certain television companies made to the New South Wales Supreme Court against an order made by the PostmasterGeneral which, in effect, restrained licensees from refusing to provide film to competitors in certain areas. The action of the television companies was confirmed by the High Court of Australia when it dismissed an appeal by the PostmasterGeneral against the decision of the New South Wales Supreme Court.
I suggest that the Postmaster-General should have known the legal position long before the Broadcasting and Television Act was passed by this Parliament. On 28th August of this year the High Court held that that act, in its present form, does not allow the Postmaster-General to impose further conditions on existing licences. I submit that, in view of the decision of the High Court and in the absence of an amendment of the act being proposed by the PostmasterGeneral, he has to accept the responsibility for what has occurred. It is up to him to ensure that people in country areas receive maximum viewing and that local talent and programmes arc used to the greatest possible extent. 1 suggest that that can be done only by the granting of an additional licence in the Newcastle-Hunter Valley area and by the enforcement of the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Already it is clear that the companies which obtained licences to conduct television stations at Newcastle and Wollongong have repudiated the undertakings given by them when they obtained their licences less than two years ago. 1 suggest that the time is long overdue for the Postmaster-General to review the circumstances which have compelled the companies to repudiate the conditions of their licences. It is a wellknown fact that the high cost of programming, which is duc to local organizations being unable to secure suitable popular programmes from other television interests simply because the viewing areas of the regional stations overlap the viewing areas of the metropolitan stations, has had a demoralizing effect on the advertising income and running costs of some stations. As a result, viewers suffer by having to view inferior programmes.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its report to the PostmasterGeneral for the year ended 30th June, 1960, in dealing with the extension of television services in stage 3, referred extensively to the question of the type of licence that the Postmaster-General should grant in provincial and country areas. The board apparently had taken cognizance of the close proximity of Newcastle and Wollongong and their adjacent districts to the existing transmitters of channels 2, 7 and 9, from which some viewers in those cities and districts were able to receive the programmes of the Sydney stations quite clearly. Accordingly, the board asked the Postmaster-General to examine whether, under the circumstances, he should grant a single licence in the Newcastle area, or alternatively whether two licences should be granted in that area, which could be linked with the existing commercial stations in Sydney and thus enable viewers to have a much wider, choice of programmes, although some of the programmes might have to be relayed from Sydney.
The board, quite rightly in my view, placed on the Postmaster-General the responsibility of deciding the type of licence to be granted. The board did that after hearing a mass of evidence relating to the overlapping of viewing space, the relaying of programmes, the use of films or videotape recordings, capital and operating costs and double handling, and a host of other evidence which the board apparently considered too difficult for it to resolve satisfactorily. In the light of all of the evidence, the board purposely pointed out to the Postmaster-General that one of two alternatives should be followed, lt said that if the principle of independence were to be maintained only one licence should be issued, and if two licences were issued they should be issued to companies which were associated with the existing television companies in Sydney. The Postmaster-General, in his wisdom, decided that only one licence would be issued for the Newcastle area. I think that was the greatest mistake he ever made. His decision shows that he knew absolutely nothing about that magnificent industrial city, with all its wealth and industry and its enormous rural hinterland.
In my opinion, he has to accept all the odium that flows from the wholesale dissatisfaction that now exists in the Newcastle area as a result of the sale of shares in NBN3 which took place recently. As J see the position, Mr. Chairman, the action of the Postmaster-General in approving the mass sale of shares in NBN3 so soon after the station had been established - particularly to the persons to whom they were sold - is tantamount to a studied insult being delivered by the Government and the PostmasterGeneral to the people of the Newcastle and Hunter valley area. In my view, those people receive a very raw deal in their television viewing. The linking of NBN3 with TCN9, in the circumstances in which the Postmaster-General allowed the shares to be sold, has only added insult to injury. The sale of shares in NBN3 to outsiders not only has taken the station away from local ownership but also has denied local shareholders the right to make their own local programming arrangements, especially for the use of local talent and programmes. I consider that that right is one of the most important aspects of regional television services. “ It is common knowledge that NBN3 is to become virtually a relay station. If that is true, I say to the Postmaster-General that it is up to him immediately to implement the alternative recommendation of the Broadcasting Control Board and to grant a second commercial television licence for the Newcastle and Hunter valley area, to enable the thousands of viewers in that very large area to obtain the maximum television service in return for the high cost of installing television sets and for the licence fees that they pay.
It seems to me that from the inception of television in Australia the people of the Hunter Valley have been treated as secondrate viewers who have been compelled to meet first-class charges for the privilege of viewing television programmes. It is my considered opinion that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its early deliberations on television services for New South Wales, did not give the people of Newcastle a second thought. Proof of that can be found in paragraph 113 of the 1960 report of the board, in which are listed the populations of the twelve principal country cities and of Perth and Hobart. It is simply cock-eyed for the board to compare the population of Newcastle with the populations within a radius of SO miles of Perth and Hobart. There is no basis for comparison. Within 50 miles of the Newcastle transmitters a total viewing public of more than 500,000 people is reached. An audience of this size can never be attained by Perth or Hobart television stations.
Had the Australian Broadcasting Control Board given proper consideration to the people of Newcastle, the present television transmitters would not be located where they are but would be placed so as to give a much greater number of viewers a more satisfactory service. It is true that some Newcastle viewers receive good signals direct from Sydney, but it is also true that thousands more Newcastle viewers could have received a direct service if the Sydney transmitters had been located on one of the high points around Hornsby, or beyond that area. The board, in siting the New South Wales television transmitters, appeared to forget that the seaboard was only a few miles away. As a result of that sort of incoherent thinking, a large number of people will always be denied a satisfactory service. As I see it, a holy mess was made of the siting of transmitters in Sydney, which has resulted in waste energy because of the injudicious direction of transmission. As the crow flies, Newcastle is only 60 miles from Sydney. In my opinion, Newcastle television viewers generally could have taken much greater advantage of Sydney programmes had the board taken a little more time in selecting transmitter sites in the first place. It is possible that then the need for a second commercial station for Newcastle would never have arisen.
The Newcastle and Hunter valley television station had been operating only for about fifteen months when out of the blue came a press announcement that an application had been made by the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation Limited to the Minister for approval to sell a large parcel of its shares. With matching speed, the Minister gave his approval to the sale and at the same time sought to explain away his reasons for doing so. I believe that if the Minister had known of some of the innuendoes circulating about the holeinthecorner negotiations that had taken place for the transfer of 600,000 shares, he would never have approved of the sale until he had made sure that there would be no reaction.
– Who bought them?
– We will tell you who bought them in a minute. The Minister’s approval of the transfer has completely negated the high principles he referred to in the Parliament on 12th August when he announced the extension of television to large country centres. At that time the Minister castigated the critics who had spread stories about the issue of licences by informing the Parliament that for the third phase of television development the Government has set out certain important basic principles. Mr. Lamb, who obtained the commercial licence for Newcastle, in his evidence said to the board -
It therefore appears to me that we should be rendering more assistance to the board if we outlined our approach to what we consider to be the principles which are crucially involved in the decision as to whom should -a licence be granted . . At this stage, if we may say so with great respect, a tremendous responsibility rests upon the board because its recommendations as an- outcome of this inquiry will be tantamount to a charter of development for the television medium in this State.
Mr. Lamb referred to great principles and complained about other applicant companies who were concerned only about the profits likely to be gained from obtaining the licence. As an indication that he intended to keep the licence, if granted to him, he said to the board - it is our Arm belief that the television medium in this country will be served best by keeping the surrounding circumstances of that further development fluid and by declining to accede to the submissions of those companies which have already secured for themselves a powerful vested interest in the industry and who desire now to expand their own profit potential by closing the doors to other entrants into that medium, except those under their control or undue influence. ls it any wonder, Mr. Chairman, that the licence was granted to the Newcastle Broadcasting and Television Corporation Limited? In my view, the recent sale of shares by the company calls for the widest possible investigation. Not only have large parcels of shares been sold within seventeen months of the granting of the licence, but the personnel and management have been changed.
No one can deny that those in the know in station NBN 3 have made huge profits from the licence granted less than two years ago. The company’s prospectus showed that 1,500,000 10s. shares were issued. The Lamb family held at least 33$ per cent, of the total allocation. The United Broadcasting Company Proprietary Limited was allotted 618,000 shares, 2UE Broadcasting Station, Sydney, was allotted 67,200 shares and the Workers’ Cash Order and Finance Company Limited was allotted 55,000 shares, making a total of 740,200 shares held by three companies in which the Lamb family held the major interest. I understand that the balance of the shares was taken up by other organizations and the general public. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for 1962 revealed that the interest of the Lamb family in the station had by then grown to 50 per cent. I also understand that the shares in the company had been paid up to 7s. 6d. each, which means that the United Broadcasting Company Pioprietary Limited made 100 per cent, profit on its investment in a period of about two years - or about £300,000. Yet the Minister can see nothing wrong in the transaction to which I refer.
The installation of television sets in Newcastle has cost considerably more than the installation of an equivalent number of sets in Sydney. Additional expense has been involved in the installation of antennae in an attempt to get good reception from Sydney stations. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the granting of a second commercial television licence for Newcastle.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I would like to join with those people who have paid graceful tributes to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). I think that everybody in the Parliament can bear witness to his complete and transparent honesty in anything he has done. I think that we can also agree that he has had a very heavy burden to carry as the Minister in charge of the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It is a very big department. He has had to handle Australia’s initiation to the television era.
– What do you mean by “ transparent “ honesty?
– By that expression I mean honesty that is as clear as the best glass you can buy. Honesty is clearly apparent in anything he does. I am not the first one to use that phrase. I have borrowed it from somebody else; and I do not think any honorable member should sneer at what I am saying, because this tribute is rightly due to the Minister. He has taken a heavy load and has carried it to the best of his ability. Above all, he has done his duty with complete honesty. I substitute the word “ complete “ for the word “ transparent “; nobody has ever impugned his honesty and his intention to endeavour at all times to do a good job. The honorable member for Shortland has directed attention to what has happened at Newcastle. I am moved to say something about the Wollongong area.
– I was not saying anything against the Minister personally.
– Of course not, and nobody would think of doing so. It was intended that the television services of this country should be conducted free of monopoly control. This medium can have such a tremendous influence on people’s minds. It was intended that there should be no monopoly control over the images and ideas that can flow to the people not only by way of words, as they do over the radio and through speeches, but also through the eye which is really the most powerful of all entrances to the human mind. Television is something of immense importance to any country and I am confident that both the Parliament and the Minister have tried honestly to prevent the emergence of any monopoly in this sphere. But on the evidence adduced by the honorable member for Shortland, and on the evidence that I have, this undesirable thing has appeared in the community.
I repeat that the intention of the Parliament and the Government was that nobody should control more than two stations, but, by a process of altering articles of association and searching through the law with a view to discovering loopholes, there has emerged what I might call an association rather than a monopoly. This is an association of people who have endeavoured to get the best programmes they can at immense expense. They pay as much as £60 customs duty in respect of one-hour programmes. They have banded together to buy these programmes for resale to people who seek to use them in advertising campaigns. Here it is interesting to note that commercial television stations are financed entirely by income derived from advertising whilst the national stations are financed from revenue obtained through a licence which costs each viewer £5 a year.
The Postmaster-General has had a tremendous task in front of him. He has applied certain conditions to the licences granted to this powerful band of people. He has even had them taken to the High Court which has brought down decisions that were almost unbelievable to those who are seeking to discipline this group of firms. I know, too, that the Postmaster-General would be prepared to continue to deal with this problem but for the fact that he has been advised to give up his strenuous position. We appreciate what he has done, and we appreciate his courtesy. Here, I should like to emphasize that I appreciate the courtesy which has been extended to me by all officers of the Postal Department, lt is important that I receive such courtesy when I approach the department on behalf of the people whom I represent, and I thank all officers of the Postal Department for the treatment they have accorded me.
An important business undertaking administered by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is also under review at the moment. I do not think that the people of Australia appreciate just how successful the Commonwealth Railways are.I do not think they quite understand what those railways have done. They have gone through periods of great difficulty to achieve their present success. During the last war, the Trans-Australia Railway was of extreme importance and rendered splendid service. The railways are now operating successfully on the Leigh Creek run with diesel-electric locomotives, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and everybody connected with the Commonwealth Railways for the success that has been achieved.
Let me revert to television and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think most people would be impressed by the fact that our ace television interviewer, Michael Charlton, ran into trouble in Great Britain. Some of us admire this man’s technical ability, but I think that he suffers from’ something that a great many Australians suffer from due to our insularity. Our country is surrounded by great oceans and therefore we do not mix with the people of other countries in the way that the residents of Britain and Europe do. We are not cosmopolitan. Because we are insular, we develop a sort of smug, arrogance. So we find that Michael Charlton has been rebuked by people in Great Britain for his behaviour on some television programmes over there. In. Australia, a great many people were shocked when the programme “ Four Corners “ was televised. As the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has said, the only people who were delighted with the results achieved by that programme were the Communists.
Obviously they would be delighted because the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia took upon itself the task of proving that the
Communist organization was bad for Australia. It certainly has been bad for the Labour Party over the past few years, if I may say so, and the league, which represents men who were prepared to make physical sacrifices in defence of their country, was prepared to investigate the workings of the Communist organization in Australia after the war. In other words, the members of the league were prepared not only to defend Australia physically against her enemies but also to look at its enemies within. Because this organization dared to attack the Communist movement, this insulting programme, “ Four Corners “, was televised. I think one comment received by the honorable member for Isaacs from a Victorian sub-branch is worth repeating. It came, I think, from Mr. Stan Veale, president of the Caulfield sub-branch, and reads -
We wish you to protest at the earliest opportunity against (he method used to portray the K.S.L. Four Corners sessions. . . . This club was tricked into making its premises and personnel available and is greatly distressed at the distorted and untrue presentation that was shown to the public. Any action you may take to refute this slander will be greatly appreciated.
In this programme, something happened which happens quite frequently in interviews with members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff, whether in connexion with radio or television programmes. When the acting president of the Returned Servicemen’s League was asked what he had to say, he was bullied and intimidated by the interviewer, who wanted him to say things that he was not prepared to say. The point I am making is that Australian interviewers ought to do a little thinking about themselves. To say that the programmes they produce are controversial is no excuse for being rude and brash and causing acute distress to viewers of the programmes and to the people being interviewed.
On one occasion I saw a woman named Winifred Atwell being interviewed by a panel on television. Winifred Atwell is a graceful woman and a talented artist. The people who were interviewing her kept asking her, “ Miss Atwell, do you find that because you are a negress you are treated badly in our hotels? “ She looked surprised and a little hurt, and she said, “ No, I have not experienced that at ali “. In fact, these people were reminding her that she was a negress. This type of interrogation went on for so long that everybody watching the programme was embarrassed. I mention that as an example of the type of thing that happens on television and radio programmes in Australia. Australians can be arrogant and brash. They can also be rude and then seek to defend themselves by saying that the programme they are producing is controversial, that it has created a lot of interest. That is no way to deal with people. It. is no wonder that Australians run into trouble when they conduct themselves in that way.
For instance, when our troops went to the Middle East the first thing they did was to put down their packs and then say to the British troops who were leading them and who were taking them to their quarters, “ Come on, I am an Australian; we are going to fight “. This is typical of the conduct of interviewers who interview visitors from overseas. The interviewer chooses to put himself above the distinguished person that he is interviewing. It is about time the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations had a careful look at this problem of the bad manners of interviewers when interviewing people. The cause of the trouble over the “ Four Corners “ programme on the Returned Servicemen’s League was, not bad politics, but bad manners and the brash way in which the interview with Sir Raymond Huish, the acting president of the league, was conducted. But the Communist editor was given a free go. In that instance, the objective of the “ Four Corners “ programme was twisted.
– The honorable member is only a Chesterfield, himself!
– I do not know what language the honorable member is using. I know that he attempted to say something, but I could not work it out.
The sort of conduct that I have been discussing has gone far enough, Mr. Chairman. Australian radio and television interviewers should behave as if they were seated in the living rooms of the people who see or hear the programmes. The interviewers should behave politely and gracefully. Courtesy never hurt anybody.
– Order! The honorable member for Scullin will remain silent.
– Apparently, the honorable member wants to be just as rude as the interviewers of whom I am talking. The greatest damage that could be done to any person would be for the honorable member to support that person in public. That would really hurt.
Interviewers should behave decently when they are interviewing people on television or radio programmes. If the interviewers learned to conduct their interviews decently, we would indeed have interviews of which we could be proud. There are many things in Australian television of which we can be proud. I think that one honorable member said that we have flawless techniques and high standards of photography, lighting and other aspects of television in Australia. Nobody contests that. We have some brilliant technicians, not only in the commercial broadcasting and television services, but also in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It may be a bit boring to hear some one say that Australians lead the world, but let us say at least that our technicians in the fields of radio and television are of a very high quality. However, let us see that better standards of behaviour are observed. In this respect, I am talking, not about announcers on national news sessions, but about brash, officious and rude interviewers who treat our distinguished guests so badly on television programmes before our eyes in our own homes.
.- Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), as I know from personal experience, is very sensitive about television programmes. Not’ so long ago, he and I participated in a lengthy interview of, I think, something like three-quarters of an hour on one of the Wollongong television channels. I remember that on that occasion he was quite dissatisfied with some of the treatment that he received. I know that the honorable member’s standards in this regard are high. He believed that he should have had more make-up treatment and so on, as well as the benefit of special lighting. So
I am not surprised that he is critical of the interviewers whose activities he has discussed this afternoon. On the occasion of the television programme that I have mentioned, I was perfectly satisfied with the interviewer. If I remember correctly - the honorable member may correct me if I am misrepresenting him - he believed that he was not treated as he would have preferred to be treated. Be that as it may, Mr. Chairman, I think that the honorable member has raised some very interesting matters this afternoon.
I do not intend to discuss the Australian Broadcasting Commission at length, but I believe that it is important for this Parliament to take all possible steps to ensure that the commission maintains the highest possible standards. It broadcasts my favourite programmes. However, I have been given to understand in recent times that there appears to be some reliable evidence that the morale of members of the staff of the commission is below the peak at which it should be. There arc rumblings and rumours, some of which have been substantiated, that the news section of the commission, particularly in relation to foreign affairs, is becoming something like the unofficial agency for the expression of the Government’s point of view. I know that all honorable members would like to believe that the commission, in all the various facets of its activities, is an uninhibited organization that is making a worthwhile contribution to the world of ideas, information and entertainment. With these considerations in mind, I want to make a few remarks about the commission, this afternoon. I want to make some brief comments also on telephone problems.
I believe that there is a feeling that the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is tending to toe the line a little when pressure is put on him by the Government.
– The honorable member, if he knew Dr. Darling, would not say that.
– I agree with Dr. Darling’s observation, in the latest annual report of the commission, that this kind of pressure that I have mentioned should never be manifested and should never be effective in any way. I believe that, on occasions when the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are being considered, it is important that we re-echo our aspirations for the commission.
I mentioned . a moment ago that there have been complaints. I want to discuss them briefly. We all, I think, remember the allegation that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had suppressed a news item regarding the Government’s policy on West New Guinea. The “Sydney Morning Herald” referred to that allegation on 5th April, 1962. In June of this year, the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ featured a story in which there were complaints about the exclusion of certain aspects of the Professor Orr case from the “ Four Corners “ programme. In the view of that newspaper, a one-sided presentation of the case was put to the public. There was also a complaint about the “Any Questions?” programme after the last royal visit had been dealt with on the programme. The investigation that followed occupied about three months and, on that occasion, members of the staff were warned that they were to be careful when dealing with topics such as politics, sex and royalty. We tread on very dangerous ground when we allow the staff of an important public instrumentality like this to be intimidated in these matters and given the impression, by hints passed over the unofficial grapevine, that any aspects of these topics are taboo. There is a very real need to ensure that parliamentary and governmental interference is kept to a minimum and that real impartiality prevails.
There are other matters that I shall mention only in passing, although a lot could bc said about them. One is the notorious case of the Bidault interview. We recall the Government’s intervention - confessed intervention, it seems to me - after pressure had been put on it by the French Embassy. There is no need for me to say anything more about the controversy over the “ Four Corners “ programme on the Returned Servicemen’s League, the script of which was later called for by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). We all can appreciate the sort of impression that incidents such as these leave, in people’s minds.
I just want to mention, cursorily and cryptically, a few inquiries that I have made concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have had some questions about the commission on the notice-paper for some time. In my view, some of these questions are taking far too long to answer. Indeed, I am wondering whether the Government has anything to hide and whether its failure to answer my questions promptly indicates its concern. I want to know whether the commission is tied to the Public Service Board in staff matters such as salaries and appointments. After all, the board is under the control of the Prime Minister, and it could well be used as a back-door means of interfering with the affairs of the commission. I want to know whether proposed overseas visits by officers of the commission are subject to approval by the Prime Minister’s Overseas Travel Committee. If proposed visits overseas by officers of the commission were subjected to scrutiny by this committee, the consequences could be important, as honorable members will realize, because the Prime Minister, through this committee, which he controls, could determine which officers are to go abroad and where they are to go at any given time. The Australian people would, as a result of this, have their programmes conditioned.
Then I would like to know whether the committee interfered with visits to the United States and Canada on the Intertel project known as “ Living with a Giant “ on the ground that the programme might be offensive to another country. This suggestion is not my creation; it was made in the “Nation” magazine of 18th May, 1963. I should also like to know whether the “ Four Corners” team was refused permission to cover the handing-over of West Irian. I asked a question about this matter and the answer arrived to-day. The answer is very interesting. I asked -
Were officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who were associated with the programme “Four Corners” prevented from visiting West Irian at the time of its transfer to Indonesia?
The answer is -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission sent « news/film team to West Irian to obtain a coverage of events associated with the transfer of West Irian to Indonesia. -
The answer is irrelevant; it has nothing to do with the question I asked. I asked whether the “ Four Corners “ team was prevented from going to West Irian. I did not ask whether a news team went there. Why has my question been deliberately avoided and why has the answer been kept until to-day? Interference of the kind that I have mentioned is a matter of concern to us.
A number of questions about the Australian Broadcasting Commission need to be answered. As I have said, it is tremendously important that the personnel engaged in disseminating information about such important matters as world affairs and politics should have a real conviction that they will not be intimidated if they give a viewpoint contrary to that held or favoured by the Government.
– If Labour is returned to office, it will do the intimidating, as the Leader of the Opposition did a few years ago.
– I do not think that comment justifies a serious answer. It is one of the old cliches that are bandied about in a pre-election period. I think in this pre-election period it is probably more important for me to emphasize the Government’s shortcomings on matters under the administration of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). He has been a good Minister and I wish him well on bis departure from the Parliament.
I want to refer to the fairly arrogant attitude of the Government on the subject of outstanding telephone applications. Lack of telephones has a vital bearing on the business life of our community, on our capacity to trade overseas and on many other important aspects of the Australian way of life. At 30th June, 1962 - unfortunately, I have no later information available to me in the form of a report - there were 78,836 applications for telephones outstanding. Many people have been waiting for long periods for a telephone. In my own electorate, which is only 17 miles from the Sydney General Post Office, more than 1 ,000 people are waiting for telephones, and I know that some of them have been waiting for four or five years. Some are people who suffer from illness. Others are small businessmen, but large businesses, with a capital investment of £250,000 or £500,000, are also waiting for telephones. The fact that telephones cannot be obtained by applicants such as these is a matter for alarm. Recently, the proprietor of a business contended to me that the lack of telephones was impeding Australia’s export drive. He conducted an export industry, but he could not get a telephone to enable him to carry on his work.
I do not know where the primary responsibility for this state of affairs lies. Perhaps the public sector of the economy is too small and should be expanded. However, one factor that does give me concern is that last year interest amounting to £19,900,000 was charged to the telephone section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. This must seriously impede efforts to provide telephones for those who need them. Interest on all services of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department amount to £21,100,000. A peculiar situation obtains here. Since about 1901, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been gathering all kinds of assets, in the form of white-anted old telegraph posts, worn-out telephone exchanges and old post office buildings. All these assets are subject to an interest charge that amounts to about £20,000,000 a year, and this is quite beyond comprehension. The assets of the Postmaster-General’s Department are now valued at about £505,000,000, and interest is charged on this amount. I believe that the £19,900,000 charged to the telephone section as interest could well be used to meet the needs of a very large section of Australians who cannot obtain telephones, instead of being put into Consolidated Revenue.
– Of course, it docs come back.
– Does it come back?
– We will have £68,000,000 for this year.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s swan song could not be about any more important matter than this, and 1 invite him to give his answer. I contend that the interest docs not come back. It goes into Consolidated Revenue. When preparing the balance-sheet, the departmental officers say: “Here is an amount of £19,000,000. We want to get our accounts as near balanced as possible so we will transfer this to Consolidated Revenue.” I say that this £19,000,000 should be used in providing telephone services.
– The allocation for capital works for 1963-64 is £68,775,000.
– I did not quite catch the Minister’s comment, and in any event I do not think I should try to reply to him in the few minutes remaining to me.
– I direct your attention to the final page of the financial report that I tabled yesterday.
– I shall certainly be happy to look at it. On page 15 of the financial report, mention is made of the number of services that will be provided as a result of the allocation for 1963-64. The passage reads -
The allocation should make possible:
The installation of over 280,000 telephone services.
A net connection rate for telephone services in the vicinity of 103,000.
Let me tell the Postmaster-General, or whoever may succeed him, that this is an underestimation of Australia’s needs. Even when these services are provided, there will still be outstanding telephone applications. In 1961-62, there were 189,566 installations, but 216,731 applications were received. The rate of applications is rising by 8 per cent, or 9 per cent, a year. There are 78,836 applications outstanding. If the PostmasterGeneral thinks that in this situation 103,000 connexions will be sufficient, he will be seriously disappointed. I believe that it is important for the people to be warned that this Government is not facing up to its responsibility to solve the telephone problem. At the end of the next financial year, there will bc more outstanding applications than there were at the end of the last financial year. I sincerely hope that this problem will receive more attention from the government that occupies the treasury bench after the election than it has received over the last few years.
.- I cannot accept the assertion of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) that wc are falling behind with the installation of telephones. With the rapid develop ment of Australia under this Government, it is amazing that we arc able to keep pace with, and even gain on, the requirements for telephones.
– We are still short of them.
– Of course we are still short of them. This is a rapidly developing country. We are not only concerned about telephones for Sydney and Melbourne, as honorable members opposite are, but we are concerned about the provision of telephones for the whole of Australia. We have to provide communications for the north-west of Western Australia and for every part of Australia, and our efforts are meeting with wonderful success. The honorable member for Hughes had an amazing argument when he said that the shortage of telephones was holding back our export trade. He would be doing more for the community if, instead of advancing arguments such as this, he used his influence to stop the steel strike at Newcastle.
The honorable member also tried to inject into the debate the idea that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is intimidated by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Government. Of course, he did not readfrom the report of the commission, but I will take this opportunity to do so. Dealing with the subject of intimidation, the commission said -
Within these statutory limits it is, we believe, the deliberate intention of Parliament to give the Commission independence in carrying out its responsibilities. The facts about this independence seem to us to be not so generally and clearly recognized as is desirable. When Members of Parliament wish to criticize the Commission or seek information of it, they do so by asking questions of the Postmaster-General. It is an easy step from here to come to regard the PostmasterGeneral as responsible for all the activities of the Commission and to expect him to exercise some power and control over the Commission in the process of satisfying a complaint. Parliament has never conferred such power on the Minister, nor do we suggest the Minister has sought it; it is his responsibility to pass a complaint or question to the Commission and to request that he be furnished with an answer. The reply is not his but the Commission’s.
– That is a very fair statement of the position.
– Thank you. This is an important matter because obviously the commission is playing an increasingly important role in preserving our way of life. We must preserve our democracy. After all, this Parliament depends on the considered vote of each individual; and if a person is to exercise a considered vote he must bc well informed. I do not think our ordinary information services are adequate to enable a man to form a considered opinion. But thank goodness we have the news services and other information services of the A.B.C., which is completely independent and completely unbiased. The commission’s news and other information services are not slanted in any way. People to-day can be better informed by listening to the commission’s news services than by obtaining their information from other mediums, such as the newspapers. This is an unfortunate fact. Our newspapers are completely free and in a democracy they must remain free.
I would like to join other honorable members in paying a tribute to the PostmasterGeneral, who will retire at the close of this Parliament. The Postmaster-General has carried out a very difficult task in presiding over his department, which has grown into a very large and complex organization. No longer is it responsible only for the ordinary communications services, such as telegraphs, telephones and postal services, but it has also expanded into the fields of entertainment and information - broadcasting and television. Perfection of these new services was reached after trial and error, although I do not think there was much error. The department no doubt experienced growing pains when it moved into the fields of information and entertainment. It is to the credit of the Postmaster-General that his department is held in high esteem by the average Australian. I think most Australians like to feel that the A.B.C. is preserving the idea of Australia. This is something of which we can be proud. Anybody who has been overseas must have realized what a great place Australia is compared with other countries. Australians believe in fair play and an understanding of the views of others. I hope that this attitude will be preserved.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has often claimed that a larger proportion of Australian material should be used on television and radio. 1 thoroughly agree with him, but it would be fatal to compel television and broadcasting stations to use more Australian material. A few years ago, in order to encourage the Australian film industry we compelled theatres to use a certain percentage of Australian and British productions. The result was that some very poor Australian material was produced. It was so poor that it gave the Australian film industry a very bad name and the system was abandoned. I am afraid that the same thing would happen, if we compelled television and radio stations to use a certain percentage, of Australian, material. We must use other means to encourage the use of such material. Sub,sidies for Australian productions may be the answer.
I note from the report of the A.B.C. that total expenditure in 1962-63 amounted to more than £10,692,000. I think every Australian will agree that that money was well spent. 1 would like to see a greater amount spent by the commission because its expenditure ultimately benefits the community. I note that about £1,027,000 was spent on news services - on salaries and the gathering of news. Revenue from the sale of news amounted to about £26,000. 1 understand that the commission sells some of its news’ broadcasts to commercial stations. Obviously a large service has been built up. The commission’s news service is equal’ to and perhaps superior to the news services provided by newspapers. I think honorable members will agree that in relation to the recent disturbances in South Viet Nam the’ most reliable news from the area was that which emanated from the A.B.C. I am informed by reliable sources that the prestige of the commission’s correspondents and representatives in South-East Asia is of a very high order because of the way in which they report the news. They have entree to circles in which other people are not always welcome. This is important.
I think a greater amount of the commission’s news services could be sold to newspapers which are not in a very favourable position financially. Some of our country newspapers have difficulty making ends meet. I do not suggest that news should be sold to them at cut rates, but it seems a shame not to make something out of the news because it is possible for the commission to use only a fraction of its news. Obviously £1,000,000 will pay for a lot of news. It is a pity that more of the commission’s news services cannot be made available to some of our smaller independent newspapers. Unfortunately, newspapers in this country are getting into the hands of only a few people. This is a serious matter.
I would like to refer to the wide scope of the A.B.C. Not only does the commission provide news and entertainment; it also provides rural broadcasts. Any man on the land will join with mc in saying that its rural broadcasts are of the utmost value to people on the land. They are more valuable than any extension services that have been instituted in the past seven or eight years. I have profited from the commission’s rural broadcasts, just as I am sure everybody on the land has profited. The man on the land may get from a rural broadcast ideas on how to improve the management of his farm or station. That is accepted by the rural people of Australia with a great deal of interest. We are very grateful for the high standards and the talents of the officers in charge. Then there arc the women’s sessions and sporting events and Radio Australia, which has great prestige all over the world. I conclude my remarks by again paying a tribute to the Postmaster-General for his very keen understanding, as a country man himself, of what is required in country areas.
.- I wish to deal specifically with the lag in the provision of telephone services because my electorate, which throughout its various districts is expanding at a very great rate, is particularly affected by this problem. I do not wish to say anything which could be inferred as detracting from the job being done by the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and particularly by the mcn in the field. It is my experience that the men on the job are doing everything they possibly can with the limited resources at their disposal, but the fact that there is this extraordinary lag in meeting applications for telephone services eighteen years after the last war is undoubtedly an indictment of the Government’s policy. This lag is something into which we must search in order to try to find the psychology which is behind it.
It cannot be said that it is normal for a lag to exist, because it is important for us to remember that it is the duty of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide telephone services. This is not something which the department can do if it so wishes, but a duty. The department cannot claim, as it tries to claim at times, that all telephone services installed must be an economic proposition. The department has been given a monopoly of telephone services and must, in many instances, provide them in areas where they are not an economic proposition, the object being to assist development. That is common sense and it is the reason why the Postal Department has been given this monopoly. The department’s job is to provide telephone services and it cannot at all times look at them from a purely economic viewpoint. It has a duty to the community as a whole.
In reply to a letter from me the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) was good enough to supply me with figures relating to the number of outstanding applications for telephone services as at 30th June last - for which I thank him. At that time there were 19,547 outstanding applications in New South Wales and 11,337 in Victoria. That is a total, for those two States alone, of 30,884 out of the 36,635 applications outstanding throughout Australia, or approximately 84 per cent. I notice that Queensland, the Minister’s own State, has only 2 per cent, of the total outstanding applications.
I also asked the Minister what would be the cost of overcoming the lag in the provision of telephone services throughout Australia. His reply, in part, reads as follows: -
Reduction of deferred applications to a practicable minimum would require additional capital of about £5,300,000. The bulk of this amount would need to be expended in New South Wales and Victoria where 85 per cent, of the outstanding applications are located.
The reply continues -
The amounts given are, of course, over and above the £54,775,000 proposed for 1963-64 expenditure on telephone services, which in itself represents an increase of £4,443,000 over expenditure in 1962-63.
In other words, if the additional expenditure this year were increased by £5,500,000, to about £10,000,000, in the ensuing year or shortly thereafter we would be able to satisfy all the outstanding applications for telephone services throughout Australia. Considering the overall budget of nearly £55,000,000 for this department an increase of £5,500,000 would not be too high a price to pay to overcome the lag in the provision of telephone services which has continued for eighteen years. We accepted the lag in the provision of telephone services as an aftermath of the war. Everything, very rightly, had gone into the war effort and there had to be a tooling up and a movement forward after the war. But it is not right that, eighteen years after the end of the war, we should be still going along as we were in the immediate post-war years. The provision of the extra amount I have mentioned would overcome the lag and all the problems associated with it, including the adverse effect it has on private individuals and on business men and businesses throughout our community. For that reason this is a matter which has to be examined.
I do not think we can blame the PostmasterGeneral for the fact that the necessary funds are not on hand. We must look even deeper than that, into the policy of the Treasury or of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) himself. I believe the real blame for the present position needs to be sheeted back to the Treasury. We should look at the psychology of the present policy and ask what is the reason for continuing the lag year after year. Is it the belief of the Treasury, the Treasurer, or the Government that starving this department of funds will ensure efficiency? Is that the principle behind the present position which is causing such hardship to so many thousands of Australians? If that is the position, then let the Postmaster-General or the Treasurer admit it so that we can have it out in the House and decide whether it is a correct or incorrect policy. On the other hand, we must ask whether it is the attitude of the Treasurer or of the Government that the provision of telephone services is not essential. Is it claimed that this is not an essential service and, therefore, that expenditure can be cut down each year? I believe that if we look more deeply beneath the surface we will find that responsibility for this lag can be sheeted home not to the PostmasterGeneral himself, but to the Treasurer and to Government policy. I do not think I am very far wrong in my assessment of the basis of that psychology. The Government has advanced two arguments, first, that this is not an essential service, and secondly, that the starvation of funds improves efficiency. Apparently you can starve funds and improve efficiency but the fact that you also starve the population of telephone services does not seem to matter two hoots to the Government.
A careful study of the figures shows that the increased allocation shown in the estimates this year will not meet the greatly increased demand for telephone services - a demand which, on the Minister’s own admission, is rising at a great rate each month. This is further evidence of the Government’s policy, apparent in every sphere of activity, of too little too late. The Government’s psychology is wrong. It believes that it cannot overcome this lag of eighteen years’ standing, so the best it will do is to try to prevent the lag from becoming too large. There is little doubt that there is a need to allocate additional funds immediately to overcome the lag. The Government should allocate the additional £5,500,000 which the Minister states will overcome 85 per cent, of the lag immediately. The remaining 15 per cent, would be in the remote areas, which would not be serviced for some time.. The allocation of the additional funds would permit the department to tool up and obtain the necessary staff to proceed with the work.
It is essential that we take positive action to overcome the shortage of telephones, staff and equipment, particularly exchange equipment. The shortage of exchange equipment is one of the worst aspects of the present state of affairs. It is one of the main bottlenecks. In my own electorate there are many areas in which extraordinary delays have occurred. To name only a few, there are Normanhurst, Thornleigh, Pennant Hills, Beecroft, Baulkham Hills and large areas of Blacktown. To bc more specific, there is an estate called Woodlands Estate at Normanhurst, on which houses were built four years ago. To this day there is not one private telephone connexion in the whole estate, which comprises about 300 houses. The people there have to depend upon one public telephone. Surely that in itself is an indictment of the department.
– They have an inefficient representative.
– A member of the Liberal Party who represented the electorate until 1961 was responsible for nothing being done. I have made representations to the department about this matter. Provision had not been made for this phase of the work in this year’s estimates, but the estimates have now been amended to include it. The unfortunate position is that a Liberal member who previously represented the electorate did nothing about telephone services.
We should consider reducing the rental on telephones held by pensioners. This request is made regularly from all sections of the community. A telephone is essential for old people. They need it to contact their relatives in times of sickness and woe. The Government should give very serious and compassionate consideration to this proposal, because such a concession would be of great assistance to pensioners who, by and large, are not very well off and need telephones.
Finally, I ask the Minister to consider seriously the allocation of the additional £5,500,000 that he stated would almost overcome the lag of eighteen years standing in the installation of telephones. If the Minister cannot wring the necessary shekels from the Treasurer, then the Treasurer and the Government should state the reason to the committee.
.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) summed up his speech by saying, “ I think the department’s psychology is not to overcome the lag but to keep pace with applications “.
– I said the department’s psychology was to prevent the lag from becoming too large.
– Whatever words were used, they disclosed the Opposition’s psychosis, which can best be described by the title of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado about Nothing “. Opposition members claim that we pinch their policy. They exercise their hindsight. They say, “What you have done we would have done if we had had the opportunity to do it “. Because what we did proved to be good, they claim that they would have done it. That claim makes no impact on the people.
The honorable member said that in Victoria there are about 11,000 outstanding applications for telephones. About 1 ,000 of those applicants are in my electorate. That sounds a large number. For people who do not have a telephone, this is a matter of concern because their way of life has been interrupted. The people are entitled to easy and ready communication with friends and relatives. To those 1,000 people the lack of a telephone is a serious disadvantage, but it is fair to say that 570 of those 1,000 applications come from an area surrounding a single exchange building. Major works are in progress there which should be completed by June, 1964, when 570 services will be provided. On the face of it, the number of outstanding applications in my electorate then will be cut in half. But, of course, the number will not be cut in half because in the intervening period another 500 applications will have been lodged. I think I have virtually an endemic situation of something like 1 ,000 outstanding applications. This is not surprising because the number of voters in my electorate, in the eight years that I have represented it, has grown from 40,000 to 100,000. Formerly there were between 50 and 100 orchards in the electorate. They have now been transformed into thousands of houses. The old manual exchange that provided telephone facilities for 50 or 100 orchardists is now incapable of providing services for the occupants of the several thousands of houses which have replaced the orchards.
– That is an illustration of development.
– That is an excellent illustration of development. In my electorate there are between 250,000 and 300,000 people. With a population like that, naturally great demands will be made for services. The essential point that the honorable member for Mitchell brushed aside is that the rate at which telephone applications are being received and not being met immediately is lower than the rate at which houses are being built. The lag very definitely is being taken up. You might look at the number of outstanding applications now and say that it is not very much lower than it was eight years ago, but you must remember that an average of 80,000 homes are being built annually. In those eight years about 640,000 houses have been constructed. In the conditions that apply today, the majority of people who go into a house have a telephone service very soon afterwards. This is the way it ought to be. A telephone service gives communication with those friends and relatives with whom it is important socially to keep in contact. It is also very important to many people who find it necessary in their daily occupations to communicate with their customers or with those from whom they are purchasing.
In the period in which I have been a member of this Parliament my experience has been quite different from that of the honorable member for Mitchell. It is true that he has been in the Parliament some two years while I have been here some eight years. Perhaps that extra experience has enabled me to realize that to get the best results from the department the most effective method is frequently to explain just how many people are waiting for a telephone through a particular exchange. I have tried to persuade the department of the strength of the case made out by the electors of Bruce. I have found this method remarkably successful’. I have had literally thousands of letters from people during the eight years in which I have been in this Parliament. I cannot say that I have not encouraged them; when they have mentioned a telephone problem to me I have said, “ Go ahead and write to me, and when I write to the PostmasterGeneral I will very quickly let him know how many are waiting for this service “. I have had thousands of letters and I have had many petitions, signed by numbers of people ranging from ten or twenty to several hundreds. I do not think there is anything quite so persuasive in the case of the PostmasterGeneral as a petition signed by a great number of respectable people asking for a service to which they believe and rightly believe that they are entitled.
It has also been my experience that people, or at any rate 99.9 per cent of them, going into a brand new area, where the furrows of the orchard are still visible, where the fruit trees have sometimes been left in the backyards, realize that there is no magical formula, that you cannot flick a finger and have a telephone service tomorrow morning. But they are delighted when they see a P.M.G. work cart parked in the street and a few channels being dug.
I would like to take a minute or two to thank the PostmasterGeneral publicly. It is probably not correct to thank a political officer, but we all know that this is his last Parliament, and, indeed, his last sessional period of a long and distinguished career as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, and I would like to thank him for the co-operation and kindness that he has shown me throughout the years in which he has been PostmasterGeneral and 1 have been a member of the Parliament. 1. also want to say that he has been particularly well served by the staff of the department. I do not think I should go any further than that, because I happen to be one of those old-fashioned people who believe that while you can appreciate public servants, you realize that they do their job because it is their duty, and a very fine and efficient public service the Commonwealth is fortunate enough to have.
I want to spend a little time speaking of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is, as we all know, a statutory body, created by the Broadcasting and Television Act. The powers of the commission are to be found in section 59 and the following sections of the act, and it would not do any harm to refer very briefly to some of these provisions. Section 59, sub-section (1.), says-
Subject to this Act, the Commission shall provide, and shall broadcast or televise from transmitting stations made available by the PostmasterGeneral, adequate and comprehensive programmes and shall take in the interest of the community all such measures as, in the opinion of the Commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting and television programmes.
There is a mandatory injunction on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. One might ask whether the commission is different from the commercial television licence holders. The answer is, of course, that it is. It is very different. Section 65 of the act, dealing with the powers and functions of the commission, uses a very short formula in sub-section (1.) -
The Commission shall not broadcast or televise advertisements.
This makes it fundamentally different from the commercial television stations. By very definition it is different. Another major point of difference is that the funds for the commission come from the Government. However, there is a similarity between the commercial licence holders and the commission, in that both the licensee and the commission are subject to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in a manner set out in the Broadcasting and Television Act. The powers of the board are to be found in several sections. To indicate the type of power I refer particularly to section 16, sub-section (t.) -
The functions of the Board are -
to ensure the provision of services by broadcasting stations and television stations in accordance with plans from time to time prepared by the Board and approved by the Minister.
So the supervisory powers of the board extend to commercial television licensees just as they do to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Section 17 of the act provides for a means of transmitting orders from the board to the commission and to commercial television stations.
Tn the public mind the commission is quite clearly different from the commercial licensees. There is a difference in programme selection, but one has not been able to notice any shortage of funds on the part of the commission to buy an adequate selection of programmes. Something that worries me is the possibility of the commission seeking to shut out commercial television stations from transmitting attractive programmes that they may have, by finding even more attractive programmes and putting them on at the same time as the commercial stations telecast their programmes, thus giving the public a choice of watching one of two good programmes but removing the possibility of seeing them both.
– That happens now.
– It has very frequently happened. The ultimate possibility is that the commission should shut out certain commercial television programmes and virtually render their commercial competitors unable to compete. This could amount to nationalization by stealth. We know the attitude of the Labour Party to nationaliza tion. The members of the Opposition say, “ We will not adopt nationalization because we cannot do it constitutionally”. But if they can find a way of doing it by stealth, then do it they will. I fear that this would be likely to happen under a Labour government. It has not happened under this Government, because the Government has a policy to maintain the commercial stations and to maintain the commission.
The commission is a public institution in a democracy, an institution just the same as the banking institutions and insurance institutions. It has in a very short time reached the eminence of an institution, and because it is an institution it demands the utmost responsibility in the exercise of its powers. It must, as an institution, be subject to criticism. The question is, firstly, one of government control, and usually the opponents of government control describe it as censorship. They manage to pull out examples of what they say is censorship and then contend that in relation to a matter such as that concerning the “ Four Corners “ programme the Australian Broadcasting Commission should not have been criticized. It should have been criticized in connexion with that programme, because, being an institution in the community, it took upon itself the liberty of very trenchantly criticizing another institution in the community, the Returned Servicemen’s League. I think it went beyond the area of responsibility that it could properly be allowed. Undoubtedly the public does not want the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which controls such a sensitive and persuasive medium, to be so independent as to be removed entirely from the influence of Government control.
.- The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) did not put the position quite correctly. The Australian Broadcasting Commission does not deny that people have the right to criticize. Everybody who works for the A.B.C. is aware that he is open to public criticism. I believe that there is some concern in the commission and its staff about the freedom of the individuals within the commission and the fact that pressure groups can make criticisms by back-door means.
The honorable member for Bruce well knows that the criticism was not levelled at the A.B.C. In fact, top representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League intervened directly and protested to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). In the programme that they were criticizing it was stated by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) that their organization had a direct channel to Cabinet and that their views were seriously considered. But they did not take the opportunity to protest to the A.B.C; they protested to the Prime Minister. We should get the facts about the criticism in their true perspective.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) intends to retire. He has held his present portfolio for a record term. He has served Australia well during his term of office. We on this side of the chamber have criticized him. I shall make some criticism of his administration of his portfolio later. But he has been a hard-working and diligent Minister. Not only has he served Australia in time of peace; we all know and respect his service in time of war. He has served Australia well. All members of this Parliament wish him good health in his retirement. We hope that he will enjoy a long retirement and that he will be able to sit back and express personal criticism, as he is entitled to do in a democracy.
I want to refer to certain actions of the Menzies Government, of which the PostmasterGeneral is a member. Under the Chifley Administration the Post Office was a service to the community; but there has been a growing movement to increase Post Office charges. In 1959 a new accounting system was introduced and the Post Office is being used increasingly as a revenueraising instrumentality. This Government is using it to place an indirect tax on the mass consumers of goods. I know that some people will say that the burden of the increased postal and telephone charges rests largely on the big commercial users of the facilities provided by the Post Office. But we know that those big commercial users can pass the charges on through the prices of their goods. So, it is the mass consumers who, in the end, pay the increased Post Office charges.
In 1950 the Post Office was running at a loss of £3,000,000 a year. It operated at about the break-even point until 1957-58. In 1958-59 it had a surplus of £5,000,000. In 1959-60 it had a surplus of £11,000,000. That increase was due to increased charges on mail and so on. The people, particularly those of the same political complexion as the Postmaster-General, reacted to the increased charges, and for the first time in history a Labour candidate was returned in the New South Wales seat of Lismore. That election was fought on the issue of the increased postal charges. So, in effect, the present Minister for Lands in the New South Wales Government was brought into the New South Wales Parliament by the action of the federal Government in increasing Post Office charges.
The Post Office surplus increased from £11,000,000 in 1959-60 to £23,000,000 in 1960-61. In 1961-62 it was £22,000,000. Until that time the Post Office surplus was always published in the national income and expenditure statement issued by the Treasurer each year. That is a very informative paper. The surplus of the Post Office was declared quite clearly in it. However, this year the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) determined that the Post Office surplus would not be shown in the national income and expenditure statement. The surplus is hidden in the Post Office accounts. We’ received the financial report for the year ended 30th June, 1963, only yesterday, and we delved through it io find out where the surplus had been hidden.
I submit that the Post Office surplus this year should’ be stated at about £30,000,000. I say that for certain reasons. The consolidated’ statement of profit and loss for 1962-63, which is included in the accounts which were tabled yesterday, shows an interest charge of £21,100,000. It also discloses that last year the interest charge was only £20,000,000. Therefore there has been an increase of £1,100,000 in that item. I note, too, that the depreciation charge has increased from. £13,700,000 in 1961-62 to £22,300,000 last year. That is an increase of about £8,000,000. So, as a conservative estimate, the surplus has increased from £22,000,000 in 1961-62 to a little more than £30,000,000.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) said that the Post Office is controlled by the Treasury. I am quite sure that it is. This Government and Treasurer have used the Post Office to raise indirect taxation revenue, and as I have pointed out, the big commercial organizations can pass on the charges. This is a dishonest sleight-of-hand action on the part of the Government. It reveals the whole policy of the present Government.
I wish to mention a statement that was made by the Postmaster-General white the Parliament was not in session. On 20th June, 1963, in a brief statement, he said that public telephone charges would be increased from 4d. to 6d. - an increase of 50 per cent. - and that callers would not be able to use six pennies, but would have to use a sixpenny coin. The argument is that this is necessary because of the forthcoming introduction of the decimal currency system. Let us examine the effect of this extra charge. In 1962-63, 154,000,000 telephone calls were made from public telephones in suburban areas. The cost of a call is increased by 2d. Who pays this extra charge? It is paid by the mass of workers, not by the people with top incomes. People of high incomes rarely use public telephones. They are used by the wage plugs, the workers. An increase of 2d. in the cost of each of 154,000,000 telephone calls means an increase in the revenue of the Post Office of about £1,250,000 each year, yet the only statement made by the PostmasterGeneral on this matter was a brief statement made outside the Parliament. He said, “We will increase the cost of public telephone calls from 4d. to 6d.”
I want to refer briefly, because my time is limited, to the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for 1962-63. In this report the commission expresses concern at criticism by sections of the Australian press of government interference in its activities. The commission stated -
The Commission is a statutory corporation with members appointed for fixed periods by the Governor-General in Council.
We know that the members are in fact appointed by the Government. I do not want to cast a slur on the members of the commission. It is very probable that some of them have a liberal outlook. However, 1 believe that political appointees usually hold views similar to those held by the political party by which they are appointed. The report continues -
Within these statutory limits it is, we believe, the deliberate intention of Parliament to give the Commission independence in carrying out its responsibilities. The facts about this independence seem to us to bc not so generally and clearly recognized as is desirable.
The report goes on to say that the Minister has to accept certain criticisms, although under the act he if not in control of the commission. The report then states -
If the Commission is to fulfil its duty to the community of acting as a forum for free discussion of controversial matters, on which it is necessary that a democracy should be informed, it is impossible to avoid the causing of offence in some quarters.
The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) seems to object to the position as stated in that report. I say clearly and definitely that I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be kept free from political interference. I think it is time that we had a complete overhaul of the position and took a new look at it.
– It is all right while you are in opposition.
– These words can be used against me when we are in office. At present, the members of the staff of the commission are hired by the Commonwealth Public Service Board, which determines promotions and so on. The commission must be a really independent statutory body. It should be given money, not on a yeartoyear basis, but on the basis of a plan covering a long period of time.
I believe that the commission must be able to be critical. It should bc constructive and objective. The commissioners can recognize destructive criticism, and any officer who tried to push his own barrow could soon be brought into line. The commission must be given more and more independence if we are to have an independent voice in this democracy. We all know that the press, radio and television in this country are under monopoly control. The only means by which the community can be enlightened objectively is through an independent Australian Broadcasting Commission, free of any pressure from outside including that of political parties.
Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
.- Before raising the two matters which I wish to mention to-night concerning the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I would like to add my tribute to the many well-deserved tributes that have been paid to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) this evening by the honorable members who have spoken in this debate, some of whom will not be in the next Parliament. My experience has been similar to that of all honorable members in that I have had nothing but courtesy, attention and genuine sympathy for the problems which I have put before him. I have found him very sympathetic to the problems of those people who are seeking services from his department in country areas. It is obvious that the PostmasterGeneral understands the isolation of people who live in country districts for he does show a great deal of sympathy for them. I should like also to mention that I was a member of a delegation that went to SouthEast Asia with the Postmaster-General recently and I was able to appreciate his capacity for leadership and the good job he did for Australia on that occasion. I pay tribute to him for that.
Having said that, it makes me all the more sorry to have to raise two matters upon which I have not been able to see eye to eye with the Postmaster-General up to date. The first refers to a situation which is becoming increasingly frequent as the Government carries out its policy of converting manual telephone exchanges to automatic exchanges. It applies to the position in which people who are connected to a manual exchange by private lines find themselves when the exchange is converted to the automatic service. I can best illustrate the point I want to make by referring to an actual case. It relates to a group of six soldier settlers who were connected by party line to the manual exchange at Penola in the south-east of South Australia. They constructed their original party line twelve years ago almost entirely at their own expense at a time of shortage of materials and so on. When the service was converted to an automatic exchange, which was a wonderful thing for the area, these people were required to have individual services or, at the most a group of three party lines each carrying two subscribers. In this as in all cases when a service is converted from a manual to an automatic exchange, it was necessary to up-grade the line because the automatic work requires a higher standard of line than does the service from a magneto exchange.
These people found that if they wanted to be connected to the new automatic exchange at Penola after the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had done the maximum amount of construction work permissible they would have to pay at least £200 each to be connected. I mention this case because it seems to me to be basically unfair and unjust. These people were perfectly happy with the existing situation. They did not ask for an exclusive service; nor did they ask for the exchange to be converted to an automatic one. They have been contributing consistently to the revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department for twelve years. In effect, what they are being told is that if they want to stay on the telephone at all they have got to find £200 or more before they will be connected. The difficulty is brought about by the fact that the department lays down a formula relating to the amount of departmental construction that may be done, and this is the point that I should like the Postmaster-General to examine. As most honorable members will know, this formula is applied universally all over the Commonwealth.
It lays down the number of units of departmental construction that will be done for an individual subscriber or group of subscribers; and the amount that will be done is exactly the same in the circumstances which I have been describing as it is for new applicants for telephone services. This seems to me to be basically wrong. I believe that there should be a different formula. There may be some argument for limiting the amount of departmental construction for new services, but I do not believe that the department can justify applying the same formula to those subscribers who have been connected with an exchange for very many years, as these six soldier settlers have been. They were perfectly happy with the existing situation; they did not want the change, and they had been contributing to the revenue of the department for many years. It is through no fault of theirs that these changes were made, and I believe that in circumstances such as these the Postmaster-General’s Department might meet more of the cost. In fact, I suggest that the department should meet the whole of the cost of allowing these people to remain on the telephone. I should like to inform the Postmaster-General that these people are not now connected to the telephone at all. At the moment, they have no telephone service after having been subscribers for twelve years. They just could not find the £200 required to connect them to the new service. I have mentioned these particular subscribers, but similar circumstances apply to many others whom I have mentioned to the Postmaster-General.
There are variations of these problems. For instance, some subscribers to the Marcollat exchange in the south-east of South Australia were told by the Postmaster-General’s Department that their service would have to be moved from the exchange to which they were then connected to a new exchange in order that the department might be able to give a service to some people who did not already have a phone. These older subscribers found themselves involved in considerable expense as a result of this move from one exchange to the other and again they were people who had spent a considerable sum in getting their original service. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he could do a great service to many country subscribers by helping them to meet the cost of the revolutionary change from manual to automatic exchanges. Let me make it clear here that I entirely support this change to automatic working. The rate at which it is being pushed on is one of the legacies that the Minister will leave upon his retirement, but if, in the last few weeks of his Ministerial responsibility, he could do something to relieve the burden of these people who are suffering from what may bc likened to the introduction of automation in that they are unwittingly caught up in the process of the change, it would be greatly appreciated.
The other matter to which I wish to refer has been mentioned by me before and I shall not deal with it in great detail. It relates to the requirements of residents of the country areas with relation to television services. There are many people in Australia to-day who, despite the great advances which the Government has made in extending television services to the country, are not yet able to receive this service within the normal viewing area of the station, and will not be able to do so for many years. Many people have to go to the expense of acquiring a very high grade television set to get any sort of reception over long distances, and have to go to considerable expense to erect very high aerials. Even then they find that they can get reception only, say, two nights a week. Yet they are required to pay a full licence-fee.
Recently, the Postmaster-General’s Department prosecuted quite a number of people at Mount Gambier in my electorate because they had not obtained licences. I completely support that. If the law is that people who have a television set must have a licence, the department has a duty to see that people have licences. What I am quarrelling about is the law itself and the requirement that people in distant country areas that are not within the normal range of a television transmitter shall pay a full licence-fee. The Postmaster-General has told me that it would be administratively impracticable not to require such people to pay a full licence-fee. I cannot see that. The Minister has been unable to convince me of that. I believe that provision could be made that anybody within, say, 100 or 120 miles, or some other specified maximum distance within which good reception may bc obtained from the bestlocated and most powerful television station, shall pay a full licence-fee, and that anybody outside that area shall be required to pay, say, only half the full fee. I do not see why this is administratively impracticable. The owner of a television set could bear the onus and face the consequences if he makes a mistake about the distance or any other material factor.
Inevitably, it will, be a number of years yet before many people in country areas are able to obtain the full benefit of television services. I believe that the least we can do to help those people who want to try to get this entertainment that is so popular in city areas and inner country areas is to give them a licence concession. Many country people are able to receive only Australian Broadcasting Commission television programmes, and those perhaps only two or three nights a week. I know that, eventually, some provision such as I propose will be made. Why not make it now? We know that this sort of concession has been allowed in the field of radio. Exempted zones apply to radio listeners’ licences. I have no doubt that it is just a question of time before we decide that there shall be differential television viewers’ licence-fees in areas where reception is not good.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General, again, to undertake this last statesman-like act before he leaves his portfolio and once more to help people in the country - the people whom he has looked after so well and so assiduously throughout his career as Minister. I appeal to him to extend to those people, at much lower cost than would otherwise be the case, the benefit of television on the limited number of occasions that they can get good reception, compared with city dwellers, who receive good reception all the time.
– Mr. Chairman, I know that the committee wants to get on with the business before it and that on occasions such as this a long statement by a Minister is not always entirely appreciated. However, because of the particular circumstances on this occasion, I crave the indulgence of the committee to enable me to make a few comments on the discussion that has taken place on this group of estimates to-day.
Let me say, first of all, that certain honorable members have made suggestions in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and television services generally, that merit consideration. I shall not attempt to deal with those suggestions in detail now, because, as I have always done on occasions like this, I shall note what has been said and later give a considered reply to each honorable member with respect to the matters about which he is concerned, so that he may know what the situation is and be able to use the information in his electorate.. I shall not deal in detail with the various proposals that have been made to-day, except to say that certain criticisms have been made, in quite kindly fashion, of the fact that, there is still a considerable lag in the provision of telephone services particularly. Telephone services are important throughout the country, and, in my replies to the criticisms that have been made, I shall set out to show that the lag is not of the nature suggested by some honorable members who spoke this afternoon.
The’ first matter that I want to discuss is the provision of finance for the
Postmaster-General’s Department. I have said before, and I say again quite definitely in my last statement to honorable members on an occasion such as this, that this Government has contributed increasing sums to the development of the Post Office. Indeed, I should say that the Government has contributed to the uttermost limits of the funds available for this kind of development. Honorable members must not forget that other considerations have to be taken into account, too. If I were just PostmasterGeneral and had no other interests, I would say, “By all means, give me the additional £5,500,000 that my friend, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), said should have been provided in this Budget “. But all sorts of other demands are made on the public purse and all Ministers have to try to adjust their demands on behalf of their departments to the demands of the nation generally and the development needs of the country. I pointed out, by way of interjection, that, this financial year, the Post Office has been allocated £68,775,000.
– Not enough.
– From one standpoint, I agree with my friend: It is not enough. But, from the standpoint of the total development of Australia, taking into account what we must contribute for defence, for the development of northern Australia and for other needs, and bearing in mind the total of the demands on the public purse, I say that this is a pretty generous allocation.
– It is still not enough.
– The honorable member still says that it is not enough! If I believed that the Post Office would be allocated an additional £10,000,000 next financial year, I could almost - but not quite - be induced to say, “ I shall stand again for election “.
I do not propose to cite a lot of figures. I can do that in the letters that I shall send later to honorable members who have raised particular matters to-day. The plain fact is that in recent years, I believe, I have had very generous treatment from the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the allocation of moneys for the Post Office. That is my reply to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who said that there appeared to be some restriction by the
Treasury of funds for the Post Office. He suggested that the Post Office was being deliberately starved of funds by the Treasury in order to bring about some result.
– A credit squeeze.
– That is the suggestion, but it is a suggestion that will not stand a moment’s investigation. In these my final remarks about the Postmaster General’s Department, I say that I have always received very generous treatment from the Treasury, having regard to all the demands that are made on the public purse. There is, of course, a continuing lag in the supply of telephone services.
– Not in Queensland.
– The honorable member surely does not think that 1 deliberately created that state of affairs. It arose from the fact that we’ in Queensland were very lucky during the war years. Many services were given to us then by other people.
I do not want to take too much of the time generously allowed me by the committee. I simply say that the provision of telephone services creates a big problem. The number of services installed is increasing each year, but so is the demand. The demand arises from the fact that our economy is expanding rapidly each year under this Government’s administration. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and other honorable members have referred to the situation in Sydney and Melbourne. I have not made any attempt to hide the fact that the situation in the suburbs of these cities is not good. However, I again point out that the demand created by the rapid expansion of our economy causes problems. It is difficult to keep pace with the demand, but, in fact, we are not only keeping pace with it but are steadily catching up with the outstanding applications. Some one has said that, if the Post Office were given another £5,000,000, it would be able to catch up on all the outstanding applications. That may be so, but, of course, while we are doing that, another 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 applications would be lodged. I think this point was made by the honorable member for Bruce.
I do not want to deal with this matter in any further detail. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, I will in the ensuing weeks consider all the matters that have been raised. As all honorable members know, I am not standing for reelection, but the constitutional position is that I will still be the PostmasterGeneral, I suppose, for at least another few months. I will be able during that time to consider the matters that have been raised by honorable members.
I want to thank honorable members on both sides of the committee there is nothing political about this for the kind remarks they have made during this debate about me and the way I have attended to my duties while I have been Postmaster General. Honorable members opposite, as well as honorable members on this side of the committee, were very sincere in commending me. I set out to do the best that I could in my position as Postmaster General. I tried not to show any favour to any one, but to carry out my duties as I believed they should be carried out. I have been moved by the fact that, although honorable members on both sides offered some criticisms, they concluded their remarks by thanking me, and I thank them in return. 1 say no more at this stage, because this is not my swan song; I shall have something further to say before the Parliament rises. However, I want to go on record as saying that I could not have performed my duties as I did without the support and the guidance of the very fine band of public servants in the department and the various instrumentalities associated with it. They have a wonderful tradition of service and they have served me most loyally throughout the time that I have been PostmasterGeneral.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Davidson) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13th August (vide page 60), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Davidson) read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to a fifth further amending agreement to the River Murray Waters Agreement. This amending agreement provides, first, and most importantly, for the construction of a major storage at Chowilla on the lower Murray; secondly, for minor amendments of a policy nature to the ° principal agreement; and finally, for amendments of a textual nature to the principal agreement. I do not’ propose to discuss the proposed amendments which are only of a textual nature. Opportunity is merely being taken to effect a partial tidying up of the principal agreement. Should the House so wish, these amendments can be examined at the committee stage.
I shall however briefly outline the two minor policy amendments before discussing the main purpose of the measure. The first relates to the depth of Water to be maintained in channels and locks on the river Murray. Clause 21 of the principal agreement provides that locks shall be constructed to provide for vessels drawing 5 feet of water. In practice channels are also maintained to this level by dredging. It is proposed that this depth should be reduced to 4 ft. 6 in. The depth of the existing locks will remain unchanged but channels will only be dredged to 4 ft. 6 in. and significant savings will be effected. Any locks constructed in the proposed Chowilla dam or any further locks will provide a depth of only 4 ft. 6 in. and capital savings will result. The depth pf 5 feet allowed for the passage of loaded barges. Such traffic no longer exists on the river and the pro posed depth of 4 ft. 6 in. is quite satisfactoryfor the present and any foreseeable river traffic.
The second major policy amendment relates to voting by members of the commission in times of drought. Sub-clause 51 (8) of the principal agreement makes provision in periods of drought for the drawing by the States of New South Wales and Victoria of water additional to their prescribed entitlements. Such drawing however is conditional upon the water being replaced by those States from their tributaries below Albury and also conditional upon such drawing not prejudicing the rights of the other two States. In the event of a disagreement between New South Wales and Victoria as to the quantity of water to be used or as to the manner in which it is to be replaced the agreement prescribes that the matter shall be determined by the commission by means of a majority vote. No provision is made however for the resolving of the decision in the event of there being an equality of votes between the four commissioners constituting the commission. The amending agreement proposes to give the Commonwealth commissioner a casting as well as a deliberative vote in such an eventuality. In the somewhat unusual circumstances I have outlined an urgent decision would be required. Recourse to arbitration would be impracticable owing to the delay involved. The Commonwealth as a disinterested party in such a dispute would be able to give an impartial judgment.
I now propose to deal with the principal object of the measure - that of providing for the construction of Chowilla reservoir - and in doing so will outline the circumstances leading up to the attaining of the agreement at present before the House. The demand on the waters of the river Murray is increasing year by year; at the same time the construction of reservoirs and irrigation areas on its tributaries below Albury, as New South Wales and Victoria are entitled to do under the agreement, is decreasing supplies available in the main stream. The continuation of increasing demand and decreasing supply would give rise to a critical situation in the event of a major drought.
As members are aware, the River Murray Commission is constituted of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It was arranged by these . four governments that the commission should carry out a full investigation of a proposal advanced by the South Australian Government that a major storage should be. provided on a site known as Chowilla on the lower Murray. The commission was also asked to suggest the best means of sharing the water from such a storage. The commission carried out a comprehensive and complex investigation which I do not propose to describe here. It confirmed that in the event of past seasonal conditions recurring the restrictions on the requirements of the States could be such as to bring about serious capital losses. The commission examined possibilities of other storages and a number of ways in which the water might be shared. It came to the conclusion that a major storage at Chowilla constructed and operated as a River Murray Commission work was the best solution.
The Commonwealth, after considering the commission’s report convened a meeting of the four Governments. Little difficulty was experienced in obtaining agreement in principle to the provision of a reservoir at Chowilla. There were in addition two ancillary matters discussed at this meeting. The first one was a suggestion that a certain proportion of the waters of the Menindee Lakes storage might be made available to all three States, as a temporary measure before the filling of Chowilla, as though such water was water in the river Murray. This proposal had been investigated by the commission and found to be of considerable benefit to all States. Agreement has been attained by the four Governments on the basis on which such waters in the Menindee storage will be made available to the River Murray Commission for allocation to the three States. The arrangement is to operate for seven years as from the beginning of this year and should assist in the mitigation qf any droughts which may be experienced during the period of the construction and filling of the Chowilla reservoir. This agreement is the subject of a separate measure which I propose to introduce concurrently with this one. The other matter arising at the conference was the reluctance qf New South Wales to commit, itself to meeting its one-quarter share of the cost’ of Chowilla at this stage. .The Commonwealth has agreed to lend that State its one-quarter share by way of financial assistance and this is the subject of another measure to be introduced by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt).
I shall now provide a few facts on the proposed reservoir. The site proposed for the dam is some 6 miles downstream from the Victorian-South Australian border and about 38 river miles upstream from Renmark. The water will, however, be banked up as far as Wentworth, some 120 river miles. The dam will by 41 feet high and 31 miles long. The area of the reservoir will be over 500 square miles. Its capacity will be 4,750,000 acre feet and as such will be by far the largest reservoir in Australia. Lake Eucumbene is 3,860,000 acre feet, Eildon 2,750,000 acre feet and Hume 2,500,000 acre feet. The reservoir will be constructed by the South Australian Ministry of Works as constructing authority to the River Murray Commission and will be subject to the customary approval and oversight of the commission. - It is estimated that the cost will be £14,000,000.
As the proposed reservoir will be downstream from the principal irrigation areas of New South Wales and Victoria, I should explain how it will provide substantial benefits to those States as well as to South Australia. This arises from the basic obligations, incorporated in the Principal Agreement, of the two upper States for the sharing of the Murray waters with South Australia. In normal seasons New South Wales and Victoria are obliged to make available to South Australia 1,254,000 acre feet of water in prescribed monthly quantities. In periods of declared restrictions South Australia is at present entitled to three thirteenths of the available water in the storages on the river, principally in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria. The upper States have the right to draw water from the Hume reservoir and to replace it with the equivalent amount of water from the tributaries flowing into the Murray below the Hume reservoir. In a normal year water in Chowilla could be used te satisfy the whole of the South Australian entitlement of 1,254,000 acre feet without drawing on the Hume reservoir. In periods of restriction releases of the Hume reservoir water to provide South Australia with its full share of available water would also bc considerably reduced or even eliminated. In brief, with the addition of Chowilla the water in the Hume reservoir will bc available for the most part for sharing between New South Wale’s and Victoria alone.
There is another important amendment contained in the present measure. It is that in periods of restriction the available water will be shared equally between the three States, rather than in the present ratios of 5:5:3. This of course will be most important to South Australia; not only will there be much more water available in periods of restriction but South Australia will also obtain a larger share of such water. The construction of Chowilla reservoir will be a major undertaking which will be of very great importance to millions of Australians in the future. The Commonwealth Government takes some pride in the part it has played in attaining a satisfactory agreement with the three other governments concerned. The ratification of this agreement will enable the work to progress as fast as possible. 1 commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure seeks the approval of Parliament to an agreement recently made between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, for the use of certain water stored in the Menindee lakes, storage. The measure is supplementary to the bill seeking approval to the fifth further amending agreement to the River Murray Waters Agreement. In my second-reading speech on that bill I referred to the circumstances leading up to the agreement for the construction of a major storage at Chowilla on the lower Murray. It is possible, however, that adverse seasonal conditions may. occur before the major Chowilla reservoir can be completed and filled. The Government of New South Wales accordingly offered to make some of the water in the Menindee storage available for use by the River Murray Commission for allocation to the three States. It was considered that the additional water would be particularly valuable in time of drought.
This proposal was examined by the River Murray Commission. The commission ascertained that in a year of drought such as 1914-15, when supplies to the whole system would be reduced to about 30 per’ cent, of the demand, the addition of the Menindee water would increase supplies to about 55 per cent, of the demand. The Menindee storage is a series of storages constructed in lakes adjacent to the Darling River. At present water is pumped from the storage to meet the industrial and domestic needs of Broken Hill. The storage also meets irrigation needs downstream which are at present being developed.
The New South Wales Government is retaining 90,000 acre feet per annum and a reserve storage of 390,000 acre feet so as to enable it to meet these commitments. The agreement provides, with a certain proviso which I shall mention later, that water stored in excess of 390,000 acre feet shall be available to the River Murray Commission for allocation between the three States as though it were water available for sharing from the river Murray.
In normal times the surplus above 390,000 acre feet will be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria, subject to South Australia receiving its full entitlement under the agreement. In periods of declared restriction this surplus will be shared equally by the three States. In both normal times and periods of restriction, however, New South Wales is permitted to draw 90,000 acre feet per annum without debit to its share. The proviso I mentioned earlier is that once the storage has fallen below 390,000. acre feet no water is to be made available for sharing until the storage has recovered to 520,000 acre feet. This proviso is necessary owing to the physical characteristics of the storage. The present capacity of the storage is 1,000,000 acre feet and when repairs have been carried out to one of the lake storages - Lake
Cawndilla the capacity will be 1,500,000 acre feet.
It has been agreed that in consideration of the River Murray Commission’s use of the water a portion of the capital charges attributable to this storage will be paid. The agreed sum to be paid to the New South Wales Government is £160,000 per annum. This will be payable by the River Murray Commission and will be met equally by all four governments. Should, however, the effective capacity of the storage become less than 600,000 acre feet, such as could occur through partial failure of the storage, no contribution to capital charges will be paid in respect of the time in which the capacity is below this figure.
The State of New South Wales is to operate the storage in accordance with the provisions of this agreement and to maintain it in good order and condition having regard to the storage capacities set out in the agreement. The three States, through the River Murray Commission, are to share equally three-quarters of the cost of operation and normal maintenance of the storage; the remaining quarter being attributable to New South Wales by virtue of the water it is retaining for its own use. The agreement is to operate for seven years as from 1st January, 1963. It is expected that the Chowilla reservoir will be completed and filled before the end of this period. This measure should however provide a valuable contribution towards the mitigation of any droughts which may occur in the next few years and accordingly I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 184), on motion by Mr. Fairbairn -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course may be followed.
.- . The Opposition welcomes this bill, but regrets that its presentation, debate and passage have been left to the dying days of the Twentyfourth Parliament. It is a bill to approve an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales with respect to water storage work at Blowering, on the Tumut River. For ten long years New South Wales has been referring constantly to the importance of this work and to the urgent need for it to be undertaken. In this place the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has repeatedly directed the attention of the Government and of the Parliament to this important work.
– I have not heard him.
– The honorable member for Richmond would not have heard the honorable member because he is usually asleep, but every one else has heard the honorable member for Hume, by question and by speech, directing attention to the importance of this work, which now is to be undertaken in an area close to his own home. He and the State member for the district have spoken with one voice on the importance of this work. The honorable member for Hume, like the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren), will have his name linked with a major developmental work. That will be one of the rewards of his persistency in advocating something that the whole nation has been seeking for some time. The honorable member for Hume has a local knowledge of and a deep personal interest in this matter. He has exhibited a national outlook, not a sectional outlook, in directing the Parliament’s attention to this great undertaking. His name has become synonymous with that of the Blowering dam. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and many other honorable members opposite probably had not heard the word “ Blowering “ until it was spoken by the honorable member for Hume. This honorable member has rendered a very great service to the nation. I know that, like the rest of us, he is delighted to think that the work is to be undertaken. We join- now in a national spirit in acclaiming this work, which will do so much for Australia’sdevelopment. >
The Commonwealth has proposed certain financial arrangements, which have been accepted by New South Wales. In the first place, the Commonwealth will make a loan to New South Wales to cover the cost of the proposed work. Repayment of the loan is to begin ten years after the first payment by the Commonwealth and each Commonwealth payment will be repaid by twenty equal consecutive half-yearly amounts. The rate of interest payable by the State will be the approximate rate of long-term Commonwealth loans. It will be noted, therefore, that while New South Wales will be assisted to overcome its teething problems in the matter of finance, in the long run the State will be responsible for repaying to the Commonwealth the cost of this gigantic undertaking. Let it be clearly understood that, in the final analysis, the people who will have to make this project pay will be the people farming the land which will be made available. The Commonwealth terms, which might be regarded as generous and of very great value at the present time, do no more than trigger off an important developmental project in this country.
It has been stated from time to time that this work should have been started long ago. We all know that land has been there, that water has been there and that the technical skills of the people engaged on the Snowy Mountains project have been available. The only thing that has been missing has been the finance necessary to enable the work to be commenced. It is good to know that even in the dying hours of this Parliament legislation will be passed to enable this vast undertaking to be commenced.
The Blowering dam will regulate the waters discharged into the Mumimbidgee River, which is a part of the Snowy Mountains scheme, and will provide an additional 430,000 acre feet a year for diversion from the river. The additional primary, production in the Coleambally irrigation area in fat lambs, beef, horticulture and crops will have a value of £5,000,000 a year. Apart from the Coleambally development, .sufficient water .will be available for a greatly expanded irrigation scheme by private landholders - and for -other potential schemes. This is of great importance, and I think the House appreciates that this undertaking is of considerable significance to our development.
The Opposition does not seek to denigrate in any way what is being done. We acclaim what is being done. We support what is being done. We uphold the great capacity of those engaged in the Snowy Mountains undertaking to do this kind of work. On behalf of the Opposition, I have accepted the Minister’s suggestion that we consider together the bill relating to the construction of the Blowering dam and that relating to the extension of Sir William Hudson’s term of office. The Opposition is pleased to support the Government’s proposal to extend the term of service of Sir William Hudson as the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. As a general practice, the Opposition does not believe in adopting a course of this kind. We believe that young men in all spheres of activity deserve their opportunities to play their part in Australia’s development, but we all know that Sir William Hudson’s name has become indissolubly linked with the Snowy Mountains project. Perhaps onehalf of this magnificent undertaking has been completed but a number of challenging works still require the attention of Sir William Hudson, who has been associated with the undertaking since its inception. For that reason we are pleased to support the Government’s proposal that his term of service be extended.
Sir William Hudson has an excellent record in relation to the Snowy Mountains undertaking. His work in planning “ its development has won the admiration of experts concerned with water storage, irrigation and the generation of hydro-electric power not only in Australia but also throughout the world. Many overseas experts have come to Australia and have been amazed at this magnificent project, which has lifted the water from the Snowy River over the range and turned it into the western streams so that it will bring life to the land on the other side of the Great Dividing Range. The commissioner of the authority has played a most important part in this work..
I want to refer to a point made by the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn), who v represents in this place the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), relating to Sir William Hudson’s enlightened leadership. In his secondreading speech the Minister said -
The rapid progress that has been made and the almost complete absence of industrial troubles in the Snowy area are some of the results of the initiative, drive and judgment of Sir William Hudson.
I join in paying a tribute to this enlightened leader. I can only express very deep regret that many industrialists in Australia, people holding responsible positions, have not followed the line of conduct which Sir William Hudson has adopted in his industrial relationships. He has set a very fine example. His fine work in engineering and planning as well as his attitude to industrial relationships show his outstanding ability. Wc therefore join with the Government and are pleased to assent to the extension of his term as commissioner.
Under the Snowy Mountains agreement the New South Wales Government accepted responsibility for constructing the Blowering dam. It indicated, however, that it was not in a position to begin the construction of the dam immediately. I am repeating now the remarks of the Minister, and we do not cavil at his statement. The New South Wales Government made it clear that because of its many other commitments it lacked the finance to get to work on the dam immediately. I believe that everybody in Australia to-day recognizes the fact that since the introduction of uniform taxation and the establishment of the Australian Loan Council the Commonwealth Government is the ;.- fountainhead of finance and that unless the ;. Commonwealth Government is prepared to team up with the various States little can be done, But in this case the Commonwealth Government is doing this, and we are pleased that it is doing so.
The Commonwealth has agreed to lend New South Wales half the cost of construct- - ing the Blowering dam, which is at present estimated at £22,000,000, although this figure does not include the cost of a power station, which is expected to be £7,000,000. The New South Wales Government has undertaken to carry out this work, which is necessary to enable the available water to be fully utilized within ten years. Furthermore, New South Wales has already spent £6,000,000 on the Gogeldrie weir and supporting works. It will need a further £10,000,000 to complete the works necessary for the full effective use of the water when available. These are responsibilities that fall on New South Wales. I can only hope that some time in the future a more enlightened approach will be adopted towards works of this kind so that instead of the dead hand of debt falling on such works from the commencement we may be able, through a more enlightened policy, to find money for these works at an earlier time, so that they may be commenced earlier and at the lowest possible charge.
As I have already pointed out, the problem of making this pay rests on the farmers, and because of that it is necessary for us to give them the fullest opportunity of going on to the farms that will become available at a reasonable cost, so that they will be able to pay their way. Farmers to-day face many problems. They have not only to manage their farms and produce crops but they have also to cope with the problem of marketing. Many grave and disturbing questions have to be answered by the man on the land at the present time.
Let me put this to the House: How much more would we have welcomed a proposal like this if it had been brought forward at the time of the credit squeeze, when so many of our people were searching for work throughout the land. That would have been an excellent time to bring forward a measure like this. But that time has gone and it is not much use discussing it tonight. I merely refer to it because it is to be deplored that the chance of giving employment opportunities at that time was neglected by the Government.
The Blowering project has a number of very interesting features which I think should be mentioned. It will have an outstanding capacity. It will be responsible for considerable new development in this country. The Minister said: -
It was, therefore, naturally a time for stocktaking. That stocktaking emphasized the potential national advantage we were failing to capitalize without Blowering. It was against this background that the Commonwealth decided to give financial assistance to ‘New South Wales. It is not’ that- State alone, but the whole of Australia as well, which will , benefit from the . large-scale developments in the Murrumbidgee valley made possible by the construction of the Blowering dam.
Those are the words of the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn), representing the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). It is a fair and proper statement. This undertaking is . a national one. It is an undertaking of great value to the whole of Australia, and not merely to New South Wales, which was called upon to find the necessary finance. As the Minister rightly said, it is a national undertaking of great value to all the people of this country. I suggest that in the future we should take a broader look at works of this kind from the national standpoint and cease quibbling over State rights and State responsibilities.
The financial provisions for the Blowering dam are interesting. The other aspects of the agreement to which the Minister referred are of importance. He told us that the work will be carried out on the Tumut River and that the dam will have a capacity of 1,300,000 acre feet of water. The agreement provides for the construction of the dam and all appurtenant works. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, as agent for the State of New South Wales, will design and construct the’ dam, spillway, outlet works and other incidental works, and these works will be in service within six years of the date of agreement.
The agreement also provides for the State, within six months after the completion of the Blowering storage works, to make available a minimum of 70 large irrigation farms within the Coleambally or other irrigation areas in the Murrumbidgee valley, together with horticultural farms, and to make provision for the full use of all additional water provided by the storage within ten years of the date of completion of the works. This is important. These conditions have been written into the contract, but 1 doubt whether there was any need to ask New South Wales to sign such an agreement, because this is precisely the kind of thing that is being done in developing this important part of New South Wales.
Since the end of the war 1,250 farms in New South Wales have been provided with water from irrigation areas. The Blowering dam, according to the New South Wales estimate of the project, will provide water for an additional 1,000 farms. The New South. Wales Government had .made an early start on the Gogeldrie weir and the additional works in connexion with the Blowering dam.. The New South Wales Government has been most active in a number of fields, and that is why I suggest that while the responsibility of the New South Wales Government will be written into the agreement that government has an excellent record in matters such as this. Let’ me list some of the great undertakings that have been commenced and completed, or are in course of completion, by New South Wales. There are the works at Lake Brewster, the Lawson siphons, Burrinjuck dam enlargement, Glenbawn dam, Gogeldrie weir and supporting works, Keepit dam, Menindee lakes and the enlargement of the Hume reservoir. Those are all great works. The Burrendong dam on - the Macquarie River is another one. They indicate the great progress that is being made in New South Wales.
The latest issue of the “ Country Life “ newspaper refers to the fact that seventeen new blocks on the Coleambally estate are being made available. This is part of the continuing programme of development which we all appreciate and applaud in this House this evening. The work of the New South Wales Government in this field has been particularly good. The Minister for Air, in his second-reading speech, said that this project will provide for at least an additional 650 farms. When I think of the tremendous development that is occurring in New South Wales and remember that this magnificent undertaking is part of the grand concept of the Snowy Mountains project, 1 think of how my colleagues from north Queensland, Western Australia and elsewhere must feel that their areas have been left out of the picture of national development, although all of this work is being carried out.
– Order! The honorable member is getting away from the bills.
– I do not intend to debate the subject of works in other parts of the Commonwealth. I am merely directing attention to the magnificent work that is being carried’ out as part of the Snowy Mountains undertaking. Had I been permitted to do so, I would have regretted the failure to do work of a similar nature elsewhere. The use of the waters of the Snowy
Mountains area in New South Wales is an outstanding achievement. We have every reason to praise it. The Coleambally irrigation area-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that, under the bill to which the honorable member is referring, the House is debating only the ratification of an agreement in relation to the provision of finance for the Blowering dam. The general development of New South Wales does not come within the scope of the bill.
– That is quite so, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The Chair has been very tolerant up until now. I thought the honorable member would come back to the bill. 1 suggest that he co-operate with the Chair and do that now.
– I am doing that, Mr. Speaker. The Minister for Air, in his second-reading speech, directed attention to the Coleambally irrigation project. I do not intend to debate the wider question of works in New South Wales, but the Coleambally project is part of the Blowering project. It is the means by which the waters from the Blowering dam will be used in irrigating land. It is the justification for the Blowering project. As the Minister pointed out, it is of very great importance. It is the means of giving life to the land in that area. So, as the Minister has referred to it, I propose to do so.
The Coleambally irrigation area, which is south of the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales, is easily the largest community irrigation scheme now being developed in Australia. The area of land selected for this new irrigation area contains nearly 450,000 acres. Next in size is the Marceba-Dimbulah project of 49,000 acres in north Queensland. The pilot stage of the Ord River irrigation scheme in the east Kimberley area of Western Australia embraces 30,000 acres. It is apparent that the Coleambally project, which is a part of the Blowering project, is an outstanding achievement and a very fine piece of work.
A proposal to divert the waters of the Snowy River into the Murrumbidgee River first came under notice in 1884. A lot of water has flowed down the Murrumbidgee
River since those distant days. We all know of the great visionaries who have been concerned with this matter. This evening people will applaud the fact that this work is to be carried out and that the nation is to get on with this very fine undertaking. Although an exact estimate of the number of new irrigated farms that ultimately will become available as a result of the extra water to be stored cannot be given yet, it is expected that the number will be about 1,000. The lands within the Coleambally irrigation area are sufficient to provide up to 720 mixed farms and 125 horticultural farms. The former farms will average about 520 acres, and the latter farms will have 40 acres of first-class horticultural land and supplementary areas which could be used for cash cropping, such as vegetable production. That clearly indicates what is being done, the importance of the undertaking and the need to get on with the work as speedily as possible.
The Opposition is delighted to join with the Government on this occasion. As I said at the outset, our only regret is the delay that has occurred. We should like to see the work go forward. Therefore, the Opposition joins with the Government in the hope that the bill will have a speedy passage. Already too much time has elapsed since the first proposals for this undertaking were made. The Labour Party is not satisfied with the rate of national development. This work should have been commenced during the period of the credit squeeze, when unemployment figures reached tragic proportions. All that was necessary was for the Commonwealth Government to make funds available as it now proposes to do.
The principle of Commonwealth-State co-operation which is embodied in the Blowering project should be extended to other States, and especially to northern Australia. The Opposition is proud of the Snowy Mountains project. That project has won world-wide acclaim. The Labour Party is determined that the valuable work of the Snowy Mountains Authority will be allowed to continue throughout the Snowy Mountains area and eventually, under the leadership of great Australians like Sir William Hudson, will be extended throughout the whole of the Commonwealth. The Opposition is pleased to support the bills.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) 19.171. - We are dealing with two bills. In respect of the first, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority Bill, 1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). But in respect of the second, the Blowering Water Storage Works Agreement Bill, or the honorable member . for Hume’s benefit society bill, I disagree very strongly with the honorable member for Macquarie. I will tell him why. Let me refer to the first bill first. I think every member of this House would like to join with the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Macquarie in paying a very high tribute to somebody who, we all agree, will rank in history as one of the great Australians of this period. 1 refer to Sir William Hudson. As the honorable member for Macquarie pointed out, we admire not only Sir William’s engineering capacity but also his leadership in all walks of life. He has welded people from different parts of the world into one strong and united team, and the whole project has gone ahead without industrial unrest. All those accomplishments command the admiration not only of members of this House but of all Australians.
Sir William’s work has been recognized outside Australia, too, and 1 am absolutely certain that it will have much wider ramifications. For instance, in March of this year I happened to be in South-East Asia. Two Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority teams were there. One was building roads in northern Thailand. 1 understand that the recent parliamentary delegation to South-East Asia visited that team. The other was drilling or testing proposed dam sites on ‘ the Mekong River for the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. When I was in Souths East Asia, I had the privilege of visiting the latter team on a dam site 20 miles up the river from Vientiane. This party of ten men was out on its own, with Thailand on one side of the river and Laos on the other. The men were working under difficulties which people in Australia do not realize. I say without any cynicism whatever that they were a grand team of men whom any Australian would be proud to recognize as Australians. The party included two Poles, two Maltese, one
Italian and one Irishman; but they came from the Snowy Mountains where, under the leadership of Sir William Hudson, they had been welded together not only as a team but also as Australians. There they were, out on their own, on the northern border of Thailand, where Thailand and Laos are divided by the Mekong River. They were doing a magnificent job and carrying on the traditions that have been established in the Snowy Mountains area under the leadership of Sir William Hudson. 1 understand from the delegation which visited the road-making team in northern Thailand that the same things could be said about that team. I am therefore delighted to pay a tribute to a man who will rank in the history of Australia not only with other industrial leaders but with many of our national leaders during crises in wartime. I am delighted that the Government has extended the term of office of Sir William Hudson, if only for what is a comparatively short term. I am sure that every member of this House will join in paying that tribute.
I come now to the second bill, which deals with the Blowering dam. Although I quite understand the efforts of the honorable member for Macquarie to make the best of the situation, his speech was the best bit of electioneering clowning I have heard for a very long time. The honorable member does not have the background of experience that I have with regard to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, and particularly with regard to the Blowering dam. The honor-, able member claims that credit is due to the New South Wales Government, but the opposite is the true position. I attended the first conference held here in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme. That was the first time I had ever sat in the Cabinet room. I did not know then that I would sit there for a short time as a federal Minister. I was then one of two Ministers representing the Victorian Liberal Government at the conference, which was to decide whether we were going to get the Snowy Mountains scheme started. If the Liberal Party Ministers from Victoria had not backed the federal Labour Government of that time, the New South Wales Labour Government would have stopped the ‘ scheme. The representatives of “the New
South Wales Labour Government said that the Snowy Mountains belong to New South Wales. They were keen to stop the scheme, and it did not matter to them’ that the Snowy River rose in New South Wales and flowed out through Victoria. When they found the Victorian Ministers joining with the federal Labour Ministers, they realized that they would be in difficulties if they did not come to the party. The federal Labour Ministers and Victorian Liberal Ministers wanted the Blowering dam included in the Snowy Mountains scheme, but the New South Wales representatives said: “ Nobody will have anything to do with the Blowering dam except the New South Wales Government. We will finance it. We will do everything in connexion with it. lt is not to be included in the projects that will come under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority or whatever is to be the name of the authority.”
The honorable member for Macquarie does not know the background. He has tried to take all the credit for the New South Wales Government and to turn the bill into a benefit bill for the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) in the forthcoming election. It is no wonder that I say that his speech was one of the funniest pieces of electioneering clowning I have ever heard in this House.
– It was a most ignorant speech.
– If it was ignorant, that was not the honorable member’s fault. He was not at the conference. It is his misfortune that 1 happened to be the leading Victorian Minister at the conference when these events took place.
– You told the people to turn on the electricity when the strike was on.
– The honorable member does not like it, quite obviously. I told the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) what would happen when the Communists got control in Gippsland. I said there would be blackouts there. There have been blackouts, and you do not like it. This information is most indigestible for the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay). I am sorry that it hurts him, but I am telling the true story of what happened in the original negotiations for the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– But you boycotted the opening.
– 1 did not boycott the opening. I was the only Liberal Minister there. I was on the platform. You are wrong again. I was there, and Mr. McDonald was with me. It was difficult to be there, because a new Governor was coming to Victoria. We had to catch a car to Albury in order to get back in time to meet him. The honorable member for Darebin, who is interjecting, does not like it.
– Order! The honorable member for Darebin will cease interjecting. Let us come back to the measure and leave this family dispute to be settled somewhere else. The relevant measure is for the ratification of an agreement with New South Wales to finance the scheme. It does not deal with the scheme itself.
– As I was saying, I was one of the Victorian Ministers at the opening. There was no boycott of it, as far as we were concerned. Say what you like about it, but the judgment of the New South Wales Labour Government was that the Blowering dam was a New South Wales project and was not to be included in the main Snowy project. If it had been included, there would not have been the delays to which the honorable member for Macquarie has referred. The work probably would have proceeded much quicker. I am delighted that at last the New South Wales Government has come to the Commonwealth Government and said: “Help us with the dam; we cannot finance it. Have the work carried out under the Snowy Mountains scheme.” That was the proper thing to have done in the first place, and I am very glad that this co-operation has come about now. I am also very glad to be in the House at this moment and to be able to tell honorable members the true history of the negotiations. I do not blame the honorable member for Macquarie for doing bis best. I have told the true story. If any honorable member wants to check it. he can look at the minutes of the conference. When Opposition members complain about the rate of progress of the scheme, as the honorable member for Macquarie has done, I suggest to them that they have a look at the facts. The Government of New South Wales is responsible for any delay, not the Commonwealth Government or the Snowy : Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
– Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the bill.
– I am dealing with the Blowering dam.
– Order! The honorable member is dealing with the project itself.
– J know I am, but-
-Order! The honorable member will deal with the subject-matter before the Chair, which is the ratification of the financial arrangements with the New South Wales Government.
– I am dealing with the ratification, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. SPEAKER__ If you do so, you will be in order.
– I regret that this agreement was not made very much earlier. I have given the reasons why it could have been made much earlier. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that we are very glad to have the bill, but 1 do not agree that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for any delay. The blame should be laid at the door of the New South Wales Government.
In the few minutes available to me I have put the record right, so that there can bc no question of the bill being a benefit bill for the honorable member for Hume in the forthcoming election. The blame for any delay in the ratification of the agreement ought to be laid on the New South Wales Government.
.- In dealing with the bills before the House, I want first to trace the history of the Blowering dam and the negotiations that have taken place between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government. The New South Wales Minister for Conservation, the Honorable A. G. Enticknap approached the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), as long ago as 16th. September,. 1952, with the suggestion that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority should build the Blowering dam as an integral part of the Snowy Mountains scheme. What tripe the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has been trying to put across the House to-night. Mr. Enticknap was’ accompanied by the then chairman of the Conservation Authority of New South Wales, Mr. C. K. Jacka, and the commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, Sir William Hudson, was also present. Mr. Enticknap pointed out that in the light of availability of staff and funds and in view of its existing commitments, it was not possible for the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of New South Wales to undertake the construction of the dam. at that time. He suggested that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority might build the dam and that the New South Wales authorities should concentrate on the establishment of an irrigation scheme to use the waters as soon as possible after diversion through TI power station had commenced.
– Order! The honorable member will come back to the measure before the Chair. He is now giving the history of the negotiations leading up to the agreement. We are ratifying an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales relating only to the system of financing the project. I ask the honorable member not to refer to the: principles of the scheme as a scheme.
– I understand that the State representatives gained the impression that the Minister for’ National Development’ was favorable to the proposal in broad terms and that the question of the State of New South Wales providing the money for the construction of the dam-
– Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the bill.
– Surely the history of negotiations between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government relating to the construction of the dam must be relevant to the measure before the House. .
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to argue with the
Chair.. The position is quite clear. It is a very limited bill. A degree of tolerance is necessary, but I ask the honorable member not to abuse it.
– 1 rise to order. The Opposition consented to the House debating two bills, one relating to the Snowy project as such and to the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson, and the other relating to the ratification of the agreement with respect to the Blowering dam. I submit further that the honorable member for Hume is entitled to reply to the honorable member for Chisholm who made sweeping and wild assertions based on a memory which I think has faded.
– Order! I must point out to the honorable member that the question before the Chair is the ratification of an agreement. We now have added to that the question of the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson. The project, as a project, is not under consideration, and the Chair was over tolerant with the honorable member for Macquarie when he led for the Opposition in this debate.
– 1 rise to order. How can we ratify an agreement without mentioning the agreement?
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that we are not dealing with the history of the whole transaction. There was some justification for the honorable member for Chisholm replying to the honorable member for Macquarie, but there is no justification for a general recital of personal conversations and everything else that took place between so-and-so and soandso or about what the scheme involves. The Chair does not want to bc exceedingly hard on the honorable member, but I suggest that he relate his remarks to the bill.
– I certainly thought I would be able to reply to the honorable member for Chisholm; but let me say that I wholeheartedly support the proposal before the House. The only complaint I have is that the scheme was not put into operation years ago. I happened to be a member of this Parliament when these proposals were first brought before it, and I know perfectly well that, with the exception of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr.
Turnbull) and the late General Rankin, every honorable member of the then Opposition boycotted the scheme. Therefore, I cannot see how honorable members on the Government side can take any credit for the scheme at all. - Had the Australian Labour Party not been in office at that time, there would not have been any Snowy Mountains scheme to-day because each and every honorable member who then sat in opposition to the Labour Government boycotted it. I say again that my only complaint is that this dam should have been built years ago. I know, too, that a former Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Nelson Lemmon, thought that the completion of the dam was to coincide with the completion of the TI and T2 power stations, but that has not happened. As a result, we have seen this Government buy fourteen farms below the site of the dam at a cost of £285,000, and it has not finished yet. All the farmers below the site of the dam still have complaints about the water that is coming through now. I live in Tumut and I know what I am talking about. Hundreds of acres of some of the best farming land in this country has been put out of production, and that is our complaint. This Government has been responsible for the fact that the Blowering dam was not built years ago. I say again that I wholeheartedly support the scheme and I hope that it will be completed within a very short space of time.
– You are on the bill now.
– Certainly we are on the bill now. 1 repeat that only the honorable member for Mallee and the late General Rankin wanted to carry the scheme through. Evidently the honorable member for Chisholm who made his attack here to-night, and who comes from Victoria, was a member of the Victorian State Government at that time; but I well recall that every member of the present Government parties who was then in opposition, even the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), sat in the Parliament as silent as oysters. I was in the Parliament at that time, and the member of this Government whose electorate will benefit most from the. construction of the dam has been sitting here as silent as an oyster. He has mentioned the matter in this Parliament only twice. Those occasions were 1955 and 1961, and he will regret his actions because, believe me, the people of the Riverina district will not forget it on 30th November next when they go to the polls. They will certainly vote him out of office, and rightly so.
So, Mr. Speaker, as you will not permit me to go any further, I repeat that I wholeheartedly support the scheme. All I ask is that those people who have farms on the Tumut River and who have suffered through the neglect of this Government, get just treatment. The £285,000 expended so far might just as well have been thrown down the drain. All that money could have been saved. I ask the Government to think, too, of the extra cost that will be involved when waters are coming through from the Snowy Mountains scheme. It will be much more difficult to construct the Blowering dam in the circumstances obtaining to-day than it would have been if the intentions of the Chifley Government had been carried out.
– For very good and sufficient, and, for the most part, personal reasons, I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of these two measures. For more than 40 years I have been identified with the proposal to divert the snowfed rivers of the Snowy Mountains into the Murrumbidgee River on the one side and the Murray River on the other. For many years I have endeavoured from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year to get public and political recognition of the sheer merits of this proposal which is so very vital to the future of our country. But more than that; in spite of my own personal associations with this proposal, I. have been identified with men who themselves and their fathers, before them have advocated this proposal for more than 70 years. It is true, as the honorable member for Macquarie- (Mr. Luchetti) said, that this proposal first took concrete form in 1884 and was submitted to the New South Wales Government. When one discusses measures such as the two now before the House, Mr. Speaker, it is necessary to deal briefly with the historical sequence of the events that have made these bills both . possible and desirable for the Australian community..
– Order! I point out to the Minister that a general discussion on the history of events and on the project itself is outside the scope of the bills. I ask other honorable members, also, to assist the Chair by confining their remarks to the subjectmatter of the bills - the ratification of the agreement and the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson.
– I bow to your ruling, as is my duty, Mr. Speaker. At the same time, I regret the ruling, because, in my opinion, it is most important that the present generation and succeeding generations know something, of the long struggle that went on.
– The story should be told on an appropriate occasion when the telling of it will be in order.
– Then I shall have to omit all reference to that most gallant and romantic period of our history and get to the point at which unanimity was reached in the first place between the two principal States - Victoria and New South Wales - and, subsequently,, between them and the Commonwealth Government, for the diversion of the snow-fed rivers. It is true that men have looked at our inland rivers with despair from time to time. They knew that, whereas those streams, could be dammed by organizations just as important as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority-
– Order! The Minister is getting away from the bills. He is now giving & history of Australian fivers. We are concerned only with the ratification of the agreement between New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government, and with the re-appointment of Sir William Hudson. Discussion of anything else will be out of order.
– The provision made in parts of the agreement is set put in .’the second-reading speech of the Minister .for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) on the . Blowering Water Storage Works Agreement Bill 1963. The Snowy Mountains Agreement had its genesis in 1949. That is the agreement to which we are referring here. That agreement was conceived in, 1949, when unanimity was reached between the Commonwealth, on the one hand, and Victoria and New South Wales on the other, and subsequently-
– Order! The Minister is ignoring the request made by the Chair. We are now dealing only with an agreement between New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government, not with an agreement involving Victoria or with the original Snowy Mountains Agreement. I ask him to co-operate with the Chair by relating his remarks to the bills.
– Mr. Speaker, I suggest, with very great respect, that the reason for the introduction of these bills is that the Snowy Mountains Agreement specifically laid down that New South Wales should construct and maintain the Blowering dam. The Government of that State, for a variety of reasons, which, 1 have no doubt, were good and sufficient, found it impossible to construct the dam, and therefore alternative proposals had to be devised by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), an agreement with the States had to be reached and legislation had to be introduced in this Parliament to give effect to the agreement arising out of that sequence of events. Surely, Mr. Speaker, I am permitted to refer to that.
– You are.
– Clause 6 of the original agreement-
– The original agreement with New South Wales or the original agreement with New South Wales and Victoria?
– The Original agreement between the Commonwealth Government and New South Wales for the construction of the Blowering dam, from which arises the measure that is before us to-day. Clause 6 of that agreement, in specific terms, provides -
Unfortunately and unhappily, that agreement could not- bc kept by one of the signatories. As a consequence, the legislation now before us has been introduced to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the most imaginative piece of work that has ever been undertaken in our country. After all, it was this Parliament that established the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and it was that authority that diverted these snow-fed rivers, on the one hand into the Murrumbidgee River, and, on the other hand, into the Murray River. It is the responsibility of the nation - leaving the States out of it altogether - to ensure that, these snow-fed rivers having been diverted into our inland streams, the waters so diverted shall be utilized to the best advantage for the development and effective occupation of our country. That is the purpose for which these two measures are designed. They will do nothing else but achieve that purpose. They will fill the gap left by the failure of the New South Wales Government to honour its obligation to construct the Blowering dam, and they will make it possible for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to act as agent for the State and to carry out the physical task of constructing the dam. The dam will be constructed in the course of the next few years.
This legislation provides, I suggest with very great respect, Mr. Speaker, for a great variety of other matters to be dealt with once the dam has been constructed. For example, the Minister for Air, in bis second-reading speech on the Blowering Water Storage Works Agreement Bill, stated that the House is now asked to approve an agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales for the construction of a dam on the Tumut River at Blowering which will provide a storage with a capacity of 1,300,000 acre feet of water and of all appurtenant works. That is the first responsibility set out in precise terms in the agreement, and, after all, that responsibility is easy to understand. The second responsibility provided for in the agreement is the provision by the Commonwealth of a loan to the State equivalent to one-half the cost of the proposed works. Repayment of the loan will begin ten years after the first payment made by the Commonwealth, and each payment made by the Commonwealth will be repaid by twenty equal consecutive half-yearly amounts. The rate of interest payable by the State shall be the appropriate rate on long-term Commonwealth loans.
At all times when the agreement and this legislation were under consideration, the difficulty that confronted the New South Wales Government was that of finding the financial resources to enable it to carry out the undertaking it had given in the agreement. There was no way in which the State could’ solve that problem without the assistance of the Commonwealth Government. After all, New South Wales is cluttered up with dams in course of construction, and it would be idle for the State Government to undertake a gigantic project such as this to add to the m umber of uncompleted dams in New South Wales. So provision was made in the legislation to provide New South Wales with half the cost of the construction of the dam.
The third provision of the measure is for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, as agent for the State, to design and construct the dam spillway, outlet works and other incidental works. It is also provided that these works will be in service within six years of the date of the agreement. That is of the very greatest importance to the people of our country and to the nation itself. We have land-hungry mcn in all six States. In New South Wales and Victoria in particular, we have landhungry men who are, in my opinion, the greatest irrigationists in the world. I refer to the second generation of those who were the original irrigationists in the Murray River irrigation areas in Victoria and New South Wales and in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area in New South Wales. The second-generation men, who were born there and who have devoted their lives to irrigation in all its practices, are more skilled in the science of irrigation than are any other irrigationists anywhere. It is of the very greatest importance that provision be made as rapidly as possible for these landless men to be provided with land, in the first place, and with irrigable and irrigated land in the second place.
The fourth provision referred to by the Minister when he introduced the measure covers’ the very point I am trying to emphasize. The State, within six months after the completion of the Blowering dam, is to make available a minimum of 70 large irrigation farms within the Coleambally area or other irrigation areas in the Murrumbidgee valley, together with horticultural farms, and is to make provision for the full use of all additional water provided by the storage within ten years of the date of completion of the works. I took some small part in these negotiations. It was argued to a successful conclusion by the Minister for National Development and by the other representatives of the Commonwealth Government that it would be idle to enter into a contract such as this with the New South Wales Government and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the conservation of these vast quantities of water, unless the water was to be utilized for irrigation purposes. So the agreement, and now the legislation, had to set out precisely the term of years that it will take, the time when this work is likely to be completed and the pace at which the land is to be settled and used for irrigation purposes.
At the moment, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and the Commonwealth Government have diverted the waters of the snow-fed rivers. At the moment, the waters are pouring from the Eucumbene into the Tumut and from the Tumut into the Murrumbidgee. They flow through the arid areas of New South Wales until the Murrumbidgee joins the Murray, and then the flow continues to the sea. It is a stark tragedy that the waters are not being used for the purposes for which the diversions were originally conceived and carried out. This legislation makes their proper use possible, and because of this it is of very great importance to every thinking Australian and to every member of this House, regardless of his political affiliations. The fact is that our rivers flow through land, much of which is subjected to a rainfall of less than 10 inches and 57 per cent, of which is subjected to a rainfall of less than 15 inches. We have rivers that have no hope of flowing continuously and irrigation schemes that must of necessity be restricted to the quantity of water available in these rivers, with no hope of expansion except through imaginative schemes such as this.
For me, fourteen years of disputation arc over. Indeed, during these last fourteen years allegations have constantly been made that this Government never the New South Wales Government should do something towards the construction of the Blowering dam and thus make this water available. The passing of this legislation means that 79 years of ceaseless struggle by the people of western New South Wales and of the Riverina are at an end. They could have no more eloquent memorial than the splendid purposes of the bill.
Colcambally today is one of the thriving communities in our country, restricted as it is to the water likely to be made available without the Blowering dam. There will be a multiplication of the settlement in Coleambally when the Blowering dam is constructed and greater numbers of acre feet of water are available for irrigation purposes. On Coleambally to-day are some of the finest irrigationists in the world. Young men and young women are growing rice there for the first time in our agricultural history. They are getting yields of up to 4 tons per acre when the average yield of rice in countries where rice has been grown for countless centuries is confined within the limit of 14 cwt. to the acre. These young men and young women the men could not do it without the assistance of their wives year after year are turning out crops of rice of superlative quality.
Rice is only one crop. They arc carrying out experiments in the growing of cotton, and that industry will expand in that locality. I do not now refer exclusively to Coleambally but to that vast stretch of country between the Murray River and the Murrumbidgee River and between the Murrumbidgee River and the Lachlan River in New South Wales. This is one of the greatest stretches of arable land on the face of God’s earth. It is limited in use only by the amount of water available in these rivers. If more water can be put into the Murrumbidgee, the Lachlan and the Darling, this vast area of arable land can be brought to a state of fertility that will not be matched in any other part of the world, and I speak as an agriculturalist.
The passing of this legislation will restore hope to the people who, generations ago in 1884, conceived this idea and struggled valiantly to have it examined and accepted and to have the Commonwealth Parliament intercede between the two States. There was disputation as to whether the water should go into one river or the other. This disputation was resolved by the agreement, which provided that it should be the exclusive responsibility of the State of New South Wales to construct the Blowering dam. The. State found that it could not construct the dam, and this affected the people who had been waiting for generations for the dam. It is to the everlasting credit of the Minister for National Development that he was able to enter into negotiations with the Premier and the Minister for Agriculture and Conservation in New South Wales and reach unanimity as to what should be done. What should be done is expressed in the two measures. If they have a speedy passage in this House no two bills are more deserving of a speedy passage hope will be restored to our landless men and women. A generation of men and women has been waiting patiently for the Blowering dam to be constructed so that Coleambally may be extended not in terms of 10, 20 or 30 farms but in terms of 100, 200, 500, 700, 1,000 and 1,250 farms as rapidly as possible. That is the purpose of this legislation.It has no other purpose, and it deserves the support of every honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation, for the purposes of a new clause to be moved in the bill, announced.
Proposed new clause 3a.
Amendment (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill: - “3a. The payments (including advances) by the Commonwealth to the State of New South Wales provided for by the agreement may be made, by way of financial assistance to that State on the terms and conditions contained in the agreement, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is appropriated accordingly.”.
.- The Opposition accepts the amendment moved by the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn). The Opposition welcomes the bill as a whole. I have stated that clearly before. It is not a matter of recrimination but rather one of giving credit where credit is due. I have done that in respect of Sir William Hudson. I give credit to everybody else who has contributed to this important undertaking. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) during his term as a member of this Parliament has made speech after speech on this matter. He has directed to Ministers question after question on this topic. His name deserves to be mentioned. I say no more because I know that fair-minded honorable members will accept what I have said as a truthful comment.
That this work is to commence is due entirely to the fact that the Commonwealth will find the money to make the project possible. This has been done. It is part of the agreement that we ratify here this evening. As I commented earlier, my only regret is that something of this nature could not have been done earlier. There have been times in the history of this nation when this work might have been undertaken. Unfortunately the work was not commenced on those occasions, but it is being commenced now; it is better late than never.
With respect to New South Wales and its responsibilities, that State has adopted a very fine and fair attitude with respect to the water from the Menindee lakes which it has made available to other States. The New South Wales Government has been under fire from anti-Labour people in that State because pf its actions. I will not pursue that aspect. It will suffice to say that that Government has adopted a most fair and reasonable attitude in these matters. Originally it was obliged to agree to build the Blowering dam because it wanted the right to control discharge of water from the dam for irrigation purposes. That was a reasonable proposition. In the course of time the New South Wales Government found that it lacked the finance to construct the dam. Loan funds were cut. We had the horror budget, the little horror budget and the credit squeeze. New South Wales lacked sufficient finance and consequently could not do the work’. Now, by this agree ment, the work will be commenced. We are delighted to learn that the job is to bc done. From this side of the chamber we wish the project every success. We look forward .to the day when happy Australians will live in the area and prosper as a result of the legislation that we approve this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16th October (vide page 1842), on motion by Mr. Fairbairn -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1939), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill is to authorize the borrowing of £62,500,000 for defence purposes. Here we get to the root, as it were, of the Government’s financial programme. Honorable members may remember that in bringing down his Budget on 13th August last the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated that total expenditures were expected to exceed receipts by £358,400,000 in 1963-64. That presumed that there would be defence expenditure - after all, defence expenditure is incurred annually - and there would be a deficiency between Consolidated Revenue and expenditure of £62,500,000. The great gap in the Government’s proposition was where the £358,000,000- the aggregate deficitwas to como from. The Treasurer implied that he would be able to raise some £300,000,000 on the loan market, but that he would have to provide about £58,000,000 by means of a budget deficit - that being the difference between total revenue and total expenditure.
Technically, under the terms of the Financial Agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, any amounts which the Commonwealth raises in loan funds for defence purposes do not rank for distribution among the States. I suppose that, in the long run, that is the only technical reason why the bill we are now contemplating deals with defence expenditure as such. To-day, the governments of Australia, and the Commonwealth Government in particular, are responsible for something like one quarter of the total expenditure in the community. Australia’s gross national product aggregates, in- round figures, £8,000,000,000. Such sums are astronomical in themselves and in many ways they are incomprehensible to most people. Of that total spending of £8,000,000,000 in the year, the Commonwealth Government is responsible for something like £2,000,000,000, or one-quarter. How it spends that money and where it raises it are of some significance in the economy as a whole. It is recognized nowadays that what Governments do in the raising and expending of revenues is significant to the destiny of the economy as a whole.
I wish now to refer honorable members to some rather interesting comments which are to be found in a report of the Bank of Canada. Canada has an economy which in many ways is similar to that of Australia. It has a bigger population than we have - 17,000,000 people as against 11,000,000 in Australia - but its economy is similar to ours. There has recently been set up in Canada a royal commission on banking and finance and, appended to the most recent annual report of the Bank of Canada is a statement by the governor of that bank, containing comments which he made to that royal commission. The document is dated 9th January, 1963, so it is quite a’ recent document. On page 61 of the bank’s annual report the following remarks are to be found: -
That there should be a consistent meshing together of all aspects of public financial and economic policy and, in particular, that monetary policy, fiscal policy and debt management policy should bc carefully co-ordinated and purposefully directed towards attaining the overall economic objectives of the community.
In Australia, last consideration seems to be given to this question of debt management - the total which the Government has to find from the loan market, in the long run, to bridge the gap between its total expenditure and the total revenue raised from the community. When we were contemplating last year’s budget, the Government envisaged that there would be a deficit of the order of £118,000,000. In fact, when the results for the year were finalized, instead of there being a deficit of £118,000,000, there was a surplus of £16,000,000 in the public accounts, which meant that the Government had made an error of about £134,000,000 in its estimate of the financial picture. Mainly because of that large error which it made in 1962-63 the Government has been most reluctant, in 1963-64, to draw any financial picture at all. When the Treasurer brought his Budget before us a month or two ago, instead of saying, as he had said in the previous year, that a deficit of so much was expected,, all that he said was that there would be a deficiency of £358,000,000 between the total revenue and the total expenditure for the year, and that he hoped that £300,000,000 of that would be found on the loan market, leaving a deficit of £58,000,000. That is not good enough for an economy such as ours.
– You will agree that it is hard to estimate loan raisings.
– Yes, I agree that it is hard to estimate, but as I have said in this House on other occasions, the Government must make an endeavour to make an estimate.
– How close do you think you could get to the correct figure?
– I hope I could get closer than the Treasurer got last time. I suggest that because he did so badly last time is one reason why the country is now being plunged into an election. There is much uncertainty about the future. Whether that uncertainty can be lessened depends on whether the Government is prepared to take its courage in both hands-
– Do you think there arc better ways of estimating a deficit?
– I think there are far better ways of estimating and I hope that the next government will not be as far wrong as you people were last year. I am rather interested in the provocative remarks that are coming from the Government benches because I think they show a certain uneasiness on the part of the Government as to what the future holds.
– You are just being critical without giving any of your own ideas.
– I will give you my ideas in a moment, but 1 suggest that the fact that this Government is so short of ideas is one of the reasons why honorable members opposite are running in all directions at once, as they appear to be at the moment. This measure, on the surface, appears innocuous. It simply states that. £62,500,000 will be provided for defence purposes out of loan funds instead of out of revenue. I am not going to get into an argument this evening about how much should be expended on defence. We had that argument last night. If the Commonwealth Government intends to spend something like £2,000,000,000 in the aggregate, it does not much matter where this £62,500,000 comes from. When you pay cheques for defence purposes the people who receive them do not care very much whether the money comes from taxes, from receipts of Government enterprises, from loan funds or from a credit expansion budget deficit. That is not their concern, but it is the concern of the Government.
The statement that I read from the report of the Bank of Canada highlights what every government of a modern community must bear in mind. No longer in a modern community can you say that this kind of exercise is the responsibility of the banking system, that that kind of exercise is the responsibility of the taxing system and that another kind of exercise depends on the loan market. The three exercises must be coordinated. For those who are interested in. reading the documentation on this aspect, let me say that the Radcliffe committee in
Great Britain pointed to the fact that what is called debt management - in essence, the extent to which you go on to the public loan market and the extent to which you resort to a budget deficit - is a very significant exercise, not something which should be regarded as trivial. The Radcliffe committee said that the debt management is not something that ; should be left to the end; it must be a part of the overall co-ordination. All that the most recent Budget indicates is that this Government is not doing that kind of planning. We have not adequate resources in the banking system and in the Treasury to dovetail these aspects.
The Government seems to be very proud because a month or two before Christmas only 58,000 people are unemployed. The other night, when I said that unemployment ought to be nil, an honorable member on the Government side suggested that my statement was absurd. Do honorable members on the Government side believe that the 58,000 people who are unemployed should be unemployed? Do honorable members on the Government side think that number is the irreducible minimum? I suggest that they should be looking a little closer at the figures and asking themselves what will be the position at the end of January of 1964, when another 60,000 or 80,000 young people will be on the labour market, bearing in mind that now, two months before the Christmas boom and only three months before the school-leaving boom, there are 58,000 people unemployed. Is this economy in such a position that by the end of January, 1964, it will be capable of absorbing about 100,000 more people into productive employment? I pointed out in the House the other evening that the census figures show that in the seven-year period between 1954 and 1961 the aggregate increase in employment in Australia was 525,000 people, an average annual increase of 75,000. Can the Australian economy, which on the average has been able to absorb about 75,000 people annually, find a minimum of about 100,000 jobs in the next three months? I think that is beyond the present capacity of the economy, and that is. one of the reasons why these exercises, which appear pretty trivial lo-. some honorable members on the Government side, really are quite significant.
We believe that in the Australian economy at present there is a great deal of unused capacity in the productive mechanism. That unused capacity is not due to a shortage of labour; it is due to a shortage of purchasing power in the community.
– Could it be due to bad planning in the first place?
– I think it was due to bad planning in the first place. If there has been any bad planning in Australia from 1949 to 1963, the responsibility lies on the Government, not on the Opposition. I will go all the way with the honorable member if he thinks that the answer is bad planning. I am suggesting that there should be better planning, and one place where better planning can begin is at the government level.
– Do you suggest that we should control the productive capacity of every industry in Australia?
– No, I do not think you should. The Minister for the Interior is very bright in quoting slogans, but he will not face up to the real situation. At present 58,000 people are unemployed, and according to the statistics only 29,000 jobs can bc regarded as being vacant. Two months before Chrismas there are two people available to fill every vacant job.
– That is completely theoretical.
– I agree. It is theoretical because the position is under-stated to the extent that a lot of people who want work are not recorded in the figures. For various reasons laid down in the social services legislation they cannot be registered for employment because their husbands or their wives arc already in jobs. I shall not go into that argument at present, but I do ask the Government to face up to the facts. At present 58,000 people are recorded as seeking jobs whereas technically only 29,000 jobs are available. In the next three months anything up to 100,000 persons will be added to the 58,000 already unemployed. Halve that additional number if you like and say that only 50,000 will be coming on the labour market in the next three months.
In that case, by the end of January, 1964, about i 00,000 people will have to be placed in jobs, ‘but, according to the census figures for the seven-year period from 1954 to 1961, the average annual increase in the capacity of our economy was only 75,000 jobs.
Getting back to the bill, one place where you can generate pretty quickly an increase in activity is in the field of government expenditure. As a forecast of the Labour Party’s election programme, let me say that the greatest stimulus that the Government can give to public spending is to give additional purchasing power to family groups in the community through such things as child endowment and increased social service benefits. The additional spending power thus generated would do something towards taking up this slack which exists in the productive capacity of the community. There are some people, of course, who will argue the reverse of what I argue on this proposition, and I will be interested to hear them get up and put their points of view. But I say that the reason why the economy is not ticking over as quickly as it ought to be is hesitancy on the part of the investing side of the community. The members of that section of the community, after all, invest in businesses only if they can be assured that they will sell what the increased capacity resulting from their investment will generate. They will not sell it, of course, unless there is increased purchasing power in the community.
We have repeated in this bill the mistakes that one would have thought the Government would have learned to avoid twelve months ago. I take the House back to that time, because the thesis of the Government exactly twelve months ago was to the effect that if the Australian economy was to tick over at the rate then regarded as desirable, the Government had to spend about £120,000,000 more than it collected in revenue, and the difference would have been made up by credit expansion. The ultimate result was that instead of having to face a deficit of £120,000,000 the Government finished with a surplus of £16,000,000. It seemed quite gratified by that result, but what it ignored was the fact that there had been no decline in Government activity. The total Government spending was what it had expected at the beginning, but private spending was roughly £ 1 00,000,000 less than had been expected. Because of this the level of unemployment at that stage was of the order of 1 00,000 persons.
What I am suggesting is that because it was so far out on that occasion, the Government is not even game to make a guess this time. It says, “Probably we will have to face a deficit of £58,000,000, or £60,000,000 to put it in round figures “, but I contend that this is not good enough. I am making the criticism that there is a need to develop in the Treasury, or whatever economic planning mechanism exists in Australia, some much sharper instruments. The Government must have a much clearer picture, when it prepares its Budget, of the ultimate outcome twelve months hence than it appears to have at the moment.
This bill, in essence, is largely an economic fiction. Whether, technically, you raise so much and spend so much, and then decide to drag (he deficiency from loan funds and allocate it to defence expenditure is really not the final exercise. What determines the success or failure of a government in a modern economy is not only its taxing policy; it has to bc a combination, as the Canadian report points out, of taxing policy, or what is called fiscal policy, on the one hand, and monetary policy on the other, together with this third thing which is almost an unknown science in Australia, this business of debt management. This is a term, I would suggest, that is hardly understood in this House. Yet the two most recent bodies inquiring into situations in any way comparable to that of Australia, namely the Radcliffe committee in Great Britain and this committee that is sitting at present in Canada, point to this business of debt management as being a much more significant exercise in those countries than it is in Australia. If we were not in the dying hours of the Parliament I would go into this matter at greater length than, perhaps, the House is prepared to have me go at the moment. I suggest, at any rate, that the incoming government - and I hope it is a different government from the present one, because if it is, my words and thoughts will perhaps be considered of greater significance than they appear to be considered at the moment - should give more attention to this matter than has been given to it in the past.
I think we had a measure similar to this last year, allocating a certain amount .of money-from the loan fund to defence expenditure. After all, defence expenditure, for the most part, is incurred in a particular year. It is regarded as an annual commitment, and if it is in an annual commitment that vanishes in the year in which it is incurred, it should be met out of revenue and not out of loan funds.
But any government, in any year, has to make the decision whether in total it expends more than it collects, or less than it collects, according to the circumstances; that is, whether there will be a Budget surplus on the one hand or a Budget deficit on the other is a question of the economic circumstances of the time. We believe that, in the economic circumstances of this time it is wise for the Government to have a Budget deficit, so that it will be spending more than it is collecting, because there arc certain slacknesses in the economy. I suggest that in the long run the slacknesses in the economy arise from the fact of deficiencies in family groups of income, so that those family groups are not spending as much as the capacity of the economy can produce. The quickest way to correct the situation is to add to the incomes of the family groups in the economy, because these family groups are the readiest spenders. I hope that in the next few weeks you will hear more details as to how the Labour Party proposes to achieve this.
Meanwhile, as we all know, we on this side of the House have suggested that there should be no unemployment in Australia. No one would ever interpret that as meaning that at no point of time would there be any persons who had become redundant in their jobs and had not found other jobs somewhere else. If anybody on the Government side suggests that all of the 58,000 people registered as unemployed are in this latter category, then I think he is underestimating the problem that faces the Australian community. I repeat that we have 58,000 people out of work - and that is too many - and 29,000 unfilled jobs. When we couple this .with the likelihood that within the next, three months 80,000 to 100,000 young people will, come on to the labour market, we see a much more serious situation than this Government seems to have allowed for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1939), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is altogether different from the previous one. According to the words used by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his secondreading speech, the purpose of this bill is to obtain parliamentary approval of a contribution of 19,800,000 United States dollars to the International Development Association. That association is a United Nations organization which has arisen out of the framework under which the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the International Finance Corporation were established. Finally, this fourth agency, which is known colloquially as Ida, was established.
I say at the outset that the Labour Party supports this bill, because the International Development’ Association has the very laudable purpose ‘ of providing aid, on a long-term basis and at virtually no interest charge or only a nominal interest charge, to undeveloped or underdeveloped areas of the world as we find it at present. It is often said rather glibly that the greatest problem that faces the world in the current era, whichYou Thank, the secretarygeneral of the United Nations has described as the “ Decade of Development “, is to remove the disparity that exists between the fortunate and unfortunate sections of the world. At the moment the population of the world is about 3,000,000,000. Because of what has been known as death control, or the eradication of diseases that often plagued other parts of the world, the population of the world is increasing at a staggering rate.
Sometimes it is described rather glibly as “ the population explosion “. It is estimated that the population of the world will be doubled between now and the end of this century.
Great disparities exist between the standards of living of various parts of the world. We in Australia, whether we always agree or not, are among the most fortunate people in the world. Australia has about 11,000,000 people. Our gross national product that is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in Australia annually is £8,000,000,000, in. round figures. That works out at about £700 per annum per man, woman or child in Australia. If we convert that figure into the popular currency and the one that will be adopted in name at least by Australia in the future, it becomes 1,500 dollars per head per annum. That is a measure of the average standard of living in Australia.
Sometimes it is difficult to compare standards in one country with those in another, but I think people have some idea of what standards mean. Let me take the Australian example. If the standard of living is £700 or 1,500 dollars per head, that means certain things. It means certain standards of food consumption, education, clothing, housing, telephones, motor cars and the like. When we consider some of the poorer parts of the world which do not have those commodities at all, it is rather difficult to make comparisons.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to an interesting book which has come to my notice recently. It is called “ World Without Want “ and is written by Mr. Paul G. Hoffman, who is described on the dust-cover as “ the man who carried The Marshall Plan to success “. The book is said to outline a stirring and practical programme to combat the poverty and illiteracy that enslave twothirds of mankind and threaten explosive revolt in Africa, Asia and Latin America. According to the author of this book who was a Republican in American politics, which identifies him with conservatism in politics if we do not do something to combat this great problem of poverty we are likely to have on our hands other Congos and other Cubas.
I wish the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who is now at the table, would give me permission to incorporate in “Hansard” pages 38 and 39 of this book which set out figures taken from reputable United Nations statistical sources. I think they WOUld be enlightening to honorable members. Standards of living, as measured by gross national product, are set out according to countries. I refer again to the index of 1,500 dollars per head of population for Australia. The first group of countries listed, numbering about 50 arc countries whose standard of living is less than 100 dollars per head per annum. The author then lists another group of countries whose standards of living are between 100 and 200 dollars per head per annum, a third group whose standards are between 200 and 300 dollars per head per annum, and finally a group whose standards are between 300 and 700 dollars per head per annum. At that stage he still has not encompassed the standard which Australia has reached. The author of this book, which aims to provide a development programme, goes on to say -
Development programs are investments in people and prosperity - and investments in peace and freedom as well.
They are not the remarks of a wild, radical enthusiast. They are the remarks of a member of the very conservative government of the country that is regarded as the home of private enterprise.
The objective of the bill is to increase the amount of aid which is given to the under-developed areas of the world. Assistance is to be given to those countries to raise their income standards from the level of 100 dollars Or 200 dollars and to bring them closer to the Australian standard of 1,500 dollars per annum per person. The measure provides that Australia should contribute over a three-year period 20,000,000 dollars or about £9,000,000, so we see how piffling is the approach to raising the living standards of 2,000,000,000 people. The author of the book “ World Without Want” puts into perspective the attitude of the community as a whole to this very ascendant problem when he points out that 8 billion dollars a year is required to finance development adequately and that the annual expenditure of member countries of the United Nations on defence in 1962 was scheduled at 120 billion dollars. He draws a very pregnant contrast between the amount of money spent by member countries of the United Nations on defence against aggression and the amount needed to raise the standard of living of the people of the under-developed countries.
Wc hear talk in this House, particularly from the other side, of why money has to be provided for defence. We are told that we have to defend ourselves against Communist aggression. Occasionally we ought to ask ourselves why it is that people in other’ parts of the world want to go Communist politically. The principal reason is that what has been offered to them as democracy - they have identified it to a great extent with the colonial empires of the past- has not been of much use in helping to raise their standards of living. I have always felt that the most significant step in combating communism is to remove the conditions in which it flourishes. Communism flourishes in the discontent, poverty and economic inadequacy which affect the millions of people who live in the underdeveloped parts of the world. Most of them are congregated not very far from Australia.
The total annual expenditure on defence by all the countries that belong to the United Nations, an organization formed to adjudicate on disputes between nations, is 120 billion dollars, or £A60,000,000,000. That is near enough to eight times the annual gross national product of Australia. It represents about eight times the total value of all the goods and services we produce, of the private and public investment and of the private and public spending, which amounts amounts to £8,000,000,000 a year. The member countries of the United Nations spend about eight times that amount in defending themselves against aggression from one another. When you press these countries on the point it is apparent that they are preparing to. defend themselves in terms of two contending economic systems. In this part of the world, we say we are defending ourselves against communism. I hope, and I am sure that many of my colleagues hope, that the countries of the world will do more to get together and to remove the disparities between the rich and the poor. I hope that they will move as readily to- co-operate in this field as. they seem to move in the direction of making pacts or treaties to defend themselves, according to the particular political grouping that they regard as admirable.
The sum involved in this measure is very small. A sum of £9,000,000 over a three-. year period - £3,000,000 a year - is. very insignificant in relation to a gross national < product of £8,000,000,000 a year. The Labour Party, at least,, has pledged itself to provide, through United Nations ancillaries and organizations, something like 1 per cent, of our national income for these purposes. That is about £80,000,000 a year, in round terms. At the moment, under the Colombo . Plan and in assistance to New Guinea and various other places, we provide over- £40,000,000 a year, but we must do very much more if we are to share in raising the standards of living of the two-thirds of the world’s population who are not as fortunate as ourselves.
Sometimes on this side of the House we criticize the method’s of international finance, but here is a sensible and significant development - the provision by the more fortunate nations of capital and other economic assistance to nations that are not so fortunate. The scheme is not bogged down, as are so many others, by exorbitant rates of interest. The money is provided on a long-term basis, at virtually no interest. There is a service charge of i per cent, or i per cent., or something of that kind, lt is money provided by the fortunate areas of the world to the unfortunate areas to bring about the capital development that is necessary to raise living standards above the levels of poverty described in the book to which I have referred, lt is hoped to raise the living standards nearer to our own. The Opposition commends the bill and hopes that this is only the beginning of a very belated recognition by the fortunate sections of the community of the great needs of the majority of mankind. It is a humanitarian approach, and more of that is needed in this world in 1963 if, as Secretary-General, U Thant, said, “ We are to go forward to this decade of development “. We are not going forward fast enough, but at least by this measure we are going a little further down the road we ought to be prepared to tread.
.- I welcome, as I am sure other honorable members on this side do, the support of the Opposition for this measure and the- vote of the money attached to it. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) made a number of remarks, particularly with relation to communism. He hinted that one possible way of- reducing the menace- of communism was by economic improvement in -different sectors of the world. This may be very true in itself, but it has its limitations because, when the enemy is at your throat and you are about to be tyrannized by another country, economic matters must necessarily take a subordinate place.
He pointed also to the very large expenditure by the world on measures of defence. But I think he might have pointed to one particularly unfortunate aspect of this expenditure on defence. For example, take some of the countries which we are called upon to assist, which we do assist willingly and towards which we extend our goodwill. Take, for instance, the total expenditures on military preparations and armed forces of India, Pakistan and Indonesia, just to mention a few. If those countries were in fact able to dispense with their expenditures on defence it would be of more service to their economies than the total aid received from outside. There are distinct limitations; in an ideal world, no doubt the resources of the world would not be devoted to defence and could be switched to increasing the standards of living or to increasing the standards of human welfare generally and making for a better world. But that is a very long-term process, and it cannot possibly be measured, particularly the problems involved, in purely statistical terms such as the honorable member has quoted. The fact is that, in most of these countries, before they can make economic progress, there must.be a long process of education, changes in attitude, changes in the social . system and the provision of an atmosphere conducive to economic progress. All this involves the daily lives of innumerable people which are only changed ‘ slowly through the generations. Of course, this is no argument for not supporting to the utmost economic aid to under-developed countries but at least one must recognize that financial and economic aid in any form has distinct limitations.
Of all the bodies which are involved in a practical way in improving the economic life of under-developed countries, one of the most useful is the International Bank with its affiliates, one of which is the International Development Association for which we are now voting funds. The International Bank is staffed with experts. It is in touch with the problems of the whole world, and, over a period of years, it has developed a sympathetic attitude towards underdeveloped countries; it has provided the right kind of technical advice to them and it has set them along the right road. The Internationa] Development Association is born out of the fact that the credit worthiness of these countries for borrowing across the commercial exchanges is limited. The International Bank fills the gap that cannot be filled in the first place by the money markets, and, when the commitments of individual countries rise beyond their capacity to repay in the normal commercial way, the International Development Association comes to the rescue to fill at least part of the gap.
As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, it has two classes of members. In one class are the contributors who are, in the main, the more advanced countries. In the other class are those who are qualified to receive this kind of long-term loan on which interest is not paid, and which is repayable very slowly over a long period of time. The only main charge is a service charge of three-quarters of 1 per cent. That is necessary for the purpose of bearing the inevitable expenses involved in servicing. We are in the first class as a contributor. Others eligible under the International Development Association are the dependent and associated territories of the contributors. In the second class, or part 2, are those who are the recipients.
In its short life, this International Development Association has made a very useful contribution. Between May, 1961, and July, 1963, it arranged loans and entered into commitments involving 40 individual credits for development purposes to eighteen different countries. The value of these loans is that they are all individually well planned and applied in the kind of spots that do need economic advancement. In themselves, they may not be so very great, but they do touch the key points which form the springboards of subsequent development. It is interesting to note how the 504,000,000 dollars involved in the 40 development credits has been allocated under the processes of the International Bank. First, the merits of the project are appraised and good advice is given as to what kind of priorities should be adopted within the recipient countries. The second process is that of negotiating credits which in itself is a useful process of education for those under-developed countries which are participating. There are then all the other requirements which have to be met for procurement. We would regard this as somewhat irksome, but it does introduce into the countries concerned a proper mode of procedure which is. useful on subsequent occasions. Then there is the procedure for the disbursement of funds. Finally, regular progress reports on the construction of the various schemes must be made. This is all important, and it should be important to the Australian taxpayers because whether we are called upon to provide large sums or small sums, at least it is satisfactory to know that they are well spent and well, applied.
Of the 504,000,000 dollars of credits, 247,000,000 dollars has been applied to transport projects of various kinds. Almost half the money has been used to develop transport which in itself is one of the developments which sparks off many other things once it is undertaken and opens up new territories. The amount applied to power was 57,700,000 dollars while that applied to agriculture, which is highly important in most of these countries, was 126,200,000 dollars. The total amount applied to industry, which for the most part could be serviced more directly, was 16,500,000 dollars. The amount applied to telecommunications, which play an important part in themselves, was 42,000,000 dollars. The final amount of, 14,400,000 dollars is interesting because it comes through the International Bank, or under its auspices. That money was used for municipal water supplies and school construction, two things which, in the end, are more conducive than almost anything else to the ultimate development of the countries concerned.
The reason for this call for further subscriptions to the International Development Association is that, up to July, £504,000,000 out of the total original contributions of about £740,000,000 had been committed, and further contributions were necessary to. provide for continuity of operations in transactions between the International Development Association and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on the one hand and potential borrowers on the other, involving the commitment of funds, though the funds will not be drawn for a considerable time ahead.
We may say that Australia’s share of the additional contributions is relatively small. However, it is interesting to note that, on a percentage basis, Australia stands eighth in the list of contributors to the International Development Association. Our high placing, I think, represents a record and contribution of which we can be proud. We can be assured that we are contributing at least our proportionate share to what is essentially a world and human cause, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports emphasized.
When we look at our contribution, we must remember, too, that it represents only a small part of what Australia is doing for international development of various sorts. In fact, as the Treasurer pointed out, our total provision for international assistance in this year’s Budget amounts to about £44,000,000, if we include our assistance to Papua and New Guinea. We must include our assistance to that Territory, because it is primarily Australia’s responsibility. It is also, perhaps, our greatest burden and is likely to be our greatest burden in the future. The total provision this financial year for international assistance represents, as the Treasurer stated, an increase of almost one-quarter compared with the provision made in 1962-63. Australia’s provision for international assistance is growing. As set out in publications of the United Nations and other authorities, this contribution may look rather small, but, nevertheless, it is a very solid contribution and for the most part is well directed, well planned and well placed.
All that remains for me to do now is to point out one or two things that the Treasurer said about these matters. I suggest that those who have not done so read the speeches that he made at the recent meetings in Washington of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in which he made some important points. The crucial one is that, for under-developed countries,’ market opportunities are probably more important than loans. Above all, we have so to arrange the world as to afford those countries an opportunity to earn their living, because anything that savours of charity, however desirable in itself and however disguised to satisfy the ego of the receiver, is bound to leave in its wake some unfortunate feeling of obligation. So, not only from the point of view of those countries but also from ours, the greater the extent to which the under-developed countries can earn their living in world trade, the better it will be for all. The road that leads to that objective would be a far better road to follow than the path of aid. Unfortunately, for some time past, though perhaps not at present - and only temporarily - the terms of trade have turned against the under-developed countries and reduced their earning opportunities.
The Treasurer, in Washington, also directed attention to the fact that Mr. Wood, the new president of the International Bank, had pointed out the importance of developing the capital markets of the world. Hitherto, the British market has been well tuned to international lending and, to a growing extent, so is that of the United States of America. But it is certainly true, as the Treasurer and Mr. Wood pointed out, that the more the developing countries can condition their affairs to make the climate of foreign investment congenial, the faster their economic progress is likely to be. One has only to visit countries immediately to our north, which are of great interest to us, readily to see the differences between the economic progress and the whole outlook of countries on the one hand like Malaya and Singapore, and even Thailand, which encourage and assiduously foster development financed by foreign capital, and on the other hand countries such as Burma, which gives it a very frigid and difficult reception and, perhaps Indonesia, which adopts a difficult attitude for various reasons. If the developing countries adjust their affairs to permit a good flow of foreign investment on a wide front in multifarious fields of activity, their economic progress is likely to be very much more rapid.
On the other side of the picture, there is scope for improvement of the capital market, particularly in western Europe, where a number of countries have for some time been running into heavy ba1anceofpayment surpluses. This may be to some extent temporary, of course, as inflation begins to make inroads on them. But, on the. whole, a number of countries in western Europe have been running into considerable surpluses which, incidentally, have tended to make the dollar a weak currency. In western Europe, the capital markets are not as yet well ordered for foreign investment. Individual concerns there do indulge extensively in foreign investment. But, from the standpoint of ordinary government borrowing, the capital markets in western Europe are still very inadequate and badly organized. We ourselves have a great interest in the process of improving the capital market, because, on the one hand, we are borrowing and, on the other hand, we are contributing assistance to those who are worse off than we are.
Finally, Sir, I should like to point out that in relation to the International Development Association we should assiduously pursue our own responsibilities in Papua and New Guinea. An International Bank mission has recently visited that Territory. It must be evident to any one who has made even a comparatively cursory study of the economy of Papua and New Guinea that the Territory is still a long way from finding any way of supporting the kind of educational and social system and the degree of political advancement that we all hope to see achieved there. The achievement of this objective, in itself, will require the expenditure of considerable funds. I hope that in due course the International Development Association will look favorably on our Territories, because their capacity to borrow from the International Bank, like that of many other underdeveloped countries, is likely to be limited.
I consider, as I am sure most of us do, that the International Development Association is a worth-while venture. Our additional contribution to the association will be money very well spent, for the use of these funds will be well directed. I have great pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) spoke with some praise of Australia’s contribution to the International Development Association. We know that ‘this association is the baby of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The bank and the International Monetary Fund were thefirst two international monetary organizations that were brought into being in 1945. At that time, there were differences of opinion, even within the Australian Labour Party, about whether Australia should join the Bretton Woods Agreement, which led to the establishment of these international monetary organizations. The Labour Government of the day, in 1947, signed the agreement. The late Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, said that the Labour Party believed that Australia should never have to be a borrower from the International Bank. I point out that the Chifley Government never borrowed1d. from the bank. Indeed, the only borrowing that it made was a small borrowing from the International Monetary Fund.
The International Monetary Fund lends money on a very short-term basis to assist countries that are suffering from the ravages of floods or famines or countries that are having temporary difficulties with their balance of trade. The record of this Government with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is not a very proud one. Though a Labour Prime Minister said that we should never have to borrow from it, and that the bank was intended to help with the reconstruction of countries that had suffered war devastation or to help underdeveloped countries, Australia has been the third largest borrower from the bank. I know that many honorable members contend that we are entitled to borrow. It is true that the conditions attached to loans from the bank are very favorable when compared with loans from private sources, but, on a moral basis, the Australian Government should never borrow from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was originally formed to help war-devastated or underdeveloped countries.
In September, 1960, the International Development Association was established. The purpose of this association was to lend money to underdeveloped nations that really needed money badly, for a period of 50 years at low rates of interest. In fact, borrowers paid only three-quarters of 1 per cent. as. administrative costs. When the original measure related to this association was introduced, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and 1 spoke in the debate and applauded the formation of the association. However, wc said that it should have been established some thirteen years earlier. The bill now before the House seeks approval of a contribution of 19,800,000 dollars to the association. We support the Government’s action in this regard. However, I do not agree that we have a proud record with the International Bank. It is a disgraceful record. We have taken money that should have been made available to other more needy countries. We should not have borrowed from the International Bank in any circumstances.
I want to deal briefly with one other point. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -
I am convinced that the problem could be foreshortened if sufficient recognition were given to the role that private capital could play. I pointed out - and I was glad to hear the president of the International Bank also stress the point - that a country that is hospitable to private investment would have access over the years to a larger and more stable pool of resources and technology than its neighbour which sought to rely solely on governmental aid.
J have no doubt private capital could provide a short-term solution to the problem, but in the long-term this could be a hindrance. We know the great problem that has arisen in this country from the indiscriminate inflow of private capital and the even greater problems that will arise in the future. However, the Treasurer and the honorable member for Wentworth still advocate that private capital is the solution to all the problems. I do not think that it is. I think the solution is for the association to give long-term loans, charging only administrative costs, or for loans to bc given on a government to government basis at low rates of interest.
The International Bank must be given credit for what is perhaps its greatest achievement, and that is the Indus Basin scheme. Mr. Eugene Black, who was then the president of the International Bank, negotiated the agreement between India and Pakistan. Despite arguments over the years between these two .countries, agreement was. reached on this matter. This was a wonderful achievement for the International Bank.
It took far too long for the conservative banking institutions of the world to establish the International Development Association. I say now that the amount of money being made available by this association is insufficient. It should be doubled and trebled and should continue to increase year after year. I do not say that we should give aid to under-developed countries so that we can combat communism, but I do say that we should give aid to combat hunger, poverty, disease and illiteracy throughout the world. If people are educated and fed and if they are encouraged to progress, we will have no need to worry about any ideology, whether it be of the left or the right, trying to establish itself. This has been the cry of the Australian Labour Party since the early post-war years. We have asserted that this should be our objective, that we should assist underdeveloped countries in every way we can so that they can lift themselves out of the rut of poverty and backwardness.
– Yesterday the Food and Agricultural Organization reported that the poorer countries are worse fed than ever and that the richer countries are better fed.
– That is very true. In the world to-day the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The solution to the problem is, to an extent, mentioned in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer. The under-developed countries should be given equitable prices for their products. Instead of giving them charity, we should give them justice. They would then move forward much more rapidly than they are. I thank the honorable member for Fremantle for his interjection. If we want to have a peaceful world, we must pay the people in the under-developed countries a fair price for their goods and make sure that there is no cornering of markets or exploiting of nations.
We commend the bill. We think that the International Development Association should have been formed much earlier than it was and that it should make available much more money than it is. We should have a world plan so that the underdeveloped nations can get fair prices for their products…..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th October (vide page 1980), on motion by Mr. Fairbairn -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a very short bill, and the House has been given a very perfunctory secondreading speech to explain it.
– It is not a novel proposal.
– No, but there are many aspects of the Commonwealth’s financial relations with the airlines that demand an explanation. We have not been given that explanation. It will be remembered that before the last elections the Government introduced legislation to effectuate proposals which Mr. R. M. Ansett had sent to all honorable members by letter. One of Mr. Ansett’s proposals was that in no year should air navigation charges be increased by more than 10 per cent, In the relevant year there was no increase of air navigation charges because of the recession which the Government had brought about in general business’ activity and with it the decline.in air travel. Last year, however, air navigation charges were increased . by 10 per cent, and this year they are to be increased by a further 10 per cent. The Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation in this place estimated that in 1963-64 revenue from air navigation charges as a result of the increase provided for in this bill, will amount to £1,700,000 compared with the amount of £1,483,000 obtained in 1962-63. It would seem,’ however, that the increase in revenue’ will scarcely meet the increase in air navigation costs. We are not given an estimate of the increase in air navigation costs, but between 1961-62 and 1962-63 they increased by £856,000
– Yes, air navigation costs increased between the financial year before last and last financial year by £856,000. The Minister has estimated that the increase in air navigation charges provided for in the bill will bring in an extra £217,000, which is only one-quarter of the amount of the increase in costs between last financial year and 1961-62. We do not know what the increase in costs will be this year but it is reasonable to assume that the increase in charges provided for in the bill will meet only one-quarter of the increase in costs.
Air navigation is the form of transport which is subsidized most heavily by Australian governments. We are very often told by Commonwealth politicians how inefficient, and therefore expensive, are State railways. We do not say the same thing about the Commonwealth Railways because the Commonwealth Railways has been favoured with modern equipment. Like any other railways using modern equipment, they pay handsomely, but the State railways have hot been so favoured. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission shows that in 1961-62 the State railways lost £18,639,000. After including payments for interest, sinking fund and exchange on capital chargeable to loan accounts but excluding debt charges of which the railways have been relieved, the State railways’ incurred a loss of £18,639,000. In the last financial year the Commonwealth bore air navigation costs amounting to £16,755,000 and received a total revenue from air navigation charges of £3,264,000. The loss therefore suffered by the Commonwealth, or the subsidy paid on . air transport, amounted to about £13,500,000. The. deficit of the State railways in the previous financial year was about £18,600,000. . The number of passengers who travelled by aircraft and in respect of whom the Commonwealth incurred costs or from whom it derived revenue was 3,930,000. Therefore the Commonwealth pays an average subsidy of £3 8s. per air traveller in Australia or in the Territory .of Papua and New Guinea, or going or returning from .overseas. This is a very heavy subsidy.
– Per annum?
– No, per passenger.
– Per annum?
– No, the Commonwealth pays an average subsidy of £3 8s. per passenger for every flight in respect of which the Commonwealth incurs costs or from which it obtains revenue.
– What did the States pay on State railways?
– I do not know how many passengers and how much freight are carried on the State railways. In the last financial year for which figures are available the losses of the six State railway systems amounted to £18,600,000. That is less than half as much again as the loss or the subsidy incurred by the Commonwealth on air travel.
Air travel is the form of transport which is most heavily subsidized by governments in Australia and it is really the business of members of the Federal Parliament to consider to what extent this subsidy is justified. Most people who travel by air do not pay the subsidy themselves. Most people who travel by air certainly those who do not travel tourist class travel as employees or directors of companies or, like ourselves, on the public pay-roll. The subsidy therefore is largely paid to governments or to corporate employees. The position under this self-denying ordinance which the Parliament has passed at the instance of this Government meansthat it will be many years before air passengers will in fact pay all of the costs of their travel. An increase of 10 per cent in the revenue will mean that it will be many years indeed before the costs of air travel are borne by air travellers.
There are some routes in respect of which a subsidy is well justified. The developmental routes, for instance, in the Territories or in the tropical parts of Australia should be subsidized and, in general, they are. Both companies particularly the subsidiaries of Ansett Transport Industries Limited which have been given six times the freight and passenger capacity on noncompetitive routes that TransAustralia Airlines possesses receive very heavy subsidies. They are paid subsidies at such a rate, apparently, as to give them a clear profit of 10 per cent: on every route on which they operate. I merely raise this matter in this billthis annual bill as it would be in normal times because air travel, we should realize, is the most heavily subsidized of all forms of transport in Australia. The Commonwealth has undertaken no programme for air travellers, who are in general the more affluent section of the community, to bear the costs of their transport.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Defence. (Question No. 230.)
– The Acting Minister for Defence has furnished the following answer: -
The defence preparations necessary to. ensure the security .of. northern Australia and the Territory of. Papua and New Guinea are made against the background of the overall defence of Australia and its territories which, in turn, is. related to the general situation to the. north at any particular time and also takes account of the system of .collective security and allied strategy in which Australia participates. The Government considers that the defence of northern Australia and the island territories in present strategic circumstances can best be provided for by the nucleus forces stationed there (including the Pacific Islands Regiment in New Guinea), the maintenance of strategic bases, and the mobility of our forces, which could be moved quickly to reinforce the area in the event of emergency. The strategic and tactical mobility of our forces is being continually improved by the purchase of new equipment and the conduct of realistic mobility exercises, for example to Darwin and New Guinea.
The requirement for our fighting forces to live and train in tropical areas has long been recognized by the Government and is taken into consideration in exercise and training programmes and in the disposition of units. Some of our major units are located in Queensland. For’ example, one of the two Regular Army battle groups is stationed in the Brisbane area with the primary task of training for war under tropical conditions and the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra exists for the specific purpose of training personnel in the tactics and techniques of this type of war. There are also two bomber squadrons based at Amberley and a maritime reconnaissance squadron of P2V7’s at Townsville. It is also relevant that experience of service in a tropical area is obtained by Australian forces in the Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve or who take part in training exercises in the South-Bast Asian area in conjunction with the forces of other Seato members.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as. follows: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The published statistics referred to in 1 and 2 above show particulars of advances by each savings bank for housing outstanding at the end of August, 1962, and August, 1963, and also each savings bank holdings of local and semigovernmental securities at those dates.
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: -
Housing Finance from Trading Banks. (Question No. 286.)
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What sums were available for housing from each of the trading banks in Australia during each of the past ten years, and, in each case, how much was used for this purpose?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is not the practice of trading banks to set aside fixed sums for lending in particular directions. However, it has been customary for trading banks, subject to the various calls on their funds and the generally short-term nature of their deposits, to give sympathetic consideration to applications for loans for housing purposes, lt has, of course, been Reserve Bank policy for many years to place emphasis on the need for banks to give some preference to housing in their lending.
Figures are not available for the total amount of new loans for housing approved each year by trading banks. However, the aggregate amounts of outstanding loans by the major trading banks to individuals for building or purchasing their own homes and to building and housing societies at the end of each of the past ten years are set out below. In interpreting these figures, it should be borne in mind that trading bank lending is generally of a short-term nature with a consequent relatively high rate of turnover of the funds employed.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What sums were provided for housing by each of the insurance companies operating in Australia during each of the past tcn years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Statistics of new loans by life insurance companies for housing purposes have been collected by the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner only since January, 1962. The statutory provisions under which they are collected prohibit publication of figures for individual companies. The figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician from the returns furnished by the companies to the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner show that new loans provided by life insurance companies from statutory life insurance funds for housing purposes in the eighteen months, to June, 1963, have been as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as. follows: -
At 30lh June, 1963, the total number of war pensions paid at the T.P.I, (and T.T.I.) rate was 24,738. All such pensioners received the 10s. increase in the special rate of pension provided in the Budget Some 6,100 married couples who, in addition to the T. and P.I. pension receive a service pension, have had the war pension increase offset by a corresponding reduction in the Service pension. Some T. and P.I. and T.T.I, married couples who are also social services pensioners will bc similarly affected. These pensions are not administered by my department, but on the basis of the information I have been able to obtain, I understand they comprise a relatively very small proportion of the total number of pensioners receiving the T.P.I, and T.T.I: rates.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable’ member’s questions are as follows: -
I and 2. The “Report of the Australian Universities Commission on Australian Universities 1958- 1963, October, 1960 “ was presented to Parliament in 1960 and the “ Report of the Committee on Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals to the Australian Universities Commission, 6th October, 1961 “ was presented lo Parliament in 1962.
The commission’s financial recommendations for each university and college made in the reports submitted to Parliament are to be found in the pages shown below: - “Report of the Australian Universities Commission on Australian Universities 1958- 1963, October, I960”- pages 42-54 and pages 67-68. “Report of the Committee on Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals lo the Australian Universities Commission, 6th October, 1961”- pages 18-29.
All of the commission’s financial recommendations in the above reports were accepted by the State governments insofar as those governments were affected by them.
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As a matter of policy no record ls kept of the ethnic origin of people who qualify for payments under the Social Services Act but, in the normal processes of administration and in the procedures adopted for payment of social service benefits, the Department of Social Services is in a position to estimate, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the numbers of aboriginal pensioners on government settlements, church missions and pastoral properties. At 30th June, 1963, the figures were: -
It is desired to emphasize that if these benefits were paid direct to the aborigines who qualify for them the department would not then be in a position to identify them. That it can identify them is an accidental result of the method of payment.
Search for Oil.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) asked me on 25th September whether an organization known as Japex has been given permission to drill for oil in Australia. I said in reply that I would obtain information on the matter and advise the honorable member.
I understand that a Japanese company, Japan Petroleum Exploration Company Limited, which is subsidized by the Japanese Government, is interested in prospecting for oil in an area over which the Queensland
Government has issued an authority to prospect to another company, Gulf Interstate Overseas Limited. So far as I am aware the negotiations are still in progress.
I might add that the area in question lies off the coast of north Queensland and that the general question of jurisdiction over the exploration and development of the resources of such off-shore areas is currently under discussion between the Commonwealth and the States.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19631023_reps_24_hor40/>.