25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Social Services. Mr. BRIMBLECOMBE 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.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Territories a question but before doing so, Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek your guidance. Is this House prevented from discussing the subject-matter of a bill, or anything to do with a bill, brought before the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory? Alternatively, is this House prevented from discussing a subject which may happen to be before a select committee of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory? I ask for your guidance in this matter because an answer given by the Minister for Territories to a question last week seemed to make it appear that this House is prevented from discussing such a matter. The Minister for Territories refused to answer a question, put to him on Tuesday last by the honorable member for Fremantle, relating to award rates paid to aborigines, on the ground that a bill relating to this subject is at present before the council. The Minister said that it was improper for such a subject to be discussed in this House. It would appear to me that such an attitude, if correct, implies a very serious limitation upon the powers of this House, but you offered no objection. Therefore, before asking my question I wish to have your ruling as to whether anything that happens in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory restricts the rights of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or limits the right of members of this Parliament to seek information concerning, or to debate, such happenings. Can you give me your ruling, Sir?
– I think the position is quite clear. The answer to all the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition is, “ No “.
– I thank you for your ruling, Sir. I now ask the Minister for Territories: Were his recent statements with regard to aborigines in the Northern Territory related also to the payment of award rates to aborigines employed by the Commonwealth and the extension of the protection of awards to aborigines in private employment? I ask the Minister, further: Will he consider making a statement, for the guidance of members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, to the effect that it is the declared, determined and unalterable will of the people of Australia that all discrimination - political, legal, economic or social - be removed from aborigines as rapidly and as completely as possible?
– I maintain the attitude that I adopted previously. The rights of aborigines in the Northern Territory is a subject that is being dealt with by the Northern Territory Legislative Council at present. The Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has appointed a select committee to inquire into all matters relating to the rights of aborigines, including whether they should be paid award rates, and many other factors. Since any legislation passed by the Council will subsequently come before me, I still believe that any expression of opinion on this matter by me at the present time would be completely improper.
– I wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he seen reports of a statement by a well-known journalist to the effect that “ Defeat is near in South Viet Nam - something of a miracle will be needed if the antiCommunists are not to go down in defeat to the Communist Viet Cong “? In view of the widely published views of this journalist, will the Minister make a statement to the House?
– I have seen this report by a journalist and, of course, I have been following closely the course of events in South Viet Nam with the help of my own sources of information. 1 hope to make to the House a general statement on foreign affairs either later this week or early next week, and I shall then deal with Viet Nam and the present state of affairs there.
– And Malaysia?
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface it by reading a short advertisement that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on Saturday, 15th February, under the heading “ Partnerships and Agencies “. The advertisement reads -
Products with large labour content are being produced in countries under cheap labour conditions and re-imported to Australia. 1 can assist with finance, management and know- - how or would be willing to enter into joint ventures to develop expanding markets. First-hand experience and world-wide affiliations assured.
Please state proposition in writing first.
I shall not mention the name of the person who inserted that advertisement, but it is available for the Prime Minister if he wants it. I ask: Is the Government aware of this practice and of the extent of the operations? Does the Government recognize the practice as an attempt to evade Australian wage standards and working conditions as well as a threat to local manufacturing industry? If so, is the Government doing, or does it propose to do, anything to combat such activities?
– I am at some disadvantage in this matter. I have not read the advertisements in the newspapers. I suppose that I have been very neglectful in not seeing this advertisement. I do not know why the honorable member assumes that one advertisement makes a practice. Such an assumption, I would think, was a gross violation of all the rules of logic. If he can submit to me evidence that there is a practice of the kind that he describes, I will be very happy to have it investigated.
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General a question. Can he intimate whether he has received from the relatives of the late Captain Stevens of the Royal Australian Navy - the captain of H.M.A.S. “Voyager” at the time of its loss - a request that their costs of representation before the royal commission inquiring into the collision be met out of government funds? If such a request has been received, can the honorable gentleman intimate what decision, if any, has been made?
– I received from the solicitors acting for the widow and family of the late Captain Stevens a request for Commonwealth assistance to enable them to have full and adequate representation before the royal commission. The matter of such assistance more properly belongs to the sphere of the Prime Minister. I have had a conversation with him, and it was decided that, as the widow and family of Captain Stevens undoubtedly have a particular interest in safeguarding the captain’s reputation, and as they would be subjected to a considerable financial burden in providing legal representation at the inquiry, which may be lengthy, the Commonwealth should pay their costs of representation. I communicated that decision to the solicitors - I think on the last day the House met.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Has the right honorable gentleman received a request from the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales for financial assistance in the construction of dams on the head waters of the Darling or Barwon river system? If so, can he say when a decision is likely to be made and whether the merits of this water conservation scheme will be assessed by a full and impartial comparison of its potential with that of other conservation schemes, such as the Ord River scheme in the far north of Western Australia?
– The Premier of New South Wales, acting on behalf of himself and the Premier of Queensland, wrote to me about this matter during January. As the honorable member will realize, this proposition involves a very considerable capital outlay and will also involve general considerations of the financial position between the Commonwealth and the States concerned, and indeed other States. The matter is being investigated. It will take some time to investigate it with proper care. The honorable member may be sure that the merits to which he referred will be considered in the investigation. I say that without being able at present to anticipate what the answer will be.
– I address my question to the Minister for Territories. Is he in favour of the payment of award rates established by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to, and the observance of prescribed working conditions for, the aboriginal people of the Northern Territory?
– As this is a subject that will be considered by the people whom it immediately concerns I will leave my comments to a later stage.
– My question, which concerns the Australian National University, is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman arrange for the Australian Universities Commission to inquire whether there is some staffing weakness in the Australian National University, as some difficulty seems to be experienced in instructing students in American literature? As a specific illustration of this apparent weakness I direct attention to the fact that no other university in the world has difficulty in imparting knowledge to students of American literature by using the cream of the vast fund of literature available, whereas the Australian National University takes the view that an understanding of the subject is impossible without the study of a coarse, drab, scrubby little novel called “ Lolita “.
– If the honorable member does not mind, I would beg to be excused from discussing this case. I have some feelings of my own. I would not be willing to attribute the views of one lecturer to the university as a whole. As the matter is in the good hands of my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, I would prefer to leave it there.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that 250 professional officers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission stopped work at Lucas Heights yesterday as a protest against the commission’s failure to honour undertakings regarding gradings and salaries? Will the Prime Minister investigate claims that the general manager of the commission has welshed on undertakings to enter into a consent agreement on gradings and salaries in keeping with the Public Service Arbitrator’s determination in comparable cases?
– If by the “general manager” the honorable member means the executive member of the commission, Mr. Timbs, all I can say is that I have had a long experience of that gentleman and he is incapable of welshing - to use the honorable member’s expression - on any obligation that he has entered into. He is a man of the highest quality. I do not know what has happened between the scientists and the commission. I am grateful to the honorable member for the information he has given. I will convey it to the Minister in charge of the commission, the Minister for National Development.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is there a time limit within which the native population of West Irian, formerly West New Guinea, must be given the opportunity of self-determination? As this matter is of great importance to Australia and was discussed freely some little time ago, is there any reason why it is scarcely mentioned now? Will the Minister tell the House the present position regarding this matter?
– An upward time limit but not a downward time limit was set. No doubt the matter is still under discussion or consideration by the Indonesian Government which, in the first place, has the choice of when, within the time limit, it will submit the question to the people of West New Guinea, now West Irian.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the building trades group in Australia is greatly concerned about the failure of suitable applicants to obtain apprenticeships, mainly because of the refusal of subcontractors or piece-workers to carry any apprentices in their establishments? Will the Minister set up an inquiry into the methods of these sub-contractors with the object of either abolishing them or compelling them to train apprentices?
– I was aware that there had been criticism by sections of the building industry unions of the employers for not engaging sufficient apprentices. The unions claim that sub-contracting is one of the main causes of the trouble. I should tell the honorable gentleman that last year we had two or three conferences not only with the master builders and the building constructors but also with the trade unions themselves in an effort to find ways and means of getting increased numbers of apprentices into the building industry. We do not believe that we have been outstandingly successful; but at least we are on the way to some success. I do not think that the proper way out of this difficulty would be to try to eliminate subcontracting, because that is a very efficient means of building and getting the job done more cheaply and much more quickly. I can assure the honorable gentleman that this subject is under constant discussion - I use the word “ constant “ deliberately - between the Department of Labour and National Service, the State apprenticeship authorities, the building trade unions and the employers in the building industry.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral give urgent consideration to amending the Broadcasting and Television Act to provide that the owner of rented premises shall be liable for the licence-fee of a television set? Is it a fact that this would be the only remedy for the existing anomaly of having multiple licences for the one television set?
– I am prepared to have a look at this matter and let the honorable member know the result.
– Will the Prime Minister state what steps have been taken by his
Government to mediate in the current stalemate between oil companies in Australia and the Union-Kern group over the sale of Moonie oil? Has his Government investigated, and if not, will it investigate, rumours which are rife in the community that this deadlock stems from an artificially high price being charged for oil purchased by Australia so that oil companies may avoid considerable taxation liability here and concurrently obtain large profit margins for their organizations at the externally situated points of supply?
– The problem is indeed a complex one. My colleague, the Minister for National Development, who has direct relations with it, has been extremely active in the matter and has in fact consulted the Cabinet on a couple of occasions. We also have been in communication with the Premier of Queensland. We are very well aware of the nature of the issues involved. As my colleague has been inspiring, if that is the right word, some conferences between the parties on this matter and as those conferences have not yet reached a conclusion, I think it may be imprudent at this stage to do anything that may interfere with a satisfactory settlement of this problem. So soon as there is a position about which a definite statement can be made, I will arrange for my colleague to make it.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether the two recent disputes which interrupted the survey of the border between West Irian and Papua and New Guinea and which involved border markers have been satisfactorily settled. Is the survey of the border continuing and when is it likely to be completed?
– The survey team which had the responsibility of marking the border between West Irian and Papua and New Guinea was withdrawn following border incidents and pending further negotiations with the Indonesian Government. The Indonesian Government gave full cooperation and indicated that it would give every assistance to re-establishing the border markers. Unfortunately, owing to weather conditions the area is now under water and re-establishment of the markers will have to wait probably until the end of June.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of a report that the New Zealand Government proposes to change the wording on New Zealand passports? Will the proposed change bring New Zealand passports into line with the Australian passport as it was before this Government changed it in 1952? Does the Government propose to make any changes to the Australian passport similar to those proposed by the New Zealand Government?
– The Australian passport is under consideration by the Government. No decision has yet been made other than to change the format. In reaching a decision on other matters concerning the Australian passport the Government will not be influenced by the actions of the New Zealand Government.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that rates for parcels posted to destinations within the same State arc lower than rates for parcels posted to destinations in other States? If so, can he say why his department imposes a border tax of this nature, which constitutes a hardship to people living in border areas and which acts as a restraint to trade between States?
– The postal charge for parcels is determined having regard to the weight of the parcel and the distance of its destination. Because there would be complications at each post office if you worked on a wide scale the Post Office has determined four scales. The first covers an area within 30 miles of the point of posting even if this area includes the border with another State. The second covers an area beyond 30 miles of the point of posting, but within the State of posting. The third relates to posting to an adjoining State, and the fourth to posting to another State which is not an adjoining State.
– My question to the Minister for Housing relates to the homes subsidy plan to be implemented by his department. I ask the Minister: Is it true that applicants who have received or who are receiving Commonwealth financial assistance in the purchase or construction of homes will be ineligible to receive the £1 for £3 bonus in respect of the savings content of the purchase or construction price? If so, does that mean that in the Australian Capital Territory applicants who are receiving or who will receive departmental loans through the Housing Commissioner or through the building societies which are supported by Commonwealth finance will be ineligible for the bonus? If these matters have not been considered already, will the Minister take them into consideration in the preparation of the relevant legislation? Has he heard that if these conditions are applied, approximately 96 per cent, of applicants in the Australian Capital Territory will be ineligible for the bonus?
– These matters and a great many others relating to State and government built housing are still under consideration and it would be premature at this stage to make any announcement.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it correct that the Government is giving more encouragement to young migrants to come to Australia when they indicate that they have Olympic Games potential in their own country than it is giving to other intending migrants? Does the Minister regard it as unrealistic to give preference in these circumstances?
– This is a most interesting conjecture, but it involves many difficulties. If young migrants were accepted under those conditions they would have to live in Australia for a certain period before being naturalized, so becoming able to represent Australia in the Olympic Games. Having regard to the emphasis that is placed upon the necessity for migrants to possess certain skills so that they can contribute to our work force, I am certain that none of our selection committees would be swayed by the fact that intending migrants offer the prospect of Olympic Games representation when they might have nothing else to offer. Of course, the ideal would be to have a combination of a skilled worker and a potential Olympic Games representative. I can assure the honorable member that I have never heard of any priority being given for the kind of prowess to which he has referred. It is great publicity and a great advertisement for Australia to have migrants representing us at the Olympic Games. The Konrads, for example, have been outstanding in that direction. But while you have a shop window you still must have goods to sell which are the product of work and skill. I repeat that our selection committees overseas always give priority to those who will benefit Australia, quite apart from their potential as Olympic Games representatives.
– Has the Minister for Territories considered the report of the select committee which was appointed to inquire into the grievances of aborigines at Yirrkala? If so, has he made any decision to implement the report, particularly in regard to land rights, housing, compensation, water supplies and health? Does he intend to establish the standing committee of the House of Representatives which was envisaged in the report?
– I have not yet made any decisions on this matter. I inform the honorable member that up to the present no firm decisions have been made regarding the mining of bauxite in the Gove Peninsula. I might add, however, that £12,000 has been set aside for housing in that area. Until negotiations with the mining company reach a further stage I am not prepared to give an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. ls the Minister aware that there has long been a consistent advocacy by an adjacent council that the Williamstown rifle range in Victoria be made available for a housing project? Does the Minister know that this rifle range is the traditional venue for the Queen’s Prize rifle shoot, and many other important events in the rifle clubs’ annual programme? Will he follow the lead of the former Minister for the Army, who was adamant in the expressed opinion that the range must be preserved for the. purpose for which it is currently used?
– I have no hesitation in saying “ Yes “ most emphatically to the honorable member for Mallee.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. In view of Indonesia’s repeated threats to destroy Malaysia and Australia’s pledge to assist that country if required, will the Minister state whether a firm decision has been made on the offer of the United States Government to lend Australia B-47 bombers while awaiting delivery of the TFX aircraft, which are not expected before 1967? If the offer has been rejected, does this mean that in the event of Australia becoming involved in the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute, Australia’s Air Force will depend on the obsolete Canberra bombers to assist Malaysia and, if necessary, to defend Australia?
– If I may comment, T do not accept the relationship which the honorable member’s question tries to draw between certain events, nor do I accept the implication that the Canberra is obsolete. On the substantial part of his question the position is that the advisers of the Australian Government are making detailed studies in respect of the B-47. When those studies are completed, the Government will make a decision.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that the General Post Office, Brisbane, was steam-cleaned in 1955? ls he aware also that the General Post Office, Melbourne, was dry-cleaned in 1957? Why then does he discriminate against the Sydney General Post Office, which has not been cleaned for the past 80 years?
– Apparently the honorable member is not aware that the General Post Office, Sydney, was cleaned between 1958 and 1960.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy. Is it still the intention of the Government not to make public the findings of the inquiry into the. Hayman Island naval disaster, which resulted in the death of an officer and four midshipmen? Is it further a fact that the public and Parliament are to be kept in the dark in regard to the inquiry’s findings, because of what is said to be normal procedure? Is the Minister aware that failure to reveal the findings at this time creates the impression in the public mind that the Navy has something to hide? In view of the public concern over the “ Voyager “ tragedy, will the Minister reconsider the decision and make available the findings of the inquiry?
– In view of the fact that the public and the press were freely admitted to the inquiry and there had the opportunity to hear all the evidence and as it has been the traditional practice not to make available the findings of such inquiries undertaken by naval boards of inquiry - for what I might add are very good reasons - I do not think there is any ground for public disquiet in this respect. I do not intend to change the answer that I gave to another honorable member on Wednesday last.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Air by reminding the House that the honorable gentleman has recognized that the Telstar aerobatic group stationed in Gippsland is in world class. I ask the Minister whether he has noticed that the group has very few opportunities to display its skills. If he agrees, will the honorable gentleman use his endeavours to provide more opportunities for public displays?
– The question of when the Royal Australian Air Force should provide public displays is not an easy one. We are not a large force and therefore we are not able to do as the Royal Air Force does - have one squadron nominated as an aerobatic squadron for the year. That squadron does nothing else but take part in displays. We feel that if we were to introduce such a system in Australia it would place an unduly heavy burden on the finances of the R.A.A.F. It would also mean that we would have to give up other and more important tasks, particularly the supplying of fighters in the Butterworth-Ubon area. The present p’olicy of- the R.AVA.F.’is to- participate as much as possible in displays during Air Force Week and at times of events of national significance, but that otherwise displays should be kept to a minimum.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he is aware of the successful subdivision of 67 acres of land in the Kingsford-Smith electorate purchased from the Department of the Army by the Randwick Municipal Council some little time back. If so, will the Minister make available for sale a further 100 acres of the Randwick rifle range adjoining the present subdivision, thus giving the Randwick Municipal Council the opportunity to embark on a similar development?
– Mr. Speaker, I shall be only too glad to look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission claims after each news broadcast that the next news will be heard at a certain hour? Would it not be more accurate, having in mind the influence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the English language and the fact that no one can be sure that the commission’s news broadcasts will be heard by anybody, to say that the next A.B.C. news sessions may be heard?
– I see no reason why I should ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to alter its present method of announcing the times of its news broadcasts.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that in December of last year the Senate Interior Committee of the United States of America approved of a gold-mining subsidy bill whereby the Government would pay to gold producers an amount of subsidy equal to the difference between the cost of production in the last quarter of 1939 and the cost in the last quarter of .1963? If so, would not such terms of subsidy be of much greater help to the gold-mining industry of Australia than the subsidy paid under the present Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act? Is the Treasurer or the Government taking any action to examine the proposed American legislation with a view to introducing similar legislation in Australia? If not, why not?
– As the Parliament will be aware, we have already legislated to assist the gold-mining industry in this country and, indeed, there were recent liberalizations of policy which should have had the effect of giving some direct incentive for an increase of development in the gold-mining areas, particularly in Kalgoorlie, the area which the honorable gentleman represents. As to the American action, 1 may say that this reference has interested me. 1 am currently having some study made of it and will receive a report as to its significance. As the honorable gentleman will no doubt be aware, under the arrangements in the International Monetary Fund certain restrictions are placed on action taken to subsidize gold-mining operations in the member countries, and I would be interested to know just what lines the American action has followed.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Will he make investigations with a view to having the names of official and non-official post offices prominently affixed to the buildings in which the post offices are housed or, in the case of some non-official post offices, on the gates leading to the buildings? The advantages are obvious.
– As far as 1 know both non-official and official post offices are indicated by their names. Telephone exchanges are not necessarily associated with either official post offices or non-official post offices. Therefore I can see no reason why the exchange name should be associated with the post office.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Territories a question. Is he aware that in the Northern Territory, Commonwealth departments employ aborigines at less than award rates? As this is the concern not of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, but of this Parliament, will he say whether he is in favour of the Common wealth paying full rates to, and observing award conditions for, aborigines employed by Commonwealth departments?
– It would appear- not surprisingly to me - that the Opposition desires to impose its will and its ideas on the people of the Northern Territory.
Mf. Costa. - But this is another Commonwealth department.
– I suggest that, if it is another Commonwealth department, the question should properly be directed to the Minister responsible for that department but, since it has been addressed to me, I will continue with my answer. The desire of the Opposition to impose its will on the people is not surprising to me, because we have recollections, which we will never lose, of the time when honorable members opposite were last in power, when the Labour Government imposed its will on us in every aspect of our livelihood. Labour, when it was in office, even tried to impose bank nationalization on Australia, and rationed everything on the face of the earth. Obviously Labour’s attitude has not changed.
– I ask the Treasurer a question concerning the possible effects on the Australian economy of the recent movement of the bank rate in Great Britain which was announced by the Bank of England. Does he agree that this movement may have a slight dampening effect, in the short run at least, on Australia’s export earning potential? If so, was this factor taken into consideration by the Reserve Bank of Australia when, last week, for the third time within a short period, it placed further restrictions on the lending capacity of Australian private trading banks?
– I do not think that the action taken in the United Kingdom should have any significant effect, even in the short run, upon Australia’s export potential. There has been a strong demand for Australian exports from various countries including, of course, the United Kingdom. After all, as I understand it. the intention of the United Kingdom’s action is not to depart from a policy of expansion but to sec that expansion proceeds at a manageable level. The action of the United Kingdom would not be a factor of any substantial consequence in the thinking of the board of the Reserve Bank in respect of the recent action it took to increase the call-up to statutory reserve deposit. There have been talks, over a period of many weeks now, with the representatives of the trading banks, in which they have been given an indication of the extent to which these calls were likely to go, having regard to the very big build-up in our overseas reserves. I might say that this call-up would total approximately £100,000,000 over the period in which it has been made in three different instalments. By the end of January this year our overseas reserves had risen by £182,000,000 since the beginning of the financial year, so that the L.G.S. ratio of the banks - if I may use that technical term - is, if anything, rather higher than it was at the beginning of the financial year, despite the calls made into the statutory reserve deposit. The decision of the Reserve Bank board was made against the background of this increase in the liquid assets of the banks and the strong continuing build-up of our overseas reserves.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisons of the Austraiian National University Act 1946-1963, this House elects Mr. Beazley and Mr. Malcolm Fraser to be members of the Council of the Australian National University for a period of three years from this day.
– Honorable members will be interested to know that the Commonwealth Parliament in December last made presentations to the Parliaments of Kenya and Zanzibar to mark the occasion of the granting of independence to those countries. A sand glass similar in design to that which stands on the table of this House was presented to the Parliament of Kenya, and the Parliament of Zanzibar was presented with a desk set. The gifts were mounted on a base of Australian timber fashioned and polished in the maintenance workshops of Parliament House.
Debate resumed from 27th February (vide page 154), on motion by Mr. Kevin Cairns -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May It Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of (he Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- The opening of the Twenty-fifth Parliament saw the Liberal-Country Party Government in office again with an unexpectedly increased majority. The major cause of the increase in the Government’s majority was, to my mind, undoubtedly the scurrilous propaganda used on television against the Australian Labour Party. I refer, particularly, to the statements and charges made that the Australian Labour Party was pro-Communist and anti-United States of America. I feel that this is the right time for us to analyse whether a continuation of this type of propaganda should be allowed. Before the next House of Representatives election is held 90 per cent, of the area of the Commonwealth of Australia will be covered by television services, and it is a certainty that Labour will not allow the lies, smears and innuendoes used against us in the last election to go unanswered in the next election. Because 90 per cent, of the territory of Australia will be covered by television we are going to find that the standards of political advertising on television stations will drop to a very, very low level if the present trend continues. You can take it for granted that every smear against us will be answered. If necessary it will be a case, not of policy versus policy, but of smear against smear. In the last general election campaign, the Australian Labour Party refused to get down to the low level of the anti-Labour parties, and we paid the penalty for our refusal to do so. However, you can take it from me that if this kind of propaganda is continued by the anti-Labour forces, it will be answered. Statements that could be made about the Government parties and various other political parties would, I am certain, take a great deal of answering.
The thing that I am most concerned about, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the reputation of parliamentarians is already very low. If, in elections to come, we indulge in propaganda of the kind that was used in the last election campaign, the reputations of Parliament and parliamentarians will fall even lower. This will happen if the standards of election campaigning on television are allowed to continue at the level to which they fell in the last election campaign. I am pleased to see that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) is at the table, because he is the man who can do something to raise the level of political advertising on television. I do not make any complaint about the legitimate thrust and parry of politics, but I believe that some of the things that were said about all members of the Australian Labour Party in the last election campaign went far below the level of the legitimate thrust and parry. Smearing of every member of the Labour Party as being proCommunist, anti-American and traitorous is going too far.
Let us consider for a moment some of the Labour candidates who were defeated at the last election - Mr. Syd Einfeld, Mr. Arthur Fuller, Mr. Jim Monaghan, Mr. Frank McGuren, Mr. John Armitage and Mr. Lionel Clay, to mention but a few. Not one of those men can be justly accused of being pro-Communist, anti-American or disloyal to Australia.
– What about Mr. Haylen?
– The honorable member opposite, if he makes outside this House any charges against Mr. Haylen, will collect a writ immediately.
– All these men whom I have named demonstrated their realization of Australia’s position both internally and externally. They are some of the many who have helped and will continue to help to keep a sensible balance in Labour’s attitudes and policies. Yet the defeat of all of them was due, for the most part, to the smears levelled against the Australian Labour Party.
Here, I take up the point that, has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell): Is there any one in this House or outside it who can honestly accuse any of the persons that I have mentioned of being pro-Communist, anti-American or traitorous? The anti-Labour propaganda, as well as smearing these men and costing them their seats in this House, smeared every honorable member on this side of the chamber and all men and women who are members of the Labour Party. Let the opponents of Labour, if they believe that there is any justification in the criticisms that they have levelled at us on television, be men enough to stand up and name the individuals concerned. Let our opponents state the names of those who they claim are anti-American, pro-Communist and disloyal, and not use the same dirty brush to smear every decent member of the Australian Labour Party. Let the anti-Labour parties, if they want to continue to fight election campaigns in the same way as they fought the last one, pick on those people in the Labour Party who they consider are the ones that can be said to be . proCommunist and anti-American.
I should like to pass on now to another point: Whatever may be said about the Australian Labour Party and communism, it is not true to say that the Labour Party has not done more than its share in keeping communism from gaining ground in Australia. The industrial unions are the chief targets of the Communists, and the Labour Party members in the unions are the main opponents of the Communists in union affairs. Those Labour members, in many instances without help from any one but their own supporters in the unions, have been able to keep the Communists at bay. Approximately 98 unions are affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and no more than ten could be claimed to be under Communist domination. The rest, because of the activities of Australian Labour Party members in the industrial field, are not under Communist domination.
We have to look for a long time, Mr. Speaker, before we find any evidence that members of the Liberal Party of Australia or the Australian Country Party have contested a union election. As a matter of a fact, it would be true to say that very few members of the Liberal Party or the Country Party have ever been, members , of a union, and fewer still have ever attended a union meeting or taken an active part in fighting communism. The only interest of members of the Liberal and Country parties has been in words.
When we look at the things in which the two Government parties have combined in an endeavour to do something against communism, we think of the referendum on the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950, the Petrov royal commission and the telephone tapping legislation. The first was defeated by the people. The Petrov commission and the telephone tapping legislation have brought no results and no benefits. Not one prosecution was launched as a result of the Petrov commission and not one prosecution was launched under the terms of the telephone tapping legislation. Apparently, no traitors have been apprehended by action taken under the terms of the telephone tapping legislation.
The words and actions of the Liberal and Country parties in relation to these matters have weakened the stand of the Australian Labour Party in the industrial unions by taking away from Labour many of the people who were waging an active fight against communism. I sound a warning, Mr. Speaker: If this kind of propaganda continues, the result could be the taking over of the industrial unions and perhaps even the Labour Party by Communists, because continual smearing by the opponents of Labour is causing a lot of decent Australians to begin to wonder whether they can trust the Labour Party. I ask those people in this House and outside it who are really sincere in endeavouring to prevent Communists from gaining any power in Australia to ensure that, when they criticize for what they allege to be proCommunist or anti-American attitudes members of an opposing political party, they pick out the particular people concerned and refrain from smearing all with the one dirty brush, as was done to all members of the Australian Labour Party in the last election campaign. Such smearing will only help the Communists, and, if they gain control of the industrial unions, Australia will be torn with chaos.
I ask honorable members opposite to consider much more fully than they have done in the past the effects of the ‘attitudes that they adopt in election campaigns, since about 90 per cent, of the voters of Austrafia are now able to see and hear on television the propaganda used in election campaigns. I think it is true to say that television, because it is a powerful medium of communication, gives political parties greater opportunities to put over propaganda than they have had previously.
These matters are worthy of the consideration of every member of this Parliament and of all the people outside this place. As an initial step, to ensure that the kind of propaganda that was disseminated on television in the last general election campaign will not continue, I suggest that the Postmaster-General consider immediately amending sections J 1 6 and 117 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Those sections relate to the televising of political matter.
– The act might have been used in relation to Labour’s propaganda in 1961, too.
– What was wrong with that?
– Order! The honorable member for Lang has the call.
– Labour’s propaganda in 1961 was very similar to the propaganda it used in 1963. I challenge the PostmasterGeneral to produce one example of our political advertising on television that suggested that any one of the members of the Government parties was disloyal, traitorous, pro-Communist or antiAmerican. I ask him to produce one example of a Labour television programme that cast any aspersion, other than aspersions regarding inefficiency or maladministration at any member of the Government. We did not indulge in personalities; the members of the Government and the other party supporting it certainly did. Unless the Government wants to hand this country to the Communists it should look at the matter I have mentioned here to-day. It is making a rod for its own back as well as for the back of the Australian Labour Party.
Having said so much on that subject, let me turn to a suggestion I made about two and a half years ago in this House. It was designed to give greater strength to our democratic system. I suggested that a research and reference bureau be set up for the Opposition. Whilst I am now talking as a member of the Opposition I have in mind that after the next election the present Opposition could easily be in office. The suggestion I make is not made only because I happen to be a member of the Opposition.
In September, 1961, I suggested in this House that a research and reference bureau should be established for the Opposition. My speech can be found at page 871 of “Hansard” of 6th September, 1961. The arguments I used on that occasion still apply. I do not intend to traverse them all because of the time factor. The democratic system can be preserved only if we have an active and virile Opposition. The Opposition on all occasions should be regarded as the alternative government. At the last election, Labour received 45.52 per cent, of the formal votes recorded. The Liberal Party of Australia received 37.14 per cent, and the Australian Country Party received 8.89 per cent., making a total of 46.03 per cent. The Government parties received .51 per cent, more than Labour did. The Opposition in this Parliament represents 2,507,168 voters out of 5,609,406 formal voters. The Government parties between them represent 2,535,069 voters. These figures show that the Government and the Opposition in this Parliament represent almost equal shares of the voting population. But once the Parliament is assembled the facilities available to the Government are far greater than those available to the Opposition.
There are 25 Ministers in the Parliament. Each Minister has his own personal staff consisting of a private secretary, typist and press officer. In addition, the staff of the department he administers is at his beck and call. All these persons are available for research, for the preparation of speeches, for the gathering and collation of information and for any other duty that the Minister or departmental head may allocate. Only the Leader” of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House and in the Senate are entitled to any extra staff.
The information in the hands of departmental officers is not readily available to the Opposition. We have not the facilities at our disposal to do the research that is necessary. The Opposition cannot be expected to be as well informed as the Government is. No matter who the Government may be, it can and does become complacent and less efficient if it is not kept on its toes by the Opposition. The Executive then gains far greater power and control. The democratic system would be strengthened in this Parliament and in every parliament that follows the democratic system by having an efficient and wellinformed Opposition.
In my speech in September, 1961, I set out how a research and reference bureau could be formed. I said -
I suggest the provision of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition. This bureau would be under the direct control of the Leader of the Opposition, but would remain an integral part of the Public Service. It would consist of an officer-in-charge and specialised staff seconded from various departments. Each officer would be responsible for analysing, appraising and evaluating reports, statistics, statements and policies of three or four departments and a similar number of statutory bodies or commissions. The bureau would also be expected to undertake research and prepare submissions on ideas and suggestions of Opposition members. It would not take an active part in discussions on Opposition policy and would have no direct access to confidential departmental files or information. However, the departments would be expected to extend full co-operation to the bureau.
I think it must be granted that great advantages would be derived from the introduction of such a bureau and I ask that the suggestion be considered, if it has not already been considered. If it has been considered, some one on the Government side should tell us why nothing has been done to strengthen the hand of the Opposition particularly when the Opposition in this Parliament represents almost half of the Australian voters.
I intend to devote the remainder of my time this afternoon to the matter of housing. During the last election campaign the Government made two promises on housing. It promised to grant a subsidy of £1 for £3 to certain qualified people. It also promised to establish a national housing insurance corporation. Up to this point we know very little about the first promise, but from what we know at this stage it is apparent that the operation of the subsidy will be very restricted. Apparently lt will not apply to homes purchased with finance provided by the department of the Interior and there seems to be some doubt as to whether the low-deposit homes made available by the housing commissions and trusts in the various States will attract the subsidy. Some of the people under 35 years of age who are in the group that the proposal is designed to help were misled by the promise. They thought they would receive considerable help from the £250, which is the maximum subsidy but instead of being helped many of them will not be able to receive the subsidy because they W1 not bc able to bridge the deposit gap.
At this stage I want to show the difference between the proposal of the Australian Labour Party and the proposal of the Government. One of Labour’s main housing proposals was the reduction of interest rates. The Government promised a subsidy of £250 for those who qualify to receive it. If we look into the matter at all, we find that finance provided by cooperative building societies at the moment carries interest at the rate of 5i per cent., including management fees, over a period of 26 years. On a loan of £3,000 a purchaser would pay about £2,750 in interest. If the rate of interest were reduced by 1 per cent., over the same period of 26 years and on the same loan of £3,000, the interest payment would be reduced to about £2,200 - a saving of £550, compared with the £250 that the Government will make available under this subsidy scheme. The people who voted for the Government parties because of that subsidy are now finding that their savings will not be as great an advantage to them as they believed. The operation of the subsidy is to be very restricted and many homeseekers will not be able to take advantage of the subsidy because they still will not be able to bridge the deposit gap.
The other housing proposal that was made by the Government was the establishment of a national housing insurance corporation. During the election campaign people believed that the Government also intended to see that money would be more readily available for the purchase of homes and that the deposits required would be lower. I have in my possession a letter written by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) to the honorable member for Blax land (Mr. E. James Harrison). In that letter the Minister specifically states -
I must stress, however, that there is no scheme for the lending of money by the Government itself and the results of the insurance scheme will depend on the decisions of the private lending institutions.
I cannot see how the private lending institutions will lend any more money for homes in the future than they have in the last few years.
– That was always made clear in the election speeches.
– That was not made clear at all. The private lending institutions are to be left to go their own merry way. For the last ten years the Government has been appealing to those institutions to make more money available for housing. If the fact that the money that they lend is insured will have that effect, then I am a very bad judge. There are not many people who, once they have put a deposit on a home, run the risk of losing the home. This new proposal for a national housing insurance corporation certainly will not have any effect on the amount of money available. The Government is still leaving it to the private lending institutions to increase the amount of the loans.
Why does the Government not do something through the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which still insists that a prospective purchaser must have about 40 per cent, of the value of the home before he can obtain a loan and which will not grant a housing loan if the prospective purchaser is likely to enter into a second mortgage? In respect of housing, the Australian people were deliberately misled by the Government in the last election campaign. I felt that it was up to me to-day to specify the way in which the people were misled in relation to the £250 subsidy and the proposed establishment of a national insurance housing corporation.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) opened his speech in a rather remarkable fashion. As a matter of fact, his speech was a very strange one. It is difficult to understand why he made such a speech in this debate. He may think that his lead will be followed by other honorable members. He said that in future election campaigns his party, would meet smears with smears. I have vivid recollections of participating in a panel discussion on ABN Channel 2 on election night. On that occasion the representative of the Australian Labour Party, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), made a somewhat impassioned attack on all and sundry. I took exception to that attack, which was something like that made by the honorable member for Lang to-day. The honorable member for Watson very rightly apologized, almost, for having indicated that the party which I was representing was the focus of his attack. He made the apology and it was readily seen that he did not mean the Liberal Party or the Country Party. He meant another party which is not represented on the Government benches. Consequently when the honorable member for Lang makes his attack to-day on members on this side of the House, he does not really mean that we are the people who allegedly smeared his party, made nasty remarks or brought in personalities at the last election campaign.
What becomes rather obvious from what the honorable member for Lang said is that there is a split of political personalities on the Opposition benches. He named some gentlemen who lost their seats in the last election; but strangely enough he did not name all the men who lost their seats. From that one can only assume that some of the men who lost their seats were less worthy than those whom the honorable member mentioned. I have nothing further to say about this strange speech, but it will be interesting to see how it is followed up as the debate progresses.
I return to the purpose of this debate. This is a debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and I take this opportunity to congratulate very sincerely the mover, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns), and the seconder, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey), I congratulate them on the manner in which they came through the ordeal of making their maiden speeches and the very capable manner in which they handled their subjects. I am certain that both of them will be decided assets to the debating strength of this House.
I pay tribute to Mr. Speaker on his election to that office for the third .time. I also ^congratulate the Prime Minister (Sir
Robert Menzies) on his retention of office. I remember that in my maiden speech I had the privilege of paying tribute to the fact that he had been in office for a record term of twelve years, two months and one day. Now I recall that as of to-day he has been in office for a record term of fourteen years, two months and twelve days. Finally, I record my congratulations to those honorable members from this side of the House who have been elevated to the Ministry, and to the three honorable members who are about to be elevated to the Ministry.
In addressing myself to the motion before the chair, I shall mention three or four matters which are of interest to me. I start by referring to the following passages in the Governor-General’s Speech: -
In the present state of affairs, defence must continue to be a major responsibility of my Government. . . .
In the Army, a third regular battle group is to be raised. . . . The Citizen Military Forces is being built up, its training is more realistic, and it is being equipped with modern arms, vehicles and stores of all kinds.
This reference to our defence is particularly interesting because, nationally speaking, we are living in troublous times, in which a threat of aggression and international crisis is held over our heads. The Malaysian situation is very disturbing. Generally speaking, it is an explosive and crucial situation in which Australia could be involved. We in Australia have been fortunate in that hitherto we have always been to a certain extent remote from hostilities that have broken out in other parts of the world; but never again will we be in that happy state. Never again will we be able to say how lucky we are not to experience the evils of warfare that befall people on the other side of the world. During the First World War and the early stages of the Second World War we did not have to worry too much because we were remote from the hostilities. We had time to train our men. Fortunately, we had available a large body of men with some military training. Over a period of time they had undergone compulsory military service. I was very grateful for the compulsory service which T had undergone because it taught me how to accept the discipline that is so much a part of army life.
The situation that existed in 1914, or in 1939, was ever so much different from the situation that may exist in the future if Australia is threatened by another country with hostilities of brush-fire or bush-fire or other type. It is interesting therefore to read in the Governor-General’s Speech that we are in a state of comparative readiness. But much of our Army readiness must of necessity depend on our ability to recruit for the Army. A lot of money is being spent on recruiting advertising. I, as well as other honorable members no doubt, have examined the position carefully to see what result we are obtaining from our recruiting campaign. Frankly I do not think all our hopes in this regard are being realized. A few days ago I heard the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) say that it was hoped that the new advertising campaign for the Army would meet with a greater response, but I have my doubts in the matter. I doubt very much whether the response will come up to expectations, no matter how attractive the advertising may be, whether it be in the newspapers, on television or on the radio. We are living in a time when civilian employment is very attractive. Wages and conditions of employment are very good and young lads these days are not easily steered away from commercial pursuits into what is, no matter which way we look at it, a life of regimentation.
The Government has announced its intention to raise a third regular army battle group. I think we will have considerable difficulty in raising such a battle group in the time specified. I come down very strongly on the side of those who have advocated the introduction of some form of compulsory military training. I know that in this House there are keen opponents of compulsory military training. I have read carefully what was said about national service training in 1959 and 1961 and I am aware of. the reasons why it was discontinued at that time. Those reasons were good and cogent ones. I agree with them to a large extent because at that time it was necessary to organize a regular army. It is heartening to realize that to-day we have such an army for the first time in our history in peace time. It is an army of which we should be very proud.
But after the Regular Army, what? Where is our reserve? Some one will say that we have the Citizen Military Forces. I would like to be a little critical of- the
Citizen Military Forces, but what I want to do is point out that after the Regular Army we have no pool of young fellows with any training at all unless we think of school cadets’, and there is no point in thinking of them in this context. We have no trained pool from which to draw. As far as I can see there is no likelihood of any body of young men being brought together in a volunteer atmosphere and trained to undertake the functions of soldiers in the event of hostilities breaking out and assistance being required by our Regular Army. I firmly believe that the Government should now decide on the way in which men will be given military training. It is useless to say that the attractiveness of recruiting advertisements produces substantial results. Nobody has taken more than a normal interest in recruiting advertisements up to date. To see on television tanks and other modern equipment being used has some attraction, but that attraction will not produce the thousands of men required daily if our Regular Army is to become of some significance. The view that I have expressed about the desirability to introduce some form of compulsory military training obviously is not my view alone, and equally obviously it is not the view only of the Returned Servicemen’s League. It is a view that has been expressed in my presence by high-ranking Army officers and by the men themselves. They have said: “ We will be on our own in the event of war. Who will be our reinforcements? “ As far as I can see nobody can answer that question; but it is one- which calls for an early and a ready answer.
We live in an age when youth plays a very important part in the community. Lots of our commercial ventures these days are based on the amount that can be extracted from the youth of the country because our youth is so well paid. We live in an age when youth is all important. We hear a lot of condemnation of beatlemania. Frankly I do not condemn that type of mania. I think it indicates a certain spirit of adventure and freedom. We want to preserve that freedom. If beatlemania and the other activities in which young people like to indulge are to be preserved, young people must accept a responsibility to come forward and” submit themselves ‘for training to protect their country. Australia cannot rely on the protection of other countries. Morally we should not do so. If we are to remain free we must collectively make sacrifices. We of the older brigade and the younger brigade are all in it. Surely the sacrifices that must be made in being trained are most acceptable to men when they are young. I believe the Government should give consideration to the development of a compulsory training scheme.
In passing, let me say that I have always had a very high regard for the American soldier. I have heard some very condemnatory things said in this chamber about Americans. I have also heard it asked, “ What did the Yanks do in the last war?” I spent three and a half years in service with the American Army and I saw what the Americans did in all the advances which were made right through to Manila. I am satisfied that the Americans saved Australia from a horrible fate. So many millions of American parents see their sons go off to do two years’ training. For what? Not only for the protection of America, should the occasion arise, but also for the protection of Australia, in the same way as Americans protected us so valiantly on the last occasion. It is time that we considered how much weight we should pull and when we should pull it. I believe that we must do more than we are doing now.
Some re-thinking can and should be done to stimulate the Citizen Military Forces so that they can attract more young volunteers. I do not think that the pentropic system under which the C.M.F. are organized is good enough to attract young lads into the service. A lot of them believe that the pentropic organization is completely nebulous. Prior to its introduction we had a system providing for something like territorial regiments. A man joined the unit within his area. He took great pride in belonging to that unit and the people of the area took a great pride in the unit. As a result, the C.M.F. organization was much more satisfactory than it is to-day. When you remember that there are only two battalions covering the whole of New South Wales you realize just how wide is the area from which a battalion is drawn.
Passing to another matter to which the Governor-General referred, I direct attention to the following statement: -
The numbers in employment have been rising rapidly and, except for seasonable influences, the numbers registered for employment have progressively declined. The present demand for labour of most classes is now strong.
That is very good reading. It indicates the true employment position to-day. When one hears that there is a shortage of unskilled labour one realizes just how far honorable members opposite were off the line when they were so very critical, particularly last year, of the Government, for the way in which it was controlling the economic affairs of the country. The fact that we are now short of unskilled labour surely indicates the buoyancy of the economy. I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for Labour and National Service. For the two years’ life of the Twenty-fourth Parliament he had to answer the criticisms of the gloom merchants on the opposite side of the chamber who took every opportunity to belittle the work that he was doing. In effect, he knocked for six every criticism that they offered. His statements in refutation of their criticism have been borne out. He said that the labour situation would improve considerably, and it certainly has.
Another paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is in these terms -
It is the objective of Government policy that the nation should achieve over the next five years a total increase of at least 25 per cent, in the gross national product expressed hi terms of constant prices.
You will note there the hope that we shall achieve an increase in our gross national product of at least 25 per cent. Many economic and other pointers support the confidence which is indicated in that extract from the Governor-General’s Speech. Stability in costs and prices must be the basis of this objective. If there is in the future a threat to the continued stability of our economy I state without fear of contradiction that this will be the result of the militant actions of men, whether members of trade unions or not, outside the arbitration system. To me it is very sad that many sections of employee organizations indulge in strike action. I have been told time and again that because of my condemnation of strike action I live in the nineteenth century, but I think that my statements indicate that I certainly live in the twentieth century. Many things have been done to ensure that employees who have a grievance in respect of wages or conditions of employment will have an authority to which they can turn to air their grievances, have them adjudicated upon and, if necessary, rectified. Although an arbitration system has been set up for this purpose many employee organizations choose not to avail themselves of it.
We have read recently of strike action, either intended or taken, by pilots. These men who receive high wages and enjoy good conditions of employment have decided that they have a grievance but that they will have nothing to do with arbitration. I do not know whether it has actually begun, but I have heard of a proposed strike by key staff at the atomic energy research establishment. An honorable member opposite has said that some one welshed on the staff. Goodness gracious me, the very fact that an employer welshed on his staff, in respect of either wages or conditions, is the very reason why the staff should have referred its grievance immediately to the court for adjudication. There is no need for any one to go on strike. As I have said before, the only reason why employees go on strike is to intimidate the community so that it will concede something to which perhaps they are not entitled. If that is not the reason, then the employees are trying to create the situation in which the Communist Party would like to see Australia placed, that is, a situation in which militancy really holds sway.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), who stated that I had almost apologized on election night when speaking over Channel 2 television station. In the course of my commentary that night I referred to the fact that there had been on television a dirty campaign of vilification against the Australian Labour Party. The honorable member for Warringah said, “I did not know we did that”. All I said was, ‘ I did not say you did it “. That could hardly be called “ almost apologizing “. I should like the record on that matter to be put straight.
.- This is my dissertation in the debate in reply to the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Twenty-fifth Parliament. At the outset let me express regret that ten of my former colleagues are not here with me. This is very sad particularly when one realizes that it is the result of the most violent smear campaign that this country has ever known in the field of politics. Through the media of mass communication - television, radio, the press - we were the victims of this campaign of abuse and vilification. I notice that some honorable members opposite draw a great deal of consolation from the results of this effort. McCarthy-ism prevailed in mass media in Australia probably beyond the extent to which it ever prevailed in the United States. The entrepreneur of the programme was, of course, the Democratic Labour Party. The sponsorship of the programme is in doubt, but the doubt lessens when one looks at the smirks on some of the faces opposite. There is no doubt that the beneficiaries were the Liberal and Country parties. We long for the day when we can come back to fighting election campaigns on principles and policy matters, because there is no doubt who would win.
Some honorable members opposite who have spoken have sought to encourage members of the Opposition to devote themselves with great enthusiasm to the fight against communism. I am one of those old-fashioned Labour men who are still intent on the idea of violently opposing the representatives of big business. I refer particularly to people of the ilk of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) who is always intent on knocking the worker, no matter who he is. He is prepared to criticize the workers for taking strike action, though he has no knowledge of the strike and no idea who is right or wrong. The honorable member referred to the stopwork meeting by draughtsmen, physicists, chemists and technical officers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. These are not people who ordinarily would be led by a Communist agitator. However, the honorable member can take my word for it that they are completely fed up with and frustrated by their unsuccessful attempts to get wage justice. At some appropriate opportunity I will provide the House with particulars of their endeavour to have their grievance properly aired. As I told the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to-day, there is substantial evidence that the executive commissioner has welshed on his undertakings to these people. However, I do not intend to be diverted to any extent from what I had proposed to say.
Whatever caused this Government to be returned with an increased majority, this cannot be attributed to its insipid and anaemic attitude to the nation’s health. The Prime Minister hardly mentioned this topic in his policy speech and, indeed, the Governor-General’s inaugural address at the opening of this Parliament also gave scant recognition to the great problems in this field. I know that it is not His Excellency’s fault, but in describing the Government’s legislative programme he mentioned the paltry and infinitesimal assistance which is contemplated so far as our national health scheme is concerned. My purpose to-day is to stir the Government from its lazy and lethargic state. It should be encouraged to realize that its electoral success was not due to its health scheme. My express purpose in speaking to-day is to refer to that scheme.
Not only are people dissatisfied with the national health scheme, but many are its victims. They are unable to pay for the treatment they need, and often are forced to go without. I remind honorable members that 96,000 pensioners are excluded from free medicine or free hospitalization under the pensioner medical scheme because of the means test introduced by this Government in 1955. This alone dramatically underlines the deficiencies in our health scheme. Many aged people living on a pension of £5 5s., or £5 15s. in some cases, have to pay as much for their health services as do the more affluent members of our community, merely because they receive £2 from sources other than the Department of Social Services. Is there any honorable member opposite who feels that there is not something anomalous in this? I wonder whether the Government and honorable members opposite are satisfied with the provisions of our health services, or whether the Government has run out of ideas. The Governor-General’s Speech contains no indication of any plan to overtake so many of the “deficiencies:
Has the Government any plan to improve the standard and availability of hospital treatment? Does it ever intend to transfer the financial burden from the hospital patients, whose affluence varies so greatly? Does it intend to transfer the burden from the patient to the community, or is it satisfied with the way things stand at the present time? Has it ever contemplated the employment of specialists in public hospitals on either a salary or a sessional fee basis? What does the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) think about this topic, if he does ever think about it? Is he at all anxious to ensure that the sick are cured by the assistance of competent people, or of people more competent than the general practitioner who, far too often, is invoked to cure their complaints?
Does the Government ever think of the possibility of encouraging the introduction of comprehensive out-patient services of the type which prevail in other paris of the world to a far greater measure than they operate in Australia? Does the Government ever think about the benefits of domiciliary home care which have been proved right around the world to be tremendously worth while? When thinking of domiciliary care the Government seems to have in mind only the district nursing service as though this is the be-all and end-all of the whole business. Out-patient facilities obviously should be broadened. All these things could be the subject of special Commonwealth Government grants to the States. This is the kind of thing that the Chifley Government embarked upon in respect of the broad area of health, though not to any satisfactory extent. No Government has done so to any satisfactory extent, but the Chifley Government was successful in providing free milk for school children, in assisting sufferers from tuberculosis, and introducing other benefits.
Does this Government give any thought to the need to extend the national health scheme to incorporate dental care? Experts parade about our country year after year telling us that our children have teeth which are as bad as any in the Western world. The Commonwealth apparently thinks that some constitutional line can be drawn to exclude a consideration of dental care from a person’s general state of health. Nothing is more ridiculous than a contention such as that. No optical service is contained as an integral part of our scheme, whereas such a service is provided in Great Britain, in New Zealand and also in Canada, a country which has the same kind of constitutional problems as we have. Surely there is a lot to be done. Nevertheless, in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech scant reference was made to any of these problems or to any attempt to overcome them. In the meantime, the people are suffering as a consequence of the lethargic and lazy thinking of the Government and the Minister on these matters.
Let me now make some passing reference in general terms to the inadequacy of our national health scheme. As things stand at the moment, 27 per cent, of the Australian community is not covered by any hospital benefits organization. This figure represents about 3,000,000 people. In addition, 32 per cent, is not covered by any medical benefit organization. Then let us consider the inadequacy of the benefits that are paid to people who belong to these organizations. The reports, which are available to all members, indicate that only 63.9 per cent, of fees paid in 1962 were returned in the form of benefit - a miserable 63.9 per cent! Yet the great architect of the scheme, the late Sir Earl Page, gave an understanding that 90 per cent, would be returned. We have fallen well short of the target in the fourteen or fifteen years that this Government has been in office.
Honorable members will realize just how top-heavy this scheme is when they consider that no less than 188 benefit organizations exist in Australia to-day. Thus we have duplicated services with duplicated staffs working in duplicated prestige buildings. As a consequence the overhead expenses run as high as 15 to 20 per cent, of the funds collected. Can any one justify this situation? Are we proud of it? Can it not be realized that one central fund could serve the purpose far more efficiently and adequately than all this useless competition and expensive arguing that has been going on, particularly in respect of the Sydney funds, but in respect of some others as well? These 188 duplicated benefit organizations had fluid assets alone totalling about £25,000,000. . .
Turning to the drug industry, the Minister has told this House in answer to questions upon notice that 144 firms are manufacturing or distributing drugs in Australia. Of that number 66 are completely owned and controlled by overseas concerns whose huge profits pour out of this country. Of the balance, many companies have partial overseas control. Some authorities have said that no more than two companies operating in the drug field here to-day are completely Australian owned. During the sittings of the last Parliament, some of my colleagues and I exposed the ruthless exploitation which exists in the drug industry. I shall cite a few figures to demonstrate my point. As a result of our exposure we forced the drug companies to slash their prices to a degree that effected a saving of millions of pounds by the community. Yet the surface has only just been scratched. No Government supporter seems to be even remotely interested. Certainly the Minister for Health does not seem interested, nor does the Government as a whole as, according to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, it is not going to do anything about any of the matters to which I have referred.
We have been able to establish that because of the high prices of drugs caused by the exploitation of overseas companies the Australian community is receiving very little in return for the vast amount of money it expends on the national health scheme. The average cost of a prescription under the national health scheme in 1962 was 20s. 2d. In the United Kingdom it was 10s. and in New Zealand it was 12s. 6d. In each case I have quoted Australian currency. We realize that between these countries there are differing factors such as the basic wage and the standard of living. However, I do not think that any one can justify the tremendous differences in the costs of prescriptions. It is probably a better measure to say that although Australia spends £29 a head per annum on its health services compared with £26 a head per annum in the United Kingdom, many important health services are denied to the Australian people. In other words, we are paying a lot more but receiving in services a great deal less.
What miserable and mundane proposals have been made to overcome the glaring anomalies to which I have referred..-. The
Minister has listened to the pleas of Parliament, the people and the press. He has visited the relevant establishments and has hud conferences with the medical and hospital benefits funds’ authorities and representatives of the Australian Medical Association. In the agony of his complete appraisal of the situation he has laboured to bring forth the repulsive mouse referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech - the payment of 2s. extra medical benefit by the Commonwealth. His consideration of the tremendous and glaring difficulties in the national health scheme has resulted in the proposed payment of an extra 2s. medical benefit by the Commonwealth. One newspaper described it as “ a promise of notably limited generosity “. That is the understatement of the year. Another newspaper said that the increased benefit was tragically low. It docs not really count for anything.
At present, contributors to a medical benefit scheme receive a refund of 1 3s. for every fi paid to a doctor, or 16s. for every 25s. The Commonwealth is to raise its contribution by 2s. Each contributor will now receive 18s. for every 25s. paid to a doctor. I believe that 25s. is the average cost of a visit to a doctor’s surgery. The contributor will receive 72 per cent, of the cost. However, when a general practitioner visits a contributor’s home the position is worse. 1 am open to correction, but I believe that the cost of a doctor’s visit to a home varies from 32s. 6d. to 35s. in Sydney. The refund to a contributor will still be only 18s., or about 50 per cent, of the cost. A new item in respect of home visits should have been introduced into the national health scheme in order to recognize the difference in costs of visits to the surgery and home treatment by doctors. But we can hardly expect such an answer from the Minister for Health who smugly and consistently contends that all is well with the national health scheme.
I come now to specialists’ fees. A refund of 18s. will be paid to a contributor in respect of each visit to a specialist. This leaves a great deal to be desired because specialists charge a lot more than general practitioners. It was proposed originally that 90 per cent, of medical and hospital expenses would be covered. Instead, according to the annual report of the Director-General of Health, the average coverage is 63.7 per cent, ft is now proposed that 72 per cent, of the cost of a visit to a general practitioner’s surgery will be refunded. For doctors’ home visits or visits to specialists the percentage refund will be less. The Government now considers 90 per cent, refund of the cost to be a maximum but it was intended to be the minimum. In my view the refund should be 90 per cent, of whatever amount is paid; that is to say, if one is charged twenty guineas by an ear, nose and throat specialist or a heart specialist who says “ If you do not come to me your life will not be saved “, the refund should be 90 per cent, of the amount charged. This method might give the Government an incentive to stabilize the fees of medical practitioners.
The Minister for Health has not been fair dinkum. He said that under the voluntary scheme which has been endorsed repeatedly by the people - as though they have ever endorsed it - doctors’ fees arc not fixed by compulsion. He said that it is impossible for a benefit scheme to guarantee repayment of a particular percentage of cost by way of benefit. I say that it is possible and it must be done. When a Labour Government is returned to office it will be done. Doctors will be required to stabilize their fees or, alternatively, the Government can cover the whole of the fees. This method is no different from the general principle of insurance. One insures his home or his car for its replacement cost. If it is going to be a write-off, the proceeds from the insurance will be needed to replace it. When you are sick you want the medical and hospital bills to be paid. You are entitled to this amount of security, but coverage against sickness cannot be purchased in Australia under the policy prevailing as a result of the Government’s attitude. Even if you pay the maximum rate of contribution to a fund you cannot get total coverage. On average you will receive a refund of 63 per cent, of the amount paid. In general terms this means that if your expenses in respect of your sickness total £100, you are likely to be required to pay £36 out of your own pocket.
I want to refer briefly to the deliberate attempt at deception by the Minister for Health. When he referred to his proposal to increase the benefit by one-third he said that in 1962-63 there were 1,640,000 medical services in respect of which contributors to registered organizations received a rebate of 90 per cent, of their accounts. What he did not tell the House was that at page 68 of the annual report, under the heading “ Medical Services Received By Contributors to Registered Organizations”, 23,400,000 services were shown to have been rendered, and that of those only 1,640,000 received the 90 per cent, refunds to which he referred. He has been engaged in a deliberate attempt to deceive the Australian community about the real merits of his proposals.
I want now quickly to mention one matter which causes me a great deal of concern and which is evidence of the fact that the milk of human kindness often turns sour under a Liberal-Country Party government. This matter represents, in my view, the horror of this age and is a relic of the Dark Ages. I refer to the denial of age and invalid pension rights to pensioners who are admitted to State mental hospitals. The Department of Social Services actually terminates the pensions of age, invalid and, indeed, widowed pensioners when they go into State mental hospitals. A patient who is a mental case can in no circumstances establish eligibility for a pension as the Social Services Act stands. The State Ministers for Health have asked for adequate and continuing funds for the care and treatment of mental illness in order to avoid discrimination against a particular form of sickness. This is dealt with at great length in the report of the conference of State Health Ministers held in Hobart in February, 1963. But the Government and its Minister for Health have continued to deny the merits of the argument that is being put forward. The fact of the matter is that people who go into mental hospitals are discriminated against. Other people who are sick in hospital keep their pensions, but patients in mental hospitals are denied the right to have any income of their own, and the State concerned is denied the opportunity to recoup itself from the income which these pensioners would otherwise have.
In New South Wales alone, in 1961-62, no fewer than 4,641 persons in State mental hospitals were deprived of the pensions that they would otherwise have had. These were people in the 60 years of age and over bracket. I suppose that all those in the sixteen years and over bracket could reasonably be expected to qualify for invalid pensions, so the real figure would be much larger than the 4,641 which I mentioned. But even in respect of those 4,641 people affected in New South Wales the saving to the Commonwealth was no less than £1,272,000. I have not had an opportunity to find out what the Commonwealth saves by the continuance of this inhuman practice throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I do know, however, that in New South Wales in the year 1961-62, the maintenance cost of pensioners in mental hospitals was £2,480,000, and that that cost was carried by the State Government without the assistance of the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and any other honorable member who may have some personal interest in problems of this kind - surely Labour members are not the only ones who come into contact with cases of this type - to go back to something like the position fifteen years ago, when the last Labour Government did have some consideration for mental patients. The Chifley Government made allowances available for mental patients in State mental hospitals, though I admit that the payment was inadequate. But, as I said, the milk of human kindness has turned sour. I ask the Government to look at the need to give mental patients the right to qualify for age, invalid and widow pensions. Otherwise, I call on the Government, in general terms, to overhaul its national health scheme.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. I remind honorable members that the next speaker is the honorable member for Dawson, and that this is his maiden speech.
.- At the outset, I wish sincerely to thank the electors of Dawson, in this maiden speech, for my election to the premier Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I should like, also, to inform the House that during the election campaign neither my opponent nor I at any stage used any personalities. Throughout, it was said that it was one of the cleanest campaigns with which any of those concerned had ever been connected. I am very proud of that, and I am proud of the Australian Country Party’s efforts in telling me that it should be so. I wish also to say a few words about my predecessor, the Honorable Charles Davidson, who was well and favorably known to all members of this House. He served in this House for seventeen years - for fourteen years as the member for Dawson and for three years as the member for Capricornia. He served his country in two world wars and, between those wars, he served in the Citizen Military Forces. By means of some addition I have found that he spent almost 60 per cent, of his working life in the service of the Commonwealth. That is a very proud record for anybody. I am proud to follow him. I know that it will be an extremely difficult task because Charlie, as he was so well known in this House, was very popular. I will have great difficulty in following such a great man and leader and patriot and, particularly, such a fine representative in this Parliament, but I hope I can do so, and I will do all in my power to carry out his wishes so that I may follow him successfully.
My main theme is the dramatic changes that have taken effect in the last two decades, or will take effect in the next decade, in the sugar industry. Before getting on to that subject I should like to mention that in the Dawson electorate there are probably more major industries than in almost any other electorate in the Commonwealth. I mention first the famous coalfield at Kianga-Moura and also the Baralaba coal-fields. There is gold-mining at Cracow and a large dairying industry in the Dawson and Callide valleys. Situated in this electorate we have the largest single cotton industry anywhere in the Common.wealh. There is also a very large grazing industry, one of the features of which at the moment is the well-known brigalow scrub clearing scheme which is being helped so much by the Commonwealth.
The Dawson electorate also has a very important grain-growing industry and - not the least - a tourist industry, because the Whitsunday group of islands is in the Dawson electorate. Fishing is another major industry. So one can see that apart from the sugar industry there are great industries spread over the length and breadth of my electorate. This was brought home to me particularly during the election campaign, when I saw the prosperity of towns such as Monto, Biloela, Eidsvold, Theodore, Moura, Baralaba and Wowan.
Mine is one electorate, at any rate, where small country towns are not dying. The assistance of the Commonwealth to industries such as dairying and to colton - through the cotton bounty - as well as to other industries by such means as the brigalow scheme - has ensured the continuance of the small country towns and their growth into large and progressive towns. There are two very important requirements in the Dawson and Callide valleys. The first is water conservation. With water conservation the Dawson and Callide valleys will probably become one of the richest areas in the whole of Australia. The other requirement is sealed roads, as we still have a lot of unsealed roads in our outback country. I have heard many suggestions about increasing the £250,000,000 grant for roads to £350,000,000. I commend to the Government a proposal that it increase the total of £250,000,000 by way of amending legislation by £100,000,000 at least, and provide 50 per cent, for rural roads. That is the only way in which we will keep people in the country and keep areas such as the Dawson and Callide valleys happy so that they will continue to be of great benefit to the Commonwealth of Australia.
I turn now to the sugar industry. Io the Dawson electorate there are eleven sugar mills, representing about one-third of the total sugar production in Australia. This electorate is by far the greatest producer of sugar in either Queensland or New South Wales.
I want to review developments over the twenty years since 1943, when we were suffering from shortages of man-power, materials and fertilizers, which created serious problems during the last war and caused the industry to decline. After the war, we started on the way up again, and I think that no industry in Australia can compare with the sugar industry in the progress that has been made in such a short time. Two decades is not long in the history of the Commonwealth.
In 1943, we grew only 3,700,000 tons of cane, and this was crushed by 34 Australian mills to produce only a little more than 500,000 tons of sugar. Just twenty years later, in the 1962 season, production had increased to 12,700,000 tons of cane - about three and a half times the level in 1943 - and sugar production had reached an alltime record of 1,849,000 tons. In the 1963 season, production was only slightly less than in 1962. The industry hopes to produce 2,000,000 tons of sugar in the 1964 season and, working on the basis of a report by a recent committee of inquiry appointed by the Queensland Government, is now making firm plans to produce annually about 2,250,000 tons of 94 net titre sugar in 1965, 1966 and 1967, with an ultimate target of 2,580,000 tons for the 1970 season. My opinion is that by the time we reach that target in 1970 we shall be asked to produce 3,000,000 tons of sugar a year. I can assure honorable members that the Australian sugar industry will be right in the forefront in ensuring that the requirements for both home consumption and export are met, at whatever level they may be set.
I know that all honorable members are interested in rural production; so I shall give the House some figures that are of general interest to any one who is concerned about rural production. In the 1943 season, only 229,000 acres of cane were harvested for the whole of Queensland. After a royal commission into the sugar industry in 1946, we decided that the time for expansion had arrived. The expansion was well and carefully handled. Some of the increased areas of production that were arranged for were allotted to existing canegrowers, some to ex-servicemen and some to other new growers. Under this expansion programme, the industry was able to accommodate 252 ex-servicemen and 830 other new farmers. This meant that about 1,100 new producers were brought into the industry. This planned expansion took place from 1950 to 1952. As a result of the greater area under cane, and increased assignments granted to existing growers, the area harvested in Queensland increased to 387,000 acres in 1962 and 402,000 acres in 1963. Emergency arrangements have been made to ensure that we meet our overseas commitments and we expect to harvest a little more than 500,000 acres of cane in 1964. So, over the last two decades, we have almost doubled the area of cane harvested. We shall have more than doubled it by the end of the 1964 season.
The committee of inquiry that I mentioned earlier has recommended that an additional 150,000 acres be assigned for cane-growing in Queensland and that 42 per cent, of this additional area be allotted to new growers. This should result in a further 1,000 new farmers entering the sugar industry in the next two or three years - again, under a planned programme of expansion. This kind of planned expansion has been a great thing not only for the industry and for the 2,000 new growers who will have been introduced into the industry by the time the latest expansion is completed, but also for Queensland in particular and the country as a whole.
I want to point out to the House the increase in yields both in the field and at the mill. This emphasizes the benefit of the great sums spent on research. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds are expended each year on research in the field and in the mills. These funds are provided by the mill-owners of Queensland through the Sugar Research Institute, by the growers through the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations and by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which undertakes research both in the field and at the mill. Only £7,000 of the large sum expended annually is obtained from government sources. This is provided by the Queensland Government under the terms of an act passed many years ago, and the amount has never been increased. Compared to the total sum of hundreds of thousands of pounds expended each year, the government allocation now represents only a token sum. Scientific research in both the field and the mill has enabled us to compete with the rest of the world and, may I add, to develop an industry that is one of the most efficient sugar industries in the world as well as one of our most highly organized internal industries. We have done this without the help of anybody’s money but our own.
The whole of our sugar industry, is based on an agreement between the
Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. Without that agreement, the industry could never have grown to the stature that it has to-day. For many years, Commonwealth governments have been sympathetic to the progress and efforts of the sugar industry and have regularly, at intervals of five years, after the making of a new agreement, taken action to have the agreement ratified by this Parliament. So we can always be sure that we shall be able to provide the Australian public with sugar at a reasonable price protected against unfair competition from outside this country and able to meet any fair international competition.
In the last two decades, by research, we have increased the yield of sugar from 2.1 tons an acre to 4.5 tons an acre. This increase is rather amazing. No other country can produce figures to compare with these. We have increased the crushing rate of the mills each year. In 1943, the average crushing rate for the whole of Queensland was only 55 tons an hour. In 1962, the rate had risen to 129 tons an hour. I should say that in the 1964 season the rate will be about 150 tons an hour. All this has been achieved by means of the research that I have mentioned, and this achievement has been brought about by our own efforts and by the expenditure of our own money.
We have had labour problems in the field, because cane-cutting is a rather arduous task, especially under the hot summer conditions in our far north. Therefore, field mechanization has been adopted to some extent. I do not think that it will ever completely replace cutting by hand, but mechanization will always be needed to supplement at certain times of the year the labour available to work in the sugar fields all the year round. Some figures will give honorable members an idea of the increase in mechanization. In the 1962 season, 8.7 per cent, of the Queensland crop was mechanically harvested and 64.4 per cent, was mechanically loaded. Last year 13.4 per cent, of the crop was mechanically harvested and 74.2 per cent, was mechanically loaded.
One of the most dramatic advances in the sugar industry resulted not from research but from applied thinking to the handling of sugar in bulk. The bulk handling of sugar started in Queensland in 1957. At Mackay, which is in the centre of my electorate of Dawson, we have the largest bulk handling storage in the whole of the world, irrespective of the product that is being handled. We intend in the next five years to double the capacity; so no one will be able to beat us for size. The terminals are operated by the industry, are financed by the industry and, of course, the rewards will go back to the industry. Bulk handling has been one of the most successful and enduring attempts we have ever made to reduce transport costs. We have not only reduced transport costs to the Australian sugar industry but also to those who buy our product.
The home consumption market is all important and always has been, it has increased at a steady rate year by year as our population has grown and as the migrants learn our way of life and use a little more sugar. The home market requires roughly 600,000 tons a year. We do not expect to have any difficulty in supplying this demand and in exporting 1,255,000 tons. We expect that by the 1970 season we will be exporting 2,000,000 tons of sugar. It is interesting to note that, as well as being the largest income earner of all the industries in Queensland, including wool, last year for the first time sugar exports from Queensland were larger than the exports of any other product. Last year, the income from the export of sugar was £51,000,000 and it is expected that in the coming year these exports will be worth £72,500,000. Honorable members will realize that it is important to the Commonwealth and to Queensland, as well as to the other States, to foster this great industry. It is helping to establish the overseas credits we need to pay for the capital goods we import.
Approximately 7,000 canegrowers are employed in Queensland and 800 in New South Wales. Also about 18,000 workers are actively engaged in the industry at reasonable rates of remuneration, 8,000 in the mills and 10,000 in the fields. The sugar industry has been responsible for establishing towns such as Mackay, Innisfail, Cardwell, Tully, Cairns, Bundaberg and Maryborough and smaller places such as Proserpine and Sarina. The sugar industry enables us to maintain a population In country areas.
Before I conclude, I would like to mention that eighteen months ago 1 had the privilege of representing the sugar industry during an overseas trip. 1 visited many countries growing sugar cane or sugar beet in the new world and the old world. 1 was interested to find out why Australia, with a high standard of living and using white labour in the production of sugar, could compete with overseas countries which used native labour and had much lower costs. I found out that this was due to one factor and one factor only- productivity. Our Australian sugar worker and cane farmer work harder and give more to their jobs, and so does management. In the overseas countries 1 visited, I was proud to say that I was an Australian. The sugar industry is right in the forefront now on world markets because we work hard. People overseas wondered why Australia using white labour could compete on the open sugar margct with countries using cheaper labour, and the answer, in one word, was “ productivity “.
Although 1 have been engaged in the sugar industry in high executive positions for 31 years, I do not consider that J am an expert. This is a complex industry and, no matter how long you work in it, you are never an expert. However, 1 hope that when matters affecting the sugar industry come before the House I will be able to add something to the debates. I also hope that, if any honorable member has any question about the sugar industry that he wishes to put to me, he will do so. If the information is not immediately available to me, 1 will surely obtain it for him.
.- At the commencement of my first speech in the Twenty-fifth Parliament 1 wish to express my appreciation to the electors of Griffith for the honour they have done me by returning me as their member for the fourth time. I believe that all power comes from the people and no greater honour can be conferred on any Australian than to be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament and to possess the confidence of his electorate. The good people of Griffith have returned me with a very substantial majority and I am very grateful to them for having such confidence in me. I hope that I will be worthy of the trust that they have in me and that 1 will give them the service they expect. 1 will act honorably in their interests.
I listened with interest to the maiden speech of the new honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw). It is pleasing at long last to find a member of the Austraiian Country Party in this Parliament who can speak with some authority on the sugar industry. I would say that, after his speech this afternoon, he will be quite sweet in his electorate. I am pleased about the references he made to productivity and the enthusiasm of the Australian workers in the sugar industry. 1 wish to touch on another important industry and an industry with which my electorate has very close association. 1 want to speak about the meat industry. This industry brings together the productivity of the primary producer, the grazier who produces the beef, and the employees engaged at the meat works, in the railways and on the waterfront. These people are to be found in large numbers in the electorate I represent. The markets of the meat industry have changed considerably in recent times. Prior to the Second World War the principal lin Dor:cr of Australian beef and mutton was the United Kingdom; but to-day the United States of America is the principal market for the Australian beef industry. This industry is a great earner for overseas credits. The total income from the export of meat in 1962-63 was more than £96,000,000, of which £74,781,000 was earned by exporting meat to the United States. Our total exports to that country in that year were valued at £133,000,000, and 77 per cent, of that amount came from the meat industry. So honorable members will see how dependent the people of Australia are on the meat industry for the earning of dollars in the United States. That country took 72 per cent, of our exports of meat products. These figures are very important. The United Kingdom market has deteriorated alarmingly. Tn 1962-63 that country purchased meat to the value of only £6,000,000. That illustrates how the markets of the meat industry have changed in recent years.
This financial year the position has changed even more dramatically. In the six months ended December, 1963, the United States purchased 131,602 tons of beef and veal to the value of £42,138,000 and more than 10,000 tons of mutton and lamb, valued at £2,241,000. The total value of meat exported to the United States in that period of six months was £44,379,000. If that rate is continued for the balance of this financial year - there is every reason to believe that it will be - the amount of meat exported to the United States will be 283,986 tons. So we see that the United States is the principal market for the Australian meat industry. The value of meat exported to the United Kingdom in that period of six months was only £2,878,000. The United Kingdom market for Australian meat is falling. There is no other country whose imports of Australian meat exceed £1,000,000 per annum.
I stress again the importance of the United States market to the Australian meat producers, the graziers, the meat-workers at the Brisbane abattoirs, the railway employees and the waterside workers. All of those people are associated with the production of meat for export. Their livelihoods depend on the availability of markets and the ability of the Australian producer to market his beef.
Unfortunately, I am rather sceptical about the United States market. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) is enthusiastic about an agreement which has been arrived at, but I cannot share his enthusiasm. The Minister has announced that the quota which the United States Government has agreed to allow into that country in 1964 is 242,000 tons; but on present indications the amount of meat that we will be exporting to that country in 1963-64 will be 283,000 tons. At no stage during the three years to which the Minister has referred- 1964, 1965 and 1966 - do the quotas allowed under the agreement amount to the tonnage that is being exported to the United States at present. Apparently the Minister is rejoicing at having reached an agreement which provides for quotas that are less than the amount that is being exported to the United States at present.
Our history of trade with the United States is not a happy one. The woolgrowers know that to their sorrow. Whenever this country develops a market in the United States there is always strong opposi tion there to the development of that trade, particularly when the United States is a producer of the commodity that we are exporting to it. That applies in the meat trade. The United States is a great producer of beef for its own consumption. Reports from the United States, which have been published in daily press of Australia, suggest that in the beef-producing States of that great country - our great and powerful ally, to use the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) - there is great opposition to the agreement on the marketing of imported Australian meat. Already State legislatures are being flooded with bills to restrict and hamstring the Australian producers who are seeking a market for their products in the United States. In Congress, legislation which comes largely from Democrat members of the House of Representatives and seeks to reduce and restrict further the amount of meat to be imported from Australia, is pending. So, being aware of the importance of pressure politics in that country, I fear for the continued success of the market which has developed so dramatically in the post-war period.
The Minister for Trade and Industry said that Australia will export to the United States the lower and leaner grades of beef which are used mainly in the manufacture of hamburgers, pies, sausages and other products of that type. I hope it is not a criterion of the productivity of the beef industry that we are able to find a market only for inferior grades of beef. I hope that Australian beef producers will not be content to produce beef only to satisfy that type of market, because if they are I foresee that in the future Australians also will be educated to eat that kind of beef.
– That is very illogical.
– Not at all. I am disappointed in the new and honorable member for Bowman. In view of the high prices that the Australian consumer pays for beef he is deserving of a better grade of meat than he is getting at present.
– We eat the better grades here.
– Not all of us get the better grades, but we pay the highest prices for what we get. I have my own views on this matter. I agree with one of the new Country Party members who said last week that we must search for new markets for our meat. Some years ago when I first entered this Parliament I referred to the fact that geographically Australia is part of Asia and that our future lies in that direction. I was pleased to hear the honorable member from the Country Party stress the importance of that great market so close to Australia. I, too, feel that we must do much more to develop and exploit that market. The standard of living in Japan is rising. The Japanese people are adopting more and more western habits, particularly in relation to food. Our trade relations with Japan are good and we should do more to publicize our meat in Japan. We are placing too much reliance on the American market; and it is wrong to put all your eggs in one basket.
We should search for other markets in which to dispose of our product. Queensland is vitally interested in this matter because of the 13,000,000 beef cattle in Australia, 6,000,000, representing 45 per cent, of the total, graze on Queensland properties. I am sure honorable members will concede the importance of this industry to the State of which I am a native and which I represent in this place. In recent times the Queensland Government, with considerable assistance from the Commonwealth, has embarked on a scheme of developing the brigalow lands which, when completed, will increase still further the number of beef cattle that may be produced. Although the scheme has yet to be proved a success, I feel enthusiastic about it. 1 am sure it will be successful, although it is a field which offers opportunites only for those who can call on large financial resources. The scheme is costly but 1 am sure that it will produce good returns to those who are associated with it.
The area of the brigalow lands enjoys a good rainfall. The marketing of the increased production of beef from the area will present a problem. The Queensland Government is aware of the importance of the meat industry and recently appointed a committee to investigate all phases of it - production, land laws, marketing, slaughtering and preparation - with a view to planning its development along the lines pf the sugar industry, to which the- honor able member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw) referred. 1 wish the Commonwealth would display some interest in this committee and its investigations, because the success of the nation’s export drive is bound up with this important industry. The Commonwealth has large investments in the meat industry in the way of the grants and loans it has made to Queensland for the development of these lands and the construction of beef roads throughout western Queensland. There is need for an investigation such as has been announced, because in Queensland the preparation of beef for export is largely in the hands of overseas investors. Quite recently the American firm of Swift closed the meatworks which had existed in Gladstone for many years. Now Gladstone is without a meatworks. At least 650 men found employment in the Gladstone meatworks. There is now no employment in Gladstone in this industry.
I again stress the importance of the meat industry to the nation, and I pray that its prosperity will be maintained and developed. I hope that we will be able to retain our markets in the United States, although I do not share the Minister’s optimism in that respect. We must develop markets in other countries and spread our exports. If we place too much reliance on one country, as we are doing now in the case of the United States, we could face disaster if at any time that country changed its attitude towards any of our exports or towards trade in general with us.
– Order! I call the honorable member for St. George and remind the House that this is the honorable member’s maiden speech.
.- On this first occasion of being conceded the privilege of addressing the House I should like to extend a number of compliments which I believe not only are in order but also are due. At the outset I reaffirm my oath of allegiance to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen. I should be most grateful if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would convey to the Speaker, and accept yourself, my compliments and congratulations on your election to office. One of the greatest Impacts that a new member receives on entering, the House and sitting here for a short time is the apparent respect in which both you and the Speaker are held by honorable members on both sides of the House. I look forward to a happy and enjoyable stay with you, and to your guidance during the coming sessional period.
I am very happy also to support the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), who referred to the re-election of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) as leader of the Government parties. Irrespective of whether you try to scratch up a discrepancy - I emphasize that phrase - against any one, one thing is true: Facts and figures do not lie. The Prime Minister’s success after fourteen years in office is a great compliment to him. I am pleased that he has been restored to his confident position in the House. I compliment also members of the Ministry who have been re-elected and honorable members who are to be elevated to the Ministry. I congratulate also members of the Opposition who have been elected to executive rank in their party.
A person makes a great mistake if he believes that his progress in life is due principally to his own efforts. No doubt one’s own efforts do count, but we always should pay respect to those who are responsible for the progress that we have made. Apart from the guidance that I received from my parents and, in later years, from others, I believe that I am in this Parliament as a result of two factors. First, I am here because the electors of St. George gave me their confidence and elected me on 30th November last. I pay tribute to them and I sincerely hope that their confidence will not be misplaced during the next three years. Secondly, and most important to me, I compliment the association of Apex clubs, and indeed the service club movement in general, because through this Australian-born and Australian-developed organization - the Apex club - I have been able to gain an education in civic responsibility that I do not believe I would have been able to obtain otherwise. I have been privileged to rise to my present position per medium particularly of the association of Apex clubs.
We must not overlook the importance of service clubs and charitable organizations in the community, because they have developed a stratum of administration in our way of life which we are too often prone to overlook. They receive no reward for their efforts other than the satisfaction of learning a greater sense of responsibility in community affairs or, more importantly, of guiding others in the community to press on with this task. On many occasions they receive no recognition of their efforts. I shall continually remind the House of the important part that members of these organizations are playing and will play in our community affairs.
No fewer than eight Commonwealth Government departments depend in large or small degree upon the contributions of the service and charitable organizations in Australia. Let us remember the contribution which has been made by lay societies towards assisting the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) and their respective departments. The organizations are playing a large part in the field of education. Education may not be the complete responsibility of this legislature, but I am viewing the subject on the broad plane. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) might consider the contribution which has been made by the service units in the community. I am sure that the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) recognizes the contributions that they have made. Let me refer specifically to the field of social services. I have no doubt that, as I believe the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has said, whilst government can lead in many things it can never hope to provide that personal contact between statutory authority and the people which is so earnestly desired. In this field the service and charitable organizations - and the lay societies at large - make their contribution. One such organization - the Association of Civilian Widows - is an example of leadership by the Government resulting in a more spontaneous effort by the people. After many years of preparation this organization was formed and rationally developed until it reached the stage at which research was undertaken into the problems confronting civilian widows and their children. Submissions were prepared in excellent form and presented to the responsible authorities. At the risk of being immodest let me point out that in the last Budget the Government was big enough and statesmanlike enough to acknowledge a shortcoming in its treatment of civilian widows and their children, so it introduced a mother’s allowance of £2 a week and provided additional assistance for the children. This resulted in an overall increase of about £3 a week. Let us all concede that in the field of social services this was the most gratuitous increase in benefits that had been made in the last 40 or 50 years, or even since federation. Possibly the greatest impact of this was that it resulted in a lay society spurring itself to greater effort, responding to the lead given by the Government and forming an organization called Birthright. Eventually Birthright may become a counterpart of that very wonderful organization, Legacy. It will apply its efforts on behalf of civilian widows. It is ready to commence operations towards the end of this month. Many eminent people in Sydney and in other States are being solicited for their support, and I can indicate to the House that this is readily forthcoming. This is another indication of positive leadership by the Government resulting in support from the community, and another example of government by leadership rather than government by direction. This can be taken to unparalleled levels if a policy similar to that which resulted in the substantial social service benefits included in the last Budget is implemented. The development of this spirit among the people can result in nothing but great benefit to the community at large. It could build us to the stage where the legislatures and statutory authorities could be reserved for the bigger responsibilities of running the country at large. This in turn would result in opportunities for much greater and speedier development than we have seen undertaken so far, even in the field of national development.
In regard to defence, there must be a wider appreciation by the people of the fact that Australia is no longer isolated and that we no longer live under what may be termed a colonial umbrella. Australia is now an integral part of world government, and the Australian people must be made more conscious of our world responsibilities. They must be enlightened on the way that the world is moving forward. Because of our difficulties in mass communication and travel we tend still to be somewhat isolated in our thinking. Do not let us under-estimate our part in world affairs. Furthermore, let us carry our thinking beyond even South
East Asia. I think all will agree (hat in the last two or three years the public at large has become more conscious of our geographical location and of our responsibility in the Asian theatre. However, I predict that within the next ten years we all will become much more conscious of the existence of the African continent, and of the part that it will play in our way of life. Let us not under-estimate the South African situation or developments in the newly emerged countries such as Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. Do not let us under-estimate mainland China. It may be interesting also to watch developments in the next six or twelve months on the sub-continent of India. I look with some abhorrence upon the apparent flirtation of Pakistan with China, but I refuse to believe at this stage that Pakistan holds anything but the views with which it has been firmly imbued since it received its independence in 1947. I look forward with confidence to continued support by Pakistan of our Western type ideals.
Do not under-estimate the position in Zanzibar to-day. Do not under-estimate the infiltration tactics being used at many places on the African continent to-day. Be assured that they are there. Nor should we under-estimate the important part that the African peoples may play in our way of life.
It may be worth our while to consider the value of alternative routes of travel outside Australia. In this regard the Department of Civil Aviation could perhaps consider the virtues of improving the aviation arrangements on Cocos Island. I believe that this alternative air route would be of great assistance to the Australian administration generally, if not in inter-connecting air routes then most certainly in future defence. It is interesting to know that we are under an obligation to certain associated countries for the privilege of flying between here and Singapore. That is a sobering thought. We should consider also whether the Pacific air route is necessarily the best alternative. We might do well, through the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), to extend our associations on the African continent. I look with great satisfaction upon the recently announced invitation to Tom Mboya, and other such men, to visit this country. I look forward to meeting this gentleman and to seeing him here. I believe that Tom Mboya will play a very important part in the future of the African continent, in addition te that of his own independent country.
The promotion of this type of interchange between Australia and the newly-emerging African States can do nothing but good for ourselves and for the world in general. We should not necessarily concentrate all our efforts in South-East Asia. Particularly should we develop in the community an awareness of the position in which Australia stands to-day. By doing this I believe that we can make the contribution that we are meant to make to the community way of life, that is, leadership and intelligent, aggressive and serviceable citizenship.
.- We heard His Excellency the GovernorGeneral outline the policy of the LiberalCountry Party Government, and we have also had the opportunity to read the Speech. I must say that, as such, it was a pretty dull and dismal document. I am sure that it is more likely to be remembered for what it does not contain, rather than for what it does. It reminds me very much of the boarding house pie - it has all the trimmings, has a reasonable appearance, but has very little meat in it. I am sure that many people who troubled or were able to listen to the address must have been sadly disappointed at the very little contained in it. The pensioners, in particular, would have been disappointed because it is quite evident that this Government has no intention of doing anything to correct any of the many anomalies in the Social Services Act.
The first matter I wish to deal with relates to gold-mining, which clearly does not rate very high in the thinking of this Government because it did not even get a mention in the Governor-General’s Speech. Western Australia provides over 80 per cent, of the gold produced in Australia. Therefore, the preservation of the industry is important not only to the places where the gold is produced but also to the State as a whole and, in fact to the Commonwealth. For that reason, it is only proper that the needs of this industry should be .ventilated in this Parliament. . . .
It is unfortunate that on the Government side there does not appear to be one honorable member who has any real practical knowledge of the gold-mining industry. I do not say that disparagingly, but I do think it is a great pity that when we have debate on a gold-mining bill, all knowledgeable speakers on the measure are on this side of the chamber. On several occasions I have pointed out to the Parliament that the present assistance given to the goldmining industry is neither sufficient nor broad enough to meet the full requirements of the industry, or anything like them, or of the people who are engaged in or dependant upon this industry. I have pointed out that the present method and amount of assistance under the GoldMining Industry Assistance Act and the Gold Mines Development Assistance Act will never give the lift to the industry which is so urgently required if we are ever to see it become the solid and extensive industry of several years ago. The recent mine closures of the Great Western in Yilgarn, the Baileys group in Coolgardie, and more recently the Sons of Gwalia in the Leonora district must surely prove that the points I have been putting forward and the requests that I have made for greater assistance for the industry are well and truly proved. It is time that the Government took some heed of the requests it receives from the goldmining industry and introduced considerable improvements to the existing legislation. The Goldmining Assistance Act operates in such a manner that a mine must be in very serious difficulties before it becomes eligible for assistance. Even when it does reach that stage, assistance is given only in proportion to the ounces of gold produced. There is no subsidy paid until the costs of production rise above £13 10s. an ounce. It is obvious that when a mine becomes eligible for subsidy it must either be working on low grade ore or be short of ore, or both. As the subsidy is paid only on the number of ounces of gold produced it must also be obvious that once a mine becomes eligible for assistance under the present legislation it is not likely to improve to a position where it will become selfsupporting. Until we do have better legislation it is very important and very necessary that the . present method continue, because it certainly allows, those, mines in receipt of assistance to continue for a longer period than they otherwise could continue.
However, if the present method is the only way in which the Government is prepared to grant assistance it should immediately reduce the commencing point of cost of production from £13 10s. an ounce and lift the maximum subsidy above the present amount of £3 5s. The cost of production of £13 10s. an ounce, at the present price of gold, leaves a margin of only £2 2s. 6d. If the cost of production exceeds £18 17s. an ounce the only way a mine is likely to continue is by operating at a loss. That is extremely unlikely. Even so, a different method of assistance is required if we are to see the goldmining industry again come into its own. The present act will not be the means whereby new mines will be discovered and opened up. That is one of the major requirements of the industry to-day. We are faced with the closure of many of the old mines and no new mines are being opened up as replacements. It is interesting but very disturbing to know that in 1948 in Western Australia 25 goldmining companies were operating, employing between twenty and 880 men each. A further nine companies employed fewer than twenty men each. Today there are only seven larger companies and a couple of smaller ones. In 1954 when the subsidy for goldmining was introduced there were nineteen large companies operating. As that number has been reduced to nine it is obvious that the present assistance granted to the goldmining industry is not stopping the decline.
The closure of goldmines and the subsequent reduction in gold output is serious not only in relation to the effect of our export income. There are many other serious effects. For instance, the mine closures of the last couple of years have brought about the displacement of approximately 700 workers. In addition there were those who, while not employed in the mines, were dependent on them for employment in the district. It is estimated that about 3,500 men, women and children were affected by the closures of three mining groups in the last couple of years. It must be borne in mind that every one of those people was resident in the districts close to the mines. After the closures they were forced to move away. So there arose the disturbing position that people who were not only prepared but would have preferred to live and work in the country areas were forced through lack of employment to move into the metropolitan areas. We cannot afford to lose our population in the country areas, particularly where it is so sparse.
We have heard a lot of idle talk about decentralization and the need to encourage people from the cities into the country. Unfortunately, that is not a reality. If the Government supports the idea of decentralization, here is a golden opportunity to do something positive about it. Here is a chance to bring about a rapid extension of goldmining activity which will in turn mean a rapid and considerable increase of population in the country. The Government could also stop the drift from the gold-fields to the cities. The need for new industries has been highlighted and headlines have featured the possibility that a certain new industry will eventually employ 20 or 30 men. But what of the employment opportunities in goldmining? One decent goldmine will employ hundreds of men. As an example, the Lake View and Star goldmine at Kalgoorlie employs between 900 and 1,000 men. A lot of the industries talked about would be needed to provide employment for the same number of men as can one goldmine. It is well known that when a goldmine starts, the families of the workers quickly move into the area. So it is that new goldmines are discovered and opened up. New towns are set up and a reasonable population is attracted to the back country. The Government should assist in bringing about that position. It is most unlikely that without government help a revival of the goldmining industry will occur while the present price of gold continues. If the Government does not step in soon and do something positive it will be too late. We will see a gradual decline of the industry, unless there is an increase in the price of gold.
From a financial point of view the Government is in a good position to give the necessary help. The mines to which I have referred were in receipt of assistance under the act. Because of their closures the Treasury is saved the payment of many thousands of pounds. The Sons of Gwalia and Great Western mines in 1960 received a subsidy of over £376,000. In 1961 they received £319,000. In 1962 they received about £253,000. In 1963 the subsidy was reduced to £271,000. The Treasury was thus saved over £100,000. As a result of the recent closures the subsidy payments will be much further reduced. By next year a reduction of about £300,000 will have occurred since 1960. With that money could be provided different means to help the industry.
The Government should now examine the possibility of introducing legislation to provide substantial sums of money for extensive and intensive prospecting of promising gold-bearing country. We must have new mines to take the place of those which have closed. I do not mean prospecting in the way it is generally understood; I mean participation by companies or syndicates which can provide money of their own. Government assistance could be given on a £l-for-£l basis or on a similar basis in proportion to the capital provided by a company or syndicate. It could be provided that where a company or syndicate is successful in establishing a reasonably profitable mine, government assistance could be refunded to be available for other companies. If the Government is prepared to do something of that nature we may see some worth while discoveries. We could see a rapid increase in gold-mining activity and in the population of the goldfields and country areas. When considering developing and populating our country areas we cannot overlook the fact that in Western Australia there are large areas which until recently had fairly reasonable populations. Now they contain very few people. Goldmines in Western Australia are situated in areas where, except for a few pastoral properties, there is no other avenue of employment for mining workers. I hope that the Treasurer will investigate the position I have outlined to see whether something can be done along the lines I have suggested. I now wish to say a few words about television - or the lack of it - in most parts of Western Australia. Western Australia is a very large piece of country - something like 976,000 square miles, or almost onethird of the whole of Australia - yet we find at this late stage, when television sets in the eastern States have become museum pieces, that- the only areas in Western Austrafia where television can be reasonably viewed are in Perth or within 60 or 70 miles of the metropolitan area.
On 30th April, 1959 - almost five years ago - the then Postmaster-General issued a statement on television, in which he said -
I am now in a position to inform honorable members of the steps the Government proposes to take in respect of major provincial and country areas of the Commonwealth, following a decision which was made last week.
We are now reaching the completion of what I have described as the first and second stages of development - that is the provision of services in all the State capital cities - and we are faced with the problem of initiating the third stage, which is the extension of television to major country and provincial areas.
He then said that one of those areas would be the Australian Capital Territory, and that there would be four such areas in New South Wales, three in Victoria, three in Queensland and one in Tasmania. There was no mention of any in Western Australia and I can only take that to mean that, in the view of the Government, the country areas of Western Australia do not rate very high. That is further borne out by the very slow progress of extension, and we are still in a position where there is nothing definite and, in fact, no departmental suggestion of when the people in the important areas of Kalgoorlie and Geraldton in Western Australia are likely to receive television. Last year I suggested, by way of a question directed to the then Postmaster-General, that it would be at least 1970 before television reached those centres if the Government kept to its plan for television extension. The then Postmaster-General, in his reply, implied that that was a rather ridiculous suggestion to make, so I take this opportunity to examine the position and place on record the facts that will show whether it is ridiculous or not. When we look at the plan of this Government in relation to television I think that I was perhaps being a little optimistic at that time. In his statement in 1959 the former Postmaster-General also said -
Consideration of the remaining provincial and rural areas not included in this phase, will be given when this phase is well under way.
In a statement on 18th October, 1961 - two and a half years later - the PostmasterGeneral referred to the remarks he had made in 1959 and said -
Rapid progress is now being made with the establishment of stations which are authorized in the present stage of development.
The “ present stage of development “ at the latter end of 1961 was, of course, the stage authorized in 1959. The PostmasterGeneral said further -
It is expected that the thirteen commercial stations will, with two exceptions, commence service progressively between December, 1961 and June, 1962, while the national stations will be brought into operation during the period December, 1962, to June. 1964.
Honorable members will notice that although rapid progress is claimed, it will take five years to complete the phase - from 1959 to 1964. In his statement in October, 1961, the Postmaster-General also named the stations which would be established in the fourth phase and later, in the same statement, he pointed out that the whole project of phase four will not be completed until during 1966-67. So once again we find that it will be at least five years from authorization to completion, and it is extremely unlikely that the proposals in relation to Western Australia - for the two stations now being set up in the south and central areas of the State - will be completed until 1966-67.
On 28th March, 1962 I asked the then Postmaster-General a question in relation to television for the Kalgoorlie and Geraldton districts. In reply he said -
I point out to the honorable member that the Government has outlined a plan for the development of television throughout Australia and has been successfully pursuing it for a number of years. I recently announced that at the end of the fourth phase, which is now proceeding, attention will be given to the development of television in areas such as those mentioned by the honorable member.
On 18th September, 1963 the then PostmasterGeneral said in a statement -
The question of extension of service to additional areas presents problems of some difficulty. The matter is, however, receiving continual attention and the board will make a further report to me as soon as it is possible to reach some firm conclusions as to the best course to follow in the light of the experience with the stations now being brought into operation.
If we accept the answer given to my question and the recent statement as being correct, then it must mean that until phase four is completed and the board has experience of what follows from the establishment of the stations in the central and southern areas of Western Australia, which are not expected to be completed until 1966-67, no consideration will be given to extending television to either Kalgoorlie or Geraldton. Even if the authorization were given in 1966 - and this seems very unlikely if the Government follows its present plan - we would still have this five-year lag between authorization and completion, and it would take at least until 1971 before television eventually reached Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. So my suggestion to the honorable gentleman that those areas would not get television until 1970 was not so ridiculous, if the plan that the former Postmaster-General kept telling us was being followed is continued and carried out. This is not good enough, because in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder district there is a population of about 22,000 people - the largest single unit of population outside the metropolitan area in Western Australia - yet we cannot even get a suggestion from the Postmaster-General as to when people in those areas can expect to get television. Then there is Geraldton with some 13,000 people and the surrounding district with a population of some 8,000 - yet we can get no indication of when television will be extended to that area. Television is pretty important in the country areas. Not only is it extremely difficult to get people to go from the cities into the country, but we also find that country people go to the cities, perhaps on holiday and, on their return to the country, praise television and say what a great thing it is, leaving one in no doubt that at the first opportunity they will leave their present places of residence and move into the city. After all, that is not surprising. It is quite reasonable, particularly when we cannot get from the Government any indication of when people are likely to get television in those country centres. I sincerely hope that our new Postmaster-General will, in the very near future, tell us exactly when he hopes to see television taken to those areas.
I wish now to refer to the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. It has become quite obvious that there is to be a strong move, by the wealthier and more populous States, to bring about a change in the formula and a resultant decrease in the funds made available to the big but less populous States. If this happens it will be a tragedy, because the big States, with smaller populations, require more money than they now receive to allow them to carry out necessary and important road work in country areas. The country shires of Western Australia, at all events, have to look after large areas and have long distances of roads to maintain. If there is any reduction in the amount of aid granted for roads it will mean that those local governing bodies will not only have to curtail repair work on country roads but will also have to bring about a serious retardation of the construction of new roads. It is therefore necessary, particularly in the northern and northern-west parts of Western Australia, that there should be no reduction in the funds made available. If less, or insufficient, money is granted for roadworks this will have a very retarding effect on those areas. It is necessary that the country shires receive an adequate amount of money because any reduction or cessation of roadwork will, as I said, retard development. In the Kimberleys and the Gascoyne district one can see the huge areas that the local governing bodies have to attend to and the miles and miles of roads for which they are responsible. It is becoming more and more necessary that these roads be brought into good repair. I therefore hope that this Government will give serious attention to that side of this matter when it is raised in this Parliament.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I call the honorable member for Parkes and remind the House that this is his maiden speech.
– Mr. Speaker, to-night 1 propose to talk about the threat to our freedom and to our survival as a free country. Because that threat is not yet immediate in physical terms, there has been in the past in this country a tendency to put it on one side, almost to ignore it. The time when we could afford to do that has passed for ever. The threat of which I speak is the threat of militant, revolutionary Chinese communism. It consists in the declared ideal of the present Chinese regime - the ideal which they proclaim that world revolution must be gained by military struggle. This they have proclaimed through their leader, Mao Tse-tung, who has declared -
The main form of struggle is war, the main form of organization is the army.
He went on, by way of elaboration, to say -
Lest it be thought that that statement should be discounted as being some sort of demagogic emanation of the kind that we are not unaccustomed to hearing from parts of South-East Asia these days, it should be said that this represents Mao’s considered views stated in written form as a firm declaration of principle. That is the threat with which we have to cope. The idea that a sort of local rule applicable only to revolution in China is being proclaimed is belied by events in South-East Asia since the Communists came to power in China in 1949.
This threat has two rows of teeth. We know that the Chinese Communist regime is presently developing its own nuclear weapons system and its own launching and delivery system. In some quarters, Sir, there has been a tendency to regard this threat not only as a distant one but also as an almost non-existent one. That is a dangerous tendency with which I disagree. The people who propound the view that this threat should be played down have recently taken comfort from some of the declarations made by the Russian Communist leaders. It is pointed out that, within the last year or so, the Russian leaders have declared their renunciation of world revolution as an instrument of national policy. So be it. But are we to be certain that the Russian leaders mean what they say? In any event, is the mere fact that they say this any ground for concluding that, with the passage of time, as is said by the proponents of this theory that I am criticizing, the Communist Chinese tiger will become tamed or domesticated as a sort of pleasant household cat? On that point, let it be remembered that the Russian leaders made their public renunciation of war only after they had become fully impressed with the strength and the resolution of the Western nuclear powers at the time of the Cuba crisis in October, 1962. So let us not play down this threat. It is very real. It will be with us for a long time, and we as a nation have to deal with it. Let us all hope that the threat will recede, but let us not delude ourselves into thinking that hope alone is a sound basis for foreign policy.
I said that the threat has two rows of teeth, and I mentioned China’s present activity in building a nuclear force and becoming a nuclear power. The other row of teeth is represented by a very insidious form of warfare that was perfected during the Chinese Communist revolution, which culminated in Communist victory in 1949. That insidious form of warfare has been and is being exploited at present in a country not so very far from us - South Viet Nam.
As I have said, in the past there has been a tendency to ignore foreign threats and, in particular, this Chinese one. In some ways, that is hardly surprising, Sir. In part, it was the product of our upbringing. Honorable members will recall that, until the outbreak of the Second World War, we had no need to concern ourselves much with the intricacies of foreign affairs or to hammer out our own foreign policy. We were a proud and loyal appendage of a great mother country and, by and large, our foreign policy was ordered for us in Whitehall. This era during which we had no need to be actively interested in the field of foreign affairs began to end at the outbreak of the war in the Pacific in 1941. However, leaving aside the period of the Pacific war, the ending of this era was somewhat prolonged. lt will be remembered that after 1945 the great colonial powers who were then our neighbours in the near north temporarily re-asserted their dominance. This was a rather shaky re-assertion in most instances, but it lasted for a few years.
That situation soon passed. The winds of change began to blow in South-East Asia. Those were the winds of emergent nationalism. In the result, the former colonial subject peoples, very properly and very rightly, moved forward towards their freedom. But this movement of emergent nationalism had some trouble on the way, because, after the Communist victory in China in 1949 and, to some extent, even before, militant communism began to foul the pure stream of nationalist endeavour on the part of our neighbour peoples in the north.
Events marched on and, in 1954, we had the last stand of colonialism, as it may be put, in South-East Asia at Dienbienphu. The inevitable political settlement that followed the French defeat at that place meant that from then on a dagger, if I may use that description, was pointed at the heart of South-East Asia, and therefore at us.
The dagger was North Viet Nam, which succumbed to communism after Dienbienphu. If I may say so in passing, it is very understandable in a sense how communism came to muddy the pure stream of emerging nationalism in this area. As the late President Kennedy said, “The dangers of communism are less apparent to those who have so little”. That factor, of course, played a big part in the emergence and the growth of Communist endeavour in this area.
It is as well to ponder, in my respectful submission to the House, upon the dangers that face us in South Viet Nam. It has no immediate propinquity to us, but it is very near in terms of modern warfare and modern communications. A struggle ls going on there at the moment. The nationalist regime is trying to cope with this insidious form of warfare that has been brought to a pitch of near perfection by the Chinese and taught to their supporters. This is the guerrilla war or internal war, as it is called, and it is very hard to deal with. The guerrilla is very hard to contain, harder to mop up and his main tactic is the brutal one of terrorism which tends to ensure the submission, though not always the support and certainly never the active support, of the local population. This is happening now. Our American allies, civilian and military, are being killed at the present time. It is as well to remember that. If any one wants to feel disquiet about what is happening in South Viet Nam, let him read what Hanson Baldwin, an American commentator, had to say in the New York “ Times “ only a few days ago on 16th February.
We have agreed to support Malaysia. We have given an honorable and proper undertaking. What I would like to put is that the danger to Malaysia also will come from the north if South Viet Nam falls. In the course of discharging our honorable undertaking to contain Indonesia’s activities by legitimate means, we may find that we will have other work on our hands if South Viet Nam falls. The direction of the Communist advance will bc towards Malaysia and the other countries before it.
I have sought to state the problem. The Communists are turning the door which would open South Viet Nam from inside. If the door opens, we may find ourselves in peril because, after the rest of SouthEast Asia, we may stand next in line. That is the danger. What are we to do about it? If demonstration were needed, it is plain beyond peradventure that for years past this Government has realized the danger and has acted to meet it. That is made plain again in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. This Government has been returned to power after an election campaign in which these vital questions of our foreign policy were very actively canvassed and debated before the people. There is a lesson to be learned from this. The result of the election may be said to show a growing sense of awareness amongst the people of the importance of questions of foreign policy. The people of this country in the election campaign recently concluded had two broad alternatives put before them by the contending parties. On the one hand, the Government parties advocated policies that were designed and calculated to promote the strength and effectiveness of our American alliance. On the other hand, policies were presented to the people by the Opposition which, with becoming respect, I say would have had a tendency if they had ever been carried out to weaken the alliance with the United States of America upon which we are so largely dependent for our salvation and render the work to be done under it more difficult.
Let me give an example. The Opposition advocated the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere. I appreciate fully that men of great goodwill firmly believed that this was right; but I venture to disagree with them. The Australian Labour Party promoted the policy of establishing a nuclear-free zone despite the obvious fact that such a zone would seriously unbalance the respective strengths of the nuclear deterrents of the free and the Communist worlds, oblivious of the fact that the Communist nations in the northern hemisphere would be unlikely, to say the least, to respect the declaration, if it were ever made, of the southern hemisphere as a nuclear-free zone and apparently careless of the timely warning given by Mr. Averell Hardman not long after the proposal was first adumbrated by the Australian Labour Party that the establishment of the zone would make the work to be done under the Anzus Treaty more difficult and largely elusive. That warning was clear in what Mr. Harriman said.
There is a lesson to be learned from this, in my respectful opinion. The lesson is that the people of this country, with an intuitive sense of wisdom, went to the party whose policies were clearly calculated and designed to keep the alliance strong and durable. The other intimation that there is a growing sense of awareness, I thought, might be inferred from some remarks made recently by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The honorable member said that if policies proved unacceptable his party would have to reconsider them and if necessary change them to meet the challenge of the times. If I may say so, the most fertile field in which to try to make that plant grow would be the field of foreign policy.
I have tried to state the threat and to show the teeth in it. Now I ask: What are we to do? In my submission, what this country needs now more than ever before is a common approach to the principles of foreign policy by all the parties in this House. The people have given a clear mandate and it would be an act of great statesmanship by the Australian Labour Party if it accepted the verdict and publicly proclaimed that it will support the foreign policies that proved acceptable to the electorate at the last election. That would be a great thing for this nation and for our allies. Three years is not a very long term in the context of foreign policy needs, I ask: Are we forever to put up with the situation that will develop each election time - perhaps more often than every three years - if, in the absence of unity on basic principles of policy as accepted by the people, the foreign policy pot, as it were, is stirred by a number of cooks each with a different recipe and each with a different ladle? That can do nothing to promote our unity with our allies or our national interests.
As I see the position, no harm would be done to true Australian Labour Party principles if the Opposition could commit this act of statesmanship and join us on this side of the House in a unified approach to foreign affairs. After all, the late John Curtin embraced wholeheartedly the principle of unity and full hearted co-operation with the United States of America during the Second World War. Why then should any party in this country, when we are facing a situation of danger, quibble - that is all it is - about such matters as joint control of the communications base at North West Cape and, after the people have given their verdict, advocate a policy of a nuclearfree southern hemisphere which, if implemented, would serve only to create a dangerous and perhaps fatal imbalance between the nuclear deterrent of the free world and that of the unfree world, the Communist world?
When one is considering this policy of a nuclear-free zone - which we on this side of the House say it is time the Opposition renounced in principle - it is interesting to go back to as long ago as 1943 when Dr. H. V. Evatt, speaking in this House on foreign policy after the war, said in effect that one of the prime aims of foreign policy would be to create zones of security in this part of the world. He was speaking as a Labour Minister for External Affairs. Therefore, I say that there is nothing intrinsically opposed to Australian Labour Party principles in the notion that the Opposition should declare itself as willing from now on to follow a unified and national approach in accordance with the wishes of the electors which were so convincingly demonstrated at the last election.
I hope I will not be taken amiss if I conclude my speech by reminding the House of some rather apposite words that were spoken about 2,000 years ago by some one much wiser than any of us. He said -
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
Foreign policy and defence are fields in which we have to consider the application of that statement. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for its very kind indulgence to me.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) making his speech without limitation of time.
– Mr. Speaker, this Government stands on the threshold of a three-year term, with a handsome majority behind it. A government placed in such a position should be expected to plan boldly for the future and to take its courage in both bands and dare to be great for the sake of the nation. This Government has the numbers to do that; but has it the will? 1 am afraid it lacks that will.
The Speech before us is a disappointing document. Everything in it indicates that the Government intends to do nothing bold or enterprising and to do nothing other than merely play around with the vital issues of defence and development. In the Speech there are references to foreign policy, but there is no coherent statement of principles on which our foreign policy should be conducted and no worthwhile discussion of the aims and objects which our foreign policy should be designed to achieve. Assertions are made about defence, but there is no undertaking that the Government will really attempt to place Australia in a proper position of being able to defend itself.
There are vague claims about our socalled economic growth, but there is no sign that the Government intends to plan for growth, no hint that the Government is willing to assume responsibility for achieving the conditions for growth, and no attempt to translate any growth we may achieve into better living conditions for the ordinary men and women of Australia. Finally, there are references to the implementation of some of the election promises made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), but those references suffer from the same grave defect that the promises themselves had when they were first made. The Speech refers to housing, education and northern development. But still there is the same haphazard, half-baked approach, indicating how very little this Government really understands the long-term needs of the nation in those fields. In short, this document is the product of a government which has just won an election and now is content to rest on its laurels.
The vague repetition of earlier unsatisfactory statements which pass for the Government’s policy on Malaysia must cause great uneasiness. It has now become clear that the Prime Minister’s treatment of the Malaysia issue during the election campaign was little short of an electoral fraud. For that occasion he took the pose of the strong man laying down the law to South-East Asia. He tried to draw the widest possible distinction between his policy and that of the Australian Labour Party, without much regard for the facts and heedless of the harm he might do to Australia by making a political football out of a complex issue involving peace or war.
He claimed that the Labour Party did not really believe in Malaysia - those were his words - as if it were a question of theology rather than one of the harsh realities of international power politics. To that accusation I replied, and now repeat, that we support the creation of Malaysia to the extent that it will promote the welfare of its people and the stability of South-East Asia and will strengthen the area - that is, our area - against Chinese aggression or Communist imperialism. But Indonesia’s policy of confrontation cuts across those objectives and raises new and important issues. We need an anti-Communist Malaysia, but we also need an anti-Communist Indonesia.
The Prime Minister does well enough when an international issue can be seen in the light of clear-cut anti-communism, because all he thinks he has to do is to blackguard the Labour Party. In his philosophy, it is easier to smear than to have an idea. But when the facts of a case do not lend themselves to that convenient interpretation and treatment, the Prune Minister gets into trouble, and because he is the Prime Minister Australia gets into trouble and humiliation along with him.
When President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal the Prime Minister, with his limited imagination, tried to adjust the facts to fit his favourite formula. It was all a Communist plot as far as he was concerned. Of course, he failed to get hi? view accepted because the United States itself saw the folly and danger of the course being pursued by the British Conservative Government.
In I960 President Eisenhower and Mr. Macmillan, being shrewd judges of men, saw that the Prime Minister would risk almost anything for the sake of an hour or two of international limelight. He chose the forum of the United Nations to lecture Mr. Nehru, extorting from the Indian Prime Minister the tribute, “That man is impossible “, or words to that effect.
– He was on the ball, too.
– He may have been on the ball. Mr. Nehru’s place in history is assured. Perhaps it was from the mauling he got at the United Nations that the Prime Minister learnt the wisdom of delivering his policy speech behind closed doors in a television studio to a hand-picked audience. At any rate, he learnt a few things from Mr. Khrushchev when he mct him in New York. He called on Mr. Khrushchev but never on his visits to New York has he found time to call on General MacArthur. Let us recall what the Prime Minister did after he returned from New York and after meeting Mr. Khrushchev. He was pictured in his favourite newspaper, the Melbourne “ Sun “, applauding himself on television after he bad delivered his policy speech. The caption to the photograph read “ Well done”. Mr. Khrushchev applauds himself. I advise the Prime Minister not to take too much notice of what Mr. Khrushchev does. If we are to be saved from the perils of communism our Prime Minister must not imitate the Russian Premier.
But seriously, it is sufficient to say that when an international problem refuses to fit neatly into the black and white categories which the Prime Minister prefers, he is at a loss to know what to do. He is thus likely to stumble, and he does stumble. This is at the root of the Government’s difficulties over Malaysia, because it is U01 a simple problem that can be solved by one of the Prime Minister’s favorite cliches. The Government insists that it will abide by its pledges. But does anybody really know what those pledges mean? What is the real extent of our commitment to Malaysia? Does it mean that divisions of troops will be raised for service in Malaysia? The British Government possibly has its own ideas. It would be interesting to know the contents of notes and conversations that have passed between the British and Australian Governments in recent months.
We know what the British Government thinks but the people of Australia do not know what is expected of them. I do know that the British tory press, which is usually a pretty good guide as to what the British Government would like to say but for diplomatic reasons may find inexpedient to say directly, was trying during the whole of last December to bully Australia into sending troops to Borneo. Whatever the
Prime Minister thought he was saying during the elections, the British press and perhaps the British Government thought he meant something rather different. What they do not realize, though we in Australia do, is that he is only a foam-rubber lion. This British press campaign has been followed by the extraordinary suggestion that Australia should send troops to Cyprus. Is this a hint that Britain intends to withdraw its forces ultimately from South-East Asia? If Britain, whose own forces are greatly extended - I imagine most honorable members believe over-extended - is forced to reconsider her role in South-East Asia, what role will Australia have to play? Will Australia be so equipped as to play a role in the maintenance of peace and the containment of communism? In posing that question we come to the second reason for the Government’s embarrassment over the Malaysia question. Not only is the nature and degree of our commitment far too vague but we do not possess defence forces adequate to honour those commitments, whatever they might be.
The Governor-General’s Speech property refers to the terrible tragedy of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “. I have no intention of canvassing matters relating to that unfortunate tragedy. In any case, the very restricted interpretation given to the powers of thi, Parliament, combined with the attitude displayed last week by the Prime Minister, seems to ensure that honorable members will have difficulty in discussing anything which the Government finds embarrassing. But one lesson has already emerged from the “ Voyager “ disaster and that is the tragic state of the Royal Australian Navy. As a result of the disaster, with the “ Melbourne” disabled for months to come and the “ Voyager “ lying broken on the bottom of the ocean, we now have three destroyers, four frigates and six coastal mine sweepers with which to defend the longest coastline in the world. This is happening after fourteen years of an administration which dares to claim that it can be trusted with the defence of Australia.
We learn in the Governor-General’s Speech that the training of the Citizen Military Forces is to be made more realistic. More realistic than what and more realistic for what? Does this mean that Army training so far has been unrealistic? Is this the same kind of statement as the one made last year by the Minister for the Navy designate (Mr. Chaney)? He said, “We have moved away from wasting money on defence”. That is the kind of statement that is meant to be an explanation of policy, but it is in fact a confession of failure.
The Speech refers to the purchase of the TFX bombers as if their delivery were an accomplished fact. There is no hint that their manufacture is meeting difficulties and that we shall be fortunate indeed if they are delivered by 1970. In the meantime nothing is said about a temporary replacement for the Canberra bomber and apparently no move is being made to arrange for the necessary training of pilots to man such replacements. The defence story in the Governor-General’s Speech is largely propaganda. It is an insult to the Parliament and to the people to include it in a speech which is supposed to provide an actual blueprint of Government policy over the next three years.
The very ineffectiveness of our existing defence forces makes it all the more important that Australia’s commitments should be clearly spelled out. Not only should we know what is expected of us but we, as well as our friends and, for that matter, our potential enemies, should also be able to judge how far our capacity meets our intentions. It is neither responsible nor honorable to promise more than we can perform or intend to try to perform. It is irresponsible and dishonorable to promise more than we are able to perform. Let us, for the sake of this country’s honour and security, have at last and at least some honesty - some frankness - about the Government’s intentions and the nation’s defence capacity. The Prime Minister has a duty to supply that frankness.
When we turn to economic matters we find the same vagueness and the same lack of direction. The Speech dutifully lists all good aspects of the economy but nowhere indicates a determination to tackle the problems which our present economic condition poses or to seize the opportunities which the present situation offers. Indeed, nowhere is there a willingness to admit that there are problems. The external position has rarely, if ever, been more favorable. International reserves are at record levels. Export prices for wool, wheat, sugar and metals are strong and rising, whilst new resources, mainly mineral, are approaching economic exploitation. For these, our blessings, it is probably more appropriate to give thanks in a place of worship to the Almighty rather than in Parliament House to the Government, although the Prime Minister lately has seemed to be in danger of losing perspective in his actual role. The real problem facing this Government - and it has many - in the next three years is whether it can achieve rational and ordered control of economic growth and whether the fruits of growth can be passed on to the wage and salary earners and the primary producers of Australia. In other words, the great question is, to plan or not to plan. If the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) thinks that he can plan adequately without instituting the machinery for planning which I advocated in my policy speech he is simply begging the question, or rather he is saying that there will be no real planning at all.
Internally the position is favorable without being exciting. The recovery - that is to say, the recovery from the Government’s gigantic blunders of 1961 - is still proceeding. In view of recent export prices and good seasons our present rate of expansion can hardly be called rapid. It is no more than should occur in each and every year in a vigorous economy. Three times this Government has presided over sharp economic downturns - in 1952, 1956 and 1961. Of these, the 1952 recession was largely external in origin. It was mainly a result of the collapse of the Korean war export boom. But the recessions of 1956 and 1961 were internal in origin and did not coincide with movements in economic activity in the rest of the world. In other words, the economic bungling of the Menzies Government created those recessions.
The Treasurer is fond of boasting about what he calls the new sophistication and maturity of our economy. Perhaps be is right, because his Government has proved that Australia is mature enough to generate its own depressions. Its past record on this matter is clear. The Government does not control the economy; the economy controls the Government. In his policy speech the Prime Minister offered us a new vision of splendour. He offered us a productivity rise of 2 per cent, annually - a whole 2 per cent! But to make it look good he told the electors that there would be a rise in the gross national product of 25 per cent, over the next five years.
– Why was your policy rejected then?
– In my policy speech I promised a growth rate of at least 5i per cent, a year. I shall take the time oil to educate you if the House will grant me the opportunity to do so.
On the Prime Minister’s promise - it is repeated in the Governor-General’s Speech - we shall achieve an annual rate of growth of 4.56 per cent, a year compared with 4.25 per cent, actually achieved over the last fifteen years. But at the same time the Prime Minister promised us - the Governor-General’s Speech repeats this promise also - a migration programme which, if it means anything, should mean a population growth of at least 21 per cent, a year. So what, in fact, this Government promises .us and what, in fact, this timid unambitious Government is willing to strive for is a 2i per cent, rise in the gross national product from population growth and a 2i per cent, increase from productivity growth, to add up to the Prime Minister’s promised total growth of just over 4i per cent, a year. Yet this is what the Prime Minister described in his policy speech as “ not being in any. way timid or faint-hearted “. No self-respecting country in the world believes that its productivity will rise so little as 2 per cent, a year having regard to the great triumphs of science and technology that are at the disposal of all. Why should we be content with such a low rate of growth?
During the last election campaign I put forward a programme which I am proud to admit would have meant considerable additional expenditure each year of the order of £175,000,000 to £200,000,000. I am proud to admit that because I do not believe that any self-respecting Labour Party recognizing, as we do, the real needs of the people, could have put forward a more modest or a less expensive programme. I am further proud to admit it because I have an abiding faith in Australia and because I believe that the talents, resourcefulness and energies of its people will make it grow at least as fast as will any other nation in the world. At present it is not growing as fast as are most nations.
I would have been ashamed for myself and I would have betrayed my faith in Australia if I had come before the people and put to them the miserable timid prospect of a productivity rise of 2 per cent, a year; yet in the Governor-General’s Speech the Government specifically denies its responsibility for achieving a higher rate of productivity growth. Rises in productivity, while being most important, can have real merit only if they mean better living standards for all our people.
Talk about growth is only jargon unless it means more money in the pockets of the wage and salary earners and better social services for our people. The current hearings by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of the basic wage claim will provide the real test as to whether the growth about which the Government talks is to be translated into terms meaningful to the ordinary men and women of Australia. The Commonwealth Government, as usual, takes an equivocal stand on this matter. It knows that every standard of justice calls for a substantial increase in the basic wage, which has been pegged for so long. The Government knows too that if its boasts about its own achievements are true in the slightest degree the country is well able to stand a substantial rise in the basic wage. If the country is prosperous the workers should share fully in that prosperity. But the Government knows also that such a longdelayed measure of justice, if granted, will create problems with which it is ill-equipped to deal because of its addiction to the pleasures of stagnation. In other words, the Government hopes against hope that the Arbitration Commission, by denying justice to the workers of Australia, will save it from the need to exert itself. This is the humiliating situation in which the Government, which refuses to plan, which refuses to erect the necessary machinery for planning and which refuses to seek or obtain any of the constitutional powers which a modern society needs, finds itself.
The Governor-General’s Speech congratulates the Government on the level of external reserves but nowhere is there any suggestion that the Government has looked at the question of the desirable level for international reserves or London funds. These funds now exceed £800,000,000 and are lying virtually idle in London bringing us a very low return. Meanwhile the Government continues to borrow at 5 per cent, and 6 per cent. - a higher rate of interest than is applicable to internal borrowing - merely to add to the London funds. Every £10,000,000 borrowed costs us £500,000 a year more in interest than it should. But does it add to out economic security? The Government has committed itself to a borrowing spree and apparently does not know how or when to stop. The maxim of “ borrow dear and lend cheap “ is hardly a sound financial policy for any nation, any government or any organization to pursue. Surely it is time to stop official borrowing and to repay some of our outstanding debt.
Then there is the question of non-official borrowing, or what is called private capital inflow. We are a growing country and it may well be that we require external aid. But this aid is in two forms which may be described as finance and know-how. At present finance is unnecessary. It is a positive danger to Australia to sell off our existing profitable undertakings to overseas financiers. What do we gain by selling our established factories, our mills and our mines to foreigners? We obtain cash, which we do not need, and at the same time we restrict the opportunities of Australians M reach senior management posts. More serious, in the long term, is that we give foreign policies and attitudes a foothold in our country and they lead - indeed, have already led - to the exercise of political influence and pressures. That is not good for this nation. It was not good for Canada, and we are going in the same way as Canada went. So far as know-how is concerned, why should Australia be dependent on foreign companies? In fact, what know-how do we actually gain by the present process?
Japan built up her magnificent techniques by sending Japanese to learn in other countries. In my policy speech I outlined a proposal which would assist Australian companies to do this very thing for young ambitious Australians. Surely it should be made a condition of all foreign investment in Australia that techniques and training are made available to Australians, both at home and at the foreign company’s own headquarters. Will nobody on the Government side speak for Australia and Australia’s posterity on this matter? I doubt it.
Touching briefly on the matters of educa- tion and housing, I wish only to say that it is obvious that they were thought up hastily in the pre-election panic. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), for all his undoubted ability, is still unable to answer adequately or intelligently questions about these proposals. The housing subsidy is an interesting idea, but it should be pointed out that it amounts to little more than a remission of taxes already imposed by State and Federal governments on home buyers in stamp duties and in other ways. The limitations with which it will be hedged are. still not clear, but one thing has already been made clear. It is that in order to take advantage of the subsidy, most people will be required to lend money at 3 per cent, interest to the savings banks for up to three years. The average qualifier will receive only ?34 interest on his home savings over that period, as against something like double that amount from other forms of investment.
The education proposals are, of course, of profound interest to all Australians. But we are not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s excuse of administrative difficulties which has denied to Australian parents the scholarship benefits which he promised. The people had a right to expect that the scheme would be implemented this year. The very fact that it has not been implemented shows that it was arranged as a result of a deal with certain people outside and that the Prime Minister did not understand the proposal when he announced it. The only way to place education on a proper national basis is to establish a Federal ministry for education and to appoint a committee of inquiry to examine all aspects of education, as has been repeatedly demanded by the Labour Party and, indeed, by all States premiers.
Sir, I have deliberately avoided canvassing tonight the ground of the last election campaign, except insofar as that was relevant to the promises for the future made by the Prime Minister and repeated in the Governor-General’s Speech. As to that campaign, I only say to the coalition parties that I wish them joy of their allies. I hope they have provided themselves with long spoons.
We of the Labour Pa’rty arc concerned only with the future. We view with profound anxiety the future of this nation, committed as it is for a further three years to the hands of a government which we know in our hearts is incapable of serving the deeper interests of the ordinary men and women of Australia. We tried to communicate that sense of anxiety to a sufficient number of our countrymen. We failed. That was our only failure. By. any standards that can be applied, whether they be of fair play, honour or honesty, we did not fail. We observed all those standards, and by observing them, even under the greatest provocation, we vindicated . them.
We are proud of the way we fought, and we are proud of the things we fought for. We strove, in the short-term, for-: immediate improvement in the day-to-day . life of the ordinary men and women of Australia, that is to say for better housing, better education, better living conditions and better wages. In short, we fought for a greater measure of equality for all citizens, ‘ both young and old. We fought, in the long-term, for the achievement of our aims of democratic socialism. We never wholly fail, because, even as our enemies bitterly attack us, they are forced to imitate us. So, little by little, the cause of democratic socialism in Australia is advanced. But we are not merely a party of protest; we are a party which seeks to win elections in order to exercise political power. Therefore, we must bend every effort in the next : three years to the overthrow of this Government, to enable us to exert, for the good of this nation, the power which this Parliament possesses.
.- Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to speak to the House to-night. First of all I extend my thanks to the electors of Canning for bestowing on me this very great responsibility, of which I am fully aware. I sincerely hope that my contribution to this House and to this country over the years will be constructive. We have heard a lot tonight about the problems of the world, but if we study those problems we will see that they come principally from poverty and trouble. During my life I have endeavoured to be constructive and to assist this wonderful country to move forward. I have endeavoured to make a better world for Australians, and I hope to extend my efforts in an attempt to make a better world for all.
One of the greatest responsibilities of this Parliament, and every other parliament, is to see that we all get together on the task of solving the problems that face us. We all have to face these problems at some time, if we want to make the world livable for all. We cannot expect it to be livable if we do not face up to the tremendous problems that exist in parts of the world to-day, where millions of people are suffering from want, lack of shelter and hunger. We in Australia enjoy a high standard of living, and I believe that with our know-how, research and ability we can improve the standard of living for all. We are only a small nation in numbers, but we are a mighty nation in size. We have the potential and ability to do things, and as we grow I believe that the world at large will be receiving benefits from us. I have the greatest confidence in Australia, and the greatest confidence in our future and our ability to help others. Much of this responsibility rests not only on the people of Australia but on this Parliament and the State parliaments. From the Federal Parliament of Australia come decisions which are far-reaching, not only to Australia but to all parts of the world. As the world shrinks and we get closer together through the achievements of science and progress, it is quite obvious that the decisions of this Parliament must have an effect on many people outside Australia.
Western Australia, the State from which I come, comprises almost one-third of the whole continent. It has an area of about 1,000,000 square miles. Here we have a tremendous responsibility because although Western Australia, constitutes such a large portion of Australia, at this point of time it has a very small population. We arc moving forward in Western Australia probably at a greater rate of development than any other State. But we need assistance. Australia is developing in much the same way as the United States of America developed - from the east coast moving across to the west. Because of research many of our problems in the west are being rapidly overcome. In the last few years we have been bringing into production millions of acres. This colossal programme of development is not accomplished without difficulty. We cannot expect development without problems. In order to face up to the problems we need some assistance from the rest of Australia.
I am privileged to represent the electorate of Canning. It covers a big proportion of Western Australian territory. It is quite productive territory. It produces about 37 per cent, of Western Australia’s wool, a vast quantity of grain and meat and almost the entire whole milk production of the State. It produces potatoes. The only oil refinery in Western Australia is in my electorate, and it is planned to establish there a steel mill. Since this session commenced last week decentralization and its associated difficulties have been mentioned many times. If we are to develop our great nation we must take note of the need for decentralization. We know that that is not easy, but many things can be done quite easily towards fulfilment of the dream - if I may call it that - of’ decentralization. I have heard it said that if our present trends of population continue, by the time there are 20,000,000 people in Australia, 10,000,000 of them will live in Melbourne and Sydney. That is not the desire of the Australian people.
With 3,000,000 square miles of territory to be. developed, one of Western Australia’s most important problems in our developmental programme is adequate water supplies. We are not a nation well served by water supply. This is especially true of Western Australia, except in the northern area. The water supplies that we have must be harnessed. The Western Australian Government has before the Commonwealth Government an application for further assistance - assistance has been given by the Commonwealth in past years - to expand its comprehensive water scheme. This is a mighty scheme designed by a mighty engineer at the turn of the century. Its author was the great C. Y. O’Connor. He told the Western Australian Government that he would take water with camels and pieces of wood 360 miles from the hills to Kalgoorlie. What a magnificent engineering feat it was under such difficult conditions. The success of his work has been of great importance to Western Australia in its developmental programme. It has been extended north and south where it has been of great assistance to agriculture and industry generally over the years. Western Australia now asks the Commonwealth for assistance to continue this great work. It should be regarded not as an expense but as an investment. Production figures for Western Australia show that it is a great investment in security and should be continued.
Transport, another important factor in considering decentralization, is greatly dependent upon roads. I understand that Commonwealth aid roads legislation is shortly to come before the Parliament. I hope that the present formula will be continued. It has been said that the Government intends to increase its aid to £350,000,000. In the west we think it very desirable, because of our great expanses, that there should be a continuation of expenditure of 40 per cent, of the funds on rural roads other than main roads, highways and trunk roads. Parts of my electorate have no railway systems. They have no sealed roads. These areas have been opened up by pioneers who have not had the benefits of these amenities. Is it not reasonable that roads should now be taken to these people if we really believe in decentralization? A deputation of Lord Mayors has recently been to Canberra to state their case to obtain extra moneys for city roads. I realize that they are faced with problems of congestion on city roads. It has been proved throughout the world that the building of great concrete and steel monstrosities - -overways and the like - has not been an unqualified success in solving the problems of city traffic. The Lord Mayors may decide to spend millions of pounds in this fashion only to find that they have aggravated their problems. Let us develop not only the big cities; let us develop Australia also. The Commonwealth aid roads scheme was originally intended to develop roads on a national basis and not in spots only around Australia. Last winter in my electorate many children for weeks on end could not get to school. That is tragic but true. They could not get to school because the roads would not carry them. I say to honorable members that we should give serious consideration to developing roads on a national basis. We should not interfere with the present formula, unless it is to increase the present allocation of 40 per cent, of the funds to the development nf rural roads.
Communications are vital to decentralization. Telephones are costly items. A tremendous amount of work needs to be done, not only in the west but also throughout Australia. A lot of money must be channelled into this field in order to encourage decentralization. In my electorate as many as 22 subscribers are connected to one single outlet. I can well imagine the repercussions if 22 businessmen in Melbourne or Sydney were connected to one single telephone outlet. In practically every small town in Western Australia there is a great need for homes. The provision of homes in the country is essential to promote decentralization. I have enumerated the factors which are fundamental in a policy of decentralization. How can we do some of these things in Western Australia? That State comprises one-third of the continent, but when the loan moneys are divided we get a pretty small piece of the cake. Of the £122,000,000 of Commonwealth assistance to local government authorities and semi-government authorities approved for this financial year, Western Australia’s share of the cake is somewhere about £4,000,000, or a little over 3 per cent, of the total. If we want to develop a great continent such as this and a great State like Western Australia, allotting a little over 3 per cent of the available money to a State which comprises one-third of the Commonwealth is not good enough. I appeal to the Government seriously to consider this position. In the balance of the loan field Western Australia receives 9 per cent., or thereabouts, of the funds available from tha normal allocation for works and housing.
We have a great programme of port development in Western Australia. We are not developing just one port, but are developing ports on the south coast, the west coast and the north coast. This is what we should do. If we are to continue with this work we need a greater allocation from the loan money available to the Commonwealth as a whole. At Fremantle, which is only one of the ports concerned, we have plans for the next 50 years. We are looking to the future because we have confidence in the future. We need millions of pounds in the next few years if we are to go on with the development programme which we have laid down for this port. I believe the programme is necessary, but I know that it is impossible to carry out these works with our present loan allocation.
Why should I be asking this evening for a greater allocation of funds for Western Australia? Perhaps I can give some better reasons than I have given so far. The position in regard to interstate trade is one of the reasons which is very important to Western Australia and also to the eastern States. In 1962-63 the balance of trade in favour of the eastern States, as against Western Australia, amounted to £111,000,000. That is a lot of money for a developing State to be paying to the eastern States. So I have no hesitation putting forward the proposition which I mentioned earlier.
Western Australia’s unfavorable balance of trade with the eastern States rose from £66,000,000 in 1958-59 to £111,000,000 last year, so it is growing very rapidly. When I asked for greater consideration for Western Australia’s development programme I think that the balance of trade position shows that we have a case. With so much money coming to the eastern States from Western Australia it is obvious that the present trend cannot continue very much longer. Obviously, if the eastern States will not put capital into Western Australia it will be forthcoming from overseas. I have not the slightest doubt of that. No business organization is going to watch all this money going to the eastern States without endeavouring to set up factories in Western Australia. If the eastern States are not prepared to bring in capital and know-how and set up industries in Western Australia I am certain that overseas investors will come in very rapidly and establish secondary industries there. There could then be a reversal of the present position.
The wide gauge railway which is now under construction in Western Australia will be completed before very long. There are also to be improvements in our coastal shipping. One coastal vessel - a containerized vessel designed to load units of 20 tons each in single lifts - was launched last week. This is the modern kind of transport that we have been awaiting for some time now, and I can well imagine that the present trade position between
Western Australia and the eastern States will be reversed before many years have passed.
In the few minutes remaining to me I wish to say one or two things about transport. We have two types of overseas transport for our goods. One is the bulk cargo carrier which is mainly used for grain and other bulk commodities. The second type of transport is provided by the conference lines vessels. We have made considerable progress over the years in the handling of cargo, and particularly bulk cargo. This is important, as we have to compete, with many products, on a pretty tight overseas market. During the last few years there has been a great improvement in the type of vessel available for transporting bulk cargoes and it has meant, over the last ten years, a decrease in the freight rates for bulk cargoes. This is very significant and important, but it has not been achieved without terrific assistance from the shore side. Only five or six years ago bulk cargo vessels capable of carrying only 8,000 tons to 10,000 tons were considered large, but today the whole situation has changed and vessels capable of carrying 20,000 tons and over are quite common. These are ships which can be loaded rapidly with the aid of shore equipment. This has been achieved, in the case of grain, with the aid of the producers’ money and through the use of more modern ships.
We expect one of the largest ships to come to Australia’s shores to berth in Fremantle in May, when it will load a cargo of 28,000 tons. It is the largest grain ship ever to come here. This has been the trend for some years now. We have come from vessels of 8,000 tons capacity to modern ships with a cargo capacity of, say, 28,000 tons in a very short period of time. In other words, we have had progress and this has lead to a downward trend in freight charges. I hope this trend continues. However, in the case of the conference lines, carrying general cargo such as meat and wool, we have seen the reverse happening. This causes me some concern and I hope, at some future date, to be able to speak longer on this matter.
I have mentioned these few points because I believe there is room for great improvement in this field. As I said previously, we have on the coastal run now ships made to transport goods in containers, and are to have a still larger vessel of this type. Containerization is the modern way of transporting most general cargo. One can imagine the way in which such vessels lift goods and protect the industry concerned, but we have not seen these improvements in the conference lines. In the main, we still handle one case of fruit at a time. That has been going on for some time, except that a number of 1,000-lb. containers are in use, but they are only for the bigger concerns in Europe and London. For a long time we still handled one bag of wheat at a time, until we got rid of that system, and I believe we have to get rid of much of our present system of handling general cargo in order to break down some of the costs.
In the last ten years the cost of sending frozen lamb overseas has gone up by 59 per cent, and the cost in the case of wool has risen by 56 per cent., but grain freights have come down. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done and it is tremendously important to the trade of this country to-day that we should be able to reach our markets in the cheapest and best possible way, with the least possible damage to the goods being delivered.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hallett) on his maiden speech and particularly on his criticism of the Government’s inactivity in Western Australia. I have been aware for some time: - as have many honorable members, particularly on this side of the House - of the lack of development in Western Australia, in common with some other sections of the Commonwealth, under this Government. I had not realized, however, that the situation was so deplorable in so many fields. It is rather amazing to discover from the honorable member for Canning, that the roads, for instance, in Western Australia are in such a disgraceful condition despite the fact that there has been a Liberal Government in power for some years in that State and a Liberal Government in power in the Federal sphere for a number of years.
The mention of development brings me to the particular subject that I wish to discuss this evening - the general economic development of Australia. If one were to accept at its face value the image that the Government clearly intended to be projected to the electorate in the last federal general election campaign, one would be justified in believing that the people of Australia could accept the proposition that they are now on the threshold of an era in which they will find an El Dorado of a promise unsurpassed in the annals of the world’s history. The Government made many extravagant statements and quite a few irresponsible ones. This is made obvious by its activities since the election.
A significant pointer is to be found in the attitude of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who, despite the policy outlined by the Government in the election campaign, is almost completely unable to answer the most basic and simple inquiries about the proposed housing scheme. I have directed a number of inquiries to the Minister and on each occasion .he has replied by sending me a short but rather nebulous press statement and saying, in effect: “This is as much as the Government can state now on this policy matter. Perhaps, at a later date, this point can be expanded.” This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. Certainly, it gives no cause for enthusiasm or any feeling of security to young people in the community who want to become homebuilders. This is just one illustration of the deceit that has been practised on the electors- and practised rather successfully with the aid of the support given to the Government by the press oligopoly of this country.
This oligopoly control of the press is a very unhealthy development. Control of the press throughout Australia has progressively been compressed more and more into the hands of about three or four newspaper chains. This is bad for the people, because it means that news on many important topics such as internal development and international issues comes from syndicated sources. At present, in Brisbane, the only daily morning newspaper, the only daily evening paper and one of the two Sunday papers are published by the one newspaper company and in the one building. This newspaper chain, with its links throughout the Commonwealth, relays ready-made ideas and schemes and ready-made interpretations of important issues to the Australian people. In other words, the people are being conditioned by the relaying of one ready-made line of thinking only. This development must vastly influence the ability of the Australian people to interpret and analyse not only internal issues but also the international situation. I remind the Housethat these things are of great importance to the people.
This press oligopoly is very definitely abusing its position in the community. A printed example of this abuse was recorded by the magazine “ Nation “ in its issue of 14th December, 1963. It pointed out that the Melbourne “Herald” chain of newspapers, which includes the Brisbane journals that I have mentioned, though it gave a comprehensive coverage of the report presented by the commission that inquired into the failure of the Reid Murray group of companies, completely neglected to mention the role played by the Equity Trustees Executors and Agency Company Limited, which was the trustee appointed to watch the financial procedure of the Reid Murray companies on behalf of the debenture holders. On investigation, it was discovered that one member of the board of directors of this trustee company was also chairman of the board of Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
This sort of thing, if correct, reveals a situation that is not very healthy for the people of Australia. This kind of press control does the people a great disservice and, incidentally, represents a most unfair development in the community from the standpoint of the employment of people who rely on the newspapers for their work. Journalists and other newspaper employees who are blacklisted by one of these newspaper groups in one capital city find, if they go to another city, that there is no opportunity for employment with any subsidiary of the group. As this situation of oligopoly control of the press becomes more pronounced, there wil be fewer opportunities for journalists and other newspaper employees who are not prepared to toe the company line completely.
When we have oligopoly control of the press which enables a ready-made line of thought to be foisted on the people, it is no wonder that the people are influenced by the image and attitude projected by the Government through the courtesy and connivance of the press and believe that Australia is surging forward on a wave of unparalleled and breath-taking development and chalking up achievement after achievement under the aegis of the present Government. But in fact we must pause and compare Australia’s actual achievements with what they should have been and with the achievements of other countries. Before the general election, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was saying that the gross national product had increased by 8 per cent. last financial year. After the election, there was no need for him to talk so optimistically of this high rate of increase, and he reduced the figure to about 4 per cent. I remember very clearly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) bringing this point to the right honorable gentleman’s notice in the House last week. Between 1954 and 1960, the average increase in the gross national product was 4.3 per cent. a year. The increase last financial year was 1.5 per cent. below what it should have been if we were only to maintain, for the period since 1960, the average yearly rate of growth achieved in the period from 1954 to 1960.
Let us compare Australia’s Tate of growth with that of comparable countries. Between 1955 and 1960, the German Federal Republic achieved a rate of growth of 6 per cent., Italy 5.9 per cent., Japan 9.4 per cent. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 6.5 per cent. These figures, which have been obtained from the record of the hearings of the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress of the United States of America on 10th and 11th December, 1962, can be verified and are practically based and responsibly compiled.
In the Governor-General’s Speech, we find - no doubt coming from the Treasurer or inserted at his direction - the statement that Australia is setting out on a road of progress that will enable us to attain an increase of 25 per cent. in our gross national product over the next five years. I suppose that this means an increase at the rate of something like 5 per cent. a year. This statement represents a most uncertain prophecy to put before the people. Already, certain restrictions are being imposed on the country’s financial structure and a certain hesitancy has appeared in many important sections of the nation’s economy. The Government shies away from the expression “ credit squeeze “. But a number of economic experts interviewed on Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes lately have said that the Government’s economic policy amounts to a credit squeeze, though it is less severe than the credit restrictions previously imposed. We notice that the medicine is now being administered by the teaspoonful instead of by the bucketful as in 1962. This shows that the Government is not confident of its position and of the economy at present.
An increase of 5 per cent, a year in the gross national product - the average rate of increase mentioned by th< Government - is still well below the average expected to be attained by the countries that are members of the Organization of American States and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization and by the bilateral allies of the United States over the next five years. The average yearly rate of growth of those countries is expected to be 7 per cent. I think it is reasonable to look at those countries for a comparison with Australia. When we consider what is happening in Australia, we find that our achievement is far from being one that should give us an excess of enthusiasm over the future. The projected rate of growth in other countries in the period from 1960 to 1970 shows that they are expected to attain far greater achievements in this respect than Australia will attain. The rate of growth in France is expected to be 5.5 per cent., in the German Federal Republic a little over 5 per cent., in Italy 5.5 per cent., in Japan 7.5 per cent, and in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 6.5 per cent. Yet these countries regard their growth at this stage of their development as mediocre when compared with the advances they made in the past years with planned economies. These countries can still achieve a greater rate of development than Australia can, despite the fact that we are constantly told by honorable members opposite that Australia is bursting forth while these countries regard their rate of growth as easing. Unfortunately, it is always about to burst but never makes the break through.
The trouble with Australia is that it is developing more and more into an “ icecream economy “. Too much emphasis is placed on consumer spending and too little on providing capital for development. This is found in the planned obsolescence of consumer goods. We find several refrigerators being produced on the one assembly line but having different name plates and door handles and retailing at different prices. We find it with washing machines and other goods that are replaced after a few years. We are allowing too much investment in the consumer market. I hasten to add that I do not mean that people should do without these appliances. What I object to is that the goods are replaced too frequently. It means that we are freezing capital that is urgently needed in other sections of the community if the country is to develop as it should.
An excellent example of the waste of money is in advertising. In the last year alone, it is conservatively estimated in the “Newspaper News” of December, 1963, that expenditure on advertising in Australia was in excess of £110,000,000. This type of expenditure is not beneficial to the nation. One has only to sit down in the evening and watch television to get some idea of the huge amount of money that is poured into cigarette advertising alone, and this particular type of advertising is pernicious. Of course,- we know that vast sums of money are poured into advertising because of the gigantic taxation benefits that are gained by the advertisers.
Australia has a moral responsibility to expand, to develop and to make greater advances for the benefit of the community. We will not do this if we put our money into negative activities such as advertising and excess consumer spending at the very time when we should be thinking of increasing our industrial growth. According to the index of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited, Australia’s industrial expansion from 1959-60 to 1962-63 was only 11 per cent. This is a very anaemic effort, especially when compared with the advances made in other countries. In the same period, the increase in Sweden was 15 per cent., Norway 22.6 per cent., The Netherlands 19.2 per cent., Japan 62 per cent., Italy 40.5 per cent., West Germany 23.3 per cent., France 21.7 per cent., Canada 12 per cent, and Belgium 17.3 per cent.
– Over what period?
– Over the same period, 1959-60 to 1962-63, many of these countries have not attained as high a standard of industrialization as Australia is capable of attaining.
One of the ways in which we can lift our rate of development and growth is to establish a central planning commission to undertake positive work and to frame a positive policy for the exploitation of the advantages to be found in this country. Last week, Senator Morris, who was formerly Deputy Premier of Queensland, criticized the lack of activity in the field of development and the lack of a concrete proposal for the opening up of the north. He said -
Concrete proposals for the advancement of northern Australia are even more rare. One seldom hears a plan for any capital outlay which will trigger off any development in the north. It is hardly helpful merely to generalize about a problem without trying to analyse it.
The only activity by the Government as a result of criticism of our rate of development is the occasional establishment of some committee of inquiry to compile a report over a lengthy period, which will allow time for the criticism to cool off. The report is presented somewhere, put away in the archives to gather dust and is never heard of again. This was the fate of the Forster report, which was possibly one of the most comprehensive reports ever presented about the Northern Territory. Significantly, very few of the proposals contained in the report have been adopted. 1 would suggest that in establishing a planning commission for northern Australia the Government should give the body some definite functions. The proposals in the Governor-General’s Speech are rather vague. The Government intends to set up a sub-department in the Department of National Development. The people of the north are not given any positive basis on which they can plan for the future or decide on any expectancy for the enlargement of their area. The following is a brief summary of some of the functions of a planning commission for northern Australia. The functions suggested are -
To examine three different paths of development in manufacturing:
The commission should consider these main aspects of development policy for northern Australian projects:
I think it should be noted that the combination of a northern development commission with the use of grants under section 96 of the Constitution would get around the problem of the State Governments having the wrong priorities.
This is an outline of a planning commission for northern Australia. It could well be investigated. I believe that there is a very definite lack of constructive thought in this field. Indeed, we have yet to hear anything from the Commonwealth Government. Much has been written in the newspapers about talks between the State Governments of Queensland and Western Australia. Eventually we expect that there will be negotiations involving the Commonwealth Government; but to date that Government has appeared to be a very reluctant partner in any of these developments. One would have thought that the Commonwealth Government would have felt the responsibility to take the initiative in this field, because of its great importance to the people of Australia. There is an urgent and pressing need for the planning authority to have certain basic information at its fingertips before it can undertake any development of this part of Australia.
One of the problems in this country, particularly in relation to northern development, has been the lack of knowledge of water resources within the continent. This has hampered the development of the northern areas. According to a report of a statement by Sir Douglas Copland, which appeared in the “ Australian Financial Review” of 30th April, 1963, it was discovered recently that about 70,000 acrefeet of water has been escaping underground annually. That would be sufficient to irrigate between 6,000 and 14,000 acres of the arid Alice Springs area. That in itself is a crying indictment of the lack of activity by the Government in the search for water throughout the Commonwealth. All that is contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is a rather vague statement that there will be co-operation with some State governments. Once again there is nothing definite.
A tremendous quantity of water is available in the northern section of Australia. According to the report of a speech made to a symposium on the development of northern Australia at the University of New South Wales in 1961, it is estimated that 65 per cent. of Australia’s stream-flow occurs north of the Tropic of Capricorn and that 75 per cent. occurs north of an east-west line through Brisbane. In fact, more water is said to flow into the sea from the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys than flows in all the rivers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. These northern areas have the capacity to develop. Mr. F. B. Haigh has reported that Queensland, on its natural resources alone, has a population carrying capacity six times as great as that of Victoria. The fact that development has taken place at a greater rate in Victoria than in Queensland is due solely to the historical accidents of discovery. But nothing is being done to exploit these natural resources to the advantage of the people.
There are several other points that I should like to have had time to make tonight on this important matter of development. One point is the tremendous quantity of iron ore that has been discovered in Western Australia and its huge value. On present f.o.b. values for iron ore on world markets, the value of Western Australia’s iron ore reserves is equal to 30 times the value of all the gold ever produced in that State. The State’s known resources, totalling about 8,000,000,000 tons, are equal to twelve times Australia’s known economic reserves in 1960 and are sufficient to supply world needs for twenty years on current trends and Australian needs for 1,400 years on current trends.
The development of these resources is necessary if we are to have decentralization. The only reference to decentralization in the Governor-General’s Speech is a piddling suggestion that the equalization of petrol prices throughout the community is “ a most important practical exercise in decentralization “. I do not know to whom that is directed. I do not know whether it is directed to the fourth form at St. Trinians. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the equalization of petrol prices will have any significant effect on population trends in the community although it will be welcomed by rural consumers. Certainly, this is a field in which far greater direction must be given and far more positive action must be taken by the Government. Already there is too great a concentration of population in the south-east corner of the continent. There is an unhealthy saturation of population in this area. As Professor W. D. Borrie has pointed out, the estimated population of nearly 14,500,000 by 1975 will saturate the Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong area and the Melbourne-Geelong area and will cause the Government more concern. He pointed out that unless positive action is taken by the Government, people will not be diverted to other areas of the Commonwealth.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, first I wish to express my gratitude for the confidence of the electors of Evans in returning me to represent them in this House. At the same time, I express my gratitude for the goodwill and words of welcome which have been expressed to me not only by members of my own party but by members on all sides of . the House.
I believe, as a previous speaker from my party pointed out to-night, that this is a vital period for Australia in which we who are charged with the responsibility of leadership have at all costs to find as many things on which we can agree as is humanly possible. This is a vital period for Australia because of the rapidity of world development going on around us. Whilst it is. true that some countries can provide a partial parallel with the way we are to tread in the future - notably countries such as the United States of America and Canada - it is equally true that there is no blueprint for Australia in the days ahead. Another previous speaker from this side of the House, in a maiden speech, made much of our traditions. I would be the last to decry our traditions, but traditions alone are not enough. The world in which we are living is different from the world of the past and it requires different answers.
In terms of external affairs - it ill behoves me to dwell for long on this theme to-night - the great task now is to preserve freedom at the same time as we maintain the peace. The task of maintaining the peace in these days certainly is casting a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of statesmen. As never before, they require the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and at times the imperturbability of the Sphinx.
However, to-night I want to speak about the internal development of Australia. Here again there are no blueprints anywhere else. As we look at our nation, set as it is in South-East Asia, our first realization is that our hope for the future is to match quantity with quality. When we speak of quality our thoughts turn immediately to education in the fullest sense of that word. Education for the whole of life is a characteristic of education to-day. In the expanding vision, education which was once a school-time activity is reaching out into the whole of man’s experience.
These days we need education increasingly, not only on the tertiary level, with successive post-graduate degrees and courses, but at other levels of society, too. I think, for instance, of education for parents. Is there any more important task in the nation, which is so little prepared for in terms of educational processes, than the parenthood of our children? I think, too, of the necessity for education for the younger executives in commerce and industry - people who have to take responsibility. Our management and executive ranks in the community are still too unskilled and still too wasteful of far too many attributes and skills. One development that happily is taking place in embryo is the increasing emphasis on education at this level. We need education for retirement and education for old age as the study of geriatrics grows.
However, it is the matter of youth, and education in its traditional form that I should like to examine more closely to-night. About six years ago a very interesting person visited Australia. I refer to Dr. Frank Dickinson, who was the Director of the Bureau of Medical Economic Research of the American Medical Association. He spent some time in this country because it was his belief and his computation that Australia would be the first nation in the free world in which the process of the ageing of the electorate would come to a halt and the corner would be turned. He computed that the process of the progressive “younging” of the electorate, with increasing numbers of younger voters, would begin in Australia in 1961, in New Zealand in 1962, in France in 1965 and so on. Summing up his conclusions - he was most meticulous in examining the whole cross-section of the community - he said -
How will the younging of the electorate affect social, political and economic developments in Australia? Even the most acute observers whom 1 interviewed agreed that the young voters were simply not interested in the radical ideas which had stimulated so many young crusaders in the era before World War 1. These young voters are much more interested in schools, good roads and good housing than in the class struggle. They seem to be more absorbed in local .than in international issues with two exceptions.
He went on to refer to the concentration of Communists in South-East Asia and red China.
Dealing with the first part of that statement, it is apparent that events of the past six years subsequent to his visit have more than borne out the thesis that he put forward. Our schools to-day are bulging at the seams with the post-war baby boom. Those babies are now in the sixteen to eighteen years group.
We all know something of the statistics of the problem that is confronting secondary education. Of course, it is not only a question of schools because happily more and more young people are’ not only going on to complete their five years of secondary schooling or to matriculation standard but more and more are entering our universities. May I cite three figures out of the air to give an indication of the enormous problem here. In 1959 there were 47,000 students in all Australian universities. By 1966 we know from many computations that the 47,000 will have become 95,000 at least. Again, computations show that by 1974 the 47,000 will have become 147,000. This is a tremendous problem - the need to treble our university accommodation.
Recently some of us were present when the Mirage fighter was handed over. We heard the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) speak about the way in which government departments were forced to vie with private industry for skilled man-power. He suggested that the two sections should get together to produce more skilled manpower, but the solution to the problem is not as simple as that. Even if we had the money and resources to provide overnight the buildings and equipment - for new universities for instance - we would be limited by our ability to staff the universities. We know, for instance, that at the secondary level of education in New South Wales less than one-third of the teachers of science have university degrees in that field. This situation reflects very seriously on the quality of education and the quality of presentation of students for the tertiary level and is reflected all the way through the university structure. If every student doing an honours degree in Australian universities to-day were to do nothing else but go into university teaching, the universities still would be under-staffed in 1966. Of course, the universities will not get anything like that number of staff. They will fare badly in competition with private industry, government departments, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the armed services and secondary education. They will fare badly for two reasons, not just because of the lesser financial inducements which the universities are able to offer in comparison with private industry, for instance, but even more importantly perhaps for the better students, because of the decreasing facilities and accent on research which is going on in our universities due to the pressures under which they are struggling. Therefore, simply to suggest that the answer is to build new universities and train more men is not anything like adequate thinking.
If we start a new university to-morrow it will inevitably mean the lowering of standards in all the universities because there is only one place from which the senior staff of the new university can come, and that is from existing universities. The market is drying up. We cannot import more staff. South Africa, because of its political situation, has provided us in time past with expert staff of very high calibre. But this source is drying up. The same problem that we face is faced all over the world - throughout Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom. We must produce our own trained staff. If we take senior lecturers out of our existing universities to fill chairs in a new university, they will spend more time on administration. Because the head of a department in a university is largely occupied with administration, fewer people will be engaged in actual teaching. This is definite cause for concern. Happily statistics indicate increasing numbers of students turning towards these better courses but this will have only a long-term effect. In another field the answer perhaps lies in the use of closed circuit television and radio facilities. The medical student of the future will be able to go into a booth, take a tape out of the university library, thread it on to the machine and sit and watch one of the world’s best surgeons perform a particular operation. He will be able to examine the operation in great detail and see the action better than if he were assisting the surgeon at the actual operation. These things are for the future and will be a great help, but nothing will prevent a crisis of pressure on our universities from 1966 through to 1968 and beyond.
Associated with this problem are other problems. I hope the House will forgive me for speaking of problems, but we must face them if we are true to our calling. One problem is the problem of wastage in our universities. It is estimated that 40 per cent, of students who matriculate within our universities never go on to graduation. That is a very high percentage of wastage. We must compare it not only in terms of other universities but also with other wastage throughout the whole structure of the community. Questions are asked, largely from outside universities, why these high failure rates exist. The questions are also being asked in the universities and a great deal of research is being done on the matter. One hears reference to the first-year failure rate in universities, but in my experience the second year is probably the more indicative and perhaps the more disastrous in the larger number of cases. Statistics are beginning to bear this out. The reason for failure in second year is that at firstyear standard so many students to-day are pretty thoroughly prepared at school for the kind of course and methods of study that they encounter during their first year at university, but in the second year they get into their own field away from the stereotyped methods of approach and they must think for themselves and apply themselves. So they come up against so many other causes of failure. These causes are multitudinous.
In the course of the last five years I have had to deal intimately with hundreds of under-graduates and I would list many other factors than merely academic ones as causes of failure. The tensions that some of these teenagers and adolescents face are enormous. I would put family and home relationships high on the list. Next I would put physical incapacities, followed by financial worries and relationships with members of the opposite sex. All these things from time to time bring different tensions to bear on the activities of the students and form part of the reason for the high failure rate. But not without blame is our examination system, particularly within the tertiary institutions. I have listened to-night and last week to speeches from honorable members opposite who have raised their hands in horror at what they allege is the procastination of the Government in introducing a scholarship system. I wonder whether sufficient thought has been given to the method of selection for scholarships. One honorable member opposite said that the examination system is out of date. Whilst he wiped out the present system he suggested nothing positive or constructive to take its place as a method of selecting students to receive preferment under the Government’s proposed legislation. This is a very grave problem. We know how inadequate the matriculation examination is as an index of ability, but no one has yet come forward wilh a better alternative proposition.
One of the things on which I should like to dwell in some detail is the proposition, with which I think most people will agree, that democracy as a system depends very greatly on individual responsibility. Any education system that is worth its salt must produce this sense of personal responsibility in the persons being educated. A balanced education is absolutely essential. How, then, do we produce this sense of responsibility, particularly in these days of intensive cramming of facts and of passing successive examination hurdles? How do we produce this sense of balanced responsibility in a young man or woman? I believe that the only way in which this responsibility grows is through actual personal experience under good leadership.
This brings me to make this affirmation - after very close relationship with youth to-day I have unbounded faith in the youth of Australia, in its outlook and in its ability to face problems. I believe that youth has a zest for living; it has an inquiring mind; it has the same ability to sacrifice as any other generation has had. But to-day youth must see the reason why. In addition to imparting know-how we must increasingly put the accent on knowwhy. If we are to capture the imagination of youth we must inculcate and introduce into our education system methods and means whereby these young people of to-day are given a glimpse of the problem and their eyes lifted to the horizons of, for instance, national development.
If I had the opportunity to do so - some people say I am far too idealistic - I should certainly see to it that the opportunity existed for young men finishing their schooling to have a year of what I would call national service. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the old type of military service, of shouldering arms all the time. That certainly would have its place, but within a framework of discipline and education oversighted by wise leaders and teachers. Young men should be given a very intimate glimpse into, for instance, the problems associated with the north of Australia, the education problem, the social services problems of this community and into many of the great areas of challenge that to-day confront this growing young vigorous nation of Australia.
If this seems idealistic or too costly we must also look at the alternatives, because it is undoubtedly true that with the tremendous growth in numbers of school-age youth at present we shall be faced with problems of employment in the days ahead. A very wise person - at least I and many others consider him to be very in this field - wrote to me last week in these terms -
It is doubtful if any foreseeable expansion of Australian industry can provide employment for al) the young people in the next five years. There will, therefore, be a pressure for shorter hours - there is already - and this could lead to disaster. We need to divert this man-power to national development.
I know that some honorable members will not agree with those conclusions.
Opposition Members - ‘Hear, hear!
– Let me point out to honorable members opposite that we are talking now about people, young people, people with vision, people with a desire for the full occupation of their talents and abilities. They are not looking for a torpid state of semi-retirement with the only glimmer of hope being less work and more pay.
We need a new concept of the educator. The stature of our teachers must be raised, not only economically - that, too, of course - ‘but also socially and in terms of the stature of their profession. Let us consider for instance, the cost of wastage in universities alone. Universities cost £50,000,000 a year to run, and there is a wastage of 40 per cent. If we go on from that minority who go to our universities to the large horizon and find how many square pegs are in round holes a reassessment of costs obviously is overdue.
The whole nation has been gratified over recent years by the leadership which has been given by the Commonwealth Government in respect of universities. It is undoubtedly true that from being a source of great danger to the future of Australia they are now healthy and flourishing. Within all reasonable limits and within all reasonable sanctions they are doing a magnificent job. But there remain other spheres. There is the interesting and gratifying new concern at this level for secondary education. In His Excellency’s Speech reference was made to this, and undoubtedly we shall hear more about it in this House. We shall hear many pleas and many proposals. Many of these will have merit. There will be those who want a commission to inquire into the whole fabric of education in Australia, but there are some fundamental traps which must be avoided, among them being, first, that of regarding education as an end in itself - education for education’s sake - and secondly regarding education purely for employment’s sake, regarding education simply as a means of equipping oneself to obtain more and more. We must avoid these basic traps because the fundamental aim of education is to enable people to live fully and freely; and people are all different. Therefore, when we think about education let us not become too sterile in our uniformity. Let us have unity by all means, but uniformity has its difficulties.
In the last few minutes at my disposal I should like to address myself to another aspect of education - the presence in our midst of overseas students. There may be those with the ostrich mentality who will say, “We have not enough places for our own students so we cannot afford to have these o.hers in our midst “. Nothing could be more disastrous, not only to our security but also to the development of our nation in terms of South-East Asian esteem and in terms of the proper education of our own young men and women, because it is when they learn to think together with their colleagues from overseas and when they go through a science or an engineering course with students from overseas that they share a common language, common sympathies, common feelings and expressions. They know that in the future there will be right across Asia other young men and women of different nationalities who have been taught where they were taught, who used the same equipment and the same textbooks, who thought about the same problems and who now speak the same academic language. There will be this sympathy and appreciation which will be one of the very important factors in building links beyond Australia which will stand the test of time.
I would like to conclude, as I began, by expressing my gratitude to the House for its patience in hearing this speech and < asserting that I shall do my very best while I am here to develop a friendship with honorable members on both sides of the House. I realize that I have much to learn from every honorable member here. It is only when we look for what we can learn from each other that education finds its fulfilment. Thank you for hearing me.
.- I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) who has just concluded his very fine maiden speech. We look forward to hearing further contributions from him in the future. The House is . debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech which was delivered at the opening of the Twenty-fifth Parliament. His Excellency outlined a great many matters affecting our every-day life, our economic position and our foreign relations. Let me refer briefly to one or two of the subjects mentioned in the Speech.
In his opening remarks His Excellency referred to the tragic loss of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “ with 82 officers and men. We expect this kind of thing to happen in wartime, but we all are very shocked and saddened when it happens in peace-time. An inquiry has been opened. It is to be hoped that all the facts will come to light so that this sort of thing will never occur again. I have a letter from a crew member of the “ Baralga “, one of the Australian National Line vessels, which was travelling between Port Kembla and Rapid Bay at the time of the collision. In his letter the crew member stated-
We were on a voyage from Port Kembla to Rapid Bay and at the time of the collision we were only six miles away or half-an-hour’s run back to the spot, but it was not until one member heard the news that we knew that there had been a collision between two ships. We asked . the wireless operator if any distress calls had come through and he said that there had been none. He also contacted the office in Sydney and no distress calls had been sent out. What hurts us is that if we had got the distress call we could have reversed our course and been back at the sinking destroyer in less than half-an-hour. As we have reserve power, with our two 42-man lifeboats we could have aided quite a few of the boys in the water. Instead we carried on to South Australia. If the Voyager had no time to send out an S.O.S. the Melbourne could have done. Besides our ship being there at the time, there was another one also there, so you can see if the call for help had been sent out there may have been quite a few more of the boys picked up within a very short time of the disaster.
It is very important that the whole question of the sending of distress calls should be investigated, and I sincerely hope that the Minister for the Navy (Dr. Forbes) will confer with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), under whose control the Australian National Line rests, to ascertain the position of the “ Baralga “ at the time of the collision and why no distress calls were sent from the “Melbourne”. An investigation becomes more important if, as this crew man says, the “ Baralga could have reversed and been at the scene of the collision within halfanhour and could have given a great deal of assistance.
I refer now to the “ Empress of Australia “, which is being constructed and outfitted in Sydney. Tremendous interest has been aroused in this ship. I hope that it will not be long before the Minister for Shipping and Transport will be able to announce the vessel’s schedule and fares. I wish to refer also to the “ Princess of Tasmania “, which went into service on the Bass Strait run between Melbourne and Devonport, Tasmania, on 24th September, 1959 - a little over four years ago. Some of the statistics relating to this vessel are, I feel, of interest. Until the end of last December the “Princess of Tasmania” had made 1,308 crossings of Bass Strait, had carried 364,751 passengers and 83,943 passengers’ cars, in addition to 13,542 new trade cars and no less than 32,375 commercial vehicles. This passenger-vehicle ferry has done a wonderful job, but as I have said before in this House the need for a similar vessel to cope with the increased passenger and freight traffic to and from the northwestern coast of Tasmania has been evident for a very long time. One cannot understand the action of this Government in delaying the construction of such a vessel for so long.
The passenger capacity of the “ Princess of Tasmania” is 333. In order to stress the need for a sister ship I want to point out than 6,000 people have applied for 1 ,000 berths in the “ Princess of Tasmania “ for three sailings in December this year. That is ten months away. In this period of heavy bookings the Tasmanian Government Tourist Department has been able to obtain only 15 per cent, of the bookings required by all its offices. This is a matter of great concern, and it is most unfortunate, from the Tasmanian point of view, that so many passengers cannot obtain bookings.
Figures released by the Tourist Department showed that when plans for the period from May, 1964, to January, 1965, opened on 28th October last, nine sailings of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ were filled immediately and 1,400 names were left on waiting lists. Booking status sheets issued last month by the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited indicate the same heavy demand for accommodation on this ship and emphasize the need for a second vessel. With the exception of one or other of the two suites available on some trips, the “Princess” is already booked out for 100 sailings for the twelve months ending in January next year. Waiting lists are compiled by the principal agents of the vessel and I wish to point out that a waiting list for bookings on the vessel is not closed until the list contains 120 names of intending passengers. This means that 333 available berths on the vessel are filled and that 120 names are put on the waiting list before it is closed. The record shows that the waiting lists are closed for no fewer than 34 trips between now and the end of January, 1965.
Tourism is a very valuable industry, as was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Sir
Robert Menzies) at the weekend when he said that the value of the tourist traffic from overseas to Australia had risen in less than seven years from £6,000,000 to £27,000,000 annually. Tourism now occupies ninth position as a contributor to this country’s earnings of overseas revenue. We, too, in the island State of Tasmania can gain much more from tourism if only this Government will wake up to its responsibilities and construct a second “Princess of Tasmania”. We are losing thousands of potential visitors every year. One can easily understand people who would like to come to our State cancelling their plans and going elsewhere when they are put on long and indefinite waiting lists.
The original waiting list for the last six sailings from Melbourne to Devonport for this year- from 21st to 31st Decembernumbered 1,094, but the waiting list has now been reduced to 853. This means that 241 people who were probably committed to taking their leave during the Christmas holidays have decided to forget the Tasmanian trip and to travel elsewhere. I want to to stress that the demand for travel is not confined to the summer months or peak months; it exists almost throughout the year. I have in my hand an official schedule of passengers and cars carried on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ for the twelve months ended last December. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “-
The schedule shows that the average number of passengers transported on trips between Melbourne and Devonport last year was 296. The average number transported in the same period between Devonport ‘ and Melbourne was 290. The full complement of passengers on the vessel is 333. The average was exceeded on 77 crossings of Bass Strait last year. Only in the month of June was the average loading of passengers less than half the capacity of the ship, and that occurred only on the run from Melbourne to Devonport.
There is no such thing as an off-season so far as Tasmanian tourism is concerned. There is a steady flow of tourists in the autumn and winter, as well as in the usual peak months. With reduced accommodation tariffs on offer and excellent scenery available, thousands more tourists can ‘ be expected, provided that sea bookings from Melbourne can be obtained. We all realize that the Australian National Line which operates this ferry must pay its way under an act of Parliament and that freight is as important a component in the earnings as are passengers. However, a recent survey conducted by the Tasmanian Transport Department reveals that additional freight can be expected from the north-west coast centres, even allowing for that which will be taken by the “Empress of Australia” when it begins operations at the end of the year.
The Australian National Line had to put the “ Yarrunga “ on the run between Melbourne, Burnie and Devonport as from 1st October to cope with freight which could not be handled by the “ Bass Trader “ and the “ Princess of Tasmania “. It was thought that this additional service would assist in compensating for the cargo space which would be lost on the “ Princess “ with passengers’ cars at the height of the tourist season. But this has not worked out at all satisfactorily and I have had several complaints recently about freight - particularly consignments of timber - being left behind by the “ Princess “ and the “ Bass Trader “. One saw-miller who tried to get another agent to handle his timber on the ferries was told that it would be useless to try anyone else because the other agents were all in the same position.
The survey . presented last year to the Australian Transport Advisory Council sets out the position of freight offering and left behind. I will quote a few examples for the benefit of - the Government. I refer first to Burnie. No production figures are available for the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, but large quantities of freight are shipped out by the “Bass Trader”. Frequently it is overloaded and the Australian National Line has been taking surplus cargo free from Burnie to Devonport. The report states that hardboard often has to be left behind at Burnie. At Wesley Vale a £500,000 particle board plant is in production. Much of the products of the mill is shipped to Victoria and New South Wales by the ferries. Australian Titan Products Proprietary Limited is engaged on a £3,500,000 expansion programme. About 50 per cent, of production is forwarded through Melbourne. Last year 12,500 tons was exported interstate. This year it is expected that the figure will be 15,000 tons and in a few years time it is expected to reach 20,000 tons. Devon Cannery and International Canners Proprietary Limited are established at Ulverstone. Additional machinery valued at £300,000 has been installed by Devon Cannery. Previously International Canners Proprietary Limited sent 50 per cent, of its production by charter ships. It is proposed now to transfer all production to the ferries, using containers and frigmobile units. How can this be done with the present capacity of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and the “ Bass Trader “?
The need for additional ferry units is urgent. The Goliath Portland Cement Company recently completed an expansion programme which raised its plant capacity to 200,000 tons per annum. An increase k expected in the export of special purpose cement to Victoria. In recent weeks Kraft Foods Limited at Scottsdale has not been able to obtain freight bookings on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ or “ Bass Trader “. It is anticipated that the company’s tonnage in and out of Tasmania will increase every year, though it is not possible to give exact figures. A similar position exists with potato marketing. Tasman Scottish Carpet Manufacturing Proprietary Limited has increased production. Tootal Broadhurst Lee Company Limited of Devonport and Tasmanian Plywood Mills Proprietary Limited of Somerset expect increased production. The latter company expects to increase its annual production from 7,500,000 square feet to 10,000,000 square feet. A. Wander Limited of Devonport increased production by 25 per cent, this year. Patons and Baldwins (Australia) Limited of Launceston is engaged on a £2,500,000 expansion programme. The Mersey-Forth hydro-electric power scheme is proceeding.
The survey indicates only too well that industry on the north-west coast of Tasmania is rapidly expanding. The export of its products is geared for the use of trailers or containers to be carried on ferry services to the mainland. Unless more shipping space of this type is obtainable our expanding industries could be in a serious position. Practically every industry established in north-west Tasmania has installed new plant for the manufacture of its products for export by sea-road services. One wonders what would happen if anything happened to the “ Princess of Tasmania “ or the “ Bass Trader “. The industrial concerns on Tasmania’s north-west coast would be thrown into chaos. The Government should plan now to build a second ferry. We cannot afford to wait.
I have been informed by Tourist Department officers on the mainland that one of their problems is that although passengers who are unable to secure accommodation on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ are sometimes prepared to change to air travel, it is not possible to obtain space to move their cars to Tasmania. Some of them try to to join organized coach tours. I want to voice a very strong criticism of the limitation placed on coach tours. From 1st December until the end of April only two tour parties are allowed on each sailing. This rule is strictly enforced. From 1st May until the end of November two tour parties are permitted but the number can be increased to four. Only one football party is allowed on a sailing. These limitations severely restrict school parties, sporting bodies and other organizations in visiting Tasmania. The Australian National Line and its principal agents, Tasmanian Steamers, should examine the possibility of removing these limitations. Experience has shown that there are insufficient single and two-berth cabins. I hope that this shortage is borne in mind when the Government constructs a sister ship. At present there is accommodation for only 77 passengers in single or two-berth cabins. In the 21 fourberth cabins 84 passengers can be catered for. Two suites take four passengers and the remaining passengers use lounge chairs. It is admitted that the lounge chairs are available at a cheaper rate, but experience has shown that passengers prefer cabin space.
We are not alone in our request for a second ferry to serve the north-west coast of Tasmania. The Australian Transport Advisory Council, which is composed of all State Ministers for Transport, supported the following resolution at its meeting in Adelaide last year when it studied the excellent report drawn up by the Tasmanian Minister for Transport, the Honorable Harry McLoughlin -
This council reaffirms its support for the case presented by Tasmania for the construction of a second passenger vehicle for the Bass Strait service and, taking into account the latest information available, endorses the request of Tasmania that the Commonwealth should ensure that the construction of a second vessel is undertaken with the least possible delay.
Whilst all State Ministers appreciate our need, the Commonwealth does not, even though the Tasmanian Government offered to contribute up to £40,000 a year for three years towards any loss incurred by the proposed new ferry. There may be some hope now that we have a new federal Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I urge him to look at this matter with the least possible delay. He might also investigate the need to construct decent premises for the Australian National Line in Devonport. There is need for a building in keeping with the great commercial and shipping interests of the Australian National Line and with the importance of the port of Devonport, where rapid expansion is taking place. The Government should honour its promise to build a head-quarters for the Australian National Line on the very fine site which the line purchased for £8,000 in August, 1960. . .,
I refer now to a movement which has obtained great impetus in Tasmania. It is sponsored by the Tasmanian Butterfat Producers Committee. It is very pleasing to hear the latest reports that receipts from wool have increased by £67,000,000 for the first seven months of this year compared with receipts for the . corresponding period last year. It is particularly pleasing to see settlers on King Island and in other places benefitting from the increased prices at wool sales. However, a group, of people, particularly in Tasmania, has suffered adverse seasons due to prolonged drought Conditions. This was especially so during the last season. I refer to the dairy farmers. They are not alone in their plight. I believe there are people in other parts of Australia who could join them in their movement. These people have banded together for a good reason. In 1953 the price they received for butter fat was 4s. 8d. per lb. After ten years of inflation and increased costs they will, with deferred pay still to come, receive only a similar amount this season. These people, under their secretary, Mr. Merv Radford, have had meetings throughout the north-west coast of Tasmania. They have addressed the railway workers at Launceston. A meeting of some 200 railway workers there supported the claims of the producers, after they had been explained to them. These people are setting up committees in every municipality in Tasmania and are coming across to the dairying districts in various parts of Australia, where they hope to gain support for this move.
The aim of the committee is, first of all, to secure- an increase of ls. per lb. in the Commonwealth subsidy for the producer and, secondly, to press for a Commonwealth survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to assess the costs of butterfat production. Their aim is, thirdly, to ensure the reintroduction of the clause stipulating that the subsidy rise and fall with the cost of production and, fourthly, to create and maintain Commonwealth unity among butterfat producers.
I wish these people well because after all, as they point out, they have had no increase in the price received for butterfat over the past ten years, although some of the increased costs they have had to endure arc remarkable. For example, in 1953, when the price of butterfat was 4s. 8d. per lb. a survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimated the average cost of rates and taxes as £17. To-day I have been given the figures for a 100-acre property with a carrying capacity of 45 cows. Some of the increases in costs which have taken place in the last ten years are astounding. As I said, the survey in 1953 gave a figure of £17 for rates, and taxes. To-day the figure is £65. The insurance cost element was given as £12 ten years ago. To-day it is £50. The survey by the bureau gave travelling expenses as £14. To-day the figure is £50. Electricity charges ten years ago were £12 as against £60 to-day. One could go on and show from these figures how costs have increased, yet there has been no increase in the price for butterfat received by the farmers. I consider they have a very good case, and the committee is doing an excellent job. Even if it succeeds only in bringing the plight of these people before the Government and in obtaining some support in the mainland States, and some recognition of their claims it will have done a good job for the industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has- expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lindsay) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply: -
Despite an extensive search of the area at and near Carnarvon no suitable material has been found in sufficient quantities to enable the building of an all-weather runway.
It is therefore proposed to reconstruct and reshape the existing runway with locally available materials using a sand-clay mixture which will improve its wet weather characteristics. This work is expected to commence shortly and to be completed during the present year.
t - On 26th February, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) asked me a question without notice concerning the increase in gross national product between 1961-62 and 1962-63. The following is the more detailed information I promised to supply to the honorable member.
What I said in my Budget Speech in August last was -
The gross national product may be taken as a broad measure of activity and output. In 1962-63 this was 8 per cent, greater than that of 1961-62. Prices were generally stable through the year, so that increase can largely be regarded as growth in real terms . . . Clearly it wai sufficient both to absorb the increase in the workforce and to make possible a significant reduction in unemployment.
Take first the latter part of my statementThere can be no question that growth wa3 sufficient to absorb the increase in the workforce and to reduce unemployment. Figures now available estimate the rise in civilian employment between June, 1962, and June, 1963, at 100,000 persons. The number of persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service decreased over this period by 11,721.
As to the magnitude of the increase in gross national product, estimates available when the Budget Speech was delivered indicated an increase of 7.8 per cent. Subsequent revisions of the estimates have increased the figure for G.N.P. in both 1961-62 and 1962-63, but have reduced the percentage increase between the two years to 7.6 per cent.
These estimates are in terms of the current prices of each year. Information available at Budget time is not sufficient to permit the making of an estimate at constant prices of gross national product in the preceding year. However, the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure that accompanied the Budget commented as follows: -
Most price changes in 1961-62 and 1962-63 were comparatively small and, when all the necessary data were available, estimates of gross national expenditure at constant prices ere expected to show increases in 1962-63 not greatly different from those expressed in current prices. However, the estimate of gross national product at constant prices, which takes into account changes in average prices of exports and imports, is expected to show a slightly smaller rise than the estimate in current prices.
Estimates of the 1962-63 gross national product at constant prices were first published on 21st January, 1964, and showed an increase from 1961-62 of 5.1 per cent. The 2.5 per cent difference between that figure and the 7.6 per cent increase in gross national product at current prices is accounted for, in broad terms: -
With respect to (b), estimates of gross national product at constant prices include a stock valuation adjustment and are therefore not directly comparable with estimates at current prices before adjustment for stock valuation.
With respect to (c), although an improvement in the terms of trade is eliminated in estimating gross national product at constant prices, it is of course a factor which increases the country’s real income.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 March 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640303_reps_25_hor41/>.