25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that the Honorable Sir Garfield Barwick, Senator the Honorable J. G. Gorton and the Honorable A. J. Forbes have to-day tendered to the GovernorGeneral their resignations as AttorneyGeneral, Minister for the Interior and Minister for the Navy respectively. His Excellency has accepted their resignations and in their stead has sworn in the Honorable B. M. Snedden as Attorney-General, the Honorable J. D. Anthony as Minister for the Interior and the Honorable F. C. Chaney as Minister for the Navy.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will he advise the House of the attitude taken by representatives of metropolitan municipalities towards the present Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement? Did these representatives intimate last week that they sought a complete recasting of the agreement, or do they seek only an increased proportion for capital cities of any additional funds provided? Does the Minister realize that the extensive development taking place in many country areas, together with a greatly increased volume of heavy transport on rural roads, is placing a severe strain on local government finances? Further, does he realize that any reduction in the percentage of the funds allocated to rural roads in a future agreement will seriously affect development in country and outback areas? Finally, will the Minister consider this when the terms of the new agreement are drafted and will he have inserted in it provision that rural roads shall be allocated the same percentage of funds as was provided for in the old agreement?
– I think I can state very briefly the views expressed by the lord mayors of the capital cities when they called on me last week. They very generously did not seek to impose on the Commonwealth Government any ideas about what alterations should be made in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, except that they wanted money for roads in capital cities. They left the solution of the problem to the Commonwealth Government. I assured them that the problem would be considered by the Cabinet and by the State Premiers.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question. Has the Department of Health considered the smog problem that exists in metropolitan and industrial areas, especially during winter? Has any advance been made in the control of smog?
– I know that a lot of attention has been given to this matter, which, of course, is causing serious concern in all major cities. The honorable member, who represents a New South Wales electorate, quite rightly is concerned about the problem in that State. The matter has attracted the attention of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which has studied the problem very closely, though it principally concerns the State governments. In 1961, in New South Wales, legislation was introduced tq deal with the problem of air pollution. Regulations under that legislation were promulgated only a few weeks ago, but will not operate until early next year, so that industry can gear itself to meet the requirements laid down. In Victoria legislation called the Clean Air Act has already been introduced and the machinery for its implementation has already been set in motion. An act has been passed in Queensland and another in South Australia, and the machinery for the implementation of the legislation, I understand, will be proceeded with in the near future. In Western Australia and Tasmania, where the problem is not so acute, no action has been taken to date. As I have intimated, although the Commonwealth Department of Health does take a very keen interest in this matter it is still primarily a responsibility of the State governments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Hat the Minister’s attention been directed to matters of recent occurrence within my constituency? I refer to the application by 300 girls and women for employment in fifteen jobs at the store of Bebarfalds Limited at Wollongong, the application by hundreds of women for employment at the department store of G. J. Coles and Company Limited at Wollongong and the application by over 240 women for four jobs at the State Lotteries Office at Wollongong. Is this scarcity of jobs for women now part of the pattern of unemployment throughout Australia? Will the Minister consider establishing a committee to investigate the situation and to recommend means of alleviating it? Will he in particular examine the action of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited within my constituency in giving notice of dismissal to women in their employment at a time when they are notifying publicly that they are desperately in need of male labour?
– I was not aware of all the facts mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I did not know that in parts of Wollongong, when some of the retail stores called for female employees yesterday, a considerable number of women applied for employment there. It has been pointed out by the Government and by trade union leaders that one of the difficulties we face at the moment is that there is in certain areas a surplus of women employees. My department is constantly looking for opportunities to have them satisfactorily employed. I do not think it is necessary to undertake any special inquiry, but what I will do for the honorable gentleman as far as the Wollongong and Port Kembla area is concerned is this: I will obtain a report from my department and as soon as I have it I will discuss the problem with him personally.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Has his attention been directed to a story, featured with doubtful taste, of a naval veteran who has lost or mislaid his service medals from the First World War? What is the Navy practice in circumstances such as this and what action need be taken by Mr. Oliver to obtain another set of service medals?
– The practice adopted in these circumstances is not confined solely to the Navy; it is followed by all the services. As I understand it, any person who loses his medals is required to sign a statutory declaration to that effect. I do not think any honorable member on either side of the House would quarrel with that requirement. Such a person is also required to pay the cost of a new set of medals. As the services receive many applications for the replacement of medals it is obvious that some charge must be made. Mr. Oliver was informed of the conditions governing a reissue of medals. Nothing more was heard from him. He evidently declined to apply for a re-issue. However, if there had been special circumstances I am quite certain that the Department of the Navy would have considered his application sympathetically.
– I ask the
Attorney-General a question. Is it correct, as reported from London to-day, that Crown law officers, acting on instructions from the Minister, have seized or otherwise taken possession of papers and records belonging to an overseas shipping conference? If such a seizure has been made, what is the purpose of examining the records? Do any documents of which the Minister has knowledge reveal the existence among overseas shipping companies operating services to Australia of a trade combine or monopoly, or of any restrictive practices detrimental to the export of Australian primary produce?
– It is true that papers have come into the possession of my department. It is not correct at all to suggest that they were seized. A request for papers was made. The papers were given to an officer Of the Commonwealth Police Force. They are being examined. The purpose of the examination is to see whether a breach of the law has been committed. They are still being examined. Therefore, I am unable to answer the remainder of the question.
– I preface a question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, by saying that I ask it because of a specific interest, which I am sure the Prime Minister shares, in the future welfare of many thousands of small traders and shopkeepers throughout Australia. Is it a fact that recently the Prime Minister met representatives of the Australian Council of Retailers to receive their submissions regarding the proposed restrictive trade practices legislation? If that is a fact, are the opinions and suggestions put forward by those representatives available for perusal by any honorable members who are interested in them?
– The Government has received representations - I think very properly - from a number of bodies. On the occasion to which the honorable member has referred, the retailers were represented, as also were five or six other commercial interests. The representatives laid their views before us with great care. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to publish the views that they put to us. Those views were offered in what might be described broadly as private discussion. I made a statement to the press, indicating that we had been assisted greatly by having the information laid before us. I do not think this matter will profit by inspiring some public debate about what one organization said or what another organization said. The fact is that they all have spoken their minds with great frankness. I think my colleagues and I have derived great advantage from that.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, concerns a statement issued recently by the national president of the Returned Servicemen’s League. Did the Minister see the statement which said, in effect, that Australia was incapable of meeting her commitments at home and abroad? If the Minister is aware of that opinion of the R.S.L., has he any comment to offer on behalf of the Government?
– I did not see this particular comment. If it were made in the terms in which the honorable member has repeated it - namely that Australia is incapable of meeting her commitments at home and abroad-
– I quoted the exact words.
– If those were the exact words, I say with the deepest respect to the federal president of the R.S.L. that he has rather exaggerated the position. “ Commitments “, of course, is a very broad term. Commitments, in the utmost sense of the term, would be extremely difficult to meet. But that does not mean that we could not go a long way towards meeting commitments, in a way that would be very useful, both for ourselves and for our allies.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate whether he, the Attorney-General or Cabinet prepared the instructions for Mr. Kerr, Q.C., who is appearing for the Commonwealth before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the basic wage case, arising out of which it has been argued on behalf of the Commonwealth that the commission’s present review and future reviews of the basic wage should involve an investigation of capacity to pay? only in the broad sense and not on the basis of price increases or any productivity formula? In the light of that kind of submission being made on behalf of this Government and, incidentally, involving this Parliament, will the Minister explain what is meant by investigating capacity to pay in the broad sense as distinct from capacity to pay in the light of prices and/ or productivity on a national basis?
– Answering the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, the instructions were prepared by the Department of Labour and National Service in co-operation with the Treasury and other interested departments. The primary responsibility was taken by my department.
As to the second part of the question, capacity to pay involves many ingredients, including changes in the prices level, productivity, our international trade, the state of production itself and several other matters - the nine indicators which are generally taken into consideration and of which the honorable gentleman is well aware. What we were aiming to submit in this case was that too great a reliance, should not be placed on a price index and changes in it and that too great an emphasis should not be placed on productivity alone. What we have emphasized is that the criterion is capacity to pay and that in order to judge capacity to pay the commission should take into consideration the nine indexes that are presented to the commission as well as productivity and changes in the price index.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the recent announcement that the eight major trading banks propose to form the Australian Bankers’ Export Refinance Corporation Limited for the purpose of providing an additional pool of finance to member banks to enable them to finance exporters offering medium and long-term credit to overseas buyers. Does the Minister consider that the operations of the corporation will assist our export drive, particularly for manufactured goods, and are its activities likely to conflict with those of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation?
– I am perfectly sure that the formation of. this new organization will facilitate the export of more goods from Australia. I think we all are indebted to our colleague, the Treasurer, for having contributed to the establishment of this organization. Obviously this new arrangement will make more feasible the provision of credit for the export of such goods as capital goods, for which it is customary to ask terms of payment longer than ordinary commercial terms. I am sure that the new arrangement will be of assistance in that regard. Evidence is accumulating that Australia is becoming competitive in the capacity to supply this type of goods. The new arrangement will in no sense come into conflict with the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which is established primarily to underwrite for payment of premium the ordinary day-to-day trading of export goods.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Recently the United States postal authorities issued postmen with a repellent which, if squirted into the eyes of an attacking dog, will prevent a savage attack. As the Minister would know, approximately 1,000 of our postmen are bitten every year by dogs. Will he provide Australian postmen with the same repellent?
– I am aware that the United States Post Office has provided this repellent to its postmen. I am not sure how many of our own postmen are subjected to attacks by dogs while doing their rounds, but I am investigating this matter and when my inquiries are complete I shall let the honorable member know the result.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement to the effect that a contributor to a medical benefits fund receives a rebate of only 18s. of the cost of a specialist consultation whereas in fact a patient who has been referred by a medical practitioner to a specialist receives a rebate of £2 13s. for a first consultation? As the statement to which I have referred is likely to mislead, will the Minister obtain accurate information about the more common medical benefits and circulate it to members of this chamber?
– The information mentioned by the honorable member is quite clearly set out in a number of publications which have been circulated by the Minister for Health. It should be fully understood not only by members of the House but also by the public. However, to put the matter beyond doubt I shall arrange for my colleague in another place to issue another statement clearly defining the benefits that may be received, and shall see that it is circulated to all honorable members.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Has he read or heard the comment by the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr. Evans, that Commonwealth legislation is necessary to protect the Australian oil industry? Is it correct that the offers made by two companies which are now the subject of discussion will mean that only one-half the output of the Moonie oil-field will be sold? Does the price difference that is in issue arise because for years the oil companies have paid false high prices for crude oil from their own overseas oil-fields in order to keep down their Australian profits and consequently income tax? Is the Government prepared to take the action necessary to ensure protection for the new Australian oil industry?
– I have not seen the statement by the Queensland Minister for Mines to which the honorable member has referred. As for the remainder of the question, I think the same one was put to me yesterday and replied to. I have nothing to add.
– In view of the urgency of flood mitigation works on the northern rivers of New South Wales, towards which special Commonwealth financial assistance on a £1 for £1 basis has been approved by the Government, will the Prime Minister state whether legislation will be introduced soon to give effect to the proposals and whether the grants will be made retrospective to 1st July, 1963? Can the Prime Minister indicate the total amount of Commonwealth funds which it is expected will be allotted to this important work?
– I am glad to tell the honorable member that my colleague, the Treasurer, will to-day, I think, give notice of the legislation necessary to give effect to the arrangement that was made and that he hopes to present it within the next day or two. The grants for this important work will operate as from 1st July, 1963. The present estimate of the total cost to the Commonwealth over the next six years is £2,750,000. All these details will be made quite clear by my colleague when he introduces the bill this week.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing, who is aware of a distressing case in which an exserviceman and his wife were recently evicted from their war service home. Will the Minister take action to provide emergency accommodation for indigent exservice men and women who are unable, because of ill health or unemployment, to meet the financial requirements of the War Service Homes Division and who are in need of housing?
– I am aware of the particular case mentioned by the honorable member, who has also asked a more general question. The War Service Homes Division treats people, who for one reason or another cannot meet their payments, extremely generously. This is particularly the case with widows and others who fall into necessitous circumstances through no fault of their own. Unfortunately there are some people who do not measure up to the same standards as the majority, who fail to keep up with their commitments for other reasons. Ultimately, if non-payment of dues becomes prolonged, eviction unfortunately becomes a necessity in some cases, as in the case of every other mortgagee. The honorable member may rest assured that the War Service Homes Division’s humanitarian policy will be continued and that if anything can be done to help in particularly sad cases, such as the one he mentioned, we will do everything that it is possible to do within the terms of the act.
– My question is supplementary to the one asked by the honorable member for Cunningham. Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that Wollongong in the Illawarra district on the south coast of New South Wales has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Australia, that Australia has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world and that our rate of unemployment is much lower than it was when Labour governments were in power? I ask whether the business community in Wollongong is not very prosperous and buoyant, and whether the steel industry is not very efficient. Is it not a fact that we are building a steel industry for the south-west Pacific area and for the southern hemisphere, of which any country could be proud?
– The answer to the first two questions is “ Yes “. It can be stated in general terms that the employment position in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area is extremely healthy. At the moment, Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited - it prefers to be called that, rather than the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited - is attempting to recruit overseas 750 unskilled and 150 skilled workers. That indicates the position. So far as male employment is concerned, the real difficulty is not so much to find jobs for men but to find men to fit into the jobs that are available. The honorable gentleman is right in saying that the economic and financial position in the south coast area is very healthy. Although I do not like using this phrase, I may add that if the position can be improved it will be improved. As to the last part of the question, I think it is true to say that the Australian iron and steel industry at Port Kembla is among the leaders, if not in the first two or three in the world. Last year it won the world’s record for steel production in one mill. It is a wonderful tribute to the Australian iron and steel industry that this award was won by this Australian company operating on the south coast of New South Wales.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he is in a position to advise the House when legislation can be expected regarding the redistribution of Commonwealth electorates. Will the Minister see that when the legislation is introduced the principle of democracy which all Australians revere is preserved, that is the principle of one man one vote?
– When the legislation referred to by the honorable member will come before the House is a matter of Government policy, but he may rest assured that it will be within a year. As to the principle of one vote one value - if it be taken to the nth degree - no country in the world applies it, nor has it ever been applied in Australia. Written into the Constitution is the provision that there shall be a variation allowed for larger or more compact electorates. As the Prime Minister said last week, any variation in the Commonwealth Electoral Act would be a matter only of degree and not a matter of principle. To those people who like to use the word gerrymandering to describe alterations to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, I say that I take umbrage at such a statement. Since federation there have been seven re-distributions of electoral boundaries. Each one of them has been carried out in accordance with the highest ethics and standards. It is the Government’s policy to maintain those high standards. As the Minister responsible for re-distribution of electoral ‘ boundaries I assure the honorable member that there will be no departure from the high principles observed in this respect in the past.
– My question relates to banking and credit and is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: Does the honorable gentleman agree that many significant changes have occurred - especially in the post-war period - in the monetary and credit structure of Australia since the matter was last investigated almost 30 years ago by the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems? Does he further agree that the functions and techniques of central banks - particularly those of the Reserve Bank of Australia - and the ultimate responsibilities of the Australian Government in this field have been imperfectly understood by the public at large and even perhaps in some interested quarters? If so, will the honorable gentleman give some thought to recommending to the Government the setting up of an appropriate commission or committee of inquiry to examine the nature and extent of the changes that have occurred, to recommend measures to be adopted in relation to them and to cast a brighter light of understanding into, the public mind, particularly business and parliamentary minds?
– Undoubtedly there has been a growth of the type referred to by the honorable member. I do not take quite such a pessimistic view as I gather he does of the state of public understanding of these matters. In comparatively recent years I think there has been an enormous growth in public concentration on these problems, and whilst some of them perhaps will forever remain clouded to some degree in mystery or mysticism I believe there is a growing understanding in the Australian commercial community and, indeed, the community at large of what is involved in the major economic problems we have to confront.
As to the more technical aspects and an inquiry into them, I point out that a major inquiry is being undertaken by a committee set up by the Commonwealth Government into the working of the Australian economy. Perhaps we shall discover in the findings which come to us from this body some enlightenment in the direction to which the honorable gentleman points. I would like to think very hard about any suggestion that we set up a special commission along the lines of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems because inquiries of this kind can be both disturbing and to some extent delaying in their effect. They can introduce an element of uncertainty into business thinking. I feel that we have reached such a degree of co-operation amongst the various institutions - not only those that come within the scope of Commonwealth legislation but also such bodies as the hire purchase conference, life assurance bodies and others of that sort - that we are achieving in practical terms what might have been felt to be necessarily the product of some head of constitutional power. In short, I think that the economy being delicately poised and running so favorably for us at the present time, the less we do to disturb it the better. But I do not, on that account, jettison the very thoughtful suggestion made by the honorable member. I shall give it more consideration.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Territories a question. In view of his oft-expressed opinions that payment of award rates to aborigines in the Northern Territory is a matter for the people concerned - which must mean the white people alone in the Northern Territory - and that the Opposition wishes to impose its will on the people of the Northern Territory, will he say whether he means to imply that aborigines are not people and are, therefore, not entitled to the same wages and conditions as all other Australians? Is it his view that members of this Parliament are not entitled to raise questions and express opinions about the rights of aborigines as Australian citizens? Is he still opposed to the 40-hour week for aboriginal Australians as well as for all other Australians?
– This is an extraordinary question from a leader of a political party. It is a completely irresponsible question in view of the replies I have givenon this subject in the past. This Government of which I am a member respects democratic processes, which obviously the Leader of the Opposition does not. As I said before, the bill, which affects the conditions and wages of the aborigines in the Northern Territory, is completely within the province of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory.
– And of this Parliament!
– I might add, Mr. Speaker, that, as you ruled yesterday, members of this House are perfectly at liberty to give opinions on the Northern Territory, but I believe that I am not in that position. There is almost a suggestion in this case that the judge should comment before the witnesses have given evidence and the jury has given a decision. This is the sort of principle which appears to be adopted by the Labour Party. It is an old attitude of the Labour Party, and it is reflected in a very well-known country town in New South Wales, Broken Hill, which is completely dominated by the Australian Labour Party. The administration of that town is in many ways completely contrary to the laws of New South Wales. We had a case the other day to illustrate this, when a large firm in the town was blackmailed into putting advertisements into a Labourcontrolled paper. If honorable members opposite subscribe to - those principles I certainly do not.
– I direct a question to the Minister for PrimaryIndustry. Did the Australian Agricultural Council recently consider a proposal to close down the tractor testing station at Werribee? If so, what was its decision and what were the main factors governing the decision?
– The Australian Agricultural Council considered the question of whether the tractor testing station should be continued on its present basis. The station opened in 1954 and has been financed jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. Its purpose is to provide a testing service on a voluntary basis for tractors and ancillary equipment. The results have been disappointing, because only fourteen tractors have been tested. The council considered that this response did not warrant continuation of the station and that it could continue operations only if more advantage was taken of the service provided. So the National Farmers Union of Australia and the tractor trade were consulted to see whether there was any likelihood of better use being made of the testing station. The union and1 the trade disagreed with the University of Melbourne, which provides technical supervision for the tests, about the method of selecting the tractors to be tested and the nature of the tests. The university was not satisfied with the modified proposal submitted by the union and the trade concerning the method of selection, and the Australian Agricultural Council agreed with the university. The council asked the Department of Primary Industry to call the parties together again for another conference with a view to seeing whether a satisfactory basis for the selection and testing of tractors can be agreed on. The arrangement under which the station operates at present will expire on 30th June, 1964.
– 1 direct a question to the Treasurer. Is he aware that the largest alumina smelter in the world is to be established at Gladstone, in central Queensland? Does he know also that it is estimated that the provision of facilities to accommodate this industry will cost the small community of Gladstone £5,000,000 or £6,000,000? As this will be a very considerable burden to place on the backs of local ratepayers, will the right honorable gentleman undertake to have the Department of the Treasury investigate the matter - if necessary, through the Queensland Government - with a view to providing some financial assistance?
– I shall examine the question of just what area of responsibility falls to the lot of the Commonwealth Government and the degree to which the matters involved appropriately come within the competence of the State Government. Normally, of course, the kind of project to which the honorable gentleman refers is a matter of State responsibility. In particular instances, the Commonwealth has assisted where development for the purpose of encouraging some export would help in one of the States. I should need to be better informed about this project than I am now to know whether it is the kind that should attract our interest in that way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Can he state the final arrangements for the export of the Australian apple and pear crop? Is he able to give an assurance that all fruit offering will be exported at reasonable freight charges?
– The arrangements for the lifting of the Australian apple and pear crop are made by the Australian Apple and Pear Board and the apple and pear shippers’ association acting in co-operation under the aegis of arrangements made by the Australian Overseas Transport Association. The conference shipping lines have intimated that the resources of their shipping fleets will enable them to lift no more than 8,800,000 cases of apples this season at the agreed freight of 12s. 9d. a bushel case, whereas the crop available for export has been calculated at 9,600,000 cases. The Department of Primary Industry, under which the Australian Apple and Pear Board operates, has interested itself in the matter. On request, I have interested myself. Sir Alan Westerman, Secretary to the Department of Trade and Industry, when in London, interviewed representatives of the shipping interests at the head-quarters of the conference shipping lines. Recently, there has been procured additional cargo space that will now permit the movement of rather more than 9,000,000 cases of apples at the agreed freight rate of 12s. 9d a bushel case. If the estimate of 9,600,000 cases as the total quantity of apples available for export is correct, this will leave a short-fall of something like 500,000 cases. I am sure that all who are interesting themselves in this matter will continue, without abating, their efforts to have the whole crop lifted.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by reminding him of the great industrial expansion taking place on the north-west coast of Tasmania and the inability of the existing roll-on roll-off ferries to cope with the increasing freight and also passenger traffic.
I ask: Has consideration been given to the inclusion of the port of Burnie in the tentative schedule for the “ Empress of Australia “, which is due to come into service in October?
– The Australian National Line, when it first announced that the “ Empress of Australia” would operate a service between Sydney and Tasmania, stated that the intention was that the vessel would call at Burnie and Hobart. So far as I know, that, is still intended.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Commitee on Public Works, viz.:- Mr. Brimblecombe, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Dean, Mr. Fulton, Mr. Griffiths and Mr. O’Connor.
Debate resumed from 3rd March (vide page 214),’ on motion by Mr. Kevin Cairns -
That ‘ the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which y=u have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, I should like, first of all, to join with previous speakers in congratulating you on being elected for the third time to your high office. I should like also to congratulate the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on his return to office with the strength of his party greater than before. The strength achieved by the Government parties is perhaps a little better than may have been thought possible by some people. But, when one comes to look at it, that is not really very surprising.
Yesterday, we heard the maiden speeches in this chamber of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay). Perhaps it would be an understatement to say that these were two of the best maiden speeches that we have heard for some time. Both were constructive and very much Australian in content. When one looks at these honorable members and listens to the subjectmatter of their speeches one can understand why they and not two other people were sent here. I congratulate them and the other new members.
On the other hand, we had a series of most dismal speeches from Opposition members yesterday. It is now four months since the election was decided, but it seems that they still have only one thought and that is to find excuses for their failure. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) spent nineteen of his 25 minutes yesterday whingeing. The thing that seems to have hurt him most was that another party had an excellent television coverage for the election. He thought that this was unfair to the Australian Labour Party. He even asked the Government to put a stop to it on future occasions. Whether it is possible to do this I really would not know-, but I think that would be unsatisfactory. In private, the honorable member should have studied the propaganda of his own. party and looked at the poor candidates it put forward. For the most part- those candidates were not chosen by the electors. The television propaganda of the Opposition, as far as I could see when I was not on the platform myself, consisted merely of certain selected candidates being put in front of a stooge questioner and giving answers that were obviously prepared. That was really not a very convincing way of gaining votes.
Last night the Leader of (he Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke. He has. my greatest sympathy, because it must have been very hard for him to speak with the eyes of his masters upon him. I think he could probably have done better without his sad, weak cry. He expressed the opinion that the win of the Liberal Party’ of Australia was an electoral fraud. He then proceeded in bemoaning terms to belittle everything. However, as the leader of a party he did not make one concrete suggestion to show that he had the power to lead Australia in these crucial days of development and outside threats. It is no wonder the. people chose as they did at the election. If I may say so, they chose wisely.
The Governor-General’s Speech gave prominence to the implementation of the policy speech delivered by the Government parties at the election. I am glad to see that the Government’s policy is being implemented rapidly. I thought that two small paragraphs were worthy of more attention. I am very glad that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who represents the Minister for Health in this House, is here because I want to deal with a health matter. A little paragraph in the Governor.General’s Speech said that there would be two policy changes in the health field. I would like to stress a point that I have been raising from time to time since 1 958.
Our social service and health policies are very good. They are excellently thought out and very humanitarian. However, there is one exception that I feel might be examined and that is the admission of pensioners to bush nursing hospitals. These hospitals are classed as private hospitals and they receive a small annual maintenance grant. - They receive a small amount in subscriptions from people in the locality and the patients pay for their treatment. They do not receive any direct aid and they do not qualify for aid from the lotteries or even from the Totalizator Agency Board. No subsidy is paid for the number of days that beds are occupied by pensioners. The bush nursing hospitals are very highly regarded and those who can afford to pay would rather enter such a hospital than be admitted to one of the larger hospitals. The doctors at the bush nursing hospitals are first-class and the nursing is good. Patients prefer to go to these hospitals so that they can be near their homes and their friends.
Pensioners who cannot pay the hospital bills must wait for treatment until a bed can be obtained for them in a public hospital, although this may aggravate their condition. Then they have a long drive in an ambulance either to the local community hospital or to a hospital in one of the larger cities. When they arrive they are under the care of new doctors, and this is possibly not the best treatment for them. It is difficult for a doctor to gain the confidence of a patient who has left his own doctor and equally, although the new doctor has a written case history, he does not know all the little symptoms of the patient. These pensioner patients are probably aged, they are away from their homes and their friends and they must feel rather dismal when they are put in a strange place. They must even wonder whether they will come out again. These factors probably affect the speed of their recovery, and their peace of mind must be disturbed. Therefore, I believe that there is good reason for granting these pensioners some subsidy so that they can enter a hospital near their homes.
Sometimes patients have no choice as to whether they will enter a free hospital or a hospital at which they must pay for treatment. I have in mind cases of emergency - heart disorder or accidents. These cases must be admitted to a hospital, even though a bed may not be. immediately available. The patients are in a great hurry to leave the hospital. They want to get out before they are ready for discharge and before the cost of treatment ruins them. After their discharge they have the worry of paying the bills. The hospitals, of course, do not charge pensioners the full fees and give them easy terms for payment of the bills, but nevertheless a pensioner would have difficulty in paying hospital bills out of his pension. These people would also have the fear that they may have to be re-admitted. I have a bush nursing hospital in my area. It .does excellent work. Last year it treated 25 cases for a total of 240 days. I hope that the Minister will devise some method that will allow pensioners to obtain hospital treatment near their homes. Perhaps some subsidy could be paid for pensioners who are admitted to bush nursing hospitals.
The second matter on which I wish to say a few words was raised at question time to-day. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) asked a question about Commonwealth aid for roads. I was glad to hear the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) say that the lord mayors of the capital cities had been to Canberra. I was interested to hear that they have not asked for any conditions to be imposed; they have asked only for more money. As we know, the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement expires on 30th June this year and is to be extended for another five years. If it is to be extended for five years, I hope it will be a really first-class agreement. It is mild to say, as His Excellency said in his Speech, that the new scheme will involve larger payments and that the legislation will be presented to the
Parliament following discussions with the State Premiers. This matter is so urgent that it requires much more thought than just “ discussions with State Premiers “ and argument about how many more pounds or millions of pounds will be spent over the five-year period.
In my opinion, it calls for planning for the future and for action now, not later. The plans will have to be all-embracing because they will cover the activities of the Commonwealth Government, State governments, capital city authorities and even suburban and rural councils. This is a matter in which jealousies will have to be cast aside. In the olden days we saw the best example of what jealousy can lead to. It was thought that integration of the three fighting forces - the Navy, the Army and the Air Force - was absolutely impossible; but now, under the joint Chiefs of Staff Committee every one seems to be working amicably and efficiently and the work seems to be well co-ordinated. The services have discovered that they get more of what they want when they want it and that there is very much less wastage.
All countries are suffering from this problem of lack of road communications, lt is causing not only a loss of money and efficiency but also, to a minor extent, a very unnecessary loss of lives which can ill be spared. If this job is not done now, in the opinion of most people and certainly in my opinion, it will become a monster and infinitely more money will be required to tackle it. As this matter affects all taxpayers and the progress of Australia, it is not only the people in one locality who should have to foot the bill. A good example in this respect is the way the standardization of railway gauges was tackled. Admittedly that was on a smaller scale. It involved mainly two States and the Commonwealth. The Sydney to Melbourne standard gauge railway is operating now and we are seeing its benefits more and more every day. The road transport problem definitely will be much harder to solve because it will involve the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and other authorities down to the local councils.
Co-ordination will be a very difficult job and will take time because many dove tailing items will have to be considered. I refer to items such as communications between major and even smaller country towns, and city and country arterial routes. We would also benefit from having universal road signs and standardized road designs, instead of some places having roundabouts and other places spending vast sums of money on intersections with roads going in every direction.
I hope the Government will explore every avenue for setting up a planning body. There should be no excuses such as that there is no time because the agreement has to be renewed before 30th June. If need be, there could be an interim agreement to last for one year. It would take some time to get this body together and to get its members to see the benefits that would accrue from good all-round planning. I urge the Government to make every effort to set up a body to co-ordinate plans. The Government might see fit to finance individual approved schemes in the interval. I am sure that if either of those suggestions was adopted it would have the approval of all parties in both the Federal and State spheres. I trust that these ideas will be brought before the two Ministers concerned.
– Before referring to the Governor-General’s Speech, I wish to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his re-election to the chair. The House would be hard put to find a better Speaker. He is very fair to all honorable members, and that is as much as we can ask for. I express my regret at the illness of Her Majesty, the Queen Mo .her. For the sake of the many Australians who derive pleasure from visits by members of the royal family, I hope that she can come to this country at some time in the not too distant future.
The sinking of “ Voyager “ by accident and the consequent putting out of commission of “ Melbourne “ have brought to Australians the stark realization that we are, to say the least, in a rather poor defence position. When I hear Ministers talking about defending Malaysia, I wonder whether we are not whistling in the dark or at least making statements which are a bit rash. North Queensland to-day is virtually as defenceless as it was in 194 J, before the war with the Japanese. Our roads - to use a plain expression - are lousy from a military point of view. Even after a normal wet season it is difficult to move over them. They crack up and fall to pieces. Even the Department of Main Roads, which is a very efficient body, as most Queensland bodies are, suffers the penalty of too much space and too few people. The roads are patched up here and there.
The Government should consider the establishment of a defence roads system and see that the roads are maintained. We need defence roads for the whole of Australia and not just for north Queensland and Western Australia. There is virtually no road communication between Queensland and Western Australia, except by one very narrow road through Darwin. The bridges in that area are nothing short of shocking. Every week of so we hear of a heavy transport going through a bridge. On the main road through the Herbert electorate - it is only about 400 miles long - almost every week a bridge is out of commission and vehicles have to make a detour. The semi-trailers which use these roads weigh up to 25 and 30 tons. I do not see how the Government can expect heavy concentrated military traffic to get through for any length of time. The people of Australia want a lot of amenities to which they are no doubt entitled. These include good defences; but good defences must be paid for and I do not see any reason why this fact should not be made quite clear to the people. Compared with the people of most other countries we in Australia get things fairly easily. But if we do not feel that we are obliged to pay for them, then, like the fellow who forgets to pay his hire purchase instalments, we have no real complaint if somebody repossesses the goods. If we expect help from America and other nations with whom we are allied we should at least show signs of self-help which are consistent with our national income. If we do not do that, we can have no complaint if we are dumped.
The remarks in the Governor-General’s Speech about the increased strength of the Navy were quite impressive but the emphasis seemed to be on what will be done in the future. A great deal was said about keels being laid and submarines and guided missile destroyers being obtained and expected to be commissioned next year. The same criticism could be levelled at the re-equipping of the Royal Australian Air Force. There seems to be a lot of equipment on order but for the present that is about all. It appears to me that if we are not in trouble this year, by the end of next year we may be able to take care pf ourselves if we are in trouble. I hope, that we will not need to take care of ourselves.
Turning to Australia’s financial position, I find it hard to understand how the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) can contain the pressures building up not only in northern Queensland but also, I imagine, throughout Australia generally. There is a good deal of speculation, particularly in the home-building industry and in land subdivision. The present situation is very similar to that which existed in I960, although to-day we are receiving much higher prices for our sugar and meat, which could save the situation. Nevertheless, events are gathering pace. In spite of the Treasurer’s assurance to me last week on this point, a certain amount of trouble in the economy is not far. away. This is borne out by the fact that on the day following the Treasurer’s assurance to me the Reserve Bank announced that it was calling up a further £30,000,000 of the funds of the trading banks. We should be grateful that our primary products are selling so well overseas and pray that they continue to do so.
Northern development seems to have become a hobby horse for many people. A good deal has been said about this subject in this Parliament in the last two years. The plain facts are that this part of Australia is developing more or less as it has developed over the last 100 years - slowly overall but relatively fast in some places, such as Townsville. The development that has taken place in the north is related almost directly to mining ventures, such as those at Mount Isa and the building of copper refineries. All this has been brought about by private enterprise, with the exception of the Ord River scheme, which seems to have got under way in the north-west of Western Australia. We hear so much about developing the north but I wonder whether many people have ever thought just what is entailed in developing the north. I fly from Townsville to Canberra and return each week, a distance of 2,000 miles each way. Travelling north from Rockhampton there is very little development except for isolated towns until you come to Townsville. It is easy to say that we must develop the north but the task is a difficult one. It will become more difficult and protracted if the Government does not show real enthusiasm. I am afraid that so far the Government has failed to show much enthusiasm in this regard. Let us look briefly at some of the problems that must be solved. In northern Queensland we have the problem of transport and communications. The provision of water and power is a vital problem. To build a dam on the Burdekin River or at Herbert Gorge would cost up to £100,000,000. In the centre of the Northern Territory there are very few roads. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) has said, there are very few roads in parts of his.electorate. The problem of roads and railways is a major one.
It took Mount Isa 30 years to reach to-day’s level of production. We all know the stories associated with Irvinebank, Ravenswood and many other once flourishing mining towns which now no longer exist. We must find export markets for our manufactured goods, capital with which to set up our industries and finance with which to conduct proper research. We must overcome the problems associated with decentralization and get the people away from the large cities, where living conditions are so congested. I know that these are only some of the problems involved and that associated with each problem is a host of others. But these problems are capable of solution. I hope that the people of this area will in the next three years realize the difference between flying kites to catch votes, which is nothing short of political hypocrisy, and being genuinely concerned about the problems in northern Queensland and the rest of northern Australia and at the same time being prepared to do something about it.
I should like to mention specifically two important projects in northern Queensland which I feel are worthy of consideration by the Government. These projects are most important to the area in which I live. I refer to the Burdekin River dam and the
Herbert River dam. The Burdekin River dam is a hydro-electric and irrigation project and the Herbert River dam is a hydroelectric project only. In the Burdekin delta we have a sugar crop worth almost £12,000,000 a year. All the water that is used in this area at present comes from underground. By using this underground water we are placing in jeopardy the existence of the entire area. Even now salt water is encroaching on good land and spoiling it from an agricultural point of view. If a dam were built on the Burdekin River, if only to ensure the existence of the cane-growing potential of that area, it would be well worth the money spent on it. I have yet to see how you can assess the value of people in an area in terms of money. The building of the dam on the Burdekin River also would help ease the unemployment problem in the Townsville district, where at present almost 1,500 persons are out of work.
The production of power in northern Queensland seems to be doing no more than keeping pace with consumption. This situation is unsatisfactory if the Government is honest in its intentions to develop rapidly the northern parts of this country. The Government leaves everything to private enterprise, but private enterprise only goes where maximum profits are available in the shortest possible time. Such a policy will never develop an area fast. Development of northern Queensland will be a long, slow job; and that writes off private enterprise. My only interest is to see that the job shall be done. I do not think many people care who does the job so long as it is done. At the moment this subject is a party political football or hobby horse. For some people it is an election talking point. I suppose I could be included in the latter category. For a few people this subject provides cheap publicity and at times a cushy job. If honorable members read last week’s “ Truth “ they will know to whom I am referring. But to the average Australian this is an important subject upon which a good deal of our future may depend. The Government must spend a lot of money in deciding what is to be done in the northern part of this continent, and after that it will have to spend millions of pounds in getting the job done.
A good deal is said in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech about education. In large measure the Government has adopted Labour’s policy on education. The greatest confidence trick of all time has been played on parents in Queensland not by this Government but by the Queensland Government. With the new secondary school syllabus of five years, one grade has been eliminated in primary schools and is now part of the secondary system. This means that the Government provides books free to one grade fewer in every primary school and that the parents of children have to buy books for an extra year at secondary school. The additional cost in that respect is about £20 a child annually. When you look deeper into this thing you see that the extra cost to the parent of £20 for each child who goes beyond what is normally eighth grade to secondary school could save the Queensland Government enormous sums of money. In other words, that government has pinched a great deal of money from the parents of children in Queensland schools. The present set-up nullifies very largely the proposed grants by the Commonwealth Government to pupils in secondary schools.
I think we all realize that a lot of our unemployment is in the unskilled and uneducated group. It is no use kidding ourseves otherwise. If we are to remove this wasteful part of our economy, which indeed a small country such as ours just cannot afford to have, the group to which I have referred must be educated. After all, if we spend money making sure that our young people are educated then we shall not have to pay unemployment benefit later to an unskilled worker who perhaps has a number of young children. Taxation should be in proportion to our spending and, of course, related to income. The present arrangement means that by saving £1 or £2 by skimping on grants for education and allowing our children to come to maturity unskilled and uneducated we eventually have to pay ten times as much in unemployment benefit. Education is supposed to be free and compulsory, but as far as I can see by no stretch of the imagination can it be regarded now as free.
With regard to the increase in child endowment I repeat the question that has been asked by many people: Why did the
Government wait for fifteen years before restoring child endowment to a reasonable standard after being aware of its obvious decline through inflation? That should be fairly obvious to every honorable member. We are still by no means world-beaters in the field of social services. Any fairminded person must admit that our set-up is capable of improvement. At least the Government is moving in the right direction after having been pushed by an electorate becoming ever-increasingly aware of the entitlements of a person living in a modern civilization. There are many anomalies in the act about which I hope the Minister will learn and, in his boundless generosity, will remedy.
I hoped that some recognition would be given to the plight of age pensioners. I have referred many times to the discrimination between married and single pensioners. After all, the average life expectancy in Australia is’ only 65 years, which means that I have about 20 years to go and the Minister . even less. When you get down to tintacks, not many people live long enough to draw the pension. This and other factors should be considered by the Government when it frames its legislation. Married pensioners owning their own homes still pay rates. In odd cases local authorities allow pensioners to pay only one-half the rates that are due. Very often the councils allow the rates to accumulate and when the pensioners die their heirs and successors become liable for the accumulated charges. I know many old people who do not like this arrangement, so they try to keep their homes free of debt and in a reasonable state of repair. The Government should give some thought to the feelings which these old people have. They are not selfish; rather the opposite. All honorable members know that the means test is being abolished little by little, but it still penalizes those people who try to do the right thing by themselves and by Australia by being a little frugal instead of spending their money frivolously.
We know that the best citizen - the one who rears a family of a reasonable size, educates the family at least to secondary standard and if possible to university level, and generally provides Australia with good, young, well-fed, uninhibited Australians - generally has his own home. A lot of marriage failures and parent failures are often caused by lack of security - or should I say lack of a feeling of security on the part of a parent? This sometimes comes from a parent’s childhood and, unfortunately, this particular type seems to pass on that feeling to his or her children. A lot of this insecurity and its consequent illeffects, such as going from job to job and moving from one place to another - I saw a lot of this when I was in business - seems to stop when a person has a home of his own. In this regard I commend the measures announced by the Government. I have no doubt that the Minister is well suited to administer the new Department of Housing. In fact, he appears to me to be the logical choice. The only thing which disturbs me is the conditions of the grant of which up to now we have had only the barest outline. Every one realizes that a bill takes time to draft, however simple it may be. From what I have learned about this bill it is by no means a simple one. To me there can be no great objection to the lack of information about the proposed bill so long as the practical application of the original idea is not gummed up in such a way as to make the whole business so frustrating that people give up in disgust. I can imagine how happy the officers in the department in. West Block would be if that happened and they could save the money instead of paying it out. We have a very high percentage of occupier-owners of homes in Australia but there are still a lot more people who would like to have a home of their own. We should never be content until everyone who wants to own his home achieves his ambition. 1 have in mind particularly those unfortunate people who go through life paying £5 or £6 a week rent with never a hope of owning a home.
In the north Queensland newspapers we see continuous references to the lack of appreciation by the Government of the position in the northern part of Australia. We read that politicians in Canberra should do this and do that. The people living in that area are entitled to have some idea of the Government’s plans for its defence. I realize that heads of the defence forces must have some plans for the defence of northern Australia because no one would be so stupid as to believe that you could allow one part of a country to be overrun and still hope to hold the rest, but no one has told us how the north will be defended. When you remember how we were left during the last war, like the proverbial shag on a rock, with telegraph poles made to look like guns, it is understandable that the people in the north would like to know something of the Government’s plans. Since the war no system of secondary airfields has been developed. In fact, the ones that we had during the war have been allowed to fall into decay. It is high time that the people in north Queensland were told what the Government has in mind to defend that area.
As to immigration, it is pleasing to learn that our chances of obtaining suitable migrants are improving. I am particularly pleased, because until the last year or two we have had considerable problems with immigrants in the canefields. To-day the problem is not so acute, but nevertheless there still is a problem. The only trouble is that most of the migrants, both assisted and unassisted, do not come to the north. Instead they stay in and around the cities of Sydney and Brisbane and allow the northern areas to remain as they have been for a long time. At present we have rural industries in the north which do not require large numbers of workers. As I stated in my last speech in the House, unless we establish and develop some secondary industries in the area we shall not develop or populate the north of Australia.
– I call the honorable member for Phillip. I understand that the honorable member is willing to forgo the courtesies usually extended when an honorable member makes a maiden speech.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker - [Quorum formed]. I thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) for the compliment he has paid me and for providing me with an audience. I point out to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have no knowledge of forgoing the courtesies associated with maiden speeches, but I did not expect to receive any. I realize that the honorable member for Hindmarsh would not have allowed me to avail myself of the privilege.
We are all very sorry that the visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother could not take place, but we hope that future visits by members of the Royal Family will be encouraged. It should not be forgotten that Great Britain is virtually the mother of democracy and that our democratic parliamentary system stems from the British system. It is regretted that in these days it is too often generally expressed that we should further loosen our ties with the mother country. It is realized that, because of our geographical position and our mutual obligations with America, there is a definite trend to closer co-operation with the United States of America. This is, of course, all to the good, but it should always be remembered that, in our early days of federation, Great Britain was of invaluable assistance to us. We are comprised mainly of British stock and, whilst the closest co-operation with America is most desirable, we should never lose sight of the fact that Britain is our mother country.
I should like to congratulate those members of both sides of the House who have made their maiden speeches. The calibre has been high. I wish them well in this Parliament. We on this side of the House were naturally delighted with the overall victory of the Government parties, but from a personal viewpoint I must say how pleased I was to regain the seat of Phillip: My thanks are extended to the electors.
At the recent elections the Government was given a clear and unmistakable mandate. Its proud record of achievement and performance, together with the practical policies enunciated by our Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), had the overwhelming support of the Australian people. This was particularly evident in my own State where we regained seven seats and so provided the Government with a more solid core of New South Wales members. No doubt many theories have been and will be advanced as to why this victory was achieved. Among the economic policies which were enthusiastically received by the electors and included in the Governor-General’s Speech were those on education. It is gratifying to learn that the Government will shortly introduce legislation to put these proposals and others into operation as quickly as possible. All honorable members are familiar with the education proposals, which will undoubtedly stimulate secondary schooling in the scientific and technical fields. They will give much-needed assistance to the parents and, of course, to the young people of our country, irrespective of whether they attend State or independent schools.
All levels of education are important, and all the governments of Australia must accept the responsibility to ensure that every child, regardless of colour or creed, receives as a right the full measure of education that he or she is capable of absorbing. Education is primarily the responsibility of the sovereign States, and, while we do not wish to interfere with that responsibility, it should be noted that some States have handled this matter far more efficiently than others. Mainly due to the generosity of the Commonwealth, State governments have spent an increasing proportion of their moneys on education, but with a rapidly increasing natural-born population, increased migration and a growing thirst for knowledge among our young people, some State and independent schools have found’ it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of students. The £10,000,000 to be granted for the building and equipping of science and technical schools will greatly assist to alleviate this position.
In our younger generation we have a large reservoir of intellectual strength, initiative and capacity. We cannot allow it to go untapped. It must be harnessed and used to the best advantage. With the advent of modern scientific and technical methods, as a young country we must keep abreast of modern methods and improve our ability to produce scientific and technical personnel capable of developing our own technological methods or adapting and applying ideas evolved in other countries. Indeed, we have an obligation to the present and future generations to see that opportunities exist to provide, in adequate numbers, the skilled personnel necessary for our expanding work force. If this is not done, advancement, growth and expansion of both primary and secondary industries will be unneccessarily retarded and our economy and standard of living may well be affected. All our students cannot go to the universities, nor is it desirable that they should. The failure rate, though improving, indicates that many who attend our universities cannot make the grade, but given an alternative opportunity in advanced technical and scientific specialized
Study, in grades somewhere between the secondary school and the university levels, they could become technicians and skilled tradesmen of the highest order and form a foundation for the man-power required to operate, develop and apply techniques evolved through the more advanced university study.
The Government’s record of assistance to universities is well known. Its establishment of the Australian Universities Commission in 1959, and previously the adoption of the Murray committee’s report in 1956, together with the subsequent large increases in scholarships, have contributed substantially to the real advancement of tertiary education in this country. Now, confronted with an urgent need for trained technologists and scientists, the Commonwealth for. the first time will enter the field of education at the secondary school level. lt will create 12,500 additional special Commonwealth scholarships for secondary, technical and scientific studies, and will make grants to the States of £10,000,000 for equipment, buildings and teaching in these specific fields. This will inject a muchneeded stimulus and is actually a down payment to provide us with the tools to develop further the initiative of our youth. This is a good start, but, having entered this field, I believe that the Commonwealth will be called upon to play a far greater part than is at present envisaged and, perhaps after the report of the committee investigating the whole field of post-secondary education is tabled, additional responsibility will lie with the Commonwealth to develop further our technical and scientific potential.
An inquiry recently completed in New South Wales under Mr. Justice Richards found itself involved in the matter of apprenticeships and technical education. Mr. Justice Richards drew the attention of -the New South Wales Government to a suggestion that it would be in the public interest and in the interest of future apprentices to review the apprenticeship system as a whole, with special reference to its training and educational functions. The Federal Government has already taken steps in this direction. In 1962, at a round table conference btween the Department of Labour and National Service, the unions concerned and the employers’ representatives, an arrangement was made whereby the apprenticeship training in certain industries was extended so that young men of seventeen to twenty years with leaving certificate passes could apply for apprenticeships of three and a half years’ duration. Previous apprenticeships had been available only to youths with the intermediate certificate and the period of training lasted for five years. This scheme has been very successful and will add substantially to the numbers of skilled men within our work force. It is refreshing to learn that by sitting at the conference table with representatives of the managements and unions involved, arrangements can be agreed to which will add to our skilled work force. It is hoped that the scheme may be extended as soon as possible to other key trades. In almost every field of industry skilled labour is vitally needed, and perhaps the Government could confer further with representatives of industry and unions in an endeavour to encourage more young men to seek apprenticeships to become skilled tradesmen and to encourage industry to make a greater contribution to their absorption and training.
Concurrently with the Government’s propositions to promote technical and scientific studies and its endeavours to increase the number of apprentices, I believe that industry has a responsibility to promote more intensive technological research on its own behalf and to establish its own research centres. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization cannot be expected to handle the wide area of research required in both primary and secondary industires. Many manufacturing concerns are too ready to import, borrow, or hire their technical advice. This is a real weakness in Australian enterprise. Perhaps the “ buy Australian-made “ campaign could be observed by industry by buying and investing in Australian technologists and scientists. I am well aware that the establishment, equipping and manning of research laboratories is expensive. However, it has proved very rewarding to companies which have undertaken such projects. In many cases the price paid for imported know-how is far too high. For example, on goods made under licence or marketed under a franchise a share of profits may be required, or monetary value per unit sales is often extracted, or restraints on the area of trading are imposed, particularly to Asia. The “ befriending “ company may, as an alternative, require capital participation either by means of purchase or allotment of fully paid shares. In some cases takeover offers have been made and accepted. This often results in unnecessary dissipation of Australian ownership. Control may pass into overseas hands with the resultant transfer of profits out of this country. This is indeed a high price for assistance and know-how, but with an adequate number of trained scientists and technologists of our own our industries would become less dependent on overseas companies and eventually would find it far more satisfactory and rewarding.
A firm basis is now being laid for more of our young men to be projected into industrial and scientific research. There is no doubt that we have the ability, the skill, the will and the initiative in these fields, but to be successful industry must play a more active part. It should assist to equip our people as quickly as possible with the knowledge which will contribute to increased - efficiency in production, in the preservation of food, marketing, distribution, packaging and adaptation of machines and designs, and in improved tooling-up processes in order to ensure that we obtain a more substantial share of the world’s markets on merit and on a competitive basis.
Labour costs are high and figure prominently in our prime costings. It is difficult for us to export many commodities with a high labour content except to countries with high purchasing power, for example, the United States of America. It is not desirable that our markets be expanded only to countries with high purchasing power. The markets of Asia are before us, and industry in order effectively to gain markets in these areas must increase its efficiency and productivity. This will primarily come from our technological and scientific developments and our ability to apply them to our requirements and the needs of our customers. It is well to remember that in many Asian countries, particularly Japan, there is an improving standard of living and an adoption of more western methods and customs which in the long run could provide us with further lucrative markets in Asia. At present the outlook for trade is good, but with continuing research and developments daily taking place overseas we could well face stiffer competition in the future. With an expanding population and additional migration, with school leavers increasing year by year and an estimated increase in our work force to 5,250,000 by 1970, it is essential that expansion of trade to overseas markets be continued and accelerated. Industry cannot be content to supply only our internal needs and demands.
Due largely to the Government’s encouragement of trade in the setting up of the section within the Department, of Trade and Industry to deal with secondary industry, and due to incentives to export provided through the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and a greatly enlarged trade commissioner service we are exporting a far greater variety of commodities than we did previously. However, our exports of secondary products are still far too low and comprise only about 12 per cent, of our total exports. Clearly an enormous amount of industrial research work remains to be undertaken and more and more companies will be required to participate in the search for knowledge to aid development. If we are to increase our percentage of secondary exports additional funds are required. Remuneration to those who are engaged in research work will need to be commensurate with their skill if we are to avoid further loss to overseas companies of trained technologists and scientists.
It can be seen readily that the aid which the Government has given to secondary education and the universities by the provision of additional facilities to obtain technically skilled and scientific personnel will radiate into all spheres of our national life. It will form a basis for a better standard of education. It will assist us to become more self-reliant by building our primary and secondary industries to presentday requirements and to expand our trading potential. In addition, as modern warfare becomes more complicated, not only is it important to have a strong internal economy, but it is also becoming increasingly necessary to attain a degree of industrial efficiency which will enable us to develop more fully our defence requirements. In view of the urgent need to produce scientific and technical personnel, I ask the Government to consider further forms of encouragement by providing full or part-time cadetships to those employed in specialized fields of research or by a direct taxation allowance to industry on moneys spent on essential research work. This would encourage industry to participate more actively in this most important task and absorb the additional personnel who will shortly be forthcoming as a result of the new deal for secondary education. Industry could obtain, without overseas strings attached, the knowledge so important to enable us to increase our trading and defence potential at far less cost than we can do so at present. This would ensure a steady stream of manpower equipped to exploit more rapidly our undoubted capabilities and resources.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Stewart), perhaps if things had been different you might have been Mr. Speaker. However, I would like to offer my congratulations to Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees and others who have been returned to their former high positions in this House. I also express my gratitude to the electors of Wide Bay for having made it possible for me to convey these congratulations personally. The electors of Wide Bay indicated their preference - in no uncertain manner - for the policy of the Australian Labour Party in the last election, when they almost doubled my absolute majority. The polling of the Australian Labour Party candidates in the adjoining electorates of Oxley, Capricornia and Dawson also showed a strong increase in the vote for the Australian Labour Party. I believe that the electors showed that they were not to be easily influenced by the flood of anti-Labour propaganda to which they were subjected in the press, on radio and on television. The exaggeration and distortion of fact by professional propagandists which was introduced into the last federal election campaign was something new to us in Australia. The play on one of the greatest of human emotions, fear, was only excelled by that master of the great lie and propaganda, Hitler himself. We know that this kind of propaganda is a weapon of the Communists and the fascists, and there is no place for it in our Australian way of life.
His Excellency the Governor-General referred, in the course of his Speech, to the strong growth in development of population and production, matched by full employment of labour, improved productivity, the rising standard of living, and so on. He said that the number of people in employment had been rising rapidly and that except for seasonal influences the number registered for employment had progressively declined and that the present demand for labour in most classes was now strong. This does not indicate that there is full employment and, while the statement may be true of some centres, there are many cities - and particularly provincial towns - where there are unskilled men and women looking for work, having been unemployed for periods of up to three years. It seems that this is also the pattern in centres like Wollongong and Port Kembla, if we are to believe the reports about the numbers of applicants for positions in those areas.
I listened with interest to the reply given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to the request of the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) for an inquiry into the employment position of women. I believe there is an urgent need for such an inquiry. The figures of unemployment are always accompanied by the comment that although the number of jobless has increased it includes many school-leavers - boys and girls going out to find jobs in order to be able to pay their way and help play their part in making Australia a great nation. Are we being conditioned to believe that school-leavers are just another part of the unemployment problem? There are many women unemployed. It does not matter whether they have husbands to put something on their plates or whether they are girls who have to depend upon their parents to put a meal on the table for them. Are we being conditioned to think that this is just a natural thing, just as we have been conditioned to accept seasonal unemployment - particularly in States like Queensland - as natural? If so then we have come to a very sorry pass. This is particularly so if we accept this and do nothing about it. The time is ripe for an inquiry into unemployment, particularly among women. In cases where men - this applies mainly to unskilled men - have been unemployed for a considerable period, some effort should be made to obtain employment for them and also to discover why they have been unable to obtain employment.
It is all right to say that in some cities and towns there is a demand for labour and that this balances out the number of those seeking jobs; but you cannot ask a man who has established a home and who has spent years living and raising his family in a certain part of a State or of the Commonwealth, to tear up his roots and move. It appears that Australian Iron and Steel Limited is prepared to spend money bringing migrant labour to Australia, but I have not heard of any plan for that company to encourage people to move from other parts of the Commonwealth of Australia to where employment is available, in order to assist them. If this company is prepared to spend money to assist migrants to come here I cannot see why it cannot assist Australians to move to where employment is available. I do not say that we do not need migrants. I do not mean that we are not in need of every -able-bodied migrant we can get, because Australia wants development and population.
The Governor-General in his Speech mentioned the setting up of a northern division of the Department of National Development. Both you, Sir, and I know that the Australian Labour Party proposed to appoint a Minister to take charge of northern development, to seek the cooperation of Queensland and Western Australia and to work with them in the development of the northern areas of Australia. The Speech also mentioned the problem of freight costs in the north. I believe that freight costs are reacting against our decentralization policy - if the Government has a decentralization policy. The “Year Book “ mentions the decentralization of manufacturing industries. Such decentralization would meet, somewhat, the problem of unemployment, particularly among unskilled workers in towns other than the capital cities. There is also mention of a report by the Secondary Industries Commission, following which the Commonwealth called a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August, 1945 to formulate a national policy on the decentralization of secondary industry. It was then agreed that the States should seek to promote decentralization to the full extent of their resources and that the Commonwealth would undertake to collaborate on matters, of Commonwealth industrial policy, lt was agreed, further, that the Commonwealth should assist decentralization by allocating to private industry munitions and other defence buildings in decentralized areas, and accommodate migrants in provincial centres with prospects of development. It was also to encourage overseas firms to establish industries in rural areas in the less industrialized States. I am afraid that that agreement has not been carried out.
There is a growth of industries around the larger cities. We have seen the setting up of satellite cities outside the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne. This seems to be going to happen in Queensland where there is opportunity to decentralize because not many industries are established there at present. Last week there was a discussion in the Queensland Parliament on the closing of the railway line from Beenleigh to Southport. The Queensland Minister for Transport mentioned Beenleigh as being a second Elizabeth, referring, of course, to the city of Elizabeth in South Australia. He spoke of “ decentralization “ in Beenleigh, which is about 22 miles from Brisbane, while there are 1,500 miles of coastline to the north of Brisbane. If this is his attitude - and it is a Liberal Party attitude on decentralization - then I think there should be a second thought on the matter.
While discussing freight costs and their effect on people living in outer areas it is well to recall the application of sales tax, which is applied to the last wholesale price of the article. When a wholesaler in Townsville sells a Holden car it is sold at the Townsville price, which could be up to £60 in excess of the price in Melbourne, where the car was manufactured. The result is that the purchaser of the car in Townsville pays sales tax on that additional £60, or whatever the figure is. He is therefore being subjected to an additional charge because he lives in a remote area. I believe it is time for the imposition of one level of sales tax, based on the price in the place of manufacture, to apply throughout Australia. The Labour Party proposed that a similar principle should be applied also to the price of petrol throughout Australia. The Government’s policy is that the price of petrol in country areas shall be within 4d. a gallon of the price prevailing in the capital cities. This is very desirable, but it is not as far as Labour would have gone. Nevertheless, it will be of some assistance. While speaking of oil I would like to refer to the question I asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to-day regarding the need for protection for our new Australian oil industry. The Australian Oil and Gas-Union-Kern group and the Queensland Government are negotiating. The Commonwealth Government, through the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), has been brought into the negotiations. Now that we have oil in Australia, the Shell oil company will agree to pay for it only 2 dollars and 85 cents a barrel. I presume that that means American dollars, tout I do not know why we have to deal in dollars and cents. Furthermore, the Shell company wants to contract to take the Australian oil only for a six months trial period and is prepared to take only 25 per cent, of the output of the Moonie field for that period. Caltex OA (Australia) Proprietary Limited is prepared to take only 23 per cent, of the output. None of the other companies has agreed to buy. So, at this stage, only 48 per cent, of the output of the Moonie field is wanted by overseas oil companies operating in Australia. The Queensland Minister for Development, Mines, Main Roads and Electricity, who is a member of the Australian Country Party, is known for his outspokenness on occasions. He has said that the National Parliament ought to take steps to protect the Australian oil industry.
– He is a large shareholder in the producing company.
– He could be, but I think he is taking a national view because he is an Australian, and not thinking mainly of his own pocket in this instance. It will be of little use to produce oil here if the oil companies are not prepared to buy it. One of the reasons put forward by the companies for their refusal to buy is that the price asked is as high as the prices they are paying overseas for crude oil produced by their own oil-fields in Persia, Borneo and perhaps Indonesia. The overseas companies have been charging themselves high prices for the crude oil produced by these fields and brought to Australia for refining. The prices fixed in these Peter-pays-Paul transactions are really false. The finding of oil in Australia has placed the overseas companies in a dilemma, since the Australian producer wants for Australian crude oil the same price as the refining companies are paying overseas for the crude oil that they bring to Australia. We should not allow the Australian oil industry to wither on the vine just because of lack of cooperation by the overseas refining companies, which are attempting to hold out not only on the producers of Australian oil, but also on the Queensland Government and, in turn, the National Government. It is time action was taken to ensure that we use Australian-produced oil rather than oil brought from overseas.
Discussion of oil and petrol brings to mind the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, under which the Commonwealth has pa’d to the various States over five years a total of £25,000,000. The States, of course, return most of this money to the local government authorities. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) commented on the situation of local government authorities and on the pressure of them to provide amenities that, some years ago, were never thought of and certainly never asked for by the ratepayers. These costly amenities have now to be provided, and the necessary funds have largely to be obtained from rates imposed on properties. We have almost reached saturation point, as it were, in rating and can probably go no further in raising rates. Councils need more funds, and they naturally look to the Commonwealth Government, which holds the purse strings of the nation.
For many years, local government authorities have been asking for representation on the Australian Loan Council, which meets in Canberra from time to time to fix limits for loan raising. I believe that the time is coming when we shall have to give recognition to this third form of government that is constituted by local government authorities. This is the oldest form of government and it dates back to the moots of the early days in Britain. This form of government, indeed, is perhaps closest of all to the people of Australia. So we look forward to further assistance being given to councils under the proposed new Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. This will assist them in undertaking road works and allow them to use the funds obtained from other sources for other amenities.
I should like to make one comment on this Commonwealth aid for roads. The present formula works to the disadvantage particularly of Queensland. Commonwealth road grants for classified State highways and trunk and main roads, including beef roads, have reached the following totals: -
There is quite a number of beef roads in Queensland, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we look forward to further assistance in this field.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) raised a very important matter when he discussed decentralization and the establishment of industries .with a consequent influx of population in the northern areas. He referred particularly to Gladstone, which is situated in his own electorate. Gladstone is a port that has been a Cinderella town for many years, though the harbour has deep water and is sheltered. In recent years, Gladstone has come a little into its own, but just when it was being put on its feet, the meat works has been closed. However, with the proposal for the establishment of an aluminium industry there, we look forward to a sharp increase in the population of this central Queensland port. This will mean, of course, that the Gladstone Town Council will be put to further expense in the provision of amenities for the greater population. I know that the Commonwealth Government has assisted Gladstone by providing financial assistance for the construction of coal-loading facilities there.
Not only Gladstone, but also other towns and the outer suburban areas of the larger cities, face big increases in population. However, the developments at Gladstone represent decentralization by the establishment of industries away from the capital cities. Indeed, Gladstone could very well become a second Newcastle, because great coal deposits lie in the hinterland behind it and extensive investigations have revealed iron ore deposits that offer possibilities for the establishment of a steel industry.
I particularly emphasize the need for further assistance to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement to enable them to provide better transport facilities by improving roads and, to some extent, to ease the burden on ratepayers by making road funds available to local government authorities.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains the following passage: -
The Government will introduce legislation to increase child endowment for the third and subsequent children to 15s. a week and to grant endowment of 15s. a week in respect of full-time students’ between the ages of 16 and 21 years.
Under a Labour government, child endowment for a family with three children would have amounted to £2 7s. 6d. a week. Endowment for such a family under this Government will be £1 10s. a week. For a family with four children, endowment under a Labour government would have been £3 7s. 6d. a week, compared with £2 5s. a week under this Government. Child endowment has been forgotten while the basic wage and the cost of living have been rising. Under Labour in 1948, when the basic wage was £5 19s., child endowment was 8.4 per cent, of the basic wage. When this Government came into office and granted endowment of 5s. a week for the first child, child endowment was 7.4 per cent, of the basic wage. The basic wage is now £14 8s. Though costs have increased, endowment has remained stagnant, and so has the maternity allowance. The Government should give further consideration to these matters.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the increase of 10s. a week granted to age and invalid pensioners who are single. I am sure that petitions on this subject will be forthcoming. I support the suggestion that all pensioners, including single pensioners living together and married pensioners, should receive an increase of 10s. a week. The action taken by the Government discriminates against marriage. I believe that other means of giving assistance to pensioners in necessitous circumstances could have been found. know that the policing of the means test involves a certain amount of additional work, but the officers of the Department of Social Services are well equipped to handle the various types of investigation that are needed. They have investigated numerous cases and sometimes the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in his wisdom and his charity has granted a social service benefit where his officers have previously refused it.
There does not seem to be any real problem in the administration of the means test by the Department of Social Services. The officers are very adept and they have been doing this work for quite a few years. I do not believe that any great problem would have been created if the increase had been given only to single pensioners in necessitous circumstances. Some single pensioners are in far better circumstances than married pensioners are. The term “ pensioner “. does not mean that the person to whom it is applied is necessarily in poor circumstances or in any great need. I believe that more benefit would have been obtained by giving the increase to those in need, subject to a means test, rather than giving an all-round hand-out to single pensioners and forgetting the married pensioners who often are in far more need of an increase than single pensioners are.
Earlier I extended my congratulations to the Speaker and to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your re-appointment to your positions. I look forward to further harmonious proceedings under your guidance.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) has dealt with quite a few matters that were mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Some of his arguments really call for an answer, but unfortunately time will not permit me to provide the answer. However, if. I can find the time during the course of my speech, I will answer him.
I join with other honorable members in congratulating you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Speaker on your re-appointment to your high offices. No opposition was presented from either side of the House and this proves that your impartiality has been appreciated. I join with the honor able member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) in congratulating the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who is leader of the Liberal Party, and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is leader of the Australian Country Party, on the success of their efforts at the last election. The people obviously appreciate the services that the Government parties have rendered over many years and have placed their full confidence in the Government for the future. I would especially like to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me and for returning me to this House for a further term.
Whilst on this note, I would like to congratulate the new Ministers. I think that each of them has now been sworn in and they .have fulfilled their initial duties in this chamber. They have created a very favorable impression.
– I would not say that.
– This is one of the occasions on which I disagree with the honorable member for Bendigo. I believe that the new Ministers will do an excellent job. We have had an example of their worth in the last few days.
I congratulate all the new members of the House, especially those on this side. There are very few new members on the other side, but quite a number on this side. I personally would like to congratulate them all and I particularly congratulate my colleagues in the Australian Country Party. We have quite a number of new members. We have the honorable members for Moore (Mr. Maisey), Canning (Mr. Hallett), Cowper (Mr. Robinson), Hume (Mr. Pettitt), New England (Mr. Sinclair) and Dawson (Mr. Shaw). I will give them my support and assistance whenever I can. The new members who have spoken in this debate have set a very high standard and we certainly hope to hear much more from them in the next - I was about to say three years, but I venture to suggest that it will be many years. This debate gives the new members and the old members alike a wonderful opportunity to place before the House the various problems that they meet from time to time. It also allows the new members to prepare themselves for debates on legislation that may be introduced.
I wish to refer briefly to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. At page 4 of the printed copy the following paragraph appears: - lt 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 in terms of constant prices. The Government will be assisted by the findings of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, whose report is expected later in the year.
This passage in the Speech has a very strong flavour of unfolding growth, expansion and development on a national basis. In recent times we have increased our exports and I believe that in the not too distant future we will see further increases in the export of both primary and secondary goods.
The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to northern development. This is a very important issue. It is coupled with decentralization, about which much has been said. But I believe that the important need to-day is for balanced development and not sectional development. With all respect to the claims of northern development, I believe that we must have balanced development. It is of no use to establish industries in northern Australia if they will not produce beneficial results; we must ensure that we have balanced development. The man who knows how to achieve balanced development has not yet been found in Aus-, tralia. It is up to each of us to contribute in our various ways.
First we must remember that Australia has a very small population, namely about 11,000,000. The only way that we can increase that population quickly is by a sound immigration policy. We have such a policy in Australia at present. It has been suggested quite frequently that we should alter that policy. This is a very big subject. AH I wish to say at this juncture is that I do not believe that we should make any alteration to our very successful immigration policy.
We must continue to expand our secondary industries in order to keep pace with the increase in our population. At the same time we must ensure that those industries are not encouraged too much in densly populated areas. They should be induced to go to the less populated areas. As the honorable member for Wide Bay said a few minutes ago, we have to encourage people to travel into northern Australia. We should not concentrate too much on any individual area. We must develop the whole of Australia, not just certain sections of it. We need development in the rural areas. The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the proposed legislation for the equalization of petrol prices. That will be a form of encouragement. As one industry is established, a chain reaction is set up. However, I am afraid that the present trend is towards centralization rather than decentralization or balanced development.
Our primary industries have never been more efficient. We have just harvested a record wheat crop. We are very fortunate in having the honorable member for Moore in this chamber because, as most honorable members are aware, he has had a great deal of experience in the handling of Australia’s huge wheat crops over a number of years. Although we have had a record harvest, it is all accounted for. Some people say that all of it has not been sold, but I am sure the honorable member for Moore would agree that is all accounted for, because we have some permanent markets to look after. We cannot afford to lose them.
Wool production is increasing at a rapid rate and the price of wool is rising. lit addition, it is very nice to see that at long last the wool industry organizations are able to come together and agree. Honorable members know only too well what has happened in the past. Meat production is increasing at a fairly rapid rate. Our export sales are increasing. Only a week or ten days ago the Minister for Trade and Industry announced a new meat agreement with the United States of America. Only about seven years ago the amount of meat exported to that country was infinitesimal; but to-day about 70 per cent, of our meat exports go there.
That has been brought about by this Government recognizing the importance of these primary industries. That recognition is exemplified in the Japanese Trade Agreement, the United Kingdom Meat Agreement and the international agreements on sugar and wheat. We must not allow our interest in gaining further markets to slacken. Australia is one of the few exporting countries that can increase their capacity to produce food at the rate of the increase in population. That is very important, because we often hear of the many millions of starving people scattered throughout the world. We must concentrate on increasing our production of food.
When we are considering these matters we think immediately of how we can increase our production. As I said, no one person in Australia really knows the complete answer to that question or to the question of how we can encourage development in rural areas. If we cannot encourage development of an area, at least we must do everything possible to ensure that that area does not slip back, as one honorable member opposite mentioned a while ago.
Shortly, a very important piece of legislation will be introduced in this House. I refer to the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. As honorable members know, the Premiers will be meeting on 12th March. No doubt they will present a case to the Commonwealth. Before we agree or disagree with any plan that is produced by the Premiers, we must consider all the needs, not only those of one section of the community. As a result of much negotiation and many requests, the lord mayors have met the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I understand that they have put a case for more money for the metropolitan areas. Before any agreement is signed we must consider the needs of all the areas that will be covered by the agreement, including all rural areas.
The lord mayors have told me, and possibly most honorable members, that their councils are suffering from a shortage of funds for ring roads, overpasses, freeways and the like. I could point out to the lord mayors that I, as a member for a rural constituency, am conscious of the many problems that exist in rural areas. All honorable members, particularly members of the Country Party, know only too well that we have those problems. I can speak only of the electorate that I represent. I invite some of the people who are so keen to spend huge sums of money in the metropolitan areas to visit my electorate in the depth of winter and see the need for the development of roads there. Our biggest complaint is not about the 40 per cent, allocation for rural roads. We want more money for rural roads.
I have made a study of this matter. I have contacted numerous councils. In the shire of Wimmera, of 1,193 miles of unclassified roads, only 14 miles are sealed, 291 miles have a gravel surface and are just passable, 670 miles are earth formed and 218 miles are unformed. Of the main roads, 68 miles are sealed and 9 miles are unsealed. How many unsealed main roads do we see in the capital cities? The 70 miles of highways are all sealed. Only 152 miles of roads of all types are sealed.
In the neighbouring shire of Dunmurckle of the unclassified roads, 28 miles are sealed, 140 miles are surfaced with gravel, 320 miles are formed and 280 miles are unformed. The 67 miles of main roads are sealed, and the 26 miles of highways are sealed. Of the total of 1,103 miles of roads, only 121 miles are sealed. In the Warracknabeal shire, the 46 miles of State highways are sealed, the 52 miles of main roads are sealed; and of the unclassified roads, 51 miles are sealed, 116 miles have a gravel surface,’ 452 miles are formed and 300 miles have not been touched at all. A survey in 1962 of north-western municipalities showed that in thirteen rural municipalities with a total of 1,030 miles of declared main roads, 157 miles were unsealed. So it is apparent that the country areas need more finance for roads.
It is interesting to note that some metropolitan municipalities spend a relatively small proportion of their income on roads. One rural council which spent 80 per cent, of its revenue on roads in 1939, spent only 64.5 per cent, of its revenue on roads during 1963. In 1962 metropolitan councils in Victoria spent on roads £6,854,000 out of a total revenue of £23,626,000. But country municipalities spent on roads £7,143,000 out of a total revenue of about £16,500,000. It is apparent that rural municipalities spend a greater proportion of their income on roads than do metropolitan municipalities. Having to spend so much on roads the rural councils must either increase property valuations in order to obtain necessary finance for other purposes or must restrict their expenditure on amenities for the people, such as swimming pools, halls and parks. This is one reason why we must see that the rural areas are not neglected when the new agreement is. signed. At present at least 40 per cent, of the five-year grant to the States of £250,000,000 has to be spent on rural roads. If the grant is increased to £350;000,000 will the Lord Mayors of the capital cities still agree to the expenditure of 40 per cent, in rural areas? Do the Lord Mayors envisage that rural areas will receive 40 per cent, of £250,000,000 or 40 per cent, of the total amount that the Commonwealth may grant? That is the important question in my view.
The Premier of Victoria has stated that he will submit a plan but as yet I have not seen the plan. I am looking forward to seeing it. I wonder whether the rural municipalities will suffer in Mr. Bolte’s plan, because if the Commonwealth is to give a specific amount to the States for expenditure in metropolitan areas, rural areas must be affected either directly or indirectly. When the new agreement is being finalized careful regard should be paid to the present allocations of road finance. I have no quarrel with the present allocations. I think they are fair, although Victoria has complained from time to time that it receives less than it pays in. The allocations are based on a formula which takes regard of area, population and motor vehicle density On the figures that have been supplied to me by the Department of Shipping and Transport in 1963-64 New South Wales will receive 27.8 per cent, of the funds, Victoria 20.1 per cent., Queensland 18.1 per cent., Western Australia 17.6 per cent., South Australia 11.4 per cent, and Tasmania 5 per cent. It is well to remember that as far as Victoria is concerned a good deal of the excise collected is on fuel that finds its way into the Riverina. I do not know that the revenue derived from excise does not correspond with the amount that is returned to the States. It is interesting to note that the two figures are getting closer together. In the last five years the total amount of excise collected on petrol and diesel fuel was £312,700,000. For all practical purposes the amount allocated to roads at present is £250,000,000. Under the aid roads scheme in operation prior to the present scheme the States received £150,000,000 over a period of five years. That amount was subsequently increased by £100,000,000 and now the Prime Minister has indicated that the amount will be further increased by £100,000,000. This seems to indicate an increase of £20,000,000 a year over a period of years, but the increase in excise is running at the rate of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year. If this trend continues we soon will find ourselves handing back to the States more than we are receiving.
Let me now turn to a matter associated with taxation. In May, 1962, I directed the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to what I believed to be an anomaly in the taxation of primary producers. I am referring to the averaging system. An alteration was made to the system in 1937 but at that time the Government agreed to allow primary producers to retain the present averaging system, which has worked remarkably well for many years. Unfortunately no alteration has been made in the amount that may be claimed under the system. The base figure is set at £4,000. Primary producers cannot apply the averaging system to income in excess of £4,000. If £4,000 was a reasonable maximum figure to set in 1937, we should consider altering that figure to bring it into line with to-day’s cost structure. To-day £12,000 would be a more realistic figure. I urge the Treasurer to look further into this matter. In addition the system whereby taxpayers may elect to go off the averaging system onto an annual system should be reviewed. To-day hundred’s of primary producers realize that they made an error and regret their move. The Treasurer should look into this aspect. I am sorry that my time is nearly up. I had intended to deal with other matters, but no doubt I will have opportunities to do so in the course of the next three years.
.- May I compliment those new honorable members who have delivered their maiden speeches in the past few days. Delivering one’s maiden speech is always an ordeal. The new honorable members have brought a very welcome breath of fresh air to this chamber where sometimes the debates are rather dreary and something of an ordeal.
I have listened to a number of speeches from the Government side of the House. They consisted in the main of expressions of general self-satisfaction, satisfaction in the state of the economy and, naturally enough, satisfaction at the result of the election last November. I do not hold this against them. I certainly do not deny that the economy at this moment is buoyant and that the evidence of this buoyancy, particularly in overseas trade, is there for every one to see. From this buoyancy has flowed an increase in home consumption and consequently in the manufacture of goods, increased savings bank deposits and increases in other avenues that are apparent to all. The big question is whether the present state of the economy is only temporary. That is the question about which we should be concerned and which we should consider closely. As I see it, there is no cause for smug self-satisfaction on the Government’s part.
By a series of accidents the terms of trade have turned our way. This has resulted in a natural lift in national income. There is no evidence to indicate - this will be of interest to the Country Party - that the much-talked-of export drive has contributed anything more than a relatively small amount to our export earnings when compared to the factors beyond the Government’s control which have operated. The first of these factors which have been largely responsible for our increased export income is the substantial increase in wool prices. This has resulted from a variety of influences. The major one was the blizzards in Europe which brought about keener buying from European countries.
The second influence is one which has operated for the last two or three years. It is the windfall of wheat sales to China and to other parts of Asia. Let me refer first to China. I do not know whether we should call it Communist China or mainland China. That depends upon the current debate in the Parliament. If it is a political debate the Government refers to that country as Communist China, but if it is a debate on trade matters the Government refers to it as mainland China. Whatever it is, the People’s Republic of China has contributed in excess of £100,000,000 to our export income. Then there were sales of wheat to India, largely as a result of the failure of crops there.
I listened with interest last evening to the speech of the new member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). I compliment him on his very able delivery. He painted a picture of Communist China - this was a political speech, not one about trade - but it was very difficult to detect any real sincerity, because his picture showed the tiger lurking ready to spring on us. He did not mention the fact that we feed and clothe the tiger; he did not mention the fact that we sell our wheat to China and are very grateful to do so; he did not mention the fact that we sell about £10,000,000 worth of wool each year to China; he did not mention the fact that we supply what I understand to be strategic goods to China - steel. I should have thought that this would have assisted the tiger to build up militarily. I am rather surprised that these aspects are not mentioned by honorable members on the Government side who may or may not be sincere about the whole business.
If the Government wants to feed and clothe the tiger let it do so properly. We do not recognize mainland China - it does not exist - but we feed and clothe its inhabitants. We have not any trade commissioners in China. There are 650,000,000 people in China and Sir William Gunn who, I understand, returned yesterday from that area, said that if China bought from Australia 650,000,000 pairs of pants made of wool we would sell 500,000 bales of wool to that country. Presumably the Chinese people require other commodities besides pants, but we have no official representative in China to find out what that great teeming country requires. It represents a tremendous potential market for our goods. Great Britain, France and other countries are in there already busily selling what they can as fast as they can. We are selling wool, wheat and some steel to China but we are not doing the job properly. If the Government wants to sell goods to China and apparently it does - although it does not recognize China - it should do so properly. Let us appoint some trade commissioners to China. Let them get on the job on the spot and find out what is required. Let us do the thing properly. I do not want to confine my speech only to this particular subject, but the truth is that our sales of wheat to China, have cleared our granaries. The problem of handling record crops and over-flowing wheat storages has been solved very profitably.
The third influence which has been largely responsible for the increase in our export income and the buoyancy in our economy is the fact that there has been a substantial increase in the quantity and price of our exports of sugar. Three of our primary products - wool, wheat and sugar - have had an influence on our buoyant economy. Our increased exports of sugar have given a considerable economic lift to Mackay and other similar areas in Queensland. We welcome that, but we should recognize that it has been the result once again of a political accident by virtue of the political circumstances which have ruled Cuba out of a number of the world’s markets, and the result of the hurricanes and general bad weather which have been experienced in that part of the world. They are all accidents - the political situation, the hurricanes and so on.
I have mentioned the three influences, first, the increase’ in wool prices, secondly, our wheat sales to China and Asia, and thirdly, the increase in the quantity and price of our exports of sugar. Whatever the ill winds of blizzards, floods and droughts have brought our customers or our competitors, they have brought us a new and welcome inflow of earnings’ from overseas. The community benefits from this inflow. The Commonwealth Treasury is on the receiving end, first, of substantially increased tax collections in the form of customs duties, sales tax, other indirect forms of taxation and company and personal income taxes, and in addition there are the Commonwealth loans. In recent times every Commonwealth loan has been oversubscribed. This Government has a golden opportunity to make a spectacular leap forward in its two most important domestic fields of responsibility - the development of the nation’s resources and the granting of social and economic justice to those in our community who, despite this surrounding prosperity, are struggling to maintain a decent standard of living. The GovernorGeneral’s address, as an indication of the Government’s intentions in these fields, was a very great disappointment.
The Menzies Government’s performance in the development of the nation’s resources has been very haphazard. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) only a few minutes ago spoke about the need for balanced and not sectional development. You certainly could not call development under the Menzies Government balanced. It is unbalanced. There has been a little development here and a little development there. Beef roads have been constructed in northern Australia, principally in Queensland. This development has just happened to come about in the last couple of years. When the Government’s stocks receded very rapidly for a time in Queensland many millions of pounds were poured into that State. Then there was a little more development in the form of the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia but there was an electoral interest in that too. A by-election was about to be held at that time as a result of which the present honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) was elected to this House. There has been a pattern of piecemeal development. I am reminded the proposal in relation to the Blowering dam which was advanced just before the last election, with the consequent departure of a Labour member from the House.
This pattern of piecemeal development has been completely without plan and without national purpose. That is not good enough for this nation. The inevitable result of this hodge-podge of unrelated development has been a sheer waste of taxpayers’ money. I propose to show briefly how this piecemeal and political use of funds for development has proved unsatisfactory and wasteful. I should like to mention a series of projects which were related to the one industry. I refer to the beef roads in northern Australia. I recall that about £16,000,000 was put aside by this Government in 1961 for the construction of beef roads in the north. Of : that sum, £5,000,000 was allocated to the Northern Territory for various roads. Some features of that allocation were very disturbing. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works investigated one proposed road which was to be constructed from Top Springs to Wave Hill in the Northern Territory. If honorable members read the report of that committee they will find it very interesting and enlightening. It confirms that there has been a complete lack of direction and planning for the development of northern Australia and, for that matter, for development anywhere in Australia. There has been inadequate investigation of the various projects. Something must be done about that.
The Public Works Committee recommended that it was not expedient to proceed with the proposed Top Springs-Wave Hill road in its present form, but until this investigation was carried out by the committee this road was to have been built. I should state that four or five other projects financed from this allocation of £5,000,000 to the Northern Territory were not investigated by the Public Works Committee. The investigation of the Top Springs-Wave Hill road project was conducted, I understand, only because the committee protested and demanded an investigation. This aspect is very disturbing. I propose to quote from the evidence given to the committee. Dr. R. A. Patterson, assistant director of the Division of Agricultural Economics, said -
I would like to make it clear that I do not believe this is the best route for a road. 1 am opposed to it from an economic point of view only. I think it should go up further north. . . .
As appears a little later in the report Mr. C. N. Schultz, a pastoralist from the Humbert River and Bullita stations, a man with 36 years’ experience in the Territory, said -
If you want my personal opinion of that, as far as I can see it is going to benefit only Vesteys.
Every one knows Vesteys.
– Is that an Australian firm?
– No, it is not an Australian firm. The specifications for the proposed road provided that it should be a first-class road but that it should not be sealed. It was proposed that it should have gravel to a depth of six inches. It was considered - but not by the Public Works Committee - that this road would be satisfactory in the circumstances. It was estimated that it would cost between £6,000 and £7,000 a mile. The total estimate was £600,000. An alternative route would have cost about £1,000,000. When speaking about the sealing of the road, Mr. Kelly, a rural industries consultant and formerly an officer of the Division of Agricultural Economics, said -
Gravel roads become very badly corrugated with continuous use and the depreciation of loaded vehicles and also empty vehicles travelling over corrugated roads is terrific. I believe that in the long term, provided the initial capital can be provided, the cheapest road is the well ballasted sealed road.
I have given those references to the report of the Public Works Committee because it has come to my notice that the roads that have been laid are already showing great signs of deterioration. My information is that they have not stood up to the elements and that the sun and wind, plus the floods which occasionally occur, have caused great deterioration. These roads have never been sealed, despite the recommendation in this and other reports. As a consequence the £5,000,000 spent on beef roads in the Northern Territory is gradually finding its way into the creek beds.
It is my understanding that the Public Works Committee is required to investigate projects which are estimated to cost more than £250,000. I understand also that although four or five projects such as the one I mentioned were completed, that one alone was investigated by the committee. It was recommended by the committee that this road should not be built; there could have been a similar recommendation in respect of the other four or five roads on which £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 was spent. As those roads have seriously deteriorated, I should like to know whether the money spent has been wasted.
I have raised this matter for two reasons: The first is that I believe that the Public Works Committee should be given the opportunity, as is required, to investigate all projects which are expected to cost more than £250,000. Secondly, this is unrelated development. It is not sufficient merely to pick out a route from one place to another as shown on a map and to build a road. This is piecemeal development and is certainly not satisfactory to the Opposition or to the people of Australia. At present there is no overall plan for the development of this continent. This bitsandpieces approach must surely end. What is needed is a national development authority charged with the task of assessing the potential of our country and recommending action to be taken to develop it. Such an authority could work with the proposed northern division of the Department of National Development or with State departments and the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It could work also with any other agency that deals with research and development in Australia.
I am reminded that the proposed northern division of the Department of National Development will not be the first organization to be charged with the responsibility of planning for the north of Australia. There was a North Australia Development Committee in the days of the Chifley Government. That committee consisted of representatives of instrumentalities of the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australia. Of course, that body died a natural death in some pigeon-hole when this Government took over. As I see it, a national development authority should, first of all, take an inventory of national resources. We could term it a national stocktaking to find out what resources we have, whether mineral, water or other resources. The second task of the authority would be to examine the potential of those resources. Thirdly, the authority would establish a broad long-term programme of public works showing the need to develop our resources. The work envisaged might be a national network of roads or other means of transport or, perhaps, water development. All these things would be long-term aims. Its fourth task would be to establish priorities based on a long-term programme that it had worked out.
The authority might consider, for instance - I do not recommend this - the complete and immediate development of the Ord River project. Perhaps that would be economically preferable to its gradual development along with small unrelated projects elsewhere. The points I have mentioned are merely broad functions to illustrate what a developmental authority could do. From this and similar action we could have a more balanced development, such as was mentioned by the honorable member for Wimmera a few minutes ago. He is aware, as I and all country members are aware, that almost 60 per cent, of the population of this nation lives in the capital cities.
– What. about more members of Parliament from country areas?
– More members of Parliament from country areas? I cannot agree with the Country Party on this matter. What the Country Party wants is not more members of Parliament but more Country Party members of Parliament. This is the aim. When I think of the democratic principles involved the more I think that members of the Australian Country Party should be ashamed of themselves. To give an example, in South Australia there are 39 members of the House of Assembly, and of them 26 are from the country and thirteen from the city. That is the position in the most centralized state in the Commonwealth.
I have spoken at length about matters of balanced development, decentralization, or whatever you like to call it. There is a great need for development in our outback areas. I am greatly hopeful that an authority such as a national authority of the kind I have mentioned might bring to our city-ridden Government a realization of what is required. I hope the Government will give consideration to what I have said. It has three years and the ball is at its feet. I ask honorable members opposite to do something about national development and to plan for progress in the years ahead. If there is any doubt that development is needed I may dispel it by briefly mentioning two points. There are vast areas of the world where countless millions of people are awakening in countries which have known conditions of poverty for centuries. While many of these countries have development potential, a vast undeveloped country like Australia must eventually attract envious , eyes. If only on that score we urgently need rapid economic growth.
My second point is that in terms of statistics our population is younger than ever. War and depression severely restricted the birth rate in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. But nature has triumphed over war and economic difficulties. In 1947 children under fifteen years represented about 25 per cent, of our population. Now that group represents almost one-third of our population, according to the census of June, 1961. The first wave of the flood tide of youth is already entering our work force. This movement of school-leavers will become quite dramatic in the years ahead until the annual addition to the work force will exceed 120,000. They will join the work force only if we have jobs for them. This is a further vital reason to increase our rate of development. Failure to develop our natural resources means we are unable adequately to make use of our human resources, of our people who require work. I ask the Government to get down to business on this urgent task. If our nation is to survive in political and economic circumstances which could prevail in the years to come it is vital that we come to grips with this urgent task.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I agreed with the opening remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton); but I cannot say that I agreed with many more of his remarks. He said in opening that we had heard some excellent maiden speeches during the past few days. I agree with that entirely - so much so that when I heard some of them last night I almost crossed my name off the list of speakers. I thought that we old ones should not show ourselves up too quickly.
My main reason for speaking to-night is to reply to some criticism levelled at the services. Some of it has been of a constructive nature; some criticism of recruiting and conditions of service has been purely party political and destructive. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said that people are hot willing to join the armed services. Each Minister for the three armed services must speak for himself, but that is certainly not true of the Air Force. The honorable member will be happy to learn that we have an expanded programme and that we have been able to keep up to that programme. We set a quota of 120 recruits per month. In the spring we were not quite able to reach that figure but we were able to keep our numbers to the required strength because of an exceptionally high number of re-engagements. Had there been any dissatisfaction in the services the last thing members would have done would have been to re-engage after their terms had expired. It is interesting to note that in the Air Force in recent months 67 per cent, of the people whose terms have expired have re-engaged. I think that speaks very highly of the conditions of service. I was interested to read that at a recent conference the Democratic Labour Party passed a resolution that in order to encourage people to re-engage after a six-year term they should each receive the sum of £100. I am sure that this move would be very unpopular with the
Air Force personnel because we pay them at the moment £300 if they re-engage after six years.
After a successful period up to Christmas we have found that the numbers enlisting in January and February have exceeded the numbers required. This is not to say that we do not have certain specific cases of one or two technical branches where we require to obtain additional numbers of technical officers. But it certainly shows that there is not much wrong with the service when so many people are anxious to join it. I noticed also an article in a recent magazine which suggested that we were losing every year 25 technical officers and obtaining only eighteen. This again is not correct. In fact, in the last eighteen months we have recruited into the service exactly the same number of technical officers as has left the service. Of course, the number who leave is not accounted for only in resignations but also in retirements, deaths and completions of short-service commissions. In addition, 36 technical officers have been recruited and are doing a three-year course. These men will step up our numbers so that the statement that our strength of technical officers is diminishing is not correct.
– Will you allow officers freely to leave, the service?
– We do. We have a system which works particularly well and we will continue it. Under it, an officer is given a special period of training, whether at a university or a particular school. He is required to give a return for this training. This is only natural and people realize that if they get something through a university at Air Force expense they will need to give a return of service, based usually on twice the period of training they have had at our expense. This is realized before they go for training. In recent years considerable improvements have been made in conditions in the services. I am afraid that many of these improvements are either not known or, if they are known, they are not fully appreciated by the public. I desire to acquaint this House and the public with the conditions and the way in which they have been improved in recent years.
Let me take first of all pay and allowances. Honorable members know that the Allison committee was set up to report on pay, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act provisions and various other allowances. lt made its report in 1958. As a result of the adoption of that report pay and allowances were very considerably increased in the services. May I quote the number that we adopted and the approximate annual cost of the improvements in pay. There was a service loading worth £1,566,000 and marriage allowances were increased by £1,372,000. Pay for other ranks was increased to the extent of £504,000 and the uniform maintenance allowance was increased by £408,000. Flying pay and parachutist pay . was increased by £219,000, good conduct pay by £219,000 and hard-lying allowance by £146,000, making a total of £4,427,000. In addition there was £400,000 which covered various improvements in pay for the women’s services. Since that time every marginal increase approved of by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been applied to the services, except for the recent determinations which covered engineers, lawyers and architect, and possibly one or two other minor matters of that sort. The problem of how these awards should be brought into the services is not an easy one, but the rates of pay are constantly reviewed.
Of course it is easy for the person in the service to look outside and say, “You know, if only I was in a civilian job I would be getting more than I am getting here “. In reply to that I would say, first, that in most cases the people trained in the service are trained at Air Force expense and, had they not received this assistance, very many of them would have found it hard to put themselves through a university. They get two or three years free training and living allowance at the expense of the Royal Australian Air Force during the whole time they are at university. So if, as soon as they finish their training, they say they could earn more outside, I think it is right and just for them to realize that the reason why they could earn more outside is the training they have had from the Royal Australian Air Force. Secondly, if wages are better outside - which is so in some cases, but not in all cases - it is because of full employment and the state of the economy at present. This is not a problem in Australia only. I recently had a discussion with General McKee, vicechief of the United States Air Force, while he was in Canberra. He told me that in the United States officers are in such demand that it is not unknown for private industrialists to wait outside the gates of an air force station, button-hole an airman going on leave and say to him, “Tell us what salary you are getting and we will double it”. So this is not a problem which we in Australia have to face on our own, and it is due to the particularly buoyant state of the economy at present.
I want now to say a word or two about what is probably the most important of all service conditions in the Air Force; that is, housing. I think it is important, first of all, to recognize the tremendous job that has been done by the Menzies Government, during its period of office, to try to house the services. We started off in 1950 with practically no Air Force houses of any sort and to-day we have over 10,000, some owned by the Air Force and some rented by it under the various housing agreements. There is a capital investment of something of the order of over £30,000,000 which has been made available. We are not satisfied with that and are continuing, as fast as we can, to build houses for the Air Force and the other services. This year we will have 358 additional homes built for the Air Force out of a total of 807 for the three services. Another important aspect of this matter is the great success of the Royal Australian Air Force welfare fund. This is a fund financed from the profits of the canteens and under it an airman can borrow up to £300 as a loan on housing. He can also borrow half that amount as a loan on furniture. Some 700 homes have been built as a result of this fund. It is a revolving fund and as soon as loans are paid back the money is available for lending to other airmen. The only thing that limits us from building a lot more homes is the availability of finance.
– Is it interest-free?
– I am afraid I cannot answer that, though I think it is. In addition, as honorable members know, when an airman is moved from one station to another and is unable to get housing straight away, we will pay, for a lengthy period, a rent subsidy of £5 a week. This is done because, as honorable members know, it is usually more expensive to get accommodation outside an Air Force station than it is to get it on the station. Undoubtedly the new £1 for £3 housing subsidy will be of great help to the Air Force, as to the entire community. I stress the fact that the figures I have been quoting are for married people. There are, of course, a great many single people living in accommodation on stations and some married men choose to have their wives and families in homes somewhere away from them and to live in single quarters on the station. This is particularly so where there are difficulties in regard to education or the like.
Let me now come to the third aspect of conditions of the service, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), during his speech, to which I listened with interest, said -
We know that there is seething discontent over the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act.
I do not think that that is so at all, and I believe his assessment of the position was based on one article in a newspaper which tended to discount the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. I believe that act provides for one of the most generous superannuation schemes that you could findanywhere in this country, and probably in most countries. In case some people are inclined not to agree with me, let me give some information about the returns which people get from this scheme. I had a number of examples drawn up but I have taken a few at random. A squadron leader who, as a junior officer, was paying into the fund annually five per cent, of his income, which worked out at between £100 and £120 a year would, after 25 years, have paid in £2,900. This would entitle him, after reaching the age of 47, if he retired as a squadron leader, to draw, for the rest of his life, £1,165 each year. If this man lived until he was 74 - the actuary tells us that 73.6 years is the average life expectancy in Australia at present - he would draw just on £30,000 out of the fund in that time, for a contribution of only £2,900.
– He is in a better position than a member of Parliament.
– Of course! Far better, as honorable members would know. On retirement a group captain draws £1,888 per annum, which is just over twice the retiring allowance of members of Parliament, although he has contributed during this period, on the average, considerably less than a member of Parliament would contribute to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. I have here the case of a group captain who, if he lives the full span of life, will draw £35,872, and in order to get that sum he pays £4,830 into the fund. In the lower ranks one finds that there is an even greater benefit. In fact, in the lower ranks those concerned always draw out of the fund more than ten times the amount they put into it.
– Providing they live long enough.
– Some live a longer life and some a shorter life than the usual span, but after a study the actuary tells us that if he lives for the average Australian life span a man will live until he is 73.6 years of age. I do not know whether we will all ive that long, or whether the honorable member will.
– But that is the figure for the female population and not the whole population, for which I think the span is about 67 years.
– The honorable member can check this figure, which has been given us by the actuary. It is true that there are apparent anomalies in this scheme. One is that the serviceman pays 5 per cent, of his salary into the fund, and a person who has just been made a group captain, for example, and who retires on a group captain’s retirement benefit shortly afterwards, receives the same allowance as a retired group captain who paid into the fund for a long time.
Contributors, though they may get the same return, do not all pay the same amount into the scheme. People are inclined to say, “This fellow has not paid in as much as I have paid; yet he will receive the same amount in benefits “. I do not regard this as an anomaly. As I have said, this scheme is most generous. However, there seems to be a feeling that the Government has not contributed its proper share to the scheme.
Because there are many more contributors paying in now than there are withdrawing money from the scheme, some people seem to think that it is never necessary for the Government to contribute. This is quite wrong, because a contributor, when he retires from service, draws at ten times the rate at which he had contributed. The net result is that, up to June, 1962, the Government had contributed to the scheme just on £12,000,000. In fact, the Government pays from 77i per cent, to 85 per cent, of the sums that a contributor receives from the scheme. The remainder is paid out of the contributor’s contributions.
I realize that one of the problems with respect to the defence forces retirement benefits scheme has been that it is not fully understood. I am sure that people who understand the benefits appreciate their value. We have done our best in the Air Force to make the scheme more widely understood. To publicize the scheme we are now sending round Group Captain Brill, who for three years has been official representative of the Royal Australian Air Force on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board. He has already visited a number of bases and will eventually have visited every base to lecture on the scheme, answer questions and tell people of the benefits they can obtain and the entitlements that they have.
– He is a good fellow, too.
– He is a very good fellow. He came from my electorate originally- I think from Coolamon or Ganmain.
So much for the defence forces retirements benefits scheme. Perhaps I should add, before leaving this subject, that the scheme not only provides the contributor with a pension on retirement but also covers him for medical disability. If a person signs up for the Air Force, slips on a concrete floor, injures himself and is invalided out, he- draws a full pension for the rest of his life if he remains an invalid. In addition, of course, the wife of a contributor, in the event of a contributor’s death, is entitled to a pension equal to five-eighths of that to which the contributor is entitled, and the wife’s entitlement extends over the whole period of the contributor’s service. I think that what I have said has been enough to show honorable members that there are two sides to the issue. We cannot just say that there is seething discontent over the scheme, for the benefits, to my way of thinking, are remarkably liberal.
In the few minutes remaining at my disposal, I want to answer comments made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) last night in a speech that ranged over many subjects. Referring to the Governor-General’s Speech, he said -
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.
I should like to know the source of the honorable gentleman’s information that great difficulties are being met in the manufacture of the TFX and that it will not be delivered until 1970. Had he been listening, he would have heard my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Hasluck), tell him in this House the other day that there are no major difficulties. Only this afternoon, I was speaking to the head of the Canadair firm, which is one of the major subsidiaries of the General Dynamics Corporation and is making parts for the TFX. He told me that the corporation is perfectly certain that the TFX will meet its present deadline. The manufacturers are working to a very tight schedule, but they are confident that the first flight will be undertaken in December of this year and that we shall be given delivery in 1967 as promised1.
I am sure that Labour is only playing politics in this matter. I do not think that there is one person in a thousand to-day who, if he were asked whether the Government had made the right decision, would say that it had not. During the election campaign, it was made quite obvious that the assessment by the Royal Australian Air Force of the two aircraft available was that in every respect the TFX - or F-111A, as it is now known - would be superior to the TSR-2 in range, speed and bomb load. In addition, the TFX will carry an air-to-air guided missile, whereas the TSR-2 will not. When all these advantages are added together and it is considered, too, that the TFX will be only half the price of the TSR-2, it is obvious what decision should be made.
People have wondered why the TFX is to be so much cheaper. The answer is very simple. We were led to understand in the early stages that production of the TFX would be something like 1,700 aircraft, whereas, at present, there are orders for only 30 of the TSR-2 aircraft. The manufacturers of the TSR-2 and the Royal Air Force are hoping that 100 will be ordered, and I sincerely hope that they will. But I am doubtful whether 100 will be ordered if the present head of the Chiefs of Staff remains in authority in the United Kingdom. I understand now that the latest assessment is that up to 2,850 of the TFX aircraft will be ordered, because, in addition to the demands of the Americans, four major powers are exhibiting interest. When possible orders for 100 TSR-2 machines are set against the original estimate of 1,700 and the latest assessment of 2,850 orders for the TFX, surely the comparison shows that we were right in our decision and in getting in first and getting the earliest delivery, which is to be made in 1967.
– Is the TFX suitable for the use of conventional bombs?
– Of course it is.
– That has been denied.
– By people who knew nothing about- it. I have here an article concerning this issue which appeared in the “Australian Financial Review” and which states the views of the British Aircraft Corporation. The writing of this sort of article is very easy, of course, and I have never seen anything more unethical than this one. It states that the British Aircraft Corporation condemns the TFX order. The writer apparently had not read anything about the TFX and had never seen details of it which are secret. I can quickly give two illustrations of his ignorance of the machine. He stated that it will not be able to carry fuel in the wings because of their variable geometry. All that is necessary, of course, to enable fuel to be carried in the wings is flexible pipes. The writer of the article stated also that bombs could not be carried under the wings, the suggestion being that, when the wings are swung back in flight, bombs carried externally will not be carried pointing parallel to the line of flight. Every one knows, of course, that bombs can be fixed with swivel attachments and kept parallel to the line of flight as the wing is moved. These statements show the irresponsibility of the writer.
– And his ignorance.
– Yes. After all, the British journal, “ Economist “ has stated - surely it would favour the British product, if it favoured any - that the Americans, by adopting a variable geometry wing for the TFX, will produce a genuine Canberra replacement - a light bomber cheap enough to be ordered by the thousand.
There we are. We shall receive delivery of the TFX earlier than we could get delivery of the TSR-2. We were told that the TSR-2 would fly about last December, but it has still not flown and the date of its first flight remains doubtful. So, obviously, production of that aircraft has fallen behind schedule. We were promised delivery of it in November, 1967, and any slipping behind schedule means that the delivery date for this aircraft will be further behind that for the TFX.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a short statement and to vary slightly an answer that I gave to a question asked this afternoon. I notice that I made a mistake in my answer. This was a slip of the tongue due, no doubt, to the fact that I was making my maiden answer to a question. I said that, written into the Constitution, there was provision -for a variation between the quotas for large and small electorates. I went on to say that, as the Prime Minister had said last week, any variation in the Commonwealth Electoral Act would be a matter of degree, not a matter of principle. My mistake was the use of the words “ written into the Constitution “. I meant that this provision was written into the Electoral Act. I believe that the matter is sufficiently important for me to clarify it in this way.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- The supporters of the Government continually claim that the progress of this country during the past fifteen years has been exceptional, that the economic growth has been greater than ever before. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) recently said that the economic growth of the country during the past fifteen years was unparalleled in the history of Australia. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) strongly disagreed with the views of the supporters of the Government. He said that there had been no exceptional economic growth. He referred to the following passage in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament -
My advisers have consistently sought a strong growth in development, population, and production, matched by full employment of labour, improving productivity, rising standards of living, steady costs and prices and a strong trading and financial position abroad.
The Speech also contains the following statement -
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 in terms of constant prices.
I shall in the brief time at my disposal endeavour to examine the search of the Government for economic growth, for full employment and for strong trading and financial positions abroad. I shall answer the questions: Has there been economic growth during the past fifteen years? If so, to what extent? Where has that growth gone and is the economy at present well balanced and soundly based?
Those people in Australia who have taken the slightest interest in the politics of the country know that in 1952 there were well over 100,000 unemployed. They know that in 1954 there were over 100,000 unemployed. They know that in 1960 and 1961 there were over 100,000 unemployed. They know that this unemployment meant a loss of production of hundreds of millions of pounds. They know also that the provision of unemployment benefit meant that millions of pounds were paid to those people who were out of work.
Those people who take a little interest in the history of this country know that in March, 1952, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) told the people over the microphone that Australia was in danger of international insolvency. He apologized for having to apply import restrictions of a panic character. Those people know also that this was not the end of the dangers to our overseas balances, that periodically through the years our overseas funds have reached dangerously low levels. Students of our politics know that the Government not once but on numerous occasions frantically appealed to people of all sections of the community to help it solve the economic problems that confronted it. They know that conferences were held in this city of Canberra of bankers, of manufacturers, of financiers and of the representatives of credit organizations in order that they might give the Government some advice as to what could be done to keep the economy of the country on an even level.
The people know that only very recently a committee of inquiry into the economy of Australia was established to bring down a report that would help the Government solve our economic problems. In October, 1962, the Government announced that it would set up this committee to investigate a whole series of problems associated with the economy of the country. Of course, the Government does not appoint committees to solve problems that it can solve itself, because that would be a duplication of effort. It appoints committees because it feels that it is not capable of solving the problem itself. That was the position of the Government. It established the economic committee of inquiry in February, 1963. In the Speech that he recently delivered, the Governor-General said that this committee would make a report later in this year.
I suggest to the members of this Parliament and to the community generally that the path of this Government has not been smooth, that it has not been a very direct path and that in reality there have been ups and downs and ins and outs. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who said that the economy of this country is a kangaroo economy; it jumps up and down but stays in the same place for quite a long time. I also agree with the economist Sir Douglas Copland who said that the economy was a milk bar economy. In spite of the fact that the Government has had to seek advice here and there, in spite of the fact that it has experienced immense unemployment during its period of office, in spite of the fact that the country has been in danger of insolvency overseas, in spite of the fact that the Government has restricted imports in order to create employment, and then has increased imports in order to reduce prices, in spite of the fact that the Government has frozen credits in order to dampen consumer demand and then has expanded credits in order to create employment, has there been an exceptional growth in the economy of this country?
The Commonwealth Statistician points out that there has been a growth in the Australian gross national product. He points out that, whereas the gross national product in 1950, in terms of 1963 currency, was about £4,500,000,000, by 1963 it had increased by £2,067,000,000, or about 50 per cent. The annual increase was about 4 per cent. People will say that such an increase is an achievement. But how was that increase achieved? Science and invention have increased immensely the annual output per worker throughout the civilized world in the last fifteen years. In Australia there has been a series of good seasons accompanied by exceptional overseas prices. Those factors naturally increased production.
However, the big factor that increased production was the increase in our population. Between 1950 and 1963 the population increased by about 3,000,000. Had there not been an increase in the gross national product, the standard of living would have been reduced immensely. During that period there was an increase in the work force. In 1949 the work force was 2,462,000; in 1963 it was 3,313,000 - an increase of 851,000 or 33 J per cent. If the work force increased by 33£ per cent., should the gross national product have remained stationary? Of course not. lt should have increased immensely. As the gross national product increased by 50 per cent, and the work force increased by 33i per cent., about 17 per cent, is left as the real increase in production during this exceptional period. That is something less than 2 per cent, per annum. Is that anything to be proud of? West Germany, most of the other countries of Europe, the United States of America and many other countries have not had, proportionately, the vast increases in their work forces that we have had and have not had the economic advantages that we have had, but their gross national product has increased by more than 4 per cent, per annum. Of course, that does not tell the whole story.
Since 1950 we have traded with other countries. The Governor-General’s Speech states that the Government is in search of an inflow of capital to promote economic growth and that it desires to have a system of overseas trade that is beneficial to Australia. But during this Government’s occupancy of the treasury bench our adverse trade balances have amounted to more than £2,000,000,000 and there have been favorable trade balances on only three occasions, amounting to about £433,000,000. Our indebtedness to other countries has increased by more than £1,800,000 during that period.
These are the irrefutable facts: The Government enjoyed the best of seasons; the work force increased by 33$ per cent.; and the Government had the assistance of overseas funds to the tune of £2,000,000,000, which ultimately must be repaid with interest. Yet the Government was able to increase the gross national product by only 50 per cent.
– Of course it is shocking. It is a disgrace, compared with the record of every other major country. Other countries have increased their production without increasing their overseas indebtedness and without increases of anything like 33J- per cent, in their work forces. The Government’s record is not a commendable one. The Leader of the Opposition was right when he said that the Government, during its term of office, had not improved exceptionally Australia’s economic growth.
The Government has said that it will increase the gross national product by 25 per cent, within five years, or by 5 per cent, per annum. It may do that if it increases the work force vastly, increases our overseas indebtedness immensely, has good seasons and has high prices overseas.
Ultimately the commitments that we will have to meet to overseas bondholders and people who have invested capital in this country and are buying it bit by bit will bring about disaster, unless the Government increases the gross national product. There is only one way to do that. We have to increase primary production. During the period when the work force increased by 851,000, the number of employees in rural production decreased by more than 40,000. Whilst factories which have to be provided with materials from overseas multiplied, the number of farms diminished by thousands.
To-day there are thousands fewer farms in Australia than there were some years ago and thousands fewer rural workers. Our rural production must pay our debts overseas; and our rural production must be processed in our factories or sent overseas to buy the raw materials for processing in our factories if this country is to continue to expand and become great without being dependent on overseas capital. Can any one deny that reasoning? Of course, not. It is the easiest thing in the wor!d to obtain profits of 50 per cent, or 100 per cent, not from production within your country but by selling bit by bit your country’s interests or by putting your country in pawn to overseas bond holders. This is what the Government has done.
I do not have sufficient time to go into full details on this matter but I remember vividly during the last election campaign the impressive and dominant figure of the Leader of the Country Party appearing on television and saying: “The issue in this election is simple. You can have it in one word. It is growth; it is growth. We have accomplished great things as far as growth is concerned.” He referred to statistics on primary production and said that primary production in Australia was increasing at a great rate. Primary production in this country has increased but it has not kept pace with the increase in our population. In 1950, in terms of constant prices, the value of rural production per head of population was £146. In 1951, the figure was £186. In 1954, it was £128. In 1957, it was £116; and in 1962, it was £96. So in the fifteen years that this Government has been on the treasury bench the value of rural production per head of population has declined by £50. I remind members of the Country Party that the ultimate development of Australia depends on primary production. Our capacity in peace-time to build this nation and our capacity in time of war to defend it depend on increasing the value of our primary production per head of population. I have before me a document produced by a Government authority which bears out my proposition that the defence of this country depends on primary production and that our defence has suffered in the last fifteen years. In 1954, there were 52,000 men in the defence forces. In 1963, there were only 49,000 men in the defence forces - 3,000 fewer than in 1954, despite the fact that the Government claims that Australia is in danger from international communism, Chinese communism and the spread of Indonesian nationalism. The Government has done nothing to establish a sound basis of economic development which is-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I join with other honorable members in congratulating you once again on being elected to your high office. I congratulate also my colleague, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), on his election once again as Chairman of Committees. You have been elected by unanimous vote of the House, which points to the fact that you have conducted the business of this House in an able and impartial manner.
I do not intend to refer to all the aspects of high finance which the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) put before the House. I recollect having heard similar speeches on many occasions in the last ten years from the honorable member. He claimed that in recent years the number of persons engaged in rural industries has declined by about 40,000. On this point I join issue with him. One has only to think about the matter for a moment to understand why fewer people are employed in rural industries to-day. Australia is advancing technically. To-day on our farms we use mechanical equipment which we did not use years age. As a result fewer people are now employed on family farms. For example, if the honorable member were to see how our wheat is harvested to-day he would understand why, with the use of mechanical harvesting machinery, fewer persons are needed than was the case some years ago. The man on the land has been forced to reduce his costs and to obtain mechanical equipment to do his work. But the quantity of rural production has increased despite the smaller work force engaged. Referring to primary production the honorable member for Scullin cited values instead of quantities. Values have fluctuated. The farmer has no control over the overseas marketing of his products. The honorable member in citing values was misleading.
I propose to deal briefly with a few matters referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but first I would like to raise a matter that was mentioned in the Budget Papers some years ago. I refer to Australia’s water resources. A few years ago the Government set up the Australian Water Resources Council for the purpose of investigating Australia’s water potential and methods of storage. I think the council has done considerable work on streams throughout the Commonwealth. While on this subject I direct the attention of honorable members to a scheme which is not new and which has been revived and submitted to the Commonwealth in a joint approach by the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. It is known as the border rivers scheme. The Governments of New South Wales and Queensland have asked for Commonwealth assistance in this project. They want Commonwealth participation on the Dumaresq - Barwon - Border Rivers Commission.
The two States want the Commonwealth to contribute equally with them towards the capital cost of future works authorized under the Border Rivers Agreement and approved by the respective governments, and towards the cost of administration and investigation, including stream gauging carried out by the Border Rivers Commission. It is not proposed that the Commonwealth Government contribute to the cost of operation or maintenance of new works or of any existing works.
It is wise to trace some of the history of the original Border Rivers Agreement which was entered into in 1947 by the New South Wales and Queensland Governments as the background to what I propose to say later. It provided for the construction of a major storage dam on the Dumaresq River, up to twelve weirs along the border stream and up to four regulators on the effluent streams. Water from the major storage was to be shared equally between New South Wales and Queensland and the cost of the approved works was to be shared equally between the two States. The agreement also provided for the appointment of a border rivers commission, for a commissioner to be appointed by each State and an independent chairman to be appointed by the two Premiers. The commission was to arrange for investigation and construction of works, including stream gauging on catchment above storage, and it was to supervise distribution and diversion of water from the storage and carrier streams along the border.
The need to amend the agreement made it appropriate for the States to issue a joint invitation to the Commonwealth to become a party to the agreement. In the first place, the Dumaresq-Barwon River system is now the only significant interstate river system in Australia in which the Commonwealth is not participating in control and/ or development. Secondly, national government participation in interstate water resources and development has been accepted and is desirable to ensure that this is planned to achieve national requirements rather than local or individual State requirements. At present the commission has to provide additional funds to supplement inadequate State finance. If this were not done the necessary conservation work would be abandoned or deferred indefinitely. Finally, the Commonwealth was asked to become a party to the agreement to assist in removing the hazard of an inadequate and poor quality water supply to the tobacco industry thus enabling it to recover its former level of production. Only a few years ago there was chaos in the industry, particularly in southern Queensland because of the poor quality water supply. The rivers were not flushed out and flooded so the chlorine content built up to such an extent that it spoilt the quality of the tobacco. If this scheme can be carried out this great industry, which is worth something like £1,000,000 a year to southern Queensland, will be assured that its problems with the chlorine content of the water will be eliminated. I shall not go into details of the returns received by the industry in that area, but they were quite considerable. Only about 2,000 acres were under cultivation in the area, mainly for tobacco. If it is given the necessary assistance the industry will advance considerably.
The scheme is a sound one. It is estimated that something like 80,000 or 100,000 acres can be irrigated if the scheme is implemented. It is not proposed to complete the scheme as one project. There will be a gap of ten years between construction of the two dams on the Barwon river system, one of which will cost about £13,000,000 and the other about £8,000,000.
There are other proposals in the scheme relating to the streams which flow into the two rivers that I have mentioned. At present there are two weirs on the Queensland side and one on the Queensland-New South Wales border constructed by the old commission. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) yesterday asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) whether the proposals were being considered. The Prime Minister replied that they were. I believe that the investigations which have been made by the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission into stream flows and levels and into all the engineering features attached to the scheme should hasten the Government’s decision, which I hope will be favorable because it will assure good tobacco and stone fruit crops and ample fodder for beef fattening and fat lamb raising. The proposition should receive the support of the House.
In his Speech the Governor-General stated that scientific research in rural industries is of the highest importance. I think that is recognized by everyone in the Commonwealth. In practically every address to organizations in Australia the value of our primary industries in providing our export income to pay for our imports and to maintain our high standard of living is stressed. Quite a good deal of scientific research is going on not only in rural industries but also in secondary industries. I propose to refer briefly to the necessity for stepping up the present programme of rural research. I am supported in this by Sir Frederick White who is president of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science.
– He is a member of the Labour Party.
– I do not care to what party he belongs. In my view he speaks common sense. In a newspaper article he is reported as having said that axe and spade methods are no longer satisfactory in our agricultural development. The article goes on -
Sir Frederick said science must play the part once played by the enterprising pioneer and be given the fullest support to do so. lt was cheaper in the long run to know rather than to guess.
But however great were the accomplishments of research, the task of ensuring their effective use was inevitably hampered. “Indeed, in Australia one might well claim that research is already far ahead of application,” he said.
Sir Frederick concluded that it was futile to neglect to use the results of research in the interests of agricultural practice.
That is very true, but why have not the results of research been availed of more than they have been? There is only one answer to that question. Hundreds of young people on the land to-day want to take advantage of these new techniques that have been made available by research. However, they cannot do anything because they have not the finance necessary to carry out the work. In Australia, where we have such variable seasons, a man takes a big risk if he attempts to develop a property with only limited finance. He cannot afford to do so. This is one field in which some system of long-term finance must be evolved to enable young people, and others who are prepared to take risks in our differing climates and soils to establish themselves. I think it would be a very sound investment if that finance were provided, whether by the Commonwealth Development Bank or any other bank. At the moment the producer who wants to carry out this sort of work has to take all the risks. Even if the venture fails he still has to pay back the money. In my view the cost of the failure should be evenly spread by the Government. I consider that money advanced for this purpose would be a good investment and I hope that my proposal will be investigated.
We often hear the cry that certain things should be done, but although most people, particularly the people on the land, know how valuable these things would be they have not the necessary means to go ahead.
I feel that it is important that the Government should look at this matter and make up its mind that it will share the risk with those on the land, especially if this will produce some results that will bring in extra revenue.
His Excellency mentioned also that a northern division of the Department of National Development has been established to assist the Government in devising further proposals for the accelerated development of the north. I think that every honorable member who has spoken in this debate has mentioned that so I shall not dwell on that subject. However, I am very pleased to know that interest is being taken in the development of the north. His Excellency continued -
A study of the problem of freight costs for the north is being put in hand.
Why single out the north for a study of the effect of freight costs on primary industries and on development? Let us do something about the whole inland of Australia.
– And the Channel country?
– Yes, the Channel country too, if you like. That is in my electorate, but I am talking about the inland areas of Australia generally. I suggest to the Government that the scope of the proposed investigation should be widened to include freight rates for the inland as well as for the northern parts of Australia. The Governor-General said, also-
Experience shows that the establishment by marketing boards of processing plants overseas, especially in the lesser developed countries, will benefit the export of our primary products and also contribute to social and economic development in such countries.
That is very true. Milk processing plants have been established by the Government in various countries and those plants are paying dividends. I should like to see this scheme taken a little further to assist us with overseas trade. I suggest that we establish bulk stores in various countries to which we are exporting goods. The stores could be financed by the Government, and our exporters could take advantage of them. That would enable the exporters to guarantee continuity of supply, particularly in some of the South African and SouthEast Asian countries. I believe that our exporters would take advantage of such a scheme and that it would be a worthwhile investment for this nation. Quite a few of the countries to which I have referred can buy only in small quantities and they want to be able to go along to the stores and obtain the goods immediately. Once people become used to buying certain goods it becomes a habit to buy them. I had experience of the African countries last year when I travelled overseas. On my return I was convinced that the establishment of bulk stores would prove to be a very good investment for Australia and would enable us to step up our exports.
I should like to refer now to housing. I congratulate the Government on introducing its new £250 subsidy scheme to assist the young people to obtain houses. I believe that this is a move in the right direction. I hope that the Government will be able to extend that scheme to apply to housing in rural areas where, so far, we have not been privileged to participate in any housing scheme that has been devised by the various governments. If houses have to be provided in rural areas for employees, the employers have to meet the cost. No other industry in Australia has to meet this expense.
The majority of young people starting out in the country to-day have a mortgage and an overdraft - often pretty substantial. How they can manage to save enough to attract the proposed housing subsidy I do not know. I believe that as their security increases it should be taken into account for this purpose if they want to build a house on a rural property. I ask the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) to give consideration to that because people in rural districts have not been able to participate in any housing scheme that has been introduced so far. Some people may say that the administration of what I have proposed would be too difficult, but I do not believe that. I think we have people in the department who are quite capable of working out a scheme to give country dwellers the same benefits as their city friends.
My leader, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), will go overseas shortly for a very important discussion relating principally to trade. He seems to bring back the bacon every time that he comes home to Australia. He has done a mighty job for Australian trade. I wish him all the best and a very successful trip overseas.
.- I add my congratulations to those that have already been extended to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your continued term of office. However, I hasten to add that this does not necessarily mean that I shall always agree with your rulings.
I read the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General on 25th February, and I was very disappointed. We had expected much from the Government. At the last election the Government claimed that it had been unable to do many of the things it would have liked to do, because it had had a majority of only one. The suggestion was that with an enhanced majority it would give this country such a strong lead that at long last we would get out of most of our difficulties. In view of that, I expected a great deal more from the Governor-General’s Speech. I should like to say in passing that a great deal of what is contained in the Speech was also contained in two previous Speeches by the Governor-General. For instance, in the 1962 Speech His Excellency said that the Government proposed to introduce legislation to prohibit monopolies and restrictive trade practices. In 1961 there was mention of the Government’s concern about monopolies and restrictive trade practices. It proposed to give almost immediate attention to bringing in legislation to deal with the problem. We have the same old promise to-day. If 7 were to judge the promises contained in this year’s Governor -General’s Speech and were to take as my measuring stick the promises which appeared in the two previous Speeches I would conclude that it might be just as well to save the metal type with which this year’s Speech was printed. I am quite sure that a lot of it will be used to print next year’s Speech.
Many suggestions in the Speech contained merit. Some did noi. I want to avoid some of the subjects that have been well thrashed and turn to a matter that was raised with the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) only last week. I refer to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. In reply to a question the Treasurer said that the present act is largely the work of a Labour government of fifteen years ago. It is a favourite device of the Treasurer to excuse some of the Government’s activities to hark back to 1949 or some previous time. But legislation which may have been considered progressive fifteen years ago need not be considered progressive now. If the Treasurer feels that an act is still progressive because it was so considered fifteen years ago and that it still stands to the credit of the Australian Labour Party he is, as T have always thought, fifteen years behind the times.
Last year the present Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) expressed his dissatisfaction at the delay in bringing down legislation to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices. The honorable gentleman is now in a position to demonstrate his ability to do what he suggested his predecessor should have done, that is to get on with the job. The honorable gentleman quite seriously and properly, to my mind, also expressed his views on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. He said how bad it was and how urgently it needed an overhaul. In this he disagreed with the Treasurer. Again I say that he has a golden opportunity to amend the act. Previously, I have cited instances of the way in which the act is maladministered. When introduced by a Labour Government fifteen years ago a special clause was included - I think it is clause 16 - which gives great discretion to those charged with its administration to give the benefit of any doubt to the injured employee or his dependant. Since 1959, the present administration has completely ignored that clause and no latitude has ever been extended towards employees. The present Government has not in any way exercised its discretion in favour of employees. The reverse has been the case.
Quite recently a young lady in the Grafton area was injured in a fall. She broke one of her legs and was awarded compensation. The Treasury lodged an immediate appeal in the County Court. The appeal was listed for hearing in the court in Melbourne. In the meantime the young lady was without wages or compensation. Such was the action of the Treasury. A young man was recently injured at Williamstown dockyard. Compensation of £60 was awarded by a judge of the County Court. Surely, if the Treasury officials had any feeling at all for injured workers they would have said, “ We will let this one go “. But no. They have appealed to the High Court in the matter in which a County Court judge has ruled that the injured worker is entitled to compensation of only £60. The injured worker was an apprentice.
Only last week I submitted a case to the Treasury. A postman, named Drummond, who was employed at Reservoir Post Office in Victoria, had a fall. No question of the Post Office’s liability was involved. As a result of the fall the postman’s kneecap has to be removed. His doctor told him to go to a specialist as the problem was too complex for a general practitioner. His doctor gave him a letter of introduction to the specialist and told him not to attempt to travel by public transport. He was told to get a taxi from the door of his home to the specialist’s door. I submitted to the Treasury a claim involving about four taxi fares and pointed out that they were incurred because of instructions by both the specialist and the general practitioner. They were medical instructions and, presumably, if the man had not carried them out he would have rendered himself ineligible for compensation. Both medical men supported his claim for taxi fares and receipts were forwarded to the Treasury. The Treasury has rejected the claim. It was never the intention of the Government which framed the Commonwealth Employees’ Compurgation Act that it should be administered in this fashion. The act is completely due for overhaul.
I am concerned with one other matter raised in the Governor-General’s Speech - the proposals for the redistribution of electoral boundaries. I hope that when the Government brings in legislation to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Representation Act it will have a very close look at what has taken place in the past. I hope the Government will take the view that the State Electoral Officer, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the State Surveyor-General are not in all cases the right people to determine electoral boundaries, having regard to their charters. They have to look at community interests and various other items, such as transport facilities. I do not think they are the best people to appoint to determine electoral boundaries. Indeed, I think they are the worst people that could be chosen for this task. After all, electoral officers are not concerned about the community interests of the people. They are not concerned about transport. To them people are just names on the electoral roll. People are there to be fined if they do not register or if they do not vote. That is how it has panned out. The Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) may smile, but the same views have been expressed by some honorable members on the Government side.
I want now to show the House what these officers have done. As an example I will take the Darebin electorate, which is almost contained in one municipality. I was not concerned about the alterations that were made to the boundaries. They were all right for me, you can be sure about that; but I was concerned about the manner in which these men totally ignored the matters they were required to consider under their charter and under the Constitution. As I have said, the electorate is almost contained in one municipality and has natural boundaries on each side of it - a creek in a deep ravine. But these creeks were completely ignored by the commissioners. They completely ignored all the things that they should have considered. I was not concerned, as there was not a great number of voters involved. But when we are talking about community interests I say these people should have given them consideration. Instead of drawing their boundary line along the creeks they drew it along the railway line, then for some unknown reason took a little jaunt away from the railway line. The community interests excluded from the electorate were the main railway station, the football ground - honorable members know how Victorians love Australian rules football - the Masonic Temple, the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ, the Church of England, the Salvation Army Citadel, the Town Hall, the post office, the municipal depot, the fire station, the police station, the main business centre, the parliamentary offices, the Preston Returned Servicemen’s League, the Shrine, the Preston city band head-quarters, the Preston tramway depot, the Preston tennis courts, the Preston Bowl, our main central banks, the public library, the bowling clubs and the commercial centre. The men responsible ignored completely and utterly all those things that they were charged to take into consideration. I think the Government should have a look at this. Of course these people, I have no doubt, did similar things in other electorates. The Government should see to it that when redistribution commissioners are appointed they are people of experience and capable of assessing the factors they are supposed to take into consideration. I am sure the Country Party will support me to the hilt in that and I put it to the Government i all seriousness.
I know it has been suggested that the Government’s proposition that there should be no quota fixing is apt to be open to abuse. In fact, the word “gerrymander” has been used, but the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has explained the position and I suppose one can do no more at present than to accept his explanation. I come now to the appointment of a minister in charge of housing. I am at a loss to understand how this new scheme is to work but, from what we can gather, people in certain selected sections of the community are to receive a subsidy on the basis of £1 for £3, with a limit of £250. I do not regard that as any real or serious contribution to easing the housing situation, although it will be welcome to those who qualify for the assistance. The Government got a mandate for it and, as it has a mandate and as it has the numbers the scheme will go through.
– Are you going to vote against the bill?
– I know that the honorable member will have the pleasure of having droves of his constituents - those who do not qualify - coming to his office and asking why they did not qualify while the people over the road did. Whilst this scheme may, to some people, be a contribution towards solving the housing problem, it is not going to pan out as well, for instance, as a reduction of 1 per cent, or even i per cent, in interest rates would. That would mean much more, and every home owner would benefit. If an amendment along these lines is moved honorable members opposite will have to vote against the better proposition, just as they will quite frequently have to vote against good propositions if they remain here long enough. Honorable members opposite will see how
I vote, as we will probably have a division to determine this question.
The Government has appointed some new Ministers. I think it was high time that there was an increase in the number of Ministers. I also think it is high time that the Government at last took notice of a plea which we have been making for a number of years - that there should be a full-time Minister for External Affairs. That suggestion over a number of years has been resisted. I am glad that, while not going as far as I think it should in regard to a minister for housing, the Government is at least going a little way along that line. I think the newly-appointed Ministers will be a vast improvement on the old Ministers! They could not be otherwise, and I wish them well.
While discussing Commonwealth employees’ compensation legislation I had intended to say that I think those matters should be taken completely out of the hands of Treasury officials who, apparently, have no sense of humanity, and should be administered by the Department of Labour and National Service under whose jurisdiction, in my view, they properly lie.
I think that the Governor-General’s Speech is as significant for the things not contained in it as for the things that are contained in it. There is, in the Speech, no suggestion that the Government has any intention in this or any other Parliament of dealing with the question of constitutional reform. There is no suggestion that the Government intends to do the right thing by the dairying industry and implement some of the proposals which were put forward after long and careful investigation by the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry. The findings of that committee are supported by the fact that even to-day in New South Wales the dairymen are asking the Government to hold an investigation into their conditions. But even if such an inquiry is held its report will simply be another document that will be pigeonholed.
There is, in the Speech, no real suggestion that there will be any attempt properly to stimulate shipbuilding in Australia. I know there has been some mention of it, and I admit there is to be some little move in that direction, but I do not think it is adequate.
Taken by and large and all in all I do not think we have, in the Governor General’s Speech, the strong lead that we were assured would be given by a government elected with a majority such as would enable it to give that strong lead. Despite the talk that we have heard from some honorable members on the Government side, there has been no definite suggestion that any attempt will be made to deal with hire-purchase or fringe banking institutions. We could properly have expected that something would be done about all these things, particularly as there has been such an infusion of new blood in the Government’s ranks. We could reasonably have expected that the Government, with its substantial majority, would now have the courage to do all those things that we have been told, by one quarter or another on the Government side, should be done.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to join with other honorable members in congratulating very warmly the new members who have made their maiden speeches. I think we all agree that their contributions have been of very high standard. Many of these new members will be great assets to the Parliament. May I single out one in particular - my namesake, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). If ever a new member was a great improvement on his predecessor, the honorable member stands out as a prime example. The electors of Parkes must have felt very proud that their new member chose to discuss in his maiden speech what I think is in the minds of the majority of people perhaps the most important subject of all - the threat to our freedom and to our survival as a free country. The honorable member declared -
Because that threat is not yet immediate in physical terms-
Perhaps I would disagree there and say that the threat will be immediate, in the very near future, but not probably tomorrow - 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.
I hope that many of the old members as well as many of the new members will take to heart the statement that the time when we could afford to ignore the threat has passed for ever. The honorable member said something else with which we all agree when he remarked -
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 am afraid that hope alone has been the basis of a large part of our foreign policy for some time past and, to a certain extent, still is.
May I first deal with the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who had the audacity to criticize the Government’s defence and foreign policies. If ever any party has shown weakness and taken wobbling and wavering steps in relation to defence and foreign policy, the Australian Labour Party has done so over the last two years. We all recall the occasion when its leader stood outside the door of the conference room while the 36 faceless men made up their minds about the United States naval communication station at North West Cape. We recall that the former member for Parkes, when he went to Indonesia, was laughed to scorn even by the Indonesians when he mentioned the nuclear-free zone the establishment of which the Labour Party was supporting. This scorn was natural, because the Indonesians had already signed an agreement with Russia for the establishment of an atomic reactor, for which surveys have now been made and it is expected to begin construction this year. In many other respects we can see clear evidence that, whoever may criticize this Government, the Labour Party ought not to criticize its defence and foreign policies. And the electors told Labour that pretty firmly at the last general election.
Many of us, on both sides of the House, who have pleaded with the Government and begged it over the last two years to take stronger action on foreign policy and defence, noted with great satisfaction the increased allocations of funds for defence and the improved defence planning adopted on two or three occasions last year, although most of us believed that those measures were allied with unrealistic target dates. Indeed, the target dates have become much more unrealistic in the last few months. I am sure that any honorable member who surveys what has been happening in SouthEast Asia will agree that the dangers and threats are now far greater than they were even at the time when the Federation of Malaysia was born on 16th September last.
When I was in South-East Asia at this time last year, one very important leader said to me, “When you go home, will you tell the people of Australia that, unless we all stand together and show strength in facing up to President Sukarno and his leadership of Indonesia, we shall be in for a lot of trouble “. When I returned to South-East Asia this time, I found that Australians were still popular but their image was becoming a little murky, to say the least of it. One or two people even referred to the effects of the policy that we had adopted until 25th September last, when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that we were 100 per cent, behind Malaysia. One South-East Asian leader, thinking no doubt of a statement made five days earlier than 25th September in Kuala Lumpur by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) to the effect that we had no legal commitments towards Malaysia, said, “Your policy has only emboldened President Sukarno in his policy of confrontation towards Malaysia”.
During my recent trip, I met many leaders, statesmen, administrators and civil servants, and I tried my hardest to get away from the red carpet occasionally and to get down in the busy bazaars with their teeming multitudes in order to get as accurate an appreciation as possible of the situation in the various countries that I visited. I also tried to visit as many as possible of the troops in the front lines. I went to Quemoy. If I may say so in passing, I am more than ever convinced that Lord Casey and I were right in 1955 and that somebody else was wrong - although he had a perfect right to get rid of both of us if he wanted to. I spent a night at Champassac in southern Laos, with General Phoumi Nosavan. It was an interesting experience to be with the troops, not in the front line in this instance, but their army bead-quarters, and to be able to converse with several of their leaders at leisure.
By courtesy of the Australian High Commissioner in Malaysia, I was flown down to Terendak to visit the Australian Regular Army battalion there. The men are in fine fettle and are doing a good job for Australia. They are in what would probably be called posh postings - in cantonments, with sports grounds, swimming pools and the like. But they deserve it. I have no complaint about that. I think it is a very fine establishment for a base camp. Finally, I spent one day out with the Royal Marine Commandos and Gurkhas at Lundu, in western Sarawak, close to the spot where last Friday there was a fracas in which one corporal was killed and four men were wounded.
My tour of South-East Asia was fascinatingly interesting, and not a little frightening when I thought of the deterioration that had taken place in the situation in Laos and South Viet Nam, not to mention Malaysia, since I was in South-East Asia twelve months ago. This deterioration is frightening because there seems to be so little realization in Australia of what is happening in our front line, for Laos is still our front gate and Viet Nam is still our front line. What happens in SouthEast Asia determines the future of Australia.
As all honorable members know, a cease-fire was recently arranged with regard to the Indonesian confrontation of Malaysia. But let us remember that the confrontation policy was more or less forced on President Sukarno by the Partai Kommunis Indonesia, the P.K.I., or Indonesian Communist Party, led by Aidit and his deputy, Lukman, who were each in Peking for a month or six weeks towards the end of last year. Dr. Subandrio in 1961 at the United Nations Assembly said that they had no objection to Malaysia. When he returned to Indonesia he found that the Communist party had very rabid objections to Malaysia. The Communists originated the policy “Crush Malaysia “. President Sukarno had brought them up to a position of great power and had more or less completly wiped out the other political parties. I do not say that he is a Communist, but he may now find that he cannot rid himself of the millstone he has placed around his neck. The fact remains that that is the position to-day.
Although President Sukarno may not himself be a Communist, he has always been very attracted by Communist methods. I believe he was the person who first suggested the cease fire, because his troops were having rather a bad time on the Borneo frontier. These are good Communist tactics. This is what happened in Burma. When the revolutionary government, as the present government of Burma calls itself, found that the Communists were using the period of the cease fire to build up their strength in the jungle, it cancelled the cease fire. It also happened in Laos. When the Communists in North Viet Nam could not get supplies to the Pathet Lao, the Communists in Laos, they asked for a cease fire. President Sukarno followed this pattern. He asked for a cease fire in order to build up and strengthen his forces so that he could start afresh. When I said this on my return on 16th February, not one single international journalist said anything about it. Yet we now have a headline saying, “ Indonesian build-up in the last fortnight “.
All this reminds me of an occasion when I went to the zoo as a boy. Outside one cage was a sign reading, “This animal is highly dangerous “. In the zoological gardens of the human race at the present time we should unfortunately hang a sign saying, “This country is highly dangerous”. We can see where the Communist pressures are exerted. The trade unions controlled by the Communists in Indonesia took over the British estates, despite President Sukarno’s promise that this would not be done. President Sukarno did not dare do anything except to say that the Government would take over the estates and nationalize them.
I could go on with similar instances, but the point to which I am coming is that in the Governor-General’s Speech we have the following statement -
In spite of great international efforts, political tension is still high in some regions, notably in Australia’s near north. This is largely, as in the past, due to Communist pressures. But we also have what is called “ confrontation “over Malaysia.
If ever there was a classic British understatement, that is it.
The Communist strategy for taking over South-East Asia is the old pincers movement. The pressure from the north is on Laos and Viet Nam. The other arm is the confrontation of Malaysia in the south, and this is a diversionary move. These are time-wasting tactics. They are a waste of men, a waste of money and a waste of effort, but the southern arm of the pincers and the northern arm are trying to squeeze out the whole of South-East Asia so that the Communists can take over the rice bowl. We must consider the problem from that point of view. The Communists also want to slow down Malaysia’s economic progress because Indonesia is bankrupt. They want to prevent Sabah and Sarawak from being welded into a unit and becoming a part, and a satisfied part, of Malaysia.
Again I say, as I said recently in a newspaper article, that neither on the Laos border nor on any other border can any one hope to win a periphery war if he is fighting with his hands tied behind his back. In other words, they can cross the border, but you cannot. You cannot cross the border to clean up their forward posts and supply lines. And so it goes on and on and on. Actually, if we are sensible about Indonesia’s policy of confrontation in the present form and the slogans, “ Crush Malaysia “, we will realize that this is war in the modern terminology. This is unfortunate. Everybody would like us to be going along peacefully and helping Indonesia to develop economically, but Indonesia has virtually declared war on Malaysia and Malaysia has as much right in this world to freedom of action and to an existence as any one of the other emerging nations has.
President Sukarno has always aimed at being the Emperor of Malaysia. The revolutionary document of 1945 included Malaysia, but the Australian people should remember that it also included the whole of New Guinea. As I said, on 14th February of last year there was a meeting with General Nasution in the chair to determine the strategy for taking over Portuguese Timor and the whole of East Irian as and when opportunity offered. We must face up to this unfortunate position. It will not be cured by weakness. It will not be cured by thinking that further territories will not be gained by bluff. No dictator has ever been cured of his sickness, whether it be a sickness of mind or body - Sukarno has both - by feeding his appetite.
One unfortunate feature of these tactics is that trade seems to be a divisive factor in our allied strategy. As soon as the Nato ships sail into the South China Seas, the first mild trade wind seems to blow them off on different courses. It does not need any Gallic typhoon, Over the battlefields of South-East Asia to-day hangs the grey eminence - General de Gaulle - almost in the form of a reincarnation of Madame Pompadour, who said “Apres nous le deluge”. These disasters are unfortunate. I did not mean that to be funny, because if any of us lived in South Viet Nam we would look upon it as a very serious setback to us and a very great incentive to the Viet Cong, who are the Communist invaders in the country.
Our objective always has been, and I hope always will be, for Australia together with our friends and allies to guarantee the security and assist in the economic progress of our friends and allies in SouthEast Asia. But I believe that our methods must be altered. The region must be looked upon as one strategic concept and must not be divided piecemeal into various areas. The British are there and Australia is supposed to be there. I do not know about New Zealand, but certainly, as I have said before and say again in all seriousness, we have been dragging our feet almost as if we were back in the convict days with a ball and chain around our ankles. Australia must take a fair share of the responsibility. If we want to be heard in the councils of Westminster and Washington, we must be prepared to take our fair share of responsibility. South-East Asia wants Australia to take the lead. We are a small nation and we cannot be accused of aggression. We are, as they say, one of them. If we were to take the lead, instead of pushing it all on to Britain and America, they would not be so susceptible to the propaganda of the Communists about neo-colonialism and the running-dogs of American imperialism.
Why did we turn down a request from Viet Nam for a Dakota transport squadron in April of last year? I have been asked this question by the Government of Viet Nam. It was said that we were re-equipping with Caribou aircraft, the first of which was delivered last week. I remind honorable members that the United States top ranking officer who was very keen on the idea of obtaining a Dakota squadron from Australia is now, I believe, the chief military adviser on South-East Asia at the White House. Why did we turn down the request from Malaysia for officers of the Royal Australian Air Force to help build up their air force? Is our attitude in all these matters coloured by the fact that we do not dare become involved? Do we believe that we cannot put troops into the jungle because we have only one battalion that we could put in, because the jungle has a voracious appetite and because, after a month or two, whether they are in military operations or not, the jungle will have eaten up men and we will have to cannibalise the second regiment in order to keep the first regiment up to strength? We do not have first and second reinforcements.
All of us should know that the number of recruits we have obtained over the last eight months has been sufficient to supply wastage only. Is our plan for the Army any more than a piece of paper when we say that we intend to expand the strength from 21,000 to 28,000? Surely we can do better than that. Let us build up to three battle groups, and for goodness sake let us get rid of this pentropic organization which does not fit in with the American army, the British army or anybody else we may have to fight with in South-East Asia. But do not let us talk about details.
We have said that we intend to have 28,000 men. I believe, along with Sir Ragnar Garrett - a former Chief of the General Staff - the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), and others in this House, that the only way we can do that is by selective national service training of, say, 14,000 a year, with two years’ continuous training, overseas service and proper rehabilitation similar to that of the American draftee service. I also agree with Sir Ragnar Garrett - I am only an armchair general, but he is a former Chief of the General Staff - that we should have a division instead of the three battle groups. We can discuss at some other time what we should do with the Citizen Military Forces. I have not time to discuss that in the present circumstances.
If we cease this piecemeal approach and treat South-East Asia as one strategic concept, the mere fact of our getting together with our allies, including Britain and the United States, and our friends in SouthEast Asia, would at once put on a shopwindow display which would raise the morale of the South-East Asian people who do not think we are dinkum. Morale is sliding very rapidly in some areas. We should act as Templar did with the guerrillas in Malaya. There, many people had two bob each way until they found that he was really serious.
I also say - perhaps this should have come first - that from the international point of view we should take this matter of Indonesian confrontation to the United Nations and tell the other emergent nations that the Malaysians have as much right to freedom as they do. We should ask the United Nations to take action; and if it will not, we should tell it that if there is to be any freedom left in this world somebody else will have to do the job. Like all other honorable members, I believe that the matter should go to the United Nations.
If we do not take action along the lines that I have suggested, then do not be surprised if we lose all of South-East Asia and Australia becomes an isolated outpost in the south-west Pacific. Let us go ahead and put our defence planning into operation. Let us have not just equipment but also the required men on the ground. We have delayed for far too long already. Australia is not a big power in this region, but we can do a great deal. We should be prepared to accept more responsibility than might be considered our fair share.
I know that we are doing something by way of the military mission to Malaysia. That was suggested in this House last August. I suggested that we provide £10,000,000 a year for three years. This is the same thing in a different form, but not so much is involved. Where will we get the officers and N.C.O.’s to help to train the Malaysian services when we are 650 short of the number of officers and N.CO.’s that we would need if we introduced selective national service training? We had better get them and get them speedily.
– What about the Indonesian officers whom we are training?
– While there is a war on I am not in favour of that at all, and I say that in modern terminology confrontation is a war.
If Australians are not concerned with defence and cannot see past the horizons of higher wages and bigger and better profits, I warn them that they are in danger of losing both. Do not forget that our economic future, as well as our security, is intimately bound up with our friends and allies in South-East Asia. Time is running out and it is not on our side. I beg, pray and demand that the Government move much faster in putting into operation the defence programme which it has approved. When we get that done, we will see what the situation is and, if there is time, discuss whether we should go further.
Finally, I say that nothing can replace personal contacts, personal discussions, personal interviews and personal friendships. May I remind Ministers that it is no further from Sydney to Singapore or Saigon than it is from Sydney to Perth. In fact, it is probably easier to get from Sydney to Singapore or Saigon than from Sydney to Perth. We can go to South-East Asia for long week-ends. The South-East Asian people are delighted to see us and we get an appreciation of the situation which we cannot get by staying at home. At present adverse comparisons are being made between the numbers of New Zealand and Australian members of parliament who visit South-East Asia. We sent one delegation to the area last year, but it was too big. Let us have at least two delegations of six members each. I hope that Ministers will go and see for themselves whether what T have said is correct. This is a time for action, not for sitting down and not for saying fine words about what we propose to do. As I said in a recent interview, I believe that the public is five jumps ahead of the Government and fifteen jumps ahead of the Opposition.
– To-night I intend to speak about the inadequacy of social service benefits under this Government. I am very disappointed to read in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intends to spend money here, there and everywhere and that it is robbing the pensioners in order to pay a housing subsidy of £250. Before the last election, every newspaper in Australia, including the “ Daily Telegraph “, said that pensions would be increased by 10s. a week. But we have spent all our time since the election explaining to pensioners - many of whom will not be alive at the time of the next election - that the Menzies Government and nobody else is to blame for their not receiving the 10s. a week increase that was promised. If ever there was a shame on a government it is on this Government for facing another three-year term, leaving these helpless people to pay half of their pensions to racketeer landlords and to live on the other half. It is only through the good work of the Sydney City Council that they are able to survive. The council provides pensioners with a meal for 2s. The position is a disgrace to the Government.
I wish to bring another matter before the people. Honorable members who attended the picture show before we came into the chamber to-night saw a film on flying machines and some of the men who flew them, including Kingsford-Smith and Ulm. To-day this Government permits people to be carried to Lord Howe Island in a flying boat that is more dangerous than the flying machines that we saw in that film to-night. We should bring those men back to do something about this position. This Government, through the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), is not doing anything about it. For the last six years I have been asking for an airstrip to be constructed on Lord Howe Island, but not one thing has been done to bring it nearer to fruition. I have no special interest in having an airstrip built on Lord Howe Island, but I stress the danger that exists in the present set-up in which a tug boat, 40 years old, is used to transport passengers from the flying boat to the island. That tug boat is the only one of its kind in the world. There was in use on the island another boat but two months ago it fell to pieces and ultimately had to be taken out to sea and sunk. Up till six months ago that boat was used to transport travellers from the flying boat to Lord Howe Island. Now arrangements have been made to obtain from New Zealand an army landing craft which will be used.
Earlier this year together with a member of the Public Works Committee I visited Lord Howe Island, which is 480 miles from my electorate of West Sydney. The Government has done nothing for the island although it uses it for many purposes. The Government has twenty officials stationed on the island. They man the radar station and perform other duties on the island. On 8th January, 1964, my colleague and I left Rose Bay by flying boat at 11 a.m. bound for Lord Howe Island. At 11.30 a.m. the hostess told us that we were returning to Rose Bay as there was something wrong with the wings of the flying boat. I have had a similar experience on three other occasions and I understand that this is a regular occurrence. Being aware of the delays involved in travelling to Lord Howe Island by the old flying boat, for four years I had refused to visit the island, but hearing that a new flying boat was being used I undertook to revisit the island. However, I found that I was back in the same old flying boat. I felt responsible for bringing my friend on the trip, which was his first to the island. We were exactly one hour in the air when we returned to Rose Bay flying base in order to effect repairs before taking off again.
During the flight I was handed a copy of “ Parade “ in which there was an article about Jerome Kern. He wrote “Show Boat”, which is well known in Australia. The article explained how he narrowly missed the last fateful trip of the “ Lusitania “ in 191.6. I felt sure that my friend thought the flying boat was going to suffer the same fate as the “ Lusitania “ suffered. Having made the trip three times previously, I was not particularly concerned about myself but I was concerned about my friend. We arrived safely on the island hours late. The flying boat did not return to Rose Bay on the night of 8th January as scheduled, which meant that passengers were a day late leaving the island and people were stranded at Rose Bay for 24 hours awaiting the return of the flying boat. Our departure from the island took place one week later. The flying boat arrived at Lord Howe Island with approximately 30 passengers and cargo for the island. The guest houses were prepared to receive the new arrivals. To the dismay of people who were to leave that morning at 9.30 a.m., about 30 people, after having packed the night before and having sent their luggage to the wharf, were told that the flying boat would be delayed for 24 hours. Imagine the loss and disappointment suffered by the island people who had made bookings for the following three days. The delay had to be shared by tourists coming to the island on those days. Imagine the wages lost by young people who had made firm arrangements.
In my opinion Lord Howe Island is the loveliest place not only in Australia but in the world. Young people constantly go overseas to look at scenery which, according to overseas visitors, cannot compare with that of Lord Howe Island. Bookings in guest houses are generally made twelve months in advance and often three or four days of one’s holiday are lost owing to transport difficulties. For Sydney people visiting the island the loss may not be so great, but imagine the disappointment of visitors from distant States. My companion on my recent trip to Lord Howe Island was the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), who is a member of the Public Works Committee. We were due to leave the. island on 15th January at 9.30 a.m. We had to stay another day. I understand that this kind of thing happens far too often. It is disappointing both for the island people as well as their guests. The whole set-up is ridiculous. An air strip could be built on the island at a cost of about £600,000. This would give the many Australians a chance to see some of the finest scenery on earth without experiencing days of uncertainty in travelling and consequent loss of time on their annual holidays.
Many times I have told this House of the disadvantages which the island people are suffering. Cement, which costs £16 a ton in Sydney, costs £36 a ton landed on Lord Howe Island. A similar situation exists with regard to food and other materials. I understand that all guest houses are booked out for next year. That fact indicates the popularity of the island with those few who can overcome all the difficulties which arise under the present set-up. What does the Government propose to do? Does it propose to wait until the flying boat suffers the fate of the “Voyager”? This will happen. When you see the manoeuvring that goes on and when you know that the flying boat cannot land until the tide is favorable you cannot help coming to the conclusion that travelling to and from the island involves considerable personal risk. Tourists and the islanders should not be treated in that way. The islanders pay income tax, pay-roll tax and other taxes. They played their part during the last war, and some of them paid the supreme sacrifice. There are three pensioner couples on the island whom the Government has robbed of £1 a week because it will not grant the rise that it promised to them. I trust that this Government will do something to rectify this shameful situation. Once a boy reaches the age of seventeen or eighteen years he is forced to leave the island and go to the mainland in search of work just as the Country Party, by not catering for young people in country areas forces them to seek employment in the cities. The Country Party does not provide employment opportunities for young people in country areas. It is sticking to its wool and wheat.
People occupy properties on the island under permissive leases from the New South Wales Government, so they cannot raise loans with their property as security. No matter how much business expands on the island they must wait until they save every penny that they need before they can expand to cope with the increasing business.
– New South Wales has a Labour Government.
– Yes. No Liberal government would ever do as much for the people as a Labour government would. The present Commonwealth Liberal Government is starving the people it should help. The honorable member knows that I am referring to the pensioners. Members of the Country Party can talk about their wheat, their wool and everything else, and the pensioners see the fruit and other goods in shop windows but can never buy even the necessities of life, because of the shabby way in which the Commonwealth Government is treating them.
I ask the Government to do something now for the people on Lord Howe Island because it will be too late when trouble starts, if it does start. Recently many young people were lost on the “ Voyager “ and the Government immediately began rushing to do this, that and the other thing but it was too late. The Government is hypocritical. Things are serious and the Government should do something now, not wait until trouble starts before acting. I hope that Senator Paltridge will visit the island and do something to help the people there.
.- This is a new Parliament. Instead of a tenuous majority of one the Government now has a majority of 22. I think there was the feeling abroad that it was probably a healthy situation for the Government to have a narrow majority but clearly it was not a practical majority. That was the reason for the last election. I am prepared to criticize when I feel disposed so to do and to give credit where I feel it is due. It is to the great credit of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and his Cabinet that immediately after the election it was announced that the promises made during the election campaign would be implemented. I think that the Government’s actions have received the commendation of the electors.
It is not unfair to say - I think even my friends on the other side of the House will agree - that the younger generation defeated the Australian Labour Party at the last election. I believe that the younger generation feels that the Australian Labour Party is out of date. It is out of date in the sense that it believes that socialism, pure and simple, is still the watchword, and it is out of date in the sense that it is administered by an outside executive and not by members of this Parliament.
Let me contrast the administration of the Liberal Party with that of the Labour Party. I belong to the federal policy committee of the Liberal Party which comprises a member of Parliament from each State and a member of the organization. We do not direct the Cabinet but we make suggestions to it. If Ministers have any objections to our suggestions they explain to the committee the reasons for their objections. To me that seems to be a fairly democratic process which is in strong distinction to the process followed by the Australian Labour Party. The A.L.P. will not regain the confidence of the people until it changes its attitude on this question.
I propose to speak on several different subjects, perhaps to roam the field slightly. For one on my side of the House it may seem like heresy to raise the matter which I shall raise first. I believe that the time has come when the Government should consider whether it is wise to establish a national shipping line to fill some of the vacuums which are becoming apparent in moving our exports overseas. We have had some experience of exports to South America and now in my own electorate we are unable to export all the apples and pears which are available for export because of an agreement between members of the shipping conference which stems from the 1929 agreement under the Australian Industres Preservation Act. To a degree we are precluded from going outside the conference lines to charter additional vessels to move our products. The present situation is no longer tolerable. We have reached the stage at which we should build our own ships. I am not suggesting that we should take over completely the carriage of all Australian products overseas, but we cannot tolerate any longer a situation in which, in plain words, we can be held to ransom. We must face up to the present problem.
I do not imagine for one second that it will be easy to solve this problem but, as a means of comparison, let me point out that Qantas operates very efficiently as a joint Government-private enterprise airline. Internally, Trans-Australia Airlines operates efficiently so I do not see why the same principle should not be applied to a degree to our external shipping.
I turn now to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The other day I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) whether he would consider making the act understandable to beneficiaries and to members of Parliament. I do not think that very many members of Parliament thoroughly understand the act. I belong to an exservicemen’s committee which is under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), but we find considerable difficulty in interpreting the act because of its many complexities and the many amendments which have been made to it. Clearly it contains many anomalies. The act should be overhauled, even redrafted, so that it may be understood by beneficiaries and by members of the Parliament. Surely even from the point of view of its reception by the beneficiaries it would be of advantage to do this. It is imperative that the act be overhauled.
Let me turn now to the speech which was made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I agree unequivocally with 99.9 per cent, of what he said. I do not think there is sufficient awareness of his earnestness nor of the truth of his statements. I support as strongly as I can his proposition that we introduce national service training of at least two years, on a selective basis. Unless we live up to our commitments under
Seato, under Anzus and under Anzam we are in truth, as has been said, a paper tiger. I do believe that this is one major facet of Government policy that should be applied. I think the view is held by the public quite strongly that the introduction of such a scheme would be acceptable as a condition of our security. I do not see any political worries about carrying out a selective national service training scheme. I urge most strongly, therefore, that we do apply this system. New Zealand does it, as we know. She is a contributor to Seato, Anzus and Anzam, and it is most important that we should measure up to New Zealand if only for our national pride, but also for another more important reason - our national survival. I shall conclude on that note. I wish that the Government, having done many good things recently, would pay some strict attention to that point.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, first of all I should like to join with many of the other speakers in this debate on the Address-in-Reply in congratulating the new members on their maiden speeches. I think we have had a very high standard of maiden speeches in this debate - possibly a higher standard than has been exhibited for some time in this chamber. As honorable members listened to the speeches that were made I am sure that each one felt that the new members would be able to make a worthy contribution to the work of this Parliament and through it to the advancement of our Commonwealth. Their speeches revealed a variety of knowledge, and an understanding of many subjects and of many of the rural industries which make a vital contribution to our prosperity.
I have expressed my appreciation of once again being given the opportunity to work with Mr. Speaker and have congratulated him on his election to his high office. I should also like to congratulate the Right Honorable the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and my own leader, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), on their continued elevation. I extend the usual courtesy also to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy on their election to office and offer best wishes to them.
Some time ago I suggested the appointment of a select committee of members from both sides of both Houses of Parliament to investigate automation. I still feel that this is something that should be done. This is a contribution that this Parliament could make to this vital problem which faces our community. Only towards the end of List year I heard that some industries in Newcastle were facing problems with the introduction of automation. In certain instances they were retiring men before the usual retiring age to avoid large scale dismissals. We know that in office work and even in the newspaper industry, including journalism, automation and the use of modern computers are making an impact. Surely, therefore, this is one of the major problems confronting our country and our industries. It is reflected in the employ mint situation, about which I will have something to say later, and it is reflected also in costs in rural industries. Because of this, surely from the members of both sides of this House and the Senate we should be able to provide men of experience and understanding to form a committee. Those men, in turn, should be able to get sufficient evidence to make an important contribution to the economic life of Australia.
This afternoon members of the Opposition criticized the Government and said that our economic situation at the moment should not cause complacency. I do not think there has ever been any evidence of complacency from this Government in this regard. I noticed that when the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) was putting forward his arguments, he said that fortuitous circumstances had contributed to the overseas balance of payments position. I remember when this Government faced a difficult economic situation and when certain restrictions had to be imposed. Although one of the contributing factors to that situation was a drop in overseas prices, on that occasion honorable members opposite did not say anything about the difficult circumstances confronting the Government being caused by matters outside its control. All they did was blame the Government for its inefficiency, its bad handling and its mismanagement. Those charges were not justified. Surely if honorable members opposite now argue that the buoyant economy is due to circumstances over which the Government had no control that is rather a contradiction of the argument that they advanced in 1961.
I should like to say something at this point about local government. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson), among many others in this House, made a very valuable contribution to the debate. He spoke about the three-pronged system of government that we have in Australia - local government, State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament. We all realise that the State governments are facing a problem in regard to local government. It is a problem created by their own inefficiency, but, unfortunately, that is no consolation to those in local government who are faced with this difficult situation. I believe that the time has come for a conference to be arranged between local government authorities, State governments and the Federal Government. I think this is an appropriate time to mention this. A Premiers’ Conference will be held next week, and I believe that the Commonwealth Government has an opportunity at this time to emphasize to the State governments - I refer particularly to the New South Wales Government - their responsibility to local government. Let me read a letter that appeared in one of our daily newspapers. It states -
Now that the State Government has decided as an obvious election gimmick to grant public servants four weeks’ leave, I see that some unions are already deciding to try for four and perhaps five weeks’ leave for their workers. When will the Labour Party wake up and find out what the average worker and the voter really want? As the wife of one with three young children battling to pay for a home I shudder to think of the rise in the prices of essentials that all these holidays eventually brings. No wonder Labour was defeated in the Federal election. It is completely out of touch with the working people it claims to represent. When it stops working to give us these holidays that we cannot afford to enjoy and starts working to bring down the prices of essential foods, &c, then the people may think about voting Labour again, but I fear it will be a long time.
Government members have said here many times that the gimmicks which the New South Wales Labour Government used to try and obtain votes have contributed to rising costs. Many times we have seen the Federal Government take action to hold the costs of production and the cost of living only to see its actions undermined by the New South Wales Labour Government.
That government is taking action to grant four weeks’ leave to public servants without going to arbitration. This is one of the most dangerous moves that it has ever made because it means that wages, holidays and working conditions can become a party political football. If this happened it would be completely detrimental to the economic foundations of this country. I believe that the New South Wales Labour Government has delivered a blow against one of the fundamentals of our economic security, that is, the arbitration system. Local government authorities are facing difficult times. They have to come to the point where they can no longer raise by rates sufficient finance to provide amenities and improvements and promote necessary progress. The time has come for a conference between the State, Federal and local government authorities. I have suggested previously that it might be practicable for local government representatives to attend meetings of the Australian Loan Council as observers in order to familiarize themselves with the finances of the Commonwealth. I believe that this course would be of great advantage.
The approximate cost of increased holidays for New South Wales State public servants is £2,700,000 a year, i s been incurred by a government which has said time and again that it has not sufficient finance to maintain its instrumentalities. During the war a book called “ I Accuse “ was written in which were set out details of the men who had helped to cause the outbreak of war. They were accused of failing to face up to their responsibilities I now accuse the New South Wales Labour Government of placing votes ahead of the progress and development of that State. Not only has it done so by granting increased holidays, but it has done so in other directions in the past. More unfortunately there have been instances of big business in New South Wales compromising with the State Government in certain matters to the detriment of business and industry merely to gain a very brief advantage. It is time some business interests in that State realized that the greatest thing they could do for the progress of their companies and of New South Wales would be to defeat the State Labour Government at the next election. A solution must be found to the problems confronting local government authorities. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr.
Robinson), and many others have said that local government is one of the three prongs of government and of democracy. If it is weakened, our system of government and democracy is also weakened. The New South Wales Labour Government must be made to face up to its responsibilities so that they are not once again shifted to the Commonwealth to the detriment of the nation.
I wish to comment briefly on tariff protection. In a growing country tariff protection is necessary in order to provide employment to sustain our secondary industries. This policy is recognized as being essential, but it can cause a vicious circle because in certain circumstances an industry so protected finds that as the result of action by the New South Wales Labour Government to increase holidays and decrease working hours it needs greater protection to compete with overseas manufacturers. The prices of the goods produced are thereby increased. The cost of living rises and a further increase in tariff protection becomes necessary. I speak as a representative of the rural community. The Tariff Board must give urgent and close attention to requests for protection in order to ensure that in the long run its rulings shall not weaken the economic foundations of our primary and rural interests.
We listened to-night to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). He has reminded us on previous occasions of the dangers facing this country from outside. I was reminded by his warnings of the time when we were told that we had peace. We were told that if Hitler was given this and Germany was allowed to do that, that would be the last demand made. If it is in Indonesia’s interests for that country to join the Communist camp, nothing we have done previously will stop it from doing so. History has proved time and again that it is best to take a firm stand before the deluge comes upon us. I have referred before to the time when the Hungarians called to the Western world for help. All they were given was magnificent phraseology. Finally, the Hungarian freedom fighters were engulfed in the red deluge. Australia, as do all countries in the Western world, needs more than noble words. The speech of the honorable member for Chisholm should remind us all of the dangers that threaten us. When we look at the situation overseas and see the bungling - I say it advisedly - that has been going on in South Viet Nam, at the mistakes that are being made there - although I realize that it is easy to speak and not so easy to act and work in such a situation - we can see that it will be a great thing if we in the West, and particularly the United States of America, learn from these mistakes and face up to the situation as it is. If we face these problems with the same degree of faith and courage as that with which this country and the West have faced many problems in recent years, I believe the problems and difficulties can and will be overcome. But if we close our eyes to them and say that they are not there - if we do not learn from the mistakes we have made even in recent months - the time when we are able to learn from the mistakes will be past and we will have to ask our people to make far greater sacrifices than they need to be asked to make at this moment.
I congratulate the Government on the policy it has presented in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech opening this first session of the Twenty-fifth Parliament. The evidence of the value of the Speech will be in the enacting of the promised legislation in the months that lie ahead.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sexton) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Ministers of State Bill 1964.
Public Service Bill 1964.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Senator Anderson, Senator Dittmer and Senator Prowse.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts: - Senators DrakeBrockman, Fitzgerald and Wedgwood.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee: - The President of the Senate and Senators Arnold and Hannan.
Motion (by Dr. Forbes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Last Thursday I rose to ask a question of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) about the background of the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) in relation to the unity ticket in the Australian Labour Party. I wished to refer to the Statistical Return for the House of Representatives in 1940, for the seat of Werriwa and the fact that the honorable member for Cunningham had then stood against the official Labour candidate, Mr. Hubert Peter Lazzarini, who was elected. The honorable member for Cunningham stood as the selected candidate of the Hughes-Evans group, one of the three Labour parties then operating in New South Wales, after the A.L.P. State executive had been suspended by the Federal executive. The HughesEvans group was supported by the Communists and had Communists in the group and among its leaders, quite a number of them having well-known names. The authority for this is given in a statement by Mr. Fallon, who was then secretary of the Federal Labour Party, which was reported as follows: - “The Communist Party cannot carry on in the open as it has done because it is a banned organization “, said the Federal President of the A.L.P., Mr. C. G. Fallon, yesterday. “I have no doubt that if Messrs. Evans and Hughes attempt to carry on some form of organization the Communists will gladly support them.”
That was what the federal president of the Australian Labour Party said, denouncing the Hughes-Evans group in New South Wales, and in denouncing them he stated that the Communists would support them. In referring to this group he also said that the Communists could not now carry on in the open. As I said before, there was a group of leading Communists on the committee which led the Hughes-Evans group. In addition to this, as recently as 1st November, 1960, moves were being made in the Australian Labour Party to expel the present honorable member for Cunningham from the party. These were reported as follows:-
His alleged offence is that he shared a political platform last Thursday with Mr. W. McDougall, secretary of the South Coast Communist Party.
A.L.P. rules forbid Party members to share political platforms with members of any other party.
The moves against Mr. Connor, member for Wollongong-Kembla, will probably not be made official until after the Calare by-election on Saturday week- which I think was about 5th November.
– I do not know why the Country Party is giving you such an audience.
– There is a little bit by Alderman A. Calwell which comes up here, and we could quote that, if you like. You may have forgotten it. It is about the Communist myrmidons. You came into this. On 29th October, 1960, there appeared the following report: -
A public meeting on Thursday night heard the report of a deputation which travelled to Canberra on Wednesday, which local trade unions observed as “ a day of protest “ against proposed amendments to the Crimes Act. Mr. Rex Connor, M.L.A., Mr. J. Valdis, editor of a Greek newspaper; Mr. W. McDougall, secretary of the South Coast Communist Party; and a number of officers of local unions, spoke on the issues behind the protest day.
When one says these things, which I believe are a matter of grave public importance, all that the patter of Labour Party spokesmen or policy makers can produce is, “ It is a smear campaign”. In other words, if one says that a man is associated with Communists it is a smear campaign according to the Labour Party. Such an attitude is not doing something to let the light of day into a scandal in politics in Australia, which some of the people at least were able to detect, with the result that they deserted the Labour Party in the general election and again last Saturday in the WollongongKembla State by-election. The Labour Party calls this a smear campaign. This is a typical Communist reply whenever anybody makes a charge about unity tickets. Yet here is a unity ticket right in the middle of this Parliament.
– You are nearly silly enough to be in the Ministry.
– That is the sort of reply one gets. It is a clear fact that one of the Australian Labour Party members opposite has been, up till 1960, charged with appearing on platforms with Communists. This is unity-
– When did this occur?
– Of course you would not know, because you are only a new boy.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Macarthur to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will direct my remarks to you. I say that this honorable member would not know about these things because he has just lately been brought into this House and he nearly did not get back last election. It is easy to use the smearing cowardly words that are used in defence of the Labour Party and what it is doing. The Victorian A.L.P. executive and the Queensland executive of the A.L.P., with the Moscow-trained men on them-
– It is a laugh to the Labour Party, is it not, when one says there are Moscow-trained men like Nolan and Waters on the Central Executive in Queensland? These men, of course, were among the 36 who met at Hotel Kingston in Canberra on that most dreadful occasion when the cameras caught the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) skulking in the shrubbery waiting to be given their orders. Opposition members laugh, Mr. Speaker. This may be a laughing matter for representatives of the Australian Labour Party, but it is not a laughing matter for the people of Australia. We have a political scandal when these men opposite come here and make a joke of associating with the Communists.
– Where do I come in?
– The Leader of the Opposition is very proud of his memory for history. Let me refresh his mind. The Hughes-Evans group backed Russia.
– The Prime Minister left you in the boob overnight.
– That sort of statement is just part of the campaign. It has not the slightest effect on me. Let the honorable gentleman have a look at the situation in his own party. Where is the honorable member for Cunningham now? Where was he last Thursday? The Premier of New South Wales, referring to the honorable member for Cunningham, who now sits in this chamber as a representative of the Australian Labour Party under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, said in the New South Wales Parliament that there is no room in the Labour Party for traitors.
– When did the Premier of New South Wales say that?
– That statement was reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 29th September, 1960, if the Leader of the Opposition would like to look it up.
– I guarantee that the honorable member could not quote the report correctly.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro dares to interject, though he has been disgraced in his own electorate. He came out-
– Order! The honorable member will control himself. I ask other honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who, for years, has been posing as a half-bred Liberal, suddenly came out in the last general election campaign and said that he would work for a re-examination or renegotiation of the treaty relating to the United States naval communication station at North West Cape. The people of Eden-Monaro treated him as they should have treated him: They reduced his majority from 8,000 to 700 votes.
– I said much more than that.
– Why does not the honorable member take his place in this Parliament at other times instead of appearing here only at times like this? This honorable member has been put down-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that he must not reflect on the character of another honorable member.
– I am not reflecting on character. I am discussing the political activities of these men, which amount to thinly-veiled siding with the Communists in an attempt to destroy the will of the Australian people to defend themselves.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, rarely in the history of this Parliament have we heard an attack more contemptible than that just made by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) on another honorable member. We have just seen the spectacle of this man who has been a toreador of both State and Federal Parliaments for about twenty years attacking an honorable member v/ho has not yet made his maiden speech in this Parliament. To-night, this courageous member of the Liberal Party of Australia, by means of all the smears, innuendoes, half-truths and lies that he continually utters in this Parliament, has attacked another honorable member.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I shall substitute the word “ untruths “.
-The honorable member has been asked to withdraw.
– In deference to you-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw unreservedly.
– I withdraw unreservedly.
– Just say that he handles the truth recklessly.
– He handles the truth somewhat recklessly. The honorable member for Macarthur himself has been a security risk ever since he broke into the Garden Island naval establishment on the occasion when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) is reported to have left him in the boob for the night. That is where the honorable member ought to be to-day. He is suspect in this Parliament. This is the man who is a master of the smear and al! that goes with it. The other day, this courageous man, as he describes himself, came into this Parliament to rebel against the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman, however, raised his well-known eyebrows, and the honorable member chickened out. He displayed the courage of a rabbit. To-night, displaying that same courage, for which he is famous, he has attacked a defenceless member who he knows cannot answer the attack and whom he would like to bustle into making his maiden speech in an attempt to answer this unprincipled attack.
The honorable member talks about the history of the Australian Labour Party, goes back a quarter of a century ago and alleges that a particular thing happened in the career of a member of this Parliament. I do not believe that the honorable member can read the records correctly. So, for a start, I do not believe what he has said. However, if we are to go back over the past, let us start right at the top. I shall start with the Prime Minister, if the honorable member for Macarthur wants to go back into history. Let us recall what the Prime Minister said about Hitler, who caused a great deal of trouble in the world some years ago. The honorable member wants to attack a man because of something that happened 25 years ago, but does he like to be reminded that he is led by a Prime Minister who, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, praised Hitler? The right honorable gentleman, referring to a speech that had been made by Hitler, said -
I thought on the whole Hitler’s speech was as satisfactory, from our point of view, as we could very well hope.
I thought the general atmosphere of the speech went to show that Mr. Chamberlain’s achievements at Munich were a great deal more substantial than pessimists would have had us believe.
What about the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who, I understand, wrote for the Melbourne “ Herald “ an article on fascism and said that he was proud of the ideas that he was putting forward?
If the honorable member for Macarthur wants to go right back into history, let us consider the activities of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He is said to have donated prizes for Communist sports meetings in the electorate now represented by the very man whom the honorable member for Macarthur has just attacked in this Parliament. I can say something about a great many honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), who is now interjecting. The honorable member, in his maiden speech last evening, made no mention of Her Majesty the Queen, although he won his seat on a claim that he was the most loyal man in the country. Indeed, last night, the honorable member made a major error: He did not even praise the Prime Minister. This new member set a shocking example for a parliamentarian, as he did not even acknowledge the kindness of the people of the Parkes electorate who, temporarily at least, were silly enough to send him here. He did not remember even to thank them. And what about the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman)? Not so long ago only a few tables away from where I sat, he dined with Eliot V. Elliott, Communist secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. Honorable members opposite - all of them - are being white-anted.
I have said something about the honorable member for Macarthur, who has attacked the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor). Let me now deal with the honorable member for Mackellar. We know that he has had his outs. I suppose that the present member for Cunningham might even have called him a Communist at times if he knew some of the things that the honorable member had done. Let us look at the record of the honorable member for Mackellar. He took Cronulla in war-time. He was kicked out of the Army for that, but at least he took Cronulla. He was, so far as I know, one who raided the Garden Island naval establishment - and perhaps even other places - with the honorable member for Macarthur.
– Are you stating this yourself as a fact?
– Let the honorable member who has just interjected attack somebody if he wants to. He is the luckiest man in the world to be here, and he had better make the most of his opportunities. We hear from the honorable member for Mackellar much about loyalty to the Liberal Party and the things that liberalism stands for. Now that the Government has a majority of 22, he and the honorable member for Macarthur have become militant again. They are now prepared to vote against the Government, because they know that the Government can still count on a majority of 20 even if they do so. Let me go back over the record of the honorable member for Mackellar, who, on an earlier occasion, said -
Mr. Menzies can neither call nor command as a leader. Under his leadership the party broke up and yet ho refuses to co-operate under the leadership of anybody else.
In these circumstances the greatest national service ha can render the party and Australia would be to quit politics.
Those of us who stand for a more vigorous policy are anxious that Mr. Menzies’ inevitable failures should not block the path of future progress.
Those remarks were reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 13 th April, 1943- two years after the episode that has been raised to-night. The honorable member for Mackellar is disloyal in every sense of the word. This is a traitorous action if ever there was one.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but this man called the honorable member for Cunningham a traitor earlier to-night.
– Order! That is not so.
– The honorable member for Macarthur talks about loyalty. The honorable member for Mackellar on the occasion I have mentioned was speaking about the Knight of the Thistle, the Prime Minister. If honorable members opposite want to lecture the Australian Labour Party on loyalty, let them stand up to some of the facts in this record that I have given to-night. Is this Parliament, with its prestige and traditions, a place in which an honorable member during an adjournment debate can attack another honorable member, no matter what parliament he may have been in, but has not yet spoken in this Parliament and so, as we understand it, has not the right to reply? The honorable member for Macarthur has not given any proof of his assertions. All he has said is that he is quoting from a newspaper.
During the time that I have been a member of this Parliament, the Liberal party on one occasion nominated three men for the Senate. One was named Dein and another was named Abott. Number six on the Liberal Party’s ticket was Sharkey of the Communist Party. He was given second preference over Senator Ashley, a returned serviceman and a member of the Australian Labour Party, who was a member of the Senate until quite recently. This is the party that says that the Communist Party and the Australian Labour Party are affiliated. Honorable members opposite would not still be in government if the Communist Party had not helped it survive by giving its preferences to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) in 1961. I mention these matters because they are important.
– Is this the best you can do?
– I do not expect you to like it because you are in the same category as some of the fascists who sit around you.
-Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, but I point out that the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) is out of order in interjecting.
– I ask the Minister to restrain himself.
– The reputation of the honorable member for Cunningham will stand comparison with the reputations of honorable members opposite, particularly that of the honorable member for Macarthur who has levelled these charges. If he wants to throw stones, let him remember that his character may well be examined first. If he desires to continue with this form of conduct, there are those amongst us who may undertake some research into his activities. We will check his big business affiliations and try to discover why he continues to defend the exploiters in the community and why he is always ready to rise in his place and vilify Labour men. In his mind, any one who reads a book with a red cover is a Communist.
I could run over the reputations of the sorry collection I see on the other side of the House. They talk about unity and loyalty, but look at the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party. An honorable member would be expelled from the Parliament if he said what these parties think of each other. This is common knowledge. I place on record my contempt for an honorable member who attacks a defenceless man in this place.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. You have ruled that the use of the word “ fascist “ is unparliamentary. I ask you now whether the use of the word “ Communist “ is equally unparliamentary.
– Order! That would depend on the way the term was used. If an accusation were made that an honorable member was a Communist with the object of attacking his character, due consideration would have to be given to the matter. It must not be forgotten that the Communist Party is a recognized political party.
– We have just had an exhibition of the diversionary tactics of the Australian Labour Party. Factual material has been brought forward and put before the House, and it is material that should be considered. The Australian Labour Party is anxious that this material should not be considered on its merits. It therefore enters into these diversionary tactics that have just been used by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
The facts as given by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) should be looked at coldly and in the correct light. We should look at the circumstances in 1940. We are seeing diversionary tactics employed again in order to cover up the thing that the Australian Labour Party most fears and that is the exposure of the evil association with communism that this organization so often has. In this case, in September, 1940, it would appear that there was what was known as the Hughes-Evans group, which put candidates into the field against, for example, Mr. Lazzarini. Mr.
Hughes and Mr. Evans were subsequently shown to be not merely Communists but members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Innocent people may have been associated with the group, but it was in direction a Communist group. We notice that amongst the candidates it fielded were people like Mr. S. P. Lewis, Mr. J. Fisher, Mr. W. E. Gollan, Mr. Rupert Lockwood, Mr. W. A. Wood and Mr. M. J. Hughes. These are people whose association with communism is notorious.
It well may be that some people associated with this group without realizing what it was. That is possible. But let us think of the date. The date was September of 1940, the time of the blitz. This is the time when the Communists were not only our enemies but were allied with Hitler as our enemies. At this time Stalin and Hitler were allies. This is the time when the Nazis and the Communists were cooperating. This is the time when Great Britain was suffering the worst of the Nazi blitz. It is the time when the Communist Party in Australia was acting as a Hitler agent for the sabotage of our war effort. At this vital time we have an association of people - I have named some of them - in the Hughes-Evans group, which was under the leadership of two people who are known to be members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. At this time the Communist Party was engaged in active treason against Australia as the ally of Hitler. It is the time, as I have said, when the Nazi blitz on London was at its worst.
It may well be - unlikely perhaps, but still possible - that a person could have been associated with this group without knowing what it was. Perhaps it is fair to say that something that happened in 1940 is not entirely evidence of the position in 1964. But let us look again at the recorded facts. They are that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) has been reported in the press from time to time - the honorable member for Macarthur gave one example - as being actively associated with Communists. If in 1940 a person was taken in, did not understand what it was all about and unsuspectingly co-operated in treason, we would not expect that same person twenty years later to be associating with the same people. Perhaps it could be said that he had Communist inclinations and associations twenty years ago but has given them up now. This would be a tenable line of argument; but in this case can the argument be sustained? It would be interesting to know whether the honorable member has been associated with Communists. The newspapers report him as associating with Communists. These are local newspapers and one would assume that they were speaking the truth. This matter had better be laid on the line as it should be. Here is a person who opposed members of the Labour Party among other people and who stood in the interests of a group which was directed by traitors, which was closely associated with Communists and which in fact was a Communist front in 1940. We now find in the public press that he has a record of association with Communists even on the public platform. Is that the kind of thing that the Labour Party countenances It would be interesting to find out whether it is.
– I wish to reply to some of the observations made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Ever since he came into this Parliament he has been pursuing one line - smearing people and attacking them.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal of that. The quoting of facts is not smearing.
– Order! There is no substance in the point made by the honorable member.
– The honorable member’s great-grandfather, William Charles Wentworth the first was the first man in Australia to call another man a Communist. That was away back in 1851. Sir Henry Parkes, in his autobiography, says that William Charles Wentworth the first attacked him when he came to Australia, as an anarchist, a radical and a chartist. History knows Henry Parkes as a founder of federation. The honorable member for Mackellar follows very much the family tradition of always attacking people without justification and without reason. As far as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is concerned, you can forget him, because his party has already done that.
Let me tell the House something about the family of the honorable member for Mackellar, because he is always attacking people. I have in my hand the July, 1963, issue of a journal called “Progress”- a good name. One of the articles deals with the family of the honorable member for Mackellar. It tells the story of what happened in the New South Wales Legislative Council when Sir George Gipps was governor of that State and William Charles Wentworth the first was a leading figure in the Parliament of that State. A group of Sydney crooks - there is no other word to describe them - made an attempt to buy land in New Zealand. They were trying to get around a treaty that the British Government had made with the Maoris to protect their land. Governor Gipps took action-
– In what year was this?
– Before you were born.
– And before you were born.
– Yes, and before I was born, too. I am going back in history. The article says that one of the most important debts which posterity owes to Governor Gipps is his frustration of the designs of a group bent on obtaining private possession of the whole of New Zealand. One of the men who wanted to buy the whole of New Zealand was William Charles Wentworth the first, and the tradition remains. The honorable member for Mackellar is waxing rich to-day on the land grants that were made to his greatgrandfather by the government of the dayIn 1840 Governor Gipps proposed a bill to sweep away all the claims of the group. The Wentworth of the day tried to prevent the passage of that bill. Heaton, in his “ Dictionary of Dates “ says -
Though generally magnanimous and much beloved in his private capacity, Mr. Wentworth was not superior to the greed for territorial acquisition. He had bought from the native chiefs in New Zealand the whole of the South Island, together with some 200,000 acres in the North Island, for a petty payment of £400 in cash and some small annuities to the infatuated chiefs who were willing to fritter away their birthrate for a mess of pottage.
The article goes on to say -
In concluding the debate in support of his bill- this was in the days of the nominated chamber -
. Gipps repeated the main principles of his proclamation and claimed that it was a proper and praiseworthy use of the right of the Crown to protect an innocent people from fraud. He said that it was his fixed determination to do what he thought was right in this matter, irrespective of what the public, or rather the few individuals whose interests were concerned, might think or say of him for so doing.
This is how Gipps concluded his speech -
Gentlement, talk of corruption, talk of jobbery! To purchase at the rate of 400 acres for a penny! Why, if all the corruption that has defiled England since the days of the Stuarts were gathered into one heap it would not make such a sum as this; if all the jobs which have been done since the time of Sir Robert Walpole were collected into one job, it would not make such a job as the one Mr. Wentworth now asks me to lend him a hand in perpetrating; the job, that is to say, of making him a grant of twenty millions of acres at the rate of one hundred acres a farthing!
That was what William Charles Wentworth the first asked for. Gipps continued -
The Land Company of New South Wales has been said to be a job; one million acres at eighteen pence an acre has been thought to be a pretty good job; but it absolutely fades into nothingness besides Mr. Wentworth’s job
That is the story of part of the land deals, land jobbery and land grabbing that took place in New South Wales in those days.
The honorable member for Mackellar, when he stands up in this chamber and attacks other people, must be prepared to defend himself and his family in all their transactions in this country. He cannot stand up here and smear and attack other people - good and decent people - and expect other people to sit down and say nothing.
– He was not smearing the families of other people.
– You keep quiet. Cassius Clay is prepared to attack me, but I will let him go. To-night the honorable member for Mackellar spoke about certain incidents. In those days I was prominent in the activities of the Labour Party, as I still am. If I were in the same position to-day I would be called a faceless man, because I was an assistant secretary of a unity conference at Newtown. I know all that happened in respect of the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor). He broke away from the Labour Party in 1940 and stood as a Hughes-Evans candidate - a State Labour Party candidate.
That is true. I was present in 1940 when we removed the Hughes-Evans group. The honorable member for Cunningham stood as a State Labour Party candidate in 1940. He was re-admitted to the Australian Labour Party in 1944 and has been an honest and decent member of the party ever since. He was never a Communist and he has never been associated with the Communist Party.
This indirect attempt to smear him, which we heard to-night, is unworthy of the two honorable members who made it and unworthy of this Parliament. There are many serious matters for this Parliament to consider. We should not have to stay here every night there is a debate on the motion for the adjournment and listen to the same two star performers in their old act. It is getting pretty stale and they are getting stale with it. They say nothing new. They just rake it over all the time hoping, as Hitler hoped, that if you tell a lie often enough and make it big enough somebody will believe it.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal of the word “ lie “.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I ask-
– Order! I remind the House-
– The Leader of the Opposition used the word “lie”. I ask for a withdrawal.
– Order! If the honorable member does not resume his seat he will be dealt with.
– Mr. Speaker, you will deal with me-
– Order! I name the honorable member for Mackellar.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That the honorable member for Mackellar be suspended from the service of the House.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority .. ..93
(Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Sheep exported to New Zealand are to assist the commercial sheep industry in that country. However, there is an embargo on the export of all merino sheep from New Zealand and thus Australian sheep and blood lines are not available to other countries.
In the case of Erromanga, a small merino flock has been established on the island for many years and, as all sheep and wool produced are sold in Australia, the export of replacement animals for the flock has been allowed since the introduction of the embargo.
The other three very small exports permitted were to research institutes in the countries concerned and were approved only for experimental purposes. In all three cases exports were subject to agreements precluding the disposal of the sheep to commercial interests.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does he intend to take action to implement the recommendation of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation that the age of a wife should not be a condition in the application of the married couple age allowance provided the husband has attained the age of 65; if so, when?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In the 1963-64 Budget speech I announced the Government’s intention to adopt the recommendation of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation to extend the married couples provisions to an aged person whose spouse is not of pensionable age. Subsequently, legislative effect was given to this decision. (See section 7 (3) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act 1963 - Act No. 70 of 1963.)
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give further consideration to an amendment of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act to provide that verifiable fares or reasonable transport costs incurred by workers in travelling to and from their places of employment shall be allowable deductions for income tax purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In the context of the many other requests which the Government has received for taxation relief in one form or another, further consideration will be given to this matter when the 1964-65 Budget is being prepared.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640304_reps_25_hor41/>.