25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Dr. J. F. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Territories a few simple questions. Are all non-aboriginal employees of the Department of Territories in the Northern Territory paid award rates and do they work under award conditions for a 40-hour week? Do all aboriginal employees of the Department of Territories in the Northern Territory enjoy the same awards and conditions and work the same hours weekly as all non-aboriginal employees? If not, why not? When will the Minister abolish all discrimination against aboriginal employees of his department?
– Mr. Speaker, I suggest that such an involved series of questions should be placed on the notice-paper.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to discussions in the sittings of the previous Parliament about the possibility of Japanese officials visiting Australia to investigate whether apples, pears, oranges and lemons may be exported to Japan. I ask: Has the Japanese Government considered this possibility and is it favorably disposed towards the proposal?
– Discussions between the Australian quarantine authorities and Japanese quarantine officials have centred on fruit fly and codling moth. The Japanese authorities are very concerned about the possible effect of these pests. Our authorities have acquainted them fully with the facts and with the actions that we can take. They are now considering the reports that we have presented to them. There was some suggestion that the officials would visit Australia and discuss the matter at the time of the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit here, but it was considered inadvisable that any visit be made until such time as the discussion of the reports that we have presented to them was finalized.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is he aware of the number of Japanese motor cars that came to Australia in the year ended 31st December, 1963? Is the number of motor cars that came from Japan into Australia equivalent to the number of motor cars - namely 15,000- that were exported from Australia during that same period?
– I do not carry in my mind the number of Japanese cars imported, either whole or for assembly in Australia, but I do know roughly the number of Australian cars exported. All I can say is that whatever number of Japanese cars or German, French, Italian or British cars came in under the prevailing tariff schedule, the Australian cars exported were exported due to the quality and competitiveness of Australian cars and the pertinacity of the manufacturers. But there are recorded for consideration by the Tariff Board certain aspects of the automobile industry. Part of the objective is to ensure that,( as we desire to have an Australian automobile-manufacturing industry in this country - which we have and of which we are proud - we do not want to see a trend away from manufacture, which has been so successfully achieved, into the importation of increasing numbers of components of motor cars under by-law. This is something which is not giving great concern at the moment but which we are having a jolly good look at before there is cause for concern.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National
Service. Late last year he stated that employment prospects for 1964 would be brighter. Is he now in a position to advise the House whether his forecast is proving correct?
– It is a little early in the year to try to be exact about the true position of the employment market. In recent weeks the Government has had discussions with leaders of industry and of the trade union movement and I can say that, apart from the special circumstances of women in country areas and special cases of people who have certain disabilities or who cannot get employment due to their location, their views were optimistic about the future. They were certainly more optimistic than they have been previously during the course of the last three years. Last year the number of wage and salary earners increased by about 120,000. The work force, in addition to wage and salary earners, includes self-employed people. These would be two-sevenths to one-third of the number of wage and salary earners. I am not yet in a position to be exact as to the fulfilment of the forecasts I made, but I have no doubt that when the figures as to what happened during the month of February - which is the first month upon which we will get an indication of the trend - based upon the rate at which job vacancies are being notified to us, the fall in the number of registrants last month will, I think, turn out to be spectacular. In other words, I should not be a scrap surprised if the number of registrants fell a little more than it fell in the corresponding period last year. It was for that reason that the Government recently decided that the migrant intake for this year would be increased by 10,000 - as announced by my colleague the Minister for Immigration - and we are now trying to recruit between 3,500 and 4,000 unskilled migrant workers to fill jobs which we know to be vacant in the heavy industries of this country.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. What are the prospects for largescale sugar production in the Ord River district in Western Australia? Will the
Government extend the present sugar agreement to cover sugar produced in this area, and will the Minister see that the Queensland sugar industry, which is the world’s most efficient industry of this kind, is adequately protected against what could be a shortterm appreciation of the world situation?
– I am not an authority on the qualities or potential of the Ord River district. I have not even been there; 1 have too much to do. The Queensland sugar industry is particularly efficient. The prospects of Western Australia’s engaging in the sugar industry are being considered, and I understand that a survey is being made for the State Government on the matter. I shall be very interested to see the contents of the report.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories.
– Put it on the noticepaper.
Mr. ENGLAND__ At least, in this instance, I am seeking information. Has the Minister seen reports of a statement, attributed to Mr. R. N. Eden, Director of Water Use in the Northern Territory, to the effect that huge underground reservoirs of water, described in the report as a huge underground fresh-water sea, have been discovered within twenty miles of the city of Darwin? Is the information correct, and, if so, can the Minister inform the House of the extent of the supply and its probable effect on development in the area?
– It is correct that large resouces of water have been discovered about twenty miles south of Darwin. The discovery was made in the course of a search for water to augment the present Darwin water supply, which, I understand, is capable at present of supplying 5,500,000 gallons a day - sufficient to meet Darwin’s requirements only up to 1965. I am informed that five bores are being put down and that each bore will be capable of delivering 1,000,000 gallons of water a day. Arrangements for surveys to determine the full extent of the new supply have not yet been completed, but within about twelve months we shall probably have some idea of the quantity of water available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. I ask: Is he aware that many aborigines in the Northern Territory, as a result of the under-award payments made to them -
– Order! The honorable member is out of order. The matter is the subject of a question on the notice-paper.
– No. I did not put a question relating to this matter on the noticepaper.
– The honorable member for Hunter may proceed.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware that many aborigines in the Northern Territory, as a result of the underaward payments made to them, look forward to the time when they can retire and obtain a pension of £5 15s. a week, this amount being in some instances two or three times higher than the income that they received during their working lives? What action has the Government taken to remove this absurd anomaly?
– I thank the honorable member for the information he has given regarding the wages paid to aborigines. These wages at present are determined by the Administration, because in many cases the aborigines employed are slow workers. If, in the present situation, they had to compete with other workers on full award wages there might be some unemployment among them. However, as I have said before, the whole matter is being considered by the Northern Territory Legislative Council. When ultimately these considerations have been determined there will probably be a further investigation of all these matters.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Immigration a question. It has been stated by the Executive Director of the Employers Federation of New South Wales that there is a growing shortage of labour and that this is no longer confined to skilled labour. The main problem in immigration appears to be transport; there does not seem to be sufficient shipping to bring migrants expeditiously to ^Australia. Is this statement of the prob- lem in immigration correct? What action has been taken to find a solution to the problem?
– It is accepted that there is a shortage of labour in Australia at present. This has been met by increasing the number of migrants by 10,000. This was mentioned by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, this morning. Every means of transport is being used to bring migrants here as quickly as possible. In the last few months increasing use has been made of air transport. The number of migrants being brought here by this means has increased from 38 per cent, to 43 per cent. The Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration is responsible for bringing migrants from Europe, and in this area air transport is also being used to a greater extent than it was before. Unassisted migrants, of course, make their own arrangements. The Department of Immigration, as I have said, is using air transport to an increasing extent and in the next few months we will find that even greater use will be made of this means of transport.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet considered the reports presented by the allparty Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in October, 1958, and November, 1959, as far as they concern the Commonwealth’s legislative machinery. In particular, has the Government considered the proposals to allow the number of seats in this House to be increased without involving an increase of the number of senators and to ensure that areas of rapidly increasing population are proportionately represented without reducing the present representation of areas where the population is increasing more slowly? If consideration has been given to these matters, what decision has the Government reached?
– These matters have been under consideration, but I am not in a position to announce any decision.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. What conditions of overseas service now entitle servicemen to repatriation benefits? What areas are covered by the repatriation provisions?
– Last year the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act came into operation. It is designed to extend eligibility for repatriation benefits to personnel serving in .overseas areas where they are subjected to risks that are beyond those considered to be normal for peacetime service in the permanent services. These areas are prescribed on the advice of my colleague, the Minister for Defence. The two areas prescribed at present are northern Malaya close to the Thailand border and South Viet Nam.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by referring to two recent statements that have been made about the shortage of refrigerated shipping space. Mr. A. J. Gribble, chairman of the Meat Exporters Association, has said that a shortage of refrigerated shipping space has caused delays in the export of Australian meat. It has also been claimed that the available refrigerated shipping space is not sufficient to lift the whole of this year’s Tasmanian apple and pear export crop. I ask the Minister: Are these delays adding to production costs of our exports? Is the export of refrigerated cargo from Australia increasing? Has the Australian National Line any refrigerated ships suitable for this trade? In view of the statements to which I have referred, will the Minister direct or request the Australian National Line to prepare plans for the construction in Australian shipyards of ships with refrigerated space so that adequate shipping of this nature will be available at all times for the transport of our refrigerated exports?
– I am not aware of the statements to which the honorable member has referred. Shipping space for exports is a matter that comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Industry. With regard to the building in Australia of ships specifically for the export trade, our present consideration of this proposal indicates that operative costs would be so high as to be prohibitive. That is not to say that when the Australian National Line can carry bulk cargoes overseas, having regard to the state of the market and the demand for shipping space, it has not in the past done so. I think the line has made 30-odd voyages overseas when circumstances have made it profitable to do so. Under normal circumstances to build ships specially for permanent operation overseas would be quite a ruinous proposition.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. It has been said in this house that the Australian meat industry should not rely on the American market but should look to Asia for new markets. Have the Minister and representatives of his department continually and consistently sought markets for our meat and other products all over the world? Will the Minister comment on his department’s activities in Asia? Can he indicate the prospects for increasing the sale of our meat in that area?
– It is true that my department, the Australian Meat Board which operates under the aegis of the Department of Primary Industry, and units of the Australian meat industry, have been very vigorous in seeking to sell Australian meat to the best advantage. We have the longterm agreement with the United Kingdom - the so-called fifteen-year agreement - which entitles us for sixteen years to sell every carcass of mutton, lamb, beef and veal that we want to sell to the United Kingdom. That is our greatest single protection. We have the newly announced meat agreement with the United States-
– Is there an escape clause in the United States agreement?
– No. The agreement has been published. It has been laid on the table of the House and is available for honorable members to read. I have announced to the House that the reason for the delay in concluding the Japanese trade agreement was that for more than six months I was doing little else but arguing for access for Australian meat to Japan. I was arguing unsuccessfully, as 1 candidly told the House. Japan imposes quantitative restrictions on the entry of Australian beef. Notwithstanding that former attitude on the part of .the Japanese Government, we had just concluded the agreement when
Japan issued import permits for 5,000 tons of beef over a short period. My advisers and I believe that in the long term the rising standard of living in Japan will result in Japan becoming an important importer of Australian meat. What we want to do is to sell in the best markets but to avoid, if we can, becoming too dependent on any single market. That points quite clearly to getting firm rights in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America, which we have, and to trying to diversify to the maximum extent. We believe that we will sell increasing quantities to Asia; but we think - in fact, we know from sheer experience - that in the short term we cannot sell very much meat in Asia outside Japan. We think we will sell increasing quantities in that country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing. Is it a fact that representations have been made to the Federal Government by the South Australian Government in relation to qualification for the proposed new housing subsidy for purchasers of homes from the South Australian Housing Trust? If that is a fact, is the Minister in a position to make any statement which will clarify this matter?
– The Government has received representations, not only from South Australia but also from the other States, concerning a number of housing matters connected with the preparation of impending legislation. South Australia has a special problem which is being given careful consideration. Having visited that State recently, I might say that the job that has been done there in housing is magnificent. Even the meanest house in South Australia is well above the standard of Uncle Tom’s cabin.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Following the national conference which he convened last year, he announced that industrial relations committees would be established in the stevedoring industry in all ports, to seek to avoid disputes and, if possible, to settle them. Will the Minister tell the House what pro gress, if any, has been made with those committees and, in particular, what is happening in the ports of Melbourne and Sydney?
– =1 announced to the House last year that the stevedoring employers, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority had agreed that there should be established industrial relations committees and that the work of those committees should be to prevent and settle industrial disputes. These proposals were endorsed at mass meetings of the various branches of the Waterside Workers Federation, including those at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. At most ports the industrial relations committees have been established and, I think, are working well. However, I cannot say that of the port of Sydney and, to a lesser extent, I cannot say it of the port of Melbourne. I can say of the other ports that the committees seem to be working satisfactorily at the moment.
In Sydney the job delegates’ association seems to have taken control out of the hands of the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation. I believe that the time has come for the federation itself to establish control over the job delegates’ association on the Sydney waterfront. There are still too many strikes taking place there.
Having said that, and with strong reservations about Sydney and Melbourne, I think I should say that the number of days lost due to strikes since the mass waterfront meetings were held and the decisions were made is probably at an all-time low, and that if that record continues for the next four months we will see the lowest loss of working time on the whole of the Australian coast that we have known since these records were first kept.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a case decided last week by the Supreme Court of the United States of America? The case is Wesberry v. Sanders and is known as the Georgia redistributing case. Is he aware that in giving judgment in that case Mr. Justice Black stated that the court believed that the Constitution did not permit “vote-diluting discrimination through the device of districts containing widely varied numbers of inhabitants “, and instead the court would say that “in choosing their representatives the people should have one vote for one man as nearly as that is possible”? I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he feels any embarrassment about proposing Australian legislation designed to widen the gap between each man and the value of his vote at precisely the same time as the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to move in the other direction and to lay down that each vote should be, as nearly as possible, of the same value.
– Two or three days ago I happened to see a reference in a journal to this decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. I am looking forward to reading the full text of the decision when it becomes available. I just remind the honorable member that the Supreme Court of the United States is not there to lay down a law about the redistribution of electoral boundaries; it is there to interpret the constitutional power and in this case to examine the State law of Georgia in the light of the constitutional power. That is its function. No one should offer an opinion on the relevancy of the remarks of the Supreme Court, of the United States unless he has first examined the constitutional power, then the legislation of the State of Georgia and then the judgment of the Supreme Court. I am looking forward to doing all three at a suitable opportunity.
– Has the Minister for the Interior been able to take time off from his studies of the Constitution and a hasty glance at the Electoral Act to peruse the report of the select committee which inquired into the accommodation position in Parliament House? Has he noted that the report contains the recommendation that the National Capital Development Commission prepare plans as a matter of urgency? Has he noted that the report was presented on 28th October last year, over four months ago? Does he take umbrage at the tardiness of the commission in getting on with the preparation of plans? Does he entertain any fear that if there is undue delay all of the new accommodation will be required for the enlarged staff necessary to advise him on how to justify the unjustifiable? In short, can he say when the outhouse will be built?
– The reply to the last of the honorable member’s questions is that I do not know when this will be completed, because the matter has not yet been finalized by Cabinet.
It is not right to make any accusation that this matter has been treated tardily. I have read the select committee’s report. It has been submitted to Cabinet, which has approved in principle an extension of Parliament House. The National Capital Development Commission has advanced a number of proposals as to where the extension should be placed. These proposals either have been examined or are in the process of being examined by Mr. Speaker, and they have been considered also by the select committee, and recommendations have been made by it. Honorable members might have noticed yesterday that some large drilling equipment was operating around the House for the purpose of analysing the structure of the soil and estimating the cost of erecting an extension of Parliament House. As soon as a decision is made on where the extension will be placed the matter will be referred to Mr. Speaker for his approval. I hope then to be able to make a statement to the House.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that grave disquiet exists among the families of the lads lost in the whaler disaster last year, as a result of the Government’s refusal to make public the findings of the naval board of inquiry? Does the Minister know that it is also feared that tragedies will occur if the naval authorities do not rectify the mistakes which caused the recent disaster? Is it true that some of the whalers were not suitable for the exercise, and that they were ill-equipped and had no rescue or signalling equipment aboard? Was the ill-fated boat of the same type as the craft which struck a reef two days earlier in rising seas, and is it a fact that radio contact with “Sydney” could not be made for many hours after a report was made that there appeared to be a submerged boat with three persons clinging to it, off Hayman Island? Can the Minister say why the ill-fated whaler was sent on this exercise, when the captain knew that earlier boats had experienced difficulty and that the boat sent on the previous day had not at that time returned from its exercise?
– Order! The honorable member is making his question far too long.
– Will the Minister now reconsider the previous decision not to make public the findings of the board by tabling the report in the Parliament?
– I shall try to remember the sequence of the honorable member’s questions. A reply to the question whether the report would be tabled was given by my colleague, the Minister for the Army, last week, and I think that should suffice to answer the honorable member’s question. As to the suggestion concerning grave disquiet amongst the families of those who lost their lives, I am not aware that this grave disquiet exists.
– One such family lives in my electorate.
– I think perhaps the honorable member could make representations to me about that particular case. I can say that when relatives of the people involved have requested transcripts of evidence, those transcripts have been given to them. I can also say that the honorable member’s allegation that the safety equipment was not as it should have been is not true. At the inquiry, which was conducted in public and at which all these matters were brought out, this was not found to be the case. I may say that the Navy is at present investigating the use of the whaler for such purposes. It has been in such use for a long time. I can tell honorable members that the public generally and the people who serve in the Navy can rest assured that everything will be done that possibly can be done to see that such a happening does not occur again.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What action has the Government taken with regard to thalidomide babies whose limbs are badly deformed but who could in many cases be trained for an active and useful life?
– This matter was the subject of intense investigation last year, when discussions took place between the Commonwealth Department of Health and the State departments of health. As a result, an offer was made by the Commonwealth Government to pay half the cost of providing suitable types of limbs and appliances if the States also would pay half. Such limbs and appliances were to be manufactured and fitted at the Repatriation Department artificial limb and appliance centres in each State. This scheme has been in operation for some time. The Repatriation Department, on authority given by the Department of Health, is responsible for the fitting of, and early training in the use of, the limbs, while at a later stage the rehabilitation is undertaken by the State authorities, although the Commonwealth assists very substantially in providing specialist medical facilities and services. It is a joint effort by the Commonwealth and the States. I can assure the honorable member that the staffs involved, both Commonwealth and State, are dedicated to »he job. They have complete sympathy with, and understanding of, the problems of the unfortunate children and parents concerned.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he will convey to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission his opinion that Australia is now enjoying unbounded prosperity and is likely to continue in that happy position for some years to come. I ask that this be done so that the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ case for an increase of £2 12s. 6d. a week in the basic wage may be represented as having the support of both the Government and the Opposition.
– The Government has already presented its case to the commission in the basic wage hearing now before it. A statement prepared by Treasury officials in conjunction with officers of my department, setting out the state of the economy and the expectation of future trends, was presented to the commission. The statement was prepared in the most objective way possible. Our counsel believes that we have presented our case fairly and accurately. It is now up to the commission to make its decision. As I have stated before, we have no intention of prejudicing the case either of the employers or the employees. We believe that the commission should be independent and not subject to political pressure. When its decision is handed down it will be accepted by the Government.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Supply by reminding the honorable gentleman that at the handingover ceremony of the Mirage fighter aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force on 29th January, he said there was a shortage of technicians required for the manufacture of these planes. I ask: Have the interests concerned succeeded in obtaining the required number of technicians? If the shortage continues, will it seriously retard the reasonable delivery time for the balance of the Mirage order?
– In Australian industry generally there is a shortage of skilled labour which is affecting the production of the Mirage fighter aircraft at the government aircraft factories. This has caused us to re-arrange work schedules in order to employ female labour where possible. We have had to train otherwise unskilled labour which also is becoming scarce. At present a recruiting campaign is in progress overseas. As a result we have been able to bring to Australia 140 skilled United Kingdom tradesmen. More are on the way. I think that about 230 skilled tradesmen are either here or on the way. Although they come out here bonded for a period, the attraction of over-award payments generally available is often undeniable and we may not keep them for very long. All in all, every effort is being made to take care of the situation. There is no reason to believe that we will not be able to keep to the scheduled delivery times for the Mirage.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that two-thirds of the people seeking employment through the Department of Labour and National Service are under the age qf 21 years? If so, has the Government any plans to overcome what must be one of the most tragic human problems existing in Australia to-day?
– I hope the honorable gentleman heard me when I said that in my opinion a study of the statistics relating to the number of job vacancies becoming available indicates that during February we will have a large fall in the number of people registered for employment. This will indicate a strong demand for labour in the forthcoming months. As I said yesterday, the real difficulty will be not to find jobs but to find the men to fit into them. It is a little early yet for me to tell the House what the position is with school leavers. It is not practicable to do so at least until the end of March. However, I can tell the House that we are having few problems in placing male school leavers in employment. I will make a statement on school leavers as soon as I can.
– I ask the Treasurer whether in the matter of controlling the liquidity of funds there are any inflexible technical reasons why the Reserve Bank shows a preference for the statutory reserve deposits mechanism rather than resorting to interest rate adjustments. Is the judgment of the Reserve Bank influenced by direct Government intervention?
– I do not think it can be fairly stated that there is a preference in the sense of liking one rather than the other. Some factors make it desirable to call funds to statutory reserve deposits. On other occasions the interest rate mechanism is more appropriate. Australia does not have a precise parallel with the United Kingdom where the interest rate weapon is very much more freely used and can operate with much more dramatic impact upon the state of the economy. For example, the raising of the bank rate in the United Kingdom almost immediately attracts an inflow of short-term capital from the continent of Europe and from the United States of America. We do not have a comparable movement in Australia if we increase our bank rates. Generally speaking, at present our bank rates are somewhat lower than those obtaining in the Western industrialized countries. I assure the honorable member that there is no rigid dogma on this matter. Perhaps I should add that in a federation where six State premiers have a vested interest in not paying more than they have to for the money they use in building great capital facilities for the services of the public there may be an inhibiting factor which does not obtain to the same degree in the United Kingdom or the United States of America. However, I assure the honorable member that we do regard interest rate adjustment as one of the elements we can turn to where its use is appropriate.
– I ask for leave to table a paper following upon a question addressed by me to the Minister for Shipping and Transport last week. I ask for leave to table an official chart of Tasmania.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– May I explain to the House what it is about? Otherwise how can honorable members decide whether they will give me leave?
– Order! The honorable member must not take advantage of the forms of the House to state a case.
– May I give an indication of what is in the paper I wish to lay on the table? Otherwise how can the House decide the matter?
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The honorable member seeks leave. He has a right to indicate to the House what he wishes to lay on the table, but he shall not use that as an opportunity for propaganda. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Admiralty Chart No. 1079- Tasmania.
Notes prepared by a mariner relating to the charting of Tasmania’s coast.
The chart identifies the island as “ formerly Van Dieman’s Land “. It bears the information that it was prepared by Captain M. Flinders, among others. I have also added some notes by a mariner with some experience of these waters giving examples of inaccuracies and deficiencies in the chart.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That the joint select committee known as the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications that was constituted by resolutions of the House of Representatives and the Senate passed on the 5th December, 1962, be reconstituted under the name of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications with the same membership as the first-mentioned committee had immediately before the dissolution of the House of Representatives on the 1st day of November, 1963, namely: -
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Clark, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Drury, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. J. R. Fraser, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Howson, Mr. Killen and Mr. Turnbull be members of the Committee of Privileges, five to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That in addition to Mr. Speaker, Mr. Benson, Mr. Failes, Mr. J. R. Fraser, Mr. Harding, Mr. Mackinnon and Mr. Stokes be members of the House Committee.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Cockle, Mr. Erwin, Mr. Jones, Mr. King, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Uren bc members of the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance wilh the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946-1960, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcosting of Parliamentary Proceedings, viz.: - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Costa, Mr. Erwin, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Luchetti and Mr. Turnbull.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.: - Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Cockle, Mr. Cope, Mr. Costa, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Sexton and Mr. Whittorn.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize a grant of up to £2,750,000 to the State of New South Wales over a period of six years, as financial assistance towards the carrying out of flood mitigation works on certain New South Wales rivers. Honorable members will be aware that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced, last October, the Government’s intention to make this grant. The Government’s decision arose out of a request submitted by the New South Wales Government for the Commonwealth to join the State in providing financial assistance to a number of local government authorities which are carrying out flood mitigation works on the Macleay, Clarence, Richmond, Tweed, Shoalhaven and Hunter rivers. These rivers are subject to frequent flooding, and the floodings cause great hardship and considerable economic losses. It was represented to us that there was a strong case on natonal .grounds for the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance to enable construction of the works to be accelerated
The New South Wales Government is already subsidizing expenditure incurred by the relevant local authorities from their own resources on construction of flood mitigation works on those rivers. Under these arrangements the State provides £2 for each £1 provided by the local authority in the cases of the Macleay River, Clarence River and Richmond River county councils and the Tweed and Shoalhaven shire councils. Because of the magnitude of the works that are needed on the Hunter River, the State subsidy to the Hunter valley conservation trust is at the rate of £3 for £1.
Following the widespread and relatively severe floodings of the rivers in May of last year, the local government authorities concerned prepared a joint case for the provision of additional financial assistance which would enable work on flood mitigation to be accelerated. This statement was considered by the New South Wales Government, which submitted it to the Commonwealth Government with a request that the Commonwealth match ‘he subsidies provided by the State on a £1 for £1 basis.
We found, on examination, that the local authorities are undertaking a programme of flood mitigation works estimated to cost about £12,900,000. Of this, £7,500,000 is in respect of the Hunter River and £5,400,000 is in respect of the other rivers. The individual programmes of the authorities have been developed by them in association with State technical officers, and the State Government is satisfied that they are sound and practicable. They are aimed, of course, at mitigating the incidence and effects of flooding; it would not be a practical proposition to construct works which would prevent floods occurring altogether.
The programme of works of the local authorities would normally take many years to complete. Despite the fact that the financing of flood mitigation works is normally entirely the responsibility of the States and State local government authorities, we came to the conclusion that the provision of special Commonwealth assistance was warranted, because of the great national benefits, particularly in terms of increased production, that would result from speedy implementation of the flood mitigation programmes of the local authorities to which I have referred. There is no other settled area in Australia where frequent flooding at present creates so much havoc, suffering and economic loss as in the northern rivers area and Hunter River valley of New South Wales.
We decided, therefore, to offer the State a grant of £2,750,000 to be paid over a period of six years commencing with the current financial year, on the basis of matching the State’s subsidy of £3 for £1 in the case of the Hunter and £2 for £1 in the case of the other rivers mentioned above. The provision accordingly of Commonwealth assistance will enable the authorities’ programmes to be greatly accelerated, and with the aid of this assistance it is expected that the great bulk of the works will be completed within the six years’ period. Honorable members will observe that the bill does not contain provision for Commonwealth approval of the individual works to which the Commonwealth assistance is to be applied. We regard the selection of such individual works as a matter for the State and the local authorities concerned. The bill does, however, contain provision for the Commonwealth to be kept suitably informed about the works and to be furnished with regular reports of expenditure and progress on the works.
A fundamental feature of the arrangements is that the level of assistance to be provided to the local government authorities, who, of course, are representative of the landowners and other people most intimately affected by floodings, will depend on the amounts provided by the authorities themselves from their own resources towards the cost of flood mitigation works. The level of assistance is £6 for £1 in the case of the Hunter valley conservation trust and £4 for £1 in other cases, and the cost of the assistance so to be provided will be shared equally between the State and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth grants will be payable to the S’ate in respect of expenditure incurred on flood mitigation works, excluding expenditure on maintenance of works, during the period up to 30th June, 1969, and will be subject to a limit of £2.750,000 on total Commonwealth payments.
As the flood mitigation works to be assisted are already under way, Commonwealth payments to the State will commence as soon as the legislation is enacted, and it is estimated that payments to be made to the S’ate in 1963-64 will amount to £200,000.
In the belief that the measure before the House will appreciably hasten the completion of works which will contribute to the achievement of important national objectives I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for a grant of up to £2,500,000 to the State of Tasmania to assist the State in financing construction of a developmental road into the Gordon River region of the south-west of Tasmania, primarily for the purpose of enabling the undertaking of a detailed investigation of a further stage of the Tasmanian hydroelectric system. The Government’s decision to provide financial assistance to Tasmania for this purpose was announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) during the closing stages of the last Parliament. The decision arose out of a request by the Tasmanian Government, which was faced with the need to implement a further stage of its hydro-electric undertaking. The Tasmanian Government explained that current hydro-electric power developments in the State are scheduled for completion in 1973 and that, to cater for expected increases in electricity requirements, it will be necessary to have a new power development ready to enter service very soon after the completion of the last of the projects now under construction. The Gordon River region is the area in which the new power development is to be located.
The experience of the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission is that it must allow a period of seven years for the construction of a major stage of a power development. Construction must, of course, be preceded by a comprehensive investigation of the site and the drawing-up of detailed plans. In the case, of the Gordon River development, preliminary investigation will be a major task because the region is particularly rugged and virtually unexplored. Therefore the construction of a road of access into the region is an urgent requirement.
The Tasmanian Government advised that the estimated cost of the road was £2,500,000, and that it was not financially practicable for the State from its own resources to undertake the construction of the road within the necessary time. In view of this situation, the Commonwealth Government decided to meet the State’s request for assistance in financing the road. In doing so we had regard to the potential for development that would be unlocked by the road. The available evidence of water resources in the general region of the Gordon River is most impressive, and there is little doubt that these resources will permit of hydro-electric development of very large dimensions. The Government was also mindful of the need to ensure adequate power supplies for the important export-earning industries of Tasmania, as well as of the more general development that construction of the road could be expected to achieve.
This measure will authorize payment to the State of a grant of up to £2,500,000 over the four years ending 30th June, 1967, by way of reimbursing the State the cost of construction of the road. Preliminary planning work for construction of the road is already well advanced, and it is expected that payments to Tasmania under the terms of the bill this financial year will amount to about £250,000.. The route of the road is defined in this bill in terms suggested by the State Government. The general plan of the measure is for recoupment by the Commonwealth of the full amount of State expenditure on the road, up to the stated limit, and to standards of construction acceptable to the Commonwealth. There is, however, provision in the bill for payments by the Commonwealth in advance of expenditure by the State. There are also other provisions of a machinery nature which are similar to those in other comparable legislation for assistance to special developmental projects in the States.
I should like to say in conclusion that the Commonwealth sees in this grant an opportunity to promote economic development on a national scale of the resources of a region which might otherwise remain isolated and virtually unexplored for a long time to come. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4th March (vide page 271), on motion by Mr. Kevin Cairns -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May It Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of 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 you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, at the outset I should like to congratulate those new members who have taken their places in this Parliament and to wish them well in their contributions to the working of democracy. I want particularly to discuss three matters in this AddressinReply debate - first, the growing disquiet and discontent in Australia’s armed forces and secondly the Government’s sham posturing in regard to the decentralization of industry and population. I hope, if I have time, to discuss a third and possibly more parochial subject - the deplorable and frustrating delays in the provision of urgently needed telephone services in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Yesterday afternoon, the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) tried to assuage the feelings of people who feel aggrieved about the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. This discontent is much more evident than the Minister is prepared to acknowledge, and I want to discuss it in the context of a public statement made in December last by Lieutenant-General Sir Ragnar Garrett, who was formerly Chief of the General Staff. In that statement, he directed attention to the inadequacy of the strength of the Regular Army. He said that he believed that the Government’s proposals for the Navy and the Air Force were fairly sound and realistic, but he directed attention to the inadequate strength of the Regular Army and proffered the view that there should be at least one full division. Sir Ragnar pointed out that at that time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, was enunciating a policy favoring the recruiting of such a force. The former Chief of the General Staff pointed out that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had promised the recruitment of one additional battle group only. I come now to the part of Sir Ragnar’s statement that is relevant to my remarks this morning. He said -
Even the battle group, I suspect, is going to take a long time to realize unless the Government is prepared to improve Service conditions to a degree that will attract men and future officers from industry.
The Regular Army is several hundred officers short of its requirements now and will need some hundreds more for the new units it is proposed to raise.
We all know, Mr. Speaker, that the Government made a great to-do about its distinctive policies on defence and foreign affairs during the recent federal general election campaign. I believe that the Government is attributing to its policies on these two mat- ters most of the credit for its substantially increased majority. If so, this is just one more indication of the way in which the people of Australia possibly were a little misled about the Government’s actual performance in regard to defence.
The discontent over the defence forces retirement benefits scheme is only one of the results of the Government’s performance in defence matters. I remind the House that, almost on the eve of the general election, we had B-47 bombers swooping over Australian cities. This display was tied up with the Government’s very late decision to purchase TFX aircraft from the United States of America and to accept the B-47 as an interim replacement for the Canberra bomber. The elections have come and gone and so also has passed the hotted-up atmosphere in which we were led to expect the relatively quick advent of B-47 bombers in our own Air Force. No more has been heard of them, except that the proposal is still under consideration. Yet we are supposed to be in a situation of urgency, if we were to believe the highly dramatized declarations that were made in the weeks immediately before the election.
Returning to retirement benefits for members of the defence forces, I point out that yesterday afternoon the Minister for Air made what seemed to me to be an appalling error. If his remarks were indicative of his lack of information, or his store of misinformation, it is no wonder that the present discontent exists among officers in the armed forces, and particularly in the Army. The Minister, in reply to an interjection by me, stated that some officers could expect to live a longer life and some a shorter life than the average Australian life span of 73.6 years. I refer especially to his mention of a life expectancy of 73.6 years. The average expectation of life is not 73.6 years. That is the average expectation for a woman. Unfortunately, we have many more widows in this country than widowers. The average expectation for a man in fact is just about 67 years - a very small fraction above 67 years. The Minister said that these officers would receive substantially more during their retirement than they had subscribed to the fund. Of course, he made a glaring error about the expectation of life. He was speaking about people who will receive a pension of about £1,800 a year.
We get some idea of his gross inaccuracy if we multiply this figure by seven, which is the number of years by which he overestimated the average expectation of life for a man.
I do not know whether the average expectation of life. for an Army man, particularly for an officer, is higher than it is for a civilian. It may be that conditions of service, the physical fitness that is required of such a man and the physical standards set for recruits would contribute to a higher expectation of life, but no evidence has been produced to suggest that this is so. Other aspects of service may in fact reduce the expectation of life of such men. Perhaps this is a point that could be investigated. However, for the time being, I am referring to the Minister’s statement last night that the average expectation of life is 74 years when in fact it is not so great.
One feature that irritates servicemen and civilian contributors to superannuation funds is that their retirement benefits are not as large as they could be when regard is had to the size of the funds to which they contribute. I have mentioned this matter before in this place. Commonwealth public servants are still fighting for a decent pension, despite the fact that the superannuation fund has a credit balance of nearly £100,000,000. Their contributions to the fund and the interest that the fund earns from investments more than meets the pension payments made out of the fund, without taking into account that the Commonwealth’s contribution is quite sizeable; it is much more than the two factors I have just mentioned. The defence forces retirement benefits fund, which caters for fewer contributors than the Commonwealth superannuation fund does, has a balance of £20,000,000, I understand. Once again, the contributions of the members and the interest earned by the fund more than meet the cost of the pensions that are paid to ex-servicemen. This is one of the main causes of discontent.
I believe that we are being extremely over-cautious in the operation of all these funds. All the risks of a big drag on the fund are being imposed upon the contributors, whether they be public servants or servicemen, and none of the risks are being taken by the Commonwealth Government.
I think it is time that we were more realistic in the administration of these funds. I remind the House that in the United Kingdom and the United States of America all pensions of this kind payable to ex-servicemen are gratuitous pensions; the recipients do not make any contributions at all. Admittedly, our system may have some merit. We provide a proportionate pension for widows, and I understand that such a pension is not payable under either the United Kingdom or United States of America schemes. However, servicemen argue that, if they were not required to contribute to a superannuation fund, they could easily cover the eventuality of the widowhood of their wives by private insurance.
Last night the Minister argued that servicemen are doing very well, that they receive their training free and that therefore they ought to be able to put up with something less than they are demanding. Of course, other conditions of service offset some of the good conditions, especially for young officers and young members of the ranks. A married officer generally is compelled to retire at 47 years of age and live on hi6 pension, unless he can find other employment. However, at that time of life, he is often confronted with the education of his children at an advanced stage, even at a university. He must also find new accommodation for himself and he has other difficulties in settling himself into civilian life. Servicemen claim, therefore, that they should receive even more consideration than public servants do. One of the main grievances of servicemen is that the determinations affecting their superannuation benefits are made by public servants and that servicemen and ex-service pensioners do not have a representative on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board. They believe that this is unfair.
I cannot at this time deal with all the arguments about the superannuation entitlements of ex-servicemen. However, the Minister last night referred to the average amount that servicemen contribute and the amount that they received as a pension from the fund. The Minister carefully avoided referring to the fact that the contributions have been invested over the years and have been earning interest at compound rates. This interest belongs to the contributors; it does not belong to the Government. Another grievance of servicemen is that if an officer is retired because of medical unfitness - I understand a serviceman can be boarded out of the Army if he is up to 30 per cent, unfit - before he has served for twenty years, he receives only the amount he has contributed. Presumably he does not receive any interest and certainly he does not receive any contribution from the Commonwealth. This is most unfair. A man who has served for eighteen or nineteen years and becomes medically unfit receives only his own contributions. We members of the Parliament do not think that our pensions are adequate, and I am frankly willing to accept that they are not adequate. I make no bones about that. However, if we, through one eventuality or another, cease to be members of this place, we do a little better than receiving only our own contributions, and I think servicemen should have the same kind of expectation.
Last night the Minister said, with heavy emphasis I thought, that servicemen retire much earlier than civilian personnel do. However, he did not mention that the money they have been paying as contributions over the years of their service has now lost its value.
I have mentioned some of the causes of irritation amongst officers in the services. In addition to these, there is another cause of irritation. Many officers wanted to exercise what they thought was their democratic right in peace-time to resign their commissions and to go back into civilian life. I am referring now to men who had served for some years and not to those who had received some university training, for instance, and wanted to leave the forces because they thought they could use their new qualifications to better advantage in civilian life. Many men who have served for a considerable period now want to leave the forces because of the inequitable conditions, not only in relation to benefits but also in terms of salary. But the Government has virtually shut the gate on them and has said, “Subject to your physical fitness, you shall serve for your full term.” This may be until they reach 47 years of age. Young undergraduates of the Royal Military College at Duntroon are now being required to sign up for the full term from seventeen years to at least 47 years, without any regard being paid to what their future commitments may be. This does not seem fair. This should not be a requirement in a democratic society in time of peace.
Putting aside the viewpoint of the servicemen, I am thinking more particularly this morning of the overall considerations of Australia’s defence. If the present situation persists we will have a sizeable group of disgruntled and discontented officers leading our defence forces. They will be compelled against their wishes to remain in the forces. Officer morale must deteriorate substantially under such conditions and may set the pattern for the whole of the defence establishment. What is probably even more to the point, we will not be able in the future to recruit people for the defence forces. Since Sir Ragnar Garrett made the statement to which I have referred about the difficulty of attracting men to the services the situation obviously has deteriorated, so much so that there is now before the courts a case in which the Commonwealth’s right to prevent people from leaving the services is being contested. This is an unhappy situation. The Government is posturing in ils offers of help to defend Malaysia and other countries which are our neighbours, but if we were called upon to do that we would be ill equipped for such a task.
I wish to refer now to decentralization of industry and population. Various Government supporters, particularly members of the Country Party, have spoken on this subject in this House. This is a very serious problem. Time will not permit me to stress adequately the need for something to be done in this direction. At the end of 1962, of a total population in Australia of about 11,000,000, 10,200,000 lived below the Tropic of Capricorn. Of those 10,200,000 people, 6,600,000 lived in only fifteen cities of Australia. If you break the figures down even further you find that 4,700,000 people - almost 50 per cent, of our total population - live in the great conurbations of SydneyNewcastleWollongong and Melbourne-Geelong-Ballarat. Even more startling is the knowledge that 42 per cent, of our population lives in only .09 per cent, of Australia’s land area. These are statistics that we read about, but it is not until you get overseas, as I had the pleasure of doing for a short while last year, and talk about Australia to people of other countries that you realize what a vast empty continent this is. We have a few pin-points of population around the shores of this immense continent. Bad as the situation is, many people overseas have the impression that it is even worse. They think that virtually no people live in Australia and that it is just a matter of who in the long run will come here and inhabit this great country.
I spoke with some members of State parliaments whom I met in Copenhagen and they asked me what were my main impressions while moving around the continent. I said that my main impression was how little people of other countries knew about Australia. Unfortunately they have the idea that Australia is a vast absolutely empty continent and that it is only a matter of a few years before somebody inhabits it. The State members told me that they hoped I would go back to my Parliament and stress the urgency of this matter as they knew they must stress it in their parliaments. They were filled with alarm, as was I. I hope that never again shall we hear in this Parliament the claim that we must reduce our migrant intake. We should go flat out to get as many people as possible into this country, but in doing so we should have competent policies that will properly absorb such people. I hope never again to hear mention of credit squeezes, dislocation of the economy and gross unemployment. Such things must not happen again in this country if we are to survive as a free people having the choice to say who shall come and live amongst us.
I have directed attention briefly to the gross displacement of our population and the serious congregation of our population in confined areas. Apart from the points to which I have already referred, the congregation of our population in a few small areas is costing Australia an enormous amount of money. People are crowding each other in cities with populations of 2,000,000 people and 2,250,000 people. In these cities with their narrow streets the congestion created must add enormously to the cost of commercial undertakings. What are we to do about this problem? Whichever way you look at the problem, the people who inhabit the congested city areas will have to pay for a proper policy to get people out into the rural areas. It is not enough to say that we must build better roads. Roads to-day are much better than they were five years ago and infinitely better than they were ten years ago, but with what result? More and more people are still going into the cities. The aggregation of population in the cities is getting worse instead of better. The provision of better roads in country areas is not the answer. The improvement of telephone services in country areas is not the answer. Neither is the provision of more amenities in country areas. Increased representation of country areas also does not seem to have the desired effect, especially as far as the Country Party is concerned. Let me quote what a leading Liberal in Sydney said recently about this matter; and, being a leading Liberal, his words will carry more weight than would mine. Alderman Chambers, Mayor of Mosman and a prominent member of the Liberal Party, made some remarks before the Mosman State Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party, on 14th February last. The newspaper report of his remarks reads -
Alderman Chambers said that it did not appear to be generally realized that the Country Party could not implement its policy of decentralization because country development would mean that it would lose seats to the Liberal or Labour party.
The Liberal Party could actively work for decentralization and rural development while benefiting politically from the development.
The Country Party had failed to prevent many country towns from slowly dying, he said, and had failed to resist trends, including unsatisfactory land settlement, which had resulted in a very serious decline in the standard of Australian Merino wool.
A continuation of the trend could prove calamitous to the Australian economy.
The proposed re-distribution of electoral boundaries, if it means what I think it will mean, will not be the answer to the problem of decentralization. In South Australia twothirds of the members of Parliament represent rural electorates - a tremendous gerrymander. But with what result? A bigger proportion of South Australia’s population lives in the State’s capital than is the case in New South Wales or Victoria.
What we need in country areas are more employment-giving opportunities. We must have secondary industries in country towns. This is the matter to which Mr. Chambers was referring. I do not hear members of the Country Party in this place .advocating that people who establish secondary industries in country towns should receive the same liberal tax concessions as are granted to primary producers. Why is the 40 per cent, tax remission not granted to secondary industries that are established in country towns? Why are secondary industries unable to wipe out in the course of five years 120 per cent, of their costs? If I had my way I would give to every industry that was established in a country town complete remission of taxes for five years at least. Then we might get somewhere. The rest of the community would have to pay for those tax remissions, but this is the only way to attract industry from the cities. The scheme would have to be planned, integrated and co-ordinated. It is not just a matter of passing a tax measure in this chamber. There must be a definite plan to establish interdependent industries in country towns. Unless we do these things the drift to the cities will continue and our ultimate security will be in jeopardy. Apart from the security aspect, the cost to the economy of having this tremendous aggregation of people in a few spots on our coastline will be overwhelming.
– I take the opportunity offered by this first full debate in the new Twentyfifth Parliament to congratulate Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on having been re-elected unopposed. That is quite clearly a full mark of the confidence that honorable members have in those two presiding officers. I do not need to tell any honorable member how important such confidence is to the smooth running of the Parliament and to the effective conduct of business. I also congratulate the new members of this Parliament who already have demonstrated a clear ability to make a marked contribution to our deliberations. We have seen a quality which, to some degree, is rare. I wish them all a long, prosperous and useful period in this Parliament.
It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) speak on a subject to which he has not devoted as much attention as he has devoted to other subjects in the past. I congratulate him for speaking on defence rather than on education. This is ,a welcome change. I hope that he will continue to diversify his activities in this new Parliament. There is only one point on which I wish positively to disagree with him. I do not need to point this out. He took a most unjust point about the efforts that are being made by members of the Government parties to establish industries of one kind or another in country areas. If people look around they will see what has been done in the use and development of resources in country areas. They will see that a great deal has been done as a result of co-operation between the two Government parties.
Two days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) missed an opportunity, or declined an invitation, that was offered by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). I believe the honorable member for Parkes was correct when he said that in these dangerous days for Australia the nation would be better served if the Parliament could develop a bipartisan defence policy. However, instead of making some recognition of that point, as one thought the Leader of the Opposition might have done, he made a speech that was calculated to divide not only this Parliament but the Australian people on issues that could affect our survival. He recalled controversies and arguments of past years. He gave a travelogue of the past. Australia had the right to expect something more than that from the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
More honorable members have directed their attention to international affairs in this debate than in any other AddressinReply debate since I enterd this Parliament. I intend to follow that pattern. Debates in this Parliament not only reflect, but also help to form, opinions throughout the country. It is important that there should be a wide popular understanding of the issues that confront Australia at the present time. The Australian people should all understand the issues which could involve and revolve around peace and war in our area and which could concern their survival or destruction. That understanding is quite impossible to attain without attempts at informed and realistic debate in this Parliament.
In opening up this subject, I wish to return for a moment to the Cuban nuclear crisis, because that was the first real nuclear crisis in the world. It was the first time two major powers were confronting each other, both with the opportunity and the power to destroy each other. That nuclear crisis set precedents of which I think we would do well to take note. The first lesson it taught was that we know positively that nuclear bombs and weapons will be used if the vital interests of a superpower are affected. Secondly, in his measures to deal with the crisis caused by the Soviet Union, President Kennedy detailed and timed his programme in such a way that the Soviet Union would have plenty of time to consider its next step, in order to avoid the tragedy of some “ spasm reaction “ - that is not my term; it has been used by other people - which could occur without proper thought and which could plunge the world into nuclear war. President Kennedy’s programme was specifically detailed and timed to avoid any possibility of that. If we look back over the events we see that that was avoided. The present nuclear powers and future historians probably will examine that second lesson, which would be most important in relation to any future nuclear crisis. Australia, as a minor or secondary power, needs to direct its attention to the first lesson. I believe that it is the one which could affect our strategic situation.
Since the Cuban crisis there has been a drawing-off by the Soviet Union in certain fields of conflict. The first example of that is that there has not been a major crisis over Berlin. One might have expected such a crisis before now. I firmly believe that such a crisis would have occurred if the Soviet Union had not learnt a lesson from the Cuban incident. Also, in the signing of the nuclear test ban treaty, there is evidence of a drawing-off or thawing-out. I agree that other influences have contributed to that drawing-off. They include the ideological argument between the Soviet Union and China, the agricultural failures in the Soviet Union, and perhaps the fact that slowly the Russian people are awakening to the pleasures of a slightly higher level of consumption. All those factors may have had some impact on Russian policy. But I believe that the most important factor that has had an impact is the fact and lesson of the Cuban crisis.
The result is that international tension is or seems to be less than it once was. For that reason and because of the lessons that have been learnt, it is argued by some people - because this has been argued in respectable quarters, I think these arguments should be examined - that in future the super powers will avoid action that could result in a nuclear response and that therefore they may re-define the interests in which nuclear power should be laid on the line. As a corollary to those two arguments, it has been thought that both the super powers may tend to withdraw from minor or secondary disputes and so leave minor or secondary powers much greather room for manoeuvre than they have had before. Of course, the super powers would withdraw in those circumstances only if they were convinced that the secondary disputes or disturbances did not affect their major interests.
If that is true - I will argue that it is not - this possible end of the Arctic winter between the two major powers may not necessarily add anything to Australian security; indeed, it may reduce Australian security. If we compare the present situation with those of the years leading up to the two great wars that have been fought in this century, we find that there is a marked difference. In the periods before 1914 and 1939, we were allied, by ties of blood or relationship, with countries that were threatened directly. They were threatened primarily, in a manner that resulted in two world wars. The prime threat, or the initial threat, was not directed towards Australia. We were involved in those wars because we supported powers greater than ourselves which experienced the immediate threat. We supported them in pursuit and defence of freedom.
But now, in our part of the world it is not at all impossible that a prime threat could be directed to Australia and it would concern us more than it would concern the United States or the United Kingdom. I believe that the present situation is different from the ones which led to the last two world wars. That means that in this day and age we must rely more on our allies, our friendships, our ties of blood, our treaties, or on the general interest that the great powers have in the security of this area, than we once did. This is the great change in Australian foreign relations. It means that powerful friends are more necessary to us now than they have ever been. This has been clearly demonstrated in
Government policy continuously during the Government’s term of office.
Because of this changed strategic position we should examine the argument about which I was speaking earlier, as to whether the major super powers could in fact withdraw from minor secondary struggles which did not impinge directly on their own interests. One of the reasons it is argued that they would do this if they could is the fear of escalation into a nuclear war if they entered into these minor disputes. If the argument is valid - that the super powers, in our case the United States, could withdraw from conflicts to our north - Australia would be vulnerable indeed and very much alone in this part of the world. The expanding defence effort we now believe to be adequate to our needs would have to be further expanded many-fold.
I believe that the arguments advanced are incorrect, and it is most important for Australia that they should be incorrect. The super powers cannot isolate themselves from these minor or secondary problems. This can be demonstrated by two reasons. The first reason - the one in the background - is the fact that perhaps China is waiting to probe and fill any power vacuum that may be left by the United States or even by the Soviet Union. It can be demonstrated also by some brief examination of the situation in South Viet Nam or of the MalaysiaIndonesia argument that the major powers cannot withdraw their attention and interest from these matters.
It is common knowledge that within the last year there have been two military coups in South Viet Nam and that the army, although well equipped and large, does not enjoy morale of the high standard that it should in view of the training and equipment that have been made available to it. It is thought that the people themselves may be largely apathetic and tired of war because war has been occurring in this country for a very long time. The Viet Cong - the Communists - is reported in the New York “ Times “ as numbering now about 35,000, a much larger force than a few short years ago. It appears that the United States Administration is making a re-appraisal of the position to decide what should be done to reverse the present situation. It is apparent that some of the questions that the Administration is asking itself are, in he crudest and simplest terms: What is wrong? Despite all the efforts put into the struggle, why is the war not going well? The Administration probably is asking itself also, as the New York “ Times “ has asked: Can this war be won? If it can be won, how can it be won? What is needed to win the war? Is more active United States or Western participation necessary for victory?
I do not think that General De Gaulle’s suggestion of neutrality will be considered, because it has been demonstrated more than once that the kind of neutrality which arises from situations such as these leads relatively quickly to Communist take-over. If neutrality could be realistic with both sides staying truly outside, then neutrality would perhaps be a reality, but under the circumstances, and judging from the examples that we have seen in the past, there is no ground for belief that neutrality could lead to anything but virtual Communist control. Therefore, neutrality would be equivalent to defeat.
It is important for us to recall that the United States’s authority, power and prestige are deeply involved in South Viet Nam. President Kennedy said that the United States would fight to the finish. Much more recently, President Johnson said -
We are not pulling out because we are not prepared to yield that part of the world to communism.
There are 16,000 or more United States military and civil personnel in the area and it is worth noting and remembering that there also is a small contingent of Australians. Australia is the only country which directly assists the United States in this area, however small the Australian contribution may be.
In trying to draw some conclusion as to the outcome of the re-appraisal by the United States Administration it is most important, and indeed vital, because the whole matter turns on this, to consider the effect of defeat in South Viet Nam on all the countries of South-East Asia and on ourselves. The last vestige of any neutrality in Laos would probably disappear; Cambodia would be confirmed in its belief that the east wind is going to drive out the west wind; Burma would be more orientated than it is to communism; Thailand, open to subversion on all sides, would find her position as an ally of the West intolerable and impossible to maintain; Pakistan, which has found it easier in some instances to come to agreement with Communist China than with India, might also decide that the East was going to win in this struggle and might well find it necessary to reconsider and revise her obligations under Seato and other Western commitments; and Malaysia, our Commonwealth neighbour, would be confronted not only from the south but also from the north and would be open to subversion from both sides. Her position could become almost impossible. Defeat in, or withdrawal from, South Viet Nam could be as disastrous for the cause of the West and the free powers as would be cession of West Berlin to East Germany. It would result in the belief that the United States would stick only if her own territory were threatened, as was the case in the Cuba affair. This would be unfortunate for the United States, Australia and the rest of the free world.
If victory requires more active participation I believe that the risks involved must be faced. The philosophy that countries can conduct undeclared guerrilla war against neighbours without suffering attack against their own territories must be destroyed. The present invitation to war without risk will destroy any secure basis for peace. It creates a situation that the free world should tolerate no longer. I say this, recognizing all the difficulties in trying to deal with this kind of situation. Above all, in relation to South Viet Nam we should remember that a great power like the United States cannot afford to lay its prestige on the line and lose. The repercussions throughout the world, which is now engaged in a great ideological struggle, would be too vast to contemplate. If these arguments have any validity it is clear that the United States cannot withdraw from South Viet Nam and from South-East Asia.
Now let me look at the MalaysiaIndonesia situation. If the argument that the super powers could become aloof from secondary struggles has any validity, the situation between Malaysia and Indonesia could have greater immediate consequences to Australia. We know, recognize and support strongly the logic of Malaysia. The Government and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) have underlined this time and again. Australia and Indonesia have an undeniable mutual concern, or should have, for the security and peace of the whole area because the advantages to all countries in the region of peace and sensible development are so obvious that they do not need stressing. I believe that during the arguments over West Irian certain people in Australia had some sympathy with Indonesia, not because of the methods that may have been used but because of the historical relationships in the area and some of the past attitudes and actions of the Dutch. This dispute, in its objectives but not in its methods, was marked by some sympathy for Indonesia in certain quarters in Australia.
As to the attitude of confrontation that Indonesia has adopted now towards Malaysia, it is difficult - indeed impossible - to understand from what stand of reason or sense the attitude has been adopted. While the argument about West Irian was active Indonesia apparently accepted the Federation of Malaysia calmly and certainly without any sign of hostility. But recently Indonesia began to claim that Malaysia was neo-colonial, and has adopted its confrontation policy. At this stage the cause of Indonesia’s attitude cannot really affect our response to her actions. Our policies cannot be affected, whether or not Indonesia is motivated by fear of ultimate Chinese domination of Malaysia or whether her policy is designed to remove the British from Singapore. If so, why has Indonesia chosen Malaysia and the British base at Singapore rather than the Philippines and the American bases there? Indonesia may act as she does because she fears for her own unity, remembering the way in which it was threatened in 1958? But if this is so, again I ask: Why is it Malaysia that is under attack and not the Philippines? After all, if the New York “Times” is correct, it was from the Philippines that planes bombed official Indonesian forces.
Perhaps there could be - and what has happened does not suggest that this is impossible - a concerted plan, first to get hold of West Irian, secondly to destroy Malaysia and British influence there and, thirdly, to overcome United States bases in the Philippines and so put Indonesia into a position to dominate the whole region. Or is there the more simple reason that the Indonesian people were promised manna from the skies after the annexation of West Irian and have seen only hardship and difficulty, so that it is now felt that another diversion is necessary? Again it is probably useless in present circumstances to try to find how much of this trouble is caused by internecine power struggles between the President of Indonesia, the Communists and the army.
Whichever of these motivations or mixtures of motivations is actually operating, the objective cannot be allowed to be attained. It takes two to make friendship viable. Every avenue of discussion and negotiation must be pursued to the full, and we are forced to recognize now that this kind of appetite breeds on success, and success must be denied to it. Australia and the United States are involved in these problems. The United States could not withdraw, for the reasons I have mentioned, and because China is waiting and probing so that it may fill any power vacuum that may be left, and waiting to challenge, one day, not only the United States but also, probably, the Soviet Union itself. If that race is to be won, the United States cannot withdraw from minor skirmishes in the meantime.
There is no moral to be drawn from what I have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is only the sad conclusion to be drawn that Australia lives in a dangerous part of the world. I believe it to be more dangerous at the present time than any part of western Europe, even taking into account the nuclear threat that continually hangs over western Europe. The danger which I have mentioned is probably more serious than any nuclear threat hanging over Australia. I say this having taken into account what I regard as the inevitable United States commitment.
Australia will have to strain every nerve to build and develop. We will have to drive ourselves with the whip of survival, because these are the issues that are involved. Sacrifice will be necessary if we are to provide adequate defences and to develop our country at the rate which is necessary. We must, as a nation, learn to put luxury aside, to forget the satisfaction of high personal consumption and to replace it with a concerted drive to build and to use our resources even more dramatically than we have in the past, for construction, for development and for defence. This may be the price of survival, but what man is there amongst us who would not pay it?
.- I have listened with great interest to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). In most respects I agree with him. He has tried to show us what a sorry state of affairs exists in the world to-day. About that there is no doubt. But he has not given us the answer. The only honorable gentleman on the opposite side who comes forward with views as to what should be done is the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I should like to have heard the honorable member for Wannon tell us what his party intends to do to improve the sad state of affairs in the world to-day.
I felt very privileged to sit in the Senate chamber the other day and hear His Excellency’s Speech. I say with respect that it was a good speech. I listened to it intently. At the same time, however, it was a very sad speech. It recalled events that occurred just before the conclusion of the 24th Parliament. His Excellency mentioned the sad loss of midshipmen and one sub-lieutenant in the Great Barrier Reef region. Questions have been asked in this House about how this disaster occurred. We have been told that a public inquiry was held, but it was rather an odd sort of public inquiry. Tt was an inquiry held on board a ship anchored some three miles from the nearest land. This was said to be a public inquiry. How the public were to get on board the vessel would be hard to fathom. Navy spokesmen said that transport would be made available. Was this really an inquiry held in a public place? I should like to have seen an inquiry held at a place where any member of the public could have gone along and listened to the proceedings.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) and his immediate predecessor have been asked in this House about the findings of the body which held the inquiry. We have been told that the findings are not to be made public. It seems we have a rather unbalanced equation. We have had what has been called a public inquiry, but now we find that the findings are not to be made known. I hope the Minister will have another look at this matter, and that if he does not intend to make the findings public he will at least lay the findings on the table of the House so that members may read them.
I wish to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election for a further term of office. It is a great honour, and he must feel most gratified to find that the House has so much confidence in him. I want to congratulate also the new .members who have come here. At the same .time I am sad at the fact that so many good members from this side of the House have not come back. The recent election was fought on international affairs and defence, as well as other matters, but in my opinion the facts were not properly explained to the people. The electorate became confused because the Government, with wide television coverage and with the help of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, left no stone unturned to confuse and mislead the people. I was disgusted at the kind of advertising that was indulged in. We saw heaps of skulls depicted and other scenes calculated to engender a sense of dismay amongst the people and to confuse them. That kind of advertising had no relevance to the election issues, but it is what the Government chose to indulge in.
We said that we believed in a nuclearfree southern hemisphere. That declaration was taken up and twisted. We on this side of the House still believe in a nuclear-free southern hemisphere. We believe it is possible to achieve such a nuclear-free zone, and we should strive to achieve it with all our might. The Government replies that if the Australian Labour Party comes to power and proposes this nuclear-free southern hemisphere our powerful friends will leave us. It is only right, in my opinion, that we should have this nuclear-free zone. I have listened to talks by the chiefs of staff. They do not envisage a nuclear war in this area, but if such a war does spring up, then that is the time to decide whether we should change our view and introduce our own nuclear weapons into this area.
It is well to remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that what the Labour Party proposes the Government very soon adopts. It will not be long before we find the Government adopting the theory of a nuclear-free southern hemisphere. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the thin edge of the wedge was driven in. He said -
The partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty concluded in August, 1963, holds out hopes for some relaxa tion of world tension. It is, of course, not comprehensive either in terms of membership or content. My advisers hope to see it extended to cover all nations and all forms of testing, so that the dangers of a renewed nuclear arms race may be diminished.
The Governor-General went on to warn us of the dangers facing Australia in the near north. He warned us about communism and confrontation.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). I thought it was a very good speech. He said that there is a threat to our freedom. In drawing our attention to this threat I feel that the honorable member has only exposed the weakness of the Government. We have to look plainly and honestly at these facts. The Government has been in power for fourteen years, but what has it done about defence? The honorable member for Parkes went on to point out the threat of red China. I know that red China is a Communist country. I have no brief for communism. The Government says that it hates communism but it is very glad to sell Australian wheat to red China. Now it wants to sell Australian wool to red China. It also wants to bring technicians to this country and train them. I do not mind that. I think that is sensible, but why does the Government not recognize red China? Australia is the proud offspring of that great country, England. But England recognized red China years ago. We want to sell all we can to red China but do nothing about recognizing that nation. That does not help to arrest communism. It helps to spread it by causing dissatisfaction between red China and Australia.
The Government’s thinking on these matters is confused and appalling. The Government says, “We will aid Malaysia to the best of our ability. We will even go to war with Indonesia over Malaysia.” Yet we are training Indonesian officers in Australia! When the Dutch were fighting the Indonesians over West Irian a Minister of this Government was in Indonesia inspecting Indonesian troops. Yet the Government says it has a clear foreign affairs policy! This shows how confused the Government has been in the past. I have never known such a confused policy.
The honorable member for Chisholm made a very stirring speech in the House last night. He showed the strength of our armed forces.
– The weakness!
– He showed the strength - if it can be called strength. He said that our recruiting programme is very barely covering the wastage. I will quote some figures supplied to me by our statistical officer. In 1938 we had 2,795 members of the permanent Army. We had a militia force of 42,895 and other reserves totalling 6,695, making a total strength of 52,385. At that time Australia’s population was 6,936,000. Now it is 11,024,000. At present we have a permanent Army of 23,412 and a citizen force of 29,0.00, making a total of 52,412. The interesting point is that we have exactly 27 men more in the Army in 1964 than we had in 1938. After all the extensive recruiting campaigns of the Government we have 27 men more than we had in 1938 even though the population has nearly doubled in that period!
The Government, says that we will go to the aid of Malaysia. Again I ask: With what will we go to the aid of Malaysia? Does anybody think that Malaysia and Indonesia do not know what we have?
– What we have not!
– Yes. The Government has done very little towards the defence of this country yet it says that we will defend somebody else! I have never heard so much humbug in my life. Labour’s programme for the defence of this country was pooh-poohed all over the country. We said we would build four transport vessels, but apparently that suggestion was not acceptable. We do not have a transport in the country to take our troops overseas. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said last night that he was worried about the problem of shipping surplus apples to the United Kingdom. He said, “I now go along with the Labour Party’s idea that perhaps we should have a few nationally owned ships “. Of course we must have them if we are to have a properly regulated defence force. May I ask again what we are going to aid Malaysia with? There is so much muck and adverse criticism thrown at the Labour Party about its defence programme that it is as-well for the people to remember what the Labour Party has done for our defence. In 1911 the Fisher Government introduced the Universal Training Act under which many thousands of men were trained. At 30th June, 1927, when universal training ended - I am not advocating universal training at this stage - Australia had 107,227 men capable of bearing arms. At that time we had a population of 6,250,000. At present we have arrangements for 52,000 men. We had some organization then, and men could be called up, if necessary, but at present we have nothing. It was a Labour government which, in 1911, brought in what was then called “ universal training “ for the good of this country. Honorable members opposite may say, “ Yes, but it was Mr. Scullin who did away with compulsory training”. We know that. But Mr. Scullin had no option. There was no money in the country with which to pay people and Mr. Scullin had to cut down on defence as on all other items of expenditure.
Australia’s foreign affairs and defence policies will continue to founder until Ministers accept and carry out the duties expected of them. The Government is lazy and does not govern. The Government is prepared to sit back and let the Public Service do the job for it. I am not taking a shot at the Public Service; far from it. I am taking a shot at the Government for allowing public servants to carry on as they do. Professor Beddie had a bit to say about this when speaking in Canberra recently at the Summer School of the Institute of Political Science. In his address he said -
Hie lack of formal contacts between Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff has been in part a function of physical separation; of the fact that the latter were until 1959 in Melbourne. Even now, however, there is no Cabinet committee on which the Chiefs of Staff have the right of membership, though, of course, they may,, from time to time, appear as witnesses before Cabinet or its committees. The highest level, at which the Chiefs of Staff regularly confer with civilians is the Defence Committee and here the civilian element consists of senior public servants - the permanent heads of Defence, External Affairs, Prime Minister’s and Treasury.
But this is the most important thing -
The Defence Committee is chaired not, as we might expect, by the Minister for Defence but by the Secretary of the Department of Defence,
Thus not even the Minister for Defence directly participates in the hard process of drawing up military plans.
That is a very serious state of affairs and it is time that the Government started to govern. It is time the Government took an interest in these affairs and did1 not leave them to somebody else. The honorable member for Parkes said, in the course of his speech, that this country needs a common approach to the principles of foreign policy and that it should be made by all parties. We cannot go along with that sort of thing. We do not want to get mixed up with honorable members opposite. We do not want to take the blame for their failures to act. We do not want to take part of them and say, “We are all in this together”. As I have said, after fourteen years the Government has done very little. It has in this country at the present time 52,000 men that it could put into the field, as against the 107,000 we had in 1927. I made a speech on foreign affairs last year in this House in which I said that we should refer our troubles to the United Nations. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said, “ Of course we should not refer them to the United Nations. It is a waste of time.” That was at the time when the Prime Minister said that he would go to war over Cuba. But look at what happened three days ago: The Prime Minister told the Russian leaders to support the United Nations. Yet when I asked him, eleven months ago, “ What about going to the United Nations? “ he said to me - as a new boy in the House - “ Uh huh, sonny, don’t be so silly”.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– On 3rd April of last year, I made a speech in this chamber. I was followed immediately by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who took me to task for my remarks. I had said that the policy that we bring forward one year seems to be adopted by the Liberal Party of Australia the next year. Taking me to task, the Prime Minister said -
The honorable member permitted himself to comment adversely - he is not the only one on the Opposition side to have done so - about President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuba incident and about this Government’s instant declaration that we agreed with what President Kennedy had done;
What do honorable members opposite want us to do? This was one of the really significant events in post-war history - a critical event which, if it had not been dealt with promptly and strongly by the President of the United Slates, might have altered the balance of power in the world. The President of the United States took in splendid terms a strong and definite attitude on these matters, but honorable members opposite say, “ Oh, it should have gone to the United Nations”. I wonder whether honorable members know what they mean.
That was said by the Prime Minister eleven months ago. Only three days ago, the “ Age “ newspaper, under the headline, “P.M. Tells Russian Leader ‘Support U.N.’ “, reported the right honorable gentleman’s views as follows: -
Sir Robert said it was necessary for both Russia and Australia to strive to live up to their obligations under the U.N. Charter.
– What is wrong with that?
– When we said it eleven months ago, you said that we were wrong and that disputes should not go to the United Nations. Of course they should go to that organization. It was formed so that disputes could go to it. If we do not want to abide by the United Nations, we can take out our subscription, as it were, and get out, because we are not a true member of the organization while we adopt the attitude that matters should not be referred to it. I say again that it is utter humbug for the Prime Minister now to say that disputes should be referred to the United Nations, having said earlier that President Kennedy’s action in the Cuba crisis was quite right. I do not think that President Kennedy did the right thing. All disputes should be sent to the United Nations.
We are told now that the trouble between Malaysia and Indonesia is at last to be referred to the United Nations. That trouble should have been referred to the international organization a long time ago. Had the dispute been so referred, the world would not be getting so mixed up to-day and nations would not be gathering their forces and saying, “There will be a war”. The dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia should go to the United Nations because that is a forum in which nations can fully present their cases. I hope that honorable members on the Government side of the chamber will appreciate the fact that, although the Prime Minister, eleven months ago, did not agree with our policy of referring international disputes to the United Nations, and said that it was not good enough, he now says that he goes along with Russia and considers that disputes should be referred to the United Nations.
.- Mr. Speaker, I think that everybody will agree with the view of people on the Government side of this Parliament that many things that happen overseas affect us, not in years, months or weeks, but instantly. The speeding up of air transport of people and goods, the speeding up of communications generally and the modern ability to move weapons of war rapidly from place to place have brought great changes that affect the political situation in Australia. When, in an election campaign, we are told that economic issues will be paramount, we tend to forget that these changes have taken place and that events in Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam or Laos affect Australia immediately. This point was made clearly by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), in his impressive maiden speech on Tuesday, and, last evening, by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes).
The influence of the international situation on our internal political affairs was pointed up sharply by the consequences suffered in the recent general election by a number of erstwhile Labour members of this Parliament who belonged to what we call the right wing of the Australian Labour Party. That wing is made up of the real Australians in the party. The consequences were particularly marked in New South Wales where the Government won seven seats. As a result, some men who had sat in this House for a long time disappeared from the parliamentary scene.
It is interesting to note that the Australian Labour Party is analysing the election results. Its first finding is that it did not receive enough votes! That was a very simple conclusion to draw. A remarkable suggestion that has been made in letters to the newspapers and in speeches in this place is the view that the trouble with Labour in the last election was that it was not red enough - that it did not lean far enough towards the left wing. We have been told that the honorable member foi
Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), a supporter of the left wing, increased his majority by a few thousand. All this is tragic nonsense. That people can say this sort of thing is a shame, because it is so much contrary to what we know are the facts.
We know that the swing away from the left was due to the fact that the people were aware of the dangers from outside this country. They knew the truth of the things that were said last night by the honorable member for Chisholm and the things that were so eloquently and so precisely stated on Tuesday last by the honorable member for Parkes in his maiden speech. We congratulate the new member. We all hope that he will have a long and brilliant career in this place. If he continues to choose his material so well and to present it in the fashion in which he delivered his maiden speech, he will remain a long time in this place as the representative of the moderate electorate of Parkes, in the middle of Sydney. That is an electorate which will listen to arguments of the sort that the honorable member presents and, in future, keep clear of the kind of left-wing representation in this Parliament that it experienced for so long. I am one of those who are delighted to be able to congratulate the honorable member for Parkes on his maiden speech and to welcome him to this place, fully confident that he will add strength to this side of politics and decorate this Parliament and the ranks of Government supporters for a very long time.
We on this side of the Parliament have been very interested in this claim that Labour, if it had gone more to the left, or had been more red in its outlook, would have won the general election, and we have examined the election results for the electorates represented by men with leftist views. I cannot see the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) in the chamber at the moment. On one occasion, he said to me, “So you think I am a leftwinger?”. I said, “Yes, I do”. He replied, “ Well, I am “. He said this proudly. Let us see what happened in his electorate in the last election. The Liberal vote increased from 22,300 to 30,000 and the honorable member’s vote dropped from 37,000 to 35,000. His majority fell from 13,000 to 7,000. That was’ what happened to one left-winger. This is one of the answers to the claim about what would have happened if Labour had leaned more to the left.
– The honorable member for Lalor has woken up and is smiling indulgently. The left wingers give us a sort of tolerant smile. They think that we as conservatives are out of date and do not know anything. They refuse to look at the results of the last election. They think that we do not have an intelligent view of politics. But the people think differently.
Let us look at the results in the electorate of Werriwa, where the Labour candidate was the vaunted young television star. What happened to this great new light in the Labour Party? The vote for the Liberal candidate went up from 14,000 to 25,000. The vote for the Labour candidate, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), dropped from 39,440 to 36,153. His majority dropped from 25,000 to 13,000. That is a fair sort of movement in two years. Let us have a look at the electorate of Macarthur. We were told that Macarthur was the key seat in Australia and that we would lose it by 3,000 votes. The vote for the Liberal candidate went up from 27,000 to 31,700 and the Labour vote fell. The majority rose from about 3,000 to 10,000. That is the change that took place between 1961 and 1963.
Let us have a look at a seat where the Labour candidate was a right winger. For the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who has come in from behind the curtain, I am dealing with whether Labour does better if it is redder. In the Blaxland electorate, the vote for the Labour candidate rose from 27,500 to 29,500. His vote increased by 2,000. The vote for his opponent dropped from 14,700 to 11,319. I think the Labour candidate in this electorate is a moderate or a right winger.
– The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), was dropped from the executive.
– I am reminded by my colleague that the Australian Labour Party did not like the honorable member for
Blaxland, so he did not go back on the executive. We are sorry about this, because many of us respect his views.
In the electorate of Eden-Monaro the Labour vote dropped from 24,217 to 20,807. The Liberal vote went up from 16,000 to 18,000 and the candidate for the Australian Democratic Labour Party, who intruded, received 2,000 votes. The Labour majority dropped from 8,000 to 700. In this case, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) had been able to get away with the idea that he was a moderate, that he would do good for Australia by moderating the left wing militant influences in the Australian Labour Party. We have seen this for fifteen years in Eden-Monaro. But this time, on the honorable member’s rapid return from the United Nations, he issued a stream of statements saying that he would stand foursquare for re-negotiating the treaty with America on the station at North West Cape. Immediately the people saw the real character of the honorable member for EdenMonaro and immediately we saw the result in the vote. It took only two weeks. Where a man exposed himself as a left winger or was known to be a left winger, he lost votes. The records teem with examples that prove this. When will this become apparent to the Australian Labour Party or the 36 men who, I understand, speak with the united voice of 2,500,000 Australians? Of course, it is nonsense to suggest that they do, but they are said to speak for all these people. When will they learn that they will never get anywhere if they act in this way? When will they learn that there will never be a real Opposition while this sort of nonsense permeates the Australian Labour Party? Look at them!
– Do not be hard on us.
– Well, look at the expressions on the faces of Opposition members. One or two of them continue with the nonsense that if the party goes further left or is redder it will win elections. The result of the election was not expected by Labour. Before the election we saw a party that was just waiting to take office. Opposition members were eager and excited at the prospect of winning. Now they have long faces; they are hopeless and dejected.
They are out in the wilderness and the probability is that they will stay there for a long time. They will stay there until they listen to sensible suggestions and learn the lesson that can be found in the votes.
Of course, the Leader of the Opposition made a mistake in Brisbane during the election campaign. I do not know whether he meant to do it. He was asked a set question by Mr. Keeffe about what would happen in future elections. He did not expect the answer he received. The Leader of the Opposition said, “ We will abolish preferential voting in Australia”. The people were presented with the prospect of Labour being in office for ever. That brick that the honorable gentleman dropped must have had a tremendous effect on the people of Australia.
Weeks before the policy speeches were delivered, to my surprise, we were told in New South Wales by various people: “ We are Labour voters but we will not vote for the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party. We do not mind advice but we will not accept instructions.” Yet we still hear the spokesmen for Labour say that the 36 men represent the concentrated and thoughtful views of 2,500,000 people in Australia. When these people hear some of the statements of the executive, they react in two different ways. One small group keeps the patter going. The people in this group do not understand the implications or the dangers inherent in the statements, but they keep on repeating them. They imagine that the people in their trade unions are following them slavishly, but, of course, this is a shocking mistake and it became apparent at the election. <“)n the other hand, the great mass of trade unions-
– You get less than 1 per cent, of-
– Let us look at what happened to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), who is now giving us advice. He received 22,889 votes at the last election. The Liberal Party received 21,394 and the Australian Democratic Labour Party received 1,508. His majority of 8,000 in 1961 was reduced to fewer than 1 ,000 last year. Instead of sitting quietly in this place the honorable member seeks to offer his advice, but the advice that he offered to his electors was not accepted last year to the extent that it was accepted two years earlier. More than 6,000 of his supporters deserted him.
– They dropped him.
– They dropped him completely yet he has the temerity to offer advice in this place. Instead he should hang his head in shame.
In the last few days honorable members opposite have fired a barrage of questions at the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) about the conditions of aborigines in the Northern Territory. The Minister handled those questions with great distinction. But the tenor of the questions indicates that the Opposition is influenced strongly by left wing ,or Communist thinking because if we turn to the “Tribune” of 12th February this year-
– Their text-book.
– Yes. This issue of “ Tribune “ carries the following report under the headlines, “ For your opinions - the Communist draft program on the aborigine people. Their conditions a disgrace to Australia “: -
There is no such thing as a backward people, only people kept backward.
This apt statement by Paul Robeson, famous Negro rights leader and singer, has been used as a foreword of a Communist draft policy on the Aborigines of Australia.
As has been said here many times previously, one goes to the “ Tribune “ for the source of any new or radical thinking or new ideas in the Labour Party. This kind of thing has been going on for years, but it did not happen in the days of Curtin or Chifley. To-day the Labour Party goes to its left wing masters for its policy, lt goes to the 36 men, who are partly Moscowtrained. Half of them are strong leftwingers. The party goes to those 36 men for its policy, yet it has the nerve to tell us that 2,500,000 Australians think exactly as do those 36 men, half of whom are so strongly left-wing that they are more dangerous than Communists. They pose as nonmembers of the Communist Party. They get away with it because they are not Communists, but they are more dangerous to the country than Communists. A Communist is marked. We know him. He has all sorts of disabilities and inhibitions. An Opposition member calls, “ Yahoo “.
We are accustomed to interjections like that. The moment one directs attention to this canker at the heart of the Labour Party one gets parrot cries, or else an honorable member opposite makes an inane unparliamentary noise of the kind that one hears from time to time from that side of the chamber. These are the tactics of honorable members opposite. I think they were referred to last night as diversionary tactics.
– But you are a bit mental, are you not?
-Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The Labour Party is at a low ebb. As the Opposition in this Parliament it is letting Australia down. It cannot make a serious contribution to the running of this country. It has been battered at the polls. I venture to suggest that if an intensive campaign had been conducted in electorates such as that of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), directed not at the honorable member personally but at the things written into Labour’s policy and for which he stands, despite his personal feelings towards them, there would have been even more empty seats on the other side of the chamber and the Opposition would have been even more lacking in constructive ideas for the security and defence of this country.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr. SPEAKER__ Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I am one of many. During the course of his remarks the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said that more than half of the Opposition was under Communist influence and therefore even more dangerous than Communists. I should like the honorable member to know that I am not a Communist sympathizer, nor am I dominated by the Communist Party. If the honorable member had the guts to name outside this chamber the people to whom he is referring he would not have sixpence left in his bank account.
.- I listened to the honorable member for
Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) speaking in this debate for 20 minutes of the 25 minutes allotted to him and during that time he did not make one reference to the Governor-General’s Speech. The honorable member devoted his remarks to an analysis of the reasons behind the defeat of the Australian Labour Party at the last general election. We on this side of the House concede that we were defeated. No doubt some honorable members opposite could offer sound and valid reasons for the defeat of some of our colleagues, but it is ludicrous for the honorable member for Macarthur to attempt to analyse the reasons behind our defeat. He is regarded by his colleagues as being not very bright. I have never heard him attempt to analyse the result of the 1961 elections. On that subject he has remained silent. His majority was substantially reduced in 1961. Nor have I heard the honorable member say anything about the 1954 elections when this Government was returned with a very slender majority. The honorable member, who, as I have said, is regarded amongst his colleagues as being not very bright, has now adopted smear tactics. In this field he has no peer in this Parliament. He is not likely to accept the challenge issued to him a few moments ago by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). He is not likely to repeat his statements outside this House. He insinuates that we on this side of the House are subject to Communist control or that we associate with members of the Communist Party. But he is not prepared to name those members whom he smears in this place, nor is he prepared to repeat his statements outside the Parliament. If the honorable member holds the views that he expresses in this place he should stand up and be counted.
I have already devoted too much time to the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur, who disregarded completely the Governor-General’s Speech. I congratulate those new honorable members on the Government side of the chamber who have delivered their maiden speeches. This is something which the honorable member for Macarthur should have done. All of us who enter this Parliament must inevitably face the responsibility of making our maiden speech. Although we on this side of the House may not agree entirely with what has been said by those honorable members who have made their maiden speeches, I think they made some very worth-while contributions. So, we congratulate them. 1 join with those of my colleagues who have preceded me in this debate and have referred to the loss of very valuable colleagues from this side of the House. We hope that many of them will return to the Parliament, as I am sure they will, and increase the numbers on our side.
The Government now has a clear mandate to govern. We acknowledge that. I say at the outset that I sincerely hope that its electoral success will not lead to the situation that pertained in this Parliament following the general elections of 1955 and 1958, when the substantial majority that the Government enjoyed led to arrogance. Already in this Parliament there have been displays of arrogance by some Ministers, particularly by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) himself. Let me assure Ministers that if that arrogance continues the people of Australia will deal as they should deal with that kind of behaviour.
The Government, with the majority that it now enjoys, certainly has a responsibility to legislate for all sections of the community, because I believe that the Government gained that majority as a result of a clear vote from all sections of the community. I intend to point to what I regard as omissions from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Those omissions involve matters pertaining to sections of the community which are entitled to the same favorable consideration as has been given to the people who will benefit as a result of (he Government’s legislative programme during the next three years. Therefore, I say that the Governor-General’s Speech is notable for many omissions. I shall refer to them in greater detail in a few moments. The Speech deals mainly with the Government’s policy speech for the November election, particularly in regard to education, child endowment and housing.
Although we have no quarrel broadly with the Government’s education policy, as outlined in the Speech, the House should be reminded that the Government is now implementing, at least partly, a policy that has been advocated by members of the Opposition over the last fourteen years. How often have members of the Opposition initiated urgency debates in this House in order to request the Government to consider immediately making a grant to the States for education generally, and particularly for the establishment of school buildings, science blocks and other essentials? How often have members of the Government parties, particularly the Prime Minister, refuted the statements of members of the Opposition? How often have our moves in relation to education been rejected by members of the Government parties voting as a bloc against us? Now, according to the Prime Minister, a special grant is to be made to the States for the purposes which have been advocated so often by members of the Opposition.
In addition, the Government now promises that it will award a number of scholarships to secondary and technical students. I believe that the people of Australia are entitled to know at what stage that policy promise will be put into effect. There is no indication that legislation to give effect to that proposal, which the Prime Minister put before the people during the last election campaign, will be brought down in this Parliament this year. The Government now has conceded that what members of the Opposition have said so often about education is right. The two matters to which I have referred already - the making of immediate grants to the States to assist in education and the granting of scholarships - have been in the platform of the Labour Party since 1958.
Why did the Prime Minister not accept the other two proposals that have been made by the Labour Party? I refer, first, to the establishment of a Commonwealth ministry of education. If the Government is prepared to agree that the Commonwealth should accept some responsibility for education - it has denied that up to this point - and if it is prepared to make grants to the States and provide Commonwealth scholarships for secondary school students, is it not reasonable to say that education should have been given the priority that it deserves and that a Commonwealth ministry of education should have been established?
I make one other suggestion on education generally. It has been made frequently by the Labour Party. I refer to the establishment of a Commonwealth committee of inquiry. The Prime Minister has .said frequently that a committee pf inquiry was not considered necessary, and that the conditions about which the Opposition complained consistently were not obvious to his Government. Now he accepts the proposition that the Commonwealth has a responsibility for education. The Commonwealth has entered the field of technical and secondary education. That being so, he must acknowledge that the States face some difficulties in education. Therefore, we believe that the Government could well have established a Commonwealth committee of inquiry to consider the needs of primary, secondary and technical education in this country.
Another matter in the Governor-General’s Speech to which I wish to refer is child endowment. We acknowledge that at last the Government has acceded to the request for an increase in child endowment which has been made by members of the Opposition for many years. We say that the Government’s proposal is a concession. The Government intends to increase child endowment for the third and subsequent children to 1 Ss. a week. In addition, it will provide child endowment at the rate of 15s. a week for students between the ages of 16 and 21 years. We concede that that is a move in the right direction. But the Government is not moving as far as the Opposition was prepared to move. I suggest that as the Government now has accepted that proposition, it should- be given legislative effect as early as possible.
A third point that was given some prominence in the Governor-General’s Speech was the Government’s housing proposals. First, the Government will grant a subsidy. Obviously, there is some doubt about the legislation. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has been very evasive. We understand, broadly speaking, that a subsidy of fi is to be granted for every £3 saved, up to a maximum of £250. I believe that at this stage the Minister should be in a position to give the House further information on this matter. We do not overlook the fact that some members of the community will gain from the Government’s proposal if the relevant legislation is brought down and passed by this Parliament. From the information that has already been made available to honorable members and to the public generally we believe that the number of people who will qualify for a benefit of this kind is certainly limited.
Secondly, according to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the Government intends to improve the availability of loans on reasonable terms for the purchase or construction of a home or the discharge of an existing mortgage. To make more funds available so that it will be easier for young couples to secure a loan, without considering the vital and important question of bridging the deposit gap, will do little to improve the serious housing shortage in Australia. For years now we on this side of the House, and indeed on occasions honorable members on the Government side, have pointed out that the greatest need in housing is, first, that funds should be available on reasonable terms for the purchase or construction of a home, and secondly, that the maximum advance should be sufficient to allow intending purchasers to bridge the deposit gap. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech makes no mention of any intention on the Government’s part to assist in this direction.
I turn now to the third point contained in that paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech relating to the Government’s housing programme. It suggests that an opportunity now will be afforded to people who want to do so to discharge an existing mortgage. Since at least 1957, and probably before then, I have been asking the Government to reconsider its policy in relation to the discharge of existing mortgages on war service homes. I remember that in 1957 I moved the adjournment of the House so that we could discuss this matter of urgent public importance. The act is quite clear. It states specifically that any ex-serviceman who desires to discharge the mortgage on his home is entitled to do so, but as a result of a- direction from the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), who was administering the War Service Homes Division, and no doubt following Government policy, since this Government has been in office ex-servicemen have been denied the opportunity to discharge mortgages on properties.
Despite this we now learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intends to make it easy for young couples to secure finance on reasonable terms and that such finance may be used to discharge existing mortgages. I want the new Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) who, I understand, is now in control of the War Service Homes Division, to tell me what he intends to do about existing mortgages on homes owned by exservicemen who are eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. Until now it has been Government policy to deny that assistance to ex-servicemen.
Now we come to the crux of the matter. The Government has continuously overlooked representations that have been made by honorable members on this side of the House on this important aspect yet now, according to the Governor-General’s Speech, it is prepared to grant this concession immediately to all young couples who can meet the requirements laid down by the Government, the banking institutions and other approved lending bodies, to enable them to discharge existing mortgages. For fourteen years, despite representations and appeals by honorable members on this side of the House, the Government has denied that opportunity to ex-servicemen. A great deal more could be said about the legislation relating to war service homes, but unfortunately I have not the time to do so. However, I have no doubt that when the new housing legislation comes before the Parliament an opportunity will be afforded to honorable members to remind the Government of the extent to which it has overlooked the needs and requirements of ex-servicemen during the past fourteen years.
I turn once again to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. At the commencement of my remarks I referred to the fact that the honorable member for Macarthur failed to deal with the Speech. Probably had he read the Speech and given it some consideration, as I and other honorable members, including the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) have done, he would have noticed, as the honorable member for West Sydney pointed out last night, that it made no mention of social services. We ask the Government now whether in 1964 there will again be no general increase in pensions. We remember what happened in 1963 in relation to single pensioners. I do not want to deal with that matter again at this stage, but we believe that a great number of people in Australia need an increase in the base rate of pension. Only this morning I received a letter from the
Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation in which it again raised two points which concern the federation and pensioners receiving the base rate of pension. In this document, copies of which, I have no doubt, all honorable members received, the federation has requested, first, that immediate action be taken by the Government to increase the base rate of pension to one-half the basic wage. Whether the House agrees on that point is another matter, but I acknowledge at once that the federation is in a position to make a just claim for an increase in the base rate. The pensioners were denied an increase in 1963 and apparently they will be given the same treatment in 1964, because no mention is made of social services in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The second point mentioned in this document is valid. It relates to the issue of medical entitlement cards. I do not want to traverse this matter at length, but I believe that the two points raised are sufficiently important for me to mention them in the Parliament now.
In 1955 this Government applied a means test on the issue of medical entitlement cards. I, like many other honorable members, can mention many steps that are being taken by various people to secure a medical entitlement card although they are not entitled to one, and to beat this Government’s anomalous legislation. According to the act, a single pensioner who receives additional income up to £2 a week and a married pensioner couple who receive up to £4 a week are entitled to receive a medical entitlement card; but if a single pensioner receives additional income of £2 Os. Id. a week and a married pensioner couple receive £4 Os. Id. a week they are precluded from obtaining a medical entitlement card. As I have pointed out, this means test has applied since 1955. If the Government is not prepared to abolish the means test entirely, as we on this side of the House believe it should be, surely, having regard to the general increase in wages, costs and prices since 1955, the Government should recognize that the maximum permissible amount of additional income should be increased substantially. If it was £2 in 1955 for a single person and £4 for a pensioner couple, it should be at least £4 for a single pensioner and £8 for a pensioner couple in 1964.
I have referred to these points because social services have been completely overlooked in the Governor-General’s Speech. I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is at the table, whether these aspects of social services are to be ignored again in 1964 as they were in 1963. Are only a few people to benefit from the legislation? If the Government intends to ignore the anomalies that I have mentioned it deserves to be condemned because, as I said a few moments ago, it was returned to office with a clear majority from all sections of the community. I have no doubt that there were many pensioners who voted for them too. But that being so, this Government in my opinion has a responsibility and a duty to look at these anomalies that are contained in the Social Services Act and do something immediately to get rid of them.
There are other matters to which I would have liked to devote my attention, but I have no doubt that when the amending legislation comes before the Parliament during this session dealing with the matters outlined in general in the GovernorGenerals’ Speech, there will be an opportunity to speak of those matters. I have, however, raised one or two important aspects, and I join at this stage with my colleague, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), in appealing to the Government to do something about one important matter that has most certainly been overlooked in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I did not have the benefit of hearing all of the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), but I did k-ar him make the point that the Governor-General’s Speech. or the announced policy of the Government, did not provide for a review of the base rate of age pensions. The honorable gentleman will know, as the House knows, that the purpose during this session of Parliament is primarily to put into effect the undertakings which the Prime Minister and other Ministers gave during the election campaign in November, as well as dealing, of course, with the ordinary routine legislation. So there was no reference to an increase of the base rate of age pensions.
It is completely foolish to express surprise and dismay that there is not included in the announced policy of the Government a review of this question. The honorable gentleman must know that it has been the custom, never departed from, to my memory, to decide the base rate of pension at the time of the preparation of the annual budget. I am not aware that it has ever been done at any other time.
However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think honorable members probably know that I am to go to represent Australia at a conference at the United Nations on trade and development in the near future, and I take this opportunity to make some observations on Australia’s trading position and certain policy considerations which affect not only our trading position but also that of the other trading nations, and which are of importance to this conference because they effect the growth and opportunities for increasing standards of living of the emerging and lesser developed countries of the world. On the figures available to date, the financial year 1963-64 promises to be a boom year for our export trade. Total exports could reach a record £1,300,000,000 this year. In the past total exports have only exceeded £1,000,000,000 on two occasions, and even then have been less on each of those than £1,100,000,000.
This favorable outlook at present is due in part to some recovery in our terms of trade and to an increase in the availability of markets for the great bulk commodities such as wheat, sugar and the metals. However - and this is quite important - it is attributable to government and industry partnership in the development of an export consciousness, to a vigorous export development campaign backed up by government action designed to improve export performance.
As a measure of the success of this campaign, the total exports of manufactures for the first six months of this year have reached already the most encouraging figure of £80,000,000. In this period our manufactures have contributed over £20,000,000 more to our export earnings than in the same period last year. For machines and machinery alone the increase has been of the order of 40 per cent, in that period.
Despite this brighter picture, Australia and other developing countries are still heavily dependent on the export of the bulk commodities. We and the developing countries continue to be bedevilled by the past degree of deterioration in our terms of trade, a trend which has been only too painfully apparent over the last ten to fifteen years. In 1963 we required one-third more exports to pay for the same quantity of imports as in 1950. In addition, access to overseas markets for our great bulk commodities has been restricted by various tariff and non-tariff devices. Both of these disabilities have their origin in the ultraprotectionist policies to trade in primary products which have been pursued by the more highly developed countries.
To quote just one example of the effect of these policies of agricultural protection, imports of cereals into Western Europe in the years 1958-1961 were 21 per cent, less than in the period 1927-28, imports of meat had decreased by 24 per cent., and fibres by some 12 per cent. - and this in spite of the growth in population and in purchasing power during the intervening period.
We, and other exporters of the primaries have been forced to accept less than the cost of efficient production in world markets, where the so.-called world price which we get for our exports bears no relationship to the price at which the great proportion of these commodities are traded.
Less than 20 per cent, of total world production of temperate agricultural products is traded internationally, and yet the price for these residual supplies is wrongly termed “ the world price “. It is a price which, in the case of wheat, for example, has necessitated some form of government subvention in all the major exporting countries, even the most efficient. This, then, is the type of trading world in which we have to do business.
We have continued to advocate the raising of international prices to levels which are equitable in relation to costs of production in the more efficient producing countries. We have argued for and negotiated for improved access to markets, and the disposal of surpluses in such a way as to avoid disruption and distortion of international trade. We have advocated the negotiation of international commodity agreements as a means of attaining these objectives.
I have vigorously propounded this philosophy at the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference in Montreal in 1958, repeatedly since in Gatt, and in fact in all our intergovernmental negotiations. A new international trade policy based on this trading philosophy would undoubtedly be in Australia’s interest, but also in the selfinterest of the developing countries. With their heavy dependence on the export of the primaries, improved international prices and increased access to the markets of the highly developed countries are vital to them. It is not less important to the highly developed countries on two main counts.
In the first place, the great industrial countries of the northern hemisphere must surely appreciate that there can be no political stability in the new nations unless they achieve economic stability and a predictability which enables ‘them to plan their development with some certainty and to lift their standards of living, which at present are unacceptably low. The industrial giants have the capacity to make a significant contribution and to provide the developing countries with increased opportunities. If political stability is not maintained, the price to be paid for its re-establishment will be far higher and the road will be long.
For the developed countries it is not just a moral or humanitarian question or a question of international politics. It is also good business. Take Australia as an example. As a developing country, the more we earn in export markets the more we can and do spend. The history of Australia shows that that is so. If our future earning prospects are satisfactory and predictable, we not only spend more but we are prepared to borrow to increase our current rate of expenditure. Moreover, we spend most of our foreign earnings or borrowings on the products of the industrial countries.
I have produced figures at international conferences to show that it is the long-term history of Australia that for every 20s. we earn through export income we spend 24s. This is a developing country. That is why I say not only that it is morally right and politically necessary that exporters of primary products in developing countries should have the opportunity to sell, but also that it is good, profitable business for the great industrial countries with whom they spend their money. Thus it is extremely sound business for the industrial exporters to have developing countries with maximum purchasing power. We can in the same way regard it as good business if our neighbours in Asia can be assisted to achieve an improvement in their foreign exchange earnings, in their standards of living and in their purchasing power.
With a small domestic market for our manufactures, an extension of the scale of our manufacturing operations through an extension of our domestic market into the export field is essential to our future welfare and to our ability to compete more effectively in all markets. It is in the light of these considerations that I, and the Government, attach such importance to the United Nations conference on trade and development commencing in Geneva later this month. This new United Nations initiative arises from the dissatisfaction of the developing countries and the exporters of the bulk commodities with present international trade policies. The conference, which will be attended by about 120 countries, is regarded by the 80 or more developing countries which will attend as their conference. They will be seeking the evolution of policies leading to an economic independence which matches their newfound political independence. For the reasons I have mentioned, the conference will have highly important direct and indirect implications for Australia. It can be expected to place a new emphasis on the contribution which expanded trading opportunities can make to development.
One of the United Nations’ objectives for this decade - the United Nations Development Decade - is that by 1970 the income of the developing countries will be growing at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. If no special measures are taken to increase the foreign exchange earnings of the developing countries, the United Nations estimates that their trade gap could reach the staggering total of 20,000 million American dollars by 1970. This is the challenge which faces the conference and all countries attending.
The new emphasis on improved trading opportunities as the basis for development is not surprising. The United Nations has calculated that the benefit to the Latin American countries of the aid supplied to them over the period from 1950 to 1961, has been more than nullified by the deterioration in their terms of trade over the same period. This deterioration in the Latin American countries alone is estimated to have reduced the purchasing power of their exports by about 10,000 million American dollars in that decade. This arises overwhelmingly from diminished opportunities to sell their products and the lower prices at which they have been sold. To a lesser extent it arises from the higher prices they have had to pay for their purchases.
This state of affairs is clearly unacceptable to the developing countries as a continuing condition and some of the major issues which the conference must face are obvious. For the bulk commodities the central theme of the conference will be first, raising international prices, secondly improving access to markets, thirdly the orderly disposal of surpluses, fourthly international control over stock-pile releases, and fifthly, the extension of the scope and number of international commodity agreements. As the House knows these are the very policies which we have been propounding. Those five headings have been placed on the agenda prepared for the conference. It is the same philosophy which has already found a degree of international acceptance in the wheat, sugar, tin and coffee agreements - these by now have been brought into existence - in the recent British cereals arrangement with its provisions for minimum import prices, and more recently still in our meat agreement with the United States of America which enables exporters to obtain a predictable share of the growth of the market.
– It is terminable at six months’ notice by either side.
– After a firm period. That goes for any treaty you can name. Do not try to score a point on that.
Whilst there has been an increasing acceptance of the philosophy to which I have referred, we and the developing countries need more than mere acceptance of the principles. We need to see them implemented in a way which leads to new trading opportunities.
The United Nations conference will be the most representative forum for the acceptance and implementation of our approach to new trade opportunities for the bulk commodities. Measures designed to redress the adverse trend in the terms of trade and to open up markets would provide real opportunities for the developing countries, but this in itself is not enough. Bearing in mind their stages of economic development, many of them are not in a position to extract the same benefits from such a situation as countries whose development - like our own - has progressed further.
Most developing countries need to find a means of establishing new productive enterprises or of achieving an initial breakthrough into export markets. The United Nations conference will also deal with the problems of how to assist the developing countries to break into new fields and how to provide them with a self-starter in the export of manufactures. The developing countries consider that tariff preferences for their manufactures and semi-manufactures would provide them with the initial advantage they need. From our own experience we can appreciate the problems faced by the developing countries in competing against well-established suppliers.
The developing countries need special opportunities in export markets to achieve sales of the products of industries where they have no economies of scale - perhaps infant industries. The industrialized countries could provide the developing countries with sufficient initial opportunities without harming domestic industries within the industrialized countries. Where such opportunities lead to an increase in export earnings by the developing countries this must be good business for the industrialized countries, for it is largely on their products that the income earned will be spent. Thus the United Nations conference will be seeking solutions to problems which are fundamental to the welfare of all countries.
Even so, the size of the conference and the variety of interests of the countries participating will probably mean that it will take time to work out solutions which are generally acceptable.
Australia has a vital interest in this conference - in the help that can be contrived for the developing countries to aid their development and improve their standard of living. Success there will generate a greater mutual respect and understanding. We have always felt that in fighting the fight that is natural and obvious for the Australian interest we are automatically fighting the fight for all the developing countries which live by the sale of bulk raw materials. In addition, this is not a matter which arises only out of our self-interest. Australia does accept a responsibility to try to help the less-developed countries. There is no doubt that we have some skills in the field of international trade. We are a big world trader and it has always been our part to proffer the benefit of all our skills and experience to help less fortunate people on to their feet.
.- The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) pointed out that we have had to export more in recent years in order to pay for our imports. While he is overseas at this conference which he mentions he ought to try to get the United States of America to lift its import restrictions on wool and metals insofar as they affect this country. The meat agreement with the United States of America is not all that it is cracked up to be. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) pointed out how the meat quotas imposed by the United States of America reduce the American intake of meat from Australia. I have here a press cutting, which reads as follows: -
Cattlemen Told U.S. Pact Is A Stop-gap.
The U.S. Assistant Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. George Mehren, has told midwest cattlemen that the U.S. meat imports agreements with Australia and New Zealand are a stop-gap measure.
I think the Minister for Trade and Industry ought to have a further look at that position when he is overseas. After all, as he knows - and as this House knows - our trade balance with the United States is well against Australia. Having said that, I would like to mention one or two matters contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Governor-General stated -
Defence expenditure has increased from £203,000,000 in 1961-62, to over £260,000,000 this financial year.
The amount to be spent on defence is, of course, very important, but we must bear in mind what we are getting for that expenditure. We have to realize that although the amount spent on defence is rising we are not now getting the same value for the money spent as we formerly got. If we ask ourselves whether we are getting the same value for the money spent, the answer must be “ No “, because the loss of value of money during the fourteen years this Government has been in office means that Australia is not spending the same relative amount on defence requirements as it did formerly. In 1952-53, for instance, our expenditure on defence was f 21 5,000,000 and in 1962-63 it was £221,300,000. Basing the calculation on the consumer price index, the £215,000,000 spent in 1952-53 is the equivalent of £267,000,000 at the present time. So in effect, the £260,000,000 referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech still does not reach the amount expended in 1952-53. There is another way in which to look at expenditure on defence. In the ten years after 1952-53 Australia’s national income increased by £2,322,000,000 and the gross national product increased by £3,121,000,000. In 1952-53 defence expenditure represented 6 per cent, of the national income and 5 per cent, of the gross national product. In 1962-63 it represented only 3.4 per cent, and 2.8 per cent, respectively and so, in effect, is actually about half what it was ten years ago. We might ask ourselves whether the threat to our security is less real today than it was ten years ago. The Government should know the answer to that question better than we do, because most of the information is kept secret, as we in this House know. The Government has a sorry record on defence. In fourteen years it has spent over £2,700,000,000 on defence, but what have we to show for it? The Air Force is obsolete, the Army is badly equipped and the Navy has too few ships.
– That is nonsense.
– Would you say that we have an adequate number of ships? If so, what about the recent disaster to the “Voyager” as a result of which our destroyer force was reduced by 25 per cent.? Yet you say Australia’s Navy is adequate! What about the unfortunate accident to our aircraft carrier, which means that we are temporarily without one in fighting condition? This Government stands condemned for its inadequacy and its neglect of Australia’s defence. It should have been planning for years to equip all our defence forces with up-to-date weapons and it should have arranged, as far as possible, for them to be made in Australia. Our defence production industries should now be expanded so that they would be capable of providing our requirements. I put it to honorable members opposite that the amount spent on defence is not always a guide to our ability to defend this country.
I take the opportunity at this stage of supporting the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) m their request that the Government should intervene before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in support of an increase in the basic wage. As speakers on this side of the House have pointed out, the Government intervened in the 1960 basic wage hearing, in opposition to the workers’ claims. It claimed, on that occasion, that the economy of Australia would not be able to stand an increase in the basic wage. The Governor-General said in his Speech -
Along with our favorable economic growth, there has gone a notable steadiness of costs and prices.
That being the case, why is the Government adopting an attitude which can only be interpreted as opposition to the claim of the unions? It is not a neutralist attitude but is, in effect, opposition, at a time when the Government claims that the economy is as good as is reported in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I sincerely hope that when the claim of the employers for a single wage, as against a wage containing the basic wage plus the margin, is before the court, the Government will express strong opposition to the employers’ claim. I emphasize again that the principle of a basic wage and a margin as the base of the wage structure in this country has applied for over 40 years. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with the basic wage and it leaves the question of margins, generally speaking, to the conciliation commissioners. The important point is that this matter has always been dealt with as two separate issues and it should continue to be dealt with in that way. I think this Government would be failing in its duty if it did not express, before the commission, strong disapproval of the employers’ claim, acceptance of which would destroy a system that has withstood the test of time.
The Governor-General also referred to the economy and said -
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.
Recently, the Department of Labour and National Service published a report entitled “Characteristics of Persons Registered for Employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service “. One section of the report analysed the situation of 20,000 men who had been out of work for a month in 1963. Of these, 80 per cent, were semiskilled or unskilled, and more than half were married and over the age of 45. These men belong to a group which is the hardest hit when there is an economic squeeze or any recession in the economy. Even when times are relatively normal, they find steady employment difficult to get. No matter how prosperous the country is, the unfortunate men in this group find it difficult to get and retain jobs. Employers, including governments, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not now employ men over the age of 45. This seems to be the set policy of industry, and it is to be regretted. I believe that the employers themselves should have another look at the situation and do their best to employ these unfortunate men. Certainly, the onus should be on governments, at any rate, to see that men in this group are able to find work.
The report also showed that there were more than 12,000 juniors unemployed. This was the figure in August last. So the juniors unemployed could not be said to be young people who had recently left school. The latest statistics, which were released in January by the Department of Labour and National Service, show that unemployment among juniors is getting worse. In January, 40,952 juniors were unemployed. This was close to 50 per cent, of the total number registered for employment. We should ask ourselves: Are we again getting into a situation like that which existed prior to the last war, when there was a big army of unemployed youth? In those days, many young people were in dead-end occupations, and many never had a full-time job until the war began. These young people were known as the legion of the lost. The department should investigate the circumstances of young people much more fully.
Recently, I placed on the notice-paper a question addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), in which I asked - . . what action is intended to (a) equip youths with the necessary skills to enable them to secure employment in this changed industrial world and (b) train unskilled men and skilled men who have to turn to other avenues of employment due to mechanization and automation?
I sincerely hope that the Minister’s reply will be favorable and that he will set in operation machinery to deal with these two very important aspects of unemployment. I think it is to be regretted that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech made no reference to the effect of automation on industry. It is true that the New South Wales Government instituted an inquiry into automation, presided over by Mr. Justice Richards of the Industrial Commission, and that he has recently presented his report. The Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service submitted a report on this very important matter in 1956, but it was not of much value, as those honorable members who have read it will know. I believe that the Commonwealth should have another inquiry conducted by a body representative of employers and employees and having an independent chairman.
The full effects of automation have not yet hit Australia. It has affected some workers, mainly those in clerical occupations and on the waterfront and in the mining industries. There is no doubt that as time goes on automation will hit other industries. In the United States of America, it has become a solid reality and has had awesome effects on industrial life, bringing grave worry to the trade unions and increasingly to some employers. In the minds of Americans there is not the slightest doubt that automation, in the words of the late President Kennedy, is “ the major domestic challenge of the 60’s “. The United States Department of Labour has estimated that 1,800,000 workers are being put out of jobs each year and replaced by new machines and computers and that, at the same time, a further 1,000,000 workers are entering the labour market annually. Despite a 40 per cent, increase in manufacturing output in the United States in the last decade, total manufacturing employment has failed to increase. In industry after industry, employment is declining while production increases.
It is considered to be sound business practice to install expensive equipment and to dismiss workers, who are more costly. I can give some illustrations. In an automated motor engine plant, instead of 39 men drilling holes in crankshafts with 39 machines, nine men are doing the same work with three machines. An insurance company introduced a computer in one division and reduced the number of workers from 198 to 85. It is estimated that, in the railways alone in the United States, automation will cause 40,000 workers to lose their jobs. Few industries, let it be said, can be immunized against this new technology.
Just as the Industrial Revolution completely transformed industry in the early nineteenth century, automation, with explosive energy, is now revolutionizing American industry. Automation is moving also into Britain in similar fashion and into many other countries. But there is one significant difference between the revolution that is developing to-day and the Industrial Revolution. Organizations of workers were weak at the time of the Industrial Revolution, but are very strong indeed now, and they are determined to see that the workers do not suffer as a result of automation and mechanization. The unions know better than to believe that the new technology will miraculously create new jobs, as some people claim it will. After all, automation is specifically intended to destroy manual labour, and it does so most effectively. The machines of the first Industrial Revolution simply supplemented man’s muscle power. The new machines replace not only his muscle power but also his brain. That is the difference between the two revolutions.
The new machines and computers can work with a precision and speed that no human being can match. When a switch is thrown, the computer or automatic drill does what it is told. It does not become sick, it does not ask for overtime or higher wages, it does not need annual leave or long service leave. Some machines can even translate from one language to another.
The United States trade union movement, like the Australian trade union movement, is not opposed to automation, to the increased mechanization of industry or to any form of technological change. The opposition is to the method by which the changes are introduced. Labour believes that, just as an employer has a property right in his plant and his machines, so a worker with years of service has a property right in his job, and this cannot be ignored. That is why we are concerned when we see that this Government apparently is doing nothing to prepare itself for this revolution.
In the United States, the unions are demanding at least one year’s pay for workers who are made redundant and a reduction in working time from 40 to 35 hours a week. Some unions have already won a reduction of hours from 40 to 35 a week. The Electrical Workers Union has won a 25 hour week for its New York electricians. The unions are demanding longer vacations and the lowering of the retirement age from 65 to 60 years. One union which represents office employees has asked for a four day week. These are advances that are gradually being adopted in the United States and we will have to consider them here. I was pleased to note a report in a recent journal that major research is now being conducted in the United States and Great Britain into the social and economic problems that are being created by automation. It is hoped to prevent the new technology from becoming a blight to human hopes and aspirations.
The late President Kennedy put it well when he said, “ There is essential thinking and planning which we must do in order to make automation the servant, rather than the master, of the American people “. We ought to be planning along those lines here. I have some newspaper cuttings which show the concern that is being expressed in Australia on this very subject. One is headed “Unions Urge Study of Automation”, and reads in part -
The A.C.T.U. has called on the Federal Department of Labour to establish a special section to deal with the possible future problems which automation will present to the Australian worker.
What is being done to establish such a section? An item in the “Canberra Times” under the heading “Automation Warning by Unions “ states that two white collar worker unions warned of the effects of automation. The article contains the following passage -
Automation already bad been responsible for dismissals and downgradings.
It would be felt increasingly in industry.
A news item in the “Age” was headed “Automation Link With Jobless” and stated -
In the next twenty years the rapid development of automation might present Australia with its greatest unemployment problem.
This item contains a good deal of information on this subject. Another newspaper contained an article giving the woman’s view. It is headed “Automation’is job threat ‘ “ and deals particularly with youth unemployment. This is a matter that I have stressed. The Department of Labour and National Service should be paying closer attention to this subject.
Let us see how automation has affected the waterside workers. Mechanization, the use of highly specialized cranes and the like have resulted in most port quotas being reduced by a total of no fewer than 6,600 men. Eight Australian ports have had their classifications changed from “A” to “ B “, which means that the men have lost attendance money. An analysis of cargoes handled in all Australian ports shows that in 1954, 24,518,000 tons were handled and in 1963, 31,028,000 tons were handled. In 1954, 40,800,000 gross man-hours were worked, and in 1963 the figure was 28,000,000. Gross annual wages fell from £24,000,000 in 1954 to £20,000,000 in 1963, despite the increases in wage rates, and payment for statutory holidays, sick leave and the like. So we find in 1963 an increase of 6,000,000 tons of cargo being handled by a work force that has been reduced by 5,224 men. Despite the smaller work force, the cargo was handled with 12,571,128 fewer man-hours and a saving of £3,373,891 in annua] wages.
– That is because of bulk loading.
– Whatever it may be, it arises from automation and we must pay attention to this subject to ensure that workers are not displaced or their hours reduced inorder to take up the slack. Automation has not really started in Australia yet.
Claims are made that automation does not create unemployment. In some industries there are no outright lay-offs due to automation, but the work force is gradually reduced by a policy known as firing by not hiring. In either the long or the short term, this means that fewer men and women are employed. I do not want to take any more of the time of the House. Automation is a very important subject and I sincerely hope that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who is now at the table, will convey my remarks to the Minister for Labour and National Service. All that we want is to ensure that advances in technology are made without the sacrifice of human values.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should be glad if you would convey my congratulations to Mr. Speaker on his election to that position and yourself accept my congratulations on your election to the position of Chairman of Committees. It must be a source of great satisfaction to you both to find that you have retainedthe confidence of this House and have been re-elected to your high positions. I should also like to express my good wishes and congratulations to those who have made their maiden speeches. I still remember the ordeal I went through when J. made my maiden speech. No doubt it was also an ordeal for some who listened to me. On this occasion, I found great pleasure and interest in listening to the speeches of our new colleagues in this House.
I wish to deal with some matters raised in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I wish to refer in particularto the place in the world of the Commonwealth of Nations. These nations only a little while ago were known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. They had a common denominator in that they grew up and developed first as British colonies and then underthe British institution of democracy emerged as developing nations, as we call them. In his Speech the GovernorGeneral said -
My Government will continue to pay a great deal of attention to developments in Africa, especially in the new countries of the Commonwealth of Nations which are seeking to work out independent national life and institutions.
A little later, speaking at the official opening of the Pacific Area Travel Association, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said, amongst other things-
This century has been disfigured by prejudice and hatreds more than any other on record. There is no cure for prejudice or hatred half as good as petting to know the person or race or community about which you have been prejudiced.
During the last few years there have been a number of discussions, debates and speeches about the future role of the Commonwealth of Nations in the modern world. Apart from world-wide problems, the Commonwealth has its own problems. ‘For example, India and Pakistan have yet to agree about the future of Kashmir; some nations have commitments to ensure the independence of Malaysia; and a number of newly independent countries have found that the use of the ballot-box does not automatically elect a truly democratic government. The local democratic leaders realise that the problem of self-government for emerging countries is not merely one of getting trained Europeans out and putting locals in. The great problem in some of these countries is to solve the conflict between the ancient and mediaeval customs, often complicated by religious and tribal practices, and modern political, legal, commercial and technological ways. They have to solve that conflict without causing anarchy.
The further complication is that the Communists want the local leaders to take over before the people are prepared for the democratic ways of life and institutions. In that way the Communists ensure that they have a good chance, because of the resulting anarchy, to establish a Communist dictatorship. There is also a tendency to stress the negative aspects of the efforts of the Commonwealth to establish and strengthen the ties and links between its own members. An editorial entitled “ State of the Commonwealth”, which appeared in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 29th February, directed attention to some of the Commonwealth’s difficulties. It is true, as Lord Attlee suggests, that the Commonwealth needs pulling together. It is also probably true that because of the increasingly divergent paths taken by member nations, their working together will not be achieved, except through motives of selfinterest. That is not unexpected.
Since World War II. Great Britain has given independence to territories with a combined population of 650,000,000. These independent States, with their different languages, cultures, religions and levels of economic development, have one thing in common; that is, the need to develop their resources and so to raise their standard of living. It is not unreasonable to expect a certain apathy in these countries towards well-established democratic attitudes, beliefs and values which do not immediately relieve the pressing necessities of survival.
However, there are positive and encouraging developments that should be known more widely. Trade, scientific and educational ties already exist between Commonwealth countries - the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) referred to some of them earlier to-day - and new links, strong and visible, are being forged. A fortnight ago two new organizations - the Council of Commonwealth Municipalities and the Commonwealth League for Economic Co-operation - were formed in London to promote Commonwealth co-operation. I am advised that members on both sides of the House of Commons will serve on those two bodies. It was announced recently that Sir Edwin McCarthy, a distinguished Australian, is to be the chairman of the Commonwealth economic committee which exists to advise Commonwealth countries on economic development, to carry out research and to assist countries in research.
A major cultural link will be established in September next year when the Commonwealth Festival of Arts is staged in Great Britain. Several years ago, Mr. Duncan Sandys, speaking as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, said -
The future peace and prosperity of all peoples is going to depend not so much upon the assertion of sovereignty in support of separate national interests as upon willingness to renounce sovereignty in support of the wider interests of all mankind.
I found some support for that view among the delegates of new nations who attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association group conference in London in 1962. Many of the delegates told me that they believed their countries would go at least part of the way within the Commonwealth itself, if they were given the opportunity. But, I ask, with the best of intentions, how are they to do that? The Commonwealth is loosely knit. No recognized Commonwealth medium exists within which emerging nations can find their feet.
The fact is that the Commonwealth of Nations badly needs an organization to help to mobilize its tremendous technological, man-power, natural and scientific resources. Such an organization could provide the degree of self-interest which I mentioned a little while ago and which is needed to make the Commonwealth work. Such an organization would be in a position to give a lead to newly independent countries in their efforts to establish democratic government. It is unlikely that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, with its inherent limitations, would be able to fill that role.
I believe that only the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has the potential to do the job. There is growing support for that view. The association already i* a useful link between Commonwealth countries. At present it meets once a year. Delegates from about 66 countries attend the meetings. They represent geographical areas ranging from the United Kingdom, Australasia and North America to the Mediterranean, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. Great Britain has long recognized the potential of this association and has always taken the lead in association matters and in financing its activities. In recent years, however, I am glad to say, countries such as Australia and Malaya have given greatly increased help and countries such as New Zealand and India have helped to a limited extent.
Although many individual members of Commonwealth governments are enthusiastic about the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, its greatest need is continued and increased support from governments themselves. A greater appreciation by new members of what the association can do is also required. Given those conditions, the association could develop into a powerful and sympathetic organization in which emerging nations could state their views, stress their needs and seek help among friends. In association conferences, discussions and consultations take place among delegates from almost every continent, whose countries embrace about onequarter of the world’s population and have different social and economic structures, cultures and religions. These discussions and consultations have a significant influence for good and could serve the cause of peace. The diversity of such an assembly, far from being its weakness as some suggest, could be its strength. Such an opportunity to bring peoples and nations together in the Commonwealth is too rare to lose by default.
I believe that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association can do a number of things. For example, branches of newly independent countries can select from their symbols and customs, which I described earlier, those which are compatible with democracy and use them in conjunction with their democratic development. Australia should invite members of the parliaments of these countries to observe our democratic ways. Commonwealth representatives at the United Nations should work to ensure that there is time to carry through such a programme. Association members should work to get the backing of their governments. Now is the time for older branches of the association, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, to arrange special visits to African countries of the Commonwealth. So, if our branch, with the Government’s help, can send several small groups of members to African countries we will thus pay attention to developments in Africa as stated in the Governor-General’s Speech.
From time to time books are written about the Commonwealth. Few, if any, mention the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I believe it is necessary to direct attention to the fact that this is the only political organization that provides a means of regular contact. I should like to digress for a moment to mention the work performed for the association by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and the President of the Senate (Sir Alister McMullin), and to express my appreciation to them as members of this association for their representation on the general council. Each of them has been chairman of the general council. If we are able to carry out proposals such as I have described this afternoon, I believe we will make a great contribution towards curing what is perhaps not hatred but certainly prejudice and misunderstanding among the diverse communities that make up the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been caught off guard. If I had known that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) was going to finish so quickly I would have called for a quorum. May I begin my remarks by congratulating Mr. Speaker on his re-election to his high office. He does a remarkable job as Speaker. His handling of last night’s incident stands out as a shining example of impartiality - the kind of thing I would like to see more often in this place. To perform his duties in the way that he does, with so many back-seat drivers, including the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), repeatedly telling him what to do, is indeed an achievement that is perhaps without parallel. I congratulate you also, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your re-election as Chairman of Committees. You do a remarkably good job in that capacity.
I propose now to do something that no other member, including his erstwhile friends, has thought to do, and that is to congratulate the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), on his appointment as Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Angas has served his country well. He was one of the best Ministers for Immigration in a long line of very good Ministers. He has my good wishes in his future role, which I know he will play with great distinction to himself as well as to his country.
I join with other honorable members in expressing my grief at the death of that wonderful statesman, President Kennedy of the United States of America. With other honorable members I extend to his family and his many friends and relatives our sympathy in their sad bereavement.
I am sorry also to have lost so many good friends as a result of the last election. I refer to men of such great capabilities as Leslie Haylen, Mr. McGuren, Mr. Einfeld, Mr. Armitage, Mr. Fuller, Mr. Monaghan, Mr. Clay, Don Cameron, Mr. Comber and Mr. O’Brien. All of those men will come back here soon, but I am sad to have to record the fact that they are temporarily absent from this chamber. I cannot say that I have been able to derive any sense of pleasure in looking at those honorable members opposite who have succeeded my former colleagues. I have studied the new members carefully. I have listened to their speeches. I have not heard one word fall from their lips which would mitigate the sense of loss that I feel at the defeat of my ten former colleagues.
We have one consolation in that we have three extremely capable new members on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Nicholls) for many years served the Australian Labour Party with great distinction in South Australia as its State secretary. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Birrell) is one of the most outstanding trade union secretaries ever to hold office in South Australia. He is State secretary of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia. The honorable member for Bonython, the honorable member for Port Adelaide and I have the distinction of being three of the 36 so-called faceless men who help to fashion the policy of the Australian Labour Party. I will have more to say about that matter later. I congratulate the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) on his election to this Parliament. He is a man of remarkable talents. He held his seat in the State Parliament with majorities far greater than those achieved by anybody else. In due course I know that he will increase his majority in the Federal sphere just as he was able to do so in the State sphere.
I turn now to that remarkable character, the honorable member for Macarthur QAt. Jeff Bate). He is a remarkable character because he has to his credit some most strange and curious achievements. We all remember when, together with a Communist newspaper reporter, he got into a canoe on Sydney harbour and was talked into making an attack on the naval dockyard at Garden Island.
– Who was that?
– The honorable member for Macarthur. He was cajoled by a Communist newspaper reporter into getting into a canoe and rowing across to the naval dockyard at Garden Island in order to prove that the defences of our naval establishments against spying and sabotage were inadequate. This remarkable character got into the canoe and began rowing towards Garden Island.
– I suppose you mean that he paddled across.
– Well, he eventually reached his destination. He got out of the boat and was about to make his preliminary investigations of this highly secret defence establishment. But when he looked around to see whether his Communist friend intended to accompany him he found to his horror that he was rowing back to Circular Quay as fast as he could go, leaving our friend from Macarthur stranded alone on the island to carry on his investigations in an endeavour to prove to the world that Australia’s defences under the Menzies Government were so paltry that anybody could walk in and examine our secret defence establishments. When he turned to look back at the island he found himself looking down the barrel of a six-shooter. One of the sentries had spotted this character and arrested him. The honorable member protested that he was a member of parliament. The sentry, quite rightly, said, “Well, all spies have some alibi “. He said, “ But I have my gold pass “ and the sentry replied “ That is what we would expect a spy to have “. These are all facts. The honorable member was arrested because he was unable to prove his identity. His appearance made the guards rather suspicious of his mission there, so he was marched off to Redfern police station where he was formally charged and thrown into the cells pending further instructions from high Naval authorities.
In the meantime, the honorable member for Macarthur, who has so much to say about other members on this side of the chamber, decided to ring the then Minister for the Navy, Sir Josiah Francis. Every one who knew that honorable gentleman can imagine what kind of dither he got into when he received a telephone call from the honorable member announcing that he was under arrest for having attempted to steal secrets from the naval dockyard. The late Minister for the Navy did not know what to say, so he went to the Prime Minister, who very rightly said to him: “Let him stew in his own juice. A night in gaol will do him good “. So that is how this honorable gentleman tested Australia’s defences.
Having failed so dismally in probing Australia’s defences he has now decided to try to probe the Labour Party, to tell us what is wrong with the Labour Party and what we should do. He began by saying that “ many of the erstwhile Labour supporters, or what is called the right wing of the party, disagree with the Labour Party and what it is doing at the present time”. I am not particularly well educated and I cannot always rely entirely on what I believe words to mean, so I looked up the dictionary and discovered, as I thought I would, that the words “ erstwhile Labour supporters “ mean people who were former members of the Labour Party. Obviously the honorable member must be referring to his D.L.P. friends like Keon, Mullens and company when he talks of the right wing. Now we know what the honorable member for Macarthur meant. He has just walked into the chamber and has immediately collapsed into his seat. He is lying prostrate at the moment; he cannot even sit up. We know now what the honorable member meant when he used the term right-wing. Any person who wishes to adopt the term “ right-winger “ as used by the honorable member for Macarthur is welcome to it. It apparently means some one who used to be a member of the Labour Party; but is now a member of the D.L.P. I hope, therefore, no one ever accuses me of being a right-winger.
The honorable member then went on to tell us that there are two sections in the Labour Party, the right-wing and what he called the left-wing. So, according to him, if you are not a D.L.P. supporter you are a left-winger. The term “left-wing” has puzzled me for a long time, because different speakers and different writers seem to apply different meanings to it, so I did the sensible thing that I always do when there is any doubt about the meaning of an English word and turned to the Oxford English Dictionary. I discovered that the meaning of the term “ left-wing “ is “ members who sit on the left hand side of the chamber, by custom those holding relatively liberal or democratic opinions “. All Labour members sit on the left hand side of the chamber; all of us hold liberal and democratic opinions, so not one member of the Labour Party should take any exception to being described as a liberal-minded person or as a democratically-minded person.
The definition goes on to describe “leftwing “ as meaning “ progressives or radicals “. I hope every one on the Labour side regards himself as a progressive. You go either forward or backward. There is no such thing as a middle course. I do not want to see any party representing the workers of this country claiming to be a party that does not want to look forward. I took the trouble to learn the meaning of the word “radical”. The same dictionary describes a radical as being a person who wants to go to the root or the origin of a thing. I want to go to the root of all social evils. I want to go to the origin of the things which cause one section of the people to live in a constant state of insecurity and unhappiness while another small section lives in security and affluence without any fear of want. I am one of those who want to get to the root of this kind of thing.
The definition then goes on to describe a radical as a person who believes in radical reform or thorough reform. What Labour man does not believe in thorough reform? What Labour man can truthfully say that he is doing his job if he is not prepared to reform society thoroughly if society is in need of reform? To go only half way with a job is to neglect completely the other onehalf that is so essential to a complete reform. “ Radical is further defined as “ an advocate of radical reform or one who holds the most advanced views of political reform on democratic lines, and thus belongs to the extreme section of the Liberal Party”. That means, of course, the Liberal Party of Great Britain. None of these things should be obnoxious to any person who is elected by the people of this country to come into the Parliament to remedy the evils which face us now and will continue to face us for many years.
Quite frankly, I do not know what some newspaper reporters mean when they talk about “ left-wingers or Communists “ suggesting that it does not matter whether you call a man a left-winger or a Communist because both words mean the same thing. Other newspaper reporters are kinder and refer to “left-wingers and Communists”, which suggests that a left-winger is not a Communist but one you link with the Com munists. If they mean that a left-winger is a Communist then I wish they would look at a dictionary and begin using English terms correctly. But if they mean “socialists” then I must admit that I am a socialist; I must admit that the Australian Labour Party is a socialist party and I must say that every member of the Australian Labour Party in every Parliament of the Commonwealth signs a pledge in which he states that he supports the socialist objective of the Australian Labour Party which is expressed in this way -
The objective of the Party is the Democratic Socialisation of Industry, Production, Distribution and Exchange to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in those fields, in accordance with the Principles of Action, Methods and Progressive Reforms set out in the State and Federal Platforms of the Australian Labour Party.
What is wrong with that?
– Why do you not say that at election time?
– I have never hesitated to say it at election time.
– How long is it since you have included the words “ democratic socialization “?
– Never mind about how long since we have included the words “ democratic socialization “. I am talking about the platform to which we are all pledged, which is the democratic socialization of the means of industry, production, distribution and exchange that are being used to exploit the people.
– The right-wingers behind you are horrified.
– There are no right-wingers behind me, if you mean people who do not believe in the objective of the party, because every person behind me has signed this pledge. Not one member of the Australian Labour Party would obtain endorsement if he did not pledge himself to the democratic socialization of those things which exploit the people.
– Go on and read the platform.
– I will. It is expressed in this way -
Labour believes that democratic socialisation is the utilization of the economic assets of the State in the interests of its citizens.
Labour believes also that every man is greater than the machine he uses or the environment in which he lives. Is there anything wrong with that? No answer! It goes on -
Labour believes that scientific and technological advancements should serve the interests of all and not be the exclusive right of the few.
Do you disagree with that? Not a word! I shall read on -
The economic aims of social ownership or social control are full employment, higher production, a rising standard of living and social security.
Does any honorable member opposite disagree with that? No answer! To continue -
The Australian Labour Party seeks to secure through democratic socialism:
Social justice and economic security.
Does anybody opposite disagree with that? No. It continues -
Does anybody opposite disagree with that aim? I hear not a word. Then -
Does anybody disagree with that? Again there is no answer. Next -
Does anybody opposite disagree with that? Not even the Country Party dares to disagree with that. Also -
Does anybody disagree with that? Honorable members opposite cannot disagree with that policy when they are forced to take it, point by point, and answer “ Yes “ or “ No “. If honorable members opposite will grant me an extension of time I will take them through the whole book, clause by clause and phrase by phrase, and invite them to point to anything that they dare to oppose. To continue -
Do Government supporters disagree with constitutional action through the parliaments of this country? Not a word do I hear -
Do they disagree with that? Again not a word!
Is there disagreement with that? I hear none.
– Tell us about your foreign policy.
– Do you want some more? Here it is -
Do you agree with that? Then comes -
Do you disagree with that? Of course you do not and you cannot or, if you do disagree with it, you dare not say so.
I turn now to the 36 so-called faceless men. Let me tell honorable members opposite that the Australian Labour Party’s system of determining and hammering out national policy is far better than their system under which a single man, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), determines the policy of the Liberal Party. Every man Jack of you, although you claim to be free, comes into the House and slavishly follows exactly the policy that has been laid down. You all vote in every division for propositions on which you have had absolutely no say.
The Australian Labour Party, ever since it was formed, has had a federal conference at which six democratically elected delegates from each of the six States have attended to thrash out the policy of the party. They announce the policy of the party. They say to the electors at large, “ Here is our policy; this is the policy you will get if you elect our members “. Then the people know what policy they are voting for. But they do not know what policy they are voting for with the Liberal Party because it is the policy of one man - a policy inspired by the faceless men of the Liberal Party. Who are these faceless men of the Liberal Party? Let me tell you. They are the Reg Ansetts, the Frank Packers, the Symes, the Ian Potters, the
Grimwades and the like. Those are the faceless men who pull the strings and dominate and control the Liberal Party. Yet they are not elected, even by the Liberal Party organization!
Is it not far better to have a democratically elected conference of people you know, who can be named1 and whose speeches are recorded, to determine policy, rather than to have it declared by one man elected as Prime Minister, while faceless, nameless and anonymous men behind the scenes pull strings to get television licences, and devise all sorts of arrangements for importing aeroplanes and tying up opposition from Trans-Australia Airlines and other competitors. The Labour Party’s system is far preferable. Labour goes one step further. We take democracy right to the point of electing the Ministry, but what happens on the other side? The Liberal and Country parties have so little regard for democracy that their elected representatives in this Parliament have no say whateven in selecting the 25 Ministers who are to govern the country. Again it is one man, exercising the same dictatorial control that he has over policy, who determines who shall be the 25 Ministers. Unless a member has outstanding ability or is prepared to become a mere sycophant to the Prime Minister, he has little chance of ever becoming a minister. I can point to honorable members opposite who have outstanding ability, but who will never become Ministers for the simple reason that they are not prepared to become yes-men and lackeys of the Prime Minister. I am not looking at the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) because, so far, he has not made as many mistakes as his predecessor - not that that is any great recommendation for him. Nevertheless, it is true.
An attack has been made by our strange, sleeping friend from Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) on the Labour Party’s attitude to the preferential system of voting. He said that Labour would abolish the preferential system and that this would put Labour in permanent control of the treasury bench. This statement, in which he is echoing the Prime Minister, is demonstrably untrue to anybody who cares to examine the results of the last election. Under the firstpastthepost electoral system only eight seats would have swung the other way. The
Labour Party would have gained six seats and the Country Party would have had two less than it now has. Those two would have gone to the Liberal Party. If the first-past-the-post system had been operating, all those who voted for the Democratic Labour Party would have had to determine right at the beginning whether they wanted the Liberal Party or the Labour Party to win. Therefore th<; probability is that the difference in votes cast for the two major parties would have been far less. Clearly the preferential system is absurd when you consider that the voter who selects the most unpopular candidate, that is the voter who with his friends, casts the most worthless vote, has the right to have his vote counted twice, while the votes of those who support the more acceptable candidates of the major parties are counted only once. The system could not be more ridiculous.
It is not true to say that the Labour Party would have been in permanent control if the first-past-the-post system had been adopted. The Labour Party would not have become the Government at the last election, regardless of the voting system, and even then I am disregarding the fact that many Democratic Labour Party voters would not have voted as they did in a first-past-the-post election.
.- [n the last 25 minutes we have listened to a most remarkable exposition from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I had not realized the extent to which the remarks of my colleague, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), had stung the Opposition. I realize, of course, that the best method of offence is attack, and I thought I understood the tactics used by the honorable member in attacking, even though he used his parliamentary privilege to make a personal attack on my colleague and other people, and even though my colleague assures me that the attack against him was a misrepresentation of the facts. However, while the honorable member for Hindmarsh continued speaking I thought that he was not so much trying to attack this side of the House as trying to convince many of the people who sit behind him of the real purpose behind what he chose to call the policy of the Labour Party.
I now refer to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General in which he referred to the tragic sinking of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “ and to the consequent loss of life or injury of so many gallant Australian sailors.
Whilst we all extend our sympathy to the bereaved relatives, I am particularly concerned about those men who have been injured to such a degree that they may need to be invalided out of the service. I cannot estimate now how many there may be nor the degree of their disabilities, but I am concerned because I am not satisfied with the operations of the invalidity provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. I refer to sections 51, 52, 53, 53a and 73.
The basic classification for invalidity h calculated according to the percentage of incapacity. For 60 per cent, incapacity or over, classification A is granted; 30 per cent, or over but below 60 per cent, is classified B; less than 30 per cent, is classified C. These classifications are in the act. These sections are very complicated and difficult to understand. Tt is quite clear however from section 52 that where a member of the services other than an officer is entitled to invalidity benefit, is classified C - that is less than 30 per cent. - and has not completed 20 years service for pension, in addition to a refund of his payments under the superannuation scheme he will receive a gratuity at the rate of only £50 for each year of service.
Let us take the example of a young able seaman aged about 21 years who has had three or four years in the service. He i3 doing his first stint. He is permanently maimed so that his services are no longer required. He goes out of the service classified C. He receives a refund of his contributions through the superannuation scheme and the only compensation he receives is £50 for each vear of service, that is £150 or £200. That is not food enough. However, if a man is invalided out of the service under any classification and has qualified for a pension, he may not earn in civilian life more than twothirds of his former rate of service pav. If he does so he risks suspension of his service pension bv the board. I am not being critical of the Government which introduced the act in 1948, of the draftsmen who pre pared it or the governments which have followed since that time; but I am critical of the original action in reducing the retirement ages of the permanent military forces. This action has not only lost for the services so many of its well-trained senior members but has also caused members of the permanent forces to be removed from the operations of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. The consequential Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Act has proved to be a complex and unwieldy piece of legislation.
Despite numerous amendments, in my opinion the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act stands as the grossest exposition of legal gobbledygook it has ever been my painful duty to study. I have had some years legal training and can prepare and understand normal drafting, but I confess that my comprehension of this act falls well below standard. It is neither lucid nor intelligible to more than a few people concerned in its operations. The Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) last night spoke about the act. He said -
I realize that one of the problems with respect to the defence forces retirement benefits scheme has been that it is not fully understood.
He went on to say that a permanent member of the Air Force - a member of the board - was visiting the various air force establishments to explain the act. That is very commendable, but such action should not be necessary.
Despite the Government’s action in making two up-gradings in the quantum of pensions - first for those who retired under the act prior to 1954, and secondly for those who retired prior to 1959 - the combination of acts comprising this legislation bristles with anomalies. The two up-gradings were commendable and have undoubtedly removed one of the chief causes of dissatisfaction on the part of those who retired between 1948 and 1959. However, I understand that altogether there are more than 150 anomalies in the operations of the act. Many of them do not appear justifiable and have no parallel in the Commonwealth Superannuation Act. For example, I refer to the re-employment provisions, after the cessation of a disability, contained in the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, which have not been included in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. Another anomaly is the restriction on private earnings of those who are discharged because of invalidity to an amount to two-thirds of their salary at the time of discharge. A further anomaly is the reduction in pension where a discharged member undertakes employment with the Commonwealth and the disqualification of that member in such instance from becoming a contributor to a further pension fund.
A great degree of dissatisfaction still exists not only amongst those who have already retired but also among serving members of the permanent forces. This has led to an unusual number of applications for acceptance of resignation before completion of service. I understand that there has also been an unprecedented number of applications within the services for redress of wrongs, even to the last court of appeal - the Governor-General. It appears that the re-equipping of the services with modern and diverse weapons makes life in the services much more interesting. Rates of pay and conditions generally are reasonably good although there are complaints in a few limited quarters. I think it is a great pity that widespread dissatisfaction with the operations of the superannuation scheme because of these anomalies should be allowed to continue. We are spending about £600,000 a year on recruitment advertising which is being offset by the unsatisfactory influence of a scheme which has aroused so much criticism.
My colleague, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has urged the introduction of a new act less complex than the present legislation; but I feel that this cannot be achieved until a committee is appointed to investigate the anomalies. Such a committee should be comprised of officers of the Treasury and the Defence Forces Retirement Board, members of Parliament and some retirees. Conferences of these people could correct many of the anomalies which may be more readily attended to. There is no doubt in my mind that the original decision to curtail the services of senior and experienced members of the services in 1 948 - the original cause of members of the defence forces being removed from the operations of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act - faced the Treasury with the necessity of introducing a superannuation scheme, the drafting of which constituted a terrific task for the Parliamentary draftsmen.
Last night, the Minister for Air commented on this subject. He said that it was a very good scheme. I do not argue with him about pensions, particularly now that the pre- 1959 retirees have had their pensions increased. But it is not in this area that most of the dissatisfaction exists. The Minister quoted a few examples to prove his point about the quantum of pensions, but his remarks were of a general nature. He acknowledged that there were some apparent anomalies in the act. He went on to quote one case only which he said possibly was not an anomaly. This is the area of dissatisfaction. The Minister accused one of my colleagues of relying on newspaper reports. I have them all here, but I do not rely on them. I have letters from hundreds of servicemen throughout Australia and from every service setting out anomalies which are the subject of their complaints. There is no doubt that our present difficulty in increasing the strength of the Army is due to a shortage of officers, senior warrant officers and N.C.O.’s, and if those people had been retained perhaps we would not be facing the present difficulty. It has been suggested in certain quarters that officers, warrant officers and senior N.C.O.’s should be retained until they reach 60 years of age. I will not at this time express any opinion as to whether this would be of any benefit or not, except that it would go a long way towards producing a more efficient superannuation scheme. I feel that something will have to be done to stimulate recruiting and make sure that the present dissatisfaction is dealt with.
I strongly urge the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to look at the submission made by the committee of Government members which went thoroughly into this matter last year and which, in May, 1963, put forward a submission, which I have here, calling on him to establish a committee of inquiry so that at least we could have a decent superannuation scheme for the services without these strange anomalies in order to have a chance of building up the strong defence force of which this country at the moment stands in such great need.
I would like now to turn to another matter referred to in His Excellency’s Speech, and that is in respect of the development of our secondary industries and the encouragement of Australian exports. Australia has, particularly over the past fifteen years under this Government, made rapid progress in the promotion of both primary and secondary industries and, in particular, in the volume of our exports. The Department of Trade was most energetic in the establishment of trade posts, the recruitment of trade commissioners, the conduct of trade fairs, the constitution of the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and in negotiating trade agreements with other countries, streamlining the operations of the Tariff Board and the establishment of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. It has also been active in many other ways, such as offering to manufacturers and exporters incentives of many kinds which have given every encouragement to development in these fields.
However, irrespective of the great deal which has been done and what may now be in train, the crux of the whole matter is undoubtedly the inadequacy of our home market. We have a home market covering a population of less than 11,000,000 people and this is, I feel, a major handicap to any further spectacular rise in our exports. Our immigration policy has been aimed at maintaining a substantial level of intake within the resources of employment and housing. In this regard I am very pleased that the Government has decided to increase British migration by 10,000 this year, but I would have been a darned sight happier had it made an overall increase of 50,000 because, even with such an intake the net result in the rate of settlement in this country would not exceed 150,000 a year. Even that is not enough to build up the population rapidly and give us a good home market.
In the past we have been exporters of raw materials, mainly to the United Kingdom, and were chiefly importers of its manufactured products. However, in the post-war period there were great elements of change, which included the growth of our secondary industries, the diversification of our exports to many countries and the change in the trading policy of the United Kingdom which led to her identification with the European Economic Community, even though her application for membership of that community has been temporarily checked. Much has been said in this chamber and elsewhere of the effects on Australia should the United Kingdom achieve membership of this European federation. But the important fact which we in Australia have to accept is that this temporary check has given us more time to take action to offset these disadvantages.
Our own pattern of trade has been changing and we see Japan developing into our best customer and becoming a complementary trading partner with Australia, as was the United Kingdom previously. I consider that in the post-war period Japan has made greater industrial progress and expansion in a short time than has any other country, and this notwithstanding the fact that she has to import practically all her raw materials. We, in Australia, are fortunate in possessing all the raw materials, except oil in exportable quantities, that Japan needs. However, the necessity to import her raw material requirements has faced Japan with an awkward balance of payments problem and a lack of foreign exchange, despite the fact that nearly 90 per cent, of her national production is consumed by her home market. However, she has an increasing living standard and a buoyant internal economy, and has become wealthy through her reservoirs of labour and capacity for production. In other words, Japan has the benefit of a population of 96,000,000, which is increasing by nearly 1,000,000 a year, as against a home market population of 11,000,000 in Australia. Thus we in Australia have the problem of a home market limited to a small population while, although Japan has a sufficient population and rapidly rising living standards she is faced with the problem of paying for her imports. This is further accentuated by the imbalance of trade between our two countries and also, unfortunately for Japan, of her trade with other countries where she derives raw materials.
When I was in Japan in November, 1962, I had some long conferences with leaders of a number of industries, including the president and the executive members of the board of the Mitsui group. That group imports most of our wool sold to Japan and accounts for approximately one-third of our trade with Japan. After they had analysed the existing state of affairs a solution of the problems which affect both our countries was proposed. One suggestion was that there should be conferences between industries and governments to work out some rationalization of our secondary industries. Another suggestion was that where we are Loth making the same articles for our home market and for export, Australian manufacturers should manufacture only portion of that article and Japan the balance and that we should send the portion we make and sell it on the home market of Japan. In other words, Japan was offering access to her home market for a smaller part, with a greater production, with assembly in both places, both for home consumption and for joint export. A further suggestion made was that we should have joint undertakings, with Japan supplying plant and undertakings which would assist industry here and particularly some of our primary industries, such as cotton growing and the manufacture of cotton into cloth. Such ventures would produce the machinery and plant for irrigation and extend Australian cotton growing areas. The fact that the Government has looked at the position regarding cotton and has substantially increased the cotton subsidy shows that we urgently need to develop our cotton growing potential. Naturally, these suggestions were made because of some benefit which the Japanese saw in them, as I have tried to outline, but I feel that they honestly believe Australia would also receive benefits from these suggestions. One may or may not agree with these proposals. However, 1 think i’t would be wise to examine them carefully and to establish our attitude towards them so that we may safeguard the development of our own industries. There may well arise a situation in which Japan may not need to offer to Australia any form of cooperation.
The concept of a confederation of Pacific countries is not new. Indeed, the new Federation of Malaysia is perhaps the first step towards the establishment of such a confederation. However, Indonesia’s policy of confrontation of Malaysia, and its sponsorship of the Maphilindo proposal, is of much greater concern to Australia than mere considerations of the likelihood of military involvement. I can assure honorable members that what I have learned indicates that the Indonesian conception of Maphilindo is certainly not democratic, though that conception envisages that Australia and New Zealand might later be asked to join. It appears high time that we took the initiative and formed a strong alliance with Japan as an axis on which to base a Pacific confederation that could ultimately embrace other countries of the Pacific area as their economies improved with assistance from ourselves and the Japanese.
I am indebted to Dr. Gerald Caine, the publisher of the booklet, “Towards the Pacific Community “, for his views on these matters. Referring to the problems of establishing a confederation in the Pacific, he states -
Australia’s most pressing problem … is a question … of the speedy re-evaluation of our new political environment, and the progressive development of the will to seize and use the opportunities that already exist.
He also wrote -
We can exert considerable influence in the Pacific region, and must play the strongest possible part in building a bridge between Occidental and Oriental. This appears to many to be our providential historical role.
There is no doubt in my mind that we must spread our trade and not allow any one country to obtain control of our economy through our dependence on that country’s market. This can be highlighted now by pointing out that the cessation or even diminution of purchases of our wheat by Communist China could have highly adverse effects on the wheat-growers of Australia. Furthermore, with the recognition of Communist China by France, one cannot say what may eventuate. The French grow wheat of types similar to that grown in Australia and have quantities available for export.
Finally, Sir, I say again that if we do not wish to adopt the role of a poor relation in matters of trade - the kind of role that we played in colonial times - we must speak and act in the Asian sphere as a leader imbued with the strong purpose of helping under-privileged Pacific countries to attain reasonable living standards and of ensuring that the ideals of democracy provide firm foundations for all the countries of the whole Pacific region.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, before I address myself to the particular matters that I want to discuss in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, may I take the opportunity of extending to Mr. Speaker, through you, my congratulations on his reelection to the office of Sneaker for the duration of the Twenty-fifth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I trust that Mr. Speaker will not be annoyed if, in expressing those sentiments, I remark on the fact that he appears to be much more competent and acceptable as the occupant of his high office than any of the numerous contenders for his post at whom I gaze across the chamber. I wish Mr. Speaker well in the discharge of his onerous task.
We have only recently met for the first time since a general election that resulted in a substantial majority for the Government. We on this side of the Parliament, though disappointed at the outcome of the election, accept without question the verdict of the people. In my view, the return to office of this Government composed of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party is in no way due to any efforts made by the Government on behalf of the people of this country. A number of factors contributed to Labour’s defeat. Without doubt, the Australian Labour Party made mistakes and exhibited faults. However, as always, the Labour Party, in its efforts to win office, faced the full onslaught of all the forces that wealth, power and reaction could muster. These forces, ruthlessly, without principle and by every available means, tried to discredit the Labour Party and its members. The success of those efforts is apparent. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), his Ministers and his party may temporarily enjoy to the full their ill-gotten gains at the last election.
I turn now to the Governor-General’s Speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the return of the Government with a large majority, one would have expected a stimulating and vigorous Speech by the GovernorGeneral. But this was not to be. The Parliament listened to an unexciting, morbid recital of the Government’s proposals. The Speech covered a wide range of subjects, from the tragic death of President Kennedy to proposed changes in the Representation Act and the Commonwealth Electoral Act. As a matter of fact, the Speech, which, in small type, covers about four pages of “ Hansard “, dealt with approximately 50 subjects. It would be more correct to say that about 50 headings were mentioned, because the references were skimpy and lacked detail and, in the main, gave no indication of the way in which the Govern ment proposed to implement its proposals. This was particularly noticeable in regard to the housing plans which the Government made one of its major points in the election campaign. We are still waiting for information about the housing proposals, but the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) appears even now to be as much in the dark as he was when the Prime Minister so suddenly made his promise on housing in his policy speech.
Some aspects of the Government’s policy have special significance. I refer particularly to the proposals for changes in the Representation Act and the Commonwealth Electoral Act. At this stage, I confine my observations to saying that this must be the first occasion in the history of Australia on which a Prime Minister has included his proposals for an electoral gerrymander in both his policy speech and the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. My view is shared not only by members of the Australian Labour Party but also by some honorable members who sit on the Government benches.
Other important subjects were not mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech. Pensioners still have to suffer the indignity and the humiliation of the system of differential rates of pension for married and single persons. Discrimination of the worst type against this most deserving section of the community is to continue. There was no mention of any relief from the vicious means test imposed on pensioners in 1955, which denies to a pensioner with a miserable income of only £2 a week the right to pensioner medical benefits. There was no mention of legislation to prevent exploitation of the people and waste of public money due to the actions of the drug houses and the high cost of medicines prescribed under the Government’s health scheme. There was no mention in the Speech of any plan for the development and progress of Australia or for the protection of Australian industries that is necessary in this age.
We still have heard no mention of proposals to implement the report of the Constitutional Review Committee. The report, compiled at great expense, has been pigeon-holed and appears destined never to see the light of day under the administration of this Government. The committee’s findings would without doubt bring great benefits to the nation if they were adopted.
The Speech made no mention of these and many other matters of importance. The Government has been returned to office with a new mandate and a big majority and the people looked forward to a spectacular programme for the future, to use an expression so common among Government supporters. However, this was not to be. Already, it is apparent, from the nature of the Governor-General’s Speech and the Government’s actions, that this Administration is drifting rapidly into the complacent and don’t-care attitude that was so characteristic of it prior to the general election of 1961, which the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) remembers so sadly to this day.
Let us have a look at the trend of events on the Government side of the Parliament, The Government’s return to office with a safe majority has been a signal for the resurgence of those rebels on the Government side, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), one of whom unfortunately is not with us to-day. There is no chance of a couple of militant rebels bringing about a change of government now. These two have gained some recruits - the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) - and may now speak with perfect freedom and great courage, because they cannot defeat the Government at present. The actions of the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Macarthur were very different in the last Parliament. They chickened out after many a phoney rebellion. The great white master had only to gaze at them and they chickened out and escaped through the door. Their task is difficult, as honorable members know. The vote taken last night was lost by them by a majority of 97 to 4. This majority shows what a colossal task they have ahead of them. We shall watch their endeavours with interest now that they believe themselves safe in the knowledge that they can be really courageous and vote against the Government without fear of inflicting on it defeat or other dire consequences. Of course, we do not have to watch their actions in the Parliament for long to know that the Prime Minister even in one of his best moods could never select them for Cabinet rank.
The trends in the Government at this stage are obviously similar to the trends before 1961 which led to the defeat of the Postmaster-General and almost to the defeat of the Government. Recently we saw the unusual and unfortunate spectacle of the Prime Minister refusing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) the right to ask a question in this Parliament. That action is unprecedented and unprincipled.
– That is not right.
– It displays the arrogance that has developed in this Government already. The Minister for the Navy, who has just interjected, was appointed to his position even before the legislation to increase the size of the Ministry had been introduced. How did the Government know that it would not be defeated?
– He was a good choice.
– We saw who the Ministers were before the bill was introduced, but the Postmaster-General tells us now in effect that the Government did the right thing. He should read the speech of Senator Mattner in another place. The senator said that the appointment of the Ministers was not even considered by the parliamentary Liberal Party here, that the legislation to enlarge the Ministry was foisted on the party and the names of the Ministers were announced before the members knew them. As Joe Gullett said in his book, the Prime Minister is a one-man band in the Government.
As I said, the selection of the new Ministers shows the arrogance of the Government. Discontent is evident among a number of disappointed Cabinet aspirants. Have honorable members ever seen such a militant in more recent times as the honorable member for Bradfield is now? During the last Parliament he did not speak much, but now he speaks on the hour, every hour, condemning the Government. He is disappointed that he was not selected for the Cabinet, and, when we look at those who are in the Ministry, we cannot blame him.
Already the Government is drifting along the road it travelled prior to 1961, because the new majority has again given the Government the opportunity to kick the people around. The people can take it from me that this Government is complacent. It is as incompetent as it was before the last election. It won the last election only for reasons that I will give later. We should keep these matters well in mind, because undoubtedly the Government is displaying all the characteristics of the regime that was defeated in 1961.
The Australian Labour Party was somewhat surprisingly defeated at the last election. I agree that it is unusual for a government that has not done anything at all to be re-elected, and there must be some reason for it. It certainly was not the calibre of the Government candidates, because we can see that they did not have much to offer to the people.
I record my regret at the defeat of a number of my colleagues. They were men of ability and integrity and in their time in the Parliament they did everything possible to give expression to the views of the people they represented. I trust that their absence from the Parliament is only temporary and that in due course they will be able to resume their careers in politics. Their efforts during their terms in the Parliament showed their capacity to give great service to Australia in the federal Parliament.
At the same time, I regret that the result of the election has prevented, for the time being, the entry into the Parliament of some of the best candidates and brains available to any political party. These men offered their services to the people through the Australian Labour Party, but they were rejected. Their time will come, and I hope that it is not very far away.
I do not subscribe to the views of opponents of Labour that Labour’s policy, nationally or internationally, was wrong. In fact, I do not believe the people thought that it was not a good policy. Rather, they were the victims of a very skilful and unprincipled campaign conducted by our opponents. This campaign not only gave a false impression of our policy but was completely misleading about its interpretation and implementation. At the same time, I do not believe that Labour was free of mistakes and misjudgments. There is wide scope within the ranks of our party to correct weaknesses in our organization and our policy. But this does not mean that we should budge from our objectives. our ideals and our principles. Within the framework of our party, we should rebuild for the future and for victory.
This means that we must, without departing from the fundamental principles of Labour - I qualify it again in that way - in reaching decisions, implementing our policy and presenting it to the people, do so with the knowledge that this is a new age - the age of youth, the age of space travel, the age of education and development and a time of advanced thinking, particularly in Australia, which has a changing population because of the success of Labour’s migration scheme. With this in mind, our organization, our policy and our presentation must be examined in order that we may repair any deficiencies that mav have contributed to our defeat - and no doubt some deficiencies did.
However, whilst in our own way we may take some of the blame for our defeat, there were other factors probably more important than those I have mentioned Our opponents - the Liberal Party, the Communist Party and the DemocraticLabour Party - combined magnificently in a weird kind of unity ticket, thus conveying to the people an entirely false impression of Labour and its policy. The Communist Party, jumping on the Labour band wagon and yapping at the heels of Labour, by its usual methods of distributing literature under the guise of Labour propaganda, and in various other ways, played its part in the return of its friends, the Menzies Government. In fact, at the 1961 election, the Menzies Government - never let it be forgotten - was returned on the preference votes of a Communist candidate in Queensland. These practices, of course, are in line with the usual approach of the Communist Party in aiding and abetting the Liberal Party to defeat Labour candidates and at the same time give Labour the kiss of death.
To those amongst the electors who fell for this false propaganda linking Labour and the Communist Party, let me say that no member of the Communist Party or of any other political party can be a member of the Labour Party. Under our rules and constitution there can be no alliance whatever between Labour and the Communist Party or any other party. It is significant that in New South Wales the Communist Party contested ten seats, nine of them held by Labour. The Liberal Party escaped opposition by Communists, and this seems rather strange, all things considered. We have no need to ask why this opposition was not forthcoming. In other electorates in New South Wales, where the Communist Party did not contest seats against Labour, the Democratic Labour Party had candidates. In practically all cases, they filled the bill. Thus the strange bedfellows made their combined contribution to elect the Menzies Government.
Television, for the first time, to my mind, probably became a major factor in the election campaign. It has always been my belief - I have expressed it publicly before - that the granting of television licences in this country has been confined to interests in the main that are supporters of the Menzies Government. The position to-day is that this great medium of mass propaganda is now in the hand’s of huge vested interests, including radio and press monopolies, and active Liberal Party and Australian Country Party supporters. In this way, it is being used to mould the opinions of people, irrespective Of the justice of the policies. The sheer force and ruthlessness of propaganda on the television screen seems capable of changing the very thinking of the people. In fact the Australian Broadcasting Commission - I ask the PostmasterGeneral to keep this in mind - is not free of Government control and direction, as has been instanced from time to time in recent months.
During the recent campaign, television, particularly through the private stations, was used viciously and without honour, principle or honesty to destroy Labour and to mislead the people. The Australian Labour Party lodged a protest against certain programmes that it considered to be an infringement of the Broadcasting and Television Act with Mr. R. G. Osborne, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. No action was taken and I doubt whether the protest was even considered. This means that the board is now an instrument of Government policy. By its action in the recent campaign, it has endorsed a standard of political programme which in the future may have very dire and unfor tunate results for the people of this country. The board was a party to programmes of deliberate lies, exemplifying all the worst features of McCarthyism. The programmes were based on fear, threats, innuendo and misrepresentation.
– Do not squeal.
– I am only criticizing the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It is to the eternal discredit of the board that it evidently betrayed its trust to the Australian people, and no doubt the Menzies Government will reward the members of the board well.
The press and radio to a certain extent were used in a similar way. The part they played in the dissemination of this type of propaganda does them no credit. Such propaganda has no place in our way of life. It is a strange state of affairs when the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) can be photographed at the Russian Embassy celebrating the anniversary of the Russian Revolution and drinking a toast with a Russian spy, Skripov, who was recently expelled from this country - or that Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board and other highly placed public servants can sit around the conference table in Peking directly representing the Menzies Government in negotiations to sell wheat to Mao Tse-tung and his Communist friends - without being labelled Communists. Yet a Labour man who marches with his trade union and with people of all political affiliations - D.L.P., Liberal or Communist - for some reason or other is said to be a Communist sympathizer. If that reasoning is followed, it means that any man who takes part in an Anzac Day march and is photographed next to a man who may be a Communist - many Communists are returned soldiers - runs the risk of being labelled a Communist collaborator.
That is the type of rotten propaganda and biased programming that was used against the Labour Party with the connivance of the Postmaster-General. Evidently, members of the Liberal Party can drink vodka with the Communists and members of the Country Party can sell their wheat to red China without any criticism by our so-called anti-Communist opponents; but a different standard is applied to a Labour man. Under the system practised on the television screens, if a Labour man is seen in the street where a Communist may be, he is automatically called a Communist sympathizer. That is the kind of propaganda used by the man from Macarthur, the smear merchant, the McCarthyism specialist of this Parliament. That type of propaganda, whilst not being entirely responsible for the election of the Menzies Government, was at least a very potent factor. Honorable members opposite who to-day bask in the sunshine of that victory should remember that people can retaliate. If, with the connivance of the Postmaster-General, Labour turned the propaganda on to the Prime Minister and other people on his side of the fence, they would be wondering what might happen next. I express these views to-day only in order to put the facts of the matter on the record of this Parliament.
In my electorate the campaign did not succeed. I have no complaints. The people in my electorate are loyal to the cause of Labour, despite the smears and innuendoes that are indulged in. My majority will show that the campaign had little or no effect. I hope, however, that such propaganda will not be tolerated in future election campaigns, because it is a discredit to all concerned and particularly to the department that allowed it to continue in the face of protests from reputable people. These things must be said because it is important that we say them. For too long have we seen these things done without any challenge whatever. To-day I record the facts in the interests of the people of Australia. My time has almost expired. I do not want to speak at much greater length.
Government supporters. - Hear, hear!
– I know that Government supporters do not like to hear me speak. However, I have several things to say. It is beyond doubt that, because of the factors I have mentioned, many men suffered the penalty of losing their seats. But the Australian people are not foolish. Ultimately they will see what has happened and realize that all is not in accordance with what was printed by people opposed to the Labour Party in the last election campaign.
Members of the Government parties criticize the Labour Party for a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), namely that Labour believes in the first-past-the-post system of voting. They say that that system would keep Labour in office for twenty years. This Government announced in the Prime Minister’s policy speech and repeated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that it intends to introduce a gerrymander which will keep the present Government parties in office for all time, irrespective of the vote of the people. I place the electoral commissioners completely above reproach. They are men of integrity and capacity, who have done notable work down through the years. I have not time to-day to go into this matter fully, but the Country Party, through the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), has decided that there should be a gerrymander.
The House does not need to take my word for that. Listen to what the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said in this House last Wednesday. The honorable member is interjecting. Surely he will not deny now what he said then. As reported at page 77 of “ Hansard “, he said -
I have noticed that anybody who reads the two together will see the significant differences. All this means is that there will be a differential. It means that the Distribution Commissioners will take into account a number of factors other than those taken into account in the past, and the differential of 20 per cent, will be used to give greater representation to rural areas. This is a gerrymander through the back door.
These are the words of the honorable member for Bradfield - . . It is nothing less. I cannot block this. I shall speak against it in the party room, I shall speak against it in this House and I shall vote against it in this House, because I believe it is nothing but a blatant gerrymander. Honorable gentlemen in the corner to my right may smile. I cannot stop this, it is true. But I can speak very clearly and very bluntly in this place and elsewhere. Most people understand what I say when I speak. I shall make it clear that this is nothing but a blatant gerrymander, and there will be no mistake about it by the time this matter comes to a vote in this House.
Those are splendid words. If you want support for that, I point out that Professor Crisp, a professor of political science at the Australian National University, has appealed to the Government not to proceed with this gerrymandering because it will destroy our prestige in the eyes of Asian students and others who attend that university. If you want any further support, I point out that “ Onlooker “ wrote these words in the Sydney “Sun-Herald” of 1st March, 1964- a few days after that newspaper changed to support of the Liberal Party -
The new redistribution alone, certain to be widely different from the boundary plans accepted by Menzies but vetoed by McEwen in the last Parliament, should ensure to the Government the 20 years’ continuity in office mentioned earlier in this commentary.
In other words, members of the Government parties are the people with the twenty years in office under the proposed redistribution gerrymander, which has been instigated by the Country Party.
If I had the time, I could refer to a dozen and one other comments from all kinds of journals, showing that for the first time in history this Government, which boasts of its prestige, its ability to govern and what it has done for Australia, is relying on rigged or gerrymandered boundaries and instructing senior public servants entrusted with the redistribution that they must carry out the will of the Government, irrespective of its effect on the community. This is one of the most disgraceful actions of any government of this country in our time.
I regret that I have not more time to speak on these issues. The Government has committed many sins to which I could refer and I could talk for hours on what it has not done. The Government’s majority is due to factors that honorable members opposite and I know well. I cannot help thinking that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), who is interjecting, reminds me of some words of the late President Kennedy, who said, “ We want neither the fanatic nor the faint-hearted “. The honorable member appears to me effectively to combine both of those characteristics. To-day I recall the words of a famous Labour leader of days gone by, Ben Chifley. He said -
The Labour Party has been defeated in the past, beaten into the ground. But we have risen again, Phoenix-like, from the ashes.
Therefore, whilst I speak to-day in a spirit of defeat and disappointment, let it be recalled that from our greatest defeats have come our greatest triumphs. The Govern ment may enjoy its few hours of glory. But my colleagues and I assure the people of this country that we will work tirelessly, relentlessly, with determination and sincerity and with all the means available to us, and our endeavours shall not cease until we have won the victory and elected a federal Labour government.
– Order! I call the honorable member for New England. I ask honorable members to observe the unwritten rule of this chamber and to accord the honorable member, who is making his maiden speech, a good reception.
– After hearing the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), I am rather surprised that there are any members of the Labour Party in this House, and I have no doubt that the electors of Australia were wise in their choice of the present Government. I extend my appreciation to my electors for returning me as successor to the Honorable David Drummond as the member for New England. In spite of what the honorable member for Grayndler said, I express to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and my esteemed leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), mv thanks for a policy which enabled me as a candidate to go out to the people in complete confidence, knowing that the sound and wise government that had been carried on during the past fourteen years would be continued if the Government parties were returned to power.
I would like to pay a tribute to the Honorable David Drummond, who was member for New England in this House for thirteen years. Prior to that he was a Minister of the Crown in the New South Wales Government. He served in the New South Wales Parliament with considerable distinction. He has earned his place in history not only as representative of the people of New England but also as a member of this Parliament. I think it may be a fitting tribute to the memory of Mr. Drummond if the Government were to give effect to the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), namely that in conjunction with the Senate election, which 1 understand will be held next year, a referendum be held to enable the people of a particular area to express their views on the establishment of a new State. We could not do more to honour the memory of this great Australian.
In the course of the last few days we have heard a lot about the state of this country and about Australia’s needs. To-day my leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry, said that it was essential for a country to have economic stability if it was to have political stability. It was on that aspect that I thought I might address this chamber to-day. At present about 87 per cent, of Australia’s exports come from her primary industries. Only about 9.8 per cent, of our exports come from manufacturing industries. It will be clear to anybody that Australia’s progress is completely dependent on the maintenance of our agricultural industries, not only in terms of volume but also in terms of economic return. Fortunately over the past two years there has been a considerable increase in the value of agricultural production. The Division of Agricultural Economics estimates that this year the value of agricultural production will be about £1,621,000,000, which represents an increase of about £250,000,000 in the last two years. That figure has been achieved in spite of the fact that there has been a decline in volume of production in some primary industries. I refer, for example, to egg sales. Production of wool and whole milk has increased by only 1 per cent., but in other industries, notably wheat, beef and sugar there has been an increase in production of about 25 per cent. Coupled with the increase in production we have been fortunate in that over the last two or three years costs have remained stable. Increases in costs have been accounted for almost wholly by farmers’ purchases. It has been estimated that cost increases have amounted to between £60,000,000 and £80,000,000, which means that the net increase in farm income over the last two years has been between £170,000,000 and £190,000,000, I propose to refer briefly to the importance of those figures to Australia.
Three basic factors contribute to the continuance of our agricultural expansion and the stability of our rural economic situation. Those factors are farm output, the level of prices and costs. Farm output depends on a number of factors. I might refer in this regard to seasonal conditions.
The continuance of increased agricultural production is to a large extent dependent on escape from droughts in the next few years, but it is dependant also on such things as pasture development. In my own electorate in 1963-64, sales of superphosphate have doubled in most centres. In Tenterfield, in the north of the electorate, it is estimated that between 4,000 tons and 5,000 tons of superphosphate will be spread compared with only 2,000 tons last year. In Armidale the amount of superphosphate used has increased by something like 10,000 tons since 1963. In that area about 25,000 tons of superphosphate will have been spread by June, 1964. The result in terms of productivity of this increased use of superphosphate is that wool weights per acre have increased in some instances by from 8 lb. to 60 lb. an acre. Carrying capacity of properties has increased by from one beast to ten acres to li beasts to one acre. This means that in New England, as in many other parts of Australia, farm productivity is increasing at a continuing and accelerated rate.
But other factors come into the picture. I mention land utilization. Many areas, not only in my electorate but throughout Australia, have not as yet been developed. In New England about 20 per cent, of the available land has been treated with superphosphate. Whereas in the Armidale saleyard in 1950, 80 per cent, of the yarding was stores stock and 20 per cent, was fats, to-day approximately 30 per cent, only of the yarding is stores and 70 per cent, is fats. This indicates that there has been a revolution in our agricultural economy. Undoubtedly from now on agricultural output will steady down. Wheat acreages this year have been at record levels, but it is unlikely that the present rate of expansion in wheat will continue. Beef and veal production has outstripped the rise in beef cattle numbers and it is possible that because of this some reduction in growth rate is likely.
The second factor that comes into the maintenance of the level of our agricultural economy is the level of prices. This afternoon the Minister for Trade and Industry told us something of the meat and cereal negotiations and other negotiations that have been undertaken by this Government in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The results of those negotiations indicate that perhaps in future it is unlikely that we will continue to have access to our past markets. For this reason I am glad that the Government is endeavouring to obtain access to new markets in Asia, principally in Japan and Malaysia, because if those countries are to attain political stability it is essential that they first obtain economic stability. Commodity prices are perhaps unlikely to maintain their present high level, although we hope that they will. I am sure that owing to the efforts of this Government much will be achieved and will continue to be achieved in this direction.
The third factor affecting the agricultural economy is costs. For two years we have has prices stability. At present there is before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission an application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in the basic wage. Our economy as a whole is proceeding towards capacity. As bottlenecks appear, undoubtedly there will be continued upward pressure in prices and it is possible that the inflationary trends that appeared in the past will return. The present level of farm prosperity has resulted from increased ouput and prices coupled with stable costs. One wonders whether the increase in output and return will be sufficient to offset the resumption of an upward trend in costs. The importance of our agricultural development to the economy lies in the fact that to-day we are reaching a stage where we are no longer labour intensive but are becoming capital intensive. The absolute essential need for our agricultural community is a continued maintenance of a high level of availability of finance for expenditure on fertilizers, seed and development. When one recalls that in some areas only 2 per cent, of the usable land is being developed one realises the tremendous job that lies ahead and the pressing need for adequate funds to be made available for the development of the rural community.
For that reason I was extremely glad to hear in the recent announcement by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that an additional amount would be allocated by the Reserve Bank of Australia for term lending purposes. I think that about £20,000,000 additional or two-thirds of 1 per cent, of deposits, will be made available after July this year. I trust that further amounts will be made available, because it is only by making additional capital available to our primary industries that they will be able to continue expanding at their present rate.
It is not only in terms of rural production but also in terms of the development of our minerals and secondary industries that capital for long-term development must be made available. The extraction and export of ores can be pursued with a certain amount of Australian capital but if is essential that we also have an inflow of overseas capital to finance it. I am not at all critical of overseas capital coming into Australia for this purpose. I think that overseas capital which comes into Australia to develop our existing mineral deposits and to establish an industry which does not exist here is to be praised rather than criticised.
The emergence in our community of strong business enterprises, such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, processing ores into finished and semi-finished materials carries the process of mining and of the export of ores alone a step further. However, it is essential not only that we should develop these ores to the secondary stage but also that we should extend them into the tertiary stage and endeavour to expand the export of highly finished technical goods at the third stage of manufacture. This is another field in which there is a continuing demand for capital. Capital is essential not only for our primary industries but also for our secondary industries. For that purpose, too, I hope that Reserve Bank funds will continue to be made available.
When a person who has not had the opportunity to visit Canberra for a number of years revisits the city he is immediatelyimpressed with the rapid growth of this community. If we in the country areas could have the development that is being given to Canberra we would be going a long way towards overcoming the problem of centralization. I understand that it is estimated that by 1970 Canberra will have a population of about 100,000 people. There is a natural increase of about 10 per cent, a year. One of the reasons why this population growth is being achieved is that many Commonwealth departments have been transferred to this centre. I believe that the Commonwealth Government could extend a similar advantage to other rural communities by transferring to them certain government departments, perhaps some service departments. If this were done, possibly the country towns would benefit from some of the factors which have helped in the development of Canberra. One reason why Canberra will continue to grow is that it has passed beyond the secondary stage of development. The services which serve the community are now of themselves participating in the growth rate which is so apparent.
I am hoping that Dr. Vernon’s Committee of Economic Enquiry will look into this aspect. I hope that, as has been recommended by the Stanford Research Institute, some form of national development council, a body such as that which already exists within the Department of National Development, will be set up. It could expand and perhaps even become a successor to Dr. Vernon’s Committee of Economic Enquiry. There is no doubt that long-range programmes of development of natural resources, of public works projects, in particular, for access to the natural resources, and for the provision of facilities and incentives throughout the country areas will enable manufactures as well as raw materials to be exported in the future.
One of the problems that comes out of this development is that unfortunately our defence programme, our education programme and all other aspects of our nation’s development are completely dependent upon the continued maintenance of a high inflow of overseas capital. Without that high level of capital and our favorable trade balances it would not have been possible for the Government to have pursued the policies which it is pursuing, and it would not be possible for the Government to implement many of the proposals contained in His Excellency’s Speech. Foi that reason it is essential that every man and woman in the community appreciate that we must continue to foster the rural community, because without the rural community we shall lose the benefits of the favorable trade balances which are enabling so much of Australia’s development to take place.
The problems of the future depend so much upon the successful solution of the problem of utilizing correctly the funds that are available. Perhaps the second half of this decade will not be a period of easy living for any of us. Rather I believe it will be a period of strenuous endeavour. In the years that loom ahead we shall have in our hands the fate not only of our own nation but also of Western civilization in the south-west Pacific. For that reason I count myself fortunate to have heard the words of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) who, having returned from our near north, has been able so graphically to portray the essential need for the expansion of our defence forces.
Unlike members of the Opposition, I agree with Sir Winston Churchill, who said -
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
I thank the House for its indulgence.
– I congratulate the new member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) on having been enabled to take his place in this Parliament to represent an area in which I have lived and for which, despite its electoral unwisdom, I still have a very strong affection. I congratulate the honorable member also on the speech that he has just delivered. I join with him in the tribute he has paid to his predecessor in the seat, Dave Drummond. The honorable member referrred quite rightly to Dave Drummond as a truly great Australian. He suggested that we could well pay a tribute to his memory by seeking a referendum for the establishment of new States or of a new State. Perhaps it would be better if we paid a tribute to the former honorable member for New England for his great advocacy of democratic electoral reform and for the fact that he so steadfastly set his face against any form of gerrymander and against any provision which would permit a gerrymander. It is well to remember that the former member for New England was a member of the Constitutional Review Committee and that, with others, he placed his signature on the unanimous report which was presented to this Parliament by the committee and adopted. In paragraph 361 the report states -
In the committee’s judgment it is more equitable and democratic for a division to conform at’ the outset to a one-tenth margin, even though it may later exceed the margin, rather than that the division should initially exceed a one-tenth margin and be made dependent upon subsequent population changes to bring about some adjustment.
That was a joint recommendation of members of both Houses and of three parties. I stress that it was a Country Party member, Mr. Dave Drummond, the former member for New England, who put his name to that declaration, as did the other members of the committee. That rather makes nonsense of the Country Party’s present great support for the proposals contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, as they will permit gerrymandering of the electorates with the possible results that were forecast so vividly by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) a few minutes ago.
The word “ Canberra “ and the words “ Australian Capital Territory “ did not appear in the Governor-General’s Speech, but there are references in the Speech to a subject which is vitally important to the people of this Territory. The Government has received, particularly from its own supporters, great praise for its efforts in the field of housing. Perhaps it would be best to judge the Government on its housing efforts in this Territory, where it has complete and unfettered power, where it has no need to seek agreements with State governments, where it owns all the land, where it employs a great percentage of the people and where it has a particular responsibility to those whom it brings here to perform the duties of government in the various departments. In the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth Government bears the full responsibility, it has failed dismally to provide for the housing needs of the people.
This is a subject on which I have spoken in this place and elsewhere on many occasions. However, I feel that I cannot stress too strongly that the Commonwealth Government, with all the resources of the Commonwealth behind it, with all the responsibility that it must accept, with all the facility it has with ownership of the land and the opportunity to build a city, has failed and has been failing throughout the whole of the fourteen years of its life to provide for the housing needs of a comparatively small place with a population of only 72,000 or 73,000. That is the measure of the Commonwealth Government’s ability in the field of housing. It cannot provide enough houses in a city of 72,000 people. Not only can it not provide enough; it cannot provide houses of a type suitable for the needs of families in this community. I propose as I develop my remarks to show just how far the Government has fallen short in these things. But it is necessary, first of all, to indicate the method by which houses are allocated in this city.
In past years there were two separate lists, one for government employees and one for persons employed by private enterprise. However, a former Minister for the Interior, Mr. McBride as he was then - now Sir Philip McBride - quite wisely decided that there should be one list only. To register for housing an applicant must be employed in the Australian Capital Territory. If he is employed in the Australian Capital Territory he can register for housing when he becomes engaged to marry, in which circumstance his fiancee must also sign the application. If he is already married, of course, his application is accepted straight away. Having ensured that his name is on the housing list, the applicant then waits until his name reaches the top of the list. He is then offered whatever type of housing is available at that time. He is not bound to accept the first house offered to him. It is generally accepted that he can have three choices, and if he rejects those three the Government says, “ You tell us what type of house you want and when one becomes available we may offer it to you.”
The people I have spoken of are on the ordinary housing list. There are all sorts of priorities for people such as departmental transferees, that is to say those who come here in the process of mass transfers of departments from Melbourne to Canberra. Quite rightly the Government must have houses available for those people when they reach here with their families. But for the ordinary citizen who comes to Canberra, or the ordinary public servant who is transferred here solely in the course of his departmental employment, the procedure is to put his name on the list, and when his name reaches the top of the list, to offer him a house. How he manages to live in the intervening period until his name reaches the top of the list is a matter for himself.
I have said in this place before, and I repeat now, that although some people are fortunate enough to be able to secure furnished premises at high rentals, there are literally hundreds of families who are living in the most shocking conditions while they wait for the allocation of a government home. There are hundreds of families living in sheds, shacks, garages and tents. Some are in shared accommodation with whole families crowded together in one room while they await their turn on the government list. The present waiting time is 34 months, and that time is increasing. In the foreseeable future the waiting time will be three years. I have no doubt that unless this Government mends its ways and embarks on a house construction programme that will meet the needs of the people this waiting time will be seriously extended. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - At the last Federal elections the Government placed before the people of Australia plans to assist the provision and equipment of science teaching laboratories in secondary schools. It was made clear that the assistance to be provided for such purposes would be available to all schools with a complete absence of any discrimination. Procedures to achieve this end have now been discussed with all of the States - naturally this has taken some little time - and there is agreement that they raise no special problem for any State, although the Tasmanian Minister for Education has indicated that he would prefer the dis tribution to the States to be on the basis of secondary school enrolments rather than State populations as we intend. Where necessary, all States will co-operate with the Commonwealth in the carrying out of the scheme.
The amount for the purpose is £5,000,000 annually and it is intended to divide the amount each year between Government schools and non-Government schools. The division will be made by obtaining the numbers of secondary school pupils enrolled in Government schools and the numbers of secondary school pupils enrolled in nonGovernment schools and dividing the total amount of money available in proportion to those numbers as certified by the Commonwealth Statistician. This will be done on an Australia-wide basis and would at present result in a sum of the order of £3,750,000 being available for Government secondary schools throughout Australia and a sum of the order of £1,250,000 being available for non-Government schools throughout Australia. The sum available for Government schools will then be allotted to the various State Governments in proportion to the population of the States as certified by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Allotment will be made by way of a grant under section 96 of the Constitution and the recipient State will be entirely responsible for spending the sum allotted it in ways which, in its opinion, best suit the requirements of education in that State. The grant will, however, be made subject to the conditions that it can only be spent on the provison of science teaching laboratories in secondary schools or the provision of capital equipment for such laboratories, and it will be subject to the further condition that the items on which it is spent, and the source of the funds so spent, are clearly identifiable in the State Budget. The Commonwealth has made it clear to the States that it expects the sums so provided to be regarded as supplementary and additional to sums which the State would normally provide for education. Money for these purposes will be made available in the 1964-65 Budget, that is to say, in the financial year beginning on 1st July, 1964. The States have been made aware of this and are no doubt in process of preparing their plans for the expenditure of the money to be available to them for these purposes.
In the case of non-Government schools, the Commonwealth will be solely responsible for deciding grants. To do so it will adopt the following procedures: First, it will allot the amount available for non-Government schools among the States having regard to the population of each State, though in later years it may be necessary not to be too strictly bound in this regard, because some States may be rather more advanced than others in this field. The amount available for each State will then be divided into two parts. I am talking now about the non-Government schools. One part will be for assistance to non-Catholic schools within the boundaries of that State and the other part for assistance to Catholic schools within the boundaries of that State I have used that expression as these are rather awkward phrases. There are some non-Catholic schools which are under church foundation and some which are not. For example, as some of my colleagues know, there is the Sydney Grammar School. This division will be made by obtaining the number of secondary school pupils enrolled in non-Catholic schools and the number of secondary school pupils enrolled in Catholic schools and dividing the sum available in proportion to those numbers ?s certified by the Commonwealth Statistician. The Government will preserve some flexibility in this procedure so that the division may, as necessary, be adapted to the needs of schools for science buildings and equipment as the scheme develops. There will thus be for non-Government schools within the boundaries of each State a sum for assistance to non-Catholic schools and a sum for assistance to Catholic schools.
All secondary schools, whether boys’ schools, girls’ schools or co-educational schools are eligible to receive assistance, and any science teaching laboratory the construction of which began after 1st December, 1963 - that is the day after the election - is a building eligible to be considered for assistance. No such building which was constructed before 1st December, 1963, or which was in course of construction at that date, will however, be considered as eligible to receive assistance. A school is, however, eligible to apply for assistance for capital equipment bought after 1st December, 1963. Money for these purposes will be made available in the 1964-65 Commonwealth Budget; that is during the financial year beginning 1st July, 1964. Schools which are eligible for assistance and which seek assistance should therefore make application for such assistance as soon as possible. Applications should be made to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education, Prime Minister’s Department, East Block, Canberra.
It is clear that very many independent schools will be seeking assistance and that the Commonwealth will not in the first years of the scheme - at least in its early years - and despite the funds available, as one might say, in one stroke, be able to assist all schools that are eligible. It is intended therefore to select in each State schools to be regarded as those which fall into a category meriting first consideration for assistance. This selection will be done by the Commonwealth having regard to the number of secondary school pupils at a school, the number of such students doing science courses, the teaching facilities already available and similar criteria. Even so, all schools falling within this category will not be able to be assisted initially and it will be necessary to allot priorities to such schools within each State’s boundaries.
For this purpose, the Commonwealth hopes to create, within each State’s boundaries, two advisory bodies. One body, drawn from those responsible for nonCatholic schools, will be asked to suggest priorities for such schools and, subject to the standards proposed being acceptable to the Commonwealth, to advise on the amount of assistance extended to each school. The other body, drawn from those responsible for Catholic schools, will be asked to do the same for such schools. I may say that my colleague, Senator Gorton, who has been doing a great deal of work on this, has already discussed this matter considerably with these representative groups. When grants are decided by the Commonwealth they will be made to a State under section 96 of the Constitution. I am now talking about non-State secondary schools. The State concerned would act as agent for the Commonwealth for the purposes of payment and would not itself accept any responsibility for making such grants. I should, perhaps, emphasize that these advisory bodies have not yet been set up and it will be my colleague’s next task to conduct talks for the purpose of setting them up. He has already had quite a few of these. But, in the meantime, so that honorable members may know the lines on which the Commonwealth is proceeding and so that schools which require assistance maymake application without delay, I believe it appropriate to make this statement in this place.
I might add that the question of the standard to which a laboratory ought to be built, or at least the standard for which Commonwealth funds should be supplied, is one that has received our attention. For advice on this matter we are setting up a small committee which we have asked Mr. L. C. Robson to chair. Mr. Robson is a former headmaster of Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He is a very famous headmaster, with a scientific background, who has had much experience of these matters in his capacity of Chairman of the Committee of Advice of the Industrial Fund, of which most honorable members will have heard, which has been engaged for some years in assisting independent schools to build science teaching laboratories. This committee will be available to give advice, when asked, to schools planning to build science laboratories and will be responsible for advising the Commonwealth as to suitable and reasonable standards for laboratories for particular numbers of students and Commonwealth assistance will be limited to providing, or assisting to provide, funds necessary to build to that standard. This is the situation regarding this matter at this moment. I shall keep honorable members informed of progress in the setting up in each State of the advisory bodies to which I have referred.
In conclusion - this is, I think, a most interesting and just experiment - there are a number of different procedures which could be adopted for making the various divisions between State Governments referred to in what I have said. The one set out earlier appears to the Commonwealth to meet requirements most nearly and has been agreed to by five of the States. It will be the basis used for the first year of operation. But this is a new scheme. It must be tested in operation. In subsequent years it may develop that the State Governments would prefer the
Commonwealth to consider some other system of division between them. If they do agree that some other system is preferable in the future, and provided that the Commonwealth is satisfied that an agreed proposal is just to all, the Commonwealth will always be prepared to listen to suggestions designed to make the scheme operate harmoniously and to the greatest benefit of the greatest number of Australian students.
Debate resumed (vide page 341).
– Before the dinner suspension I had described the dismal failure of the present Government to provide adequately for the housing needs of the people of Canberra - in a territory in which the Commonwealth has full responsibility; in a territory in which it has complete and unfettered power and where, moreover, it owns all the land and is employer to a very large percentage of the population. I had pointed out that, in these most favorable circumstances, the Commonwealth Government, which boasts of its achievements in the field of housing, had shown that, with all the resources of the Commonwealth behind it it had been unable to provide sufficient houses for a town of some 70,000 people. The policies followed by the Menzies Government over the past fourteen years have been critically examined in this place, and this failure to provide for housing in the Commonwealth’s own city is an example of the Government’s inability in the whole field.
Successive Ministers for the Interior have left their mark on housing production in Canberra. It will be remembered that one former Minister - the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes)– was responsible for a crowded housing development which became known as the “ Narrabundah hen houses “. He had the grace to admit that this crowded development was a mistake. A subsequent Minister, who is now Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), was responsible for a further crowded development which became known as the “ Fairhall Barracks “, distinguished by a pagoda-like type of- roof caused by faulty construction and faulty materials. The most recent occupant of the office of Minister for the Interior has, in his time, been responsible for the development of housing apartments which have been criticized not only by people in Canberra but also by people in this Parliament. I refer to the development along Northbourne-avenue sometimes called maisonettes and sometimes vertical apartments. But whatever they may be called they are obviously architectural abominations, which were christened by the people of this city “Kremlin Court” and “The Casbah “ - accommodation from which people are most anxious to be removed to something decent and something resembling what they desire in the field of housing.
The present incumbent of the office of Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who has proceeded to the front bench only within the last couple of days, has the ball in his court. I do not suggest that it is going to be an easy one to play, because the task ahead of him is extremely difficult. But he brings to this task a fresh young mind, He is a young man with a young family and therefore has an appreciation of the needs of families. But I say to him that, as he starts on this task, he will be under the critical eyes of people closely associated with government in this city. I say to him also that he has the goodwill of the people of Canberra and of his political opponents in this city, who want to see the city developed properly as a national capital and as the home of an increasing population, which will be greater than 100,000 within a few years. At present people who place their names on the waiting list for houses in Canberra must expect to wait at least 34 months before they can receive an ordinary three-bedroom house. If they require a four-bedroom house because they have a large family - and this is a city of large families, with a high birth rate - the waiting time is completely unpredictable, because the National Capital Development Commission, in its allocation of funds for housing, permits one house in every ten built to have four bedrooms. Also it has achieved the miracle of building three-bedroom houses contained in 8i squares. Honorable members who are familiar with housing and know something of the subject will know how impossible it. is for families to live properly in “that cramped condition.
At present a great percentage of the new houses, as they are constructed, must be held vacant for occupation by departmental personnel transferred here in mass departmental transfers from Melbourne. That is quite understandable. If families are to be transferred in that way in the course of employment, obviously, housing must be available to them. But the Government made certain promises in this respect. The gentleman who was Minister for the Interior at the time when the departmental transfers were first mooted gave in this House an assurance that housing to be provided for departmental employees transferred from Melbourne to Canberra would be additional to the normal Canberra building programme. He gave a further assurance that the holding of houses for departmental transferees would not mean a lengthening of the waiting time for people already here and waiting for houses. In fact, he said that the waiting time might well be reduced. That promise, of course, had been completely dishonoured.
As I said before, in this city there are literally hundreds of families living in the most shocking conditions while they wait for approximately three years for the offer of a house. There is no exaggeration in the statement I have made that hundreds of families are living in shocking conditions in sheds, in shacks, in garages or in shared accommodation, perhaps with a whole family crowded into one room in somebody else’s house and paying dearly for the privilege.
I find it hard to assess the thinking behind this Government’s housing policy. In this Territory, we have in mind the promise made by a former Minister for the Interior, who assured us that the housing to be provided for people brought to Canberra in these essential transfers of the defence departments would bc additional to the normal Canberra building programme. We had his assurance that the waiting time would not be allowed to extend and that, in fact, it might well be shortened. People accepted that promise but they have seen it grossly dishonoured.
If we look at the population figures and the figures for housing construction, we find that in the years of Canberra’s greatest increases in population this Government has built fewer houses year by year over the past five financial years, with only one exception. These figures come to me from the Commonwealth Statistician. I shall cite the figures for houses and flats that could be described as family homes. I am not talking now about one-bedroom or bachelor flats. I am grouping together houses and flats of two or three bedrooms and putting them under the heading “ Family housing units “. In the financial year 1958-59, when the population of Canberra reached 43,973, the Government built 1,235 family housing units. In 1 959-60 when the population, according to an official estimate made by the Commonwealth Statistician, had reached 50,237, the Commonwealth built 1,151 family housing units. In 1960-61, when the population had increased to 56,449, the Commonwealth built only 868 family housing units. There was a census in that financial year and this population figure is exact. The population had increased to 63,313 by 30th June, 1962, and in the financial year 1961-62 the Commonwealth built 960 family housing units. In 1962-63, when the population had grown to 70,775, the Commonwealth built a total of only 721 family housing units. In the present financial year, according to the civil works programme released with the Budget papers last year, the Commonwealth has a programme for the construction of only 600 houses and no family flats.
The sort of reasoning that leads to the adoption of the kind of policy indicated by those figures is very hard to follow. Here, we have a city that is growing at a tremendously rapid rate. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) attributed to this city a rate of growth by natural increase of 10 per cent., but I think that he flattered us a little. The overall increase in the population is running at about 12i per cent, a year. That includes the increase by migration inwards as well as the natural increase. In the years when the population of this city has been increasing at the greatest rate ever, this Government, which has complete responsibility here, has failed to provide adequate housing. It has, in fact, built fewer houses and family flats in each of the last five financial years, with the exception of one in which the total number of units constructed increased only slightly.
But there are further complaints against the Government on account of its housing policies in this city. Not only is it failing to build sufficient houses; it is not building houses that are suitable and adequate for family living. I mentioned earlier that three-bedroom houses as small as Si squares in area are being built. A former Minister for the Interior, in answer to a question on notice, admitted that some houses built at Narrabundah, in a most undesirable section in what was formerly swamp land adjacent to the Queanbeyan road, were less than eight squares in area. Those are some of the homes that are being allotted to families in this city. They are completely inadequate for proper family living.
I wish the new Minister for the Interior well, but I suggest that he has a very great task ahead of him. That task will not be in assessing the need. The need is there and is obvious. The new Minister’s task will be in persuading the Cabinet of the need and prevailing on it to make available the necessary funds and to instruct the National Capital Development Commission to allocate sufficient funds to meet housing needs, to revise its standards of planning and to build in adequate numbers the kinds of houses that this city needs.
The Minister might have in mind also the fact that in recent years numbers of people who became desperate over the long wait for housing and who could no longer put up with living crowded in one room with families of perhaps two or three children, and with another baby on the way, moved out into two-bedroom flats. When they moved they were told by officers of the Housing Branch of the Department of the Interior, in completely good faith, that within a couple of years they would be able to move out of the flats into houses. But they have not been able to move out into houses, because the Commonwealth Government has not built sufficient houses.
Such people now living in flats have been told that they may put their names on the transfer list but that they will be transferred into houses only in accordance with an assessment of family needs. The assessment of family needs takes into account health and medical reasons. For example, a person with a heart condition may not be able to climb stairs. It takes account also of factors such as ability to pay rent. But, by and large, the assessment of family needs is based on the size of the family. A couple living in a flat with two children will be told, “There is no hope of your moving until you have a third child “. In effect, the housing officer says: “We cannot transfer you. Go away and have a third child. Then come back and we shall be able to move you.” That is the situation that exists in this city.
The cases that will go to the Minister will show that what I am saying is completely true. Over the thirteen years during which I have represented in this House the people of the Australian Capital Territory, I have had the privilege of being able to communicate with officers of the Housing Branch without any difficulty. Over the years. I have developed the greatest admiration for the way in which they handle the difficult task that they have. I have been able, from my office, to telephone officers of th” branch, put a case before them and get an answer to convey to the constituent concerned. I have now been informed that this practice is to cease. This announcement has not been published in routine orders, but the practice is to cease forthwith, solely because the branch has not sufficient staff for the officers to do the job entrusted to and ako handle telephone inquiries of this kind. So, now, every housing inquiry that I make mus’ po in writing to the Minister. As a result, he will have a firstclass opportunity to assess the difficulties of the people of this city.
I know that the Minister is able to assess the position and that he realizes that the Housing Branch is grossly under-staffed. I know that he realizes that its officers are dedicated men, though they often are reviled by the disappointed people who apply for houses and cannot get them. The officers of the branch are discharging a tremendous task under the most difficult conditions. I understand that the Minister will have the figures relative to the staff needs of the branch. Another seventeen men are needed in the office. The men there are doing two. three and four times the work they should be required to do. It is just not possible for them to do that work and to continue to do it efficiently and good temperedly, as they have done over the years.
The task here is tremendous. The Minister faces it with the good will of everybody in this city. I hope that he approaches it with understanding and with a firm resolution that those who are responsible for the design of housing and for the planning of this city will see that the job is done thoroughly and properly and that we will not have a continuation of the present rubbishy type of housing.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders bc suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) speaking for a period not exceeding 40 minutes.
– I am grateful to the House for giving me 40 minutes. I hope I will not need to employ it all. However, there are some things that I would like to say in the course of this debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. In particular, I want to refer to a few observations made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and by some of his supporters. I will come to them in due time.
I must say, if I may do so without giving offence, that nothing that the Leader of the Opposition said in this debate varied from what he had said many times in the course of the election campaign. In other words, he gave us a brief retrospective resume of his election speeches. The one thing that went wrong about them was that they did not succeed. I understand the position of the honorable gentleman; I have been through these experiences myself. He has been through deep waters and shallow waters. Most of us who have had long service in politics have had the experience of defeat and of victory. I was very interested to learn how the honorable gentleman would feel after two or three months of reflection. But there is no doubt about him. I take off my hat to him. He does not bother to learn much from painful experiences. He came up with all the old cliches. He even permitted himself to say that I secured an election prematurely, which I did, in a panic. This is a fascinating observation. He suggests that I was in a panic. I suppose that is why I entered upon an election. This is quite a curious form of reasoning.
– It is a curious form of panic.
– I thank my friend for his observation. It is a curious form of panic. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that I secured the election prematurely in a panic really astonishes me. I say this for the record; it is no longer of very much public interest. The honorable gentleman had on three or four occasions challenged me to have an election. Unless his performances “on behalf of the Opposition were arrant humbug - that, of course, would be an unparliamentary expression - he must have thought that, the Government having a majority of one, he might defeat us in a chance melee in the House and produce an election. I am bound to say that the only panic ever exhibited was his when I finally accepted the invitation. That was when the panic began. Of course, his present panic arises from the fact that the people supported us at the election.
Up to the last week of the election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition had persuaded himself - he is not without talents in self-persuasion - that he would win. Indeed, he did what inexperienced fellows like me never do; he named the seats that he would win. Up to the last week of the campaign, we were pitiable objects. We had tumbled by sheer stupidity into an election. But in the last week we had the panic. Let honorable members recall it. The panic was in the last week. It was then that the Leader of the Opposition began to make the most astonishing series of extravagant and offensive allegations I have ever heard in a political campaign. I am not sure that he did not accuse me of obscenity - I have forgotten - but he certainly accused me of all the most remarkable things. This was at a time when I was saying to myself in the still watches of the night - if there are any still watches of the night for a politician or a prime minister - that my own boys were a little worried because I was, as an old colleague of ours used to say, rather too much of a little Lord Fauntleroy. In the last week it was really fabulous to be able to open the newspaper in the morning and read of the things that I had never said but which I was accused of saying.
The honorable gentleman is responsible for his own tactics. He cannot blame us for those, unless he admits that in some way we applied pressure and forced him into these tactical errors. The honorable gentleman had begun his campaign with the most luscious collection of promises a week or eight days before I delivered my policy speech. He was going around the country talking about an Army group at Grafton, which was very important, and about the abolition of preferential voting. I must say that in almost 30 years in this Parliament I had never heard any member of the Australian Labour Party advocate the abolition of preferential voting, but, of course, I am open to correction. Will anybody correct me? No? In 30 years not a hint of this has been given but in the last week of the election campaign the honorable gentleman, being himself in a state of panic and apparently a little worried about the state of the parties in the electorates, said, “We will abolish preferential voting”. He did not say it in his policy speech, but he said it then. Happily his statement received wide publicity.
All this time in the last week he was, if I may use the expression with the great conservatism so characteristic of me, screeching abuse about his opponents. Of course, when all this happened in the last week of the campaign, I, who had always believed that we would win, became completely confident of success, because these were the marks of panic and the marks of defeat. The honorable gentleman wants a little history and I am giving it to him. Then the gallup poll, that sacred thing, was published on the Friday before the election. This revived his hopes, but they were dashed within 36 hours. By the following Monday he had revealed himself - I say this to him as an old friend and an old political opponent - as the worst loser in the history of Commonwealth politics. I am not engaging in a post mortem; I am engaging in a post vitam - a very different matter. I leave the post mortems to my opponents.
I do not really feel called on to rehearse our policy, the immediately operative aspects of which are referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, because the simple truth is that the people have approved of our policy and we are putting it into operation. Therefore, I will deal very lightly with matters that have exercised the Opposition in this new session of Parliament. I will refer to just a few matters. I would need not 40 minutes but three hours to expose all the weaknesses in the Opposition’s position so I will deal with just a few of them.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about Malaysia. That was a bold exercise on his part. I quote these words from his speech -
Honorable members - at least those on this side of the House - will realize that that is a statement that we might have welcomed very much at the time when Malaysia was under discussion. But the honorable gentleman then went on to say -
But Indonesia’s policy of confrontation cuts across those objectives and raises new and important issues. We need an anti-Communist Malaysia, but we also need an anti-Communist Indonesia.
That was the end of the statement of policy. What does it mean? Does Indonesia’s policy of confrontation cut across our support for Malaysia? We do not think so. When we made our statement in this House, we were not unaware of the Indonesian tendency to confront, to threaten and to raise issues. Indonesia’s policy of confrontation does not cut across our support for Malaysia.
But the honorable gentleman, in effect, puts this question to himself: Does this cut across our support for Malaysia or does it strengthen our support for Malaysia? If the honorable gentleman was asking, “ Does this policy of confrontation, which is being conducted by a country with which we all want to live in a state of peace and harmony and which is directed at a country which we are pledged to support and whose political integrity we are- pledged to support, introduce new problems? “, he should have told us what those problems were. I wonder how Malaysia - at this moment the threatened country, the country across whose borders forays and infiltrations are occurring - would regard these Australian Labour Party ambiguities. There is no ambiguity about our position. We have stated it; we have repeated it; we will adhere to it.
The Leader of the Opposition described my statement about Malaysia on behalf of this Government and on behalf of this country - a statement now completely reinforced by the electoral decision of the people - as vague and unsatisfactory. From the master of ambiguity, that is indeed a tremendous charge.
When the honorable gentleman had said what he wanted to say on that matter, he took a side swipe at me - I believe that is the expression. I seem to be rather a disagreeable person, not enjoying as much favour with my opponents as I should. The honorable gentleman permitted himself, as he not infrequently does, to rewrite modern history. Let me occupy the time of the House for a few minutes on these matters. He said -
When President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal the Prime Minister, with his limited imagination-
I admit that part; I have never had enough imagination to imagine what members of the Opposition would do about any matter -
I did not know that such a question had ever been raised over the Suez Canal matter and my association with it. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say -
Of course, he failed to get his view accepted because the United States itself saw the folly and danger of the course being pursued by the British Conservative Government.
This is becoming the stock-in-trade of a number - I except some - of honorable gentlemen opposite: That I rushed in; that I was wrong; that in some mysterious fashion I persuaded eighteen large nations and small nations to agree with me - in an aside sort of way, rather a compliment. I was the actor in the drama.
The honorable gentleman knows, or ought to know if he reads anything other than propaganda, that when President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal I was on my way back to Australia and that when I was in the United States I was told about it and was told that a conference of 22 nations was to be convened at once in London. I telephoned my Acting Prime Minister in Australia and said: “What do you think? Perhaps I ought to go back,” because we in Australia have a lively interest in the Suez Canal and its future. I was told, “Yes, you ought to go back”. I went to the conference. I do not need to elaborate this matter. All I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that after two or three days in that conference a scheme of proposals was produced and those proposals were put up to President Nasser. They were drafted by Mr. John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State of the United States. They were American proposals. I thought they were very good ones, and so did the representatives of seventeen other nations. A resolution was carried that those proposals - eminently reasonable, sensible and fair proposals - should be presented to President Nasser, although not with very much hope of their being accepted. But intrinsically they were pretty good.
One night I was telephoned at my hotel just as I was about to come back to Australia, and I was invited to go up to the American Embassy. This is very interesting, having regard to this falsification of history. I arrived at the embassy at about 2 o’clock in the morning, and there people were discussing this business. There had been a proposal that a committee should be appointed to present and explain these resolutions to President Nasser. There and then these people who, according to the Leader of the Opposition, regarded me with complete contempt, urged me to become chairman of the committee and to go to Cairo to put these matters to President Nasser. I did not want to go. I had been a long way from home for a long time. I had problems to attend to in Australia. But when the Prime Minister of Australia is invited by representatives of eighteen nations, including the major nations in the non-Communist world, to do a job, however difficult and hopeless it may seem, I do not believe it is any part of his responsibilities to say, “ No thank you; I would sooner go home”. So I went and put the case and, of course, we did not succeed. I am free to admit that I did not ever think we would succeed; but we argued our case. I was the spokesman. Having received what I rather thought was something in the nature of a compliment from eighteen nations, I returned home .to find that the Labour Party in Australia regarded this as a ridiculous exercise. Very well. Time does not permit me to re-write history for the Leader of the Opposition, but if he wants to know whether I look back on that painful and difficult exercise with shame I say at once that I do not; I look back on it with a certain amount of self-respect.
Having fired a few shots on that matter - not for the first time; and indeed this is the first time I have ever bothered about them - the honorable gentleman went to 1960. He has never got over 1960. Neither have I. It was the only time I ever went to the General Assembly of the United Nations. A number of honorable members have been there, and I went there in October, 1960. I had some discussions and moved an amendment to a resolution. The amendment was defeated. My speech was never reported in this country. Other speeches were. The honorable gentleman, who prefers second-hand sources of information, said the other night -
In 1960 President Eisenhower and Mr. Macmillan, being shrewd judges of men, saw that the Prime Minister - that is me - would risk almost anything for the sake of an hour or two of international limelight.
This is it. What the honorable gentleman does not know - if he does know it, he has suppressed it - is that at that meeting of the United Nations a motion was submitted by some nations the effect of which was for President Eisenhower to have a conference with Chairman Krushchev - not with the United Kingdom and not with France; a sort of half-summit meeting. What the honorable gentleman has forgotten is that President Eisenhower had already made it clear that he would not have a bi-lateral talk. Honorable members will remember, I hope, that in that year everything was lined up for a summit conference in Paris, and then the incident of the U2 occurred and the summit conference was abandoned. I do not know whether the U2 incident was the sole cause of the collapse of the summit meeting or whether there was some other cause. The people concerned in the summit conference and therefore in the peace of the world - our peace - were the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the United States of America and France: At this meeting of the United Nations it was moved, seconded and went on the record that there should be a conference between the two, one of whom - President Eisenhower - had already made clear that he would not have a bilateral conference. Therefore it seemed to me - and I hope honorable members will not think this is stupid - that to carry a resolution that there be a meeting between the two when at least one of them had said he would not attend was rather beating the air.
So far from me horning in on this matter, which is the legend on the part of the Opposition and its academic advisers, I was invited by President Eisenhower - I do not boast about this - to come to Washington to discuss this matter. He also invited Mr. Macmillan to go to Washington to discuss the matter. I went. Dean Rusk was there as well as various other people connected with the American Administration. We had a discussion about this matter at the White House later in the afternoon. I had suggested that it would not be a bad thing, instead of having a blank negative, to have an amendment moved which called on all four parties to have a summit conference, to get back to the one thing that represented some hope for the world. These gentleman whom I am supposed to have log-rolled in some way are not insignificant people. When I put my submission they said, “ This has great merit “. They asked me to draft an amendment. I drafted an amendment. We discussed it that afternoon and I submitted it at the United Nations. I am happy to say that although the amendment was defeated, to the intense joy of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Australia, it was supported by Great Britain, the United States, the Republic of France, Australia and Canada. The Soviet Union did not vote against the amendment; it abstained. Was that an unhappy event?
I must tell honorable members opposite what was in my amendment because they are badly in need of instruction on this matter. I wonder whether anybody on the other side of the House will disagree with a single word of this amendment, putting all flim-flam of a political kind on one side. My amendment recalled that there had been an arrangement for a meeting, that the meeting did not begin its work and that the President of the United States, the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had made public statements saying that they would welcome such a meeting in order to reduce world tension. I went on -
Believing that much benefit for the world could arise from a co-operative meeting of the Heads of government of these four nations in relation to those problems which particularly concern them,
Is this disagreeable to the Opposition? The amendment continued -
Believing further that progress towards the solution of those problems would be a material contribution to the general work for peace of the United Nations,
Urges that such a meeting should occur at the earliest practicable date.
I have heard Labour members, former Labour Ministers and Labour candidates time after time stand on platforms and say that those are their views. But when a Prime Minister drawn from a party other than their own expressed those views, and, if I may say so, with some vigour, and secured the support of the great powers which, alone, if they act in concert, can reduce tension in the world, the result is the kind of jibe - the kind of sneering remark - that we have heard on this occasion.
Sir, I will not occupy any more time on that matter. I do not want to rewrite history for my opponent. I am too busy for that. So I will go on to a few contemporary issues - very few. In the course of his speech he once more returned to King Charles’ head - the TFX bomber. The honorable gentleman became frightfully mixed up about this during the election campaign. At one stage I thought that he would repudiate the contract to buy the TFX. I am not sure that was not his intention. At another stage he said to the electors, “ Elect us to office and we will buy a replacement for the Canberra “, as if you could buy it in a pawnshop. There was no appreciation of the fact that if you are to replace a magnificent vehicle like the Canberra bomber, which only the other day was the last word, then you must ensure that you will get the latest word and, if possible, something which will be operative and effective for a reasonable time to come.
The whole case about the TFX was stated. But, of course, there are people in various countries who do not like orders being placed for aircraft other than their own, so the other day some scribbler wrote an article - my distinguished friend the
Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) who knows about these things referred to it in the course of his speech yesterday - in which he said, “ The TFX is encountering enormous difficulties”. My distinguished opponent, always willing to snatch at even the slightest straw in the torrent, said: “ There you are. You won’t get the TFX until 1970.” In fact, nothing is known either from the United States, which has a vast interest in the performance of this aircraft, or from the people who are building the aircraft, that lends the slightest colour to these arguments. I do wish that the honorable gentleman would not continue repeating false figures. The position is that the American Government has undertaken to deliver the TFX order beginning in 1967. The Australian Government has accepted this estimate. We believe it is a sincere estimate, and nothing has occurred to cause the American Government to indicate that it will not be able to meet the delivery dates. Therefore, to use the old Australian phrase, this is another furphy. I say that, with great regard to the honorable member whose electorate includes Shepparton.
I should like to refer to two other matters. I seem to remember that during the election campaign and during last year - I am open to be corrected - the Opposition devoted a great deal of its forensic talent to explaining that we were ruining the economy, that we were introducing a period of massive unemployment. Indeed, a little before then the Opposition was explaining, in the most learned fashion - because I am sure its adviser was in a technical sense a learned man - that the loan market had been ruined. We were told what the Labour Party would do to restore it. Unfortunately for the Labour Party, this is all in the past now. The economy has not been ruined; on the contrary. The loan market has not been ruined; on the contrary, it is almost embarrassingly lush and fruitful. So what does the Opposition do? My friends on the other side of the House? - I do not blame them - day after day have been asking, “Will the Minister for Labour and National Service, through his counsel before the arbitration commission, tell the commission how tremendously prosperous this country is, how lush the loan market is, how marvellous is the state of the economy, how much productivity has increased? “ Having been through this kind of thing for some time I cannot find it in my heart to blame honorable members opposite. I suppose you try one thing and if it does not succeed you try another. If the solution turns out ultimately to be the opposite of the one you tried first, well, you know, life is full of mutations, so one can understand and forgive.
I shall refer to one other matter because I see that my time, so generously extended, is running out. During the last four sitting days I have been fascinated to discover an almost concerted plan by Opposition members, egged on a little, if I may say so to my old friend, by a speech from this side of the House, to talk about gerrymandering the electorate. “Gerrymander” is a beautiful word. It hails from America and it has a resonance in it. It is intelligible in English, so it is used. The Opposition claims that what we propose to do about the Commonwealth Electoral Act represents a gerrymander. I would have ignored this had it been just a passing exercise on the part of one honorable member but I suppose about ten honorable members opposite have claimed that we are proposing to gerrymander the electorate. Fortunately for us, and fortunately for Australia, most of them have explained what they mean by the word. As I understand it - I speak subject to correction, because I am always willing to be corrected - they mean one vote, one value. They claim that there must be no discrimination between a large widespread rural electorate like Kalgoorlie or a compact metropolitan electorate like my own. There must be no discrimination because the moment you depart from the principle of one vote, one value, this is a gerrymander. I know that my friend the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) treats the statements of his colleagues with a certain amount of congenial contempt, but this apparently is the new Labour doctrine. The Labour Party has been in office in the Commonwealth for seventeen years altogether, perhaps not long enough from its own point of view. The Electoral Act of the Commonwealth of Australia first became law 62 years ago in 1902 - 62 years ago! I was so cut to the quick by all this talk about gerrymandering that I put myself to a little trouble and said to my officer, “ Bring me the 1902 Commonwealth Electoral Act”. Here it is. It is 62 years old, give or take a month or two. Section 16 of the act states -
In making any distribution of States into Divisions the Commissioner-
There was one commissioner in those days - shall give due consideration to -
I hope honorable members opposite will hold their breath so that they will not die of shock now - the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Commissioner may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
That was the position in 1902 and for many years thereafter. The current legislation is almost indistinguishable from the original except that the number of the section is different. It is now section 19, which is in these terms -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners -
The plural, “ Commissioners “ is used now. I hope that is not fatal - shall give due consideration to -
Then follows the provision about a tolerance of one-fifth up or one-fifth down. So, if honorable members will trouble themselves to read what appears in the policy speech on this matter, and what appears in the Governor-General’s Speech, they will discover one or two points. I attach great importance to one of them and that is the trend of population in various areas. This was mentioned even by some honorable members opposite to-day. These are important factors. We modernize them. There is no compulsion to make a quota difference, but there is the same permissive authority to the commissioners to go up or down by one-fifth. Yet I have lived long enough - too long, some may think - to find that what has been completely accepted in this Commonwealth, what has produced, by and large, sensible, honest recommendations, what has been left untouched and untouchable by every Labour government that has sat in the Commonwealth Parliament, is now to be described by honorable members opposite as a gerrymander. All I can say is that it is ludicrous; it is out of proportion; it is unreal. But I welcome it, if I may say so, because it shows after their defeat and after the failure of their ambitions, how barren members of the Opposition have become. This is all that they can find to come up with - an allegation which has only to be examined by a boy reading acts of Parliament to be exposed as utter humbug.
– Wind up. Your time is up.
– I have wound up. I thought it was a very good ending, and I hope you will remember it.
.- I have two happy duties at this time in the new session. The first is to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on being re-elected. It is 50 years since a Speaker has held office for so long. I do not think there has ever been a Speaker who has enjoyed and deserved such respect and affection. Secondly, I should like to congratulate the honorable gentlemen who made their maiden speeches last week and this. I congratulate them on the talents and the spirit they bring to the National Parliament. I must now pass to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies).
– Congratulate him, too.
– Yes, I will congratulate the Prime Minister, as he congratulated himself, on his very successful campaign of last November. Now, perhaps, I, too, can refer to a little history because the right honorable gentleman devoted most of his speech to history, or his version of it, rather than to the Governor-General’s Speech opening the Parliament. The first effort that the Prime Minister made to rewrite history was to refer to my leader, in the light of his remarks immediately after the election, as a bad loser. I will quote the statement that my leader made on the day after the election -
The results of the elections are now clear, and I accept the people’s verdict.
At this stage I wish only to say how deeply 1 regret the temporary departure from the parliamentary life of this nation of some good and very able men, who I am sure will be re-elected at the next elections.
Labour will keep faith with the people, and the things we promised to do if we had become the Government we will strive to achieve from the Opposition benches.
We believe all those things are essential for the progress of the nation.
The campaign to persuade the people to reverse their decision of yesterday will commence with renewed vigour to-morrow.
It is a pity that the Prime Minister in success cannot be as big a man as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in defeat. I will go back not just to November, 1963, but to November, 1956, as the Prime Minister did. He would have this generation of Australians believe that his participation in the Suez incident was limited to negotiations. He was entitled to take part in negotiations, but he also condoned aggression afterwards. This was the first time that the Prime Minister had taken a large part on the world stage. He has never been given the votes on the world stage that he has received on the Australian stage. His own vote was one of the five that he achieved at the United Nations out of 77. British Conservatives are happy to forget this incident. America did not support our Prime Minister’s attitude in the United Nations on the Suez crisis.
I come now to a few years later, October, 1960, when the Prime Minister made his second appearance on the world stage in the United Nations. This was when he moved an amendment to Mr. Nehru’s resolution. The resolution was to bring the leaders of the two super powers - America and the Soviet Union- -into conversations with each other. Our Prime Minister moved a singularly futile and provocative resolution which asked the United Nations to endorse one side in the argument and then bring the two sides to discuss things together. On that occasion, four nations supported him out of 93. On the first of these, two occasions he elbowed aside Mr. Casey, then his1 Minister for External Affairs; on the second occasion he elbowed aside the present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick).
But there was a third occasion, which he did not recall - the discussion of the Sharpeville incident, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. He was then on his own. There was no eleven supporting our Prime Minister and the South Africans there. They were opposed. The Prime Minister’s tributes to Dr. Verwoerd were not endorsed by the Australian people -
– Do you disagree with that?
– Yes, I do.
– Then obviously you know nothing about it.
– I think you discredited our country on all those three occasions.
– You have not been to South Africa?
– No, I have not. I remember that after the right honorable gentleman visited South Africa, he justified Dr. Verwoerd by saying that the Africans were not skilled enough to grade oranges and therefore did not deserve full wages. I now propose to deal with the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
I had hoped that the Prime Minister would take some opportunity to elucidate the policies which he enunciated successfully last November and which the Governor-General repeated last week. There were very many improvised features in the policy speech which were complete reversals of attitudes that the Government parties had taken in the last Budget session. So improvised, make-shift and half-baked were they that people are still uncertain what they mean and ministers are unable to answer questions on them. We were told that the Governor-General’s Speech was to outline the legislative and administrative programme of action. So uncertain is the Government of what its proposals mean that it has had to defer the Premiers’
Conference. Last year the Premiers3 Conference was held about three weeks before Parliament met. The year before it was held a week before Parliament met. On this occasion we well knew that much of the Government’s legislative and administrative programme could not be implemented without consultation with the State Premiers, but so indecisive is the programme that the Premiers are not meeting until three weeks after this Parliament met and the legislation cannot be introduced until at least a month after Parliament met. Let me just take some examples of this. First of all, there is the housing subsidy plan. Honorable members will recall that during the election campaign the Minister who was then in charge of housing, Senator Sir William Spooner, was asked questions about it and he said -
I don’t think you can produce a scheme in the middle of an election campaign for your opponents to take no notice of the good points and attack the points they think they can make capital of. It will be a good scheme when it comes out in detail.
The Monday after the elections Senator Sir William Spooner expected the necessary legislation to be introduced in February. He said -
We will fix the details well before the parliamentary sitting begins. The basic work has already been done.
The new Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has had to confess this week that these matters and a great many others are still under consideration. He said -
It would be premature at this stage to make an announcement.
What is really the strength of this subsidy proposal, this gift of £250? Increases in housing interest rates alone have taken up five times that amount during the course of this Government’s term of office. The Government’s subsidy will be made available for land and houses costing up to £7,000. A 30-year loan on a house costing £5,500 now costs £1,300 more - five times the subsidy - than it would have cost if the same interest rates still applied as when this Government came into office.
I come now to the matter of education and scholarships. The Prime Minister has always paraded his interest in universities. He has denied any possible Commonwealth concern in education preparatory or parallel to university education.
– Prove it.
– I think I can. The honorable gentleman who interjects demonstrated for us all in his maiden speech the depths of his learning from classical literature to modern advertising. He is still fighting the Trojan war. The Prime Minister said that scholarships would be provided for the final two school years. The GovernorGeneral said that scholarships would be provided for the last two years of secondary education. The Prime Minister, of course, has not yet decided which are the last two years of secondary education. Do those two years include the year in those States where the student obtains his matriculation in the year after the Leaving Certificate? Do they include the year in those States where there is a leaving honours examination a year after the Leaving Certificate? Even the Murray committee pointed this out seven years ago as regards secondary education. If the scheme had been clear - that is if scholarships were to be awarded on passing an examination or reaching a particular age - there would be no dispute, but because the scheme was so half-baked it has been put off for twelve months. This means that 12,500 talented teenagers have been deprived of an opportunity for technical and secondary education and other education preparatory for universities.
Another subject requiring co-operation with the States is finance for roads. It will be remembered that the Prime Minister promised in his policy speech that in the next five years the States would receive £100,000,000 more for roads than in the last five years. If the present act continued, the States would receive £100,000,000 more automatically because every five years the amount of money which the Commonwealth pays out of the petrol tax to the States - that is five-sixths of the petrol tax revenue - has risen by £100,000,000. It has risen by that amount every quinquennium, to use a prime ministerial term. The promise meant nothing. In fact the Commonwealth will net more for its own Treasury in the next five years than it did in the five years now concluded. Why cannot road grants be discussed in the Parliament?
There is far too much presentation of faits accompli. Treaties are made with other countries and agreements are made with the States and then given to us - take it or leave it. The fact that we have a federal system does not mean that we should stifle parliamentary discussion in the Federal Parliament. This is the Parliament which constitutionally has the power and the duty to raise funds to build roads. The States have the responsibility to build the roads. There must be co-operation between both, but we have as much responsibility and knowledge on road requirements as the States. There will be no discussion here and the States will be given a plan which, with all its shortcomings, will leave them with inadequate roads. May I point out that the large States, where settlement is widespread, suffer very considerably under the present scheme. Let us hope that appropriate provision is made in the new road plan to see that the mileage of roads in States is taken into consideration. Queensland receives £616 a year for each mile of roads. Tasmania receives £1,500. The other States receive amounts somewhere between those two figures. Queensland, the most widely settled State, gets the smallest payment a mile for its roads.
I want now to refer to the Government’s administrative programme. The Prime Minister made no reference, and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has not yet made any reference, to the most striking administrative development of the last few weeks; that is the call-ups to the Statutory Reserve Deposit Accounts. There have been three call-ups in the last eight weeks amounting to £109,000,000. These callups were conveniently held over until after the election. It is well known that at the Reserve Bank meeting before the election the Treasury representative strenuously opposed any call-ups for the time being. Obviously he was acting on the instructions of the Treasurer. Plaintively the GovernorGeneral states on behalf of the Government that it will exercise such powers as it has to avoid speculative activity or a rise in prices. Whose fault is it that the Government does not have more powers? It has no more powers now than the present Treasurer had in 1960 or his predecessor had in 1951 and 1956. A committee of both Houses and all parties unanimously recommended five years ago that the Parliament should have powers to regulate hire purchase and fringe financial institutions as well as banking.
I am not saying that bank credit in the present circumstances should not be regulated, but I am saying that hire-purchase credit should be regulated just as much, step by step, with it. Bank credit is cheaper than any other form. It is made available by more experienced and sometimes more reputable companies. It is made available for more socially and economically beneficial purposes. For the fourth time this Government is controlling bank credit more severely than it needs to be controlled, because it has omitted to seek powers to control other and not quite so essential forms of credit. The Treasurer is not opposed to controls. When it comes to con*trols this Government believes in exercising suddenly and severely those that it has. It certainly condones controls exercised by private businesses in their interests. It only condemns the idea of controls exercised by public authorities in the public interest.
The next matter of administrative practice to which I wish to refer concerns restrictive practices. Legislation to control restrictive trade practices was first promised four years ago. Much hope was entertained at the time that the then Attorney-General would be able to do something effective in this field. His supporters said, “ Set a thief to catch a thief “. It was expected that Australia would at last have restrictive trade practices legislation such as that which the United States of America, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and all the countries of western Europe and the European Economic Community already enjoy. But only Australia among unitary or federal states has proved unequal to the task of providing restrictive trade practices legislation.
The Prime Minister two and a half years ago promised that legislation would be introduced and would be laid on the table for public criticism for six months. Last week the Governor-General said that legislation would be tabled for public scrutiny for a reasonable time. How much longer is this particular gimmick to be dangled before the eyes of the Australian public?
When it comes to administrative and legislative programmes and delays in implementation of reports - I have quoted the Constitutional Review Committee’s report which has waited since October, 1958, and the restrictive trade practices legislation which has waited for four years - dare I recall the report of the Ligertwood committee on taxation. In August, 1961, that committee reported to the Parliament that £14,000,000 a year was lost to revenue through income tax evasion. Mr. Justice Ligertwood’s report is now required reading for every solicitor, equity counsel and accountant throughout Australia. The loss to revenue through income tax evasion has reached at least £20,000,000 a year. At that time the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -
The Government proposes to give its close attention to the recommendations of the committee to close these particular avenues of tax avoidance, and will in due course bring down amending legislation which will be operative from to-day’s date; that is, the date of tabling of the committee’s report.
We have never seen another bit of it.
The concluding piece of administrative arrangements with which I must deal concerns television licences. It is very significant that of the three metropolitan television licences issued last week two are to go to companies in which the major shareholder is Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Well, good luck to Ansett if he can get away with it. I suppose only Sir Frank Packer has burgeoned so much in the last few years. And of course he deserves it; or rather has earned it. We are coming to a pretty pass in this country when mass media are becoming more and monopolized in this way. It is about time that the Australian Government made possible more publicly-owned channels such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the universities and other bodies in Australia are saying should be established. But if we go on in this trend all the available channels will be given to the Government’s biggest supporters. It is necessary more than ever, in this popular and contemporary mass medium, that there should be more public competition and enterprise.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) concluded his remarks with a reference to a redistribution of electorates. He objected to the term “ gerrymander “. He dressed up his proposal as well as possible. But might I point out that if the Constitutional Review Committee’s proposal to count aborigines in the census had been put to the people - and it undoubtedly would have been carried - then Western Australia and
Queensland would not have lost seats under the Representation Act. They would have been entitled to their present number, because all citizens would have been counted in those States. Again, if the committee’s recommendation on breaking the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives and so allowing us to increase the numbers in this House without its involving a corresponding increase in the number of senators, had been put to the people and carried - as it would have been because it would have been supported by all parties in both Houses - the rural areas would have retained all their seats. That is, if these proposals, made in October, 1958, had been put to the people and carried by them, all States would have retained their present number of seats and all rural areas would have retained their present number of seats, too. There would have been no excuse for carrying out a gerrymander.
The Prime Minister - and he has turned black into white over the years and apparently thinks he can get away with it again now - quotes the terms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902, passed when he was a boy, and points out that the various criteria which the electoral commissioners can take into account in making a distribution have remained relatively uncharged. Of course they have, but the commissioners have had a discretion in applying them and have never found it necessary, in carrying out their discretion in an honest and competent way, to create any great disparity in numbers between the various electorates. But now the Government is proposing to make this exercise of discretion obligatory. That is, the people in the country electorates are to have only two-thirds as many electors on the rolls that the metropolitan electorates have, and this will be a gerrymander, call it what you will.
The Liberal Party realizes this. It will now suffer from it as we would have before the election, because there are now more metropolitan seats held by the Liberal Party than by the Labour Party, although the Labour Party holds more nonmetropolitan seats than the Liberal Party. So members of the Liberal Party are the ones who will suffer. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) is frank enough to disclose the position. But it was’ said by the Constitutional Review Committee in a report signed by Country Party members, Liberal Party members and Labour Party members of that committee; that you do not need a 20 per cent, variation from the norm, above or below. Ten per cent, was enough. And it was pointed out by the committee that this was necessary in order to prevent a gerrymander. The committee said - the votes of electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of a margin of 20 per cent, each way could result in the number of electors in one division totalling 50 per cent, more than the number in another division next door. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realization of democracy.
Again, the committee stated -
The adoption of a maximum margin of onetenth would make a very material contribution toward preventing possible manipulation of the divisional structure of a State for political purposes.
Will anybody deny that the Honorable David Drummond and Mr. Len Hamilton were as good Country Party members as there have been in this House in the last couple of decades? And they, as members of the committee, subscribed to these principles. The Labour Party gained a majority of the votes and places in the 1953 Senate election, and a majority of votes in the 1954 and 1961 House of Representatives elections. We did not win a majority of places in the House because of the distribution at those times. This gerrymander is intended to ensure that Country Party votes will be maximized and Liberal and Labour votes will be diluted and debased. I use those terms from United States Supreme Court judgments in these matters. For the last three years the United States Supreme Court has insisted on fair distribution of House of Representatives electorates in Congress. It has so interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection of the laws - I quote from Gray v. Sanders - we see no constitutional way by which equality of voting power may be evaded . . . The conception of political equality . . . can mean only one thing - one person, one vote.
The Australian Constitution has no provision comparable to section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. A fortnight ago, however, in Wesberry v. Sanders the Supreme Court declared that section 2, clause 1, of Article I of .the American Constitution “means that as nearly as practicable one man’s vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s “. The wording of the clause is copied in section 24 of our Constitution. The Prime Minister can take justifiable pride in winning elections hitherto. He will deserve posterity’s contempt if he tries to win future elections by introducing a gerrymander in his own country when gerrymanders are being outlawed in America.
– Order! Before calling the honorable member for Mitchell I would remind the House that this will be his maiden speech.
.- I should first like to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your re-appointment. Will you please convey to Mr. Speaker my congratulations to him also. I should like to thank the Clerk of the House, Mr. Turner, for this booklet which he has prepared and which will be a great help to us new members of the House. My first duty in this national Parliament is to acknowledge the action of my fellow citizens in the Mitchell electorate in selecting me to be their federal representative. It is with considerable humility and not a little trepidation that I accept the responsibilities with which members of this House are constantly confronted. I thank the people of Mitchell for their confidence in me and assure them that it shall be my constant endeavour to vindicate their choice. I pledge myself to work, to the best of my ability, in the interests of my electorate and of Australia.
As I have lived and worked in the electorate for very many years, and have held office in many of the civic organizations within the electorate, my constituents have never been in any doubt as to where I stand in relation to a political philosophy. I believe that only under free enterprise can man achieve his greatest potential. Only in a free enterprise economy can society maximize both economic productivity and personal freedom. When I say “ free enterprise “ I do not intend that that phrase should be interpreted to mean uninhibited laissez-faire. There are facets of modern society in which Government guidance and, at times, control, are either desirable or essential, and I would be among the first to acknowledge this.
To my way of thinking, the test is our objectives. If a man thinks primarily and constantly in terms of controls without investigating every possible alternative, he is in my view a socialist. If he believes in the dignity of man as an individual, if he does all in his power to preserve the freedom of each and every citizen and if he has resort to state intervention and compulsion only when no other way seems reasonable or open to him, he is basically an exponent of free enterprise.
I believe that no code other than free enterprise is acceptable in any Christian community. 1 believe that the Christian faith has as a basic element optimum freedom of the individual. Man has been given a free will to do or not to do, and a conscience to guide and reprimand him. Any form of organized society that is moving towards an extension of the area in which freedom of will can be exercised is getting closer to the Christian ethic and any form of society that is constantly whittling away the freedom of the individual is moving towards an extension of the area in which freedom of will can be exercised is getting closer to the Christian ethic and any lowered physical standards inevitably follow the repudiation of the concept that man is entitled to live as a free member of a free society.
For the last 40 years or so, in Australia, there has been a body of thought that unfortunately has been unable to differentiate between social services and socialism. I think that it is because of this that the Australian Labour Party has attracted many sincere members who are genuine in their wish to improve the lot of their fellow men, but who are unaware of the confusion within their own minds between the one thing and the other. Down the years, many people have told me that only under socialism can humanitarianism come to full flower. I say to those people that humanitarianism and socialism can be shown clearly to be contradictory. The inevitability of socialism eventually yielding to control for control’s sake is obvious and frightening, as appears from both analytical deduction and the history of the world. The inexhaustible capacity for one set of controls to give birth to further controls, and for the further controls in their turn to give birth to still further controls, reminds one of the old ditty -
Little fleas have littler fleas
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And littler fleas still littler fleas,
And so, ad infinitum.
In the Mitchell electorate, there is probably as high a proportion of trade unionists as there would be in any other electorate in Australia. I stand firmly for trade unionism as an honorable means by which free men can endeavour to improve their work, working conditions and general standard of living. Let there be no doubts on that score. But there is an anomaly about organized trade unionism in Australia that I find quite impossible to comprehend. That anomaly is the way in which many trade unions - but not all - have become affiliated with political socialist Labour.
The trade unionists of the United States of America - hardly tame-cats, 1 think you would agree - mostly reject out of hand the concept of socialism. They appreciate the fact that the only countries in the world with free trade unions are the countries with free enterprise. “ But, “ say some Australian trade unionists, “ the unions have always had to strive for better conditions and, down the years, have been a main element in the attainment of industrial justice for the workers “. This may be so, and I shall certainly not dispute it so long as we appreciate the fact that only in a freeenterprise economy can such striving for economic and social improvement take place. A Communist economy does not permit it. A socialized industrial set-up cannot allow its precious plans to be jeopardized by it. But a free-enterprise economy cannot prevent claims for better conditions. The pledging of so many trade unions, by implication, to socialization in the face of this fact is beyond the realms of both logic and self-interest.
Does the world show that workers in socialized states enjoy life better than they would enjoy it in an economy in which they can change their boss as often as they change their socks? Show me the socialized state, anywhere down the lanes of history, that has not eventually had to man-power its labour force. Then - and only then - will I listen to the so-called case for socialist objectives in trade unionism. Arc living standards in socialized countries better than those in free-enterprise economies?
Are there free elections in countries without free enterprise? Is a government boss easier to deal with than a free-enterprise boss? For all who would seek, there are answers galore to these questions - in this country, in England and in other places.
It is because of such answers that I am a member of the Liberal Party of Australia - that I stood under the Liberal Party banner in the Mitchell electorate, which socialist Labour was supremely confident was its territory and which, Labour believed, no one else had a chance of winning. But I put the truth and the facts to my constituents, and, because they are people of common sense, they did not fall for the blandishments of Labour. The result in the Mitchell electorate was probably the biggest upset of the whole general election. Labour, in defeat, had not even the satisfaction of rationalizing over the position of my name on the ballot-paper. Labour’s socialist representative was beaten fairly and squarely, though his name appeared at the top of the ballot-paper and despite the fact that he was a sitting member, because what he stood for was not in harmony with the wishes of the people, especially the young people.
My constituents know that, as a member of one of the Government parties, I am free to express in the party to which I belong my own personality and my own point of view. They know that I am not to be mentally blindfolded and led along by any outside group. They know, too, that, from time to time in political life, a man, belonging to the party whose philosophy is nearest to his own, has to compromise and abide by the party’s decision. But, in the party to which I belong, a man can continue to express his opinions. My constituents, I am sure, fully appreciate that, on this side of the Parliament, a man’s soul is not in chains. He is not in bondage to some extra-camera body with no responsibilities to any one or to anything other than sectionalism, outmoded philosophies, doubtful affiliations and a peculiar form of emotionalism that passes for thinking.
One of the directions in which I hope from time to time to turn the expression of my views, and in which I hope to see the Government moving during my career in this Parliament, is towards a more, realistic, flexible and equitable system of “financial controls. For twenty years, I was a bank manager at Blacktown, which is in the very heart of my electorate. I am not unaware of the effects on the people, both big and small, of continuing policies of restraint placed exclusively upon banks whilst other forms of lending are relatively free as a breeze. No one would, I hope, quarrel with the aims of the Government to have stability with progress, full employment and high and increasing standards of living. No one could deny that, under a government formed by the parties on this side of the House, Australia has made substantial progress and is currently a country with very high living standards and an enviable reputation throughout the world in the eyes of foreign governments, foreign investors and foreign businessmen. But my contention is that it all could have been so much better had our main institutional sources of finance, the banks, been freed from the artificial restraints imposed upon them, sometimes, one feels, for no other reason than control for control’s sake.
The public has never been able to understand why the most ethical lenders in Australia, the cheapest general lenders in Australia, the largest institutional lenders and the lenders that have been an integral part of the fantastic development of this nation from its very early days should have been so hamstrung and so many people forced into the hands of the new and dearer fringe bankers, whose ethics, whose diversity of lending and whose branch structure are all so much inferior to those of our traditional bankers and who exceed our true banks in only one aspect - the rates of interest that they charge. Why does the Reserve Bank continue to put hobbles on the banking horse while the finance houses horse is free to gallop as fast, and to range as far afield, as he likes?
Are we really content to see an increase in advances of the major trading banks of less than £27,000,000 in the past twelve months, despite an increase of £200,000,000 in deposits, while the hire purchase companies increase their outstandings by double this amount and at rates of interest that are up to three times the rates that the banks charge? When will we realize that artificial restraints exclusively over bank lending do not restrain the total lending in the community but only raise the price of money and add to the risks of inflation? To what set of standards are the Treasury and Reserve Bank working when they permit in just one section of the hire purchase industry an increase that is twice the size of the permitted increase in loans by major trading banks, and then put the screws on the banks so that they will not or cannot lend any more?
The notifiable outstandings of the hirepurchase companies for the year ended January, 1964, rose by £52,000,000; the advances of the major trading banks rose by £26,000,000; so the authorities control the banks. Does the Australian public realize that the fringe bankers in this country have had their period of huge growth only since the banks have been controlled? Is it well known that the banks used to lend 70 to 80 per cent, of their deposits, and at times during the great depression of the 1930’s they lent up to 100 per cent., whereas now the Reserve Bank takes fright if the ratio of advances to deposits gets anywhere near 60 per cent? Why can the banks not be permitted to lend as they used to lend? Does any one really think that bank advances are more inflationary than are the effects of an increase in the activities of the fringe bankers? Do not the fringe bankers, by increasing the velocity of the circulation of money, have at least as inflationary an effect on the economy as would be caused by an increase in bank lending? Of course they do! To make it worse, their rate of interest is up to three times the rate charged by the banks and their lending does not have the same degree of national worthiness as bank lending has.
The net effect of restraint on the nationally operating banks and freedom for the pseudo-banks has been to stimulate inflationary trends, and because of their high interest rates, to raise costs internally in Australia and thus adversely affect our capacity to compete on world markets. The administration of credit policy has certainly been flexible, but, to use a more realistic and descriptive word, it has been remarkably inconsistent. For years it was the policy of the Reserve Bank to discourage the banks from lending for other than short-terms. Bank managers specifically - I was one of them - and the community in general were told that longterm lending was, in the eyes of the monetary authorities, not a function of the trading banks and should be performed by organizations outside the banking system. Warnings of the futility and unreality of this policy were consistently ignored.
Then came the realization that a developing country such as Australia needs developmental capital and longer term loans such as the banks had traditionally provided. The authorities, having by their own policies created a gap in the banking system, set about filling it by creating the Commonwealth Development Bank and a term loan fund specifically for loans of the longer term type. Finance from these sources together totalled about £150,000,000. Lord, how they change their minds! If it was bad ten years ago, why is it good now?
There is another aspect of banking where inconsistency is blatant. This is in the position of the State owned, non-controlled banks. The Rural Bank of New South Wales has for years maintained a ratio of advances to deposits of well over 100 per cent. It is currently about 110 per cent. The ratio of other State banks is even higher. Yet these banks are in full competition with the major, controlled banks whose ratio averages less than 50 per cent, at present and who in less than two months have been forced to contribute over £100,000,000 to the statutory reserve deposit account at the Reserve Bank. Why? So that they will not lend it! This is an indefensible and illogical anomaly.
The authorities hide behind the Constitution and its so-called limitations. I submit that the situation could be corrected without resort to a constitutional amendment by the simple process of allowing flexible interest rates to work in the same way as that doyen of central banks, the Bank of England, does. The Bank of England, riding herd on the British banks, likes to see them with liquidity of upwards of 30 per cent.; yet it does not resort to the iniquitous statutory reserve deposit technique that we have in Australia. It has never called more than 3 per cent, of deposits and when it called that percentage it quickly reversed its decision. The current call position is, I think, 1 per cent., with the banks free to invest their funds within the bounds of .liquidity at economic market rates.
In Australia, on the other hand, we insist on a statutory reserve deposit account of 15i per cent, and a ratio of loans to government securities of 18 per cent. On the 151 per cent., amounting to £330,000,000, the Reserve Bank gives the banks the miserable pittance of threequarters of 1 per cent. At this figure, it does not repay them even the interest cost, which averages over the whole corpus of their funds more than 1 per cent. Almost 40 per cent, of trading bank deposits are interest-bearing deposits, earning, say, 3 per cent. That means that the average cost over all their deposits is at least 1 per cent. The cost of collecting the funds, of course, is additional.
What are the solutions to this paradoxical situation? There seem to be two. The first is to try to bring all non-bank financial intermediaries within banking controls. I would not recommend that course, nor should any freedom-loving Liberal do so. Apart from constitutional difficulties, more controls are not the answer. The second solution is the obvious one, namely, to free the banks from the profit-controlling, iniquitous statutory reserve deposit system, to allow them to lend more at their ethical standards and low rates, and to insist that bond and bank rates be administered in a flexible, resilient fashion, as the Bank of England administers them. Then - and only then - will we get the relatively free flow of competitive forces, will the public be able to borrow at bank rates instead of hire-purchase rates, will internal costs be reduced, will Australia’s capacity to compete on world markets be improved, will the velocity of circulation be lowered and will inflationary forces be retarded. It was not by accident that the rapid growth of fringe banking occurred during the period of restraint on the banks.
So, although this Government, to its credit, has thrown Labour’s nationalization plans where they should be - on the rubbish tip - and has modified to a creditable degree certain other aspects of Labour’s socialization policies, there is still much to be done in the field of banking before it can be said that liberalism is in full flower. I shall certainly work to that end. In saying that, I do not ‘for one moment want any one to get the idea that control over national credit policy should not be a function of this Parliament. In this modern world this Parliament should have the final say, within the Constitution, on monetary matters. I believe that we need a central bank. But we also need a new look at the administrative methods by which Australia is working and the inequities and injustices of banking policy as implemented in the post-war period.
I implore the Government to correct a great evil by freeing the home purchaser who was forced to borrow from hirepurchase companies at rates of interest up to 19 per cent, by making money available to pay off those mortgages. The only justification for a high interest rate is the attendant risk. There has never been any justification for usury, and rates of 14 per cent, and higher for the purchase of homes is usury in its worst form. The flat rate of interest is an abomination which fools the unwary. It should be abolished. All legal documents and advertisements should quote the effective interest rate charged.
– Order! I call the honorable member for East Sydney. I point out to the House that this also will be a maiden speech.
.- In addressing the National Parliament for the first time, I offer my congratulations to Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their re-election to office in this the Twenty-fifth Parliament. During the period in which I have been a member of this House, I have fully appreciated their impartial rulings and control of the chamber. I also congratulate the new members who already have made their maiden speeches in this debate. I sincerely thank the electors of East Sydney for the honour that they have bestowed upon me by electing me as their representative at a by-election and, after a short period, returning me at the general election last November. I pledge myself to do my utmost to be worthy of the confidence reposed in me. It will be my earnest endeavour to give satisfactory representation and service, to the best of my ability. ‘- “
In addressing myself to the Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, I refer first to my predecessor, the late Honorable E. J. Ward - more fondly known as “Eddie”. I am proud, although in many respects sad, to follow in the footsteps of that revered member of the great Australian Labour Party. Eddie Ward represented the people of East Sydney in this Parliament from 1931 until last year. During that time he gave yeoman service to his constituents and the party that he represented. He rose to the rank of Cabinet Minister. He held the portfolios of Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Transport and External Territories under two great Australian Prime Ministers - John Curtin and Ben Chifley - when the existence of Australia was seriously threatened by enemy forces.
His epitaphs are written in the “ Hansard “ of this Parliament. He was courageous in fighting for the things that he believed were right. But many of his greatest deeds are not recorded in any history book. His name and reputation are imprinted in the memories of men, women and children by his untiring and unselfish efforts on their behalf. The almost unprecedented tribute of respect which the people of Sydney paid at Eddie Ward’s funeral clearly demonstrated the degree of their affection for a man whose life was spent as a champion of the worker. As I speak in this chamber to-night, I am sure that the spirit of Eddie Ward is close by and will remain with us for many years to come.
The electorate of East Sydney, which has been represented in this Parliament since federation, is composed of Randwick, Bondi Junction, Woollahra, Waverley, Darlinghurst, Paddington and Surry Hills. Many of its buildings are of early architectural design and remind one of the development of Sydney by our forefathers as it expanded from the shores of Port Jackson. The electorate has a wide variety of mixed industries employing many skilled and unskilled workers. Prominently set in the electorate are three of Sydney’s largest maternity hospitals - the Crown Street Women’s Hospital, St. Margaret’s Hospital for Women and the Royal Hospital for Women. I am also proud that St. Vincent’s Hospital - one of the largest general hospitals in Australia - is situated in my electorate, as are numerous other general and private hospitals.
Thousands of people from all over Australia visit the electorate to attend various sporting arenas and the Royal Easter Show. The people of East Sydney are employed in all walks of life. Many immigrants have been assimilated successfully into the Australian way of life in my electorate. A visit to East Sydney would not be complete unless one visited its famous Centennial Park to admire the beautiful flowers and trees in a semi-bushland setting, yet so close to the city.
The needs and problems of this electorate are comparable with those in many other electorates, and because they are of national importance they should be placed before this House. We have a great number of hospitals which give outstanding service to people all over New South Wales; but because of rising costs they are greatly handicapped by lack of finance. The Governor-General referred to the increase of 33 1/3rd per cent, in Commonwealth medical benefits, which is long overdue and which will assist patients to pay general practitioners. But no increase in the hospital subsidy, which has remained stagnant for many years, was mentioned. We on this side of the House have demanded repeatedly that that subsidy be increased; but the Government repeatedly turns a deaf ear and will not do anything to relieve the financial burdens of these institutions.
Another matter that I wish to place before the House is the failure of the medical and hospital benefit funds to assist contributors who are forced to place near relatives who are suffering from serious illnesses in private hospitals, because the public hospitals cannot accommodate them. These people are denied any recompense from the fund although they are financial members. The funds should be compelled to assist contributors, who at present are forced to find up to £6 a week or more to have their kinsfolk properly treated.
One particular hospital in my electorate which deserves special mention is the Langton Clinic, which is the first of its kind in Australia. It caters specifically for the treatment of alcoholics. One should pause to give thought to the plight of these unfortunate people. There are in Australia to-day approximately 300,000 alcoholics. These afflicted people are not in a position to rehabilitate themselves. It is only the work done by Alcoholics Anonymous in caring for and assisting these sufferers that enables them once more to take their rightful place in the community. I mention this matter of alcoholism because of its effect on the national economy. Each year 25,000,000 man hours are lost through alcoholism. The average absenteeism of alcoholics is 22 days a year. The annual loss to the community because of that absenteeism and because of the cost of psychiatric treatment in institutions amounts to the staggering total of £44,000,000. Such an enormous amount of money would go a long way towards providing better education, better housing and improved hospital facilities in Australia. The Government should give more recognition and support to these special hospitals to enable them to extend their treatment to a greater number of these unfortunate people.
The Australian Labour Party recognizes that education is a national responsibility which demands a national policy. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has at long last decided to appoint a Minister to assist him in relation to education, but will not establish a separate portfolio for this purpose. We on this side of the House, together with the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the Parents and Citizens’ Federation of New South Wales and the Premier of New South Wales have on many occasions requested the federal Government to institute a national inquiry into all levels of education - primary, secondary and teacher training - along the lines of the recent inquiry into Australian universities. The New South Wales Government recognizes the importance of education. Out of a budget of £300,000,000 it will spend £102,000,000 on education. Honorable members must be well aware of the serious overcrowding in classrooms and of the many sub-standard school buildings, not to mention the shortage of teachers. The Labour Party condemns the Government for its consistent refusal to recognize its obligations in the field of education. Facilities still fall far short of student requirements. Australia spends less per head of population on education than do the more advanced Western countries. Japan spends 5.8 per cent, of its national income on education. West Germany spends 4.5 per cent., the United States 4.3 per cent., New Zealand 3.7 per cent., and Britain 3.6 per cent.; but Australia spends only 2.2 per cent, of its national income on education. This situation demands urgent attention by the Government, which should face up to its responsibilities. It should raise the level of education to at least that enjoyed by other nations.
While on the subject of education it is my view that the federal Government should assist in the education of mentally retarded children. In New South Wales special school facilities are available for only 1,500 retarded children in the eight to fifteen years age group out of an estimated total of 10,500 retarded children. These children require the care and understanding of specially trained teachers. The Government should follow the example set by the Swedish Government, which accepts responsibility for educating mentally retarded children, raising their intelligence quotient and training them for suitable employment so that they will not be a burden on the country.
The Government has set up a ministry of housing. This is long overdue. We sincerely hope that the new department will deal effectively with the problems associated with the great housing shortage in Australia. I do not intend to give details of the number of people on the waiting lists of the various State housing commissions. I am sure that every honorable member is well aware of the situation in this regard.
In his Speech the Governor-General stated that Australia intends to increase its migrant intake from Britain by a further 10,000 persons. The Labour Party is not opposed to an increase in the number of migrants coming to this country but we on this side of the chamber are concerned about the shortage of suitable accommodation for them. How many disgruntled migrants have left Australia and returned home because they failed to find a suitable home here? The Government should build homes for these people instead of increasing the housing problem of the States.
In his policy speech during the last elections the Prime Minister recognized the importance of assisting people to buy homes by offering to give them £1 for every £3 saved, but, of course, there were strings attached to the offer. Persons qualifying for the housing subsidy must be under 36 years of age at the time they enter into a contract to build or to buy a home and the home must not cost more than £7,000, including land. The fact that one of the partners to a marriage is more than 36 years of age at the time of entering into the contract will not disqualify the savings of the partner who is under 36 years of age. But what about couples both of whom are over 36 years of age? Why should there be any distinction? They also should be granted a subsidy to assist them to purchase a home. People over 36 years of age normally have an expectancy of up to 30 years’ working life during which time they will pay their normal taxes. Surely they are just as entitled to financial assistance to obtain a home as are younger people.
I would like to refer now to the proposal designed to improve the availability of loans on reasonable terms from private sources for the purchase or construction of a home or the discharge of an existing mortgage. The proposal may look good on paper, but a borrower still must obtain money from the loan sharks in order to buy or build a home. The interest rates that he will pay on that money are still extremely high. Why does the Government not set up its own housing finance department to lend money to the home buyer at interest rates similar to those applying to persons obtaining loans through the War Service Homes Division? Such action on the part of the Government would greatly assist the home buyer and would help to overcome the housing shortage.
Another matter that causes me considerable concern is the problem of our senior citizens, many of whom live under deplorable conditions of poverty. Honorable members opposite may doubt that such poverty could exist in a land which they describe as a land of prosperity. Lyndon B. Johnson, the President of the United States of America, when addressing Congress on 8th January this year, said that poverty in that country is a national problem. I think all honorable members will agree that it is indeed difficult to visualize poverty existing iri ‘.the world’s’ richest nation. Australia has the same problem. Should any honorable member have any doubt about it I would be only too pleased to arrange a tour of my own electorate as a means of revealing this stark fact. Further evidence of the poverty in Australia can be obtained by consulting various charitable organizations established in Sydney for the purpose of assisting these unfortunate people.
This Government has illustrated its lack of concern about the plight of our aged citizens. It gives little thought to how these unfortunates exist on their meagre pensions. They only exist because they are compelled to pay high rents for inadequate accommodation and then to feed and clothe themselves on what is left over. Most of them are proud Australians who do not want charity, but they have not been able to afford a home of their own as the great majority of them went through the depression years and have never recovered sufficiently to purchase a home for their old age. They have made their contribution to the development of this country. Their pension is not a charity but an inherent right. They are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
The New South Wales Housing Commission is doing more than its share for these people. It has built over 1,000 units designed specially to meet their particular needs. Charitable and church organizations, with the assistance of the subsidy provided in the Commonwealth Aged Persons Homes Act, have been able to build splendid accommodation for aged persons in depressed circumstances. In 1956 the Commonwealth Government withdrew the subsidy that it was granting to the States for the construction of special units for pensioners. Although repeated requests have been made by all States, four of which are controlled by Liberal governments, for the return of this subsidy, or even for the matching grant of £2 for £1 provided in the Aged Persons Homes Act, the Government has refused to accede to them. I hope that the new Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) will take heed of the plight of these people.
In conclusion let me make special mention of the raw deal that is handed out to motorists as exemplified by this Government’s constant refusal to return to the States the whole of the petrol tax that it collects. The Australian Labour Party
Opposition fully realizes that to develop Australia properly we first must look to the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing ones. This financial year Commonwealth revenue will benefit to the extent of £150,600,000 from petrol tax, customs duties on imports of motor vehicles and parts and sales tax, but only £54,000,000 will be returned to the States. The remaining £96,600,000 would play a major role in providing the improved transport facilities so essential to our national economy.
Let me put this to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker: Although the Opposition received a reverse on 30th November last, the people of Australia can rest assured that we shall press the Government on every possible occasion to maintain full employment, prosperity and progress.
.- At the outset let me congratulate the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) on his maiden speech. Those of us who knew his predecessor in this Parliament agree that the present honorable member follows an extremely valiant member of his party whose speeches, in my opinion, were always most interesting although I did not always agree with what he said. If the new representative of the electorate of East Sydney is one-half as good as his predecessor was I am sure that he will cause us on this side of the House a fair amount of worry.
Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pass on to Mr. Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees my congratulations on their reelection? I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his deputy, Mr. Whitlam, on their re-election to their respective offices. Finally, let me say to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) how proud we are of the wonderful victory that their joint leadership gave to the Liberal and Country Parties. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s leadership was a major contributing factor to the wonderful victory that we enjoyed but we should not lose sight of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister contributed a tremendous amount towards victory in the wonderful support that he attracted from the people of Australia. There is no doubt that he is held in the highest regard by representatives and persons engaged in primary industries as well as by leading figures in secondary industries.
The maiden speeches which have been made by the new members have been of an exceptionally high standard. We of the Country Party are particularly pleased at the calibre of the new members who have taken the place of honorable members who gave wonderful service to the party and the new members who were successful in capturing electorates from the Opposition. To win new seats is always a matter for a great deal of pleasure in any party. I wish all new members of our party well in their careers in this Parliament.
– What about Doug. Anthony?
– I thank the honorable member for Scullin for reminding me of a very important point. I congratulate the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) on their promotion to the Ministry. I know I speak for all members of my party when I say that we are confident that the new Ministers will do a very fine job during their term of office.
Every paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contains important facts. It covers a great many subjects and underlines the difficulty of allotting priorities for the use of the funds that are available to the Commonwealth Government during any one year or in the life of any one parliament. There is no question that the funds available must be governed by our productivity and our general economic prosperity and that those funds must be allocated in the order of priority upon which the Government decides. This is often a very difficult task, but I am sure that the Government’s future programme will add to the development of fields in which we have been engaged already and will enable us to enter new fields in which, I have felt for a long time, the Government should be taking a more active interest. I refer particularly to housing and education. I am very pleased to see that the Government has seen fit to co-operate with the States in a more positive way on these two vital matters. As we have heard in this chamber over the last ten days the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement is to,, be amended and ratified for a further five’ years. ‘ Those of us who reside in country areas are extremely concerned that the provision that 40 per cent, of the moneys allocated under the agreement shall be spent on rural roads shall be retained. It can be said that some unclassified roads are better than the main roads, but this applies only in very isolated areas. In the main there are still thousands of miles of unclassified roads that need urgent attention in order to facilitate transport for the people who are producing the primary products which are so important to our internal development. I hope the Government will give long and serious consideration before deciding to change the allocation of road funds. A deputation, which has resulted from the energy and persistence of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), is to meet the responsible Minister next Tuesday. I hope the deputation puts forward its case with clarity and determination.
I was pleased to see in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that it is the opinion of the Government that scientific research in rural industries is of the utmost importance, rural industries is of the utmost importance, honorable members have been pressing the Government to allocate more funds to the States to enable them to appoint more ag[ 1cultural and veterinary scientists, agronomists and so on, and to encourage more people to undertake these occupations as careers. I think it will be a wonderful day when every major country town in Australia has a farm expert who is available to give the latest scientific advice and information to the farmers residing in the surrounding districts.
The Speech reveals also that the Government intends to introduce what it calls restrictive trade practices legislation. I do not think the words “restrictive trade practices “ indicate the true nature or purpose of the proposed legislation. I trust that in framing the measure the Prime Minister will bear in mind his assurance that its provisions will protect the small traders. That assurance by the Prime Minister was confirmed by the then Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) a few days before the elections. He said that the interests of the small traders would be safeguarded so far as possible. We all know, that it is not possible to give, the small businessman com plete protection from competition from large organizations, but provisions such as those that have been introduced by some State governments could be brought in to enable the small trader to compete more favorably with large chain store organizations and emporiums.
There is no doubt that the small trader in Australia is in serious danger. To cite just one figure that I recall, within the last four years 2,053 grocers have gone out of business. This is only one industry. Thousands of other small businessmen have also been forced out of business by methods of salesmanship which, in my opinion, constitute unfair competition. This is all I shall say on the subject at the moment, but I shall say more about it in the future.
I hope that the federal Government will give priority to the establishment of a national college of industrial design in Australia. No mention was made of this in the Governor-General’s Speech. Colleges of industrial design are comparatively new although such a college was started in Germany in about 1927. It was not until about 1937 that the United States of America established a college and about 1947 that the United Kingdom established one. Industrial design is an extremely technical subject and one on which I am not qualified to speak expertly, but I believe that if the scope and importance of such a college were investigated it would be realized just how important its establishment would be to Australia. I know that the Government has taken some steps towards the establishment of a college, and I hope that it will give a high priority to the project within the next two or three years.
I should like to refer now to a subject of great national importance. I refer to the redistribution of electorates throughout Australia, which has been mentioned quite a lot in the last ten days and has concerned this Parliament for the past eighteen months. I wish to deal first with the catch phrase “ one vote, one value “, which has been used in particular by the Opposition, but also by honorable members on the Government side. For honorable members opposite to say that the Labour Party believes in the principle of one vote, one value is sheer hypocrisy. Before I refer to the local scene I remind honorable members that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), said quite rightly in answer to a question a couple of days ago that nowhere in the world is the principle of one vote one value implemented. In fact, it would be impossible to implement such a scheme unless the redistribution were conducted on the day before the election. In the United Kingdom, the United States and in many other countries there is a wide divergence in the number of voters.
Coming now to the local scene, I shall take New South Wales as an example. That State has had a Labour government for many years, and that administration claims to support the principle of one vote, one value. But let us look at some of the figures, which I shall give approximately. The electorate of Blacktown has 29,000 electors, Bathurst 17,000, and Casino 14,000. Of course, the former representative of Casino - now the honorable member for Cowper in this chamber - could have represented twice that number. Canterbury has 24,000 electors, Collaroy 27,000, Goulburn 17,000, and Lismore 17,000. That is the result under the administration of a party that says its policy is one vote one value. The history of the other States is well known. In South Australia there is a terrific difference between the numbers of electors in the various electorates. In Western Australia the position is exactly the same. People associated with the coalition government in that State should not say that their party’s policy is one vote one value when in one electorate there are 11,000 voters and in another electorate there are 1,700 voters.
Another word used in relation to this matter is gerrymander. I am reluctant to comment on this point after the Prime Minister’s masterly exposition earlier tonight. However, I wish to quote an editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 27th February last, dealing with the proposals referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The editorial states -
The proposed amendment to section 19 of the former act does not confirm the fears of those who have been talking in their sleep of a terrible gerrymander about to emerge on the federal scene. … It is therefore perfectly fair and proper that the principle of one vote one value, however acceptable in theory, should not be allowed to frustrate the fruitful ordering of the rural/urban political relationship in this country. Mr. McEwen’s party stands to benefit from the promised legislation, but not necessarily so, for rural interests can be represented by men of any party who can establish their claim to do so. The main fact, however, is that by insisting on a more fitting electoral regard for the rural communities Mr. McEwen has done well by the nation as a whole.
With those sentiments I heartily agree.
I will deal very quickly with the proposed alterations. It is common sense that the Representation Act must be amended in order that we do not lose seats or that the numbers in the House are not reduced. It is necessary to amend section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act because the results of every redistribution - particularly the last proposal - have shown that the commissioners who draw up the boundaries need more definite guidance. There is no doubt that they are working under difficulties. The outstanding difficulty is that the numbers in this House are tied to the Senate. There could be an argument on the meaning of the words “ as nearly as practicable “. The word “ practicable “, according to one dictionary, means feasible; and “ feasible “ means, “ reasonably capable of being used “. There could be an interpretation that you do not need to have the number of members of the House of Representatives so closely related to the number of senators as people seem to think. That is not the real limiting factor. The limiting factor is the formula by which the number of members of this House is calculated.
With the proposed amendment of the Representation Act we will have 126 members under this formula representing a population of about 11,000,000 people. I estimate on figures supplied to me that In 1970 the population of Australia will be 12,752,154 people. If the same formula is used, I calculate there will be 126 members in the House of Representatives. New South Wales will lose one seat in 1970, and the other States will retain their representation. This will be the situation when the population will have increased by 5,000,000 since 1949 when there were 123 members. This will mean that fee re will be only three more members in the House of Representatives, although the population will have increased by 5,000,000 during the preceding 21 years.
I hope that the Prime Minister and his advisers will take these points into consideration. As the result of the interpretation of the act adopted by the commissioners country people will suffer. Instead of New South Wales having fourteen seats in country areas as at present, the number will be reduced in 1970 to ten. The same applies in Victoria where there are now thirteen rural seats, including those incorporating Morwell and Geelong, and in 1970 there will be only ten rural seats. Country people will continue to lose representation if something is not done to amend the formula. I repeat that the subject of redistribution has been before the House for the last fifteen months or so.
– For the last ten years.
– I am talking about the present redistribution proposals. What has amazed me is the complete silence on this matter of country members of all parties except the Country Party. I would like to hear country members on both sides of the House say what they think about the possibility of large country areas losing their voices in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Galvin) adjourned.
– I have received a message from the Senate concurring in the reconstitution of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications and agreeing that the resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Barnes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Last Thursday in this Parliament the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) asked for leave to make a statement on the subjectmatter of the meat agreement with the
United States of America. The honorable gentleman presented the following papers: -
United States-Australian Meat Marketing Arrangements - Exchange of notes between representatives of the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States forming an agreement between those Governments.
Meat Export Marketing- Ministerial Statement, 27th February, 1964 -
The Minister moved that the House take note of the papers and in explanation of the agreement made a fairly comprehensive statement, as he usually does in such circumstances. He outlined the benefits of this agreement. He pointed out that for a period of three years we were assured of security, as he termed it, in that quotas of about 250,000 tons had been arranged for three successive years and that in 1966 other arrangements would probably be made for a similar type of agreement. He quite rightly pointed out that the volume of our trade with the United States of America had grown from a comparatively small figure to the present figure of £80,000,000 a year, and he also rightly said that an arrangement of that character was of very great importance and very great value to the economy of this country. He told us that if we had not secured something of this sort the prospects of securing alternative markets were not very good.
Having told us of the arrangement for the three years and of his hopes for a subsequent arrangement, one would have thought that, in fairness to the primary producers of this country and others vitally concerned with the meat trade, the Minister would have been a little more frank and told the House, as well as the press, including the country press, of the catch or disadvantage that is undoubtedly connected with the arrangement or agreement. That catch is that at the end of twelve months either party may give notice of intention to terminate the arrangement after the expiration of 180 days.
– Order! I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that this matter is the subject of item No. 3 on the notice-paper, and I suggest that he keep that fact in mind when speaking during the adjournment debate.
– I shall do that, Mr. Speaker. I am only making a plea for frankness. I am not depreciating in any way the value of the agreement that has been secured, but I do think the people ought to know that there is a catch in it if certain circumstances arise. For instance, if there is a continuation of the present agitation by the cattlemen in America, which is now assuming such great proportions that in the State of Nebraska a boycott has been imposed on Australian meat products, while the cattlemen in other American States are up in arms too, then, the pressure from these cattlemen on the politicians of America might become severe enough to force the American Administration to exercise its right and give 180 days notice. So that before two years have expired the so-called security and advantages to the Australian meat-producing industry which the Minister talked about could vanish almost overnight. I merely mention this subject. I know the difficulties the Minister has encouraged, but I think that the Australian primary producers, the city press and the country press should know that there are dangers attached to this particularly valuable trade with the United States of America.
To-day, when the Minister was speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, he enlarged once again on the value of this meat agreement. I interjected and said, “Yes, but this agreement is terminable on 180 days’ notice by either party “. The honorable gentleman brushed that remark aside with a comment which I did not catch, indicating that what I suggested was not correct, and he endeavoured to make the House believe that this notice provision would not be operable for a long time to come. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, is a country man. No doubt he knows what is in the agreement. No doubt he has seen the actual phraseology relating to the exchange of notice. The relevant paragraph reads -
Either Government may terminate this Agreement, effective at the end of a calendar year, by written notice given at least 180 days prior to the end of that calendar year.
We should be told not only of the virtues of the agreement but also of the possible difficulties that may lie ahead. I hope they do not lie ahead. I leave it at that.
– The only point I want to make in answer to the statement made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) did not say that the honorable member was not correct. I was here at the time. When the honorable member for Lalor said that there was six months’ notice either way, the Minister said, “Yes, that is right, but you are not going to make any political points out of that “.
– He did not say that. Just read “ Hansard “.
– Order! The honorable member has spoken.
– It is quite apparent that the Labour Party is dissatisfied with the fact that we have been successful in negotiating a very valuable agreement. With all his political experience, the honorable member for Lalor ought to know that in most agreements there is what one might call an escape clause. We had a similar understanding in the first three-year agreement we had with Japan in 1957, but it was not availed of, and I remind the House that the honorable member and his party were not in favour of that agreement. Because it was so successful, and because our trade with Japan increased, we have renewed our agreement with that great country. Are we to take it that a great nation like the United States of America is not a nation of its word? Any sensible nation, Australia included, will have regard for its future trade and, if extraordinary circumstances arise which demand a review of the agreement, that nation might give notice of termination in order that it might review the agreement. That is only a normal business transaction.
Mr. Speaker’s ruling forbids my dealing frankly with the whole agreement, but the matter is on the business sheet and I am prepared to deal fully with it when it comes up for discussion. I repeat that my understanding was that the Minister said to the honorable member for Lalor, “ Yes, that is right, but you are not going to make any political points out of that”.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640305_reps_25_hor41/>.