25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government immediately grant a basic pension rate of £8 10s. per week, formulate a national housing plan for low rental homes for pensioners and provide all pensioners within the permissible income with the medical entitlement card.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question without notice, but I think he is expecting it. Is he aware that the chairman of directors of Universal Telecasters Queensland Limited disclosed this morning that the Ansett organization bad acquired about 49 per cent, of the shareholding in his company in stock exchange transactions, after Ansett had made application for the licence and had been refused it? Has the Minister received the report on the transactions that he sought from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? If so, does it confirm that Ansett is now the biggest shareholder and is in a position to dominate this Queensland company? In view of this development, does the Minister still intend to proceed with the issue of the licence for the third Brisbane commercial station to the company that was named by the board and approved by the Government? More importantly, does he propose to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to destroy the monopoly control of television in this country and prevent the continuing defiance of existing legislation by Ansett and other greedy, unscrupulous interests?
– It is a fact that I have been notified of the information given by the chairman of directors of Universal Telecasters Queensland Limited, in Brisbane, relating to the purchase of shares by the Ansett interests. Only this morning, I have received the report made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but I have not yet had an opportunity to read it. As promised yesterday, I shall make a statement when I have read the report and noted what is in it. The other matters raised by the honorable member are matters for me and this Parliament to deal with at some time in the future if necessary.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for the Army. I have received a number of inquiries from people in the United Kingdom who wish to transfer from the British forces to the Australian Army and from others who wish to enlist in the Australian Army. I ask: Is information on the procedure required available at Australia House in London? If so, would it be advisable to give publicity to the arrangements that exist?
– There is no arrangement for direct transfer from the British Army to the Australian Army. However, we welcome applications for enlistment. Applications can be lodged in the United Kingdom and all the preliminaries can be completed there. I will be only too glad to explore the possibility of giving increased publicity to the fact that we welcome applications for enlistment in the United Kingdom. I might say that last week, when I visited the Special Air Services Company in Perth, I found that quite a high proportion of the members, particularly of the senior non-commissioned officers, of the unit, which is one of the crack units of the Australian Army, are from the United Kingdom.
– I wish to direct my question to the Attorney-General, but as I do not see him in his place, I shall address it to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman seen reports that prominent personalities of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, led by the Honorable H. D. Ahern, M.L.C., are circulating a booklet which is bitterly critical of the proposed restrictive trade practices legislation? Will he give an assurance that he will not yield to the bitter critics within his own party and will bring down a measure embodying the principles laid down by the Minister for External Affairs when he was AttorneyGeneral?
– I rather think that the honorable member puts the question to me as the head of the Government because it concerns a matter of general policy. I have seen the newspaper report. We will continue to treat all criticisms on their merits and not attach undue importance or value to one over another.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to the seagull menace at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) airport. Has any progress been made in devising a method of diminishing this air hazard and so avoiding unfortunate incidents such as those that happened at Kingsford-Smith airport yesterday? Has the Government yet been able to influence the Government of New South Wales to use its good offices to induce local municipal authorities to transfer the garbage area from the perimeter of the airport to a less dangerous location?
– I told the House a fortnight ago, when I was answering a similar question, that I understood that air navigation regulations were to be altered so as to make it an offence for any person to dump rubbish or food refuse within a certain distance of an aerodrome. I am not certain whether the amendment to the regulations has been made, but if it has not it will be made very shortly. We are hopeful that this action will improve the situation at KingsfordSmith airport. If any demonstration were required of the need for this action, I am sure the two incidents yesterday, when an Alitalia Airlines DC-8 and a Qantas Empire Airways Boeing 707 each struck a large number of seagulls, were sufficient.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has the dispute between the management of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the airline’s pilots been settled? If it has, are the terms of settlement being carried out by bow parties? Does the Minister con sider that the pilots have been reasonable and co-operative in their dealings with the management of Qantas and that the management on the other hand has been intolerant and too demanding?
– Already the mediator in the dispute has recommended terms for an interim settlement pending a decision on flight fatigue under Australian conditions. The honorable member will remember that I referred to this matter in the House a few days ago. The mediator has also stated that if any outstanding differences of opinion are not resolved by the discussions and the parties desire further mediation, they can take action to re-open the matter.
Honorable members will agree that Qantas is one of the world’s very great airlines. Not only all members of Parliament but all Australians would like to see the closest co-operation and the maximum goodwill between management and pilots. As I have said, if there are any outstanding differences of opinion - I understand there is one about the interpretation of time off after a flight overseas - they may well be referred to the mediator as soon as he returns from his visit overseas. As regards the balance of the honorable gentleman’s question, I think he will realize that while mediation is still available, no good purpose is served by either party publicly expressing opinions or stating publicly its views about the issue. The mediator is there to be used. I hope that in the interests of Qantas and the Australian community his good offices will be used.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that sawmillers at the port of Stanley on the northwest coast of Tasmania are experiencing difficulty in obtaining regular shipping to lift their consignments of timber to mainland markets? Will the Minister consider recommending to the shipping companies that space be reserved for 166,000 super, feet of timber each week from the port of Stanley? Will the Minister consider also the need for increased shipping to all ports on the north-west coast of the island?
– This question has, in substance, been asked previously in the House in recent times. The Government is well aware of the problem. There is a shortage of shipping. Labour shortages and industrial troubles have made it difficult to lift all the timber that is required to be lifted, but the Australian National Line is doing its best to meet the situation. As I have already told the House, new ships will come into service in the near future and should help to alleviate the position.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a further question about the future of country wool selling centres, especially Goulburn. Has the Minister seen the reported statement by the deputy chairman of the Australian Wool Board that the board is examining the adequacy of country centres and is warning that no major capital expenditure should be undertaken in those centres until the board has made its final recommendation? As this statement is in conflict with the Minister’s reply to my question last week in which he said that the marketing investigations of the board do not affect country wool selling centres and that their future is entirely a matter for the State Governments, will he now make a comprehensive statement to clarify the position ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member, but the marketing committee that has been appointed under the relevant act is investigating all aspects of marketing, including the adequacy and economics of wool marketing centres. That statement is not a contradiction of anything I said earlier. That committee will report to the Australian Wool Board. I point out to the honorable member that the Wool Industry Act does not give the board any power to deal with wool marketing centres. The board will make recommendations to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I also point out that the conference has no power to deal with wool marketing centres. That power does not reside in the Commonwealth; it resides in the State Governments.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Although I was very impressed by the answer given by the Minister for the Army in relation to the Special Air Services company, I remind the Minister for Defence that, in reply to a question that I asked him on 26th February of this year about the shortage of officers in the defence services, he stated -
I am hoping that in the course of the next few weeks I will be able to make a submission on this matter.
Can the Minister inform the House of the present position regarding that submission and when it will be made to the House?
– During the last few weeks very intensive work on this subject has been carried on between the departments primarily concerned. That work is still proceeding.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Navy. Are floating docks of similar design to the A. F.D.I 7 which at present is lying in the Captain Cook Dock usually efficient for at least 40 years? Was the floating dock that is now in use at the State Dockyard, Newcastle, built in 1929, and is that dock still working and docking ships to its designed capacity? What was the condition of the A.F.D.17 when it was taken over from the Admiralty in 1947, only five years after it was constructed? If, at that date, it was in a reasonable condition, why has it not been maintained correctly? On the other hand if it was in need of maintenance in 1947, why was not the necessary maintenance carried out? Why was that valuable piece of equipment allowed to rust away in fifteen years, compared with the normal effective working life of other docks, namely 40 years?
– Order! The honorable member’s question is far too long. I ask him to direct his question.
– In the event of a war, has the Royal Australian Navy any similar dock which could be towed to advanced areas of operations to carry out running repairs, which was the war-time work of the A.F.D.17?
– I think the honorable member has a mixture of fact and fiction in his questions. The answers to some of them will be given in reply to a question that has been put on the notice-paper by the honorable member for Batman. In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I say that I stated in the
House that the dock about which he is expressing great concern could not be used at an advanced base by the ships that are operated by the Royal Australian Navy, anyway. If he will take his mind back to the time when it was put up for sale by the Admiralty, he should remember that all State instrumentalities were offered it, and they refused it. They had no use for it and therefore did not want to buy it. Honorable members opposite are interjecting. I am not here to engage in an argument with them. I am attempting to give an answer to a question that was far too long. If the honorable member for Newcastle is not satisfied with that answer, and puts his question on the notice-paper he will get an answer.
– Can’t you answer it?
– I realize that I do not possess the very high intelligence possessed by the honorable member for Oxley. If the honorable member for Newcastle will pursue his question by putting it on the notice-paper, he. will receive the answer that he requires.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. By way of explanation, I say that this morning the Government announced that it had arranged a fall in the price of tetracycline drugs which will save the people of Australia £500,000 annually. Although it would appear that general congratulations should be in order, the president of the New South Wales branch of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild, Mr. Pinerua, said that if the price of drugs generally dropped too low chemists would have to demand higher dispensing fees. I now ask the Minister: First, does the Government intend to recognize any lower limit below which the price of drugs will not be reduced? Secondly, has the Minister any comment to make on the somewhat surprising statement by Mr. Pinerua?
– Order! Any comment by the Minister would be out of order.
– It was pleasing to learn of the further reduction in the price of this very valuable drug, which has brought about a great saving not only to the Commonwealth but to the Australian people as well.
I understand that following this third announcement of a reduction in drug prices during this financial year the total saving to the Commonwealth in a full year will be approximately £2,000,000. That is very satisfactory. As to the request to establish a base price for drugs, this is a matter upon which I am not competent to comment. I shall refer it to my colleague, the Minister for Health. In relation to the comment by the president of the New South Wales branch of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, I find it very hard to follow that approach to the matter because my understanding is that fees and other payments are on a fixed basis and that a variation in the prices of drugs will not affect the overall income of pharmacists. However, I shall refer that aspect also to the Minister for Health to see whether any further information is available.
– Has the Treasurer yet considered the request for the pay and allowances of personnel of the Citizen Military Forces to be exempted from income tax? If not, will he give favorable consideration to this matter when preparing the next Budget? I could elaborate on this matter, but I am sure that the Treasurer already knows all the facts.
– I can assure the honorable member that 1 and my predecessor have given this matter a good deal of consideration over a period of yearsAs is the practice when the Budget is being prepared, requests for taxation relief in one form or another will be considered with the many hundreds of other similar requests that are made to us.
– Can the Minister for the Navy state whether the facilities which were offered to counsel appearing before the royal commission in Sydney into the “ Voyager “ disaster to go to sea, were also offered to the gentlemen of the press reporting the proceedings of the commission?
– The facilities were not offered, although a request was received from the press for a party of some proportions to accompany counsel. I declined to give the permission sought, because the exercise was being carried out to clear up in the minds of counsel certain factors associated with the collision. I took the view that this was not a matter of general interest to the public. Other factors were also involved. The pressmen could not have been on the bridge or in the communications room because of security factors, and this would have been extremely inconvenient for them. In the circumstances I thought it advisable not to accede to the request. However, the pressmen were given permission to interview the people concerned in the exercise if they wished to do so, and it was up to those people to give any information to the press that they wished to give.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether the Government has had an explicit and specific assurance from the United States authorities that under the Anzus Treaty America will be obligated automatically to come to Australia’s assistance if any attack is made on our forces in Malaysia? If no such assurance has been given, does this mean that the Government believes that under the treaty the United States has given Australia a blank cheque, underwriting any decision the Government may make as to what it considers to be appropriate defensive action in the context of the strained relations in this area? Has there been any specific United States official endorsement of Australia’s recent action in supplying arms and personnel to Malaysia?
– Yesterday I answered questions about this treaty and pointed out its strength. I do not know whether the honorable member is implying that Australia wants a better assurance than that treaty, though that is what the question appears to me to suggest. The Government is content with the treaty and is not uncertain as to its meaning. Let me add that the treaty has been through the American congress, so constitutional requirements to that extent have been complied with.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Industry read a report in the “Financial Review” of 21st April headed, “ Australia * Lacks Courage ‘. Japanese Economist’s Blast at Industry “, and listing a number of points of criticism concerning what is evidently considered an unduly small volume of Australian purchases of Japanese goods? Can the Minister give the House actual figures for imports from and exports to Japan, and has he any other information concerning trade with Japan that would be of interest to honorable members?
– I have seen a report of observations on, and, I suppose, criticism of, Australian enterprise by a Japanese economist who has recently been in this country. It did not move me very much. I have no doubt that the economies of many industries are related to the dimensions and scale of those industries. Many Japanese manufacturing industries are more economical than similar Australian industries because they produce a vast volume of goods. That is understandable. On the other hand, it is clearly understood by the Japanese that the economies of our agricultural and pastoral industries, which are conducted on a very large scale, leave theirs for dead. So we break even at that point.
Part of the report is to the effect that there is an untenable disparity in the balance of trade between the two countries. I do not accept this. I have pointed out to the Japanese Government and the Japanese business community that it is not to be expected that a country of 11,000,000 people, buying principally goods which are manufactured in competition with our own enterprises, will buy goods of the same value as will a country of about 90,000,000 people, buying principally foodstuffs or raw materials for their industries which create employment rather than reduce the level of employment. I have pointed this out. I have also made another point and, in this regard, I shall give the House the figures that I used when I was in Japan six or seven months ago. They relate to per capita purchases, and I regard this approach as a fair test. The figures I cited were for the year 1962-63, in which Australians bought 4,800 yen worth of Japanese goods per head of population, while the Japanese bought 1,500 yen worth of goods from Australia per head of population. Translated into Australian currency, we bought in .hat year £6 worth of Japanese goods per head, while the Japanese bought £1 17s. 6d. worth of Australian goods per head. This, I think, is a pretty rational state of affairs arid is pretty much to the credit of Australia.
– Four weeks ago the Minister for Territories stated that he had received the report of the Commission on Higher Education in Papua and New Guinea. I ask him whether he proposes to keep the report confidential, as his predecessor did with reports such as the Derham report on the administration of justice in New Guinea and the Rose report on pastoral development in the Territory, or whether he will table it as the Prime Minister has tabled the Murray committee’s report on universities in Australia and the reports of the Australian Universities Commission, and so enable the House to debate the extension of educational opportunities to the Territory.
– I have the report under consideration at the present time. As yet, I have not made a decision on its ultimate destination.
– Can the Minister for the Army advise me of the approximate strength of the school cadet corps throughout Australia? Can any secondary school establish a unit, or is that restricted to selected schools? Can cadets, on leaving school, go straight into the Citizen Military Forces or the Australian Regular Army? If so, is this opportunity to continue the military training commenced in the cadet corps being availed of in a measure substantially beneficial to our defence organization?
– The ceiling on the strength of the school cadet corps in Australia is currently 39,000 members. That makes it impossible for every secondary school that wants a cadet corps unit to have one. I point out, however, that a list of secondary schools which have fiveyear courses and which desire to have cadet corps units is kept at the Command headquarters in each State, for use against the day, if ever, when the ceiling is raised. If that happens, the list will be used to determine the order of priority in which cadet corps units will be allotted to applicant schools.
The age of entry into the Citizen Military Forces is seventeen years. Therefore, if a cadet is seventeen years of age when he leaves school, he can go straight into the C.M.F. The last part of the honorable member’s question relates to recruitment for the Army. The school cadet corps provides a very large percentage of the entrants to the Royal Military College at Duntroon, but school cadet training has had no observable effect upon the numbers entering either the Australian Regular Army or the Citizen Military Forces.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation table in this House for the perusal of honorable members the report of the select committee that inquired into section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which relates to the onus of proof. If not, will he give his reasons for not doing so, or has the Government something to hide?
– No select committee has been set up to inquire into section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Therefore, there is no report to table.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. How many high schools have requested school cadet corps units in recent years? Is not the number of high schools requesting such units increasing? Instead of maintaining the present system, under which only the longer-established high schools are permitted to have school cadet corps units, would it not be much more equitable if each high school were given a quota?
– I shall be only too glad to give attention to the specific suggestion made by the honorable member, but I should add, in relation to both his question and that asked by the honorable member for Warringah, that the principal reason for placing a ceiling on the strength of the school cadet corps is the number of Australian Regular Army personnel required to service the corps. The quality of cadet training depends to a great extent on the assistance received from the Australian Regular Army. If the cadet corps is to fulfil its main function of creating an interest in the Army so that cadets will be induced to join either the Citizen Military Forces or the Australian Regular Army, the training given must be good. It would do no good just to lift the ceiling, without providing an adequate standard of training. The only result then would be to completely brown-off any interest the cadets might have in continuing to serve in the Army.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a report that the Canadian Government is endeavouring to recruit skilled migrants from Asian countries? Has any similar action been thought of in this country? Is it possible that some of the tradesmen likely to be attracted to Canada will have been trained with aid provided under the Colombo Plan and that aid provided by this Government will result in migrants going to Canada from Asia instead of staying in their own countries and helping raise the standards of living there7
– I think the honorable gentleman’s question answers itself in its last part. I do not think that any of the Asian countries can afford to lose people who have been trained for skilled occupations by their own countries, by Australia or by any of the other Colombo Plan countries. Whilst I have not seen a report on the Canadian activities I can say with certainty that the Government, and certainly my department, would not welcome approaches by Australian firms to recruit skilled personnel in South-East Asian countries. In reply to the last part of the question, I will look further into this problem. If we train, in Australia, South-East Asian personnel for skilled occupations we would like them to remain in their own countries after they have returned there so that they can make a contribution to the development of their own countries and to the development of the standards of living of their own people.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Trade and Industry, is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera. The Minister gave some interesting statistics in regard to trade with Japan, with which country we have a favorable balance. Can he now give a report on the discussions that he had in Geneva recently insofar as they touch on our balances of trade with the United Kingdom and the United States of America, which are the opposite of our position in relation to trade with Japan? Our unfavorable balances with both of those countries, including invisibles, have meant in the last fourteen years a £1,800,000,000 deficit with the United Kingdom and a £1,300,000,000 deficit with the United States of America. Can the Minister give us something definite in regard to his round-table talks .at Geneva?
– The honorable member referred to the talks at Geneva from which I have recently returned. Those particular balance-of-trade statistics did not come into these discussions at all.
– You have them at your fingertips in respect of Japan, so why not for the United States of America and the United Kingdom?
– I do not happen to have them at my fingertips, but I have read the criticism made by a Japanese economist. I shall treat the honorable member’s question as if it were on notice. I shall compile the statistical reply to his question and supply it as an answer to a question on notice.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Trade and Industry, concerns the marketing of wine. By way of brief explanation may I say that I hold in my hand a wine list of the oldest wine house in London. In the list of Commonwealth wines mention is made of two Australian wines, one of which is called Australian Light Ruby. I ask the Minister : Does he know this Ruby? I further ask: Whilst Ruby may have a charming body and many taking ways, would he see whether a more distinctive Australian name could be found for what is a most agreeable little being?
– Unhappily, Mr. Speaker, I am not able to give the honorable member any information, other than to say that the wine trade is conducted by commercial interests. There is a general supervision of this trade by the Australian Wine Board under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, but the names attached to Australian wines are decided by those who sell them. We presume that the sellers are guided by the commercial results that they expect.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I preface the question by mentioning that the Anzus Treaty states that each party will act to meet the common danger if one of the parties is attacked. Would an attack by Indonesia on Australian troops stationed in the Borneo territories under the direct control of the Malaysian Government, and fighting for Malaysia, which is itself not a parry to the treaty, be regarded as an attack on Australia as one of the parties, and mean the involvement of America?
– This treaty is expressed in singularly plain language. It does not need any glosses or interpretations. As the Prime Minister pointed out last night when reading from the treaty, it states that an attack on any of the parties in the treaty area calls for action by the others. That action, of course, no doubt would be appropriate to the circumstances. It calls for action according to the constitutional processes; that is an expression which the Americans always require to be written into a treaty. In answer to an honorable member’s question a few minutes ago, I mentioned that in relation to this treaty one of the constitutional processes is its affirmation by Congress. The treaty has been affirmed by Congress. A specific application of the treaty must depend always on the events of the moment. Any one who would answer a hypothetical question, such as the honorable member’s question, is, I think, very foolish.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Industry, who will recall that when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was ratified in this House, fear was expressed that it would progressively limit reciprocal trade between Commonwealth countries. I ask: Has the agreement had this effect, and to the Minister’s knowledge is a change in the provisions of the agreement contemplated in the future?
– I think that I recall the observations or criticism to which the honorable member refers and that perhaps at the time he was one of the critics. To the extent that trade is canalized between Commonwealth countries, it rests to a certain degree either on a sentimental basis, on historical trade links, or on the competitive position of the items, and their availability from other sources of supply. But predominantly trade has been determined by the British preferential system of tariffs and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, provided the British preferential system may be maintained. It has, in fact, been maintained almost unimpaired, and any variation that has occurred in the sources of origin or destinations of Commonwealth trade is not to be regarded, I think, as attributable to the operations of Gatt.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Do the latest statistics reveal that the current annual per capita consumption of butter in New Zealand and Australia is respectively 43 lb. and 29 lb.? Is the current retail price of butter in New Zealand approximately 2s. 3d. per lb. in New Zealand currency, and is the current retail price of butter in Australia approximately 4s. Hd. per lb. in Australian currency? To what factors, other than price differential, does the Minister attribute the difference in consumption between two countries with equal standards of living?
– The policy of the Australian Government on the dairy industry has been revealed from time to time and i3 reflected in the legislation on the statute book. The New Zealand Government has a different approach to the dairy industry from ours. It subsidizes the industry much more heavily than we do for the benefit of the consumers. It pays special attention to that aspect. 1 draw attention to the fact that the honorable member may have quoted the New Zealand prices in sterling instead of Australian currency, which would account for a 25 per cent, difference in price.
– I ask the Minister for the
Navy whether there is a set period for an officer carrying out higher duties, with the acting rank applicable to such duties, before the acting rank is confirmed. Have officers carried out such duties for periods up to two years without being confirmed in the higher ranks?
– I am not quite sure of the meaning of the honorable member’s question. I do know that the exigencies of the service demand that certain people be placed in acting ranks for certain periods. So far as I am aware the periods never exceed the time when the acting rank can be confirmed. However, I will examine the honorable member’s question to see whether I can give him a further answer.
.- by leave - I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee may communicate with the Minister but all communications with the Minister and the fact of any such communication shall be confidential to the committee and the Minister;
Honorable members who carry in their minds the terms of the motion for the appointment of this committee in the last Parliament will observe that some changes have been made in the motion that I have just submitted. I should like to say that this committee, in my view, has done useful work, and the Government has held the hope that in this Parliament the Opposition would participate in the work of the committee and appoint members to serve on it. With that object in mind, I looked through the terms of the motion for appointment of the joint committee to see whether I could make changes that would remove difficulties that the Opposition believed were preventing it servicing the committee. Let mc explain the changes that I have made, without going into them in too much detail.
Under the current proposal, the ability of the committee to consider foreign affairs generally will be more explicit and clearer than it was formerly, though the committee’s ability to report to the Minister for External Affairs in a formal way stands, as it was before, dependent on a request by the Minister. However, it had been thought at some earlier time, apparently, that, because of the previous form of the motion, the committee was unable to communicate with the Minister or to give him what I may call an informal report - that is, to give him a report informally - except at his request. In point of fact, in dealing with the committee as previously constituted, I followed the practice of receiving from it communications for which I had not asked and of discussing matters with members of the committee from time to time. The motion now before the House makes it quite clear that the committee can communicate with the Minister without his request. I should like to make it plain that the communication can take the form of what is in substance a report on some matter into which the committee has looked and about which it wants to inform the Minister. There is a stipulation that both the fact that the communication has been made and the contents of it must remain confidential.
Previously, there was no provision for a member of the committee to express his dissent. The present motion provides that the chairman of the committee shall be bound, at the request of a member who wishes to dissent from a conclusion of the committee, to note the fact of that dissent and to append to a communication or report an agreed summary of the reasons for that dissent. Honorable members will readily appreciate that there must be some mechanism by which the expression of dissent is kept brief and relevant. It was thought that a summary agreed on by the member concerned and the chairman would adequately meet those requirements and ensure that a member would not be likely to be embarrassed by a misunderstanding about the reasons why he had dissented. As constituted formerly, the committee was not at liberty to have persons before it to give evidence or express opinions, unless the committee informed the Minister beforehand. That requirement will now be dispensed with, and the committee will be at liberty to ask persons - not being departmental officers - to appear before it and express views.
As I recall them, Mr. Speaker, those are the principal points of difference between this motion and motions constituting the committee previously. As I have said, the changes are made in the hope that the committee will be more acceptable to the Opposition and that Opposition members will serve on it. I should like to say something about the nature of the committee that I think is worth saying. In our parliamentary system, this committee is, in one sense, an anomaly. In presidential and other systems found elsewhere, committees perform functions quite different from those that the Foreign Affairs Committee will be asked to perform. This committee is not at all like the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee. Each of those committees has the duty to see how the Executive gives effect to what is in substance a parliamentary resolution or mandate. Those committees overlook the actions of the Executive and report to the Parliament on them. But there is nothing comparable in the realm of foreign affairs, which is exclusively an executive function in point of policy, with no question of a report to the Parliament on the way in which the Executive implements policy or what the policy is. Nor is this committee, in any sense, a forum for public education. I have heard it said at times that it is a pity the committee is not used to educate the public. This is not a function of the committee. There are private bodies such as the Australian Institute of Political Science and the Australian Institute of International Affairs that exist for the education of the public.
The function of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to afford members of the Parliament who are chosen to serve on the committee an opportunity to become more specifically informed about international affairs and to be admitted to a considerable degree to the confidence of the Government so that they may make better contributions to the work of the Parliament and so that there may be some basis of continuity in the foreign policy of a country such as this. It is not a pleasant prospect to think that the country’s foreign policy is condemned always to be subjected to partisan views. The committee, therefore, is unable to sit in public as do other committees, and what the members of the committee learn at its proceedings is not appropriate for repetition or circulation. The Government has at its disposal from time to time a great deal of information, much of which it derives from other governments and for the use of which, in a sense, it is accountable to other governments. We are not at liberty to put this information into the public domain. One of the advantages of a committee of this kind is that it can be permitted to some degree, in confidence, to have access to a proportion of that information. The committee being admitted to the information, it follows quite clearly that the committee’s sittings need to be in camera and that which the members learn needs to be, very strictly, highly confidential to the committee.
Sometimes, of course, one finds a situation in which the Government has information that the public also has, and a member of the committee may very well ascertain from public sources the same information that the Government has. It is necessary for honorable members to remember that the disclosure by a member of the committee that the information that was in the public domain was also vouchsafed to him in the proceedings of the committee would give to that public information a quality that it would not otherwise have. It would give it a sponsorship and an authenticity of government which is very important and may have very far-reaching consequences in some quarters. Consequently, even with information that is within the public domain but which is given to the honorable member in the committee, either before he learns it in the public domain or afterwards, whilst he is quite free to use the information in the public domain, as every other citizen can, he cannot disclose that he learnt it also in the committee, so that he does not give it authenticity or currency that it does not otherwise have. In this resolution, the need for the maintenance of confidence is retained.
I think the House will appreciate that this committee is essentially different from all other committees of the Parliament. It is. somewhat of an anomaly. It is of great assistance to the Minister, who is able to work with it, because as the members become more familiar with the details they are able to think about problems and, under this resolution, in confidence to proffer their views to the Minister. The Minister for his part, I am quite sure, as has been my experience, is very willing to go to the committee and talk frankly to the very limit that he can as a Minister about the current affairs of the nation. This is a useful committee, but its utility depends essentially on the close observance of the confidential nature of the communications and a clear realization of the peculiar situation such a committee occupies in our parliamentary system where the responsibility for the policy is with the Government and the Minister and where the Minister has to take that responsibility both at home and abroad. The responsibility cannot be passed over to committees or similar bodies.
It will be, to me personally, a matter of great regret if the Opposition has not seen itself able to serve on this committee, for I have taken as many steps as I can to do as much of what the Opposition, in my view respectfully, can properly ask me to do. This resolution represents the very end point to which I have been able to go in liberalizing, if I may use that word, the formal resolution of the House.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, on 14th March, 1962, I gave my party’s reasons for refusing to join the Foreign Affairs Committee under the terms of the resolution then proposed and repeated from previous years. When this Parliament met, the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) spoke to me about the objections I had expressed on that occasion. He later sent me a letter with the resolutions he proposed for setting up a committee in this new Parliament. It was understood between us that I would put these proposed resolutions before my executive so that it could frame a recommendation upon them for the consideration of the full Federal Parliamentary Labour Party. My executive wished clarification of three points of the resolutions proposed by the Minister and he replied on those three points. My party’s attitude, therefore, and the Minister’s attitude on the points that were not clear between us can best appear if I read the two letters involved.
On the 10th of this month, I wrote to the honorable gentleman in these terms -
There are three matters m your letters on which my Executive asks for clarification before it can make a recommendation to the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party on your proposed terms of resolutions to set up a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The first matter concerns the composition of the committee under paragraphs 2 and 4 (e). Do you agree that the usual practice should apply under which the Government has one more member than the Opposition among the committee members from each house and the Prime Minister names the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who are to represent the government and the Leader of the Opposition those who are to represent the opposition?
The second point concerns the confidential character of evidence before the committee at its sittings in camera under paragraph 4 (j). Is it your understanding that a member of the committee would be free to state facts and express views which had been submitted to or received by the committee if he has been able to ascertain or verify these matters from outside publications or persons?
Thirdly, would you agree to provide that any member have power to add a protest or dissent to any report or communication, as is normal with joint or select committees, instead of merely providing that the Chairman record the fact of a dissent, as under proposed paragraph 4 (k)?
Yesterday the honorable gentleman sent a reply in these terms -
I am not sure that I perceive the purpose or implications of the request you make in the second paragraph of your note of April 10. I regard the Democratic Labour Party as entitled to maintain the representation it’ now has on the Committee. With that understanding, I am prepared to accept the position that the Government parties have one member more on the Committee from each House than other parties. (This works out with the Government having seven members and the opposition six from the House and the Government four senators, the A.L.P. two senators and the D.L.P. one senator.) I am prepared, if the opposition wishes, to have seven Government members and five opposition members from the House with four Government senators, three A.L.P. senators and one D.L.P. senator.
I think the position with respect to information fin which for this purpose I include both facts and opinions) which is acquired by a member in camera, needs more explicit treatment than your formula in the second sentence of your second paragraph, r have no desire to preclude the use by members of the Committee of information which is in the “ public domain “ by reason of the fact that at a time anterior or posterior to that information coming into the public domain it was acquired by the member himself in camera in the proceedings of the Committee. But it must be clear, firstly, that the member cannot’ by any means induce the information into the public domain and secondly that he cannot expressly or by implication reveal that the information which is in the public domain was vouched to him - and thus as it were confirmed - in the proceedings of the Committee. The information in the public domain would bc available to him for comment or repetition in no different sense, and with no different authenticity or weight than it would be to any member of the public not associated with this Committee.
You will readily agree that the endorsement of Government, with its sources of intelligence, for the use of which it is often accountable to other Governments, of any item of information gives that information a quality and authenticity which it may not or generally will not have when not so endorsed.
Lastly, the question of a member having the right to express his reasons for dissent’ has already been given much thought by me. I have sympathy with the view that a dissenting member should be protected against misunderstanding but on the other hand I cannot give any scope for the reports or communications of the Committee becoming mere vehicles for disproportionate advocacy. I feel that a provision that the Chairman should be bound to append to the report or communication an agreed summary of the dissenting member’s reasons for dissent from any conclusion of the Committee expressed in that report or communication would adequately protect both the member and the Minister, as well as ensure brevity. I am prepared to agree to such a provision but I am afraid I cannot go further. May I say that I am under some pressure to bring this matter to finality and must ask you to let me have an answer tomorrow, to permit of the necessary resolutions being moved.
Accordingly, my executive considered the Minister’s reply at a meeting it was holding when the reply was received yesterday afternoon. It made a recommendation to the full parliamentary party this morning. We decided that we should not join the committee. I communicated our decision to the Minister while his party was having a meeting this morning.
It will be noted that the points of difference between the Government and the Opposition have never been put so precisely or narrowly. It is true that the committee as now proposed by the Minister would meet two - almost three - of the objections which I expressed on behalf of my party two years ago. First, the committee will now be able to call non-official witnesses without the permission of the Minister. Secondly, the committee will now be able to express its views to the Minister without his request. Thirdly, it would be possible for any member of the committee to express a dissent, although in qualified terms. In all these matters, it is clear that the Minister has sought to meet the objections which I expressed on behalf of my party.
The remaining objections appear from the correspondence. What my party would desire if it were to join the committee is clear from the letter I sent on 10th April on behalf of my executive seeking clarification. May I elaborate on two points? The first relates to composition of the committee. The composition of the committee does not appear from the resolution which is now before the House; it appears by inference from the supplementary resolution that certain named members be members of the committee. When the committee was first set up in 1951, provision was made for seven Government members and six Opposition members in this House and four from the Government and three from the Opposition in the other House. During 1955, members of the Australian Labour Party (AntiCommunist), who had previously been members of the Australian Labour Party, took two of the positions allocated to members of the Opposition in this House. In the new Parliament elected at the end of 1955, Senator Cole took one of the positions allocated to the Opposition in the other place.
The objection which my party feels at this stage is this: Under either of the proposals by the Minister there would be eleven Government members - eleven members from the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party - on the committee. Under both proposals of the Minister there would be eight members of the Australian Labour Party from the two Houses. Under one of his proposals there would be six members from this House and two from the other place. Under the other proposal, there would be five members from this House and three from the other place. That is, on this committee there would be eleven Government members to eight members of the Opposition, or, to put it in party terms, there would be eleven members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party, and eight members of the Australian Labour Party.
The position is complicated by the Minister’s insistence that Senator Cole should be on the committee. Members of the Australian Labour Party will not admit that Senator Cole is a member of the Opposition. I take it that members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party - I hope I am being fair to them - will not admit that he is a member of a Government party. But on all crucial matters in the Parliament and certainly on all matters of foreign affairs, it is clear that Senator Cole would support the Liberal and Country Parties rather than the Australian Labour Party. It is clear also from everything that the honorable gentleman and his supporters say outside the House that that would always be the position in matters of foreign affairs. If anything, Senator Cole would criticize the Government parties from a position further to their ideological right. That is, he would unquestionably object to the Government allowing China to divert Australian wheat to Cuba and Albania, as it has done; he would go further and object to the Government parties selling wheat to China at all.
There can be no doubt in the mind of any honorable gentleman that if there was any division on this committee the voting would be twelve to eight. The Minister seeks apparently to preserve the position so that if for some reason Senator Cole voted with members of the Australian Labour Party or if they voted with him, the Government would still have eleven votes to nine. I think in all these matters one has to be practical. The situation I have just visualized is never likely to arise. It is clear from the Minister’s statement that he asserts that Senator Cole must be regarded as a member of the Opposition. The Opposition cannot accept that position. Nor can Senator Cole’s inclusion be justified on the basis of the composition of the Parliament. The British practice, which, by implication, applies in this Parliament, is that committees should be a miniature of the Parliament itself. There are 103 members of the Government parties and 81 members of the Australian Labour Party in this Parliament. If the committee were a miniature of the Parliament it would have a ratio of ten members of the Government parties to eight members of the Australian Labour Party or perhaps eleven to nine. But the Minister insists that there should be representation for a party of one.
– The Government parties owe him a lot.
– 1 am not speculating on motives in this matter. I am stating the political situation and probabilities. After the 1955 election, when Senator McManus was elected in Victoria, and after the 1958 election when Senator Cole was re-elected as a member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party it might have been thought that there was some justification for having a representative of that party on a relatively large parliamentary committee such as the Foreign Affairs Committee. But there can be no justification for thinking along those lines in the light of the last election for the House of Representatives. It is altogether likely, looking at the results of the last elections in Tasmania and particularly in Victoria, and the results of the by-election a couple of months ago in Denison, that there will be no representative of that party when this Parliament comes to an end. This committee is the only parliamentary committee on which the representative of the Democratic Labour Party serves. Whether or not there are other differences between this committee and all other committees, this is certainly one difference. The Opposition finds that, despite the Minister’s agreement on other issues of importance, his insistence that the Democratic Labour Party be represented is too provocative for it to accept.
I hope I have time left to make one other objection, and that is to the nature of the dissent which members of the committee may append to any reports or communications to the Minister. We feel that it is unduly paternal or patronizing to say that a dissent should be in a form agreed upon between the chairman of the committee and the person who makes the dissent. We feel that any dissent appended to a report or communication of this committee should be just as free as the protest or dissent appended to the report of any other committee. Why should there be a distinction in this case? A party as a whole - whether it be the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Labour Party - chooses its representatives on committees. If a party chooses a representative to serve on a committee and the Parliament goes through what may be regarded as the pure formality of electing the nominee to the committee, he should be trusted to act on the committee with relevance and propriety.
I have dealt with those precise points because there has been a greater clarification of issues on this occasion than there has been between the Minister or his predecessors and the Opposition in the past. I feel that I should now make some more general statements. The Minister takes the attitude that this committee should fulfil the function of educating members rather than that of educating the public. When I spoke on this matter on the last occasion, I said that one of my party’s objections to serving on the committee was that the committee did not sit in public, did not make public reports and so on. I made the objection that the committee did not fulfil the function of educating the public in the way that similar committees do in the American Congress. I said that I appreciated the distinction between parliamentary and congressional systems, but I said also that one of our grounds of objection was that this committee did not fulfil the function of educating the public.
It will be noted that my party does not make that objection on this occasion. We have limited our objections to those matters which would be embarrassing or obnoxious to an opposition in the Parliament. We have not sought to say that the committee should usurp the Government’s responsibilities in our parliamentary system, or that the Opposition could not serve on a committee which did not fulfil the function of educating the public. We are basing our objections on the ground that on this parliamentary committee the Opposition should have the same rights as it has on any other parliamentary committee.
I appreciate the distinction the Minister makes between this committee and statutory committees such as the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, which have the duty of reporting to the Parliament. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Minister and his colleagues for giving me an extension of time. I appreciate also the distinction between this committee and select committees which are appointed to inquire into and report upon particular items of policy. I mention these distinctions to show that on this occasion our party refuses to join the reformed committee not because we are confused on its functions but because there arc still things about the composition and operation of this committee, and this committee alone, which are embarrassing and obnoxious to an opposition. 1 believe that I should make a more general comment on the role of educating the public, because this is the deficiency in this committee which principally is urged by outside persons. There is a very considerable body of opinion in universities, societies and learned bodies interested in foreign affairs which criticizes this committee because it cannot make a bigger contribution to debating public issues and enlightening the public on them. I will not trespass on the generosity of the House in giving me an extension of time by quoting what Associate Professor Beddie, of the Australian National University, said on this subject at the end of last January at the summer school of the Australian Institute of Political Science. His criticisms were directed largely to this deficiency. One could quote many other persons in the same sense.
On this occasion I also want to eschew any criticisms which have been made public by members of the committee itself. On the last occasion, I quoted what the honor able member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) had said on television. On this occasion I suppose I could quote what the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) said in reviewing a book by Lord Casey in the “ Australian Book Review “ of August, 1962:
It is claimed that there would be general advantage to the Parliament and to the Opposition if members of the Opposition agreed to serve on this committee. It is said that the committee receives confidential information which it would be to the advantage of members of the Opposition, and thus of the Parliament, to know. It must be conceded that there have been foreign affairs issues on which the Opposition has shown that it can inform itself better than members of the Government parties can. On the basis of information, the debate on the North West Cape naval communication station and successive debates on New Guinea have shown that the Australian Labour Party has educated itself, the Parliament and the public on those matters in a way that this committee and members of the Government parties have not done.
– What about on South-East Asia?
– The committee has made no reports on South-East Asia. I did not intend to deal with the subjectmatters or quality of the reports of the committee, but let me say that when all the South-East Asian matters of the last few years were coming up the only report that the committee made was on Berlin. There have been no reports on Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos or South Viet Nam. The Labour Party has wanted to learn about these matters, and it was on the initiative of the Labour Party that last year a parliamentary delegation, consisting of equal numbers from both sides of both Houses of the Parliament, visited South-East Asia. It was on the initiative of the Labour Party that select committees were set up to deal with voting rights and land tenure for aborigines in the Northern Territory. In 1960 the Labour Party sought the appointment of a committee on New Guinea, and the Government refused that request. We are anxious to inform ourselves and to see that the Parliament and the public are informed through committees dealing with subjects on which first-hand knowledge can be obtained and decisions can be made.
On the general subject of information on foreign affairs being made available to members of the Opposition and private members of the Government parties, a definite matter of principle is involved. The system of responsible government will not work better if members of the Opposition and private members of the Government parties have to depend on the Government for their information. They will be better informed as the public itself is better informed. For instance, the position would be met if the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the only national news medium in Australia, were as free and as bold as is the British Broadcasting Corporation; if there were any national newspapers in Australia; if any of the newspapers were themselves to employ diplomatic and defence correspondents; if, may I say, Ministers in general were as co-operative as the late Athol Townley was in making service chiefs and departmental heads within his jurisdiction available to our committees and, I have no. doubt, to Government committees as well. But the basic thing surely must be to have fuller and better and more independent sources of information available to members of Parliament.
Members of missions stationed in Canberra, certainly all visiting members of the United States Administration, make a point of meeting and talking with leaders of the Opposition in Canberra. In addition, leaders of the Opposition receive the same confidential documents as are circulated by the Department of External Affairs to Ministers. The great difficulty in this Parliament is that we have not the library facilities, in particular, which are available in Washington. Further, without suggesting that the parliamentary library facilities in London are better than those in Canberra, there are means of information available in London which are incomparably better than are those in any Australian city, including Canberra.
The deficiencies of our parliamentary library are such as to prevent members of the Parliament, in particular members of the Opposition, and private members of the Government parties, from obtaining information from sources independent of the Government. We need more public information on, and discussion of, foreign affairs. The solution of this problem for the public clearly does not lie with this committee. The solution of this problem for the Parliament does not lie primarily with this committee either. Members of an opposition and private members of a government party will not carry out their tasks in the deliberate process by becoming more dependent on the Government for sources of information, but they will carry out their tasks by becoming less dependent on the Government for sources of information.
I have had instances where it was easier, quicker and more satisfactory to obtain information from the Library of Congress than from our own Parliamentary Library. Often the Parliamentary Library contains only one copy of a document. When replying to questions the Minister for External Affairs very often says that the relevant information is available in the Library, and it turns out that the Library has only one copy of the particular document. This is not enough on which to mount a full-scale debate. The librarians themselves often have, to ask, “Do you mind if we get the information from the department concerned, or can you afford to wait till we get it from overseas? “ lt is no solution to suggest that we should just join a committee which inevitably and naturally, on a subject of this kind, will be a government committee, a committee responsible to and supervised by the Minister.
I regret that the Minister was not able to meet the other proposals that we made in our letter of 10th April. Meantime, we believe that it would be invidious for us, as the Opposition, to join a committee which in those respects still differs from all other parliamentary committees.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As an ex-chairman of this committee I fee! that I should take up one or two points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The House will receive with regret the Opposition’s decision not to make membership of this committee available to its members. I know from my own experience as chairman how much we would have appreciated Opposition representation on the committee so that in reality it would have been a joint parliamentary committee.
I should like to clear up one or two inaccuracies in the honorable gentleman’s remarks. The first is the statement that the committee takes all its advice from Government sources. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, well know, that is completely untrue. The committee has the opportunity to call before it people of many shades of view, and in fact has done so on a number of occasions. Members of the committee receive a reasonably broad spectrum of information which is readily available, and also the greatest degree of co-operation from the Minister. At this point let me say how much I appreciate the lengths to which the Minister has gone in his new resolution to meet the objections of the Opposition. It is a great pity that the Opposition has not decided to meet Wm half-way and to accept membership of the committee.
There seem to be two main reasons, one of which I can understand, for the Opposition’s attitude to the committee. The first appears to be its basic objection to the rule prohibiting committee members from discussing with other members of their party documents of a confidential nature which may have been the subject of discussion within the committee. I think that is inherent in the Opposition’s attitude. I can understand that attitude, but I cannot understand the second obvious objection, and the stress laid on it by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - the inclusion of a certain senator on the committee. This is such a spiteful petty attitude on such a major issue that I cannot understand the thinking behind it.
Despite the rather querulous interjection by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), which was extremely disorderly, that the caucus was unanimous on this matter, I still feel, after discussion with certain Opposition members for whom I have some regard, that the decision, while perhaps being physically unanimous, was by no means morally unanimous.
– It was enthusiastically unanimous.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, that was another of those querulous interjections. The Minister pointed out in very clear terms - I appreciate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition accepted this principle - that under our system of governmental responsibility it is impossible to have a committee on the same lines as the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee or the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs. There is no official joint committee on foreign affairs in the House of Commons, although each parliamentary party has its own committee. Under the British system of parliamentary responsibility, in which the Ministry is part of the legislature and the decisions are made at the Cabinet level, and in which there are, and always will be, back-benchers on the committee, obviously this cannot be a policymaking body. The system under which it works - that of being able to refer to the Minister - is the only satisfactory way in which it can work.
Despite the Opposition’s feelings as to the shortcomings of the committee, I am sure that it appreciates the opportunities that are available* to members not only to get to know the way in which governmental policy on foreign affairs is worked out - it is vitally important that the Opposition, if it hopes to be in government, should see how this has been done - but also to have the opportunity of personal contact with a number of our very prominent, very wellinformed and extremely capable members of the Department of External Affairs, as well as with other senior departmental officers who might be called upon for information.
With some deep regret I shall not stand again for re-appointment to the committee. I have found the work fascinating, but I have been a member of it for eight years and I think it is time to make way for some more recently elected honorable member so that he may enjoy the advantages that I have enjoyed for eight years.
I regret the Opposition’s decision. I congratulate the Minister on the lengths to which he has gone to make it possible for Opposition members to join the committee. I hope that soon they will see the error of their ways.
.- One aspect of the speech by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) - his allegation that the Opposition’s objection to membership of the committee has been motivated by spite towards Senator Cole - certainly will receive a lot of publicity. “News Weekly” has already stated that the Australian Labour Party objected to serving on this committee because of its hatred of Senator Cole. I think the Melbourne “Age” also has already published this allegation. I shall make some comment on it, because at no time in the discussions of either the Opposition executive or the Opposition caucus have I heard any bitter references to Senator Cole.
We have no objection to Senator Cole’s presence. He can be on the committee if. he is nominated by the Government. Our sole objection is to the persistence displayed by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) in taking it upon himself to reduce the representation of the Opposition to make way for Senator Cole. We have 27 seats in the Senate; the Minister would generously give us two members on the committee. The Government has 31 seats in the Senate and it would have twice as many members on the committee as we would have. It would have four members. Then the Government says that the normal Opposition quota, which is one less than the Government’s quota, would be made up by the appointment of Senator Cole. Although the Australian Democratic Labour Party regards the Australian Labour Party’s foreign policy as poisonous, the Minister persists in saying that one Australian Labour Party man must be dropped to make way for Senator Cole.
We have no objection to the presence of Senator Cole; we object to the dropping of a Labour man to make way for him. I have no personal objection to Senator Cole at all. We served together on many conferences of the Australian Labour Party. We served on many federal conferences, each of us being one of 36 delegates. He has since discovered that we were faceless men, but that is his business and I harbour no resentment on that account. There is no personal dislike of him. We simply object to his being treated as a member of the Labour Party, and to the Labour Party’s chance of selecting its own members being reduced.
What the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asks for is what is normally accepted in respect of every other committee - that there shall be in the Senate four nominees of the Prime Minister and three of the Leader of the Opposition. If the Prime Minister chooses to nominate Senator Cole, that is fine; it is his affair. Faced with our objection on this question the Minister made a strange kind of concession. He said: “All right. We will have four senators and the Australian Labour Party will have three. Then there will be Senator Cole. But then in the House of Representatives the Australian Labour Party’s representation will be reduced because Senator Cole has been appointed to the committee from the Upper House.”
I do not want to give any great importance to this matter of Senator Cole. Fanning the differences between the Australian Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party is a major feature of press activity. I have no belief that the correction I have given to what the honorable member for Corangamite said will be published as widely as the honorable member’s own statement, because the suggestion of spitefulness on our part fits into a pattern that the press has been building up for years and which the Democratic Labour Party has been taking to its heart for years. Therefore it will be highly acceptable as a means of giving further support to a fiction created in the minds of the public. But let it be perfectly clear that what we are objecting to is the reduction of our representation.
The Minister has stated that the purpose of this committee is to help to ensure continuity of policy. If this is so, then the absence of the Opposition from the committee over the last ten years has been a fatal defect. If it is envisaged that the Opposition might some day come to power and would then, because of membership on the committee, have an informed body of opinion in the party to carry on a continuous policy, then the absence of the Opposition from the committee means that the committee might as well be dispensed with. But the fact is that the committee has existed for many years without the Opposition, because of these differences that exist, so it must have other purposes.
T cannot understand why the Minister will not take his hands off and let us see whether the committee can work without all these controls that he is trying to impose on the Opposition. It is not secret information that causes differences between the Government and the Opposition. Our main differences in this House have been notoriously on questions of policy. The Opposition supported the Government up to the hilt when the Korean war was being waged. We believed that we were supporting the restoration of international order. We opposed the Government tooth and nail in relation to the Suez affair. This was not on the basis of secret information. It was on the basis of a different diagnosis of the policy that should be adopted. When Egypt tried to nationalize the canal the Government said, in effect, “An Egyptian should be shot,” and it supported a policy of force to which we were completely opposed. We thought the whole policy was inapplicable and would be disastrous in its effects on public opinion in the Middle East. In fact, it helped the Soviet Union to get away with the policy it adopted in Hungary, because the policy we adopted when our will was crossed in Egypt was no better than the policy adopted by the Soviet Union in Hungary.
Our differences have not been related to secret information. I do not know what the Government wants of the Opposition on this committee. Presumably it wants the mind of the Opposition on public matters. The attitude of the Government is that the mind of the Opposition on foreign affairs is almost beneath contempt. That was the attitude displayed by the Prime Minister in the debate last night. He is quite entitled to think along those lines; that is his business. This has been the situation, as I remember it, over the last ten or twelve years. I do not know, therefore, why the Government wants the Opposition on the committee at all.
– To broaden your minds.
– This patronizing superiority is supposed to do something to assist people like myself who, on the whole, have been inclined to feel that we ought to make the experiment with this committee. It is supposed to encourage the doubters. In other words, we would get information which would make our foreign policy like yours - like yours in respect of the Egyptian crisis, shall we say? I doubt that this is a question of information at all. It goes to the basis of men’s philosophies.
I can quite appreciate that on some matters involving secret information you might find an Opposition mind of some value, and that you would consider this helpful to the committee. I am very pleased about that. But what is quite inconsistent with that proposition is the Minister’s attempt to control what the Opposition will say to him confidentially. He tells us that the chairman, a Government member, will work out an agreed summary of any reasons for dissent that any member of the committee might have. The member of the committee may be a Government supporter but I am’ just postulating that he might be an Opposition member or that it might be the Opposition members as a group. This is proposed because there is a need for brevity or something of that kind. It is assumed that the Opposition dissenters are a group of idiots who will pour volumes of objections at the Minister and who are incapable of putting up an acceptable expression of their reasons for dissent, and that therefore the chairman must have the opportunity to vet what they say and put it forward as a summary. No committee of the Parliament goes on like that. Why should this committee have to go on like that?
As to the matter of secret information, I think we can agree with the Government that we might be given ambassadors’ opinions about heads of state and so on that no one would want to hawk around, but, all the same, we have never been given prima facie evidence, either in the debates in this House or in publications by Government members, that things have worked out in this way. The Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), before he was appointed to the Ministry, reviewed a book by Lord Casey. The review appeared in the “ Australian Book Review “ for August, 1962, and it contained the following passage: -
I remember a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Melbourne not long before Lord Casey retired. He was giving the committee a review of the international situation as he saw it after returning from several high-level conferences and from visiting a large number of countries. A member of the committee sitting next to me wrote down on a piece of paper each subject as he dealt with it. Alongside each he wrote some such comment as, “ Read in newspapers two weeks ago”; “Heard on the ABC news last night”; “ Fully covered in February edition of ‘ Time ‘ “. The instinctive caution with which Lord Casey habitually approached the Foreign Affairs Committee is apparent in this book. A lifetime habit of playing his cards close to his chest, and revealing information to the minimum number of people, has been too much for him even after retirement.
I do not suppose that we missed, in that era, any particularly secret information, if this is an accurate description of the operation of the committee.
I would just like to say that we appreciate the fact that there has been the correspondence which we have had with the Minister. We appreciate his attempt to meet the Opposition’s objections. I think that this is about the . only committee in which, because of its very nature, all the liabilities rest upon the Opposition. If we are to serve on a foreign affairs committee with the Government, there must be an atmosphere of complete freedom - and I do not mean complete freedom about secret information. However, if on the basis of what we believe is secret information which the Government possesses, we think that the Government’s foreign policy is disastrous or that it is making a disastrous mistake in the way it is handling that policy, and if this view is put to the Minister but the policy is proceeded with, what should we do in a debate in the House? Should we be silent about all the reasons why we disagree with the Government? This committee is not a public works committee or a public accounts committee; it is a committee dealing with what may be life and death issues or issues which may lead to war. It is a committee in which there may be profound disagreement about warlike action on the part of the Government, such as we had over the Suez affair. It is not very easy for an Opposition which entertains strong dissent in such matters to be identified with the Government. I feel that on this committee all the sacrifices would be made by the Opposition.
It would have been easier to serve on the committee if the Minister had not tried to impose so many controls on how dissent is to be expressed, and if there had not been such a manifestation of fear on the part of the Government in the rules by which the committee is to operate. If the honorable members who have served on the committee believe that it has been a committee of tremendous value, and one which hus served the Ministry, as no doubt it has by transmitting to the Minister the views that the committee has arrived at, I should think they would agree that, with the Opposition’s viewpoint being expressed, the committee would have served the Minister perhaps even better. The attempt to control expressions of dissent, which reveals an unsatisfactory and untrusting attitude on the part of the Minister, makes it very difficult for the Opposition to serve on this committee.
The previous speaker said he felt there was no moral unanimity. I was inclined to the view that we ought to serve on this committee but I am fully satisfied now, from the exchange of correspondence that we have had, that we should not do so. When the matter is discussed in the House and a former chairman of the committee attributes to us spite in relation to the appointment of Senator Cole, I am more than ever convinced that we should not serve.
.- One usually has a high regard for the thinking of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) on matters of this kind, but I am sorry to say that the reasons he has just voiced on behalf of the Opposition for not joining the committee make me wonder whether the Opposition really wants to serve on it. The Opposition has not been represented on this committee despite the fact that, from year to year, certain positions on it were filled by members of the Government parties who were prepared to relinquish those positions at any time if the Opposition agreed to join the committee. This showed a genuine desire on the part of the Government parties to make this committee truly representative of both sides of the Parliament. It is surprising to me that, despite the fact that year after year the Government has broadened the constitution of the committee to meet the wishes and desires of the Opposition, honorable members opposite still find some reasons why they should not serve on it. The reasons given are not always the same.
The committee has been charged with being a study group and with doing nothing else but read the documents provided for it by the Minister for External Affairs. We who have served on the committee have been charged with being a body of people who are not able to think for themselves. The charge has been made also that we can discuss only those matters which are referred to us by the Minister. It is not for me, as a member of the committee, to state what the committee does. One of our highest traditions has been that nothing done or said by the committee at its meetings shall be talked about outside. It is not my intention to tell the Opposition about the discussions that we enter into, but I can say that our work is particularly valuable. On many occasions the Minister, especially the present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), has joined with us to discuss certain matters and has given us great opportunities to improve our knowledge of those matters. It was said - I think by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam)- that the Opposition has as much opportunity to inform itself on foreign affairs as have the members of the committee. I need only say in reply that a couple of years ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) showed himself to be very ill informed on the Indonesian question, because he made a statement that I do not think would ever have come from the mouth of any member of the committee who had had the opportunity of studying the Indonesian question at that time.
The points of objection by the Opposition to serving on the committee have been mentioned by both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Fremantle. The honorable member for Fremantle said that the Opposition’s main objection was based not on the appointment of a representative of the Australian Democratic Labour Party but on the fact that the Opposition’s representation was reduced to make way for that representative. That is a most peculiar objection to take. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not say so in so many words, I gathered that he based his objection on the possibility that there could be party alignment in voting on the committee because of the appointment of one senator to represent the Democratic Labour Party. It surprises me that any person should think that there would be a political alignment of votes on this committee. I assume, as I think most other members of the committee do, that we meet to inform ourselves and that we are required to pass our opinions on to the Minister for the benefit of Australia, not for the benefit of any particular political party. We speak as a true foreign affairs committee, not as a foreign affairs committee representing one side or other of the House. That point should be remembered when we are discussing a committee such as this. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went even further and said that the inclusion of a representative of the Democratic Labour Party was provocative. I fail to understand his meaning.
I can only come to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that the Opposition just does not want to be represented on this committee and that it is simply making a good deal of noise to avoid that being known, as it has done each year when the committee is being appointed. This matter has become a hardy annual. Whenever the question of the appointment of this committee is before the House, the Opposition raises objections to serving on it - and the objections are not always the same. The Opposition has objected again this time. I do not think the matter calls for any further comment except that the attempt made by the Minister this year to meet the Opposition’s requirements or to overcome the Opposition’s objections has delayed the appointment of the committee for some time. That has been so on this occasion, and I am sure the Minister deplores it as much as the committee does.
– The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) opened his remarks by stating that in view of the position taken by the Opposition he rather doubted whether the Opposition genuinely wished to go on to the Foreign Affairs Committee. There is only one inference, which is very plain, that the honorable member for Lawson can take from the Opposition’s statement; that is, that the Opposition does not wish to go on to the committee upon the terms which the Government offers to it. However, I could add, for bis information, that in this matter the Opposition’s view is unanimous. Furthermore, I believe that no self-respecting opposition, of whatever political colour, would accept the conditions which the Government is now offering to this Opposition. If the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) were a member of an opposition to which a government offered these terms, I do not believe that he would recommend his colleagues to accept them. I cannot believe for a moment that any self-respecting opposition would do so.
The honorable member for Lawson said that it was rather surprising to find year after year that attempts by the Government to broaden the conditions governing the committee in an endeavour to obtain the Opposition’s co-operation, had failed to obtain that co-operation. The honorable member is, of course, quite mistaken. There has not been any attempt by the Government in previous years to broaden the conditions governing the committee. The honorable member’s remarks are a mis-statement of fact. He has allowed himself to be deceived by a faulty recollection. I assure him that what he said is not true. The Government has not in previous years attempted to broaden the conditions. This is the first occasion on which it has attempted to do so. So there is no truth in the suggestion he is making that year after year the Government has attempted to meet the Opposition on the very real difficulties which the Opposition faces in accepting the request of the Government to join the committee. This is the first time that the Government has gone any distance at all to meet the very serious objections raised by the Opposition.
I think it reasonable at least to suggest that there is considerable doubt about the real desire of the Government to obtain the co-operation of the Opposition on this committee. I think that the proceedings in the House this afternoon increase the strength of the suggestion that members of the Government prefer that the Opposition should not be on the committee, so that the Government can misrepresent the Opposition’s attitude as being a refusal to cooperate on important national issues, rather than to present conditions which would enable the Opposition to be represented on the committee. We have seen evidence of that in the House this afternoon. We saw an immediate attempt to make partypolitical capital by misrepresenting the position taken by the Opposition. I am not opposed to any one making party-political capital - on one or two rare occasions I have done this myself - but I do suggest that when this issue is immediately made one for making party-political capital it throws very serious doubts on the motives of the
Government in presenting this proposition to the Opposition.
The honorable member for Lawson said that if members of the Opposition had been on this committee two years ago they would not, and could not possibly, have made the serious mistakes that they made then in their references to Indonesia and in the policy that they adopted in the Indonesian crisis at that time. If that is so - if the Opposition would not have made these mistakes had it had the information that was available to the Foreign Affairs Committee two years ago - how does it come about that the Government’s own policy on Indonesia misfired so very badly at that very time two years ago? Only two explanations occur to me. Either the Minister did not tell his Foreign Affairs Committee the real score, or the Minister did not heed the views expressed by the committee at that time. I do not know what other explanation could be offered.
Then the honorable member for Lawson raised a very interesting point. He deprecated the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) had suggested that there might be a party alignment on this committee. The honorable member said that that was something to be deprecated very much indeed. He said that it was not a party committee at all and that it did not consider things from a party point of view. He said that matters that came before it were not in any sense party matters. If that is so, why is the Minister so extraordinarily insistent that there must be a Government majority on the committee. If it is not a party matter, why does he insist that one party must have a clear majority of the membership of the committee?
– A bigger majority than on any other committee.
– As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition reminds me, a bigger majority than the Government has sought on any other committee of the Parliament. I raise that point only to make plain the very real and genuine objection of the Opposition to the proposals for the committee now put before the House by the Minister. I share the view expressed by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I am not at all confident that the real attitude of the Opposition will become widely known and understood by the Australian public because experience has taught us that every attempt will be made by Government supporters and by newspapers throughout Australia once again to misrepresent the Opposition’s attitude. Therefore, I propose to state our attitude in my own words, as simply as I can.
The basis of all committees of this kind is that there are Government representatives and Opposition representatives - that is all - and that the Government representatives are nominated by the Prime Minister and that the Opposition representatives are nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. That is the basis of all committees of this kind, and it is not the Opposition that is departing from that basis - it is the Government. If the basis on which all committees of this kind that have been appointed were followed in this case the Government would not now be seeking to nominate the members in the terms of the Minister’s letter. I repeat, it is not the Opposition which is departing from the basis on which these committees are appointed - it is the Government. If this is the reason why the Opposition is unable to join the committee, the responsibility rests not with the Opposition, which has not departed from the basic conditions, but with the Government, which has departed from those conditions.
Let us look at this proposition just a little further. The Opposition is agreeable that the Government should have a majority on the committee. This has been the traditional practice with such committees and the Opposition does not contest it. So the Opposition would agree that the Government should have seven members, and the Opposition six members, of the House of Representatives on this committee, and that the Government should have four senators and the Opposition three senators on the committee. But the Government will not agree to that. lt will not allow that to be the position of this committee. It accepts the view that there shall be Government members and Opposition members, but it insists that it shall nominate one of the Opposition representatives, even though we do not accept him as a member of the Opposition. But that is immaterial. We would still object if the Government nominated another member of the Opposition as a member of the committee. This is the right of the
Opposition and the right of the Leader of the Opposition and in the past has always been understood to be our right. Therefore, when the Government insists on reducing Opposition membership so that it can appoint an additional member, it is claiming the right to appoint an Opposition member. This is a proposition which no self-respecting Opposition - Liberal Party, Country Party or Labour Party - could ever adopt in this Parliament. I am certain that the Minister on reflection will realize that he would not accept it if we were in Government and he were a member of the Opposition and we proposed to appoint one of the members of the Opposition to the committee.
– It is too hypothetical.
– That is exactly what you are doing. I appreciate the point of the Minister’s jest - that it will be a long time and it is far too far-fetched to contemplate the Opposition ever being on the Government benches. Let me remind him that in 1946 members of the Labour Party Government felt exactly the same way. We laughed to scorn any suggestion that the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition could be the government of Australia again within twenty years. But those parties did form the government of Australia again with an overwhelming majority within three years. I think that the Minister is realist enough to know that if by any chance, the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) departs from the scene and if he - the Minister for External Affairs - becomes Prime Minister, an Opposition victory at the next general election will be almost certain. So the honorable gentleman cannot regard my proposition as being completely hypothetical. It is one for which I think he must have real regard.
This is not a parliamentary committee. The fact that the Minister has laid down these conditions shows that it is not. The Opposition is blamed for not joining a parliamentary committee, but by the very terms the Minister lays down he makes it a government committee. He makes it an instrument of his government and of himself as Minister for External Affairs. It would be an entirely different proposition if we had a committee on foreign affairs, appointed by this Parliament, in no way responsible to the Minister or subject to the Minister, but on the contrary, with power to request the Minister to come before it, explain his policy and answer questions, as is done in many other parliaments all over the world.
The Minister has raised one point which, apart from any others, is completely fatal to Opposition acceptance of membership of the committee; that is the insistence that the Government must have the right to nominate one of the Opposition representatives. Government supporters go further, because they have nominated a man whom we do not accept as a member of the Opposition; but our objection would be equally strong if they chose to nominate the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) or any other member of the Opposition. We object on the ground of the principle that it is for the Opposition to nominate its own representatives on this committee.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) has done this House a service by making a very real effort in trying to create conditions in which one might expect a reasonable Opposition to join the Government in forming the Foreign Affairs Committee. I believe that this debate could be important, because I cannot see any government at any time being able to make concessions additional to the ones made by the Minister. Therefore, the decision that the Australian Labour Party has taken on this matter probably means that throughout the period of office of this Government at any rate, there will never be a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. For this reason I think it is necessary to try to understand why the Opposition is taking objection, because I do not really believe for a moment that the verbal quibbles and the quibble over numbers constitute a valid reason for the Opposition remaining off the committee. 1 shall deal with the point raised at some length by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in relation to numbers. I understand that it is the Opposition’s view that the numbers in the House of Representatives should be in proportion to the numbers of people in the Parliament. If you take the alternative proposition that was put up - seven Govern ment members to five Opposition members from the House of Representatives - and then look at the numbers in the Senate, as this proposition requires, this would involve the appointment of four Government and three Opposition senators and one member of another political party. It is not a question of appointing an individual from the other Opposition; it is a question of appointing a representative of another political party. The mere fact that the political party happens to be represented by one member does not alter the position. I hope that the honorable member will not try to say that the political party concerned is one of no note and that it should not be recognized in this fashion, because quite clearly, despite its representation, it is one of some influence.
If honorable members opposite are serious in these matters, perhaps they could have introduced into this debate alternative propositions in their quibble over numbers. But they have not done so and I believe that their quibble may well have been used to hide their real reason for not joining the committee. Is the reason, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, that perhaps they will be controlled by the Minister? Is it perhaps because the chairman, with the agreement of a dissenting member, will write a dissenting report? I cannot really accept these reasons as valid. The only reason that I believe stands out in any real sense has not been mentioned. The Opposition may feel that by having members of the committee it will be accused in some measure of supporting or being responsible for Government policies in relation to external affairs. If this is the belief of Opposition members and their reason for remaining off the committee, they should say so in this Parliament and end the nonsense and arguments about matters which are not all that important.
When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) examines the report of his speech, I think he will find that he contradicted himself on more than one occasion. At one stage he seemed to imply that he dropped the thesis that the committee should be used to educate the public, that it should be used to employ the powers of committees formed under the United States congressional system. But in the closing stages of his remarks he seemed to forget this implicit argument and again drew attention to the fact that the committee will not do these things. As I understood him, he was putting this forward as one of the reasons why the Opposition could not and would net take part in the committee. The honorable member quoted the remarks, or the import of the remarks, of Professor Beddie, who attended the Australian Summer School of Political Science in Canberra earlier this year. I shall take a few minutes to say one or two things about the debate that took place during the political science symposium, because it is important that there should be an understanding of what the committee has done and what it can do in our parliamentary system. If the Minister has done nothing else, he has done the Parliament a service in affording an opportunity for debate on these matters so that they can be defined in a more reasonable manner than they have ever been defined in the past.
I shall try to convey to the House the sort of thing that Professor Beddie said in putting forward his thesis about our parliamentary system as a whole. His thesis was that Parliament as Parliament has lost control. He described the present situation as something that is new, as something which has arisen in the last two or three decades. In doing this, Professor Beddie has fallen, as I think I said at the time, into a traditional error of many political philosophers who argue about what they would lie the position to be instead of about what could be the position in relation to the facts and the way politics work under our system of government. We should understand, and outside commentators from universities or any other fields should understand, the facts of life in relation to these matters. Where the executive is part of the Parliament, it is wrong to say that the Parliament has lost control because the authority of the executive is perhaps importal or overwhelming. The fact that the executive is part of the Parliament and that the Parliament without the executive perhaps has not the overriding control that some outside commentators may wish it to have does not mean that the Parliament as a whole has lost control. Such a contention, I believe, is without validity.
Again, where the executive is part of the Parliament, criticism by the supporters of the executive tends, and, indeed, under our system, is bound, to be voiced to some degree in private. This will continue to be so no matter which party holds the Government benches, because people who are in office, regardless of the party to which they belong, do not want to strengthen the hands of those in opposition by voicing criticism always in public. So, much of this criticism will be uttered in private. This will continue to be the situation also because in our system, unlike the congressional system, an adverse vote in this Parliament can, and in most instances will, lead to the resignation of the government of the day. These are facts of life that we cannot get away from in our system. Quite clearly, there is a very powerful motive for the supporters of the present Government to take notice of these facts, because the resignation of the Government as a result of a vote in this Parliament, and the consequences that would follow, are beyond the contemplation of honorable members on this side.
In the United States of America, where the executive is not part of Congress and cannot be overthrown by Congress, criticism is much freer and much more readily expressed, and it may be said that the average congressman has more importance and is more effective than a private member on the Government side or an Opposition member in this Parliament. However, it does not necessarily follow that greater freedom of criticism, of action and of voting for a member under the congressional system leads to a greater control of the executive by Congress. The greater freedom may lead merely to a greater volume of public criticism’, and that would not necessarily strengthen Congress as opposed to the executive. Indeed, it can well be argued that there is much greater parliamentary control in Australia because the Parliament has the authority to dismiss the executive, whereas, in the United States, Congress cannot dismiss the executive.
Because of the basic misunderstanding of our system and the confusion between it and the congressional system, we often find people saying that the Parliament should be going about things different’)’ and that committees of the Parliament should act in a manner different from that in which they have customarily acted. For the same reasons that members are at times constrained in their activities in the Parliament because of the nature of our system, committees of the Parliament have similar constraint put upon them. In our system, as opposed to the congressional system, joint parliamentary committees could not have power to control, shape or initiate legislation. If, in fact, this Parliament ever intended to give them these powers, some real abuse of our parliamentary system could occur. We should note in particular that on such committees the government of the day will always have a majority. The government majority, no matter what may be the political complexion of the administration in question, will not wish to endanger or unnecessarily embarrass its own executive. For this reason, again, under our system, joint committees work in private, and will have to continue to work in private. This will remain a necessity while our parliamentary system, as opposed to the American congressional system, continues to exist. The two systems are quite different in concept.
The information, made available to the Foreign Affairs Committee, as the Minister for External Affairs told us when he submitted the motion, by reason of its very nature and the sources from which it is obtained, often must remain secret while it is not available from other sources. This is another reason why the work of a committee such as this should remain relatively private compared to the work of committees in the United States. Sources of information must be protected. Sometimes, the information conies from other governments. Sometimes, it comes from people outside this Government and all other governments. Honorable members opposite, if they were to serve on the committee, would realize that the persons who appear before it talk much more freely and much more frankly than they would talk if they believed that what they said would be brought into the full light of day. This is one valuable feature of the committee’s work that would be lost if its proceedings were to be made public.
Because of a basic misunderstanding of what committees such as this can and should do in a British parliamentary system, people have often looked for reactions from the Foreign Affairs Committee that they cannot reasonably envisage and have no right to expect. The committee’s purpose is to inform honorable members and to report to the Minister for External Affairs on any matters that it thinks fit. If that was not precisely the position in the past, it was in fact the way in which the committee worked. Finally, by reporting to the Minister, the committee may have some influence on policy. It is quite improper to judge the committee on its published documents, as I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did, and as Professor Beddie certainly did when he addressed the Summer School of Political Science in Canberra earlier this year. The reports of the committee are not intended to be published. They are designed to be presented to the Minister for External Affairs, and only by accident would a report of the committee be suitable for publication. The committee’s purpose is not to publish material. The assumption that because a report on one subject was published the committee may have been steered away from or prevented from examining other matters is false and bears no relation to the premise on which it is based. Honorable members opposite, if they were willing to serve on the committee, would realize that in the matters that it wishes to examine it has a pretty free hand. In fact, the committee has examined those matters that it wants to examine.
As I have said, Mr. Speaker, this debate is important. I believe that this is the last time that a genuine attempt can be made to persuade Opposition members to serve on the committee. I do not believe that any future Minister for External Affairs would go to the lengths to which the present Minister has gone in delaying the constitution of the committee for several weeks or even months. This delay and the attitude of the Opposition are regrettable. I repeat that, as I understand the situation indicated by the differing views expressed by Opposition members, the real reason for their refusal to take part in the work of this committee is not that they have some quibble over the number of members from one House or the other to be appointed or over the way in which dissent from a report may be communicated to the
Minister, but that they have a basic misconception about what the committee can do, the influence that it can exercise and the primary purpose that it can usefully serve in helping to inform members of the Parliament so that they may make reasonable and sensible judgments on some aspects of foreign affairs.
.- Mr. Speaker, I believe that this debate on the motion for the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee has now reached a stage at which a very short summary of the Opposition’s position could well be given. For many years now, the Opposition and the House have considered the question of whether Opposition members, should serve on the committee. This year, by correspondence between the Opposition leadership and the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), conditions governing the position of the Opposition in relation to this committee have been carefully considered. I think it may be said in principle that anything that would encourage a closer, more critical, more penetrating and more responsible examination of international affairs by this Parliament would be . . j desirable.
The Opposition was prepared to consider the conditions on which the Government, through its Minister, would be prepared to accept membership by the Opposition. I emphasize the words “ accept membership “. This is not a committee of the Parliament; this is a committee for which conditions of membership are laid down by the Government. This is not something that is determined by common law or by practice. The Opposition membership of the committee would be completely subject to the conditions and terms laid down by the Government. What we could do or could not do as members of this committee would be limited and determined by the Government. It is quite clear, therefore, that the Opposition is not only within its rights but that one of its duties is to consider carefully the conditions laid down by the Government and not accept them as a matter of course.
As a result of the lengthy discussions, negotiations and correspondence that have taken place, three conditions became the subject of examination. The first related to the membership of the member of another place, who is a senator for the Australian
Democratic Labour Party. The position that the Opposition takes in respect of this gentleman is that he in every sense of the word is a supporter of the Government. He and his party work outside the Parliament in every conceivable way to benefit and to elect the Government.
– He is more important to the Government than the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is.
– He is much more important to the Government than any two, three or four members on its own back benches are. He has served the Government well and on more than one occasion the Government has served him well. In addition to this, any one who knows the attitude of this gentleman in another place to questions of external affairs and the attitude of the Government will know that on almost every issue, if not every issue, that might arise in the deliberations of the committee the honorable senator would be on the side of the Government and not on the side of the Opposition. The Opposition states clearly that it does not object to a member of the Democratic Labour Party being in this House, in the other place or a member of the committee. But we say that he should occupy his rightful place in the House, or the Senate or on the committee and that is as a representative of the Government and not of the Opposition. In no way does this gentleman speak for the Opposition on foreign policy or on any other matter.
– He is not of the Opposition either.
– He is not in any way of the Opposition. We make this quite clear. This is one of the causes of our unwillingness to join the committee. The Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) and the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) are interjecting together. If they would interject one at a time, I would be able to hear what they are saying and try to make some sense out of their words.
– Order! I would not encourage honorable members to get out of order.
- Mr. Speaker, the gentlemen concerned need no encouragement.
I will deal now with the question of a minority report. The conditions defined by the Minister give the chairman of the committee the right to summarize minority reports. In fact, the chairman of the committee is given the right to say how much will be put in a minority report which might come from the Opposition. We know the chairman of the committee is a supporter of the Government. Therefore, in this condition, a supporter of the Government is given the right to say what the Opposition would put in its minority report. This is a condition we cannot possibly accept. We believe that the attitude of the Government should be that members on the Opposition side, like members on the Government side, must be given the right to say what they think in a minority report. I believe we can assume that honorable members on this side of the House would show as much responsibility and discretion as honorable members on the other side of the House would show in saying what they believed should be said. We believe that the Opposition members of the committee would need to have the right to decide themselves what they should say in their minority report.
The third condition that I want to refer to briefly before sitting down relates to secrecy. I think it is quite likely that some matters would arise in the course of the discussions of the committee that should be kept secret, but I believe that this question of secrecy is very much overdone. The Minister for the Army in a very considered statement has pointed out that very little of what was sent to the committee on more than one occasion by the former Minister for External Affairs could ever be considered secret. The Minister for the Army made an excellent job of stating how he had read in the “ Daily Telegraph “, “ Newsweek”, “ Time “ or some other magazine the information that the previous Minister for External Affairs was telling the committee was highly classified material. I do not think the Minister for the Army can give a satisfactory reply to this merely by shaking his head. I think there is a habit of being too much inclined to treat information as highly secret. It does the ego good, 1 suppose, to think that information we have is so important and so highly secret.
I do not think that this condition that has been given to us by the Minister would work out very well in practice. He said that a member of the committee would not be prevented from divulging what he had heard in the committee provided he had heard it somewhere else and was not responsible for introducing it into the public domain. This sounds like a reasonable proposition at first, but I suggest that it would be very difficult to make it work in practice. This committee should be encouraged to study, to work on and to make public far more than the present conditions would allow. There is nothing that this country of ours needs more than authoritative education on matters of external affairs. I regret that there is still a tendency to treat this committee as a very restricted study circle for the education of people who ought to be sufficiently well educated already in these matters.
For the three reasons I have now attempted to summarize, the Opposition finds itself unable to accept the conditions offered to it by the Minister and the Government for joining the committee. I emphasize that these are conditions offered by the Government. The responsibility for defining them is on the Government and if the Government wants the Opposition to provide members of the committee the responsibility is on it to make the conditions suitable for the Opposition to accept.
.- 1 want very shortly to say how sorry I am that the Opposition has taken the attitude on this matter that it has taken to-day. I think that the correspondence, to which most honorable members who have spoken have referred, shows that there has been a desire on both sides of the House to narrow the gap that has existed between us in the past and to see whether some arrangement could be made to enable all parties to be represented on the committee. It is quite obvious from what has been said that the gap has been considerably narrowed and that very little now divides the main parties in the House and prevents the Opposition from joining the committee.
I would like to say something on the matter of representation on the committee, which seems to have occupied most of the time of the debate. The Opposition has stated that it would be happy with seven Government members and six Opposition members from the House of Representatives and four Government members and three Opposition members from the other place. I wonder what the Opposition’s attitude would be if membership of the committee were increased to 21 so as to enable all parties in this Parliament to be represented. We would then satisfy the Opposition as well as the Government and we would ensure that all parties in the Parliament were represented on the committee.
– Are you a member of the committee?
– The committee has not been appointed.
– Were you a member of the former committee?
– You did not learn much.
– At the moment I am dealing with membership of the committee. The matter to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has referred does not arise.
It appears that apart from the matter of representation of parties, objections to the committee have been narrowed down to one issue - the manner of presentation of a report by the committee to the Minister for External Affairs. Apparently the Opposition is not to be represented on this important committee because the Opposition objects to the chairman of the committee condensing members’ reports to reasonable length before they are placed before the Minister rather than allowing individual members to tender long statements. Whereas formerly there was a wide gap between the Government and the Opposition with regard to membership on the committee, now only a small issue stands in the way of the Opposition being represented on this committee. Perhaps we can hope that when this matter is again raised, the gap will be closed.
.- Like other members of the Opposition, I am disappointed that we on this side of the House are not represented on the committee, but this is not of our doing. I hoped that the
Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), with his wide experience in law, would lay down conditions of membership that would enable the Opposition to be represented on the committee. I support wholeheartedly the submissions made to the House by my colleagues and the reasons they gave for our refusal to be represented on the committee at this stage. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has stated to the Minister the reasons why the Opposition cannot at this stage agree to be represented on the committee. I submit that the Minister should further consider the submissions that have been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They merit further consideration. We have given this matter a lot of thought. It has been discussed at every meeting of the party since the Parliament was opened earlier this year after the summer recess.
I am sorry to say that on many occasions the Government has used the forum of foreign affairs to seek some political advantage. It did so in relation to the base at North West Cape and it did so in the debate last night. Despite all that, the Opposition is still prepared to throw in its lot to see what can be done for the good of Australia. We on this side of the chamber are just as loyal Australians as are honorable members opposite. Bearing in mind the number of people we represent in this Parliament, it could be claimed that we are more loyal than honorable members opposite because we represent more Australians. We are fully aware that some information relating to foreign affairs is confidential and cannot be divulged. Nevertheless, we are willing to throw in our lot, but only when the submissions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have been considered by the Minister. Now the ball is in his court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work bc referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Proposed erection of Radio Australia Booster Station at Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the provision of a receiver station, a transmitter station, external engineering services, including power supply, water supply, access roads and a small jetty. The receiver station will have a main single-story concrete brick building housing all major functions and a small ancillary building accommodating fire pumps and water treatment plant.
The transmitter station will consist of a two-story transmitter building with an attached single-story workshops and stores section, a single-story administrative and amenities building, a power house and several small ancillary buildings. The larger buildings will be steel framed with concrete brick infill panels, and the smaller buildings will be constructed in concrete brick. 1 table plans of the proposed works.
– I warmly congratulate the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) on having at last been able to reach finality concerning this project. The tragedy of the matter is that the project has been under consideration for three years or more, and I understand that another two years will elapse before it may be completed. With all due respect to the opinions of other honorable members, I point out that we arc engaged in a war with Communist China, lt may be a different kind of war from other wars in which we have been engaged. For some time past Peking Radio, which is one of the strongest radio stations, if not the strongest, in this part of the world, has been jamming broadcasts from Radio Australia. For a long time I have felt that a booster station for Radio Australia was vitally needed in this age of psychological and propaganda warfare. It is vital that the booster station be built. I express regret only at the fact that it has taken so long to come to a decision to get moving with the job and that it will take another two years before the station is completed. If we were engaged in the kind of war that we knew in days gone by, this station would be built in about three months. I cannot understand why it has taken so long to arrive at a decision to build the booster station but I am (.lad that at last we are to get on with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16th April (vide page 1215), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.- The main measure before the House for discussion and decision is a bill for an act relating to the finances of the Australian Wool Board and to the Wool Research Trust Fund. That bill has seven other hills associated with it. Some of them are fundamental; some of them are merely bills to repeal acts. The most important subject matter is the raising of more finance for wool promotion in Australia and abroad. The finance is to be raised by two methods. First, there is to be a contribution by the wool-growers of Australia, and secondly, there is to be a contribution by way of a subsidy from the taxpayers of Australia - in other words, a government subsidy.
In tracing the history of the purposes of these bills, it is relevant to say that money to finance wool promotion at home and abroad has been raised since 1936. A variety of tax incidences has operated. I think the first levy on the wool-growers was about 6d. a bale. As the years went by and the value of money decreased, the levy rose to 10s. a bale, which it is to-day, except that there is an additional levy of 2s. a bale for research purposes. In addition, the Government makes a contribution of 4s. a bale for research purposes.
I notice that these bills are framed in such a way that, instead of having two separate levy provisions, as in the past - one to levy wool-growers so much a bale for promotion purposes and the other to levy them 2s. a bale for research purposes - the levy provisions have been merged. Under the Government’s new proposals, when these measures have been passed by the Parliament, only one levy will be imposed on the wool-growers, and it will embrace both promotion and research. Hitherto, apart from a contribution for research, there has not been any governmental contribution for the purpose of promoting wool in the markets of the world, except in one brief period.
I remind the House that the principle of levying which is involved in these measures - I will come to subsidization later - is very important. The ostensible purpose of the levy is to raise money from the people most directly concerned. It is hoped that a body appointed to administer the funds - in this case the Australian Wool Board and its associate, the International Wool Secretariat - will act so as to gain more revenue in order to improve the living conditions and incomes of the wool-growers of Australia. Of course, to the extent that their living conditions and incomes are improved, particularly by the sale of their products overseas, the overall welfare of the people of Australia will be improved.
We might ask whether, even if the money that is to be raised is spent effectively, it is necessary to spend such a large amount? The objective is a very desirable one. I point out to the House - particularly to members of the Government parties - that the levy provision involves a principle which, I am willing to confess, has been adopted in my time by every political party represented in this House. From some source representing the people upon whom the levy will be imposed or inflicted there is assent to the levy. I candidly admit that the best way to receive assent would be through a poll of the growers concerned, but up to the present I do not know of any government of any political colour which has resorted to that method of ascertaining whether or not a levy should be imposed. I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will agree with me on that point.
The point to which I am coming is that in this case, as in other cases, the acquiescence to the levy comes from two major organizations which in combination constitute the Australian Wool Industry Con ference. On that conference there is 50 per cent, representation by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and a 50 per cent, representation by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The conference consists of 25 delegates from each of those organizations and is presided over by an independent chairman, Professor Sir John Crawford. As provided for in recent wool industry legislation, the Government accepts the decisions of that conference on certain matters, and accepts its recommendation as an all-clear signal to impose a levy.
Other sections of the Australian community, such as those comprising the trade unions, levy their members in the form of dues, and sometimes impose additional fees, for the same purposes for which the woolgrowers, through those two organizations, have assented to this levy - namely, to improve the standards of living of their members. To the extent that they are successful in achieving that aim and to the extent that the available purchasing power is more widely distributed in the community, the national well-being is improved. I wonder what would be said if a proposal to levy trade unionists and to pass the money over to the union organizations to spend for the benefit of the unionists was introduced in this Parliament. There would be a hue and cry, as there was in regard to the Hursey case, and it would be said that that was a compulsory imposition of a levy on some rank and file members of trade unions who would be unwilling to pay the levy.
That question could arise in regard to the levy proposal that is now before the House. I am not sure that the Parliament is justified in assenting to the proposed levy merely because 40 members of the Australian Wool Industry Conference assented to it.
– It is not, if we listen to the argument relating to the trade unions.
– It is not, in the light of the argument against compulsory levies imposed on trade unionists, at the request of the executives or representative bodies of the unions, in order to improve the living conditions of the trade union members. I just throw that in as a reminder.
What is the background story to the focal point in the bill - the levy and subsidy proposals? The former Australian Wool Board, which this Government renamed the Australian Wool Bureau, coasted along with a modest levy on wool producers. I believe that the old board, under the chairmanship of the late Sir Douglas Boyd, did reasonably good work and that there was justification for the work that it did. Generally, every one accepted that the work done was desirable and valuable.
Back in 1948 this country witnessed the operation of a wool marketing scheme for th-..’ disposal of the war-time surplus and of the current and incoming clips. That scheme was highly successful. It made a profit of £93,000,000, which was distributed to the participating growers. It was money from heaven. The scheme was excellently managed and had the co-operation of brokers, appraisers, growers, governments and everyone else. When that successful operation concluded there arose from thousands of Australian wool-growers, who had fear in their hearts, an agitation for a continuation of that form of marketing. The growers remembered the experiences of 1921 after the First World War when William Morris Hughes, finding that the price of export wool fell as low as 6id. per lb., invoked the Customs Act and gazetted a regulation prohibiting anyone from exporting wool at less than Sd or 9d. per lb. Almost immediately after the Customs Act was invoked the world’s wool buyers came to the party in Australia, and up went the price of wool. However, eventually that protective shield was withdrawn. Then the 1945 legislation relating to the Australian Wool Realization Commission was enacted. But the growers had not forgotten their experiences in 1921, so when the 1.939 war ended there arose further agitation for some marketing legislation of a protective character.
The wool industry is divided fairly clearly in its representation from various organizations between the ultra-conservatives and what might be termed the ultra-radicals. The ultra-conservatives, with their links with wool-growers, wool buyers and commercial houses, including banks and various other interests which now run the wool futures organizations and so on, have never spared any effort in their endeavours to kill any action by this Parliament or by any one else to get a practical wool marketing scheme into operation. On the other hand, the ultra-radical section of the industry has been active and has done its best.
In 1951 this Government put to the woolgrowers an organized marketing scheme - a reserve price plan. This was rejected out of hand for a variety of reasons that I have stated previously in this House and do not want to elaborate on now. There were the Ti per cent. levy, the 20 per cent, tax deduction and so on. Since 1951 the wool-growers have continued their agitation because in 1958 or thereabouts the price of wool fell to about 42d. per lb. Eventually the Government, pressed into a corner because it had become well known in Australia that pies were operating - all kinds of people ganged up to depress the price of wool; it still goes on - appointed the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry.
That committee had a fairly wide charter of inquiry but did not have any of the power normally vested in a royal commission. Indeed, in its report the committee pointed out that it had nol the power to send for certain information and to demand that it be supplied, or to require a witness to give evidence on oath. That was a great weakness. The end result )f the activities of this hand-picked committee - picked to reflect clearly the Government’s outlook in the economic sense-
– Be fair to the committee.
– Be fair to the committee? Get out! The members of the committee were as conservative and as reactionary as was any body of men ever selected in Australia to inquire into the question whether a marketing scheme or proper marketing arrangements should bc established for the Australian wool-growers. The committee travelled the world. One man was sent to New Zealand to look at a plan operating there-
– A member of the committee.
– Yes, one member. The committee did not go as a whole to take any evidence, but the members took great care that they went to the United Kingdom and Europe. They eventually presented a report which contained no recommendations whatever as to what they considered would be a satisfactory method of marketing, but they made a lot of other recommendations, most of which were accepted.
A new organization called the Australian Wool Board was set up and presided over by Sir William Gunn. Under the powers vested in it the board is authorized, as was the Australian Wool Bureau, to link itself with and to be a part of an international organization known as the International Wool Secretariat. Then the board began to get very big ideas, and acting under the powers vested in it by this Parliament it suddenly determined that the wool levy then operative, and still operative, of 10s. a bale was inadequate to carry out the promotional activities that were desirable in Australia and overseas, notwithstanding that in 1961 Sir William Gunn proposed a plan providing for a levy of 10s. a bale in 1961-62, 10s. a bale in 1962-63, 14s. a bale in 1963-64, 15s. a bale in 1964-65, 16s. 6d. a bale in 1965-66 and £1 a bale in 1966-67. But that plan was proposed before the new board was created in 1962 and before it became expansive. The new board toured Australia advocating the imposition of a levy amounting to a total of 44s. a bale. To put it mildly, there was hell to pay all over Australia. The Minister knows that. The plan met with very strong opposition. The view generally taken by the radical section of the wool industry was that the levy was excessive, and that section would not tolerate any increase in the levy until a marketing scheme was operating. I am all with the members of that section of the industry.
In 1961 Sir William Gunn considered that 15s. a bale was a sufficient levy to be paid in 1964-65. Why is it that now in 1963-64 the board, over which Sir William Gunn presides, has endeavoured to get the growers to concur in a levy of 44s. a bale, an enormous increase on the original proposal? I know the reason. All J am going to say about it is that it is as devilish, as fiendish a plot as ever was conceived in the minds of evil men for a specific purpose. The specific purpose was that of the ultra-conservatives in the conservative Aus tralian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, to destroy any prospect, at least within the foreseeable future, of a wool marketing scheme being adopted after a poll of Australian wool-growers. Why do I say that?
– Because you have a suspicious mind.
– Well, you have not, of course, and that is why you never support anything that we put up.
– It was a fair answer, Reg.
– It was a fair accusation. I have a suspicious mind on this issue. I know that, as a body, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council is as conservative and reactionary as any primary producers’ organization in Australia. It is entitled to be, make no mistake about that. It has every right to be. But I say that if has opposed, by every method at its disposal, any proposition for organized marketing. It wants the present old practice to continue. Much subtle propaganda has been disseminated by members of the Wool Board and in some cases by people who have relinquished their previous views, lt has been so subtle that some members of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation have also fallen for it.
The managing director of the International Wool Secretariat, Mr. Vines, is a most able salesman. He can sell anything. He is a champion, and probably worth his salary, although no wool-grower in Australia knows what he is paid by the Wool Board, the finances for which have, up to date, been provided entirely from a levy on growers. What he is paid is a secret, but at any rate he is capable and competent and is a good salesman. Sir William Gunn and Mr. Vines went on the rampage advocating a levy of 44s. a bale, and they met resistance. Previously in this Parliament the Labour Party had advocated, in debates on the 1962 wool legislation and on many other occasions, that the levy to be paid by the growers be matched, £1 for £1, by the Commonwealth, because it is said to be in the interests of Australia to promote the sale of wool. On every such occasion every Government member in this House voted against such a proposition. They expressed horror at the suggestion. Later I will tell honorable members what one member said about it. I do not want to do so now because the honorable member is not present. I suggest that you try to have him come into the chamber. 1 refer to the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes). Honorable members on the Government side expressed themselves as being completely opposed to any Government subsidy.
As I have said, Sir William Gunn and Mr. Vines, and others whom they called to their assistance, met with resistance. They were astute men. What happened then? Sir William Gunn and representatives of the Wool Board and of the Wool Industry Conference went as a deputation to the Government. Professor Crawford was there. In his capacity as independent chairman of the conference he was quite entitled to go along with Sir William Gunn. I do not know what his personal view was. Four Ministers of this Government heard the case presented for subsidy assistance. It is not often that you have to get four Ministers together. They were the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry. I do not know what was said to them, but I could make a shrewd guess. It would be something like this: We are having one hell of a job to get these wool-growers to consent to a levy of 44s. a bale, and unless we can get some subsidy from the Government we are sunk.
These four Ministers appeared at a most appropriate time, just after the election date had been announced by the Prime Minister. Lo and behold, they came forth from the conference looking pleased and within a few days - I can give the exact date if you wish; it was just before the general election - the Government announced that it had undertaken to pay a subsidy of £1 for £1 on every amount in excess of 10s. a bale being paid by the wool-growers at that time. What did that mean? Abandoning the attitude adopted when the Labour Party in 1962 suggested a subsidy in this House, the Government came right out with a most substantial subsidy. It said to the growers, “ You arc now paying 10s. a bale. You will pay an extra 17s. a bale, bringing your contribution to 27s., and we will pay 17s. a bale, making a total of 44s.” This offer was put to the Australian Wool Industry Conference and was accepted. Well, I think the growers were led up an alley.
This party is in the clear on the matter, because this is what was contained in the Labour Party’s rural policy speech for the 1963 election: -
Do you remember that as recently as February 1961, Sir William Gunn, as chairman of the now defunct Wool Bureau campaigned for the following promotion levy programme -
Recently, Sir William Gunn, as chairman of the new Wool Board, launched a campaign for a 44/- per bale per grower levy. This is 30/- per bale higher than what Sir William proposed less than two years ago, as being suitable for the season 1963-64. This new proposal met very strong grower resistance. The executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and Sir William Gunn then approached the Commonwealth Government for a contribution.
On the eve of this election the Government agreed to a proposal which, if it became operative, meant a grower contribution of 27/- per bale and a Government subsidy of 17/- per bale.
Labor’s pledge on promotion. A Labor government will not increase the present 10/- per bale promotion levy until Growers have voted at a poll on a reserve price auction plan at an early date. A Labor government will submit such a plan for growers’ approval at a poll.
If the plan is accepted by growers, a Labor government would review the levy need and subsidize, pound for pound, growers’ contributions.
Well, that proposal was not accepted and the Government has instituted this extra 17s. levy. This is now expressed, together wilh the present 10s. levy, as a 2 per cent, levy and will be applied to the grower’s proceeds as received from the wool broker - his gross proceeds, his cheque. It does not sound much; but let us look at some figures. When this levy is imposed on the growers there will be some shocks. I have some figures that 1 took out, based on information in one of the publications of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, I think for the year 1961. These figures give cost of production and so on. They were arrived at after a survey of 70 farms in the high rainfall zone of Victoria, of sizes ranging from 200 to 10,000 acres, with an average size of 772 acres and an average flock of 1,192 sheep. I want to explain that in the figures showing gross returns I have included some small income of these people, who are mainly woolgrowers, from cattle and the sale of sheep, but the overall effect of the levy will not be substantially altered. In each case I have taken the three years 1957-58, 1958-59 and 1959-60.
In 1957-58 the wool price was 62.45d. per lb., in 1958-59 it was 48.57d. and in 1959-60 it had picked up a bit, being 57.78d. These interesting figures are revealed: With a gross return of £4,403 the 2 per cent. levy would amount to £88. The costs in this case would be £2,953, leaving a net farm income of £1,450. These are the bureau’s own figures. On a net income of £1,450, the levy incidence is 6 per cent. This does not take account of the operator’s allowance of £756, and surely the wool-grower is entitled to that. If we deduct the operator’s- allowance of £756, the return to capital and management is £694. I might mention that these percentages do not take account of the Government subsidy. On the basis of £694, the 2 per cent, levy that it is proposed to inflict on the grower becomes a 12.6 per cent. levy. That will make some of the growers grieve, and I hope they will realize who has put this impost on their backs.
Let us take the year 1958-59. In that year the average gross return on the 70 properties was £3,658. The 2 per cent, levy on that would amount to £73.16. The costs amounted to £2,801, so that the net farm income for the year was £857. The levy incidence there is 8.5 per cent. If the grower is allowed an operator’s allowance of £773, to which he is entitled, the net return to capital and management is only £84, and the levy incidence is 87 per cent. That will hurt, will it not? That is what this means.
Now let us take the year 1959-60, when the price of wool was 57.78d. per lb. In that year, the gross income was £4,767, and the 2 per cent, levy amounts to £95.34. In that year the costs were £3,012, so that the net farm income was £1,755. in this case, the levy incidence is 5.4 per cent. The return to capital and management, after deducting an operator’s allowance of £818, was £937 on which the levy inci dence is 10 per cent. I have quoted a series of facts, and I challenge contradiction of them.
– You are a bit of a conjurer if you can convert 2 per cent, into 87 per cent.
– The honorable gentleman says I am a conjurer. Let me explain the position to him again. I repeat that the figures upon which I have based my calculation have been supplied by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In the year 1958-59, the gross return was £3,658 and the costs were £2,801. This left a net farm income of £857. If we deduct from that the operator’s allowance of £773, we get a net return to capital and management of £84. The 2 per cent. levy on the gross return of £3,658 is approximately £73 and the relation which the £73 bears to the net return of £84 on capital and management is 87 per cent. The Minister can work it out for himself. If I am wrong, I will apologize.
– Give us a dissection of the costs.
– I can give you that, but you can look it up for yourself in the report I have mentioned. The honorable member for Mallee can laugh. It is easy to laugh. Perhaps he would like me to read the details out to him, but I can give him the exact reference to the report. He can read the report for himself, and 1 assure him that I have not excluded one cost figure that has been included by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. If the honorable member doubts my veracity, he can check the figures. Then he can come back and explain the matter himself. I remind him that the figures published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are accepted as being almost gospel. I have outlined the facts. Because the position is as I have slated, I propose, before resuming my scat, to move an amendment. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) may shake his head, but the Minister will not deny that the levy of 2 per cent, will be applied at the point where the woolbroker writes out a cheque for the woolgrower.
– That is so.
– Therefore the levy will be made on the gross return, before one penny has been deducted for fertilizers, shearing, wages or anything else.
– It is a maximum deduction.
– You have agreed to the Wool Board’s budgeting to send £11,000,000 to the International Wool Secretariat, have you not?
– And I have agreed to the 2 per cent, maximum.
– Lord help us, it is enough. When the grower realizes that this levy is to be made on his gross return, not on his net return, he will not be happy at all. I remind the Minister that there are many forces that are very active to-day in an endeavour to depress wool prices. Some members of the Wool Board might think it would be a good thing if prices did come down, but 1 do not know of any sane wool-grower who thinks they should come down. There is not much in the industry for the wool-grower at present prices.
– I agree.
– The Minister agrees with me. In the last nine months, prices have improved by 13.3d. on what they were at the end of last season. This might seem a substantial rise, but the growers needed it. The three years which I have taken include one year in which the price was bad, one in which it was not so bad and one in which it was a little better. If wool prices fell to the average for those three years, the growers might begin to agitate for a marketing scheme. There can be no marketing scheme that has governmental assistance and sanction unless adequate funds are available to pay for it. In all past marketing schemes a sum has been mentioned. Under the scheme propounded by the Minister for Trade in 1951, and for which legislation was prepared, the levy proposed was Ti per cent, of the wool-growers’ gross proceeds. Does the Minister for Primary Industry suggest now that if the Australian Wool Board recommended a marketing scheme which would mean a levy of even 3 per cent., the wool-growers of Australia would vote for it? 1 suggest that they will not agree to any scheme that will mean an impost above that which will be placed on them by this measure. Certainly they would reject any scheme that might cost them 7 per cent, of their gross returns.
This is nothing more than a trap. The wool-growers have been tricked; they have been deceived by an exceptionally clever gang of men who want to see destroyed before its conception - if that is the right way to put it - any marketing scheme that will give the growers what they have been seeking for half a century, that is, a scheme that will release them from the clutches of the world’s ganged-up wool buyers. It is not denied that gangs of buyers operate. We cannot deny that successful wool marketing schemes can be evolved, although I do not suggest that it is possible to evolve a scheme that will iron out every price variation. The purpose of the masterminds is to prevent the adoption of any such scheme that is likely to have any success. Unfortunately, these masterminds have trapped some people. Now the Government has walked in, I suggest, fully aware of what is going on. It is unlikely that there will be any marketing scheme now because the growers are likely to reject it when they are told the amount of the levy that will be required to finance it.
Let us look now at some other aspects of this matter. Let us look at the promotion story. Mr. Vines is Sir William Gunn’s mastermind. He could sell anything. He receives a handsome salary. During the election campaign he criticized those who criticized his proposals, so I do not suppose he will mind my saying what I am about to say. In any case, so far most of what I have said about him has been complimentary. The International Wool Secretariat is to get £10,500,000 of this money. It is to be the spending authority. Its estimate that it will require from £10,500,000 to £11,000,000 has been accepted by both the Australian Wool Board and the Government. I suggest that that is excessive. I suggest, also, that neither the Australian Wool Board nor the Minister tried to influence the International Wool Secretariat to reduce the figure when it sought an increase.
Every Minister in this Parliament knows that each year when the departmental estimates are being prepared the heads of
Government departments, who are responsible men, present estimates which, almost without exception, are inflated. They do so knowing that the figures will bc reduced. Did Sir William Gunn, who is chairman of the Australian Wool Board, or his colleagues challenge the claim that £11,000,000 was essential for the promotion of wool in overseas markets? It does not look like it. So the estimate of £11,000,000 was accepted. Will the expenditure of that amount on promotion save the growers of this country? Will it prevent a price decrease? Nobody can say. The expenditure of this amount is a calculated risk. I suggest that the amount is extravagant in the light of all our experience.
I have been a fairly ardent reader of various publications of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Periodically the bureau publishes “The Australian Sheep Industry Survey “, which provides information on the wool situation. Over a number of years the bureau’s publications have suggested probable reasons for the slump in wool prices. I believe the reasons are that the international situation is difficult, war is thought to be in the offing or people are buying clothing made from materials other than wool. As a result of these things the price of wool declines, but that decline has little to do with promotion. A decline in price could be brought about by economic circumstances, such as a depression in any part of Europe, in Great Britain, America or anywhere else. In addition to these reasons the old bogy of synthetic fibres is trotted out. Graphs are presented and figures are quoted, but none of them disproves the fact that, despite synthetic fibres and all the claims that have been made for them since they have been in production, practically every pound of wool that is produced is sold each year. All those reasons are trotted out, and they are not all bogies. Some are founded on fact. But the fall in the price is not strongly related <o the lack of wool promotion. I am not opposed to some promotion, but it is always those other factors that are mentioned when a decline in wool prices is discussed. Honorable members have only to look through the journals of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to see that the lower prices are not brought about by synthetic fibres.
As my time has almost expired I shall conclude by moving an amendment which is in line with Labour’s policy and is designed to protect Australian woolgrowers from what is the most despicable and calculated burglary that has ever been perpetrated on the wool industry by a designing set of men acting through other men who, in my opinion, are innocents abroad. I move -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House declines to give the bill a second reading as, in the absence of arrangements for a poll of wool-growers in relation to an orderly marketing plan, the proposals increase the contribution by the wool-grower for promotion purposes above a rate equivalent to ten shillings per bale and do not provide for a matching contribution oy the Government at a rate equivalent to ten shillings per bale “.
– I second the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, about three years ago the International Wool Secretariat, a creation of the world’s wool-producing countries and in particular of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, made a comprehensive survey of the effort required to retain for wool its position in the competitive race for fibre consumption in world markets. The bills before the House seek to amend the Wool Industry Act 1962 and associated acts. The proposed amendments have arisen as the result of the Australian Wool Board’s study of the recommendations of the International Wool Secretariat for a promotion programme for the sale of wool. The plan was based on expenditure over a five-year period and the sums of money involved were very substantial.
The objects of the Wool Industry Bill, as clearly outlined in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) are threefold. The first, is to provide for the Government’s contribution towards increased promotion; that object is contained in clause 4 which seeks to amend section 32a of the principal act. Secondly, the measure seeks to amend the growers’ contribution towards promotion by adjustment of the amounts of 10s. and 2s. per bale provided for in section 32. It is sought to replace the per-bale tax which operates at present by a levy imposed as a percentage of 2 per cent., or a lesser amount, as recommended by the Australian Wool Industry Conference to the Minister. This is the main object of the legislation before the House. The third object of the measure is to give to the Australian Wool Board, through clause 5, power to borrow.
I would like to say at the outset that the promotion levy scheme has been referred to the growers’ organizations and has received their approval through the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I do not think there is any need for me at this stage to stress the importance of the wool industry to the Australian Commonwealth. It is obvious. I also think that it is unnecessary for me to illustrate the necessity for us to do all in our power to ensure a continuing worldwide demand for wool at satisfactory prices to the growers in the face of fierce and continuing competition from the synthetic fibres industry, as well as from the competition of other fibres. I refer to the fibres used in clothing, carpets and in other forms of manufacture where wool is normally used.
During the course of his speech the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is leading the Opposition in this debate, used what I can best describe as somewhat extravagant language in dealing with the objects of the promotion campaign. In fact, he devoted most of his time to the question of marketing, although there is no reference to marketing in the bills before the House. He concluded by moving an amendment which seeks the rejection of the idea of a promotion campaign until the growers have had an opportunity to express their views about the introduction of an orderly marketing plan. Those of us who have devoted considerable study to this problem will realize that the amendment proposed by the honorable member is simply a smoke-screen to try to get around the major object of this legislation, which is to encourage the organization we have set up to carry on with the very important matter of promotion. I feel that there will be time and opportunity to discuss wool marketing when it comes before the House, but it has nothing to do with the bills now before us. I repeat that the extremely extravagant language used by the honorable member for Lalor in regard to marketing could be better indulged in on another occasion. The thought came to my mind, as one who has the interests of the industry at heart, that it would be a poor day for the Australian wool industry if its administration at government level fell into the hands of those who have the same way of thinking as the honorable member for Lalor.
In October last, the Government recognized the importance of meeting the competition of the synthetic fibres industry in particular and the competition of other fibres used for similar purposes to wool. The Government adopted the principle of a large-scale promotion campaign and it was announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) at the time that the Government was prepared to contribute towards promotion an amount equal to the growers’ contribution in excess of the sum of 10s. a bale determined in previous legislation. Under the measure before us, the levy to be imposed will include the existing levy of 2s. a bale for research. The total levy of 2 per cent., to which I shall refer later on in my speech, will therefore cover not only promotion but also research. Admittedly, this is a completely new principle and is one which may not have appealed to the wool-growers of the past.
On a previous occasion, the honorable member for Lalor referred to the conservative attitude of a number of Australian wool-growers. I feel that in this sense he is perfectly right in saying that the ideaof government intervention to support the wool industry was always rejected in the past by the wool-growers. However, the point I wish to make is that the woolgrowers of the past were not faced with the scientific developments that have taken place in the synthetic wool-substitute fibres industry, or with the large-scale industry engaged in the production of these synthetics; nor were they faced with the immense resources of advertising used in the direct encouragement of consumer appeal.
The wool industry is far too important for the Government of Australia and far too important for the general well-being of the Australian economy to be dismissed as something that is purely the prerogative of the growers. Philosophically that is the point we have to remember. The wool industry is so vital to the general economy of Australia that irrespective of the growers’ wishes to keep the industry out of government control, the promotion proposals contained in the legislation before us are so important that government responsibility must be and obviously is involved. Promotion is to be undertaken by the International Wool Secretariat under the very able administration of Mr. Vines, an Australian with a vast experience in international trade as a senior executive of a famous paint manufacturing firm. As a young man he gained a background knowledge of wool production and had a close association with the wool trade in his more mature years.
The International Wool Secretariat has prepared a scheme for promotion founded on the idea of creating a separate image for wool as the pre-eminent fibre for human apparel, for furnishing fabrics and for many diverse uses. The promotion campaign seeks to withdraw wool from normal association with other fibres so that preeminence may be given to it in consumer appeal. I think that answers to a certain extent the criticism of people who ask what the necessity is for a promotion campaign when we are actually selling all our wool. If honorable members realize that the object of the promotion campaign is to draw wool out of association with other fibres they will appreciate that it will attain pre-eminence and greater appeal to the public generally. If the promotion campaign succeeds, wool will be placed on a pedestal of appeal for human consumption.
It is extremely difficult to evaluate the success of any promotion compaign. Obviously, when one spends a lot of money on advertising, it is almost impossible to make an appreciation from day to day of the results of the expenditure. Wool promotion involves the spending of huge sums. The current plan has set a target for an annual expenditure of £16,250,000 over the next five years, of which Australia will provide £11,000,000 per annum. The present strong market for wool has probably been partly brought about by the very severe winter of 1962-63 in the northern hemisphere and also perhaps by changing fashions and a high level of prosperity in the wool consuming countries. This strong market may produce the thought that promotion is not necessary. However, we have already been conducting a promotion campaign to a certain degree and, if we believe in the success of advertising, it is reasonable to assume that the campaign that has already been conducted has brought some measure of success.
The present promotion levy is imposed on the basis of 10s. a bale, a fadge or a bag. From now on, the levy will be imposed as a percentage of sale value. With this change, I completely agree. I believe that the decision by the Minister for Primary industry and the Government to change to a percentage basis has been wise. This decision was based on a wise recommendation by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The new basis for the levy will in fact produce a much more equitable distribution of the burden of the levy than the old bale basis. To make this clear, 1 have only to cite the comparison between a bale of high-quality merino wool selling at £120 or £140, or even more, and a bale of lower-quality wool selling at £40 or £50. This shows how inequitable is a levy imposed by the bale. The percentage of the levy on the new basis will be a maximum of 2 per cent., and the actual rate to be imposed in any one year will be fixed by the Governor-General by regulation on the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
This will impose on the conference a heavy obligation, for determination of the results of the expenditure on promotion in the past and evaluation of the promotion programme in the future will not be easy. The recommendations made by the conference naturally will be greatly influenced by the advice that it receives, for individual members would not have the personal experience of knowledge to make really informed decisions. Therefore, I believe, in the interests of the growers, a very large section of whom will be represented on the council, and also in the interests of the Government, which will contribute a substantial subvention, and of the taxpayers of Australia, any decisions ought to be made only after a very careful examination of the accounts and recommendations of the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Board.
It is not my intention to discuss this matter at great length, Sir, because many other honorable members on both sides of the House wish to take part in this debate, but I wish to say that if the Australian Wool
Industry Conference is to receive the full support of the growers, it should be truly representative of the general body of growers. Currently, an approach is being made for representation on the conference of the Australian Primary Producers Union, which is a more recent addition to the organizations that represent growers. That body, in its comparatively short history, has shown that it adopts a responsible approach to the problems of the wool industry. It has produced several men with real ability and understanding of those problems. I sincerely trust that the way will be opened for the representation of the union on this all-important Wool Industry Conference, thereby making the conference more truly representative of the Australian wool-growers.
Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me say that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor involves the rejection of the proposition that promotion of the sale of wool is urgently needed. I believe in promotion. I believe that it is necessary. The honorable member has merely drawn across the trail a red herring related to a completely different subject. Apparently, he has in the back of his mind an idea that promotion involves some subterfuge and that a successful promotion campaign will delay a proper examination of the problems of the orderly marketing of wool and an appeal to the growers to approve action necessary to solve those problems. In my view, the honorable member’s proposal must be rejected immediately.
In considering these measures, we are considering promotion. I believe the legislation is necessary. The Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is a body of some substance, believes that it is necessary. It has been recommended and vetted by the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Board. Not all the growers have adopted a uniform attitude towards the government’s proposals, I admit, but at least they have them fairly clearly in their minds now. In my view, an attempt now to delay the wool promotion campaign on the ground that something else is wanted in the way of wool marketing proposals would be wrong. The amendment represents an attempt to defeat the Wool Industry Bill, and 1 will have none of it. I support this legislation. I believe that the Minister has done a remarkable job in achieving unity between the two major wool organizations. I appeal to him to do all he can to further the interests of the Australian Primary Producers Union, which, I believe, has already shown a marked degree of responsibility. Representation of that body on the Australian Wool Industry Conference would add strength to the conference and make it more fully representative of the wool-growers as a whole,
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), which is important because the Wool Industry Bill is concerned with the promotion and merchandising of wool. That is a very worthy cause. It is important, also, that the growers receive proper returns for their product, and therefore they must be able to sell at just prices. Inquiries that have been held have proved that, under the present arrangements for the marketing of wool, pies and various activities prevent the producers from getting just prices. We believe that the assurance of just prices to the producers is equally as important as any other consideration and should receive equal attention in the contemplation of any arrangement for the promotion of the sale of wool. As the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out, wool has found a ready market every year. I think it will continue to do so, because it has no equal as a product and possesses many qualities that are not found in substitutes.
The wool industry is very important in the life of Australia. In 1962-63 it earned £407,000,000 overseas, representing 38 per cent, of our total exports of merchandise. An industry that produces export income on such a large scale is important not only to the people actually engaged in it, but to the whole of Australia, and especially to country towns, which are supported by wool-growing. Stability in the wool industry promotes stability and employment in country towns and in the cities. For these reasons, as I have said, the industry is very important to all Australians.
The Australian Labour Party is not opposed to the principle of the promotion of the sale and the use of wool. We are opposed only to the methods now to be adopted and to the heavy levy to be imposed on producers. We believe that many woolgrowers will have difficulty in paying the high rate of levy, particularly in bad years due to droughts or adverse grazing conditions. Many young men in the wool industry to-day are paying off their properties. They are rearing large families and, because they live in isolated areas, they have to meet heavy expenses in sending their children to school. Many of these young men can ill afford to pay the high levies on wool. A prosperous grazier would have no difficulty in finding the money, but I believe that the small grower would have difficulty.
Wool marketing is important. The Government has said that it is important to establish new markets for wool. One would think that the Government would do everything within its power to find new markets or to take advantage of any opportunities to sell more wool, but this is not so. I do not know what the tariff on synthetics is now, but not very long ago the present Government reduced the tariff on synthetics coming from America and other countries from 50 per cent, to 7i per cent. Synthetics are the chief competitors of wool, but the tariff on nylon was reduced from 50 per cent, to 7i per cent, at a time when we were paying a duty of 25 to 28 cents per lb. on wool going to America. Before reducing the tariff on American nylon and rayon coming into this country, the Government should have negotiated with the American interests to have the duty on wool entering America reduced in the same proportion as we reduced the duty on synthetics coming from America. This is one instance in which the Government could have increased the sale of wool by having the present American embargo eased, but it did not take any action. On the other hand, it encouraged the use of synthetics in Australia by reducing the duty.
The wool industry has suffered many ups and downs. It has gone through periods of great prosperity and periods of slump prices. During a slump, many growers will have some difficulty in meeting the levy on wool. If the Government is anxious to assist the wool industry and to help the grower obtain a better price for his product, it should keep in mind that it is equally as important to obtain an increased price as it is to obtain an increased market for the product. 1 believe that the whole of the clip is being sold at present. We have a mounting burden of shipping freights. Periodically the shipping combines increase their charges on wool. Time and again the Government has been urged to take some action to stabilize the freight charges on wool, but it has done nothing. This is one way of assisting primary producers, but the Government has done nothing about it.
More credit should be made available within Australia for the purchase of wool. Most of the finance for the purchase of wool is made available overseas. I have been informed by buyers from other countries that at times they have difficulty in obtaining finance abroad and have certainly not been able to obtain it in Australia. A few years ago, the interest rates on money provided for the purchase of wool were increased, and were higher than the general interest rates obtaining in the community. This imposition was responsible for a reduction at that time in the price of wool. Interest rates have recently been increased and there is little doubt that the interest rates on overdrafts will also be increased. Many wool-growers have overdrafts - some have substantial overdrafts - and the interest rates they pay will be increased. The Government says it wants to help woolgrowers. If it is sincere, it can help them by keeping down interest rates on overdrafts.
I do not wish to speak at great length on these matters, but I want to emphasise that an orderly marketing scheme for wool is important. As I said earlier, it is important that we should get the highest possible price for wool. The financial section of “ Rydge’s Business Journal “ contained the following statement: -
Had a floor price scheme been established at the commencement of the present selling season, I feel certain there would be a very different position in the trade to-day.
The journal pointed out that marketing schemes were adopted in New Zealand and South Africa after the Joint Organization scheme finished, and both countries have found that their marketing schemes operate very successfully. The price of wool in New Zealand has been maintained at a higher level than the 1952 level, when the Joint Organization scheme concluded. In 1952 the Australian price was 44 per cent, higher than the New Zealand price, but the price in Australia to-day is about 4 per cent, lower. If we had maintained the price as it was at the end of the Joint Organization scheme we would now be £1,000,000,000 better off.
All these matters are of importance to the wool-grower. But the Government has done nothing at all to adopt an orderly marketing scheme for wool. The Australian Labour Party has moved this amendment in an effort to have some action taken to establish an orderly marketing scheme. We believe that this is as important as, if not more important than, finding new markets for the product. After all, all the wool we produce is sold on the markets that we have now.
One of the problems facing the growers to-day is that the number of buyers is decreasing. I am informed that about 60 per cent, of the wool sold on the Sydney market is bought by about seven buyers, about 15 per cent, by twenty buyers and the balance of about 25 per cent, is bought by about fifteen buyers.
– How many buyers are operating altogether, do you know?
– I am told that about 40 buyers are operating altogether. The number was substantially greater a short time ago. There is a tendency to-day for pies to be formed and lot-splitting has forced many of the small buyers to pull out of the business. They have not been able to survive against the monopoly that is buying more than 60 per cent, of our wool. Some mcn are continuing to buy wool in a small way, but they are forced to split their commission in half and share it with the monopoly. They do their buying, retain half the commission and give the other half to the monopoly. If they do not do this they will be pushed out of the market altogether. They have to pay the price laid down for them by the ring.
The impact of synthetics is certainly important. It raises a problem which we unfortunately must face. I realize that there must be a promotion campaign of some kind but we feel that the funds sought to be raised under the present promotion scheme are excessive. A levy of 2 per cent, on a bale fetching £70 would amount to £1 8s. That is an excessive charge.
Synthetics that compete with wool are being used in many ways to-day. Recently questions asked in the House revealed that blankets purchased for our Army contained a percentage of synthetics. At one time Army blankets were all wool. One would think that in a country which relies so heavily on the wool industry the Government would stick to woollen blankets, but our military forces are using substitutes for wool. I emphasize that matter.
Our amendment seeks to have a poll of wool-growers on the question of an orderly marketing plan. We believe that if woolgrowers have the opportunity they will support overwhelmingly an orderly marketing plan. We believe also that if the woolgrowers are required to meet excessive charges in order to establish a stabilization scheme they will be inclined to turn it down. The original proposal to establish a marketing scheme should be adopted. The Government will pay a subsidy only on the increased charges that are to be levied. The Government will not pay a subsidy on the original 10s. levy that is being paid by the wool-growers. During the election campaign the Labour Party stated that it would pay a subsidy on the original 10s. levy. Wool helps not only the primary producer who grows it but the nation as a whole. It is a valuable national product. The Government should shoulder a greater responsibility and should pay a greater percentage of the amount which the primary producer is called upon to pay.
– One fact stands out in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and supported by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). It is that the Opposition is opposing quite blatantly the subsidy that this Government has said it is prepared to give for additional wool promotion and which the wool industry, on the advice of its experts and other independent people who have been asked to form a judgment, regards as absolutely essential for its future. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor and supported by the honorable member for Darling quite clearly means that the Opposition would oppose the giving of a government subsidy and would like to see nothing done until the system of wool marketing is altered. This I believe to be a quite fantastic situation.
Shortly before the last election, the Labour Party said that it would support wool promotion on some basis. Perhaps it was a £1 for £1 basis; I do not know.
When legislation dealing with the wool industry was introduced into the last Parliament the Opposition said that it would support a system of wool promotion. The decisions of the Government, to which effect is given in this legislation, are not far out of line with the views of the Opposition on a former occasion. Those decisions have been taken by the Government on the advice of the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I find the Opposition’s attitude in this matter extraordinary. Frankly, I cannot understand the Opposition’s attitude.
I wish to make one or two comments on the remarks of the honorable member for Darling. He charged the Government with lack of foresight or concern for the wool industry because customs duties on certain synthetics coming into Australia had been lowered. The honorable member surely ignored the fact that the synthetics that enter this country come largely from the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the United States of America, and that of those countries the United States is the only one that imposes a duty on raw wool. If this Government had maintained a relatively high rate of duty on synthetics coming into this country, we would have invited the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany to impose a duty on the raw wool that we export to them. Those countries have some of the world’s greatest textile industries and their cloth is second to none. If we had invited those countries to impose a duty on the raw wool that they buy from Australia, we would have done the Australian wool industry a much greater injustice than the honorable member for Darling might realize.
We must remember that 95 per cent, of the product of the wool industry - the greatest of Australian industries - is sold on the world’s markets and only 5 per cent, is used inside Australia. So it is the markets outside Australia that are of prime concern to the Government and to the wool industry. We must do everything we can to preserve and improve those markets so that we may obtain from them the highest prices possible for our wool. The Government’s action in relation to customs duty on synthetics coming into the country was fully in accordance with its policy. If any honorable member opposite wishes to deny that, let him think for a moment what he may have done if he had the responsibility of acting in the matter. I am sure that he would have acted as this Government has acted.
The honorable member for Darling spoke about a marketing scheme. He referred to a marketing scheme in the same easy terms that have been common in recent times. I readily agree that certain statements made just before the last election by leaders of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association acknowledged that the fight for a marketing scheme had been won. A great deal of the impetus for these movements for a marketing scheme came from Victoria. Those statements were to some extent difficult to understand because the people making them could not show how the situation at that time differed from the situation that existed a few months previously, but it is worth noting that there has not been a great deal of agitation on this matter in the last few months.
Whilst I fully agree that the present price of wool is one of the factors that has led to the easing of pressure for a marketing plan, we should not forget that only in May of last year the Australian Wool Board was given statutory responsibility for marketing and that in accordance with legislation that this Government passed at the request of the wool-grower organizations a marketing committee was established. That committee has been conducting an exhaustive technical examination to try to ascertain what kind of marketing is best for the Australian wool-grower and for Australia as a whole.
It is very easy to say that a floor price scheme would be best but other people claim that an acquisition or appraisal scheme would be best. It is possible for all those people to advance arguments to support their cases. Still others advocate a scheme of acquisition plus free auction. They say that a combination of the two would provide the best results for Australia and the Australian wool-grower. The marketing committee has given itself the not altogether easy task of outlining the differences between the various schemes and has accepted the obligation to report to the
Australian Wool Industry Conference and then to the wool industry the proposals it recommends for Australia. It may well be that the reputation of the chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, will stand or fall on the recommendation that comes forward. At various public meetings the chairman has said that he is certain that when the final recommendations of the marketing committee arc endorsed by the board and put to the conference, the majority of people in the wool industry will be satisfied that the best recommendations for the future of the industry have come forward. Clearly in this most important and contentious matter Sir William Gunn has laid his reputation on the line in the recommendations that arc likely to come forward in only two or three months’ time.
The honorable member for Darling also charged the Government with neglect in this matter. He said that it had done nothing to try to formulate a marketing scheme to take some of the vagaries out of the auction system. The honorable member must have a fairly short memory, because a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, as the portfolio was then called, introduced a floor-price scheme at the request of wool-growers organizations. Having received the assurances of the two major wool-growers’ organizations at that time that they both supported the scheme, and having argued before the purchasing countries that the Australian growers wanted the scheme because it would provide a fair way to sell the Australia wool clip, he returned to Australia to find that at a referendum the scheme was rejected by the wool-growers at the rate of four votes to one.
I know quite well that circumstances have changed since 1951 or 1952, when those events occurred; but that does not mean that the forces who would oppose any alteration of the marketing scheme would not still be ready to use any difference of opinion that might exist in the wool industry. That is why I say that it is important not only for politicians but also for the industry as a whole to wait with patience, if they can, for the recommendation of the marketing committee and for the endorsement that is expected to come from the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Not only in the political world but also in the primary-producing world referendums are difficult to carry. If one of the major organizations, or a political party, or any major important group were blatantly and openly opposed to a recommendation for change, if one were submitted, it would be difficult for that recommendation to be carried al a referendum.
The organization which has been established by the Government at the request of the wool-growers’ organizations, and the procedures that have been laid down, give a much better chance of achieving unanimity of purpose in this matter than have any other procedures that have been envisaged over past years. If changes in the marketing system arc introduced - as, quite frankly, I believe they will be - much of the credit for those changes will be due to the organization which has been established at the request of the wool-growers’ organizations; but credit will also be due to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) for his prompting, his patience and his undoubted hard work in bringing the organizations to the stage of being able to agree on a single overall organization for themselves. If this problem of marketing is solved, as I hope it will be, by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the marketing committee and the Australian Wool Board, it should not be forgotten that much of the credit will be due to the Minister.
Therefore, 1 believe that it is quite illogical for the honorable member for Darling to argue that this Government has shown neglect in these matters. It has shown a much greater concern for the wellbeing of the wool industry than has any member of the Opposition, particularly the honorable member for Lalor who, by the amendment that he has moved, has shown a partisan approach which ignores the wishes of the industry and seeks only to further divide the industry at a time when it should be united.
I would have thought that this bill would not require a great deal of debate. In effect, what this Parliament is doing is only giving effect to the decisions of the Government which were announced last October, which were repeated in the policy speech of the Government and which surely were endorsed by the Australian people in the election that was held in November last year. The Government’s decision of last October to subsidize wool promotion was endorsed, in effect, by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in January of this year by 40 votes to 10. As the Minister pointed out in his secondreading speech, in that conference there are 50 wool-growers and an independent chairman, and 40 of the 50 wool-growers voted for the present proposals, voted in support of the subsidy that the Government has said it is prepared to give, and voted in support of the change in the basis of collection of the levy from so much a bale to a percentage of the wool-grower’s overall wool cheque.
For reasons that have been given, it is clear that the new basis is a much fairer means of collecting the levy than the old basis of so much - 10s., 15s. or £1 a bale. This proposal has been endorsed not only by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the organizations which are constituent parts of it but also by the Australian Primary Producers Union, which is outside the conference but which has an application for membership before the conference at the present time. The A.P.P.U. has shown a responsibility, a foresight and an initiative in wool industry affairs which should have been recognized long before this by the other two organizations. I hope that when its application finally is considered by the conference in June or July of this year its position in the industry will be properly recognized. Some statements by the Minister, in which he said that he expected that the A.P.P.U. would receive recognition, should be taken note of in this regard.
As I said in another debate, if the. Australian Wool Industry Conference does not recognize the A.P.P.U., this Parliament cannot renounce its responsibility in a matter which concerns justice as between industry organizations and as between individual producers in a particular industry. The Government has done and is doing everything it possibly can do to try to persuade these individual organizations to solve their own problems by negotiation between themselves. Surely that is the best approach, if it can be achieved. If it cannot be achieved, the organizations that already are represented on the Australian Wool Industry Conference should not deceive themselves by thinking that the Government or this Parliament will let the matter rest if they say “ No “ to the A.P.P.U.’s application for membership of the conference. I hope thaI no one in this Parliament or outside it will suggest that that is in any way a threat to the organizations represented on the conference, because it is not meant to be such. It is meant to be a statement of political realities. In seeking basic justice as between the organizations concerned, these are matters which the Parliament cannot ignore.
It might be pertinent to recall the original decision of the Australian Wool Board to approach the Australian wool-growers, seeking £11,000,000 from them as Australia’s share of a total budget of between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 for wool promotion throughout the world. Shortly after the Australian Wool Board made its approach to the Australian wool-growers, the shares of New Zealand and South Africa were endorsed by the respective organizations in those countries. That left it up to Australia to decide whether or not the new plans for wool promotion would be accepted. It became clear in the very early stages of the campaign conducted by Sir William Gunn that the plans of the Australian Wool Board would not be accepted as conditions were at that time. For that reason, the Australian Wool Industry Conference^ - not the Australian Wool Board which put forward the plans, but the conference to which the board ultimately is responsible - decided that it would approach the Government to see what support the Government would give. Quite clearly, it would have been very embarrassing for Australia if our partners in the International Wool Secretariat accepted their obligations and Australia did not accept its obligations. Obviously, that was one of the reasons why the Government felt that it was able to come forward with a proposal which will result in £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money being made available for wool promotion.
In my opinion, the two most important factors which moved the Government to support the request of the Australian Wool Industry Conference were, first, the importance of wool to Australia and the predominant part that wool plays in earning overseas funds and keeping alive the prosperity of our rural industries; and secondly, recognition of the very real challenge of synthetics and the necessity, for Australia’s sake, for the wool industry to do something about that challenge. For those reasons the Government came to the decision which has resulted in the legislation that is now before the House and in a subsidy of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 going to the Australian Wool Board for the purposes of wool promotion.
As I pointed out, under the terms of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor, that subsidy would not be available to the wool industry. Thus, from the terms of his proposed amendment the inference is quite clear that, in spite of the request of the Australian Wool Board and the decisions of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the wool industry organizations, he is opposing the Government’s decision to subsidize wool promotion. This is a quite incomprehensible decision for some one who, on behalf of his party in previous times, has come forth offering to subsidize wool promotion, knowing full well that there was no possibility of his putting such plans into effect because there was no possibility of his ever being on the treasury bench again.
I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman’s record as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a previous government and his activities in relation to the wheat industry are facts which the primary producers of Australia had in mind at the last election as well as at others. The honorable member has shown quite clearly, by this proposed amendment and in other ways, that he is prepared to substitute his own political judgment for the considered judgment of the industries concerned. He is prepared to brush aside the federal organizations of the industries and to tell them that they know nothing about their own business. In other words, he is prepared to say to them: “ No matter what you want for your industry, you know nothing about it. I, the honorable member for Lalor, shall decide what shall be done.” This is one attitude that we on this side of the House, and others who do not agree with the Opposition’s views, do not like; though at least we can regard it as honorable of the honorable member that he maintains this attitude with fervour in the years that he has had and will have in opposition.
The questions have been asked: Why is promotion necessary? Why must we spend as much money as we do on promotion? I admit that it is not possible to define in precise terms or by some mathematical formula the benefits that we receive from promotion. It would never be possible to say precisely what price we would get for this product if its sale were not promoted; but in these days, when we know that the manufacturers of fibres that compete with wool are spending vast sums of money on promotion, it is surely only reasonable to expect that wool must at least try to stay in the race. Even with the additional funds that are to be available, the manufacturers of synthetics will be spending much more on promotion than will the wool industry.
I think we can take it for granted that if two products of equal value and equal quality are put on the market, and one is well promoted and the other is badly promoted, the one that is well promoted and well advertised may out-sell the other and drive it off the market. This is very much the position as between wool and synthetics. If we do not enter this field vigorously and energetically, if we do not, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) said, create a quality image for wool so that we break the price relationship between wool and these cheaper and lower-quality synthetics, we will find the wool industry in great danger in the years ahead.
One of the great objectives of the International Wool Secretariat is to create a quality image for wool, to lease a trade mark to various manufacturers who produce goods of a certain quality and calibre, so th;tt when people see this trade mark they will know that they will be buying something of high quality, the genuine article. lt is believed that it will be possible to persuade people to pay a premium price for a woollen garment which will be better than an equivalent garment made from synthetics. But this kind of image cannot be built up on a shoestring, and this is another reason for the bill now before us.
I do not think it is always recognized or, if it is, I do not think due recognition is always given to the fact, that the prosperity of any industry, and of the wool industry in particular, depends upon four things. I shall mention them not in order of importance, because probably they are all equally important. One is promotion. Another is marketing. I am’ one of the first to agree that promotion and marketing are complementary in many senses. Research is the third of the important factors and productivity - which involves efficiency in production - is the fourth.
By this bill we are seeking to achieve something by promotion. We have been doing a great deal in the field of research through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and research committees have been established. I should like to see us doing more in the field of productivity and in trying to get the results of research to the farmers more quickly than has been the case, so that they will become more efficient in production. In accordance with the statement made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech, discussions on these matters are now proceeding with the States.
I should like to see our marketing system made more efficient. But because we are ready to do something now about one of the four factors that I have mentioned, does this mean that we must wait until we are ready to do something about every one of these four, which are of equal importance to the future of the wool industry before we can act? It is nonsense to suggest that. No matter how we sell wool, we cannot afford to overlook the advantages of better promotion.
I have suggested, not in private but in public, quite radical marketing changes for the wool industry. If these changes are proved to be the best thing for the wool industry and for Australia I would want to see them launched at a time of very vigorous demand for wool. Irrespective of whether you advocate a floor price scheme, an acquisition scheme or any other scheme, you should launch your plan when you have a firm, vigorous and keen demand for wool. Nothing would be more difficult than launching a marketing scheme, no matter of what, in a year like 1958, when Australian wool averaged only 48d. per lb. You would be left with the slow, laborious job of building up the price to what would be regarded in some senses as an economic level. But if you have a scheme ready to be implemented, a scheme that has been recommended and endorsed by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, you should introduce it at a time like the present, when the price and the demand are good and when it is much easier to continue that price as something of a recognized fact and something that is regarded as normal to the industry.
I cannot understand why the honorable member for Lalor, who has an ardent desire to have one kind of marketing change introduced into this industry, opposes more vigorous promotion, which in itself would provide a greater opportunity for the successful introduction of the marketing changes that he wants. In the present circumstances the honorable member’s attitude seems to me to be incomprehensible.
I should like to make a few comments about the Australian Primary Producers Union. The marketing committee of the Australian Wool Board will be advancing its proposals to the conference in June or July of this year, and the conference will then come to a decision on them. At the same time another sub-committee of the conference will be making its decisions concerning the membership of the A.P.P.U. in the Australian Wool Industry Conference. It may well be that the marketing changes proposed by the marketing committee, and perhaps endorsed by the conference, will involve legislation by the States because of the restriction of the Commonwealth’s powers.
This would not be anything new. It is well known that the marketing authority of the Australian Wheat Board rests upon complementary legislation in all the States. It is well known also that the original, completely socialistic proposals put forward by the Labour Government in, I think, 1946, were postponed for a year or two because some of the States would not agree to the limitation on production which the original wheat stabilization proposals involved. Thus because of the necessity for complementary State legislation, some States found it possible to hold up the first stabilization proposals for the wheat industry, which were suggested towards the end of the war or just after the end of the war. This was not so very important at that stage, because wheat marketing continued under powers that had been invoked under a different heading in the early days of the war.
But in the wool industry we have an entirely different situation. There is no wartime organization with any influence in these matters, and if marketing proposals that may be introduced depend upon State legislation in any field, then it is most important for the wool industry that the Australian Wool Industry Conference should be able to command the support of the various State governments. If the wool industry were united I would say without any hesitancy that there would be no trouble at all in getting the support of the various State governments. But if there are two organizations represented in the Australian Wool Industry Conference and there is one organization not represented, then the organization that is not in the conference now but which should be in it will have the power and the authority in certain States to hold up legislation in those States until that organization is admitted to the conference. It may well be that future events will inevitably follow this course.
The results are in the hands of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, because it is within its province to grant appropriate membership to the Australian Primary Producers Union. But if it does not do this and if it, at the same time, recommends marketing changes which are dependent upon complementary State legislation or upon the States handing over powers to some marketing authority, then quite clearly in one State at least, and, I believe, in more, the Australian Primary Producers Union will have the influence and the authority to prevent the appropriate State legislation being passed until the organization is admitted to membership of the conference. I would not blame this union for one moment if it adopted these tactics and used this power in certain States because it has shown a patience in this matter of representation which has not been exhibited by its rivals in the field. It has shown patience and reasonableness concerning the legislation which established the Australian Wool Board and defined the relationship between the conference and the board. If it had not been for the attitude adopted by the Australian Primary Producers Union the legislation could well have been defeated at that time in the Senate. If it had been defeated it would have resulted in injury to the wool industry as a whole. The union realized this and said, “ The legislation must be passed even if we are left outside the conference “. lt has shown that it recognizes a responsibility to the industry. Now it is up to the rest of the industry, and particularly the two organizations at present comprising the Australian Wool Industry Conference, also to show some responsibility to the industry as a whole.
– The Opposition does not oppose a more vigorous promotion scheme, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) suggested it does.
– You are opposing it with your amendment.
– To make the position clear I shall read again the amendment that we have proposed -
That this House declines to give the bill a second reading as, in the absence of arrangements for a poll of wool-growers in relation to an orderly marketing plan, the proposals increase the contribution by the wool-grower for promotion purposes above a rate equivalent to ten shillings per bale and do not provide for a matching contribution by the Government at a rate equivalent to tcn shillings per bale.
The proposals in the Opposition’s amendment are quite clear and do not in any way constitute a rejection of a more active promotion scheme. We are proposing that the Government should immediately match the 10s. a bale contribution by the wool-growers, which would double the amount available for promotion and that, before any further impost is loaded on the wool-growers, arrangements should be made for a poll to bc conducted so that the growers can give their opinions on an orderly marketing plan. This is very different from what the honorable member for Wannon suggested was the attitude of the Opposition.
Although the members of the Opposition are not opposed to an extension of promotion activities, they are not in the state of mind of the honorable member for Wannon and some of his colleagues, who show themselves to be promotion crazy. They look at promotion and they fail to look at the other aspects of the problem. They have allowed themselves to be dazzled and conditioned by the immensely powerful advocacy of the provision of more money for promotion which has been presented by those whose business is promotion and who, of course, have an interest not only in increasing sales of wool but also in the business in which they are engaged, which is the business of promotion. This is a very expensive business indeed for those who have to pay the piper.
In this connexion let me give an example - I think a very audacious example - by referring to the booklet entitled, “ Australian Wool Board - Report to Woolgrowers” for 1963, which was published, of course, at the expense of the woolgrowers. The whole publication appears as a concentrated endeavour to persuade the wool-grower that he must provide fur more money for promotion. If you look at the list of those who, instead of attending to the tasks that they should undertake in this field, devote themselves to writing articles to convince the wool-growers that they should provide more money for promotion, you will find that it includes, besides Sir William Gunn and that extraordinarily astute man, Mr. William J. Vines, a great salesman and a great advocate for promotion, gentlemen holding the positions of Regional Director for Europe, Director for the United States of America, Director for Japan, Director of Market Development, Asian Region, Director of Research, Director of Product Development and Technical Service, Director of Economics and Director of Publicity. They have produced a concentration of arguments to sell to the wool-growers the idea that they should put far more money into the coffers which contain the funds for promotion and out of which these gentlemen are paid.
– That is an unjust statement.
– I am sorry if it is an unjust statement. 1 accept the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) as a man of great knowledge on this subject, but he will agree that each of these gentlemen has, as every one of us has, an interest in his own career. The honorable member will agree that they are not altruistic people philanthropically devoting the whole of their time and energies to increasing sales of wool and the demand for wool throughout the world. They have also, obviously, as is the case with all of us, their own careers to serve. I think it is wrong that the wool-growers’ money should have been used to prepare a report to wool-growers which consists entirely of articles by gentlemen in the category I have mentioned.
That is why I say that those who have allowed themselves to be conditioned by these experts have become, as the honorable member for Wannon has shown himself to be, if I may so with great courtesy, quite promotion crazy. The honorable member’s mind is filled with this suggested solution of the problems of the industry, almost to the exclusion of all others. He said, of course, that this task cannot be carried out on a shoe string, as though the amount at present provided was something infinitesimal and the amount to be provided under this bill entirely reasonable and not one which would not impose any hardship on the wool-growers. Well, that is not the case with wool-growers in the electorate I represent, and I doubt that it is the case with wool-growers in the electorate of Wannon. The figures that were given to the House this afternoon by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) remain uncontradicted.
– They were so stupid that we would not waste our time in contradicting them.
-The honorable member for Corangamite says the figures given by the honorable member for Lalor this afternoon were stupid.
– They were too childish to refute.
– 1 shall mention to the honorable member for Corangamite something that apparently he did not realize. They are (he official figures provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
– That is right, but the relationship of expenditure to net income never works out. If you relate your car expenditure to your net income you will find that you get a very big percentage.
– That is right. I think many of us who use our cars in our work as members of Parliament realize that the cost of a car in relation to net income is very considerable. But that is the amount against which it has to be charged, unless you have a special allowance for this purpose. The wool-grower has not a special allowance for this purpose. His net income is the amount that is left to him after he has met all the costs of producing his wool and has deducted an operator’s allowance. That is the total amount left to him.
– No, he has a taxation deduction.
– I hate to say this, but the honorable member for Mallee shows himself to be even more ignorant of this matter than does the honorable member for Corangamite. The only thing I can suggest to him is that he himself study the figures as given by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This afternoon, to my amazement, the honorable member for Mallee- he led his fellow Country Party members in this - questioned the accuracy of the figures published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics as being the costs to which the wool-growers were put in producing their gross returns.
– I did nothing of the kind. I only asked a question.
– I am sorry, but you did. In fact, you laughed and you asked for a dissection of those costs. You said they were inflated. You said that they could not be real.
– I did not say anything of the kind. Dear me, you have a very vivid imagination.
– Order! I think we should allow the debate to continue. The private fight can be settled elsewhere.
– I am not engaged in a private fight; I am engaged in a discussion with you, Mr. Speaker, and I am mentioning to you the attitude taken by the honorable member for Mallee this afternoon. Will any member of the Country Party or will the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) excuse or defend the extraordinarily wasteful way in which the money which is being extracted at present from the wool-growers by way of levies is being expended by the Australian Wool Board? Last week, in Sydney, there was a theatrical performance, or a film, called “ Come Blow Your Horn “, which the Australian Wool Board promoted. It was a commercial production. It had some relation, I understand, to good dressing and it pointed the moral that people who dress well get on best in the world. The Wool Board thought fit to spend thousands of pounds on its promotion. The board promoted it not only by assisting with publicity and advertising, but also by giving a champagne party for hundreds of socialites in Sydney and, I believe, in Melbourne, after the performance. A “ Daily Telegraph “ reporter who was present at the occasion said that he had never seen a more wasteful expenditure of wool-grower’s money which was intended to serve the cause of promotion.
He could not see, and no one present with whom he discussed the matter could see, how the wool industry was going to benefit one penny by the pouring of thoussands of pounds of the wool-growers’ money into gallons of champagne for a lavish aftertheatre party. This is not an isolated instance. The Australian Wool Board is doing this sort of thing up and down Australia all the time, as has been brought to notice on very many occasions. I think that before we pour unlimited further funds into the board’s coffers there is good reason to examine the way in which a great deal of the money now being put up is being spent. Of course, the wool-grower has no way of doing this. He has no way of knowing even how much money the Wool Board pays to its officials. The board keeps all this information to itself. The industry which provides the money, and the growers who have to cough it up are not allowed to know how the money is spent or to examine whether the expenditure is wasteful or not.
– It is like the Labour Party in television, and the unions.
– I am very interested in that interjection because it occurred to me this afternoon, when the honorable member for Lalor was speaking, that we would have heard a very different debate in this House to-day if, instead of “ Australian Wool Board “ we had in the bill “ Australian Council of Trade Unions “. If we had been dealing with a proposal, made on the recommendation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, that every worker in industry should compulsorily contribute to a fund from which the cause of the organized workers in Australian industry could be promoted, so that a better image of them could be established and so that those who buy their wares - the employers - would pay them larger sums of money, I am certain we would have had such an outcry from honorable members opposite as would be reminiscent, 1 think, of the days when we had before us a proposal for the nationalization of banks.
– I thought you bad to pass a levy now.
– No. You are quite wrong. If there had been such a proposal, every honorable member opposite would have raised a cry for individual liberty and declared that it was utterly wrong to confiscate a portion of the wages of men who did not want to belong to an organization or to contribute to a trade union promotion fund. This, of course, would have been in line with the thinking of the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who recently interjected, because I believe that, after a few years in this House, he still has left some truly liberal principles. He knows, as a true liberal, that a proposal of this kind to confiscate a portion of the earnings of every one in the wool industry without his consent and to hand the money over to the Australian Wool Board for expenditure on promotion, whether particular growers want to engage in promotion or not and irrespective of whether they want to provide a fund for that purpose, is completely opposed to the political philosophy of liberalism, lt is not, of course, opposed to the political philosophy of the Country Party, because the Country Party has no political philosophy. The attitude of the Country Party is that it is opposed to any measure which is indicative in any way of planning, organization or socialism unless it is one which benefits the interests of the primary producers. Then, of course, the Country Party is all for it.
On this occasion the Country Party, in voting for this measure - this is, of course, the genesis of the thing - has simply followed the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in providing an election bait for the wool industry of Australia. It is only a few minutes ago that the honorable member for Wannon was reproaching the honorable member for Lalor because, as the honorable member for Wannon said, the honorable member for Lalor would not accept the expressed wishes of the wool industry organizations. When did this Government begin to accept the expressed wishes of the wool industry organizations? Let me quote from “ Hansard “ of October, 1962. When the proposal for matching Government contributions was put forward by the Labour Party and was vigorously rejected by the members of the Liberal and Country parties who sit opposite-
– Are you sure that Country Party members voted against this?
– Yes, they voted against it. Indeed, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) made a most eloquent and emotional speech on the matter. 1 shall quote from that speech in a moment. However, the Government did not become imbued with the necessity of giving expression to the wishes of the wool industry organizations until 10th October, 1963, when the Prime Minister had decided on an election. As appears at page 1657 of “ Hansard “. the Prime Minister then came into the House and, by leave, made a statement offering a matching Commonwealth payment of £1 for £1 for any additional funds which wool-growers would be prepared to contribute by way of levy for wool promotion. That was a complete somersault by the Government and by every member of the Liberal and Country Parties, but it was not done until 10th October, 1963, after an election had been decided upon.
I said that I would quote from the remarks of the honorable member for Lawson. On the occasion in 1962 to which I referred, the honorable member spoke for the Country Party, as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may remember, amidst considerable applause and acclamation from his colleagues. At that time - December, 1962 - the Labour Parly was proposing that there should be a contribution by the Government to match the contribution of the wool-growers themselves. The honorable member for Lawson said -
I say thai that is an attempt to bribe the woo] industry.
– What party docs he belong to?
– The honorable member for Lawson is one of the leading members ot the Country Party and, I should say, one of its most important and popular members. The honorable member continued -
The bribe is that the industry will get a couple of millions of pounds from the Commonwealth Government.
I cannot quote the whole of his speech-
– You might give us the reference.
– Yes. That appears at page 2979 of “ Hansard “ of 5th December, 1962. I hope that the honorable member will look it up and repeat those sentiments to show that he is consistent and that he has not changed his attitude, because he said then that the amendment proposed by the Opposition for a matching grant represented an attempt to bribe the producers. He had already explained that it involved a contribution of £2,000,000 from the Commonwealth Government, and then he went on to say, and the logic was supported by his colleagues of the Country Party, that this £2,000,000 would not be provided by the Commonwealth Government as might appear, but would be a bribe provided with the producers’ own money. He said -
Most graziers pay pretty heavy taxes, and, as a result of the increase in taxes that will be necessary to meet the cost of Labour’s proposals, the graziers will really be paying the cost themselves.
– It sounds very reasonable.
– I am delighted to know that the honorable member for Lawson feels this way about it, because he will undoubtedly now vote against the legislation.
– No, you misunderstand me; it sounds very reasonable that the graziers should have to pay taxation.
– Yes; because, as you said, this would involve a payment of £2,000,000 from the Commonwealth Treasury. The honorable member said that this would involve an increase in taxation and that the £2,000,000 would have to be paid by the graziers themselves. Perhaps now the honorable member will realize that the Government is not deserving of the praise which his Country Party and Liberal Party colleagues have been showering upon it to-night, because, according to the honorable member, the Government will be mak ing no contribution to the cost. In the words of the honorable member for Lawson it is a confidence trick. Not only will the graziers be paying the greatly increased levy which this legislation will impose upon them, but also, according to the honorable member, they will be paying the Commonwealth’s contribution. I certainly look forward to seeing the honorable member for Lawson rise in his place to-night to repeat those sentiments and to express, therefore, his objection to this bill.
In the limited time that I have left - 1 should have liked to speak on this measure much longer - I want to reiterate the figures provided to the House this afternoon by the honorable member for Lalor. These figures relate to the incidence of the levy paid by the wool-growers. I shall repeat them because these facts do not appear to have sunk into the minds of members of the Country Party. I realize that facts of this kind, which involve giving a lot of figures, may take quite a bit of study. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics conducted a survey of 70 farms in the high rainfall zone of Victoria. These farms ranged in area from 200 to 1,000 acres. The average size was 772 acres and the average flock was 1,192 sheep. In 1957-58 the price was 62.45d. per lb., the gross return £4,403, the levy of 2 per cent, would be £88, the cost of producing the wool £2,953 and the net income £1,450. In 1958-59 the price was 48.57d. per lb., the gross return £3,658, the levy of 2 per cent, would be £73 16s., the cost of producing the wool £2,801 and the net income £857. In 1959-60 the price was 57.78d. per lb., the gross return £4,767, the levy of 2 per cent, would be £95, costs were £3,012 and the net income £1,755.
– Would you tell me whether the operator’s allowance is included in those figures?
– The operator’s allowance is not included in those figures, but I shall include that calculation for the honorable member now.
In 1957-58, when the net income was £1.450. the operator’s allowance was £756, which left a balance of £694. The honorable member for Mallee will agree that that is not a princely sum. That was the amount left to the wool-grower after his legitimate costs in producing the wool as officially computed had been deducted, and after his operator’s allowance had been paid. Th: amount actually left for the wool-grower was £694. The rate of incidence of the levy on that amount would be 12.6 per cent. I hope that the honorable member for Mallee is making a note of these figures.
In 1958-59 the net income, as I have already shown, was £857. The operator’s allowance in that year was £773, which left a balance for the wool-grower of £84. The incidence of the levy on that amount would be 87 per cent, of what was left to the woolgrower. In 1959-60 the net income was £1.755. The price of wool had increased by this time to 57d. per lb. The operator’s allowance for that year was £818, leaving a balance of £937. The incidence of the levy on that amount would be 10 per cent. There is no question that this is a very severe levy. It will impose a hardship on many small wool-growers. As I pointed out, these are the official figures based on a survey of 70 farms in the high rainfall zone of Victoria.
Is there anything unreasonable, therefore, in the amendment proposed by the Opposition to protect the wool-growers from this exceedingly high imposition until the Government has agreed to match the levy of 10s. a bale that the wool-growers arc already paying and until the wool-growers themselves have had an opportunity to express their opinion upon an organized marketing scheme? This whole legislation bears only one implication, and the honorable member for Lalor put it plainly to the House this afternoon. This new levy in this extreme form, bearing with such hardship upon small wool-growers, will create such a resentment in their minds that when the time comes and they are given the opportunity to vote on an organized marketing scheme involving an additional substantial levy they will turn it down. I am sure that the honorable member for Lalor was right when he said that that was the real thinking and the obvious design behind these proposals.
.- The Australian Wool Industry Conference has recommended to the Government and to the Australian wool-growers that, to enable wool to hold its place in the worlds markets, more money is required for promotion. For the first time in the history of Australia, a Commonwealth government has come into the field of promotion. I think it is necessary for me tonight to say a few words about the very important wool industry and about the remarks of previous speakers in this debate. It is well known that the wool industry is Australia’s number one industry, although from time to time it has dropped back to levels which have been dangerously low for the individual woolgrower and for the nation.
The importance of wool in Australia’s overall economic scene should not be overlooked. It is well known that if the price of wool drops, the decrease is reflected almost immediately in Australia’s economic situation. We rely upon the returns from the sale abroad of our major raw materials to keep our factories in production. This reliance is growing from year to year. As our factory growth accelerates, so does the growth of the wool industry accelerate. A reduction in the price of wool could be a calamity. It is not so long ago that in my own State of Western Australia - and no doubt it happened in the eastern States - following a rather drastic drop in the price of wool, the warehouses became full of stocks and factories almost ceased production. Shifts were reduced to a few hours a day and a serious situation developed, lt was not until the price of wool rose - regardless of what happened in other industries - that the situation started to return to normal. That situation should be remembered tonight, because to a large extent our work force relies on the price of wool and the effect of returns from wool on our balance of payments. An examination shows that the proceeds of the present levy for promotion are about £2,500,000. Australia’s contribution to the International Wool Secretariat’s promotion campaign is to be £11,000,000. Of this amount the woolgrowers are to contribute £6,750,000 and the Government is to contribute £4,250,000.
The essential aim of the campaign is to secure the maximum demand for wool. We must find and establish new markets, as we have been endeavouring to do for some time. I believe that there is still scope for greatly increased demand for supplies of Australian raw wool. The perfect example of expansion of markets for wool is our increased sales to Japan, which is now the major buyer of our wool. I believe that many other countries may profitably be explored as avenues for trade agreements in order to encourage exports of wool to their markets. In my opinion, there is a tremendous field open for the export of wool, provided that the necessary arrangements can be made. There is no doubt that the promotion of wool is necessary and important, but at the level of the end-user it will not solve the problems of the Australian wool-growers. Ample evidence is available from past experience to support this contention.
Expenditure on promotion has varied over the years. In the past few years, £2,500,000 has been devoted to promotion. Outstanding fluctuations have occurred in returns to individual wool-growers and to Australia. Since 1950, when peak prices were obtained, fluctuations to the extent of many millions of pounds annually have occurred. Inter-fibre competition today is very real and must be faced. For example, wool consumption in the United States of America between 1949 and 1951 fell by over 140,000,000 lb.- a decline of about 21 per cent. Decreased consumption was the result of the substitution of other fibres for wool. Much is being said about the use of substitutes for wool and the competition from synethetic fibres. It cannot be ignored. It is obvious that the chemical world, through advances in scientific knowledge, can work wonders to-day. Following the decline in the consumption of wool in the United States, people who had turned to synthetic fibres returned very strongly to wool because of its superior wearing qualities. The advantages of wool have been discovered in many parts of the world.
A promotion campaign without a complete survey of the present system of placing our raw wool on the world’s markets is quite unrealistic. Australian wool-growers need protection from the violent fluctuations in wool prices and returns. Our textile mills are also affected and should receive services of the highest standard. A tremendous amount of work has to be done. Visitors to Australia have criticized our poor classing. Press reports and general criticism have pointed the finger at the wool-growers’ classing. I do not believe that a case can be made against the growers. From experience I have had in this field, I believe that the main fault is in the overseas presentation of our wool. Some work has been done in this respect and it is being undertaken to an everincreasing extent. We have found that wool has to be placed on the world’s markets to the best advantage of both the Australian wool-growers and the purchasers. In the past we have relied upon sales in small lots - sometimes in large lots - on the floor, with no pre-classing in lots. However, pre-classing is now undertaken with considerable advantage.
In his second-reading speech on this bill, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said -
Some 95 per cent, of our wool is exported and the world demand for wool is therefore of crucial importance to Australia. It is essential that this demand should continue at a level which will return remunerative prices for the wool-grower and yield satisfactory export earnings.
The prices obtained for wool are indeed important, not only to the industry but to every field of commerce in Australia. We have reached the position where wool prices have become more important than ever before. The great developmental works being undertaken mainly in Western Australia, and to some extent in the eastern States, involve tremendous sums of money. Huge amounts of money are tied up in banks. We can imagine the situation that would arise if wool prices fell. I can imagine the concern not only of the woolgrowers, but also of the bankers, the merchants and everybody else. Even at present prices, Mr. Speaker, there is not a great margin.
I think the crux of the whole argument is the problem of how to provide reasonable protection for this very important industry. What is required to protect the wool industry and the Australian economy from the violent fluctuations in prices that have been the pattern of the wool industry? There is plenty of evidence of the violence of these fluctuations. These bills that we are now debating are designed to step up the promotion of wool throughout the world, and I think that we should perhaps look for a moment at the results of promotion undertaken in the past. It is always difficult to judge the results of promotion. Indeed, I believe that it Is almost impossible. Let us see what has happened to world wool stocks since the war. At first July, 1945, they stood at 2,255,000,000 lb. weight. That is on a clean basis. At 1st July, 1963, they bad fallen to an estimated 71,000,000 Jb., on a clean basis. These figures indicate that although we have had this fluctuation in prices, which has been rather dramatic at limes, the tendency has been to continue to sell not only the current clips of the world but also the rather large stockpile that had accumulated towards the end of the war. I would say that between 1945 and 1963 returns to retailers and manufacturers were reasonably stable. I am sure that any graphs or other information on this point would verify that statement. However, the situation with respect to returns to the growers has been very different. The growers seem to be the ones who suffer. When they suffer because of these fluctuations in prices, of course, the whole Australian economy suffers.
Our expert advisers consider that this legislation will assist in preventing some of these fluctuations of wool prices. Sir William Gunn, Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, in his campaign last year for approval of a promotion scheme, declared that if the board were voted additional funds it would raise by promotion the returns for woollen goods. In this way, he said, the returns to wool-growers would be increased because raw wool prices would rise. However, he said, it was important not to raise wool prices to too high a level, because there would then be greater danger from synthetics. Since Sir William made those statements, wool prices have risen substantially. So it is apparent that, even with the best of information, one does not know what will happen to wool prices. In the eight months ended in February, 1963, the average price per lb. was 58.2 Id. In the eight months ended in February, 1964, the average was 71.84d. The rise in twelve months was quite substantial.
Sir William Gunn said, during his promotion campaign, that we should not raise the price of wool too rapidly or too high because of the danger from synthetics. Tn other words, he warned against the danger of overpricing wool. All the available evidence and experience over the years indicate that under our present system there is little or no relation between the price of raw wool and the price of the finished article. The reason for this is somewhat of a mystery, but this is a fact. When the price of wool falls, the price of the finished article remains almost stable. If the price of wool rises - particularly if it rises dramatically as it did in 1950- the whole economy feels the effects and all prices rise very rapidly. But there is little direct relation between the price of raw wool and the price of the finished article.
Promotion has a place in the wool industry - indeed, an important place. Since we sell 95 per cent, of our wool overseas, we must keep abreast of the times, and especially of modern developments in the northern hemisphere. We must keep up our promotion efforts. I believe that this is the first time in Australian history, as I mentioned before, that the taxpayer has been called on to invest in woo] promotion. No doubt, the taxpayer will look for returns, because he also is vitally interested in the wool industry, regardless of the industry in which he himself is directly engaged. The promotion of wool simply at the level of the end-user is not the total solution to the problems of the growers, and the growers’ problems are the problems of Australia as a whole.
The responsibility of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board is to produce complete machinery that will protect the woolgrowers and the Australian economy. We know that the recently established conference and the newly constituted board have this responsibility, and I understand that they are now examining the woolmarketing situation. I believe that this is all important, because research, promotion and marketing must be linked. 1 think that we have a responsibility to the overseas buyers of wool, for instance, and that wc must market our wool to the best advantage of all concerned. I am sure that we have not been doing this in the past, and 1 believe that there is room for improvement. Exactly what measures should be taken nobody yet knows. Experience throughout the world in promoting and selling raw materials indicates that most industries that are producers of raw materials have more stable markets than our wool industry has. I do not care which product one considers.
This applies to oil, steel, superphosphates, cement and all the other important raw materials marketed throughout the world, including wheat. Only in the last few years, however, has our great wheat industry been assured of stable prices.
Over the last fifteen years, the average price of wool has varied considerably. In 1950-51, it was 144.19d. per lb. From 1951 to 1958 it fluctuated between 61d. and 82d. per lb. In 1958-59, it fell to 48.6d. per lb. The effects on the Australian economy of fluctuations in prices can be readily seen. In 1955-56, sales of wool totalled 1,564,000,000 lb. and the return was £508,000,000. The figures for 1958-59 were 1,591,000,000 lb. and £311,000,000- a reduction of almost £200,000,000 in the return, which was rather too heavy a fall for my liking. In the first nine months of the current season, 1,198,000,000 lb. was sold for £360,000,000- a return far above that of a much larger clip in 1958-59.
A considerable amount of research work is being done and consideration is being given to the question of promotion. As I see it, it now remains for the third string to be tied. I say without hesitation that the complete responsibility for bringing forward a marketing plan to improve the present situation rests with the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board. This is the first time in Australian history since I have been operating as a wool-grower that the two big organizations, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, have come together. It could not have been easy to bring them together and we must congratulate the Minister on the success of his efforts to do so. But now the two organizations must realize that they have a responsibility. With all the information that we have from all parts of the world not only in relation to wool but in relation also to other raw materials, it surely must be quite evident to them that the present marketing system can be improved. I believe that we can lay the responsibility at the feet of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and, to some extent, the Australian Wool Board to bring forward to the Government and to the wool-growers of Australia a workable plan for the marketing of wool.
.- I listened most intently to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hallett), who has just resumed his seat, but I do not know whether he is in favour of the amendment or against it. So that he will have no illusions as to where I stand, let me inform him that I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor Mr. Pollard). As honorable members know, I seconded the motion.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) informed the House that the objects of the Wool Industry Bill are to give effect to the Government’s undertakings to contribute funds for expanded wool promotion activities, to define the wool-growers’ contributions for promotion and research and to change the levy. The legislation provides that the old levy of so much a bale will be changed to a percentage of the woolgrowers’ gross earnings. This will cover promotion and research. It was proposed that the wool-grower would pay 27s. a bale for wool promotion and 2s. for research. Now both levies will be combined into a levy of 2 per cent, of the gross income. About 100,000 growers will contribute £6,750,000 and the Government will contribute £4,250,000.
Bound up with the question of promotion is the question of marketing. This is the reason why the honorable member for Lalor moved his amendment. It is all very well to talk about promotion and research, but we must also consider closely the question of marketing. We on this side of the House are conscious of the fact that our wool is cleared at every sale; there is no carry over. But the wool-grower has to take whatever price is offered to him. He has no say in the price that is paid to him for his product. The Minister in his second-reading speech, as reported at page 1213 of “Hansard” for 16th April, 1964, said -
In considering this bill, it is necessary to keep in mind that any action to assist the wool-growing industry amounts to safeguarding the well-being of this country.
How true this is. We are all aware of the extent to which the welfare and wellbeing of the country depends upon the price paid for our wool. A reduction of Id. a lb. in the price of wool means a loss of £7,000,000 to the community.
I would like to make a few observations about wool production. Australia’s sheep population is about 16 per cent, of the total world sheep population. Australia produces about 37 per cent, of the world’s apparel wool, 53 per cent, of the world’s merino wool and 43 per cent, of the world’s trade in wool. Australia consumes 5 per cent, of its total wool production and 3i per cent, is exported in semi or fully manufactured condition. We export 95 per cent, of our wool and in the last financial year this brought us £407,000,000. These facts show how vital the wool industry is to Australia’s economic welfare. The Minister said that in 1962-63 the wool industry provided 38 per cent, of our total merchandise exports.
The expansion of Australia’s economy in recent times has meant a terrific demand for more imports of such items as petrol, oil and machinery and even know-how. It is to the wool industry that we look for a large increase in our export income, and promotion is essential in a very highly competitive world. This was recognized by the wool-growers themselves when they agreed to increase the levy. Promotion is the handmaiden of marketing. We all know that there is room for some countries to increase their use of wool. We know full well that there are great opportunities in Asia, for instance. Japan has displaced the United Kingdom as our best customer for wool and Japan consumes internally 90 per cent, of the wool she purchases. Only 10 per cent, is re-exported in manufactured condition.
It is true, as the Minister observed, that in recent years a challenge has been thrown out to the wool industry by synthetics. That is one of the prime reasons for the introduction of the bills that are now before the House. Wool-growers realize that it is necessary to step up promotion to meet the intense competition that is coming from man-made fibres. Wool is not losing its appeal, but, as a proportion of world fibre production, it declined slightly. The increase in the production of wool has not kept pace with increase in the overall fibre production. It is most unlikely that synthetics will ever he able to match all the qualities of wool, such as elasticity. I will not go through all the qualities of wool. However, synthetics may maintain their price margin and still sell, even when the world market for man-made fibres is saturated.
We of the Opposition are conscious of the effect on the economy of this nation of a serious fall in our income from wool. That is why we believe in wool promotion. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) referred to statements made by the Australian Labour Party about wool promotion during the last election campaign. Of course we advocated promotion on the stump in 1963. But we advocated it on the basis that there should be another approach that would enable the wool-grower to get a little bit of justice and a better price for his product. The wool-grower should not be left at the mercy of the open auction: he should have the benefit of a reserve price system.
We know that time is short and that the International Wool Secretariat wants £16,250,000 for wool promotion. These bills will have the effect of providing £1 1,000,000 of that sum. The improvement in living standards throughout the world will have a good effect in opening up markets that did not previously exist anc! in expanding existing markets. The everincreasing demand in Japan for our wool indicates the extent to which living standards in that country have improved. Many countries which to-day use cotton will, as their living standards improve, turn to wool. This will apply particularly to Asiatic countries.
Russia’s wool production, from about 160.000,000 sheep, is about 50 per cent, of Australia’s present production, but it is a potential threat to Australia’s wool industry. The quality of Russian wool is poor compared with Australian wool. Russia’s production is used locally and does not compete on the world’s markets with Australian wool. Strangely enough, most of Russia’s flocks are of merino strain. In the next decade Russia may become self-supporting as far as wool is concerned and as a consequence will not be in the market as a buyer of Australian wool.
I turn now to wool prices and their effect on promotion. A reduction of Id. per lb. in the price of wool means a lo;s of £7,000,000 in a 5,000,000 bale clip. Over the years we have seen the price obtained for a particular quality wool vary from’ sale to sale and even at the same sale. From this experience, it is obvious that some growers are not getting as much for their wool as they should. The variations in prices have been far too frequent, lt is anomalous in these days of monopoly capitalism to see variations that cannot be explained. This is one of the reasons why the Opposition insists on an orderly marketing plan to be associated with the wool promotion drive. lt is true that wool prices may be affected by world conditions but a grower-controlled and government-supported marketing plan can, in association with a wool promotion plan, meet any difficulties that may arise with a greater degree of justice to growers than does to-day’s catch-as-catch-can method.
To indicate how essential an orderly marketing plan, coupled with a wool promotion plan, is, 1 point out to the House that in the seventeen months from May, 1957, to October, 1958, the price of wool fell by 46 per cent. In the seventeen months from January, 1954, to November, 1955, the price of wool fell by 30 per cent. How can promotion alone offset such falls? The price variations in the twenty years prior to the Second World War are interesting. In 1922-23 the price of wool was 46 per cent, higher than in the previous year. In 1923-24 it was 30 per cent, higher than in 1922-23. In 1924-25 it was 14 per cent, higher than in 1923-24. There was no threat from synthetics at that time. The world was pasing through a period of prosperity.
In 1925-26 the price of wool fell by 36 per cent. Over the next two years the price of wool rose slightly. In 1928-29 there was a drop of 16 per cent, in the price of wool. In 1929-30 the price fell by 37 per cent, and in 1930-31 it fell by a further 18 per cent. The greatest rise in price was 82 per cent, in 1933-34, following the depression. The greatest fall in price was 38 per cent, in 1934-35. Surely the law of supply and demand was not responsible for creating a fall in price of 82 per cent, in one year and a rise of 38 per cent. In the next.
Those factors must have indicated to the people of Australia, let alone the woolgrowers, that it was about time the government of the day looked into the marketing of wool. Is it any wonder that some thing should be done? We do not want to return to those starvation conditions. We do not want to see our local industry impoverished and the living standards of our people lowered. We do not want to see the wool-growers held to ransom as they were in 1933-34 when the price obtained for their product fell by 82 per cent. Good Lord, you talk about business people budgeting for the future. How can a grazier or anybody else budget for the future when the price he obtains for his products can fall by 82 per cent, in one year?
It is true that Australia’s annual wool clip has been cleared. But with a predetermined reserve floor price clearances would be just as good as they were in the days of the Joint Organization and at the right price - not at the price determined by some buyers who are most likely mixed up in pies. I do not want to get on to that subject, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it is outside the ambit of the legislation. If there were a fixed floor price there would be no question that the grower would get a fair price for his product
Floor price plans operate satisfactorily in South Africa and New Zealand. Australia is to join with South Africa and New Zealand in spending the £16,250,000 that is required for wool promotion. What is good enough for South Africa and New Zealand growers surely should be examined in this country so that Australian wool-growers may have an opportunity to say whether they want a reserve floor plan. The Division of Agricultural Economics established by the Chifley Labour Government can supply all of the necessary information required to determine floor prices. The amount spent on wool promotion is admittedly small compared with the amount spent by producers of man-made fibres. There is no doubt that the promotion of wool will be a very costly business. That is why the chairman of the Australian Wool Board asked growers to agree to a levy of 44s. a bale instead of the 10s. a bale they now pay. Honorable members will recall the campaign conducted last year to increase the levy. I am sure the honorable member for Wannon will remember it because the campaign was opened in his electorate and there was an incident associated with the opening.
The Opposition says, in effect, that the levy should remain at 10s. a bale but that the Government should subsidize the growers’ contributions on a £1 for £1 basis until such time as a poll is taken of the growers to see whether they want an orderly marketing scheme. The need to establish an orderly marketing scheme has been brought home forcibly by two statements that were made recently. As reported in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 6th October last, Mr. K. C. Clarke of the Japanese branch of the International Wool Secretariat said that Japan wanted Australian growers to receive better prices in order to encourage higher production. Mr. Clarke stated that this fact was conveyed to him by representatives of Japanese wool textile manufacturers. On 3rd February, 1963, the Melbourne “Age” reported from Osaka, Japan, that -
The Japanese Woolspinners Association is considering a plan to curb the current trend of raw wool import prices.
Surely that ought to indicate the Japanese line of thought and also the need for the Government to consider the establishment of a floor price scheme for wool. If such a scheme is not implemented, before we know where we are the position will be detrimental to the best interests of the wool-producers.
During February of 1961, Sir William Gunn, as the chairman of the now defunct Australian Wool Bureau, campaigned for a promotion levy commencing at 10s. a bale in 1961-62 and rising to £1 a bale in 1966-67. But last year, as chairman of the new Australian Wool Board, he launched a campaign for a levy of 44s. a bale. That proposal met very strong resistance from the growers. Then, on the eve of the last election, this Government agreed to a proposal which meant a grower contribution of 27s. a bale and a government subsidy of 17s. a bale. The wool-growers were very fortunate that the election was coming up. In the election campaign the Labour Party pledged that under a Labour government the levy would remain at 10s. a bale until a poll of wool-growers on a reservepriceauction plan was taken, and that if the woolgrowers approved of that plan the Labour government would review the levy and subsidize the growers’ contribution on a £1- for-£l basis.
In supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor, I say that the Opposition wants a vigorous promotion plan and a plan of orderly marketing at a price that is fair and just to the growers. The Opposition believes that the promotion scheme should be financed on the basis of the growers’ contribution being subsidized on a £l-for-£l basis. It gives me great pleasure to support the amendment.
– I rise to support the bills and to oppose the amendment. The wool industry has been very fortunate in having a government as benevolent as this Government and a Minister who has been prepared to look at the needs of the industry and to agree to the Government making the contributions proposed in the measures that we are considering to-night. The Government has agreed to support the promotion plans which Sir William Gunn submitted to the woolgrowers of Australia on behalf of the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat.
The plans of the Australian Wool Board have come under considerable criticism, as I understand it, by members of the Opposition in the debate to-night. They say that two years ago, when Sir William made his previous request for additional funds for wool promotion, he should have declared his hand and stated explicitly that the amount of money he required over the next few years was not necessarily determined at that stage. There is no doubt that, if the Australian Wool Bureau had not been re-constituted as the Australian Wool Board and if Mr. Vines had not been appointed as managing director of the International Wool Secretariat, the estimates that were given originally might not have been so far from the mark. But if we look at the results that were achieved as a result of the previous increase in expenditure on wool promotion and also at the rises that have occurred in the price of wool in the last three years, there can be no doubt that, whilst it is difficult to correlate exactly the increases in prices and expenditure on promotion, we in the wool industry are far better off to-day than we were two years ago when the first increase was announced.
One of the difficulties in regard to wool is that the wool-growers are very dependent on receiving an adequate price for wool and that Australians, as a nation, ace even more dependent on continuing to receive a fair price for wool. In the past, unfortunately, every time there has been a fall in wool prices there has also been a considerable fall in Australia’s export income. Those falls have resulted in considerably adverse effects in other sections of the Australian community. Not only have the people in rural areas, including the wool-growers, been affected, but every man and woman in Australia has suffered. I believe that the Government, at this stage - now that Mr. Vines has come into the newly created International Wool Secretariat, now that we have a re-organized Australian Wool Board, and now that new plans for the expenditure of promotion funds have been put forward - seeing the advantages that have accrued to Australia from promotion in the past, is confident that the new plans for promotion will meet with success equal to, and possibly even greater than, that of past promotion.
In particular, we as Australians should look at the project as it is envisaged by the International Wool Secretariat. The secretariat has the concept of advertising wool as a quality article. That is the reason why wool-growers have agreed to contribute additional funds and the reason why we are now considering these measures which provide government assistance. This new plan for promotion envisages the establishment in the consumer’s eye of the vision of a product that is a little different from the product that has been promoted in the past. Those honorable members who heard the members of the Wool Board team who went out on the hustings, as it were, to promote the new levy, heard those men say that what they are after is not a Rolls Royce concept of the manufactured woollen article, or a concept of something in the cheaper motor vehicle class. They are aiming at a concept of something in the middle price range, in the Humber or Rover category.
In order to bring about this completely radical view of wool by the wool industry and the consumers, it is necessary to undertake a very extensive advertising campaign. 1 have no doubt, in spite of all that has been said about the managing director of the International Wool Secretariat, that he is a very competent advertising man and a very competent salesman. I have no doubt that this budget, for the expenditure by the International Wool Secretariat of £16,250,000 in each of the next five years, has been well and truly calculated to encompass the project of establishing in the consumer’s eye a new vision of what is meant by wool and a new vision of wool as a quality article. In view of all of that, we realize that we must do something.
After the project had been put to the wool-growers, it was put to the Government. I believe that the Government, by coming into this matter at this stage, has shown its sense of responsibility not only to the wool-growers but also to every man and woman in Australia. The only way that I can see to keep our nation solvent is to continue to receive big cheques, particularly for wool, which, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said in his second-reading speech, has accounted for not less than 30 per cent, of our total export income in each year, except one, in the last half century. It is absolutely essential that we continue, in this changing day and age when synthetics and other products are entering in 0 competition with our product, to endeavour to promote our product and to persuade people to buy more of it.
One of the big problems that beset the wool-growers is that conditions are changing continually. In the debute to-night .mention has been made of criticisms by Japanese wool-buyers of the classing of Australian wool clips. If we are to continue selling our wool we must ensure that it is saleable on world markets. It is no use overseas buyers coming to Australia and saying, “ We want you to class your clip but we are not prepared to pay you anything additional for doing so ‘. That is one of the problems that confronted us in the past. Although overseas wool buyers have been critical of our classing, at any rate for the last twelve months, they have not been prepared to pay a premium for better-classed wool when they attend our sales. It is all very well for the wool manufacturers also to tell us that if we class our wool better and present it more attractively they will be prepared to pay more for it, but it is useless for them to say that unless they in fact do pay more.
One of our problems in relation to the subsidy scheme is that if we are to promote wool as a quality article we must ensure that the manufacturers will get sufficient return for their end product to be able to afford to pay the premium for the improved classing. This is one of the benefits that will flow from the additional amount being spent on promotion. If we go to the extent of classing our clip better than we have been doing, it is essential that we be paid a little more for doing so. The proposal now before us is one of the few ways by which this objective will be achieved.
Another aspect that I want to mention is that in the Australian Wool Industry Conference we have seen two of the major primary producing organizations getting together and beginning to resolve some of the difficulties with which, unfortunately, our primary industries seem to have been beset in recent times. It has been mentioned that one organization has been left out of the conference. Whilst I appreciate that very weighty arguments have been advanced for further consideration of the Australian Primary Producers Union as a possible member of the conference, I submit that to date the federal organizations of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council have got together more closely through the medium of the conference than at any previous stage in their history, and there appear to be good prospects of these organizations continuing to work together for the benefit of the industry. I am not too sure that if we bring in another organization, whatever its merits, that might not disrupt some of the harmony that is apparent at present.
By the organizations working together at the top level there is a greater opportunity for unanimity of thought and action in our primary producer organizations. It is on this basis that there is possibly a case for the admission of the A.P.P.U. However, one of the problems associated with this is the number of members that the A.P.P.U. will have on the conference. Will it have 25 members as the other federal organizations have, or will it have a smaller number? In any event, will the representatives of the A.P.P.U. vote as a bloc? If they do, they will be able to determine the result of a vote if the other two organizations vote together or - this is the way we hope it will be - they will come to this top level conference prepared to forget their organizational associations. Instead of being representatives only of their particular industry organizations they will be representatives of primary producers as such and so will be able to bring about a greater degree of unanimity among the industry representatives than we have ever known.
This is the peculiar difficulty that besets the sub-committee of the conference that is presently considering A.P.P.U. representation. This is not an easy problem to resolve. If the A.P.P.U. is admitted it is difficult to see at this stage how the conference will function. I feel that a great deal could be lost if the A.P.P.U. were admitted and, instead of the harmony which has been so apparent to date, we find a wedge driven between the two bodies presently on the conference. This would be a great pity. However, there must be a greater degree of unanimity in the future between primary producer organizations, particularly in such a major industry as the wool industry which after all is the backbone of the whole Australian economy.
The Opposition’s proposal, which in fact was submitted to the electors as part of Labour’s policy not so many months ago, once again indicates that its members are not prepared to face reality. They suggest that before we proceed with promotion wi should accept their proposal that a ballot of wool-growers be conducted on an orderly marketing plan. In the first place, we have no description of the Opposition’s orderly marketing plan other than the implications of the statement that the Joint Organization was highly successful, which I do not deny, and that we should reintroduce the Joint Organization scheme. Not only have conditions changed materially since the Joint Organization went out of existence, but also the funds which stood to its credit have been - very rightly so - returned to the woolgrowers. This means that a very considerable sum of money will need to be raised if anything similar to the Joint Organization is established.
The Opposition shows no concern about that aspect. In fact, in the proposal before us there is no mention even of anything similar to the Joint Organization. If we accepted this proposal we would be accepting an orderly marketing plan. This surely would be taking out of the hands of the producers one of the tasks for which vie re-organized the Australian Wool Board. I am confident that the present committee of the wool board which is investigating wool marketing is far more competent than is any government body to formulate a plan which will be acceptable to at least most members of the wool industry. This is such a controversial topic that unless wo have a body which is representative of primary producers; which is representative of woolgrowers; which is considering this matter in. at least to some extent, an independent way: which is endeavouring to see the merits of the position from the point of view of both the sellers and the buyers, not only would it be rejected by the wool-growers in a referendum but in fact it would not necessarily be to the advantage either of the wool-growers or of the Australian etmmunity as a whole. lt seems to me that as we have a subcommittee of the Wool Board investigating this very proposal, and as this committee has stated that it expects within the next few months to bring down its findings on this issue, it would be extremely frivolous of this House to consider such an amendment as has been presented to us to-night. As to a promotion scheme, I believe that this is something which every wool-grower must have considered. I know that there are arguments on the one hand for some form of acquisition and appraisement. I know that strong arguments have been put forward, not only by members of the Australian Labour Party but also by many leading representatives of the wool industry. In fact I have an idea that the present chairman of the Wool Board was one of the advocates, at the time of the disbandment of the Joint Organization scheme, of some continuation of the scheme.
This is a most controversial topic with primary producers themselves. Supporters of various wool sales schemes have been keenly advocating their own ideas, and it would be very dangerous for this or any other responsible government to decide arbitrarily to implement a particular scheme or even to submit a particular plan to the wool-growers without some kind of prior rational consideration of possible alternatives. Unless we have some independent body, such as this existing Wool Board sub-committee, to consider all aspects of these suggested measures, we certainly will not achieve any degree of unanimity amongst wool-growers themselves.
Let me take a brief look at some of the aspects of this bill. I refer, first, to the change from the basis of so much per bale to the percentage basis in imposing the levy. There is no doubt that the woolproducing community is very happy about this change. I come from an area where a good deal of superfine wool is produced. A bale of wool from the Lyndhurst property, near Armidale, recently brought the highest price ever recorded on the auction floor for a bale of wool. If you grow these superfine wools you must be prepared to contribute a little more than a man who submits just a bale of crutchings. You know that if you submit a good article for sale, and you promote it, you will gel more for it. Honorable members will have noticed from newspaper reports that the purchaser of this high-priced wool is not going to put it through the manufacturing process immediately; he will display the fleeces in this bale, because they are magnificent fleeces and any grower would be extremely proud to have produced them. This will bc an advertisement not only for the woolgrowers but also for wool itself and, of course, for the manufacturer as well.
Every alert and active primary producer must of necessity be also an active businessman and, as such, be interested in promoting his product. For this reason I suggest that the producers of superfine wool in our community - and certainly in my electoratewill be only too happy to contribute slightly more on the percentage basis in order to promote the better article, lt is only right that they should do so. The people who grow only a few bales of wool, almost as a by-product of their fat Ir.mb raising, should not be charged on the same basis as those who produce superfine wools. I am very pleased that the Government has been able to arrive at a formula acceptable to the industry. 1 believe it is a very happy event that we have been able to establish some form of percentage calculation which does not bear heavily on any one section of the community but rather favours the proposition that if you have a quality article you pay a little more to produce it and a little more for promotion, and then get more advantage from the promotion, a higher price for your product and a more assured spot in the world market for your quality article.
As I said earlier, we have heard a great deal of criticism of the standards of classing of our wool clip. The implementation of this proposal to impose the levy on a percentage basis will help to ensure better woolclassing. If honorable members have followed my tortuous argument they will appreciate my proposition that if you pay a little more ‘for your promotion you will get a little more for your product, and I believe that this is a worth-while objective.
Finally, let me say that I support the whole concept of wool promotion. I believe that members of the Opposition who have said that there should be no increase in promotion activities without an orderly marketing plan are not being realistic. The needs of the wool industry are quite acute. We must continue to look for a high price for our wool if we are to continue to develop our wool-producing areas. The development of Australia is of major concern to us all. As many honorable members are no doubt aware, there is an increasing trend to-day towards a capital-intensive agricultural economy and away from a labour-intensive agricultural economy. This trend was referred to by the Stanford Research Institute in the report that members of the Opposition have been so ready to quote in this House. This is a trend which, unfortunately, many members of the grazing community have not been fully aware of, but which we must increasingly consider. Unless we are going to get a greater return for our products and more money as income from the sale of our wool we will not be able to develop our country.
Some mention has been made in the House during the last few days of the shortage of superphosphate. I feel sure that one of the reasons for this shortage is that wool cheques have been larger in the last twelve months, and one of the ways in which primary producers have been using the extra money is spending it on their farms - in other words, helping to develop their country - so that they can grow and sell more wool. This brings us back to the very reason why we have a change in the method of imposing this levy. The only way that I can see for us to continue to increase our farm income and get greater returns for greater output is by introducing this kind of scheme. Unless we get more for the increased effort and increased capital we put into our grazing areas we will not be able to continue to expand our production. With a world shortage of wool, it is essential, of course, for us to expand our production if we are to continue to benefit from the demand for more textiles, and if we are going to continue to hold our proportion of the fibre market. I feel that by these bills the Government is actively assisting in many ways the development of the country and at the same time is actively assisting in meeting the criticism of the Japanese manufacturing interests. The Government is to be complimented on the measures that it has submitted. I think that the members of the grazing community and the wool-growing industry generally have been extremely well served.
– in reply - the bill has been canvassed fairly thoroughly. The progressive plan with which it deals is but another important step taken by the Government to cater for the wool industry. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made what I thought were slighting references to the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry. I do not propose to quote his exact words, but he suggested that that committee did not submit any substantial proposal. I draw his attention to the committee’s report. I think it was a very good one. Rather than submit an immature marketing scheme, the committee suggested that the first essential was the setting up of a central organization to speak, work and plan for the industry. That organization has been established. In addition, comprehensive legislation has been passed, establishing the Australian Wool Board and containing a provision that a wool marketing committee shall be appointed.
I think the Opposition is very shortsighted in its approach to this matter. The amendment that has b:en proposed amounts to a proposal that the bill be rejected. It can mean nothing else, because the operative words of the amendment are, “This House declines to give the bill a second reading”. Although it is embellished with other words, those are the operative words of the amendment. This Government is committed to the proposals contained in the bills. The amendment proposed is directly contrary to the plan which has been considered at many conferences and is now substantially endorsed by the Australian industry. It has also been endorsed by South Africa and New Zealand, both of which countries are our joint partners in the International Wool Secretariat.
Honorable members opposite would have us believe that levies for the purposes of wool promotion are, in effect, tax collections for which there is no recompense. Promotion, effectively implemented, must improve returns. This matter has been considered fully by the growers, lt has been canvassed by them and openly explained to them at meeting after meeting over a period of six months. With the knowledge that it has before it, the industry has substantially endorsed the proposal that it shall pay more for promotion. What matters is not only what you pay by way of a levy but also the return to bc gained from expenditure on promotion. No one will argue that if you spend £1.000,000 on promotion there will be no return from that expenditure. All the pros and cons must be weighed one against the other, and what counts is the result to be expected.
If we look back to last year and the year before we see that, although all the wool that we produced was sold, the price was unsatisfactory. The pertinent factor to consider is the result of the promotion that has been undertaken, and already we have seen a good result. Because of this progressive approach to the industry, prices have been much better this year. No matter how much the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) may apologize for the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor, the fact is that its operative words are, “ This House declines to give the bill a second reading “. In other words, it is in direct opposition to the Government’s proposal to contribute approxi mately £4,250,000 a year to help our economy and to improve our export position by helping this big industry. Therefore, we say that the Opposition is very shortsighted in its approach. 1 repeat that, in effect, the Opposition is rejecting the considered opinion of the industry itself. I now leave the matter to the House.
Question put -
That the words proposed to bc omitted (Mr. Pollard’s amendment) stand part of iiic question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker-Mr. E. N. Drury.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
.–! direct the attention of the committee to the fact that the bill contains six clauses which are comprehensive and refer to Wool Tax Acts (No. 1), (No. 2) and so on. By clause 5 it is proposed to amend section 33 of the principal act to empower the Australian Wool Board to borrow money for temporary purposes on overdraft from an approved bank. I am not sure what borrowing powers if any, were conferred upon the board under the previous act. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) may be able to enlighten me on that. I have read the report of the newly constituted Australian Wool Board for the two or three months that it has been in operation. In the section of the report relating to finance I noticed an item which showed that the board had paid a substantial sum of money in advance to the International Wool Secretariat. I do not remember seeing an item of that character in reports of the board as it was previously constituted.
It appeared to me, from reading this item in the report, that this amount had been acquired for payment to the International Wool Secretariat in anticipation of the passage of this measure, the imposition of an additional levy and the collection of the sudsidy which will accompany the levy. In those circumstances a sum of money, which appeared to me to be in the vicinity of £500,000, was paid in advance. If I am correct in that assumption it would appear that the borrowing power which it is proposed to give the board is to cover moneys borrowed on overdraft during the period until the increased moneys will begin flowing to the board. I hope that I am wrong in that assumption. If that sort of thing has been done 1 think it is very wrong indeed. That action may have been provoked by the type of expenditure incurred by the board when campaigning for an increased levy. At that time the board brought to Australia from all parts of the world prominent members of the staff of t!.e International Wool Secretariat. That was a pretty expensive sort of business. One prominent member of the International Wool Secretariat visited Bendigo, the centre of a very important wool-growing area. Whilst there he apparently made a statement to the press. I realize that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has already referred to this matter. The member of the secretariat was reported in the press as having said -
The demand for wool was growing fast and manufacturers wanted growers to receive better prices to encourage higher production.
I shall not name the gentleman. Apparently he is a very good citizen and he probably meant well. The report states that the gentleman said -
All hell will break loose in Japan next year when most of the synthetic patents expire which will mean an all-out price war in synthetics. We are trying to prevent this war from dragging wool down with it.
In effect, he was indulging in a scare campaign with the wool-growers’ money in the prominent provincial centre of Bendigo in an endeavour to get the support of the wool-growers for the proposals to increase the .levy. He said that the Japanese wanted the Australian wool-growers to receive higher prices so that we would grow more wool. As the honorable member for Kennedy pointed out, a report in the Melbourne “Age” of 9th February, 1963, stated -
The Japanese Wool Spinners Association said to-day it was considering a plan to curb the current uptrend of raw wool import prices.
The wool-growers are asked to pay for such nonsensical statements, if the report is correct. It is just about time that somebody investigated the extent to which our money is being wasted overseas.
I have another report to which I wish to refer. In it a gentleman is quoted as saying that the Japanese wool textile industry, realizing the value of the present increasing demand for wool, voluntarily subsidized all International Wool Secretariat research and promotion funds £1 for £1 and worked in close collaboration with the industry in both fields. He cited some mammoth promotion projects which incorporated wool festivals, fashion shows, knitting competitions, training in knitting for Japanese domestic science teachers by International Wool Secretariat staff and dressmaking schools - all co-operatively financed. He said that the Japanese are doing that sort of thing. In other words, they are buying our raw wool products without any great degree of extravagant spending of wool-growers’ money and they are undertaking their own promotion. Yet we are to rush in and give these Japanese people an opportunity to reduce their expenditure on promotion. According to a newspaper report, the gentleman stated that they were predisposed to wool and that they liked the feel of fine natural fibre close to their bodies. I hope that they continue to like the feel of wool close to their bodies. The report states -
In fact, the Japanese symbol for the word “ beautiful “ when translated to English became “ king-sheep “.
I want to know who is pulling whose leg. If this is an example of how the International Wool Secretariat is promoting wool overseas and if it is true that the Japanese go to such lengths to sponsor the sale of wool after it has gone through their processing factories, why the devil are the Australian wool-growers to be called upon to provide more funds for promotion which the wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers are undertaking?
You can look at all sorts of raw material production in Australia and not find a parallel. Are wheat-growers asked to pay anything to promote the sale of wheat? Of course they are not. Promotion is left to the bakers and the manufacturers of “ Kornies “. “ Kornies “ is the name of the product; I do not say that it is a corny procedure. The manufacturers of “ Kornies “ and of other cereals sell their products in packets containing all sorts of gimmicks and advertising but the wheatgrowers are not called upon to pay anything to promote the sales of wheat around the world. Somebody may say that wheat-growers are not in competition with synthetic foods. But they arc in competition with rice. There is an increasing demand for all sorts of other foodstuffs and the consumption of wheat and flour in many countries is decreasing. Timber-millers and the producers of forest products are not called upon to pay a levy to promote the sales of their products. Are tobacco growers in Australia and the United States of America asked to pay a levy so that tobacco may be advertised? Of course not. Companies such as that of which Sir William Gunn holds a directorship, companies such as Rothmans, promote tha sale of tobacco and cigarettes.
In saying these few words at the committee stage I am imposing upon your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, in order to attract the attention of the Government, the Australian Wool Board and the woolgrowers to the need to keep a very close watch on what is being done with the extra money to be raised from the Australian wool producers. I shall leave it at that. I do not accept word for word everything that appears in the press and the reports I have referred to may have condensed the statements of the gentleman concerned. He appears to be an excellent Australian citizen. However, that does not justify stupid things being said and done and extravagant use being made of other people’s money.
– The questions asked by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - particularly in relation to clause 5 - deserve answers. He referred to the funds which I thought he said had been forwarded by the Australian Wool Board to the International Wool Secretariat. I assure the honorable member that they were not borrowed funds in any sense.
– I did not say that.
– I assure the honorable member that they were not borrowed funds but were taken from the present reserves of the Australian Wool Board. Before this legislation is passed, the board has power only to borrow money for use in connexion with the finances of the Australian Wool Testing Authority.
– Only for the Australian Wool Testing Authority?
– Yes. But the legislation envisages that at the beginning of a season it may be necessary for the board to forward larger sums than it collects. It was, therefore, thought only fair to provide borrowing powers for the board so that it can borrow in the early part of the season the funds to be transmitted overseas. The funds are to be borrowed until the levy is collectedfrom the industry.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
Debate resumed from 16th April (vide pages 1216, 1217,1218 and 1219), on motions by Mr. Adermann -
That the bills be now read a second time.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time, and together passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. Speaker, I rise at this late hour to bring to the notice of the House a very serious situation that exists within my constituency. I represent the major part of the industrial city of Greater Wollongong. This is a matter that I have raised on several occasions by questions in the House, and 1 believe that I would be recreant to my trust as a representative of the people if I failed fully to inform honorable members of the reasons for the questions that I asked, of the present situation and of the remedies that I seek.
First, I shall give the cold statistics. Employment statistics issued last week by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) revealed that in New South Wales as a whole 11,420 women, both seniors and juniors, were unemployed. The State has a population of 4,250,000. In Greater Wollongong, with a population of 145,000, no fewer than 1,053 women and girls are at present registered as unemployed. Greater Wollongong contains 3 per cent, of the population of New South Wales but has more than 9 per cent, of the number of females unemployed. Therefore, the unemployment situation within my constituency is at least three times as bad as the situation in New South Wales as a whole. This causes great alarm to me and my constituents and it has been the subject of considerable and scathing comment by the local responsible press.
I shall now skim briefly through the details in the limited time at my disposal, Mr. Speaker. On 4th April last, at the store of Bebarfalds Limited, at Wollongong, in response to an advertisement, some 300 women and girls joined a queue in search of jobs. That was the number counted up to lunch time. Mr. Taylor, the manager of the store, said that he ceased to count the number at that time, although interviewing of applicants continued throughout that and the following days. On the second day, a further 150 women and girls were interviewed. In March, the store of G. J. Coles and Company Limited, at Corrimal. received applications from literally hundreds of girls for 40 jobs. On the reported statement of the manager of the store, the stack of written applications was more than one foot high. The “ Illawarr Daily Mercury “, which is published in my constituency, received no fewer than 240 applications from junior girls for one position as a junior general assistant in the office advertised in March. No fewer than 350 applications, mainly from juniors, were received at the State Lotteries Office recently opened at Wollongong. I have personal experience of this office, appointments to which were under the control of the New South Wales Public Service Board. The “ South Coast Times “, also published at Wollongong, received applications from 100 women for six parttime jobs as wrappers in February.
The proprietor of one dress fabric store has informed me that no fewer than 90 girls applied for one junior position. He does not want his name disclosed, but I shall give it to (he Minister in confidence if he wants it. The proprietor of this store told me that he shared with a number of storekeepers in Wollongong a fear of advertising because of the adverse effect on business due to the disappointment, resentment and frustration expressed by women and girls attempting to obtain employment. Earlier this year, the Council of the City of Greater Wollongong called applications for the appointment of two junior library trainees. There were 120 applicants, 23 of them with the Leaving Certificate.
Now I come to the most weighty and perhaps the most responsible evidence of all - the transcript of a television programme known as “ Four Corners “ that was telecast on 4th April. In the passage that I propose to read, Mr. Penlington, the interviewer, was questioning Mr. A. Parrish, general manager of Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited at Port Kembla. The transcript reads as follows: -
Parrish: Well, it’s more than a shortage of work for married women in this area - it’s a shortage of work for women generally and this has had a rather unsettling effect on labour, particularly European labour, in this district, we’re woefully short of employment for women in the Wollongong general area, and we have lost quite a number of our people who were quite satisfied with their employment at the steelworks but fell that they could not carry on because there was no opening for their wives or their daughters to supplement their earnings which supplementation was available to them in other centres. As a consequence, many families have left the .district and as I said, had somewhat of an unsettling effect on the general labour force. So we do urgently require industries which will employ women in this district.
Penlington: Well, who is to step in and create these light industries for the employment of women?
Parrish: We are a very young centre down here and of course our emphasis to date has been on heavy industries, and as a consequence we are somewhat of an unbalanced community. If you look at Newcastle you have knit-mills and all the tremendous diversity of secondary industries in which women can be employed usefully - lamp factories and the like. These things have not yet come to Wollongong.
If the Minister chooses to examine the whole transcript, he will see repeated statements by women that they were going out to work not merely to supplement the family income in order to buy luxuries but to supplement it in order to buy stark necessaries.
One of the factors that is causing women in my constituency to go out to work is the shortage of housing. Greater Wollongong is growing at the rate of some 6,000 people a year. To former rural employees, it is nothing less than a promised land in terms of employment. Having been displaced by mechanization on farms, they come to Wollongong and find that houses are not there for them, despite the wonderful contribution to housing made by the Crate Labour Government, which has built 5,000 homes in the district. In New South Wales as a whole, the percentage of home ownership - I am speaking of actual or potential and of people who are still heavily indebted by way of mortgage - is approximately 85 per cent. The lack of housing in Wollongong is just another of the reasons why women there go out to work. Another reason is an old one: In a district in which there is semi-automation, the wages paid to skilled and semi-skilled workers are utterly and completely inadequate.
Under the limitations of time imposed on me by the Standing Orders, I do not propose to regale the House with the full details of the most scathing newspaper comment on the Minister’s reply to my last question on this subject. 1 will be charitable to him and leave it at that. But he can peruse the press cuttings at his leisure. He can take it from me that all the cases I have quoted are well authenticated. They are merely a selection from scores that are within my personal knowledge or have been reported to me. I am not here to make political points. I speak as a responsible member of the Parliament and I speak in the name of my constituents. We demand and we arc entitled to assistance. This is not merely a matter of statistics; it is a matter of common Christian charity.
I invite the Minister to come to my constituency, to meet the people, to discuss their problems with them and to make a correct assessment of the female unemployment situation there. I remind the Minister that it is three times as great as the unemployment situation throughout the State as a whole. I invite him to come down, meet the people and then help to devise the appropriate remedies and to give appropriate relief. For this purpose, 1 ask him to invoke the co-operation of his fellow Ministers in their respective portfolios. I say advisedly that the skills and the abilities of the young women of the City of Greater Wollongong are being wasted in the present situation and I ask the Minister for his co-operation and assistance.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) has raised the question of employment in the WollongongPort Kembla area. I want the House to know that I am speaking to-night of the District Employment Office area rather than of Wollongong or Port Kembla. The District Employment Office area takes in some of the shires and municipalities. I think most of us will agree, and I am sure the honorable member for Cunningham will agree, that no part of Australia is developing as rapidly as the WollongongPort Kembla area is. He referred to a growth rate of 6,000 per annum in one .part alone. The development of the area has been spectacular. In 1947, the population was about 80,000 and on the 1961 census figures it was about 190,000. lt will be much greater now. Pari passu with that the work force has grown. On the 1961 census, the work force comprised 68,000 people. This is evidence of the tremendous growth of the Wollongong-Port Kembla area. I believe it is correct to say that we have not seen the end of its development. In fact, I am prepared to say that, just as its development has been spectacular in the past, so too its development in the future will certainly be spectacular.
Let me put the employment position of the area in perspective. No one could say that there has not been a position of near-full employment or perhaps over-full employment of males, because there were 687 unfilled vacancies for males at the end of March and 518 males registered for employment. If those who equate registrants with unfilled vacancies say that when the number of vacancies is greater than the number of registrants we have over-full employment, then in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area we have over-full employment of males. At the end of March we had 687 unfilled vacancies and 518 registrants for the District Employment Office area as a whole.
The honorable gentleman has painted an accurate picture of the employment of females. At the end of March, 1,053 females were registered for employment. I mention that this is out of a total population on the 1961 census of 190,000. This enables us to put the matter in perspective. In secondary industry alone, employment is provided for 27,200 people and there arc 515 factories in the area with an output in 1960 of about £220.000,000. We find evidence here of tremendous growth and we also find some problems with the employment of women.
Let me look at the problem of the employment of women in this area and for that matter the employment of women throughout Australia. I think most people will accept the fact that the Commonwealth Government has performed a remarkable task in reaching the state of a very high level of employment that we have to-day. We have a situation of high wages and a high level of employment. This is achieving the goal set by the Government of the highest practical level of employment - near-full employment, if honorable members care to put it that way. We have lived up to our philosophy, although in the problem of employment we find here and there a few patches of male unemployment and a problem in the employment of some women. But I do not think that any person would be prepared to argue that in the present situation the Commonwealth Government should give a general stimulus to the expansion of the economy in order to provide additional employment opportunities. I am certain that such a stimulus would inevitably lead to a boost to inflationary forces and it would be difficult to control these forces. Longterm problems would be created for the whole of the Australian community. So I am prepared to state positively that the Commonwealth Government has done a magnificent job in obtaining the present state of full employment, or a very high level of employment, with the very few difficulties that we have to face.
What about the problem of the employment of women in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area? I think the honorable gentleman ought to know - he was formerly a Labour member of the New South Wales Parliament - that during the course of this year the Commonwealth Government has made available to the States £20,000,000 specifically for the purpose of finding employment in various areas where some degree of unemployment had developed. If the New South Wales Labour Government was prepared to accept its responsibilities, it could spend part, even a large part, of its share of the £20.000.000 in ensuring that there was diversification of industry in the WollongongPort Kembla area. An incentive would have been given for the textile industry and other light industries to develop in the area.
As the honorable gentleman well knows, I paid a visit to the Wollongong-Port Kembla area during the course of the last three or four months. I had the great pleasure of opening there a District Employment Office, so that the needs of the area could be looked after. About SOO people a day pass through this office. They do not come only to seek employment. They come to obtain guidance as to how to obtain better jobs or better methods of training and as to other ways of getting greater satisfaction out of their jobs. There are now eleven officers there. The staff has been increased and the office is specifically designed to look after the requirements of the Wollongong-Port Kembla area. I hope now that more time may be devoted to looking after the problems of women resident in the Wollongong-Port Kembla and surrounding areas.
I have to agree with Mr. Parrish, who knows this area probably as well as any one does, that we have some problems there. I am not prepared to admit that we have a massive problem, but I do believe that there must be a co-operative effort by the Commonwealth Government, the State Government and the local government authorities. The Commonwealth has made funds available to enable the States to approach the problem of decentralization in a wise and sensible way. The States should do that. They now have the money and they should be providing the incentives for light industries to move into those areas where unemployment has been a problem. Inevitably when you have heavy industry localized as it is in the WollongongPort Kembla area you have a problem in getting other industries to go to the area as quickly as you want them to. The people to whom the honorable member referred, particularly the young women, deserve sympathy and help, but I repeat that this is not an occasion when the Commonwealth should be applying itself to a general stimulus of demand for labour.
The Commonwealth has given £20,000,000 to the States for purposes of decentralization - to provide job opportunities for people in the small areas where they may be concentrated. I believe that the honorable gentleman, who obviously takes this matter deeply to heart, would be wise to direct the attention of the New South Wales Government to the problem and ask it to make some major contribution towards its solution.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 direct the attention of the House to an item broadcast tonight on national radio stations. The item refers to a Washington report of the decision to establish Australian troops in North Borneo. The item was also broadcast on television. The item as provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission service reads -
A Washington report by Associated Press of America quotes officials there as saying that the United States is reluctant to be drawn into any military commitment over Malaysia.
The agency says Australia’s decision to send increased military aid and a squadron of Army engineers to Malaysian Borneo has aroused some concern in Washington and has led to a close study of the Anzus Pact.
Associated Press of America says it is conceded that technically the United States could become involved under the treaty. However, the agency adds, the prevailing view in Washington is that the Malaysia dispute with Indonesia is primarily a responsibility for Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The American State Department has refused to comment on the situation other than to say that the United States stands by its treaty obligations.
I quote that news item because it is so remarkably at variance with the unqualified statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) that America would immediately be drawn into the conflict if Australian forces in Borneo were attacked. I do not quote the item with any joy but simply because I believe that the statement made by the Minister did not fully inform the House and was careless and reckless in its unqualified assertion of what America would do.
– Did you quote from an Australian Broadcasting Commission report?
– Yes. Three features emerge from that report. Far from America being committed in any way over Malaysia, the report states that the United States officials say that America is reluctant to be drawn into any military commitment over Malaysia, as though no military commitment exists at present. After pointing out that the Australian decision has aroused concern in Washington, the report goes on to say that in the American view, whilst technically and legalistically there may be some prospect that America could become involved, realistically the view of the American State Department is that this is not primarily a responsibility of America at all. The American State Department quite correctly refuses to make any comment other than to say that the United States will stand by its treaty obligations, which is meaningless as giving any further enlightenment on the point raised by the Minister.
I turn now to the position created for this country by the way in which cases such as that of Nancy Prasad are publicized abroad. This five years old Indian girl was allowed a further stay in Australia because of illness when her parents and other members of her family were required to return to Fiji after overstaying a tourist permit. The action taken by the Department of Immigration to require the little girl to return to her parents was simply in the normal course of the administration of existing policy, but the fact that is now apparent is that a case of this nature, into which an element of pathos enters, is very widely publicized in Australia but far more widely and sensationally publicized in Asian and African newspapers to the very great detriment of Australia.
– And so will be your speech to-night.
– I do not think so. The situation is presented in other countries as the full power of the state being employed to hunt down a small child simply because she is coloured and to expel her from our shores for no other offence than the colour of her skin. Australia is presented under very large-
– Order! I think this matter is now in the hands of the court.
– No, the case was withdrawn. I am not making any reference to court proceedings.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the fact that a petition in this matter will be heard before the Equity Court on Friday.
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order if he refers to a matter which is before a court and upon which no decision has yet been made.
– I do not wish to refer to any case before the court but I wish simply to generally-
– Order! The honorable member has already mentioned a name. I was not aware of the fact-
– I have only a few more words to say.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. He has already given a name and has referred to a case which I am now assured is before the court. Therefore, the subject-matter must be dropped.
– I turn now to the very limited and unhelpful replies given by the Department of Social Services “o people who apply to the department for assistance and who are not informed of the reason why their application ;s rejected. Let me deal with the newlygranted benefit of endowment for student children. The case I propose to refer to is typical of very many. A constituent of mine applied for endowment for a student child. The department wrote to her and said -
Your application for endowment for your student child has been carefully examined but approval cannot be given for the following reason: -
The child is not a student child within the meaning of the Social Services Act.
It is obviously impossible for the mother to get any enlightenment or satisfaction from a reply so brief and curt as that unless she has a copy of the act with her. The people to whom I refer are citizens and are entitled to be told why their applications have not succeeded. In the case to which I have referred the application did not succeed because the child is engaged as a student teacher and therefore, as we in this House know, does not come within the definition of a full-time student. But surely the least the department can do is explain to the parent concerned, and to others in similar situations, why the application is refused. The situation is not helped by such statements as were made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) as reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 20th April last. The report reads -
Students’ endowment is available to the parents or guardians of full-time students at schools, colleges or universities who are not receiving payment from an employer or prospective employer.
The Minister did not refer to the categories of student that were ineligible for the endowment, such as student teachers, apprentices and so on. Not one person in 1,000 reading that report would know that the Minister was referring to such cases. They would imagine that their children were eligible unless they were actually being employed in industry.
– The people should never have been misled in the first place.
– The people were misled in the first place because, as the honorable member for Barton reminds me, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made no reference in his policy speech to qualifications or restrictions of these kinds applying to the benefit. The report continues -
The Minister for Social Services, Mr. H. Roberton, said today there had been confusion among parents about the payment of the new endowment.
The simple test of eligibility was one of payment under an agreement with an employer or prospective employer.
If the full-time student was receiving payment under such an arrangement eligibility could not be established.
But every application was considered on its merits and on the facts of each individual case, Mr. Roberton added.
Every honorable member who took part in the debate on the Social Services Bill, who read the bill and who heard the explanations that the Minister gave in this chamber knows that that is not so. These cases are not considered on their merits at all. The act categorically states that people in these classifications are not eligible because they are not defined as being full-time students. The least the Minister could do, in fairness to all of the mothers who are concerned with this matter, is to make the position plain in his press statements and to ensure that when an application is refused the parent is given the real reason why it is refused. Why should the Government be afraid to do that?
.- I wish to refer to a matter on which questions have been asked recently by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) and me, namely, the dock which at present is lying in the Captain Cook Dock in Sydney. Before I go any further, I thank the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) for allowing me to go over the dock last Friday. I also thank Captain Bell, the general manager of Garden Island, and Mr. Sankey for their co-operation and assistance in explaining what had taken place in relation to the dock. That is the only complimentary thing that I can say about the Government in its handling of affairs in connexion with the dock.
As one who has had some experience in shipbuilding, ship repair work and the like, I say that the way the dock has been allowed to deteriorate into the condition in which it is to-day is something which the Government has to explain. The Government has to explain why the dock, which was only fifteen years old when it was offered for sale, has been allowed to deteriorate until to-day it is only a rusty old hulk. It would be dangerous to shift it out of the Captain Cook Dock in its present condition. A considerable amount of money would have to be spent on it to ensure that it was seaworthy enough to be towed out of the Captain Cook Dock - that is, if it could be got out of the dock. Perhaps the Government intends to cut it up in the Captain Cook Dock and send it to the scrap merchants in that form.
Up to date the Minister has evaded the questions that have been put to him. Today I asked him a number of very simple questions which he should have been able to answer if he had been briefed on this matter and if there were any answers to be given. I ask the Minister, who is now sitting at the table, in the time that will be allowed to him later to-night, to tell the House what was the condition of the dock in 1947, when it was taken over from the Admiralty.
– That does not mean that it was fifteen years old.
– It was only five years old in 1947, because it was constructed in 1942. If the honorable member wants any further information on this matter, it is in the reply that the Minister gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Dalley last Tuesday week. This dock was five years old in 1947, when it was taken over from the Admiralty. Why in ten years was it allowed to deteriorate until it was only a rusty hulk? Why was it not repaired during that time? Why was not adequate maintenance carried out on it to ensure that it would be available if it were needed in some forward area to maintain Australian shipping? I hope that such a need will never arise.
This Government is one of the worst sabre-rattling governments that this country has had. In 1939, under the same Prime Minister we were found wanting in our preparedness for war. What is the position of our Air Force, Army and Navy now? The recent unfortunate tragedy involving “ Melbourne “ and “ Voyager “ only goes to prove what a parlous condition this country is in, as far as its defence preparedness is concerned.
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order.
– I will make no further reference to that matter.
– Order! The honorable member is aware that he has no right to refer to the collision between “ Melbourne “ and “ Voyager “. That matter is now before a royal commission.
– I was making only a passing reference to it.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in doing that.
– I will refrain from making any further reference to it. Australia to-day is not prepared for war. I want members of the Parliament to realize that this dock, now that it is out of action, is of no further use. The only floating docks that are available in this country are the one stationed at Newcastle and a small dock at Garden Island which is of no great value at present. The idea in having these docks is that they can be towed from place to place so that maintenance or running repairs can be carried out to vessels that have been damaged, whether in action, in a collision or by going aground. In the event of Australia becoming embroiled in a war, our position is that we have no docking facilities which could be taken to a forward area. The Minister and the Government must be asked to tell us what the real position is. The Minister sits at the table and smirks in his arrogant fashion. To-day, when I asked him a number of quite reasonable questions, he made a nasty display of temper. He has to answer the questions; not us. I keep on pressing these points: Why has the Government allowed this dock to deteriorate in half the normal life of a dock of this type? In Europe docks that are 40 and more years old are quite common. The dock in Newcastle is 35 years old, and it still has a number of years of life left in it.
But this dock had had it after fifteen years. In 1957, when it was docked it was found that an expenditure of £250,000 was required to repair it. I agree that at that stage it would have been ridiculous to spend that amount on repairing a dock which then would not have been up to the standard required to carry out ship repair work. The point is that it should have been maintained. When it was taken to the Cockatoo dockyard it should have been looked after in the correct manner, just as the dock at Newcastle and other similar docks throughout the world have been looked after. A national asset, which could have been of immense value to our armed forces in time of war, has been allowed to deteriorate.
We know that it will cost about £1,000,000 to replace this dock. But this is not a question of money; it is a question of the time taken to construct such a dock. The Government has destroyers and other naval craft in mothballs; and, if necessary, this dock should have been placed in mothballs. The Minister said during question time to-day that the dock had been offered to State instrumentalities. I say to the Minister that it was offered on terms which were not acceptable to the State instrumentalities. If necessary, this dock should have been given to them to look after on the basis of normal wear and tear being their responsibility and normal running repairs and maintenance being the responsibility of the Navy.
Australia is a maritime nation; it is not a land nation. We must depend on shipping, particularly in war-time. Yet the Government allows national assets to rot, rust and deteriorate. No care is taken of them. 1 make this charge against the Government: It has been negligent in its responsibility to maintain this valuable asset of the Navy so that in time of war it would have been available to help to put ships back into action. It is no good if you have to tow ships hundreds of miles back to docks so that they can be repaired. We have a small graving dock in Brisbane, one in Sydney, and a floating dock in Newcastle. These are the only facilities that are available for repairing ships. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the Navy to ensure that docks are suitably placed throughout the Commonwealth. If necessary, this dock could be stationed in Adelaide, Perth or Melbourne. Give it to some of the ship repair establishments to enable them to carry out normal commercial merchant shipping repairs. If this were done the dock would be used and would not deteriorate.
I ask the Minister again to tell us what the Government has done about this dock. What is the Minister’s explanation for having allowed this dock to deteriorate? That is what the people of Australia, particularly those who are interested in shipping, want to know.
. -I thank the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) for expressing appreciation, at the start of his speech, at being allowed to visit this dock. This morning he asked me not one question but eight questions.
– You should have known the answers.
– If the honorable member reads the Standing Orders he will see that the reply that I gave him this morning was in accordance with them. This morning I said twice that the honorable member should put his question on the notice-paper because there was a certain dove-tailing with a question asked by, I think, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson).
– That was when you said you were not very intelligent, was it not?
– I said that I was not as intelligent as a certain honorable member from Queensland. I repeat that the honorable member for Newcastle should have put his questions on the notice-paper. However, I will take his little address to-night as being questions on notice and will supply him with the answers.
– I have not put them on the notice-paper.
– Then I will pay you the courtesy of supplying the answers. I do not think that even you would expect any Minister to carry in his head answers to questions without notice that relate to something that happened fifteen years ago. I make no apology for the answer that I gave you.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Telephone Services. (Question No. 37.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Telephone Services. (Question No. SO.)
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The capital works in progress or approved in the exchange areas covered by the Grayndler Electoral Division are as follows: -
Television. (Question No. 85.)
d asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mori’s Dock, Sydney. (Question No. 95.)
n asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
From what body was Mort’s Dock, Sydney, purchased?
h. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Postal Department. (Question No. 106.)
m asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
son asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What deposit is required from (a) an indigenous person and (b) a European when nominating as a candidate at an election in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
A deposit of £25 is required by the Electoral Ordinance to be lodged with the nomination of every candidate at an election for the House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea. The deposit is returned to the candidate if he receives as first preference votes more than one eighth of the first preference votes polled by the successful candidate.
s asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What did each of the buildings housing national television relay stations in Australia cost to erect?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The cost of the building and associated components for each of the national regional television stations is as follows: -
Telephone Services. (Question No. 108.)
m asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Television. (Question No. 109.)
m asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
How much (a) free and (b) paid time was occupied by each political party on each commercial television station at the last Federal elections?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In addition many candidates had the opportunity to express party views in interviews, panel discussions and telecasts of meetings. Details of the time involved are not available.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the number of (a) inhabitants and (b) People of 21 or more years of age in each of the Commonwealth electoral divisions in Victoria?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The total number of inhabitants and their ages are recorded only at a census of population. Census data (including age) are not tabulated for Commonwealth electoral divisions but only for census collectors’ districts and local government areas. Neither census collectors’ districts nor local government areas can be aggregated to give precise figures for Commonwealth electoral divisions because aggregations of either do not always coincide with boundaries of electoral divisions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: - 1 and 2. The latest available estimates are set out in the following table. For dates subsequent to the latest population census, the estimated population in each State represents the population ascertained at the census, plus natural increase and recorded net migration into the State since the census. As complete records of interstate migration are not available, the estimated State populations so derived are approximate, and arc subject to revision when the actual population of each State is ascertained at the next census. For some Slates such revisions were substantial after the census of 1961.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the income payable each year to overseas companies with Australian branches and subsidiaries?
– The answer to the honorable members question is as follows: -
Details of the income payable to overseas companies with Australian branches and subsidiaries in each year from 1947-48 to 1961-62 inclusive are contained in Table 4 of the Commonwealth Statistician’s publication “Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment: Australia 1961-62”, a copy of which is in the Parliamentary Library. Details for 1962-63 are not yet available.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The State Chief Electoral Officer for Tasmania has supplied the following information in respect of the 1955. 1956 and 1959 Tasmanian House of Assembly Elections - 1- 1955 - -Australian Labour Party, Liberal Party of Australia; 1956 - Australian Labour Parry, Liberal Party of Australia. Labour Anti-Communist Party; 1959 - Australian Labour Party. Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Democratic Labour Party, Communist Party. 2 and 3. The number of votes and percentage of valid votes recorded for each of the political parlies was as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640422_reps_25_hor42/>.