25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HANSEN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government immediately grant a basic pension rale 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.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the reported announcement by the United States that the question of that country’s involvement in the defence of the troops we are sending to North Borneo is a hypothetical one, will the right honorable gentleman say whether he has asked the United States authorities to clear up the position, or whether he received any reply to the intimation he gave them last week that Australian troops were being sent? Did he make any inquiry from them as to whether the defence of those troops would be regarded by them as hypothetical?
– I do not know what the object of the honorable member is in taking this kind of line, unless, of course, he is trying to make it difficult for both us and for the United States. The United States Administration was advised of the troops we were sending to Malaysia. 1 do not recall whether the United States authorities sent back word saying, “ Yes “, categorically, but they were advised about the matter. As a matter of fact, at the conference in Manila, Mr. Rusk, who is the head of the Department of State, expressed satisfaction at it. There is no reason whatever to suggest that the United States Government does not want our forces there. There is every reason to believe that it does, for reasons which 1 indicated the other day in my speech. I have not seen the report to which the honorable gentleman refers but I understand that people do occasionally say, “ This is a hypothetical question “. 1 have frequently said that myself. I am informed that in the Department of State the officials concerned pointed out the very clauses of the Anzus Pact to which I referred in this House and said that they covered the matter.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. As Australia has entered into tax treaties with the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and New Zealand, I ask whether the Government has considered establishing similar arrangements with Japan. It is realized that Australia would lose certain amounts of revenue resulting from such an arrangement. But would not the advantages far outweigh this loss?
– It is a fact that Australia has concluded double taxation agreements with several countries and that we have had requests from many other countries to conclude double taxation agreements with them. At the request of the Japanese Government, our officials have been in consultation with officials of the Japanese Government, and when a report is received from our own team I shall be able to examine it and decide what Government consideration should be directed to the matter. It is usually our objective to have an equitable agreement so far as financial consequences are concerned but, as the honorable member has pointed out, that is not necessarily the determining factor.
(Mr. Whitlam having addressed a question tq the Minister for Trade and Industry) -
– Order! I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that a question relating to a matter for which a Minister is not responsible to the House is out of order. The question is out of order. (Mr. Whitlam having addressed a further question to the Minister for Trade and Industry) -
– Order ! For the reason I have just given I must rule that question also out of order.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question relating to the proposed establishment of a third university in Victoria and a statement by the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, that the Victorian Government has been directed by the Commonwealth to site the new university in the Melbourne metropolitan area. I place emphasis on Mr. Bolte’s use of the word “ directed “. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether such a direction has been given. If not, will he confirm that the Victorian Government has complete responsibility for the selection of the site, whether it be a metropolitan or a country site? Finally, I ask whether, if the Victorian Government chooses a site other than one in the metropolitan area, the Commonwealth Government grants will be available in the normal fashion.
– As to the last part of the question, the honorable member can hardly ask me to anticipate some hypothetical situation. So far, at any rate, the Commonwealth has acted on the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission with some particularity. In the present case the position is that the commission, in its report, made a recommendation about a third university and about its being in the metropolitan area. That was not a direction; it was a recommendation. There has been no direction by the Commonwealth because, plainly, the ultimate responsiblity for the choice of the site and the establishment of a new university is in the hands of the State.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of a widespread demand for improved extension services in the rural industries? Will he discuss with his department methods of securing such better services? Is he aware of the need for improved production in the rural industries to meet Australia’s expanding markets?
– I am aware of the desire of certain primary industries for greater extension services. The Government is cognizant of this need; indeed, the
Prime Minister, in his policy speech, referred to this vital factor in rural industry. Research is proceeding on it. No doubt I will be involved, as other Ministers will, in making recommendations to the Government for consideration later, but, generally speaking, at the moment this matter is being taken in hand.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The right honorable gentleman will remember that some months ago, knowing his concern at foreign take-overs of Australian food processing plants, I asked him about a £2,500,000 take-over offer made by the Swift Australian Company (Proprietary) Limited, a subsidiary of International Packers of the United States, for Mayfair Hams Limited. I suggested then that he consult with the Treasurer to see whether action could be taken to prevent such take-overs being financed by Australian bank overdrafts in the way that Swifts had financed its take-over of the Queensland National Pastoral Company Limited a year before. He told me that he would be glad to consult with the Treasurer about this matter. I now ask whether he can confirm that Swifts’ second take-over was also financed within Australia and whether he can give any assurance that from now on there will be any supervision of take-overs - to quote his words - “. . . in which large overseas companies of great standing and great credit worthiness drew upon Australian savings to finance the operations “.
– It must be some considerable time since the Deputy Leader for the Opposition asked me the question to which he referred. The facts in connexion with the Swift transaction do not remain in my mind. I say that frankly. The subject matter of the question is one that excites some public interest. It interests me. As I have made clear in the House and outside the House, commercial transactions can be concluded under the law as it exists and under policies as they exist.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. I ask the Minister whether he will inquire of the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission whether, in view of the ban by the A.B.C. on the transmission of electoral material by the Country Party in Tasmania prior to the election there, he can reconcile the ban with his statement as chairman at a conference on mass media in Armidale in 1962. That statement was that -
– I shall be pleased to raise this matter with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Having regard to the authorities given under the act to the commission I think that there is not necessarily a true comparison to be made between the statement quoted by the honorable member and the situation in relation to the broadcasting of political material.
– 1 ask the Treasurer whether he is aware that yesterday the share market moved lower for the sixth successive day. Is there any relationship between a reduction in the prices of shares and the arbitrary increase in interest rates on fixed deposits? If there is a relationship, to what extent does the Government desire to depress the prices of shares? If there is no relationship, is the lower move for the sixth successive day merely a reflection of lack of confidence in Government policies?
– I should not have thought that question time was the occasion for a detailed analysis by a Treasurer of the Commonwealth Government of the great variety of factors that can affect movements on the share market.
– Your stocks have gone up since Sir Garfield retired.
– Thank you. Would you describe it as a boom year? The policy has been one of steady progress. I conclude my answer by pointing .out that there is a variety of factors involved. 1 do not propose to attempt an analysis of the degree to which any one or other of these factors bears on share market prices. 1 simply make the general observation that
I believe that the return of income on good equity stocks in Australia at present is still comparatively low. To me, this suggests that the share market is still running high in terms of returns to investors. 1 shall be offering to the public in the very near future a very attractive investment which it might consider.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, and it relates to the calling together of the Standing Orders Committee. Has your attention been drawn to the fact that in this House when a private member gives notice of a motion which might be embarrassing to another group in the House, that group invokes Standing Order No. 107 so as to interpose discussion of a matter of so-called public importance in order to stifle discussion of the private member’s motion? You will recall, Sir, that earlier in this sessional period I and other members asked you whether you would call together the Standing Orders Committee to consider amendment of Standing Order No. 107 to prevent such motions being moved on Thursday mornings. I now ask whether you have been able to call together the Standing Orders Committee to consider this matter with a view to putting an end to this corrupt and reprehensible practice.
– Order! The honorable member must not use question time in that manner.
– I wish to raise a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in saying that a move by the Opposition is corrupt?
– Yes, I said corrupt.
– If the honorable member used that word I must ask him to withdraw it.
– If you say so, Sir, I shall most certainly withdraw it.
– In relation te the greater part of the honorable member’s question I have no information. In regard to the calling together of the Standing Orders Committee I remind the honorable member that quite recently we considered this very subject matter. However, 1 shall consider that portion of the question and advise him of my decision.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. He is no doubt aware that when properties were resumed to make way for the Redfern mail-sorting branch it was found necessary to provide alternative accommodation for some age pensioners displaced by the resumptions. At present, eight pensioners are housed in a building at 219 Cleveland-street, Redfern, that will have to be demolished in the near future to enable the project to be completed. I ask the honorable gentleman: What steps are being taken to provide other accommodation for these eight pensioners?
– In my inquiries concerning the progress of the Redfern mail exchange, I discovered that some old premises that will have to be demolished are occupied by a number of pensioners. My inquiries have revealed that in 1961 it was intimated that these people would be allowed to stay for approximately three years. They are now due to move and discussions are at present being held with the Housing Commission of New South Wales to see whether alternative accommodation can be found for them. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Post Office has no intention of putting these people out on the street, as it were. We shall find accommodation for them before we take over for the expansion of the Redfern mail exchange the premises in which they are now housed.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question. Can arrangements be made for members of this House to visit the Woomera rocket range for the initial firing of the first rocket for the European Launcher Development Organization?
– I have been giving some thought to the provision of facilities for a small party of members of the Parliament to visit the Woomera rocket range on the quite historic occasion of the first firing from an Australian range of a European Launcher Development Organization rocket. However, some enormous difficulties arise. Although the first firing is scheduled for 18th May, the safety requirements of a successful launching could set arrangements back by anything up to fourteen days. In view of the fact that there is no public accommodation available at Woomera, this could mean that members would have to be on call, perhaps in Adelaide, for much of that period. But even more than getting them to Woomera is involved. I am afraid that the nearest vantage point from which visual observation could be made is the instrumentation building, which is about ten miles to the rear of the firing point. So it may well be that honorable members will get a much better view of the Eldo launching on television in their own homes. However, I assure the honorable member that I am considering the matter. I shall let him know the outcome.
– 1 ask the Minister for Trade and Industry what action he can take to inform the electors of Tasmania of the importance of the activities of the Department of Trade and Industry.
– I take every opportunity I can in this House to inform not only the electors of Tasmania but all the electors of Australia of the activities of the Department of Trade and Industry. I propose to address a public meeting in Tasmania tomorrow in an attempt to remedy some of the deficiencies caused by denial of opportunity to me.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. I understand that the Department of Social Services proposes to compel persons in receipt of child endowment to accept payments of £11 or above by cheque. As most people who receive child endowment prefer to have payment made at post offices in cash, owing to the difficulties of having cheques cashed, will the Minister continue to allow the recipient the option of having payment made either by cheque or by cash, regardless of the amount?
– I shall be very pleased to consider the honorable member’s proposal. To the best of my knowledge and belief, a person who has the care and custody of a child has the right to elect the method by which endowment shall be paid.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. By way of preface, 1 say that from time to time suggestions have been made that the Commonwealth should proceed with the issue of what was known as the Anzac Star, sometimes called the Gallipoli Star, to members of the Australian Forces who served at the landing or in the Gallipoli area during the year 1915. In the last Parliament, the honorable member for Capricornia gave notice of a private member’s bill to seek authorization of this medal, but because of the prorogation of the Parliament the matter was not debated in the House. 1 ask the Prime Minister: Will the Government now consider making arrangements for the issue of the Gallipoli Star to those members of the serving forces who qualified on Gallipoli, or to their next-of-kin? Does the right honorable gentleman know that only between 5,000 and 6,000 medals would bc required for the surviving members who served and surviving qualified next-of-kin? The right honorable gentleman may remember that the medal was approved and designed and the ribbon was actually made. Will he agree that objections made by the British Government in those days now so far behind us might now have been dissipated, and that those who would be entitled to the medal might receive it, particularly as we are approaching next year the fiftieth anniversary of the landing?
– As the honorable member has said in his question, there is a fairly long history and background on this matter which I would not venture to reproduce casually. 1 will have a look at the matter and provide him with an answer in detail when I am fully posted on the story.
– 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Has it now been substantiated by investigation that Ansett Transport Industries Limited and its subsidiaries did in fact acquire 49 per cent, of the shares in Brisbane’s third television licensee, Universal Telecasters Queensland Limited? Will the company now be issued with the licence that was withheld pending the investigation? What percentage of share acquisition by the Ansett group would have caused the Minister to refrain from issuing the licence?
– I made a public statement in relation to the matters to which the honorable member refers. It is true that the Ansett group has acquired some 49 per cent, of the shares in this company. The licence will be issued to Universal Telecasters Queensland Limited. I do not think it is necessary for me to express a view on the third point of the honorable member’s question.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the conjecture in certain daily newspapers on the possible date of the next Senate election, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the Government’s intention to hold a Senate election before the Budget session this year?
– When the honorable member sees a lot of speculation on a matter of that kind, he may be quite safe in assuming that it has not been discussed. In fact, the date of the Senate election has not been discussed by the Government and therefore no decision has been taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Will the Minister do something to resolve the hunger problems of persons who are unemployed and to whom his department refuses to pay unemployment benefit? In cases where unemployed persons do not possess the physical, mental or intellectual standard required by employers, and who actually possess only upwards of 50 per cent, earning capacity, and are thus virtually unemployable, will he consider the payment of a special benefit rather than see them continually being made the scapegoats of society, as they are at present?
– I assure the honorable member for Shortland that applicants who qualify for the unemployment benefit receive the benefit in the normal way. That situation exists in respect of all social service benefits. I remind the honorable member that the New South
Wales Minister for Social Welfare represents a constituency that is part of the federal constituency of Shortland. If any people in Shortland are suffering in the way suggested by the honorable member, he has a direct approach to the New South Wales Minister for Social Welfare, who, I am confident, will give the matter the consideration that is due to it.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question. Some days ago a statement was issued in the United States of America on an authoritative level concerning progress in the development of the TFX fighter-bomber, which has been selected for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. The statement referred to the possibility that the aircraft may not be suitable for use by the United States Navy. Has the Minister any further information on the matter?
– I have no further information on this subject, but I did see a report stating that Mr. McNamara, United States Secretary of Defence, has acknowledged that there may be a weight problem associated with the use of the TFX by the Navy but that he thinks the problem can be overcome. Naturally the weight of aircraft to be used from an aircraft carrier must be kept to a minimum. Although the weight of the aircraft has tended to creep up, Mr. McNamara believes - and I use his words - “ This problem can be licked “.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it correct, as reported in the Adelaide “ News “ on Wednesday, 15th April, 1964, that the Government proposes to make sweeping changes within the motor industry? If so, will the Minister say what action is contemplated and for what purpose? Will the Minister give a clear and definite assurance that the proposed changes are not designed to curtail or cut back employment opportunities within the industry?
– Clearly any contemplated movement of the kind referred to certainly would not be designed to do anything but protect employment opportunities in this country. The matter referred to, while being of considerable importance, is one of policy. I will ask the Minister for Customs and Excise to provide the honorable member with a reply.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service know that the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions this week held an emergency meeting to consider the matter of shop and job control in the Australian trade union movement? As it appears that there has been an infiltration of trade unions, particularly at the shop and area level, described by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as political subversion, can the Minister say to what extent this infiltration has been assisted by the neglect of those in authority in the Australian Labour Party-
– I rise to order! What has this question to do with the Minister’s functions?
– I think the subject may come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Labour and National Service; but I point out to the honorable member that his question is far too long.
– Can the Minister therefore see any possibility of a change in attitude on the part of some leaders-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– My question relates to the proposed housing legislation, which was referred to in the House a couple of days ago. Has the Minister for Housing considered the position of those people who, due to the nature of their employment, from time to time are transferred and change their domicile? Is the Minister aware that in order to save money which would otherwise go in rent some of those people purchase a small cheap house at their temporary place of employment and sell it when they are transferred. Finally, if the Minister is aware of that, has he arranged for that method of saving to be recognized, and will the legislation also provide that when such people eventually are able to take up permanent residence they will not be disqualified simply because they have owned a house of sorts elsewhere?
– The problems to which the honorable member has referred have been considered. I will explain the position when the relevant legislation is introduced. I hope that that will be just after we come back from next week’s recess; that is, in about ten days time.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether Australia’s balance-of-payments situation is satisfactory. Are our overseas reserves at a level high enough to ensure population growth and economic growth sufficient to enable Australia to survive in the environment and geographical position in which it finds itself?
– I find this question a little technical; but I can say that the Australian balance-of-payments situation has never been healthier than it is at the present time, and the prospect of its remaining healthy has never been brighter than it is at present. This is one of the ingredients that permit a healthy and fast growth of the whole Australian economy. I believe that all Australians can congratulate themselves on the situation.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does he appreciate the valued humanitarian service being given by the ambulance services in transporting pensioners without charge? If he appreciates that work, which forms part of our health services, will he, when framing the 1964-65 Budget, make financial provision to assist the ambulance organizations to meet their heavy financial burdens?
– I am sure that we can adopt a bi-partisan attitude to the question of appreciation; but when the honorable gentleman raises a question of financial policy, I can do no more at this stage than tell him that I will see that the matter is included in the items to be considered in relation to the forthcoming Budget.
(Mr. Jess having addressed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service) -
– Order! An honorable member is entitled to direct a question to the Minister who is responsible to the House for the matter referred to in the question, and is entitled to direct attention to a report that appears in the press; but no honorable member is entitled to quote from such a report.
– On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the question is completely out of order. The honorable member for La Trobe quoted from a speech that I made and then asked the Minister for Labour and National Service to give an opinion as to what I intended, or what I meant. He asked whether I was saying that the trade union movement or the Australian Labour Party would be affected. That has nothing to do with the Minister’s administration of his portfolio. I submit that the question is out of order.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like to speak to the point of order. I think that the point made by the Leader of the Opposition is very well taken and deserves some discussion. It is a point which the House might consider. If he thinks it desirable-
– Order! The honorable member is now canvassing the subject.
– I am trying to speak to the point of order.
– Then I ask the honorable member to confine himself to that.
– Very well. The Leader of the Opposition said that it was unfair to ask any one in the House to explain his views. Would he like to explain them himself? If so-
– Order! The honorable member is now out of order. The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition directs attention to the subject matter of a certain report from which the honorable member for La Trobe quoted. The question is out of order.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What is the reason for the delay in the delivery of superphosphate to primary producers? Is this due in any way to the stock-piling of superphosphate in anticipation of the payment of the subsidy?
– I think there are two reasons for the shortage of superphosphate in certain areas. The first is the increased demand consequent, I suppose, upon the Government’s assistance, and the second is the better prices for wool and meat which have resulted in the grazing interests using greater quantities of superphosphate. I hope that the completion of the Imperial Chemical Industries factory in Victoria within the next twelve months - this company also has a large fertilizer factory in New South Wales - will bring about a satisfactory position.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry 1 refer to the recent successful discussions overseas which the Western Australian Minister for Industrial Development had with substantial organizations interested in commencing operations on our west coast. 1 ask the Minister: Is there close liaison between the Western Australian Government and the industry section of his department in regard to such proposals? Can he assure the House that every possible assistance will be given in the matter of industrial development when action is initiated by a State government?
– I can give an unqualified assurance that the Department of Trade and Industry stands ready at all times to assist State governments which are endeavouring to attract industries from overseas, and equally to assist private enterprise which is seeking to do business overseas in the interests of Australia. In the particular instance to which the honorable member has referred, Mr. Court, the Western Australian Minister, not infrequently is in touch with me when he feels there is an opportunity for the department and myself to be of aid. Such aid is always given gladly.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to a statement made by Rear Admiral Oldham, formerly Flag Officer Commanding East Australia Area, in which he is reported to have said-
– Order! I warn the honorable member that he will not be permitted to quote from the statement.
– Even though I heard it on the radio?
– No matter where you heard it.
– The Admiral is reported to have said that our Navy was inadequate-
– Order! The honorable member is now transgressing a standing order to which attention was directed recently. The honorable member is out of order. He is permitted to refer to the report but he is not permitted to quote from it. The honorable member is referring to a statement that has been made, and to that extent he is in order, but f suggest that he does not proceed any further with the content of the statement.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: Has his attention been directed to a statement by the gentleman I referred to a moment ago in which that gentleman cast grave reflections on the efficiency of our fighting forces?
– Order! The honorable member has already mentioned the name of this person in his question.
– If the Minister has seen the statement of this eminent naval authority, will he say whether it is correct? Furthermore, in view of the commitments entered into by the Australian Government with Malaysia, will he give an unqualified assurance to the House and the nation, supported by facts and figures, that the Royal Australian Navy and other services are efficient fighting units capable of fulfilling the tasks of modern warfare and of defending Australia?
– Any information about the defence readiness of Australia and the state of our forces, I think, should be given at the appropriate time in a statement presented to this House. I do not think there is much profit, and I am sure that all members on both sides of the House will recognize that there is not much profit, in canvassing in a contentious way statements made by persons who no longer have any responsibility in this sphere and who no longer have any access to up-to-date information.
– by leave - I move -
The terms of the resolution reconstituting the joint select committee require it to present its report to the Parliament not later than 30th April, 1964. The committee will finalize its report this week, but it will not be able to have the report printed in the form it desires for tabling by the time the Parliament rises. The committee is anxious to have its report printed in a style which it recommends for parliamentary papers. It hopes that it will be able to present the report during the first week in May, and that in fact it will not need the full period of the extension.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 5th May, at 2.30 p.m.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Sixty-fourth Report - Expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the year 1962-63.
Ordered to be printed. Mr. CLEAVER. - The sixty-fourth report -
– Order! There is no question before the Chair. The honorable member must obtain leave if he wishes to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This sixty-fourth report presents the results of your committee’s investigations into the accuracy of departmental estimating for the year ended 30th June, 1964. Public hearings were held in connexion with a large number of votes and our comments appear at the conclusion of the report on each separate vote investigated by your committee. In addition to the votes reported on in detail, we list also the relatively large number of votes to which consideration was given by your committee after departmental explanations had been obtained. Your committee feels that in recent years the majority of departments have given greater attention to the preparation of their estimates and, as a result, a substantial improvement is now evident. Instances of unsatisfactory estimating have been commented on, where appropriate, in chapter II. of the report.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely: -
The Government’s delay in introducing promised legislation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
. It is not so very long since this Government was elected. During the general election campaign, many promises were made by Government candidates who told the people how quickly they would act to remedy certain matters. I say now that since that election the Government has moved more slowly than any previous government ever moved in implementing legislation. The
Parliament has been assembled since February and in the intervening period only one item of legislation of any significance, designed to implement the Government’s announced programme, has been dealt with. That was the measure concerned with child endowment, and even that has been fringed with so many anomalies that many people are denied what they thought the legislation was intended to give them.
Immediately after the Labour Party announced its policy in the election campaign the Government was shrewd enough to take from it certain items that it felt were of political significance. It took them over, as it were, and it called upon the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in particular, and public servants in general, to pour as much cold water as possible on Labour’s proposals. Listening to the Treasurer one would have thought that in respect of every one of Labour’s proposals, whether of a recurring or annual nature or whether of a capital nature covering a long period, the whole expenditure was going to be incurred on the following day. The Treasurer called upon the so-called neutral public servants to bolster his case. But now, when the Government is in office, these same gentlemen who said that certain proposals were going to cost so much money are placing all kinds of so-called practical difficulties in the way of implementing certain of the Government’s proposals.
Since the time allotted for the discussion of this matter is necessarily limited, I shall mention four or five broad subjects in respect of which legislation has been talked about and promised, in some instances, for years, and such legislation, although urgently required, has not yet been brought forward. The first of these broad heads is that of restrictive practices. The subject of restrictive practices was not mentioned for the first time during the election campaign. It was not mentioned for the first time during the life of the previous Parliament. It was first foreshadowed by the then Attorney-General three Parliaments ago. Not only was the foreshadowed legislation to deal with restrictive practices; the Treasurer also proposed to take action in fields that he described as monopolization. As far back as 1961 he said that he was going to seek power to scrutinize any future take-over of any undertaking in Australia capitalized at more than £250,000. We read in the press every day about wellestablished industries in Australia being threatened with being gobbled up by foreign monopoly ownership. This is the Government that suggested that legislation to deal with restrictive trade practices was necessary in order to protect something that it called competitive free enterprise. The only competition that seems to be going on in the community at the moment is competition amongst these gobbling monopolies for the ownership of substantial sections of Australian industry.
I come now to the second field in which the Government promised remedial action. As far back as 1961, it appointed what is known as the Ligertwood committee to look into the question of taxation in Australia. In June 1961, that committee reported to this Parliament and in that report it referred to three significant heads of tax evasion. It pointed out the manipulative devices that were being used in the field of family trusts and partnerships. It pointed to certain doubtful deals that were being made with regard to what were called superannuation funds. It pointed to sharp practices being undertaken in connexion with leases. The committee estimated in 1961 that the loss of revenue suffered by the Commonwealth under each of those heads was approximately £5,000,000, making an aggregate loss of some £15,000,000 a year. The committee pointed out that this type of action against the spirit of the law was being taken by only a relatively small section of the taxpayers in Australia, lt said that the majority of taxpayers were wage and salary earners to whom devices of this kind were not available and that because these injustices were continuing the capacity of any government to make legitimate concessions to other sections of the community was limited.
Only on Tuesday of this week the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) spoke to a gathering outside this Parliament and said that perhaps in August, September or October of this year he would do something in these fields. Was that just an invitation to these shrewd operators to take what steps they could to get their tracks cleared, as it were, before the end of the financial year after which, perhaps, the Treasurer would act? We suggest that this kind of situation is intolerable to the people of Australia.
The third field is one about which promises were made by both sides of the Parliament during the election campaign. It is a matter on which both sides are unanimous. I refer to the promise to introduce some device for equalizing the price of petrol. Questions have been asked about this matter by honorable members on both sides of the House. On 25th February, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) asked in this House what was being done. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) gave this answer -
The honorable member will realize that the solution of this problem is by no means simple. It will involve discussions with the oil companies and with the States . . .
On 9th April - some six or seven weeks later - my colleague the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) had asked a similar question and received an almost identical answer. On that occasion the Prime Minister said -
In reply to the first part of the question, I can assure the honorable member that the matter is under very active examination.
What is this active examination that could have been taking place as from 1st December, 1963, and which still has not fructified by the end of April, 1964?
I come now to housing. What could be more significant to the Australian community as a whole than housing? We now have a Minister for Housing and his great fear seems to be that there is either a boom in housing or a threat of a boom in housing. I am sure that every honorable member on this side of the House - this would apply equally to every honorable member on the other side if he paid attention to his duties to his constituents - could bring along 100 people from his electorate who would tell the Minister whether or not there was a boom in housing. If the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) cared to peruse the census figures he would see that in Melbourne alone there are about 150,000 people who are unsatisfactorily housed in terms of the rent they pay for what are often euphemistically called homes.
This is a problem which basically affects two groups in the community. At one end of the ladder we have the young people entering family life and at the other we have those who are still paying rent after their retirement - men drawing pensions at the age of 65 and women at the age of 60.
How can any couple, out of a combined pension of under £11, pay rent of £4 or £5 a week, as some people are expected to do? That is the position in which many couples find themselves in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
Now let us see what members of the Ministry said about this during the election campaign. In the Melbourne “ Age “ of 22nd November, 1963, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is reported as follows: -
Mr. McMahon said the national housing insurance corporation would be formed as soon as the Government, when returned in the elections, got a bill prepared and had the personnel to run the corporation.
The Government has had since 1st December, 1963, to get a bill prepared and to get the necessary personnel. On 2nd December, 1963, two days after the election, Senator Sir William Spooner, the Minister for National Development, said that he expected the necessary legislation to be introduced in February. In the “ Daily Mirror “ of that date he is reported as having said -
The basic work has already been done. We will fix the details well before the parliamentary sitting begins.
So that on 2nd December, 1963, we were entitled to anticipate the introduction of legislation by February, 1964, when the Parliament reassembled. I remind honorable members that we are now near the end of April, 1964, that the House is not meeting next week, and that it is confidently expected that this session will conclude on 15th May, and there is still no legislation before us dealing with this field!
Because I have not a great deal of time left, I come finally to this mix-up in connexion with the granting of scholarships. In this instance is it merely a question of hope deferred so far as the present generation is concerned? During the election campaign, people were led to expect that something would be done immediately. But once again the administration is bungling and nothing has been done. We do not even know how may scholarships there are to be, nor do we know to what sections of the educational ladder they are to be applied. We could go into many other fields in which the Government has not honoured its promises and in which action should have been taken. Instead of implementing those promises, this Government, in the short space of time for which the Parliament has mct, has been footling around with legislation that does not matter a great deal. For instance, how long did we take to deal with the contemplated reconstruction of the Australian Meat Board? That might be regarded as significant legislation in some quarters, but it is not so significant that it should preclude any consideration of matters that are of far more fundamental importance.
During the election campaign both the Government and the Opposition talked of a great programme of economic growth for the nation. Much was said about expanding our annual production by something like 5 per cent., or one-twentieth, and about doubling our gross national product in thirteen years, it is now five months since the election took place and we have not yet got off the ground with any of these projects. We still have this creeping stagnation in the community. We suggest that it is time that the Government ceased merely to make excuses; it is time that the Government began to grapple with this great problem of housing for the nation as a whole instead of for certain exclusive sections; it is time that the Government began to grapple with the fundamental problems of education, because without a proper integration of education and industry in this community we cannot promote the growth that is necessary; it is time that some of the promises that were made so wildly during the election were brought to true fulfilment.
I hope that the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), who is now at the table, will give us in his reply some indication of precisely when we can expect the promised legislation. We on this side of the chamber have no objection to meeting for another month, if necessary. We will give every facility we can to implement those parts of the election promises that we think are good The best parts were the foundation of Labour’s election programme, anyway. We are willing to assist the Government to that extent. I shall be pleased to hear the Attorney-General’s reply to these remarks.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
in which he referred to “ the so-called neutral public servants “. This is an accusation that the public servants of Australia have taken sides in a political matter. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Public Service of Australia is a very fine profession. The standard and quality of the individuals who comprise the Public Service, especially of the Commonwealth, could not be matched by the public service of any other country. The accusation made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not do him credit. The real reason for this matter being raised is not because it is seen by the Opposition to bc of public importance; the real reason why the matter is raised is because of a motion by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) which stands on the notice-paper.
To-day is general business day. The item which has precedence on the general business list is the notice of motion by the honorable member for Bradfield which reads -
To move, That this House condemns the action of persons and organizations having no direct responsibility to the Australian electorate in issuing instructions to elected Members of the Australian Parliament that they retrain from publicly expressing views held by them on issues affecting the safety of this country.
It is to avoid a debate on this matter that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has raised this matter of supposed public importance.
– That is political humbug.
– I agree that it is political humbug to raise an alleged matter of public importance merely to avoid being brought to task on the motion to be moved by the honorable member for Bradfield. However, the likelihood is that the chance will come this morning anyway for the honorable member for Bradfield to move his motion.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has had a slight indoctrination in public speaking and in choosing colourful phrases since the last time he spoke in this House. He has picked up a couple of wonderful completely new terms like “ creeping stagnation “. I suppose that expression would not be more than 200 years old. What is this creeping stagnation that he spoke about?
– The Labour Party.
– I should think it is the Labour Party, as the honorable member for Mackellar says. That is the party in this country that shows stagnation such as was referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The honorable member has been in a most fractious mood to-day in referring to the community as a whole, the Public Service in particular and, only inferentially, the Government. The honorable member said that of the promises of legislation made at the last election, only one had been fulfilled. He is prepared to admit that the child endowment promise was fulfilled.
– Or partly fulfilled.
– Partly fulfilled? The grant to New South Wales for flood mitigation was made in legislation introduced as a result of a promise given last October. Honorable members who come from New South Wales would not regard this as a promise not fulfilled. The Tasmania Grant (Gordon River Road) Bill was legislation introduced as a result of a promise made last October. Honorable members from Tasmania would not regard this as a promise not fulfilled. The mental health legislation is a matter which is in bill form, currently in the process of debate, and this flows from an election promise. The National Health Bill, which will give effect to the Government’s promise to increase medical benefits by 33$ per cent., is to be introduced to-day. That is the result of an election promise. The social services legislation to provide increased child endowment of 15s. for third and subsequent children and endowment for student children aged between 16 and 21 years has already been passed, and the first payments have been made to the endowees. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the promise in respect of child endowment has been partly fulfilled. I would not have the remotest hope of explaining to this House what the honorable member means by “ partly fulfilled “, when the money is already in the pockets of the endowees.
During the last election campaign the Government made a promise in regard to Commonwealth aid for roads. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that at least £350,000,000 would be provided over the next five years for road aid. In fact, the figure determined by the Government for distribution was £375,000,000- that is, £25,000,000 more over the five year period, than was promised on the election platform. Another promise which was fulfilled. Naturally, the payments for road aid have not yet been made because the old agreement has not expired. What does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports want us to do? Does he want us to abrogate the old agreement in order to substitute the new one? The new agreement which has been negotiated is in the process of finding its form in a bill which will come before this House in adequate time for it to be put into operation at the conclusion of the existing agreement. Another promise made by the Government parties was that a Minister for Housing would be appointed. That promise has been fulfilled.
Now let us come to the five individual matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The first one was restrictive trade practices. He resorted to some broad statement which did not have much meaning at all. He said that legislation in this field was promised three parliaments ago. That is not an accurate statement, but do not let us worry about inaccuracies in the honorable member’s speech. He said that the Attorney-General of the day said that legislation in regard to monopolization and take-overs would be introduced. But the honorable member then made the extraordinary statement that the only competition in Australia to-day is between the “ gobbling monopolies “. This is a remarkable statement indeed. He said that this was the only area of competition. Here we have a leading member of the
Opposition, a front bench member, one who, it is popularly said, would be Treasurer if there were a Labour Government, coming into this House and making such nonsensical statements and subscribing at the same time to a platform which purports to attract the vote of those engaged in competitive business. He tells those people that they are not in competitive business at all; that they are only tools of gobbling monopolies. Or does he mean that, in the clear-cut picture he paints, there will just be no place for them in the broad socialist panacea which we hope is so far ahead that by then the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will have been succeeded by somebody with a newer, a more generous and perhaps a more just attitude to the evolution of the political institutions of Australia?
The honorable member referred to restrictive trade practices legislation. This is a matter upon which 1 am positive he could not make a single constructive suggestion.
– Let 1-5 have a chance. Bring down your bill and let us see.
– The honorable member says, “ Bring down your bill “. 1 have not had anything from the honorable member and, for that matter, I have had nothing from the Opposition which would indicate that its members had given any thought to the subject. 1 know very well what would happen if the Opposition at any time had to pass legislation on restrictive trade practices. It would introduce the United States legislation and ask us to pass it in a lump. Honorable members opposite would say, “ What is good enough for the United States in the field of criminal sanctions is good enough for us “. But that is not good enough for this Government. The legislation is being considered in the most precise manner, point by point. We do not want to introduce it until we know that it is in a proper form.
As to taxation, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said only two or three days ago, and was reported in the very newspaper to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred, that the Treasury is actively considering the recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation in terms of taxation of private companies, concessions to lessees for improvements on leased land, favorable treatment of super annuation funds and specious alienation of property or income by partnerships or trusts. The honorable gentleman expressed the hope that details of the Government’s policy will be ready by the time of the Budget session. What more can be asked of the Government? How extraordinary it is for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to criticize the Government on this basis.
I come now to petrol equalization. I am sure that it has never come to the realization of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that this will be achieved by a grant to the State governments under section 96 of the Constitution so that the State governments may use the grant to implement the Commonwealth Government’s election promise. That is the way the proposal was expressed on the election platform and that is the way it must be carried out. Consequently, discussions must bc held with representatives of State governments. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has sent letters to all the State Premiers to inform them of the conclusions that so far have been reached. The Premiers have been asked to consider them. A proposal has been made for a meeting of officers from the States and the Commonwealth. Only yesterday Commonwealth officers of the departments affected had a full-day meeting on this very issue.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has indicated to the House that honorable members will be able to see the housing legislation on the next sitting day of Parliament; that is, Tuesday. 5th May. The legislation will be debated thereafter. The Minister has already arranged the printing of pamphlets explaining the subsidy scheme. The pamphlets will be available at post offices as soon as the act is proclaimed. The Minister has also arranged for offices to be available in every State capital city and in Canberra. There has not been the slightest delay in implementing the Government’s election promises on housing.
The honorable member asked why the Government has not introduced legislation on education. The legislation will be ready, 1 expect, for introduction in this sessional period. Had it been introduced two months ago, or if it is introduced in two months’ time, will it make one jot of difference? Of course not. In addition to that aspect, the
Minister responsible for education matters has visited every State and has had exhaustive exploratory discussions with every State Minister for Education and every State Director of Education. The Robson committee has been set up to examine standards for science laboratories. As an adjunct to the scheme it is necessary to set up committees in relation to State schools and private schools in every State. Committees in relation to private schools have been appointed. In relation to State schools a committee has been set up in New South Wales and committees are in the process of being set up in all the other States.
It is not an extraordinary thing, but a similar position applies to scholarships, lt would not matter whether legislation was introduced last week, next week, two months ago or in two months’ time. It would make no difference. When considering scholarships it is necessary to remember that in the States the period of secondary education varies. In some States there are examinations and in other States there are not. In some States there are internal examinations and in others external examinations are held. These are the very things being probed by Senator Gorton, the Minister responsible for educational matters, with all the State Ministers for Education and Directors of Education. J inform the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that every election promise capable of being fulfilled in the strict physical sense and capable of fulfilment in terms of administration, has been fulfilled. If there is an election promise that has not yet been fulfilled the reason is that it has required more consideration. Mr. Speaker, I do not consider that any further discussion of this matter is necessary.
-time has expired. -Order! The Minister’s
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the business of the day be called on. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of Notice No. 1, General Business, being continued until 12.45 p.m.
.- I move -
That this House condemns the action of persons and organizations having no direct responsibility to the Australian electorate in issuing instructions to elected Members of the Australian Parliament that they refrain from publicly expressing views held by them on issues affecting the safety of this country.
I should like at the outset to make two observations on the terms of the motion. In the first place, the emphasis is on the responsiveness of members of the Parliament to the electorate rather than to some body that may not necessarily reflect in any way the views of the electorate. If we accept the party system - as, indeed, we must - members of the Parliament should be responsive, if not to the whole of their electorate, at least to the majority comprised of the voters who elected them. The second point that I want to make concerning the terms of the motion is that whether or not this is accepted as true in regard to lesser matters, it must surely be accepted as true where the very safety of the state is concerned. Whether members think that they should be responsive to some outside body in regard to lesser matters may be a matter of debate, but surely there can be no doubt at all when the safety of the state - the supreme law - is involved. For these reasons, the motion has been framed in the terms that have been put to the House.
I want to contrast the attitudes of the Australian Labour Party and the Liberal Party of Australia towards the electors, Sir. When the Liberal Party has been defeated in an election, its attitude, I think, has always been that somehow it has let down the people, and in particular those who normally support it, and it considers what it can do to retrieve the situation. But I suspect - indeed, I believe - that the Labour Party, in defeat, adopts the attitude, not that it has let down the people generally or Labour voters in particular, but that the people have let it down. In other words, the Labour Party believes that it is right and must always be right and that, in time, the people will come to understand that it is right. It will be seen that the two attitudes are totally different. The Liberal Party tries to conform to the will of the people. The Labour Party, in effect, says: “We are right. Sooner or later, the people must come round to our view.”
Here is the danger of the situation, Sir: It may well be that the Liberal Party falls out of favour with the electors and that, in desperation, they turn to the only alternative - the Labour Party. But, as I have said, the Labour Party’s attitude is, not that it wishes to conform to the desires and aspirations of the people, but that the people must accept whatever it dishes out. So, the people, having turned by mistake and in desperation to the only possible alternative government, find that they have to accept, not what they want, but what the Labour Party is prepared to hand out to them. This is an extremely dangerous situation and I hope that all honorable members will understand that the matter is not merely a domestic affair for the Labour Party. It is of the utmost concern to the whole of the people of Australia. I have no wish to play at politics on this issue. My desire is to safeguard the Australian people and prevent them from falling into a situation in which they will find themselves governed by people who do not represent the aspirations of the majority either of the people generally or even of the rank-and-file voters who support the Labour Party in the electorates. This is my objective, Sir.
I then ask: Where does power reside in the Labour Party? This is preliminary to a further question, the answer to which every honorable member must determine: To what degree does the outside body that controls the Labour Party reflect the wishes of the ordinary Labour voter? Does it really reflect those wishes, or is it just a distorting mirror, as it were? May its actions even run contrary to the aspirations of the ordinary Labour voter?
I propose very briefly in the time I have to examine two aspects of the control of the Australian Labour Party. I start at the grass roots of the party and recall to honorable members what is, I think, common knowledge among all who have worked in the political field and that is that organized minorities with clear objectives can prevail over amorphous assemblies. That is illustrated, of course, by the progress of the Communist Party and illustrated, if you like, within the ranks of the Labour
Party itself by the industrial groups. It is indeed common experience in a democratic community.
I am dealing now with the organization at the grass roots of the Labour Party. What is it? It consists at the base of the trade unions and the branches of the party that are not associated with the trade unions. In the trade unions, we find that there has been an infiltration of Communist influence. This is simply a matter of historical fact. 1 may mention, for example, the well-known fact that leading officials in certain unions are admittedly members of the Communist Party. Honorable members opposite will know that I am right when I refer to the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the Seamen’s Union of Australia - indeed, one of my distinguished constituents is the secretary of this union - the Waterside Workers Federation and the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia. These are federal unions. In the State field, selecting them at random, we have the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Victoria, the Australian Railways Union in Victoria and the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia in Queensland. Nobody, not even honorable members on the other side of the House, would deny that there arc leading members of the Communist Party in top positions in all of these unions.
If any further evidence is required of the influence of Communists in the unions, it has been supplied obligingly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) who, in his widely publicized report on the difficulties in the Labour Party, said -
The party in general cannot and should not be indifferent to the political subversion of some trade unions.
There can be no doubt that he was referring to Communists. Then we have the statement of Mr. C. T. Oliver, the New South Wales State president of the Labour Party, to the same effect. He urged unionists to purge their organizations of this subversive element. We have the resolution of the Australian Labour Party Federal Electorate Council of Farrer opposed by a resolution of the Federal Electorate Council of the electorate of Hughes, on this matter. There is no question whatever that at the grass roots in the union wing of the Labour Party there is an infiltration by Communists.
As 1 said earlier, we all know how a small minority, if it is organized and if it has clear objectives, can gain control of an organization.
The other wing at the grass roots of the Labour Party is the party branches. These consist of the zealots in the party. It is common knowledge that in the Labour Party, as in other parties, attendance at branch meetings is not very large. It is only the zealots who attend meetings and who become office bearers and influential members of the branches Sidney Webb, writing of the branches of the British Labour Party, described them as - unrepresentative groups of nonentities dominated by fanatics and cranks and extremists.
This may be strong language, but 1 suspect that we will all recognize the truth of the fact that where there is a small attendance it is the zealots who come and who dominate the people who want something done in a hurry.
I suggest that at the grass roots the Labour Party organization is not necessarily by any manner of means representative of the ordinary Labour voter in the electorate. In the unions, there is the infiltration of the Communists; in the branches, there is this unrepresentative group of zealots and often of doctrinaires.
– Would you say the same about Liberal Party branches, that only the zealots attend?
– 1 will come to the Liberal Party in due course. Let me develop my theme. I said I would examine the grass roots of the Labour Party. I would also like to examine it at another level and that is the apex of the pyramid. I look now at the federal conference of the Australian Labour Party. This is the governing body of the party and members of the party in this Parliament are subservient to it. The rules relating to the conference set out -
There is no need for me to quote the rules that relate to the federal executive. It exercises the same powers as the conference has between meetings of the conference.
Let us look at the body that is the supreme governing body to which members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are subservient. How far is it representative of the ordinary Labour voter? Let us look at its composition. The trade unions overwhelmingly dominate it. As to the parliamentarians, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in his admirable report said that 50 years ago 70 per cent, of this body consisted of parliamentarians but this has dwindled to 25 per cent. My recollection of the famous meeting of this body in Canberra shortly before the last election is that parliamentarians did not comprise 25 per cent, of it then, and I query the last figure given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The parliamentary representation on it is very small. I doubt whether there were more than one or two parliamentarians on it on that occasion. On the executive, which consists of twelve members, two representatives from each State, there were two parliamentarians, Mr. Dunstan, the permanent Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), neither of whom, I think, would be regarded as a leading figure in the Labour Party. The New South Wales rules - expressly exclude parliamentarians from membership of the State delegation of the federal conference, the governing body of the Labour Party. Members of the Legislative Council, members of the Legislative Assembly, members of the House of Representatives and Senators are expressly barred.
– From where?
– From the New South Wales delegation to the federal conference. Parliamentarians are not expressly barred in other States, but in fact very few of them are members of the supreme governing body. The conference meets at rare intervals. It is stated as being “ biannually “. 1 do not know whether that means once in two years or twice every year, but whatever it means the body meets at very rare intervals. In the meantime, the executive of twelve fills the gap and issues direction to our friends opposite. The press is excluded from its meetings. The size of the conference is remarkably small. It has only 36 members, six from each State.
– It is the same size as your federal conference.
– I will say a word about that in a moment. There are the people who have been called the faceless men. I claim the authorship of that phrase. I do not mean that the word “ faceless “ is new or the word “ men “ is new, but the association of “ faceless “ with these men was mine, and I hereby, if I am not out of order, offer a reward of £5 to anybody who can find this conjunction of words in “ Hansard “ or the press prior to my speech in the debate on the station at North-West Cape. That is the kind of thing that can happen when words are dropped - the jaw bone of an ass, so to speak, can slay many thousands. The conference is a small body. Parliamentarians are not admitted to its meetings and the leader of the party may or may not be invited to attend. He is not admitted as of right, nor are other parliamentarians. This situation is in strange contrast to the operations of the governing body of the Labour Party in Great Britain, which consists of something like 3,000 members. There the press is admitted to meetings. Debates are held very much in public. There is no opportunity for jiggery-pokery, if I may use that expression.
From what I have said it must be fairly obvious that the governing body of the Australian Labour Party could be, and I believe is, out of step with the wishes and aspirations of the ordinary rank and file Labour supporter in the electorates. This is a dangerous situation because it is the will of the people in the electorates that should prevail - not the will of some junta foisting its own peculiar ideas on people who do not want them.
I have spoken of the constitution of the party. I have given, as it were, the bare bones, but let me clothe the bones a little by referring to the historical relationship between the parliamentary party on the one hand and the conference and the executive on the other. Most of us recall the classic case during the last war when the late Mr. Curtin, who was Prime Minister - a man of great prestige in this country at the time - went to the conference of the faceless 36 men to seek their permission to introduce legislation authorizing the Government to send troops of the Citizen Military Forces beyond the boundaries of Australia. That was a classic example of the actuality of power possessed by this body. The second classic example occurred when Mr. Chifley, again a leader of great prestige in the Labour Party, wished to oppose the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. He succeeded in getting his way at the conference. The conference agreed that he should oppose the bill in this chamber. But by the time the bill went to the Senate the then honorable member for Perth, Mr. Burke, had induced some representatives from Western Australia on the governing body of the party to switch their votes and the conference directed that Labour senators should oppose the attitude taken by Mr. Chifley, the leader of the party in this House. That was another classic case. Here were two leaders of great prestige in the party. Each went to the conference on a matter of vital importance to the safety of Australia, seeking confirmation of his views. In one case the conference agreed and in the other case it disagreed. The views of the conference prevailed.
The third case is fresh in our memories. The present Leader of the Opposition, a leader of less prestige - 1 do not speak with disrespect but merely factually - went to the conference, which had been specially summoned for the purpose of determining its stand and giving a direction to the parliamentary parly in relation to the American base at North West Cape. It will bc recalled that to say the least of it the conference members were equivocal in their support of the base. The leader of the party had to accept the directions of that conference, as did members of the party in this House, concerning a matter vitally affecting the security of this country. Of course, it will be said that these constitutional provisions must be looked at in relation to the way men in fact work together. 1 think it is common knowledge that both Mr. Chifley and later Dr. Evatt, as leaders of the party, managed, by entering into a private alliance with trade union leaders, to exercise greatest influence on the conference. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it is the conference which in the long run decides what the party will do. Indeed, it may be speculated whether Dr. Evatt’s alliance with the trade union element in the conference was the reason why he made his attack on the industrial groups. That may have been one of the means whereby he got along with trade union leaders on the conference.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition interjected a little while ago and said, “ What do the Liberals do? “ I think it is important to contrast the situation that exists in the Liberal Party with the situation that exists in the Labour Party, not because I hold up the Liberal organization as the last word in everything that should be done, but because the contrast is drawn very sharply. The first essential element of difference is that the Liberal conferences simply pass resolutions that may or may not be acted upon. That is of vital significance. It means that the Liberal parliamentary leaders must listen to what their party organization says, but they do not have to take notice of it. In the last resort they must make their own decision, and they will take into account not only what the organization says but also their estimate of what the electorate and particularly Liberal voters in the electorate would wish. On the other hand, the Labour Party’s organization decides what the policies will be. The Labour Party conference may listen to what the parliamentarians say, but it is not bound to follow the parliamentarians. Here is the vital difference between the Liberal and Labour organizations, and it is a significant difference. The parliamentary Labour Party accepts instructions. The parliamentary Liberal Party receives advice which it may or may not follow. I hope honorable members will understand that this is a great difference. Indeed, a Labour writer in a political quarterly in England has suggested that if the Labour Party were to do what I have said the Liberal Party does, it would get out of most of its present difficulties. Even a Labour commentator must accept that there is this vital difference between the parties.
The second great difference is that the federal conference of the Liberal Party is a more numerous body than the Labour Party federal conference. The Liberal Party conference is certainly open and is widely representative of parliamentarians. 1 do not propose to weary the House with the bare bones of the constitutional provisions of the Liberal conference. I shall refer to a visit that I paid for an hour or so to the meeting of the Liberal conference in Canberra within the last few weeks and shall give honorable members some idea of the people I saw there. There was no objection to my entry to the conference. Together with other humble back-bench members I sat in on the conference. I observed on the platform or at the high table - call it what you will- a number of Ministers. First I observed the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I observed also Senator Paltridge, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Hasluck), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), and my friend the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). Casting my eye around the assembly I saw numerous delegates or people who had been invited to put a point of view to the conference on behalf of a delegation. I saw Senator Buttfield, Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, my friend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), Senator Wright, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), Senator Branson, my friend the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson), Senator Sherrington, and Mr. Bethune, the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania. All of those people were listening to the proceedings and taking part as delegates or putting a point of view on behalf of delegations. It could hardly be said that that assemblage was unrepresentative of parliamentary members, or that there was anything very secret about it. On several occasions even during my short visit, the Prime Minister expressed views on matters that had been raised by delegations, either to inform their minds or better to inform them or to counsel a different approach to the problem that had been posed.
It is quite clear that the Labour Party, as a result of its structure, can be unrepresentative of the rank-and-file Labour voters in the electorate. I believe that that is a danger to Australia and to a democratic community. 1 suggest that the time has come when the Labour Party should review its structure. If I have mentioned the
Liberal Party, that is not to suggest that everything it does is right, but simply to point up essential differences, including the fact that the organization merely advises, is representative of, and in close touch with, the parliamentary members, and looks much more to the interests, aspirations and desires of the ordinary supporters of the Liberal Party in the electorate than do the cranks, Communists and other people who manage to capture control of a political machine, as small bodies of people always can.
I regret that ignorance and prejudice - and sometimes worse things - should dictate especially the foreign policy of the Labour Party in the Parliament. All Labour parliamentarians, although patriotic men, unfortunately obey a body outside the Parliament, and some of them play up to this pernicious outside influence. I believe that this results in a complete distortion of the aspirations of the average Labour voter, who is rapidly becoming a little capatalist in domestic affairs and who is a patriotic Australian in regard to our external relations. The aspirations of the ordinary Labour voter are distorted because of the structure of the Labour Party. The time is overdue for this defect to be repaired, not only in the interests of the Labour Party.
If I took a narrow, party point of view, I suppose I should rejoice that the Labour Party is as it is and should hope that it will remain as it is. But from the point of view of the people of Australia, I believe that the continuation of this structure is a danger because the people can be thrown into the arms of men who are not concerned at all with their well-being, but are concerned simply with foisting upon the people policies that they do not want. At present all is well; but, in the words of Hamlet, whilst at present they might rather bear those ills they have, in the future they might fly to others that they know not of. However, I have tried to inform them.
-Order! Is the motion seconded?
– Yes. I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it.
.- Anybody who listened to the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) might have thought that there was something obscene about political parties. Every member of this House is here because he was selected by a political party as a candidate and because voluntary members of that political party - all political parties are voluntary organizations - worked to return him to this House. Every honorable member knows very well that if his political party no longer endorses him as a candidate for an election and the members of his party refuse to work for him at an election, he no longer will be a member of this House. Political parties are a fact of life. They are a necessary part of the democratic process. There is no efficient democracy in the world which is not operated on the basis of political parties. We in Australia and in the Englishspeaking world believe that the two-party system is a good one.
It is regrettable that the honorable member for Bradfield had so little time to inform the public on the operations of his own party. I propose to adopt the same sober and non-partisan approach to which he himself aspired. He gave only two or three instances of outside control over members of this Federal Parliament. 1 will content myself with giving only two or three instances in relation to his party. Perhaps he could have told us why, at the behest of Sir Philip McBride - one of the very few ex-politicians on the federal executive or conference of the Liberal Party - he and all his colleagues refused to appear on the television programme called “ The Candidates “ before the election in 1961.
– -That is not true.
– One member of the Liberal Party appeared on that programme. There was a direction from an outside source, and that direction was obeyed. The principle which distinguishes the Liberal Party from the Labour Party, according to the honorable member for Bradfield, is that outside bodies only advise Liberal members. The complementary principle is that, while outside bodies advise, inside members consent. This is the principle of advise and consent in Liberal politics.
It will be remembered that after the 1961 election, on 2nd February, 1962, the federal executive of the Liberal Party in structed Liberal politicians to get closer to the party organization.
– Yes, “instructed” is the word. On 9th March, 1962, the federal executive of the Liberal Party resolved to summon all Federal Liberal Ministers to appear before it.
– You are only going on a newspaper report.
– I can only go on newspaper reports in respect of the Liberal Party. But if the honorable member wants to know what happens at Labour Party conferences and who attends them, he can obtain from the Library or from any of us photographs of all the people who attend, printed copies of all the reports on which they act, minutes of their deliberations and the texts of their decisions. These are public documents. But can one find out the membership of State executives of the Liberal Party? Not in respect of Victoria. Can one see reports of the proceedings of Federal and State conferences of the Liberal Party? No. But one can attend our conferences. Supporters of the Liberal Party are interjecting. This is a quarrel between the Liberal Party and the Labour Party. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a member of the Country Party, hold the balance of power?
The honorable member for Bradfield came into this House disgusted with the proceedings of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. He came in at a time when his then leader, Mr. Treatt, was being subjected to Ash Street-inspired resolutions of no confidence in him from branches of the Liberal Party throughout the State. A little later Mr. Cotton, the then president of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, acknowledged the public image of the Ash Street junta as “ a political backroom wielding insidious control over the Liberal members of Parliament “.
In the three years immediately after the honorable gentleman entered this House, three successive leaders of the Parliamentary Liberal Party in New South Wales were disposed of by the outside controllers. At the time, I remarked to my present leader, “ If the honorable member for Bradfield had only remained in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, he would be the Leader of the Opposition “. And my leader, with the gift of phrase which he has and which no one in this House or outside it can equal, said, ‘ Turner would have had his turn “. Soon afterwards, Mr. Blake Pelly, M.L.A., resigned over Ash Street control.
Let me pass to South Australia. In November of last year an elector in that State wrote to the Liberal and Country League and the Labour Party, asking for the names and occupations of members of their State and Federal executives. The then secretary of the Labour Party in that State, who is now the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Nicholls), gave the elector all the information that he requested. The general secretary of the Liberal and Country League said that clause 6 of the constitution of the Liberal and Country League prohibited him from giving the information requested, and that members of the Liberal and Country League would not like the fact that they were members of that party publicized. The Liberal executive in South Australia is both faceless and nameless.
In Victoria the House will remember that in September, 1961, the State executive of the Liberal and Country Party in Victoria expelled one member and cautioned three of the Liberal members in the Legislative Assembly. The secretary of the party refused to release the names of the members of the State executive of the party. The Melbourne “ Herald “, one of the Liberal Party’s most devoted adherents, said -
The people who assume the right to make these decisions should be clearly named to the public.
This must have been belated solace for Mr. Hollway, former Premier of Victoria! He was deposed as leader of the Liberal Party because he refused to obey outside direction to abandon the two-for-one distribution plan.
I pass now to Tasmania. During the life of the Parliament of Tasmania, now expiring, Mr. Jackson, the Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, was deposed at the explicit direction of the State Executive of the Liberal Party. In March, 1960, Mr. Jackson said -
Yesterday, as the Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, I was asked to accept a direction from the (outside) organization that completely severed . . . two basic principles of Liberal freedom. I refused to accept that direction and consequently had no alternative but to resign from the party.
Another Liberal member of the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr. Hodgman, who resigned in protest at the same time, stated -
It was no surprise to me when I was told by Mr. Jackson that the emergency sub-committee of the State executive had demanded his resignation. I was shocked however to hear of a further direction from this sub-committee that Mr. Jackson was to be replaced by Mr. Bethune as leader and that Dr. Young was to be elected deputy leader, coupled with the threat that if this was not done endorsements and organization support would be withdrawn.
That is, the Liberal Party executive in Taa mania decided not only that Mr. Jackson should be sacked but also who should replace him.
The outside control of the Liberal Party is in the hands of the hidden persuaders, not only the party executives but more particularly the people who run the shipping companies, the aviation companies, the television and oil companies and the banks. Perhaps I will start with the banks, because they give a very clear example of outside direction. The following comment appeared in “ Rydge’s Business Journal “ in relation to the 1957 banking legislation -
It took the Federal Executive of the Liberal Party to force most Liberal Ministers to support the proposals. It took a meeting of the Liberal Party Council - the party’s most powerful body - to pass a motion - in face of a personal appeal against it by the Prime Minister - before he changed his attitude.
We do not know who were present on that occasion. I mentioned the shipping companies. The link between the shipping companies and the Liberal Party and its ancestors even precedes Lord Bruce’s sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line. He is still a director of the P. & O. company. Last month one of its subsidiaries, Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited, forced a change in the promised operations of the “ Empress of Australia “ to Tasmania. Not able to beat the Australian National Line in fair competition, the company resorted to the old-established and well-proven tactic of applying pressure on a Liberal government, which obliged and forced its own line to welsh on firm undertakings given on sailings to Tasmania.
Civil aviation and television are the two biggest industries in Australia which cannot be carried on without the consent of the Commonwealth Government. Accordingly, in this field the present Commonwealth Government has chosen its darlings. The principal one is Mr. Ansett, who follows Danton’s advice: Audacity, more audacity and still more audacity; do a thing on a big enough scale and you will get away with it. I need not list all the benefits which have been given to him in his airline operation. He himself modestly sums up the effect of them in this way -
The legislation gives the company Australia-wide aviation franchises of about 50 per cent, of the industry’s revenue which totals approximately £36,000,000 a year-
This was three years ago -
This franchise is for another fifteen years and its value cannot be calculated.
– Who said that?
– That was an admission by Mr. Ansett. Now I come to television licences. Mr. Ansett, not satisfied with his rebuff by the control board which had to report on the Brisbane licences, decided to buy up the company which obtained the Brisbane licence. I say no more about him. Could there ever be clearer examples of the influence which powerful companies exercise over the government? What about Sir Frank Packer?
– Never heard of him. Where does he come from?
– I want to keep that quiet if I can. Ansett now controls two television companies and has interests in another two, all in State capitals. Sir Frank Packer has two capital city stations and large interests in two provincial city ones. He has also been consoled with a knighthood, and with a place in the New South Wales Legislative Council for his son.
Let me come now to the oil companies. It will be well remembered that Mr. W. H. Anderson, the first president of the Liberal Party when it was elected to office in Canberra, was a director of the Shell oil company. Very soon the C.O.R. company in which the Commonwealth Government had a large share holding, was sold to the interests which he represented. He is now a director of the Reserve Bank of Australia, but you can see his influence and that of his colleagues in other respects. Why did Mr. R. W. Miller have so much difficulty in getting Australian-built and Australianoperated tankers on the Australian coast? The simple reason is that the Government has very close links with the overseas oil companies which wanted to keep the tanker trade to themselves.
Let us turn now to another example. What about the sale of Australia’s own oil supplies from Moonie? I would not want to create any unnecessary dissent in the House by quoting Mr. Evans, the Queensland Country Party Minister for Mines, on Sir William Spooner, but the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ had this to say -
The tenor of Sir William Spooner’s remarks has unfortunately tended to give the impression that he found all the sweet reasonableness to be on the side of the Shell Oil Company.
Senator Sir William Spooner is more subservient to these outside oil interests, and the Shell company in particular, than any Syrian or Saudi Arabian sheiks. Liberals accept outside control by overseas companies.
What about the Ligertwood report? Why was it pigeon-holed? Who got at this report, not in hotel corridors but in club smoke rooms? Why has the report of the Constitutional Review Committee been pigeon-holed for so long? Who are the outside controllers, the financial companies, the hidden persuaders of the Liberal Party in this instance who forced the Government to reject the report? The honorable member for Bradfield either did not know or did not vouchsafe the information. I confess that he is freer than many of his colleagues, because he does not sit near the gangway where Ministers can stand over him.
Fundamentally it is the power of the purse which determines Liberal policies and keeps Liberal members of Parliament in line. They know that they will be deprived not only of endorsement but also of electoral resources if they do not follow the line. Obviously the Liberal Party changed so many of its attitudes in recent years because its funds were being cut oil. This is why the former Attorney-General had to leave that portfolio; why for four years he had been thwarted on the legislation relating to monopolies and restrictive trade practices; why for five years we have marked time on constitutional reform, and why for three years nothing has been done about tax evaders. The obvious answer is that the Government’s wealthy backers did not want anything done.
I believe that I have time to list some of the little capitalists who really control the Liberal Party. I shall deal with the two principal States, lt will be remembered that Senator Spooner confessed that he was a collector in New South Wales for the Liberal Party. He was a collector at the time when a Mr. Wood resigned from the party and gave this reason for his resignation -
On the plea that certain donors did not want their names released, finance had been taken out of the hands of the State Executive and there was no accounting to the Executive on party funds. The party’s administration and control had largely been taken away from the Executive and vested in a few members of the central committee. I feel too much that the Executive is the facade behind which these committees operate.
Liberals are very frank when they resign.
Some of Senator Spooners fund-raising activities were taken over by a Mr. Bernard Dargan. His eminence in the field of science has since been recognized by Senator Spooner’s appointment of him to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. 1 turn now to some of the little capitalists who have formed at one time or another the finance committee of the Liberal-Country Party in Victoria. They are Mr. Brain, chairman of the T. & G. life assurance company; Mr. Kirkhope, chairman of Mayne Nickless Limited; Mr. K. A. Taylor, former chairman of the Fire and Accident Underwriters Association of Victoria; Mr. Herbert Taylor, former president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce; Sir Maurice Nathan, president of the Australian Retail Furnishers Association and Lord Mayor of Melbourne; Mr. Anderson, director of the Shell oil company, Federal President of the Liberal Party and a member now of the Reserve Bank Board; Sir George Coles, the founder of G. J. Coles, and vice chairman of the National Bank and Sir Ian Potter the millionaire stock-broker and company director. Where are their reports? Are the minutes of their deliberations available to the public or to members of this House? These are the type of men who really run the Liberal Party.
– Order! The time allotted to General Business has expired. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed. Resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next day of sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following resolutions: -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 28 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That Senators Cole, Hannan, Maher, Scott and Vincent bc members of such joint committee.
That, until such time as the two remaining vacancies for members of the Senate on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Senators Sir Walter Cooper and Laught be members of the committee.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Aston, Mr. Chipp, Mr. England, Mr. Failes, Mr. Howson, Mr. Jess and Mr. Turner be members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as the six remaining vacancies for members of the House of Representatives on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. J. M. Fraser, Mr. Haworth, Mr. Holten, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Kelly be members of the committee.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move - J
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Organization Act 1938- 1960 to give the Australian Apple and Pear Board power, directly under the act, to control the quantities of fruit which may be shipped to a particular country or countries, a power which the board currently can apply but only in an indirect and administratively clumsy way through the licences and permits regulations made under the act. The bill also seeks to amend the existing formula for allocating export quotas to the States, which could prove unsatisfactory in the light of changing production patterns in the industry. The opportunity has also been taken in the bill to make two machinery amendments.
The powers of the board to control exports are contained in Section 14 of the act. This section authorizes the board to determine the total quantity of apples and pears which may be exported from Australia in any year and the basis on which such a quantity will be distributed amongst the States. The section also provides that, unless the board is unanimous in its determinations on these matters, the Minister shall have the final authority regarding the quantity to be exported and the allocation between States.
The board has never imposed restrictions on the total quantity exported and, therefore, the question of allocation between States of the total quantity has never arisen. The board has, however, found it necessary in the overall interests of the industry and to prevent the spoiling of the United Kingdom market, to determine the maximum quantity which could be shipped to a specific market, namely the United Kingdom, and occasionally in years of heavy export availability, to allocate that quantity amongst the States. In doing this the board has to date relied on the powers which it felt were implicit in Section 14. Some exporters have, however, been irritated by this form of control and the board has accordingly recommended that the act be amended to state the position in a way which leaves no room for doubt regarding its powers under the act to determine maximum quantities for specific export markets and, if necessary, to allocate that quantity amongst the States. 1 am sure that honorable members will agree with me that the power to control exports to particular markets is synonymous with the board’s duty to ensure the orderly overseas marketing of apples and pears and it is essential that any possible doubts regarding its legal power to do this should be put to rest by a specific reference to this power in the act.
If the board were forced to rely on Its powers under the regulations - which, as I said previously, would be administratively clumsy - it would be obliged to allocate quotas for, say, the United Kingdom to seventy-odd licensed exporters. Apart from the not inconsiderable administrative difficulties involved, one particularly undesirable situation which could arise if the board adopted this practice is that growers might be forced, by decisions of the board, into the hands of quota holders with whom they might not normally wish to deal and this could inhibit competition by exporters for available fruit. Obviously, this is not in the best interests of the industry.
The board has fully informed the growers’ and shippers’ organizations in all States of its proposals and it has received no objection to their implementation. The Australian Apple and Pear Shippers Association representing the shippers of over 80 per cent, of apple and pear exports has informed the board - a grower-dominated body - that it agrees with the proposals.
At present, Section 14 of the act provides that the board shall have regard to certain criteria in determining the basis of allocation of total exports between the States; in particular, that it should have regard to the average exports from the States over the previous three years. The board feels that in certain circumstances this restriction which is imposed by the act could, in fact, lead to inequities, and has requested that its duty to make allocations between States on an equitable basis should be expressed in more general terms. AH that is required from the legal point of view is that the act should provide that the allocation should not result in a preference being given to one State over another, and the bill provides for this. Honorable members will observe that if the board is unable to arrive at a unanimous decision in determining an export quantity for a particular country or in allocating such quantity between the States, the power to do this may rest with the Minister.
I now turn to the machinery clauses of the bill. The present act provides that those members of the Australian Apple and Pear Board who are not elected shall be appointed by the Governor-General. This was in keeping with the practice at the time the act was first brought down. The present practice in legislation dealing with commodity boards of this nature is to provide that the non-elected members shall be appointed by the Minister. The opportunity has been taken in the present bill to bring ~ the act into line with similar legislation.
Recent legislation dealing with commodity boards invariably includes a provision which preserves the rights of any former public servant who is employed as the overseas representative of a board. The Apple and Pear Board docs, in fact, employ a former public servant as its overseas representative, and although his rights are at present protected under a temporary arrangement with the Public Service Board, it is desirable that the position be regularized by the act under which he is employed. The bill includes an amendment to achieve this.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Debate resumed from 16th April (vide page 1213), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is one of the bills which the Parliament receives every five years concerning the provision of finance by the Commonwealth for the States for their roads. At more frequent, but irregular, intervals the Parliament receives bills dealing with other forms of transport. Some of them are measures to provide grants to standardize or strengthen railways. Some are for grants to modernize ports. Some are to equip airlines. But there is no regular opportunity to deal with transport overall. Even in the debate on the Estimates there are different departments and different Ministers dealing with various forms of transport and it is not possible, therefore, to debate these matters in a co-ordinated fashion. Accordingly, 1 propose to devote my initial remarks on this occasion to the overall position concerning transport.
Transport affects every factor of the Australian economy and it is the key to our development. The effects of an efficient or inefficient transport system extend to every part of our private and public life. In 1962, the Australian Road Research Board estimated that in 1960-61 road transport costs other than capital investment were £1,613.000,000, which was equal to 22 per cent, of the gross national product. In their submissions to the Commonwealth, the lord mayors pointed out that an estimated 1 1 per cent, of everything paid by the nation was for the cost of transport. Australians live in a large continent, with large concentrations of population hundreds of miles apart. We are an urban and industrial country living by the export of primary products. In the Australian economy to-day, cheap, fast and flexible transport is the key to efficiency in almost every other field. It is essential for civilized living in our crowded cities.
Our transport system is under continual stress and strain. Piecemeal and short-term solutions barely scratch the surface of the problem. Our city roads are choked and our interstate highways are inadequate to carry the heavy volume of traffic. Road accidents mount daily. Rail standardization proceeds slowly, and suburban railways continue to lose passengers. In 1960-61, fewer passengers were carried on Australian suburban railways than in 1946-47. This was true in both Melbourne and Sydney. The same applies to public trams and buses.
Australians have little or no control over overseas shipping. Our inefficient ports are administered by over 26 different authorities. The loading equipment is archaic and labour relations are notoriously bad. Only air transport can be called firstclass. This is not because of any considered assessment of the role of civil aviation in the general transport picture but because of the Government’s commitment to support firstly the old Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and then the Ansett companies which took it over.
There is insufficient co-ordination between the various forms of transport. This is not only in the forms of transport but in the transport authorities. There are some forms of transport, such as sea and air, where there is a mixture of Commonwealth Government and private responsibility. There are some, such as rail, where there is State responsibility. We are to-day dealing with roads. Here we have a mixture of private demand and public responsibility, the public responsibility being divided between the constructing authorities of the State and local governments and the financing authorities of the Commonwealth, State and local governments.
Road, rail and sea transport surely must be integrated. Some tentative steps have been taken in this direction. The integration of sea and road transport has been helped by roll-on roll-off vessels and the use of containers. Road and rail transport have been helped through the use of pickaback services. In general, however, our transport system is not integrated and it is not operated efficiently. A proper transport policy would encourage the use of ships for long hauls and large tonnages, the use of railways to carry large quantities of freight in medium and long hauls and to carry passengers on short-hauls - such as in the suburbs and cities, where railways should be, largely, underground - and the use of road transport for short hauls, particularly where flexibility in times, routes and deliveries is required. But the Government’s policy, or lack of it, prevents proper specialization by these modes of transport.
My whole theme will be the Commonwealth responsibility in these matters. It is idle to look at the responsibilities of governments at the time of federation because, at that time, there was no air transport, no significant road transport, and rail transport between the States was not so extensive as it is now. The Commonwealth’s responsibility in transport, as in every field of public expenditure, is inevitably rising. It has done so ever since the Financial Agreement of the late 1920’s and ever since the uniform taxation arrangements of the war years, which have been continued over the years since the war.
The distortion of the whole system of transport produces great inefficiency. This arises in part because of the failure of road transport to pay its proper share of the economic cost of building and maintaining roads. The railways have to pay for the upkeep of their tracks, but road hauliers pay little towards the upkeep of roads. The result is a transfer of business from railways to road hauliers and the railways are caught in a vicious circle of declining revenue and deteriorating services. This is particularly true of suburban railways. The private motor car owner clogs the cities but is not asked to pay for the congestion and the social loss which this causes. A rail system, preferably underground or monorail, is by far the most efficient means of transporting large numbers of people to and from central city areas, but government policy, or lack of it, has encouraged the use of private cars at the expense of public transport.
There is also an uneconomic distortion of passenger and freight business from the railways towards the airlines. Government subsidies for the airlines amount to more than £13,000,000 a year- more than the combined deficits of all the State railways. The Commonwealth Railways do not have a deficit because they have been given the finance for thoroughly modern equipment. If the State railways were subsidized on the scale on which civil aviation is subsidized, we would have a railway revolution and we would be on the way to having modern co-ordinated transport. I do not suggest there is not a need for the rationalization of existing railway services, particularly on the lines which bear no relationship to the needs of the community - railway lines which were laid at the time when there was no road transport - but I do say that the railways are denied adequate finance properly to fulfil the function which they can most efficiently perform on behalf of the community. The community suffers because the private operators in road and air transport call the tune.
Again, there is insufficient co-ordination of transport between the States. The Government is moving to establish a national roads board, but it is most tentative and half-hearted about it. This was one of the proposals which appeared in November last, and the experts have only now been sent to the United States of
America to see what the Bureau of Roads has been doing there in the last 70 years under a federal government. Too often roads are built in State compartments. Rail standardization is proceeding slowly, although the economic return from such expenditure has been clearly demonstrated. But even there we know that railway charges in border areas are often designed to attract business to the capital cities away from the regional centre. For instance, Mildura cannot trade with Adelaide, Mount Gambier cannot trade with Melbourne, Casino cannot trade with Brisbane. Our whole railway system is designed to concentrate around capital cities. The Commonwealth is assisting to build a standard gauge railway from Townsville to Mount Isa, but it has no plan to link it with the north-south railway in the Northern Territory. As I have mentioned already, our ports are controlled by 26 different authorities.
There is clearly a great need for the co-ordination of different modes of transport between the States. Each mode has a role to perform, but each should concentrate upon its most efficient type of operation. The present levying of transport charges prevents this. Only the Commonwealth can co-ordinate the roles of public expenditure and public revenue and, in general, the role of the principal private operators in sea and air transport. The Commonwealth has this particular responsibility for interstate rail and road links, shipping and civil aviation.
Constitutionally the Commonwealth Government can regulate and operate interstate transport by road, sea and air. It can regulate interstate rail freights and rates through the Interstate Commission. It can construct and extend railways in a State with the consent of that State. Also, it can grant financial assistance to the States on any conditions it chooses. No aircraft is imported, no ship is built and no rail track is standardized or re-built without Commonwealth approval or help. A transport policy is not just a matter of narrow technical considerations. Transport must be put in its social and economic context. It cannot be divorced from town planning and the life which people lead, particularly in our large cities. It is closely related to a policy of decentralization.
Traffic accidents are not only a great economic loss, but are a grave health and social problem.
I come now to a particular examination of this bill. This is a quinquennial measure. It is significant that this is the first such bill which provides, taken together with Commonwealth commitments for roads in the Territories or in connexion with Commonwealth projects, or specific projects such as beef roads in the States, that all the money which the Commonwealth will collect in petrol tax will be spent on roads during the ensuing five years. There is an automatic increase in Commonwealth revenue from petrol taxes of about £100,000,000 every five years. There has usually been an increase in expenditure by the Commonwealth of about £100,000,000 on grants to the States for roads over a period of five years. On this occasion, however, the Commonwealth is making an increased allotment to the States not of £100,000,000, as it did in each of the last three five-year periods, but of £125,000,000. This has gone some way toward closing the gap between the expenditure by the Commonwealth on roads and the revenue that the Commonwealth receives from roads. The Commonwealth is expected to receive in petrol tax collections in the next five financial years £420,000,000, and is obliged under this bill to spend £375,000,000 on grants to the States for roads, and under other arrangements it is committed to spend £45,000,000 on beef roads, Commonwealth road projects and Commonwealth territory roads. This is a significant change of policy.
The last time a similar bill was introduced to the House, also by the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the Minister produced elaborate arguments as to why it was wrong in constitutional theory, and why it would be wrong in budgetary practice, for the Commonwealth to spend all the petrol tax yield on roads. However, he has now accepted this principle. Therefore, the Opposition will not move an amendment, as it has on previous similar occasions, to express the sense of the House and the general public belief that the whole of the petrol tax should bc spent on roads, since the Treasurer has changed his earlier opinions in this respect.
I should deal with the sources of finance for road purposes. These are referred to briefly by the Treasurer, but not in adequate detail or with adequate frankness. Honorable members will recall that after the Premiers Conference a few weeks ago a statement by the Treasurer on this subject was reported as follows -
Assuming a continuing projection of current trends in expenditure, a total of more than £1,100 million is likely to be spent on roads in Australia over the S year period.
In his second-reading speech he explained what he meant. He said -
What total sum will be provided by State governments and their municipal and local authorities for roads in the five-year period ahead cannot be estimated at all precisely, lt can however be said that if in total these authorities also increase their expenditures on roads by 50 per cent., as we are proposing to do, total roads expenditure over the next five years will be well above £1,100,000,000.
This is how the honorable gentleman worked it out: He assumed that whereas the Commonwealth expenditure on roads will increase from £288,000,000 over the five years now ending to £420,000,000 in the five years about to commence, State and local government expenditure would increase from £462,000,000 in the five years just ending to £690,000,000 in the five years about to commence.
How, then, are we to expect that State and local government finance will be augmented to meet this expenditure? The Commonwealth’s expenditure will come precisely, although not admittedly, from the petrol tax. The State finance can come from two sources - from motor taxes or from loans. The local government finance can come from two sources - from rates or from loans. Let me remind the right honorable gentleman of how much these various sources of finance - Commonwealth, State and local government - have risen between 1950-51 and 1960-61. Between those years the Commonwealth’s petrol tax receipts rose from £24,500,000 to £60,200,000, an increase of 145 per cent. Between those years State returns from motor taxes rose from £15,600,000 to £49,100,000, an increase of 215 per cent., and loan funds from £139,000,000 to £193,000,000, an increase of 39 per cent. Between those years local government bodies increased their revenues from rates from £28,500,000 to £93,900,000, an in crease of 230 per cent., and their loan funds from £69,000,000 to £106,000,000, an increase of 54 per cent. What increases may we expect in loans for the States and local government bodies in the next five years? What increases is the Treasurer anticipating that the States will make in their registration and licence-fees, and local government bodies in their rates?
The Commonwealth adopts a rather selfrighteous attitude in this matter, for its revenues stand to gain more than any others from the anticipated increase in motor vehicle usage. The States’ increased revenues from their road taxes have occurred not only because of the increased number of vehicles, but also because the rate of taxes has risen over the last ten years. Must the same rise take place for the Treasurer’s off-hand encouragement to the States and local government bodies to be fulfilled? I reiterate that the States rely first on motor taxes or registration fees which depend on the weight of a vehicle, secondly, drivers’ licence-fees; thirdly, loan funds. The percentages of their loan funds spent on roads vary from 4 per cent, in Victoria to 9 per cent, in Tasmania. Revenues from registration and licence-fees can be expected to increase at the same rates as do the revenues from petrol tax, merely by the proliferation of vehicles. But the loan funds available to the States cannot be expected to increase as rapidly. Loan funds have increased much less rapidly than all other State and Commonwealth sources of finance in the last ten years.
Registration and licence-fees are not a precise measure of road usage, because the fees are paid whether the car or driver travels 5,000 miles or 50,000 miles a year. A week-end driver pays as much in these respects as does a commercial traveller. Certain interstate hauliers escape the taxes altogether. These taxes are also very expensive to collect, both for the collector and the person or firm from whom the tax is collected. Administrative costs of collection are estimated at £5,000,000 a year. The loans which the State governments obtain for their purposes bear no relationship whatever to road usage.
I pass now to the sources available to local government authorities. It should be recalled that over the last ten years or so local government authorities have spent more on roads than has the Commonwealth. The Treasurer apparently proceeds on the basis that in the next five years such authorities will continue to spend more on roads than does the Commonwealth. The rates on property increase, it is true, with proximity to a road or the quality of a road, but they bear no relationship whatever to the use which the ratepayer makes of the road. It is quite unfair that the Commonwealth should expect local government bodies to make the same increase in rates to build roads and repay road loans as the Commonwealth will automatically receive in petrol tax from the increased number of vehicles.
The Treasurer’s whole approach to road finance is one that can only be unfair and inefficient. The necessity of relying more and more on the more efficient and fairer petrol tax has become all the greater in the last nine years in the light of legal decisions. The ton-mile taxes were the only taxes which the States levied on the basis of the use which vehicles made of the roads. Decisions of the High Court and Privy Council prevented the States from imposing any such taxes on vehicles engaged in interstate trade, except to the extent necessary to maintain the roads in their existing condition; that is, interstate hauliers cannot be made to pay taxes which would enable roads to be made straighter, stronger or wider. Interstate hauliers can only be made ‘to pay taxes which will keep the roads in their pristine archaic condition. These were the only road taxes which were levied by the States on the basis of usage.
The Treasurer often makes a comparison with the State and Commonwealth revenues of the days when he came into office. It was then possible, under the interpretation which the High Court had made and repeated for a quarter of a century, for the States to impose equitable road taxes, lt is no longer possible for them to do so. Therefore the petrol tax is the only tax which is a fair one in this regard. It involves negligible bookwork, precludes evasion, defies constitutional challenge, and the amounts paid vary with the weight of a vehicle and the speed and distance it is driven. Under the Constitution only the Commonwealth can levy a petrol tax. There is another general reason why the Commonwealth should take more interest in finance for roads, apart from the fact that the Commonwealth is now the only tax-raising authority which can raise finance for roads on an economical and just basis. The State1! receive more money for roads from the Commonwealth than they raise by their own efforts. Housing, in fact, is the only activity where the States are more specifically dependent on the Commonwealth than they are in respect of roads. In housing, at any rate, the Commonwealth accepts more responsibility because it takes some interest; it has always had an interest in war service homes and it lays down conditions on which its grants to the States for housing can be spent by the States or handed on by them to building societies, or ear-marked for houses for serving members of the forces. But the Commonwealth accepts very little direct responsibility for the method of expenditure of its grants for roads, lt used to be said by many honorable members opposite that if the States are not receiving enough money to discharge their responsibilities they ought to take the responsibility of raising more money themselves instead of asking the Commonwealth to provide them with the money to spend. This is not possible in respect to road revenues, as I have shown.
While I adhere to the general principle that governments which spend money should raise it, I state the corollary that governments which raise money should spend it. There aTe two ways of approaching this problem in Australia. One is to suggest that we should equate State taxation to State expenditure. That approach implies that if the States are to spend a certain amount of money they should raise it - or most of it. I should think that an equally logical approach, and the only feasible one, is to equate Commonwealth responsibility to Commonwealth expenditure. If we are to have governmental responsibility in Australia, the way to get it is not by requiring the States, with their unequal opportunities, to raise taxes - particularly, as I have said, in respect of roads - in order to meet the cost of those activities which, in the last 50 or 60 years, have become their principal activities. Road construction was not nearly so big a State responsibility 50 or 60 years ago as it is now. The way to achieve this governmental responsibility in Australia is to allow those who raise the money needed for these activities to be responsible for them.
Therefore, the proper way to obtain a better road system in Australia is for the Commonwealth to take the lead in saying how its grants are to be spent. This can be a gradual but steady process. But for the Commonwealth to say, as in this bill, that in five years, despite court decisions and authoritative investigations, it should take no more responsibility in planning the expenditure of the money provided by it for roads than it has taken hitherto is again to demonstrate that general aversion to planning and that general procrastination which the Government habitually displays.
The substantial condition on which the Commonwealth makes its roads grants is the acceptance of the prescribed formula, which provides that the funds shall be divided among the States on the basis partly of population, partly of area, and partly of the number of vehicles. This is far from being a satisfactory way of distributing the money. No account is taken of the fact that settlement in the Slates does not is every instance follow the same pattern. For example, the iwo very extensive States of Western Australia and South Australia are largely settled, and have a substantial network of roads only in the south-western and the south-eastern corner respectively. The other two large States - New South Wales and Queensland - have a network of roads everywhere, because settlement extends everywhere and roads are needed in all parts. The unfairness to Queensland of the omission from the present formula of a component allowing for road mileage-
– And usable land.
– Quite a lot of the land in Western Australia is unusable.
– Yes. We arc not using trace elements and irrigation in Western Australia to the extent to which they have been used in New South Wales and Queensland. Queensland embraces 25 per cent, of Australia’s proclaimed highways, but will receive only 18 per cent, of the grants made under the terms of this measure. This is all the less fair to Queensland when one considers the fact that Queenslanders, per head, pay the greatest amount in State road taxes. In 1962-63, they paid £6.05 per head compared with £4.76 in Tasmania, £4.82 in Western Australia and £4.88 in South Australia - the three States with smaller populations. 1 do not want to become bedevilled by any argument about State rights in this matter. My whole approach is that Australia can have efficient government only so far as our problems, internal and external, are considered on a national basis. This bill obliges us all the more to take such a national outlook. Queensland certainly appears to suffer very severely from the fact that it has been compelled to levy State motor taxes at a rate higher than the rates in the other States, whereas it receives less money per road mile than any other State.
A considerable number of my colleagues will discuss in detail Australia’s road needs, and therefore 1 do not propose to deal with them at length. Australia’s road needs will be a matter for investigation, on a coordinated basis, by the Commonwealth bureau of roads, when we establish it. But there has in fact been quite a deal of investigation conducted already by the Stale road authorities, which have got together on this much more than on any other matter. They have investigated their financial n:eds much more than they have investigated the need to co-ordinate their routes- and standards. Let me illustrate some of the overall road trends since the war. In 1948. with a population of 7,800,000, and with one vehicle to every seven of the population, there were 1,100,000 vehicles on the roads. In 1962, with a population of 10,700,000, and with one vehicle to every three and a half persons, there were 3,200,000 vehicles on the roads. We must anticipate that this projection will proceed undiminished - probably in a geometric rather than an arithmetic progression. The lord mayors of the State capital cities have estimated that there will be 8,000,000 vehicles on Australia’s roads by 1980, and the Australian Road Research Board has estimated that the present number of registrations will be doubled in ten years.
What evidence is there that. those demands have been anticipated in the preparation of this bill? The capacity and quality of roads is falling - and is bound to fall - far behind the demands that will be made by the number of vehicles using our roads in the next five years. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities has estimated that in the next ten years there will be a deficiency of £1,100,000,000 below the amount required to bring Australia’s roads up to reasonable standards, after allowing for Commonwealth, State and local government revenues to be increased over that period at the scale estimated by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. The right honorable gentleman said that if expenditure in all three of those spheres is increased over the next five years at the rate at which he said the Commonwealth is increasing its expenditure, total expenditure on roads over that period will be more than £1,100,000,000. However, the National Assosiation of Australian State Road Authorities, which represents all the State road authorities, estimates that, at the end of ten years, there will be a deficiency of more than £1,100,000,000.
– That is over a period twice as long as the period mentioned by the Treasurer.
– Yes, the five-year expenditure will only equal the decade’s deficiency.
– That will be about £400,000,000.
– Mr. Munro, of the Department of Traffic Engineering at the University of New South Wales - a university which has led Australia in investigating these problems - has estimated that the cost of operating present-day traffic on our existing major road system is £365,000,000 more than it would be on an improved system estimated to cost £2,200,000,000. This means that bad roads are costing Australia £1,000,000 a day.
There are other costs. For instance, the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety estimated in 1960 that road accidents had cost the Australian community almost £70,000,000 in 1957-58. On that scale they will cost us, during the term for which this bill will operate, £350,000,000 in lost man-power, maintenance, treatment costs, other charges and property damage. Australia suffers badly compared to other countries in the number of road deaths for every 10,000 vehicles. My source for this information is the National Association of
Australian State Road Authorities, which I mentioned a few moments ago. It reports that the number of road deaths for every 10,000 vehicles is 4.93 in New Zealand, 5.00 in the United States of America, 6.95 in Canada and 8.78 in Australia. In the other countries I have mentioned there is a slightly greater density - in the United States a considerably greater density - of vehicles. One of the costs of road transport in Australia comes from the fact that our road accidents are so much more frequent and cost us so much more than is the case in comparable countries.
Again, there is the cost of city congestion. Naasra has estimated that delays in city traffic cost between £200,000,000 and £400,000,000 per annum. The Victorian Traffic Commission has estimated that Melbourne’s existing road system needs to be doubled in capacity if 1970 needs are to be met. The New South Wales Department of Main Roads estimates that Sydney’s accident rate is 38 per cent, higher than the rate in the remainder of the State. The solution of these problems is largely to develop public transport, particularly monorail and underground railway systems. The fact is that with all our expressways and bypasses it still takes as long to travel between two points now with the extra number of vehicles on the roads as it took when there were fewer vehicles and narrower, more sinuous roads.
I have made it plain, I should imagine, that in my view there should be a larger national responsibility and degree of planning in this matter. I have laid emphasis on the petrol tax. We in this Parliament are all badly placed because there has been no investigation on a national basis. The only official statements have been by State road authorities. The States adopt with the Commonwealth the same attitude as local government authorities have always adopted with the States. They say, “ We want you to give us more money to spend”. But who will concede that some one else can spend the money he raises better than he can spend it himself? If we are to get a national roads plan in Australia, the Commonwealth must accept some responsibility for the plan as well as for the expenditure. The petrol tax is clearly the fairest way to do it.
In November, 1962, Professor Blunden of the University of New South Wales estimated that the average road user, the man who drives 10,000 miles a year or more, would save about £100 a year in his mo.oring bill if we had a modem road system in Australia by 1970. He estimated at that time that this modern road system could be financed by setting aside all fuel tax for State roads - that has been done - and by imposing an additional levy of 6d. a gallon. 1 am just putting his views on this matter; I have made no independent calculations. An extra 6d. a gallon would cost the average motorist an extra £10 a year. Professor Blunden points out, therefore, that, on his calculations, for an investment of £10 a year between now and 1970, a motorist would save £100 a year by that year and for ever after. Honorable gentlemen can test for themselves the accuracy of his calculations, but he is the leading academic in this field.
The former head of the United States Bureau of Public Roads said -
We were not a wealthy nation when we began improving our highways. But the roads themselves helped us to create a new wealth in business and industry and land values. So it was not our wealth that made our highways possible. Rather it was our highways that made our wealth possible.
In field after field, the price mechanism and private enterprise have failed to meet the basic needs of the community, and Government enterprise and responsibility have accordingly been expanded. The price mechanism is an unreliable guide in solving our transport problems. The most profitable investments are not necessarily the most socially desirable. This is certainly true of some means of road transport. The demand for new vehicles is constantly fostered by advertising and the method of acquiring them is provided by people in the private sector. The demand for better roads receives less emphasis and the methods of acquiring them still less, for better roads are not provided by private financiers or private manufacturers; they arc provided by governments.
As long as we take the attitude in Australia that in some way public expenditure is less necessary or desirable or more inflationary than private expenditure, so long will we continue to have poor roads and so long also will we continue to have inadequate transport facilities, which all at some stage depend on the road system. We must ensure that through proper Commonwealth Government initiative in the raising and spending of money for roads, a proper balance is brought about between the demand for roads and the supply of roads and that, through a bureau of roads and other Government agencies, an adequate overall plan is produced and followed for the transport services which this continent needs for its trade and development.
.- In the White Paper on Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, which we were given at Budget time last year, there is a very interesting record of payments made for the purpose we are now debating. The record goes back a good many years and at pages 22 and 23 of the White Paper we find the history of successive grants made by this Parliament to assist the States with roads. This shows the changes in pattern, the changes in amount, the changes in formula and the change a few years ago when this Government, with every justification, divorced the road grant from the amount raised by the petrol tax. The whole pattern is one of assistance. The emphasis is not on Commonwealth responsibility for roads, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has argued, but on the assistance given to those who have the constitutional responsibility for roads.
I would like to refer to the figures given at page 52 of this most useful document. They show that for the years from 1923, when this sort of assistance first came into being, until 1949-50 the total Commonwealth grants for this purpose amounted to a little more than £79,000,000. From 1950-51 until the current year, 1963-64, the total of Commonwealth grants has been £464,000,000. In other words, in the last fourteen or fifteen years roughly six times as much has been contributed by the Commonwealth as was contributed over the earlier period of 24 or 25 years. If the principle behind this sort of legislation is assistance, then the record of this Government is pretty good, lt has given much assistance to the States and has helped them discharge these responsibilities.
I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the bill we are discussing was introduced as a result of a policy statement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) at the recent election. The bill does no more than translate into legislative form the principles that have already been endorsed by the people. It does two things. It continues the policy of assistance and it increases the amount to give further help to the States in the discharge of their responsibilities. I direct the attention of the House to the extent of this assistance, and this brings me to some of the points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In a very interesting document which I think was sent to all honorable members the Australian Council of Local Government Associations cites some interesting figures. For the year 1962 the Commonwealth’s contribution towards roads in Australia amounted to 33 per cent, of the total, that of the States to 29 per cent, and that of local government authorities to 38 per cent. If this be assistance it is pretty substantial assistance. Having in mind the increased amount to be granted under this bill compared with the amount granted in the current five years’ scheme, it is probable that the Commonwealth’s percentage will increase from 33 per cent, to 38 per cent., 39 per cent, or perhaps 40 per cent. I think we are getting close to the stage when we must stop looking at this grant as assistance and must ask ourselves who is doing the job. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out that although the Commonwealth raises the money, after it is handed over to the States the Commonwealth has no control over what is done with it. That is wrong in principle and I believe it is inefficient in practice. We have three revenue-raising authorities - the Commonwealth, the States and the local government. We have two spending authorities. Once we pass this legislation the Commonwealth has no control over how the money is spent. That is wrong and sooner or later this Parliament will have to consider seriously the principle or lack of principle in this and many other similar forms of legislation. I know that this situation arises out of circumstances which the honorable member for Werriwa mentioned, but it is nevertheless a fact of life.
Some reference has been made to the distribution formula - one-third in relation to area, one-third in relation to population and one-third in relation to registrations of motor vehicles. The formula has come in for some criticism. This is not a political issue; it is a common responsibility of members of this Parliament. Everybody knows that this and earlier legislation have been designed to reconcile three separate interests or three separate problems - that of the constitutional requirements, that of the economy of the country and lastly, and perhaps more significantly than anything else, that of political requirement. I do not think it is unfair to say that while the attempt has been made, in result it has failed. Here I part company with the honorable member from Werriwa. It is extremely easy to move along this line and say that what has been done is wrong and that something else should be done. It is much more difficult to examine what the Commonwealth is trying to do and say that this action or that action should be taken to meet those problems or to improve the situation. I thought the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was about to move into what I call the area of the Australian version of the cargo cult. The Australian cargo cult enjoins adherents to sit down, wave banners, write letters, scream, pray and do nothing, because all the money must come from the Federal Government. The answer to all problems lies in the simple statement: More money from the Federal Government. In essence that is what the honorable member said.
We are past the point of no return in this matter. We have passed the point where we can, even in respect of relatively minor matters, accept the attitude that the solution of this or other problems lies in more money being collected by this Parliament and voted to particular people for a specified but not clearly defined purpose. Let us look at the present situation. The honorable member for Werriwa referred to estimates that have been made of road needs compared with finance likely to be available. Whilst there is some doubt as to the reliability of various estimates, since figures and opinions on this matter are a little hard to obtain, it is still a reasonable assumption, even having regard to the extra amount of money provided in this bill, that we are likely to between £200,000,000 and £500,000.000 short in the next five years of what the people who prepare the estimates say will be our road needs. So we start with the proposition that there appears to be a chronic shortage of money just as there appears to have been a chronic shortage of money even during the period when the grants were increased sixfold and sevenfold.
In the formula there is provision for onethird of the grant to be distributed on the basis of area. I would have thought that if it meant anything at all it meant that onethird of the grant should be applied to develop the area - that the size of the State should be considered in conjunction with developmental roads. The blunt fact is that although certain activities in that regard undoubtedly go on, when a real need arises in Australia for particular developmental road projects, on a number of occasions in recent years those projects have been financed by special grant from this Parliament. So if you look at the purpose of the formula to achieve development and at conditions to-day, particularly in the larger States, you can see that this relationship between area and development in the formula is not working and that the ultimate responsibility for a particular project comes back to this Parliament.
A further interesting fact is that it is quite evident that there is need for much more activity in connexion with the increasing transport problem in the capital cities than it has been possible to undertake in existing circumstances. The honorable member for Werriwa referred to that matter and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has referred to it in his second-reading speech and on other occasions. I understand that a special case was presented by the lord mayors of the capital cities asking for consideration of their needs in this bill. Also there are the forgotten areas of Australia - the areas of rapid housing development on the outskirts of all of the capital cities. Because of circumstances roads and streets are just not being built in the new residential suburbs. I speak with some bitter personal experience of a so-called road that is a dust bowl in summer and a mud patch in winter. Thousands of people in Australia receive little if any benefit from the assistance which this Parliament has endeavoured to give to the States for the development of an adequate roads system.
This problem has interesting, and perhaps tragic, side issues. They are referred to in the document issued by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, among others. I understand that some of the States, in an effort to meet the situation, have enacted legislation which requires subdividers of estates to put in roads. The main effect of that legislation is that, because of high interest rates, delays in selling the sub-divided land and a variety of other reasons, ultimately the cost of such roads is very much higher than the cost of roads built by the municipal authorities. That is a by-product of this problem. It has a bearing on two major aspects - the cost of houses and, what is probably more important, the economy. It results in economic waste which we cannot afford.
Following the somewhat pessimistic speech of the honorable member for Weeriwa, and my own speech which I would not regard as unduly pessimistic, some one may well ask, “ What is the answer to this problem?” In my opinion, the answer does not lie in the intellectual agility displayed by the honorable member for Werriwa, or in increased taxation of any particular section of the community or of the community as a whole and the consequent increased flow of money to the Federal Government. Quite apart from the justice of the proposition of increased taxation, the cruel fact of life is that in the next few years, irrespective of the political colour of the government, this Parliament will be faced with a problem of increasing commitments for health, education, defence, housing and social services. These commitments will crowd in on us. We cannot go on increasing taxation indefinitely.
Another point which must be considered in any practical approach to this problem is that figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service show that at the end of March this year 29,000 males were registered for employment in Australia. Some of those men are professional men; some of them are white-collar workers; and there are other gradings. But the unskilled labour content is not high. If we accept the estimate that the honorable member for Werriwa and I have mentioned - that we will need to spend another £300,000,000, £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 on roads in the next five years - we must accept the proposition that in order to spend that money we must employ more men. Assuming that the money could be raised without injuring the economy, where would we get the manpower to engage in such a substantial programme? We must remember that 29,000 men are unemployed at the moment. These are facts, not airy-fairy platitudes such as we hear too often. I believe that it is quite reasonable to assume that it would be extremely difficult to raise the extra finance required on the figures quoted by the honorable member for Werriwa. My snap judgment is that, even if the petrol tax were increased, it would not raise nearly the amount that is claimed to be needed. We have not the required manpower, either. So what do we do?
I suggest that we should look at how the present system works or how it does not work. As far as I can gather, there is no, or little, co-ordination between the spending authorities. There are differences between the States in the bases of allocation of money from the States to local governing bodies. There are no common standards of construction, no common standards of administration and management, and no common values. Figures set out in the 1963 “Year Book” show that there is no common presentation of accounts. Looking at those figures, one finds it extremely difficult to analyse the accounts of the various States.
It is quite interesting to look at the figures for administration. The amount charged to administration is the amount that every one looks at when considering the figures of an industry or activity. The administration content in the amounts spent by the various States, as recorded in the “ Year Book “ is as follows: - In New South Wales it represented roughly 6 per cent, of the total expenditure; in Victoria roughly 6J per cent.; in Queensland 9 per cent.; in South Australia a little less than 10 per cent.; and in Western Australia about 3i per cent. We see the absurdity that runs right through the handling of and the approach to this problem. As the honorable member for Werriwa pointed out, there is no uniformity on this important national problem on which, if anything is needed, uniformity of standards and management is needed.
I cannot accept the implication of the honorable member for Werriwa that this problem should be met by Commonwealth control. If his argument is followed to its logical conclusion, it means more Commonwealth control. I do not think that is the answer. I believe that the right approach to this problem might lie through the setting up of a bureau of roads. This proposal was mentioned in the policy speech of the Prime Minister and I understand the bureau is to be set up some time this year. From what the Treasurer said about the bureau, I fear that its functions may be too limited.
However, I believe that at long last - 40 years after we started on this trail - we will have a body which will be able to collect and appraise the facts on an informed and objective basis. The problems can then be faced by a responsible government. I hope that the bureau will have, not so much wide powers, as wide functions. The bureau is a start which should be commended. I can see no approach to the increasing road problems and the increasing cost to the economy other than through a federal bureau working, as the Treasurer said, in co-operation with the States and endeavouring to co-ordinate their activities.
I believe that the money that we are asked to appropriate under this bill is justified on the ground that we are continuing the 40-year-old policy of assisting the States. The Government is to be congratulated on the fact that the assistance to the States in the next five years will represent an increase of 50 per cent, on the assistance in the past five years. I believe that the bureau of roads, which will emerge some time this year, is a step in the right direction. I hope that this discussion will at least tend to throw up for consideration some of the very real and vital problems in connexion with roads.
.- In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) foreshadowed a bill, to follow the one now before us, designed to establish a Commonwealth roads bureau whose function it will be to keep the Commonwealth Government adequately informed on the roads situation. The bodies responsible for building and maintaining roads in Australia already have the know-how, but they had not sufficient funds to implement the plans that they have in view. We already have the Australian Transport Advisory council, which comprises six members representing the Commonwealth Government and six members representing the States. It is presided over by the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport. In my opinion this council has done a very good job in achieving a uniform traffic code and uniformity in other matters associated with roads. It has everything except the funds to implement the plans that it thinks should be implemented.
The functions that this proposed Commonwealth roads bureau will perform will not be known until the bill is introduced by the Treasurer. It appears to me that only a change of name will be involved, but if it is a body which will have a charter similar to that of the Australian Universities Commission - which examines the needs of the various universities in the Commonwealth and has the financial resources to correct the inefficiencies that are found - it will justify itself. If sufficient funds are not supplied by the Commonwealth the proposed body will not justify the name to be given to it.
Last year’s Budget showed that the Treasury received £71,000,000 from the taxes on petrol and fuels and £79,000,000 from sales tax on motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts. According to the Treasurer’s second-reading speech, only £58,000,000 of this total of £150,000,000 was returned to the States in the form of road grants. Surely this indicates that the States are getting a very small share of the revenue that the Commonwealth receives. The States are not receiving their proper share and, therefore, motor vehicle owners and users are not getting the roads that they should be getting. Let me emphasize that while the Commonwealth Government received £150,000,000 in petrol tax and sales tax the six States, which have the responsibility of putting down the roads upon which run the motor vehicles which attract those taxes, received only £58,000,000. The Commonwealth is pretty stingy.
The other omission is that local government authorities are not catered for. Is it any wonder that they have almost bankrupted themselves trying to fulfil their functions? They are being bled white trying to cope with demands for all kinds of amenities besides roads. In an earlier speech I pointed out that the accumulated national debt of local government bodies is approximately £250,000,000. They are in a hopeless financial position. This indebtedness is increasing rapidly. In the last ten years local government debt increased from £81,000,000 to the present amount. This represents an increase of about 165 per cent. Municipal and shire councils are responsible for 376,000 miles of road, or 75 per cent, of all roads in Australia. Surely the local government authorities, which build most of the roads and which produce substantial revenue for the Commonwealth, should be recognized when legislation of this kind is introduced. The Commonwealth Government must try to understand the financial position of these local government authorities.
Let us examine the method of distribution of the Commonwealth grants and we shall see that local government bodies, particularly those in the metropolitan areas, have been neglected. I am not mentioning this fact to play the city against the country. They both should be treated fairly. I am glad that the rural areas have received some mention in the bill. All things should be done on a national basis, so that both the city and the country will share equally. The distribution formula provided for in the bill is really a renewal of the old formula, which I regard as obsolete. It provides, among other things, that -
The annual limit applying to each State will be proportionate to its share of the total grant as determined by the distribution formula; . . . the State Governments will be required to ensure, as under the present legislation, that not less than 40 per cent, of funds made available by the Commonwealth will be spent on roads in rural areas, other than highways, main roads and trunk roads.
The country areas are treated pretty well because highways, main roads and trunk roads are additional to those on which the 40 per cent, has to be spent. There are actually more main roads in the country areas than in the city areas. The formula further provides that -
The provision in the present legislation permitting the States to spend up to £1,000,000 of the amount made available by the Commonwealth each year on works other than road works connected with transport by road or water will bc renewed.
Lastly the provision in the existing legislation permitting the States to make payments for or in connexion with research relating to the construction, maintenance or repair of roads will be extended to include research relating to planning and design of roads.
The States should be relieved of the expenditure that is involved in those directions. If this proposed bureau is to be worth anything at all, it should be responsible for the extensive research which, with other things, is estimated to cost £1,000,000.
Referring to the total amount being made available to the States by the renewed agreement, the Treasurer said that £375,000,000 would be made available over the next five years as compared with £250,000,000 which was made available over the preceding five years. That represents an increase of 50 per cent., but there is nothing great or generous about that. The increase has not very much merit. It only passes on the natural increase in revenue derived from petrol tax collections.
I shall indicate now the way in which these collections have been increasing over the years. The Commonwealth Government fares very well out of the collections. In the five-year period 1950-54 the Commonwealth collected £108,000,000 in petrol tax and gave back to the States £62,000,000, leaving it a profit of £46,000,000. In the next five-year period, 1954-59, the collections increased, because of increased numbers of motor vehicles, to £218,000,000. Of this, £153,000,000 was given back to the States and the Commonwealth kept £65,000,000. In the period 1959-64 the collections increased to £322,000,000. Road grants to the States in this period amount to £252,000,000, and the Commonwealth kept £70,000,000. It is estimated - and I believe this is a very conservative estimate because I think the number of motor vehicles and road users will increase considerably - that in the next five years, when this legislation will be operating, collections will amount to £420,000,000. An amount of £375,000,000 will go back to the States for road purposes, leaving the Commonwealth with a profit balance of £45,000,000. Over the whole twenty-year period from 1950 to 1969 the Commonwealth will show a profit of £226,000,000.
I believe it would be a fair proposition, taking into account the way in which responsibilities for roads are shared, for the Commonwealth, in addition to making grants to the State governments for roads, to make also special grants to local government authorities, to the extent of the difference between the petrol tax collections and the total amount of State grants. I believe that the £226,000,000 should have been disbursed in this way. That is in accordance with the policy of the Labour Party. It is worth pointing out that if this amount were distributed in the way I have suggested local government bodies would not be burdened with their existing total debt of £250,000,000, and they would not have to pay an interest bill in respect of this debt which amounts at present to £12,000,000 a year and which is steadily increasing.
– And rates have reached saturation point.
– They are now so high that people just cannot afford to pay them. I have voiced my own criticism of the way in which the Government has handled this matter. Now I would like to read some other expressions of criticism which appeared in the newspapers at the time when the Premiers conferred on this question in Canberra. I have before me an extract from the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 13th March, 1964, headed “ Federal Road Aid Rise Angers New South Wales and Victoria.” It says, in part -
The New South Wales Premier, Mr. R. J. Heffron, and the Victorian Premier, Mr. H. E. Bolte, left the conference angry at the Commonwealth stand.
Mr. Heffron later described the conference as a “ farce “, in which the Commonwealth had called the States together to tell them what it had decided rather than to seek their views.
The States had their views and their plans. They are the responsible bodies. But when the Premiers came here they were told, “This is what you are going to get. Take it or leave it.” Another report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 14th March, 1964, in these terms -
The Minister for Local Government and Highways, Mr. P. D. Hills, claimed that under the Commonwealth’s formula New South Wales over ten years would have £300,000,000 less than it needed for expressways. Cuts might be necessary in the money spent on country roads, he said.
Let me point out that, from the grants made by the Commonwealth to the States, 80 per cent, of the money is used for country roads. The article continued -
The Federal Government in the five years from July 1 will allocate £373,000,000 to the States for roads- £306,000,000 less than New South Wales and Victoria have claimed is necessary.
So we find that the responsible people make their claims and say what is necessary, and when they come to Canberra they get £306,000,000 less than they require. The newspaper report continued -
Mr. Hills said the Commonwealth in the next five years would collect £42 lm from fuel tax, of which £375m would go to the States.
After taking out about £25m for its own road needs, the Commonwealth would be left with about £20m.
So all along the line we find that the Commonwealth does well out of this arrangement. The newspaper report also said -
Over the next 10 years £3 60m was needed for the expressways program in the metropolitan area but, in keeping with the rate of contribution set out by the Commonwealth, only £60m would be available.
Less money would be available for country roads…..
The whole of the Stale’s road program would suffer because the Commonwealth had not heeded its needs.
Road conditions are going to be chaotic in 10 years, he said.
Wc expect to double the motor-vehicle population in Sydney in the next 10 years. Sydney already has 53 per cent, of the State’s vehicle population.
Yet, as I have said, there is special provision in this legislation for that particular area.
The Deputy Leader of the Oppostion (Mr. Whitlam) mentioned the incidence of road accidents and said that they spring mainly from inferior roads. Our present outofdate roads have so many hazards that there are more road accidents and deaths in Australia, per head of population, than in practically any other country. 1 have before me a document called “ Federal News Letter” issued by the Australian Automobile Association, dealing with roads in the United States of America. Under the heading, “ New U.S. Highways May Save 8.000 Lives a Year”, we find the following: -
Eight thousand lives may be saved annually upon completion of the safety-engineered U.S. National System of Interstate and Defence Highways in 1972. This prediction is based on new statistics recently issued by the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads.
Some 1,130 miles of completed interstate roads have been surveyed, and the Bureau reports a traffic death rate of 2.8 fatalities per 100,000,000 vehicle miles. This contrasts with a rate of 9.7 deaths on the older highways in the same traffic corridors that formerly carried most of the present interstate traffic.
The rate is 6.9 deaths for all highways that have been carrying the bulk of traffic to be served by the completed Interstate System, thus, travel on the Interstate System should be almost 2J times as safe as travel on older highways, and may save 6,000 lives a year.
The Bureau study said an additional 2,000 lives may be saved each year because of the reduction of the fatality rate on older highways as they are relieved of traffic by the opening of the Interstate System.
Still the Commonwealth Government does not recognize its responsibility. It has a national responsibility to provide better and more efficient roads. The cost to the national economy from failure to provide such roads is already £70,000,000 a year or more, as pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and it keeps on growing.
I wish to mention also an extra burden that must be met by the bodies that this legislation neglects - the local government authorities. The local government law in New South Wales imposes a land rate of id. in the £1 on the unimproved capital value of properties for the maintenance and construction of main roads and secondary roads. Although the local government authorities are to receive nothing under this legislation, they are required to contribute id. in the £1 towards the construction and maintenance of main roads and secondary roads. As an instance of the injustice inflicted on some municipal authorities, I refer to the Bankstown area in my electorate. The extra burden imposed by the local tax on the rate payers in this area is £120,000 a year. I point out also that under the Constitution the Commonwealth Government is not required to pay municipal rates on any properties which it may hold in a local authority area. Because of this, the Bankstown Municipal Council loses £80,000 a year in revenue that would be available to it if certain properties were not held by the Commonwealth. If this extra money were available to local authorities, one can imagine just how much better off they would be. The Bankstown Municipal Council is required to maintain 382 miles of streets and roads within its boundaries, and in this era of the motor car we must accept that every street has to be regarded as a road. The gravel roads of the old horse and buggy era are not good enough to-day because of the dust menace. Motor traffic is so dense to-day that every street is being used, with the result that the ratepayer expects all roads to be tar-sealed and bordered with kerbing and guttering in order to avoid the creation of a tremendous amount of dust. If the Bankstown Council could retain for expenditure on its own roads the proposed levy of id. in the £1, it would be able to expend £1,200,000 on this work within the next ten years and I venture to say that by the end of that period it would have the best roads to be found in Australia. But, instead, the local council is to be required to bear this extra burden, and it will receive very little in return by way of main roads. Passing through the area are the Hume Highway and Canterburyroad. These have both been classed as main roads for many years. Their maintenance has cost the Main Roads Board very little, but the roads are not of very much worth to the Bankstown area. If this levy of id. in the £1 could be retained by the local authority, it would make a tremendous difference.
I think I have made it clear that this legislation, which provides for the making of grants to the States for roads under an obsolete distribution formula, is very unsatisfactory. The proposed method of distribution is clearly against the best interests of city and metropolitan municipal bodies. No consideration is given to the fact that 53 per cent, of Australia’s motor vehicles operate in these areas, or to the fact that 75 per cent, of Australia’s freight and passenger loading is conveyed by motor vehicles. I suggest that these facts emphasize the need for giving more consideration to local authorities.
The Government fails to realize that a new deal in financing local governments is necessary. In my view, local authorities should receive substantia] help from the Commonwealth’s general revenue funds. I say this because the local authorities have reached the limit in the levying of rates. The rate-payers cannot stand any further burden. I have had people making representations to me to do something for them because they are assessed at as much as £50 in rates each year. Here it might interest honorable members to know that rates owing to local authorities in New South Wales amount to £6,000,000. This is a clear indication that the rate-payers are already paying as much as they can afford and that the local authorities are not in a position to increase their rates with a view to getting the money they need to carry out the work they are compelled to do.
The lord mayors and suburban mayors of all capital cities complain that motor traffic is chaotic now and that it is becoming worse. They say that industrial production is slowing down and that, eventually, the whole national economy will suffer as the result. I believe that the main solution to this problem is the proposal I suggested earlier - that the whole of the money collected by way of petrol tax should be returned to the States and to the local government authorities for the construction and maintenance of roads.
I would point out here that in addition to faring very well out of petrol tax revenue, this Commonwealth Government collects £79,000,000 a year by way of sales tax. Last year its revenue from petrol tax and sales tax amounted to £150,000,000, of which it returned only £58,000,000 to the States. I suggest not only that the States and the local government authorities are getting a raw deal from this Government but also that the Commonwealth Government is in fact shirking its responsibilities.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Robinson) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
(3.) The Minister, or a person authorized in writing by him, may grant a licence under this section to a person to export meat from Australia. (4.) A licence referred to in the last preceding sub-section may be expressed to be subject to -
Senate’s amendment -
After sub-clause (4.) insert the following subclauses: -
- (4a.) The Minister shall cause notice of the granting of every licence under this section to be published in the Gazette within one month after the date on which the licence is granted. “ (4b.) Where an application for a licence under this section -
has been refused; or
has not been determined within one month after the date on which the application was made, the Minister shall, if the applicant requests him in writing so to do, inform the applicant in writing of the reasons for the refusal or for the failure to determine the application.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
When the Meat Industry Bill was being discussed in this place before being transmitted to the Senate, I said I would give further consideration to this matter. The amendment now proposed by the Senate differs from that which I rejected when the bill was before the committee of this House. I point out again that the validity of a licence cannot be challenged until such time as notice of the granting of that licence has been published in the “ Gazette “, which must be done within one month after the date on which the licence is granted. The Australian Meat Board already publishes in its annual reports a list of all those to whom licences have been granted. The proposed amendment will bring the position up to date in that we shall not have to wait until the end of the year to learn who are the successful applicants.
The other part of the amendment states - (4b) Where an application for a licence under this section -
I am prepared to accept the inclusion of these words.
.- I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to accept both the proposed sub-clauses. I am especially pleased that he has agreed to accept the one which provides an opportunity for those whose applications for a licence have been rejected to find out why their applications were refused.
– Actually, I think they are given reasons in every instance now, but this makes the giving of reasons mandatory.
– It is desirable that this should be required by law rather than being left to the discretion of somebody who might have something to hide. This request is for a protective provision, which now is accepted by the Minister because one of his own supporters suggested that some protection should be afforded. Members of the Opposition in this chamber strongly support the proposal. It is quite true that the Minister suggested that he would consider the amendment and that something might be done in another place, but nothing was done until after a very prolonged debate. Then, when it could be seen that the Ministry was in trouble in the Senate-
– That is hardly fair. I looked at this proposal straight away and sent it to the Minister in the Senate.
– I suggest that although the Minister for Primary Industry has accepted the request for the amendments he probably put some tag on it earlier. In effect, he may have said to the Minister in another place, “If you find that you are being pressed to the point where you may be defeated in the Senate or substantially humiliated, whip in this amendment “.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member should restrict his conjectures.
– I think that that would be a good idea. I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I want to say no more than that these requested amendments will, if carried, make a very desirable improvement to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
In committee: Consideration of Senate’s requests.
Clause 6. (1.) The rate of levy on the slaughter of livestock being cattle is such amount per head of cattle slaughtered as is prescribed from time to time. (2.) The rate of levy on the slaughter of livestock being sheep is such amount per head of sheep slaughtered as is prescribed from time to time. (3.) The rate of levy on the slaughter of livestock being lambs is such amount per head of lambs slaughtered as is prescribed from time to time.
Senate’s request No. 1 -
In sub-clause (1.) after “amount”, insert “(not exceeding Seven shillings and sixpence) “.
Senate’s request No. 2 -
In sub-clause (2.) after “ amount “, insert “ (not exceeding Ninepence) “.
Senate’s request No. 3 -
In sub-clause (3.) after “amount”, insert “(not exceeding Ninepence) “.
, - I move -
That the requested amendments be made.
These requested amendments seek to impose a maximum on the levies that can be charged under this bill. There is no objection to these requests. Indeed, I am happy to accept them. It is proposed that the maximum levy that can be charged in respect of cattle be 7s. 6d., that the maximum levy charged in respect of sheep be 9d., and that the maximum that can be charged in respect of lambs be 9d. It is not envisaged that the maximum rates will be charged immediately the regulations come into effect.
However, since a ceiling was requested, I am happy to agree to the ceiling proposed in another place.
.- The Opposition offers no resistance to these requested amendments. In fact, in the other place, the Opposition supported these proposals. I understand that the Government did not accept these proposals without offering considerable resistance. I believe that it is desirable to fix a maximum for these levies. It is not unusual in measures of this type, where levies are imposed, for maximum rates to be prescribed. When it is considered that the amounts used notionally by the Minister - 5s. for cattle and 6d. for sheep - would have raised almost exactly twice the amount required by the Australian Meat Board for the purposes specified in the current year, it will be realized that it is desirable that there should be some limit imposed upon the amount to be charged as a levy under the regulations. Consequently, the Opposition has no objection to the requests and supports them.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Resolution reported; report adopted. Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1964.
Meat Export Charge Repeal Bill 1964. Cattle Slaughter Levy Repeal Bill 1964. Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1964. Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1964.
Meat Export (Additional Charge) Bill 1964.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 37 of the House of Representatives that the time for bringing up the report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications be extended to 14th May, 1964.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 10).]
[Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 11).]
[Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 12).]
[Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals (No. 6).]
Mr. Speaker, Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 10, 11 and 12 and Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 6 which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1933- 1963 and give effect to the Government’s decisions following receipt of the Tariff Board Reports on -
Shrimps, Prawns, Shrimp meat and Prawn meat. Free entry is proposed for dictating machines and tape decks qualifying for admission under the British Preferential Tariff with a rate of 71 per cent, ad valorem for other importations. On tape recorders, the Most-Favoured-Nation rate has been reduced to 45 per cent, ad valorem, which the Board considers should provide adequate protection. On low density polyethylene the present ordinary and temporary duties have been replaced by new duties based on a Most.FavouredNation rate of 7d. per lb. and incorporating a sliding scale which will operate when the free on board price of imported low density polyethylene is lower than 17d. per lb. On shrimps and prawns a rate of ls. per lb. on imports from both British Preferential and MostFavouredNation sources is proposed in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The protection afforded by this rate is approximately at the level enjoyed by the industry prior to the removal of sales tax last August. The industry will be further reviewed by the Tariff Board in three years time.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 6 is complementary to Customs Tariff Proposals No. 12 and proposes a rate of 4d. per lb. on shrimps and prawns of New Zealand origin. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Reports on Items. Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson- Minister for Supply). - I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: - Dictating machines, tape recorders and tape decks. Polyethylene.
Shrimps, prawns, shrimp meat and prawn meat.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 1420).
.- The measure before the House is one of tremendous importance to the whole of the Commonwealth. I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), which followed the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). A very interesting comment was made by the honorable member for Banks in relation to the role of local government in the tasks of the construction and maintenance of our road system. The honorable member, I want to say at once, disclosed a great lack of knowledge on this very important matter. He said that no provision is made in. the measure for financial assistance to local government. How he could arrive at that conclusion escapes my comprehension because the import of the measure is to give to local government authorities a specific share of the funds that are available from petrol taxation under the proposed act.
It is stipulated that, of the revenue that will flow to the States, at least 40 per cent, must be expended on country roads. The States are unable to alter this provision. By this means tremendous assistance is given to local government bodies in the construction and maintenance of our road system. It could truly be said that in the last 20 years the gradual development of our road system - and its tremendous development in the last ten years - is attributable directly to this provision in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, which is to be renewed in the legislation before us. Local government authorities in every State will receive from this measure great benefits which are not obtainable in any other way. I think it is fair to say that if the Australian Labour Party - and particularly its New South Wales branch - had its way, we would not see the maintenance of the roads scheme.
When the State Premiers recently conferred with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in Canberra, proposals were put forward which varied widely from an acceptance of the principle of allocation of road funds which has operated for some years to a revolutionary proposal, put forward by the New South Wales representative, for a complete alteration of this scheme. The New South Wales representative said that the proposed alteration would result in assistance for country roads construction and maintenance of up to 75 per cent, of the funds. On analysis, that statement is found to be completely irresponsible. The New South Wales representative said that his State’s road finances were languishing and that it was unable to meet its responsibilities in that respect. However, the expenditure on country roads in New South Wales at present, through funds obtained from all sources, is about 80 per cent, of the total State expenditure on roads. Yet its representative came to Canberra and asked for an allocation of 75 per cent, of the funds for New South Wales country roads. In other words, if he had achieved his purpose, there would have been less money for country roads in New South Wales. In addition, had the proposed alteration been agreed to, the funds available to the other States would have been reduced.
A determined attempt has been made in recent months to alter a very successful system under which 40 per cent, of the funds made available by the Commonwealth are spent on country roads and the balance is spent on highways, city roads and the like. The system has proved itself year in and year out for the very good reason that in the last ten or eleven years the expenditure on country roads has risen from about £7,000,000 to an estimate of about £90,000.000 for the coming financial year. This is evidence of the success of the scheme which, I am proud to say, was proposed in this Parliament by a wellrecognized stalwart of the Australian Country Party, Sir Earle Page. The scheme has stood the test of time. At the recent conference in Canberra, when such a clamouring was heard for an alteration of the scheme, one who I think uses his words to great effect, said in describing the scene -
They were really climbing up the walls in their scramble to do something about this.
He pointed out the danger of getting too far up the wall because you either touch the ceiling, which is not very comfortable, or fall down again. The world around you is not very happy and neither are you if you get into that uncomfortable position. That is what has happened to certain States.
I want to refer to some of the comments made by the honorable member for Werriwa. Among other things he said that the ratepayers in the municipalities and shires were burdened. That is an understatement, if ever there was one. They certainly are burdened, but let us find out why they are burdened in this matter of road finances. Again I take the case of New South Wales. About five or six years ago the Commonwealth Government vacated the field of land taxation in a deliberate move to make way for local government to utilize that source of revenue. The New South Wales Government imposed land taxation at a considerable rate. Since that time the rate has increased each year until to-day the New South Wales Government’s annual income from land taxation is about £7,000,000. It is expected that this figure will rise to about £15,000,000, and not one penny of it is spent on the road system of the State. But this afternoon we heard the honorable member for Werriwa, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, say what a dreadful thing it is that the ratepayers are burdened and that the approach of the Commonwealth Government is unfair and unrealistic. I suggest that he should thoroughly examine the approach of members of his party to the road system of the Commonwealth. He should encourage them to think in positive terms rather than to think of shoving around the finances of the States and the Commonwealth in such a fashion as to avoid using the means at their disposal for an equitable scheme of road finance and an equitable distribution of the funds from petrol taxation and the logical expenditure of the finances from tax reimbursements which are available in part for our road system.
Local government bodies can be credited with doing a commendable job in the acceptance of responsibilities for our road system and in developing country and metropolitan areas. They have tackled the task of laying the foundations and clearing the way for the creation of the developmental sector of our road system. In the past the burden has fallen directly upon the ratepayers. The only worth-while relief that we have seen extended to ratepayers is that which flows from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, which this bill is designed to renew. The Government can be given tremendous credit for what it has done.
During the recent federal general election campaign, a promise was made that the total funds provided by the Commonwealth for roads over the next five-year period would be increased by £100,000,000. That represents a very large increase and a substantial contribution by the Commonwealth towards meeting the cost of our road system. When the conference that I mentioned earlier took place in Canberra, the Government went even further and added an additional £25.000.000 to be spread over the period. Of the total increase of £125,000,000, £45,000,000 is to be provided £1 for £1 with expenditure by the States over and above certain basic grants. Surely this is evidence of a most desirable approach.
The honorable member for Werriwa suggested that this proposal put the States on the spot and squeezed ratepayers. That is not the case at all. We are merely creating a situation in which responsibility for the provision of the funds required for our road system will be shared. We have been told that the States are the constructing authorities and that the Commonwealth is the financing authority. This is true only in part, lt certainly is not true in relation to the basic administration undertaken by local government, although it is true in relation to some of the administrative aspects of road authorities in the States.
When one looks closely at this measure one finds not only that funds are to be provided for road construction but also that provision is made for the States to spend a proportion of the funds on harbour works and the provision of mooring facilities for boats, which, of course, consume fuel that is subject to the petrol tax. This, 1 suppose, is proper, but it leads to State authorities passing over entirely to the Commonwealth financial responsibility for harbour works and mooring facilities at fishing ports. The States completely wipe their hands of responsibility for financing these requirements. In the light of this fact, surely it is timely that the Commonwealth require the
States to bear responsibility for financing part of the works that will be carried out with funds provided under the terms of (his measure. Therefore, I commend the Government on the requirement that the States match proportion of the funds to be made available by the Commonwealth.
The statistics that we have been given in this debate and those that we have read in recent weeks disclose a very interesting picture of road development, road usage and economics. We find that, over the next five years, there will be a staggering increase in motor vehicle registrations and in the ratio of road maintenance to total road costs. For this reason, the Commonwealth has proposed the establishment of an authority to investigate and report on the whole field of road construction and the assessment of the cost factors involved. This, too, is very desirable and represents a timely approach to the problem by the Commonwealth. Up to the present time, the decisions of the Commonwealth Government have had to be based on information made available by the States. The honorable member for Werriwa admitted - quite properly, too - that this was a fact, and went on to say that he believed that this was the basis of a national approach.
The honorable member went further and very strongly advocated unification of the Australian road system. He claimed that under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, Queensland was not receiving a fair share of the funds raised by the petrol tax. He stated that the road mileage in that State entitled it to a higher proportion of these funds. I remind him that, under a Labour Government of that State, there was a wholesale reclassification of Queensland’s road system under which many miles of roads that were represented by nothing more than illustrations on maps were classified as highways. This whole reclassification of roads was designed to gain for Queensland a greater proportion of Commonwealth aid road funds. But, when it came to the test and the question of where the money was to be spent had to be settled, the Labour Government of Queensland failed to accord the country road system the recognition that one would have expected. As a consequence, the authorities in that State have now to re-assess the classification of the various roads. We have heard once again from Opposition members this cry that something that should be done is not being done, but, when we get down to the basis of the matter, we find that the situation is not as they have represented it.
The real attitude of the Opposition was stated by the honorable member for Banks, who said that he disagreed with the proposals envisaged in this bill and stated quite clearly that he regarded it as unsatisfactory because it would give country areas an unfair advantage over the cities. I suggest that this National Parliament cannot afford to accept such views. We have a responsibility to give Australia the most efficient road system. Ours is one of the most extensive and expensive road systems in the world. If we are to do properly the job required we must ensure that the authorities charged with responsibility for country roads, which represent such a tremendous proportion of our total mileage of highways, main roads, trunk roads and by-ways, are given the financial means to discharge that responsibility. To a very large degree, this measure provides a solution to the problem, because it stipulates very clearly the proportion of funds that will go to country roads.
The total increase of £125,000,000 over five years will mean an additional £10,000 or £15,000 a year for the average shire council to supplement the funds from other sources already channelled to local authorities. As a consequence, in many instances, more money will be provided by the Commonwealth for the maintenance and construction of country roads than will be provided out of rates and other revenues raised by local government authorities. This is highly desirable. It represents the only way in which we can promote development and provide the roads needed to transport the rural products on which our national earning capacity so largely depends. The Government’s approach to road problems as demonstrated in this bill is highly commendable, especially when we think of the general dependence on our rural economy and the great need to promote development of our rural areas. Local government authorities in all States face a tremendous task that can be accomplished only if we provide the financial means to enable them to go ahead with the job of constructing and maintaining tar-sealed country roads wherever possible. Roads with untarred surfaces are uneconomic, prevent us from achieving proper standards of transport and will not bear the heavy use to which roads generally are subjected in these days.
I commend the Government on the stand it has taken on road problems in the face of tremendous pressure by the States to change the established system under which a definite proportion of Commonwealth aid road funds must be devoted to country roads. Country roads in every State present a problem. In recent years the number of motor vehicles registered has risen tremendously and in addition vehicles have been so improved that they are capable of carrying much heavier loads. Primary produce that formerly would have been carried by four or five vehicles can now be carried as a single load on one vehicle. This is good for the economy. It is a modern approach, but for it to be effective we must provide roads that are strong enough to accommodate this larger type of vehicle and roads that are able to withstand the speed of heavy vehicles. At the same time we must have roads that are suitable for the ordinary passenger vehicles.
This presents a very great problem for the construction authorities because, along with the engineering requirements, there is the need to have a fairly extensive system of maintenance constantly in operation. The maintenance of modern roads requires manpower and material and the finance to keep men and equipment constantly on the job. It is all very fine for us these days to drive down a nice stretch of bitumen road; but if we take the trouble to learn the detail of what is involved in providing this type of road we find that the cost of the original construction is considerable, sometimes reaching several thousand pounds a mile, and that year by year the maintenance cost per mile is also considerable. There is no alternative to this sort of care of roads by the constructing authorities.
In assessing the overall picture from the national point of view, we find that in recent times considerable difficulty has been caused by the different standards in each of the States and by the different cost factors used to estimate requirements. In the long run. we find a proposition coming to us at the national level which is very difficult indeed to translate into a practical assessment on which to determine the finance that should be provided. I want to advocate very strongly that when we deal with the other measure which will be coming before the House for the setting up of ?n authority to handle this problem, we provide very adequately for this requirement. Wc need to set up a central authority which will have at its disposal the proper engineering advice and the facilities to assess from a national point of view the road requirements of the future.
Of course, to do this job effectively we must think in terms of five or ten year periods. We are dealing with a bill that will renew the agreement with the States for five years. I think it is proper that we take periods of five years as the basis for our assessments, because very violent changes can take place in the whole transport system within a period of five years. If we were to look at the problem on the basis of a longer period, we could leave ourselves at a serious disadvantage. Of course, when we commence the task of an overall assessment we must of necessity tackle the problem on a very long range basis. That long range basis will, I trust, always take into account the fundamental provision that is embodied in this legislation. I refer to the provision that 40 per cent, of the allocation will be spent on country roads and the balance will be spent on highways and metropolitan roads.
In the debate thus far there has been reference to other forms of transport. I suppose it is proper for us to think in terms of the overall requirements of transport and communication when we deal with a measure of this kind. However, I would like to say that many of the references this afternoon by the honorable member for Werriwa to the cost factors in transport were highly misleading. He said that he felt it was wrong for the Commonwealth to subsidize air services in Australia to the extent of £13,000,000 a year while we did nothing about our railway system. That is a very poor approach to a national problem. Whatever we do with our road system must be complementary and related to the provision of modern air transport and modern rail transport. This is fundamental and in most States some regard has been paid to the relationship of these three forms of transport, together with water transport.
The whole reason for the provision of a standard gauge railway, which this Commonwealth initiated in recent years and for which this Commonwealth provided the funds, is to make it possible for a true relationship to grow up between road and rail transportation. Because of the cost of providing interstate highways that could meet the needs of road transport and the tremendous problem that this would create, it was found desirable to provide a standard gauge rail link between Sydney and Melbourne. The Commonwealth Government faced up to this task, and 1 hope the honorable member for Werriwa and other Opposition members will not overlook this aspect when next they turn their attention to the whole question of transport in this country.
I remind honorable members opposite that we would have been saved a great many of the problems we face to-day if they had not aided and’ abetted the loss of coastal shipping around this Commonwealth. The loss of coastal shipping has thrown on to the road and rail systems a tremendous burden that they should not have to bear.
– How did Labour do this?
– You should know.
– No, you said it; you tell us. Mr. ROBINSON.- Labour aided and abetted this loss because of its lack of decision when employees on the waterfront were making demands. The details are well known to every member of the Australian Labour Party. They should turn their attention to these matters on a national level if they seriously believe in the development of this country. Northern New South Wales is typical of areas that have suffered because of the loss of coastal shipping. The burden placed on the road and rail system as a consequence of the loss of coastal shipping has been tremendous. Not only has this resulted in a heavy increase of freight costs but it has also had a most disadvantageous effect on the economy of this region of New South Wales. Similarly, if we look at the situation in other States, we will find that those who seek to move timber, primary produce, livestock or anything else face a very great problem when they seek suitable shipping, although shipping would be a most satisfactory and economic means of transport for their products.
This measure is welcomed by local government. It is welcomed by practically every rural organization throughout the length and breadth of the nation. It is welcomed by those people who have a realistic approach to the development and expansion of the nation. It is welcomed by the road users who, instead of having to put up with gravel, corrugations and potholes have some hope of gaining a bitumen surface. It is particularly welcomed by the ratepayers, who can see some possibility of a stabilization of their contributions. I support the measure and I commend it.
.- Those honorable members, with the exception of the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson), who have taken part in the debate so far have travelled a pretty smooth road. The honorable member for Cowper made his road a little corrugated by the parochial attitude he adopted towards his State bit after he emerged from the bull dust and got on the black top again he enunciated the thoughts of the previous speakers on this bill and in some measure he enunciated the thoughts that I wish to express on it. I direct the attention of this authority on local government - I am referring to the honorable member for Cowper - to the fact that local government authorities depend for their funds on the charity of their States. I point out also that the councils may spend money only on projects which are approved by the State government. The honorable member for Cowper had the audacity to say that the ratepayers do not suffer as a result of this legislation. He said that in order to obtain the additional finance provided over and above the basic grants the councils must provide finance from their own resources. Where will that money come from? It will come from the ratepayers. The honorable member shows that he is totally unfitted to speak on matters of local government. I will not disagree that roads represent a national problem. Certainly this is a national problem, but before the honorable member is entitled to criticize anybody he must first become acquainted with his subject.
The bill deals with one of the greatest problems facing this country to-day. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has admitted that, lt is the problem of building, reconstructing and maintaining roads. In deference to the honorable member for Cowper I will not quarrel with the formula that the Government has applied in respect of the distribution of the grants to the States, as outlined in this measure, nor will 1 agree with it. I am of the opinion that the time has long since passed when the States and municipal councils can adequately face up to the task of meeting the requirements of mechanical transport. I firmly believe that only a federal roads authority, with power to determine the arterial road requirements of this country, and paying particular attention to our national needs, can really do the job facing us to-day. I know that the money being made available under this bill is desperately needed; but this bill will not solve the problems of man-power wastage and overlapping of technical ability and engineering skills that are so prevalent in the field of road construction.
Despite what I heard an honorable member say to-day, I ask: Where are we to get the labour to build the roads that we need? If you care to delve into this problem you will find that there is a good deal of overlapping of labour that could well be used in other places. Perhaps one of the worst features of road-making is the valuable equipment that is lying idle in one place when it is urgently needed in another. In your travels you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have probably seen valuable road-making equipment lying idle in many places. It is not uncommon for a council, shire or State authority to have valuable road-making equipment lying idle while other councils and shires are badly in need of it but do not have the finance necessary to purchase it. Looked at from the aspect of our roads problem this is indeed an alarming situation, but it is all the more alarming when we realize that the prices of road-making machines range from £10,000 to £25,000 each and that they cost between £10 and £20 an hour to operate. I will refer to matters of that kind in more detail later.
The move by the Government to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is a move in the right direction, although it is a very belated move. It will be interesting to see how the bureau intends to carry out its functions and what power the Government intends to confer on it. I hope that the research conducted by the bureau will have regard to the plight of local government authorities. No doubt every honorable member has received letters from municipalities in his electorate pointing to the traffic problems with which councils are faced. I am sure that nobody would deny the justice of the claims of local government authorities in this regard. The case made by the municipalities is clear-cut. They state -
The demand for roadway and traffic works within the municipality has changed dramatically during the last few years. Instead of the normal requirements for annual maintenance of our main thoroughfares and the development of private streets as and when required, we have been suddenly confronted with the necessity of completely reconstructing some roads to higher standards, of installing traffic signals and channelization schemes, of purchasing areas for offstreet parking and improving street lighting. We have been faced with the necessity of appointing staff to administer road traffic regulations and to police peak hour parking bans. e can see our own citizens driven away from local shopping centres to supermarket developments because of traffic congestion.
Yet we look ahead knowing that wi hin the next few years traffic volumes will double and then double again as our metropolis expands and our vehicle numbers increase.
In these things we can see a danger to our very existence - a danger to our community shopping centres, because pedestrians and fastmoving traffic will not mix; a danger to our children who vie for road space with endless streams of cars and trucks; a danger to our very economic existence in falling property values and rising costs.
Metropolitan councils believe this matter is so serious that they have joined in urging the Commonwealth Government to consider the provision of special assistance to allow the construction of a road system throughout the metropolis capable of meeting at least the most urgent demands of the future.
A task of this magnitude seems to be beyond even the combined resources of local authorities and State governments.
We, therefore, ask for your assistance as we seek a special allocation of funds in the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Act to meet the urgent needs of the capital cities and in pressing for an increase in the general level of funds to be made available for road works.
I agree with that demand. I am sure that the case put forward by the councils is a genuine one. I do not think they have been extravagant in their demand, lt may be said that the increase in traffic volume is unpredictable but the same cannot be said about revenue from rates. Rates represent the only pool in which the councils may fish to catch the revenue needed to meet the requirements of their respective cities. That pool is rapidly drying up. Already, as the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) said, many councils have reached their limits so far as revenue from rates is concerned. We must remember that apart from providing roads, councils must provide and maintain drainage facilities, parks and gardens, libraries, public health facilities, child welfare centres and kindergartens. Also, they must police weights and measures legislation and perform a number of other tasks. Those are just a few of the matters for which local government is responsible.
With the knowledge of the added responsibilities that have been thrust on the shoulders of councils in recent years, 1 say that it is beyond their capacity to meet the demands that the motor age has made upon them. As a consequence roads are falling into disrepair. Many of those roads are arterial roads. The plight of the municipalities alone demands national planning. Indeed, when the problems of the councils are added to the general State problem, the inadequacy of Australian highways is highlighted. An example of that inadequacy is the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney. The section between Sydney and Albury is particularly bad, but there are also some bad sections within Victoria. A stretch on the Albury side of Violet Town is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Australia. It is a black-top road, but it comes down a hill in a curve and goes over an open railway crossing, ft has claimed the lives of many people. The Country Roads Board in Victoria and the main roads authorities in the other States are doing a tremendous job in the face of great difficulties. In fact, death and destruction have been the reward that hundreds of people have reaped from the notorious highways of Australia. If the loss of those valuable lives and property is not a national responsibility, then I do not know where national responsibility begins and ends.
On the question of roads - particularly arterial roads - I believe that the Government has a defence responsibility. On one occasion I heard a Minister say in this chamber, “ Why lay down good roads for the enemy to use? “, or words to that effect. After seeing the great road systems of the United States of America, I can treat that remark as a classical example of the approach that this Government has made to roads and to the adverse economic effects that bad roads are having on Australia in general. Bad roads are costing this country about £300,000,000 each year. What I saw and heard in relation to a beef road in the Northern Territory left no doubt in my mind that the Government has no national plan for roads.
The Treasurer has informed the House that £375,000,000 will be made available to the States over the next five years. How far that money would go if it were expended on arterial roads alone can be gleaned from the fact that a six-lane expressway similar to Dandenong-road, on the outskirts of Melbourne, costs about £160,000 a mile to construct. If we add the cost of side roads, footpaths, plantations and drainage, that takes the cost up to about £260,000 a mile, which is precisely what that road cost to build. Strangely enough, the cost of roads built by municipalities works out at about the same figure. If we spread those costs over the six States and throw in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for good measure, we see how inadequate are the funds that are being made available for road construction, especially in view of the fact that 40 per cent, of the money provided will have to be spent on rural roads and that, apart from arterial roads, main roads and minor roads will have to be provided for, too.
I am informed that, because of the grave deterioration of roads other than arterial roads and the cost involved in bringing them up to a standard of safety, the programme of expressway construction in Australia will have to be slashed considerably. That information comes from the various States. For those reasons, I believe that the demands that motor vehicles are placing on the community are such that nothing short of a twenty-year plan is needed to solve the problem. Such a plan must take into consideration the total needs of the road systems of our cities. It should also envisage our population growth and the effect that large subdivided housing areas are having on our road plans and existing roads.
This matter is important because high costs are restricting the width of streets to the severe detriment of traffic. Because of these conditions, it has been found necessary to place interim development orders over streets and areas. Generally, that action is taken in densely developed areas where values are high. That makes the acquisition of the additional right of way very expensive. As the honorable member for Cowper explained, much of the money provided under this bill will find its way into those channels and not into bitumen, concrete, gravel or crushed rock to make highways.
In order to permit the scheduling of surveys, the preparation of plans and rightofway acquisitions well in advance of construction work, plans should be developed at least five years in advance and reviewed annually so that we always will be planning five years ahead and so that we can make the adjustments that may be required in the light of changing circumstances. The way finance is arranged to-day, it is impossible to do that. Such advance planning requires the full co-ordination of Commonwealth, State and local government authorities. Such planning will save this nation valuable time and money and will avoid the confusion that is manifest in respect of roads in Australia to-day.
It is evident, therefore, that relief for both present and future traffic needs can be obtained only by the provision of additional capacity. In the big cities, and also in the smaller cities, that means widening the main arterial roads, other roads and, to satisfy the Country Party, rural by-passes. These objects can be achieved only by forward planning, the provision of money and the co-ordinated efforts of Commonwealth, State and local government instrumentalities. I repeat that all cities should be able to develop, and to keep current, long-range master plans to achieve orderly and economic growth by zoning land for use by industry and commerce and for shopping, recreational, residential and highdensity housing purposes.
The implementation of a roads system for present and future traffic is vital to Australia’s economic welfare. Failure to provide these amenities will result in costly economic losses. Obsolete roads which are unable to accommodate the traffic adequately, are expensive to keep in service, to (he nation, the States and the municipalities. It is becoming increasingly urgent to have drawn up and put into effect a plan for a complete and modern network of principal highways throughout the Commonwealth. Those highways must be so located as to connect, by routes as direct as possible, the principal metropolitan areas, cities and industrial centres. The implementation of such a plan is the only answer to the defence needs of Australia. Automation is making the need more urgent.
The Treasurer, in the opening remarks of his second-reading speech, gave a fair indication of our problems. He referred to the number of vehicles per head in Australia, as compared with the figure for the United States. The comparison is interesting. Whilst it would be illogical to liken our traffic problems to those of the United States, after seeing the great road systems of that country I must say that our efforts to solve the problems of motor transport are indeed puny compared with American efforts. The Treasurer went on to say -
Roads, of course, are only one branch of Australian economic development. Governments must also provide rail, port and air facilities, housing, education, health, water and sewerage services, and power supplies, to mention only some of the more important. In considering what resources can be made available for roads it is necessary to keep in view these other competing demands as well as the still larger and more varied needs of the private sector of the economy for resources to encompass the growth of industry. Without doubt, however, the roads problem is one of the largest confronting Australian governments to-day and the Commonwealth is fully alive to its implications. . . .
I agree with those remarks. But I remind the Treasurer that the facilities that he mentioned are more or less co-ordinated domestic facilities. They do not suffer, as do the f arn ung, tortuous miles of roads in Australia which can be described as the forgotten rivers of life which are being drained of their worth year by year, wholly and solely because of the lack of coordinated planning and bold financial measures. This type of thinking is an indictment of the Government inasmuch as it shows that the Government recognizes the cause of the road problem and admits it is the worst problem confronting Australia to-day. It admits that this disease, as it were, is prevalent but does little to effect a permanent and lasting cure.
In conclusion, 1 hope that the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is not a stunt like the Committee of Transport Economic Research. I, for one, will wait anxiously to see the value of the work that will be done by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. If it is as ineffective as was the Committee of Transport Economic Research then it could only be regarded as a tragedy for Australia. I say again that the Commonwealth Government cannot evade its responsibility for a national road system, it is high time that all road-making resources were co-ordinated. Until this is done, the deplorable roads problem in Australia must persist. I conclude by saying that good roads do not cost; they pay.
.- The bill before the House, the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, is to replace the existing act which expires in July of this year. It has operated for five years and is to be replaced by a similar measure with modifications. A large sum of money is to be made available for road purposes. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) has dealt with the local government problem as it applies to roads but he said nothing about the money that has been spent on the road systems in Australia or about the money that is being spent on them now.
I remind the House that during the past ten years expenditure on the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges together with expenditure on roads by public authorities such as those concerned with housing, education, forestry, power, land settlement and water conservation, is estimated to be £1,500,000,000 at to-day’s values. I have referred to those figures in this way to direct the attention of the House to the magnitude of the work and also to remind the House that expenditure on roads is the largest single item of public works expenditure in the Australian economy. Therefore, judged by any set of facts and figures, this is one of the most important matters to come before the House.
The new proposal contained in the bill provides for an increase in the basic grant for roads to £330,000,000. An additional grant of £45,000,000 will bring the total distribution by the Commonwealth to the
Slates over five years to £375,000.000. In addition, the Commonwealth Government will spend a further £45,000,000 on specific road projects bringing the total to £420,000,000. The last £45,000,000 to which I referred is not covered by this bill. All this amounts to an increase of road grants in the next five years of over 60 per cent. This represents a great improvement on the 1959-64 act. I congratulate the Government upon its appreciation of the situation confronting us to-day concerning roads.
I turn now to some of the provisions of the bill. The portion of the bill to which I should like to refer briefly concerns one of the mandatory conditions of the grant. This is that the State Governments will be required to ensure that not less than 40 per cent, of the funds made available by the Commonwealth Government will be spent on roads in rural areas other than highways, main and trunk roads. Although this has been an accepted principle under several grants similar to that contained in the present proposal, it always appears to me to be unwise for the Commonwealth to endeavour to influence State policy on a matter so important as the building up of a road system in Australia by making it a must that the States will spend 40 per cent, of the roads grant on rural roads which are not main roads.
It would appear to me that as long as the present State grants method of financing roads is based on a formula unsupported by comprehensive statistics, the State authorities would be the best people to say where the whole of the money available should be spent. The result of the 40 per cent, requirement has been to cause improvements of little used rural roads at the expense of much used rural roads. In some of the smaller States, the problem of the metropolitan area could be much worse over the five-year period than the rural problem.
I understand that in New South Wales where a survey was recently conducted, there were 50 examples where roads already bitumen surfaced joined on to dusty gravel main roads. A shire president in New South Wales was reported as saying that it would not be long before the shire ran out of roads upon which it was economic to place bitumen. He added that the main roads in his shire were the worst in the State. The country main roads of the eastern States carry about 75 per cent, of all vehicle miles of rural travel and yet 40 per cent, of the federal money must be spent elsewhere.
I have before me a table showing the exact position in Australia concerning sealed roads and unsurfaced roads. Victoria is the State with the highest percentage of sealed roads in Australia. There are 21,000 miles of sealed roads in Victoria and that is 21 per cent, of all the sealed roads in the Commonwealth. With the exception of Tasmania, Victoria has the lowest percentage of unsurfaced roads in Australia. On the face of these facts, it would appear that the Victorian Government might well be the best authority to consider whether it should spend 40 per cent, of its grant on rural roads or on some other project which might eliminate some of the bottlenecks that are slowing up primary producers in getting their products to the best metropolitan market quickly and economically.
Another point worth considering when taking into account the 40 per cent, embargo is this: Western Australia has about 4 per cent, of its road mileage classified as main roads. In other States, the classifications are: New South Wales, 17 per cent.; Victoria and South Australia, 13 per cent. As a result, the 40 per cent. I have mentioned may not be spent in the eastern States on many roads on which it would be perfectly permissible to spend the money if they happened to be in Western Australia. It might well be in the interests of the rural population in some States to de-proclaim some existing rural main roads and by so doing bring about , their earlier improvement. That may seem absurd but in practice it would be a better method of complying with the legislation than allowing some roads to stand as they are.
I am very pleased that the Government has agreed to establish a national roads authority which I understand is to be called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. This is an indication that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to take a greater interest in roads in the future instead of being content merely to make grants to the States.
Generally speaking, up to the present, there has been a paucity of official statistics relating to roads. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, which is composed of representatives of the State main roads departments and of the Commonwealth, is a voluntary organization which has made itself responsible for the collation and distribution of statistics, but while its work in indicating the trend of future road requirements has been very valuable, much is still left to be desired. For example, there is no information relating to whether all funds that are allocated to the States have been spent, where they have been spent, and on which works they have been spent.
To the best of my knowledge the technical needs of the States have not been made known. It is to be hoped that the Government, through this proposed bureau, will conduct its own survey of needs. If it is unable to do that, I hope that it will engage some independent organization to obtain the facts. I understand that method is adopted in the United States of America and it could very well be employed in Australia. There is so much work to be done bv the Commonwealth to understand the problems posed by the immediate and increasing demands for road facilities that I hope the Government will take the course of action that I have suggested, or any other action which will expedite the obtaining of the real facts about the Australian roads system.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that the Government has accepted the principle that the whole of the petrol tax should be spent on roads. I believe that to be more of a coincidence than a principle. The Government has never accepted the principle that revenue obtained from one sector of the community should necessarily be spent on that sector. The Commonwealth has certain priorities in the expenditure of Consolidated Revenue to which it must adhere if any proper national development is to be achieved. I am sure that the House will agree with that. I have said on previous occasions in this House that if the taxes collected from road users were devoted to the construction and maintenance of roads the deficiency still would not be met. This is supported by statistics, particularly those presented by the State road authorities.
I know that arguments have been advanced that because the petrol tax in Australia is one of the lowest in the world we should jack it up to raise sufficient revenue to cover our immediate road requirements. I am one who is glad that the Government has not accepted those arguments despite the fact that they have been put forward by some of the principal authorities in the States. An increase in the price of fuel would be reflected in higher freight and other charges as well as in our industrial cost structure. This would create further difficulties for our export industries. Surely this is the last thing that we want to do at this time.
Having said that, what are the alternatives? lt is no good saying that we cannot use the funds obtained from certain taxes, particularly the petrol tax, without proposing some alternative. The alternative that springs to my mind is one to which I have referred in this House on a number of occasions - the raising, either at home or abroad, of special long-term loans. The benefits which future generations will obtain from an efficient roads system are as great as those which the present generation will obtain. Many national undertakings are already in operation to support the proposition that a loan could well be raised for specific purposes.
That takes me to the final stage of my remarks. If funds are to be raised for the development of our national roads system, the national government is the only body which can undertake that work. It is important that the Commonwealth should have a say in the disposition of the funds it provides, so the establishment of a national authority, such as the one which is envisaged by this bill - the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads - is absolutely imperative. We need an authority which will conduct the necessary research into our road and transport needs, which will plan our priorities and which will arrange for the distribution of the cost of maintaining roads between the States. I envisage a good deal of valuable work for the proposed bureau to perform. I trust that the Government will waste no time in bringing down the legislation providing for its creation. I believe that this bill is a good one and I trust that it will receive a very speedy passage through the Parliament.
.- The bill before the House is one in which the Australian population as a whole is very interested because by it the Commonwealth Government has indicated dearly how much money will be made available to the States from Commonwealth sources over the next five years for the construction and maintenance of roads. It is pleasing that the amount to be provided in the ensuing period is 50 per cent greater than that provided in the period which has just elapsed. This is very desirable because, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech, over the last ten years the number of vehicles on the Australian roads has increased from ,800,000 to 3,200,000. This increase has placed an added strain on our highway system.
There are various ways of raising funds for the construction of roads but the principal one seems to be that which resides in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, namely, the imposition of a petrol tax. As the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has said, it is a coincidence rather than a principle that by this legislation the Commonwealth will return to the States almost the total amount that it will collect by way of petrol tax. The States, not being the principal agents for raising funds for the construction and maintenance o’f roads, look to the Commonwealth Government for these funds which follow the passage of each piece of legislation relating to this matter. It is true that the States have various means of raising funds. One of the principal means is by way of the motor vehicle registration fees that they charge, but the major proportion of the funds that they receive come from the petrol tax which the Commonwealth collects and returns to the States.
We know that in March this year a conference was held in Canberra at which the Premiers submitted their requests for assistance and discussed the general matter of the provision of funds to meet the requirements of our roads system. There is no doubt that this poses a very pressing problem for the States, because with an increase in the number of vehicles using the roads and an increase in the tonnage that these vehicles can carry the demand for more and better roads is most insistent. We all know, of course, that the Commonwealth has no right to construct roads within State borders, except for defence purposes. The various main roads departments in the States have, over recent years, done very good work wilh the moneys that are made available to them by this Parliament for the construction of main roads.
With the demand for a higher standard of road construction and for greater safety, we see that main roads departments - I speak with knowledge particularly of Queensland and New South Wales - are abandoning very long stretches of road which have served the people for many years and are constructing roads of a higher standard to replace them. This, of course, makes for a higher degree of safety, particularly in the mountainous areas of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. A man like myself, who is completely unbiased and tolerant, admits freely that the Governments of each of those States - Governments of differing political colours - have done great work in recent times in raising the standard of roads. I refer particularly to the Cunningham highway, which passes through Cunningham’s Gap in southern Queensland and leads to New South Wales, where it becomes the New England highway. Wonderful work has been done on that highway to raise the degree of safety.
One must pay great tribute to the work of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads, which is constructing first-class bridges and building main roads to a very high standard, eliminating ugly corners and blind spots, reconstructing mountain roads, and generally improving the standard of highway construction to an amazing degree. I cannot speak with authority of what is happening in other States but I hope that what is happening in New South Wales is a pattern which they are following. I stress the point that I am completely unbiased. I am a Queenslander paying a tribute to what is happening in New South Wales. My political affiliations do not prompt me to make this observation.
– But you traverse the roads.
– I do that quite frequently. As the honorable member for Macquarie says, I am a user of those highways. I agree with the honorable member for Isaacs, a Government supporter who preceded me, on a point that he made in regard to a clause in this bill with which I am not altogether happy. I refer to the provision for the expenditure on rural roads of 40 per cent, of the total grant to the States. As one observer has it, this money is to be spent on minor rural roads. From the definition in the bill, we find that the term “ rural roads “ does not include a highway or a main road which runs through a rural area. As a Government supporter said a few minutes ago, some of the shires of New South Wales, in which this money is being made available to local authorities for minor rural road construction, are running out of minor rural roads on which to spend the money. The highways on which the money could be spent to greater advantage are not being improved because of the restriction which is in the bill before us and which has appeared for quite a number of years in previous legislation on this subject which has been initiated by this Government and passed by this Parliament.
I would not - I could not - decry the great efforts of the primary producers of this nation, who deserve every assistance possible in bringing their products in the most expeditious way to the markets, which are in the cities, so that these products will arrive in the freshest possible condition. But there is a tendency to overlook the importance of roads in metropolitan areas. The records show that as the number of vehicles throughout the nation increases, the increase in metropolitan areas is greater than the increase in country areas. Although local authorities in city areas receive no increase in revenue as a result of the increased number of motor vehicles passing through their areas, they do incur increased liability for road maintenance, reconstruction and other traffic engineering works. With every additional vehicle on city roads, an increased financial responsibility is placed on the municipality, but no increased revenue goes to it.
Some time ago there was a meeting of the Lord Mayors of Australian capital cities, who approached the Government with a request that more money be made available to them for road construction and improvement of the traffic flow. This Government has not seen fit to make any specific grant for that purpose. One can follow the line of reasoning that the Government is taking. It does not wish to intrude upon the rights of the States in relation to local authority activity, because the State Parliament is the author of the life of the municipality. All the powers that municipalities possess come from State Parliaments. But this Government is seised of the responsibility for seeing that local authorities, particularly in capital cities, do get some increase in moneys so that they may ameliorate this pressing problem. The Government is increasing materially the amount of money being made available for road construction, so the responsibility for deciding what amounts will be made available to capital cities to ease their problems will fall on the State governments themselves. As we know, the money being made available is to be increased by 50 per cent. Some of us say that it is not enough, and I agree. No matter how much was made available, it would not be enough. We could expend twice as much money as is being provided for road construction. The point is that moneys for road construction made available to the States are being increased by 50 per cent. The responsibility rests on the State governments to see that the money is channelled to the municipalities and councils in the capital cities, in order to provide greatly improved traffic facilities and roadways in the metropolitan areas.
I believe that ample money is made available for rural road construction. In many cases the condition of rural roads has been greatly improved, and now the worst roads, from the point of view of traffic jams, are in the metropolitan areas. The primary producer is concerned with the condition of roadways in the big cities because the delivery of his produce in a marketable condition depends on the swift movement of vehicles in the metropolitan areas. The movement of goods to the point of dispatch for export is also involved. One of the major problems facing local government authorities is that of overcoming the congestion resulting from the slowing down of the movement of traffic in the big cities.
I suppose each one of us has had something to do, from time to time, with problems of traffic congestion in the large cities. I come from the third largest city of the Commonwealth, Brisbane, and I know, having had a fair amount of experience of them, the problems facing that city. It has certain peculiarities, as has every other city. It is divided into almost two equal parts by a river. lt is a city of hills. Some of us are very proud of this, but it is the bugbear of the Brisbane City Council. The problem of moving traffic from one side of the river to the other is proving a nightmare to the Brisbane City Council. Traffic is being slowed more and more each day. The task of moving a vehicle from one point to another is. causing severe headaches, not only to the council but also to the business community. The time taken to move a vehicle from one point to another is increasing greatly. There is a need for more and more money to assist in solving this great problem.
The cost of roads in the country areas is not increasing at anything like the same rate as that of many other community services. This Parliament recently approved of a grant towards the construction of the Gordon River road in Tasmania. This will run through mountainous country in which there are many creeks and rivers to be crossed, and the cost per mile of that road will be £50,000. That is a high figure in itself, but we must remember that the construction of highways in the cities involves not merely the cost of the main roadway but also in many cases of underpasses and cloverleaf arrangements. The cost of a road incorporating these modern traffic engineering ideas runs, as the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) said a while ago, to as much as £250,000 a mile. This, of course, is beyond the capacity of many municipal authorities. I would suggest it is beyond the capacity of any of the councils in the capital cities.
It is for these reasons that the Lord Mayors approached the Commonwealth Government asking for increased assistance. I would say that their appeal has not fallen on deaf ears, because the amount of money that the States will receive has been increased, and the responsibility now falls on the State governments to channel this money in the right direction. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, a most progressive man and a brilliant town planner, has produced a scheme which will provide a satisfactory road system in the city, a system of ringroads surrounding the city. This will provide for rapid movement of traffic. He finds now that his scheme is being held up through lack of finance. There should be no real problem in this direct ion now, because the Queensland Government will have extra money and should make it available to the Brisbane City Council to implement the ring-road system for that progressive and growing city. The plans have been prepared and completed by the present Lord Mayor.
I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that of the amount of £7,882,000 to be made available each year to Queensland under this legislation, £3,152,000 must be spent on minor rural roads, leaving a balance of £4,730,000 for highways and metropolitan roads. But, in addition, the legislation before us provides that if a Stale government is prepared to spend, from its own resources, money on metropolitan or any other roadways, this Government will match that expenditure £1 for £1. So the encouragement is there for the State governments to spend more on metropolitan roadways. The money is made available, and they should not hold up the development of cities such as Brisbane and retard an ambitious programme for development such as the excellent system of roadways which has been announced by the progressive Brisbane City Council.
A great problem is created in Brisbane by the river. It is admitted by all who make any study of the position that it will be necessary in due course to construct a tunnel under the Brisbane River. The city is expanding towards the mouth of the river. Bridges are out of the question for two reasons. The first is the nature of the ground, which does not provide a solid foundation, and the second is that Brisbane is a port and shipping provides a major industry. The only way to provide for the movement of commercial vehicles from one side of the river to the other is to construct a tunnel, the cost of which has been estimated at £8,000,000. The various political parties in that city agree that a tunnel is not merely desirable but in fact essential, because it will remove the need for road users to travel many unnecessary miles. But an amount of £8,000,000 is completely beyond the resources of the Brisbane City Council. It is necessary to look to some other authority to make the money available. That authority is the Queensland Government.
It is no use decrying the efforts of the Commonwealth Government in the provision of money for roadways. As I said earlier, no matter how much is granted it will not be enough. But a big increase is available in the legislation before us. I fully expect, when this bill becomes operative at the commencement of July, to see a big improvement in road traffic movement in the big cities. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) referred to the research bureau that will be established in due course. Of course, that will be the subject of another bill. However, there is provision in this legislation for the States to embark on research into road construction. They should take advantage of this, because science must be invited to co-operate with road-constructing authorities to ensure that proper standards of road construction are employed and that there is no undue wastefulness in expenditure.
I have stated tha! money will be made available to the States for improvements to roads in the various cities, but I do not want my remarks to be interpreted as meaning that I think that all that could be done is being done. Enormous sums are needed to bring to a state of perfection the road systems of the various cities. Figures cited by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) indicate that to construct the modern type of freeway in the cities costs about £250,000 a mile. We must not baulk at this expenditure. By hesitating to face up to these jobs we are only adding to the cost of transportation, and we all know that roads are being used to a greater degree than ever to carry primary produce from the producing areas to the city and manufactured products between capital cities. The volume of traffic is increasing. When vehicles reach the city of their destination they create bottlenecks and real problems, so we should not baulk at this terrific task that is facing us. We have to accept the challenge. More and more money must be made available to the States which, in turn, must hand it on to the municipalities for the improvement of road conditions and traffic conditions in the large cities.
I will conclude my remarks by quoting from a statement made by Professor Buchanan of the Crowther Steering Group when he was in Australia recently. He was commenting on England’s traffic difficulties, and I think his comments apply to every city in Australia. He said -
It is impossible to spend any time on the study of the future of traffic in towns without at once being appalled by the magnitude of the emergency that is coming upon us and inspired by the challenge it presents. To refuse that challenge would be an act of defeatism.
I hope that all governments in Australia will accept that challenge, and that those to benefit will be the people of Australia.
.- I believe that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) made a very reasonable contribution to the debate. There were some gaps in it, and there have been occasions when he has done better. The Brisbane City Council, I understand, has a plan to provide for a city square that will cost some millions of pounds.
– It will cost £1,500,000.
– I do not know whether the honorable member supports the project to provide a city square, which will cause traffic congestion on the roads close to the square, but if a city council has £1,500,000 to spend at a time when it has great problems in financing construction and maintenance of metropolitan roads, surely that money should be spent on the roads and not on a city square. However, that is a matter for Brisbane. Perhaps I can refer to the matter of metropolitan roads a little later in my remarks.
I pay full tribute to the Government for bringing down this bill, which is progressive legislation. As we know, the States will receive £375,000,000 in Commonwealth aid for roads in the five years commencing 1st July next. This will include a matching grant of £45,000,000. It is interesting to compare this amount with the £250,000,000 made available in the period 1959-64. It should not be overlooked that in addition to the £375,000,000, the Commonwealth is also providing over the next few years an amount of £45,000,000 for special projects. I refer now, of course, to the beef roads and other road projects which have been determined as necessary to the national development. In effect, the total spending on roads contemplated over the next five years by the Commonwealth will not be £375,000,000 but a total of at least £420,000,000. I consider that to be a very liberal contribution to the road welfare of the States.
It is interesting to note - although 1 do not wish to bring politics into this to any great degree - that in the last full year of office of the Labour Government, 1948-49, the amount that that Government spent on Commonwealth road aid was only £9,000,000. This Government plans to spend £65,000,000 this year. I am merely drawing a comparison to show the uptodate thinking of the present Government. Australia is passing through a period of dramatic and great development. We are a country of very small population - about 11,200,000 - but we have great distances, so an adequate road network is very important. As an illustration of the broad pattern of road development, the statistics that have been compiled by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, in 1963, are particularly interesting and give some idea of the huge task ahead. The report shows a total of 544.386 miles of road. Of this total, the roads that have been butuminized or concreted represent 14 per cent.; roads with a gravel surface, 23 per cent.; roads that have been formed, 25 per cent.; and roads unformed, 38 per cent. The report reveals that of a total of 544,386 miles of road only 14 per cent, has a dustless surface. That gives us some idea of the gigantic task which lies before Australia in both the Federal sphere and State sphere in developing our road system to a point where we can regard it as being completely adequate.
I say, especially to our friends on the opposite benches, although there are not very many there, that it is important to appreciate that we live under a federal system. Most of the argument on bills which provide for a Commonwealth grant to the States seems to have as a basis of criticism by the Labour Opposition that the Commonwealth is not doing enough, is not spending enough, and should be doing all those things which the State governments are now doing. Honorable members opposite say that the total responsibility should rest with the Commonwealth. However, we cannot get away from the fact that under our Constitution, and in line with practice over many years, the responsibilities are divided between the Commonwealth and the States.
It is important to realize and to remember that the States have extensive organizations for the development of road systems. These organizations have been used to very good effect over the years. In my own State of New South Wales the Main Roads Board has done a particularly good job, particularly along the north coast of the State. 1 can remember when the north coast road was only a winding track which was unsealed and which had many dangerous curves and very poor bridges. That was not many years ago, but if any honorable member visits the area now he will find that a sealed highway runs from Sydney right through to Brisbane. The Main Roads Board must be given great credit for the work it has done.
It is well to remember that the first Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, which was introduced in 1926 by the Federal Government of the day, was brought in by an antiLabour government. That act represented the beginning of Commonwealth aid for roads as we know it. In 1931 only £2,000,000 was made available to the States for this purpose. Commonwealth grants have been made available for the construction, reconstruction, repair and maintenance of roads in general, but it is the responsibility of the State governments to undertake the planning, programming and designing, and to do the actual building, repairing and maintaining of the roads. So the States have a specific job to do. I envisage that the Commonwealth will continue to make grants of this type to the States well into the future and will leave it to the States to carry out their responsibilities. The States will be at perfect liberty to initiate road programmes. It is important to realize that the Commonwealth
Government has no desire whatever to invade State responsibility for roads.
Expenditure on roads must take its place in an order of priority of Commonwealth spending. There are many matters of national importance for which the Commonwealth must find finance. Almost every time that a bill requiring Commonwealth expenditure comes before this House we find the Opposition suggesting that more money should be spent on the particular matter under discussion. It is for the Government, acting on advice and making its own assessment of situations, to decide how much money should be spent in order to ensure an equitable apportionment over the whole area of expenditure which must be covered by the Federal Government. More than one-third of the total amount spent annually on roads, streets and bridges is provided by the Commonwealth Government. We know that there is a need to increase spending on these items if we have the money available, but we must be rational and realize that money is also needed for other purposes.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the amount of money which it has been suggested should be spent on roads in order to bring about a situation of road adequacy. It is quite obvious that you can go on talking in terms of how much can be spent to an unlimited degree. As a matter of fact, the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities estimates that there will be a deficiency of spending, short of the amount required to obtain a situation of road adequacy in the period 1964-74, of £1,165,000,000, which is a substantial amount of money. We must ask ourselves: Where will this money come from? Honorable members on the Opposition side have their own ideas as to where the Government should get this money, but they have to bear in mind that if we take more money from our Commonwealth coffers in order to meet this deficiency, then we have to take the money away from the welfare fund, the defence fund or some other vital source of national expenditure.
This Government in matters of money spending takes a balanced view and weighs one spending against another. That is the only way in which a well balanced govern ment of this character can possibly ensure that there is development on an economic basis of this wonderful Australia of ours.
It is very interesting to note the growth of motor vehicle usage. In 1964, with a population of some 11,200,000 people, there are registered approximately 3,800,000 vehicles, which cover 26,500,000,000 vehicular miles a year, and there is one vehicle for every three persons. It is estimated, however, that by 1974 the population will have increased to 13,600,000; there will then be a total of 5,900,000 vehicles which will cover 50,000,000,000 vehicular miles a year; and there will be one vehicle for every 2.4 persons. Those are very dramatic figures. They certainly call for consideration when we think of what should be our road programme for the next few years.
This increased vehicular usage brings problems It is well to remember, when we talk in terms of problems relating to roads, that Australia is the fourth most motorized nation in the world, behind only the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. So, in consequence, it will be appreciated that a very heavy burden is placed on the demand for an adequate road system. Also, we have to bear in mind what this tremendous increase in road usage must mean in respect of the road accident toll. I have here a letter - and I understand that all honorable members have a similar document - from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, in which he says -
Metropolitan councils at present bear the brunt of metropolitan road construction and maintenance costs. However in recent years there has been an explosion in the numbers of vehicles coming on to the roads. This, coupled with the tremendous expansion of urban areas, has created a demand for new road facilities which is far beyond the resources of local councils.
I would say that that reference illustrates a true factor in respect of the metropolitan road situation. As I am a city dweller in Sydney, and also have had some experience as an alderman of the Sydney City Council, I appreciate the dilemma in which the Lord Mayor of Sydney, and the lord mayors of the other States, find themselves in promoting a road programme appropriate to a big city. The lord mayors made representations, which contained wellreasoned submissions, to the Commonwealth Government. I do not think we can dispute the facts which were included in the representations. What is more, the representations were made by very sincere men - the lord mayors of our capital cities.
Other factors must also be taken into account in respect of the submissions made. In 1955, 49 per cent, of the new vehicles registered in that year were registered in the capital city areas. In 1962 the number of vehicles registered in the capital city areas had increased to 57 per cent. Again, we have to take into account the development of our secondary industry which, in the main, is centered on our capital cities. This fact is playing a rapidly increasing part in road usage in our city areas. The position is becoming increasingly serious in Sydney. I recall only last Monday night, when it was raining in Sydney, walking down Pitt-street and seeing a long line of buses, bumper to bumper, crawling up Pitt-street. It was quite obvious that considerable inconvenience was being caused to the bus commuters.
It is understandable that eventually the traffic will choke all reasonable movement in a city like Sydney. But the lord mayors are looking to the Commonwealth Government to provide more money in order to extricate themselves from this situation in which they now find themselves. As I said before, it is unreal to think that the Commonwealth Government can provide more money. It is the State Government that has to promote whatever road programme is designed to bring about relief in the traffic problem in a city such as Sydney.
A great problem which we face in Sydney to-day is the fact that we have an inefficient public transport service in the form of our buses. It is a transport service which holds the public to ransom when the drivers and conductors go on strike. When that happens the bus commuters have to find alternative means of transport into the city. What confidence can people have in a bus service such as that? I have heard it said that the Sydney bus service at the best is an indifferent service; at the worst it is very bad. When people think in these terms it can be appreciated that the Sydney bus service is not regarded as a very good one.
Because people cannot depend on the scheduled times which, in any case, do not correspond with the times at which people wish to travel, they are driving their own vehicles into town and to their work, and the city roads are being congested by private cars. If one cares to take a ride over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the morning peak period, between half-past seven and half-past eight, one will sec cars bumper to bumper, a large majority of which will have the driver as the sole occupant. We see a situation which is becoming chaotic. It is not a transport service in which the people can express confidence and use that service to the fullest extent. Sometimes there is no bus service at all because of strike action by the drivers and conductors.
– Do you suggest that the buses should be sold to private enterprise?
– I am pleased that the honorable member has mentioned that point, because it is true and is within my own experience that some years ago, on the north side of the harbour, we had a service supplied by the blue buses which were conducted by private enterprise. They provided a very good service, but the State Government decided that private enterprise should not provide the people wilh such a service. It was decided to transfer it to public enterprise. To use a colloquialism, the New South Wales Government wiped out the private enterprise bus service and introduced throughout Sydney the bus service about which I am now complaining. So the people are more and’ more using their own cars to get to work and into the city rather than using public transport. This is a shocking indictment of the Sydney bus service.
It is interesting to note that a bus has a passenger carrying capacity equal to that of 30 motor cars; in other words, every bus if used to capacity, can do the work of 30 motor cars. It is also interesting to note that it has been estimated that congestion in the Sydney metropolitan streets raises the running costs of motor lorries by 6d. a minute above their normal running costs. I believe that consideration could and should be given by the New South Wales Government to alternative public transport systems. It is my sincere belief that closer consideration should be given to the extension of the underground rail system, first to Palm Beach, north of Sydney, in the electorate of my very worthy friend, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and most definitely to the eastern suburbs. Much greater use should be made of the famous Sydney Harbour waterways by increased utilization, as far as is practicable, of the ferries. The ferries would carry many more people were it not for the very limited parking areas for private motor cars close to the ferry wharfs. If more parking facilities were available close to the ferry wharfs, more people would take the ferries and thus reduce the congestion on the metropolitan roads and on the roadway across the Harbour Bridge.
I appreciate that the New South Wales Government will take no notice of my advocacy. After all, it is a Labour government, and Labour governments do not take much notice of what Commonwealth Government supporters say here. In addition to advocating that the New South Wales Government should give greater consideration to the provision of parking areas adjacent to ferry wharfs, I believe that greater consideration should also be given to the provision of parking areas at railway stations to avoid the necessity for people to drive their cars to the city.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the legislation before the House relates to roads.
– I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. I am concerned al the congestion in the Sydney streets, and that is the point of the letter to which I have referred. It seeks more money from the Commonwealth Government. The Lord Mayor of Sydney and others in positions of influence should persuade the New South Wales Government to provide alternative means of transport to reduce Sydney’s traffic congestion.
I mentioned previously that I have been an alderman of the Sydney City Council. In this capacity, a few years ago, 1 said publicly that the Sydney traffic authorities did not appear to have a master plan on which to base the pattern of Sydney’s road system. One reason for this lack is the absence of liaison between the five instrumentalities concerned and their failure to discuss traffic problems and to draw up a plan to cope with them. I refer to the State Government, the Sydney City Council, the Main Roads Board, the Maritime Services Board and last but by no means least, the Cumberland County Council. There has been a lack of clear thinking in handling the traffic problems in the metropolitan area of Sydney and a failure to provide a road pattern. During my time as an alderman it was estimated that the construction cost of an expressway, including compensation for resumption of properties and such costs, was £3,000,000 a mile. 1 understand that the cost has risen to about £4,000,000 a mile. The longer the delay in constructing expressways the greater will be the cost, not only to the people of Sydney, but to the Australian people generally.
It appears to be essential that another bridge across the harbour should be constructed; but that is another matter. Various authorities have said that a new formula should be drawn up for the allocation of Commonwealth road grants to the States. One gentleman from New South Wales said that the area factor should be eliminated from the formula. That would be very unfair to the people of Queensland and Western Australia, and I suggest that the proposition should be ruled out of consideration. A suggestion was made that the allocations should be increased to meet the additional costs incurred through the developing road pattern. It was suggested that the petrol tax of 1 Hd. a gallon should be increased by 3d. a gallon. If this suggestion were adopted it would mean soaking the motorists. It would be a sectional imposition and would be unfair to motorics. I do not think that the suggestion would be acclaimed by the Australian people, particularly when it is realized that the whole community shares the benefits of the roads and not just the motorists. Yet another suggestion - I think it came from a Labour supporter - is that all the proceeds of the petrol tax should be spent on the roads. I thought I would hear a chorus of “ Hear, hear “ from the Opposition at that suggestion, but it has been received in silence.
It is interesting and important to note that the petrol tax was introduced in 1902 as a revenue tax. Since that time it has been mainly a revenue tax. The argument may be advanced - I think I once heard it advanced by one of my colleagues - ‘that because there is an excise duty on beer, the revenue thus raised should be spent on hotels and on the liquor industry. Of course, that would be too ridiculous for words. The funds raised by the petrol tax go into Consolidated Revenue and are used to maintain the national economy. I have great pleasure in supporting the bill which provides for the spending of a further £375,000,000 over the next five years.
.- We have had an opportunity during this debate to listen to quite a number of honorable members voicing opinions which have been based upon experience gained in local government. As one who has served an apprenticeship in local government, I should like to join those honorable members. I should like also to join issue with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle). That he should decry public transport and should refer to the way in which the standard of public transport has slipped since it came under the control of councils was not unexpected. The honorable member was a member of the Sydney City Council. I leave the matter there. Early in his speech the honorable member referred to the city square which is to be built in Brisbane at a cost of £1,500,000. To be fair to him, he did not actually say that that sum of money should be spent on roads around Brisbane.
– I said that the money would be spent on the square.
– That is quite true. The reason why it is being so spent is that it is revenue from parking meters. Such money can be used only to provide off-street parking facilities. The construction of a city square in Brisbane had been advocated not only by the present Labour City Council but also by previous councils. It had been talked about for years, but we had to wait until Brisbane had a Labour City Council under a dynamic Labour Lord Mayor, Clem Jones, for the plan to be brought to reality. The money that is to be spent on the city square could not be spent to provide one square foot of road either outside or within the city of Brisbane. It must be spent on the provision of offstreet parking areas. Off-street parking will be provided underneath the city square. If my friends opposite ask the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns), he will tell them that that is so.
The bill is designed to continue the system of Commonwealth aid to the States for road purposes, and to increase the allocation as from 1st July next. It is pleasing to note that the proposals contained in the bill will be implemented at an early date. Therefore, the local authorities, the State Governments, and other people who will benefit from this aid will be able to use the money to the best advantage. They will not be left in suspense as are intending home purchasers who do not know whether they will qualify for the Government’s housing subsidy. I mention that only in passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The amount of money that is to be made available to the States will be greater than that allocated over the current period of five years, and it will be distributed on a percentage basis. In addition to the basic grants, further sums will be payable to the States on the basis of £1 for every £1 allocated by the State Governments from their own resources.
As a ratepayer and a member of local government, I am left wondering at the following statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) during his second-reading speech: -
What total sum will be provided by State Governments and their municipal and local authorities for roads in the five-year period ahead cannot be estimated at all precisely. It can, however, be said that if in total these authorities also increase their expenditures on roads by SO per cent., as we are proposing to do, total roads expenditure over the next five years will be well above £1,100,000,000.
It is generally estimated that the deficiency between the cost of what needs to be done to provide adequate roads and the revenues that will be available for the period from 1969 to 1974 will be £734,000,000. The honorable member for Warringah compared what was being done in 1947 with what is being done to-day. The vehicles which used the roads in 1947 did not carry the loads that are carried today. In 1947 we did not have the fastmoving traffic that we have to-day. Roads generally, but particularly highways, need to be much better consolidated than they did in 1947.
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities has stated that whereas to-day 3,500,000 vehicles are using our highways, it is estimated that in tcn years time there will be 6,000,000 vehicles on the road. We do not know exactly what is ahead of us. No matter how intently we look into the future, we are unable to assess our requirements for the next twenty years, or even the next ten years. We do not even know whether we will be travelling by motor car at that stage in the future. Reference has been made in this chamber to the use of hovercraft. My friend the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) has told me that that subject is best left alone. Monorail systems are being used in the large cities of Europe and in Japan. If one spoke to people 40 years ago about the use of motor cars, they would have ridiculed the idea of the horse and buggy going out of use. But now we ‘ seldom see a horsedrawn vehicle on our roads. Whilst we are unable to forecast the amount of traffic that will be using our roads in ten years time, we must make some estimate. As I said earlier, it has been estimated that in ten years time almost twice as many vehicles will be using our roads as are using them to-day. Ten years ago an 8-ton load was regarded as being a heavy load, but nowadays vehicles are carrying loads of from 1 8 to 20 tons and are cutting our roads about. The use of our roads by such vehicles is posing a problem for local authorities. I refer particularly to the use of our roads by interstate hauliers who are not contributing to the cost incurred by the State authorities or local authorities.
If the State Governments or the local authorities are to allocate additional funds for roads, how are they to raise that money? An increasing number of interstate transports are travelling to various States. We know that, even though they might contribute to the revenues of one State, they are not contributing to the revenues of all the States in which they are operating. Certainly they are not contributing to the local authorities whose roads they are using. Therefore it becomes a federal matter. It is pleasing to note that the Commonwealth has seen fit to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. We hope that this bureau will operate like similar bodies in the United States of America and Germany. The Commonwealth is the only body with the power to tax road users and so make them pay for the roads. The Commonwealth in turn is able to make the money raised in this way available to the States. The local authorities would then depend on the generosity of the State Governments - the type of government would be important - for the money they needed to carry out various works.
There are only two ways that the local authorities can obtain the money they will need if they are to double their allocations to road building. The first is to raise the money from revenue by a straight-out increase of rates. The second is to raise loans over periods of ten, fifteen or twenty years. However, we should remember that the Commonwealth pays interest at the rate of about 3.7 per cent, on its loans and the local authorities pay interest at the rate of 5.6 per cent.
Another factor to be taken into account is that Commonwealth departments do not pay rates on their buildings. I am referring now to the cities rather than the shires, but this occurs in provincial cities as well as in capital cities. If the Commonwealth paid rates on its buildings, the local authorities would receive more finance from this source than they receive in grants for roads. Some Commonwealth departments make an ex gratia payment to the local authorities. I think I should mention these departments because their contributions are helping the local authorities to provide roads and other services. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia always makes an ex gratia payment. The Department of the Army sometimes makes such a payment for buildings used as barracks, and so on. The Department of Civil Aviation also makes an ex gratia payment. The Post Office and the other Commonwealth departments make no contribution at all to the local authorities for the land on which their buildings are erected. Most of these departments occupy land in prominent areas where values are high. No matter what assistance the local authorities receive as a result of this bill, 1 am sure it will not recompense them for the loss they suffer because the Commonwealth does not pay rates on the buildings it occupies in the cities.
The Treasurer mentioned that part of the money being made available in this hill could be used for research. This is very important. Research is necessary to develop roads that will stand up to present-day traffic. The Department of Main Roads in Queensland - I can speak only of Queensland - is carrying out research and offers its services to the local authorities. It is devising methods of stabilizing soils that vary from the black soils in Maranoa to the light clays of the wallum. Some of the soils have no substance in them and are virtually without bottom. Our Centurion tanks were bogged in such soils. The Department of Main Roads pays a subsidy to the local authorities to help them carry out research into the types of roads that can be built over the various soils. The work that is being done is very good, but we need much more of it. In the electorate of Wide Bay, I have seen roads subside after they have been built up. This may have been the result of inexperience, insufficient care or insufficient investigation of the type of soil on which the roads were to be built. Now that the roads are carrying greater loads, we need more research into methods of consolidating the soils.
Some of the money provided by the Commonwealth for roads purposes is made available through the States to the local authorities for work around the waterfront. I think the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) mentioned this work. The coastal area of the electorate of Wide Bay, which is sheltered by Fraser Island, provides good fishing and the local authorities have built boat loading ramps there. People are able to launch their boats from their trailers, have their day’s fishing and be back in town before dark. This work, to a large extent, is being financed from the money made available by the Commonwealth for roads.
The local authorities appreciate all that is being done to help them. I have spoken to my colleagues from other States about these matters and it would seem to me that the States have various ways of allocating the money to the local authorities. Some States are a bit more careful than others are. However, we are pleased that action is being taken in this measure to help the States. We are pleased to see that 40 per cent, of the money made available will be spent on rural roads. The Treasurer pointed out, however, that only 15 per cent, of the total road expenditure in Australia is being devoted to rural roads.
Different methods of road construction are used and I believe that we should lay down standards. The House will later consider a measure to set up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The Commonwealth should, through this bureau, take more interest in the types of roads that are being constructed and the places in which they are being constructed. I think it is generally agreed that the only road that will last is a sealed road, lt is a permanent job, and maintenance is reduced to a minimum. The money saved on maintenance can be used for other purposes. However, if the local authorities, with their meagre funds, are left to carry out the surfacing of these roads, they will be able to do only a little each year. It is estimated that the cost of constructing a sixteen foot strip of bitumen road in Queensland is £40,000 a mile. The cost varies in different places according to the nature of the country on which the road is being built. The local authorities are able to build only a certain amount each year out of the money they receive from the main roads allocation, the Commonwealth aid roads funds and revenue.
Roads are necessary for our defence and the development of the nation. The Government has recognized this in accepting responsibility for the construction of beef roads, but I do not think it is going far enough. People in the Northern Territory and the north-west of Queensland have criticized the construction of beef roads. Often when they are left unsealed, they are washed away in the rains. In the dry season, the dust has to be washed from bullocks being carried in road trains at each stopping place. Bullocks being carried in trailers that are hauled behind road trains almost suffocate in the dust if they travel for any distance. It is necessary for these roads to be sealed, irrespective of the cost. After all, the first cost is the last cost with these roads.
I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. The Labour Party advocated in the past that all of the money received from the petrol tax be devoted to road construction. I do not quite follow the suggestion that if we spend the whole of this money on roads, we should spend the money raised from the duty on beer in a similar way. I am not quite sure where we should spend this money.
– It is the same principle.
– No, it is not the same principle by any means. The Labour Party has advocated that all the money from the petrol tax be spent on roads and all of the automobile associations throughout Australia have made the same suggestion. I do not think the bill goes quite far enough. We hope that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, when it is established, will do much to solve our national roads problem and break the financial backlog that exists. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities estimates that in the ten years from 1964 to 1974 Australia will need to spend on its roads £3,179,000,000, based on present money values. Allowing £436,000,000 for increased costs in that period, the total will be £3,615,000,000. This body also estimates that for the same period the revenue available for roads under the formula will be £2,450,000,000, leaving a deficit of £1,165,000,000. So we look forward to such benefits as will come from the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Shaw) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
It is once again my privilege to introduce into the House of Representatives a number of proposals for the development and strengthening of the national health scheme. The bill includes amendments to several parts of the National Health Act. First, it provides for substantial increases in Commonwealth medical benefits to all contributors to registered medical benefits funds. Secondly, it provides that arrangements for reducing or rebating the 5s. pharmaceutical benefits fee are to be limited to persons who are already entitled to reduced charges or to rebates. Finally, it includes several amendments of a machinery nature which are being made to improve the working of the scheme. I will deal first with the proposed increases in medical benefits, and to assist honorable members to appreciate the background to these proposals I will begin by referring to some of the more important earlier developments in the history of the medical benefits scheme.
Commonwealth medical benefits first became payable to members of registered medical benefits funds in July, 1953, and in the first year of the scheme Commonwealth and fund benefits totalling £2,900,000 were paid in respect of 3,300,000 medical services. In the tenth year of the scheme - that is, the year ended 30th June, 1963 - Commonwealth and fund benefits, including ancillary benefits, amounting to £28,300,000 were paid in respect of 23,400,000 medical services. In these first ten years of the scheme the number of persons covered by the scheme increased from 1,425,000 to 7,686,000. These figures do not include persons who do not insure because they are covered by the pensioner medical service, repatriation medical services and other forms of Government assistance. I give these figures because they represent proof of the strong public support for the voluntary insurance scheme which this Government initiated and has fostered. This public support is a matter of very great satisfaction to the Government. It vindicates the view we have always held that a voluntary insurance scheme based on self-help is the most appropriate to Australian needs and way of life. This is because the scheme combines an assurance of every citizen’s freedom to choose his own doctor with effective protection against financial hardship when illness occurs. We believe that this freedom and protection are well worth preserving. At the same time we recognize the need for adjustments to be made when changes in conditions require them. It is because we believe the time has come to make some adjustments that we have brought forward this bill.
The problem which has caused us the greatest concern is the margin between doctors’ charges for medical services and the benefits payable under the scheme. I propose to go into some detail to explain why this presents a problem as well as how it is proposed to meet it. The percentage return of medical benefits to doctors’ fees depends on two factors, namely the amount of the fee and the amount of the combined Commonwealth and medical fund benefit. The Government has not the power to fix. doctors’ fees by compulsion, nor has it any intention of seeking that power. We believe in the people’s freedom of choice to select their own doctors and the doctors’ freedom to charge the fees that they consider appropriate for their patients. This means in practice that doctors’ fees for particular services will vary as between patients according to the circumstances. On the other hand, it is absolutely essential to the financial soundness of a medical insurance scheme that a specific amount of benefit is pre-determined for each particular service. A medical insurance scheme which paid by way of benefit a fixed proportion of variable fees could not survive financially without repeated increases in the rates of contributions from the members themselves or in the Government subsidy.
For this reason the Government will not and cannot give an undertaking that patients will invariably receive benefits equalling 90 per cent, or any other percentage of fees charged by every doctor. It is a condition of the registration of medical benefits insurance funds that the total benefits - Commonwealth plus fund - that are paid to contributors are not to exceed 90 per cent, of the doctor’s charge. This condition is made to ensure that patients are personally responsible for a proportion of doctors’ charges and it serves to discourage unnecessary use of the scheme. But it does not and cannot mean that 90 per cent, of the doctor’s charge will be paid as benefits in every case. The Government has, however, taken a number of steps which will result in a substantial improvement in the benefits payable to contributors. The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) first of all had some detailed discussions with the Australian Medical Association regarding a number of anomalies in the medical benefits schedule that had developed over the years and which the association’s own examination had revealed. As a result of these discussions a wide measure of agreement was reached with the association regarding the amendments that were required to the schedule in this connexion.
The Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association has also kept the Minister for Health informed of the progress it has made in its discussions with the State branches regarding the stabilization of doctors’ fees, the principle of which was accepted by the federal council some months ago. The position in this regard is that the Australian Medical Association has no legal power to require its members to maintain any particular level of fees. However, the federal president of the association has advised the Minister that, after consultation with the association’s branches, stabilization of fees has virtually been implemented throughout Australia and that no recommendation to increase fees would be sponsored by the association as a result of increases in benefits under the National Health Act.
Following these discussions and a most detailed examination of the medical benefits schedule by officers of the Department of Health, a new schedule of Commonwealth benefits has been drawn up in which the benefits generally have been substantially increased. The general pattern is to increase Commonwealth benefits by 33i per cent. In a number of instances because of alterations to benefits to adjust anomalies, the increase will be greater than 33-) per cent. For example, an increase is being made from 15s. to £1 10s. on the Commonwealth benefit for X-ray of foot, ankle and lower leg; an increase from £11 5s. to £20 for removal of the thyroid gland and an increase from £11 5s. to £30 in item 1401 of the schedule, which is a major operation on the hip joint.
These new Commonwealth benefits will in many instances be greater than the usual fund benefits and I am satisfied that, when added to the fund benefits, they will give contributors a satisfactory return on the charges most commonly made by doctors for medical procedures. I must emphasize, however, that I am referring to a satisfactory return on the charges most commonly made. I will give some examples to illustrate this point and some of the earlier points I have been making.
In a recent survey by the Department of Health covering some hundreds of thousands of medical services that were the subject of medical benefit claims, it was found that the most common fees throughout the Commonwealth for confinements, including ante-natal and post-natal care, were £15 15s., £16 16s., and £14 14s., in that order. The revision of Commonwealth benefits included in this bill will enable contributors to receive benefits equal to the maximum amount of 90 per cent of the doctor’s fee if they are charged £16 16s. or less for this service. Of course, if they are charged higher fees their percentage return will be correspondingly lower. For example, if they are charged £21 their percentage return will be 71 per cent; if they are charged £30 their percentage return will be 50 per cent. But I repeat that contributors who are charged the most common fee for this service will receive benefits equal to 90 per cent, of that fee.
The survey also disclosed that the most common fee charged throughout the Commonwealth for appendicectomy is £26 5s. The new Commonwealth benefit for this service will be £10 which, when added to the fund benefits generally payable of £12 10s., will give a total benefit of £22 10s. or 85 per cent, of the most common fee.
There are over 1,000 separate medical procedures specified in the medical benefits schedule and it is obviously impracticable for me to go through each and every one of the details which were considered in fixing the new scale of benefits. I do wish to emphasise, however, that the principle which has been followed is to determine the Commonwealth benefit which, with the addition of fund benefit, will provide a reasonable return to contributors on the charges commonly made by doctors.
There is special interest in the benefits payable for consultations with specialists and general practitioners and I will therefore outline what benefits will be payable in these cases. It has always been provided that the benefit payable for a consultation with a specialist to whom a patient has been referred by another doctor is higher than the benefit for a consultation when the patient has not been so referred. This recognizes the traditional practice within the medical profession whereby medical practitioners, where they consider it necessary refer their patients to a colleague who possesses special skill and experience in a particular field of medicine. An extensive survey has been made to determine what fees have been most commonly charged for first consultations in these cases. It was found that the most common fee was £3 3s. and that the next most common fee was £4 4s. A fee of £3 3s. or less was charged in slightly over 50 per cent, of the cases. The new Commonwealth benefit for this service will be £1 5s. which, with the addition of the usual fund benefit of £1 13s., will give a new total benefit of £2 18s. This will represent a return of 90 per cent, to the contributor who is charged £3 3s. by the specialist and 69 per cent, when the specialist’s charge is £4 4s. Where fees of more than £4 4s. are charged, the percentage return to the contributor will, of course, be lower, but this arises from the fact, as I have explained, that the Commonwealth benefit has been determined on the basis of the most common fee charged. The figures I have quoted apply to first consultations with specialists to whom the patient has been referred by another doctor. Separate benefits are specified in relation to consultations after the first.
For consultations with genera] practitioners the fees charged vary, first of all as between States and secondly, according to whether the consultation takes place at the doctor’s surgery or at the patient’s home. The majority of consultations take place at doctors’ surgeries, only about one quarter involving home visits. Because of the variations in fees, and having regard to the principles which have been followed, it is not practicable to fix a Commonwealth benefit which will result in patients receiving an equal percentage return in all cases. The new Commonwealth benefit for a consultation with a general practitioner will be 8s. compared with the present benefit of 6s. The new total benefit for these consultations will be 1 8s. in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, but will be 15s. 6d. in Victoria where the medical benefits insurance funds operate slightly lower tables. In South Australia the usual total benefit will be 15s. 6d. for a surgery consultation and 17s. for a home visit. The most common fees for surgery consultations are £1 in South Australia, £1 ls. in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and £1 5s. in New South Wales and Tasmania. The most common fees for home visits are £1 7s. 6d. in South Australia, £1 10s. in Western Australia, £1 lis. 6d. in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania and £1 12s. 6d. in New South Wales. The percentage return to the contributor on these fees will vary from about 72 per cent, to 86 per cent. in the case of surgery visits, which represent about three-quarters of all general practitioner consultations. In the case of the smaller percentage of consultations which involve visits by general practitioners to the home, the percentage return will generally be from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of doctors’ usual fees.
The percentage rebates I have quoted have been on the basis of the new Commonwealth benefits provided for in this bill, added to fund benefits currently payable to contributors in the most popular tables. It is clear that there are some areas in which there is room for higher fund benefits to be provided to make up the difference between the new benefits which will be payable and the doctors’ fees commonly charged for particular services, such as the home visit. The Minister for Health is confident that the medical benefits funds will apply their wisdom and experience to the problem of what adjustments should be made to fund benefits and contributions to meet this situation.
Whilst all contributors will be entitled to receive the increased Commonwealth benefits without being obliged to make any increase in their weekly contributions, it will be permissible for the medical benefits funds to seek approval for the introduction at a later date of new fund benefit tables providing for payment of higher fund benefits to contributors who elect to pay higher contributions.
The funds have indicated that they do not intend to introduce new fund benefit tables for some months until the effect of the payment of Commonwealth benefits at higher rates has been assessed. The extent to which new tables will be introduced and what extra contributions and benefits will be provided for in these tables are matters for the funds themselves to consider in the first instance. The new Commonwealth benefits will be payable whether a contributor joins a new table or remains in the table to which he is now contributing. It is provided in the bill that the new Commonwealth benefits will apply to medical services rendered on or after 1st June, 1964.
There is one other detail concerning the medical benefits alterations which I would like to explain. In the past the amounts of Commonwealth benefit have been specified in two separate schedules to the act. Persons who contributed to medical benefit fund tables which provide benefits at least equal to the amounts specified in the first schedule have been eligible for Commonwealth benefits for all the medical services covered in both the schedules. As the scheme has developed it has become the invariable practice for medical benefits funds to offer their contributors fund benefits at least equal to the amounts specified in both the first and second schedules. With this development, the need for division of the Commonwealth benefits into two separate schedules no longer exists and it has been decided to rearrange the benefits in the form of a single schedule. This is another step in the Government’s policy of reviewing and simplifying the scheme at every opportunity. The position in future will be that a contributor will be eligible for Commonwealth benefit if he is a member of a registered medical benefits fund which pays a fund benefit at least equal to the amount specified in the first schedule to the act as in force prior to the commencement of this amendment. The amounts of Commonwealth benefits which will be payable to all eligible contributors will be set out in the schedule to this bill.
I now pass on to the clauses in the bill relating to pharmaceutical benefits. The proposals in these clauses have been brought forward following a number of developments in connexion with the charging of the 5s. fee. Honorable members will be aware that the 5s. fee was introduced for pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions by the National Health Act 1959 and came into effect from 1st March, 1960. At the time this fee was introduced the Government felt that it would not be appropriate for friendly society dispensaries to be obliged to charge the 5s. fee on pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions for their members, because these members had long been accustomed to meeting their medicine costs by regular weekly or quarterly payments to their societies. Consequently, section 92a of the National Health Act provides that friendly society dispensaries are not obliged to charge the 5s. fee for pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions supplied to their members and their families. The dispensaries, of course, receive some reimbursements as chemists from the Government for the prescriptions and they meet the amounts of the fees which are not charged to members out of the members’ weekly and quarterly payments and the surpluses they earn on their trading activities.
Apart from the friendly society dispensaries which have been entitled to supply pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions to their members for less than 5s., a number of organizations have been conducting funds under the rules of which members have been entitled to rebates of part of the 5s. fees which they have paid. Proposals for introducing rebate arrangements on these lines have recently been under consideration by the managements of other health insurance funds. The Government views the spread of these rebate arrangements with some concern. In its view the 5s. charge is a necessary and proper contribution which patients should make towards the cost of pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions. The charge is necessary in order to discourage the unnecessary use of benefits provided under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Honorable members will be aware that, after prescriptions had originally been made available free of charge under the British national health service, it was found necessary to require charges of ls. - ls. 3d. Australian - and still later 2s. - 2s. 6d. Australian. Experience in Britain has been that the fee has had a marked deterrent effect on the unnecessary use of drugs under the service. The Government considers that the principle of the 5s. fee on prescriptions under our scheme should not be broken down by the unrestricted spread of rebate arrangements.
Pensioners who have pensioner medical service entitlement cards are not obliged to pay the 5s. charge and the Government accepts that existing members of friendly society dispensaries should also not be obliged to pay it in full if their dispensary wishes to give them a reduction. The Government has also decided that no alteration will be required in the entitlement of persons who are already enrolled in insurance funds which include rebate of thi 5s. fee as part of their benefits. The Government considers, however, that any extension of existing arrangements for rebating the 5s. fee would be contrary to the best interests of the national health scheme. Accordingly, the bill provides that the friendly society dispensaries will be obliged to charge the 5s. fee for pharmaceutical benefits prescriptions supplied to their new members who enrol on and from 24th April, 1964. It further provides that insurance funds will not be permitted to enrol new members in a fund providing any rebates of the whole or part of the 5s. fee. The friendly society dispensaries will continue to be permitted to supply pharmaceutical benefits without charge or for a charge less than 5s. to all their members, including wives and children under the age of sixteen years, who joined the dispensary funds before 24th April, 1964. Persons who were members of pharmaceutical insurance funds at that date will also be permitted to continue existing arrangements with their funds if they so desire.
The new provisions have been made in pursuance of our belief that financial responsibility in the provision of national health benefits must be properly balanced and that the principles of self-help and a sharing of personal and community responsibility must be properly observed. We believe that the provisions are essential if a proper balancing of financial responsibility in this field is to be maintained and if an effective deterrent against unnecessary use of the scheme is to be preserved. In order that these new provisions will be effective, an amendment is also being made to the conditions of approval of chemist: and dispensaries so far as advertising is concerned. One of the conditions laid down by the existing law is that a chemist will not advertise that he is willing to supply pharmaceutical benefits for less than 5s. This condition is to be retained and a further condition is being made to the effect that, in any advertisement referring to charges fc; which he is willing to supply drugs or medicines generally, an approved chemist will specify whether the drugs or medicines referred to in the advertisement are pharmaceutical benefits. Friendly society dispensaries will also have to comply with this condition in relation to the supply of pharmaceutical benefits to the public and to all member: who join the societies on and after 24th April, 1964.
It will be necessary for friendly society dispensaries and the insurance funds concerned to identify their members who joined prior to 24th April. 1964, in such a way as to be certain that the rebating of the 5s. fee is limited to those members and does not extend to new members or to persons who are not members at all. Strict administrative arrangements will be applied by the Department of Health to ensure that this identification is effectively carried out. At the present time 140 friendly society dispensaries are approved under the National Health Act to supply pharmaceutical benefits. Approvals of 23 of these dispensaries are limited under section 91 (3.) of the act so that they are permitted to supply benefits only to their own members and their families. In view of the proposal that new members of friendly society dispensaries will have to pay the 5s. fee on each prescription received from a friendly society dispensary, the Government feels that it is appropriate that these 23 limited approvals should be made full approvals so that these 23 dispensaries may be permitted to supply pharmaceutical benefits to members of the public as well as to their own members. The bill provides accordingly. Friendly society dispensaries which seek approvals in future will be granted limited approvals to supply their own members and their families only, unless it should happen that a new approval is sought to replace one of the existing full approvals which has terminated.
Apart from the matters I have mentioned, the provisions in the bill are of a machinery character and do not substantially alter existing policy or arrangements. The only particular machinery provision which 1 would like to mention is the inclusion in the new sections 9A and 9B of the act of statutory authority for the provision of hearing aids and poliomyelitis vaccination. These benefits have previously been provided under executive authority and the costs have been included in the annual appropriations made by Parliament. The inclusion of these sections in the act will give the provision of these benefits a specific Statutory authority and enable expenditure to be charged to the National Welfare Fund where it is thought properly to belong. No change is proposed in the policies under which these services are made available to those requiring them.
I am convinced that each and every one of the provisions in this bill is a constructive step towards the betterment of the national health scheme. The amendments to the schedule of medical benefits will mean an increase in payments from the Natonal Welfare Fund of £4,000,000 in a full year. This large sum of money will be applied entirely to assisting patients to meet their medical expenses. The increases in benefits will be of particular value to patients who incur medical expenses of a major character and who are most in need of assistance. I am pleased to commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that the Government has approved preliminary plans for the extension of Parliament House. The plans have been discussed with Mr. Speaker who was of opinion that they provided, to the maximum extent practicable, the additional accommodation needed for the members of the House. The National Capital Development Commission has now been instructed to arrange for the design and construction of extensions on the south-east corner on the site of the existing car park.
The extension will provide additional accommodation on three floors for Ministers and private members as well as two committee rooms. It is proposed that the upper floor will be occupied by private members in 25 single and five double rooms. The main floor will provide six ministerial suites. The lower floor will provide four ministerial suites and two committee rooms. In addition to carrying out this work, the National Capital Development Commission will submit, for consideration by Cabinet at a later stage, proposals for the renovations and sub-division of space in the existing building vacated by those transferring to the extension including the remodelling and enlargement of the “ Hansard “ area.
The commission expects to be able to let a contract for the construction of the extension within the next three months, and every effort will be made to have the new accommodation ready for occupation by the start of the Budget session next year. The cost of the extensions, excluding the proposed additional renovations, will be about £255,000.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message received from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate had agreed to the bill as amended by the House at the request of the Senate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1447).
.- I rise to support the bill which is an admirable piece of legislation, particularly as it applies to Queensland. Since I have been a member of this House, I have listened at times with amazement as honorable members have thrown millions of pounds around with great abandon, but I am still oldfashioned enough to think that £375,000,000 is a lot of money to spend on roads in five years. Irrespective of what honorable members may say about what should be spent, I think that the proposed expenditure of £375,000,000 by the Commonwealth will be a great contribution towards a solution of the roads problem throughout Australia.
I am also pleased to note the retention of the provision that 40 per cent, of funds made available by the Commonwealth is to be spent on rural roads other than highways, main roads and trunk roads. Queensland, which is to obtain £68,000,000, must have a lot of money to spend on rural roads. Most of the areas in Queensland are rural. We do not have many cities of any great size and we have to connect to our cities the rural sections of the country for the transport of produce either to railheads or to ports.
While I am on the subject of rural roads, I want to comment on the reference by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) to the metropolitan area of Brisbane and the city square that is to be built there. I know Brisbane very well and I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that the revenue derived from parking meters can be used properly only for off- street parking. It must be remembered, however, that the proposed city square is a fairly grandiose idea and will include provision for off-street parking although the main expenditure will not be on that feature of the plan. As a matter of fact, if the £1,500,000 that is to be spent on this area was spent on parking, it would solve the parking problem in the City of Brisbane provided the money was spent away from the centre of Brisbane where it is to be expended now. Many experts claim that when the city square is built, it will only add to the traffic congestion in the city area. They believe that it will cause so much traffic congestion in the peak hours that we will be worse off than we are now. Let us hope that will not be so.
As to the metropolitan roads, it was pleasing to read the comments made by the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman H. F. Jensen, when he was recently in Brisbane. He told the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman C. Jones, that it would be a good idea if he took a helicopter ride over Brisbane at the peak traffic hour. Alderman Jensen said that the Lord Mayor of Brisbane would be astonished to see the number of roads which had no traffic on them. Alderman Jones replied that he had not seen Brisbane from a helicopter during peak hours but he knew that 60 per cent, of the traffic on the inner city roads in those hours had no need to be there. He was supported in that view by Alderman Jensen. If they applied their attention to diverting that 60 per cent, of traffic from the inner city areas during peak hours, they would not need very much of these grants to extend the city roads systems and to open up the bottlenecks that they claim exist. These bottlenecks could be opened if a study were made of ways of bringing unused roads into use at peak hours by diverting traffic to them.
No doubt this is one job that could be done by the research organization which may be set up after this bill is passed. If this problem exists in Brisbane, it exists no less in Sydney and Melbourne. In fact, Alderman Jensen said that the New South Wales Department of Main Roads was considering purchasing a helicopter for use in investigating this problem. If the problem can be solved by purchasing a helicopter, a good deal more of this grant could be diverted to rural areas. The £68,000,000 that Queensland will receive out of the total grant of £375,000,000- which we all know is made up of a £330,000,000 basic grant and a £45,000,000 matching grant- will provide not only for rural extension roads but also for rural main roads. It will be of some assistance in the city areas as well.
Returning to the problem that exists in the city of Brisbane, it was very pleasing to note that Alderman Jones, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, was reported in the “ Courier Mail “ of 13th March, 1964, in this way- t am very happy indeed that the conference has decided to increase the allocation to Queensland,
He went on to say that he felt confident that the State Government would co-operate with his administration on any future roads programme. Alderman Jones made that statement notwithstanding that in the same day’s newspapers the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was reported as having said that the allocation was ludricrous when set against Australia’s future roads needs and that further funds to maintain these grants to cities and to rural extensions would be obtained only through increased taxation. It must be remembered that Alderman Jones is not only a member of the party to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition belongs but is also one of the honorable member’s bosses on the federal executive of the Labour Party. So there you have two men, one saying that the grant is not sufficiently large and the other saying that he is very pleased with it. I think that Alderman Jones took the sensible attitude. The grant to Queensland over the next five years will be of benefit to the city of Brisbane and to the Lord Mayor’s field of administration. He may not bc in his present position for very much longer.
We must remember also that the Commonwealth, in addition to providing the £375,000,000, will be allocating another £45,000,000 to the States as a matching grant. Queensland will receive its fair share of this additional grant in the form of funds for the construction of beef roads and of roads into the brigalow areas. These are great Commonwealth schemes now being implemented in central Queensland and particularly in my own electorate.
I am very pleased at the stand that our Premier, the Honorable Frank Nicklin, took in relation to the distribution formula that was finally accepted by the Premiers. With the help of the Premiers of Western Australia and Tasmania he finally won the day against the Premiers of the better developed States. I am also very pleased that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) showed an appreciation of the problems confronting the lesser-developed States and stuck with Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania to ensure that the States maintained the formula which had operated over the previous period. Alderman Jones, a Labour alderman from Brisbane, is pleased that the Honorable Frank Nicklin was able to bring back to Queensland enough money to give us a sense of security and progress for the next five years. It must be remembered also that the Treasurer stated in the House that the grant specified for Queensland is only the minimum that it may receive during the next five years. The allocation to Queensland, which varies from £11,800,000 in 1964-65 to £15,400,000 in 1968-69, involves a matching grant from the State. I am certain that Queensland will be able to match the Commonwealth’s grant and will raise the funds necessary to enable the Queensland Department of Main Roads to continue the great work that it has done. Our State has shown a tremendous measure of progress since it has been controlled by a Country-Liberal Party government.
The present formula provides for onethird of the grant to be made on the basis of area - this is very important to Queensland because without it we would be in real trouble - one-third on the basis of population - Queensland is growing all the time but only because we can provide the necessary roads - and one-third on the basis of the number of vehicles registered. This number is growing in Queensland as rapidly as it is in the other States. We must ensure that our widespread country roads are provided for. Although it has been said that Queensland is getting a pretty good deal, it must be remembered that it will receive only 18.16 per cent, of the total grant. Prior to the introduction of this new formula we were doing a little better, but we are prepared to go along with it until we can regard ourselves as being on a par with the better developed States. Australia has certainly come a long way since 1923 - although 40 years is not very long in the history of a nation - when the Main Roads Development Act provided a grant to the States of £500,000,000. The grants have now grown to the enormous amount that the Treasurer mentioned. As other honorable members have said, the latest figures show that Australia is fourth in the world in terms of cars per head of population; that Australia has seven vehicles to every mile of road; and that only 12.5 per cent, of the 500,000 miles of road that we have are sealed and surfaced. We still have a long way to go. The Commonwealth Government’s courageous step is commended in Queensland because the people there understand that this is only part of a plan which will continue for the next 50 or 100 years.
There are about 3,500,000 vehicles on the roads to-day compared with fewer than 900,000 in 1939, which is not so very long ago. Of the total estimated passenger miles travelled in Australia last year 78 per cent, were by road. I heard 75 per cent, mentioned to-day, but the correct figure is 78 per cent. When you consider the huge network of railways and tramways, and the shipping and airline services that are available, it is remarkable that we still depend upon our roads for 78 per cent, of our travel. i 1 am particularly pleased that the Minis ter forecast in his second-reading speech that a Commonwealth bureau of roads would be established to make a continuous study of the problem of the growth of national roads. This is very important. Main roads departments in every State are doing a magnificent job, but as with everybody else, they have to do a job day by day. They have a lot to do, they have long hours to put in, and they get bogged down in a mass of detail. They cannot do the forward thinking that is so necessary in a big expansion programme such as that which is envisaged by the Commonwealth Government. As I see it, the proposed Commonwealth bureau of roads can do not only this forward thinking. It can act also in an advisory capacity to all main roads departments. It can do the forward thinking and planning first for the Commonwealth and then for the States, if they are prepared to accept it on that basis, as I think they will be. They know that such an organization is urgently required. They are not doing the forward planning. They have so much day-to-day work to do that they cannot possibly do the work that will be done by the proposed bureau.
It is suggested that additional levies be imposed. Irrespective of how these funds are raised, the taxpayer of the Commonwealth is the only one finally to foot the bill. When we impose a tax, we must ensure that it is equitable and is welcomed by the people. Nobody wants any further taxation, whether he is a cane-cutter in my electorate or a federal parliamentarian. I mention these two classes of people because they happen to be on about the same annual income. The only difference is that the cane-cutter has a better car than the federal parliamentarian. The people do not want extra taxation, and neither do we.
We should realize that expenditure on roads must necessarily be related to the concept of the country’s overall requirements for all purposes. That is why we must plan carefully to make sure that we do not over-capitalize our national economy by diverting too much money into one section and overburdening the people with taxation. Throughout my electorate, which is 500 miles long, very fortunately, we have a number of roads, sealed for their entire length, which are used extensively for the cartage of goods. From the Wandoan and Biloela area, cattle are carted by road to saleyards and railhead. In the Dawson and Callide Valley areas stock are carried by road to pig markets and sheep sales. Grain, cotton and other produce amounting to many thousands of tons, in many thousands of bales, are on the roads every day of the week, from western districts to railheads or the ports dotted along the coast. Roads play a very important part not only in my own electorate but throughout coastal Queensland in the carriage of cane to railhead or to a mill tramline. Bulk sugar is carted by road from mill to port. In my own electorate over 4,000,000 tons of cane are carted every year on the roads that have to bc provided with the assistance of Commonwealth finance, and 300,000 tons of bulk sugar are carried by road to the ports. One can appreciate just how important good roads are to rural production. I assure honorable members that I have seen the practical results of Commonwealth aid for roads in my own area. It has made a tremendous impact on road transport. In the past five to ten years the improvement to country roads has been spectacular.
Ten years ago we had only dirt roads in districts other than those adjacent to the larger towns. Now we find that even in what we call the back blocks sealed roads are available, provided only by means of the Commonwealth aid roads grants, together with the matching grants from the State Government. Areas in Queensland are huge. I went to some trouble to ascertain local authority areas. I shall not weary the House with a lot of figures; 1 shall mention only a few. In the metropolitan division, which includes Brisbane, Redcliffe and Petrie, there are 474 square miles. Not many metropolitan areas with a population of 670,000 people would be so large. The Maryborough division includes the electorate of Wide Bay and the cities of Bundaberg and Maryborough, which have an area of roughly 34 square miles. The balance of 17,338 square miles in the division is in the neighbouring rural shires. The Rockhampton division, which covers the electorate of Capricornia, has an area of 39,051 square miles. It contains only one city, Rockhampton, and one town, Gladstone. Rockhampton has an area of 62 square miles and Gladstone an area of 1 1 square miles.
Tn my division of Mackay, we have only one city - Mackay - with an area of 8 square miles. The total area of the division is 7,815 square miles. This is the pattern throughout the State. A summary of these figures shows that the cities comprise 796 square miles, the towns only 67 square miles, the unincorporated islands off the coast, including the Whitsunday group, 1,021 square miles, and the shires 665,116 square miles, making a total of 667,000 square miles. The area north of the Tropic of Capricorn is 360,642 square miles and the area south of the tropic is 306,358 square miles.
One can thus see the problem that we have with such a large area, with very few towns and very few cities comparatively small in size, in finding the money that is needed, not only for roads in rural areas but also for roads to connect semi-rural areas to towns and cities. The cities have 3,926 miles of formed roads, all of which are not sealed. They have 870 miles of unformed roads, making a total of 4796 miles. In the towns are only 171 miles of formed roads, and 35 miles of unformed roads, making a total of 206 miles. In the shires, which comprise the great area of 665,116 square miles, arc 68,034 miles of formed roads, which include bitumen roads, although there are not many of these. But we have 48,080 miles of unformed roads in the shires, giving a total mileage in the shires of 116,114. We realize that we have a problem to face in Queensland. We must first form the unformed roads, and we must seal the formed roads until we have a sufficient mileage of sealed roads to give substantial help to the people in the outback.
In conclusion, let me say that I am particularly pleased at the special reference in the bill to research. The history of the world discloses that without research any programme of expansion is inclined to lag. I have had wide experience of scientific research in my own sphere. 1 have seen what it has done for one industry here in Australia. It has placed it in the forefront in i:s sphere, taking a world-wide viewpoint. 1 sincerely applaud this approach, and I hope that all main roads departments in Australia will take advantage of the money that will be going to them to establish research organizations, which should be complementary to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads which the Commonwealth will establish. I am sure that the estimated £420.000,000 expenditure on roads in the next five years will be used a lot more wisely if we have the benefit of research than it will be if we have not. I welcome the bill as a major and courageous step forward in the solution of our roads problem.
.- The provisions of the existing Commonwealth Aid Roads Act covered a period of five years, which is to expire at the end of June of this year. The bill before the House contains proposals which the Government considers to constitute a sufficient contribution by the Commonwealth towards the road needs of Australia during the next five years. The Government simply extends the terms of the act for a further five years and increases the amount of assistance to the States. But the Government has still refused to settle down and attempt a proper solution of the Australian roads problem, which affects both the developm’ent of Australia and its production potential.
The major problem, of course, is that of finance, and although the Government has seen fit to increase the amount of Commonwealth assistance to the States, we on this side of the House are fully conscious of the fact that the amount of assistance proposed by the Government is well below that which should be provided. It is certainly several million pounds below the amount that is urgently required to meet the road needs of the Commonwealth over the period of operation of the legislation.
The Commonwealth has agreed to contribute £375,000.000 over the next five years, but £45,000,000 of that will be available only as a matching grant. In other words, the States will have to find money from other sources to qualify for their individual shares of this £45,000.000, which is over and above the basic grant of £330.000,000.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech that the roads problem is one of the most serious confronting Australian governments at the present time. Having admitted this, the Government has failed to accept its responsibilities in the matter. The amount of assistance provided to the States by the Commonwealth under the legislation covering the last five years has proved to be completely inadequate to meet the needs of the States, and there is no doubt that the amount provided under this bill will also prove insufficient. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities made an extensive and careful survey of Australia’s road needs for the next five years and the five years following. The amount provided under this bill falls very far short of the requirements shown by that survey. It is estimated, for instance, that for road construction and improvements alone in the next five years £1,005,000,000 will be required. For road maintenance £239,000,000 will be required and for bridge construction and maintenance an additional £168,000,000 will be needed. This gives a total requirement of £1,412,000,000 for the next five years. In providing £375,000,000, including £45,000,000 by. way of matching grant - and we cannot be sure that this will be distributedthe Government will be making available only 26.5 per cent, of the amount required. Surely that can never be regarded as a reasonable approach to this serious roads problem.
For the five-year period 1969-74, the period following that provided for under this bill, the survey by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities gives an estimated amount of £1,767,000,000 simply for reasonable road requirements. If we look at the amount provided by the Government under this bill for the next five years and compare it with the amount provided for the last five years under the existing legislation, and if we assume that the Government will adopt a similar attitude in the future, then we must conclude that for the period 1969-74 it will provide about £562,500,000, or about 32 per cent, of the estimated requirement.
But of course we must remember that because of the insufficiency of the provision for the next five years, the amount required for the period 1969-74 will be greatly increased. The estimate has been based on the supposition that the requirements for the next five years will be met, and we all know quite well that this will certainly not be the case. It is also estimated that as a result of cost rises, based on current trends, there could be an additional amount of £118,000,000 required for the period 1964-69 and a further £318,000,000 for 1969-74.
The revenue that will be available, based on current scales of disbursements and increases in numbers of motor vehicles, is estimated to be £1,099,000,000 as against a roads requirement over the same period of £1,530,000,000. For the period 1969-74 revenue is estimated to be £1,351,000,000 as against a requirement of £2,085,000,000. Taking all these figures into consideration it is estimated that we will finish up with a deficiency over the ten years of £1,165,000,000. This takes into consideration the increases in numbers of motor vehicles and the resultant increases in vehicle taxes. &c., and the increases in petrol consumption with the consequent increases in petrol tax receipts.
Whilst T realize that figures become rather wearisome, 1 suggest that those that 1 have used show very clearly that unless this Government gets a move on and tackles the problem in a proper way we will never have a reasonable roads system in this country. As a matter of fact, the problem will continue to grow more serious.
The Treasurer said in his second-reading speech that as the Commonwealth haJ increased its contribution for roads the States should do likewise, and he referred to State taxes on motor vehicles and implied that the States should seek more revenue from this source. I do not know how much he expects motorists eventually to contribute to road requirements. They are providing very considerable amounts now towards Commonwealth and State revenues, and there seems to mc no reason why motorists should continue to be slugged when we all know that they are not the only people who derive benefits from good roads. Those benefits extend over the Australian community generally. At any rate, in addition to the Commonwealth charges, which were £150,600,000 last year, other charges imposed by the State governments upon the motorists last year amounted to a total of £59,251,756. Therefore, motorists and other vehicle owners last year alone paid in Commonwealth and State taxes and in licence fees about £210,000,000, or about £60 per head. Over the next ten years this can be expected to total at least £1.200.000,000. On top of these charges the motorist must pay for insurance, petrol, depreciation and other vehicle running costs, as well as meeting the capital cost of the vehicle itself. All this costs the average motor vehicle owner about £5 a week. Yet this Government by refusing to face up to and accept its proper responsibilities in relation to road needs, and by calling upon the States to provide further finance, is actually forcing the States into the position of increasing motor vehicle charges which are already too high.
Let us consider the existing provision and the proposed provision relating to matching grants, lt has been suggested that the principle of matching grants is an incentive for the States to raise more money, but in actual fact it is a forcing provision. This Government knows very well that the States arc all desperately short of road funds, but it is forcing States into the position where they must, by slugging the already over-charged motorist with some additional tax, collect sufficient money to attract the urgently needed additional grant. If the Commonwealth can see fit to grant an amount of only £375,000.000 when more like £1,400,000,000 is actually required, it should at least refrain from attaching strings to part of what it is prepared to contribute. If, for instance, the Commonwealth is prepared to grant only £66,000.000 to Western Australia over the next five years when that State could do with at least three times that sum, surely there is no need for, nor is there any justice in, attaching a string to that grant and setting up an obstacle that may prevent Western Australia from collecting about £8,000,000 of the £66,000,000. If the States have to find £45,000,000 by increasing motor rates and taxes, it must be obvious that some development or other State government responsibility must suffer in consequence. If the money must come from increased motor vehicle charges, when do we reach saturation point? When do we reach the stage when a motorist will be forced into the position of having to cut down on his running expenses and the distance he travels? We could actually reach the stage when the Commonwealth would secure less revenue instead of the additional revenue that it could achieve from an increased number of vehicles on the road.
If further finance has to be raised by the States for road purposes it is obvious that local governing authorities will bc obliged to play a big part in that direction. According to the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, the local authorities now contribute the highest sum of the three bodies contributing towards road expenditure in Australia. State governments provide 29 per cent., the Commonwealth 33 per cent, and the local authorities 38 per cent. Honorable members from the Government side claim that by contributing 33 per cent, of the finance the Commonwealth is doing an excellent job. We can assume from that attitude only that Government supporters are of the opinion that any additional moneys required, irrespective of what the total should be, should be raised by the States within the States. So far as local government authorities are concerned they can raise money only by charges on vehicle owners, property owners or householders, or by means of a loan that must eventually be paid back from rates. So, a difficult position can arise for local authorities, particularly those that have a large area and a small population. If the Commonwealth continues to refuse to make sufficient moneys available for road needs, these large sparselypopulated areas will continue to suffer from lack of roads or from bad road conditions.
As I see it, there is one bright spot in this legislation so far as the larger States and the local authorities are concerned, and that is the retention of the existing distribution formula. Also, there will be no reduction in the percentage of funds to be allocated to rural roads. Prior to 1959 the distribution of road funds was made solely on the basis of area and population. In 1959 there was a change in the formula and the number of vehicles was taken into consideration. As a result the larger States suffered a reduction in their quotas. It would be intolerable if a further alteration had been made in the formula on this occasion which resulted in the larger and less populous States receiving a smaller share of the amount provided in this bill. It would be a step in the wrong direction and it would have a detrimental effect on development, defence, and primary and mineral production in Australia generally. By the same token any reduction in the percentage of the share to be spent on rural roads would be bad, particularly so for the States that have large country or outback areas.
While the amount to be spent on rural roads by retaining the 40 per cent, provision will not be anywhere near sufficient, there is no doubt that if this provision were dropped or the percentage decreased the country areas would suffer. They would certainly receive, for roadworks, a much lower amount of the State’s share than they will continue to receive while this provision remains. It is at least a protection against the attitudes expressed, and which would be pressed, by the city interests.
Some speakers have expressed the opinion that by accepting area as a major factor in determining the priority of the finance the formula does not give a proper result, because, they claim. States with smaller areas have roads all over the State, whereas some large-area States have roads concentrated in certain parts only and therefore require less finance than the formula provides. In the main there is only one reason why large States have large areas without roads, and that is simply because they have had insufficient money over the years to build the roads that were required. It must be remembered also that the building of roads in the outback areas of large States is far more costly than the building of similar roads in a smaller State which actually has no outback area at all. The large States require more than what might be termed a fair share to develop their road systems. There are millions of acres of country in Western Australia which a few years ago was considered useless, but which is now accepted as being quite suitable for farming purposes. Many miles of roads are also required in the north. So, as far as the larger States are concerned, it is necessary that provision be made to ensure that the rural areas will get a fair share at least nf the amounts allocated to the States.
We have a great need for rural roads. We need more and better roads to open up and develop the sparsely populated areas of the country. Hundreds and thousands of miles of roads are required where to-day there are none at all. These, of course, cannot be built cheaply. In addition, a lot of work and a lot of money are required to convert existing tracks into roads to take traffic. 1 cannot speak with any authority or from any practical experience of roads in other States, but there is certainly an urgent need for roads over a large part of Western Australia, both in the northern and in the southern areas. 1 know that that will cost a lot of money, but it is idle to talk about the development or the general opening up of the country if we are not prepared to provide sufficient decent roads and other means of communication. We certainly are not providing anywhere near sufficient for that purpose under the terms of this bill.
The lack of roads or good roads, as the case may be, is due mainly, if not entirely, to the lack of finance. It is due to the fact that State governments and local authorities over the years have not had sufficient moneys to enable them to carry out the necessary work. Because of this shortage we find that some of the money - many thousands of pounds, really - that is available is wasted and used on other than the actual road work. I refer to the waste caused by being unable to complete a particular road or section of road. We find quite frequently that roads are constructed or repaired to a certain stage and that the work then is discontinued for no other reason than that the finance available for that section is exhausted. When that happens, as it frequently does, it does not take very long for that section of road to deteriorate to the condition it was in before the work was started. We must consider also that it takes a considerable sum to restore that road to the condition it was in before work ceased. These remarks apply equally to main roads and those within the control of local authorities. As a result of the interruption to work on these roads we find that eventually the job will cost considerably more than.it should have cost but, in addition we find that the final construction of the road has been delayed considerably.
The area over which road construction and maintenance is to be performed has a considerable bearing on costs. When the roads are in an area of a few square miles it is comparatively easy to keep them under constant inspection and in good repair. There is very little waste involved in moving men and equipment in this case. But where large areas and long distances are involved the position is completely different. Inspections of roads in these areas alone could mean miles of travelling. Where work has to be carried out equipment and men must be moved many miles without getting any work value in return for that effort. The cost of carrying out work on the outskirts of a large shire can be terrific compared to what it would cost to do a similar job in a small shire. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw) referred to certain areas in Queensland. I wish to refer to some areas in Western Australia where most shires have a very big area to look after. For instance, the Wiluna shire has 128,000 square miles; Menzies has 57,500 square miles; Laverton has 71,000; Nulla gine has 92.000; Marble Bar, 46,000; Dundas, 42,000; and Halls Creek, 55,000. Then there are several shires with an area of more than 20,000 square miles to look after, and many more have over 10,000 square miles. I have referred to the several shires simply to show that large areas are the general rule in Western Australia. These figures are particularly interesting and the problems faced by these shires must surely be appreciated when their area is compared with the 87,884 square miles which is the total area of Victoria. Two shires in Western Australia on their own have more than the total area of Victoria. Three shires in Western Australia have an area almost as large as the 309,000 square miles of New South Wales.
With regard to road distances and road conditions, statistics disclose a very sorry picture indeed and prove how necessary it is that much more money be provided and spent if we are really to extend and improve our road systems so as to obtain the best that we possibly can from Australia. According to the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, at the end of June, 1962, the total road length in Australia was 535,909 miles, of which, incidentally, local governments were responsible for about 376,000 miles. Of the total of 535,909 miles, only about 75,000 miles were of either bitumen or concrete. About 123,000 miles were surfaced with either gravel or crushed stone, and about 338,000 miles were either formed only or not even formed at all. As the council expressed it, only 14 per cent, of the Australian roads have a dustless surface. That, of course, is the figure for the whole of Australia. In many parts of Australia much less than 14 per cent, of roads would have a dustless surface. Although I cannot speak with any authority on the other States, I certainly can with regard to Western Australia. In that State we find that in the area outside the metropolitan and near metropolitan areas there are 41,000 miles of road which are simply formed and 23,000 which, although in general use, are unprepared. In addition there are approximately 30,000 miles of road which are surfaced, but of those only about 8,000 are bituminized. Bitumen roads represent about 8 per cent, of the total mileage.
If we take the Kimberley, Pilbara, Central and North-West Divisions - I men- tion these because this is the area to which so much lip service is paid but very little action is taking place in relation to development and population - in those four divisions there is a total area of 624,627 square miles and a total road length of 21,164 miles, of which 12,022 miles are only formed and 7,726 miles are unprepared, even though they are in general use. So in that area, which we are supposed to be developing for various reasons, out of a total of 21,164 miles of road only 1,416 miles are surfaced, and certainly no more than half of that mileage would have a bitumen surface. In other words, approximately 3i per cent, of the total road mileage would be bitumen. In practically the whole of that area there is not one yard of railway line, which makes things even worse. This means that the people and industry inland are almost completely dependent on road transport. It takes no great imagination to realize what occurs in the wet season. Good roads are of very great importance to Australia generally for its development and its defence. They are important in relation to transport costs, particularly in the transport of goods and produce in country and northern areas. They are important in regard to our high road accident rate, in regard to our tourist trade, and in many other ways.
Many roads in Australia - I am not in a position to give even an approximate mileage but it would run into several thousand - could be termed as lifelines because they run to or between places where there are no railways and either no air transport at all or, at the best, an air service at very long intervals. In those places good roads as against bad roads can mean the difference between life and death, particularly in winter or in the wet season, depending on where they happen to be. They can mean the difference between being able to move a seriously ill or injured person immediately to a doctor or hospital and having to delay the removal until such time as the road is trafficable. By then it may be too late. There is also the transport of goods to be considered. An item in the “ Northern Times “ of Western Australia last week gives a good example of what happens. The article, which is headed “ Out of Essentials “, states-
Port Hedland has been out of all essential commodities for the week such as butler, milk, ice cream, all small goods, potatoes, onions and fresh vegetables owing to the weekly freezer truck being bogged near Onslow for several days and the closure of the coast road around the Onslow area from heavy rain caused by cyclone Katie.
First relief will be on Thursday by the berthing of the State ship Dorrigo, and the first freezer truck in three weeks will arrive on Saturday.
It can be seen from that newspaper report that a freezer truck is supposed to come in once a week, but because of heavy rain and the condition of the road, no truck arrived for three weeks. Also, I think it would be reasonable to assume that but for the fact that it was carrying essential foodstuffs the freezer truck would not go into the area for some time after the weather conditions returned to normal, because so much damage could be done to the roads, which would add to the cost of road construction.
It is certainly physically possible to build more and better roads. The fact that there are not sufficient roads or that they are in bad condition cannot be made the responsibility of anybody who is working on the roads, such as the main roads department’s engineers, or local government employees, because they all have done an amazing job considering the amount of finance that they have had at their disposal.
In conclusion, I say that surveys and statistics make it clear, and the Government, in fact, admits it, that extensions and improvements to our existing road systems and the development of new roads in many parts of Australia pose most serious problems. Unfortunately, this Government is not prepared to accept its proper responsibility, and until such time as it does so, or until such time as the Commonwealth Government is prepared to go into the matter thoroughly and provide sufficient funds, the problems will remain and the progress of Australia will be retarded.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who has just resumed his seat, said that the road system in Australia is one of our most serious problems. That is true, but it is also one of the most highly charged political matters in Australia because roads are associated with us at every point of our Jives. Roads involve the motor vehicle industry, the carriage of goods, the cost of goods and passenger transport. So every one in the community is vitally interested in the progress we are making with the development of a road system in Australia.
The consequence of this political association with roads is that the States, which have the primary responsibility for building roads, take the line of least resistance. Instead of approaching the problem of road construction and development in a rational and logical way, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said, the States cry out for more money from the Commonwealth, irrespective of the fact that a large part of the money that they receive from the Commonwealth for road construction is spent upon the erection of grandiose projects, such as civic squares, over-passes, fly-overs, expressways and that sort of thing. That kind of development encourages the cities to spread, and far from solving the road problems it, in fact, multiplies them.
The congestion in city streets is caused by a class of traffic which is non-essential. The Lord Mayors of the capital cities, when they descended upon Canberra a few weeks ago to put pressure on the Government for more money for city road construction, said -
In a relatively short time many main and minor thoroughfares will become clogged with vehicles not just at recognized peak hours but throughout the whole day,
Commerce will suffer enormously through traffic delays; the cost of goods carried by roads will soar and private movement will be drastically impeded.
Of course, that will happen if nothing is done to stop the non-essential traffic that is the real cause of this problem in the. cities.
I venture to say that three-quarters of the traffic at peak hours in the cities is traffic which comes into a category which could be classed as convenience traffic. Individuals prefer to take their cars into the centre of the city rather than make use of public transport which is available. It is more convenient for people to drive their cars into the city despite the congestion. It is because people insist upon taking their cars into the cities at the morning and afternoon peak periods that we have this problem in the cities. It will not be solved by building bigger and better roads.
On the other hand, the position in the country is the complete reverse because the great bulk of the traffic passing over the roads is essential traffic. There is no other available form of transportation, so the roads must be use,d. Because the density of traffic on country roads is not as great as it is in the cities, some people say that not so much money is needed to be spent on country roads. That is wrong. We must keep our eye on the essential traffic. When we compare the essential traffic in the cities with the essential traffic in the country, we find that the 40 per cent, allocation provided by the Government in this piece of legislation is not enough to meet the needs of essential traffic passing over the roads in country districts.
A month ago Dr. G. M. Neutze, a lecturer in economics at the Australian National University, produced a report on the economics of decentralization in Australia. In his report Dr. Neutze indicated how the States could sensibly cure their traffic problems in the cities. I make this point now because it has been argued both inside this chamber and outside it that the cities should have the preponderance of money that is allocated for road improvement, since the problem in the cities is overwhelming and is growing more pressing every day, whereas the country areas can manage somehow. According to a newspaper report. Dr. Neutze said that -
The problem of congestion in big cities was becoming so critical that the continual building of new roads was not likely to lead to a complete solution of the problem.
He also is reported to have said -
There were valid reasons why a motorist should bc charged for driving down a street or road because his use of it increased costs which were inflicted on other people.
That is one solution of the problem of congestion in the cities. Another solution suggested by Dr. Neutze is that parking charges in the inner city area should be substantially increased. He is reported to have said -
Parking costs in the retail heart of Sydney should be from 8s. to 10s. fid. per hour.
He graded those charges down to as little as 5s. an hour.
Those are two proposals contained in a report prepared for the New South Wales Government, the Social Science Research Council and the Reserve Bank of Australia by a lecturer in economics at the
Australian National University. It is the only comprehensive study that has ever been made of the problems of decentralization in Australia. It deserves to he studied by every honorable member, and I hope it will be studied by the Commonwealth roads bureau in its considerations later in the year, as was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he introduced the present legislation. The answer to our roads problem is certainly not to spend vast sums of money on building expressways in the cities, because. I repeat, that would only add to the size of the cities. It would not solve the problem of congestion in city streets.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
– I have received from the Honorable Sir Garfied Barwick a letter dated 23rd April, 1964, resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Parramatta. I have also received from the Honorable A. R. Downer a letter dated 23rd April, 1964, resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Angas as from midnight this day.
.- Mr. Speaker -
– What about giving us a shock?
– T will not resign before to-morrow. I did not want to interrupt the debate but I am sure that wc all think this is the proper occasion on which to say a very few words about the two retiring honorable members, each of whom has held a position of distinction and respect in this Parliament. Sir Garfield Barwick is, as everybody knows now, to become the Chief Justice of the High Court, a very distinguished office and one calling for and requiring the highest degree of legal talent and experience.
Everybody in the House knows that he has both legal talent of the most distinguished order and a very rich experience in the practice of the law and in advising on the law as counsel. He therefore may feel, 1 am perfectly certain, that he goes to the High Court with the admiration and goodwill of everybody in this chamber. I do not need to labour this. No doubt statements will be made about him on other occasions, but for myself, as one not without experience in these fields, I would not hesitate to say that in recent times nobody has ever occupied quite the commanding position in the practice of the law that Sir Garfield Barwick occupied. He therefore goes to the High Court richly qualified and, if I may add - I know that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) agrees with this - not disqualified in any fashion by having added to that experience some experience of politics and of administration in the national Parliament. Therefore I would like to express our congratulations and unqualified good wishes to the retiring Minister.
Mr. Downer is, of course, going to London in due course. He has just tendered his resignation. He is an extraordinarily popular member of this House and he will take to London with him a great background of tradition. He is a man of high education, of wide information, of great courtesy and with an uncommon capacity for getting on with people and presenting his views strongly without forfeiting friendship. These are great qualifications for a man who is to represent us in London. He can undoubtedly feel that we are all his friends. From time to time, as he said the other day in another place, he will be very happy to see a lot of us. I do not quite know what that means but I have a vague idea. Nobody in this House would deny him the tribute that we pay to him in saying that he is a fine man, an honorable man, a man of uncommon talents, a man of great experience in both war and peace and that he will do great honour to this country in his important assignment in London.
– For once I agree with everything the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said. Later on, if I may, I shall say something on the motion for the adjournent of the House to-night about the circumstances surrounding Sir Garfield Barwick’s appointment, but nothing I shall say will derogate from anything that the Prime Minister has said about the great attributes of the new Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. Sir Garfield Barwick is a humble man in many ways in spite of his eminence, which might have tended to isolate him from ordinary people. I have always found him companionable, approachable and, except on matters of high party contention, quite reasonable.
Mr. Downer is a man who radiates friendship and goodwill. I never had a cross word with him in all the years he was in the Parliament. I was very pleased when he was appointed as Minister for Immigration, because I have always felt that I have a vested interest in that portfolio. I was pleased to see how he handled his office and how well he did.
I spy a stranger on the front bench. If the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) is a Minister, I would like to congratulate him on his appointment. If he is not a Minister, I hope that this is evidence of something that might happen within the next few days.
Sir Garfield Barwick and Mr. Downer leave this Parliament with the goodwill of all members, in spite of the differences on party lines that we might have had with them. I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that Sir Garfield’s participation in politics will be valuable to him in his new office. A previous occupant of that high office also benefited from his membership of this Parliament; that was Sir John Latham. I hope later on, Sir, to say some other things which will be more disputatious.
Appointment of Chief Justice - Communism - Trade with Communist China.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The circumstances in which Sir Garfield Barwick has been appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia are unusual and remarkable. I want to make it clear, beyond the power of malice to misrepresent my position and that of my party, that I do not question for one moment Sir Garfield’s qualifications for Australia’s highest judicial office. He is eminently well equipped for his new responsibilities. He can be relied upon to perform his duties in the highest traditions set by his great predecessors from Griffith to Dixon. His political experience will add useful practical knowledge of the problems of administration to his great legal attainments. He is the better fitted for his new duties for having been a politician and for the better understanding of popular opinion and public needs that only a parliamentarian can attain.
But I find the timing and the manner of the Government’s decision extraordinary and the reasons for its actions and the way it has acted quite inexplicable. The month, the week, the day, the very hour of the decision, all raise questions that must be answered so that speculation can be quelled. If the Government finds the speculation to be embarrassing and much of it perhaps illinformed, then there is only one man to blame - the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister alone is responsible for this decision appearing to have been made with a sense of great urgency in an atmosphere of crisis.
If there is urgency, what is the nature of that urgency? Is it a genuine urgency which is the result of a pressing need to fill the Chief Justiceship immediately? Or does the urgency spring from other causes? How urgent is it to appoint a Chief Justice on this very day of grace, 23rd April, 1964? Surely it is relevant to recall that twelve months elapsed between the retirement of Sir John Latham from active court duties and the appointment of Sir Owen Dixon as Chief Justice. In the period that intervened Sir John Latham, although nominally the Chief Justice, was on leave. He heard no cases and he wrote no judgments in that time. He was entitled to his leave. Ha performed valuable work in re-writing the High Court rules. The point is that for nearly thirteen months in 1951-52 the court work of the Chief Justice was performed by the acting Chief Justice. So much for the urgent need to announce a replacement for Sir Owen Dixon. The appointment could have been delayed for six weeks. It should have been delayed for at least six weeks, as I shall show.
Let us consider the situation of the Minister for External Affairs at the moment the decision on his translation, if that is the correct word, was made. On Friday, 17th April, he returned from Manila and made statements which I suggested on
Tuesday of this week were, to say the least, highly contentious. On Tuesday the Prime Minister intervened in a debate to say that anybody who suggested that he lacked confidence in the Minister’s appraisal of the Malaysian situation was, in effect, giving aid and comfort to Indonesia. Yesterday Sir Garfield’s bags were packed for his overseas journey. His itinerary had been circulated and all the foreign governments concerned had been advised. The journey had been announced on 20th March. Sir Owen Dixon announced his retirement on 2nd April, which was less than a fortnight later. So in the fortnight following Sir Owen Dixon’s resignation not a great deal could have been done to further the arrangements for the tour. But in the four weeks that have elapsed since Sir Owen Dixon announced his retirement, those arrangements have gone on apace. Those arrangements proceeded right up to last night. As I have said, the Minister’s bags were packed and the Australian embassies in the countries that he was to visit were awaiting him.
The weekly list of ministerial arrangements for next week, which was released only yesterday, listed the Minister as being overseas next week. His itinerary was released last night - at the very time when the Cabinet was in session. The Russian Ambassador in Australia had gone to Moscow to assist in the arrangements for the Minister’s announced meeting with Mr. Khrushchev. Every means available to the Department of External Affairs had been used to give the greatest possible value and significance to this tour. Does the Prime Minister believe for one moment that its cancellation will be regarded overseas as being without significance?
What kind of significance will be placed upon this decision overseas? What conclusions will be drawn? What will be the reaction in Djakarta? What will be the reaction in Kuala Lumpur? What will be the feeling in Washington? Is it not certain that the reaction will be the same as it is in Canberra? Is it not certain that there will be speculation, connecting this sudden, ill-timed and apparently urgent decision with the controversy in which the Minister has been engaged, namely, the American commitment under the Anzus Pact? This was the very point that the Prime Minister insisted upon on Tuesday night - that criticism of Sir Garfield Barwick’s action was dangerous, because it might be misrepresented abroad. Yet the Prime Minister has removed Sir Garfield from his Ministry on the very eve of a highly publicized mission abroad and in circumstances which can only result, justifiably or not, in misrepresentation.
Nobody will believe that the announcement of Sir Garfield’s appointment as Chief Justice was of such immediate and imperative urgency that it could not have been delayed for a few weeks more. By his timing of the decision, the Prime Minister has ensured that the urgency of the decision will take on the very significance which should have been avoided.
It will now be necessary to take a closer look at the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on Tuesday last. The right honorable gentleman has ensured by his announcement to-night that it will be looked at very critically in Djakarta and elsewhere. The more one looks at it and the closer one compares my criticism of the Minister’s assumption with what the Prime Minister said, the clearer it becomes that, for all his distortion and evasion, the Prime Minister was forced to agree with me. On the very same page of “ Hansard “ at which he implied that I was lying about what Governor Hardman said to me about the Anzus Pact, the Prime Minister said -
But I very well remember America saying to us - I took no excepton to it; I thought it was pretty sensible - that when it came to the immediate defence of Malaysia, this was perhaps primarily a Commonwealth responsibility . . .
Later he said -
It is a great mistake to talk dogmatically of what the United States of America will do.
Is not that precisely what I had criticized the Minister for doing? So it becomes clear that the Prime Minister was stating an attitude which was different from that of Sir Garfield, under the smokescreen of a personal attack upon me.
I repeat that the Prime Minister, by his timing of this decision, has ensured that Sir Garfield Barwick leaves the Parliament under a cloud of political speculation. That speculation will not be confined to Australia. Sir Garfield deserved better. The Prime Minister deserves the condemnation of his own party, the Parliament and the people.
Always ruthless with his associates, on this occasion he has proved himself to be not even intelligently ruthless. In his timing and handling of this situation he has been more a muddler than a Machiavelli.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Are you going to resign now?
– No. Nothing in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would make me resign. (Opposition members interjecting) - Sir ROBERT MENZIES.- I understand your desire to get rid of me. I sympathize with you. If I were in your place, I would take the same view. Mr. Speaker, I do not want to bother about all the farrago at the end of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. He wants to have, by indirection, another debate on foreign affairs. I think I should say something about his astonishing statement in relation to the timing of the appointment that I referred to a moment ago in another connexion. Sir, I do not believe that the Chief Justiceship of the High Court should be left vacant for any longer than can be helped. In the example quoted by the Leader of the Opposition the Chief Justice was still in office. The gentleman in question was still the Chief Justice, but he was on leave. An Acting Chief Justice was appointed during his absence on leave. I do not believe in having these great posts left unoccupied or filled temporarily for any longer than ls necessary.
– You really do not expect us to believe that?
– I do not expect you to believe anything. You ask for an explanation and then you do not want to hear it.
– You are not going too well, you know.
– I am going very well. Judging by the squeaking and piping on that side of the chamber, I must be doing uncommonly well. I take it that the Opposition disagrees with my first proposition - that the office of Chief Justice ought not to be left vacant for too long. Do honorable members opposite disagree with that?
– We do not disagree at all.
– I know you do not. You are an intelligent chap. Nobody should disagree with that proposition. But honorable members opposite say: “ You might well have left the appointment for a few weeks more. You might well have let it wait until the Minister for External Affairs had been around the world.” They say that we might well have let the appointment wait until the Minister had engaged in a series of discussions and, if I know anything of the Opposition, until after he had become involved in almost daily controversy back here. That would have been a fine prelude, would it not?
The Opposition says that we should have delayed the appointment for six weeks and should have allowed this process to go on, making it clear to everybody that the High Court must wait until these engagements were fulfilled. That seems to me to be exhibiting a very strange attitude to the High Court. When it transpired that Sir Garfield Barwick was willing to be considered for this post - I myself knew of the fact a few days ago - few of us had any doubt what the result would be.
When all this happened, knowing that that was our view and knowing that Sir Garfield Barwick would be appointed to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court, we considered whether he should go off on a political excursion around the world. This seemed to me - I am probably completely wrong, but all my colleagues and Sir Garfield Barwick agreed with me - to be a rather shoddy arrangement when we were dealing with an appointment to the highest court in the land. So we all took the view, apparently quite wrongly, that in these circumstances he should cancel his journey and that we should at once announce the appointment.
Appointments have a habit of becoming known. This one beat the pistol in this morning’s newspapers. How wonderful it would have been, and what a compliment to the High Court of Australia to send the Chief Justice designate around the world as a Minister for External Affairs conducting discussions, debates and conferences and inevitably becoming involved in some controversies, as we well learned in the last few weeks. 1 do not think we had the slightest option in this matter. Not one of us thought we had, and the distinguished appointee himself did not think we had. We all agreed that in the circumstances there was only one course to follow, and that was to cut off these political exercises that would have gone on for a number of weeks, to make the appointment, to announce it and proceed, as I will within the next 24 hours, to appoint a successor to him in his department.
.- The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has made a very brief and perhaps very superficially convincing case. He has told us that some time last night it was decided that it was very important for the Government to make an appointment to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court so that there would be no delay, so that there would be precision and so that there would be no speculation. This case would be all very well on its merits if there had not been precedents in the hands of the Prime Minister which were very different indeed. When the last appointment was made to the High Court - that of Sir Owen Dixon to succeed Sir John Latham - we had newspaper reports which read like the following report from the “ Canberra Times “ of 3rd April, 1952-
The announcement by Mr. Menzies follows months of speculation as to who would fill the post. Names mentioned included that of Mr. Menzies himself.
On the last occasion when an appointment was made to the position of Chief Justice the Prime Minister did not decide to act with speed and precision. He did not decide to make an appointment in the middle of the night. He allowed months to pass in which there was speculation about who would be appointed to succeed Sir John Latham, and his own name was mentioned frequently. On this occasion the Prime Minister has decided that a very different situation has arisen. He must make a speedy appointment. He must appoint the former Minister for External Affairs to this position precisely at a time when the suggestion can be made that the appointment has been made for another reason.
I suggest that if one examines carefully the reports of the debates in this House and newspaper reports over the last couple of days one will be induced to believe that there is another reason for this appointment. I submit that the evidence that is before this House shows that there is a significant difference of view between the former Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, and the Prime Minister and the Government of this country and the Government of the United States of America in relation to the presence of Australian troops in Borneo. I submit that the evidence is contained, first, in the answers given by the former Minister for External Affairs to three questions asked in this House last Tuesday. In answer to the first question, Sir Garfield Barwick said -
Recently in answer to a press question I pointed out that Borneo was in the treaty area.
He repeated that a few minutes later when he said -
I said, and I repeat, that Borneo - Malaysia - is within the treaty area, and, as to that, there is no difference of opinion between Australia and America.
A little while later he repeated this statement once again. Several days before, he had given a press interview. The “ Canberra Times “ of 18th April reported that Sir Garfield Barwick spoke of the United States “ being forced to intervene “ in the Malaysian dispute if Australian troops in Borneo were attacked. He said that America must intervene in this situation. He said that the Anzus Treaty would be invoked as a matter of course in the event of our troops in Borneo being attacked.
I submit that the position of the United States is quite different from the way Sir Garfield Barwick put it. I submit that the position of the United States is that Borneo may well not be in the treaty area and that there is no automatic committal of America at all. As evidence of this, I submit statements made by the Prime Minister himself and I contrast them with the press interviews given by Sir Garfield Barwick and the answers he gave to questions asked in this House. I contrast his statements also with his own considered speech given to the House at 8 o’clock last Tuesday night in which he made no reference whatever to Borneo being in the treaty area and no reference whatever to any automatic or any other kind of committal of the United States. That was the considered speech of the former Minister for External Affairs last Tuesday night, and it was quite different from what he said in answer to questions asked in this House and in a press interview on the 18th of this month.
The Prime Minister followed Sir Garfield Barwick in the debate last Tuesday night and he made a very different kind of speech from that made by Sir Garfield Barwick. At page 1279 of “Hansard” we find a statement that is in direct conflict with that made earlier by the former Minister for External Affairs. The Prime Minister is reported as having said -
But I very well remember America saying to us - 1 took no exception to it; I thought it was pretty sensible - that when it came to the immediate defence of Malaysia -
That is what we are involved in at the present time - this was perhaps primarily a Commonwealth responsibility. . . .
That was the position taken by the United States. 1 submit it is clear that there was a significant difference between the position taken by the former Minister for External Affairs and that taken by the Australian Government and the United States Government. If this is so, then it is fairly clear that something had to be done to let it be known that the views of Sir Garfield Barwick did not represent the considered position of the Australian Government. I suggest that this action, in fact, has very well been taken.
After having outlined the position, the Prime Minister made a very significant remark at about 9.40 last Tuesday night. Immediately after his speech, the Prime Minister apparently went to a Cabinet meeting at which the decision was made to appoint Sir Garfield Barwick to the High Court. The Prime Minister made this significant remark -
It is a great mistake to talk dogmatically of what the United States of America will do.
I submit to the House that the quotations I have given from the remarks made by the former Minister for External Affairs both in answer to questions in this House and in a press interview on the 18th of this month show that he had spoken dogmatically of what the United States of America would do if Australian troops were attacked in Borneo. The former Minister for External Affairs had spoken dogmatically about this and therefore the Prime Minister chose to say at 9.40 last Tuesday night -
It is a great mistake to talk dogmatically of what the United States of America will do.
He was saying that it was a great mistake to do precisely what his Minister for External Affairs had done on that very day and on the 18th of this month. He was saying that h was a great mistake to do precisely what his Minister for External Affairs had already done on two occasions. Therefore, on the right honorable gentleman’s own statement, his Minister for External Affairs had made the great mistake of talking dogmatically of what the United States of America would do.
That was not the end of it. The right honorable gentleman at the end of his speech said -
I am not going to have anybody in the United Stales of America think that we are trying to force the cards. We are not. I am not going to have anybody in the United States of America believe that we arc trying in a rather cheap way to involve the United States in something.
Is that not precisely what the former Minister for External Affairs was doing in speaking so dogmatically about what the United States would do? Was the Prime Minister not going out of his way to say, “ I am not going to have anybody in the United Stales of America thinking that we are trying to force the cards “. Who else in this country was trying to force the cards? No one, except the former Minister for External Affairs. Who else was speaking dogmatically about what the United States would do if Australian troops were attacked in Borneo? No one, but the former Minister for External Affairs. So, the Prime Minister decides to say that it is a great mistake to talk dogmatically; that it is a great mistake to do precisely the thing that the former Minister for External Affairs had done. The the Prime Minister says, “ 1 am not going to have anybody trying to do this “. He might have added, “ Even if he is a senior Minister of my own Government”. Therefore, having put the case clearly against the former Minister for External Affairs, we find that the Prime Minister leaves this parliament, goes to a Cabinet meeting, and the former Minister for External Affairs is made the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. It is pretty clear that the well recognized qualifications of the former Minister for External Affairs were not the only reasons involved in this decision.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall make just one reference to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Either he believed that the inferences he was trying to draw were untrue, in which case he should not have endeavoured to draw them, or he believed them to be true, in which case he should not have tried to do something which was against the interests of the Australian nation in order to gain a cheap political point. In the case of the Leader of the Opposition, this action rather surprised me; in the case of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. Cairns), I felt no surprise at all.
The matter I desire to bring before the House relates to foreign affairs. On 3rd April last, nine Chinese Communists were arrested in Brazil and charged with espionage and sedition. The Chinese Communist Government protested their innocence. Now, on these matters I have no first-hand evidence. I do not know what was done in Brazil. Of course, we do know that the Chinese Communist regime is a subversive and seditious regime wherever it puts its tentacles. We know also that it is the nature of the Communist Party, wherever it is, to fabricate evidence in courts and elsewhere, and to live off lies. Mr. Khrushchev himself has said this about his unlamented predecessor, the infamous Stalin. Nevertheless, I would like the House to follow what has happened.
Chinese Communist firms have sent two lengthy circular telegrams to firms in Australia with which they had business connexions. I have here the text of those and, if I am permitted, I will now lay them on the table of the House. May I have leave to do that?
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Very well. 1 will make copies available to the press and to the library. These documents give, very tendentiously, the Communist view of this. They say, “ Our people are, of course, innocent. They are maligned. They are being unjustly treated”. The telegrams end by saying -
We appeal to all righteous people in international trade to uphold justice and right by protesting against this persecution by the Brazilian Military
Junta and checking the infringement on thesonal freedom and proper rights and interests of our trade personnel and newsmen. Any act of upholding justice by your company will be appreciated with heartfelt thanks.
Honorable members can see what has happened. These telegrams have been selectively directed to Australian firms that have a pecuniary interest in undertaking trade with Communist China. They ask these firms to enter into political protests on this matter in order to gain what is equivalent to the hard cash of continuing Communist trade. This is an invitation to these firms to sell out their country for cash. We know that the Communists use trade for this purpose. This is how the subversion is carried on. The Chinese Communists involve people innocently and then, by cash pressures or other pressures, endeavour to get them to act as political agents for the Chinese Communists. These telegrams are an invitation of that character - to act as a political agent. The firms to which these telegrams are directed could know no more about the details of what happened in Brazil than the members of this House do. They would be ignorant of that. Yet, they are invited by their Communist customers, on an assertion which is directly contradicted by the Government of Brazil, to enter into political activity on an international scale in defence of the Chinese Communist regime. It is a terrible thing that the Chinese Communists should believe that any of our businessmen would be so low as to sell out their country to the Communists, on a political matter such as this, for what is the equivalent to cash. I do not know if any of our businessmen have fallen for this and done this despicable thing. I would hope that none of them has fallen for it. I would hope none of them has done this. But this House and this country had better realize the dangers of trading with the Communist regime in China. If there be reasons for trading, then let us remember that we are supping with the devil and we do need a long spoon.
It is encumbent upon all those people who have cash at stake or material advantages at stake in regard to their trade with Communist China, to be on their guard lest they be exploited and used for Communist purposes. I do not say for one moment that any of these circular telegrams have had a successful outcome, but let us remember that they are an invitation to the business firms concerned to engage in treasonable activities for what is equivalent to cash. Let us remember that this is what the Chinese Communist regime is like. Let us remember also that the Chinese Communists are plotting war against the world. The trouble in South-East Asia, which has been the subject of debate in this House during the last few days, has come from the warlike propensity of the Chinese Communists. 1 have in my hand something which will be known to other members of this House. It is an official release by the Russian Communists in regard to the nature of the Chinese war plot against the world. It will not be possible in the time at my disposal to read all of this document, but in part it reads -
Mao Tse-tung, speaking at the Moscow Meeting in 1957, argued that the struggle for socialism even stood to gain from a world thermonuclear war. “Can one foresee” he said, “the number of human lives that the future war may take? . . I had an argument over this mailer wilh Neru … 1 told him that should half of mankind be destroyed, the other half would survive.
The Russian Communists then give chapter and verse to show that if the Chinese Communists obtain nuclear weapons they intend to launch thermo-nuclear war and destroy half of mankind. Is that something we can laugh about? Is it something we can yawn about, as I see honorable members opposite doing? I would hope that we will take note of these things - that we will take note of the utterly abominable nature and motives of the regime that rules in mainland China to-day. I hope that we will regard as traitors any Australians who endeavour tn co-operate for cash with the political objectives of the Chinese Communists.
– No event of greater importance to this National Parliament has occurred in recent years than the circumstances in which Sir Garfield departed from the office of Minister for External Affairs suddenly last night. This happened at a time when he was in the very midst of handling Australian interests in one of the gravest international crises with which this country has been faced. The whole thing would be inexplicable on the basis of the quite infantile explanation given to the House by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to-night. Whatever else it is possible to believe, no one can possibly believe that suddenly, at 10 o’clock last night, the Australian Cabinet realized that although the Minister for External Affairs had packed bis bags, that his itinerary had been announced within the previous half-hour, and that he was due to leave on his European tour this morning, this must not be allowed to happen because the position of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, which had been vacant since 2nd April, must now suddenly be filled. 1 heard the Prime Minister make clever explanations on other occasions about difficult political situations with which he has been faced. I have never heard him so at a loss to give a reasonable explanation as he was to-night. It would be far better for this matter to be cleared up by a frank statement by the Prime Minister than for the Parliament to continue to be in the position where the facts are a matter of extraordinary speculation.
The only conclusion which will fit all the facts of this matter is that Sir Garfield Barwick made a great mistake and was compelled to pay the price of that mistake. The only conclusion which will fit the facts is that Sir Garfield Barwick did not leave the position of Minister for External Affairs because he had been appointed Chief Justice of the High Court but because the Prime Minister would no longer allow him to occupy the position and gave him no choice but to take another position. The position of Chief Justice of the High Court was offered to him.
– Your leader said that nobody was more eminently suited to the position.
– There is no one more eminently suitable for the position. But that does not explain the extraordinary circumstance in which Sir Garfield Barwick was suddenly appointed to that position close to mid-night last night. Up until yesterday at dinner-time he had been taking in this Parliament the active part of a party politician, which no man who knew he was about to be appointed to that position of great impartiality - that high position - would have taken. If Sir Garfield Barwick had known at five o’clock yesterday afternoon that he was to be appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia before the night was out, he would not have been sitting on the other side making gibes at the Labour Party as, of course, we know he did. So he certainly had no knowledge that he was to be removed from this Parliament and placed in that new and high position. There can be no question about that. Sir Garfield Barwick had no knowledge of what was about to happen to him otherwise he would not have engaged in the party political conduct in which he would only have been entitled to engage if he were to continue as Minister but not entitled to engage in if he were about to be elevated to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court.
– How do you explain his appointment as Chief Justice?
– The only explanation is that the Prime Minister called him into the room and chopped his head off. The only explanation for that action is that the American Government must have conveyed to the Australian Government, privately and informally, its sharpest protest against the action of Australia’s Minister for External Affairs in committing American troops to action in Borneo. That is the only possible explanation of the matter.
As the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has shown, the evidence, amounting to proof, is contained in the speech of the Prime Minister which was delivered to the House immediately before he left the chamber to go into the Cabinet room to remove Sir Garfield Barwick from his office as Minister for External Affairs. The Prime Minister said -
It is a great mistake to talk dogmatically of what the United States of America will do. . . I am not going to have anybody in the United States of America thinking that we are trying to force the cards. We are not. I am not going to have anybody in the United States of America believe that we are trying in a rather cheap way to involve the United States in something.
From the statements made by Sir Garfield Barwick would anybody in America have thought that Australia was trying to force the playing of American cards? Whether he meant it or not, would any one in America have taken that as what he was trying to do? Of course they would. That was what the Prime Minister said he would not allow. Would any one in America have thought that Australia was trying in a rather cheap way to involve the United States in the Malaysian conflict? Whether Sir Garfield Barwick meant to do that or not, it is quite clear that many people in America would have thought that that is what he intended and the Prime Minister said he was not going to allow it.
What is the evidence that what Sir Garfield Barwick said bore exactly the complexion which the Prime Minister said he would not allow to continue to be presented to the people of America? I shall quote from three newspapers. A report in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of Saturday, 18th April, reads -
Sir Garfield Barwick said that any attack on Australian forces in Borneo would bring the Anzus Treaty members into action. “ The Treaty says the United States of America and other members must take action.”
Is that a dogmatic statement? Would that convey to any one in America that we were trying to force the hand of the United States or to involve it in the Malaysian crisis? It could not bear any other interpretation in America and the Prime Minister said that is what he would not allow to continue. Was it a dogmatic statement on the. part of Sir Garfield Barwick to say that the treaty states that the United States and other members must take action in the circumstances he referred to? Was it a dogmatic statement when Sir Garfield Barwick said -
When I saw Sukarno last September I made this plain.
He was referring to the claim that America would become involved. Sir Garfield continued -
He (Sukarno) said he knew he would be opposed by Britain, the United States of America and Australia.
Those were most dogmatic and, in my opinion, most foolish and unfortunate statements by the Australian Minister for External Affairs. The “Sydney Morning Herald “ report was much to the same effect. It quoted Sir Garfield Barwick as saying -
An Indonesian attack on Australian forces in Borneo would come within the terms of the Anzus Treaty.
That is a completely dogmatic statement. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) bad said, “ It is a great mistake to talk dogmatically of what the United States of America will do”. How quickly - within half an hour - the then Minister for External Affairs found out the great mistake that he had made and the price that the Prime Minister was going to compel him to pay for it. According to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the Minister for External Affairs said -
The Treaty says that the United States and other members will take action in this situation.
The only difference between the “Daily Telegraph “ report and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ report is that the “ Daily Telegraph “ reported the Minister as saying that the United States must take action and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ reported him as saying that the United States will take action.
Would not that be regarded in the United Slates as an attempt by Sir Garfield Barwick and by the Australian Government to involve that country? Of course it would. The Prime Minister told the House that he would not allow that impression to remain. So, having given that assurance to the United States and to the Parliament, he had no alternative but to go outside and remove the impression by removing the Minister from office. It is clear that, in the opinion of the United States and in the opinion of the Prime Minister, the Minister had done a serious injury to American-Australian relations by his foolish and dogmatic statements, and that the Minister was made to pay immediately the price for the great mistake that he had committed. It would have been much wiser of the Prime Minister, and would have done a great deal to repair the injury, if he had had the courage and fairness to the House to rise in his place and explain the regretful circumstances in which the Minister must no/ relinquish his portfolio.
– I do not know why there is all this sound and fury from the Opposition in regard to the fact that the previous Minister for External Affairs has been appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. I do not think there is a single honorable member on either side of this House who does not believe that Sir Garfield Barwick is aptly fitted for that appointment and is probably the best man for the position. Does anybody disagree with that? Mr. Allan Fraser. - No.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES.Then why is there all this sound and fury? On behalf of the backbenchers on the Government side of the House, 1 very warmly congratulate Sir Garfield and wish him well in his occupancy of a post which, according to protocol, is the second highest in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– He was also well fitted for the position of Minister for External Affairs.
– The honorable member may go into the other question, but I do not intend to start a discussion on that aspect of foreign affairs. If members of the Opposition feel as they say they do about the former Minister, they ought to be very glad that he has become the Chief Justice. It does not matter very much what individuals do; it is the policies and actions of governments of countries that are important.
– But the injury to Australian-American relations ought to be repaired.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has already spoken in this debate.
– If the supposition of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is correct, the injury has been repaired. So what is he bothering about now? I think that is a pretty poor view to take.
In the few minutes that are available to me, I want to speak in support of the matter raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), which is of far greater importance than the question of any personality in this House, be it the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, myself or anybody else.
– Why don’t you get on the pay-roll-
– I can understand why the honorable member for Hindmarsh does not like this matter being brought up. For months past, certain members on the Government side of the House have tried to impress upon other honorable members the dangers of trade with red China. The honorable member for Mackellar to-night has referred to cables-
– This is an attack on McEwen.
– The honorable member can have his say, if he wishes. He does not want to listen to facts. I have in my hand cables to which the honorable member for Mackellar referred. They are not letters; they are cables which take up more than three pages of foolscap. They were sent to businessmen and firms in this country. I understand that in all 1 7,000 or more cables have been sent from Peking in this world-wide campaign to bring pressure to bear on all the people that they can trace as doing business with them, in order to gain the release of nine Chinese journalists and businessmen who have been arrested by the present Brazilian authorities on charges of having distributed seditious literature. I understand that the matter may go further and may involve much more serious charges.
I now have in my hand reports of Radio Peking news broadcasts in the last week. The broadcasts on this matter started on 10th April. Honorable members who have interjected from the front bench of the Opposition may be delighted to know that the second item of one broadcast announced the arrival of Mr. Ted Hill in Peking, where he was met by Chou En-lai, as his personal guest. The third item refers to protests against the arrest of Chinese in Brazil. The reports increased all through the week until the Radio Peking news broadcast on 16th April, which takes up about two pages, protested again against the arrest of the Chinese journalists.
The fact of the matter is that the reason for this world-wide protest, the reason why it has appeared with increasing intensity in every news session on Radio Peking during the last week, the reason why the Chinese have sent 17,000 cables around the world to business people who do business with China, is that the Chinese want to make every effort they can to try to stop these journalists from being brought to trial for sedition and perhaps on even more serious charges. Radio Peking even made this admission on 16th April -
On April 9th the official organ United States Information Service openly accused China -
That is red China -
Finally it said - . . in the state of Guanabara, that Communist China and Cuba have been supplying money and arms to the Communist movement in Brazil. All those fabrications of the U.S. official organ and its Brazilian agents only reveal that the arrest of the Chinese personnel in Brazil was made under the instigation of the U.S. imperialists.
Anybody who has kept in contact with what has been happening in Latin America and the subversive activities of the Chinese Communists in that part of the world knows that the Chinese Communists main headquarters has been established in Havana, Cuba, where they have 300 or 400 personnel directed by some one called Mr. Kung, who speaks Spanish perfectly and who spends most of his time travelling around Latin America.
The whole purpose of this campaign is to try to get these men released so that their machinations in Latin America - in this case in Brazil - may not come to light in the international sphere. The importance of this matter to Australia is that business people here have had pressure put on them to ring up the Brazilian ambassador to Australia. I do not know whether he has been telephoned. But, if we inquired, we probably would find that he has been. As I have said before, with 40 per cent, of our wheat trade in the hands of Peking at this time, do not be surprised when political pressure is exerted on the. Australian wheatgrowers in order to bring about some political act or decision that red China wants. In 1958 red China cut off all trade with Japan, in an effort to influence the Kishi election. The Chinese did not hesitate to take that action. All I am saying is this: If you want to trade with the Chinese, see that you know that at least you have some plans under which, if they cut off the trade because you do not succumb to their political pressure, you will not leave thousands of wheat-growers -
– Surely you are not in favour of planning?
– I do not intend to argue with a fellow-traveller at this time of the night.
I do not want to see the wheat-growers left in the lurch by action similar to that taken in the case of Japan. The action that has been brought to light by the honorable member for Mackellar is indicative of the shape of things to come and is a warning which I hope the Government and the people of Australia will take to heart, so that neither the wheat-growers nor anybody else will be left high and dry when similar action is taken to put pressure on them.
– Mr. Speaker, I want to enter an objection to a remark made by the honorable member for Chisholm.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– It is a pity that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) is not in the chamber to hear the attack that has been levelled against him and the Government by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). It is an odd thing that these gentlemen usually choose some occasion when the Minister is not here to defend himself to level charges such as this against the Government for its decision to trade with red China. If they feel so keenly about the question of trade with red China, as they pretend to do whenever the Formosan representative is in the chamber and whenever they are acting, so it seems, on information supplied to them by the representative of a foreign country, one would think that they would resign from the Liberal Party.
– The broadcast from Radio Peking comes over in English every night. The honorable member could listen to it if he wished.
– The honorable member for Chisholm did not get his information from Radio Peking.
– Yes, I did.
– No, you did not. You got it from the person representing Formosa, because I saw you.
– I listen to Radio Peking almost every night.
– But you do not get cables over Radio Peking. You got this from the representative of Formosa. You were with the representative of Formosa to-night. You cannot deny that. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who is about to speak on the same subject, spent the evening with the representative of Formosa. He also is intending to attack his own Government on the fact that it has decided to trade with red China. What I want to remind the honorable gentleman of is this-
– You are in the presence of federal executive members.
– I am proud to be in the presence of members of the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party because they are good Labourites and good Australians.
– You go to the Russian Embassy.
– I have been to the Russian Embassy only on two occasions, and each time I was there I saw more members of the Liberal Party, including yourself, than members of the Australian Labour Party.
– 1 have never been there.
– The members of the Liberal Party 1 saw there included the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) and several other prominent persons. They were there. Let us not have any misunderstanding on that point. The position is, as the honorable member for Chisholm knows very well, that the Australian Country Party just would not support the Liberal Party any longer unless the Government supported trade with Communist China. If it were not for the trade with Communist China, half the people represented by the Country Party would not have had anybody to buy their wheat. The silos would have been overflowing. There would not have been anywhere to store the surplus wheat. The plain fact of the matter is that this Government depends on playing up to the Country Party interests, by trading with China, to maintain its position and retain office.
– Trade with mainland China was worth £65,000,000 to Australia in the first eight months of this year.
– I thank the honorable member for reminding me that our trade with red China in the first eight months of this year was worth £65,000,000. China is our eighth best customer for wool. This is what this Government is doing. For the honorable members for Mackellar and Chisholm to stand there and shout across at this side of the House as though it were the Opposition trading with China is to me rather a remarkable performance. Why does not the honorable member for Chisholm get up in his party room and attack the Government for what it is doing?
– You are just asking for a leak. The leaks come from your party room.
– I am just asking why the honorable member does nol attack the Government in his party room instead of speaking in the House on the motion for the adjournment when the Minister is not here to defend himself, and when noi one Country Party Minister is hers to defend the Government’s actions? Why does not the honorable member do that in the party room and announce that he feels so Keenly on this matter that he is prepared to resign from the parly unless something is done to carry out his wishes? Why does not the honorable member for Mackellar bc consistent and make it known in undisguised terms that unless the Government ceases forthwith to trade with red China, and unless it stops feeding the Communists to strengthen them for some future attack on this or some other country, he and his colleague will resign from the Liberal Party? Why do not the honorable members resign, instead of echoing views that have been passed on to them by a representative of a foreign country in the King’s Hall to night? This is how these people perform.
The position in Brazil is that nine Communist businessmen and newspaper representatives, as they have described themselves, were arrested. As soon as the old government was overthrown and the new government came into power they were arrested and cross-examined. Now the proposal is, so I am informed, that these nine men shall bc sent back to Formosa to be tried. It is not very hard to work out what sort of a trial they would get in Formosa. They would get the same sort of trial as nine Formosans would get in China. Let us face facts. It is as simple as that. Wc do not know whether they are spies or not. They might be spies or they might not be spies. Who knows? They might be businessmen or journalists. But that has nothing to do with us. If the honorable member for Chisholm claims that by sending wheat to China we are putting ourselves in an invidious position, let him blame the Government and the Country Party. Let him do the honorable thing and resign from the party that is responsible for this trade.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Usually I do not mind what the honorable member for Hindmarsh says, but on this occasion he has said that I was at the Russian Embassy at a parly at which he was present. lt must have been a pretty good party, because I have never been there.
Mr. HUGHES (Parkes) 111.28].- Tonight we have had the good fortune to hear the announcement of the appointment of the seventh Chief Justice of this Commonwealth. lt is good to hear from all sides of the House that the ability of Sir Garfield Barwick and his illustriousness are unchallenged. In these circumstances, to say the least, it is a shame that use has been made of the occasion by certain honorable members opposite to attempt to make a cheap attack with a view only to gaining party political advantage. That has been the sole purpose of the attack that has been levelled against the Government to-night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). Honorable members opposite do not like this comment, so they squeak. I do not suppose anybody could accuse the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) of squeaking; his is more like a bellow.
Honorable members opposite have made their attack by resorting to nothing short of misrepresentation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro purported to quote from some daily newspaper for the purpose of trying to make the point that the recently resigned Minister for External Affairs had stated on his return from Manila that the United States of America would be automatically involved in hostilities if Australian troops were attacked in Borneo. That was the clear purpose of the quotations, or purported quotations from the newspaper which were made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. say the same of the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) who purported to quote the alleged substance of Sir Garfield Barwick’s statement.
There are two ways of telling a falsehood. One is to make, a statement that is untruthful, absolutely and outrightly. The other is to suppress part of the truth so that a false impression is created. That is precisely what the remarks of the two honorable members I have mentioned were calculated to do. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro failed to tell the House - I think in decency he should have done so - that Sir Garfield Barwick, on his return from Manila, is reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as having said: “ There is nothing automatic. You can have no automatic obigation “. We all know that the then Minister was referring to the United States commitment under Anzus in the event of Australian troops in Borneo being subjected to attack. So I say, more in sorrow than in anger, that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is smirking now, and the honorable member for Yarra, who has chosen to leave the House, have resorted to nothing more than a cheap attempt to make political capital on the occasion of the appointment of a great Australian to a high office for which undoubtedly he is admirably qualified. It is not a very happy chapter in the annals of this House that prominent members of Her Majesty’s Opposition should have chosen this night to do so.
I conclude by saying that their attempt, based on false quotations, to drive a wedge between the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the former Minister for External Affairs is calculated - one would almost think intended - to foment discord between this country and our great ally. I hope that the honorable gentlemen did not mean to do that. If they did not mean to do that, their remarks still reflect no great credit on their political sagacity.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Parkes. I simply say that the quotations I made from the newspapers I named were exact quotations.
– You did not give them all.
– I quoted everything in those passages that was relevant. I did not shorten them, I did not abbreviate them in any way. The only thing I would add is that I wish the honorable member for Parkes well, as he obviously expects to do, in his appearances before the High Court.
– Order! The honorable member has completed his personal explanation.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro implied perfectly clearly that the statements I made to-night were calculated to curry favour with the new Chief Justice should I appear before him. I ask for a withdrawal. A more filthy remark could not have been made.
– I must confess that I did not hear the remark. Did the honorable member for Eden-Monaro make the remark mentioned by the honorable member for Hughes?
– No, Sir. I said nothing whatever about currying favour. Would you like me to repeat what I did say?
– No. I would like you to resume your seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m. until Tuesday, 5th May, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
Surplus funds are in general required for two main purposes -
son asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It appears to me that the honorable member’s question requires an expression of opinion on the interpretation of the Constitution and the relevant statutes, both of the Commonwealth and States, and I am not competent to express such an opinion.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
ser asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The effect on teeth in a population whose water supply has been fluoridated is a public health matter and consequently the concern of State health authorities. So far as New South Wales is concerned, I am advised that the results of the fluoridation of the Yass water supply have been studied by a senior lecturer in Preventive Dentistry of the University of Sydney, and presented in a paper to the A.N.Z.A.A.S. Conference held in Canberra early this year. It was observed that there was less decay and a higher percentage of caries-free children in those who used the town water supply, compared with average values for children in New South Wales. 1 am informed that there is a study in progress at Tamworth. This study has been carefully designed to elicit information concerning the effectiveness of fluoridation under Australian conditions.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
Australia is very actively engaged in the fight against cancer through the efforts of the Commonwealth Government, the State Governments and non-governmental- organizations. The anti-cancer councils in each State encourage and assist research into the causation, diagnosis and treatment of cancer; co-ordinate anti-cancer activities within the State, and provide social and, in some cases, financial assistance to cancer patients suffering social or economic hardship. Special units for the investigation and treatment of cancer and cancer detection clinics for the detection of gynaecological and breast cancer are being established in increasing numbers, and programmes of undergraduate and post-graduate education for the medical profession are provided. Education of the public regarding cancer, with particular emphasis on the warning signs of cancer, the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and increasing public confidence in treatment is an important part of Australia’s anti-cancer activities. The Australian Cancer Society, which has as its members the anti-cancer council of each Slate, has the responsibility of fostering national and international co-ordination and development of all activities in relation to cancer through the agency of its medical and scientific, public education and cancer service committees. The discovery of a drug or drugs which will cure cancer is not, of course, the sole aim of cancer research. While a drug capable of curing cancer has yet to be found, research in recent years has shown that a great deal can be done to minimize the chances of developing cancer and to increase the chances of cure when cancer has developed; for example refusal to smoke will reduce the chance of contracting lung cancer, while advances in the early diagnosis and treatment of the common cancers in women have greatly increased the prospects of cure. Many new drugs however, have been discovered which prolong the span of useful life in several forms of cancer. Australia co-operates with other countries in the field of cancer research through the medium of international anti-cancer societies, such as the International Union Against Cancer. At the Seventeenth World Health Assembly held in Geneva last month, a World Research Agency for Cancer was proposed whereby members of the World Health Organization, in collaboration with the International Union Against Cancer and the other international organizations concerned, could cooperate with a view to stimulating and supporting all branches of cancer research.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information - 1. (a) Yes. h) Yes.
son asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The matters raised by the honorable member involve questions of policy which are under consideration by the Government, whose decisions will be announced at the appropriate time.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
The Ansett-ANA DC-6B which recently lost its propeller over Melbourne was a second-hand aircraft when purchased by Ansett-ANA. This aircraft was manufactured in 1956 and at time of purchase had completed 18,325 hours flight time. The TAA aircraft purchased at about the same time was manufactured in 1954 and had 26,928 hours flight time. Ansett-ANA and TAA were each given permission to add to their fleet a DC-6B to cope with increased traffic demands on certain of their routes. These aircraft are of a type currently on the Australian register and have had a long, successful history in Australian operation. The Douglas company has long ceased production of the type and hence the only aircraft available are second-hand. For the importation of any specific aircraft which is not the first of a type - for these there are extensive detailed requirements and procedures to be adhered to - the department insists on having a certificate of airworthiness for export issued by the exporting country’s airworthiness authority and full technical records for the aircraft. For both the Ansett-ANA and TAA aircraft the department, in accordance with its customary practice, as a pre-requisite to the issue of an Australian certificate of airworthiness ensured that the maintenance history was satisfactory and that all prescribed inspections were complied with. The particular propeller and engine on the DC-6B aircraft in question were components from Ansett-ANA’s spares pool and were fitted prior to the aircraft entering service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640423_reps_25_hor42/>.