House of Representatives
12 August 1964

25th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

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Retirement from House of Commons.

Prime Minister · KooyongPrime Minister · LP

Sir Winston Churchill has just made his last appearance in the House of Commons, having announced that he will not re-contest at the next election. It is an appearance which marked the end of one of the most remarkable parliamentary stories in democratic history. He was at all stages a great Parliament man. He found in the House of Commons his greatest forum. He had an affection for it. He was a tremendous believer in its traditions and in its significance. At the height of his power he commanded the House as few men have ever done, yet at all times he respected its authority and was, in the best sense of the word, its servant. I hasten to add that it would be to underestimate his personality to assume that he was always its humble and obedient servant.

Even when he was, in a sense, in the political wilderness, he did not hesitate to tell the House what he thought, and to battle for what some people might have thought to be, in the famous phrase of Matthew Arnold, “ lost causes and impossible loyalties “. But at all times he knew that the House of Commons was the House of the people, and his task was to persuade and not to destroy.

I do not remember any prior occasion on which this House has been invited to take note of the retirement of a man from another Parliament, but the circumstances here are very special. Here is a great man - the greatest of our time - who has put under his debt not only the people of his own country but all of us, wherever we may live, who value the institutions of freedom and the indomitable spirit of free men. Our debt to him can never be repaid.

There are many of a newer generation to whom his achievements may now seem somewhat remote, but there are still many millions of us who remember his inspired leadership and who derived new courage from the immortal fashion in which he built up the morale of what appeared to be a beleaguered world, and thereby made a vital contribution to our survival. I would wish to add that in his great career he has been sustained and comforted - and sometimes corrected - by that great lady, his wife. As I have spoken of him I have frequently thought of her, and always with warmth.

We all wish Sir Winston a longer life and much reflective happiness. I hope that what is said and recorded in this Parliament today will, when conveyed to him, give him a renewed understanding of what we think of him and of how deeply and enduringly our gratitude and affection and pride go out to him. I move -

Thai this House takes note of the retirement from the Mouse of Commons of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, a Knight of the Garter, holder of the Order of Merit, Companion of Honour, after over 60 years of distinguished membership;

It takes this opportunity of recording its appreciation of his unsurpassed and splendid contribution to parliamentary democracy, and of the inspired leadership and tenacity of purpose which he brought to the service of the free world in the period of its greatest danger;

It sends him its gratitude, its affection, and its continuing good wishes.

Leader of the Opposition · Melbourne

– 1 second this motion formally but point out that the Government has brought the matter to the House without any discussion or agreement with the Opposition as to the wording of the resolution now before us or, indeed, of the need for such a resolution. If this were to be a joint resolution in the fullest, truest sense, one might have expected that the leaders of all three parties in this chamber would have consulted together. Such a course certainly was followed in London when a similar motion was brought before the House of Commons a few weeks ago. lt is interesting to speculate why that was not done here.

I feel that I should point out further, in assertion of the independence of this House, that it does not follow automatically that a decision by the House of Commons to honour one of its most distinguished members should, and must, guide the actions of the Parliament of Australia. The resolution of the House of Commons was designed to honour Winston Churchill specifically as a great House of Commons man. It was not intended as a premature apotheosis, and it was undoubtedly regarded by the members of that august assemblage as something of a family affair.

I have stated that the Opposition was not consulted about the wording of this resolution. If we had been, we might have suggested some amendment to the curious phraseology which refers to Sir Winston Churchill’s service to what the resolution calls “ the free world “. Obviously, what is meant is the allied cause in wartime, but I have yet to learn that this Government regards the Soviet Union as part of the free world. However, this resolution does give us the opportunity to place on record our feelings about the long and distinguished career of this remarkable man. What we say can be all the more sincere because we are dealing with a living man - a man who thrived on controversy and spurned humbug. Indeed, Winston Spencer Churchill was, and remains, one of the most controversial figures of modern times.

It is true to say that we on this side of the House would disagree with almost every domestic political idea and attitude ever adopted by Churchill. In our fundamental views on the nature of the good society and the role of government, he and we are poles apart. He entered the House of Commons as a Conservative and left it 64 years later as a Conservative. But in the intervening years he was a Liberal and then an Independent. He won and lost in the political arena several times and, for some time, he was publicly ostracised. Perhaps the crowning paradox of his career is that the man who joined all parties except the British Labour Party was brought to power at the insistence of the British Labour Party in Britain’s darkest hour - and his own finest hour. Of course, it is because of his unparalleled services to Britain and humanity at this period of his life - the autumn of his life - that he will always be remembered and why, chiefly, we honour bini today.

Churchill saw and recognised, more clearly and more speedily than most, the totally evil nature of Nazism. For long his voice raised in warning protest against Hitler, was, for all his eloquence, but a voice in the wilderness. While Churchill thundered his magnificent obsession, as it seemed, there were those who, in smoother cadences, besought the people to imagine themselves in the position of the German people at their own firesides and to ask themselves whether they would not find much to admire in Herr Hitler’s achievements. Churchill, with his clearer insight and genuine sense of leadership, stripped the mask from such humbug. When he was finally proved right it was by the common voice of the British people that he exchanged the mantle of the prophet for the cloak of the commander.

In that role he had one grand and simple strategy - beat Hitler first. He was prepared to regard everything that seemed to stand in the way of this one aim as irrelevant. Thus it was inevitable that once Japan entered the war and her victorious and seemingly invincible armies swept southwards towards the Australian homeland there should be a conflict of emphasis between Prime Minister Churchill and Prime Minister Curtin. Fortunately for Australia we, too, had a great man at our head - one not to be overawed by Churchill’s iron will when he believed that Australia’s best and vital interests were at stake. For, as John Curtin said: “ We know that Australia can go and Britain can still hold on. We are determined that Australia shall not go.” Both Churchill and Curtin held their views and did their duty, as they saw it, to the people they served. But we who hold this land, un viola ted and inviolate, can have no hesitation in rejoicing that in this instance it was John Curtin’s will and not Winston Churchill’s which prevailed.

At the very height of his triumph in 1945 Churchill was cast down from the seat of power by the will of the British people, who believed that the war-time Prime Minister and the Conservative Party he led were not capable of conducting the postwar social and economic revolution which they demanded. It was a common jest in Britain at the time: “ I wanted to vote for Churchill but I could not find his name on the ballot paper “. That remarkable election of 1945 was not merely a victory for the Labour Party; it was one of the greatest manifestations of the strength of democracy ever recorded. It is not the least of the things to Churchill’s credit that, despite the terrible exigencies of the war years and the terrible temptations of almost unbridled power, he preserved the democracy of Britian basically intact. He had the credit side and the debit side to his versatile, chequered and brilliant career. He expressed no wish, like that of Cromwell, to be painted warts and all. But history will do precisely this to him and to everyone else it cares to remember.

Winston Spencer Churchill has been a giant among his fellow parliamentarians, but still a human giant with failings which themselves were on no puny scale. It is as a man now passing slowly towards the great beyond - a striking example of the complexities of our strange species - that we think of him today.

Minister for Trade and Industry · Murray · CP

– 1 desire to associate the Australian Country Party with the motion proposed by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). If ever a man deserves a tribute from all free people of the world it is Sir Winston Churchill. He has been described as the greatest Englishman of his time. History will certainly sustain that description and may even rate him higher.

He was indeed a very great parliamentarian. It is in this role that we usually think of him but he was not alone a parliamentarian; he was also a soldier. He left the Government and during the Great War commanded a battalion in France. He was a fighting soldier, but we think of him most as a great parliamentarian and a great statesman.

Churchill was a magnificent writer and orator. He was never a man to shrink from difficult issues. He was always progressive and in so many issues was ahead of the thinking of his time. He was never afraid to be out of step with public opinion or even with his own party when he was convinced that he was right in his attitudes. In this respect in the years before World War II he was ahead of the thinking of many in his denunciation of the re-armament of Germany and in his warning of what might befall his people and others in the world unless appropriate precautions were taken. It is now history that his warnings were not sufficiently taken to heart and it fell to him to be called to leadership.

Let us remember that Sir Winston Churchill was not then the leader of his party, nor was he deputy leader, but he had established himself in character, force and foresight sufficiently to be requested to lead the country in its darkest days. He not merely led his own country. All people who were fighting for their freedom felt that in truth he was leading them.

Sir Winston Churchill rallied and inspired the people in Europe who had been overrun and he re-established in them the will for victory, the confidence that they could again become free people, in a way that I believe no other person possibly could have done. He always had a close affinity with the United States of America; indeed he has American blood in his veins. It was of tremendous value to the free world that he was able to inspire the interest and concern of the United States Government, which was committed to a policy of isolation, so that it progressively modified its policies to aid the Allies who were fighting in Europe and North Africa at that time, until the United States willingly became our ally.

I believe that Churchill exemplified as few men have ever been able to do the ability to attract on moral grounds the support of the whole world, other than those who were our direct enemies. This was a tremendous achievement. His momentous orations will live as classics. But he did more than speak. He toured the bombed areas of his own country, visited the battle fields and placed himself in physical danger so that he might inspire all who were involved in any way in the tremendous struggle that was proceeding at that time.

Of course he was a master politico strategist. Few will believe that the course of history would not have been different if his concept of the Gallipoli campaign in the First War had succeeded. Few will believe that if his concept of a thrust - in his own words - at the soft underbelly of Europe had been the main attack history may not have been different. He was a master mind in perceiving the events of history and despite the tremendous power that he attracted to himself he never wavered in his belief in democracy. On the eve of final victory in France, when Churchill was at the height of his power and might well have sought to prolong the life of the Parliament, he took the view that the life of the Parliament had expired and called a general election. It is part of history that the people who had followed him and acclaimed him in war turned from him for a period.

In 1951 he was elected again as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But never is there to be found in the records a whimper of protest by this great man because he was not chosen for re-election at the peak of his career in 1945. He was revered and admired not only by the people of his own country but by all who subscribe to the principles for which he stood. Churchill’s fame is a fame to which he is entitled by his own efforts and achiements and this Parliament is delighted to have the opportunity to record its appreciation of this very great man to whom we all owe so much.


– In joining in this tribute to Sir Winston Churchill, I express my belief that this House would be remiss if it accepted the implication in the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that Churchill’s great services were services merely to the Allied cause and not also to the free world. It is true that he was the moral and spiritual leader of the Allied cause, but it is also true that his services to the free world included his recognition that Communism was our enemy in the same way as its evil twin, Nazism, was our enemy.

It is one of the regrets of history that the policy enunciated by this great man at Yalta and other conferences was not followed. lt is one of the great tragedies of history that the Churchill concept of freedom for the satellite countries, as they now are, was not followed. It is one of the tragedies of history, as the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen) has reminded us, that the Churchill concept of a thrust into the soft underbelly of Europe was not followed because, leader though he was, he was overborne by the combination of Roosevelt and Stalin.

Let us also remember that, a few years after the end of the Second World War, it was Churchill who, in the great Fulton speech, warned us of the nature of the impending Soviet threat - a warning which unhappily was unheeded just as the earlier warning that he had given at the gathering of Hitler’s power was unheeded.

I believe it is fitting that we as parliamentarians should join in this tribute because it is a parliamentary tribute and not just a tribute by leaders. It is fitting that this House should recall that we are paying a tribute not merely to the leader of the Allied cause in the last war, great though that tribute would be, but also to a man who saw the dangers that the free world was facing and gave us a warning - a man whose services were services to the whole of the free world.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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– Has the Minister for National Development received a recent report on the state of beef roads in northern Australia? Is it a fact that holes in some of the roads are almost big enough to engulf a small car? Have a number of hauliers been forced out of business as a result of extensive and costly damage to their vehicles? Are most of these roads unsealed? Will the Government urgently consider the need for a change in beef roads policy and procedure in order to ensure that these roads are properly constructed and sealed as an alternative to the costly upkeep necessary under the present very inadequate and inefficient programme?

Minister for National Development · FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I have heard some allegations of damage to beef roads, particularly in Queensland, as a result of some recent floods. The Queensland roads were built by the State Government and in the Northern Territory they were built under the supervision of the Commonwealth Department of Works. I have no personal knowledge of these. The roads which I saw recently were in excellent order. Of course it is a matter for debate as to whether or not we are better off building a greater length of gravel road or a shorter length - a much shorter length - of sealed roads. We hope, eventually, that all these roads will be sealed. In the meantime they are doing a first class job in taking cattle out of areas which otherwise would be inaccessible.

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– I address my question to the Treasurer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Commonwealth Actuary has certified that the Commonwealth Superannuation Board had surplus assets of £5,674,325 on 30th June 1962? Will the Government immediately introduce legislation to provide additional benefits for superannuated officers, contributors and pensioners who have contributed to this very large surplus? I might add, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have repeatedly pointed out in this House that the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is now over £100,000,000 and I have been told that we were waiting on this quinquennial investigation by the Commonwealth Actuary. In view of the fact that this investigation has been made, I want to know whether early action will be taken.


– It is a fact that the amount stated by the honorable member for Sturt is in surplus in the accounts of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. I understand that those interested in the disposition of the Fund are discussing the matter and it has been reported to me that it is anticipated that decisions can be made and legislation introduced in the course of this session of Parliament.

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– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. By way of explanation I refer to a pamphlet titled “Answering Your Questions” which was specially prepared, according to the Voluntary Health Insurance Council of Australia, for distribution to migrants both in England and Australia in order to explain Australia’s national health scheme. Has the Minister authorised the V.H.I.C. to issue this document and does he approve its contents? If so, is he aware that this pamphlet contains misleading and inaccurate information on the scheme and gives a completely false picture of health and medical benefits available to migrants in Australia? If not, will he read the document, study it and withdraw it from circulation? In fairness to migrants, will the Minister correct the misleading information by advising them that the national health scheme is not voluntary, covers only a fraction of medical costs, and only 70 per cent, of the population, and has been accurately described by experts as the most expensive and worst health scheme in the world?

Minister for Immigration · CORIO, VICTORIA · LP

– The honorable member for Grayndler has asked a series of questions and requested me to have a look at the document. I will do so and if there is anything wrong and anything misleading to migrants in it, I will certainly have it withdrawn or altered.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the action taken recently by the Waterside Workers Federation on the Melbourne waterfront, as a protest against the usual police search of waterside workers, which has occasioned the loss of two hours per man day. Has the Government taken action to effect an early settlement of this dispute, in view of its serious effect on the turnround of shipping?

Minister for Labour and National Service · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– Some time ago the Melbourne police, in co-operation with the Melbourne Harbour Trust, decided to search vehicles coming out of the Victoria dockyard, because of the large numbers of losses and thefts that had been occurring. Some discussions took place between the police and the Trust on the one hand and the Waterside Workers Federation on the other. It was thought that an amicable settlement had been achieved. Towards the end of last month a blue was put on by the Melbourne branch of the Federation on the grounds that too much time was lost in the police search and that additional gates should be provided so that the workers could get out of the dockyard more quickly. The Federation thought also that if searches were to be made they should be made in the boss’s time. These matters were referred on two occasions to the Trades Hall Disputes Committee and finally by the Committee to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Council has instructed the men to go back to work on the pre-dispute conditions, and the men are now working the normal hours. The Melbourne Harbour Trust is providing additional gates in order to get the men off the dockyard quickly. The only other matter in dispute - that is, the time during which searches should be made - has been referred to the Industrial Relations Committee of the employers and the Federation for discussion and, I hope, for quick settlement.

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Dr J F Cairns:

– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of conclusions arrived at by the Victorian Teachers Union that the method of selecting the winners of Commonwealth secondary scholarships favours children who come from a good cultural background, from better equipped schools and from wealthier and better educated families. Does he know whether these conclusions are accurate? If not, will he have them checked? If they are found to be incorrect, will he give the reasons for this finding? If they are found to be correct, will he see that the method of selecting the winners of Commonwealth secondary scholarships is changed?


– I am not aware of the views that have been put forward and therefore I cannot make any useful comment on them. It may very well be that my colleague, Senator Gorton, who handles these matters for me, is aware of them. I will have a word with him and see what can be done along the lines suggested by the honorable member.

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– I address a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to page 69 of the Budget Papers, Prime Minister’s Department, Division No. 400, Item 21, “Olympic Games 1964 - Towards expenses of Australian contingent, £30,000 “. Having regard to the donation of the taxpayers’ money to the Australian Olympic Federation, will the Prime Minister consider drawing the Federation’s attention to the fact that many of these taxpayers are unhappy that Australia’s greatest swimmer, Murray Rose, who recently broke a world record, has been left out of the Olympic team?


– If the honorable member will allow me to say so, I have enough troubles of my own without buying into those of other people.

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Tenancies of Dwellings

Mr J R Fraser:

– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he been informed that many government owned cottages and flats in Canberra remain vacant between tenancies for periods of two and three months, and sometimes more, while awaiting necessary maintenance? Does he realise that this delays the granting of tenancies to many families on the waiting list? Has he been informed that some housing authorities in the States are able to undertake maintenance on the basis that no government owned dwelling is vacant for more than one fortnight during a change of tenants? Is any review being made of maintenance procedures in Canberra? If so would he hasten that review so that this wastage can be avoided?

Minister for the Interior · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I am not aware of any great delay in people going into houses. One case was brought to my notice - I think by the honorable member. There was some irregularity in that the place had been vacant for a long period. If the honorable member has any specific cases which he thinks should be brought to my notice I shall be happy to look at them. I shall have the whole question looked at to see whether there is any delay and if the position can be improved I shall certainly do what 1 can.

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– Will the Prime Minister arrange a conference between Australia, Canada, the United States of America and 0:her wheat exporting countries to discuss the possibility of ensuring that no wheat imported by Communist China is used, directly or indirectly, for the sustenance of her armed forces, which at present threaten the world with aggression? In default of such assurances, verified by adequate inspection, would it not be desirable that the wheat exporting nations should agree to refrain from making wheat available for import into Communist China? If there should be any surplus wheat for export from these wheat exporting countries, would it not be preferable to direct it towards our Indian allies, who need it for the feeding of their peaceful peoples, and to make international arrangements to pay for it so that wheat growers would receive adequate recompense?


– The question in relation to India would, I think, be better directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. We have, from time to time in the past, supplied wheat to India. There have been problems, as the honorable member probably knows, about American surplus wheat and about gifts of wheat. Of late we have dealt primarily through the Colombo Plan supplying what we think India needs most and we act in consultation with India. As for saying that we ought to try to arrange some scheme under which people in the armed forces of China do not get imported wheat, this, with very great respect, puzzles me because - I speak subject to correction - I would have thought that the wheat we export to China would not amount to more than about 1 per cent, of the total wheat consumed in that country. Would that be right?

Mr McEwen:

– Yes.

Mr Wentworth:

– It forms a large part of the total purchases.


– It forms part of the imports which themselves are a small part of the total consumption I am sure that the honorable member will realise that for three or four nations to get together to try to control what happens to wheat when it goes inside China and to try to prevent imported wheat from reaching the loaf of bread that goes to a soldier, presents an impossible problem.

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– Is the Minister for Externa) Affairs in a position to inform the House whether any commando raids or naval attacks were made on the coast of North Vietnam in the fortnight prior to the recent incident involving the U.S.S. “ Maddox “? If not, will he ascertain whether recent newspaper reports on this matter have any basis in fact whatsoever?

Minister for External Affairs · CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– One cannot speak with absolute certainty because the place is distant from us but, so far as we have information in Australia, there may have been some small and local action by South Vietnamese forces. The information before us is that there were certainly no actions in which the United States took part.

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– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information concerning the movements of Communist Chinese troops info North Vietnam, or any groupings of troops in the border area?


– If the honorable member’s question concerns events subsequent to the recent incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin, I would say that we have no information that movements such as those mentioned by the honorable member have taken place.

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Sales of Motor Vehicles


– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is the Minister aware that at an auction sale at the Indonesian Embassy on 8th August a bid of £2,350 was refused, as being below the set reserve, for a nearly new fully imported motor car, the tax free price of which was approximately £1,700? Will the Minister inform the house whether the vendor of this vehicle received the usual diplomatic privilege of exemption from payment of tax at the time of the purchase of the vehicle? Since the vehicle is being offered for sale on a commercial basis well within the minimum period of two years for which members of the diplomatic corps are expected to retain a car purchased without the payment of tax, will the Minister say whether the vendor has paid such tax or will be required to pay the tax when the vehicle is sold? If he will not be required to pay the tax, what will become of the very substantial profit that will result from the transaction?


– Perhaps I should, first of all, state clearly for the information of the House the established rule in these cases. Members of the diplomatic corps may purchase motor cars free of customs duty and free of sales tax on the condition that they retain them for two years and that there is no resale within the period of two years, in some exceptional circumstances - and I can recall no recent instance - if a diplomat is recalled hurriedly he may seek from the Minister for Customs and Excise special permission to dispose of a vehicle even though it was purchased less than two years before the departure of the diplomat from Australia. There has been no sale of any such motor car recently. If there had been a sale of a motor car which had not been retained by the owner for the full period of two years, it would have been necessary either for the vendor to pay the customs duty and the sales tax involved or for the purchaser to pay such customs duty and sales tax on acquiring the vehicle. No application to escape this obligation has been made. There has been no exception to the rule. I can assure the honorable member, therefore, that the Australian revenue is being fully protected and that the interests of the Australian public generally are being protected. Such matters as these are within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Did the Singapore Government announce in April of this year the imposition of quantitative restrictions on the entry of Australian flour to that country in the period from April to June, the amount being restricted to 37) per cent of the level of imports in 1962? If so, have these restrictions yet been lifted? What is the outlook for Australia’s flour export trade in this area?


– In 1963 Singapore announced restrictions on imports of flour from all sources, no particular country being identified. The restrictions have been maintained, I think on the ground that there are two flour mills operating in Singapore. The restrictions are, 1 suppose, both a gesture of protection of Singapore’s own mills and also perhaps a means of dealing with that country’s balance of payments position. The practice is to announce so-called global quotas which can be supplied by anyone. The quotas are reviewed quarterly. In the first quarter of this year the quota was 75 per cent of the 1 962 imports. In the second quarter it was 371/2 per cent and now in the third quarter it is 521/2 per cent. We are keeping in close touch with the situation so that we can do what is best to protect Australia’s trading interests in flour.

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– I ask the Prime Minister whether he or the honorable member for Mackellar has any intention of visiting the United States of America prior to the presidential election to sponsor the candidature of Senator Barry Goldwater.


– Order! The subject matter of the question does not come under the control of the Prime Minister.


– May I take advantage of the opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say that I have never heard a sillier question in my life.

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill which is currently before this House in the second reading stage and which provides for the appointment by the GovernorGeneral of one full time member and two part time members. It may be of benefit to the debate if the Minister were to state what procedure will be adopted in selecting those members. Will he call for a panel of names from certain appropriate organisations to which he will give consideration, will he make the selections himself, or will some other proecedure be adopted?

Minister for Shipping and Transport · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– It is not the intention of the Government to select members of the Bureau as being representative of certain organisations or bodies. We are eager to get the best brains possible to advise the Government. If the honorable member or any other person, or any organisation, has any suggestions to make after the Bill is passed, I shall be happy to receive them.

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– I address these questions to the Treasurer: Is it a fact that when a pensioner husband or wife dies, the husband and wife having over £200 in joint bank account, this amount is frozen until a clearance is given by the Taxation Branch? If this is so, does it mean that the right of survivorship which existed before no longer exists? Does the Treasurer realise that this comparatively new procedure is causing serious embarrassment to surviving pensioners who sometimes need the money to pay urgent and substantial commitments at the time of their spouse’s death?


– I am not personally aware of any recent change of procedure such as the honorable gentleman suggests. However, I shall check the text of his question and see that he is supplied with a full answer.

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– I ask the Treasurer whether Australian personnel who are serving with the United Nations police force in Cyprus receive the same taxation allowances and deductions as do members of the defence forces of Australia when serving overseas. If the answer is “ No “, will he consider amending the appropriate act to put these personnel on the same footing?


– Special arrangements were made in respect of the pay and conditions of service of Australian personnel serving in Cyprus. I shall see whether I can obtain the details for the honorable gentleman and at the same time give him a statement showing how they measure up with those provided for other serving personnel to whom he has referred.

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– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared, in view of the proposed increase in television licence fees, to give favorable consideration to restoring the hours of telecasting to the position which obtained before they were reviewed recently? Have substantial protests been received from all sections of the public following the recent curtailment? Have the most vehement of those protests come from shift workers in industrial areas who when working on afternoon and night shifts are completely deprived of the privilege of viewing television programmes?

Postmaster-General · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP

– The honorable member will realise that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which was established by legislation, is responsible for the hours of telecasting and broadcasting in Australia. The Board advises me in relation to applications that are made by stations on the one hand and by the public on the other hand. This authority takes into consideration the interests of both sections of the community. Because of an increase in the number of television stations, the Board has decided that it is desirable that the hours of telecasting should be reduced so that the stations may remain in a competitive and profit earning condition.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that all affiliated unions affected have declared complete opposition to the adult training pro posals which were advanced on behalf of the Commonwealth Government? Is it true that the metal trades federation of unions, at its executive meeting on 27th May last, endorsed the action taken by unions and branches of the federation against the proposal and threatened industrial action to support efforts to defend the apprenticeship system? In view of the nation wide protest against the Government’s iniquitous proposal, does the Minister intend to abandon the scheme altogether?


– Before further details of the actual terms of the proposals had been put before them, the metal trade unions decided not to accept the scheme. I repeat that they took that action before these further details of the Government’s proposals were made known to them. The scheme which was announced by the Government was never intended to replace the apprenticeship scheme in any way. lt was a supplementary training scheme which was aimed at permitting the average unskilled worker to earn about £5 a week more as a skilled man.

My department met the trade unions. It was obvious that the facts were not completely known to them. We put our story to the unions and they explained to us some of their difficulties in relation to the proposals. It was then decided that a further discussion would be held between my department, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the metal trades unions. That discussion will take place in, I think, the last week of this month. The whole matter will then be thrashed out. 1 want to emphasise for the benefit of the honorable gentleman that we are desperately short of skilled manpower in this country. If members of the Opposition had any sense of public responsibility, they would be rising to their feet and helping the Government rather than attempting to jeopardise the scheme.

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– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Services, by saying that when invalid or age pensioners are required to enter mental hospitals for treatment their pensions are suspended. In recent correspondence the Minister undertook, by implication, to arrange for a review of the situation to ascertain whether a suitable trusteeship scheme could be brought into being so that pensions would not need to be suspended. Is the honorable gentleman now in a position to say whether the examination which he undertook, by implication, to make has been completed? If so, what is the result?

Minister for Social Services · RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– This question has been considered from time to time, but no satisfactory solution presents itself at the moment. Traditionally, when a person in receipt of a social service benefit enters a mental hospital the social service benefit is suspended, and it remains in a state of suspense so long as the pensioner remains in the mental hospital where, of course, he is in the care and custody of the State health department. When he is discharged from the mental hospital, he is entitled to the immediate restoration of his pension including payment for four weeks of the period for which it was suspended. This matter has been considered not only at the departmental level but at the Premiers’ level and J can assure the House that there is no easy solution to it. As I have assured the honorable member for Moreton, the matter is constantly before us and we hope that a solution will be found

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– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether his attention has been drawn to the plight of tobacco growers in Australia. Has he heard of or seen a report of the disastrous results of the auctioning of leaf after the last harvest? Has he done anything to try to promote better understanding between the growers and the manufacturers? Alternatively, has the Minister been asked by the growers in the State mainly concerned to try to bring more stability to the industry? As we all know that many growers will be walking off their properties after the next harvest if the next auction has the same results, will the Minister do something to bring stability to this industry which is so valuable to Australia?

Minister for Primary Industry · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · CP

– I am fairly conversant with conditions in the tobacco industry and I do keep myself informed on what happens at sales from time to time. 1 know, too, that the sales at Mareeba, which is in the honorable member’s electorate have been completed and that as a result over £7,000,000 went into that very small area. Generally, the prices received by the growers have exceeded the reserve price that they were told to expect. We know that there have been differences of opinion between the manufacturers and the growers.

As to stabilisation, I remind the honorable member that the industry has a responsibility to submit its proposals, and proposals are being submitted. Just as the Government is expected to accept its responsibility, so we in turn expect an industry to have some responsibility, and it might interest the honorable member to know that representatives of the growers will be approaching the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Minister for Customs and Excise and myself on this very matter tomorrow.

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– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that the adoption of Labour’s superphosphate bounty proposals has resulted in a substantial increase in the use of superphosphate which, in turn, will result in a substantial increase in the production of commodities for home consumption and export, ls it a fact that, because of the increased production of superphosphate, manufacturers have been able to reduce their overhead costs? Is it a fact that notwithstanding this reduction in overhead costs, the superphosphate manufacturers of New South Wales have substantially increased the charge for superphosphate to primary producers in that State?

Sir Robert Menzies:

– We had all this yesterday.


– Will the Minister for Primary Industry investigate this position and report the result cf his investigations? As to the Prime Minister’s interjection, I point out that this question can well stand repetition in view of the absence of a satisfactory answer yesterday.


– The honorable member could not have been listening to the reply which I gave to a question yesterday. He said that the superphosphate bounty is part of Labour’s policy. That is news to me. I remind the honorable member that during the whole of the time when I, as Minister, was submitting to Cabinet a proposal which the Government eventually accepted for the payment of a bounty, no representations along those lines were made by any member of the Labour Party. Therefore, the Labour Party is right out of the picture so far as this scheme is concerned.

As to increased usage, I pointed out yesterday that, because of the generosity of this Government in giving assistance to the industry, the usage of superphosphate in New South Wales has increased by 17 per cent. I also explained yesterday, and I repeat it today for the honorable member’s benefit that the increase in the price to New South Wales users was due to two things: One was the increased cost of phosphate rock and the second the freight charged for transporting surpluses from Western Australia to provide supplies for New South Wales users. As I indicated yesterday, too, the whole position has been reviewed and as a result the increase in price will now be 13s. 6d. a ton instead of 17s.

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– I address a question to the Treasurer. As the elimination of sales tax on the freight content of the sale price of goods and the allowance as a taxation deduction of the full cost of ambulance transport when ordered by a medical practitioner - as advocated by me - are not included in the Budget, J ask the right honorable gentleman whether action in the manner indicated can be taken by regulation. If so, will he give urgent consideration to taking such action?


– The matters to which the honorable member refers were amongst the very many requests for taxation relief considered by the Treasury and the Government prior to the determination of the details of the Budget which I have just put before the Parliament. It was not found practicable to adopt the policy proposals he has mentioned in a year in which it has been found necessary to make some considerable imposition of additional taxation.

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– I address to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. Is it a fact that only about SO per cent, of employers who are expected to engage apprentices are employing their full quota of apprentices? What action is being taken to induce the others to employ their full quota? Is it also a fact that in France and the United Kingdom penalties are imposed upon employers who do not employ their full quota of apprentices?


– I have made at least two speeches about what the Government has done to induce people to employ the required number of apprentices. I shall not give the honorable member a summary of them now because to do so would take up the rest of question time, but I shall certainly make a resume of both speeches available to him and I hope that he will be able to read and understand them. 1 was not aware that in France or other countries there was any compulsion upon employers to employ apprentices, but I think the honorable member will know that, in any case, the Commonwealth Government would not have power to compel people to employ apprentices or to summon them for breach of the requirement if they failed to employ apprentices.

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– In addressing a question to the Minister for Immigration I refer to a recent change which I understand has been approved in connection with the documentation to be submitted by an applicant for a passport relative to any children who are to accompany that applicant overseas. I ask: Was this change designed to give protection against the unlawful removal of children from this country? Have departmental officers been requested to investigate particularly any case in which the name of the applicant differs from the name of the child according to the birth certificate? Should a child be unlawfully removed as a result of this procedure breaking down, will the department give tangible assistance in the location and return of the child?


– The change in procedure mentioned by the honorable member has taken place, but I would like to indicate that the department was already taking action before the particular incident, to which I know he is referring, occurred. If such an incident happens in the future, every endeavour will be made by the department to bring the child back to Australia. Of course, if the child has been taken out of Australia the matter has to be placed in the hands of other authorities. Every possible step will be taken in such circumstances.

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– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Does the proposed joint radio and television licence, which the Treasurer outlined in his Budget Speech last night, retain the conditions contained in the current radio licence?


– I should think that the answer is: “ Yes “, but if there is any doubt in the honorable member’s mind I am prepared to have a look at the matter and advise him whether there is a difference.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the greatest deterrent to obtaining skilled labour from overseas is the inadequacy of housing in Australia? If this is so, is the Government taking action to overcome this problem?


– In answering the question I may enter the bailiwick of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration. This year we will have a considerably improved migration programme. I think it is correct to say that nearly 50 per cent, of the migrants coming to this country are workers. It is also true to say that large numbers of these are skilled workers. For example, I think that last year 7,600 or more were skilled in the electrical and metal trades. It is a credit to my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, that large numbers of the migrants coming to this country are working migrants and skilled migrants.

Mr Cope:

– Are there any single girls?


– Yes, and I have a look at each group that comes in. Referring to the final part of the question, while I have heard it said that lack of housing is one of the impediments to improvement of the migration scheme, the recruiting rate is high. I have already asked my department to have a look at the housing aspect that has been raised by the honorable member.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the widespread reports of very great hunger, distress and suffering in our Commonwealth country, India, will the Minister make an approach to the office of the Indian High Commission with a view to ascertaining the extent to which Australia could assist India with food during the present crisis period? Will he inquire whether India is prepared to accept flour sold on terms, and whether wheat and other foodstuffs could be made available by Australia to India?


– I think that an approach of this nature would probably be more within the province of my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs. It is well known that on occasions we have made gifts of food to India and to other countries under the Colombo Plan. The accepted procedure is that countries which are members of the Colombo Plan indicate what they would like to receive under the Plan.

Mr Luchetti:

– It would be a neighbourly act.


– That might be so. I shall mention to my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, that the honorable member has raised the question.

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Statement of Expenditure

HigginsTreasurer · LP

– I present the following paper: -

Statement for the year 1963-1964 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to Section 36* of the Audit Act 1901-1962 (Advance to the Treasurer).

Ordered -

That the statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House at the next sitting.

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Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - agreed to -

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948- 1939, Mr. Howson be discharged as a trustee serving on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust, and that Mr. Aston be appointed a trustee to serve in his place.

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Approval of Work - Public Works Committee Act

Mr. FREETH (Forrest- Minister for

Shipping and Transport) [3.42]. - I move -

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of Stage Two of the Land Research and Regional Survey Laboratories for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at Black Mountain, Australian Capital Territory.

This proposal involves the erection, at an estimated cost of £237,000, of a three story wing which will be linked to the Stage One wing by the existing single story entrance feature to form an open square. The reinforced concrete frame of the new building will be exposed and the elevations will be faced with dark coloured bricks to match the existing building. The committee reported favorably on the proposal, and upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning for the work can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Second Readings

Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 31), on motion by Mr. Bury -

That the Bills be now read a second time.

Dr J F Cairns:

.- At this stage there are few things that I want to say. We are being asked to consider these Bills which involve, in all, 17 proposals. Each proposal contains a great deal of detail, as is always the case. I want to bring to the attention of the House at this stage a matter that I have raised several times already this year and also last year. I refer to the necessity for the House, if it is to discharge its responsibilities adequately in respect of tariff measures, to have available to it facilities additional to those that it now possesses.

I have examined a number of such proposals during the recess. In some cases, because they happen to be in my own State, and accessible, I have visited manufacturers who are the subject of inquiry. However, many manufacturers concerned are not in Victoria or are not concerned with operations there and, even if the time were available, it would be impossible to make a proper investigation in all cases. Honorable members are asked to examine reports of the Tariff Board, which has had the advantage of the presence of witnesses, the calling of evidence and the examination of witnesses. In a number of cases I find it quite impossible to decide independently whether the Board is wrong or right, or to what degree it is wrong or right. In these cases I find, in speaking for the Opposition, that I have to accept the reports. The alternative is to cause undue delay, a procedure which could have harmful consequences.

Again I stress what I have suggested a couple of times already that the Government should consider the provision of some additional facilities. These could be in the form of a joint examination by a committee comprising honorable members of both sides of the House who are interested or qualified in these matters, or they could consist of the provision of research assistance for both sides of the House. Clearly enough over the last few years, we have seen in at least one Government supporter, an attitude to these measures which is somewhat independent of that of the Government, to state it in the mildest form. I should think that it would be valuable for those members on the Government side who share that approach to the tariff proposals to have some research or clerical assistanceto enable them to do their work. Such assistance would certainly be valuable to honorable members on this side of the chamber. In brief, I have only one submission to make at this stage: That my proposal should be looked at seriously and that, without any further delay, something should be done.

Mr Chaney:

– Don’t you think they could do their own research, like the honorable member you mentioned?

Dr J F Cairns:

– The honorable member I mentioned does some work on some subjects, and no doubt he will, very properly, be examining some of them today, but there are others he will have to allow to go untouched, just as I have to do. I will be speaking on several of these proposals at the committee stage, but in the circumstances there are many that I will just have to let go. I hope the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) will not try to bypass what I have suggested. I suggest seriously that some additional assistance is necessary and I hope the time will not be too long delayed when it becomes available.

Minister for Housing · Wentworth · LP

– in reply - The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) will recall that in March he and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) made specific suggestions that a Parliamentary sub-committee review Tariff Board reports. That suggestion has been considered by the Government. The honorable member for Yarra has now made another proposal. He has suggested that some form of clerical assistance should be provided to honorable members. The Government will certainly consider that proposal I should like to point out that the Government’s first thought on this matter is that the Tariff Board’s recommendations are soundly based. We have an experienced Board constituted of people of experience from a wide cross-section of industry, commerce and the Public Service. The Board holds public inquiries, and all available data can be brought to its notice. In addition, it has the advantage of evidence given on a confidential basis.

Following the consideration by the Tariff Board, the Board’s recommendations are considered by Cabinet and then the Government, of necessity and by the nature of its responsibility, takes the decisions on policy. It is the view of the Government that a review by a Parliamentary subcommittee before a Cabinet decision was taken on these matters - this was one suggestion put forward - would not be practicable. In some respects it would amount to a duplication of a Tariff Board inquiry, and the sub-committee would certainly not have access to the evidence given to the Tariff Board in confidence. A review by a Parliamentary sub-committee after a decision had been taken by Cabinet would likewise not be appropriate, because in these matters the responsibility for the formulation of policy must remain with the Government.

Honorable members are able to study Tariff Board reports, certainly under the new procedure, well in advance of tariff debates. The reports are distributed to honorable members immediately after their tabling in Parliament. If reports are released during the Parliamentary recess they are mailed to honorable members. In addition, copies of transcripts of evidence given at Tariff Board public inquiries are available for perusal by honorable members. The Library can obtain transcripts of hearings from the Department of Trade and Industry, and transcripts are available for perusal at the offices of the Department of Customs and Excise in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. If honorable members can suggest any further ways in which a study of these matters can be assisted the suggestions will certainly be considered. I make these remarks purely in relation to the specific suggestion that a Parliamentary sub-committee should be appointed to investigate these questions. The Government will consider any other suggestion that the honorable member for Yarra or any other honorable member may make.


– by leaveMembers such as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), representing purely rural electorates, have not the electoral responsibilities and the varied types of duties that members representing industrial electorates and mixed electorates have. Consequently, the honorable gentleman has more time to devote to research into the various bills. I would suggest that the time that even the Minister may devote to this type of measure is somewhat limited As a test of what he has been able to absorb from the reports of these very important and very competent tariff gentlemen he might bowl me, of course I ask him to explain what phthisic and alkyl sulphonic esters are. He cannot of course. I am not blaming him for not being able to tell me what they are, but here is the Minister introducing a measure to deal with these particular products I am not too sure myself how one pronounces their names but when I ask him what they are he cannot tell me, although he is the Minister handling the Bill.

Mr. Falkinder

– The honorable member must address the Chair, not the Minister.


– I am addressing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister cannot tell me. I do not upbraid him for that; it is understandable. The honorable gentleman has about 20 reports to consider. He has his ministerial duties, and there are, 1 suppose, at least a dozen products which are the subject of reports here. I ask him to tell me in relatively simple detail what the particular products are and what they are used for, and I do not think he can do it. I would probably find myself in the same boat. I am pointing this out, not in order to embarrass the Minister or to accuse him of incompetence, but simply to illustrate how technical some of these matters are, and to submit that members should be given ample time, opportunity, and technical assistance to render themselves more competent to discuss these matters. I leave it at that.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills together read a second time.

In Committee:

Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1964.

Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Customs Tariff (Canada Preference Bill (No. 3) 1964.

Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 3) 1964.

Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1964.

Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Mr Kelly:

– I do not know whether there is anything that can be done about it at this stage, but I want to discuss four particular matters. For some reason which I am unable to follow I have not been able to discuss them. I wish the Minister could explain to us the position in relation to these four Bills.

Mr Bury:

– The Committee has agreed to the four Bills.

Mr Kelly:

– Which four?

Mr Bury:

– The four that are listed.

Mr Kelly:

– Are those the bills dealt with in the renewed document prepared by the Department of Customs and Excise and circulated?

Mr Bury:

– Yes.

Mr Kelly:

– But there are eight bills on this list.

Mr Bury:

– There are only four on mine.


– The honorable member will have an opportunity to speak on the motion for the third reading of the bills.

Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.

Third Readings

Motion (by Mr. Bury) proposed -

That the Bills be now read a third time.


.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence I should like now to deliver the speech which I wanted to make before and which, owing to my own inability to follow the procedures of this place, I did not make. I want first to discuss polyethylene. I seem to have spoken about this subject at least once or twice every year since discussions on tariff measures once more became debates in fact. I believe that we ought to go through the history of the duty on this product. This is a grim and sorry story of one inquiry after another. Let me refresh your mind, Sir, by running through the history of these inquiries. In May 1961, there was an emergency inquiry. There was another in September. In December of the same year, the full Tariff Board recommended reduction of the emergency duty, which had been raised on the recommendation of the Special Advisory Authority. In January 1963, there was another emergency inquiry. In January of the present year, the Board, in its latest report on the subject, again recommended reduction of the duty, which had been raised twice and lowered once before. I suppose that Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. and Union Carbide Australia Ltd., the poor, struggling companies that have been trying so hard to win this protection, are now padding round to the back door again for another emergency handout.

I always understood that the purpose of the tariff was to assist infant industries. I cannot help wondering, rather bitterly, when some of these infants will grow up. After all, I.C.I.A.N.Z. has a paid up capital of £51 million. It is an off -shoot of a giant corporation in Great Britain that has a capital of more than £800 million. Union Carbide Australia is not altogether insignificant with a paid up capital of more than £4 million. This company is the offspring of a wealthy United States corporation with capital of more than £200 million. As I have said, one cannot help wondering when these two companies operating in Australia will stop behaving like infants.

I am glad to see that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is present. I was wondering how I could illustrate the behaviour of these two companies when I remembered the way in which beef bulls are prepared for big shows by foster mothering. I am sure that the honorable member will appreciate this analogy. A small skinny Jersey cow is put into a bail between two loose boxes in each of which there is a fine young bull, described as “ So-and-So, Imported “. The two bulls, which usually are a great deal bigger than the cow, waltz round her and then start to suck her dry. When she begins to run out of milk, they get down on their knees and bunt her repeatedly in an effort to make her let down her milk. I am sure that the honorable member for Lalor understands this analogy, though I admit that it is not perfect. Nevertheless, there is a certain degree of truth in it. What happens is certainly uncomfortable for the cow. I wonder when infants like this will grow up.

Let us consider the report of the Tariff Board on polyethylene, which was signed on 16th January of this year. There was a minority opinion dissenting from the majority recommendation of the Board. The Government adopted the majority recommendation and published its reasons for doing so. For that action, I give the Government due credit. Let us have a look at the majority recommendation and consider how it varies from the dissenting opinion. The majority of the Board recommended reduction of the duty to 7d. per lb., with additional duty on a sliding scale at the rate of Id. per lb. for each Id. by which the price of the imported product falls below 17d. per lb. The dissentingminority opinion recommended duty at the rate of 8id. per lb., with the sliding scale additional duty cutting in at 28d. per lb. At the end of the report, in the appendix, there is printed correspondence between the Board and the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). That correspondence resulted from a request by the Minister for clarification of the Board’s reasons for its recommendation. I am glad to see the correspondence printed in an appendix to the report. I think its inclusion there is perfectly proper and shows a due regard for the independence of the Board.

The Board’s argument for a reduction of the duly rests on a number of points. First, it found that the industry has more capacity than the size of the market justifies, though the position is improving as the market grows. The Board made a point that ought to be made continually: It is not the function of the tariff to make the use of this excess capacity profitable. At page 10 of its report, the Board stated -

The profit of both local producers has at times in recent years been limited as a result of their combined capacity, to which the Board made reference in ils last report. This excess capacity was due mainly to the establishment of Union Carbide’s plant. This company has installed a relatively large plant and its establishment costs have been correspondingly high. However, the Board does not consider that the Tariff should be used as a means of underwriting business risks inherent in the provision of production capacity beyond the reasonable requirements of the market by increasing the level of protection . . .

Surely the majority of the Board was right in making that statement. To make the use of excess capacity profitable is deliberately to encourage the provision of excess capacity, and that is just plain economic foolishness. Union Carbide Australia came in late and deliberately provided excess capacity. It knew what it was doing, and it took this action for the very good reason that, although the plant may be too big for the present, it will be the right size later as the market grows. When this happens, the company, as it planned to be, will be ready with a modern plant of the right size, and it will take advantage of its position. Surely this producer is big enough to stand a loss in the developmental stages. It provided excess capacity as a deliberate choice. This is the kind of deliberate, hard headed decision that one would expect a courageous organization to take. But surely it is asking too much to expect the consumers to subsidise the developmental stages. That is the Tariff Board’s opinion and mine also.

The second important reason for the Board’s recommendation is that at least one of the companies is paying too much, and probably both are paying too much, for the raw material, ethylene, which is a product of oil refining. Union Carbide obtains its ethylene from the Altona complex, and I.C.I.A.N.Z. obtains its supplies from the Shell company. The price charged for this raw material depends on an allocation of overheads among the various products produced by each complex. It must be very convenient to be able to raise the price of ethylene, thereby increasing the profitability of a company’s entire business and raising the cost of polyethylene, and then to ask the consumers to pay more by having the duty increased.

The third reason why the Tariff Board recommended that the duty be reduced was that it believed that there was not enough price competition in the industry. This is stated specifically in the Board’s report. The fourth reason for the reduction is that an increase in the price of polyethylene granules due to an increase in the tariff would almost certainly tend to increase the prices of the products, with an adverse effect on the user in industry. It appears that about 300 people are employed in making polyethylene granules, while 2.000 people are employed in processing the granules into the products which we buy. People do not just buy the granules. The granules are made up into utensils and other articles. I think we ought to run a measuring stick over this industry to see what it is costing us. The honorable member for Yarra has complained about the measuring stick that I use, but though it is not all embracing I think it is useful.

As the Tariff Board has said, Australia’s requirements of polyethylene come to about 16,000 tons annually and it now carries a duty of 7d. per lb. As there is no doubt that all the duty will be used the consumer will be paying fi, 045,000 extra year to Union Carbide, and this seems to me to be pretty generous. People say that this industry creates employment for 300 men, so for each person employed in making polyethylene granules the consumer pays an extra £3,483 to subsidise that employment. It seems to be pretty generous. No-one can say we have neglected this industry or that it will wither on the vine. To suggest that these companies cannot compete seems to be ludicrous, as the minority report of the Tariff Board says. They ai giant companies, engaged in making many other products besides polyethylene. I cannot understand the philosophy that says that all the separate segments of a giant industry must be profitable.

I am engaged in mixed farming. I may not be as good a farmer as the honorable member for Lalor, but I do the best I can. I grow wool, fat lambs, wheat, barley, peas and oats, and those lines have never all been profitable at the same time. Something always goes wrong with one of them. But what right have I to come whining to the rest of the community and say that because something has gone bad with one product someone ought to help me? I would be particularly blameworthy in doing that if I were the biggest farmer in the district. Let us have no more talk about Union Carbide and LC.I.A.N.Z. withering on the vine because of the way in which they have been treated. They will continue to produce polyethylene. They may not get as much for it as they would like to get, but they must be brave about it, as I have to be. No doubt they will feel the cold wind of competition, but they will have to pay a bit less to the oil refineries for the ethylene. This prospect causes me no concern whatever.

Since this report came out - and indeed since I prepared the material I have been using - there has been a Tariff Board inquiry into the articles produced from polyethylene granules. The users are saying a lot of hard things about the disadvantage they suffer from the high price of the granules. Here we have a picture of a dog chasing its tail, but to add to the interest and pathos the tail appears to have a knot in it. It is interesting to see that New Zealand is selling in Australia products made from polyethylene cheaper than they can be produced in this country, because the New Zealand manufacturers can buy the granules more cheaply than can the Australian manufacturers. This is the sort of thing I am continually pointing out to the House. You cannot get industries out of difficulty by raising the tariff, because that makes the position of the user industries more difficult. And here is a fascinating sidelight. Mr. N. Maclean appeared for I.C.I.A.N.Z. - he is its tariff officer - at the discussion before the Board about the price the users should pay for the granules. Part of his sworn public evidence - this is an illuminating quotation - read -

Due to the need of the local polyethylene manufacturers to obtain an adequate return on their investment, any fall in the price of film grade granules below 3 Id. a lb. would necessitate an immediate application for emergency protection.

I have said for a long time that this emergency tariff protection is designed not to prevent imports but to keep prices up. I.C.I.A.N.Z. should be an authority on this matter, as it has made more applications for emergency protection than has almost any one else. I have not been able to discover exactly what measuring stick the company uses. I meant to give many other examples, particularly one relating to glass, but I have given this example of Union Carbide and I.C.I.A.N.Z. adopting the attitude they have in regard to need, and their continual plea for an increase in protection is indicative of one thing. It is a hopeless philosophy for Australian secondary industries if they think they can be sheltered from all the winds that blow. It has to be recognised that Australia’s only hope for long term advancement lies in the manufacturing secondary industries starting to export. To continue to turn away from this challenge, as these com panies seem to do and to shelter behind the kind of thinking, which not mary of them would publicly own up to, but which would seem to be obvious in some of their procedures, is a great tragedy for Australia.

There are four other matters I wanted to speak about, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I realise that it is only through your kindness that I am allowed to continue. I wish now to refer to the temporary duty on glassware. Here is evidence of one of the most serious kinds of departures. Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. prides itself on its toughness in meeting competition and its competence in performance, but it has fallen away from these high standards. It has asked for a temporary tariff protection which I think it ought to be ashamed to seek. The reason why I looked at this matter with particular care is that Mr. R. W. Brack, who was employed by the Department of Customs and Excise, in which he held a high office, was enticed away by A.C.I., and this is the first fruits of his work. I do not suggest for one moment that there is anything underhand, but I think it is a dangerous procedure. People who know how to dress up and present a case have a very great advantage before the bureaucracy - if I can put my view in that way.

So this matter should be looked at with particular care, and I have examined it carefully. I am sorry that I cannot follow this matter through. I say that the application is not worthy of a company of this size, which made a profit of £3,000,000 last year- I understand that the 1964 figure is higher. The company, in addition, has put aside £500,000 for depreciation and another £500,000 to provide for fluctuations in stock values, and has just about all the market for glass. So I repeat my opinion that it is not worthy of the company to complain that it is not selling enough cheap tumblers and other glass products.

In my opinion the reason why the company is not selling enough of these products is that it is selling - quite properly - glassware containing peanut paste and other foods. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are probably able to throw away those glass containers when you have used the contents, but when they come into our house and the paste is eaten we put them in the cupboard and use them as cheap tumblers. I cannot understand how this company can expect the demand for cheap tumblers to be maintained when the sales of these glass containers are rising.

Coming to heat resistant glassware, I think the position is just as bad. You cannot obtain the figures. The Special Advisory Authority has put out figures, some of which are based on weight. He would know, of course, that weight is becoming less important year by year; at least, that is according to the sworn evidence at the latest hearing before the Tariff Board. The truth is that here again the company has expected that all its sectors should be profitable together. When they are not profitable together, the company comes to us, the users of cheap tumblers, and says: “ Now, you rally round us. Everything ought to be profitable together.” This is an attitude not worthy of a powerful and efficient company such as A.C.I. It is the kind of thing we ought to set ourselves against, particularly in the circumstances surrounding this application.

Returning to my previous remarks on polyethylene, there are many secondary industries of which we in Australia should be proud. I am glad to say that I recognise many of them and, up to this stage, I had placed A.C.I. in this group. I hope that the ease with which the company has gained this handout from the consumer will not encourage it to continue to act in this way. It it does, and if other affluent companies follow its example, then there is no hope for us. The whole future of our economy will depend on the ability of efficient secondary industries to aid primary industries in helping Australia to fill her export requirements.

Dr J F Cairns:

.- May I have your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say a word or two at this stage, because I find myself in exactly the same situation as did the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). Having listened carefully to what the honorable member said in relation to the polyethylene report and the tariff proposal based upon it, I should like to say that, from my own point of view, I agree with every word he said. Recently, when we considered earlier proposals in relation to this and other products of the industry, we were faced with the same situation and, on behalf of the Opposition, I said then what I am saying now. It is about time the House gave notice to the chemical industry in Australia that we cannot indefinitely continue the practice of extending protection to it for the output of subsidiaries of the whole industrial complex, and that the industry will have to make up its mind whether or not it wants to produce the products that come from these subsidiaries. If the industry wants to produce them, it will have to treat them as part of its whole industrial structure. If it does not want to produce them it need not do so, and I am not sure that it will.

I think there is a matter to be taken into account in the case of Union Carbide. It is true that the size of the unit the company has set up is a good deal larger than is necessary to meet the quantity that the market will take. This could very well be a sound procedure, and it may be necessary to find a way of accommodating this situation. It would be unsound for a producer to set up a unit of 25 per cent, or 33) per cent, of its optimum size because the market called for something like that, only to find itself in five years time facing a market that was considerably bigger than the capacity of the plant that was created for it. The plant would have to be scrapped and a new plant built. It may be a sound procedure; but, of course, it would be unreasonable to expect a consumer to pay a price that allowed excessive profits to be made at the lower output. Theoretical economics tells us that the cost curve would be a falling one. It is likely that output would be fixed at a point where costs in the industry were considerably above the lowest point that the cost curve would reach if it went to the lowest point in the future. In other words, this subsidiary is, at the present moment, making monopoly profits. It is selling at a price determined by the cost curve and by monopoly profits. This is something which the Tariff Board should not be prepared to accept. This House should not be prepared to accept it, either. If Union Carbide is intending to proceed with development it should be prepared to proceed on something less than monopoly pre fits at this stage, because the subsidiary is part of the whole structure and should be carried by it. Even so, that does not mean that it is going to produce a loss at this point. A price considerably below the present price could perhaps be determined. It is pretty clear from the evidence that the company was mainly concerned with preventing the existing price from falling. This may lead us to say: “ When will it reach the optimum cost situation if it is going to take this attitude continually? “ The time must come before very long when we shall expect the House to reject proposals of this kind, particularly proposals in respect of which there is a well informed dissenting opinion, as there is in this case and as there has been with one or two other proposals that have been put forward.

Finally, I want to refer to the proposal in Tariff Proposal No. 15 for protection of the building of vessels in Australia for use on inland waters where the vessels are over 500 tons gross. This will be extended to cover vessels over 200 tons gross and not exceeding 500 tons gross which are built in Australia in existing recognised shipyards. Personally, I welcome this protection. I think that we have been too slow in extending protection to the shipbuilding industry in this country. We find in the report on this matter that the only real opposition to the extension of the subsidy came in submissions on behalf of the British shipbuilding industry which said -

The British shipbuilding industry has suffered severe handicaps in its endeavours to compete for orders against subsidised competition from many countries throughout the world.

The complaint is that shipbuilding is a protected or subsidised operation in Australia. With the establishment of shipbuilding in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain achieved a great advantage in this field over many other countries of the world. Almost without exception, in the production of ships that compete with Australian built ships, assistance and subsidy have in fact been provided. I should think that not many ships are built today, even in the British Isles, which do not receive some form of subsidy or assistance. The shipbuilding industry in this respect is quite different from many other industries. I do not think we should say that we will not give protection to our industry merely because some other similar industry does not like competing with an industry that is protected. In fact, most shipbuilding industries are protected. The complaint made on behalf of the British shipbuilding industry is, in fact, made on behalf of an industry that receives a considerable amount of government assistance in many forms. So, I do not think this submission should be weighed heavily. I approve of the Bills, particularly Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1964, which covers the extension of this subsidy to the building of ships in Australia.


– I join in this debate to say that the time is long overdue when this Parliament should serve notice on some of these people who go to the Tariff Board for increased duties on goods that are likely to compete against their products. The practice has gradually grown up of governments of all complexions - I do not want to make this comment party political - accepting almost without question the recommendations of the Tariff Board, provided those recommendations are for an increase of a duty or for the imposition of a duty not previously applied. I cannot help but have a deep admiration for the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) who alone of all members in this Parliament has battled against such impositions. At the beginning he seemed to be fighting a forlorn battle but at last his fight is having results. His efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Not only is he finding converts to his viewpoint on his own side, but there are some members on this side of the House who have had a look at Labour’s policy on the question of protective tariffs. We find, on a close examination of Labour’s policy, that our party is not pledged to support heavy, and in some cases excessive, tariff duties irrespective of whether an industry seeking the protection is inefficiently run. or, if it is efficiently run, what profits it is already making.

Labour’s platform does not state that no matter how high the profits of an industry may be, the party will, willy-nilly, support an increase in tariff duty. It is no answer to say that if the profits are excessive or if the industry is inefficiently run the Tariff Board will never recommend an increase, because we have had glaring instances where the Tariff Board has recommended increases to industries that are both inefficient and profiteering or at least are one or the other. 1 think the time has come when this Parliament should speak up against the kind of indirect robber)’ that is being imposed upon the people of this country by this underhand, silent and invisible thief which goes under the title’ of tariff duty. I am not blaming the Tariff Board; in fact I have often wondered that the Tariff Board could maintain the brake that it did for so long upon the avarice and greed of some of the industries to which I am referring, particularly in view of the opposition the Board seems to meet constantly from Parliament and from members in the Parliament who yield to pressure groups and lobbyists. Too often in the past, in my opinion, Parliament has overridden recommendations of the Board. The Board might take heart from knowing that there are at least some members in this Parliament who are beginning to see the need for a more rigid application of the real intention of Australia’s tariff and import duties so far as certain companies are concerned. 1 do not want these remarks to be taken as an indication that I am a free trader or that my party is a free trade party. It certainly would be unfair to suggest that the member for Wakefield, who has carried the main burden of this attack on the avarice and greed of certain companies, is a free trader. He is not, but what he does say is that there are instances where tariff increases have been awarded to companies that could very well do without them. In my opinion he is perfectly correct. We ought to take a closer look at every one of these reports in future. We ought not come in here in the matter of fact way that we have done in the past and make decisions with about a dozen members present and only two or three speaking - decisions that cost the Australian consumers millions of pounds a year.

If we were to impose by way of direct taxation one quarter of the charge that we impose upon the people by the indirect form of taxation that is described as protective tariff, most of us would be railroaded out of this place. But we continue that practice and the silent and invisible thief - tariff duty - takes away from the people far more than some of the most objectionable taxes would ever dare take. Some industries - and I instance the textile industry - could not possibly compete against India and other countries without a substantial protective duty. This is not the type of industry that I have had in mind whilst making my criticism.

Mr Nixon:

– Is that industry not profitmaking?


– Yes, but it does not make an excessive profit. The question is fair and proper. If the answer were: “ Yes, it is making an excessive profit “, then it ought to be brought within the scope of my criticism. However, the fact is that the industry does not make an excessive profit. For many years Australian Cotton Textile Industries Ltd. made no profits at all; it lost year after year. It is necessary for that industry to have a fair measure of support if it is to be maintained and go on employing its 900 or 1300 operatives. However, Actil is not the only textile industry. There are many more.

Mr Nixon:

– Whose electorate is Actil in?


– I understand the purpose of the interjection, but unfortunately for the honorable member who interjects, Actil is in Port Adelaide. The textile industry is one of the industries that need the greatest protection. The honorable member for Wakefield, in a previous debate, quoted a classic example of what is going on at present. He cited the case of an industry established in Australia with the protection of tariff duties for the purpose of manufacturing dusting powders for tomato plants and other vegetables. He pointed out the excessive cost - not the amount of duty alone - paid by the primary producer for the benefit of buying the Australian made article. I think he mentioned a figure of £7,500 a year. The honorable member will correct me if I am wrong. Although it cost the vegetable growers £7,500 more a year to buy the Australian made article than they would have had to pay for a similar imported article, this industry employs only one man who gets the princely sum of £18 a week. For this, the growers have been compelled to pay £7,500 a year.

Mr Kelly:

– One man was employed full time and another half time.


– I am obliged to the honorable member for the correction. My point is that the tomato growers could have afforded to close that industry, pay the one and one-half men employed in it double what they were getting for working 40 hours a week to sit down and do nothing, and then import the article at half the cost. This is how silly we have become in fostering local industries to the point where the benefit to local industry is about one-fifth of the cost to the people who have to use the goods produced.

You could take this business of starting a local industry to the point of absolute absurdity. You could grow bananas at the South Pole if you could get a high enough tariff duty to offset the cost of setting up hot houses and transporting soil and the other items that would be necesary. You could grow anything anywhere or produce anything anywhere if you adopted blindly this silly attitude that no matter what the cost may be these things can be justified in all circumstances.

I am concerned principally about those industries which, if run efficiently, could operate here with a much lower tariff protection than they are now receiving to enable them to compete with other industries which are run efficiently. As a consequence, inefficient industries are earning exorbitant profits while enjoying tariff protection that was granted them in the first instance to allow them to become established. Does the Minister know of any industry which, having secured tariff protection to enable it to become established, has approached the Tariff Board with an application for the tariff to be reduced? Has any such industry said to the Board: “ Please, sirs, we have come along to tell you that our industry has now become established. We made an enormous profit last year so we are asking you to reduce the tariff”?

Mr Nixon:

– I take a* point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will every honorable member have an opportunity to take part in a full-scale tariff debate on this occasion?

Mr. Falkinder

– Each honorable member is entitled to speak on the motion for the third reading of the bills.


– I hope that the interjection by the honorable member for Gippsland indicates that he will join the debate and not try to stifle it because, as a primary producer, he would have a lot to gain by putting certain viewpoints on tariffs which, in my view, ought to be put by primary producers. If you look at the enormous profits which have been made by B.H.P. and its subsidiaries which supply wire, wire netting and barbed wire to primary producers, you will agree that there is no case for an embargo upon imports of these products which would compete with the Australian industry.

At this time, however, I content myself by saying that I hope the Tariff Board will take heart at the fact that at long last, after many years, the Parliament is beginning to bestir itself, even if in a small way at this stage. No doubt after a few years more honorable members will participate in these debates and speak fearlessly on the application of tariff protection to industries which already are making excessive profits. The Tariff Board may one day be able to count on the support of the Parliament rather than have to face the opposition of a Parliament which is subject to high pressure lobbyists and pressure groups representing particular industries which already are doing very well as a result of the tariff protection that they enjoy.

Minister for Housing · Wentworth · LP

– in reply - I should like to refer first to certain remarks made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). He pointed, as he has done before, to the fact that the polyethylene industry as such employs only about 300 mcn and that the subsidy of £3,483 is a very high price to pay for this. I hope that I am not misrepresenting him, but I think that was the general tenor of his remarks. The significant thing about the industry is that it represents an investment of £6 million. Plant like that necessary in this industry, once installed, has to be kept running at a reasonable level. In addition there is very little elasticity in the matter of runing costs. If companies are to be persuaded to make huge investments of that character it is clear that they must be fairly assured that they will be able to operate at a reasonable profit.

It is true that this product is only one part of a complex and, therefore, the costs in respect of one product may be charged against others, and the situation may become confused. That is why we have the Tariff Board to endeavour to sort out these problems. There must be problems when one part of an industry producing products like polyethylene is in fact closely allied with many other branches of the industry. The size of the unit to be installed is also an important question. In many cases, unless a fairly large output is to be catered for, the establishment is uneconomic right from the start. Probably the lowest throughput of a plant of this kind would in many instances be too large for the existing market, and even for the potential market, but the Parliament has to make up its mind generally whether it will encourage developments of this nature in Australia. There is every reason for going into the details of each branch of the industry and ensuring that each operates on a profitable basis.

The problem, mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), of the general complexity and interlocking of these industries is recognised by the Government. In fact, the Government has now asked the Tariff Board to inquire generally into the chemical industry as such, so a much wider sweep will be made than otherwise would have been the case. The inquiry commences on 9th September, and honorable members who now have become interested in these tariff matters no doubt could do a good service by watching the proceedings closely and by following them with keen interest. This is an occasion on which anyone who is really enthusiastic about getting to work on this kind of problem could really do something to advantage, because the inquiry will be into an industry as a whole an industry which is of considerable importance to our economic future.

The honorable member for Wakefield also mentioned glassware. This report relates to proposals concerning glassware such as tumblers and utensils made of glass which stands up to heat in ovens. These matters have not yet been reported upon by the Tariff Board there have been recommendations by the Special Advisory Authority but they are now before the Board, and when the report comes forward later the House will have an opportunity to review the situation.

It was delightful to note the resolution of the honorable member for Hindmarsh to really get to work on these tariff issues. It is excellent that one of his colleagues, geographically speaking, has infected him with the right spirit. Of course, he would have done even better had his remarks on individual items been addressed to the items now under discussion rather than to the few few strays that he collected out of his memory.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills together read a third time.

page 133


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 97), on motion by Mr. Freeth -

That the Bill be now read a second time.


– This measure came before the House last evening, and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) put a very sound case why its provisions are completely inadequate. Speaking after the honorable member for Stirling, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), evidently knowing that I would be the next speaker on the Bill, commented that I looked earnest and worried because, he said, I knew that the funds allocated to transport from the taxes on petrol and oil collected by the Chifley Government were so small that I had cause to be worried. I was not pensive last night because of that. What made me pensive was the thought of this measure that we have before us. The honorable member for Stirling said that the Bill was inadequate. The styling of the Bill and the remarks passed about it by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) left me saddened. The Bill is styled as a measure to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads but it does not do that at all. When we think of what roads mean to Australia let us remember the period from 1941 to 1946. Let us think of roads in terms of our defence requirements. If we are to have a bureau of roads it should be an authority with teeth. It should be an authority capable of presenting to the Government information on Australia’s road requirements that is not currently available to the Government. I was sad last night and pensive because I had just heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) refer in his Budget speech to an expenditure of £300 million on defence without referring to the need to co-ordinate our transport services. I also was aware of the remarks made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in introducing the Bill which we are asked to pass at a time which may prove to be critical in this nation’s history.

The Minister for Shipping and Transport gave only one reason for introducing this Bill. He said that the proposals contained in the Bill flowed from an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech last November. If this is the only reason for asking this Parliament to pass this toothless wonder at this time when our transport services are in urgent need of coordination I beseech the Minister to withdraw the Bill and have another look at it. In his second-reading speech the Minister underlined the speciousness of the legislation when he said* -

In this connection I should perhaps mention that the Bill does not contain any provisions specifying how the bureau is to go about its work or, indeed, the precise nature of the work it is to do. We believe that these are matters for the bureau itself to determine and that it should be free to make its own assessment from time to time of the kind of investigations it should undertake.

If that is what the Prime Minister meant when he delivered his policy speech in November 1963 he should have said so. Surely the Prime Minister was aware last year of the urgency of this matter. I could give a dozen instances of great national loss, apart from our defence effort which has flowed from our present inadequate road transport system, but I do not want to waste too much time on that subject. I content myself with one or two instances. I refer at this stage to the presidential address delivered at the annual meeting on 21st May of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, held in Melbourne - the Prime Minister’s own city. Dealing with roads the president of the chamber said -

One of our greatest time wasters at the present moment is the congestion on our roads. Not only does the movement of goods take long and unnecessary intervals of time to move from one point to another (greatly adding to costs), but also the movement of executives, technicians, tales representatives from place of business to place of business is taking longer. This wastage is costing industry a very great sum of money, not only in minutes lost, but also in nervous energy dissipated by frustrating delays.

We cannot stress too greatly the urgent necessity for long term planning of our surface communications. One has only to travel from Seymour to Melbourne on our No. 1 Communication Highway to realise the urgency of our road problem.

The No. 1 highway referred to is the Hume Highway - the highway which would be used by troops moving from Puckapunyal. We are talking here about a bureau that will not function to co-ordinate our transport systems. 1 propose to quote now from a document which summarises the current policies of the Australian . Automobile Association. The document shows that the 36th annual conference of the association, held in Hobart in 1963, resolved that urban highway development should include -

  1. A national system of interstate and defence highways, interlinked with urban networks and providing continuity of the system through urban areas.
  2. . Local expressway and freeway systems in and near cities to facilitate commerce in rapidly expanding urban areas. -I now refer to the next subject that made me sad. Last night the Treasurer who told us that we must pay increased taxes in order to meet our defence commitments and who said that telephone rentals must also be increased by as much as 60 per cent, in the case of some age pensioners who live in the metropolitan area of Sydney did not say one word about the relationship of defence to this measure that was then before the House. He did not say a word about expenditure on transport facilities except to refer to the fact that this year the Commonwealth will spend another £7 million - a predetermined amount - on rail standardisation projects.

Aware of the problem confronting the States, the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Minister for Highways, the Hon. P. D. Hills, presented a statement to a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council held in Adelaide in June 1963. The council resolved that the paper be referred to the Ministers in charge of roads in each State as well as appropriate Commonwealth Ministers for discussion at a conference of such Ministers, such conference to be convened by the appropriate Commonwealth Minister. Time does not permit me to deal fully with Mr. Hills’ statement, but I invite all honorable members to peruse the statement, which is published in the September 1963 issue of the journal of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. In that statement Mr. Hills presented in clear language the difficulties that confront us at the present time so far as road needs are concerned. He stated -

So far as the provision of funds by the Commonwealth is concerned, these funds are in fact a return to the States of some of the revenue raised by taxation of the States’ road users.

In the national field there already exists a National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, formed in 1934, which meets regularly and has planned and framed uniform policies on a national basis. The Commonwealth Government recognises N.A.A.S.R.A. and indeed the DirectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Department of Works, the road authority for Commonwealth Territories, is a member of that Association. Further, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport attends meetings of the Association when matters concerning the Department of Shipping and Transport arc discussed.

N.A.A.S.R.A. not only meets regularly to determine uniform policies for technical and administrative procedures on a national basis, but the members of N.A.A.S.R.A. also meet regularly in their capacity as the members of the Australian Road Research Board, an organisation that has the support of the Commonwealth and all State Governments.

The detailed work of N.AA.S.R.A. is carried out through eight Standing Committees which meet to consider individual phases of the Association’s activities such as bridge design, advance planning, traffic engineering, etc. These Committees in turn are supported by a considerable number of subcommittees investigating specific aspects of each Committee’s work.

The statement goes on to say -

The Commonwealth Government looks to N.A.A.S.R.A. for reliable information covering Australia’s roads . . .

Let me for a moment draw the attention of the House to the type of information that is supplied by this authority. I have with me today a fund of documents prepared for the meeting in March this year of the Premiers’ Conference and for the information of the Ministers concerned with roads. The first document concerns the function of administrative officers dealing with roads in every State. It is a summary of our road needs for the 10-year period from 1964 to 1974 dealing with construction and maintenance. The next document I have is an estimate of the funds available for road purposes in the same 10-year period. The next document - also prepared by the Asso ciation for the information of the Department of Shipping and Transport - contains 10 pages dealing with the needs of Australian transport during the next 10 years. Next there is available for the Minister in charge of that Department and for the Treasurer a confidential statement of the basic premises adopted in connection with the road needs survey. Then to cap the lot, having regard to what the Treasurer said, I have here a document which deals in 20 pages with every answer that the Treasurer has given to the organisation in reply to information on planning for the next 10 years.

The Minister who presented the bill is not here at present, but I ask him and the Prime Minister what further information the proposed Bureau can provide for this Government or for anyone else in respect of Australia’s road requirements. The Minister has said he is setting up the Bureau merely to meet the promises made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. I repeat what I said earlier to the Prime Minister: For goodness sake, withdraw this legislation and have a look at the necessity to coordinate our road transport needs with our defence needs. Let us have something really worth while - something which, as the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said last night, will have some teeth in it.

I turn now to the document prepared by the Treasurer for the Premiers’ Conference on 12th March 1964. The document was prepared after the Treasurer had received all the information to which I have referred. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities supplied the Treasury with that information, and consolidated it in its 1964-1974 report, which was available to the Prime Minister and to all Ministers who cared to take the time to look at it. Minute details were supplied in the report, which indicated the need for a vastly changed policy with respect to road construction in Australia. In March 1964 the Treasurer attempted to reply to the arguments advanced by the New South Wales Minister for Highways in July 1963. I was saddened last night because the same Treasurer told us then of the need to expend on defence in 1964-65 50 per cent, more than we expended in 1961. In round figures, we arc to spend £300 million on defence in the next 12 months, but the movements of troops and materials, or any movements on our road system undertaken in relation to defence, are still the responsibility of the State Governments. Those Governments must handle such movements within the framework of their road and rail systems because the Federal Government shirks its responsibility, mainly through the determination of the Treasury I use the term deliberately not to become involved in a new plan for road construction in keeping with our requirements.

The statement issued by the Treasurer at the Premiers’ Conference on12th March 1964 said this -

Some ofthe Premiers had drawn from the Policy Speech by the Prime Minister the idea that the Commonwealth was thinking of a body with functions not unlike those of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the United States although, of course, on a much smaller scale and with adaptations to meet local requirements. That, however, is not at all what we have in view. We have studied the United States system of Federal aid for roads and the part which the Federal Bureau of Roads plays in it. Clearly it is not something we should try to reproduce here. 1 have quoted a statement by the Commonwealth Treasurer who only a few hours ago brought down a Budget including provision for expenditure of £300 million on defence in the coming year. I repeat his statement -

Clearly it is not something we should try to reproduce here.

Let us have a look at what it is we should not try to reproduce here. I turn at once to what a Federal system means in the United States of America and I have here a document which is available to every member of this House who cares to send for it. It is entitled: “ America’s Lifelines “. It was prepared in 1962 and reprinted in 1963. It includes this message from the late President Kennedy -

Better, more modern highways with less congestion, fewer dangerous curves and intersections … a highway program financed by highway users . . . designed to meet an urgent problem. I urge its prompt and impartial consideration. 1 urge the Prime Minister to read this document and not merely to rely on the words of the Treasurer. I urge him to study the record of the work done since 1956 by the American Federal Bureau of Public Roads and to place it alongside Australia’s road requirements. Having read it, the Prime Minister then should say whether he is prepared to act along the lines adopted in the United States or whether he is prepared simply to accept the words of the Treasurer, who failed to appreciate the information covering every section of our road requirements which was supplied by the N.A.A.S.R.A. The need for a Federal system of highways in the United States was first described by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in 1939. It again examined the problem in 1944 but it was not until 1956 that the system came into operation. On this point the document states -

For this growing tide of traffic -

It refers to the United States of America, but have we not a growing tide of traffic in this country? Let us draw a comparison upon which the Federal Treasurer has turned his back. The document states -

For this growing tide of traffic, much of it concentrated on major routes and in cities, the Federal Government and the States, as partners -

Not standing apart looking at one another, but as partners - have undertaken history’s biggest peacetime program of public works construction of the 41,000mile National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

The document refers to interstate and defence highways. Our Federal Government talks in terms of spending £300 million on defence but makes no reference anywhere along the line to doing a solitary thing about our important highways and their relation to defence. It fails to accept its national responsibility in this respect. The document, “America’s Lifelines”, then states -

For this coasttocoast key network, serving all of America’s large cities and thousands of smaller ones as well, the Federal Government is paying ninetenths of the cost. Completion of the system, scheduled for 1972, will cost 41 billion dollars. The Federal Government and the States arc also continuing to co-operate in improving the additional 826,000 miles in the Federalaid network of primary and secondary roads and major urban streets. This program, begun modestly in 1916, has been speeded up in recent years. The latest Federal grant, for fiscal year 1963, is 925 million dollars. The States match these Federalaid funds with an equal amount of their own money.

That directs my attention to this question: What are we doing at this stage? Sometimes, when I am dealing with legislation of this kind, I doubt whether the Chifley Government was right in adopting the uniform system of taxation that we have in Australia.

The Commonwealth receives all the money from the petrol tax and has all the excise rights in respect of road transport and like matters. But what was the position in 1962? The States provided 29 per cent, of the amount that was spent on the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges; the local government bodies, to which people pay their rates - in addition, the people pay motor vehicle taxes - provided 38 per cent. of the total amount; and the Commonwealth provided 33 per cent, after collecting all the revenue from the petrol tax. It is no wonder that the Federal Treasurer turns his back on the system that is operating in the United States. He does not want the responsibility of changing the rotten system which is causing the decadence of our whole transport structure and national structure because of the Government’s failure to deal nationally with this great problem of roads.

The American document to which I have referred also states -

The safety features of the Interstate System will save at least 5,000 lives a year. Accident rates on freeways are one-third of those on other roads with comparable traffic.

All the freeways, which are saving lives, are interconnected in such a way that they are of military value to the nation. Despite what the Treasurer says, nobody will say that the Australian people are not as big as the American people or that they will not pay the taxation required to give us a roads system that will meet our needs.

The Americans think in terms of spending money to save lives. The honorable member for Stirling mentioned this point last night and, except for about two of us, nobody in this House recorded mentally the importance of what he was saying. He directed attention to the human side of the problem of our inadequate roads system. The great American roads system is a planned system. The Americans are dealing not only with highways but also with their urban requirements right down to the provision of roads for schools and the road requirements of primary industries. As a result of this system on which our Treasurer turns his back, in 1972 the United States will have a complete roads system which will meet all its road transport requirements.

Another important point is that by means of this roads system the United States expects to save 5,000 lives a year. In 1962 that country had 4.17 vehicles for every 10 persons and it death roll was 5 persons per 10,000 vehicles. Canada had 3.03 vehicles for every 10 persons and its death roll was 6.95 persons per 10,000 vehicles. New Zealand had 2.94 vehicles for every 10 persons and its death roll was 4.93 persons per 10,000 vehicles. But our great country, where the Treasurer turns his back on alteration of the present system and where the Prime Minister is prepared to put this kind of legislation to the people, had 2.86 vehicles for every 10 persons and 8.78 deaths for every 10,000 vehicles. I say to the Treasurer that until Australia adopts a system similar to the American system and has a co-ordinated State-Federal road system under which we can build the roads that are needed, he and the Government have blood on their hands because our roads system is bringing about twice as many deaths as occur in New Zealand.

Let me turn to the other side of the picture and look at the expenditure on roads. The New Zealand people are not afraid to spend the money that they need to spend or to pay the taxes that they need to pay. The document prepared by the National Association of Australian Stale Road Authorities sets out the figures on funds allocated for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. The honorable member for Stirling dealt with these figures last night. I have referred to the deaths that are occurring in Australia because of a lack of understanding between the Federal Treasurer and the State road authorities. Such understanding could be developed through the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. Because of that lack of understanding Australia is spending only £320 per mile of road per annum. New Zealand, with a death roll half as high as ours is, is spending £700 per mile of road per annum. In my opinion, the doubling of our expenditure on roads could save half the number of lives that we are losing every week, and that would be tremendously good expenditure.

I have dealt with the situation in the United States. The Americans will have a complete roads system by 1972. They are spending £1,450 per mile of road per annum, which is nearly five times as much as we are spending, and they are saving 5,000 lives - mainly young Americans - per annum. I repeat that if this Government persists in its present attitude it will continue to have blood on its hands, as will everybody else who will not try to do something about this problem.

Last night the honorable member for Macarthur asked what we members of the Labour Party were doing about the problem. Labour knew in the early post-war years that it had a great responsibility. I am not ignoring the figures. The sadness that I experienced last night comes from the things about which I am talking. I have seen some sad illustrations. Only last Saturday week I saw a schoolgirl killed on a corner because the condition of the shoulders of the road caused a car to mount the footpath. Anybody who could see that and then stand aside and watch the passage of legislation such as this would be inhuman in his outlook.

Labour had a plan. The report on Australian transport policy presented in 1949, before this Government came into office, referred to “ the proper place of road transport in relation to the transport system as a whole, having regard to strategic and civilian requirements “. Last night we heard that this Government has decided to spend about £300 million on defence this year; but it has given no thought to spending one penny on strategic roads on which to move men and equipment. Neither has the Government given any thought to that matter in this legislation which the honorable member for Stirling aptly described as a toothless piece of legislation. I go further and say that this legislation is a blot on the Prime Minister’s thinking. I repeat that the Government should withdraw it and have another look at the problem.

Not many years ago I begged the Prime Minister to appoint a committee representative of both sides of the Parliament to do something about this problem. He said that the Government had just set up a committee of six members of the Cabinet. If honorable members look up “ Hansard “ for the early 1950’s they will find that recorded. But that committee either never met or never did anything about the matter. Yet the Prime Minister now, after fifteen years, brings forward this legislation, and young Australians are being killed every weekend because of our bad roads. The report presented in 1949 recommended the equitable distribution of financial responsibilities between local authorities, the States and the Commonwealth. That is exactly the pattern on which the Treasurer now turns his back. I say again to the Prime Minister: Surely his head cannot lie softly on his pillow whilst he allows this sort of situation to arise from a statement he made in a policy speech to the electors of Australia.


.- In his policy speech in Melbourne on 12th November 1963 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said among other things -

Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment of a national roads authority to provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system anO to help in co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State Governments in the roads riel.i

We will helpfully discuss with the States the desirability of establishing such an authority. The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable road requirements.

As a result of that statement, we have before us the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill which provides for the establishment of an authority such as that envisaged when the Prime Minister made his policy speech. The Bureau will consist of three men, one of whom will be engaged full time and will be the chief executive officer. The other two men will be part time officers. 1 have listened very closely to the debate on the Bill and I am of the opinion that honorable members who have spoken have merely taken the opportunity to engage in a full scale debate on the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act or at least to discuss matters which should have been debated when that legislation was before the Parliament. After all, this Bill is framed specifically for the appointment of three men to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) has explained, in his secondreading speech, what is expected of them. I do not want to speak on all the subjects that have been discussed by previous speakers. I dealt with those matters when I spoke during the autumn sittings of the Parliament on the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill. I want to deal now with specific points.

The main point for consideration in discussing this Bill, in my opinion, is the calibre, the knowledge and experience of the men who will form this Bureau. I have been advocating - and will continue to do so - that the very best men who can possibly be found be appointed to these very important positions. In this connection I made representations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport some little time ago and he had the courtesy to reply to me and give me certain information. In a letter to me, the Minister stated -

As you know, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill, 1964, is at present before the Parliament and until it is enacted no decision can be reached regarding the composition of the Bureau.

Moreover, as I am sure you will appreciate, when the decision is to be made on this matter, 1 shall endeavour to ensure that the most suitable persons who are available will be appointed in order that the Government may have the best possible advice from competent and impartial experts on roads and road transport. In this connection I shall keep in mind the views expressed by the abovementioned association.

I made the representations on behalf of the North Western Municipalities Association. That body has urged that when the Bureau is set up, it should include at least one member with the knowledge and experience to interpret correctly the needs of country municipalities. It is very important that we have a member of the Bureau who has knowledge of rural areas. The council of the Shire of Birchip, in representations to me concerning the membership of the Bureau, urged the appointment of at least one part time member with knowledge and experience of the needs of country municipalities, and stated in a letter -

This need is further accentuated within the recently published 50th annual report of the Country Roads Board which, on pages 13 and 14 under the heading “Commonwealth Aid Roads Act “, reads inter alia, “ The stipulation that 40 per cent, of the money provided under this Act is to be expended on rural roads other than State highways and main roads is regarded as an intrusion on the discretion the State should bc free to exercise”.

That has been advocated in this House by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Although the current Commonwealth aid roads agreement has five years to run, I emphasise now that it is essential that the stipulated expenditure on rural roads of 40 per cent, of the money so provided be retained when new legislation is framed. Of course, honorable members representing city electorates say: “ No “.

They are up against that proposition all the time. The city members say: “ Let the States decide “.

Mr Cope:

– So they should.


– The honorable member for Watson says: “ So they should “. Of course, all city members say that. But let me put it to the House bluntly: If it were left to the States to decide where the money would go, what chance would the country areas have? A great majority of members in the State Parliaments represent metropolitan constituencies and that applies particularly to New South Wales and Victoria. The real point is: What chance would the country areas have? Honorable members know that they would have no chance at ali. Why did the Commonwealth Government include in the legislation in the first place the provision that a definite percentage of the funds made available for roads should be spent on rural roads? It was done at the instance of the Australian Country Party because Sir Earle Page, the Country Party leader, was the man responsible for the introduction of the legislation. It was not done by chance. It was done because the members of the Country Party knew that this was the only way to get a fair and reasonable allocation of money for roads in country areas. I want to advocate as strongly as I possibly can that at least one member of the proposed new Bureau must be a man with the knowledge to interpret the requirements of country districts and the municipalities in those districts. I do not think any honorable member of this House can deny that if you are going to appoint men for their academic qualifications, with no practical knowledge - city men - then it does not matter how impartial they are - the country people will not get a fair deal. I notice in this House especially the men from the cities. Though they may be regarded as impartial, the pull to the metropolitan area is there all the time. That pull, which has more votes and is getting more people into city areas, is gaining more political representation.

There are many reasons why it is necessary to spend more money on country roads and it is hardly necessary for me to give the House the definite details. In the past ten years, the people of this country have realised more and more the importance of rural areas. I think that members on both sides of the House who represent city electorates realise that without the products of the great country areas of Australia, the secondary industries which they support so strongly could not function satisfactorily. I have said often in this House that our primary industries give us 80 per cent, of our exports and so build up our financial reserves overseas by which it is possible to buy the raw materials for our secondary industries. These materials are not available in Australia. Therefore, this production for export has to continue if we are to maintain this country even on its present standards. As time goes on we have to give more consideration to rural interests if we are to build a great nation in this outpost of what was previously called the British Empire.

I want to make one or two comments on the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). I listened very carefully to him and I took a few notes of what he said. He referred specifically to the road from Seymour to Melbourne. I think he made a great mistake there. 1 travelled on that road last Monday. I did not travel the full length of the road but I travelled from Boort to Bendigo, Heathcote and Kilmore and then to Melbourne. I have never seen more road work proceeding on any road of a similar length than I saw on the road from Seymour to Melbourne. This is the very road which the honorable member for Blaxland complains about and which he specifically mentioned. I hope the other points he raised had more foundation of fact than the one about the Seymour road.

Here is a man from Sydney speaking about the Seymour road over which I travel and which I know well. There is a famous hill on this road called “Pretty Sally “. Everybody in that part of Victoria knows it very well, lt is a very steep hill. I understand that in the early days there was a shanty or hotel somewhere near the top. The owner of the shanty had a daughter, who was very pretty and whose name was Sally. In those days, the bullock drivers tried to keep going until they came within the shelter of the shanty for the night. This hill was a road hazard. I came over it on Monday. It is now one of the safest and best parts of any road on which I have travelled. The work that has been done on the hill is magnificent. Therefore, when I heard the honorable member allege that this road was being more or less neglected, I had the feeling that perhaps he was not sure of some of the other points he was trying to make.

The honorable member for Blaxland also said that if the roads were improved lives would be saved. It is a well known fact that a large percentage of motor accidents happen on straight roads with good surfaces and not on roads with turns and twists. It is also well known - I can support this up to the hilt myself - that most accidents are caused by speed. The maximum speed limit on Victorian roads is 50 miles an hour, generally speaking. However, a driver travelling at 50 miles an hour would be passed by 29 out of 30 cars which would proceed out of sight within a few miles. Some vehicles on these roads are travelling at 70 or 80 miles an hour, and this is the cause of accidents. The honorable member spoke about a hump in a road which caused a car to run on to the footpath and kill a girl. Recently experts have said that accidents involving pedestrians are, to a very large extent, caused by the failure of pedestrians to take the necessary precautions.

We want the very best possible roads in Australia. During the autumn session of the Parliament, we passed a bill that provides for the payment of £375 million under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement in a period of five years commencing from 1st July last. This amount will be distributed to the States on the basis of population, area and motor registrations. Let us compare this with the grants made by the Labour Government m the last few years it was in office. Labour members complain that the Government retains too large a proportion of the amount it collects from the excise on petrol. What did the Labour Government collect and what did it distribute? It distributed less than one-third of the amount it collected and kept more than two-thirds in Consolidated Revenue. Despite this, Opposition members make these assertions.

Mr Peters:

– There are now two million more motor cars in Australia.


– The honorable member says by way of interjection that we now have two million more motor cars and they ask what the Bruce-Page Government did. These honorable members must have lost sight of the fact that I am giving percentages and not amounts. I am not saying that the Labour Government in those days should have spent £70 million a year. I said that the Labour Government kept more than two-thirds of the amount it collected in petrol tax and gave back only one-third to be spent on the roads. The comparisons made by Labour members are completely wrong and they should be ashamed to say that this Government, which gives back nearly all it collects in this way, is not giving enough.

The honorable member for Blaxland said that the people of Australia would not mind paying more taxes if this meant that more roads would be built. But last night, when the sales tax on motor vehicles was increased by 2i per cent., we heard a howl from the Opposition. The motorist is taxed enough now. He must pay petrol tax, sales tax and other taxes, and I do not believe that he should be taxed further. It will be another five years before we consider the next Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. In the meantime, I think we should give the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, which is now being set up, a fair trial. It has been said that the Government is not telling the members of the Bureau what to do, and that is completely true. Indeed, in his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) said -

In this connection I should perhaps mention that the bill does not contain any provisions specifying how the Bureau is to go about its work or, indeed, the precise nature of the work it is to do. Wc believe that these are matters for the Bureau itself to determine and that it should be free to make its own assessment from time to time of the kind of investigations it should undertake.

Mr Curtin:

– Who said that?


– The Minister for Shipping and Transport said that when he introduced the Bill. It would be typical of the Australian Labour Party to set up a committee, which would perhaps be bigger than this Bureau - Parkinson’s law would soon operate - and to tell the committee what to do. This Government is not doing that.

The Minister has told me in answer to a question today that he is earnestly trying to get the best possible men to do this job. When he gets the men who have the know ledge of Australian roads and conditions, it would not be much use giving them instructions and telling them what to do, as the honorable member for Blaxland has to some extent advocated. If the men are worth while, they will know what to do and what reports to submit. They will know how to go about their work. I compliment the Government at this early stage for saying that the Bureau will be free to do its work as it should. It will be able to obtain information from universities and organisations, to collate the information and to decide on the report it should submit to the Government.

It has been said that the reports of the Bureau should be made public. The Minister has shown in his second-reading speech that it is not necessary to make them public. The recommendations of the Bureau that are adopted by the Government will be made public because they will be embodied in legislation. But it is not necessary for the Government to adopt all the recommendations that are made by the Bureau. After all, it does not matter what recommendations are made by the Bureau; the Government and the Parliament of the Commonwealth will have the last say as to whether the recommendations will be enacted. Taking all these factors into consideration, I am very much in favour of the Bureau.

I have mentioned one or two matters (hat I did not intend to raise. However, when Opposition members make certain statements, we must rebut them. If we do not rebut them, they will be taken as being correct. My main object in speaking was to advocate as strongly as I could that the men selected for this Bureau should have a wide general knowledge. They must not be men with a city complex.

Mr Cope:

– You do not like the city slickers.


– The honorable member for Watson says that I do not like the city slickers. Goodness knows, enough members of the Parliament now have a city complex and we do not want to appoint to the Bureau men who have the same complex. I do not say that all city honorable members have a city complex. Quite a number of honorable members from city electorates realize the value of the country areas, but some honorable members seem to think that the city is the only place worth considering. I advocate as strongly as I can that at least one of the three members of the Bureau should be a man with a knowledge of country conditions and the ability and experience to interpret correctly the needs of country municipalities. We should ensure that the legislation we enact in the future has provision at least equal to the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation which provides that 40 per cent, of the money collected should be spent on country roads other than main roads and highways.

We had a typical interjection from the honorable member for Watson that the country districts are getting too much now. I have heard propositions such as that all the time I have been in this Parliament, but the position is that the very factories that the honorable member for Watson and other honorable members from metropolitan areas represent are only too pleased that the Government has the overseas balances made possible by the rural areas with which to purchase much of the raw materials to keep them in operation. We in this Parliament must be always aware of that. I hope that the Minister will take notice of the salient points that I have made in this debate.

Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.


.- The Bill we are debating is the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill. The Government proposes to set up a bureau to carry out certain investigations of our road requirements and to do certain planning, so that it may advise the appropriate Minister when he is considering allocations to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. Let me remind the House of what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had to say in the policy speech which he delivered before the last general election. He said that the nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable road requirements. I fail to see how this legislation will result in such a survey or appraisal.

The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said in the debate this afternoon that this Bill is a toothless wonder. I would like to use a much stronger phrase and suggest that there is nothing in the middle of it, if you understand what I mean, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is nothing in this Bill. It gives no-one any authority. It provides for the etsablishment of a secret service organisation. The Bill makes no provision for the Chairman of the Bureau or the Bureau itself to report to this Parliament. It provides only that the Bureau shall report to the Minister, and the Minister can please himself whether he reports to the Parliament and to the nation.

Let us look at the difference between the provisions of this legislation and the proposals of an organisation called the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. That Association recently established an Australian Road Research Board which will make available all of its findings at the conclusion of its investigations. In the 1964 edition of its publication, “ Australian Roads”, the Association says of this Board -

The Board will hold periodical conferences for the presentation and discussion of papers on road research, publish the results of road research, and make grants for carrying out road research to Road Authorities, Universities, the .Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and similar bodies.

What we have before us now is a hole and corner piece of legislation. What is proposed under this legislation bears no similarity to what the States are doing, and provision is made for the Bureau to report only to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. When we on this side of the House heard the Prime Minister make the statement to which I have referred in his policy speech we expected that the Government would do something of a positive and constructive nature to assist in the planning of the roads of this country. We had in mind that it would do something similar to what was done by the Government of the United States of America when it established the Federal Roads Bureau which is doing a magnificent job to provide the United States with a nationwide network of roads which have contributed greatly, not only to the development of that country, but also to its defence. The United States Government realized that no country, these days, can defend itself adequately unless it can move modern equipment quickly from one place to another. It therefore undertook the task of constructing this huge network of roads from coast to coast, knowing that it would be of great advantage not only in peace but also if it became necessary in a war time situation to move defence forces rapidly from one place to another. We hope, of course, that such a necessity will never arise, but we know also that in time of peace it is essential for any country wishing to develop its economy to have a sound roads system.

In Australia we have not a sound roads system. We know that our cities are cluttered up with traffic and we know that an enormous amount of time is lost as a result. It is difficult to estimate the exact amount of time lost in this way, but I can tell the House that Mr. R. D. Munro, Senior Lecturer at the School of Traffic Engineering of the University of New South Wales, has estimated, after carrying out a survey of the situation, that inferior roads cost Australia £365 million annually. This loss results from the use of extra fuel and the necessity to spend unnecessarily large amounts on maintenance of vehicles, as well as from lost time. He has also estimated that an additional amount of £70 million is lost as a result of accidents brought about by our inadequate roads system. It is obvious that we in Australia have little reason to boast about our roads.

In an economy such as ours it is essential that an adequate roads system be provided for development. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Tun.bull), who preceded me in this debate, is a great Australian Country Party advocate. Let me remind him that a decent roads system would result in decentralisation of industry, and if this legislation were designed to provide such a roads system the honorable member for Mallee would be entitled to speak in praise of it. In fact, however, this legislation will not in any way assist the decentralisation of industry in Australia and it will not further our development. When the Prime Minister made his reference to roads in his policy speech I thought we could look forward to something with some teeth in it - something that would do this country some good. I thought the Bill would make provision for highway planning and financing, for highway safety and for research in the field of road construction. I thought we could look forward to the co-ordination of all forms of transport, road, rail, sea and air, with a single financing authority. Such a development is long overdue in Australia. To deal with just one form of transport separately is wrong. All forms of transport should be considered together.

I believe that transport costs in Australia today represent about 25 per cent, of production costs. Yet we are prepared to allow our transport problems to find their own solution as best they can. We should have some co-ordinating authority so that road, rail and sea transport can work together. New methods of sea transport have been introduced. We now have the roll-on roll-off ships and what are called “ seatainer “ ships. The railways have introduced a similar form of transport. Between South Australia and Western Australia the pick-a-back form of rail transport is in operation, with trucks being driven direct on to the railway vehicles and transported with their loads to the point of destination. Why can we not have a more extensive system with the Commonwealth as the co-ordinating authority? The Commonwealth could get the States to pull together. We could finance the construction of feeder roads from the interior so that primary produce could be brought direct to marketing points and not, as is the case at present, to the capital cities and then distributed from those cities.

At the present time all transport hinges around the capital cities. If you look at a map of the Australian roads system you will see that all roads head for the capital cities. In my view, this adds additional costs. We should follow the lead of the United States and establish a pattern of roads going right across the country, from east to west and from north to south, connecting up all the main centres. Then we should be really doing something. That is what I had in mind when the Prime Minister talked about a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. We find, however, that the legislation brought before us has no constructive thought behind it. I believe it is no more than a cover-up. The Prime Minister made certain promises on the eve of the general election and this legislation is what has resulted from them. If the Bureau is to inquire into any subject, that subject must be referred to it by the Minister. This Parliament cannot refer anything to the Bureau for investigation or consideration. Everything has to go through the Minister, and he has to decide whether any matter will come back to the Parliament for consideration.

I should now like to deal with highway planning and financing. Surely no-one in this chamber would say that the Australian road system was adequate and satisfactory. Altogether we have 69,700 miles of State highways, trunk roads and main roads. Of that length only 39,000 miles has been sealed with either concrete or a bituminous material. Now is the time for us to tackle the problem and to plan the location of our roads. We should not wait until we have surfaced various roads with tar or concrete. If we were to tackle the problem now, we could relocate, where necessary, roads that have already been planned. The country would be the richer and the better for it.

Highway safety is most important. The American authorities have indicated that, when their scheme of road development is completed, the number of deaths on roads will be reduced by approximately 8,000 a year. If we were to apply that figure to the number of vehicles that we have on the roads in Australia, it would mean a saving of between 400 and 500 lives a year. It is worth spending many more millions of pounds on our roads if it means the saving of that number of lives. During the last session the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) introduced legislation to authorise the Commonwealth aid roads grants and he stated that the whole of the receipts from the petrol tax were to be returned to the States. However, he forgot to mention that while this Government has been in office it has retained £188 million that has been raised by way of petrol tax. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner tonight, the honorable member for Mallee boasted about what this Government had done, but he, too, forgot to tell all who were listening that the Government of which he is a supporter has retained a total of £188 million raised by way of petrol tax since 1950-51. If that money had been spent on roads, many lives would have been saved. We know that the factors which lead to deaths include speed and unsatisfactory and badly developed roads.

In the United States of America there are 4,170 cars for every 10,000 people. For every 10,000 members of the population there are five deaths on the roads. In Canada there are 3,030 cars for every 10,000 people. Of that number, 6.95 lose their lives on the roads. In New Zealand there are 2,940 cars for every 10,000 people, 4.93 of whom lose their lives on the roads. In Australia there are 2,860 cars for every 10,000 people, and of that number 8.78 people lose their lives on the roads. Must there not be some relationship between the number of deaths on the roads and the amount of money that is spent? In America a sum of £ A. 1,450 is spent on every mile of road; in New Zealand, £700; and in Australia, £320. A comparison of these figures shows that additional expenditure on roads results in a great saving of life. A great saving of life is effected when a government is prepared to spend money on the planning and design of roads that are capable of carrying the kind of vehicles that use our roads nowadays.

I refer now to the need to study the cause of individual accidents. I believe that insufficient examination is made of the causes of accidents. Nobody seems to worry about this aspect of the problem. If an accident occurs in industry or if there is an aeroplane crash a royal commission is appointed to investigate the cause; but when people are killed on the road a coroner’s inquiry might be held and it might be decided that the victims died as the result of an accident. However, nobody bothers to ascertain the real reason for the accident. Nobody bothers to find out whether the construction of the road was the cause, whether the vehicle was faulty, or whether the driver was at fault. The state of the road is not always the cause of an accident. Sometimes the drivers themselves are at fault. They might be incapable of driving their vehicles for many and varied reasons. They might not be physically capable of driving their vehicles. Not only must we plan and construct decent roads, but also we must ascertain the real causes of accidents. I am confident that such an investigation would lead to many accidents being avoided. This is another important aspect of our transport industry. However, I do not envisage the proposed bureau undertaking the type of investigation I have referred to unless the Minister refers the matter to its members.

Research is another matter to which attention should be directed. I believe that, instead of having six States and the Commonwealth undertaking research into road construction and the materials that are used, one authority under the control of the Commonwealth should undertake the responsibility. It is important to undertake research into the type of vehicles that are using our roads. A section should be appointed to look after motor vehicle performance, driver behaviour and road, bridge and culvert design. How many accidents occur as the result of excessive speed when vehicles pass over culverts or bridges? It is important that provision should be made for these matters in the legislation now before us. The Commonwealth should be the principal coordinating authority for our main highways. I am not referring now to suburban roads. If honorable members visit the Snowy Mountains scheme and discuss with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority the construction of tunnels, dams and various other works, they will be told that the Authority has been able to introduce new methods of tunnelling and construction and that, as a result of bringing in large machines, the work has been carried out much more expeditiously and economically. The same should be true of road construction. We have before us the construction of many major roads to carry the traffic of this nation for years to come.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the most important matter we must consider is the co-ordination of all road transport. The final point I should like to make in this connection relates to the need for a single taxing authority. Revenue raised from sales tax on motor vehicles amounts to £79.2 million a year; from petrol tax, diesel fuel tax and customs duty, £71.4 million; and from State taxes, £59.3 million. That makes a total of £209.9 million, or almost £210 million. Of that total the Commonwealth retains the sum of £79.2 million which it raises by way of sales tax on all motor vehicles. I believe that, not all, but a large percentage of this money, should be made available for the construction of roads. I do not believe that the Commonwealth is entitled to retain the whole of it. If a large percentage of it is made available, it will lead to the speeding up of road construction programming throughout the Commonwealth. At the present time, the Commonwealth contributes 33 per cent, of the money spent on road con struction, the States 29 per cent, and the local authorities 38 per cent. The poor old ratepayer is required to contribute 38 per cent, of the cost of road construction in this country. Is it any wonder that today the ratepayers are continually complaining to their aldermen and to their councillors about the high rates they have to pay on the unimproved capital value of their land in New South Wales, and under the systems that apply in other States?

I consider that there should be only one taxing authority for motor vehicle registration purposes. At the present time different rates apply in different States. For instance, for an ordinary motor vehicle the owner in New South Wales is required to pay a basic registration fee of £11 a year. In Victoria the charge for a similar vehicle is £14 Os. 6d.; in Queensland it is £14 19s.; in South Australia it is £11 10s.; in Western Australia i: is £11 7s.; and in Tasmania it is £11 3s. 6d. For a motor truck of the flat top type with a carrying capacity of about four tons, the annual registration fee in New South Wales is £43 16s. 6d. If road maintenance tax is payable, the registration in that State is halved and reduced accordingly to £22 13s. 3d. The registration fee for a similar vehicle in Victoria is £30 7s. 6d. In Queensland it is £24 12s.; in South Australia it is £32; in Western Australia it is £30 15s.; and in Tasmania it is £24 19s. I believe that all these different classifications with their varying rates should be eliminated and that all owners of motor vehicles, whether their vehicle be a station wagon, a utility, a panel van, a car or a truck, should pay registration according to one formula only. In other words, I suggest that the people who use the roads should pay for road construction through the petrol tax.

In my humble opinion, the petrol tax should be a greater amount than that charged at the present time and the increase should be made on the clear understanding that all registration fees now charged by the States will be eliminated, and that the whole of the money collected by way of petrol tax will be returned either to the States or to the constructing authority that I have suggested the Commonwealth should set up. If it is to be returned under this legislation, then it will be returned to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Under my proposal, the people who use the roads will be the ones who will pay for them not the poor old week-end motorist who drives his car for probably only 20, 30 or 50 miles at the weekend, and who now has to pay the same amount of registration fee as the man who drives his car every day of the week and who covers anything up to 100, 200 or 300 miles a week. I repeat that under the system I suggest those who use the roads will be the ones who will be required to pay for them.

It is interesting to compare the rates of petrol tax paid throughout the world, for such a comparison discloses that the motorist in Australia pays the lowest rate of petrol tax. Let me quote just a few of the rates charged in other countries. In Paris, where the price of petrol is 8s. 03/4d. per gallon, the petrol tax is 6s. lid. In West Germany, where the price of petrol is 5s. 91/2d. a gallon, the petrol tax is 3s. 6d. a gallon. In Rome, where the price of petrol is 6s. 23/4d. per gallon, the petrol tax is 4s.7d. In Australia, as honorable members know, we pay111/2d. a gallon by way of petrol tax.

As I said earlier, I believe that the various fees charged by the States should be eliminated because under the present system the financial burden created by the cost of constructing roads is not borne by those who use them. In its place should be introduced a system of petrol tax under which sufficient money is obtained to ensure the construction of an adequate road system not only for the purposes of the ordinary motorist but also for the transportation of commercial goods, the system of roads should be such as will make for the co-ordination of all forms of transport throughout the country.

In my opinion, the proposal contained in this legislation has nothing to commend it, and the Government is using this measure only as a means of covering up. Whilst we of the Labour Party do not propose to oppose the measure, we do propose to move several amendments when the Bill is being discussed in Committee with a view to putting some teeth into it. We want to ensure that when the Chairman of the proposed Bureau is appointed he will have placed before him a programme which will require him to carry out the directions of this Parliament. We want to see established a system under which this Bureau will be required to carry out a programme of road construction, a programme of road planning, and a programme of research, with a definite system of financing road construction. We wish to abolish the present system under which we have six different road constructing authorities in the States, with the Commonwealth Department of Works doing some road construction work but with none of them working together or pulling together and under which roads are constructed towards the capital cities instead of in the interests of the development and advancement of the nation. I feel sure if we had this Commonwealth authority that I have proposed, more would be done for the development of the nation.

I conclude by quoting a statement made by President Kennedy when speaking on the setting up of the Federal Roads Bureau in America. He said -

Better, more modern highways with less congestion, fewer dangerous curves and intersections a highway programme financed by highway users, designed to meet an urgent problem. I urge its prompt and impartial consideration.

One certainly cannot apply the last few words of that statement to the Bill before this House at the moment. Nobody could commend this legislation or recommend the adoption of it.


– Most members of the House certainly I am one would view with great sympathy the proposals that have been put forward by the Government; and we would not be entirely out of sympathy with some of the things that have been said by the Opposition. We all feel that there should be a better roads system and that more money should be spent on roads. We all fee) that there should be a better road plan. But where I feel that honorable members of the Opposition are a little illogical in the present circumstances is that they do not see that this bill is directed precisely to those ends. It may be a valid criticism to say that these things were not done earlier, but we are dealing with the situation as it is today.

As the position is today, the first thing we need is some proper plan. We have not got that. Members of the Opposition have put forward a number of uncoordinated points, with some of which I find myself in very considerable agreement. There will be members on the Government side who will put forward a number of uncoordinated points which should command respect and investigation. I repeat that at the present stage we are dealing with facts not as we would like them to be but as they are today. At the present stage, what we need first and most of all is some authority to look at and .co-ordinate the excellent and constructive ideas which will be brought forward during this debate, and at other times, by members on both sides of the Parliament. Therefore, I feel that if the members of the Opposition were logical they would be viewing this Bill with a very considerable measure of approval, despite, perhaps, what has not been done in the past but remembering that as things stand at the present time this is the correct first thing to do and not necessarily the correct last thing to do. I feel also that honorable members of the Opposition have been a little ungenerous in not acknowledging what this Government has already done. I do not want to join with them in a denigration of the past. I will content myself with simply one sentence: That whatever our deficiencies may be, they are very much less than the deficiencies of our Labour predecessors in office. Whatever they may say about us, let them say it three times over about themselves and their past. I do not think it is profitable on either side for iis to be digging up the past. Let us rather look at the present, at the things that have to be done, and try to get some constructive plan.

I think that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), in addressing himself to this Bill last night, put his finger on a very important point. We on this side believe in co-ordination but we do not believe in centralisation. I think it will be a good thing if the Commonwealth does what it sets out to do in this Bill and does have some overall plan, but I think it would be a bad thing if the Commonwealth took unto itself the authority which at present resides in the States and tried to centralise road construction from Canberra because this, I am sure, would lead not only to friction and inequity but also to inefficiency, waste and bureaucracy. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) instanced, and rightly, the good work which had been done by the Snowy Mountains Authority under Commonwealth aegis, but he did not draw the conclusion, as he should have. that this had occurred because the Snowy Mountains Authority was operating in a relatively limited field, not all over Australia. It is proper that in this small Snowy Mountains area there should be one constructing authority, but if we are thinking in terms of roads which go from Perth to Sydney or from Cairns to Melbourne the conclusion is quite different. It seems to me that although some co-ordinating plan could be gratefully accepted by all the States concerned, nevertheless the details of construction are best left to more localised bodies.

I repeat something which I think honorable members have said in this House over a long time. I do not think that the Commonwealth’s own road construction programme in the Northern Territory is particularly well administered. I do not think we can hold this up as an example in the same way as we can hold up as an example the Commonwealth’s construction activities in the Snowy Mountains. The reason is that the Northern Territory is distant from Canberra. Its problems and climate are different from those of Canberra. It has an area, I think, of 600,000 square miles. For that reason, it is not really suitable for bureaucratic administration from the centre here in Canberra. I have stated this view previously and I think that honorable members on the other side of the House have supported it. They should surely approve the same principle when it comes to the implementation of a roads programme. They should surely believe that there are differences in materials, in road surfaces, in traffic density and so on throughout Australia. They should make allowances for these differences and not endeavour to centralise over much in Canberra. There is a place for co-ordination. I repeat the remark made by the honorable member for Macarthur last night, that there is not the same place for centralisation.

It may well be asked why this Bill takes its present form. Honorable members may ask: “Is this Bill really necessary? Surely the Minister could appoint the necessary technical staff to advise him and produce the plan.” I “think this would be possible if Australia were a unitary state; but Australia has a Federal system. There is something to be said for some measure of autonomy in a body which will derive its authority from the Minister but which will be dealing with State Governments and their problems. I think that the compromise which the Government suggests in this Bill is a good one, having regard to the fact that the State authorities will be not only the constructing authorities but also, in the final sense, the arbiters of what work will be done or not done.

Since this Bureau will be an advisory body, I think that the necessary independence for which this Bill provides is a desirable independence. Honorable members will see that although the Bureau itself will be small, provision is made for the appointment of the necessary technical staff to advise, to co-operate with the States and to present to this Parliament and the people, through the proper channels, the necessary plans. Having regard to the nature of the Australian Federal system, this is in general a good proposal. In view of the nature of our present ignorance of what should be done about the roads system, this is the best proposal that could be devised.

I am a little disappointed that the Opposition has not been rather more generous in its approach to these matters. It has been suggested that the Opposition will not oppose the Bill but will press certain amendments. I hope the amendments are constructive. It seems to me that there are, perhaps, two ways in which this Bill could be improved in a minor sense. The first relates to the functions of the Bureau. If honorable members look at clause 14 of the Bill they will see that it states -

The functions of the Bureau are -

To investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on . . . the grant of financial assistance by the Par liament to the States in connection wilh roads or road transport;

I think it might be advisable to add the words - and in its relation to other forms of transport.

This may be implicit in the present drafting. I do not think that the present drafting precludes it, but I think the Bill might be a little improved if it provided that the Bureau will report, not merely on roads and road transport, but also on their relation to other forms of transport.

The point has been very well made, on both this side of the House and the Opposition side, that a transport system, if it is to be a good system, will not be just a road system or a rail system or a ship system or an aircraft system. A good system will be one which gives to every form of transport those functions which are appropriate to its peculiar nature. For that reason it seems to me that in clause 14 and again in clause 15 we could make a small improvement to the Bill. Perhaps this is not a matter of vital significance, but there could be a small improvement if we were to give the Bureau power to report on not only road transport but also the relation of road transport to other forms of transport.

Having regard to our Federal system - the existence of the States as well as the Commonwealth - I consider that it is appropriate that the Bureau should be responsible to the Minister. I believe the Bill would be improved if we included a specific provision that the Bureau should make an annual report to this Parliament. In doing so, I do not believe that we would be adding anything to the Government’s intention; I am quite certain that the Government intends that the Bureau should report to this Parliament. I believe the Bill would be improved technically if we were to provide that an annual report from the Bureau to this Parliament should be made as a statutory requirement.

Having said those things, I turn now (o a few of the practical problems. I will make some observations which, I admit, are unco-ordinated observations and in the same category as those which have been made by other honorable members during this debate. First, there is the relationship of road transport to other forms of transport, which I have already mentioned. That is of great importance. Secondly, I agree with honorable members opposite that there is a defence and strategic content in our road system. I do not put the weight and value of that argument as high as they seem to do, but that aspect is there and should be considered. Thirdly, I think that our attention should be given primarily to the main roads.

Feeder roads are a matter for local government, and even the best informed coordinating authority here in Canberra will not, I suspect, be a very efficient means of determining what is to be done in regard to this or that feeder road. Perhaps a general policy on feeder roads would be a proper subject for study, but when we come to specific road works I think we should be thinking in terms of main roads rather than feeder roads. I recall some remarks made by a now retired Commissioner for Main Roads in New South Wales. He deplored, very rightly, the fact that in the area under his jurisdiction sometimes a main road had an unsatisfactory gravel surface whereas a feeder road leading to it was sealed. This is an absurd state of affairs because everybody uses a main road and only a few use each feeder road. If resources are scarce they should be applied to roads which are most used. This is not a case where there is any conflict between city and country. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that people from the city are biased in favour of the city. Perhaps some honorable members would say that members from country electorates are biased in favour of their electorates; but should we not all be biased in favour of our own electorates? I hope that I am biased in favour of my electorate.

Mr Turnbull:

– That is exactly my point.


– I take your point and I think it is very well made. We are all biased in favour of our own electorates. I do not believe that there is any real conflict of interest between city and country on this issue. We all use the roads and the country dweller is very often most incommoded and most inconvenienced by the inadequacy of the roads leading into the city. I think, for instance, of the great inconvenience which is caused to the market gardeners of the Hawkesbury area. I take as a parochial example an area from which the market gardeners have inadequate main road communications with their point of sale. If honorable members were to ask a man from the country where his vehicle met most inconvenience the answer would probably be: “ The thing that really gets my goat is the delay on the main road to the city “. So I do not believe that there is any real conflict of interest here between city and country. Let us look at this and, if we can, try to put aside, so far as is humanly possible, the bias that we all feel in favour of our own electorates. Let us try to look at this as an overall problem.

Mr Turnbull:

– What about the 40 per cent.?


– The 40 per cent, is not under consideration at the moment. It may well be that the Bureau will have something to say about that, but do not let us be diverted into uncoordinated remarks about roads. We should consider the roads problem as a whole and keep in mind the interests of all Australians. The great trouble at the moment, and the main defect of our road system, is in the main roads between the main cities, and particularly the main roads within, say, 100 or 150 miles of the main points of population concentration. These are matters about which I do not want to express any final view, but I do say that they are proper matters for the Bureau to study.

It seems to me that in the interests of both city and country people we should do something about the main roads on which the mab congestion is occurring. Again, it seems to me that in New South Wales, at any rate, a great deal of money is being wasted on futile widening and small improvements to main roads which are perhaps outside the city limits, but which are nevertheless main roads. It is no good wasting money like this. The proper approach is to have freeways which are restricted access highways. Only then will we be able to relieve the traffic congestion. This can be done. It could be done by a State government which was resolute. The freeways could be constructed fairly cheaply because it is possible to provide by resumption, at least at present, for the restricted access highways, the freeways which most countries in Europe and certainly the United States are building today.

In the long run expenditure on projects such as these would be much cheaper than the piecemeal mucking about with main roads that is going on today, and the freeways would be very much better than our prettied up main roads, in respect of speed, lack of congestion and saving of life by a reduction in the number of accidents. 1 hope that one of the great things that this Bureau will do is consider the money that has been wasted. I am speaking of New South Wales now; I do not know what the situation is in the other States, but it is probably the same. Money is being wasted by bad planning and by trying to improve in a minor way existing roads, instead of doing what has to be done by constructing freeways, restricted access main roads, which, in many cases, would be much cheaper than piecemeal improvements.

Mr Reynolds:

– Whet do you suggest the States use for money?


– I say that this will be much cheaper. They will not have to spend as much money as they are spending at present. We must make our whole transport system, city and country, viable. It is rapidly becoming not viable. We must spend much more money on roads. When you think of a railway system you think of the track and the rolling stock. You think of them together. It is of no use to have the track without the rolling stock or the rolling stock without the track. You think of the system as a whole. But in relation to the road system, our unhappy habit is to think of the cars and the roads separately. Cars are of no use without a road and a road is of no use without the vehicles that go on it. We must think of these things together. Looking at our total outlay on road transport we see that we are, uneconomically perhaps, spending too much on the rolling stock and too little on the track. I say, “ perhaps “, because this again is one of the proper subjects for investigation by the Bureau, which no doubt will be asked by the Minister to look into problems such as this and which, on the basis of the best technical advice - which we do not have in this House - will be able to give some solution to these vexed questions.

Now, Sir, I have offered some uncoordinated observations in regard to roads. These are things of the kind that should be considered and should be worked into a co-ordinated plan. I think that the Government’s scheme is good. It should, perhaps, have come in earlier, but we are not dealing with the past; we are dealing with the situation as it is today. The situation as it is today requires, first, a scheme like this, and then, perhaps, something else will follow. But, whatever we do, this is the right first step. I would urge just two small amendments: First, that the Bureau should consider not just the narrow crescent of roads but also the relationship of road transport to other forms of transport; secondly, that the Bureau should, as a matter of statutory duty, make to this Parliament an annual report on what it has done.


.- The establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads could be of tremendous importance to this country. Indeed a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads could lead to a positive plan for action and could make a very valuable contribution to the future development of Australia. Unlike the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) I do not think that this is a good measure. It is far too vague. There is a complete lack of definition about it. There is not enough positiveness. When one has read the Bill itself, and has read and reflected on the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), one comes to the conclusion that this is a very vague - in fact, a gloriously vague - conglomeration of rather indefinite suggestions put in the most indirect manner. I do not agree with the honorable member for Mackellar in his opposition to centralisation of government activity in the community. In this sphere in particular there is a crying need, in fact an urgent demand, for centralisation of activities and for a national roads plan. We must centralise all positive activity, all activity that will achieve something. To do this we want before the House a bill to provide that something will be undertaken, so that we will know where this Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is to go and so that we shall be assured that it is going in that direction.

All that we have here arc statements that the Bureau is to be established, and that it will confer with the States. Recurring through the second-reading speech is the statement that roads are a problem or a liability of the States and that the Commonwealth is not to intrude. I suggest that the Commonwealth has to intrude. It must intrude from the centre. It has the power to intrude, and to intrude successfully. It should intrude for the benefit of the nation. It has the power to intrude under section 96 of the Constitution, which authorises it to make grants of money to the States for specific purposes. Goodness gracious! Let us hear any Government supporter stand and say: “That is disgraceful. We do not want to interfere with the rights of the States.” Only a few months ago we heard honorable members opposite sing the glories and praises of interference with State rights in the matter of education. The Government has very positively and very definitely moved into the State field to provide money for specific purposes and for the implementation of specific projects under certain conditions. The Government can do this too in relation to the operations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.

Mr Reynolds:

– It has made many conditional grants to the States.


– Yes. Everyone in this House appreciates, and I have heard noone try to minimise, the tremendous problems connected with transportation in Australia. These are not restricted to road transport alone. I have heard a number of speakers refer to the fact that in Australia transportation costs represent about 25 per cent, of total cost of production. That represents an enormous amount of money. If we are to cut down on production costs., if we are to look for more efficient ways in which to operate the economy, we must place this important sector under the spectroscope for detailed study. I would suggest that among the things we must look at are how to eliminate costly and wasteful duplication and how to improve efficiency. 1 rather suspect that instead of these things being done, instead of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads looking over the whole of these problems, broadly defining the policy to be undertaken and promoted by the Commonwealth Government, in cooperation and conjunction with the State Governments, we shall discover, as time goes by, that although a facade bearing the name “ Commonwealth Bureau of Roads “ has been erected in an imposing way before the electors of the Commonwealth, there will in actual fact be little, if any, change from the existing form of activity connected with roads in Australia.

From the second-reading speech it seems to me to be abundantly clear that there is no proposal at all for changing the procedures which have been undertaken up to the present. The Minister referred, of course, to the election promise of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and his statement that -

The nation would benefit from a thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing road system and of foreseeable roads requirements. ,

We will not benefit from an appraisal alone. Something more, something constructive, must be done. That is the whole crux of my concern in this matter. I do not think anything constructive in a material way is to be done in relation to this problem. Later the Minister stated, in relation to the Commonwealth -

It has to try to see the problem as a national whole and not simply as the sum of particular views of it.

I point out that in this connection the Minister used the word “ see “, not “ tackle “. We have already seen the problems. Indeed, honorable members on this side of the House have repeatedly stressed that in this community there is an urgent need today for a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to look into the problems we have and then to do something to overcome them. We have said this time and time again. We are being vindicated, as usual, in the rather belated arrival of a Government policy in support of our views. It is rather amusing that for ages honorable members opposite have rejected the concepts that we have advanced on the ground that their acceptance would be an interference with State rights, but honorable members opposite are prepared to arrive at this point themselves when they feel the pressures of the electorate at election time, and particularly when they believe themselves to be in a precarious position. Further on in the Minister’s second-reading speech, there is a suggestion that the Bureau’s primary purpose, although connected with roads, envisages its investigating any other matters related to roads and road transport. With this, I wholeheartedly agree, just so long as something is done about these matters.

I should like to say now that I wholeheartedly agree with many of the views concerning the actual problems of roads in this community expressed by the honor, able member for Mackellar. He mentioned the need to eliminate wasteful duplication and to try to operate rail and road transport in co-operation, each effective in its own area, and working in parallel instead of pulling at right angles to each other, as it were. We should give more effective purpose to the transportation systems of the community and eliminate much of the inefficiency and wasteful duplication that occur.

I have found many fairly vague suggestions in the Minister’s second-reading speech. Indeed, throughout the speech, in my view, there was not enough precision in stating the direction in which the Commonwealth will move in the future under the terms of this bill. What I am particularly concerned about is the fact that the Parliament is being asked, in effect, to sign and hand to the Government a blank cheque. I do not mind signing a blank cheque in this matter if the result will be considerable activity in an effort to solve the road problems of the community, but I rather resent being required to sign a blank cheque that will result in virtually nothing being done. Yet this, it seems to me, is precisely what will happen.

Here I return to the point that I mentioned before - the powers of the States and the lack of authority for the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, in his second-reading speech, dealing directly with the Bureau, said -

It will not be in any way a roads construction authority and it will not have any power over the States.

I should like to know how the Bureau will achieve anything more than has already been achieved. This is an important question. First, the Bureau will have no power. Secondly, it will not be in any way a roads construction authority. If it will not be in a position to exert any power over the States, how in the Lord’s name does the Government expect to get any further than we are progressing at present? How does the Government expect to make any progress in relation to roads unless the proposed Bureau will have power over the States? I suggest that the Bureau should be a form of roads construction authority and that, through it, the Commonwealth should exercise power over the States in the way in which, under section 96 of the Constitution, it has recently exercised power in education, and in the way in which it has exercised such power under innumerable other headings, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) reminded me a short time ago.

In saying that I envisage the Bureau as a form of roads construction authority, I am not suggesting that, as a government authority, it should have its own road mak ing equipment and become a parallel of the Commonwealth Department of Works, operating possibly on a bigger scale. What I envisage is a body that will provide the money for roads to be constructed with the road making plant and technical know-how of the State road authorities. The Bureau should have power - I stress this - under section 96 of the Constitution to say to the States: “ This is the plan that has been arrived at. It has not been formulated on a unilateral basis at one centre of activity. It has been arrived at in co-operative discussions between the State or States concerned and the Commonwealth Government.” This is the kind of procedure that must operate.

The honorable member for Mackellar understands the serious problem in relation to road building that arises in this community - the problem of too much parochial pressure exerted by local politics. In country areas where few people use the roads and where some influential members of the Australian Country Party reside, expensive roads are sometimes put through for the benefit of those people by a State government or a shire council controlled by the Country Party. But, as the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out, a nearby main road may be left a dusty, gravelly mess which is completely inadequate for the kind of traffic that it has to carry. Similarly, a State government or a local authority controlled by the Liberal Party of Australia, perhaps because one of the lords of that party lives in a particular area, may provide expensive roads to carry low density traffic and may ignore the more important roads that have to carry high density traffic.

There is another point about which I am concerned. It relates to another gloriously vague statement in the Minister’s secondreading speech. If any honorable member can arrive at any conclusion from what the Minister said on this matter. I shall be very interested to hear what the conclusion is. The Minister stated -

With regard to staff, it is provided in the Bill that the Bureau will have power to appoint such officers and to engage such employees as it thinks necessary for the performance of its functions. The total size of the Bureau’s staff is not, however, to exceed a maximum number determined by the Minister from time to time, and the terms and conditions of employment determined by the Bureau will require the approval of the Public Service Board.

I should like the Minister to expand a little on that subject. I recollect very clearly a statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) after the recent Premiers’ Conference that a few - I underscore the word “ few “ - good men would comprise the technical and general staff of the proposed Bureau. As I envisage the problems of transport, particularly of roads, in this country today, we would need a large number of specialists, and particularly economists who had specialised in the problems of transport in our community. Let me here introduce the thought that only one or two economists in Australia at present have specialised in the problems of transport. So here is an excellent opportunity for the Government, perhaps through scholarships, but certainly by some means, to give an incentive and to encourage undergraduates to specialise in transport problems so that, when they graduate as economists, they will be able to make a worthwhile contribution in helping to solve this important and pressing problem that bears so heavily on our community today.

I should like to mention the following statement in the Minister’s second-reading speech -

In this connection T should perhaps mention that the Bill does not contain any provisions specifying how the Bureau is to go about its work or, indeed, the precise nature of the work it is to do. We believe that these are matters for the Bureau itself to determine and that it should be free to make its own assessment from time to time of the kind of investigations it should undertake.

This, too, is rather disturbingly vague. Indeed, there are no terms of reference, as it were, for the Bureau. Rather, as I said before, the Government is trying to extract from the Parliament a blank cheque. This is emphasised by a few provisions in the Bill that I should like to mention in passing, particularly clauses 14, 15 and 17. In sum, what these actually provide for is an extension of ministerial government - of cabinet government - by a complete bypassing of the Parliament. We are well aware, of course, that the Parliament is largely ignored these days - that we have drifted into an era of cabinet government. I believe that the presence of this august body ought to be acknowledged and that we ought to be brought into some of the deliberations that arise in connection with the activities of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.

Mr Duthie:

– That is the purpose of one of the amendments that we intend to propose.


– Yes. I believe that reports should be made to the Parliament and that it should be given opportunities to debate those reports and to refer matters to the Bureau for its consideration. I consider that, at the end of each financial year, there should be submitted to the Parliament a report on the activities of the Bureau during the preceding twelve months.

It is of tremendous importance to the community that the Bureau be established on a viable basis that will result in something worth while being done for the community. The Bureau should be able to map out a plan for major road works throughout Australia, taking into consideration many other factors associated with transport. It should consider especially means by which all these factors can be interrelated. For instance, the Bureau could look at the economics of the movement of large loads and consider ways of encouraging their movement over long distances by rail, with distribution from the rail destination to adjacent areas by road transport. We could look at all these possibilities. I believe that all these are matters that should be considered by a body concerned with transport problems in the Australian community today.

It is just no use cutting these things into segments and, as a result of dire urgency, acting on one segment alone. We are neglecting other important elements of the economy which are also related to costs of transport and production. We must look at the whole of the situation as it is present in the economy. To continue on this point, we should look at the possibility of encouraging more people to travel by plane rather than by train on long journeys. I understand that it is not really a remunerative proposition to carry passengers by rail, but it can be made worth while to transport them by air, with lower fares, as a result of an expansion of the number of people being carried by air. AH of these things must be looked at in the interests of the community.

We have a land area of over two million square miles but one of the lowest population densities in the world to-day - about three persons to a square mile. We have an annual population increase of about 2.2 per cent. These facts show that the problem of transport costs will be with us for a very long time to come. Let us do something now to get greater efficiency and so reduce those costs. It is evident that Australians arc in the position that they must rely heavily on road transport. Australia, with a person-vehicle ratio of 3.58, is among the top four motor vehicle using nations in the world, Canada having a ratio of 3.4, New Zealand 3.2 and the United States of America 2.4. There is no indication that there will be any diminution in the use of motor vehicles in our daily economic life. When we take this matter further and examine the car to road mileage ratio, we find that we had about six cars to each mile of road in 1961-62, compared with 17 cars to each mile of road in the United States of America. This emphasises the point which I made earlier regarding the tremendous costs associated with road transport in this country, with a sparse population scattered over a huge area, involving large distances of travel to deliver goods. We have about 70,000 miles of road sealed, out of a total of 535,000 miles, or a little more than 13 per cent, of the total.

So we come back to the point which was made earlier. I refer particularly to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), whose contributions to the debates on the subject of transport are usually valuable and worth listening to on most of the points raised, apart from the usual petty political points which he makes as he proceeds. This is a serious problem, as we have only 13 per cent, of our road mileage sealed. A ten year projection, which I understand has been referred to by previous speakers and which has been put up by reliable authorities, suggests that in the future we are going to need £3,615 million to meet the cost of road works if we are to deal with the problem of unsealed and inadequate roads which have to be improved or those which must be provided for the future. The road grants to the States provided earlier this year by this Parliament allow for a £375 million expenditure over a five year period. That was an increase of 50 per cent. Allowing for a further 50 per cent, increase in future on the amount provided for such a period, if this sort of policy is going to be pursued - I sincerely hope it will not be - the States will still have to raise something like £2,500 million. In the five years just gone by the States and local authorities have raised about £500 million. This means that they are going to have to step up the amount provided by them for road work by five times. We all know of the enormous and almost insufferable debt being borne at present, particularly by local authority administrations, and there is no sign of an end to the problem. It is being aggravated as each day goes by. As each financial year concludes we see a worsening of the situation.

So far no proposal has been put forward to overcome the dire predicament in which the local authorities find themselves at the present time. How are these organisations expected to increase on such a tremendous scale the amount of money which they provide, when they already have a problem with which they find it impossible to keep up?

While on this subject I would like to mention that, in the progress of our road work, we are actually allowing ourselves to fall behind. We are falling behind the usage of the roads. According to the statistics which I have been able to locate, our road mileage has increased by 32 per cent, since 1957-58, but the consumption of motor vehicle fuel has increased in that period by over 41 per cent. As I see it, our road making is not keeping up with our road usage. While on this point I would like to stress that not only are we not keeping up with the usage of roads but also we are allowing our roads to deteriorate. We are providing roads on the cheap and undertaking our road programme as an austerity measure. So we find a tremendous number of road accidents occurring in our community each year.

Honorable members on this side of the House have referred to the high road accident rate in this country. I understand that eight people per 1,000 motor vehicles were involved in fatal accidents in the financial year 1962-63. I believe this is one of the highest accidents rates in the world. I understand it is higher than the rate in the United States of America, New Zealand or Canada, which are the other top motor vehicle users in the world today. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) has just reminded me of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, which, in 1957-58, pointed out that road accidents cost the community something like £70 million annually. This is a great economic loss. These things must be considered. Here, in these few focal points alone, we have sufficient pressure to warrant a positive piao for action by the Government on road requirements. We can see the problem which is arising in our capital cities and our main provincial cities today because of the insufficiency of roads. It is being said regularly that our highways in the capital cities and other major cities provide the shortest distance between two traffic jams. This is true.

Professor Blunden has pointed out that the total cost of traffic congestion in the community today is something like £200 million a year. This is a further example of the extravagant luxury of the insufficiency of our road system today and of the need for the Government to do something about it. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane - I mention him because 1 come from Queensland - is a very competent man and a man of outstanding ability in the field of local authority administration. He has pointed out that the situation in Brisbane is such as to cause concern and the belief that the city will probably be choked to the movement of traffic within five or six years unless more money is provided in that city for outlets and major trunk roads. This is a problem in every capital city. I always despair when I visit Brisbane or other major cities, particularly if I have to do so when traffic is heavy. One knows one will be involved in a tremendous waste of time. In addition, one must take into consideration the waste of petrol and the wear and tear on a vehicle which is constantly stopping and starting in traffic. Reflecting on the thousands of other motor vehicles involved in this sort of thing one can appreciate the significance of the figure to which Professor Blunden has pointed - £200 million - as the social cost to the community from traffic congestion.

I do not want to dilate on the subject of providing finance for road works at the Commonwealth level through this Bureau of Roads from petrol tax. This has been adequately and, I chink, informatively dealt with by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), the speaker from this side who preceded me. The position conies down to this: We have this Bill before us. As I mentioned before, it does not indicate where it will take us. It does not provide any terms of reference for this proposed body. All that will happen is that this facade, with a rather impressive name, will be put up and the procedures that have operated before - the States supplying details of road works for which they want funds - will be continued. The money will be provided for them.

The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will rely largely on the information and directions it receives from the States. This is not good enough. The Commonwealth has the authority to say: “ We are going to provide money for road works within your State but as the national interest is concerned and a national road network is involved we want to see something done not only for the present but for posterity “. Every year we put this off the costs will be multiplied because of the tremendous snowballing of cost factors which is occurring. As a Commonwealth Government we should say that we are going to set aside a certain sum, or a certain portion of the overall amount for roads, to be used in a five-year plan for road works in the community - road works which have been determined in relation to the overall problem of transportation that exists in Australia today.

Let me mention one example of how the Government has missed out badly on seeing that a maximum efficient contribution has been provided for transportation for the community. Within the last couple of years the Mount Isa-Townsville railway line has been relaid. Under what conditions was it relaid? It was relaid under the archaic conditions of a 3 ft. .6 in. gauge. So, we have trains carrying heavy freight from this area at restrictive speeds. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the Government to provide money for a standard gauge line from Mount Isa, one terminal, to Townsville, the other terminal for the whole of this area. Had that been done we could have had trains operating at high speeds with greater efficiency and at reduced cost. This is only a fragmentation of the overall problem in the community today. This Government has so far been loath to accept a national responsibility. It has been loath to bear its responsibilities for the national administration of the problems in the community.


.- We have before us a very simple and straightforward Bill. I should have thought that the wording of it, by its very simplioity would have been readily understood and, equally simply, accepted and set down as a further step forward in meeting a very complex problem. However, during the course of this debate we have been listening to the recital of a complicated series of facts and also to a very serious set of charges which, in the main, have been levied against the Commonwealth Government. Indeed, in the bursts of oratory we have heard from honorable members opposite have been phrases such as: “ We ought to be ashamed of the blood on our hands “. Those statements have been extravagant in the main and inaccurate in the most part, as I will proceed to show.

However, perhaps it is not for nothing that 50 per cent, of the speakers who have addressed themselves to this most important national topic come from New South Wales and no doubt share the common frustration of trying to cope with public transport and with other means of getting out of the great city of Sydney. This problem, of course, is not limited to New South Wales but is common to all great cities not only in Australia but throughout the world. The problem is tremendously complex and requires a great deal of skilled analysis and a great deal of information and research. This is precisely the point to which this Bill is addressed.

Astronomical sums - I might go on to show that they were ridiculous sums of money - have been quoted by honorable members opposite as applying to this problem; but before enormous expenditure is involved surely it is ordinary prudent housekeeping for any government to set about getting one or two experts it can trust to bring back factual information, quite apart from all the interests that are involved. There are many very concerned and deeply implicated interests which have set before the nation from time to time conflicting claims and chains of demands relating to this topic. It is my purpose tonight to try to unravel these again, and to bring out the pristine simplicity of this Bill.

Let me deal at once with some of the extravagant remarks which have been incorporated in otherwise worthy analyses of the overall problems, State and Commonwealth, to which honorable members opposite - in particular the opening speaker, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) - have addressed themselves. In his factcrammed statement - or what he has given us for facts - are many inaccuracies which have built up at times into gross exaggerations. Let me show one or two of them in detail. For instance, he told the nation over the broadcasting system that 25 per cent, of Australia’s national income was devoted to transport costs, compared with 9 or 10 per cent, in the United States of America and Canada.. The honorable member has compared two entirely different things. His United States and Canadian figures apply only to transport costs which are incurred by transport undertakings engaged in what is called the hire and reward system of transportation - the kind of operations which commercial enterprises engage in transportation per se. On the other hand his Australian figures not only include these hire and reward operators but also bring under the umbrella, without mention by him, transport undertaken by ancillary operators, for example, large firms, chain stores and great emporiums such as David Jones, Myers and Farmers, transporting their products to market or to the customers.

The figures also include rural workers and farmers carrying their produce to the market places or to railway stations in their own vehicles. They include transport undertaken by private car owners travelling to and from work. In addition, the Australian figures include the cost of the manufacture, distribution and servicing of motor vehicles and parts, and the refining and distribution of fuel. All these components included in the over-arching 25 per cent, umbrella - if I may so describe it - that he has quoted so easily in the context of the 9 or 10 per cent, of the United States. Indeed, I say that the proportion of Australian transport costs incurred in the same type of undertaking to which he refers, namely, hire and reward undertakings, is almost exactly the same as the United States and Canadian cost, which is between 8 and 10 per cent.

The honorable member for Stirling also made the assertion that the Australian Automobile Association had asked that the reports rendered to the Government by its investigating authority - this Bureau - should be published. This, he said, was the request of the A.A.A. This is not quite factual. The Association merely announced in its “Federal Newsletter” of July 1964 that it was considering asking for this to be publicised regularly.

Let us take another point. In lining up the various authorities which he maintains already exist and could easily take the place of this unnecessary Bureau - that is the implication - he stated that the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities - for the sake of convenience we shall call it N.A.A.S.R.A. - displayed the very national outlook that is to be covered, he says, by this Bill setting up the Bureau of Roads. What is N.A.A.S.R.A.? Very simply, it is the bringing together of the main roads authorities in the States and the Commonwealth Director-General of Works by virtue of his responsibility in the Territories. As such, N.A.A.S.R.A. is responsible for less than 20 per cent, of all roads in Australia, and these are essentially the main trunk rural roads. Responsibility for roads in capital cities in no way comes under NA.A.S.R.A.’s mandate. Indeed, it has no authority over local government. It has been estimated that there are more than 1,000 separate road authorities in Australia, of which only seven are represented by N.A.A.S.R.A.

It is the experience of those who are familiar with and deal with these matters all the time that, as I commenced by saying, very often there are conflicting or overlapping demands by various authorities across the nation. It is their experience that N.A.A.S.R.A., while bringing together these main roads authorities does not at all times express a national outlook. How can it when it is expressing the viewpoints of the arterial road systems, largely speaking, of each capital city and major city, whereas there are to be national roads reaching across the nation, sometimes going through the sparsely populated areas of a State, to link up the capitals? It is obvious that N.A.A.S.R.A. would have very little concern with such a project. As the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, it is quite apparent that N.A.A.S.R.A., while a valuable source of 20 per cent, of the facts which must be considered by the Commonwealth, is in no way a substitute for the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.

I jotted down, I think accurately, one or two things which were advanced by the honorable member for Oxley. He claimed that there were 500,000 miles of road in Australia of which 20,000 miles were asphalted. I was interested to compare this with similar information given by the first Opposition speaker, the honorable member for Stirling, who assured us that 14 per cent, of the roads in Australia were of bitumen or concrete. If we take 14 per cent, of 500,000 we have about 70,000 which is an error of 2i times on the other calculation.

Passing from this, let us get back to something of the simplicity of the situation. We are facing a state of affairs in which we have to spend an enormous amount of money, gathered from a relatively few people in a vast continent roughly the size of the United States of America. The honorable member for Stirling asserted that Australia spends only £320 a mile a year on roads compared with £1,450 a mile spent in the United States. I suggest to the House that these figures are misleading. Not only are they misleading on technical grounds in terms of the methods of road construction in the two countries, but they are also misleading because they require examination of the respective purchasing power of Australian and American currency and not simply reliance on an artificial exchange rate.

Leaving that aside and getting to something with perhaps more meat in it, surely something more relevant to this argument is the share of the gross national product of each nation which is devoted to total road expenditure. Here, we find something quite different from the contention of the honorable member for Stirling. In the United States the proportion of the gross national product is about 2.2 per cent, whereas in Australia it is something over 2.5 per cent. In other words, Australia is devoting a greater share of its national income to roads than is America.

Let us take one further statement by the honorable member for Stirling, namely, that unsatisfactory roads in Australia cost £1 million a day. 1 hasten to add that he based his comment on the estimate made by Professor Blunden of the University of New South Wales. Professor Blunden calculated that a road system built to standards set by himself would save £1 million a day in comparison with present costs. To build the road system to Professor Blunden’s standards would cost £2,200 million on the basis of present traffic. I claim that this is unrealistic. Professor Blunden is a personal friend. I have known him for a number of years and I know that, as a scientist, he would make a statement like that in all seriousness. For instance, when speaking about a traffic jam on the Sydney Harbour Bridge he thinks of the long line of cars held up because of a collision between two or three vehicles. He asserts that instead of trying to get a tow truck to manoeuvre those vehicles out of the peak hour crush, it would be cheaper and economically desirable to have an implement that simply heaved the damaged cars into the harbour and allowed the traffic to keep moving. According to his calculations this would save a lot of money. He may be quite right in overall figures, but who would pay the poor fellow whose car goes over the bridge? Will the hat be passed around among the motorists whose time and petrol have been saved?

There needs to be a little consideration of practicalities before we start talking about spending £2,200 million on a road system to save £1 million a day. Perhaps that suggestion was not put forward as a matter of immediate practical politics, but there are other aspects in the speech of the honorable member for Stirling who led the debate for the Opposition. He contended that the State spend on roads all the taxes levied on motor vehicles and motorists. This is plainly wrong. Commonwealth authorities estimate that only about 85 per cent, of this revenue is spent on roads. The States spend some of it on railways, the police, and bush fire prevention.

The honorable member for Stirling also referred to the N.A.A.S.R.A. estimate that over the 10-year period from 1964 to 1974 it would cost £3,615 million to meet our road needs and that revenue during that period would amount to only £2,450 million, leaving, according to him, a deficit of £1,165 million. These are the astro nomical figures to which I referred earlier. I should like to show how soundly based and practical the computation was. The estimate is open to the following criticisms: First, it is an aggregation of seven separate surveys in the six States and the Commonwealth Territories which, in turn, are an aggregate of hundreds of separate surveys undertaken by local government authorities. If there is any cognizance at all of human error creeping in, we can understand the way in which the figure of £3,615 million was built up from these hundreds of separate surveys.

In the nature of the case, different premises and different standards were adopted in the compilation. For example, as a particular instance, Western Australia criticised the New South Wales and Victorian figures on the grounds that those States had used higher standards than had Western Australia. Nevertheless, the figure is thrown up as just one more stick with which to attempt to beat the Government. As regards this astronomical figure, I would hazard the suggestion that long range planning over such a 10-year period is a little precarious, to put it in the simplest terms. Still referring to this large sum of money that has been estimated as our needs for the next 10 years I point out that the estimate includes an arbitrary 2 per cent, per annum cost rise over that 10-year period. But that 2 per cent, has been added only on the cost side; no similar allowance has been made on the revenue side. To my way of thinking this is a strange method of book-keeping.

No regard was paid in this survey to the needs of other forms of transportation. For instance, if substantial railway development takes place, road needs will diminish. I know that railway transportation is not dealt with in this Bill, as the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) probably knew when he was making his concluding remarks. If anything like the honorable member’s suggestion were to be introduced it would, pari passu, reduce the significance of the argument of his confrere.

The final point I make is that the estimate of revenues made in the compilation of these figures is conservative. For example, it was assumed that State motor taxes would remain unchanged over 10 years and that the proportion of State motor taxes and other State revenues devoted to roads would remain unchanged. Surely that is an unrealistic view to take. It is obviously very far from what the man in the street or any casual observer would assume if he were to devote himself to compiling a 10-year estimate. So at the same time as this is being done the amounts available for roads from loan funds would remain unchanged. While there is the semblance of words of learned length and thundering sound about all these figures before us, I think there is a good deal of fallacy in them. For these reasons I think the road needs given by N.A.A.S.R.A. may well be overstated and the revenues underestimated, with the result that the discrepancy between the two has been exaggerated.

The honorable member for Stirling suggested also that the Commonwealth Bureau should be similar to the United States Federal Bureau of Public Roads. Obviously the United States bureau commands respect. We all know that a highly efficient system of roads has been developed in America. The honorable member for Stirling has done a service in directing our attention to the American bureau. But while it is undoubtedly true that the United States bureau is highly efficient, it is important to remember that despite the complex nature of its activities, which the honorable member emphasised, the proportion of total road expenditure in the United States met from federal funds is about 27 per cent. That figure compares with rather more than 33 per cent, of road expenditure in Australia derived from Commonwealth funds. In other words, the Commonwealth Government bears a greater share of total road expenditure than does the United States Government.

The honorable member for Stirling recommended that toll charges on the American pattern be introduced to finance strategic roads. We know all about toll roads. They have been proposed in the past for Australia. Very few people would quarrel with the idea that those motorists choosing to use new and expensive super highways should be the persons to contribute most towards their upkeep, but when you pay regard to the Commonwealth’s responsibility vis-a-vis those roads another proposition is introduced. The United States Government does not provide funds in respect of the American national system of interstate and defence highways. The United States Government does not provide any funds where tolls are charged. It does not use, or permit a State to use, toll charges to finance its own system of roads. So there is very little relevance in bringing these two points together in this way.

The honorable member for Stirling said that reports of the Bureau should be submitted to the Parliament. I commenced my remarks this evening by pointing out that when the Commonwealth is dealing in huge sums of money, as is the case here, it is important for it to obtain accurate, scientific and down to earth advice before it commits itself to one scheme or another. Everybody in Australia who drives a motor car is a self styled expert on traffic problems. Everybody feels that he has the solution if only the Government would listen to him. Throughout Australia a number of highly respected, highly scientific and highly technical bodies are in existence and the results of their investigations must be coordinated for the Commonwealth’s purpose. Australians are only too painfully aware of their road needs. We are a nation of travellers. I am sure that every honorable member has experienced that typical Australian feeling of delight and joy in getting out into the wide open spaces away from the humdrum complexity and close-knit nature of ordinary urban life, and setting his face west to the sun. We have probably all done this. We have probably all bumped over thousands of miles of roads which are marked in red on the map and designated as highways, but which are a considerable menace to any motor vehicle as well as to one’s health. Many of our roads are admittedly appalling. During the recent recess I and other honorable members bumped over a road to the site of the proposed main dam on the Ord River scheme. I was mighty glad that it was not my vehicle that was being driven. Others of us have travelled from Bourke to Cloncurry and Mount Isa on a road that is marked red on the map but which means disaster if you travel along many of its stretches at more than crawling speed.

We realise that problems exist in this vast nation of ours. We know that many of the things that have been constantly reiterated are so true - that if only we bad the roads, if only we had enough money to spend on ironing out the kinks in the system, we could reduce not only the wear and tear on vehicles and the consequent expenditure involved in maintaining them but also the tremendous toll of human lives and the numbers of crippled human bodies that follow in the train of bad roads. We know all these things. Surely this is why the Commonwealth is at this stage addressing itself to the problem in a very definite way, as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) promised when he outlined the Government’s policy at the last elections.

In his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) told us quite simply that the decision to establish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads arose primarily from the Commonwealth’s deep and increasing involvement in the financing of roads in Australia. From being only a marginal contributor in the early 1920s the Commonwealth has become responsible for rather more than one-third of the total amount spent in Australia on roads and bridges. As a result of a measure passed recently by the Parliament the Commonwealth will in the next five years provide to the States for road purposes a total of £375 million. That is not peanuts. It is a huge sum of money whichever way you look at it. Expenditure on roads at present accounts for about 25 per cent, of all public works expenditure in Australia. Looking at the situation it is apparent that there is a need for expert and clear thinking about the co-ordination of the problems of the States and of the nation as a whole.

What will the Bureau accomplish? Professor Orchard, Professor of Highway Engineering in the University of New South Wales, has already referred to some of the things which he envisages when the Bureau is established. He has suggested that the finance provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act may not be apportioned amongst the various States in the most desirable manner. He feels that advice for the Commonwealth from the Bureau may mean a more satisfactory method of allocation. He said that the newly formed Bureau may decide on a different form of equity according to needs. The Bureau will also advise on national or trunk roads which are not simply State concerns and which may be, as I have already said, roads which cut through some of the less used and less populated portions of one or more States and which normally would not be the subject of State thinking. While it will be an advisory body, it is highly probable that the work will be carried out in each State by various State authorities, which is not uncommon. The United Kingdom Road Transport Authority makes this kind of decision about major roads, and the implementation of the decisions on the actual form of road construction falls to the various county councils.

In looking at the speech of the honorable member for Stirling we have seen the sweeping proposition with which he would replace this relatively simple measure. He said that the answer to our road transport problem can bc achieved only by developing a national transport system which must be adequate to meet the needs of future development and must co-ordinate all forms of transport so that the most economic use is made of them. He said that all modes of transport must supplement each other rather than compete with each other, that road and rail transport and shipping should fit into a national plan. The implication which is apparent in the words used is that there must be something which is going to do away, with competition. Competition, of course, is anathema to the Opposition. All modes of transport must supplement rather than compete with each other! Is there anything more fantastic?

One honorable member suggested a high-speed railway. Presumably he had in mind something like the Tokyo Express. Members of the Opposition would say that we must abolish competition, but surely the introduction of a high-speed railway would create competition for the airlines and road vehicles. It is only out of this kind of competition that we can maintain the most efficient transport system and find the answers to our problems. But perhaps one of the most serious objections is to the suggestion that we bring under one Commonwealth umbrella a great authority to debate and determine all road transport matters in the Commonwealth; in other words, that we should scrap more than 1000 authorities which are already dealing with road transport problems and dispense with the men who are giving their time in a voluntary capacity in the various shires and municipalities. All these are to be set aside or brought under a great central controlling system, with a third type of road authority; so that whereas we row have Departments of Main Roads, as well as authorities responsible for urban and suburban roads, there would be great socialised control over all roads, with transport competition nullified. I say that the Commonwealth’s suggestion is wise and simple; the other proposition is wild and fantastic.

Mr Hayden:

– I wish to make an explanation, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Mackinnon

– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Hayden:

– Yes. The honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) suggested that the figures which I quoted in relation to the mileage of bitumen road compared with the overall mileage of Australian roads were at odds with the figures quoted by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) in his speech. This is not so. The honorable member for Stirling said -

The survey of the National Association of Australian Stale Road Authorities revealed that only 14 per cent, of Australian roads are bitumen or concrete.

Then he gave some percentages in relation to other forms of roads, distances and expenditure. My statement was to the effect that there were 70,000 miles of bitumen road out of a total of 535,000 miles of Australian roads; that is nearly 14 per cent, of bituminised roads out of the total road mileage. Our figures are in accord.

Mr Opperman:

– That may be my error. I was at the table and I noted the figures given by the honorable member for Oxley as 20,000 miles. I passed this information on to the honorable member for Evans, so that it probably was an error of hearing on my part.

Wide Bay

.- In his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) quoted the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as indicating that it was the Government’s intention to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in order that the Commonwealth might have the benefit of a continuing study of the national roads situation. The honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) quoted figures - one of which already has been shown to be incorrect - and compared the proposed Federal authority with the Federal authority in the United States of America. The honorable member followed the lice taken by the Minister when he said -

It has been suggested in some quarters that we should set up a Commonwealth roads authority on the pattern of the United States Federal Bureau of Roads … In Australia, the planning, programming, design and construction of roads in the States, and their subsequent repair and maintenance, are the responsibility of the States which have developed organisations for the purpose. We have no intention or desire to take over the States’ functions on road matters.

The honorable member for Evans referred to the February issue of the “ Federal News Letter” of the Australian Automobile Association. I refer the honorable member to the March 1964 edition wherein it is stated -

An outstanding example of a highly successful National Roads Authority is the U.S. Federal Bureau of Public Roads . . .

The tremendous roads progress made by the U.S.A. in recent years is due in large measure to the Federal Highways Act of 1956. That Act authorised the building of a 41,000 mile network, comprising a little over 1 per cent, of the total road mileage in the U.S.A. and now known as the National System of Interstate and Defence Highways, with the Federal Government assuming ninety per cent, of the financial responsibility for its construction.

If I heard the honorable member correctly, he stated that Australia’s contribution of a little over 33 per cent, was greater than the contribution of the United States Federal Bureau of Public Roads. It has been brought to my attention that the Bureau also contributes £1 for each £1 contributed by a State authority for urban and rural roads.

As I understand it, the kind of information that will be sought by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is already available through the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, on which there is representation of the heads of the various State Main Roads Departments and the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Works. From reading the Minister’s second-reading speech and from listening to Government supporters of this Bill, it appears that the Government has taken this step for the formation of the Bureau with a certain degree of hesitancy. Perhaps Government supporters feel that it might impinge on the rights of the States. There are instances in other fields where the Commonwealth has made contributions to the States, and the States have always been willing to accept money for specific purposes, such as development or defence. I cannot imagine a State Premier or State Treasurer refusing money for roads needed for the defence or development of the States or of the nation.

In the Minister’s second-reading speech there is no complete statement of the powers to be vested in the Bureau or of its responsibility. He states -

It has to try to see the problem as a national whole and not simply as the sum of particular views of it.

Later the Minister said -

T should perhaps mention that the bill does not contain any provisions specifying how the bureau is to go about its work or, indeed, the precise nature of the work it is to do. We believe that these are matters for the bureau itself to determine and that it should be free to make its own assessment from time to time of the kind of investigations it should undertake.

I am sure that it would give a great deal of pleasure to any of us if we could obtain a position in which we were left to our own discretion as to how we went about our work. This is what could easily happen: This Bureau - a three man organisation - could be brought into being to act as a buffer between the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the various main roads authorities and other organisations which arc interested in a national roads plan. The Bureau could also evolve into a research department to provide reasons why certain works should not be undertaken. The Bureau is to be given an open go. Perhaps that is all right. Perhaps too many restrictions could be placed on it. But I believe that it would receive more support if it were given some specific task.

Whilst we members of the Opposition believe in the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, we believe that the Bureau should be based on the system that is operating in the United States of America, New Zealand and Germany. The system has worked very effectively in those countries. Some criticism of central control has been offered. I believe that the National Parliament should be able to judge the needs of the nation. In fact, that is what we are here to do. The Bureau, through the relevant Minister representing the Government, should be able to make decisions on the need for and priorities of roads for national defence and development. This central control has worked effectively in the various States, and the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities at its meetings has been able to plan standard systems, standard signals and standard methods of road construction. This system has worked to the benefit of the nation as a whole. It has worked quite well in the States.

Queensland is the second largest State. It has an area of 667,000 square miles. It extends 1,300 miles from north to south and 900 miles from east to west. In the State there are about 470,000 vehicles and 102,000 miles of roads, of which 24,000 miles are under the control of the Main Roads Department and the remainder of 78,000 miles are under the control of the local authorities. Since July last year the Main Roads Department has assumed a certain amount of responsibility for four types of roads. It has taken away from the local authorities some of the responsibility for the construction and maintenance of certain roads. The categories into which the roads have been divided are State highway?, of which there are 6,300 miles; developmental roads, of which there are 4,200 miles’, main roads, of which there are 5,100 miles; and secondary roads, of which there are 8,400 miles.

The full cost of the construction of State highways is met by the Main Roads Department. The local authorities are asked to contribute 5 per cent, of the cost of construction of developmental roads, 10 per cent, of the cost of construction of main roads and 25 per cent, of the cost of construction of secondary roads. However, maintenance costs are one of the bugbears or headaches of the local authorities. They can never obtain sufficient money to carry out any significant amount of permanent road construction. They meet the maintenance costs on gravel roads. They have to meet 10 per cent, of maintenance costs on State highways and developmental roads, 20 per cent, of maintenance costs on main roads and 30 per cent, of maintenance costs on secondary roads. Local authorities, because of a shortage of funds, are unable to carry out permanent construction works; the ratepayers have to meet the higher maintenance costs; and so it goec on in never ending circles. In certain circumstances, local authorities have taken it on themselves to construct permanent sealed roads, and in these instances maintenance costs have dropped considerably. This is probably an inducement to the local authorities to carry out permanent works, but, on the other hand, the amount of money available to the local authorities through the State roads authorities is not sufficient to enable them to do so very often.

Other honorable members have mentioned the need for a crash programme of permanent road building throughout Australia to overtake the backlog. They have pointed out that the inadequate road system contributes considerably to the toll of human lives in road accidents. It could perhaps be argued that good roads, when they are built, become speedways and encourage motorists to drive faster, but generally speaking motorists take advantage of the good roads. Bad roads contribute to more accidents than good roads do, though speed is an important factor. Honorable members have referred to the substantial decline in fatalities on the roads in the United States since the Federal Bureau of Public Roads there has undertaken the construction of a road system. This was a bold plan and the Bureau has been operating since 1956. But it is only now that the Australian Government is moving to set up this Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.

Under the Bill, the Bureau is responsible only to the Minister. We on this side of the House do not think that this is sufficient. We believe that annual reports of the Bureau should be available to the Parliament and to the nation. It is not a matter of lack of confidence in the Minister; it is a matter of national importance. I would like the Bureau to have more authority than the Bill gives it. It may well be that this move will be the start of a good scheme and for that reason alone it is worthy of support. I would not like the Bureau to develop into a buffer between the Minister and the various State authorities when the State authorities ask for additional money for the construction of a road system. Nor would I like the Bureau to be merely a research body throwing up Aunt Sallys for the Minister or giving the Minister reasons for not providing money for various road projects. We will watch with interest to see how the Bureau develops, but I believe that the Bill does not give the Bureau sufficient authority and certainly does not give it the authority that a Labour government would give it.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Robinson) adjourned.

page 163


Broadmeadows Migrant Camp - Superphosphate

Motion (by Mr. Opperman) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.


.- I have an unpleasant task, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I desire to bring to the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) - and I hope that he will confer with the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) - the fact that about three weeks ago at the Broadmeadows migrant camp a shocking tragedy occurred. A little boy, four years of age, succeeded in climbing a high fence surrounding the treatment works that take all the drainage from the migrant camp - formerly a military camp - and from the military camp which is still conducted in an adjacent area.

It is true that the treatment works are surrounded by a substantially high mesh fence, but there is no barbed wire on the fence. I am sure that the Minister will agree, as will other honorable members, that even racecourses, sporting grounds and showgrounds, as a rule, not only are surrounded by a mesh fence, but also have substantial barbed wire entanglements in order to stop boys - mostly boys, of course - from climbing into those enclosures without paying the entrance fee. I suggest that the Government as such has some share of the responsibility for the fact that there was no barbed wire entanglement, or protective mesh, on this wall that might have ensured that a boy, four years of age, could not have climbed over the fence and been drowned in the tank. It was h most unfortunate occurrence. I understand that the Army authorities have now taken some steps to erect the necessary barbed wire protection.

The laddie was a member of a family of ten, which was one of the British migrant families in the camp. As this family has been unable to secure a house from the Victorian Housing Commission - and I understand is still unable to obtain housing accommodation - I ask the Minister whether he can make representations to the Commission, or to some other authority providing housing, that will ensure that this family will have the opportunity to go into a house at least some distance removed from the scene of this shocking tragedy and all the memories that will remain. I suggest also that the Minister might confer with his colleague and ascertain whether it is possible to make some other compensation to the unfortunate people concerned.

We have all been little boys and we know that pretty strong barricades are required to prevent little boys from investigating what is on the other side of a fence. I feel that some responsibility rests with the Army for not having placed barbed wire on this fence that might have prevented the tragedy, and 1 emphasise the need to assist the family without much delay - within a few days, perhaps - to find suitable housing accommodation.

I do not want to delay the House any longer, but at some future date I will point out, as I have pointed out on many occasions here - the necessity to point it out is even greater today than it ever was as no doubt our immigration scheme is to be extended - that the Broadmeadows camp, in which migrants are now housed, and also the Maribyrnong and Williamstown camps, are most unsuitable places in which to house migrants. If new arrivals were in the camps for only a week or two it would not be so bad; but as the predecessors of the present Minister for Immigration know, some of the migrants are in the camps for a year, and some for two years. There is no privacy. There are no internal toilets. The toilets are far removed from the sleeping accommodation. The drainage is unsatisfactory. The whole environment is not the sort into which people ought to be put when they come to :his country to be its future citizens. The resources of Australia are great enough to enable the Government to build places in which immigrants would be pleased to live until they could obtain a home of their own. I appeal to to the Minister concerned to consider seriously whether they can do anything to help the family to which I have referred and to give greater protection against accidents to children.

New England

– I rise to direct the attention of the House to a problem which is very acute in my electorate and is causing much concern to other honorable members who represent country electorates. I refer to the recent increase in the price of superphosphate and its effect particularly in New South Wales. Undoubtedly, there has been unprecedented demand for superphosphate in every Australian State over the past twelve months and particularly since the introduction of the superphosphate bounty by the Commonwealth Government. As a result, in New South Wales land which previously was almost incapable of carrying livestock - certainly it had a minimum carrying capacity - has been developed to a point where its potential production is difficult to envisage. If this production is to be attained, it is essential that superphosphate should be made available at a reasonable price.

After an investigation had been made by the Commonwealth Government, a projected rise in the price of superphosphate recently was reduced from I7s. a ton to 13s. 6d. but unfortunately this increase was not the only component in the cost of superphosphate. On top of it there was a reduction of fi a ton in the off-peak rebate which has applied over the past few years. When the proposed rise in the selling price of 17s. a ton was reduced to 13s. 6d. a ton, the General Manager of Australian Fertilisers Ltd. announced in the Press that the company expected to re-introduce off-peak rebates in the 1964-65 season. He stated^ -

If our big programme of planned improvement goes ahead as planned, we expect to return to normal trading arrangements next year.

Over the next two years, we have planned capital expenditure of £3.2 million to expand and modernise our N.S.W. plant.

This includes the construction of the largest sulphuric acid plant in Australia at Port Kembla which is due for commissioning in January 1965.

What concerns me about this announcement is the implication that the rise in the price of superphosphate and the lifting of the offpeak rebate will be the means by which Australian Fertilisers Ltd. will finance the construction of the new sulphuric acid plant at Port Kembla. This inference may be drawn from the express statement by the company that in the next year, when this plant will still not be in full production, the company expects to be able to return to normal trading arrangements. In fact, the company has stated that it expects to be able to review the price at that time.

I realise that because of the increased demand for superphosphate, added stresses have been placed on those who produce this fertiliser but I feel that this cannot be related completely to both the rise in price and the removal of the off-peak rebate. One must appreciate that because of the inordinate demand for superphosphate it has been necessary to obtain phosphatic rock from sources other than those nearest to our shores - Nauru, Ocean Island and Christmas Island.

Apart from that, of course, there was an increase in the price of phosphate rock on 2nd July. Sir William Dunk, the Chairman of the British Phosphate Commission, did announce a price rise of 13.6d. a ton of phosphate rock, but this breaks down to something like 9s. a ton for superphosphate. Presumably there has also been some necessity - and there have been numerous press announcements to this effect - for the introduction of superphosphate from other States, and the freight charges that it has been necessary to pay for the cartage of this superphosphate have, according to the statement made at the time of reduction of the price rise from 17s. to 13s. 6d., been absorbed largely by the superphosphate manufacturers. These things being so, I believe that Australian Fertilisers Ltd. is at this stage in the most unusual position of having publicly announced that the expansion of the company’s capital works programme is going to be financed by increasing the price of its product. As this company would seem to be in a very fortunate position in New South Wales, in that it is the sole distributor of superphosphate in that State, it is, of course, in a powerful position to implement an increase in price. I feel that it is now up to this company to do something about giving the full reasons for this increase, or at least to restore this off peak rebate which, in my view, has been quite unjustifiably removed. With the increased consumption of superphosphate, surely some economics could have been effected because of increased production or larger volume of sales. This must mean that the company is in a much more fortunate position than it was some years ago, when New South Wales lagged so far behind neighbouring States, particularly Victoria, in fertiliser consumption.

With the present unfortunate application of price increase in the south, many agriculturalists in New South Wales have been caught completely unawares. The President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales made a Press announcement shortly after the implementation of this price rise, to the effect that at no stage in the consultations which his Association and the New South Wales manufacturers had relating to the shortage of supplies of superphosphate in New South Wales had there been any mention of a possible increase in price after 1st July. Consequently, many producers who wanted superphosphate only to top dress pastures put their orders of superphosphate back to give the wheatgrowers an opportunity to obtain their supplies and get their crops in. For this reason I believe that Australian Fertilisers Ltd. appears to have been quite neglectful of the interests of these producers who, having put their orders aside to enable the company to supply the wheatgrowers, are now in a position of having to pay 33s. 6d. a ton more for the superphosphate which in many instances was originally ordered many months ago and long before the price rise was implemented.

I believe that Mr. Schroder made a very revealing statement in explaining the reduction of 3s. 6d. in this price rise when he said, as reported in “ Country Life “ of 7th August, 1964-

The outcry from these organisations did influence us in reducing the price - you could say that political agitation by the consumer bore fruit.

To me this would show that in initially estimating and announcing the price rise the company did not properly investigate its own costing procedures. Accordingly I suggest that the off peak rebate, in particular, should be further reviewed.

Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) fi 0.25]. - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had intended this evening to mention a matter concerning the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). Because 1 thought it was wrong to> do so in the honorable member’s absence. 1 caused a message to be sent to him by one of the House messengers telling him what I proposed to do and suggesting that he be in the chamber. He is not present. What I have to say about him I prefer to say in his presence rather than in his absence. Therefore, I propose to reserve my remarks until he shows up. I think he has a very shrewd idea of what I am about to say and is hoping that it will not be said. I repeat that he does know that I proposed to mention something connected with him, because a message was sent to him with a messenger of this House a few moments ago. Some time ago the honorable member said he would be willing to meet me on television. He has crayfished away from that one also. I can do nothing about this other than to await my opportunity. Sooner or later the honorable member for Yarra must turn up during an adjournment debate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.

page 166


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Coal. (Question No. 315.)

Mr Fairbairn:

– The information sought by the honorable member is set out below -

New South Wales -

The Joint Coal Board has provided the following figures of reserves of ex-tractable coal proved by drilling: -

Southern (Wollongong and Port Kembla):

Hard coking coal; reserves of 570m. tons

South Western (Burragorang Valley):

Medium coking coal; reserves of 150m. tons

Newcastle: Soft coking coal; reserves of 290m. tons.

Singleton (Muswellbrook); Soft coking coal; reserves of 200m. tons.

Queensland -

The following figures of reserves have been published by the Queensland Coal Board: -

Kianga-Moura (southwest of Roekhampton): Soft coking coal (Kranga), medium to hard coking coal (Moura); measured reserves of 5m. tons, indicated reserves of 75m. tons, total inferred reserves 1,000m. tons,

Nebo-Blackwater (south-west of Mackay): Area contains both coking and steaming coal; inferred reserves of the order of 1,000m. tons.

North Ipswich (west of Brisbane): Medium coking coal; measured reserves 27.5m. tons, indicated reserves of 4m. tons.

Burrum (north of Maryborough): Soft coking coal; measured reserves of 4.5m. tons.

Collinsville (southwest of Bowen): Includes both hard coking coal and non-cooking coal; measured reserves of 112.5m. tons of coking coal, measured reserves of 5.5m. tons of undifferentiated coal.

Measured reserves: Are those for which tonnage is computed from known dimensions and results of detailed sampling.

Indicated reserves: Are those for which tonnage and grade are computed partly from specific measurements, and partly from projection for a reasonable distance on geological evidence.

Inferred reserves: Are those for which quantitative estimates are based largely on broad knowledge of the geological character of the deposit and for which there are few, if any, samples or measurements.

In all areas it can be expected that additional reserves would be proved by further drilling.

Ambassador of the Republic of Ireland. (Question No. 318.)

Mr Hasluck:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. I am aware of the announcement. 2 and 3. As I have already informed the honorable member in the House, the wording of the Letters of Credence presented by the Irish Ambassador was in accordance with Irish constitutional practice. As I have also informed him, it is understood that neither the party furnishing, nor the party accepting, credentials will attach the significance to the titles used that is attached to them by the other parly.

Sales Tax. (Question No. 353.)

Mr Webb:

b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is there a sales tax of 121 per cent, on soap for human consumption?
  2. What sales tax is imposed on dog soap?
  3. Will he consider removing sales tax on soap?
Mr Harold Holt:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -

  1. Yes.
  2. There is no provision in the law specifically exempting dog soap, as such, from sales tax. There is, however, a provision for exemption of “preparations for use in the prevention, cure or eradication of diseases or pests in live stock”. As dogs fall within the category of live stock, this provision covers medicated soaps for use on dogs for the purposes stated. Dog soaps which are not medicated are subject to tax at the general rata of 12) per cent.
  3. Representations previously made for exemption of soap from sales tax were considered by tha Government, together with very many other requests, in the preparation of the Budget. It was not found possible, in the present circumstances, to grant this exemption.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.