25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he can confirm that an Australian company has sold to South Africa an advanced battle target system designed to improve Army efficiency. If the Minister confirms that this is so will he say why the Government has defied the resolution of the Security Council for an arms ban on South Africa, which was passed in August of last year, and why his Government is not pursuing the policy followed by the United States of America since August of last year of banning arms for South Africa?
– I heard of this story only shortly before I entered the House and I made some immediate inquiries. The information given to me was that the permission for this export was given before 1962 and before the date of the passing of the resolution by the Security Council. I am also informed that this piece of equipment is not considered to be of military significance.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Repatriation. I think most of us are aware that the Australian Repatriation Department acts as agent in some respects for the equivalent British Ministry. Does the Australian Repatriation Department assist ex-servicemen of British countries to receive repatriation benefits equal to those provided by their own governments?
– The Repatriation Act does permit the Repatriation Commission to act as an agent for a number of other British countries. Under these arrangements the Commission is able to provide benefits here in Australia on exactly the same basis as they would be provided to the ex-servicemen in the British countries concerned. The services provided include the investigation of claims, medical treatment and the payment of benefits. The two principal coun- tries concerned are the United Kingdom, which was mentioned by the honorable member, and New Zealand. As a matter of interest, I inform the honorable member that the total amount paid for pensions under this system during the last financial year was just a little over £2 million.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for the Navy. Is he aware that a valuable site on the Williamstown foreshore, known as Thompson’s Engineering Works, adjacent to the Williamstown naval dockyard, is at present vacant? Will he consider acquiring the site for the purpose of expanding the dockyard facilities?
– For the past three or four months negotiations have been proceeding, I think with the Melbourne Harbour Trust, which owns this land, with a view to the Navy’s acquiring it to expand its dockyard facilities. These negotiations are being processed now.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. As it has been reported that the royal commission which inquired into the “Voyager” disaster has completed its investigations, can the Minister say when the findings will be made available to honorable members?
– It is true that the report has been received, but Ministers of the Government have not yet had an opportinity to look at it. Since the inquiry was conducted by a royal commission, there are certain formalities which must be followed, but T can assure the House that these things will be done as expeditiously as possible so that the report may be laid before honorable members.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that interstate undercutting in egg prices, which has now been resumed on a large scale, together with the nonpayment of pool levies, is disrupting the eggproducing industry? I particularly refer to the sale of South Australian eggs in Victoria. Is the Minister aware that retaliation by
Victoria and New South Wales could be on a massive scale and could bring ruin to South Australian producers? Has he had personal discussions, other than discussions at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council, with the responsible South Australian Minister or the Premier of South Australia concerning the adoption of the proposed Australia-wide egg stabilisation scheme? If not, will he undertake to conduct such discussions in order to obtain early agreement on the stabilisation plan and so avoid the continuation of cut-throat trading which is detrimental to egg producers everywhere?
– I do know that, in recent times, eggs produced in certain States have been sold in others. This has been one of the reasons why the various egg boards in the different States have got together and, through the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia, which is commonly referred to as C.E.M.A., prepared a plan for stabilising egg marketing throughout the Commonwealth. The honorable member has asked me whether I have had personal discussions. We had a fairly full discussion of this matter at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. Subsequently the Chairman of C.E.M.A. personally discussed it with Mr. Brookman.
– Did you have any personal discussion with the South Australian Minister?
– I had a discussion with the chairman of C.E.M.A., Colonel McArthur. He has been discussing this matter with Mr. Brookman of South Australia to see whether there were any differences that could be resolved so that an overall agreement could be reached. That is where the position stands. I have not had a final report from Colonel McArthur on this matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. It has been announced that a compromise has been reached by the Johnson Administration in the United States of America and the relevant Congress committee on the importation of beef into America. Can the Minister give the House any details in connection with this announcement, particularly with regard to the effects of the new decision on Australian beef exports?
– It has been reported publicly that an agreement has been reached in the negotiations to achieve a compromise between the United States Senate and the House of Representatives concerning meat import quotas. We have some official knowledge of this compromise but we have not comprehensive knowledge of it. It would appear, from my understanding of the situation, that the negotiations between the two Houses and the Administration, which I think has exercised its influence, have resulted in a proposal which would allow the importation of a larger amount than the 160,000 tons which was written into the Senate’s legislation, but a very much smaller amount than that mentioned in the voluntary agreement between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America. There is also, I understand, some provision for greater flexibility in respect of the quantity of imports. I am not in a position to know whether either or both of the American Houses of Congress will pass this legislation or how it will be received by the President. All I can say is that anything that represents a substantial diminution of Australia’s meat export entitlement, which was freely negotiated not on our initiative but on the initiative of the United States Administration, is to be deplored in Australia - to put it as mildly as I can. Furthermore, it must have a serious adverse influence in the wider world negotiations of the Kennedy Round, one of the prime objectives of which is to free world trade in bulk commodities. This is a matter that affects not merely the industrialised countries and countries with a high standard of living, such as Australia and New Zealand. The principle of freer international trade in bulk commodities is perhaps the main prospect that the underdeveloped countries have of obtaining a higher standard of living.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Did the right honorable gentleman write a letter to President Johnson about Australia’s exports of beef to the United States of America? If so, was it published in the U.S.A.? If it was published, did the Prime Minister authorise its publication? If not, did the President make its contents known, either in part or in whole, without first advising him? As the Prime Minister is reported as having used the personal pronoun throughout the letter, was it the result of a Cabinet discussion, or was it his idea that the contents would never become public?
– Order! The honorable member is getting outside the scope of a question.
– This is the question: Does the Prime Minister think President Johnson made the letter public because he resented outside interference in United States affairs by a faceless man and thought it best for him to make his displeasure known?
– The only interference in the domestic politics of the United States of America that I can readily recall is the gratuitous attack made by the Opposition on one of the candidates for the Presidency - an attack which will no doubt be worth quite a few votes to the man attacked.
– If you were in America you would be a Republican.
– I know you are sensitive on this point. I am asked whether I sent a communication to the President. The answer is that I did. In case I am given too much credit for this message, I want to say that this arose from consultation with, and the closest advice of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, who, no doubt, has a much more intimate knowledge than I have of the details of this matter, although I have had some contact with them.
In the result, the letter was sent to the President. The letter was not published here, nor was it released here. That is all I can say about it. I gather that at least the substance of the letter was released in Washington. I do not imagine that it was released because it was regarded as a hostile communication. On the contrary, it must be remembered all the time that the American Administration, under the President, has made an agreement with the Australian Government and, being what it is, is no more anxious to have that agreement invalidated than we would be in similar circumstances. I do not need to say more than that.
The substance of the letter has been made known. When, in due course, this matter is concluded, if the House wants to see the correspondence and the President agrees to its publication, I shall be very happy to table it. I do not find myself as easily disposed to be criticising people in other countries as do some honorable members of this House. I have stated, and honorable members know that it is perfectly true, that this letter was sent, that it was not published at this end, but that its substance has been conveyed to the public at the other end. That is all right. I am not to be taken as complaining, because, in my view, the overall problem in this country is how to do the best thing for Australia in these matters.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, relates to the current conversion loan. I have been informed that stockbrokers have had great difficulty in obtaining conversion application forms from the Registry of Inscribed Stock in Sydney; that the forms sent by the Registry and banks to stockholders reached them only a few days before the date of maturity of the loan; and that the implication of advertisements was that applications had to be lodged by 15th August, whereas in fact a month of grace is allowed. I ask the right honorable gentleman to look into these allegations and, if they are substantiated, to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
– This is the first that I have heard of any complaints in this direction, and I am not aware that any complaints of a similar character have arisen in earlier loan operations. I need hardly say that the Government attaches very great importance to a successful result from these conversion operations. It has gone to a great deal of trouble in one direction and another in order to bring home quite strikingly to those members of the public who are holders of bonds capable of conversion into this loan the great attraction that the loan possesses for them. The Government recommended that they view the loan as a highly desirable long term investment. I am concerned to learn from the honorable gentleman that
Questions. the forms necessary for the completion of applications have, at least in this instance, not been readily available. I will make inquiries immediately and do my best to see that the situation is remedied.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. In announcing in the Budget the increase in the rentals for telephones to £20 a year the Treasurer did not specify whether the increases would apply to age, invalid and widow pensioners who possess telephones. Is it intended to apply the increase to these people?
– The telephone rentals that were indicated by the Treasurer in the Budget Speech will be applied in accordance with the schedules that were subsequently distributed to honorable members and to the public. In the capital cities, and in large provincial centres like Newcastle and Canberra, the rental for business and domestic telephone services will be £20 per annum.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In the light of the recent serious illness of President Segni of Italy will the Prime Minister consider forwarding a message of encouragement and good wishes on behalf of the Australian people and the Italian community resident in Australia?
– If that has not already been done 1 will be very happy to do it.
– Does the Treasurer know that last week the legislature of the United States of America enacted legislation imposing an interest equalisation tax and that a result of the tax will inevitably be an increase in the interest payable upon the 25 million dollar loan raised for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. on 6th May, 1964? If the 15 per cent, tax rate operates, as the bill allows, will the amount of the increased taxation be about £500,000 more than the existing interest? Will the Government pay that amount or will it, as permitted by the bill, repay the loan?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have, of course, been closely following developments in relation to the measure and, indeed, the whole history of this particular matter. It will be recalled that this was one of the methods devised by the Administration of the late President Kennedy in order to meet the general external financial position of the United States of America. An announcement was made some considerable time ago to the effect that the Administration would be seeking congressional adoption of a proposal along these lines. Indeed, it is the existence of this provision which has inhibited Australia, from the point of this announcement, from seeking any new governmental borrowing on the United States market. The effect would have been to add 1 per cent, to the rate of interest on any borrowing we made there. I do not know where the honorable member obtained his information in regard to the Qantas loan. I made the point at the time of the introduction of the loan that it would not be affected.
– Section 7 of the schedule includes it.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for bringing that matter to my notice. I shall certainly check it. This is the first information which has reached me on the point. I shall give the honorable member a more detailed reply after I have had an opportunity of studying the matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Industry investigate whether or not shippers’ total costs in some Australian ports are greater than in others because of charges which are levied on shippers in some ports and not on shippers in other ports? If this is found to be the case, will he endeavour to establish a uniform handling and freight charge giving all Australian exporters of general cargo equal export opportunity?
– I understand that the honorable member’s question ranges wider than actual shipping freight rates and that it extends to stevedoring charges and other charges. If there is any discrimination as between ports or as between exporters of the same items I shall interest myself in the matter. I undertake to inquire into the facts so far as I am able to ascertain them. If there is proper scope for intervention, then I will intervene.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that his Department and the Public Service Board opposed the application of the Australian Amalgamated Postal Workers Union for equal pay for equal work for male and female employees in the Sydney mail branch, although equal pay for equal work is paid to female employees in the Melbourne mail branch?
– The position concerning the wages which are paid to female workers in the Melbourne mail branch flows back to the Second World War. During the war, an undertaking was given that these people would not be called upon to resign at the cessation of hostilities. There are still approximately seventeen females employed in the Melbourne mail room who commenced employment there during the war period. When I had discussions in April last with representatives of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and the question of the payment of female part time employees was under discussion, I indicated to them as well as to the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the question of wage rates for females was a matter for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This was clearly understood by Mr. Monk, Mr. Waters and Mr. Slater. They accepted the fact that the postal workers’ application would go to the Commission and that I would abide by the decision given. That decision was given on the basis of 75 per cent, of the male rate, having regard to a slight loading for part time as against a full eight hours employment each day.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask whether it is true that last Friday 2,200 waterside workers in the port of Sydney went on strike, rendering some 22 ships idle. No reason appears to have been given for this stoppage. Can the Minister now tell the House whether any reason for paralysing activities in the port has since been given and whether any disciplinary action has been taken against the men involved?
– There was a walk-off on the waterfront on the date mentioned by the honorable gentleman. It was difficult for the men themselves, the ship owners and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to find out exactly what the cause of the dispute was. As we know, these blues are frequently pulled on by any one of the job delegates. On this occasion, they did not communicate to the responsible authorities the reason for the dispute. We now find that on, I think, 11th July, there was a dispute involving a vessel which I understand was named the “ Colorado Del Mar “. The owners arranged to look into the matter, and they gave their final decision about a month later. As I understand the case now, the walk-off took place because the owners had appeared to take so long to make a decision and the decision was not favorable to the men.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask whether it is a fact that the Minister, when addressing the Austral ian- American Association in Sydney last week, stated -
We do not follow the United States blindly. We make our own judgments.
Will the Minister now inform the House of any one specific occasion on which the Australian Government has expressed, in relation to foreign policy, a view different from that of the United States Government?
– It would be impossible to recite the numerous occasions on which that has happened. I shall prepare a return for the honorable member and give it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the recently formed Australian Honey Board early this year fixed the export price of Australian honey so high that few sales were made, and this at a time when the world demand for honey was exceptionally strong? Has the world price now fallen sharply, leaving the Australian honey packers with a large quantity of honey in stock?
– The Australian Honey Board was given power to regulate export prices as from 1st March last. The figures from January to May of this year show that sales increased during that period by 50 per cent. The Honey Board fixed the export price for Australian honey at the equivalent of the import price generally paid by the United Kingdom. So the price fixed was not excessively high. The prices of Argentinian and Mexican honey have dropped, but the prices of Canadian and New Zealand honey have kept at the same level as before. The increase in sales of honey in the first five months of this year, which I mentioned earlier, has been worth £500,000 to Australia. This represents very good sales. Taken over the whole of Australia, present stocks are normal-, though I understand that the stocks in several States are somewhat higher than normal. Sales are proceeding fairly satisfactorily.
– My question to the Minister for Trade and Industry is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Gippsland. In view of the threatened reduction of exports of beef to the United States, as suggested by the negotiations taking place between the United States Senate and House of Representatives, will the Minister state what action is being taken by his Department to market the beef which will be denied access to America? Is it expected that the beef producing and processing industries in Australia will face a period of reduced production and, consequently, depression?
– I think I have explained to the House previously that there has been an intensification of the drive to sell our beef and other meats in alternative markets to the United States since the voluntary agreement itself reduced our expectation of sales and since the action of the United States sentatives, will the Minister state what action reduction of our access to the American market. In the actual circumstances, our drive to get markets for our beef, which is being conducted in many places, has bad the fortuitous aid of a combination of an adverse season for production in the United
Kingdom and in Europe and an increase in the purchasing power of some hundreds of millions of people in those areas, with the result that for the first time in my memory, there have been markets in the United Kingdom and Europe comparatively as attractive as the United States market.
This has led to a situation in which the Australian meat industry has not suffered adversely from the reduction of opportunity in the United States. In fact, with some urging from those in a position to point out the desirability of this course of action - I refer to the Australian Meat Board, my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry and those well informed in the meat industry itself - there is a conscious diversion of meat from the United States market so, happily, we have not suffered up to this moment. However, I remind the House that never in my memory has the level of meat values in the United Kingdom and in Europe previously been anything like as high as the parity value in the United States market. In my judgment it would be a very great mistake to assume that this high level of values and willingness in Europe to accept considerable quantities of meat uninhibited by restriction will continue. We shall continue by every means within our power to explore alternative markets for our meat and to get the best access that we can to the United States market.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. Are the Aboriginal children of the Northern Territory taught only the three R’s or are they being taught tribal culture and traditions as well as the didgeridoo? Are these latter subjects also being taught to Aborigines by State educational authorities?
– Aboriginal children are taught in mission schools, in special schools, on government settlements and on pastoral properties. The curriculum follows the usual standards, particularly those adopted by South Australia. Although Aboriginal customs and traditions arc not taught, they are, nevertheless, very much respected. Some Aboriginal legends form part of the reading material in the schools. The
Aboriginal children engage in group activity and very active attention is given to Aboriginal songs, dances and music. Every year in Darwin the Aboriginal children take part in the eisteddfod in sections devoted to Aboriginal songs, dances and music. As regards the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have no ministerial responsibility for what takes place in the States. I cannot say what is taught in State schools.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. During the weekend the right honorable gentleman said that a review will be made of the entire defence programme and that it is not an unreasonable assumption that we may have to face more defence expenditure as the year continues. Why was no mention made of this in his Budget Speech when he outlined expenditure for the coming financial year?
– The honorable gentleman has given a very shorthand account, no doubt taken from a necessarily abbreviated Press account, of what I said in reply to a question asked during a television interview. What interests me is that, apparently, my remarks were regarded as a statement of some novelty. Honorable gentlemen will recall that my colleague, the Minister for Defence, when speaking some considerable time earlier to an audience in Western Australia, had announced that a review would be made, and I had referred to that review. In my television interview I was merely giving further expression to a statement which my colleague had already publicly made.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that certain beef, mutton and lamb producers have voiced, through their organisations, disappointment at the exclusion of a Victorian representative from the recently re-organised Australian Meat Board? Does the quantity of meat produced in Victoria justify the inclusion on the Board of a representative from that State? If so, will the Minister give further consideration to this matter?
– Honorable members will recall the statements I made in my second-reading speech on the Meat Industry Bill, which was passed by this House during the last sittings. At that time I indicated that the Government considered that membership of the Board should be based on merit and not on representation of an organisation. The honorable member for Mallee will be aware that no organisation has a representative on the Board, no matter how important the organisation may be. All organisations have been treated alike. The persons who have been selected to represent the producers are men of merit and I hope they will do a good job.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by directing the honorable gentlemen’s attention to the fact that in many lonely areas of Australia where residents have purchased television sets good viewing can be expected only under most favorable conditions. Will the Minister exempt from payment of the increase in the television viewers’ licence fee persons in areas where no plans have been made to increase immediately present poor reception?
– When phase 4 of television in completed by 1966-67, slightly more than 90 per cent. of the Australian community will be able to view television. Because of sparse population in many areas I do not think it is likely that all Australians will ever be able to view television. I would not like to mislead the honorable member into thinking that there will be a substantial expansion in television facilities beyond what is provided in phase 4, although this is a matter which is constantly receiving the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and, through it, that of the Government.
– Can the Minister for the Navy advise whether arrangements have been finalised for the visit to Sydney of the American atom-powered carrier “ Enterprise “? Is it the biggest ship of its kind in the world? As the “ Enterprise “ is nuclear-powered, can the Minister enlighten the House as to the nature of the safety precautions that will be taken to safeguard the community from the effects of its nuclear power?
– To the best of my knowledge, the answer to the first and second parts of the question asked by the honorable member is: “Yes”. In reply to the third part of the question, I point out that the decision on safety measures is not made by the Navy. The Government receives advice from the National Radiation Advisory Committee, which is composed of a number of highly qualified men in the fields of science and medicine, with particular reference to radiation. The Government does not make decisions such as this one unless it receives an assurance from that Committee. That assurance has been given. I can assure the honorable member that he, along with many other Australians, can welcome the visit of these American ships.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that discontent is growing in the Commonwealth Public Service and that recruitment is adversely affected? Is it true that after the introduction of Federation three weeks’ recreation leave was written into the Public Service Act on the establishment of Australia’s national administrative machinery? As that legislative precedent for the control of recreation leave by Parliament has been established, will the Prime Minister take the necessary action to see that four weeks’ annual recreation leave is established by act of the Federal Parliament?
– I hope that if it is established it will apply to me. It will be very gratefully received. As I said last week, the whole of this matter has been the subject of negotiation between the trade union bodies and the Public Service Board. I said that I did not propose to intervene in those discussions, which are still continuing.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it correct as reported in the “ Time “ magazine, that Australian soldiers receive the equivalent of 4.27 dollars a day compared with a daily earning of 2.86 dollars for a United States private? What causes the low recruitment to the Australian Services if such report is correct?
– I understand that the figures given by the honorable member broadly represent the situation of recruits. However, the United States Army’s system is different from ours. Under its system the first two years of service are very lowly paid and then the rates of pay jump smartly. For instance, in the third year of service an American private receives more than an Australian private receives, and an American corporal who has had at least two years’ service in the Army receives just about twice as much as an Australian corporal receives after a similar period of service. Therefore, I do not think valid conclusions about recruiting rates for either Army can be drawn from the figures given.
– Has the Minister for Territories seen the announcement by the North Australia Foundation - a joint venture by the Victorian Employers Federation and the Constitutional Club of that State - to the effect that it has been offered by the Commonwealth Government three big tracts of land in the Northern Territory for development? As the spokesman stated that one tract comprises 10 million acres of land, what is the total area involved in the three tracts? Will the Minister give details of the conditions attached to the grant? Does it foreshadow a takeover of the Northern Territory by the State of Victoria? The report further states that negotiations are proceeding with the Federal Government for tax exemptions on all moneys spent on the project. Is this last statement correct? If it is, does it indicate an intention on the part of the Government to apply such an exemption throughout northern Australia?
– I do not have the details of the matter raised by the honorable member. I will look into it and will advise him later.
– by leave - I appreciate the House giving me this opportunity to elaborate a reply I gave earlier to a question asked by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). I am sure that the honorable member would wish to have the subject clearly understood. It will be recalled that he put to me a question based on the assumption that the recent passage by the United States Congress of the interest equalisation legislation would, in effect, result in an increase of the interest rate payable on the loan raised by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. for the purchase of certain aircraft in the United States of America. When I asked him across the floor where the reference to this had appeared, he mentioned that Qantas had been specifically referred to in the annexure to the Bill. Quite inadvertently, I am sure, the honorable gentleman gave the impression that this was the annexure to the legislation passed by Congress. I asked him to let me have a copy of the document from which he quoted, and he readily supplied it. On examining it I found that he was quoting from the schedule to our own legislation.
Honorable members will recall that in my second reading speech on the Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.) Bill I used the following words -
Oilier provisions in the loan agreement are similar to those included in earlier agreements negotiated by the Commonwealth in the United States for borrowings for aircraft purposes, except for the provision in section 7 of the loan agreement requiring the Commonwealth to pay the lenders any interest equalisation tax that may be levied on the transaction. Although we have received an assurance that this transaction will not be subject to interest equalisation tax when the American measure providing for that becomes law - this is one of the types of transaction which, in our understanding, is excluded from the operation of this legislation - the lenders sought its inclusion on this occasion. A provision of this type has become the normal practice in oversea loans made by United States commercial banks since the announcement of the proposed tax.
I have since checked with the Treasury as to whether we have any reason to believe that the legislation would alter the position. I am assured that we have no reason to believe that there is any alteration in the situation outlined by me to the House. I shall pursue my inquiries further, but I believe that, as matters stand, we can take it that the situation remains as I put it to the House in my second reading speech.
– by leave - After I returned from my overseas visit, and Parlia,- ment not being in session, I gave a long Press and television interview. It is not my purpose to repeat all that I then said - the verbatim tape record will be available to honorable members - but I do propose to say something about some of the highlights of my work.
For the record.. I will say at once that I propose a little later to lay on the table of the House the text of the final communique of the Prime Ministers’ Conference.
I had intended to pay a visit to Israel. Indeed arrangements for this visit were well advanced when, by reason of illness, I found, with very great regret, that I had to cancel my journey to that country. I hope to make it on a future opportunity. In the result, I had made sufficient recovery to go to the Prime Ministers’ Conference in London via Washington. It was necessary for me to leave London the day after the Prime Ministers’ Conference, in order to be back in time for important Cabinet discussions on the Budget.
Two matters emerged from my talks in Washington. The first was that I was keen to discover from the Administration whether the statement I had made in this House on the A.N.Z.U.S. Treaty was one with which they agreed. I should, I think, quote the substance of what I said in the House because there had been some controversy about the position inside Australia and there had been, indeed, some misrepresentation of what the then Minister for External Affairs had said on this matter. In this House on 21st April, I said -
The treaty is between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Article IV reads - “ Each Parly recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
Of course, this should be in accordance with constitutional processes. Very few countries go automatically into a state of war. They all have certain procedures to go through but, subject to constitutional processes, which can operate here just as much as they can anywhere else, there is a clear statement that the parties will act to meet the common danger in accordance with their constitutional processes.
The article goes on - “ Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
Article V reads - “ For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”
Those words do not produce automatic hostilities, because reference is made to constitutional processes, but they contain in the clearest terms a high-level acceptance of responsibility. It is not for us to assume that any great ally of ours will avoid that any more than we will avoid it.
There is a contract between Australia and America. It is a contract based on the utmost goodwill, the utmost good faith and unqualified friendship. Each of us will stand by it.
I was happy to find in Washington that my statement was accepted as a completely accurate interpretation and that the State Department had, in fact, circulated it as a definite statement on the point. This, I think, revealed a state of affairs eminently satisfactory to Australia. It has, as I pointed out last week when we were debating these matters, been powerfully reinforced by the recent statement of President Johnson, and the terms of the resolution of both Houses of the Congress. In the second place - and I think I should report this having regard to some comments that have been made - President Johnson very promptly, at the beginning of our discussions, stated his pleasure and the pleasure of the American people at our contribution to the defence of South Vietnam. He expressed pleasure both with the content of our response and the prompt way in which we had made it.
It is sometimes thought that Australia’s efforts in these fields, being relatively small, are either of no significance or must provoke some American criticism. This is not so. The United States is the greatest power in the world. It has given enormous aid to other countries. It must occasionally feel somewhat isolated. It would be more than human if it did not occasionally feel that it was being cast for the role of the world’s gendarme with the major responsibility for keeping the peace. It is because of these things that in Washington contributions by other countries are welcomed as an identification by other countries of their world interests with those of the United States.
I have repeatedly said that while we rely and will continue to rely very much on the collaboration of the great powers in our own defence, that collaboration involves mutual obligations which we will at all times be prepared to honour. This is well understood. I have not been able to detect any mental reservations about the friendship of the United States for Australia or - and this is of broad importance - the determination of the United States to do all in its power to preserve the peace in South East Asia and to prevent the spread of aggressive Communism. This attitude of mind has, in fact, been illustrated vividly by recent events.
When I went on to the conference in London, I was quite convinced that something should be said to strengthen the position of Malaysia and to make it clear that, as a Commonwealth country, it enjoyed the support, physically or morally or both, of all the Commonwealth nations. Honorable members will be familiar with what I will call “ the new vocabulary “. There is a strong opposition to “ colonialism “ and to “ imperialism “ and to what is now called “ neocolonialism. “ As I understand it, “neocolonialism “ is an expression which relates to a new or derivative form of “ colonialism “. It is, as honorable members know, an expression frequently used by the rulers of Indonesia to support their allegation that the creation first of Malaya and then of Malaysia did not represent the termination of “ colonial “ rule but represented an attempt by the former “ colonial “ power to use the new independent body and thus to deprive it of some of the attributes of complete political independence.
Considerable play has been made of the fact that the military and paramilitary and economic aid given to Malaysia by the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand represents some desire on the part of predominantly European nations to maintain a position of influence and thus to treat Malaysia as not fully free. This notion seemed to me - and I believe that I will have the support of honorable members in this view - to have a somewhat dangerous quality. I therefore had a very great desire to secure in the conference some genera] support for Malaysia, a support which should include that of the WestIndian, African and Asian members of the Commonwealth.
A great deal of discussion occurred on these matters with, at one stage, some divergence of opinion but in the long run, I am happy to say, a satisfactory result. There was no disagreement about the statement in the communique that “ they will maintain their efforts to reduce the areas of international disagreement with all the means within their power, while maintaining both the strength and the resolution to resist aggression from without or subversion from within “. But there was a difference of opinion as to whether, having said this, we should give some assurance to the Prime Minister of Malaysia of our sympathy and support in his efforts to preserve the independence and integrity of his country. Some thought that an expression of sympathy was enough. My own view was that it was inadequate; that one might well sympathise with people without agreeing with them or in any way backing them up. I pointed out, and so did others, that the word “ support “ did not necessarily connote military support or even material support, since the nature of the support to be given would be for each member of the Commonwealth to determine.
T did my best to point out that every new African nation represented at the Conferenc was jealous of its own independence and would strongly resent any interference in it by outside people. This, indeed, had been demonstrated in the case of Kenya and Tanganyika, each of which had, after independence, been happy to receive British military aid against aggressive movements. 1 said as strongly as I could that what was true in the case of African countries was equally true in the case of Asian countries and that Malaysia was entitled at the very least to our strong moral support at the United Nations and around the various diplomatic posts in the world. I expressed the view that a Commonwealth which was not prepared to take a public stand in favour of the political independence and territorial integrity of all its members would be a strange kind of Commonwealth. From our point of view in Australia this is, of course, extremely important. We are not supporting Malaysia, as we do in the most practical terms, because we have some colonialist point of view. We have not. But we do believe that we have obligations to sister members of the Commonwealth while, of course - and this may be stated quite frankly - we have some particular interest in the preservation of Malaysia having regard to the threat from Communist aggression which presses down upon us or in our direction from the north. I am happy to say that agreement was finally secured upon an expression, not only of sympathy, but of support. This was to me one of the crucial matters in this Conference. The fact that it was resolved in the manner contained in the communique, a unanimous document, is one of the facts which has enabled me to say, as I have said publicly, that the Conference achieved valuable results.
It will, I hope, be remembered - and I repeatedly invited the Conference to remember it - that when Malaysia was created it secured the unanimous approval of an earlier Prime Ministers’ Conference, it secured admission to membership of the United Nations by a unanimous vote and that, later on, when it was alleged by Indonesia that the people of the Borneo territories had been ignored, a special mission set up by the Secretary-General of the United Nations had found that there was approval in those territories of what had been done.
It follows from all this, as I said to the Conference, that the validity of the existence of Malaysia cannot sensibly be challenged. The challenge to it - in other words the so called confrontation policy of Indonesia - finds its expression in actual military aggression across the frontiers of Malaysia. This being a clear case of military aggression, the argument that there were unsettled disputes has a somewhat hollow sound. The plain fact is that Malaysia is defending itself against aggression and therefore comes plainly within the Commonwealth statement that there should be a resolution to resist aggression from without or subversion from within.
It became clear, as the Conference proceeded, that the problems of the new Commonwealth must be approached patiently and without illusions. An example of this fact is to be found in one reference in the communique. It is as follows -
They discussed the great significance of China for South and South East Asia. They also discussed the question of relations with China and of her membership of the United Nations.
This, it will be seen, conveys very little. The reason for this is that there were deep divisions of opinion and of emphasis, and that these rendered a more positive statement impossible. I must recognise that from the point of view of most of the African countries, Asia, particularly South East Asia, seems a long way off. They do not feel that Communist China presents any threat to them. When I presented views which are based upon the aggressive policies and activities of China in and around Laos and Vietnam, I was told that this was cold war had been created by the West, and for purposes of a Prime Ministers’ Conference, an irrelevancy. In some quarters there even seemed to be an assumption that the cold war had been created by the West, and a failure to understand that but for the tenacity and success of the great Western powers in resisting the cold war and deterring a hot one, the Prime Ministers might have been meeting, if at all, in very different circumstances.
I mention this not by way of criticism but by way of explaining some of the atmosphere of a new Commonwealth meeting. New nations, with different histories and backgrounds and emotions, cannot be expected to fall into our inherited patterns of thought, or to see world conflict in the same light as those of us who have treaty associations and obligations and indeed special regional problems of security and survival. But I am not at all despondent. The greatest value of these conferences is that we are all conscious of our special, though undefined, relationship to each other, that we exchange our experience and views with great vigour, but with personal goodwill, and that we learn something from each other.
The Conference having noted - I am sure with great satisfaction - that since the war more than 20 countries, with a total population of some 700 millions, had been brought to self-government by Great Britain, and that others will shortly be added to the list, became involved in a discussion about Southern Rhodesia. Now, we all agreed at the outset, and reaffirmed unanimously in the communique, that “ the authority and responsibility for leading the remaining colonies to independence must continue to rest with Britain “. In spite of this, and of the further fact that under the agreed Southern Rhodesian Constitution of 1961, there will be an African majority of electors within a period variously estimated at from five to ten years - I think 1 heard somebody say it might be twelve - some of the African leaders said they wanted a discussion. It was pointed out to them that as any further negotiations must be conducted by Britain and as there were strong political views and differences in Southern Rhodesia itself, advice or instruction to Britain might well complicate a task already sufficiently delicate and difficult.
In the result, it was agreed that the Southern Rhodesian problem should not be discussed in full conference, but in a closed session with restricted membership.
At the end of the Conference, it was agreed that the matter could be referred to in the communique, in the terms which I now quote -
At the same time, Prime Ministers of other Commonwealth countries expressed their views to the Prime Minister of Britain on the question of the progress of Southern Rhodesia towards independence within the Commonwealth. They welcomed the decision already announced by the British Government that, as in the case of other territories, the existence of sufficiently representative institutions would be a condition of the grant of independence to Southern Rhodesia.
We all agreed about that. It continues -
They also noted with approval the statement already made by the British Government that they would not recognise any unilaterial declaration of independence -
We all agreed about that - and the other Prime Ministers made it clear that they would be unable to recognise any such declaration.
The view was also expressed that an Independence Conference should be convened which the leaders of all parties in Southern Rhodesia should be free to attend. The object would be to seek agreement on the steps by which Southern Rhodesia might proceed to independence within the Commonwealth at the earliest practicable time on the basis of majority rule. With a view to diminishing tensions and preparing the way for such a conference, an appeal was made for the release of all the detained African leaders. The Prime Ministers called upon all leaders and their supporters to exercise moderation and to abstain from violence; and they affirmed their belief that the best interest of all sections of the population lay in developing confidence and co-operation, on the basis of tolerance, mutual understanding and justice. In this connection, they recognised the necessity for giving confidence to the minority community in Southern Rhodesia that their interests would be protected.
The Prime Minister of Britain said that he would give careful consideration to all the views expressed by other Commonwealth Prime Ministers. At the same time he emphasised that the Government of
Southern Rhodesia was constitutionally responsible for the internal affairs of that territory and that the question of the granting of independence was a matter for decision by the British Parliament.
Frankness requires that I should tell the House that I, for one, did not associate myself with this public tendering of advice - advice which might be interpreted in some quarters as instructions - to the Government of the United Kingdom, which alone, as was expressly conceded, had the power and the responsibility. I want to put my position on record to my brother members of this House. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I should make it clear that -
Those are all views that we ourselves had put, through me, to Southern Rhodesia.
On the other hand, I indicated to the Conference that I thought it would be a dangerous precedent, and an invasion of domestic jurisdiction, for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers to get into a position of sitting, as a body, to examine the affairs of other members, and pronouncing public judgments. I said that it was not difficult to foresee circumstances in which any one of us might find this intolerable.
This difference of view explains some of (he language of the communique. I was, of course, as I hardly need to say, not opposed to the idea of a constitutional conference about Southern Rhodesia - indeed, that is inevitable - or the adequate representation of the African citizens; this is completely proper. But I felt strongly that the Government of the United Kingdom should not be handicapped in its negotiations by public statements which could increase its difficulties by stiffening resistance. After all, the problem is not easy, and needs to be solved in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.
It is proper to remember that there are many thousands of settlers in Southern Rhodesia, frequently of long standing and with no other homes, strongly British in their allegiance and with legitimate rights to be protected, who will be unhappy at becoming a minority in what is now a fashionable African concept - a one party republican state.
But, Sir, I am sure that most of them, watching the tides of events in other former African colonies, realise that there must be an accommodation, and that in due course - and not too long a course - an accelerated movement towards adult suffrage must be completed, or the alternative accepted, of mounting internal disorder, of hostility among neighbours, and of a result finally achieved in an atmosphere of hostility, not friendship, with racial hostilities unfavorable to the continuance of European settlement and out of harmony with those inter-racial relationships for which the new Commonwealth has come to stand.
In the course of the general survey of world affairs with which we normally begin in Prime Ministers’ Conferences I thought it proper to make some reference to the still current dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. This is a dispute which has considerably embittered relations between these two great countries and has led to circumstances which do not aid the presentation of a common front to common dangers. Naturally, I had nothing to say about the merits of the dispute, about which there are deep differences of opinion. All I was concerned to say was that, if the dispute could be solved by some mutual accommodation, it should be of great advantage to all of us. In view of what has been subsequently said, I should make it quite clear that the Conference did not debate the merits or nature of these differences of opinion. But it did happen that the distinguished President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and the Minister for Finance in India, Mr. Krishnamachari who, in the absence of Mr. Shastri, most ably represented India, both made speeches of a helpful kind. We all hoped that if the atmosphere so created continued we might see a settlement. But quite clearly the problem is one for the two countries concerned. 1 repeat that, as a meeting of Prime Ministers, we were not sitting in judgment. We thus by implication re-affirmed our belief, to which I have referred elsewhere, that we are not an arbitral body, that we do not sit in judgment and that we recognise that there are very important domestic or intra-Commonwealth problems in relation to which we should not seek to impose our views.
We had some discussion, perhaps not enough, looking back on it, on the importance of and the problems associated with economic development in the Commonwealth. I say not enough, because I felt that rather too much of our time was devoted to the problem of Southern Rhodesia. In the result, the economic problem might have been dealt with in too general a way and without useful definition if it had not been for the fact that the Government of the United Kingdom put forward a series of positive proposals. These were put forward as practical ways in which the Commonwealth could be given added vitality, meaning and purpose, as a sort of co-operative association so as to be able to help both its own members and the world at large, and thereby contribute to world peace by the raising of living standards and the achievement of economic progress. As the communique records, various proposals were advanced. They were in a broad way accepted in principle. The final decision was that they were to be put into study by officials in the first instance to determine how best they could be carried into effect. Some of the proposals were as follows -
I pause here to say that, as I said in the Conference itself, it is a mistake to think of the Commonwealth as an associa tion of rich countries. Some indeed are very poor. Some, like our own country, are far from poor but are still heavily involved in the importation of capital and technical skill for our own industrial development. Great Britain alone can be described as a capital exporting country; but, as the Prime Minister of Great Britain pointed out more than once, sometimes with a wry smile, there is a limit to what a nation with its own balance of payments problems can do. We were, therefore, not so much talking in terms of massive capital assistance as we were in terms of technical assistance, in. which field so much may be done by onefor another. I return to the proposals -
This is, I think, an attractive proposition. It is quite true that nobody can attend a modern Prime Ministers’ Conference without realising, sometimes with a shock, that we have very different ideas about the institutions of government, and indeed, very different ideas about democracy itself. Quite a few of the newer Commonwealth nations have one-party systems in which the principle of one man, one vote becomes quite ironical. Some have different ideas on the rule of law from those which we entertain. Some have different ideas about the treatment of minorities from those which we entertain. It would indeed be quite impossible today to make a speech about the Commonwealth in which the point was made, as it used to be made years ago, that we all had great constitutional ideas in common; that we all believed in Parliamentary democracy, in the sovereignty of Parliament, and in the rule of law. The sober fact today is that some of us do and some of us do not. But this is not a matter about which we are to lecture each other. Indeed, I have constantly opposed any idea that we are to interfere in each other’s domestic affairs. Such interference violates the most classical precepts of foreign policy; it is quite contrary to the Charter of the United Nations; and it is in my opinion a matter which could seriously damage intraCommonwealth relations. For these reasons, I was very glad to find some attention directed towards the establishment of closer contacts on matters in which we do have some common interest and some common desire for advancement. Examples of these are obviously to be found in the establishment of closer contacts between professional and other bodies in relation to which there is this community of interest.
Incidentally, Sir, I noticed recently that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) seemed to be under the impression that I lectured the Prime Ministers on the advantages of private enterprise. I can relieve his mind; no such incident occurred. Nobody has been more careful than I have been to make it clear that each member of the Commonwealth is entitled to adopt whatever system of government it likes, and whatever economic principles or policies seem best to it. I have attended the last nine Prime Ministers’ Conferences. In that time, there has never been a discussion on private enterprise or socialism. The proposals continue -
Here again there is no doubt a limit to financial aid. We know from our own experience in Australia that higher education is not cheap. Indeed the cost of university education in Australia is mounting at a most formidable rate, while we have recently received a report in relation to Papua and New Guinea which recommends further developments of this kind in those Territories.
Yet there still remains a field of aid which we all thought should be explored. lt may well be that Australia can aid some other Commonwealth country or countries by providing expert advice in the unversities field; by the provision of visiting professors, lecturers or administrators. For similar purposes, we must continue to receive in our own universities students from other countries and particularly from Commonwealth countries with whom we have such a special association and such close engagements. The next proposal was -
This, I venture to say, is of prime importance. That wise man, the Prime Minister of Nigeria, who presides over the destinies of the largest of the African nations, has more than once said to me that the great shortage in all these countries is a shortage of competent administrators. Here, I think, we can help each other a good deal. The Government of the United Kingdom had in mind the establishment of some special teaching or training body in London or in connection with some university. I by no means reject this idea, but I do feel that in the long run the best training in administration that can be given to people from other Commonwealth countries is that they should be, so to speak, fitted into the public service of a more experienced nation so that they may learn something of the rules and practice of administration and something of the mental and moral attitudes which distinguish an advanced Civil Service in a politically advanced country. The last proposal I wish to mention was -
This idea fits into what I was saying earlier about professional bodies. Such a conference would do good, because the problems not only of personal medicine but of public health are of immense importance, more particularly in new nations where medical services may be scanty and the problems of public health extremely complex.
These various proposals, and there were others, the nature of which is broadly stated in the communique, must be converted from vague expressions of principle into practical schemes. Our officials will willingly contribute to this result. If, in some or all of these matters, an effective result is achieved, we will, I think, have done a great deal to put substance into a Commonwealth relationship the nature of which has so changed in recent years, and to counter the scepticism which is frequently expressed as to the capacity of the new Commonwealth to endure.
The proposal for a Commonwealth Secretariat is of course not a new one. It had, over a period of years, been put forward in general terms by Mr. Curtin and myself and others. On this occasion, the idea was first mentioned in the meeting by some of the African Prime Ministers. The suggestion was that there should be established in
London “ a central clearing house “. In the first instance, it was suggested that it should prepare documents on trade aid and development and should circulate information on these matters to all the members of the Commonwealth. Then, by way of further or alternative suggestion, it was proposed that the Secretariat might assist in the preparations for the meetings of Prime Ministers in the sense of receiving and circulating papers, which would make us all much better informed of other problems when we arrived. I myself drew attention to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the small and useful secretariat which it has. I felt that a Secretariat for the Commonwealth on the Parliamentary Association model might encourage members to put forward papers and proposals for circulation, information and consideration in advance of Prime Minister’s meetings.
After general debate amongst the Prime Ministers, it was decided to ask an official committee to go into the proposal further and to report back to the Prime Ministers on what functions a Commonwealth Secretariat should perform. The view I stated was and is that the task of the Secretariat should be to pool and coordinate and disseminate information of a factual kind. There should be no question of a policy or executive role. As the examination proceeds, there may well be considerable differences of opinion as to what a Secretariat should do. Some may wish to have something resembling the office and functions of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with considerable executive significance. We must, I put to the House, be astute to avoid constituting the Commonwealth as a sort of committee of the United Nations, with resolutions and votes. If we are to achieve and maintain a special significance, it will be by preserving the informality of our association, and the basic independence which each Commonwealth country brings to the conference table. It was at all times important that this Conference should produce constructive results and thus contribute to the future of the Commonwealth. I think that I should, therefore, pay tribute to the invaluable work of the Chairman. Sir Alec Douglas-Home exhibited at all stages great tact and fairness and admirable flexibility of mind, a broad wisdom and a complete knowledge of the subjects under discussion. Without these elements, I would have doubted more than once whether the Conference would have a satisfactory conclusion. It is proper, therefore, that I should say that what were sometimes acute differences of viewpoint were in a large measure reconciled and that in the result there was a general feeling that the new Commonwealth had great usefulness and could make a powerful contribution to human destiny.
I present the following paper -
Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, 1964 - Final Communique dated 15th July 1964.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have to bring to the notice of the House something which, fortunately, is very rare - that is, a misreport in “ Hansard “. On page 265 of “Hansard “ of 13th August 1964 there will be found certain words of mine. On that occasion I was quoting from “ Hansard “ of 20rh May 1964, words of the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). The honorable member for Yarra was then referring to an appearance with me on television. I am reported as saying -
If the honorable member is prepared to have another shot on any subject that he likes to name, at any place that he likes to name and in any circumstances that he wishes to choose then I will be happy to accommodate him.
The words that I have just quoted were correctly reported in “ Hansard “ but they were reported as my words and not as a quotation. They were in point of fact from a speech by the honorable member for Yarra. I took this matter up with “ Hansard “, which agrees that a mistake has been made. I apologise for bringing the matter to the notice of the House but ii is important because the text as it stands does not make clear the point I was making: That in view of his subsequent refusal to honour that promise which was made in this House, the honorable member for Yarra cannot be considered to be a man of his word.
Debate resumed from 12th August (vide page 163), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the Parliament in the current session. It is important because it will give us the opportunity to establish in a formative fashion a real approach to the road problems of the Commonwealth of Australia. This Bill will give us the basis for a truly national approach to the very complex problem of ensuring that we have an adequate system of roads, not only interstate but also intrastate. We must have an adequate road system extending throughout each State and throughout the entire Commonwealth. Roads are undoubtedly the fundamental requirement for development and expansion in this growing Commonwealth of ours. I think it will be recognised that they are the vital requirement not only for decentralisation and development but also for the economic security of this country.
The proposals that this measure envisages have been debated for some two days. We have heard in particular an expression of view from the other side of the House to the effect that we should be considering something of a different nature. We have heard it said that the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other older countries have road authorities that take unto themselves responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads in a national pattern, and that we should follow suit. I think we should recognise at the outset that Australia is fortunate in having had, to this time, a unique record in road construction. This has come about as a result of the excellent work of the existing constructing authorities, and I believe that it would be a pity if we were to reflect adversely in any way on what has been accomplished in this comparatively young country with a relatively small population in such a short time. The road pattern that we have today compares very favorably with that of the United States if we think in terms of the relative stages of development of the two nations. If we look at some of the older countries and take Japan, for example, with its vast population, its smaller land area and other significant characteristics, we find that Australia is able to give a far better account of itself in respect of roads. This is to our credit.
The measure that we are now discussing aims at creating a means by which we may make a national assessment of road requirements and in particular of the basic requirement - finance. This Bill is a result of a promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and also the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), as Leader of the Australian Country Party, in their policy speeches during the last general election campaign. We were then told that this Government, over a five-year period, would provide a total of £375 million under the terms of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act for the development, extension and improvement of our road system. I think it will be recognised that the extent to which finance has been provided from national sources for the construction, maintenance and development of roads in recent years represents a notable achievement. In the face of all sorts of difficulties, we have been able to marshal our financial resources in such a fashion as to attain, in only ten years, a remarkably high level of road efficiency. If we cast our minds back, we recall that only a short time ago our capital cities were not linked by a good highway system. But today the main capitals are. linked by a system of bitumen highways. In the relatively short time since World War II, we have done very well indeed, considering the length of time such highways take to construct. This measure must be looked on as a further step forward in this very high tradition of road works in the Commonwealth of Australia.
Responsibility for the financing and construction of roads has rested partly on each of the three tiers of government. It has rested particularly on the shoulders of local authorities and State Governments. The Commonwealth has not intruded itself as a constructing authority. Nor does it now propose to do so. But, under the terms of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, the Commonwealth has been able to assist, particularly in the sparsely settled areas, in solving the very great problems involved in providing the financial resources necessary to develop not only main highway links but also country roads.
When I speak of what has been done and of the purpose of this measure in relation to further proposals to provide £375 million from Commonwealth resources, I am not unmindful of the very great problems that confront us in meeting future requirements related to our entire road system. One’s mind must at once be focused on the problems of country roads in particular. We must think especially of the problems that arise in localities where from time to time, those who of necessity use public roads have virtually to plough their way through mud and slush or run the hazards of dust, gravel and rough surfaces. In addition, they experience the financial drain of heavy wear and tear on both passenger and heavy transport vehicles. We think of these things in terms of what is required in this vast country to give us in the future the security of an adequate road system. I believe that what we have done in the past in relation to roads has meant more to this nation than the discovery of gold meant. It has meant more to us that any other single thing that has happened since the original settlement of Australia. So we recognise, in discussing this measure, the need to carry on the remarkable tradition of service in a field that means so much to every section of the community.
We have to deal with the problems of high density traffic. We must give affect to proposals that will provide economy in road transport. In taking into account engineering requirements, we must have available the results of the last scientific research on the stabilisation of road surfaces and road foundations and the latest world knowledge on the technical problems of tests of soil and gravel. We must have all this information if we are to construct roads that will prove economical in terms of maintenance and lasting qualities and at the same time provide suitable surfaces that will meet the demands made on them.
It is in this field that the primary object of this measure is to be found. The establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will give us for the first time a statutory authority which can look at these problems, which can assess them on a national basis and which at the same time, can relate the requirements of finance and of planning to what are determined to be the necessities for the provision of an adequate roads system. It would be folly for us to continue to spend such vast sums as we have at our disposal in the immediate and the long range future unless we do something of this kind.
The debate thus far discloses that Opposition members would prefer to see set up a constructing authority that would take over responsibility in certain fields. I have no doubt that this is an objective that may be worthy of some consideration in relation to certain aspects, but certainly it is not a proposal that could conceivably give us any immediate or positive benefit in the task that has to be performed. What utter folly it would be to have a constructing authority on a Commonwealth wide basis when we consider all aspects of administration, control, finance and so on. Is it not better to maintain the system that we have with the recognised constructing authorities which have proved themselves to be so efficient and so capable, and to give them the ways and means of doing a better job? That is the object of this measure; - to give the existing authorities every possible encouragement, help and support and, above all else, to endeavour to find adequate finance for them so that they can continue with the job that they have been doing. This will result in a network of highways and byways for this Commonwealth that will be worth while.
Roads arc the lifeline of this nation just as they have proved to be the lifeline of any other large continent. In the United States roads were the means by which that great nation was developed and, in fact, perhaps had a greater bearing upon that development than had any other single factor, for the very good reason that transportation could not follow the coastline as it had been able to do here in earlier years. We find today that with the loss of our coastal shipping, which raises a very interesting observation so far as Labour’s policy is concerned, and with the increasing demand upon the capacity of our roads to carry our interstate traffic, we in Australia have a special problem.
The development of our rail system through the standardisation of gauges between certain States was expected to relieve this burden. It is interesting to note that the road count discloses that the increased traffic flow continues despite the improved rail system and despite the great amount of freight which these days flows by rail. There is no abatement in road usage. This indicates our needs very clearly. We are faced with the difficulty that most of our main road arteries must follow the coastline. For reasons that are very well known and obvious we cannot build a super highway running from one State of the continent to another. This imposes a greater cost factor because of the distance involved. It also incurs great problems in the matter of construction because the main highways, following as they do the fertile areas on the coastal fringe, also happen to lie in regions where road construction is more difficult, particularly in the high rainfall belt. They follow also many of the fertile areas from district to district and from river system to river system, where the foundations for road construction prove difficult and costly and impose a very great burden upon the resources of all authorities, local, State and Commonwealth alike.
The work that can be accomplished by the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in coping with these problems and with the task of assessing needs as between States and localities will be worthwhile. I do not think there is justification for saying that a specific standard of road construction should be set. What we want is a comparable standard. In assessing the cost factors the Commonwealth, in discussions with the States at Premiers’ Conferences and on other occasions, has been beset by very grave difficulties because the information presented by the States has differed so greatly due to the variety of classifications. What is termed a highway in one State may bc very different from what is regarded as a highway in another State. There is also a great variety of standards in the other categories of main roads, trunk roads and the like. If we are to make a national assessment of financial requirements and so on it is necessary for us to have access to the details that occasion these various classifications, and to have expert advice at national level on what the standards referred to by one State mean in relation to the standards referred to by another State.
When the work of this new instrumentality has been set in motion these difficulties can be quickly overcome and we will have a far better opportunity to assess the requirements for a truly national roads system and at the same time to proffer suggestions, advice and the very necessary assistance that should be rendered to local government and State instrumentalities.
In recent years the claims of local government bodies in all States for additional assistance to meet their road problems have certainly been justified. I am sure that every member of this House can advance very good reasons why there should be greater expenditure in his respective locality on roads alone. I could speak at great length of my experiences in my own electorate. Only a few days ago I travelled to a place called Taylor’s Arm. It is a small community in terms of population but certainly not in terms of productivity and in other fields. Taylor’s Arm is an excellent example of the need for greater expenditure on a roads system if the primary consideration of most families is to be met - that is, a satisfactory education for their children. Without transport one cannot provide for satisfactory schooling or for any other form of progress. In the interests of the local economy it is necessary for every locality to have adequate roads. If we analyse the situation that exists in Australia we become aware that in district after district there is an everpresent need for expenditure in maintaining local roads, roads that lead from one town to another or one community to another and even roads that lead only from one farm property to another farm property.
In considering the proposal now before us the question arises: What policy will be adopted? This is something that cannot be foreseen until some preliminary assessment has been made of the work of the proposed bureau. Undoubtedly the early work of the bureau will be influenced largely by the persons who serve upon it. I hope that the permanent member of the board in particular and those who serve with him will be adequately representative of the local government bodies of the respective States. Under the Bill membership of the bureau is limited to a small group which will have the responsibility of making a national assessment of road needs. If we are to adhere to the principles firmly enunciated in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act we will ensure that the bureau has regard directly to the needs of country areas as well as those of city areas. I strongly urge that care be taken in determining who is to serve initially on the bureau.
The Bill defines clearly the scope of. the bureau’s work. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) made an interesting statement about reports of the bureau. He said that the Government would decide whether such reports were to be published. I think this state of affairs is desirable for many reasons. If this statutory body is to function fearlessly and is to adopt an approach that will react to the benefit of the nation it must be able freely to express its views to the Government, whichever party may be in power at the time, so that negotiations with the States may be conducted on a sound footing. It must be under no greater handicap than are the Stales, whose sovereignty is unaffected by what may be said at meetings of the Premiers and the Loan Council. This freedom of expression is essential if the bureau is to do its work thoroughly and if we are to avoid the controversies that have arisen in the past as a result of proposals advanced by various States. On at least three occasions in the last eight or nine years New South Wales has submitted what it has termed a national roads proposal. Those proposals have consisted of nothing more than a calculation of what it would cost to construct a high standard highway from one capital to another. The proposals have appeared sound on the surface but have proved impracticable from a financial aspect.
The work of the bureau must be based on a sound approach to the relationship between finance and engineering requirements. There must be no half-way measure so far as practicability is concerned. It is of little use advancing a proposition which is excellent in theory but which cannot stand up when put to the test. The bureau could not function if its proposals were not first submitted to the Government for financial approval. The work of this new statutory authority may usher in a new era of road development in Australia. For the first time we have a national approach to this very great problem. Let me close on this note: Finance has flowed to the States and local government authorities in the past 20 or 30 years under what is called Federal aid roads legislation. Let us think of this measure as a further aid - a further means of encouraging and advancing the great task of road building in Australia in the interests of the nation and its people.
.- It is a pity that so much time has been consumed, so many words said and so much written about such a puny measure as the one that we are now debating. The Labour Party supports the measure only because it may be the beginning of a solution to the vast problem referred to by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson). The mea. sure does not contain even the framework of an answer to the problem but, because it indicates that the Government is turning its attention to the problem, the measure is worth supporting. It is a start in the right direction - a start towards a national approach to Australia’s road problem. As I have said, the Labour Party will not oppose the Bill but in the Committee stage amendments will be moved designed to ensure that the Bureau’s reports are submitted not to the Minister, as is the provision in the Bill, but to the Parliament. Our amendments will highlight the weaknesses of the Bill and will emphasise Labour’s strong approach to this problem.
Australia’s roads are her transport arteries, linking farms to railways and towns, linking railways to ports and towns to towns. Our roads are the economic lifeline of our primary industries. In times of emergency they would be our defence lifeline. The remorseless battering of our 540,000 miles of roads by heavy, fast, modern transport is a constant challenge to our three-pronged governmental roads organisation. By three-pronged I mean local government, State governments and Commonwealth. All three authorities have varying degrees of responsibility for financing and maintaining our roads. I have seen conditions in 15 other countries and I contend that, by overseas standards, our roads generally are inadequate, narrow and often primitive and dangerous. If our highways and feeder roads are to be considered national assets, as I submit they are, they should be a national responsibility, especially in respect of finance.
Let me deal with the pressure of road transport. In 1948 when Australia’s population numbered 7,800,000 there were 1,100,000 motor vehicles on our roads. In 1962 Australia, with a population of 10,700,000, had 3,200,000 vehicles on its roads. It is estimated that by 1980 there will be 8,000,000 vehicles on our roads. I do not suppose that there is a subject which has been talked and written about more - and with less result - than roads. The Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, which did a magnificent job, estimated in 1960 that road accidents had cost the Australian community almost £70,000,000 in 1957 and 1958. It estimated that our dangerous and inadequate roads are costing Australia nearly £1,000,000 a day. Our road death roll is 8.78 persons per 10,000 vehicles, compared with only five persons in the United States of America and only 4.93 persons in New Zealand.
Under the present set-up in Australia, State highways, main roads and other roads controlled or subsidised by the States total 160,000 miles, or 30 per cent, of the total road mileage. Most of the remainder are the responsibility, not of the Commonwealth, but of local government. No less than 380,000 miles of road, or 70 per cent, of the total mileage, is the responsibility of local government. Only 14 per cent, of Australian roads are sealed or have dustless surfaces of bitumen or concrete, and 38 per cent, of our roads are still unformed.
The three sources of funds for road construction in Australia are the Commonwealth, the States and the local government bodies. In 1962 the State Governments found £51.2 million or 29 per cent, of the total amount, the Commonwealth Government found £57.4 million or 33 per cent., while local government found £65.7 million or 38 per cent, of the total cost of road construction.
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities has estimated that in the next 10 years there will be a deficiency of £1,100 million in the amount required to bring our roads to a reasonable standard. I am a bit dubious about a statement of that kind. When people talk in terms of thousands of millions of pounds, I think they are in the realm of fantasy. What country the size of Australia could ever afford to provide thousands of millions of pounds for roads? Surely we have to keep our feet on the roads, as it were, although we may realise that our roads need a lot of attention. The astronomical figures provided by this Association are interesting; but in my opinion they are irrelevant. Let us get down to talking in terms of millions of pounds first. Let us have the millions of pounds to spend; do not let us talk in terms of thousands of millions which we will never have.
This Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is being set up as a result of the promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech. Like some of his other promises, this one was thought up on a Tuesday night and made to the country on the Wednesday morning. The Prime Minister did not give very much thought to it. He has been caught in a trap by several of the rash statements that he made during the election campaign when he was chasing votes. When it came to putting this promise into legislation, he found all sorts of difficulties. This idea of a Bureau of Roads was one that he picked out of the air.
I shall quote a few remarks made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and also a few remarks made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) who is at the table. At the last Premiers’ Conference the Treasurer said quite a lot about this Bureau, which will really be only a small body. Its purposes may sound expansive; but its staff will consist of only three people, its resources will be practically nil, and it will be purely an investigating authority. So let us not get too far up in the clouds about this Bureau. It is so small that one needs a microscope to see it. The Treasurer said -
What we have in view is a Commonwealth body whose primary purpose will be that of making a full and continuous study of the roads problem in all its main aspects and be in a position to advise the Commonwealth Government upon that problem. In other words, its basic job will bs to make that “ thorough-going survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable toads requirements “ of which the Prims Minister spoke . . .
The unit we have in mind would be small-
That is the understatement of this century - . . but it would obviously have to be competent because ils job would be big and complex.
But we can obtain from the State authorities now most of the information that this Bureau will want to obtain. The Treasurer went on to say -
We would have to get a few good people for it. But we do not think that it need duplicate or over-lap with existing State roads organisations. It will be an advisory body, not at all responsible for roads construction even in the Territories of the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport then backed up the Treasurer, as one would expect him to do, on 20th May when he introduced this measure into the the Parliament. He said -
I emphasise that the Bureau will be an Investigating and advisory body only. It will not be in any way a roads construction authority and it will not have any power over the States.
Having decided on these functions we felt that they could best be undertaken by a statutory body to be called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, responsible to the Minister for Shipping and Transport . . .
It is interesting to note that the Bureau is a statutory body, not just a committee. That is a good start. We approve of that concept.
But it will be completely inadequate as a means of solving the vast roads problem that exists in Australia at the present time. The proposal fails to recognise the magnitude of the problem because the Bureau will only collect information. The concept also fails to recognise the dominant role that the Commonwealth will have to play in solving this great problem and in giving a lead in the formation of a national roads authority along the lines of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the U.S.A. That Bureau is a remarkable body. Apart from Section 92 of the Australian Constitution, which may be a stumbling block, I cannot see any reason why a go-ahead, live-wire Federal government, in co-operation with the States and with their approval, should not set up a bureau similar to the American Bureau.
In the United States the Federal aid programme is supervised by the Bureau of Public Roads which was established in 1893. Federal aid is for construction only. The States do additional road building themselves, but on them falls the responsibility for maintenance, improvement, administration and so on. All Federal aid is paid out of funds raised entirely from road users. No general revenues are used.
Federal motor taxes and certain other highway taxes go into the Highway Trust Fund. Federal aid for roads represents 44 per cent, of the money spent on road construction and 27 per cent, of the money spent on construction, maintenance, administration and so on. The States choose their routes, select and plan projects and award and supervise projects. They pay the contractors and then claim reimbursement from the Federal Government for the Federal aid share of the cost. The Bureau approves and controls each of these steps.
Federal aid is directed towards two particular road systems. One is the 41,000- mile national system of interstate and defence highways. The Federal Government pays nine-tenths of the cost of construction of these roads which eventually will link all States. The scheme will be finished in about 197S and will cost about 10 billion dollars. It was commenced in 19S6 and is designed to handle the volume of traffic expected in 1975. When the system is completed it will be possible to drive from coast to coast without encountering a single traffic light or stop sign. Toll roads will constitute only 2,000 miles of the 41,000 miles in the system. That is really planning; it is really getting down to bedrock with this great problem. We have seen documentary films of various phases of this great project, and it is a sight to behold. Huge, wide, beautifully built curving and twisting highways cross plains and mountains, bypassing the various towns which are connected to the system by access roads.
The United States has a second system of aid. While the interstate system is spectacular and important, no less important is the much less extensive mileage of the older Federal aid and primary system and the urban extensions. This system of 826,000 miles represents 24 per cent, of the total road and street mileage in the country and carries 48 per cent, of all traffic. Federal aid in this second system is provided on a £1 for £1 basis. In addition to these functions, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the United States builds roads on Federal lands and furnishes highway engineering services to other Federal agencies.
What is the position in Germany? Germany does not have a national body such as the United States Federal Bureau of
Public Roads. Interstate roads, however, can be co-ordinated there much more easily than they can in the United States. The autobahns and federal highways in Germany are owned by the federal government. The only roads that could be said to be owned by the Australian Government are access roads to aerodromes, but the autobahns and federal highways are owned by the federal government in West Germany. The roads are classified into these groups: The autobahns covering 2,000 miles and the federal highways covering 18,000 miles. These are the Bundesstrassen owned by the federal government. All the funds for the construction and maintenance of these roads are provided by the federal government out of the federal mineral oil taxes. The general planning is carried out through the Roads Division of the federal Ministry of Transport. The Lander act as administrators for these roads. The construction of the Bundesstrassen is based on four year plans, one on top of another. In another section of roads, first grade roads extend for 43,000 miles and second grade roads for 39,000 miles. The concept of Federal aid for roads, therefore, is well advanced in West Germany.
I want to outline what Labour would do if it was in office. Labour would have a Bureau of Roads with teeth in it. The Bureau envisaged in this measure has no teeth. It is a gummy ewe or a baby without teeth. Anyway, it is toothless. We would vest the Bureau with power to plan and finance a national road plan. I was the first Federal member ever to suggest in this Parliament - I did it 13 years ago - that we have a national road authority guided and directed from Canberra to bring our national highways under Commonwealth financial responsibility. The authority I had in mind would finance the widening and modernising of our interstate highway system through the Federal Government. Such a scheme has been suggested hundreds of times since then by honorable members on this side of the House and by such organisations as the Automobile Association of Australia. But the Bureau established by this Bill is not the sort of bureau that we envisaged. This Bureau, with its meagre functions, is not good enough to meet the crises on our roads.
A national roads plan under Labour would concentrate on roads of the greatest national importance, particularly those between the capital cities of the eastern mainland States, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and between Launceston and Hobart in Tasmania. I would like the Commonwealth to take over the financing of the highway from Devonport to Hobart. The big semi-trailers, which reach Tasmania on the “Princess of Tasmania” and the “Bass Trader”, are travelling over this highway of 180 miles and are doing enormous damage to it. The hauliers are not to my knowledge paying one penny towards the upkeep of the highway. We know from the experience of the New South Wales State Government that no State has any power to impose a charge on these interstate hauliers. They can use our roads and damage them to their hearts content. The New South Wales Government imposed a levy on these interstate hauliers in the early fifties or late forties. It was eventually challenged in the High Court by one of the firms and it lost the case. It had to repay some £3,000,000. Why? Because of the sacred section 92 of our Constitution which provides that trade shall be free between the States. Our State Governments are powerless to obtain any appreciable revenue from the interstate hauliers to help with the construction and maintenance of roads. This is a big weakness in the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States and is shackling the State Governments that are trying to improve our roads.
In 1956 the New South Wales Government proposed that an Australian national road scheme of principal interstate roads be agreed upon. This interstate network would represent about 3 per cent. of Australia’s total road miles. This was stated by Sherrard at the annual conference of the Australian Road Transport Federation on 9th October 1962. Sherrard estimated that over twothirds of total road travel takes place on only about 5 per cent. of Australia’s road mileage. The classified main roads of Australia comprise only about 15 per cent. of Australia’s used road mileage but carry about 75 per cent. of the total travel miles.
The Bureau should, in co-operation with the States, draw up a national road scheme for development and defence. Having approved the plan submitted by the Bureau - that is a bureau on the Labour pattern, not the Liberal pattern - the Commonwealth should finance the plan to bring the roads up to the required standard. This standard should provide for four lane highways that skirt around the towns, the elimination of level crossings and expressways through the major cities. This is being done in America.
The national road plan should be completed by, say, 1980. It should be financed entirely by the Commonwealth from the proceeds of the petrol tax. A certain amount of this tax should be earmarked for the national roads scheme. At present, 75 per cent, of the amount collected from the petrol tax is used for road purposes, but the other 25 per cent, stays in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Labour believes in appropriating the entire petrol tax to road purposes so that a national road plan, such as I have outlined, could be implemented. Petrol tax in Australia is much lower than it is in comparable countries overseas. The petrol tax in various countries is set out in the following table -
The task of road construction and maintenance is costly but it is an urgent task and a responsibility that cannot be shirked. In the long run money expended on roads proves a valuable investment.
The Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the United States of America has estimated that by 1972, when the interstate system is completed, the benefits derived from the provision of an adequate road system will amount to about 750 dollars a year in respect of each automobile, about 1,200 dollars in respect of a 20 ton truck and about 3,000 dollars in respect of a 36 ton truck. It is estimated that by 1972 the benefits derived will amount to at least twice the present Federal tax payment in respect of each type of vehicle. Thomas A.
McDonald, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, said -
We were not a wealthy nation when we began improving our highways. But the roads themselves helped us to create a new wealth in business and industry and land values. So it was not our wealth that made our highways possible. Rather it was our highways that made our wealth possible.
The Australian road user would not be happy to pay increased petrol taxes unless he were sure that his money would be properly used in the provision of a national roads system. Petrol tax is predictable in amount, easy to collect and fair in its incidence. Other suggested methods of raising finance, such as through the general revenue, special loans or tolls, are not so efficient or equitable. Australia does not want bigger and faster cars and higher octane fuel. Above all it wants better roads. This causes a conflict between private profits and public needs. The private motor manufacturer cannot be allowed to ignore the congestion on the roads. Transport in general and road transport in particular must be taken out of the world of narrow private commercial considerations.
Transport is predominantly a social and public problem. It must be considered in terms of public costs and public needs and benefits, not private costs and private profits. Transport is in the public domain. Public needs, public expenditure, public ownership and public planning underlie the whole problem. Private business creates and fulfils private demand for cars. It is most important for the Government to anticipate and satisfy public demands for public roads. We on this side of the House will, when we form a government in this country, introduce a system along the lines of the one I have just outlined. We will tackle the problem properly and really give teeth to a Commonwealth bureau of roads constituted along the lines of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in America, which that country has found to be the only kind of undertaking capable of solving its great road problems.
In conclusion, I want to remind the House that in the United States of America various taxes are imposed specifically for road purposes. In 1957, the tax on gasoline represented 57 per cent, of the total of these taxes, and all of the money raised by means of that tax was used for roads. Diesel fuel tax provided 3 per cent, of the total amount raised by these taxes and all of that revenue was spent on roads. The tax on tyres provided 8 per cent, of the total, and it was used entirely for roads. A tax on inner tubes was imposed in 1954 and abolished in 1957, and all the money raised from that tax was spent on roads. A special tax is imposed on trucks weighing more than 26,000 lb., and all of that money is used for roads. Similarly, all the revenue raised from the tax on tread rubber is spent on roads. These taxes, together with certain others, brought in 1,480 million dollars in 1957, all of which was allocated for road purposes. We can now see the result of that expenditure. The United States Highway Revenue Act of 1956 provided for all the returns from these specific taxes to be earmarked for roads. It also made provision for increases in the rates of taxes if this became necessary. The total amount received by way of these taxes in the sixteen years from 1957 to 1972 will be about 38,498 million dollars.
Legislation of the kind introduced in the United States of America springs from statesmanship. Until we apply similar statesmanship to our vast highway problem in Australia we will continue with our cart tracks and our increasing road death toll. Insurance premiums will continue to mount. They have already risen to such a level that it is a real burden for an ordinary citizen to own a motor car. Until statesmanship of a high order is applied to this great problem by a Commonwealth Government of whatever political complexion it might be at a particular time, the problem will remain a problem and will never be truly solved.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has said that this bill is a puny one and that the Opposition proposes to give it some teeth in accordance with Labour’s policy. I shall say something later about the proposed amendments, about the matter of giving the legislation teeth and about Labour’s policy. In the meantime, let me say that this is a Bill to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. It is worth repeating, although previous speakers have already mentioned the fact, that many authorities well capable of speaking about the roads system in this country, and also the heads of State governments, have advocated the establishment by the Commonwealth of a national road authority, capable of making a thorough survey and appraisal of the existing road system as well as future requirements. This survey should be made by men having - as I am sure they will have - no vested interest in the final recommendations made to the Government by them.
I fully agree that it is necessary to establish such an authority. In fact I have advocated it in this House on many occasions. I believe that we should have a bureau such as that described by the Minister in his second-reading speech. I believe that this is more necessary today than ever before. If we do not start to work quickly on a programme designed to provide a better and more comprehensive roads system we will encounter tremendous transport problems in the very near future. But before we can embark on any programme which will provide a solution of the problem that I and many others predict will face us in the future, a thorough survey of the position must be made. Great problems will arise in the future, particularly for our capital cities and for the inlets to and outlets from our principal towns.
Only a few weeks ago I was in Tokyo, where it took me three quarters of an hour to go by car three miles along a road which had six traffic lanes. The traffic problem in Japan is very great, notwithstanding the fact that the authorities in that country have already done much, and are still doing much, to overcome their difficulties. During the next five years, they will spend something like 1,800 million dollars on highways. But I did not rise to speak about the traffic problems as such. That is known to most people in this country. It is known well to you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, for your problems in Tasmania are very great. I rise to support the bill and to say that I believe that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads envisaged by the Government is most essential. Indeed, what has been said so far during this debate indicates that it is necessary to have this Bureau, which will be a repository for factual information. Some honorable members opposite, especially the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) quoted certain figures in relation to roads.
I suggest that those figures were most misleading and the only conclusion one can come to is that they are put forward in support of a policy of socialisation of our road transport system. A few moments ago, the honorable member for Wilmot foreshadowed an amendment which he said was in keeping with the Australian Labour Party’s policy.
– Do you believe in private roads?
– I do not believe in private roads; but allow me to explain the position. I agree with what the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said early in the debate last week in reply to the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), who led the debate for the Opposition. The honorable member for Macarthur said that we do not want the road transport system in this country to be handled by an immense bureaucratic centralised authority - an authority with full power to make decisions and to exercise complete control over the work done on roads throughout Australia. But apparently that is what the Australian Labour Party would like to see and what the honorable member for Wilmot envisages in the amendment he has foreshadowed. I also suggest that it is what the honorable member for Stirling had in mind when he spoke on this subject last week.
I believe that it is important that we give the Government power to establish not a constructing organisation but an advisory body capable of assisting it to decide the amount of financial assistance which should be given to the States for roads and road transport. If, each year, the Commonwealth is to become more and more the sugardaddy in financing road expenditure then it should at least be well armed with adequate information as to how and why money is to be spent.
The honorable member for Wilmot referred at length to the activities of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the United States of America. He also referred to the amount of money that was being made available by way of Federal grants in that country. Let me give the honorable member some facts. For his information, I shall compare what is being done in America with what is being done in Australia. In the
United States expenditure from Federal funds represents about 27 per cent, of total expenditure on roads. In Australia, Commonwealth expenditure represents more than 33 per cent, of the total expenditure on roads. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government in Australia bears a greater share of the total expenditure on roads than does the Federal Government of the United States of America.
I believe that, in speaking for the Opposition, the honorable member for Stirling misled the House when he said that an authority such as is proposed by this Bill was unnecessary because the National Association of. Australian Slate Road Authorities was adequate, and that the Government had not taken sufficient notice of that Association’s recommendations. This body, which is often spoken of as N.A.A.S.R.A., is certainly comprised of the heads of the various main roads authorities in the States, together with the Commonwealth Director-General of Works, who is a member by virtue of his responsibility for roads in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory; but it has responsibility for less than 20 per cent, of all roads in Australia. It is responsible for what are essentially the main rural roads. Although this body is comprised of the heads of the various State authorities, it is not representative of anything like all the road authorities in Australia. I submit, therefore, that it is not able to make a complete assessment of the roads problem in this country.
There are almost 1,000 separate road authorities in Australia. Of that number, only seven are represented on N.A.A.S.R.A., which has no direct authority over local government road building authorities. It can hardly be said that N.A.A.S.R.A. expresses the national outlook, and I think that this organisation would be the first to agree with that view. I believe that by its very composition and functions it is unable to carry the responsibilities envisaged for the proposed Commonwealth Bureau.
The honorable member for Stirling referred to N.A.A.S.R.A. frequently as his authority for what is required during the next ten years. He said that the staff of N.A.A.S.R.A. had assessed the sum required for the next ten years at something like £3,615 million. Other authorities not associated with this body have made other assessments. For example, I have before me the “ Commonwealth Automotive Review “, published only a few days ago. It contains an article by one great authority on roads in Australia, Mr. Munro, Senior Lecturer in the School of Traffic Engineering at the University of New South Wales. In that article, Mr. Munro surveys our road needs for the next 20 years and he believes that the amount of money that will be required will be something like £2,200 million. I suggest that such long range planning on this formula is a very hazardous process and I venture the opinion that at the best, anyone who assesses what will be required in this country even in the next five years is but making some kind of a guess I suggest that the actual amount of money that will be needed cannot be assessed accurately.
What is the problem that coufronts the Commonwealth in road building? I admit that money is a most important factor, and 1 have no doubt whatsoever that a tremendous amount of money will have to be spent on roads in this country. But is the main problem money? Finance is always an important factor but is it the largest factor? I do not think it is. Certainly it is not the largest factor in a narrow sense. Relative priority is certainly a factor. We are a young, growing country, and, as most honorable members of this Parliament know, our needs are many. I suggest that many members of this Parliament would be prepared to state our needs in order of priority, and I am sure that they would give priority to such things as housing, schools and hospitals, to say nothing of defence.
Surely the great lesson of the past ten years or so has been that the greatest limiting factor is resource, rather than money, and I refer to labour in particular. We have been at or near full employment for a decade or more, and this has been the really significant ceiling on our resource. I believe that when the new Commonwealth Bureau of Roads gets down to work, manpower and resource will be factors that it will have to consider just as closely as money and technical questions. This new Bureau will face a very similar set of problems to those facing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority when that able organisation was first set to work. Now, as then, immigration is an important consideration. I note that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) said at the weekend that this year a record intake of migrants was likely. This is indeed welcome news and will have a big bearing on our immediate progress in Australia.
There is another important similarity. The road building task ahead of Australia - without getting into the specifics of any particular estimate - is an immense one by any standards, calling for large scale operations and the most advanced techniques and capital equipment. I submit that if the experts are at all near the mark in their estimates of what is involved in the task of road building, if we are to meet the undoubted handicap of inefficient road systems and if we are to tackle this with anything like the courage and effectiveness that the Snowy scheme has demonstrated we will have to call in overseas contractors as well as local contractors to take up complete phases of road construction.
This is the emergency programme for national roads and I believe that it will work. This is the way in which increasing mileages of roads are being built in the United States today. Contractors there provide the capital equipment on a scale that this country could probably not otherwise afford. Much of this equipment could be highly specialised. The contractors provide a very high proportion of the skilled labour they need and they operate with a minimum of overheads. I am not suggesting that we supplant the State road authorities, dismantle them or do away with them, but I invite honorable members to consider the facts. The State road authorities have been at pains to show that Australia has a great backlog in road construction. They can show that our Toad needs in the immediate future will be immense. Up to that point I believe they are quite right. But it is no use for them then to say: “ Give the States £X million and all the roads needed will be built”. Money is not man power, or organisation, or resources, and there are occasions when it is not even the means of buying them.
What we need now is a crash programme to build, a programme that takes into account organisation, man power and resources. This is what the Snowy Mountains scheme has tackled. It is to be hoped, therefore, that in setting up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads the Government will create an agency with energy, imagination and the means to act. None of the road problems will be solved by limited measures, and nothing will be gained with our present potential. If we are to get a national roads system in the full sense of the word we must have a huge addition to our capacity, and I believe this can come only from overseas.
I now go back to the words with which I started my remarks and refer to the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who, during the last election campaign, said that the Commonwealth would “ helpfully discuss” with the States the desirability of establishing a national roads authority. He said that the nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing road system and of foreseeable road requirements. This is what the States require and this is the reason why the Bill has been brought into this House. I hope that the Bill will receive a very speedy passage through this House - without the amendments proposed by the Opposition.
.- The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) showed grave concern at the state of our roads system. It seems to me that he has the mistaken belief that the Bill before the House will solve our roads problems. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) said in the second-reading speech on the Bill, when quoting the Prime Minister -
The nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing road system and of foreseeable roads requirements.
In fact, as has been previously stated, the Minister gave as his sole reason for the establishment of the proposed authority that the Prime Minister had indicated in his policy speech that the Commonwealth would “helpfully discuss” with the States the formation of a national roads authority. It was made to seem that an authority dealing with and assisting in a vital and substantial manner to overcome our road and transport problem would be established. What is to be established, however, is a bureau comparable only with a weather bureau, which can make an estimate of what is going to happen but can do nothing whatever about correcting it
The Government, to make it appear that another election promise is being kept, will create an office where transport information will be collated and so-called helpful discussions will take place. It will go no further. It simply says that the Minister wants to know how bad our transport system is; but then, if he wishes, he may keep the information to himself. However, we sincerely trust that Australia will benefit by the knowledge gained through this debate. The gathering together into one centre of all the desired information, the knowledge of how outmoded and how very bad our road system is will, we hope, prove to the Government that greatly increased financial assistance toward a proper transport system is immediately necessary. Honorable members on this side of the House have given a very comprehensive outline of our policy on the national transport problem. They have made very thorough comparisons between conditions in Australia, where no real overall national plan of transport exists, and the United States of America and other nations where such plans have paid the dividend of overcoming the problems to the extent that goods from those nations are placed on the world markets at competitive prices.
In answer to the points put forward by the Opposition we will no doubt receive from the Minister many reasons why our policy cannot be implemented, and among those reasons will be that finance is not available for such a grandiose scheme. The Opposition has not asked that impossible sums be made available immediately to finance every scheme placed before Parliament. We ask that a thorough investigation of all our transport systems take place. We ask that forward planning take place on a national basis. We ask that very early consideration be given to providing first class roads where the economy, development and defence of Australia are concerned. In addition we ask, in the interests of Australia, that the Bill be broadened to provide now for roads that will fit into this framework.
Surely, without the establishment of the proposed bureau the Government is aware of the backlag in road maintenance and in the construction of new roads. All responsible sections of the community have made the Government aware of this backlag. State and Commonwealth departments communicate their problems, and State
Premiers, Lord Mayors, municipalities, country councils, the Australian Automobile Association and other bodies have made representations. From all these sources information is gained, and from all these sources representation is made for either greater finance for a particular project or greater overall finance and longer range planning. Yet we see introduced a bill that simply says that the Government will collate information on road transport problems. At the will of the Minister that information will be on the secret list. There is not a word of how the situation can be remedied, and there is no given plan for the future use of the material gathered.
The Minister intimated in the second reading speech that he was well aware that sufficient funds were not now provided for roads when he said -
There is little doubt that, with the need for more and better roads growing apace, increasingly heavy demands will be made on the Commonwealth as lime goes on to provide finance to the States for road purposes.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) gave a similar intimation when dealing with the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, when he said -
K we are deeply involved in financing roads today, we are going to become still more deeply involved as time goes on. The need for roads is growing apace and the cost of meeting roads requirements is likely to grow still faster because many of the road works of the future will be of a much more costly type than those hitherto undertaken. We have no doubts whatever on this score- as time goes on the Commonwealth will be called upon to provide a larger and larger share of the finance needed for road works. Eves within the next decade or two our contribution will almost certainly have to be stepped up considerably.
The Treasurer calmly talks about stepping up the Commonwealth’s contributions to roads, in the next decade or two, at a time when all authorities connected with roads are still pressing for greatly increased Commonwealth contribution toward road maintenance and construction now, and not at the end of the five year plan, or in 10 or 20 years time. To give a further example of the necessity for forward planning on a national basis, I refer to the Commonwealth aid roads grants over past years. In 1931, Commonwealth road grants amounted to £2 million, lt is estimated by the Treasurer that by 1969 the contribution will have increased to £100 million. But what is the view expressed by the Australian Automobile Association on this matter? I quote the following passage from a pamphlet put out by the Association -
The Australian Automobile Association, which represents all State motoring clubs and associations, has been concerned about the condition of Australia’s roads for years and has continually pressed Governments to act swiftly to correct a situation where we are forced to use highways built for the horse and buggy.
Expressing another opinion on this matter in the same pamphlet, the Association says -
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities has estimated that in the ten years, 1964-1974, Australia will need to spend £3,615 million to bring our road system to a reasonable standard.
These are the reasons why the Opposition considers that this Bill does not go far enough. The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities estimates that £3,615 million must be spent in the next ten years to bring our roads to a reasonable standard. This is an average of £361 million a year. Yet, the Government admits it has the intention of increasing the allocation to an amount - and I use the Treasurer’s own words - “ not far short of £100 million at a time about half way through that period “. I refer to these matters because the Bill before the House does not state how we are to overcome our present transport problem. It does, however, cover the first small part of what honorable members on this side of the House have continually suggested should be done. It provides for the establishment of a national body to undertake research into our national road problem. There the similarity ends. The fact of the matter is that although Commonwealth grants have been increased over the years, sufficient money has not been granted to the States to permit State or local government bodies to catch up with the present lag in maintaining and constructing roads and bridges.
I find in my electorate that the vast majority of councils are continually and deeply in debt. They already have responsibilities far beyond their means and resources to successfully tackle and, with the rest of Australia, their problem grows with the rapid increase of vehicular traffic. The allocation of funds to many of the councils has been reduced this year, and their position has become even more hopeless. But the councils in South Australia are told that there is hope that more money may be allocated from the newly imposed State ton mile tax. This “pay as you go” plan may be proper where there is a high percentage of sealed roads, but the further out in the bush a person lives the more he will have to pay. And, of course, the further out in the bush a person lives in South Australia, at least, the worse the roads are. In its present form, this is not a proper method of providing more finance for roads. The problem could be solved in a different manner, however. Our State Premier is reported to have a plan to build a £20 million freeway to make it easier to travel into the City of Adelaide. This is all part of the centralisation plan of the Playford Government, the effect of which is to increase the cost of living in the country and make it easier for country people to enter and live in the city.
Moving on to the problems in country areas, I refer to a Press report in the “ Whyalla News “ of 26th June 1964, under the heading of “ Road Demands ‘ Impossible ‘.” This report reads -
The City Commission is finding it impossible to keep pace with demands for additional road-making and the provision of necessary amenities in Whyalla West out of its present revenue.
In this article, the Commission Chairman is quoted as saying -
Already we are paying almost £10,000 a year for road repayments out of a total revenue of approximately £84,000.
In such other council areas in my electorate as Elliston, Murat Bay, Streaky Bay, Tumby Bay, Kimba and Cleve, to name a few, throughout the Eyre Peninsula, protests are being made about cuts in the road grants. All these councils find that there is not sufficient money to keep their roads in order for modern transport. Outside the district council areas, quite a different problem is found. In many instances the State just has not the finance to do anything about this problem. Our so-called “beef tracks” or, to be kinder, our northern stock routes leading into cattle country, are nothing short of shocking. In fact, other States benefit from this, because much of our beef goes interstate in areas that are close enough to the borders.
I wish, however, to bring before the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) the position in relation to another road, in support of our contention that a proper authority should be set up to make a thorough investigation of road problems. I personally feel that this Government should accept the sole and total responsibility for it. I refer to the road which connects Port Augusta with Woomera. Having accepted that responsibility, the Government should seal the remaining portion of the road in the interests of national prestige, development and security. The existence of such a road in its present state is surely another reason why the provisions of this Bill should be extended so that an appropriate authority could at least recommend that priority be given to a specific road or section of a road. The road connecting Port Augusta and Woomera straggles along over undulating country, sandhills, rocky flats and creek beds between a sealed strip of 80 miles ending at the Port Augusta Council boundary and the sealed strip coming from Woomera village which is met in the region of Pimba Siding. I mentioned earlier that I considered this road to be a national responsibility and not in the true sense a State responsibility. In explanation of this statement, I must refer briefly to the village of Woomera and the rocket range, and the reason for their establishment.
At the end of the war, the United Kingdom commenced a large programme of research. In 1946, the United Kingdom approached the Commonwealth Government in search of a rocket testing ground. Woomera was chosen as being the best testing range available in the Commonwealth of Nations. Because of its isolation, of the terrain in which it is situated and the incredible visibility, Woomera has now proved beyond doubt that it will serve its many purposes for long years to come. Yet, there seems no authority that will accept the responsibility of providing a proper access route. Such an authority should be commissioned. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to Woomera have come experts from the United Kingdom, the United States of
America, the European Launcher Development Organisation - even Germany, all bent on peaceful objectives. J. B. Chifley liked the idea back in 1946. In agreeing to the use of the Woomera site, he stipulated that Australia should enter into contracts not as an underling but as a partner. This stipulation has been carried out in all agreements made since his time although, with the Americans and to an extent with E.L.D.O., the situation has been one of landlord and tenant, with the Americans and others paying for what must be, if costs are any criterion, first class accommodation.
Woomera has been costly. In June 1962, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) was able to state that our overseas contracts had enabled the Department of Supply to contribute £10 million to the Australian economy over the past six years. He predicted also that a great improvement on this would be shown in the following five years. So, our partnerships have shown a small dividend. Should we not then provide a proper access road to these vital projects? The following questions must be considered: Will it be necessary in a time of national emergency to use road transport to and from Woomera? Was the State Government or the Commonwealth Government responsible for creating the rocket range? Has the venture proved to be worth while for Australia? If so, for how long will it continue to be worth while?
An indication of the Government’s thinking on this matter is given by a letter that I received this morning from the Minister for Shipping and Transport in reply to a question that I had asked in this House during the last sessional period. The letter states -
I refer to the questions without notice which you raised in the House of Representatives on 19th May 1964, concerning the condition of the road from Port Augusta to Woomera and which I undertook to answer in due course.
I think I should point out that this road is part of the State road system of Souh Australia and as such its condition is primarily the responsibility of the Government of that State. However, as you are aware, the Commonwealth, through the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation makes substantial funds available to the various States for the improvement and maintenance of their road systems. Apart from the condition that 40% of the grant must be spent on rural roads, other than highways, trunk roads and main roads, the States are free to devote the grant to any roads they wish and to establish the relative priorities between different projects. Thus, if the South Australian Government considers the impovement of the Port Augusta to Woomera road of sufficient priority, it may use funds received under the C.A.R. Act for this purpose. This means, as this road is not a “ highway, trunk road or main road “, the South Australian Government is free to devote to it any of the C.A.R. grant - which during 1964-65 is estimated to amount to £7,452,675- if it so desires.
In addition to the C.A.R. grant, the South Australian Government has large financial resources of its own which it can devote to roads if it so desires. However, whether these resources are devoted to the Port Augusta-Woomera road, or to other roads in South Australia, is also a matter for that Government to determine.
Nevertheless, because of the importance of this road to the activities of the Commonwealth at Woomera, and in view of the relative volume of Commonwealth traffic, the Commonwealth has made available to the South Australian Government, through my Department, additional grants to assist in the maintenance of this road to a standard that is adequate for Commonwealth purposes. This assistance has amounted to £433,000 since 1947, and it is proposed that a further £33,000 will be made available during the current financial year.
The Minister’s letter then goes on to say that the present road is adequate for Commonwealth purposes and chat the time during which it becomes impassable in the wet season is not sufficiently long to worry anyone. Transport drivers, I am sure, do not agree with the Minister. From them, we hear that the situation is considered desperate in the wet season, with all traffic being stopped for days at times. In the summer, there are sandy, stony ridges and the inevitable dust to contend with. It is true to say that, whatever sums are spent on this road without sealing the surface will be wasted, as it still remains a horror stretch. It must be noted that in 1962-63, excluding very large quantities of construction and building materials trucked by private contractors to the site, more than 15,000 tons of road freight was transported to Woomera. This exceeded the combined total of known air and rail freight into the area.
The Americans can build sealed roads in the area and, if my information is right, contribute towards some 20 miles of the Port Augusta-Woomera highway, and all the other nations interested in projects at Woomera pay their way. Is not it a matter of national prestige, then, that we construct and seal a decent access road to such an important centre where there are projects in which many nations are interested and for which they pay large sums to the Australian Government? Or must we, on the other hand, await another national crisis, as we did at the outset of World War II, and then employ on road building troops and other key personnel who could well be used actively in various theatres of war? This is what happened with the construction of the Alice Springs-Larrimah road, which was begun in 1942. 1 ask this Government to accept the responsibility that clearly belongs to it and to provide a modern sealed road to Woomera. Goods of all types and descriptions received there are transported from factories and seaports on sealed roads until within some 80 miles of their destination. When the Blue Streak and other rockets, for instance, were conveyed by road to Woomera, they had to be practically wrapped in cotton wool to survive the journey. Because of the unsealed portion of the road, freight charges on every ton of cargo transported are of necessity increased. Australia has benefited in many ways by the establishment of the Woomera rocket range. We have become partners in enterprises that otherwise would have been well beyond our means. Our scientists engaged on research at Woomera are working in the front line of space research of world importance. We now have more trained technicians and more key workers who are specialists in their own fields than most larger nations have, and so we may go on to other trades and professions. All this has been brought about because of the Weapons Research Establishment and other projects at Woomera.
Many important specialists and other workers playing in their own spheres a part in the overall scheme are housed in the Woomera area. This is an area of full security in which tests can be carried out with complete security safeguards. There is no place in the area to which a man can take his family on his day off, except to the same undulating, uninteresting plain country that starts at his back door. Some 6,000 people live there now. The vast majority of them could be described as confined to barracks, simply because they refuse to take a new car over the horror stretch and are loath to attempt it in a car that is not so new. Port Augusta, only 100 miles away, is a city with shops to delight the ladies and a splendid beach for the children - a place where a family might well spend a day to break the continual, monotonous sameness of life at Woomera. A good road to provide communications with Woomera would assist in retaining key personnel longer and, indeed, would alleviate the shortage of other workers. Therefore, we ask that this Government earnestly consider sealing this short stretch of road. I point out that this would materially assist in opening up a more direct and much better route to Alice Springs.
We ask also that provision be made in this Bill to bring about a worthwhile national road plan and that sufficient funds be made available to implement it. What I have endeavoured to do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to convince the Government that it should establish a proper authority to deal with our national road problem. Such an authority, when it is constituted, should have power to place before this Parliament the facts as it finds them and, on the basis of its findings, to recommend that certain roads receive priority or special grants of Commonwealth funds.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the words used earlier this afternoon by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) I point out that this is really a very simple and straightforward bill. I propose to discuss it directly and briefly. I shall not follow the example of the honorable member, who took his full time of 30 minutes and added more padding to what [ believe has been an over-padded debate. Indeed, I suggest that the members of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, when they are appointed, may not be wise to attempt to read the record of this debate. If they do, they may begin to wonder exactly what they have been appointed to do.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his policy speech during the last general election campaign, said that the object of the Bureau will be to survey existing roads as well as those proposed in the foreseeable future. He stated that the purpose is to establish a bureau continually to examine the current road situation and the road needs of the future. Roads and transport constitute Australia’s largest business. The nations’ very future depends on growth and development, and these in turn depend on roads. I remind honorable members that 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of our export income is still derived, and for many years to come will be derived, from primary products. The growth and development of Australia depend on our ability to maintain and expand our exports. Roads are vital to primary industry, which cannot function without an adequate system of roads. Unless this nation can grow and develop, we cannot employ the vast numbers of people that we need if we are to hold this country. Of our imports, 82J per cent, are raw materials for secondary industry. The cost of these imports is met by our exports, which principally are primary products.
If this country is to survive we must forever lay emphasis on three very important features - defence, development and decentralisation. Roads are essential for defence, for development and, therefore, for decentralisation. Many of the roads that we must build are a long term investment. They will not give us an immediate return but they are vital for our future prosperity and growth. Today the Commonwealth Government is providing approximately one-third of the money that is being spent on roads, because costs already have gone far beyond the resources of local government authorities and the State governments. Under the recent Commonwealth aid roads grant the Commonwealth will provide a total of £375 million over the next five years. In addition it provides large sums of money for road building in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. In fact, approximately one-quarter of the amount allocated to public works is spent on roads.
As the Commonwealth obviously will have to spend an increasing amount on developmental roads, it is right that we should draw up some form of priority. The object in establishing the proposed Bureau is to provide an authority which can advise the Government on the roads that are vitally necessary and those that are likely to be necessary in the future, and also to give some idea of what those roads will cost. If we look at the roadworks going on today we so often see thousands of pounds being spent to make a 50 miles an hour curve a 60 miles an hour curve, or to take a little hump out of a road, while many of our back roads are practically impassable.
The Commonwealth Government must assist in the construction of developmental roads. The construction of a very necessary developmental road close to Canberra has been discussed and bandied about for many years. I speak now of the CanberraTumut road. Tumut is a very prosperous productive area where dairying, agriculture and beef raising are carried on, where vegetables and many other products used in Canberra are grown. These goods, as well as fresh milk, are now being transported in a great circle from Tumut through Gundagai and Yass to Canberra, whereas a road constructed through what is admittedly difficult country would halve the distance to be travelled. As the proported in a great circle from Tumut country its construction is far beyond the resources of the local government authorities and even of the State Government. The Commonwealth Government must step in and assist with the building of this road, which also will be a great defence road, because if ever we have to evacuate Canberra in time of war it will provide an outlet to the south. That is something that must be faced.
It would also bc a tourist road. The Alpine Highway was developed initially by the Snowy Mountains Authority during the course of work on the great Snowy Mountains scheme. Now that the Authority does not require the road it has said that it cannot and does not intend to maintain it. The local shires cannot be expected to maintain it, although it is a vital road, a trunk road and a tourist road which could also be a very useful defence road. The road is vitally important in the interests of national development, and the Commonwealth Government must accept some responsibility for it.
The Bill is a comparatively simple one. We are aiming to provide a bureau comprising three expert members who will advise the Government where to spend the available finance and where to make efforts to borrow the funds necessary to build the developmental roads that are vital in the national interest. I cannot emphasise too much that nothing is of greater importance to this country than an efficient roads system. If we are to develop this country and to hold it we must make it grow. Roads are of primary importance. It is important to get the best available men and the best advice on where to spend the resources that the Commonwealth Government is able to provide. I support the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mclvor) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 11th August (vide page 80), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ the House is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and filling balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare “.
In moving this amendment, I propose to show that this is a stop-growth Budget, full of inequalities and injustices to the little people, lt perpetuates and intensifies existing injustices. It is a Budget of Jost opportunities. I will show, I hope, that it is intended as a deflationary Budget - very much so - but that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has tried with all his might to disguise the fact. 1 will show that he has not made out a case that will support his measures, and that the reasons he has given, particularly his claims about defence, are inadequate and misleading. This Budget, more than any of the others he has introduced, shows the real nature of the shortcomings of the present Treasurer. His earlier Budgets were marked by incompetence, but this one shows his inability to think radically, to plan ahead, and to make the most of the opportunities that have come his way and that could be turned to the nation’s advantage.
This is the first of the Treasurer’s Budgets which has not been presented in an atmosphere of crisis, either incipient, actual or receding. It would seem that previously there was no escape from his self-created vicious circle because each following Budget had to be devoted to dealing with the problems created by the one before. But this year the Treasurer has been presented with opportunities - none of them of his own making - which open up great possibilities for real progress based on bold and adventurous planning.
As the Treasurer himself admits, we have had good fortune, good seasons for many years, favorable markets abroad, growing revenues and the long-delayed, though inevitable, upturn in the economic cycle after the Government-created recession of 1961- 62. All these factors add up to a situation begging to be exploited by a Treasurer with drive and imagination. Yet there is nothing in this Budget, or in the methods it applies, to indicate that the Treasurer, along with the entire Government, has the slightest will or wit to make the changes that are both desirable and necessary.
The Treasurer has had a long training in economics at the expense, in every possible sense of the word, of the Australian people. But, despite his experience and despite his opportunities, he has done nothing to place the Australian economy on a soundly planned, long term basis. He has done nothing to terminate the wasteful cycle of stop and go that is endemic in the way this antiLabour Government mismanages the nation’s affairs. The right honorable gentleman is in truth a long-term Treasurer with a short-term mind. This Budget is mainly remarkable for the things it does not try to do rather than for what it accomplishes. But it is also remarkable for what it does not say. In almost every important respect the Treasurer has either not explained what he is doing or his explanations are false. He tells us that revenue will rise, but disguises the significance of that rise. And when he comes to say why revenue should rise, he dares, with an audacity bordering on the heroic, to ascribe it mainly to increased defence expenditure. The simple fact is that this Budget shows the greatest increase in taxes, and other charges, since the wool boom, and the 1951-52 horror Budget.
The full year’s increased revenue of £87 million exceeds that of the little Budget of March 1956, which produced an increase of £81 million, and this is more than twice the total increase the Treasurer deemed necessary at the height of the 1960 crisis. The estimated total increase in revenue for the coming year is £234 million - the greatest increase ever recorded in one year. Only four times before has tax revenue risen by more than £100 million in one year, the second largest being in the year just concluded when the rise was £169 million. These figures put the Budget in its proper perspective. The Treasurer has done his best to obscure the true nature of the document in order, presumably, to avoid criticism from his party’s business and Press supporters. It is quite clear that the Treasurer lacks the courage of his convictions, if it is conceded he understands the nature of the proposals his officials placed before him and which he, in turn, adopted and recommended to Cabinet.
This Budget is a deflationary Budget. This year the Treasurer has changed his metaphor to disguise the position. Last year he spoke grandiloquently about “ a broad advance on all fronts “. This year he speaks more modestly about “keeping things in line “. Last year it was the language of a Napoleon; this year it is that of a sergeantmajor. What justification does the Treasurer offer for the sort of Budget he has presented? He gives two reasons, each sound enough in itself, but together insufficient to justify what he has done. One reason is the alleged increased defence commitment, and the other is that this is a year when many inflationary factors are r work in the economy.
The Treasurer makes a passing reference to the fact that -
There have, of course, been shortages of some types of skilled labour for a long time past and these are getting more serious. Now, in some industries and areas, there are shortages of unskilled labour as well.
On the other hand, the Treasurer says “ plant capacity seems generally adequate as yet “ and that “ there are few signs of shortages of materials”. As he says, the balance of payments is in a healthy condition and international reserves are adequate to meet any foreseeable strain.
Thus, generally speaking, the Treasurer paints a glowing picture of the economy, and seems to be saying that dangers of inflation are now only minimal. Yet we are to have imposed upon us the greatest tax increases in history. One is bound to ask: Why this reticence about the real nature of the Budget on the part of one who is usually so ebullient and voluble? As usual, he tries to confuuse the public mind by the use of economic jargon. He chops and changes from the “ cash deficit “ to the “ Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit “, and to the “ net borrowing on national accounts definition “, just as it suits his purpose and his fancy.
Let me consider these three concepts in order to give the House some idea of what our true financial position is. This is what the Treasurer has deliberately and conspicuously failed to do. First, he estimated net borrowing on national accounts definition as £202 million for the coming year. This appears high by comparision with the years before 1961-62, but it must be remembered that it includes borrowing for commercial undertakings, such as the Post Office, for productive works such as the Snowy scheme, and for advances to the States for capital works. This year, the Treasurer is, in fact, providing £316 million from revenue for capital works - the highest figure in history, and £100 million or more above any previous year since 1960-61. Secondly, the Treasurer estimates the surplus on the Consolidated Revenue Fund at £65 million, after providing £136 million for works. In other words the surplus is really £201 million and this is £100 million or more greater than in any of the three previous Budgets. It has been exceeded only in the horror Budget of 1951- 52 - and it was not members of the Labour Party who described that Budget as the horror Budget; it was the Prime Minister himself. The third concept - the so-called cash deficit - is one I dismiss as meaningless. It was introduced originally only to confuse everyone and, though the Treasurer still tries to bamboozle his backbenchers and the general public with it, the Treasury itself has virtually abandoned it.
I deduce therefore that this year we have been presented with a most deflationary Budget, although the Treasurer has done everything in his power to conceal the fact. He has given no adequate reasons for this action, just as he has given no reasons at all to explain why the Government calls upon the public to pay out of revenue for two-thirds of the cost of public works and other capital expenditure, and to contribute £65 million for debt repayment. The public should not be required to bear these burdens unless there is a much stronger case than he has made out for the need for fiscal measures to control the economy and to prevent inflation.
In order to meet his commitments and to maintain his deflationary strategy, the Treasurer has announced increases in direct and indirect taxes and other charges. His justification for all these additional exactions is the most dishonest part of the document.
The Treasurer bases his case almost entirely on the need for increased defence expenditure and makes that need appear as if it had been met or was about to be met; as if it were an accomplished fact. The need is real enough; but where are the defences?
The Treasurer introduced his announcement of increased taxes and charges with some palpably false and misleading statements which I beg leave to quote. He said: “ Defence spending has risen quite spectacularly “. That is simply just not true. The only thing spectacular about our defence spending is the number of Government statements made about it. Never before did so many Ministers say so much about so little. The so-called spectacular increase in expenditure on defence this year is £36 million. By comparison, that is barely half the £65 million being set aside for the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, which in turn is £50 million more than the amount set aside last year.
In order to bolster his misleading argument on defence, the Treasurer made great play with the fact that expenditure is £99 million more, and 50 per cent, greater, than it was four years ago. I wonder why the Treasurer did not convert the amount into the new dollar currency or into American dollars as the Prime Minister does when he wants to make our paltry contribution to aid underdeveloped nations sound so much better. What are the facts?
Defence expenditure this year will just touch 3 per cent, of our gross national product. That is a little over 7d. in the £1. Ten years ago, we were spending 3i per cent. The greater our potential danger has grown the further the Government has reduced the size of our defence effort, until two years ago we were spending little more than 2i per cent, of our gross national product - or two-thirds of what we had been spending 8 years earlier. And now, despite our growing commitments and the dangers that we talk about, we have come back less than half-way towards the level of a decade ago.
But the full extent of the Treasurer’s deceptive approach to his Budget is seen when we look more closely at the composition of the defence expenditure. The greatest proportion of this allegedly spectacular increase will go to provide increased pay and better conditions for the servicemen now enlisted.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with that. We advocated it in the last election campaign. We forced the Government to do something about it. It is very proper - may I remind the amateurish Minister - that better pay and conditions should be provided for our serving men and their families, and the Labour Party at the last elections pledged itself to a programme which would have done far more for these men than anything yet produced by this Government, including the provisions of the present Budget. However to admit this need and the right of these service men and women is one thing; to depict to the public, as the Treasurer has done, increased expenditure resulting from this necessity, as part of a “ spectacular defence increase “, is another; and to do so is absurd and improper.
And when we delve deeper into this “ Harold in Wonderland “ speech, things grow “ curiouser and curiouser “. Strangely enough, we can nowhere find in the estimates any allocation for the instalment payments on the TFX bomber. Last year we allowed £10 million; this year nothing. Why? Will the Treasurer say why? Will the Prime Minister say why? Will the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) say why? Will the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) say why? According to the promise made last November, this bomber was to be delivered by 1966. Despite heated denials in this place, the former Minister for Air surreptitiously inserted into a general statement on the TFX the fact that it could not now be delivered before 1 968.
Is not the absence of any allocation this year proof of the Government’s belief - or rather, the Government’s absolute knowledge - that the bomber will not be delivered even by 1968, but rather by 1970, if then?
Of course, we must allow the Government a little leeway. I suppose that by 1970 it will have produced something, if it remains in control here for that long. Will the Treasurer please tell the House why he thinks Australia will be in a better position to pay £20 million next year than £10 million this year? Or better still, will somebody in the Government at last come clean on this bomber scandal - a scandal which deprives Australia of possession of a worthwhile modern bomber force for another six years at the very best?
In view of the facts I have just stated and the questions I pose, let the House savour the full irony of this statement by the Treasurer - his unctuous preamble to his announcement of record tax increases -
Our command of resources must be strengthened. Defence spending has increased strongly and will increase further. We simply have to put ourselves in a better position to pay for it.
We have therefore decided to introduce a series of taxation measures . . .
I can only say that the people of Australia will return this obvious contempt for their intelligence with contempt. It will not fool the people, and it certainly does not fool the Labour Party. On Sunday night last I paid the Treasurer the compliment of watching him on television in Melbourne on “ Meet the Press “. I thought he batted very carefully on this question. He did not elaborate when he was asked to do so. The Treasurer says that the Government’s command over resources must be strengthened. We agree. Of course, any sensible person would agree with that. But how, in any serious way, has he strengthened the Commonwealth’s command over resources? The answer is: In no way.
He had a certain amount of revenue to raise and he has tried all the usual expedients. He wants to pursue an orthodox policy of deflation although he has tried to disguise it with a gloss of verbiage, and he has done so in all the orthodox, pedestrian ways. Everything in the revenue-raising, deflationary part of this Budget is the old mixture as before; the hoary old tax “ rebate “, so-called, makes its appearance - on again, off again, and up and down like a yo-yo. It reminds me of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) rising to points of order. And there is the juggling with the company tax and a manipulation of the sales tax and excise. That is all there is to this Budget.
What is there in all of this to “ command the resources of the nation “? What is new, still !ess commanding, about it? Everything in it was contained, in principle, in the measures of March 1956, the Budgets of 1959-60 and 1960-61, the November 1960 measures and the February 1961 and February 1962 panic-stricken measures. As I have said; it is altogether “ the mixture as before “. The Treasurer told the Press last Tuesday night that the mixture he was taking for his laryngitis was the late Mr. Gladstone’s recipe. I suggest that his Budget recipe comes from the same period. And in this connection let me emphasise that the Budget has put a nasty taste in the mouths of many thousands of Australians. How could it be otherwise when the Treasurer found it so hard to swallow even with the aid of a cough mixture.
I want to emphasise that the measures in this Budget are identical in kind with those of March 1956, more than eight years ago; and they are presented as if there had been no change in the nature of the economy and nothing learnt from all the catastrophic decisions made in the intervening period. Yet the economy is different, very different, from what it was then. As the Treasurer is so fond of pointing out, we have reached a stage of sophistication, and the Government can now generate its own recessions, irrespective of overseas events. But despite all the great changes in the nature of the economy, basic Budget strategy has not changed. And nowhere is the lack of change more strikingly demonstrated than in the very field for which the Treasurer claims so much - the “ command over resources “.
Our tax structure is now precisely what it was 10 years ago. The tax schedule is brought back, by this Budget, to exactly what it was in 1954-55. And that has meant growing and widening inequities in the incidence of taxation. Let me put it this way: In the last 10 years the basic wage has risen 30 per cent. In the same 10 years prices have risen 25 per cent. Average earnings are up 54 per cent. The Treasurer pretends that, because the tax schedule now is the same as in 1954, there has been no change in the incidence or impact of taxation. The truth is exactly the contrary. Because there has been no change in the tax schedule the impact and incidence of taxation has changed vastly, lt has changed with every change in prices and income. And it has changed constantly and consistently to the detriment of those on lower incomes.
Let me first take the case of the basic wage earner with a wife and two children. And I do not want to hear any nonsense about nobody being on the basic wage today, lt may be generally true on a weekly basis, but there are thousands of process workers in this country whose yearly pay is no more, and sometimes less, than 52 times the weekly basic wage. Ten years ago, such a worker paid 5s. a week in tax. This year he will pay 10s. 6d. a week. My comparison is between this year and five years after the Government came to power. A worker’s real income is only 4 per cent, higher than it was 10 years ago. Yet his income tax is more than double.
Under the Chifley Government, such a worker paid nothing in income tax. He now pays 10s. 6d. a week. The same gross inequity, which is exaggerated by the allegedly unchanging tax levels, applies in the case of the average wage and salary earner. In 1954 the average wage earner with two children paid £44 a year in tax. Now he pays £123 a year - an increase in tax of 179 per cent. And the tax on any additional earnings he may receive is now 4s. 4d. in the £1, as against 2s. lOd. in the £1 10 years ago.
If we apply these so-called “ constant “ rates of tax to the recent basic wage increases, we find that the Treasurer takes 2s. 6d. out of the pockets of every adult male wage and salary earner among Australia’s four million wage and salary earners, and 6s. 6d. out of the average wage and salary earners pocket by the new taxation slugs contained in this budget. There is the measure of the equity of the “ constant “ rate of taxation maintained by this Government. But when we come to the person who is earning, or receiving, four times the average earnings - the person receiving £5,500 a year - we find that his tax has gone up only 105 per cent, compared with 179 per cent for the average wage and salary earner. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table showing what has really happened to income tax in the last 10 years.
The table shows how inequitable the socalled constant rate of taxation has become. It mirrors the widening gap between the wealthy on the one hand and the average and below average in the so-called affluent society, on the other. At a time when there is every incentive and every oppor tunity to attempt an overhaul of the entire income tax structure to achieve greater equity, the Treasurer does nothing and will do nothing. Nothing has been done to raise the tax exemption level to help the low wage earner. Nothing has been done to help the family man by greater allowances, which should of course dwindle progressively in the higher income brackets. While business executives and companies enjoy deductions for the maintenance and use of cars and for entertainment expenses, the wage and salary earners still are not permitted to claim a deduction for expenses incurred in travelling to and from work.
There has been no attempt made to divert any of the proceeds of takeover bids and slick business operations to the revenue. In advocating such action I am, of course, not urging anything like a capital gains tax on the sale of houses, but it is appalling to find that profits running into hundreds of thousands of pounds on business deals attract no taxes whatsoever. These are just a few of the things that could and should be done in the interests of equity and in the interests of the nation. But the Treasurer has done nothing. Instead he has engaged in the favorite capitalist pastime of greasing the fat pig - and how he and his colleagues enjoy it!
The Treasurer withdraws the so-called rebate, which should not have been given in the first place as our speeches and votes at the time well indicated. But he has not attempted to make any radical change which would obtain equity for the great majority of Australian taxpayers. We note with interest that he intends to legislate to prevent the robbery of the revenue disclosed more than three years ago by his own appointed Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. The Committee revealed that at least £14 million was being lost through loopholes regarding leases, family partnerships and superannuation funds. But though he promises legislation - and includes that promise in his Budget Speech - the Treasurer makes no allowance whatsoever for additional revenue from that source. Does the Treasurer forget that in August 1961 he promised to make such legislation retrospective? Why, then, is there no mention of any revenue forthcoming this year, much less the £50 million that should accrue if the Treasurer kept his promise to make the legislation retrospective? Of course, I may be doing the Treasurer an injustice, because I cannot help noticing that the amount of which the Treasury has been robbed by tax avoidance is almost precisely the same amount that is required to pay for the TFX bombers; and I can only hope that he is saving up the one to pay, someday, for the other.
I have said that the Treasurer has lost the opportunity to review the whole tax structure in the interests of equity for the great majority of wage and salary earners. The additional charges he has made - themselves a mere juggling with the revenue structure - are designed to do the very opposite. They impose burdens where burdens can least be borne. The Treasurer has decided to milk the Post Office once again; and I beg the House to examine the reasons he gives for raising the telephone rental charges and connection fees. This, the Treasurer says: will ensure that future demand will not be artificially stimulated to the extent that it has been up to the present time.
Let me ask the Treasurer these questions: Who has been artificially stimulating the demand for telephones, and who will bear the burden for the increased rentals? Have the millions of ordinary subscribers who already have telephones been artificially stimulating demand? Do the thousands of ordinary citizens who want a telephone for their homes represent an artificial demand? Do the pensioners, the invalids, the incapacitated, and those upon whom they rely, who all have or need telephones, represent an artificial demand?
All of these people have or need telephones. It is not the wealthy alone who should be given the right to have telephones. Everybody in the community who wants a telephone is entitled to have one, and all this talk about artificially stimulating the demand convinces nobody. All of the people to whom I have referred have or need telephones, and they need them in a society which is as much geared to telephonic communications as it is to motor transport. To speak in this day and age, as the Treasurer does, of an artificial demand for telephones is to use the language of the English Tories, about whom the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) speaks so eloquently at times, and who still think that the poor need bath tubs only to stack their coal in!
Let us take this to its logical conclusion. It opens up new, unimagined vistas for future Tory governments. Think of the artificial demand for housing. I say to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who is at the table, that we can solve our housing problem at one blow by doubling the deposit on Housing Commission homes, to reduce this artificial demand. If we are lucky, we can reduce, perhaps abolish, the artificial demand for hospital beds, by imposing a good, fat fee before these artificial demanders can get into the public wards.
I said before that the Treasurer had shown no originality in his Budget. 1 was wrong. It may yet be his destiny to provide the non-socialists of the world with a new doctrine; after a century’s reliance on the law of demand and supply they are ideologically dehydrated, but the Treasurer offers them the inexhaustible possibilities of Holt’s law of artificial demand and stimulated supply.
When we come to the other means of revenue raising used by the Treasurer we find again that the burden falls without any regard to capacity to pay. The Treasurer determined that the price of cigarettes would rise by 3d. The tobacco companies have said that the price will rise by 4d. But whoever is right, the wage earner has to foot the bill. The only thing that we can bc grateful for is that the Treasurer did not try to justify this sales tax - for that is what it is - by referring to the health reasons against smoking. There is nothing harder to take than the Liberal Party in one of its periodic fits of morality, and at least we were spared that. But it is quite clear already that the main effect of these tobacco proposals will be to put another vast sum into the hands of the big tobacco companies - companies which are already flouting the efforts to establish a fair price for Australian tobacco and a fair deal for the Australian grower.
But just as it was shown the very morning after the delivery of the Budget that the Treasurer was 33 per cent, out in his estimate of the cigarette price rise, so there is every reason to believe that he has grossly underestimated all revenues likely to be derived from all forms of taxation. He grossly underestimated the amount of revenue he would receive last year. The deficit he estimated turned into a handy surplus. There is every reason to believe from the Treasurer’s own analysis that he has underestimated total revenue, in the same way as he underestimated loan raisings in the past two years. He said the other night on a television programme that he did not expect to raise any money by way of loans outside Australia, that this would be a bad year for loan raising outside Australia, and that therefore he did not expect to raise any more than the amount he had stated. But of course he could be wrong again. He is more often wrong than right when he presents figures to this Parliament and the nation concerning our financial structure.
For instance, there is his curious argument “ that there will be a substantial offset to provisional tax debited this year because of credits in respect of last year’s provisional tax “. The income of provisional taxpayers rose £135 million in 1962-63. Last year it rose by £200 million. Because of the doubling-up effects of provisional tax, there should be a very substantial further increase in the current year. It is most unlikely that credits for last year will be other than a minor offset against the bounding revenue from this source. 1 am tempted, to conclude from this remark of the Treasurer that either he does not understand the full nature of provisional tax or else that his revenue estimates are indeed very conservative - almost as conservative as the Treasurer himself. Personal income tax rose nearly £100 million last year, hut the estimated increase this year is only £109 million. I venture to suggest that this Budget will prove, as last year s Budget did, to have under-estimated revenue by at least as much as last year’s Budget or by at least £50 million. If this proves to be the case then the arguments for tax increases which the Treasurer has chosen to use become even thinner and the effect on the economy may well be much more drastic than he foresees.
If, as I believe, the Treasurer is out in his calculations, then it is the ordinary men and women of Australia - the little people - who will be the sufferers. And none will suffer more than the aged, the war veterans and the invalids who have been granted such miserable increases at this time of the nation’s history.
– It is a shameful performance. This paltry and paltering attitude to the submerged people of our community - the weakest and in many ways the most deserving sections of it - would alone be enough to deliver the most sweeping indictment of the Budget. Then there is another section of our community, the Aborigines, about which the Government proposes to do nothing at all. I have a Bill before the House to seek a referendum to alter section 127 and section 51 of the Constitution in order that Aborigines may be regarded as the equals of the other people living in Australia, whether born here or naturalised. We want to remove stigmas from the Aborigines. We want to remove the discrimination that prevents them from being counted at the time of a census and for other purposes. But this Government says that what went into the Constitution 64 years ago, even though the Aborigines regard it as insulting and improper, shall remain there. How can we stand before the bar of public opinion and how can we stand up to our fellow Australians, who all want to see this absurd position improved, while the Government continues in the way that it is going?
This, then, is a Budget of dubious calculations, misleading arguments and loss of opportunities. Time is running out on us who occupy this country today. Time is not with us and it is much later than we think. Therefore we ought to take advantage of all the opportunities that offer. We will never get any progress under an anti-Labour Government. Gone are the days when the Prime Minister spoke about Australia unlimited. In any case he stole the title from E. J. Brady’s book of that name. Gone are the cliches about unparallelled prosperity and boundless opportunities. No real thought has been given to the great and pressing problems facing the nation. The Government is making no attempt to tackle the great tasks of development when action now could lead this nation towards greatness, and any government should be trying to lead the nation toward greatness today. The problem of foreign investment, by which the cream of Australian production is being skimmed for the benefit of overseas monopolies and speculators, is being totally ignored. So, too, is the vital task of establishing an Australian overseas shipping line - a neglect that is costing the nation at least £200 million a year in invisible exports. Above all, the Government has clearly set its face against any worthwhile form of economic planning, by which we might hope to break through the circle of boom and slump, of stop and go.
For these failures we cannot perhaps blame the Treasurer too much, because they are inherent in the conservative attitude of the party he represents, and the obsolete philosophy for which he and it stand. But we can and must blame him for the misleading way he has presented his Budget, and in particular for the way in which he has used the defence programme to pass the Budget off on the Australian people. He has misled the people about the real nature of his Budget. But far, far worse, he has misled them about the real nature, the appalling deficiencies, of our defences. The Treasurer and the Government who have done this, deserve not only the censure of this Parliament, but the contempt of the people of Australia.
– I second the amendment and reserve my remarks.
.- The first thing that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) did when he heard the Budget Speech last week was to follow his usual form and shoot off his mouth in a Press statement. In the course of that Press statement, which was well publicised in many newspapers - I presume fairly accurately - he said that the big man bad once again escaped and the little man had copped the lot. Tonight he followed that with another phrase. He said that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had engaged in the favourite capitalist pastime of greasing the fat pig. That is the burden of a great part of the case put by the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, it behoves us to examine the broad truth of these statements.
The Budget provides for an increase of £77 million in taxation. Of this £77 million, the sum of £51 million is to be gathered from two sources - the removal of the income tax rebate and an increase in company tax. When the 5 per cent, income tax rebate was first granted, the main burden of the case put by the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party was that it dealt unfairly with those in the lower income groups because those in the higher income groups would benefit most from a percentage rebate of income tax.
– That is what they said.
– That is what they said. Now that the process is being reversed, they can hardly say the same thing again. They cannot have it both ways. Either their claim was complete nonsense when they made it the first time, or it is complete nonsense now. The other main source of additional tax revenue is the increase in company tax. One would have thought that if an increase in company tax were to benefit any group of taxpayers in the community it would certainly not be the shareholding class, members of which can hardly be described as the poorer element in the community.
These claims are worth following up because, for many years, the burden of the Labour Party’s argument has been that income tax is a fair tax because it is levied on a progressive scale - the higher the income one earns the more one pays in tax - whereas indirect taxation bears on everyone equally and thus is unfair. It is interesting to compare the proportion of tax collected by direct taxation with that collected by means of indirect taxation. Whereas the amount collected by way of company tax, income tax and estate and gift duties has risen by 1.1 per cent, this year, the proportion collected by indirect taxes has fallen by a greater amount.
In this connection it is interesting to cast our minds back and here I refer the House to the last Budget brought down by the Chifley Government - that for the year 1949-50. On that occasion the proportion of tax revenue collected by direct taxes was 55.3 per cent, while that collected by way of indirect taxes was 44.7 per cent. I repeat that the amount collected by way of direct taxes - taxes which honorable gentlemen opposite say are fair because they contain a progressive element - represented 55.3 per cent, of the total tax revenue under the Chifley Government’s last Budget. Up to 1959-60, the proportion remained the same, but in 1964- 65 the proportion to be collected in direct taxes is 61.1 per cent, whereas the proportion to be collected in indirect taxes - the taxes that are said by the Labour Party to bear most heavily on those in the lower income groups - is to decline from the 44.7 per cent, under the last Chifley Budget to 39.9 per cent. If anything has characterised the whole area of taxation, it is the shift from indirect to direct taxation, which is the very reverse of what is so often declared by the Australian Labour Party to be taking place. The truth is that over recent years, direct taxation has increased and indirect taxation has progressively decreased.
Let us now look at the expenditure side of the great story which the Leader of the Opposition tells about the unfair treatment of those in the lower income groups as compared with those in the higher income groups. Let us take social services expenditure first. I assume that few will deny that social services expenditure benefits mainly those in the lower income groups. In 1949- 50, under the last Budget brought down by the Chifley Government, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund amounted to £93 million.
– What was the total amount of the Budget for that year?
– I will come to that in a moment. If the honorable member for Watson will have a little patience I will deal with what I think he has in mind. By 1959-60, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund had increased to £299 million, and by 1963-64 it had risen to £416 million, lt is clear that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) is thinking of the total amount of the Budget and the fact that there has been a considerable rise in prices. He would argue that, taking these two things into consideration, it is not fair to compare one figure directly with the other. I would be the first to acknowledge that. What is important and significant is expenditure on social services as a percentage of the gross national product. That is the relevant figure, as it automatically discounts any change in prices.
In the last Chifley Budget the proportion of gross national product provided for social services was 3.4 per cent. By 1959-60, the proportion had risen to 4.3 per cent., and in 1963-64 it was 4.8 per cent. In other words, from the Chifley era up to last year the proportion of the gross national product spent on social services under the aegis of this Government had increased by two fifths. We are now carrying this process further in the current Budget, and the expenditure on social services is to rise from £416 million to £452 million. So much for the suggestion about our being unfair to the little man and about greasing the fat pig, which, if honorable members examine the figures closely, they will see is utter nonsense. The movement has been, very properly, in the other direction.
The next thing that the Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make the most of, as indeed he was entitled to do, was the rise in Post Office charges, particularly telephone charges. It was said that these charges again bear more heavily on lower income groups, but the real issue is: Who is to pay for people’s telephones? Shall it be those who use the telephones, or the taxpayers? Let me remind the House that a very great number of wage earners who have tax deducted from their weekly pay envelopes do not have telephones but use public telephones. Why should these people be called upon to make good the extra cost of telephones over and above what is retrieved by the Post Office?
It is true that the Post Office is a public service; but other considerations also apply. A certain regard must be paid to business considerations. Anyone who really thinks that the morale of a big organisation like the Post Office is improved if it is wholly, or in large part, subsidised by the taxpayer, should examine the efficiency of the postal service of the United States, where Congress is notoriously reluctant to increase mail charges and compare the efficiency of that organisation with the efficiency of the Bell Telephone Company, which is operated by private enterprise and has to pay its way. If we do not permit our Australian Post Office to charge enough to put it on a reasonable business basis over the years its morale and efficiency will certainly collapse.
The Post Office has had to bear a steady rate of increased costs, whereas telephone rentals and so on have barely been increased since 1959. Just a few months ago the Post Office was landed with an extra £7 million per annum in the form of a basic wage rise. It is not as if the Post Office has done nothing about increasing its efficiency. As the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) announced a short while ago, in the last five years the traffic handled by the Post Office has increased by 40 per cent, and the staff by only 4 per cent. The fact is that there are fantastic demands on the Post Office. This year a record amount of £77 million is being provided by the taxpayer for its works. That is an increase of £8.5 million in one year. When honor able members consider that the average cost of installing a telephone is £570, and that the Post Office is now losing £7 per annum on each new service installed, they will realise that not to put up telephone charges would be the height of governmental irresponsibility. It is a measure of the sense of responsibility of this Government that it is prepared to face the inevitable unpopularity of imposing such a charge.
The other matter of which the Leader of the Opposition made much was defence. I regret that he is not now in the chamber, because I want to say that I think it is rather poor when the Leader of the Opposition slings off at the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) as being an amateur Minister when, in fact, the Minister for the Army happens to come from a military family. He was trained at Duntroon and won the Military Cross in action. If he is an amateur I should like to know what the Leader of the Opposition is in these matters. The Leader of the Opposition makes light of the increase in defence expenditure by £36 million - 50 per cent. - in four years. That is a trivial figure, he considers. As was announced some time before the Budget was presented, defence is again under review. No doubt as the situation in South East Asia changes defence will be continuously under review. But the Budget cannot be expected to reflect the results of that review; it can only reflect the results of decisions previously taken, which are incorporated in the Budget. We have to be realistic about this. Suppose we mobilised the nation - put the whole of Australia under arms, neglected economic progress, development, immigration and everything else. Would we then be so secure without our allies? This is a critical point, because it is the Opposition that is making these charges.
I know that many honorable members opposite take a very keen interest in defence and that their hearts are in the right place, but when they put themselves forward as the alternative government and criticise the defence policies and provisions of the present Government they must remember that by far the most important aspects of defence are the political considerations that go with it. Our relationships with our allies, particularly the United States of America, are of vital concern. When the Leader of the
Opposition talks about our pitiable defence effort he is pitting his potential defence effort against that of the Government. The brutal fact is that the policy of the Labour Party in these matters is ultimately controlled by its Federal Conference, and a very large proportion of that Conference is animated by very bitter anti-American instincts.
– The honorable member said “ rubbish “, but it did not seem to be rubbish at the time of the North West Cape issue, nor did it seem to be rubbish on many other occasions both before and since. It did not seem to be rubbish the other day when the Federal Executive of the Labour Party endeavoured to stop the New South Wales branch from taking adequate steps to prevent Communists from being elected to positions in key unions.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned other matters in the course of his remarks, but it would be quite impossible to chase up all the misleading statements that he made. However, one or two things are of interest because these are matters that he forgot about. Unfortunately, I do not have time to deal with them all. The Leader of the Opposition has made some very interesting predictions about future employment and unemployment. We did not hear a word about unemployment tonight. Why did we hear nothing from the Leader of the Opposition about the great unemployment which, only in the last year or so, he has been very freely predicting? The reason is, of course, that at the end of July there were in the whole of Australia registered for employment 45,110 people, of whom 23,690 were males and 21,420 females. This figure represents only 1 per cent, of the Australian work force. This is a picture of flourishing economic conditions which any other country in the world would envy. Of the 37,766 employment vacancies, 26,769 were for males. Over the past year, too, young people were readily absorbed into the work force. In fact, the unemployment figures would be still lower but for the rather peculiar and specific problem of girls under 21 who naturally cannot readily leave home.
At the end of July, of 2,500 factories employing over a million people, almost 70 per cent, were working on overtime, and 36 per cent, of the employees were working on overtime. Naturally, in any economic system, some people are doing better than others. However, of all the factories surveyed - that is, 2,500 - only 3 per cent, were working short time. This employment rate, or low unemployment rate, comes after the increase in the work force last year of 147,000. The year before that, the increase was 100,000 and, in 1961, all 80,000 were absorbed. This is a continuous story of economic expansion. Industrial production over the last year increased rapidly, and is still increasing. These figures are remarkable, Sir, if you consider the high level from which we started: The production of pig iron increased by more than 10 per cent., ingot steel over 11 per cent, electricity nearly 10 per cent., clay bricks 17 per cent.; Portland cement 12 per cent.; and so figures go on. I turn now to houses and flats. I heard the Leader of the Opposition refer to artificial demands, whatever that may mean. In 1963-64 we commenced building over 107,000 houses, an increase of about 20 per cent, on the 1962-63 figures when 82,000 houses were commenced.
– How many extra home seekers did you have?
– I will come to that matter ultimately. Bear with me for a few minutes and be as patient as the honorable member for Watson.
What is the other side of this picture in regard to income? Speaking of expansion, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned a static economy. Wages and salaries are up 9 per cent. Company income is up 10 per cent. Farm income is up 26 per cent. The gross national product is up 9 per cent. In the face of all these rises, there has been so far only a slight increase in the consumer price index. This is mainly because of the recent high price of meat and potatoes. It is true, of course, that the effects of the recent basic wage decision are not yet incorporated in these figures. No one could pretend that the effect of injecting a further £100 million a year into the income stream will not have an effect on prices, but at least it is noticeable that the price stability which we have experienced in recent years has been accompanied by a sustained upward growth in average earnings. In the March quarter of ‘his year this figure stands at 5.9 per cent, greater than a year earlier, and this followed an increase of 2.4 per cent, on the year before that. The increase in the year prior to that was 3.3 per cent, so, whatever the Leader of the Opposition may say about the relative position of the lower income groups, it is certainly true that average earnings have risen in this country at a very remarkable rate at a time of stable prices.
Another very satisfactory feature of the economy is the reserves. Our reserves now stand at a record level. It is true that we have enjoyed a wonderful export year. It bas been a record year, greatly in excess of the wildest hopes only three or four years ago. We have had exports of fi, 374 million. This is due in part to good management and stable prices. Of course, it is duc also in large measure to favorable market conditions overseas. We cannot necessarily expect these conditions to continue. But what a wonderful cushion we have in reserves. They now stand at £854 million, which represents a record figure. For once in Australia’s life, when the nation is in a position of full employment, with very high levels of activity, its overseas reserves give it opportunities for initiative in economic policy which it has seldom had in its history.
I would now mention immigration in connection with our population. Immigration, of course, has reflected the sustained interest of other countries in Australia, its prosperity and well known capacity for good governmental management. This year we expect 127,000 immigrants, as against 122,000 last year and 102,000 in the year before. Of these, an extremely high proportion have come from Britain. In fact, the number of British applicants for migration to Australia in June and July of this year was the highest ever recorded. From these immigrants we will expect to obtain over 25,000 skilled workers, 7,800 workers for the metal and electrical trades, and 5,000 building tradesmen.
The facts and figures I have quoted spell prosperity and expansion. Of course, in the coming year there will not be the same capacity for expansion as we had last year. There will be increases, of course, in our labour force, but it is obvious that it would be absurd to expect to expand our employment and other features of our economy at the same rate as we have over the last year. Therefore, the Budget sounds in this respect a note of caution. For this one reason, the Leader of the Opposition wrongly referred to the Budget as a deflationary Budget. I think the events of the next few months will prove how far wide of the mark his prediction is. Of course, budgeting is always a matter of opinion. But the Leader of the Opposition was wide of the mark when he called this a deflationary Budget.
The Treasurer has rightly pointed to some of the danger signals. He has told us that there are little or no reserves of labour at present. Our future expansion, therefore, depends very much on greater efficiency and on a greater supply of immigrants, as well as on our young people who are leaving school. Immigration itself not only helps us to expand further but also has its own inflationary aspects. But, given the current state of the economy, reasonable discipline and a reasonable climate of expectations for business leaders and trade unionists that will help them to resist the tendency to extract the utmost from every bargaining position that arises in conditions of overfull employment, there is every reason to suppose that in the current financial year the Australian economy will move forward and attain even greater heights.
In closing, Sir, I must say that I could not help feeling rather sorry for the Leader of the Opposition as he addressed the House, because he was up against such a big problem. He has constantly to ask himself why he has not won his way to government. The reason is that his real enemies are prosperity, good government and the sound commonsense of the Australian people.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) began by attacking the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for what the Minister described as shooting off his mouth after the Budget Speech had been made. All I can say is that what the Leader of the Opposition did was preferable to the attitude of certain members of the Cabinet who shot off their mouths before the Budget Speech had been made. In this regard, I want to direct the attention of the House to some very serious aspects of newspaper M leaks “ before the delivery of the Budget Speech. This is one of the most serious offences that can be committed. We well remember that when a Labour government was in office in the United Kingdom and two Ministers - J. H. Thomas and Hugh Dalton - leaked information to the Press and the public about what was contained in a budget, both of them were instantly dismissed. If the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) were worth his salt, he would institute an immediate inquiry in an attempt to ascertain who were the people inside the Cabinet who gave information to the public concerning what was in the Budget.
If the Press was able so accurately to gauge the contents of the Budget, as it has been on this and previous occasions, one can well imagine how much more information very close friends of the person or persons responsible for this leakage to the press may have obtained from colleagues in the Cabinet or in some way associated with the Cabinet. I do not want the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to rise in a few minutes and challenge me to make my statements outside the House, as he did in the Ansett affair. I am making a charge, and if the Treasurer is worth his salt he will rise and announce to the House that he proposes to order an inquiry into the leakages to the Press of information concerning the Budget. I can give the right honorable gentleman the name of one person responsible for one leak. I shall give him the name in a few moments, and I hope that he, as Treasurer, will have the decency to see that proper action is taken against the person whom I shall name. I have positive proof concerning one of the persons who leaked to the Press information concerning the Budget that should never have been given to the Press until the Budget Speech had been delivered in this House.
– You say you have positive proof.
– Yes, I have positive proof.
– Say outside the House what you have to say.
– I shall say it inside the House, and when I do I shall produce proof of such a character that if the Government does not go ahead with an inquiry it will stand condemned in the eyes of the public ,as being craven and culpable in relation to the charge that I am about to level at it.
– I should not like to be tried by the honorable member.
– Never mind about being tried by me. I am asking the people to try the Government on the charge that I am about to level at it concerning the Press leakages that came from the Cabinet room. They must have come from the Cabinet room. The information was too accurate for the source not to have been leakages. All this information could not have been based on guesswork. I shall now detail some of the things that were leaked to the Press. Before the Treasurer began his Budget Speech I sat on the Opposition front bench beside the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and I wrote on a piece of paper the points that the Budget would contain. I wrote down about eight points, and all except one were in fact in the announcement made by the Treasurer to the House some time later.
These are some of the things that had been revealed. The Press announced that there would be an increase of Ss. a week in pension rates.. How could it possibly have guessed this? The proper increase to raise pension rates to the same ratio of the basic wage as existed in 1948 would have been Ils. a week. The fact that the Press mentioned 5s. a week, which was not even half the amount needed to restore pension rates to the same percentage of the basic wage as in 1948, indicates that the Press must have had some inside information. Then there was the forecast of a 2i per cent, increase in sales tax on motor cars. This is a serious thing. If responsible people are to leak to the Press information about the rates of sales tax to be imposed in a budget to be presented some days later, the way is left open for all kinds of corruption and all kinds of manipulation particularly of the money market and of markets generally. The Press was able to forecast an increase of excise on tobacco. It was able to forecast the withdrawal of the 5 per cent, rebate of personal income tax and an increase in company tax. It also forecast increased installation and rental charges for telephones. The Press was able to forecast an increase in the television licence fee. In fact, on 10th August, one day before the
Budget was presented in this House, the “Australian”, on its front page, stated -
The “ Australian “ learnt authoritatively last night that taxes will rise in the Federal Budget.
That newspaper forecast many other things, also. It forecast the removal of the 5 per cent, rebate of income tax and an increase in television licence fees and in the excise on tobacco and cigarettes.
I shall now name the member of the Cabinet who was one of the persons who leaked to the Press at least some information concerning the Budget that proved to be accurate. If it is contended, when 1 name the person, that this is not true, I shall challenge the person concerned to take action against the newspaper that published the information. The Adelaide “ Advertiser “ and other newspapers published a categorical statement said to have been made by none other than the Prime Minister himself before the Budget was presented. That statement was to the effect that the Budget would total £2,500 million. That statement is attributed to the Prime Minister, who is alleged to have leaked this information to the Press at a luncheon or dinner of businessmen, presumably after the meal. This is a serious charge.
I am glad that the Minister for Housing began by twitting the Leader of the Opposition for shooting off his mouth after the Budget had been presented. That is the proper time to do it, not before the Budget was presented, as seems to have become the habit of Ministers for the last few years. The Minister then went on to discuss the increase in personal income tax and company tax. He suggested by way of innuendo that indirect taxes had been reduced, whereas the reverse is the truth. We find that revenue from customs duties will rise by £17 million, from excise by £27 million and from sales tax by £15 million, making a total increase of £59 million in indirect taxes. This, as the Minister properly pointed out, is the form of taxation that bears with equal severity on both the poor and the rich. It bears with equal severity on the person who cannot afford to pay and the person who can afford to pay, on the person with no children and the man who has many Children, on married men and single men, on pensioners and others on fixed incomes and on those who have rising incomes. I do not know whether the House realises that the total amount of indirect taxation that this Government will collect next year is not less than £629 million, which represents £57 a year for every one of the 1 1 million men, women and children in Australia.
– The Minister just answered that story.
– The Minister has not answered it. He attempted to do so and I am showing the fallacy of his attempt. No matter what the Treasurer says about it. the fact remains that the rate of indirect taxation which he is now levying upon every man, woman and child in this community is £57 a year. This means that the single man will pay an average £57 in indirect taxation, the married man £114, the man with one child £171 and the man with three children £285 a year. That is the average rate that will be paid by those people regardless of their income and regardless of their means. That is why I, and the Labour Party, say that indirect taxation is the most vicious and the most unfair form of taxation it is possible to apply, because it forces all people who buy a pound of salt to pay the same amount of tax on it, irrespective of their means.
Let us turn to the increases of sales tax, another section of the tax increases that the newspapers accurately forecast. The new tax of 25 per cent, will be a tremendous burden upon the ordinary family man who wishes to buy a new car. Or does the Government believe that a family man or a working man is not entitled to a new car? Does the Government believe that he should be content with the bomb with which the rich man has finished? Does the Government believe that the family man or the working man should be forever content with having to go to a hire purchase company for the finance to buy some worn out junk?
If the Government had said: “We propose to increase the sales tax upon luxury cars of the value of £2,000 or more “, no one would have complained. If the Government had said: “ We will increase by 50 per cent, or 100 per cent, the sales tax on Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Cadillac and other luxury cars “, I for one would not have complained. I cannot speak for anyone else on the Opposition side of the House, but I certainly would not have complained if the Government had done that. I would have said: “ Fair enough. People who can afford to pay £7,000 for a Rolls Royce can afford to pay 1 00. per cent, sales tax “. But the people who have to buy Mini Minors, Holdens, Valiants and other cars in the medium price range just cannot afford to pay any more than they are paying now. They are already paying far too much tax at 22i per cent, without this Government charging them 25 per cent.
The Government proposes to continue its sales tax of 12i per cent, on face soap and bath soap but - here is good news for everyone - you can avoid paying this sales tax by using dog soap, because dog soap does not attract sales tax. You have the ridiculous situation that if you use ordinary face soap and ordinary bath soap this Government, which pretends to be supporting the ordinary person in the community, charges you 12$ per cent, sales tax. The only chance of avoiding that sales tax is to use dog soap, which is free of sales tax. Can anyone justify such a ridiculous situation? The Government says: “ We will allon you to buy mouth wash free of sales tax, and we will allow you to buy a toothbrush free of sales tax, but if you dare to buy a tube of toothpaste you are up for 12i per cent, sales tax. If you buy detergent for washing dishes, cleaning the bath or generally for trying to keep your house hygenic and clean, you are up for 1 2i per cent, sales tax “.
Let us look at excise. The excise yield from tobacco will increase by £14 million - this on top of the already exorbitant excise paid by tobacco smokers. There will be an increase of 3d., and in some cases 4d., on a packet of cigarettes. To the ordinary pensioner this means that some of his miserable 5s. increase in pension has already gone in the increased cost of his cigarettes and tobacco. Or does the Government believe that a pensioner should not be allowed to smoke, or should not have enough money to be able to smoke? Is smoking one of the luxuries the pensioners are not allowed to have? Unless it is then the simple fact is that the Government is giving them a miserable 5s. with one hand and doing everything it can to take it away with the other.
I heard one Government supporter say the other day that this is a wonderful thing, because it will discourage smoking, which causes cancer. If the Government is so terribly concerned about the possible cause of cancer in smokers, why does it not do something positive and decide that there shall bc no income tax rebate for people who spend money advertising cigarettes and tobacco on television and radio and in the newspapers? If you believe that smoking is causing cancer and that you can justify your exorbitant excise duty on that ground, why not tackle the thing positively and do what you can to stop people smoking altogether.
Customs duties have been increased by £17 million. Perhaps some of these duties are necessary to protect local industries, but I believe that we have to distinguish once and for all between protective duties, revenue duties and duties levied upon goods that are made in Australia by industries that are already making exhorbitant profits and no longer need the tremendously high customs duties that were originally imposed. But whether a duty be for protective or for revenue purposes, the cold fact remains that it is the poor working man who has to pay it. At least the burden upon him is heavier, having regard to his means, than it is upon anyone else who has to pay it.
Now I want to refer to the other things forecast by the Press - the withdrawal of the 5 per cent, income tax rebate. If the Government is so concerned about meting out taxation justice, why does it not have a look at the Ligertwood Committee’s report? Here was a special committee on taxation appointed away back in 1961 by this Government which said: “ This is an urgent matter. We want to find out what is happening”. The Committee in its report recommended an alteration of the law relating to leases, which would bring in an additional £5 million in taxation, and an alteration of the law relating to family partnerships, trusts, &c, which are being used to avoid taxation to the tune of £5 million a year. It also recommended action against superannuation funds which are avoiding tax of £4 million a year. In these three avenues alone the Government is losing £14 million a year, but it has not yet done anything about the report, which was submitted in 1961, the reason obviously being that the recommendations strike at the Government’s wealthy friends - and the Government is concerned only with helping its wealthy friends and with slugging the poor devil who cannot afford to pay any more than he is already paying. This is a rich man’s government. It has no concern for the poor man, the family man and the man in the middle income group. The public should be told about this Government. The Government should be exposed for what it is. We, as members of the Labour Party, should make it abundantly clear that when we come to power we will protect the poor, the middle income group and the family man from excessive taxation, and will not hesitate to implement the recommendations of the Committee that point to clear cases of tax avoidance.
Talking about tax avoidance, let me turn now to the Treasurer’s sacred friend, Mr. Reg Ansett.
– Who is he?
– Reg Ansett of Ansett-A.N.A. Last year I directed the attention of the House to the fact that there had appeared in the “ Bulletin “ an article which referred in the following terms to the taxation payable by the Ansett group of companies -
Rough calculations point to income tax of the order of £2,972,000 if standard company rates had been charged on these earnings.
The income related to the years 1959 to 1963. In actual fact Ansett paid only £124,000, which represents a net gain or a net avoidance of taxation over that period to the tune of £1,847,000. The “Bulletin” went on to say -
It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Commissioner of Taxation is showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government.
This, as I said before, is a serious charge. The Treasurer has not answered it. He has tried to bluff his way out by asking me to repeat the statement outside the House.
– And you have not repeated it outside.
– I do not need to c’o so because the statement was published outside the House by the “ Bulletin “, which is owned by Sir Frank Packer. The statement was circulated in every State. It is a responsible journal, and I do not need to repeat it outside the House. The Treasurer is now leaving the chamber because he knows that he cannot answer my charge.
On the day after I made my statement in the House the Treasure.- said that he had received from the Commissioner of Taxation in Melbourne a letter in which the Commissioner stated that he had carefully examined the matter. Despite the fact that all the relevant papers were in Melbourne and that the allegations covered a period extending from 1959 to 1953, involving most complicated tax returns for more than 80 subsidiary companies in the Ansett group, the Treasurer was able to say 24 hours later that the Commissioner had examined the matter thoroughly and that there had not been any departure from normal practice. If, in fact, the Commissioner of Taxation had been able, in the time available, to examine this matter thoroughly and to provide the Treasurer with such a lengthy letter based on the facts, all I can say is that the officers of the Taxation Branch in Melbourne acted on this occasion with a great deal more alacrity in dealing with a request from the Treasurer than they ever employ in dealing with requests from other people.
In my remarks I reminded the Treasurer that the charge being levelled was a serious one. I said that I had no intention of repeating the charge outside the House because it had been published all over Australia in the “ Bulletin “. I repeat the charge now. It is the bounden duty of the Government to do something about the serious allegations made by the “ Bulletin “. Unless the charges are answered we have every right to assume that what the “ Bulletin “ stated lj perfectly true. Let us examine this matter further.
– It is a case of Packer versus Ansett.
– Yes- Packer versus Ansett. If the £1,800,000 in taxes avoided by Ansett-A.N.A. covers losses incurred in previous years by subsidiary companies within the group, those losses must have amounted to about £6 million. All I can say is that if Ansett has lost £6 million over the four years concerned, no wonder he has had to seek from the Government all kinds of concessions to keep going in competition with Trans-Australia Airlines. Ansett was very pleased with this arrangement. Addressing the annual meeting of his organisation in 1961 he said that he was very pleased to announce that the organisation anticipated being able to avoid a considerable amount of taxes in the future because of the tax laws at present operating in the Commonwealth.
Before I leave Mr. Ansett I think I should examine the recent announcement that air fares are to be increased. There is no doubt that air fares have been forced up unnecessarily so that Ansett-A.N.A. may make sufficient money to subsidise the 80 or so other companies in the Ansett group. The proposed increase will boost passenger revenues by no less than 6 per cent. Total revenue of T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. in 1962-63 - the last year for which figures are available - was about £40 million. The amount would be higher for 1963-64 and will be even higher in this current year, particularly with the increase of 6 per cent, in air transport charges. I think revenue in this year will amount to about £50 million, allowing £10 million from freight charges which have not been increased. The total increase as a result of higher fares will be about £2.4 million a year. No matter what Ansett-A.N.A.’s needs may be, T.A.A. does not need a fare increase because it is making record profits. Its profit this year will be between £900,000 and £1 million, no matter what may be announced publicly. It is in a wonderfully sound financial position and has a wealth of reserves. Its future operations will be even more economic due to its policy of writing off aircraft. As a result of this policy almost all of its Viscount aircraft have already been written off. Trans-Australia Airlines soon will have even more economical Boeing 727 jets. They will be operating it. October and should improve even further the organisation’s profitability because of more economical operation and a greater ability to attract more passengers.
Airline traffic expanded by more than 10 per cent, last year. With the introduction of the new jets, future expansion is likely to be at an even greater rate. Between 1961-62 and 1962-63 T.A.A. was able to absorb an increase in costs of £1,200,000 without increasing fares. Sir Giles Chippindall has said that T.A.A.’s costs this year will rise by only £800,000. Despite relatively small profits declared in past years, T.A.A. has increased its assets from £5.5 million in 1952 to £19.7 million in 1963. It carries slightly more than 50 per cent, of all passengers carried on competitive routes and it has a higher weight load factor than has Ansett-A.N.A. Despite the Government’s claim that fare rises are justified, the Government is increasing T.A.A.’s profit target from 7 per cent, last year to 7i per cent. We have even heard that the Government has fixed a target for this year of 8 per cent. In 1962-63 when T.A.A.’s profit target of 6 per cent, was exceeded the Minister of Civil Aviation directed T.A.A. to pay 7 per cent, to the Treasury. If T.A.A. supported the increase in fares it would be only because of Government pressure. The Government wants Ansett-A.N.A. to make enough money to finance the other Ansett enterprises. The Government wants Ansett to make enough money out of his airline to offsett the losses he will suffer with his television station in Melbourne during the first two or three years of its operation. Mr. Ansett told the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that he does not expect to make a profit from his television station in the first two years. People who use aircraft in Australia will be forced to pay higher fares, not only to Ansett-A.N.A., but also to T.A.A. so that Mr. Ansett will be able to offset losses incurred by his venture into television.
The Government has done a number of things to help Mr. Ansett. On one occasion Ansett sought to increase fares but T.A.A. was opposed to an increase in fares. Ansett decided to get at T.A.A. in some other way. T.A.A. was operating Viscounts, which use aviation kerosene. Ansett’s aircraft were not using kerosene So this Government at Ansett’s request imposed a special tax on aviation kerosene. That tax cost T.A.A. £300,000 in one year. That was the Government’s way of bringing T.A.A. back to the mark and ensuring that Ansett-A.N.A. would have some advantage. The Government forced T.A.A to engage in the cross charter arrangement with Ansett-AN.A. The Government threatened to withhold from T.A.A. the right to obtain a third Electra if T.A.A. did not enter into the cross charter arrangement with AnsettA.N.A. Again, what happened when AnsettA.N.A. took over the Darwin route? T.A.A. announced that it would appeal to the Australian National Airlines Commission against the decision to allow Ansett-AN.A. to operate on the Adelaide-Darwin route, which had been pioneered by T.A.A. Then Sir Giles Chippindall went to Perth to see
Senator Paltridge, who was then Minister for Civil Aviation. After seeing Senator Paltridge T.A.A.’s appeal was withdrawn and forgotten completely. Ultimately the Government has to accept full responsibility for this because under regulation 106 of the Air Navigation Regulations, no airline can increase its fares unless the Minister for Civil Aviation approves the increase.
I refer now to the increase of £1 a week in the basic wage. I assert that that increase has been used up already. In Adelaide the price of a small bottle of soft drink has gone up by Id. and the price of a large bottle has gone up by 2d. These increases apply to pensioners and other people on fixed incomes who did not receive the increase of £1 a week. The price of milk is going to rise, according to the Secretary of the Metropolitan Milk Board in Adelaide. The price of rump steak has risen from 7s. to 7s. 9d. per lb. The price of clothing is going up. The price of the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ and the “ News “ has risen from 4d. to 5d., which means that it could rise to the equivalent of 6d. when decimal currency is introduced. These facts ought to be known.
Metropolitan rail fares in Adelaide have gone up by an average of 8 per cent. One man who lives beside me already pays an extra 2s. 6d. a week in fares in order to get to and from his work. That is on the basis of a five-day week. There has been an increase of 5s. a day in public ward fees in Government hospitals in South Australia and an increase of 15s. a day in private ward fees in Government hospitals. The cost of living figures for the June quarter showed a rise of 4s. in Adelaide. So already 4s. of the £ 1 is gone before wage and salary earners even get it, to say nothing of the increase in the cost of living which has occurred since the end of the June quarter. These increases affect age pensioners and all other people on fixed incomes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
Does the right honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– The personal explanation arises out of the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The honorable member has repeated a charge that he made earlier this year, namely that the Commissioner of Taxation had shown some special consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government. I thought this matter had been answered effectively earlier when I put before the House the comments that were made to me in a formal, written statement by the Commissioner of Taxation. But the charges have been repeated and they have been repeated at a time when the proceedings of the House are being broadcast. So in fairness to Mr. Ansett, to the Commissioner of Taxation and, indeed, to the Commonwealth Government, I think I should now again put before the House and the Australian people the comments made by the Commissioner of Taxation.
– I rise to order.
– Do you want to do an injustice-
– You sit down.
– Is this your idea of fair play?
– No, this is not my idea of fair play. My point of order-
– You do not want the truth.
– Who said that?
– I did.
– You? You came late and you will go early. I rise to order. The Treasurer was given leave to make a personal explanation. A personal explanation may be made about anything that affects himself. Under the Standing Orders he is not entitled, under cover of a personal explanation, to defend Ansett, to attack the Labour Party or to do anything else. The sole reason for the House giving him the right to make a personal explanation is to enable him to prove, if he can, that somebody, wittingly or unwittingly, has misrepresented him personally in the discharge of his duties as the Treasurer of Australia.
The Treasurer is in order. The matter that has been raised again tonight by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is one that the Treasurer mentioned in a speech. I rule that the right honorable gentleman is in order.
– I ask you to rule further on this question: Has the Treasurer the right to digress from what would be a reasonable explanation of the discharge of his responsibilities as the Treasurer of Australia?
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I have no intention-
– I have asked the Chair for a ruling.
– A personal explanation is being made by the Treasurer. The Standing Orders state -
Having obtained leave from the Chair, a Member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no question before the House; but such matters may not be debated.
The Treasurer is stating that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has misrepresented the position regarding the Ansett group of companies. I rule that he is in order in making a personal explanation.
– I have no wish to abuse the procedures of the House or to engage in a general debate on this matter. For my present purpose, I shall confine myself to placing before the House the statement made by the Commissioner of Taxation and then leave the House to make its own judgment on these facts. The statement appears in a document dated 6th May 1964, addressed to me and signed by Mr. D. L. Canavan, Commissioner of Taxation.
– This is the Commissioner’s explanation.
– The Commissioner of Taxation, who functions under the Treasurer, was accused of giving preferential treatment under direction from the Federal Government. He is charged and the Government is charged. This is his statement and I ask the House to bear with me in fairness to all the parties concerned - the Commissioner, the Government and Mr. Ansett. I do not want to get into a debate; I merely want to put before the House the Commissioner’s statement on the matter that has been raised in the House by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– And as it was printed in the “Bulletin”?
– There is reference to that, too. The statement reads -
It has come to my notice that in the course of a debate on an urgency motion in the House of Representatives yesterday, Mr. Clyde Cameron, M.P., allegedthat the Ansett Group of Companies “received preferential treatment in the field of taxation “. Reference was made by Mr. Cameron to an extract from an article which appeared in the “Bulletin” on 25th April 1964, reading- “ It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Commissioner of Taxation is showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government.” I have made inquiries of the Deputy Commissioners in Melbourne where the income tax returns of the Ansett Group of Companies are lodged and assessed, and 1 give you my firm assurance that the allegations made in the course of the parliamentary debate and in the quoted extract from the “ Bulletin “ are incorrect and completely without foundation.
Neither Mr. Cameron nor any other speaker specified the manner in which the alleged “ preferential treatment in the field of taxation “ has been given. In the absence of any such specific allegation I simply say that, in every respect, the Ansett Group of Companies, in common with every other taxpayer, has, at all times, been treated for taxation purposes strictly in accordance with the terms of the income tax law as enacted by the Parliament.
It may, however, be of assistance to you if I mention that earlier parliamentary and press comments have, in effect, suggested that the Ansett Group has received concessional treatment in relation to depreciation allowances on aircraft and other plant and in relation to deductions for losses of previous years sustained by companies subsequently taken over by the Ansett Group.
The basis on which depreciation allowances are granted is specifically prescribed in the income tax law. The rate of depreciation allowable is fixed by the Commissioner of Taxation and is so fixed in accordance with the estimated effective life of a unit of plant assuming it is maintained in reasonable order and condition. This rate of depreciation applies universally to all relevant units of plant irrespective of their ownership. The current rate of depreciation of aircraft is 25 per cent. where prime cost method of depreciation is adopted and 37½ per cent. where the diminishing value is used. These rates are set out in the published schedule of Rates of Depreciation for Income Tax purposes.
The rate of 25 per cent. on aircraft was struck in the early 1920’s. The 50 per cent. increase in percentage rates where the diminishing method of depreciation is adopted was granted by Parliament’s amendment of the law in 1957. This increase applied to all classes of equipment and not only to aircraft.
The affairs of taxpayers are, of course, confidential between them and the Commissioner of Taxation. Nevertheless, it is the case that the above rates of depreciation on aircraft are available to the Ansett Group of Companies just as they are to all other aircraft operators.
On the question of losses, newspaper reports have attributed the Ansett Croup’s low provisions for current income tax in recent years to the taxation benefits derived by the Group from losses incurred prior to takeover by companies taken over by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. On occasions, Mr. Ansett has been reported to have made remarks to this effect.
Under the Income Tax law a company (whether or not it is a member of a group of companies) is entitled to deduct a loss incurred by that company from income derived by it in an income year not later than seven years after the year of income in which the loss was sustained.
– That is a swindle.
– If it is, it is a swindle that this Parliament has endorsed. It is the law as this Parliament has adopted it. The letter continues -
If the shares in a company that has incurred a loss are acquired by a public company the loss may be recouped for income tax purposes from subsequent income derived by the acquired company within the seven-year period.
These provisions of the income tax law apply without discrimination to all companies.
Where an income tax deduction for losses of previous years is allowed to a public company, it is because the income tax law requires that such an allowance be made. No discretion rests in the Commissioner of Taxation or in any one else to deny a deduction in these circumstances.
I repeat what I said earlier. After a careful review of the affairs of the Ansett Group in the office of the Deputy Commissioners in Melbourne, I give my unqualified assurance that in every respect the Ansett Group has been assessed to tax and treated for all purposes of taxation strictly in accordance with the terms of the Income Tax law. The Group receives no preferential treatment of any kind. I need hardly add, of course, that the suggestion in the “ Bulletin “ that the Commissioner of Taxation may be showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government is completely false.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Sir. I have been grossly misrepresented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who stated that it was I who made the charge that there is a possibility that the Commissioner of Taxation is showing some consideration to Ansett under direction from the Federal Government. Let me repeat once again, and I hope finally - I hope this penetrates the skull nf the Treasurer this time-
– I hope at least that it enters his head. I was quoting from the “ Bulletin “. I repeat for the umpteenth time that it is not I who am making the charge, it is the “ Bulletin “ that is making it.
– You were making the charge today.
– I repeated what the “Bulletin” said. What I said was that the “ Bulletin “ has laid a charge against the Treasurer which, if true, is highly defamatory of him.
– You know it was denied in May in this House.
– That does not matter. It is so highly defamatory of you that you ought to take libel action against the “ Bulletin “ and ask for punitive damages.
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that he had been misrepresented, and he has made his point on that. He is now debating a matter that goes beyond his claim that he had been misrepresented.
– I have just one more point, Sir. The Treasurer spoke about my taking libel action. I want to say this: The Treasurer made it quite clear that he would take libel action against me if I repeated my remarks outside the House. I simply remind him that this allegation has been made by the “ Bulletin “ outside the House. If he is as anxious to take action against the “ Bulletin “ as he says he is to take action against me, then until he takes action against the “ Bulletin “ the finger is pointed right at him.
.- Every year, all sections of the Australian community anxiously await the introduction of the Federal Budget. This is understandable because of the significance of the Budget and the effect it has on the general economy and, therefore, on all sections of the community. The Australian economy can be measured by the yardstick of the production of saleable goods at competitive prices. For a number of years Australia has continued to increase its production and exports in nearly all fields. It is important that we continue with this rapid development of our great nation, which consists of an area of some 3,000,000 square miles with a handful of people in it. This is exactly what we have been doing.
It is interesting to look at the figures for the previous year to se*. .-. what Australia is doing. Exports have reached an all-time record of £1,374 million, which is some £309 million more than the figure for the previous year. This shows that we have millions of pounds more to pay for the import of the raw materials, machinery and machine tools that are necessary if the secondary industries we need in this country are to continue to develop and so create a satisfactory employment situation. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) has tonight explained the situation in this field.
I believe that all sections of the community must be congratulated on the performance during the past year. After all, it is not only the government of the day that is responsible for our economic circumstances; the people in all walks of life also lend a hand and are responsible for the present satisfactory state of affairs. If we can maintain production at the present level and keep the community as contented as it now is, Australia will undoubtedly continue to prosper. But once the people lose confidence in the government of the day, our rate of development and production will decline.
The total allocation for works and housing for 1964-65 is £290 million. The allocation for housing in this year is some £51,350,000. This is a small increase on the previous year and again shows the importance of continuing to expand our housing programme. Tonight I want to refer, if I may, to the importance of homes not only in the more populated city areas but also in the country areas. I have mentioned this on numerous occasions before. It is important that we consider decentralisation in a very practical way. I will mention a case in my electorate of Canning. A secondary industry building farm machinery, which is urgently needed in Western Australia, has been established some 150 miles inland from the City of Perth. The firm is known as Pederick and Co. It has been producing for many years and a considerable amount of capital has been used in expanding the works. There is only one hitch, as I understand the position. It is that sufficient numbers of suitable homes for the work force are not available. This is the kind of situation that all governments, State and Commonwealth, must try to improve. When we reach a point at which industries in country areas have actually been established, are doing good business and have a fine future, we should be able to ensure that homes are provided for their employees.
We have spoken, on many occasions, of the difficulty of establishing inland industries and of decentralisation generally. We have spoken of the difficulty of persuading industries to move into country centres because of capital costs involved. It is true that great capital cost is involved in establishing an industry in a country area. In this case, however, we have a factory that has actually been established and is expanding. It can export its products to other States if it can produce them in sufficient quantities. I appeal not only to this Government but also the State Governments to do all they can to assist industries such as this, especially from the financial viewpoint. Industries that are prepared to establish themselves in the country should receive special consideration.
When I am speaking of decentralisation of industry I think I should also refer to the establishment of superphosphate works at inland centres. We have at present some trouble in Australia in connection wilh superphosphate supplies. In Western Australia we do not have production problems but we do have transport problems. We have problems associated with getting the superphosphate to the places where it is required at the right times. While we continue to locate our superphosphate works at places on the coastal fringe, away from the areas in which the product is required, this unsatisfactory state of affairs will continue. When further superphosphate works are required I suggest that all governments, both Stale and Commonwealth, should do what they can to have such works established at inland centres. This would improve the situation in the long run. The users would be able to obtain their supplies more readily, and we could transport the necessary phosphate rock throughout the entire year, instead of having to transport the finished product during a very small proportion of the year.
The Budget provided an amount of £3 million for stabilising petrol prices. I say “ petrol “ prices because that is the way in which the reference appears in the Budget. I had been under the impression that other kinds of fuel would also be covered by this provision. I understood that kerosene and distillate would also be provided for, as well as petrol. I ask the Minister to clarify the position for the benefit of people in country areas. Exactly what fuels will be covered by this provision of £3 million? To my knowledge, this point has never been fully clarified. There are several kinds, for instance, of diesel fuels. There are furnace fuels, tractor fuels, truck fuels, distillate and so on. Now that a specific amount of £3 million has been provided I think it is time to clarify the position and make known what fuels will be included in this plan to stabilise prices. Many people in country areas have been waiting for this information. This is an exceptionally helpful provision. It is along lines that I have been advocating for some time. The Government is not just talking about decentralisation, but is giving a practical example of how decentralisation may be encouraged. In Western Australia this will be a tremendous boon and will greatly assist the development of our vast outback. The price of fuel in the northern and eastern areas is very high indeed at the present time, and I can assure the Minister that this provision will be hailed with great joy by people in Western Australia and also, no doubt, in many other parts of Australia.
There is another provision in the Budget which is of great concern to the people of Western Australia. People in my electorate of Canning have been waiting anxiously to see what the Government would do about this. We now find that a provision of £5,250,000 has been made for the expansion of the comprehensive water scheme. This is not the first time that, this Government has given generously, on a £1 for £1 basis, to assist the development of this scheme. Wc have not so far been able to ascertain what the terms of the grant will be. I sincerely hope that they will be at least as satisfactory as the terms of other financial provisions for this scheme have been, and that Western Australia will be in a reasonable position to make repayments as necessary.
It is not a common practice in Australia to take water over hundreds of miles of country in the way in which water is diverted under this scheme. The practice commenced in Western Australia at the turn of the century when that great engineer C. Y. O’Connor, diverted water from the hills so that it flowed for hundreds of miles through pipes made in many cases of pieces of wood. He was a man who could see into the future. The scheme has been greatly expanded in the north and in the south and it has been responsible for a great increase in production in Western Australia. It has proved a wonderful piece of insurance and has given satisfaction not only to farmers but also to the Government. Stock can now be grazed in may places with every confidence that they will be safe even in very dry periods. Where this insurance has been provided production has steadily increased. With the further expansion of the scheme into areas even further north and into the southern districts we will be able to increase our production, further. This is something that we must do if we are to hold this nation, and if we are to retain the right to hold it.
Mention has been made this evening, and also in the Budget, of increased expenditure and increased charges in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The telephone communication section of that Department is very important as, of course, are other sections of it. I want to speak for a few minutes on the importance to Western Australia, and particularly to my electorate of Canning, of the telephone communication system. Expenditure in this field is estimated to be increased by £8,439,000, of which about £7,345,000 will be on telephone communication equipment. We have gone forward at a tremendous rate in Western Australia in the country areas, with about one million acres of new country every year being opened up. It is obvious that the provision of essential services in these circumstances is of vital importance. Roads have been built with money provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement and also with State Government moneys and shire council moneys. I believe that telephone communications are as important as roads in the areas being opened up, such as the new areas on the west coast and the south coast, from Albany to beyond Esperance. This is all new territory that men have not tried to farm previously except in small areas. We have a tremendous task to keep up the provision of necessary telephone communication facilities to the people in these new areas. I do welcome anything that can be done to increase the number of telephones installed in country areas each year. In this modern world of mechanisation, people in country areas are at a great disadvantage if telephones are not available. In years gone by, when one worked with a few horses and a plough few breakdowns could occur, but today with the mechanisation of primary production and when most of the machinery is manufactured in the eastern States and overseas, we are at a disadvantage. A tremendous amount of machinery is being used in clearing, developing and bringing our rural areas to a state of production and a holdup for even a few hours can mean tremendous losses. If a machine should break down in an outback area where there is no telephone within 20 or 30 miles, chaos can result while endeavours are being made to rectify the trouble. This does happen now.
I suggest that consideration might be given to making special grants available for the erection of trunk lines across these vast outback areas. Special grants are made in other fields of activity. For instance, we offer special grants for the development of roads and waterways in the north. In fact, special grants have been made for the development of water resources in the south. Why not make special grants for the erection of main telephone lines in the vast outback areas where communications arc vital and where their erection could lead to tremendous savings in production costs?
I should like to make reference also to the Commonwealth Grants Commission this evening. This is of vital importance to Western Australia because it is a claimant S.ate. I notice in the Budget that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended the making available of special grants totalling £15,816,000, of which £8,560,000 is recommended for Western Australia. This represents an increase of £2,488,000 for that State. Here I emphasise that anything I say this evening is not said in criticism of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
If the Commission feels that it is not satisfied with the situation when comparing one State with another, then I say that it has a clear duty to make all necessary inquiries into the matter. This is exactly what it has been doing in the field of agriculture in Western Australia. Last year, or the year before, when he was in Perth, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission stated that he thought that Western Australia was spending too much money through its Department of Agriculture. I remind the House that the vote for agriculture is a very important one in Western Australia and I say without fear of contradiction that Western Australia has a very good case for continuing to increase expenditure on agricultural research and extension services. As I have pointed out already, it is a large State and we have a tremendous job to do in it. The job cannot be done without adequate research at properly established and equipped research stations before development is undertaken. This is exactly what we have been doing in Western Australia, and this work is by no means cheap. Research and extension services should not be retarded, but should be expanded.
At the moment, professional officers in the field staff number about 46. There are 39 non-professional officers and 25 general advisers throughout the agricultural areas. When we remember the vastness of Western Australia we must appreciate just how inadequate 25 genera] advisers must be. I repeat that we should exert every endeavour to extend this work. It should not be retarded. We cannot possibly continue to do the work that we have been doing over the years unless we do expand in the field of research and advice. We know that it takes many years to carry certain research work to a satisfactory conclusion. We know also that it is quite a long time before the results of that research bring benefit to the right places - the farms themselves. Advisers are required in many fields indeed. If our development is to be carried on as satisfactorily in the future as it has been in the past then it is essential that we expand our research and extension services.
I point out also that the big Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation institutes that we sec in the eastern States are not to be found in Western Australia. In fact, less than 5 per cent, of the C.S.I.R.O. scientific staff employed in agriculture outside the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys is employed in Western Australia as compared with 54 per cent, within the borders of New South Wales. The demands of the farming community for agricultural services are expanding markedly. With the combination of increased areas cleared and the consequent increased complexities and the narrowing cost-price ratio, the demand is for an increasing rather than decreasing level of services from the department, lt is very important that we be allowed to continue in this field.
Let me refer now to some of the work that has been going on and which has led to Australia’s satisfactory export situation - a situation in which all are pulling together in doing a job of work for the development of Australia. The Esperance Research Station which caters for the whole of the south coast area of Western Australia, commenced operations in 1949. The total expenditure on that station since 1949 has been approximately £136,000. In my opinion, that is a very sn.all sum when we consider the tremendous job that it has undertaken. In 1951, the holdings in this area numbered 49, which indicates just how little was being done by way of development at (hat time. By 1963, the number of holdings had increased to 530. Again, in 1951. the total area of established pasture was 80,000 acres. By 1963, that had increased to 355,000 acres. Tn 1951, the number of sheep in the area was only 19.000 - an almost negligible figure. By 1953 it had increased to 333,000. The total number of cattle in the area in 1951 was only 450. By 1963, it had increased to 25,000. All this serves to indicate the return that can be got from the soil if the government of the day is prepared to spend, not necessarily large but reasonable, sums of money on extension work, the importance of which cannot bc stressed too greatly.
Similar work is being done in other smaller areas further north. This has been going on for four or five years now, right out in the middle of the scrub. Experiments are going exceptionally well in places where mcn would never have thought of going 10 or 1 5 years ago. But for research work, noone would have realised what can be done in these areas. Western Australians who who have been following the development of these projects have been most surprised at the results that have been achieved and at what is being done with very little finance.
Again I impress upon the House the importance of expanding research and extension services in the field of agriculture in Western Australia.
Another point 1 would like to make is that not only agriculture but all industries, especially the freighting industries, benefit from this development work. For instance, whereas the freight revenue earned by the Wester-) Australian Government Railways for grain and fertiliser haulage in 1947-48 was £574,5S6, the total revenue derived from this source in 1960-61 was £5,225,636, which represents a tremendous increase. One might argue that a rise in freight rates was responsible for that increase in revenue to the Government railways of Western Australia, but I point out that if there had been no increase in freight rates, and if these products had been transported at the rates charged in 1947-48, the revenue earned from this source in 1960-61 would have been £3,021.021, which represents an increase of 526 per cent, over the revenue earned in 1947-48. This indicates the advantages of developing those projects. If it is of advantage to the Government railways of Western Australia that this tremendous increase in revenue has taken place, it is equally an advantage to every person in the Commonwealth that increased production has been brought about.
I conclude my remarks with a reference to the Commonwealth Aid Roads grant, which is so important to Western Australia for the reasons that I have mentioned previously. It has been said that Western Australia has the best roads in Australia. Perhaps that is because we know how to build them, because we have the terrain on which to build them or because our economics are reasonably sound. However, large areas of Western Australia have no roads and no railways. The provision in the Budget for roads for the whole of Australia is £65 million, which is an increase of £7 million on 1963-64. We have confidence in the future. We are moving forward and developing our road system. I sincerely hope that Western Australia, and Australia as a whole, will continue to advance in this way.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hallett) referred to a number of things that we must do if we are to hold Australia.
Other honorable members from both sides of the House have told us of the methods of development that must be used and of the defence measures that must be expanded if we are to hold Australia. What did they mean by “ we “? I take it that they meant that if the people of Australia are to hold this country, all the things mentioned by the honorable members must be done. However, if 50 per cent. of our industries were owned by overseas interests, if practically all our mining industries were owned by other countries, if vast areas of pastoral and farm lands were owned by overseas interests, and if more and more of our residential and factory areas were held by overseas owners, could we claim that we held Australia? The “ Financial Review “ of 14th August reported that one controversial matter which escaped comment by the Federal Treasurer in his Budget Speech was the issue of overseas investment. The report added that investment during each of the last 15 years had equalled about half of the amount by which the value of Australia’s production increased.
The honorable member for Canning said that the yardstick by which we should measure our progress and prosperity is production. That is obvious. It is also obvious that the employment of our people, the welfare services that they enjoy, hospital facilities, housing and defence cannot be maintained or expanded unless our production improves in proportion to the increase in our population. Otherwise our increasing population will not be able to receive an increased share of the improvements.
It is of the greatest importance that overseas capital coming to Australia should promote development, not temporarily but permanently. It should establish a foundation upon which our future prosperity can grow. The inflow of overseas capital should not merely create a prosperity that will wither and die unless it is fed by greater and greater annual injections of overseas capital. I have with me a few documents that will illustrate the extent to which foreign capital has flowed into Australia. The first is “Newsweek” of 10th August which contains an article headed, “The American ‘ Invasion ‘ of Australia “ which points out the amount of capital that has come from America in recent years. The article states - . . U.S. capital … has swept into the 3 million square mile continent on a scale unmatched by anything since the country was settled by British colonists . . .
With a note of regret the article continues that Australia is not yet a Canadian style satellite of the United States. It says -
On the present figures some 20 per cent. of all company earnings are American controlled.
The article quotes the President of the Chase International Investment Corporation as saying -
There are so many fine potentials in Australia that they call for investment not by millions of dollars but by multiples of 100 million dollars.
From this and other American statements it is obvious that without Government assistance and Government incentive Australia is a highly attractive field for American investment. Yet Australian governments give tax concessions and other preferential treatment to American capital in order to encourage it to come to Australia. United States capital is not the only capital that is competing for control of the continent of Australia. The article which referred to the invasion of Australia appeared in the “Newsweek” of 10th August. On the same date a document was issued by the British Information Services in which it was stated that the British Board of Trade had said that British companies had rebuilt their overseas investments in postwar years, that the largest investments are in Canada with £840 million and Australia with £662 million.
The Americans claim to own 20 per cent. of the output of Australian industries. Probably the United Kingdom has another 20 per cent. But they are not the only countries whose people have invested money in Australia. Our official records show that Japan has invested in mining and other industries. The Mitsubishi firm has purchased coal mines in Queensland from the Peabody company, and it has iron interests in other parts of Australia. Capital from Hong Kong has been invested in our vast pastoral industries. Northern Territory leaseholds are to a large extent dominated by overseas capital, some of which is coming from Europe, the United States of America and Hong Kong. That domination of the capital of Australia does not show any sign of decreasing in the days that are ahead. From 1948 to 1953, the inflow of capital into this country was £291 million. That is private capital investment in this country, and not loans for public purposes. From 1953 to 1958, the amount was £501 million. From 1958 to 1963, that figure had risen to £920 million. If you added to those figures the amount of inflow of public loans, you would get the inflow of capital into this country - that is, if these figures were absolutely accurate. But the official report stated - lt is not possible to measure some types of investment, particularly investment in real estate in Australia by non-residents.
No measure can be made of the investment in the pastoral industries and in real estate, in the purchase of vast properties in Australia, particularly in Melbourne. The hotels and other real estate of that character are not included. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the amount of capital flowing into Ibis country has increased during every fiveyear period during the last 15 years by ]00 per cent. That is. the increase doubled in every five-year period. The figures rose from £250 million to £501 million, and then to £920 million. To those figures must be added the other capital inflow. Will that rate of increase continue? Will that rate of increase in the next five years, instead of £920 million, be £1,840 million? In the five years following that, will it have risen so that there is £3,680 million instead of £1.840 million of foreign capital coming into Australia? If this rate of increase continues, it will mean that this country faces a disastrous position in the future.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of the flow of capital that has come into this country during the last 15 years, people should realise that the total valuation of all (he land and buildings in the City of Melbourne and of 34 of that city’s suburbs - that is, the whole of the metropolitan area - is about £1,800 million, or approximately £200 million or £300 million less than the inflow of capital during those 15 years into Australia. If the increase continues at the rate of the last few years, within the next 15 years we will have in this country an inflow of capital that will be equivalent to the valuation of every capital city and every suburb of Australia. Can the people of Australia bear that burden? The Treasurer stands in his place and says: “ We have done this: We have brought about an improvement in the conditions of Australian people compared with conditions 10 or 15 years ago “. An Australian Prime Minister who allows the sale of the whole of the capital cities of this country to foreign interests certainly should be expected to make some improvement in the production of this country. But, of course, the money that has flowed into this country has to be repaid and repatriated either as capital, or in the form of dividends.
Let no one delude himself that the financial interests which are putting money into Australia are doing so in order to promote the development of this country, to raise the standard of living of the people or to make this country an economic paradise for those who live in it. The best that can bc expected from capital that comes from another country of the world is that, while helping itself, it helps you. The worst that can be expected of it is that it helps itself to your disadvantage. Much of the capital that has flowed into this country has not been to the advantage of the Australian people. Honorable members may have read an article in the “ Australian “ by a man named John Kelly. In the article, he told the story of the investment of overseas capital in the Northern Territory. He pointed out how the Northern Territory is dominated by foreign capital, to its vast disadvantage. He showed how the investors of that capital have overstocked areas of the Northern Territory and how they have not put necessary improvements into the area. Ultimately, the investors will turn- what was a reasonable type of country into a desert that will be absolutely non-productive. This is an example of one way in which foreign capital does not serve the best interests of the people of Australia, although there are other ways, of course, in which it does not serve this country’s interests. Should we allow the sale of land in areas of strategic importance in Australia to people who may become, or who are, the potential enemies of this country? Should we sell land surrounding Woomera or North West Cape to the Indonesians, to the representatives of Communist China or to anybody else? While the laws of this country operate as they do, these powers will not be prevented from purchasing such areas and putting their people in control of them. So, it is not only from the point of view of the manner in which they denude these areas of their potential productivity that this foreign capital is detrimental to the interests of Australia. It is in the area of security and defence that it threatens the future of the people of Australia.
When I have raised this question before in this House, the Treasurer, in a sneering fashion, has risen in his place and said: “ When the honorable member for Scullin talks about the question of overseas funds, he suffers from a mental purge,” whatever he may mean by that. But did the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) suffer from a mental purge when he said that the established industries of this country should not be sold to overseas interests because, as he said, if overseas interests dominate the industries of this country, the Australian people will lose their freedom? As an honorable member pointed out earlier tonight, Australia is somewhat like a farm. You can live comfortably if you earn a good living. You can still live comfortably, although you do not earn a good living, if you sell part of the farm every year. We in Australia are selling a bit of the farm every year. When we have sold most of it, our difficulties will become greater and greater.
I point out to members of the Ministry that the mental purge from which I am said to suffer evidently is experienced by quite a lot of other members of the community. I know that honorable members opposite have said: “ You have to buy knowhow. You have to pay for invention. You have to pay for the best knowledge available overseas in order to promote the industries of this country.” In many instances, this knowledge that comes from overseas has proved to be merely a name or a label for the use of which we pay an exorbitant price. I have here an article from the “ Australian “, which appears under the heading, “ We should not import knowhow “. It states -
The firm that prefers to import its knowhow is simply following the normal commercial practice of buying in the cheapest market.
But when we look at this problem from a wider, national view it seems there are long term losses for Australia as a whole involved, which cannot be reckoned in the narrow calculus of an individual firm’s costs.
That newspaper considers that even this knowhow is being purchased at too high a price. All kinds of authoritative journals and people in Australia are pointing out that the domination of our industries by overseas capital is not necessarily in the interests of the people of Australia. Then we have the views of Professor Edwards of the University of Sydney. Far be it from me to argue with professors. He asks: Who are we that we utilise this capital that comes from other countries, if it is good for us to do so, while there are so many backward and undeveloped countries that need it more than we do? To paraphrase Sir Philip Sidney: Their need is greater than ours. My attitude on this issue is not that of Professor Edwards. My attitude is that we should do what is in the best interests of Australia. I believe that the best interests of Australia are not being served by what “ Newsweek “ has described as the American invasion of Australia or by what the British Information Service described when it mentioned the investment of £662 million in Australia. This overseas investment in Australia will increase. It is so good for the investors that they all have their eyes on us.
Recently, a survey was conducted in the United States of America to ascertain what was likely to be the total of American expenditure abroad during the next few years. The survey indicated that the total of American investment abroad would rise from 3 billion dollars a year to 4 billion dollars a year within the next few years. At present, 28 per cent, of United States investment abroad is made in Canada. This will be reduced to 20 per cent. The proportion made in Latin America will be reduced from 24 per cent, to 20 per cent. The proportion of American investment that goes to European countries outside the European Common Market will be considerably reduced. At present, about 10 per cent, of United States investment abroad goes to the area in which Australia is situated. This will be increased to 16 per cent. So the increase of American investment in our part of the world represents an increase from 10 per cent, of 3 billion dollars a year to 16 per cent, of 4 billion dollars a year. And that represents only the increase in investment by one coun.ry during the next few years. The hour when the British must get out of Hong Kong draws nearer, and those who have financial interests there want to transfer their investments to some more secure place. As a consequence, they are trying to invest their money in the industries, land and other resources of Australia. They will exploit this country to the limit.
My time is getting short. I have said enough to demonstrate to the House the immensity of the problem that faces Australia, with particular reference to the immensity of the total sum that must be remitted overseas in dividends. Do other countries treat overseas investment as we in Australia treat it? Certainly not. In nearly every other country that imports capital, the inflow is restricted and regulated by legislation or treaties. Japan has done this for very many years. By legislation and treaty understandings, it prevents the entry of all kinds of capital from the United States. India has invoked similar protection against the inflow of capital that may militate against its interests. That country, of course, needs capital more than we in Australia need it.
During the last month, I have received from New Zealand a copy of the Takeover, Monopoly, and Foreign Investment Bill 1964, which was introduced into the New Zealand Parliament within the last two months. This measure was introduced as a result of a statement by the New Zealand Governor-General in his Speech opening the Parliament, in these terms -
My Ministers are considering whether legislation should be enacted to create a reserve power to intervene it, to the detriment of the general welfare, overseas interests should move to acquire a dominating influence in New Zealand companies.
This measure was introduced by the Opposition in the New Zealand Parliament after that announcement. The measure was defeated, but only after the Government had amplified the announcement made in Hie Governor-General’s Speech and stated that it would introduce legislation embodying most of the provisions included in the Opposition’s Bill. The New Zealand Government, of course, is not a Socialist or Labour government. It is a conservative government that is committed to protect the interests not merely of the workers but of New Zealanders generally. The Bill that I have mentioned states that capital, from wherever it comes, not owned by a citizen of New Zealand, will be deemed foreign capital. The New Zealand Government is determined to protect that country’s national resources. But our Government takes no action.
This Government has told us that last year the gross national product increased by 9 per cent. Over the last 15 years, the average annual increase in the gross national product has been about 4 per cent. For those 15 years that increase came as a result of improved methods of production, as a result of increased productivity due to better seasons and as a direct result of a considerable increase in our work force. The work force increased last year by 4.3 per cent, and our productivity by 9 per cent. One-half of that 9 per cent, came as a result of the inflow of foreign investment through the years. Other countries have not had to rely upon either a vast increase in population or the inflow of foreign capital. West Germany, Japan, the United States of America and others have increased their gross national product by more than Australia has. That, of course, condemns this Government. Further, I claim that the Government stands condemned for ignoring this problem that confronts our nation and saying nothing about it in the Budget that was presented to the Parliament.
The Deputy Prime Minister, who is the Leader of the Country Party, goes to Country Party conferences outside this Parliament and points out that the vast inflow of foreign capital is a danger, a menace, to our country, and that our freedom is at stake. But in this place, where his words could be effective, he refuses to take, or at any rate does not take, any action or make any statement about this matter.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jeff Bate) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator Marriott had been appointed to fill the vacancy on the Public Works Committee caused by the resignation of Senator Anderson.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Northern Territory. - Intermediate exhibitions are available. Students living more than 10 miles from the nearest centre where suitable education and accommodation are available are provided with a boarding allowance by the Government.
The Commonwealth is providing £5 million during 1964/65 for building and equipment in Slate technical schools and a further £4,952,900 for science laboratories and equipment in secondary schools in the States, including independent schools. £47,100 is available during 1964-65 for science laboratories and equipment in independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The Queensland Government meets 40 per cent, of the cost of approved construction projects at the eight Grammar schools in that State.
So far as can be ascertained no Government makes loans to private schools. In the Australian Capital Territory the Commonwealth reimburses interest up to a specified rate for loans raised under approved borrowing conditions to meet capital expenditure on new independent schools or extensions to those schools erected for pupils undergoing primary or secondary education.
New Smith Val:s. - Concessions for daily travel by bus in the metropolitan area are available to ell children attending recognised day schools, whether government or non-government. The same applies to the issue of free rail passes where the child attends the school nearest his home. In country areas, subsidies for private conveyance (and concessions for travel by bus as in metropolitan area) are made available on the same conditions as rail passes.
Victoria. - Concession fares on M.M.T.B. trams and buses are available to all students under 19 years of age attending State or registered schools. Railway concession fares are available similarly, travel being expected to be undertaken from the station nearest the child’s home to the station nearest the child’s school. Applications for these concessions must be certified by the school principal concerned.
Conveyance allowance is payable (a) where the child is aged 6-14 and lives more than 3 miles from either the nearest government school or the nearest registered school, and (b) where the child is at a secondary school and lives more than 3 miles from the nearest government secondary school (though he may not necessarily attend this school) or lives more than 3 miles from the nearest registered secondary school and attends this school.
In country areas, school bus services are established in accordance with the needs of the government school system, but may be used by children attending non-government schools.
Queensland. - Ordinary season rail tickets at half price are issued to scholars attending a recognised non-government day school, but if no government school is nearer, a free ticket may he granted. Children attending denominational schools in a centre to which a departmentally approved school transport service operates may use the service under the conditions applicable to children attending State schools.
South Australia. - Children attending nongovernment schools may take advantage of departmental transport facilities provided that they do not pass a government school in the process of reaching their own.
Pupils at non-government schools are eligible for free rail passes on the same terms as pupils in State schools.
Secondary school children at non-government schools who attend an approved private school may be paid an annual allowance up to the maximum of £25 a year. This allowance is calculated on the payment which they would receive if they attended the nearest government school to their home or took a school bus to it.
Western Australia. - All children up to 14 years of age may travel at half adult fare on buses. The scholar’s permit extends this concession to children up to 18 years of age, enabling them to travel at half fare to and from school until 6.30 p.m. Monday to Friday school days only. These permits are issued by school principals concerned. The scholar’s Monthly Ticket is available to students from 14 to 18 years old, enabling them to travel over’ three or more sections and one one or more routes, and is valid up to 6.30 p.m.
On Western Australian Government Railways, all children travelling to school may be issued with
School Term Tickets, Monthly Tickets, or Quarterly Tickets. These cost one-third of the adult periodical rate. Students over 18 are charged twothirds of that rate. Tickets are available on the production of a certificate from the school.
Vacation travel concession tickets are available to all students.
School buses in country areas transport nongovernment school pupils to their schools.
Australian Capital Territory. - The Department of the Interior subsidises the cost of transport of school children by public transport and approved private bus transport operators so that the amount paid by the pupils does not exceed 3d. per journey to school.
Where public transport is not available, grantsinaid payments based on a mileage rate are also paid to parents who convey their children to school or to join public or private bus transport.
Northern Territory. - Students living more than 10 miles from the nearest centre where suitable education and accommodation are available receive fares between home and school once per term up to Leaving Certificate level and annually thereafter. Conveyance allowance is payable where a student travels daily to school by car a distance of more than three miles.
New South Wales. - The Stores and Equipment Branch of the New South Wales Department of Education supplies non-government schools with the rolls, admittance registers, programme registers and similar records which the schools are required to maintain.
Through the New South Wales Government Stores, non-government schools are permitted to buy a wide range of equipment and material at the special prices charged by the Stores. Such items as chalk, stationery, scientific equipment and materials, cleaning materials, kitchen gear, linen (for boarding schools), and office type furniture (chairs, cupboards, tables, &c.) are among those which can be purchased from the Stores.
The School Magazine, together with a number of publications printed by the New South Wales Government Printer, is available for purchase by non-government schools.
Victoria. - The Stores Branch of the Education Department does supply non-government schools with certain forms, registers and documents they are required to maintain. The Stores Branch also supplies free books to children in necessitous circumstances whether they are in attendance at Stale or non-State schools.
Physical Sciences Study Committee equipment, which is essential for the new physics syllabus, is to be available for purchase from the Stores Branch by non-government schools; further details are being worked out. Publications such as the School Paper and certain text books are made available to registered schools at prices not greater than cost. Non-State schools may purchase teaching aids at the same cost as departmental schools and they also share in the distribution of free poster and picture material received from overseas sources. Free servicing is provided of approved equipment when arranged in advance through the
Visual Aids Centre, including the replacement of lamps and valves. Also, free film library service is provided with freight paid both ways.
Queensland. - On a few items, assistance to nonState schools is provided on the subsidy basis. A £1 for £1 subsidy to a maximum of £110 is available for the purchase of 16 mm. film projectors. Radiograms are also subsidised on a £1 for £1 basis.
Where school books are printed by the Government Printing Office, these are made available in bulk to non-State schools at booksellers’ rate.
South Australia. - The Stores Branch supplies free of charge to non-government schools forms and booklets used in school administration. Text books recommended by the Department for use in its own schools are re-printed and may be supplied to non-government schools at a specially reduced price. The Department also supplies nongovernment schools with advice of firms which will grant a discount to schools desiring to purchase school supplies. These supplies may include brown paper, coloured pencils, drawing instruments, equipment for agricultural science, and cookery, dressmaking text books, primers, maps and coloured chalks.
Bight maps specially prepared by the South Australian Lands Department for use in departmental schools are made available for the use of pupils in non-government schools at a price covering the cost of production.
The Education Gazette is distributed among non-government schools at a nominal subscription of 3s. per year for eleven copies.
Western Australia. - The Educational Stores Branch provides to non-government schools the following items on the same basis as items provided for State schools -
Attendance rolls, transfer forms and similar records, »
Private schools may purchase class teachers’ programme sheets from the stores.
Subsidy conditions (£1 for £1 basis) are available to government and non-government schools, alike with respect to visual education equipment (e.g. 16 mm. and 35 mm. projectors). The servicing of visual education equipment is available to all schools, which can procure film strips at subsidised rates.
Tasmania. - General school equipment may be purchased by non-government schools through the Supply and Tender Department. A subsidy of 25 per cent, on the cost of projectors, radio and radio installations, tape recorders, screens and general accessories is paid when they are purchased through the Visual Aids Centre. Free servicing of this equipment is available. Other teaching aids may be purchased at the same cost as that paid by departmental schools, and non-government schools share in the distribution of free posters and picture materials.
Attendance registers, programmes of work, admission registers and several other items are supplied free of charge. Approved books and stationery may be supplied free to parents who are unable to purchase them.
Northern Territory. - Book allowances are payable.
In Queensland, eight grammar schools receive direct assistance towards current expenditure each year. This is in two parts; first by statutory provision made before Federation each grammar school is paid £1,000 annually; second, under more recent- legislation each grammar school is given additional assistance based on enrolments in the previous year. In Victoria the Junior Scholarship book allowance is paid direct to the school concerned.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Reserve Bank have provided the following information in relation to their respective organisations as al 30th June 1963 - 1. (a) 654. (b) 837. (c) The Commonwealth Development Bank has a branch in each of the six capital cities, but applications for assistance from that bank may be directed to any branch of the Commonwealth Trading Bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank. In addition, ali major private banks, the Rural Bank of New South Wales, the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia, the State Bank of South Australia and the State Savings Bank of Victoria are agents of the Development Bank for the receipt and transmission of loan applications, (d) 10. 2. (a) Commonwealth Banking Corporation - 14,251; Reserve Bank- 2,237. (b) (i) Commonwealth Banking Corporation banks - £1,440 million; Reserve Bank - £1,109 million, (ii) Commonwealth Banking Corporation banks- £1,381 million; Reserve Bank - a separate figure for deposits held wilh the Reserve Bank is not published. However, deposits, bills payable and all other liabilities (including amounts provided for contingencies) amounted to £641 million as at 30th June 1963. This figure includes £222.6 million, Statutory Reserve Deposits of trading banks; £51.5 million, other deposits of trading banks; £185 million, deposits of savings banks; and £12.8 million, deposits of overseas institutions.
Information necessary to answer this question is not readily available. It is understood, however, that on a deposit basis the Commonwealth Banking Corporation group is approximately the twenty-fifth largest commercial banking organisation in the free world.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The level of Australia’s overseas (international) reserves over the years 1949 to the present time, together with the gold content of the reserves, has been as follows -
3 and 5. Many complex factors are involved in determining the location and type of investment suitable for Australia’s international reserves. Some of the important factors taken into consideration are Australia’s position as a member of the sterling area, the currencies in which the bulk of our external transactions are settled, the convertibility of various currencies, the ease with which securities may be bought and sold in the markets concerned and the earnings offering thereon.
The great bulk of international reserves is held in British and to a lesser extent United Slates Government securities with a relatively short life to maturity, e.g.. Treasury bills and short-dated stock and bonds. Yields are subject to very considerable changes over time and also may vary from day to day. The following figures indicate the measure of yields recently available -
Separate figures of aggregate income actually earned on international reserves are not available. However, the Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information showing the total amounts receivable from overseas in respect of interest on international reserves, other rent and interest, and dividends on portfolio investment. The major part of the total consists of interest on international reserves.
rns asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The application of the zone allowance concessions in the case of school teachers and other similiarly placed taxpayers has been examined on several occasions. Further consideration will be given to this matter when the taxation legislation is next under review.
son asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Meat Exporter Representatives - J. S. Balderstone, C. W. Hodgson.
Commonwealth Government Representative - F. N. Giles.
n asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I received a letter dated 30th April from Mr. Speyer as chairman of the Australian and New Zealand-Eastern Shipping Conference. The letter relates to certain matters which are at present the subject of legal proceedings, and I am therefore not prepared to make its contents available.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I would like to invite the honorable gentleman’s attention to my reply of 5th May 1964 (“ Hansard “ page 1489) to his question on this subject in the last session of Parliament when I informed him that it was not intended, at this stage, to state what further areas would be catered for subsequent to the completion of stage four of the television development programme which is at present being implemented. The position has not altered in the interim.
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What percentage of employers is taking (a) their full quota of apprentices, (b) less than their full quota, and (c) no apprentices?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Statistics which would enable this information to be provided are not available. However, it is well known that some employers employ more than the prescribed tradesman/apprentice ratio and that in some cases less than the ratio is employed because proper training could not be given to apprentices.
b asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640818_reps_25_hor43/>.