25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Minister for National Development a question. I ask: Has his attention been directed to criticisms of his Government’s lack of investment and interest in priority development of the north which were made by Mr. Hiley, the leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in the Queensland Parliament, who also happens to be Deputy Premier and Treasurer in the Queensland Government? These criticisms were made in Sydney on Tuesday of last week, 14th September, and were reported in some daily newspapers. Why does the Commonwealth Government court this sort of criticism so avidly by absolutely refusing to outline a plan for northern development that can be followed up by vigorous, practical developmental programmes to open up the north as a matter of urgency?
– I do not think it is always fully realised by people both inside and outside this Parliament that a tremendous amount of work is going on by way of development in the north. Because of this, I have arranged for my Department to prepare a pamphlet on the matter. I have already started to distribute copies of this to honorable members so that they will have it available during the discussion on the Estimates which will take place fairly shortly. This pamphlet sets out the ways in which the Government is assisting in the development of the north. There are four different heads of expenditure. The first covers major schemes such as those for brigalow lands, beef roads, ports and harbours and the diversion dam on the Ord River. The second head covers expenditure by Commonwealth Departments in the north. For example, it is of interest to notice that in 1950-51 £6 million of Commonwealth money was spent in the Northern Territory. In the current financial year, £31 million will be spent there by this Government. Thirdly, there is the record expenditure by both the Northern Territory Administration and the Governments of
Queensland and Western Australia. Last, but by no means least, there are the enormous sums of money that are being spent by private enterprise. If the honorable member cares to add up the-
– What about what Mr. Hiley said?
– Order! The honorable member has asked his question.
– If the honorable member cares to add up, or can add up, the sums being spent or to be spent by private enterprise, as set out in my Department’s pamphlet, be will see that a total of £360 million is at present committed for expenditure by private enterprise on major undertakings in the north. Since the pamphlet was prepared, the plans for development on the Gove Peninsula have been announced. This development will add another £50 million to that £360 million.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Criticism has recently been proffered concerning lack of government interest in industrial research and development pertaining to production efficiency and methods. Will the Minister please tell the House whether his Department has made any progress in providing business management with the latest information on production efficiency and methods?
– I would like to divide my answer into three sections, dealing first with scientific research, then with industrial design and lastly with industrial efficiency. Dealing first with industrial research, the Government has before it at the moment proposals submitted by representatives of industry for more research by private industry itself into the problems of manufacturing and tertiary industries. I make no comment at all about the problem that is now before the Government. Secondly, there is the problem of industrial design - that is, of better performance, of coping with quality tastes and of increasing our international trade on a quality basis. I believe that industrial research on these lines offers enormous advantages to the Australian export industries.
I would like to deal with the other problem on the basis of my own bailiwick, my own portfolio, and explain what we are doing in order to achieve industrial efficiency. I will mention just two kinds of action that we are taking because I think you will understand, Sir, that I cannot go through the whole ritual and routine. A few months ago - a few years ago perhaps - we decided to initiate what we called productivity groups. Already we have about 120 productivity groups in which some 1,800 manufacturers have decided to participate.
– The Minister is taking too long. This is an arranged question.
– It is not an arranged question. I knew nothing about it. It is not the business of the Leader of the Opposition anyway. As I say, we now have 1,800 firms co-operating in a production efficiency drive. I believe that after a time we will find that these manufacturing concerns will have played an important part in improving industrial efficiency in this country. Lastly, I may say that each month or couple of months the Department of Labour and National Service issues a personnel practices bulletin. I am sorry that this bulletin is not more widely available. I think that if it were and if it became understood it also would make a contribution towards industrial efficiency.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Is the Minister aware that the Victorian Housing Industry Research Committee has reported that the demand for low priced housing in Victoria has almost collapsed? Does the Minister know that this position arises because of the mounting costs of home building and the ever increasing difficulty of bridging the deposit gap, and that these difficulties have almost eliminated the low price home seeker from the housing market? As this state of affairs has been with us for a number of years and becomes worse daily, I ask the Minister whether the Government has any real plans to help low wage earners in their efforts to secure homes to live in.
– I know of the pamphlet to which the honorable member refers. It has, of course, enjoyed widespread circulation.
It is common knowledge that the provision of adequate finance for housing in a fully employed economy is a matter of great and continuing difficulty, because there are many demands on the economy which lie well beyond the control of any central authority. It is an unfortunate fact that there has been a recent decrease in the rate of increase of savings bank deposits. Low and moderate priced housing - apart from the housing provided by State housing commissions - is dependent to a large degree on the rate of savings bank lending. This rate of savings bank lending depends very directly on the level of savings bank deposits. In 1963-64, when we had balance of payments surpluses and deposits were increasing rapidly, the savings banks were able to make a very large proportion of their funds available for housing loans. In 1964-65 the level of new savings bank deposits fell somewhat, and consequently and inevitably in recent months the rate of lending by savings banks, both to ordinary house purchasers and to building societies, has fallen to some degree. This is not yet an alarming degree, but there is a tendency, unfortunately, for the rate of increase in current circumstances to accelerate. However, I assure the honorable member that my Department is in constant touch on these matters with the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia to ensure that if there is likely to be any serious decline adequate measures will be taken ahead of time.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, concerns the threat being made by Communist China to India. Can the honorable gentleman give any information te indicate whether all the machinery of the United Nations, for what it is worth, has been or will be invoked to attempt to quench Communist Chinese ambitions? Further, will the Minister, in the light of the threatened invasion, cause the significance of Australian exports to Communist China to be looked at afresh?
– If I may deal briefly with the latter part of the honorable member’s question first, I should like to do so. All Australian exports to Communist China are scrutinised very carefully and no exports that would be of strategic value to China are permitted. On the general question, I am sure that it is a cause of great concern to every member of this House that, at a time when India and Pakistan are engaged in hostilities, a new element should have been brought into the situation by the ultimatum delivered by Communist China to India, based on charges of frontier incursions, which India has replied to by saying that they are completely unfounded, are trumped up and are indicative of an aggressive intention.
The Chinese action in meddling in this particular situation can only aggravate it and cause further confusion and further trouble. This, of course, is of a piece with a great number of actions by Communist China in the whole of Asian affairs where Communist China allows no trouble situation to pass without trying to advance its own policies by intervention. I would like to draw some atom of comfort from the situation by directing attention to the fact that in the Security Council it has been possible for all the permanent members and the elected members to join together in a resolution on the India-Pakistan trouble. The resolution shows the very deep concern, not only of Britain, the United States of America and France, but also of the Soviet Union and other nations which have customarily taken opposite sides over this very grave threat to the happiness and welfare of millions of people and this threat to the peace of Asia.
– My question to the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer is prompted by the serious misgivings which he expressed last night on the competence of the Vernon Committee, particularly in estimating the probable extent of foreign ownership and the cost of servicing foreign investment. As seven members of the secretariat of the Committee, including its secretary, came from the Treasury or the Bureau of Census and Statistics and four, including the executive officer, came from the Prime Minister’s Department, does the right honorable gentleman consider that these officers are any more reliable when they prepare information for him than when they prepared information for the Committee?
– The question, of course, is intrinsically foolish.
– He is a lawyer.
– Who called him a lawyer?
– I did.
– Oh, I see. If even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition expects me to engage in a debate about civil servants, and how they advise and what they do, then he has come too late in the day for me. All I want to say is that last night, by agreement, we decided that the debate on the Vernon Committee’s report - a very important report - should be adjourned until a day in a few weeks’ time - whatever date is agreed upon between the Leader of the Opposition and myself - when we should be in a position to discuss the report in full. I want to make it quite clear that I do not propose to engage in a debate about it in the form of answers to questions.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Housing, following on a question I asked him yesterday. As the Salvation Army is in a unique position as to service in battle areas, will the Minister undertake to review the position of all voluntary service organisations, giving due regard to the particular emphasis of the Salvation Army role, and see whether special attention could be given to applications from members of this organisation for aid under the War Service Homes Act?
– Since the honorable member asks for it, this matter certainly will be given further consideration. At the moment I have in view a number of changes to the War Service Homes Act arising out of new conditions of service in South East Asia and South Vietnam which, of course, call for different treatment from that used in the last two wars, because the circumstances are very different. Most honorable members who served during the war will be well aware of the great contribution made by officers of the Salvation Army. This is also true of quite a number of other organisations. For instance, in our own Department of Information we had war photographers, war correspondents and others who undertook considerable risks. All these questions involving other bodies were considered very carefully at the end of the war in 1945 by the then Government, and for various reasons service with these bodies was not included as being admissible under the law. Since then, over the years there have been many representations from the Salvation Army and kindred organisations. When one goes into details, particularly of service given by various individuals, one finds that it is invidious to distinguish between some of them. Successive governments from both sides of the Parliament have considered the matter over the years and for various reasons - particularly now that it is 20 years since hostilities ceased - have not seen fit so far to include these people. Many others could legitimately claim recognition along lines similar to members of the Salvation Army. Repatriation benefits are not extended in the same way to other people as they are extended to those who enlisted directly for the fighting forces. However, since this question has been raised with me it will be looked at again over the next few months, because we will be modifying the legislation; but at this stage I cannot hold out any hope that the Government will come to any conclusion different from the decision of its predecessors in previous years.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House of the present position regarding the establishment of an official border between West Irian and Papua and New Guinea?
– The border between the Territory of New Guinea and Papua, under Australian administration, and the territory now under Indonesian administration is quite clear. There are international instruments which describe the border in exact terms and these international instruments are accepted by all governments concerned. On the Australian side, mapping of the border area has been completed, and the border is defined on maps. One action that needs to be completed is the marking of the border en the ground by modern survey methods and the checking of existing markers that have been there for some time. We have been in discussion with the Indonesian Government and the Indonesians have agreed to take part with Australian survey teams in the marking of the border on the ground and the checking of the existing markers. We expect that the first action along these lines will take place round about November or December of this year and that the actual survey on the ground will commence early in 1966.
– I address to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question supplementary to one that he answered a few minutes ago. Can the Minister say broadly what phases of industry are embraced by the industrial efficiency movement that is alerting his department, and to what extent the trade union movement is being co-opted in the drive for industrial efficiency? Can he say, further, whether the drive for industrial efficiency is firmly related to improved technology in production, leading up to automation, and if this is the case, whether security of employment is being assured, this being a matter of tremendous importance to all employees in the industries where the drive for efficiency is taking place?
– I think the honorable gentleman knows as well as anyone in this House that it is not always possible to guarantee people employment in industries where demand is falling due to changes in taste. What this Government has done consistently through the years has been to see that demand is kept high enough to ensure that the great bulk of our population is employed. We have the great advantage in this community that, while the Menzies Government has been in office - I go right back in history to get to the date when it first came to office - the state of employment has been such that less than 2 per cent, and frequently less than 1 per cent, of the work force have been registered with the Department of Labour and National Service for employment.
The second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, which is important, relates to the problems of automation. We do not think that automation raises great problems because we believe that we can keep demand sufficiently high to enable industry to employ the increase in the work force and those who might be diverted from ona industry to another. However, I believe that the time is approaching - I think this is a point that the honorable member wants to get at - when, in accordance with a decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress, we should again be considering whether we need a special section of the Department to deal with the problems of automation and mechanisation as they emerge. Knowing the honorable member’s keen interest in these problems, I give him my personal assurance that I also am greatly interested in them.
Mr. WENTWORTH__ I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Does Communist China’s claim for admission to the United Nations include a claim to a permanent seat on the Security Council and a power of veto? Could such power be used to thwart the Security Council’s efforts to settle the present unhappy conflict between India and Pakistan? Will the Minister instruct Australia’s representative at the United Nations to bring this situation to the notice of other members as an added argument against the admission of Communist China to the United Nations?
– I think it may be safety assumed that China would not accept admission to the United Nations, assuming admission were granted, unless China were to succeed to a permanent seat on the Security Council.
– Has China said that?
– I think that conclusion .may be drawn from all that China has said. One mistake often made is to assume that China has sought admission to the United Nations. A great deal of the advocacy for China’s admission to the United Nations has not been on the part of China. China has shown no great readiness to join the United Nations. The agitation has come from other nations which think that China should be there. One may also conclude with certainty that if China had been a member of the Security Council at this juncture she would have used her power of veto to prevent the passing of the very hopeful resolution to which the Security Council agreed only the other day. I say that because all of China’s other actions in relation to this dispute have been such as to justify us in concluding that China would not have been a party to the conciliatory and helpful resolution which was agreed to by the Security Council. The permanent representative of the Australian Government in the United Nations headquarters and the leader of the delegation to the General Assembly have been fully briefed on this Government’s views about the admission of China to membership of the United Nations.
– Will the Minister for Territories say whether he intends to make available to honorable members the terms of the agreement recently concluded between the Government and Nabalco Pty. Ltd. in respect of the Gove bauxite leases, so that the Parliament may assure itself that the national interest and that of the Aborigines of the Northern Territory are being fully protected? It will be recalled that a similar agreement between the French Pechiney group and the Commonwealth in relation to another part of the Gove area was made available to the Parliament.
– Details of the agreement between the Government and Nabalco Pty. Ltd. have not been finalised. This matter is the subject of a motion on the notice paper. It will be the subject of a debate in the House, which will provide ample opportunity to survey the whole agreement. The rights of Aborigines in the area have been protected in every way. The provisions in the agreement relating to the rights of Aborigines are on all fours with those contained in the agreement relating to the Groote Eylandt operation. These have proved very satisfactory and a number of Aborigines are employed in the Groote Eylandt operation at full award rates. The agreement relating to the Gove deposits will present employment opportunities for Aborigines in a very remote area where otherwise there would not be adequate employment, which is vital if their standard of living is to be improved. As my colleague, the Minister for National Development, has pointed out, development of the Gove bauxite deposits will provide splendid opportunities for advancement of the people of the Northern Territory, particularly the Aborigines.
– I ask a question of the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. The case for assistance to the olive oil industry was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry on 25th June 1964. Is the Minister aware that in its annual report the Board states that there is an average of 14 months delay from the time of reference of a subject to the Tariff Board until completion of the Board’s report? As the olive oil industry is vitally interested in the result of this inquiry I ask: Can the Minister give an indication when the Tariff Board report on this industry will be available?
– I understand that the Tariff Board has concluded its public inquiry into the olive oil industry. Therefore, a report from the Board can be expected shortly. I can assure the honorable member that there will be no unavoidable delay on the part of the Government in considering the Board’s recommendations. In the meantime, as probably the honorable member is well aware, the olive oil industry is protected under an order made as the result of a report of the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere, in September 1964.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of the success of the legal aid scheme in the United Kingdom which has been in operation in recent years, managed by the legal profession and assisted to a limited extent financially by the British Government? Will the Minister inform the House whether any consideration has been given to introducing a similar scheme for Commonwealth courts? If not, will he look into the possibility of introducing such a scheme and also, in consultation with the States, have explored the possibility of having this legal aid system adopted as a uniform system throughout the Commonwealth?
– I am aware that there is a legal aid system operating in the United Kingdom. I am aware also that it is credited with success in its field. But by the very nature of things it is a scheme which is designed to suit a unitary system, whereas we in Australia have six State jurisdictions and a Federal jurisdiction. Some of the legal aid schemes of the six States differ in their operation, although some are alike. The New South Wales scheme is distinctly different from the others. The Law Society of Australia put to me some time ago, of its own volition, a paper in which it recommended that we should adopt the English legal aid system. I had some discussions with the Council of the Law Society of Australia and I understand that the Council is now considering putting further submissions before me. The whole question will be considered in the future, and no doubt in terms of the Commonwealth court.
– My question is directed to your good self, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware, Sir, that 15 dignified, Australian, Christian ladies, members of the respected Save Our Sons Movement, were forbidden to enter the people’s Parliament, King’s Hall sector, yesterday after lunch when seeking their members, and were held up for about an hour? Are you also aware that these Australian ladies were also forbidden to come closer than 100 yards to the entrance of Parliament House this morning, prior to the Governor-General’s arrival? Can you say who issued instructions directed against these people, some of them constituents of mine, depriving them of the benefit of a long-cherished democratic principle, and for what reason such instructions were given?
– If any member of a delegation seeks admission to the House to meet his or her member it is in the hands of the member to say whether or not he or she is admitted. If members of this delegation yesterday asked to see the honorable member for Hunter and were not admitted, then the honorable member had fallen down on his job.
– I address my question to you, Mr. Speaker. You, Sir, and the President of the Senate are the Presiding Officers of the Parliament and I understand that the President of the Senate is the Chairman of the Joint House Committee. Would the position described by the honorable member for Hunter have obtained if instructions had not been issued within the last few days that any person coming from any part of Australia who desired to see any member of the House of Representatives must be held downstairs and not admitted to King’s Hall until the member concerned accepted such person and brought him up to King’s Hall? Several honorable members have complained about this situation in the last few days. It affects in part the question asked by the honorable member.
– I think the practice is quite clear. Individuals or members of delegations seeking admission to the House have the right to send for their member. Quite recently we had an experience with waterside workers who were here. Unfortunately, some members of the House did not play along with the rule and as a result King’s Hall became a lobbying centre. This interfered with the rights and privileges of honorable members. It has always been the practice and the custom that electors seeking to meet their representatives have the right to do so. All they need to do is to present their credentials and send their request to the member. The member then says “ Yes “ or “ No “. At the same time, the Presiding Officers have the obligation to protect other honorable members from being molested in King’s Hall by people in whom they are not interested.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport in his capacity as representative of the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Is it a fact that the C.S.I.R.O. has made a break through in the control of skeleton weed? If the Minister does not have the answer at his finger tips, will he inform the House in due course so that all honorable members may be fully advised on this matter?
– I do not have the answer at my finger tips, so I will refer the question to my colleague in another place and obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the passed over Treasurer. Has he seen the statement by Sir Alan Westerman, the permanent Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry-
– Order! The honorable member made a reflection on the Minister. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– He was not passed over; he was not even considered.
– Order! The honorable member for Hughes will remain silent.
– I ask: Has the Minister seen the statement by Sir Alan Westerman, the permanent Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, that wharves in Australia are unnecessarily congested because of the timing of arrivals and the mis-use of chains of sheds as warehouses, that wharves built decades ago are unsuited to modern cargo handling and that it is just ludicrous to think that the complete solution rests with the waterside workers? When the Minister next tries to place all the blame for increased stevedoring costs on waterside workers, will he bear these facts in mind? What is the Government doing to improve cargo handling in all Australian ports?
– I did see some Press reports of comments said to have been made by Sir Alan Westerman, the permanent Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. I have not seen a detailed report or the actual transcript of the speech he made. The first comment I wish to make is that I believe many of the Australian ports are out of date and that the equipment at them could be improved. As the honorable gentleman will know, port facilities do not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament; they are exclusively within the jurisdiction of the State Parliaments. Nonetheless, recently when I appointed Mr. Woodward to inquire into conditions on the waterfront, I did, with the approval of the Prime Minister, include a request, as one of the terms of reference, that he inquire into the efficiency of the main ports of Australia and of the outports as well. I await that report with interest. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I do not place all the blame for lack of efficiency on waterside workers themselves.
– This is the first time we have had that admission.
– I do not blame the individual waterside workers. Whenever I have cause to place the blame, I place is squarely where I believe it belongs.
– On the shipowners.
– No, not on the shipowners but on the controllers of the waterfront. I think I can say that in many cases we have come to the conclusion that the standards of supervision and the standards of efficient supervising of stevedoring work can be considerably improved. I have told my Department on several occasions - and I have frequently taken this up with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority - that we must ensure that so far as stevedore foremen and supervision are concerned, we must get a greater degree of efficiency if we are to get the throughput we want.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. I would preface it by saying that it is rather technical and complex and I would not expect an answer immediately although I know that the Prime Minister probably could give me one. My question is: On the introduction of decimal currency in Australia, will any changes be required in sugar industry securities? I refer to, first, continuing bank orders as well as annual orders; secondly, crop liens, continuing and annual, from both bank and other financial sources; and thirdly, sugar mill orders based on total amounts and also per ton cane. Finally, can the Acting Treasurer indicate what type of security will have to be completely renewed with the introduction of decimal currency?
– Naturally I have these technical problems at my finger tips, but, as I am not co-ordinated in the finger tips, all I want to say is that it is a good question, I understand its importance, and it deserves a good answer. I will treat it as if it were on the notice paper and I will see that the honorable member gets his answer.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he has considered the representations that have been made concerning the burial of servicemen who have lost their lives in the service of this country overseas. Is there any valid reason why the bodies of servicemen killed in action overseas cannot be returned to Australia for burial at the expense of the Australian Government?
– All I can say in reply to the honorable gentleman is that this has been the long standing policy of successive governments.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Air to reports that the Canberra jet bombers of the Royal Australian Air Force have been grounded because hairline cracks have been found in the fuselage of Canberra jets in England. Will the Minister tell me whether this is correct, and will he make some statement to the House on the matter?
– It is true that advice was received from the Royal Air Force on Saturday about this matter. All Canberra jet bombers were grounded at the time and they are in the course of being inspected. Those bombers in Malaysia have already been inspected. No cracks have been found. All the bombers are fully serviceable and are flying again. We expect that the Canberras in Australia will be flying again in the next two or three days.
– by leave - I apologise to the House for not having been here at the beginning of question time. This has been a rather difficult sort of day. I had intended to say at the beginning of the day’s proceedings - and I will now say by the consent of the Leader of the Opposition - that, as honorable members are aware, the Governor-General, Lord Casey, was sworn in this morning in Canberra. I should like to take the opportunity now to give the House formal advice of that and to extend our good wishes to His Excellency and Lady Casey. I know that in this I speak for all honorable members, many of whom had a personal association with Lord Casey during the years in which he was a member of this House and in his other public activities. In the light of this, our expression of good wishes and our congratulations are on this occasion, and to him, as I know, especially significant.
Bill presented by Mr. Barnes, and read a first time.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1962 sets out the arrangements made by the Parliament for the government of the Northern Territory. The Bill now before the House proposes two principal amendments to the Act. The first of these amendments is of a constitutional nature and. provides that the Administrator be withdrawn from the Legislative Council for the Territory both as a member and as President of the Council, and that the Legislative Council elect the President from among the elected and non-official members of the Council. A number of consequential changes to other provisions of the Act flow from this amendment and these also arc contained in the present Bill.
The other purpose of this Bill is to change the name of the Wards Benefits Trust Fund, which is established by section 21 of the Act, to the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund. It might be of assistance to honorable members if I first dealt with this proposed amendment, leaving the constitutional amendment until later. Section 21 of the Act now provides that royalties from mining and timber operations on land reserved for wards shall be paid into the Wards Benefits Trust Fund. The Minister can direct that payments be made out of that Fund for the benefit of wards or institutions established for the care and assistance of wards. I might explain here that the only persons in the Territory who were declared to be wards under the legislation of the time were Aborigines. The Social Welfare Ordinance which repealed the law under which wards were declared came into operation in September 1964 and since then there have been no wards. It is necessary therefore to change the present name of the Fund, and to direct that payments from the Fund shall be made to or for the benefit of Aborigines.
I return now to the constitutional amendment. Honorable members will recall that the last occasion on which constitutional arrangements for the Northern Territory were reviewed in detail by this House was in 1959. At that time the House was considering amendments to the principal Act following discussions between the Government and the Legislative Council. As a result of amendments made to the Act on that occasion the Legislative Council, which up to that time had contained a majority of official members, was reconstituted to comprise the Administrator, six official members, eight elected members and three non-official members appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator. The Administrator’s Council was also established as an advisory body to the Administrator on executive aspects of government, and the procedures with respect to assent to and disallowance or nondisallowance of ordinances were amended so that ordinances could be returned by the Administrator or the Governor-General with recommended amendments.
At the discussions which preceded those amendments Legislative Councillors strongly urged that the subject of constitutional progress in the Territory be reviewed at least every five years. The principle of reviewing constitutional arrangements in the light of other development in the Territory is one which the Government has always endorsed. In introducing the 1959 measure, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), who was then Minister for Territories, made it quite clear these changes were transitional and not final proposals on constitutional development in the Territory. They represented only what the Government felt could be done at that time and as further change in the Territory situation took place further progress could readily be made. In 1963, following a report of a select committee which it had appointed, the Legislative Council requested further discussions with the Government on constitutional arrangements for the Territory. For a number of reasons, including impending Federal elections, these discussions could not take place until July 1964, when my colleagues, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), met a delegation of members of the Legislative Council.
In brief, the particular scheme of government proposed by the delegation from the Legislative Council was that the Legislative
Council be expanded to consist of between 18 and 22 members, of whom 2 would be official members, and that a separate Revenue Fund be established, revenue raised locally to be paid into that fund and such payments being supplemented by a Commonwealth grant. The Legislative Council would have the power to make appropriations from the Revenue Fund and an Executive Council of six members, including the two official members, of the Legislative Council should be established with responsibility for the administration of departments, the Administrator being required to act on the advice of the Executive Council. The scheme also called for the progressive assignment of powers and responsibilities of the Commonwealth until the powers of the Commonwealth in the Territory were confined to normal Federal functions. Although the functions to be initially transferred were not specifically listed, Legislative Councillors had indicated that the functions which they proposed for transfer included lands, mining, agriculture, animal industry, water resources, forestry, fisheries and other functions which they considered to be of a local nature. This scheme was combined with a statement that this was a transitional constitution to give elected members experience in the administration of government with a view to the establishment of a fully representative and responsible government by 1972, depending on population and development of the Territory at that time.
There are obvious objections to a scheme of government under which, for example, Commonwealth public servants who are responsible to their Minister would also be responsible to such an Executive Council for the administration of departments of government, and Indeed such an arrangement would place the public servants concerned in a most difficult situation. The real issue, however, is what would be the effect of a scheme of government on the lines proposed. If there were an almost wholly elected Legislative Council with the power of appropriation, and there were Northern Territory Executive Councillors controlling the operations of departments concerned with most, if not all, of the functions which in our Federal system are the province of the States, the result of agreeing to this scheme of government would be to transfer at once to Legislative Councillors the substantive authority which would be vested in the Northern Territory if it were a State of the Commonwealth.
In considering whether the Northern Territory has developed to the stage where a form of government which transfers to members of the Territory legislature all the authority which is necessary to constitute self-government could be introduced, there are certain factors in the Territory situation which must be taken into account. The first of these is the size of the population. The total population has risen from some 39,000 people in 1958 to more than 51,000 today, and the number of electors in the same period has increased from 8,000 approximately to 16,160. This is barely half the number of electors in the smallest Commonwealth electorate. It is quite true to say that there has been a substantial increase both in the Territory population and the electorate since the Parliament last considered the constitutional arrangements for the Territory. These figures must, however, be looked at in the context of the vastness of the Territory and the uneven spread of the population before they can be given their real meaning. In an area of 523,000 square miles the population figure represents something like one person to every 10 square miles, and this lack of human resources available to develop the Territory is accentuated when it is considered that more than 21,000 of the people and two thirds of the electors reside in Darwin and Alice Springs.
The second factor to be taken into account is the financial dependence of the Territory. In 1964-65 Commonwealth expenditure in the Northern Territory on local or State-type functions, as distinct from expenditure on matters such as civil aviation, social services, posts and telegraphs, totalled £19.3 million. In comparison, revenue of a local or State nature totalled £2.8 million. The dependence of the Territory on Commonwealth expenditure can be best illustrated if the difference between local revenue and local expenditure can be assumed to represent the equivalent of a Commonwealth grant to a State. In 1964-65 this difference represented a Commonwealth subvention of £319 per head while Western Australia, the State receiving the largest per-head grants from the Commonwealth, received £84.1 per head for the same period. The same figures based on the 1965-66 Estimates are £365 for the Northern Territory and £99.4 in the case of Western Australia. In other words the Northern Territory subvention per head of population is over 3i times the Western Australian per-head figure. In the Northern Territory there is, in fact, a continually increasing gap. The pattern for expenditure by the Commonwealth on local matters in the Territory has for some years been one of annual increase. It has risen from £0.9 million in 1946-47 to £8.6 million in 1958-59 with an estimated expenditure this year of £22.84 million. In the same period local revenue has risen from £148,648 in 1946-47 to an estimated £3.05 million this year. Even if we add to estimated local revenue this year a generous figure for a State-type grant from the Commonwealth of, say, £150 per head of population, this would mean an additional £7.77 million bringing total estimated revenue for the Territory this year to £10.81 mil-ion as against estimated expenditure of £22.84 million.
The conclusion that must be drawn from these figures is that, for some years at least, this gap between expenditure and what a Territory Executive might expect to receive in revenue, will continue. In time this situation will change. The climate of opportunity established and maintained by the Government is beginning to yield significant results. Honorable members will be aware of some of the prospects, which are particularly striking in the field of mineral development. The Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., is engaged in a substantial project to mine manganese on Groote Eylandt. The construction work is well in advance and some 300 men are now employed on the project. At Frances Creek the iron ore deposit is being developed under a contract to export three million tons of ore to Japan over a period of eight years commencing early in 1967. Mount Isa Mines Ltd. holds prospecting and mining rights in the Macarthur River area where it has proved deposits of lead and zinc. Substantial exploration for natural gas and oil is continuing in the Mereenie area. As I announced in this House on 15th September 1965, the Government has approved the grant of a lease over the main Gove bauxite deposits to Nabalco Pty. Ltd. The agreement with the Government will require the company to establish an alumina plant at Gove of 500,000 tons per annum capacity, and to examine the economics of establishing an aluminium smelter in the Territory.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are other substantial enterprises now at the stage of negotiation. Nor is the development in the private sector limited to mining; for example, the Shell Company of Australia is building a £500,000 hot bulk bitumen plant in Darwin.
On the Government side, the development activity is equally formidable. Under the programme for construction of beef roads, the Katherine- Willeroo beef road is being constructed and sealed at a cost of £775,000; work is expected to begin later in the year on a 104 mile stretch of bitumen sealed road from Willeroo to Top Springs costing £860,000. In the four years ending 30th June 1 965 expenditure on beef roads totalled £2.85 million. In connection with the Frances Creek iron ore project Commonwealth Railways are acquiring new rolling stock, workshops and permanent way equipment and the Northern Territory Port Authority is constructing the necessary stockpile loading and wharf facilities at Darwin; the total Government expenditure on these projects will be in excess of £2 million, the bulk of which will be recouped over eight years. As part of the arid zone research work being undertaken in Central Australia, a new Animal Industry Research Laboratory is to be established at Alice Springs costing £225,000; the work is to start this financial year.
The pastoral industry is, of course, one of the basic elements in the development of the Territory and progress in this field is resulting from combined activities in the public and private sectors. The establishment of meatworks at Darwin and Katherine, the creation of a stable market, the construction of beef roads and the results of research and experimental work by the Administration have provided an incentive to substantially increased private investment in the pastoral industry. The result of these developments is that the annual increase in beef carcass production has in recent years averaged 18.7 per cent. A major consideration with development is security of investment. Substantial investors are always concerned about security and want assurance that laws concerning leases, for example, would not be changed during the currency of the leases.
Development is a national responsibility. At this stage development is likely to require substantial public investment, in research, trial and experiment, and in public facilities, to match substantial private investment. Generally the public investment is as essential to the establishment of the project as the private investment, and shares the same risks. There is therefore a special responsibility to the taxpayers, who provide the money, to keep the right balance between, on the one hand, a positive approach to. development, and, on the other, ensuring that there is a sound basis for the expenditure of public money when all considerations are taken into account.
For the reasons which I have outlined, the Government was not able to agree at this stage to the proposals of the Legislative Council for constitutional reform. Legislative Councillors were informed that the Government considered that any measures to enlarge local autonomy should begin with the extension of local government in the Territory. In this connection, note must be made of the fact that only the people of Darwin have accepted the responsibility for local government functions, although the Government has offered to assist the establishment of further councils and to subsidise their operations as was and is being done for the Darwin City Council. The Government has also offered to consider any request by the Legislative Council for the transfer of business undertakings, such as the electricity and water supply now operated by the Commonwealth, to either local government or specially constituted boards or commissions.
The Government did, however, consider a number of specific requests from the Legislative Council delegation. One of these, on which the delegation placed a good deal of emphasis, was that the Administrator should withdraw from the Presidency of the Legislative Council and that an elected or nonofficial member should be elected to that position. The provisions of this Bill, other than those which I have already explained which relate to the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund, give effect to this proposal. Apart from the withdrawal of the Administrator, the composition of the Legislative Council remains unchanged. The Bill provides for the election of a President and an Acting President, and for filling a vacancy of president when the Council is not in session. Consequent upon the reduction in the number of members, the number of members who may request the holding of a session and the number who make up a quorum is reduced by one. Consequential changes are also proposed to the provisions of the Act relating to resignations of members and to the minutes of the Council and authority for appropriation measures.
In relation to the other matters raised by the delegation which do not require legislative changes, the Legislative Council has also been informed that the Government sees no objection to the Administrator considering the views of members of the Legislative Council, other than official members, before the Administrator makes his nominations from those members for appointment to the Administrator’s Council.
The Legislative Councillors also asked that they be given some opportunity to discuss the Territory Estimates. While the Commonwealth Parliament continues to appropriate in detail the public expenditures of the Territory, constitutional arrangements between the Parliament and the Legislative Council do not permit the Legislative Council to debate the Territory items of the Commonwealth Estimates. In the normal business of the Legislative Council, members do, of course, express opinions which have a bearing on the Territory Estimates and works programmes and these opinions are taken fully into account when the draft Estimates and works programmes are prepared. Arising from the constitutional discussions the Legislative Council has also been informed that there is no objection to the Administrator giving the Administrator’s Council specific opportunity each year, in advance of the preparation of the draft Estimates, to put forward suggestions on particular items for the Estimates and works programmes.
The Government does not have a restrictive approach in this matter. Nor is it correct to represent that the people of the Northern Territory are bereft of political rights. Through the majority of private members in the Legislative Council, through the private members of the Administrator’s Council and through their member in this House, the people of the Northern Territory have a very substantial voice in their affairs. It is right that this should be so. But it is also right that regard should be had to the facts of the situation which have determined the Government’s conclusions at this stage. The arrangements will again be reviewed at appropriate intervals. Any proposals which may be put forward at any time will be fully considered against the background of the relevant facts as they then appear. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 16), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure now before the House for consideration concerns Australia’s great wheat industry, which at the moment is our second largest revenue earner. Last year exports pf wheat brought a net return to the Commonwealth of Australia and its people of approximately £ 170 million. With the exception of the sugar industry, the wheat industry is probably our most efficiently organised primary industry from a marketing point of view. Wheat marketing has been organised from about 1948, with the backing of Commonwealth legislation and complementary legislation by the six Australian State Parliaments. The industry has been guided politically by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation.
From its inception the Australian wheat industry has always had a substantial interest in research work, which has been carried out by the various governmental agricultural departments, by the Waite Agricultural Research Institute and by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The industry became so progressive in its outlook and so impressed with the work done by the organisations that I have mentioned that it saw fit in 1957 to intimate to the Government that it was prepared to pay a levy on a per bushel basis to raise money for additional research work. According to the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), the levy that has been operating up to the present is one-fourth of a penny per bushel. It is now contemplated by this legislation, and concurred in by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, that the levy should be increased to three-tenths of a penny per bushel, an increase of onetwentieth of a penny per bushel. The proposed increase has been fixed at this level in order to fit in later with the decimal currency system. It was obvious when the levy was concurred in by the Federation and adopted in legislation by the Government that the growers would look for some Government support. In view of the fact that the industry is a good one, which means very much to our economy, the Government agreed - I think rightly so - to subsidise the research levy on a £1 for £1 basis.
The Minister informed us - and I know this to be correct - that in 1957 a Wheat Industry Research Committee was set up in each State. Unfortunately in Victoria there were quarrels about the siting of the research buildings that were to be established. The Commonwealth Wheat Industry Research Council exercises an overall surveillance and it has recommendation functions. The Minister’s second reading speech shows that the type of research engaged in is extensive. For instance, in connection with soils the research covers soil nitrogen, fertility, organic matter, microbiology, tillage and moisture conservation. Research is conducted into plant physiology, plant breeding, wheat quality, wheat diseases, wheat storage, noxious weeds, mechanisation and so on. From the Wheat Research Trust Account an annual allocation is made for scholarships. This is all very desirable because, after all, the wheat industry is a great industry. It works under probably the best organised marketing scheme for primary products that Australia has yet devised. Its importance to our economy has been recognised by all governments. There is a requirement in our marketing legislation for the growers themselves to pay into a stabilisation fund a certain amount when the price of wheat exceeds a certain level. Under the same provision, if there is insufficient money in that account to meet the guaranteed annual found cost of production the Government is committed to paying a subsidy to make up the amount.
Looking back over an operation covering 16 wheat pools we find that the Commonwealth Government has paid £31.4 million into the scheme and that the growers have paid into and received from the scheme their share as well. During the years 1958-59 to 1964-65 inclusive the Government paid £1,566,727 for research and the growers contributed £715,000. In addition, into the Wheat Research Trust Account has gone £284,000, the residue from undistributed wartime pools. As is inevitable in wartime organisations, people die and others do not claim their money. All sorts of complications arise. When pools run over a series of years a sum accumulates for which, to all intents and purposes, it is almost impossible to find claimants. In the case of the wartime pools, £284,000 accumulated. This has been paid by the Commonwealth Government into the Wheat Research Trust Account. In addition, some years ago in Victoria it was found that there had been mismanagement and lack of judgment in the allocation of finance for Mallee wheat farms. Sums of money were allocated at that time, I think from the flour tax which was then operating. Finally, after a winding up process, it was discovered that surplus of about £266,000 was available. Wisely, that sum has been paid into the Wheat Research Trust Account.
All these things are good and desirable, and it is a tribute to the common sense of the industry and its leaders that they have told the Government that they are prepared to make an increased contribution. The Government has agreed to come to the party and provide a subsidy from Commonwealth revenue. We all know that since the existing marketing scheme was instituted in Australia there has been inflation of costs, so much so that whereas in the 1948-49 season it cost about 7s. Id. to produce a bushel of wheat, in 1964-65, if my figures are correct, it cost about 14s. Id. This means that over those years the cost of wheat production increased by more than 100 per cent. - a rather startling increase. We know that such increases have been a feature of our economy and apply to practically everything.
I have made a study of some excellent figures produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in its latest publication “The Wheat Situation”. These indicate the increases in the costs of the components that make up the cost of wheat production. It is here that we see the influ ences of research, mechanisation, good management and good marketing in the wheat industry. Let me detail a few figures. It is true that we are now in the fourth instalment of the Wheat Stabilisation Agreement. The first instalment was for five years, the second was for four years and the third for five years, and we are now approaching the third year of the fourth period of this type of marketing. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics gives no figures for the five years 1948-1953. Its figures commence in the season 1954-55, when we find that the cost of labour involved in producing a bushel of wheat was 32.36d. a bushel. In the year 1964-65 the cost was reduced by lOd. a bushel. This would indicate several things. It would indicate that labour cost, as an important factor in the cost of producing a bushel of wheat, has been reduced enormously. This may be attributed to increased yields per acre and to mechanisation - the efficiency of machines invented, designed and constructed in Australia for harvesting wheat. These are startling figures - 32.36d. a bushel in 1954-55 and 22.87d. in 1964- 65. It is fantastic.
Next we examine the cost of petroleum products used to power tractors and machinery used in planting and reaping crops. In 1954-55 the cost was 17.33d. a bushel and in 1964-65 it was 15.07d. - a reduction of about 2d. a bushel. I have no doubt that this is attributable to an increase in the efficiency of tractors and a switch from petrol to diesel fuel. We find, too, that whereas in 1954-55 the cost per acre of fertiliser was 12.57d., in 1964-65 it was 9.91d. My reasoning is that research has disclosed that some farmers were putting too much superphosphate on their wheat fields. In addition, of course, increased yields per acre due to better methods of cultivation and so on are probably reflected in this computation.
The cost of seed is shown as being 9.26d. in 1954-55 and 9.58d. in 1964-65. There was hardly any movement there. Then we come to repairs - always an important factor on a farm. It is rather astonishing that there was only a slight increase in this item - a rise from 23.48d. in 1954-55 to 23.62d. in 1964-65. I take it that this is mainly for repairs to machinery but also includes the cost of repairs to fences, farm buildings and so on. Here again the cost probably is spread over a greater yield of wheat and therefore is reduced correspondingly. This, too, reflects increased efficiency. The cost of corn sacks was 2.12d. in 1954-55 and 3.1 Id. by 1964- 65. Of course, we have not much control over this item because we import our corn sacks from India. The cost of cartage dropped from 3.56d. in 1954-55 to 3.12d. in 1964-65.
When we come to rates and taxes, we get a very rough jerk. They increased from 3.83d. a bushel in 1954-55 to 8d. a bushel in 1964-65. We must bear in mind, however, that the industry wanted better roads because it was using heavier trucks carrying heavier loads, and that the municipalities were faced with increased overhead costs and an insufficiency of Commonwealth aid road -grants. The Minister will probably admit that that is so. Insurance rose from 3.48d. a bushel in 1954-55 to 4.95d. in 1964-65. The insurance companies pushed the rates up quite a bit in a period when, I would imagine, the fire hazards were less serious. The insurance companies must accept the blame for this increased cost. The next item is rent. Here we find a reduction from 1.13d. a bushel in 1954-55 to .76d. in 1962-63. It would seem that, in the great majority of cases, the wheat farmer has either become a freeholder or is in the course of purchasing his farm.
Turning to contract work, no figure is given for 1954-55 but in 1964-65 the cost was 9.80d. a bushel. I take it this cost relates to cartage and so on. Chemicals are important to wheat growing. Here again, no figure is given for 1954-55, but the cost shown for 1964-65 is 4.68d. a bushel. As to motor registration, no figure is given for this item for 1954-55 but that shown for 1964-65 is 1.68d. a bushel. For miscellaneous costs, the figure for 1954-55 is shown as 11.86d. a bushel while that for 1964-65 is 6.40d. a bushel. The increased yield to the acre is probably responsible for that reduction. Total cash costs for 1954-55 are shown as 120.98d. and for 1964-65 as 122.79d. Those are important figures. Over a period of 10 years the cash cost of producing a bushel of wheat in Australia rose by less than 2d. That is fantastic.
When we come to other costs, the first item in this bracket relates to depreciation - always a heavy item in farming costs. For 1954-55, depreciation is shown as 22.20d. a bushel while for 1964-65 it is shown as 45.74d. - an increase of approximately 2s. a bushel. This is a large increase. Perhaps it is due to the purchase of more machinery and the higher cost of that machinery.
– The increased cost of machinery.
Mr. POLLARD__ It is due to the increased cost of machinery and the consequent higher claims for depreciation. Incidentally, it does not always follow that the depreciation that can be claimed covers the actual value of the depreciation; but I shall not say too much about that.
– Greater allowances are permitted.
– That is right. Another very important factor in relation to wheat farming is the interest on farm capital, which is a sort of hypothetical thing. This is shown as 34.10d. in 1954-55 and 68.92d. in 1964-65. Here there has been an increase of almost 3s. a bushel. That is a lot of money. Interest on farm capital is the highest of all these costs. Of course, interest is the curse of modern society. It is the curse of the farming industry and indeed of every other industry.
Next we come to interest on working capital. There are two interest charges. First there is the interest on farm capital and secondly the interest on working capital. No figure is given in relation to interest on working capital for 1954-55, and the figure given for 1964-65 is 3.37d. a bushel. The total charge for interest on farm capital and working capital combined was approximately 6s. a bushel in 1964-65. I hope the farming community will start to think about this.
– It is very high, is it not?
– It is shocking; it is terrible. For the man who is on a freehold property this does not matter very much, except that he can say: “I am entitled to get from the money I invest in my property the same interest, or even more, than is obtained by Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. or any other industrial enterprise”.
– He would be a fool to leave his capital on his farm if he was not.
– My friend from Western Australia agrees with me. The farmer is entitled to get this for as long as the present system continues. Interest is a curse that afflicts this and many other industries. I come next to the owner-operator’s allowance. This is given as 42.14d. a bushel in 1954-55 and 49.15d. a bushel in 1964-65. That is not extravagant. It is only 7d. a bushel more today than it was 1954-55. Rail freights and other items have gone up. My main purpose in analysing these costs is to show the curse of the interest system and the burden it inflicts on the production costs of not only the agricultural industries but also of industry generally.
I think I might now say just a few words about profits. We live in an era when an enormous amount of propaganda is being engaged in with relation to wool. It is said that the present marketing system for wool should not be tampered with because it is a wonderful system, and if it is tampered with a complete breakdown of the whole system could be caused. Let us see what was said about wheat marketing in a small publication dated June 1937 and entitled “ The World’s Wheat; Factors that Influence Broader Markets and Better Prices in Australia with Controlled and Restricted Competition “. It was issued by the Lindley Walker Wheat Co. Ltd. It is a very interesting document. Under the heading “ Conclusions “ this is what the Lindley Walker Wheat Co. Ltd. had to say about organised marketing in Australia -
Summed up, Australia’s wheat industry will survive and prosper again, if the Federal and State Governments could be persuaded to leave the sale and distribution of the grain to private enterprise and voluntary co-operative effort, and assist in the reduction of production costs by reducing government railway freights to pre-war basis, and by assisting growers with cheaper elevator charges and lower rates of purchase and interest under their closer land settlement policies. In the case of the Federal Government, tariff concessions on wheat growers’ machinery and other farm requirements would be preferable to artificial panaceas proposed under the aegis ot Government controlled marketing.
Fortunately, the wheat growers did not take any notice of Lindley Walker. Today, we have the most highly organised and efficient wheat industry of any country. I concede that we may have been lucky. Many of my friends have said to me from time to time that we should encourage wheat -growers to reduce their acreages. The pro phets say that if we increase our wheat production at a time when the world’s wheat markets are severely reduced, we will not be able to sell all of our wheat.
The document “World’s Wheat” from which I have quoted reports a speech made by the late Sir Herbert Robson, who was a prominent member of the royal commission on wheat supplies during the First World War and who at the time of his death was Chairman of the Baltic and London Corn Trade Association. He addressed the Royal Empire Society on international agreements and the grain trade. Incidentally, Australia, as well as other wheat producing countries, has had an international agreement since 1958. This gives some measure of protection to the world’s trade in wheat and wheat prices. Sir Herbert Robson said -
Every time I read a speech by a leader of industry or finance there is in it an expression of regret that international trade is so hampered by restrictions placed upon it by governments. May I humbly add my own regrets? My own trade, the grain trade, is along with one other - the shipping trade - the oldest trade in the world. These two trades seem worse hit by the world depression than any others. Almost every week some government somewhere piles a new restriction upon the mountain of restrictions which prevent the grain merchant from carrying on his trade on what he used to think was his lawful occasion. There is a large body of opinion - imperfectly advised as to the complexities of the grain trade - which advocates international agreements being made to control the movement of wheat. It has been my fortune to attend some of the meetings of the International Wheat Advisory Committee. This body of very able men is doing its utmost to solve an insoluble problem. One of their troubles to my mind is that only a comparatively small number of the Committee have any technical knowledge of the movement and marketing of wheat. Fortunately for th:s country and for the grain trade generally no effective decisions have yet been taken by the International Wheat Advisory Committee. Restrictions and quotas, said to be necessary by theorists, are undesirable things to be got rid of as soon as possible.
Well, there is agreement about restrictions. There then appears in the document a statement by Broomhall, the recognised statistical authority on the world’s wheat, headed “ Faith in the Future for Wheat “. It reads -
His close observation of records over a hundred years proved it to be a fact that dividing that period into ten equal periods each of ten years, the world’s total supply of wheat was exactly equal to world’s consumption for the same period - despite the fact that in some years of such period there was over-abundance and hopeless overproduction. This, however, was counteracted within the ten year period by seasons of short crops wherein world’s requirements were actually greater than world’s production.
I think I should point out that these things have a tendency to even themselves out. We have no need to panic and reduce production. Our wheat acreage is at an all time high of about 16 million acres. At one time, 10 million acres was looked upon as a reasonable figure. In the grow-more-wheat year of 1930-31 it was thought that 13 million acres was a reasonable amount to be sown to wheat. With the advancement of science, we could now sow 19 million acres or 20 million acres. This is a remarkable story.
Let us see how these things work out. I am impelled to turn to the record at a time when things looked bleak because it looked as though we would have a country full of wheat and not know what to do with it. Fortunately for us, and fortunately for the Chinese people who were about to die from famine, China, instead of letting her people die as happened during other regimes, came to us for wheat. In December 1960 the Australian Wheat Board entered into a contract to supply China with 11 million bushels of wheat. In January and May 1961 contracts were entered into to supply 67 million bushels of wheat to China. In February, June and October of 1962 contracts were entered into for the supply to Red China of 96 million bushels of wheat. In May, June and November 1963 we entered into contracts for the supply of 9 1 million bushels of wheat to China. In April and October 1964 we contracted to supply China with 77 million bushels of wheat. In April 1965 we entered into contracts for the supply of 45 million bushels of wheat to China. I believe that China has expressed a readiness to take more wheat. So it is fortunate that we did not listen to the Jeremiahs. Just as China is short of wheat today, there may be a disastrous drought in America in the next year or two and America may be short of wheat. We are in a better position than any other country to supply these people. In keeping with its record of assisting the wheat grower and initiating wise wheat marketing schemes, the Labour Party does not quibble at this new proposal to increase the levy on wheat and to match the levy with a government contribution.
I do not think I need say more except that I hope that, as time goes on, the councils set up to administer the fund will see to it that there is no overlapping of responsibility. I sometimes think that State Departments of Agriculture take advantage of these levies and Commonwealth grants to reduce their work on wheat research below what it should. We support the measure and give it our blessing.
.- I agree with much that has been said by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He made a delightful speech and gave us many figures that merit our consideration. This is appreciated by the Parliament. Recently in the House I asked whether the acreage sown to wheat was likely to be restricted. I personally did not think any restriction was likely but one does not ask questions in the House to obtain information only for oneself. An honorable member may know the answer to the question that he asks but he knows that the Minister’s official reply will be circulated in “ Hansard “ and perhaps in country and metropolitan newspapers, thus enabling the information to be brought to the attention of many people. I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) whether there was likely to be a restriction on the acreage of wheat because certain people whom I refer to as armchair agriculturalists, had said that we should carefully consider restricting our wheat acreage. In replying to me, the Minister for Primary Industry pointed out that the States chiefly handle matters affecting restrictions on acreage. He said that no State has suggested restrictions. Perhaps now, less than at any other time, is there any likelihood of restrictions for the reason that there is a very ready sale for wheat. Also, owing to drought conditions, the harvest is inclined to be lighter this year than it was last year. I am very pleased to say that in the electorate of Mallee which I represent, the season so far has been very good. At present the crops are excellent but as honorable members in this House know it is never very long, in that area, before more rain is needed. More rain is necessary now if we are to have a good season such as we have had on so many occasions over the last 10 or 15 years.
I was especially pleased that the honorable member for Lalor expressed in his speech his opposition, at this stage, to any -restriction in acreage. I do not want to go into this subject of restriction in any detail because I do not want under any circumstances to ruffle the honorable member for Lalor who was so complacent in the way he made his speech. I will not mention any names or the specific time, but at one time in this country, not so many years ago, there was a restriction of acreage. Very shortly afterwards, a drought occurred and we had to import wheat.
– The restriction was introduced by the government that preceded the Curtin Government.
– Please do not make me tell exactly who it was that introduced the restriction. There was a drought and wheat had to be imported. With the importation of that wheat came many of the weeds that are inimical to the production of wheat and we are still suffering as a result. The honorable member for Lalor has forced me into the position where I have to say that that restriction of acreage took place during the term of office of a Labour Government. It took place in 1944. I was not in the country at the time.
– It took place before the Labour Government took office. Let me hand the honorable member this document.
– I do not need to read the document. The honorable member for Lalor has handed me this document, but he knows that no person while making a speech, can look up the relevant places and find out what it is all about. I know the facts without reading the document. I have not been in this House for nearly 20 years listening to debates without knowing these things. What the honorable member for Lalor is trying to tell me is that the government previous to the Labour Government decided to set up a committee to consider the restriction of wheat acreages. That committee, somewhere about 1944, when Labour was in office, decided to recommend the restriction of acreages. It must be remembered that the committee was always under the control of the Government that was in office. Please do not force me to go into this matter any further, because this has all been discussed before in this House. The Country Party knows where it stands. I know exactly what happened. I know that if the Labour Government of the day had not wanted the restriction of acreages it never would have become operative.
– We inherited the restrictions; I am not criticising them.
– I ask the honorable member not to try to bait me any more on this subject of restrictions, because every time he does so he loses out. I hoped at the commencement of my speech to conduct this debate in a very quiet way so as not to upset the blood pressure of the honorable member for Lalor. I desire to continue in that way.
We speak about the great things that have happened in wheat research, the increase in acreage and the increase in production, and I think it is time that someone in this House - I should like to be that person - paid a tribute to the pioneers of the industry. The pioneers of the industry went up into the mallee country and with bullock teams rolled the mallee and brought the area into wheat production. The area has become one of the great granaries of Australia. This was done without the advantage of modern machinery, without the advantages of research and of all those things that now make the lives of wheat growers more congenial. It was done during a time when wheat growers did not have access to additional finance, when money was scarce and droughts were numerous. If the growers had one good year it would probably be followed by two bad years. This country must always regard with great favour and thankfulness the record of these men that pioneered this great industry. I have already complimented the honorable member for Lalor on the speech he has made on the industry this afternoon. I repeat that on occasions in this House tribute should be paid to the pioneers of an industry that has meant so much to the stability of the Australian economy. One of the things I am a little worried about arises from the fact that the last real drought was in 1944-45. That is a long time ago. This means that if a man is 32 today he was 12 years of age when we had the last big drought affecting the wheat industry. Therefore, no man aged 32, or under, has really experienced a serious drought. There has been a very bad drought in New South Wales and Queensland recently, but I am talking chiefly of Victoria, about which I know most. When we have a short dry period young men are inclined to say: “ We will not get a drought; the rain will come and everything will be all right”. I am very pleased that that is exactly what has happened so far. We have had good seasons again and again. I do not like to sound a note of warning, but I think we must realise that we can have all the research in the world - it will help - and modern machinery, which helps to get the crops in quicker, but unless we get rain we cannot grow the wheat.
I wish to refer very quickly to the second reading speech of the Minister. We find that research in the wheat industry affects many things. The Minister’s speech indicates how many difficulties the wheat grower can encounter before he gets his crop into the silo, or before the crop is harvested and sold overseas. Even when the wheat is in the silo there are many things that can attack it - weevils for instance. The industry has to be satisfied about the fertility of the soil and whether the organic matter in it, and its other qualities, are suitable for wheat. In certain areas certain types of wheat are more suitable for growth than others. Then there is the breeding of the wheat plants. This has been a great science. We have to thank Farrer for what he did in this regard. We know his success in evolving drought resistant wheat. You may get the wheat through a dry period and anticipate a bumper crop, but it is no good if it is not free from rust. A reference is made to the quality of the wheat and what goes to make a good quality wheat against a poor quality wheat. A large amount of research has been carried out in this country in this field. Looking further at the Minister’s speech we see references to wheat diseases, rust and all those things that affect the quality and quantity of a crop. Then there is a reference to wheat storage and insect pests in stored grain. We all know of the ravages that can take place before the wheat is actually sold. When the wheat grower delivers his wheat to the silo he has not sold it; he has only delivered it to the organisation for marketing, lt is not until the organisation sells the wheat, collects the cash and makes the payment to the grower that the cycle is complete.
The Minister referred also to noxious weeds, and to skeleton weed in particular. A question was asked in the House on this matter today. 1 was tremendously pleased that the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), from a city electorate, has decided to support me in my fight against skeleton weed. I was pleased also when a member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), brought this subject up some 9 or 12 months ago. A large sum of ‘money has been made available by the Government to assist in the fight against skeleton weed. This is one of the weeds that worry the wheat grower. Some people contend that skeleton weed has always been present on properties but that rabbits used to nip the very tender leaves and keep it back. Generally speaking, not very much credence is given to this contention. Skeleton weed has spread from New South Wales into parts of Victoria. In New South Wales it is regarded as a good feed for fattening Iambs. Some growers around Yerong Creek and other similar areas think it is quite good, but the wheat growers in the area I represent regard it as a menace. Skeleton weed may be all right if all the land is used for the fattening of lambs and the growing of sheep, but it completely impoverishes the wheat growing land. Therefore, the people in the area I represent fight against it. As their representative, I. have become the butt of many interjections in this House because I steadfastly fight to combat this menace.
The honorable member for Lalor also mentioned mechanisation. We know that mechanisation has improved wheat growing methods out of sight. If some of the pioneers of the wheat growing areas were to see wheat farms now, equipped with modern machinery, they would marvel at the great progress that has been made. However, we must not overlook the fact that the Government has allowed substantial taxation deductions for farm machinery. An initial allowance of 20 per cent, is given and then each year for five years, including the first year, a further deduction of 20 per cent, of the purchase price is allowed. That really means that the purchaser receives a taxation deduction of 120 per cent, of the price of the machinery. Some people say that 120 per cent, cannot be given, but the taxation deduction does amount to 120 per cent. I know that the value of the deduction depends on the rate of tax that is paid, but I know also that wheat growing has been a fairly lucrative occupation recently. Quite a number of wheat growers have complained to me that they are paying very big taxes. This taxation deduction for the purchase of machinery must be a godsend to them. These aspects should not be overlooked. The Government has been instrumental in establishing these taxation deductions for wheat growers all over the Commonwealth.
The Bill increases the rate of wheat tax from one-fourth of a penny to three-tenths of a penny per bushel. This is not a very big increase. I hope that the research organisations will be able to use the additional money to good advantage. If the money available in the future is used as well as money available in the past has been used, I believe that all Australians will benefit.
.- I wish to associate myself with the remarks that have been made on this very important piece of legislation. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said in his second reading speech, the proposal is to increase the rate of tax on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from onefourth of a penny to three-tenths of a penny per bushel, an increase amounting to onetwentieth of a penny per bushel. The wheat tax collections are used to finance wheat research in Australia and are paid into the Wheat Research Trust Account. I believe that money should be raised to finance wheat research and that the increase proposed in the Bill is justified.
Wheat is a very important primary product. In the main, the export crop is grown in the mainland States. Tasmania is a wheat producer of minor importance. It is essential that research should continue so that we will produce the best possible wheat and make available to primary producers scientific information and data of the highest standard. After all, the primary producers should be assisted to play their part in producing commodities for export so that funds will be accumulated overseas for the general development of Australia. It behoves the Commonwealth Parliament, in association with the State Departments of Agriculture, to assist the primary producers.
Some little time ago, the Australian wheat industry suffered a disastrous loss in the death of the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Moroney. As the Minister very graciously said in his tribute, Mr. Moroney played a major role in arranging for the sale of wheat, particularly to Communist China. This, of course, entailed a good deal of negotiation. On the bookkeeping and business side, arrangements had to be made for the payment for the wheat to be made over a period. I am sure that all wheat growers will always remember the grand work done by Mr. Moroney in arranging for the marketing of wheat produced in Australia. We have been assured that the new Chairman, Dr. Callaghan, will follow in the tradition set by his predecessor and will work for the expansion of exports of Australian wheat. I think it is only fair in debating this matter to refer to the valuable work done by Mr. Moroney and to say that he has not merely stabilised the wheat industry, but has brought financial prosperity to it and has more or less lifted it out of bankruptcy.
Australians have a tendency to disregard the areas to which we are indebted for our financial stability. As I said earlier, the Bill provides for money to be raised for research purposes. Research should continue so that we can improve the quality of wheat and thereby ensure the maintenance of our overseas markets. But we should not lose sight of the fact that we are gradually moving into the Asian area in search of markets for our wheat. I will give figures from the “ Wheat Industry “, which is publication No. 106 of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. I am sure honorable members will agree that these figures are of great importance to the Australian wheat grower and the public generally. We find that 56 per cent, of the wheat exported in the last year for which figures are available to the Statistician went to Asia, 18 per cent, to Europe, 2.7 per cent, to Oceania and 2.3 per cent, to Africa. Most of our wheat exports’ went to Asia. Of the 56 per cent, that went to Asia, 36.8 per cent, went to the Communist country of China. The wheat growers of Australia are indebted to Mr. Moroney for his excellent work in negotiating the sale of wheat to Communist China. In addition to that transaction, a very large percentage of our wheat went to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1965, Communist Russia imported 848,000 tons of wheat from Australia. In the latest figures available we find that the value of wheat exports to other countries was £148,599,000. Wheat to the value of £57,254,000 went to the Communist Republic of China, sales to the Communist Republic of North Korea brought £1,149,000, and £21,953,000 was received from the U.S.S.R. From these figures honorable members will see how indebted wheat farmers are to the Communist countries which buy their product. As the Minister for Primary Industry has said repeatedly, the responsibility for this great effort on the part of the Wheat Board is attributable to the late Mr. Moroney. Wheat growers ought to realise just where their wheat is going and take this matter quite seriously.
We cannot live in a world of our own. Australia is a nation which depends greatly on the export of its primary products. There have been, and are, members of this House who say that we must base our trade on politics. For a period the former Country Party member for Hume, who, by the voice of the people, is no longer with us, was most outspoken against trade with Communist countries. Suddenly, he became stricken with deafness when the figures in relation to the export of wheat and wool to Asiatic countries not of our own political ideas, particularly China, were quoted in this House. It is useful to remember that we have to live with other people in this world. When they want commodities in order to raise their standards of living, it is a good thing for us, provided we do not have to impoverish our own producers, to make those goods available to them. I believe - I may be rather odd in holding this belief - that one of the best ways to promote peace in the world is to encourage trade and to remove all trade barriers. Peace can be achieved by promoting a spirit of harmony among the peoples of the world and by saying to countries which have not the commodities that they want, and which we have: “These commodities are readily available to you. We will not restrict the supply of these goods to you merely on political grounds.”
The present Commonwealth Government has not restricted trade with Communist countries although there have been members - and I have no doubt there are such members in this House today - who would go onto the hustings and disclaim support for, and even repudiate, the policy of their Government. The people of Australia have demonstrated that they approve of what is being done. They approve of Australia trading with these countries which want the commodities that we produce. I remember that, in 1960, the then member for Lilley, a Government supporter, said: “ Not one ton of wheat will go to Communist China while I am a member of this Parliament “. Well, the people remedied that situation. In 1961 he ceased to be a member of this Parliament.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the Bill. I have been allowing him some latitude, but this is a Bill dealing with the rate of tax on wheat. I ask the honorable member to come back to the subject matter of the Bill.
– I felt that I was doing so, but now I will come a little closer to the subject matter of the Bill. The export of wheat from this country is a very important item for consideration. I come now to a matter that relates to the production of wheat for export. My State of Queensland, about which I am known as a most outspoken speaker, and as the farmers’ friend, is not the principal producer of wheat by any means. But it is carrying on a very efficient wheat industry. The latest figures available show that, of a total Australian figure of 16,474,000 acres of wheat, Queensland had 938,000 acres in production.
– Queensland wheat is of high quality, too.
– Yes, the quality is very high, as I shall illustrate in a few moments. The wheat industry in Queensland is growing and it is becoming more and more efficient. For example, the State Wheat Board is expending a considerable amount of money on the provision of bulk handling facilities. I note in the Commonwealth “ Year Book “ that the greatest increase in recent years in the bulk handling of wheat has been in my State. That is something that both you and I, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be very happy about. Wheat growing is moving more and more to the north of Queensland. The yield per acre is high and the quality is equal to the best in Australia. I wish to quote from an edition of a magazine that I purchased during the last week or so when I visited a part of the Federal division of Maranoa in the Roma area.
This publication is entitled “ The Roma Story” and deals with wheat production. It lends colour and support to the Bill that we are discussing. This article is headed “ Roma has world’s finest wheat “. I am sorry that the Minister for Primary Industry is not here at the moment because at one time portion of this area was included in the electorate he represents. I am sure he would be delighted to hear what I am going to read. Although he is not here, no doubt he will read my speech in “ Hansard “ and enjoy it. The article reads -
Roma district grows the finest wheat in Australia, which is also one of the three highest quality grains in the world - this is fact. In the 1930’s, wheat from Hodgson- which is part of Roma - ran second in a world competition, in which the greatest wheat-growing countries were represented, and held in Canada.
Overseas authorities once assessed that the best three wheats in the world came from one area in Russia, from an area in South Australia, and from Hodgson, a Roma “ suburb “ about eight miles from the town.
Roma area wheat is recognized by millers as the finest quality for milling, with a high flour production. It is so high in gluten and protein, and is so hard, that mills in the south buy it to boost their flour. And the grain farmers will tell you that sometimes the Roma flour mill has to import low-grade wheat from the south to mix with the local product, when the local grain is too rich to make utility flour.
People who understand milling -
Some of us in this House do - will appreciate the following performance once achieved at Roma: one ton of wheat (2,240 lbs) produced one ton of flour (2,000 lbs).
Wheat is another illustration of how the Roma district has been fostered by Queensland Governments, right from the beginning up to the Nicklin Government.
Those statements are made in a book published by recognised authorities in Roma. I hope that the Nicklin Government will acknowledge the rebuke administered by the people of Roma and will remedy the situation. It is very important to note that in this area great work is being done in the production of wheat and in improving the quality of wheat by research that is subsidised out of the proceeds of the tax for the raising of which this Bill provides.
There is one other matter that, I think, will bear mentioning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that it is of real importance and 1 hope that the Minister for Primary Industry will give me an answer on this matter. I am sure that the Australian people would appreciate an answer to the charge that has been levied at the Australian Wheat Board concerning the sale of wheat to India. That country is an important but poor customer of Australia, for it is not a wealthy nation. The allegation is that in 1961 Australia charged India £25 lis. a ton for wheat, but charged Communist China only £23 Ils. a ton.
– Was the grade of wheat the same?
– I am merely quoting the particulars given in a letter on the subject. It is said that in 1962 India was charged £26 7s. a ton and Communist China only £25 7s. a ton. It is stated also that in 1963 India was charged £27 12s. a ton and Communist China only £25 16s. a ton. The letter makes no reference to grades or qualities. However, I believe that, in view of the charge that has been made, there is on the Wheat Board and on the Minister a responsibility for explaining this situation, particularly as India in the past year or so has suffered from a devastating drought, during which Australia has made gifts of wheat to India. That wheat has been sold by either the National Government or the State Governments in that country and the proceeds have been devoted to local projects. So I hope that the Minister will give us some information about this important matter.
I trust that the wheat industry will go from strength to strength. It is a grand industry. As I pass through the Darling Downs on my way to and from Brisbane, I am filled with much joy at the sight of the wheat fields clothed in green. I want to see the wheat industry expand and I should like to see many more acres of land in Queensland under wheat. I am content to see our wheat sold to whomever is prepared to buy it and can pay for it. I should like all honorable members to try to divorce from politics trade in this important commodity, which represents the staff of life. People must have food to eat if they are to sustain life. The need to divorce trade in a commodity such as wheat from politics is borne out by what has happened in recent times. If, for some reason, we decided no longer to sell wheat to Communist countries, there would be disaster in the wheat industry in
Australia. As a result, the wheat growers would need heavy subsidies, and the Australian consumers - the Australian people generally - would have to be heavily taxed to provide the funds for those subsidies.
For the reasons that I have given, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support this Bill. I commend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led for the Australian Labour Party, on the excellent speech in which he explained the Party’s policy on this matter. I know that many problems face the wheat industry, which, as I have said, is an important one. Plant diseases present real problems. Rust, which was once a considerable problem, has now been overcome. Noxious weeds also present serious problems and must be dealt with. Today, we heard the suggestion that skeleton weed has almost been eradicated as a pest. Yet other problems face this important industry. I am quite happy about this measure. I know that the money raised by means of the tax for which it provides will be well spent and that, generally, it will be used to the advantage of the wheat industry and of the Australian people.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, first of all, I should like to make quite sure that I. am on sound ground. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) spent some time discussing our wheat trade with not only Communist countries but also other countries. He was temporarily halted and called to order. However, I believe that he was right on the mark and was within his rights, and that an examination of the Wheat Research Act 1957- Act No. 22 of 1957 - will establish this. That Act is the authority for the establishment of the Wheat Research Trust Account. It provides that moneys in the Account provided by this Wheat Tax Bill may be expended by the Wheat Industry Research Council for certain purposes, which are specified in section 8 in the following terms -
The purposes in respect of which expenditure may be approved under the last preceding section are purposes in relation to the following matters: -
scientific or economic research in connection with, or likely to benefit, the wheat industry; . . .
I take it that economic research into what is likely to benefit or harm the wheat industry at present very definitely relates to the countries to which we can sell and are selling wheat but to which we may not be able to sell wheat in the very near future. Therefore, I consider that the honorable member for Griffith was well within his rights when he discussed trade in wheat with Communist countries.
– Marketing comes under another act.
– Marketing may come under another act. The Minister was not in the House when the honorable member was called to order. I do not think that the honorable member was out of order, even though marketing comes under another act. Surely the question of what markets are available and whether they are likely to increase or decrease affects the economics of the wheat industry. We saw the Australian Wool Board get into quite a lot of trouble only the other day over its trade with Communist China. I do not know whether the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is aware of the fact that Mr. Chou En-lai, Prime Minister of Communist China, addressing a delegation of Japanese in Peking recently, at a gathering at which the Chinese Press was represented, stated that if Australians wanted Communist China to go on buying their wheat they would have to withdraw their troops from South Vietnam. It is of no use for the honorable member for Griffith to talk about trade and politics being divorced. We all would like them to be divorced. However, we have to face the statements of not only Chou En-lai but also Marshal Chen Yi, the Foreign Minister of Communist China, who has made statements on this matter time and time again, and Liu Shao-chi, the chief doctrinaire in the Communist Chinese Government and Vice-President of Communist China. They have said that they do not divorce trade from politics, because, they claim, these are one and the same thing. We have already had experience of their use of trade as a political weapon. I mentioned recently the accusation that the Wool Board had supported the protest against the arrest of the nine Chinese in Brazil. We now have this further threat, the gravity of which was pointed out by the honorable member for Griffith and which springs from the fact that between 40 and 60 per cent. - I think it is now as much as 60 per cent. - of our export trade in wheat is with the Chinese Communists.
I have asked before, and I now put the question again to the Minister for Primary Industry: What research has been carried out by the Wheat Industry Research Council or any other body with a view to deflecting from the individual wheat grower the disaster that would follow if the Chinese Communist market now available were suddenly cut off? This is a matter of Government policy. It is of no use for the Government to say that it does not control the Wheat Board or the Wool Board. The Government controls all our exports if it wants to. This is a matter of Government policy and the Government is responsible for its policy and for what flows from it. I have made my position quite clear at all times. I do not like trading with the enemy. I realise that unilateral action by Australia would perhaps be of no great benefit in the international sphere.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Chisholm of his remarks at the beginning of his speech, when he said that this Bill relates to research and that aspects of economics and trade are involved. My interpretation at the moment would be that the research and economics involved in this legislation are more related to the domestic side of the industry. Although the honorable member may be allowed to make a passing reference to trade with Communist China in order to reinforce a point that he wishes to make, I think it would be unwise to allow this discussion to develop into a broad debate on trade rather than to confine it to a discussion on means of raising finance for research in connection with the wheat industry.
– I do not like your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but as you are in the Chair I have to agree with it, for the simple reason-
– Hear, hear!
– All right; if we have “Hear, hears” I will change my mind, and I will disagree with the ruling. If this is the attitude that is to be taken I will point out that other speakers have dwelt on this matter all the way through their speech while I have been told to be silent. What 1 am saying is that the economics of the wheat industry are in danger because Chou En-lai has made this statement that has been referred to. If anybody says that that statement is wrong I will bring chapter and verse and show that it is right. The wheat industry is in danger because this statement has been made and a threat has been issued to the Australian Government about our soldiers in Vietnam. Again I ask what we are doing to protect the individual wheat grower in the event of that threat being carried out.
I ask this question of the Minister because on every previous occasion I have asked it I have not received an answer. I ask the question again and I issue a warning. We have already had to stop sending troops on leave to Hong Kong because the Chinese Communists said that this had to be stopped. If this is the attitude that we are to take towards people who have been declared our enemies by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister then I think the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was right when he said that it makes nonsense of our trade policy. I do not see why the wheat growers as individuals should have to pay the price for what has happened. I would rather buy the wheat and give it to India than go on under these conditions and with these threats hanging Over us that might result in serious damage to our wheat industry. We have had a drought this year which may help out in the sense that the problem of selling wheat to Communist China may not have to be faced. However, I hope we do not have a drought next year to give us similar help, because nobody wants droughts in two successive years.
.- While I am not permitted to canvass the whole of the speech of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) I may say that I disagree with certain of his views. My attitude is this: People have to live and if they need our food to live it is our duty to let them have that food. What they do with it after we sell it to them is their business. All we are doing is keeping people alive.
– And helping them to kill Australians.
– We are simply keeping people alive, whether they are Communists, Fascists, capitalists, workers or whoever they are.
– Order! I think the honorable member is now opening up a general debate on a subject that has no relation to this Bill.
– I also disagree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You allowed the honorable member for Chisholm to wax eloquent on this subject, but you will not allow me to make a passing reference to it. However, 1 have said that I violently disagree with him and that is all I shall say about the matter. When we can fill empty tummies in various parts of the world, under whatever political systems they exist, it is our duty to do so, even if it means that we should give thousands of tons of wheat to starving Indians.
– Do you, as a Christian Minister, Mr. Deputy Speaker, agree with that?
– I did not ask that question, but it is an interesting one. As a member of the Country Party I am sure he must agree.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member concentrate on the Bill before the House.
– This is a vital Bill which deals with a vast section of Australian primary industry and primary producers. There are 54,664 wheat farms in Australia each growing more than 20 acres of wheat. This gives a broad indication of the importance of the industry to Australia as a whole. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, wheat is the second largest import earner amongst our primary products. It is second only to wool. We approve of this Bill absolutely and entirely and of the originating legislation in 1957, the Wheat Research Act. It is amazing to me that we waited until 1957 to establish this research machinery to help our wheat growers. However, from the time it was established in 1957 until the end of December 1963 an amount of £2,873,415 6s. 8d. was spent on research. That was over a period of only six years and it represents a fabulous amount of money for research. It probably represents a greater amount than was spent on research in the same period in connection with any other form of primary production in Australia. We are keeping up with the modern world trend. We are finding the answers to our problems and circumventing dangers through this remarkable research programme.
I want to pay a tribute this afternoon to the thousands of men in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and in the various Departments of Agriculture for their dedicated and devoted work in trying to solve the problems of the wheat industry. The names of these men are not known to us. They work within these wonderful organisations and although they may spend a lifetime or half a lifetime on this research work we still do not know their names. Any person who undertakes research in any field is a pioneer and is a man or woman to whom we should pay a sincere tribute. That is why I pay a tribute this afternoon to those who do the work. Quite apart from the Governments which provide the necessary money and the wheat farmers whose incomes are taxed to provide the funds, a tribute should be paid to the men who actually do the testing and the research work. I was on a wheat farm throughout my early life. My father had 30 years of wheat farming north of Nhill in Victoria where I was born and grew up. The development since 1941, when my father left the wheat industry, has been phenomenal. This research programme was not known to us. We farmed our wheat in some of the toughest days of our history. There was no stabilisation fund when we were growing wheat.
In the toughest years of the depression, wheat was bringing only ls. 6d., ls. 8d. or 2s. a bushel. One year my father received £250 for his total wheat crop and his mortgage payment that year was £280. In that year his total income was £30 less than he needed to pay his mortgage. It is no wonder that thousands of wheat growers had to leave their farms in the dreadful years of the 1930’s, just as my father had to do in 1941, because of pressure from the banks who took over the farms in those days and ran them. We became the paid servants of the banks. The wheat farmers today do not know how fortunate they are, unless they lived through those years of the depression.
The wheat farmers of Australia are probably the happiest bunch of primary producers that we have. Thanks to the Labour Government which brought down the magnificent stabilisation scheme, the wheat farmers have security. They have a set price for their wheat and they know the price that they will receive when they sell it. The stabilisation scheme is wonderful. When it is considered that the number of farms growing wheat has increased from 44,819 in 1958-59 to 54,664 in 1962-63 one has proof of what is going on in the wheat industry and how the stabilisation of the industry, the research programme and everything that comes with that are encouraging farmers to go into wheat growing. There was an increase of nearly 10,000 farms throughout Australia in the five years I mentioned.
The research committees that have been set up in each State are doing a wonderful job in allocating and spending the money that is given to them for research purposes. In the seventh annual report prepared in 1964 in accordance with the provisions of the Wheat Research Act some interesting figures are disclosed. For instance, in 1964 the amount made available for wheat research in Australia was £546,821, which was allocated proportionately to the States. It is interesting to see how this sum was apportioned. In round figures, New South Wales received £124,626; Victoria received £100,085; Queensland’s share was £22,157; South Australia got £59.736; Western Australia received £54,879; and my humble State of Tasmania received £336 8s. 4d. The Commonwealth received £185,000 of the total £546,821. At page 3 of the report under the heading “ Expenditure “ we see that last year the Wheat Research Trust Account paid out £308,389 on research programmes. That amount also was apportioned between the States. Of the expenditure on wheat research programmes during 1964, Tasmania received £12 13s. But the most important thing about this is that we did get a mention. Perhaps I should acquaint the House with the position in Tasmania. Under the Act we do not have a research committee for Tasmania. The Minister for Agriculture in our State acts for Tasmania in this respect.
– How much wheat does Tasmania grow?
– Last year it produced 95,000 bushels. We are increasing our acreage and production, and I hope the time will come when we produce enough to earn a research committee for our State. In Tasmania, because of the rainfall, we grow a soft wheat which is suitable for biscuit making.
– What variety of wheat?
– We grow several varieties. Macquarie and Pinnacle are two of the main types grown in Tasmania and we have yields of up to 60 bushels an acre. Such yields are quite common in some areas of my electorate. We grow a wonderful wheat in Tasmania and there is no doubt that the quality is excellent. However, it is too soft for bread making. Tasmania exports to the mainland a great amount of wheat in the form of flour for biscuit making and has to import from the mainland thousands of bushels of wheat for its bread makers. Our own wheat is not hard enough for bread. Tasmania’s import of wheat is aided by the growers and consumers of Australia. An amount of 2d. per bushel is added to the home consumption price to help pay the transport costs of the wheat to Tasmania. I believe that we gain about £250,000 each year which helps us with our transport costs. Naturally, we are very grateful for this. I thank the Australian growers and consumers for their contribution to help solve Tasmania’s bread problem and wheat import problem.
I think that we should have a research programme for Tasmania. I have wondered whether the C.S.I.R.O. includes Tasmania in its soil tests and its other research work. If it does not do so, I suggest that the Victorian Wheat Industry Research Committee adopt Tasmania for the purposes of research into wheat growing problems. Victoria has a wheat research institute which is very well equipped. It has an allocation of about £20,000 to spend each year on research. It would be a great idea if Victoria could adopt Tasmania for research purposes as we have no research committee or research organisation.
– We are already paying freight for Tasmania.
– I know that it is hard for the honorable member to suggest anything extra for Tasmania, but this is a combined effort. We send flour to the mainland for use in making biscuits and the mainland sends wheat to Tasmania so that we can eat bread. Is not that fair enough? I think it is. I believe that the Victorian institute could provide great assistance for research into improving our wheat.
I should like to mention at this point that the size and scope of the research programme is enormous. At pages 6 to 10 of the report there appears an outline of the type of research into wheat that is going on throughout Australia today. In respect of the soil, there is research into such matters as nitrogen, fertility, organic matter, microbiology, moisture, tillage and conservation. In plant breeding, there are programmes to improve the quality of wheat, and there is research into pasture plants. Wheat quality and wheat diseases are dealt with. Hardly a section that one could name is not being dealt with. Research is conducted into cereal pests, physiology, and storages, and even into types of machinery. The effect of certain machines on the grain and on the soil is being studied. There is research into noxious weeds. The next item, which has impressed me greatly, is studentships.
– What about skeleton weed?
– That has been dealt with already by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) so I do not want to go into the subject now. The studentship section of the report mentions that the Wheat Industry Research Council is spending money to train research workers by providing studentships at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Australian universities. I commend the Government on this aspect of its research programme. What is the good of allocating money to research unless we have the men to do the research work. In my opinion it is a natural corollary of the research programme to encourage young men to take up research in the wheat industry. Much money is being spent on the studentship programme in Australia. I commend the committees, the Council and the Government for their work in this respect. It is one of the vital parts of the whole programme. They have had more to spend on research because of the expansion in wheat growing. I have already referred to the increase of almost 10,000 farms in the last five years.
Other interesting increases are shown in the “Year Book”. In 1960-61 wheat production was 273 million bushels, but in 1962-63 it had increased to 306 million bushels, almost a record. Our annual production is hovering around the 300 million bushel mark now. In the years just before the last war our production was about 177 million bushels. Because of the increased production more money is available through the wheat tax for research, yet’ by this Bill the actual rate of tax is to be increased from one farthing a bushel to three-tenths of a penny a bushel - an increase of onetwentieth of a penny a bushel. Obviously the Government and the Wheat Research. Council are concerned that our wheat research programme should go forward, with more and more money being made available for this vital field of endeavour in the wheat industry. Wheat research centres are being established and increased facilities provided by the Council. This is a tremendous programme of research in any language. We appreciate - especially honorable members from primary producing electorates - the enormous work being done for the wheat growers of Australia.
The proposal to increase the wheat tax was decided on at the Australian Wheat Growers Federation meeting last April. So actually it is a top level decision from the wheat growers themselves. This is a very welcome aspect. It is not the Government above telling the wheat grower below what the tax should be, but the wheat grower below telling the Government what increase he is prepared to pay to help his own industry. In my opinion the wheat farmers of Australia are among the grandest people anybody could know or have dealings with. Wherever there are wheat growers there is a sound economy because of the security in the industry brought about by stabilisation. We have often cited the wheat growers and the wheat industry as examples to other sections of primary production that are still wrangling about costs, prices and marketing and which will not get together to establish stabilisation schemes as the wheat growers have done. To my mind, wheat growers give a perfect example of co-operation within a great primary producing industry. They are prepared to tackle the problems of their industry, to fight for security and to co-operate with a government which is prepared to give it to them. The Opposition will continue to support this sort of legislation. We will give our wholehearted support to moves that will aid the progress, betterment and encouragement of our great Australian primary industries.
.- At the outset let me say that I support this Bill and welcome it. Before dealing with its subject matter I should like to refer to some of the remarks of previous speakers and to express some surprise at the area that their speeches covered. It appeared to me to range far beyond the actual subject matter of the Bill before the House. I commend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for the useful contribution he made to the debate, but I feel that he could have gone a little further with some of his comments. For instance, he said that under the wheat stabilisation plan the Government bad supported the wheat industry to the extent of £31 million. I have no quarrel about the truth or otherwise of the statement, but I know that many wheat growers throughout Australia would think I was doing less than my duty if I allowed the statement to go out without adding to it that to get £31 million in price support the wheat industry contributed not less than £198 million to the economy of Australia in supplying wheat for home consumption at prices below export parity. I think it can be said that the £31 million price support which the industry has received in latter years would represent a very small interest repayment on the £198 million it contributed to the economy of the country in the early stages of the wheat stabilisation plan.
The honorable member for Lalor also mentioned cash costs of production and referred to the very steep increase that has taken place in these costs within the wheat industry in postwar years. I think he said they had increased by 100 per cent. Actually the increase has been very much more than 100 per cent, for a reason that the honorable member will recall. When he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when the first wheat stabilisation plan was negotiated, the cost of production was 6s. 8d. a bushel. This figure was arrived at on a long term yield divisor of 12 bushels to the acre. This cost of production figure rose steeply during the first years of the plan. However, the figure was reduced, through increased efficiency within the industry reflecting high yields, in the latter years of the plan. We then started on what might be termed the second five year plan. Here again we found exactly the same exercise, where the cash cost to the industry under the inflationary pressure in the postwar years increased quite substantially. However, it was able to be reduced at the end of the five years by further increased efficiency within the industry resulting in higher yields, again enabling a higher visor to be used. This process was continued in every year of the plan right up to the five year plan that concluded in 1963, when the cost of production figure had risen to 15s. lOd. a bushel based on a yield divisor of 15.5 bushels an acre. After 1963, by using a higher yield divisor, which was justified by the yield performances of the industry, the cost of production was reduced by, I think, ls. 5d. a bushel. The history of these cost movements within the industry shows quite clearly that the cash costs within the industry have increased far beyond 100 per cent. They have been retained at the present figure only because of greatly increased efficiency within the industry. Perhaps one of the greatest tributes one can pay to the organised wheat growers of Australia is that right through this period they have been content to make substantial contributions to the cost of research within their industry. This research has resulted in increased efficiency within the industry, and the wheat growers have been quite willing to pass on to the Australian community the benefits of this increased efficiency in the form of reduced prices for wheat. That those reduced prices for wheat have not been reflected in a reduced price for bread is not, of course, the fault of the wheat industry. It is the fault of the flour milling and baking organisations. The fault is not that of the wheat industry or the Australian Wheat Board in any way at all.
As I have mentioned the question of bread prices within Australia and their relationship to wheat prices within Australia, perhaps this might be an appropriate time to refer to the fact that in recent years the Australian bread making industry and the Australian flour milling industry have fallen very substantially indeed under the control of overseas capital. I think that the time may not be very far distant when it could be a very useful exercise indeed-
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member that although he thinks this might be an appropriate time, this is not the appropriate Bill for such a discussion.
Mr. MAISEY__ Then I shall deal with other factors, mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor. He referred to the increases in the cash costs of the industry and what these have meant to the growers. Perhaps a significant factor in enabling the growers to keep wheat prices down notwithstanding cost increases within the industry has been the very substantial increase in the average size of farms within Australia. Coupled with that, there has been a very big increase in the percentage of the acreage of these larger farms which has been sown to wheat, and this has to be associated with higher yields.
I come now to the speech of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and his reference to restriction of acreage. I am not prepared to debate the question of who was the first person to talk about restricting acreages in Australia, but I have a very clear recollection of a statement made in 1959, I think, by the then Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, to the effect that we had reached the stage at which where we had to make a very definite move towards considering restricting the production of wheat within Australia. Sir John’s statement was based on fairly sound ground at that time. He had made a calculation based on figures covering a period of many years and had come to the conclusion that the average yearly market in the export arena for Australian wheat was approximately 90 million bushels. Up to that time, we had been using approximately 60 million bushels a year for home consumption. Sir John concluded from those two figures that Australia should very seriously consider restricting its production of wheat to an annual figure of approximately 150 million bushels.
Sir John made this statement against the background of very substantial stocks of wheat being held in Australia and one of the greatest weevil infestation problems that the Australian Wheat Board had ever faced.
The stocks held then were approaching the greatest ever held, with the exception of those held in the wartime years. It was against this background that Sir John Teasdale had the temerity to suggest, at a dinner in Melbourne attended by a big group of commercial and manufacturing men, that that was the time when annual production of wheat should be restricted to approximately 150 million bushels. I well recall the tremendous objection that was raised to this statement by the then Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. The President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the President of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures were very loud in their objections.
It was this statement by Sir John Teasdale which prompted the Government and the Australian Wheat Board to look seriously at the prospect of reciprocal trade relations with Japan. The then General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. C. J. Perrett, was sent to Tokyo for discussions with the Japanese to see what could be done to increase exports of wheat to Japan. This was either at the end of November or early in December 1960. Before his return to Australia from his discussions in Japan with the Japanese Food Agency, Mr. Perrett stopped at Hong Kong for discussions with the Australian Government’s Trade Commissioner there. It was at this time that Mr. Perrett learned of the requirement for wheat by China. An arrangement was made for him to have discussions with representatives of the Chinese Government, and as an outcome of that-
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Moore that the questions of trade and trade relations are not before the House for discussion.
– I would remind you, Sir, that this matter has been the subject of very much discussion during the debate on this Bill. However, if that is your ruling, I bow to it.
– I do not want to challenge your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I point out that the types of research involved in the utilisation of this money include economic research. If discussions in a foreign country with relation to the possibility of getting a new market are not pertinent to economic research, I do not know what is. The matter has been fairly widely discussed.
– Order! The Bill before the House at the moment is related strictly to the levying of a special tax on wheat for the purposes of research. I rule that the research in question is more domestic research than research related to the development of overseas markets. Honorable members may make passing references to overseas trade and other such matters to emphasise their points but, as I said before, the debate cannot be allowed to develop into a general discussion of trade and trade relations or of the economic sustenance of one industry as compared with another. I suggest that the honorable member make a passing reference, without taking too long to pass.
– I presume I am in order in continuing in this vein. I am making a passing reference to what happened in relation to the development of markets for Australian wheat since the General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board visited the Australian Government’s Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong in December 1960. The reason why I wanted to deal with this matter was that reference had been made to who was the originator of the Australian Wheat Board’s big contracts with the Chinese Government. I feel that this matter should be mentioned at this time because during the discussion of this Bill credit has been given to the late Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. J. V. Moroney for negotiating those contracts. I know, and you know, Sir, that the late Mr. J. V. Moroney’s record in primary industry, particularly in connection with the wheat industry, is such a magnificent one that he does not need to have attributed to him anything for which he does not rightly deserve the credit. There is no doubt in the minds of those of us closely associated with the wheat industry that the man who played the greatest role in negotiating contracts for sale of wheat to China was the former General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. C. J. Perrett. Many of those contracts, involving millions of tons, had been successfully concluded before the late
Mr. J. V. Moroney became Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) referred to the matter of taxation deductions in respect of farm machinery. He said that these deductions had been of valuable assistance to the industry. I think most people will agree that tax deductions have in many respects been of assistance to the industry but I would submit that a deduction of 20 per cent, for five years, plus an additional deduction of 20 per cent., has in many instances cost the wheat grower money. Obviously, a deduction of 10 per cent, for 10 years would be better, because 10 per cent, of a farmer’s net income for 10 years represents a much greater saving to him than 20 per cent, over five years, at the end of which time no further depreciation is allowable on the machine. This is an aspect of tax deductions that has not been properly understood by people other than those directly engaged in the industry. The people who have derived most benefit from this 20 per cent, deduction for agricultural machinery have been the machinery manufacturers because if a wheat grower has a substantial income it pays him to dispose of his machine at the end of five years and buy a new one, notwithstanding the fact that the old machine may still have many useful years of work in it.
I was intrigued by the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) about the increase in bulk handling facilities in Queensland in recent years. I can not contradict his remarks but I remind him that unless he deals more fully with the history of bulk handling in Queensland, particularly in recent years, he rather misses the point that prior to the recent increase in bulk handling facilities, Queensland had virtually none. So it was not difficult suddenly to step up the provision of bulk handling facilities and set what may appear to be fantastic figures.
The Bill is relatively simple too. As I understand it, all it does is to provide for the situation that will inevitably arise when we change to decimal currency. The proceeds of the next wheat pool will be received partly in existing currency and partly in decimal currency. The levy is at present one farthing a bushel. This is a fraction of one penny which does not lend itself to neat conversion to decimal currency so it is necessary to alter the fraction from one farthing to three tenths of a penny because three tenths of a penny is a neat fraction, capable of simple conversion into a neat fraction in decimal currency. It is significant that in making this change we have increased the levy, which will result in more finance for the various wheat research organisations, enabling them to intensify and extend some of their research activities.
It is important to understand how the research programme began. It is interesting also to associate the history of research with the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The wheat research programme began in Western Australia in the early 1950’s. In Western Australia we conceived the idea of improsing a levy on growers for research purposes so as to finance a programme to develop nitrogen fixing plants which would raise the nitrogen content and the fertility levels in the Western Australian wheat belt soil. When we approached the Western Australian Crown Solicitor to discuss the proposal to put on the statute book a measure providing for a levy for research purposes, we discovered that we were, in effect, asking the State Government to legislate to place an excise on wheat in Western Australia and it was found that the State Government had no power under the Constitution to levy excise. We then proceeded to persuade the Western Australian Wheat Board to permit growers in Western Australian to have in their claim for payment form a clause stating that they made a voluntary contribution of one farthing a bushel for research purposes to a trust fund established by legislation. The contribution was a voluntary one. The clause in the claim for payment form was operative unless deliberately struck out by the producer.
In the initial stages a large amount was received in this way for research purposes. But as many farmers came to understand the means by which we were collecting this money, an ever-increasing number of them struck out the clause. It is most significant that most of the farmers who were striking out the clause were big producers of wheat in Western Australia. The research programme had already started in Western Australia before it became apparent that the big producers were not contributing to the scheme and it became necessary for us to find a way to collect this money on a better basis. We realised that the only way open to us was to sell the idea to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and to persuade the Federation to approach the Commonwealth Government and ask it to impose a levy of one farthing a bushel for research purposes. We finally sold our scheme to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, but only after much trouble with Victoria. The scheme ultimately became an established fact, to the point where the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. J. McEwen, agreed to support us on a £1 for £1 basis. This meant that every £1 contributed by the industry would be matched by £1 contributed by the Commonwealth. One of the conditions was that all the money collected direct from the growers in the States was to be rebated back to the States in which it was collected for expenditure on wheat research by the research councils established in those States. It is interesting to note that Tasmania last year produced 95,000 bushels, so if under this formula Tasmania got more than £95 for research purposes, it got more than it was entitled to. That is how the scheme began. It is quite true to say that tremendous progress has been made in the wheat industry. I am quite certain that under this plan research will continue.
I agree that there has been some evidence of a tendency for State Departments of Agriculture to try to push State research committees into using the money collected from this levy for purposes other than those for which it was originally subscribed by the growers, inasmuch as the departments have tried to persuade the committees to use the money to carry out functions which should be, and which were originally, those of the State Departments of Agriculture. For instance, I have been rather disappointed to find, on examining some of their programmes over the years, that State research committees have been using this money to purchase wheat research stations, to put up all sorts of capital structures for research purposes and to do things which in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others within the industry, are definitely the responsibility of State Governments and State Departments of Agriculture. This money, under the plan which was originally formulated, was to be used directly and purely for research and not for the provision of capital structures and capital facilities within the States and within the jurisdiction of the Institutes of Agriculture associated with universities. However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am happy to support the Bill. I hope that the additional money will be used purely for research and will not be used, in accordance with this idea which has crept in, to carry out functions that are really those of State Departments of Agriculture.
– in reply - Research in the wheat industry and the increasing of the levy paid by growers - which they have of their own volition suggested to the Government, and which the Government is prepared to match - are the subjects of this Bill which we have been discussing. There are five State wheat industry research committees and a Commonwealth wheat industry research council. It is really good to see such a progressive approach made by the industry towards research. In Queensland we have the example of a voluntary levy being paid in addition to that imposed by the Act. Growers have agreed to this additional levy because they want to get their institute fully operating in an effective manner. It is good to see that spirit of progress.
Since this Bill has been commended on both sides of the House, and since everyone is in agreement, I do not think there is any more that I need say. The subjects of marketing and stabilisation are outside the scope of this Bill. I accept the trend of thought that has been evident in the House and I am pleased that everyone is supporting the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumedfrom 17th August (vide page 16), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure now before the House is described as “ a Bill for an Act to authorise the raising and expending of a sum not exceeding £3,800,000 for a defence purpose, namely, financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in connection with war service land settlement.” In his second reading speech, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) informed us that, of this sum of £3,800,000, £1,716,000 was for war service land settlement requirements in Western Australia, £1,200,000 for South Australia and £884,000 for Tasmania. It seems strange that the Parliament in 1965 should pass an act to authorise the execution of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to war service land settlement. The war ended in 1945 - twenty long years ago. But the Government now is seeking authority to raise loan moneys of £3,800,000 for soldier settlement purposes. One would think that, if soldier settlement is still unfinished and if development work requiring further financial commitments is still to be undertaken, there has been some muddle somewhere. Something is wrong and it is essential that we examine the facts so that the people will know what has happened.
In 1945, the Commonwealth sought to enter into agreements with the six State Governments that normally would be responsible for and have sovereign rights over the land within the confines of their boundaries. Three of the six States expressed the opinion that they were strong enough financially, with some Commonwealth assistance, to undertake the land settlement work themselves. The three remaining States - Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia - informed the Commonwealth in effect that they did not feel they could stand on their own two feet; they wanted to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in this repatriation work. It was arranged, therefore, under the terms of the agreement that I have mentioned, that the three financially weaker States, which would have the services of their Departments of Agriculture and Lands at their disposal, would become the agents of the Commonwealth and would carry out this work on behalf of the Commonwealth.
It has become an annual event for the Commonwealth Parliament to vote loan moneys for the purposes of war service land settlement. We would have expected that the agent States being so closely in contact with soldier settlement within their own boundaries, would have been able to undertake this work more successfully than the Commonwealth Government would. That is why they became the agents. The States of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, which were termed the principal States, have completed their soldier settlement work, as far as 1 know, and in general have completed it fairly satisfactorily, although not without some difficulties from time to time. However, the position in the agent States has become conspicuous and must worry the Minister and everyone else .associated with this scheme, not least of all the soldier settlers themselves. We should not lose sight of the fact that 20 years have passed since the war ended and since the Commonwealth entered into the agreement with the States, but this work has not yet been concluded.
If we look back into the records of the Parliament, we find that in 1954 the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was then the Minister in charge of war service land settlement matters, brought down a Bill that was very similar to the Bill that is now before us. In his second reading speech, he explained that the loan raisings were required to help the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The amount required was £5,000,000. At the beginning of the financial year, the balance in hand was £3,760,000. Expenditure during the financial year 1953-54 was £5,500,000, of which £4,200,000 was new money and £1,300,000 was the reexpenditure of repayments. He then made this important statement -
The amount of work that is being undertaken at present is influenced by the desire of the Commonwealth to complete land settlement within the next five years.
That was in 1954 and now, 11 years later, authority is being sought to raise further loan moneys. The work is behind schedule by six long, painful years.
– Most of this money is being sought for credit advances, not for development.
– Exactly, but the Minister will admit that some development work is still proceeding and part of the money raised by this Bill will go into development work. Development work is being undertaken on King Island.
– In Tasmania, yes.
– And in Western Australia, too. The honorable member for Chisholm in 1954 said -
Large areas in Tasmania, including King Island and Flinders Island, are being developed.
That was 11 years ago. He continued -
The four main projects, totalling 196,500 acres, are expected to provide 309 farms, 60 of which have been completed. When projects in Tasmania have been completed, there will be a surplus of farms in relation to the number of men in that State who have been classified. However, there is every indication of considerable interest, on the part of classified ex-servicemen on the mainland, in obtaining holdings in Tasmania and on the Islands to which I have referred.
But these ex-servicemen still do not know what their final commitments will be. My colleague from Tasmania, who represents King Island, is well acquainted with all this very sorry business. The Minister can place the blame where he likes - with his own Department or with the Tasmanian Government - but one can only say that there has been a vast muddle somewhere. In 1954, it was estimated that the scheme would take five years to complete. Now, eleven years later, these projects are not yet completed and, worst of all, the soldier settlers do not know what their eventual capital assessment will be. The consideration that pains and worries the man on the land more than anything else is the amount that he must finally pay. But these soldier settlers, 20 years after the conclusion of the war, still do not know what their final commitments to the Crown will be. In 1954, the honorable member for Chisholm referred to tenure. He said -
The holdings are allotted on a perpetual leasehold basis, but, in the case of Tasmanian holdings, with an option to purchase after six years and ten years for holdings in South Australia and Western Australia.
Then we come to the basis of valuation. As far as I can ascertain, this has not yet been determined in the case of Tasmania. The soldier settlers still do not know what they will have to pay. The families of these farmers are growing old enough to go on the land. The honorable member for Chisholm, when introducing the Loan (War Services Land Settlement) Bill 1954, said -
The basis of valuation of holdings is as follows: -
For leasehold purposes: That part of apportionment costs on which the settlers commitments can be met and which can provide him with a reasonable living on the assumption that he commences without capital.
Freehold: At cost of reasonable market value at the time of leasehold valuation, whichever is the lower.
There is the situation. It staggers me that every year a Bill is introduced in this House to raise money to cope with soldier settlement commitments. After 11 years since 1954, some unfortunate settlers still do not know where they stand. The Minister will say that the soldier settlement agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of men who served in the last war is, overall, a good agreement. It is a good scheme. Today in Australia, I suppose, anything up to 12,000 soldier settlers are settled satisfactorily. Yet, in respect of the three agent States in which honorable members would think the people concerned would have the best prospect of coping satisfactorily with their problems, settlers are still in trouble and the position is not resolved.
The Opposition has been critical of the situation. I am critical of it. I am sure my friend from Tasmania, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), will be critical. This Government has to find the required money. It has to write off money. It is responsible for the peace of mind and the future welfare of settlers. We want from the Government a satisfactory explanation as to why, 20 years after the cessation of hostilities and the making of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and 11 years since the honorable member for Chisholm was the Minister in charge of soldier settlement, there are still a number of men who, under the soldier settlement scheme, do not know whether they are in a financial position in respect of the farms on which they are settled. I leave the matter at that.
.- Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to support the Government once again for bringing before this House the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1965. Perhaps, before getting on to the matters I have in mind, I might be excused if I comment in passing on the remarks made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). This has become a habit during the day. While I agree with quite a deal that the honorable member has said; it is obviously unfair for him to use tonight such luxurious phrases as “ muddled actions of the Government” and “muddle and mismanagement “ in reference to areas settled by ex-servicemen. What is the true state of affairs? Basically, I think we can agree - I hope the honorable member for Lalor will agree with me - that the war service land settlement scheme in Australia since the last war has been a magnificent and unparalleled success. I would not say that every man who had the opportunity to take a block of land has necessarily received treatment as good as that received by the next man; nor do I suggest for one minute - here I come rather close to the thoughts of the honorable member for Lalor - that those settlers who have taken up blocks in one area have had as good a deal as those who have taken up blocks in another area. Those statements would seem quite reasonable to me.
I suggest that if there is a fault with the scheme for other than those reasons I have been discussing, it would be that the scheme, if it were worked again, would not be best worked with the responsibility shared by more than one government. It is terribly difficult when things go wrong to sheet home the blame or even to obtain action when one government concerned in a scheme with another government must give local advice but look to the other government for financial help in the undertaking. Even in the developmental stages of a scheme such as this, although it is probably a good idea to allow a State Government to do the early planning regarding soil types, rainfall, contours, fencing and other matters which are within its local knowledge, it is a mistake to share the responsibility, even at this stage of the development of such a successful scheme as I maintain this scheme has been.
I have mentioned that I believe there are problems and problem areas. Why is this? Probably it is due to shifting costs and lack of knowledge at the development stage. It could be due to totally wrong technical advice going back many years. I have had a nodding acquaintance in the State of South Australia with various war service land settlement schemes. I mentioned last year that I had personal experience with the problems on Kangaroo Island. These problems, may I add, have been very well overcome by the patience and tenacity of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I have had also a nodding acquaintance of the war service land settlement scheme blocks in the south-east of South Australia. This applies not only to blocks which were used completely for dairy purposes, where there were certainly early trials, but also to mixed farms with cereal growing, fat lamb propositions, wool growing and beef rearing. The settlers on all these blocks today are going along fairly successfully. There are problems involved in degrees of skill and management within the one area. The point I wish to make is that the problem, as it occurs in South Australia today, appears to me to be entirely related to the small irrigated blocks, sometimes of 20 to 25 acres, in the fruit and vine growing areas of the River Murray. In some ways it is a pleasure to me - in other ways it is a source of worry - that these blocks happen to be in the electorate of Angas which I represent. It is to discuss this problem that I am on my feet tonight. I have several comments and suggestions to make to the Minister regarding the area.
I lead into the subject matter of what I wish to discuss by pointing out that there was a move by one zone of a branch of the War Service Land Settlement Association in these River Murray areas, only a matter of a few weeks ago, in which it was suggested that a royal commission should look into the lack of success in the war service land settlement scheme in that area. I must admit that, in some ways, I see a lot of sense in the comments made by the honorable member for Lalor that this problem has been occurring and recurring since the end of the war some 20 years ago. The area to which I have referred is one where, frankly, technical advice given originally was not up to the mark. We are paying now for a scheme that was good in theory but, which in effect, has had problems. Last year, I enumerated many of these problems. I intend to mention only one of these problems tonight. This difficult matter concerns the problem of an area that went into irrigation after the war. It did not rely on the old method of furrow irrigation but moved into spray irrigation at a very early stage in the development of the technique of spray irrigation with the result that it took in some cases 12, 14 or 15 years before seepage trouble with its associated salinity problems occurred in the area. It is for this reason that the Government, in its wisdom, has made available funds to this area to aid in head works for drainage to overcome the seepage and salinity problems. I congratulate the Government on its action. The action was essential. It still is essential.
Coming back to the Minister’s second reading speech, I note that he said that £1,020,000 will be used for advances to settlers in this area and that the rest of the sum allocated to South Australia will be spent on head works for drainage. Whilst I am on the Minister’s second reading speech, I point out that he mentioned that development in South Australia is moving towards finalisation. I hope, later on in my speech, to be able to point to reasons why I do not quite take the same view. I hope that funds will be available for some years to come. I hope also that the Minister will not take over much notice of the comment by the honorable member for Lalor when he criticised the fact that funds for war service land settlement are being provided so long after the war. I know that the honorable member did not begrudge the provisions of these funds and that he was merely attempting to embarrass the Government in some way. The Minister said -
There is also further work estimated at about £100,000 lo be carried out this year, mainly in connection with drainage and replacement of some irrigation channels with pipelines.
He said, further -
The average advance per settler will not be as high as in Western Australia since, in South Australia, many settlers are able to use co-operative societies, stock firms, etc., to finance their requirements.
To me, this was a very strange remark. I express my personal horror at any suggestion that a State or an individual should be penalised for having been far sighted enough to look after itself or himself in the past. In many fields of primary production South Australia does lead other States in co-operative marketing - I think that is admitted - but I fail to see why this should affect the average advance per settler. I think it might be as well to point out that many primary producers who are shareholders in and deal through co-operatives in these areas have quite extensive funds locked up in the co-operatives - funds which are not available for some of the necessities or, shall I say, semi-luxuries of life.
I was not aware until I heard the Minister’s remark that stock firms in Western Australia were unable to finance settlers’ requirements. His implication was quite clear. I would have thought that the activities of stock firms and their ability to finance requirements would have been uniform from one State to another. This makes one wonder whether in days such as these an individual or a State should make provision for the future or should sit back and let the Government come to the party and help out. I regret the Minister’s statement, but probably there is an explanation that I am not able to see.
I do not intend to debate this matter at length but I do wish to point out that, in my opinion, funds will need to be made available to war service land settlement areas in the future and that finally some adjustment must be made of settlers’ commitments. Perhaps I should touch very briefly on some of the problem industries in the area under consideration. In the irrigated areas, the settlers are involved exclusively in citrus growing, wine grape growing and the growing of fruit for canning and for drying. In order to balance their blocks in the original planting stages, many of the settlers were led to adopt methods that probably would not meet with entire agreement today. As an illustration of this, let me quote a time honoured phrase used in describing these blocks. The phrase is “ fruit salad blocks “. They are termed fruit salad blocks because they grow a bit of each. The theory is that if, for instance, the citrus industry is in a poor state so far as financial returns are concerned, the growers will be able to spread their risk by growing other lines.
The first industry to which I wish to refer is the wine grape growing industry. Probably one of the main worries connected with growing grapes for wine today is the amount of surplus production lying idle in the channels of the wine industry. In recent years, we have seen in South Australia more and more surplus juice being stored from one season to the next. It is not a particularly healthy matter for the industry concerned when there is a surplus that is not disposed of and that may not be disposed of unless marketing conditions alter.
To my mind, we need to do considerable rethinking in connection with our wine exports. Many honorable members have been to South East Asia in recent months and in recent years. Indeed, some of them have been to countries further afield. They know as well as I do some of the problems involved in marketing wine.
– Conditions are very bad.-
– Quite so. In some places the position is very bad. The share of the market for Australian wines in the United Kingdom has shrunk to some extent in recent years. I think that the difficulties probably are due to our thinking in connection with wine exports becoming old fashioned. As honorable members will know, the Australian Wine Board is composed of representatives of different sides of the industry. One side of the industry are the proprietary wineries. They, of course, already have large sums of money invested in promoting their own labels, their own wines, on export markets. Therefore, if we wish to develop a situation where we aim to have one label marketed through a commodity board, as South Africa does today, we are immediately up against the problem of a clash of interests at this level. I can see no particular reason why the representatives of proprietary wineries should come to the party at Wine Board discussions, recommending, say, that a further £50,000, levied from different sections of the industry, be devoted to promoting a one-brand label to be sold in, say, under-developed or emerging countries. It is not reasonable to suppose that they would. They already have large sums tied up in promoting the export of their own articles.
In some areas, they have been very successful. I should say that in the traditional wine markets of this country the Wine Board and the Department of Trade and Industry are doing a worthwhile job. My complaint is that I do not believe that they are doing such a good job in countries which are newly emerging and developing, and where perhaps new markets for our wines could be found. I hope that one day - I do not think this will come within the next 12 months - the co-operative wineries of Australia will get together and agree to export wines under one label, with some imagination - perhaps outside the ambit of the responsibilities of the Wine Board. I hope that one day they will come to the Minister who is sitting at the table - I trust there will be no other Minister for Primary Industry for a long time - and say to him: “Will you back us four to one on a promotional scheme to sell wines in the newly developing countries?” I hope that this will come about. I hope that I am not just gazing into the crystal ball when I say it.
– Why do they not send over some samples?
– Let me say that I treat my responsibility as a representative of the Barossa Valley very seriously. I frequently have inquiries from this area as to whether the wineries will be allowed to come over here with wines to give to honorable members at an arranged dinner. I shall keep the honorable member’s name and face well in mind the next time this matter arises. They are keen to get their wines marketed. I give full marks to anyone who is prepared to adopt the kind of action proposed by these producers.
I think that probably that is as far as I need go with the wine industry, Mr. Speaker, although this is a very full subject on which I should like to develop a line of thought at greater length on some more suitable occasion. At this stage, I want to touch on a very different industry, which has other problems. That is the citrus industry. A number of returned servicemen on war service land settlement blocks are engaged in this industry and are vitally affected by the conditions of the industry in the area about which I am particularly perturbed. The position in the citrus industry is the reverse of that in the wine industry. At present, the export returns are carrying the citrus industry, for most of its export markets are profitable. The home market is far from profitable.
The organisations of citrus growers are trying to put their own house in order in this respect. In South Australia, they are seeking some form of statutory control over their crop, and the matter is due to go before the South Australian Parliament fairly soon, I believe. The proposal that will go before the State Parliament will provide control over the itinerant hawkers of citrus fruit, particularly oranges. At present, a settler whose economic position is poor may be forced to strip his trees and sell his entire crop to a hawker who will then hawk it along the roads. South Australians are well used to seeing citrus fruit sold in this manner throughout the State. This may be getting oranges to the consumers cheaply, but it is not good for the stability of the industry. What the industry wants is an even flow of oranges to the market to meet a steady demand. They do not want to see a glut spoil the market or to have so short a supply of oranges as to be unable to meet the demand. The industry and responsible leaders in it are trying to ensure an even flow of fruit to meet a steady demand by the market. I wish them well. At the same time, I point out to the House that for the last four years the returns from citrus have been ruinously low.
On this point, I should like to give honorable members some information contained in a report on the citrus industry published in May of this year by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This information relates, of course, to all growers in the Murray River citrus areas and not just to those on war service land settlement blocks. But the position of growers who haVe taken up big areas and have been working them for many years is quite different from that of soldier settlers on blocks of 20 or 25 acres. Such small blocks are probably not of economic size. They certainly are not when compared with blocks in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area, where the blocks that are being developed are double this size. I think it is apposite, Sir, to look at the figures produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. At page 60 of this report we find the figures for District 7, which is the Murray River area in South
Australia. These figures are contained in a table and, with the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
– Order! The procedure is that an honorable member wishing to incorporate material in “ Hansard “ should first have conferred on the matter.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member showed me the table earlier and I agreed to its being incorporated.
– Has it been shown to the honorable member in charge of the
– 1 have not shown it to the honorable member for Lalor, who led for the Opposition.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I appreciate the generosity of the Minister for Primary Industry and the honorable member for Lalor. I overlooked showing to the honorable member leading the Opposition in the debate the matter that I wished to incorporate. I trust that, next time, I shall do the right thing by the honorable member for Lalor or whoever may be the honorable member concerned. The table that I incorporate in “ Hansard “ is as follows - debate for the Opposition?
I should just like to bring the attention of honorable members to line F, which gives net farm income. This is probably one of the most important measuring sticks concerning the economic operation of any farming enterprise. Net farm income is the sum available to the farmer to make allowance for his own labour and interest on capital invested. The average figure for the Murray River citrus growers in 1962-63 was £1.071. Honorable members will admit that this is not much, especially when one has to make allowance for one’s own labour and for interest on capital.
Perhaps it would help, Mr. Speaker, if I were to direct the attention of honorable members to another line in this table which gives a measure of the economic capacity of farms. I refer to the last line of the table, which gives the rate of return to capital and management as a percentage. If the rate of return for a farm is less than 5i p?r cent., to quote a usual rate of interest, the farm, frankly, has not met its commitments as an economic unit. This table, which contains the latest available figures, shows that in 1962-63 the rate of return to capital and management in respect of citrus farms in the Murray River area of South Australia was only 2.39 per cent. The average for the three years shown in the table indicates that over the period reviewed citrus farmers have been completely out of pocket and that their position is perilous. I do not say that this is the Commonwealth Government’s fault. This is the sort of problem that arises when the price of a commodity drops to an appallingly low level. If the producing unit is a small one, the producer is unable to put aside enough savings to give himself a chance of adopting modern techniques in order to get him out of his trouble.
– Why does not the Government sell citrus fruits to Communist China?
– I ignore the honorable member’s rather facetious remark about selling fruit outside Australia. I wish to talk about the saleability of the farms. One of the particular problems is that these farms in the Murray River area are not saleable. There is no demand for them on the market. What is the financial structure of these farms? Roughly speaking, they are worth about £10,000. One would not incur a great capital outlay, perhaps, if one wished to buy a citrus farm in this area. If my memory is correct, the annual commitment would be about £600. The average settler would probably have a loan account of £2,000 or £2,500. In some ways, this is probably not unduly large. However, salinity of the soil and seepage are causing increasing problems, and drainage schemes are becoming necessary. Some of these cost up to £4,000 or £5,000. 1 am not referring here to the headwork schemes undertaken by the Government, which, last year, treated the farmers generously by putting in worthwhile new schemes to deal with seepage.
I am concerned particularly about the impossible situation of people who have been forced to sell citrus fruits at prices much below the cost of production in many instances over the last three or four years. It is impossible for these people to put aside enough funds to take advantage of modern drainage techniques. As I see the situation, Mr. Speaker, it is of no earthly use to offer them a loan for the purpose. I agree that in some instances loans may be helpful if the farmers’ commitments are not great. They may then be in a position, with the aid of loans, to go ahead with an economic proposition. But many of the citrus growers in the Murray River area of South Australia, particularly those who are exservicemen, do not fall into this category. I beseech the Government to consider the problem very carefully. I have seen quite a lot of soldier settlement over the years and I regard the problems of citrus growers in this area as being acute and very real.
I have now dealt with most of the matters that I intended to raise tonight. Time will not allow me to discuss the excise on brandy. But may I, on behalf of the grape growers, say that they have been a little appalled at the increase in the excise on brandy. They were, on the other hand, pleased, I think, with the representations made by many members of Parliament and by many leaders of the industry in an endeavour to see that the differentiation in favour of brandy was maintained. I hope the Minister will not be angry with me when I say that it is apparent that some of the competitors of brandy are by-products of other industries and are not surplus production as in the case of juice to be manufactured into spirit or brandy. I congratulate the Government on taking a responsible step by maintaining the differentiation. If it had not done so I am quite sure this industry would have been heading for very perilous times indeed.
Let me say one more thing before I conclude. When this Parliament discussed in years gone by the whole concept of a good resettlement scheme and introduced the war service land settlement scheme as we know it today, many factors were taken into account. Members of this Parliament said that the men involved should have a reasonable scale of living and that they should not have to put up with what amounts in some cases and in other countries particularly to a sort of downtrodden slave labour type of existence in rural settlement. I say this deliberately because although the Government does not owe complete responsibility to every settler in these areas, I think it does owe some responsibility to big areas. I do not mean that the Government can control prices, but I think that when a man reached the age of 45, 50 or 55 and still has no equity in his block whatsoever, it is then time that responsible people thought of making an adjustment to his commitments. I hope, and indeed I beg, that the Government of the day will have a careful look at this matter for one reason if for no other. That one reason is that it is not good business to have a situation in which people cannot meet commitments to a government. It is not good business and, furthermore, it is morally not a very good state of affairs.
.- The House is debating the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1965, which provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £3,800,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during this financial year. In these agent States the Commonwealth advances all the capital moneys required for the scheme. In my State of Tasmania this has amounted to about £20 million. The money will be made available this year in the three States in the following amounts - Western Australia £1,716,000, South Australia £1,200,000 and Tasmania £884,000. I wish to refer to the muddle that has surrounded the scheme and its failure generally on King Island in my electorate. I wish that time would permit me to speak about the other areas in my electorate in which the scheme has operated, such as Togari, Mawbanna and Muenna. However, I feel sure that time will not permit me to do so and I shall confine my remarks to King Island, which is about midway between Tasmania and Victoria. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said in his second reading speech -
In Tasmania some areas on King and Flinders Islands and at Togari - previously known as Montagu Swamp - are still under development but it is hoped that this can be completed within the next two years.
I can assure the Minister that we all share this hope, but because of circumstances with which I will deal later we doubt very much that it can be done. It is important that the work be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible, for many reasons. The war has been over for 20 years and there are still huge sums tied up in this scheme, so that very little is available for civilian settlement. In the present circumstances the sons of the men who were settled on these farms are now at the age when they also require assistance, and if the State is unable, because of its financial commitment under the scheme, to help them, I do not know where they will get assistance. As the Minister knows only too well there is a large group of men who were too young to go to the last war and who therefore, have not been given assistance, because too much money is tied up in this scheme to leave any over for assisting such people. I also know of many ex-servicemen who at the time of their discharge were not aware of the benefits available under the scheme or just neglected to ask for assistance under the scheme. After the stipulated five years went by from the date of discharge many of these men had not taken advantage of the scheme, and many of them would now like to do so and to take up some of the farms that are now vacant. I mention these groups of people to show that there are many who would be glad of assistance but who cannot get it because of the money tied up in the scheme and the financial commitments of the State.
Much of the redevelopment that the Minister spoke of has been continuing since 1959 when, as a result of the airing of the problems of settlers on King Island, a committee of investigation, composed of Commonwealth and State officers, was set up in April of that year. Certain concessions were agreed upon by way of credit to settlers’ accounts for work they had done and redevelopment of paddocks upon which work had not been carried out satisfactorily in the first instance by settlement authorities. We all welcome these concessions. We all realise that they were ad hoc measures and temporary measures to help the settlers overcome mistakes made before 1959 by the authorities. My main criticism has been over the delay of the redevelopment. I first drew attention to this some four years ago in this House and T have been criticising this delay in redevelopment every year since then. My criticism tonight is levelled mainly at that delay, but also at the repudiation of the concession relating to regrowth control. I shall deal with that matter later.
In criticising the delay I directed attention to the reduced carrying capacity on these farms, with the accompanying reduction in farm income. I also stressed the fact that the longer the delay the greater the cost, and hence the greater indebtedness of the settlers and of the State of Tasmania. I believe that more than £20 million has been spent on war service land settlement in Tasmania and that about £5 million of this has been spent on King Island.
Under the scheme to date 142 single unit farms have been acquired and the total number of farms as at last year was 563. An alarming feature is the number of settlers who were allotted holdings but who have now vacated their farms. The official returns indicate that the number has risen progressively from 78 to 82 and then - to 91 over the last three years. This shows that everything is not as rosy as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) would have us believe. This wastage factor is most pronounced on King Island and it is a cause of great concern because it affects the Island’s economy. The Island cannot afford to lose one family, let alone the numbers that have been leaving steadily in recent years.
The official return for last year showed that 12 farms were forefeited in the 12 months and that 10 of these were on King Island. The return lists these 10 properties as still vacant. Earlier this year I was advised by the authorities that there were now 21 vacant farms on King Island, comprising 19 dairy farms and 2 sheep blocks. The figure varies from time to time and it is difficult to pin down the number exactly. In a report submitted to this Government about 18 months ago the King Island council said that about 60 settlers had left their farms, most of them for financial reasons, and that at that time 10 farms were vacant. I remind the House again that the number has risen to 21. I realise that breakdown in health has caused some of this wastage. I recently submitted to the State authorities a report on the health problems of the settlers on King Island. The problem of mental health is becoming very serious. If a copy of this report has not been forwarded to the Minister for Primary Industry I will be quite happy to supply him with one. This report, after dealing in medical terms with the position, refers to the fact that a considerable number of couples are awaiting the opportunity to leave the Island. It highlights the frustration and the worries facing the settlers and it includes the following comment -
I think I can spot a good farmer and a bad one - apart from medical data. The thing that worried me is that the men I consider as good farmers are, if anything, more worried than the no-hopers. This is a desperate state of affairs.
I am only too aware that proposals have been made recently to help solve the problems referred to in this medical report. I shall deal with those later, but I must repeat what I have so often advocated - that is, as soon as redevelopment has been completed each farm should be valued as soon as possible as a unit. From the figure obtained by valuation we should subtract the farmer’s equity through improvements that he has made and offer the property to him at a reasonable figure. This would involve a substantial write off, but at least the farmer would know where he was going. I believe that this is more important In an island community than anywhere else. In this respect I agree entirely with the medical report, which contains a statement that I now propose to read. I repeat the offer that I made earlier to the Minister when he was otherwise occupied: I will forward this report to him if he has not already received it from the authorities. The report concludes -
I am confident that the medical problems of the Island would be very considerably reduced if they were able to see some future that was assured for themselves and their children.
There, of course, the report is referring to the soldier settlers. As I have said, this Island cannot afford to lose these people. The King Island Settlers Association said last year that the number of those who had left the Island had risen from 60 to 85. Everyone on the Island is affected by this tremendous wastage in population.
I cite as an example the position of the King Island Dairy Producers Co-operative Society, which, after consultation with the War Service Land Settlement authorities, expanded its plant to handle 1,500 tons of butter a year. The Society was told that production from the settlement farms would require a factory capable of producing at least 1,500 tons of butter. Now we find that the number of settlers has fallen from about 190 to about 160 - a drop of about 30. This is an indication of the seriousness of the problem which affects not only the King Island Dairy Products Co-operative Society but also business houses and everyone associated with the Island. The authorities are at present engaged in allocating the vacant farms to those settlers whom they consider to be on sub-standard land. As I intimated earlier, at present 21 properties are involved in this re-allocation. Each property has a vacant farm house on it. I should like the Minister to tell me when replying to the debate whether a settler who is given one of these blocks or a part of one to enable him to build up his own sub-standard block will be responsible also for the capital cost of the house that he will more or less inherit. I am referring to the house that has been vacated by another settler. Are these houses to be depreciated over a certain period and, if so, what would be the rate of depreciation? This is a matter which is exciting some comment and causing some concern on the Island.
In previous debates I have referred to my State’s liability under this scheme. We in Tasmania are responsible for payment of the interest on funds advanced by the Commonwealth Government as from 1st July 1950 up to the time that the moneys provided become revenue bearing or are recouped from the Commonwealth and the State by way of valuation losses. The AuditorGeneral for Tasmania has estimated that the interest owing to the Commonwealth on this account to 30th June last year was £3,180,000. Tasmania’s share of the writing off of excess costs, excluding this amount of interest, at the completion of the scheme is estimated to amount to not less than £4,300,000. This represents a debt for my State of £7,500,000.
In its thirty-first report, the Commonwealth Grants Commission again referred to the question of capital losses on war service land settlement and the manner in which such losses should be treated. In a statement presented to the Commission by way of application for a special grant for 1965-66, the Tasmanian Government drew attention on page 6 to the fact that the determined capital losses are likely to reach significant proportions this year and that it would be essential for the Tasmanian Government to know the Commission’s attitude when framing its budgetary policy for the year. It is now clear that Tasmania’s accumulated liability to date is £5,100,000. Arrangements have been made to repay this from State revenue at the rate of £1,020,000 a year over five years, commencing from this year. For a small State, that is certainly not chicken feed.
The measure before us is to provide for the expenditure of almost another £1 million for redevelopment. I ask the Minister whether I am correct in assuming that Tasmania’s liability of more than £5 million to date represents its share of the two-fifths of the excess cost up to now. If I am correct, then Tasmania’s share of the write-off to date represents almost £10,000 a farm. The Commonwealth’s share is three fifths, which would amount to £15,000 a farm. The total write-off up to this date would be about £25,000 for each unit. On the development estates the write-off figure would probably be even higher because several of them are vacant and of the settlement farms in Tasmania, which number about 500, more than 100 were purchased on a single unit basis - mostly on a walk in, walk out arrangement. Hence settlers on those properties would be charged almost the full purchase price.
The Minister said recently on King Island that approximately £750,000 had been spent on redevelopment under the concessions which he agreed to. Does the Minister realise that, on his figures, this redevelopment - this reconditioning of grass paddocks, with little clearing, compared with the original clearing of virgin bush - of some 12,000 to 14,000 acres has now cost about £50 an acre? The Minister made this statement recently at Currie. The figures are borne out by official records. There have been all sorts of agitations since the Minister came to King Island in June. There have been headlines in the Press and the Returned Servicemen’s League has moved for a royal commission. Under a headline “King Island Scheme ‘ Has Failed Dismally’ “ one report stated -
The State Executive of the R.S.L. is convinced that the land settlement scheme on King Island “has failed dismally”: “So many questions remain unanswered. “Why have more than 90 ex-servicemen settlers left their farms on King Island? “Many settlers who have worked their properties for more than 15 years still do not know how much the Government will charge them should they wish to buy.
A little later the article stated -
While values in other war service land schemes in Tasmania steadily appreciated, those on King Island had depreciated.
The report referred to the wide variation in the treatments of settlers in regard to charges and repayments, and said that this had led to dissatisfaction and bewilderment.
This is a problem that I referred to earlier and that I refer to again. It is becoming a very serious problem and one to which the Government must give attention in the very near future. The article continued -
In many cases, the health of ex-servicemen had deteriorated considerably, because of the heavier working conditions on uneconomical units, frustration, and the worry over the many promises that had not been kept.
That newspaper article was based on a report made by the State executive of the R.S.L. On 9th June 1965 there was a newspaper headline which read: “ R.S.L. Seeks Royal Commission into War Service Land Settlement”. On 28th July 1965 a headline stated: “Libs. Support Moves for Royal Commission into K.I.W.S. Land Settlement “. These reports caused a great deal of concern among those who have the interest of the settlers at heart.
I should like the Minister, if he will, to explain why the Commonwealth Director has not carried out the terms of the agreement with Tasmania. I refer to clause 4 of the agreement whereby the State is required to obtain his prior approval for the cost of any project. I understand that since 1960 the only approval given by the Commonwealth authorities appears to have taken the form of an annual allocation of funds based on the annual estimates submitted by the Closer Settlement Board in Tasmania. 1 ask the Minister: Does the simple allocation of funds, such as in this legislation, constitute adequate approval of the estimates submitted, or should each project be treated separately? Is the Minister aware that only 2,000 acres of redevelopment is to be undertaken this year, and that the cost of administration is more than the cost of the work being done? Is it a fact that wages for administration alone are costing redevelopment up to £56 an acre this year? While the officials are wandering around for at least eight months arguing whether to do 10 acres here or 10 acres there, they could get in and clean up the whole job and so bring it to an early conclusion.
I understand that one D7 tractor and a set of giant discs has to plough 2,000 acres a year at an hourly rate of £7 10s. to earn its cost. These figures can be checked easily. We should bear in mind that 2,000 acres is the target on King Island for this year. One machine could eat the work, yet there are four machines on the Island, two owned by the authorities and two by local contractors. I ask the Minister to call for an immediate report on this matter. Why the delay? Why is the job being prolonged? Why are machines lying idle for eight months of the year? We have had a wonderful winter and splendid opportunities have again been missed. The Minister’s very attitude to Proposal I would lead one to believe that he wanted to prolong the job to keep administration officials in their jobs. He will recall that after the redevelopment of each farm was agreed on the settlers were granted a non-repayable loan to redevelop other areas on their farms, provided they seeded them within 18 months of cultivation. It was understood that the settler could call in private operators to push on with the job. However, as at 30th June this year, only 350 acres have been done; yet last year 2,000 acres were approved for redevelopment. Why did the officials sit down on this job, if it were not to take it over for themselves when the redevelopment was completed, so prolonging their jobs and keeping the scheme going ad infinitum? I can hope only that the Minister will let me have some answers about the whole sorry mess on the island. Apart. from the machines that I have mentioned, the Commonwealth authorities have 20 crawler tractors and 24 wheel tractors. In addition to these, every settler on the island has a wheel tractor under agreement to the War Service Land Settlement Division, so surely the settlers could be hired to do the seeding.
On the Minister’s own figures, given at Currie, redevelopment has cost some £50 an acre. This compares with £56 an acre for administration costs alone that will be debited against redevelopment this year. As the Auditor-General has pointed out before, the State is liable to contribute its proportion of two-fifths of the eventual excess cost of this additional work, so we can expect the State liability to go well beyond the £5.1 million that it stands at now. As I indicated earlier, this redevelopment arose from the concessions given to settlers in 1959 to help them out of their troubles. Unfortunately, they proved of little benefit and the settlers had to approach the Commonwealth and State Governments again for assistance. The State Government set up a committee of inquiry and its report was considered towards the end of last year by the two Ministers concerned. I am pleased to note that the Commonwealth Minister and the State Minister both recognise that problems exist and they intend now to review the amounts charged to the settlers from 1st July 1957 to 30th June this year. The review is to be based on the evidence contained in the report of the committee of inquiry.
It is important to note that the rentals paid in each year from 1957 are to be related to a farm’s productivity and the group into which it falls for that particular year. The report indicated that the farms could fall into one of three groups. First, there was a group of farms on the island that could have reached the standard production of 12,000 lb. of butter fat, or 1,180 fat lamb ewe equivalents. Such a farm was expected to give a reasonable standard of living and to enable the settler to meet his commitments. The second group of farms comprises those producing less than 10,000 lb. of butter fat or 960 fat lamb ewe equivalents. The report showed that the settlers on these farms could be expected to meet the charges applicable only to temporary leases. The third group of forms comprised those farms falling between those with standard production and those on the temporary lease level. Each farm will be considered in relation to the group into which it falls.
The proposals also contain provision for an interest remission of £100 for each year the settler was on permanent lease, provided the farm’s productivity did not reach the standard level in that year. The Stare authorities have agreed with me that this concession may be regarded as an admission that some settlers were placed on permanent lease far too early. The committee will work out the amount it considers each settler should have paid, lt a settler has actually paid more for rent and interest, the excess will be credited to his account. If the settler is in arrears - and many of them are - then any credits they built up ,will be used in reducing the arrears. From this year we will have an assessment scheme for settlers on permanent lease whose farms are considered not to have reached standard production which, as I have indicated, for a dairy farm involves 12,000 lb. of butter fat a year, or, in the case of a sheep block, 1,180 fat lamb ewe equivalents. Under this scheme an annual assessment will be made of what a farm can be expected to pay. This will be based on the anticipated productivity of the farm. When this figure is obtained the charges for rent, interest and repayment of principal for the year will be worked out. When announcing the text of these proposals, the two Ministers drew attention to the mounting arrears and expressed con cern. It is quite right that they should express concern, because the figures I have quoted before in this House indicate that from 1958. when the arrears totalled £91,000, they have increased to £472,000 in 1964, the last year for which figures are available.
The authorities now plan to take over the proceeds from a farm where a settler is in arrears after the new assessment plan. The settler is to receive a living allowance of £1,300 a year. The authorities no doubt hope that the farm will return sufficient to meet this amount and to leave some over to pay off the debts the settler owes under the scheme. Actually, I question the legality of this and would like the Minister to indicate how and if this can be done. I am pleased to see that the Commonwealth Government at last recognises the effect of conditions on farm machinery and equipment on King Island. Because of this the Government announced yesterday that it planned to give a credit of £800 to the settlers. In other words, the amounts owed by the settlers for advances will be reduced by £800. I have often drawn attention to the high cost of machinery breakdowns and depreciation of plant caused mainly by the way in which the surface of the blocks, when being developed originally, have been left. This recognition amounts to a write off of £800 on advances. I hope - and in this I join with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - that this scheme will soon conclude. This is what the people on the island want, which is only fair, as it is now 20 years since the war finished. I bad to draw attention tonight to these questions related to redevelopment, and to tractors lying idle for eight months of the year when we have had a good winter and could have pushed on with the job. It looks to us as though the number of acres under Proposal I. are being delayed until redevelopment is completed so that the authorities can thus have under their control this extra work too. These questions are being asked time and time again and will have to be answered soon: Why is this matter taking so long? Why are not the machines being used to their maximum capacity? What is the trouble with it all? Who wants to prolong it? The economy of the island suffers all the time this trouble goes on. As the honorable member for Lalor says, it is nothing better than a muddle.
The King Island Council, in the case that it presented to the Government about 18 months ago, said that there were 160 war service land settlement farms on the island. I have no reason to doubt its figures, because the deputation to the Government from the Council was a good one. I believe that it would have checked its figures before it came to Canberra. However, the report of the Tasmanian Closer Settlement Board for last year says that there are 146 farms on the island and a reliable check today shows that there are only 110 occupied farms on the island. If we take the figures contained in the Council’s case, 50 farms are vacant. If we take the figures contained in the report of the Closer Settlement Board, 36 farms are vacant. This process must be stopped because the island cannot afford to lose one farm let alone suffer the tremendous wastage of people that is occurring at the present time.
Anything that can be done to wind up the matter, to let these people see the green light on the hill, to let them know where they are going, to let them know what they owe and to give tham a valuation and the option to purchase, should be done. By doing such things we would overcome many of the difficulties and troubles that exist in this island community. As I have said, it is more important to know these things on an island than on the mainland because of the difficulties and the conditions that exist -in an island community. One has to live in an island community to really appreciate the problems of the people in such a community-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This Bill provides for the expenditure of £3,800,000 on war service land settlement. We are entitled to ask whether this expenditure and the previous expenditures - the millions of pounds that have been expended in this field - will be and have been expended to good effect in the rehabilitation of soldier settlers and the development of Australia. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), who spoke earlier in this debate, said that war service land settlement schemes were successful, with a few exceptions. When the Curtin Government was in office and was prosecuting the Second World War towards a successful conclusion, it also had time to set up a rural committee of inquiry to make arrangements for settlement on the land after the war had ceased. That committee estimated that about 60,000 men had left primary industry to go into the Services. It also estimated that about 50,000 of those men would probably desire farms when the war ended. The estimates were not very far out.
When the war ended the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the States, set up these war service land settlement schemes. Applications were called. Some years ago, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), in reply to a question that I put to him, told me that more than 60,000 applications for farms were received in the various States. He also told me that, after a careful appraisal of the applicants, at least 40,000 of them were declared to be fit and eligible to go on the land. Recently I asked him a number of questions. One of them was -
How many ex-service personnel have been placed on farms in each State since 1947?
The answer was: New South Wales 2,804; Victoria 2,713; Queensland 444; South Australia 1,022; Western Australia 924; and Tasmania 523; a total of 8,430. In answer to the question the Minister also said -
The total number of ex-service personnel placed on farms would be slightly higher than the number of allotments, because of instances where a farm has been surrendered by the original allottee and a second eligible ex-serviceman placed on it. There is no record of the extent to which this has occurred. In addition, many ex-service personnel have secured farms by private means, or have been placed on farms under arrangements other than those of the war service land settlement scheme.
Later I sought information on how many ex-service personnel the sundry other arrangements would account for. I found that they would not account for more than another 8,000 settlers. So, a total of 17,000 settlers have been placed on the land out of the 40,000 applicants who were declared by the various State authorities to be suitable and eligible to go on the land. So, it does not look to me as though war service land settlement schemes have been successful.
If the war service land settlement scheme had as its objective merely the rehabilitation of the men who went to the war, then 23,000 of them did not secure the rehabilitation that they had been led to expect. If the objective was to increase the number of farms throughout Australia, then the scheme did not increase the number to any great extent. Why were soldiers not settled on the land? Why were schemes discontinued when people were being led to expect that in a month’s time or a year’s time they would get farms of their own? Why did they finally not get them? Why were schemes throughout Australia closed down? Were they closed down because there were too many farms in Australia and the Government could not put more soldier settlers on farms because that would create farms that were unnecessary to the Australian economy? Was that the reason? Noone answers me. Well, I am not in the confidence of the Government. I do not know as much about the details of laud settlement as do some members of the Country Party. But I would like to know whether there are too many farms in this country today. Almost twelve months ago I asked the Minister for Primary Industry how many farms there were in the country. He replied that in 1947 there were 246,895 farms and that in 1963 there were 251,945 farms. Between 1947 and 1963 there was an increase apparently of about 5,000 in the number of farms. The Minister further said, in referring to the 1956 total after the inclusion of 4,784 additional holdings in New South Wales-
These were existing holdings not included in the statistics in the years immediately preceding 1956; they were not newly created farms. Allowance should be made for these in comparing totals before and after 1956.
In other words, in 1947 there were 246,895 farms, plus 4,784, which is a total of about 251,000 which was the approximate figure for 1963. So, despite the direct settlement of 8,400 ex-servicemen and the indirect settlement of a further 8,000, the number of farms in Australia did not increase at all between 1947 and 1963. Not one soldier settler, not one of the immigrants who came to this country, not the son of one farmer and not any person who worked in a rural occupation anywhere was put on a farm in this country after 1947 without displacing somebody who was already on a farm.
– It is a case of in one end and out the other.
– That is right. Is that a desirable position? Is the position such that this country does not need more farm production? If we want to increase farm production we must have more farms. If we do not need to increase farm production but want to diminish it, we must put people off farms, lt would be better to put them off directly rather than have them frozen off as is happening on King Island and as will happen on some of the dairy farms in Australia and in the pea growing industry in Tasmania and elsewhere as a result of the trade agreement with New Zealand. If they must go off the farms, put them off directly into some other undertaking. I maintain that we do not have enough farms. We need more farms. I agree with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) who said that in the next 10 years Australia must increase her exports by £1,000 million a year. I agree with him also that that increase must come in the main from our rural industries. I agree with him that 80 per cent, of our exports are rural products. This means that rural production for export alone must increase during the next 10 years by £800 million a year if we are to maintain our existing standard of living - if we are to pay for the essential commodities that we import to keep our industries growing and to absorb our increasing population.
I agree also with Sir John Crawford, who was formerly Secretary of the Department of Trade. About two years ago he said that it was essential that we increase our exports by at least £400 million a year in the next five years. He showed how we could achieve this increase. He said that one of the essential requirements is an expansion of rural production. He said that we must have more farms. I agree with him. We must have more farms. But can we have more farms? Are there sufficient people who want to go on farms today? The following report appears in the Melbourne “ Sun “ today -
Country Party Leader, Mr. Moss, last night accused the Government of “fiddling” with the land settlement problem. Mr. Moss, speaking in the Supply debate in the Legislative Assembly, said there were hundreds of young men with families trying to get on the land. There were 500 applications for 21 blocks in the East Goulburn system recently, he said.
I have it on good authority that there are thousands of applicants, civilians and exservicemen alike, in all States seeking to go on the land and undertake various forms of rural production. But they cannot go on farms. There are no farm settlement schemes to enable them to go on the land. This Government should take the initiative in a scheme to extend land settlement. It should unite with the State Governments and see that servicemen who come back from Vietnam or who have returned from Korea are able to participate in a land settlement scheme that will permit them to engage successfully in rural production. Civilians also should have an opportunity to go on the land. Why can they not do so? Why, in a world in which there is an increasing demand for food production of all kinds, a world in which hundreds of millions are dying of starvation every year-
– The honorable member said a little while ago that there were too many farms.
– I pointed out that evidently the Government thought there were too many farms because it reduced its assistance in the land settlement of exservicemen. I have never said that there are too many farms. I have said that there are not enough farms to provide for the requirements of this country and to enable it to play its part in helping to feed a hungry world. The whole system of land settlement has been made unbearable at the source. The p-ice of land has been increased out of all proportion to previous prices by land manipulators and others. These people have secured an unearned increment. Today, the price of land is so high that in many cases rural production becomes unprofitable.
– Yes. Who is responsible?
– The Government.
– What words of wisdom from the honorable member from Bendigo. In 1948 another government was upon the treasury-bench. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a member of that Government. That was the Government that fixed a ceiling price for land. It was the
Government that determined that the cost of land in 1948 should be such as to enable people who took up farms to produce goods profitably. Under the system that operated up to 1948 the cost of acquiring farms for land settlement was half, and sometimes less than half, the cost of similar areas in comparable States after 1948. In Victoria the cost of a farm upon which a soldier settler was settled prior to 1948 was about £11,000. After 1948 it was £22,000. In Tasmania, after 1948, farms cost £30,000; in Western Australia £20,000; in South Australia £20,000; in Queensland more than £23,000; and in New South Wales a similar amount. Some time ago I asked the Minister in charge of war service land settlement a question about the cost of land at various periods in the various States. I asked what were the costs of settling individual soldiers upon the land and I was given information that was clear and unequivocal. It showed that as the result of lifting the ceiling on the price of land, costs had soared to twice or more than twice what they were previously. A person had to endeavour, with a capital cost of two or two and one half times what he would have had to pay prior to 1948, to make a success of his undertaking. Obviously, he was not able to do so.
In concluding my few remarks I desire to say that there are not hundreds, but thousands, of Australians - sons of farmers, migrants and members of the great Australian Workers Union, who have spent their lives upon farms - who are willing and anxious to take up land. There is land that should be made available to them. I desire to quote from the Melbourne “ Age “ of 20th September 1965. An article in that newspaper stated -
Australia still had vast areas of land to be opened up and used for agriculture, the Professor of Agriculture at Melbourne University (Professor Carl Forster) said yesterday.
The Professor emphasised the point that this land should be opened up. Not only should the type of land to which the Professor was referring be opened up, but in the interests of this nation and its development, and in order that Australia may be able to absorb a larger and larger population, land that is today privately owned, and which is not being used to full productive capacity, should be resumed by governments and given to those who are willing and able to use it. It should be resumed at prices, and under conditions, that will enable those to whom it is given to make a success of their ventures. That is the only way in which Australia can fulfil its great density among the nations. In this way people similar to those who occupy it today will continue to occupy it despite the desires of vast landhungry masses of people in other countries.
– I shall not take up very much time. I want to say how pleased I am to learn from the speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that the South Australian Kangaroo Island project is expected to be completed during this financial year. That is welcome news, because for many years now the people on the island have been hoping to have the position settled, especially since 1954 when the then Minister in charge of this activity gave an almost firm undertaking that the land settlement project would be completed within the next five years. That meant, by 1959. It is now 1965. I do know that this matter is not entirely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government but that the responsibility rests partly upon the State Government. It is not, I think, a mere coincidence that the scheme in South Australia is being brought so quickly to a close on Kangaroo Island with the advent of the new Government there. The Labour Government in South Australia has given very keen attention to this matter.
For years now. members of the Labour Party in the South Australian Parliament, myself and colleagues of mine, like the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton), have been pressing for the Federal and State Governments to finalise the scheme in South Australia. It is pleasing to know, or to suspect at any rate, that the Labour Government of South Australia, which has recently taken office, has been able, with the co-operation of the Minister for Primary Industry, of course - it could not do it without his co-operation, but evidently that has been forthcoming - to complete the scheme. The Minister has informed me that only five or six blocks have yet to be settled, and I thank him for the information. Whether or not the prices that have been allocated to the blocks are satisfactory I cannot say at this stage, because I have not the latest information. I do know that when I was last over on Kangaroo
Island - that is going back two years now - the settlers there were not satisfied with the tentative prices that had been fixed. They thought that the prices were far greater than the economic value of the blocks justified. Some of them were still complaining that they had not had a sufficient amount of superphosphate allocated to their blocks in accordance with the recognised principles of setting up virgin land. This was causing some concern. I understand that the Minister - again I pay tribute to him - visited the area, and as a consequence of that visit I believe that this complaint was considered and something done about it, possibly to the satisfaction of the people concerned. Again, I am not sure of this.
In passing, I should like to pay a tribute, to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) who concluded his speech on the note that more and better-class land should be made available for settlement. The honorable member for Scullin certainly hit the nail on the head when he said that it is about time that the Government took some steps to force those land owners who are now holding large tracts of valuable land, which are out of use or partly out of use, to give them up for allocation to soldier settlers who could put the land to full use. It is true that in Australia millions of acres of good land are being only partly used.
– Some of the land to which I refer is near the property of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn). Those honorable members who travel by road from here to Albury, go past the Fairbairn property and can see what can be done by an enterprising farmer with a lot of money in his pocket, compared with what is being done by an unenterprising farmer, or an enterprising farmer without money. This is an application of the point that was made so very well by the honorable member for Scullin a moment ago.
I will move now, as I promised, to a quick reference to the enlightening speech made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), who does not seem to be listening to me although I listened to him. I thought his speech touched on some very important aspects of soldier settlement in the River Murray area. He referred to the plight of the citrus growers and, by way of interjection, I said that it was a wonder the Government had not tried to sell the surplus citrus crop to Communist China. At least, if in time of war the Communists threw the oranges back at us they would not do much damage, but they could do a lot of damage with the lead we give them. To be serious, I think the Government could do more to exploit the market for citrus fruits than it is doing. I was surprised to hear the honorable member say that we are already relying to a very large extent upon the export market for citrus fruits to keep the industry solvent. That was news to me. I was glad to hear it because it encourages me to believe that the remarks I am now making have a greater application than the Government realises. If exports have had the impact upon the industry that the honorable member said they have, I cannot help but believe that a properly organised trade campaign in the near South East Asian countries could bring extra markets to us. Perhaps South East Asia is not the area where the best markets for citrus fruits are likely to be found.
– The Department of Trade and Industry has just opened up a market in France.
– Well, there you are. That is the point I was trying to make. South East Asia is not necessarily the easiest market, but it is good to know that we have found a market in France. If the French people eat oranges, the Belgians, Danes and Norwegians probably eat them too and would be glad to buy oranges from us. I could not quite understand the honorable member’s eulogistic reference to the Government’s decision to increase the excise on brandy. He seemed to get solace from the fact that, at any rate, the differential between brandy and other spirits had been maintained.
– That is the only part he eulogised - the maintenance of the margin.
– He praised the Minister for that. I would not have praised him for it. I do not like to take praise away from the Minister, but I do not think this action deserved praised. It is the opinion of the purchasers of the brandy that the excise is too high. It affects not only brandy but also fortified wines. An outlet for surplus grapes can only be found by increasing the differential between brandy and other spirits, lt was originally estimated last year in South Australia that more than 3,000 tons of grapes would not be purchased by the wine makers.
– How many headaches would that make?
– It depends how one drinks. If one drinks like some people I know do, it would make a lot of headaches. If one drinks with moderation, it would not make any headaches at all.
– Order! I think it would be a good idea if we returned to the debate on the Bill.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON__ If I may, I will return to the statements made by the honorable member. If the soldier settlers in the River Murray area, particularly those who have planted wine grape varieties, are to be saved from the prospect of having a large surplus of wine grapes that they cannot sell, we should not content ourselves merely with maintaining the differential; we must increase the differential so that there will be a greater demand for wine grapes than there is now. By this means, we could have absorbed completely last year’s surplus. With the increased yield of grapes and the ever increasing acreage that is being planted, we must be prepared for the day when the surplus will be even greater than it was last year. I maintain that we can absorb the surplus only by increasing the differential.
– Or by increasing our exports.
– I will come to that point, too, if I may. The honorable member said that he thought a one brand marketing of wine in the United Kingdom could not be justified but a one brand marketing of wine in newly developed markets could be justified. With great respect, I think that is a weak form of reasoning. I do not know whether the honorable member is aware that a few years ago South Africa sold 200,000 gallons of wine on the United Kingdom market at a time when we were selling 1,000,000 gallons of wine. Today, we are still selling not much more than 1,000,000 gallons but South Africa’s share of the United Kingdom market is more than 2,000,000 gallons. This result has been achieved by South Africa because the wine makers of that country have been brought under the same kind of marketing system as we have for wheat and wool.
– Order! I quite appreciate that the sale of wine and other subjects arose during the debate on war service land settlement, but I think at the moment we are getting a bit far away from the subject matter of the Bill. The honorable member should try to connect his remarks with the Bill a little more specifically.
– Yes, I can see your point of view, Sir. You were here when the honorable member spoke.
– I appreciate that point, yes.
– If you do not mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will just round it off.
– I would like the honorable member to round it off very quickly.
– Thank you. I will do that, in deference to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realise that the honorable member faces a problem. The vested interests, such as Penfolds Wines Pty. Ltd. and G. Gramp and Sons Pty. Ltd. have already spent large sums of money in developing private markets in the United Kingdom and they do not want to see their markets withering on the vine, so to speak. If they were to lose their markets, they would consider that they had wasted years of effort and considerable amounts of money. But I think in the interests of the industry as a whole and the country in general they should be big enough to cut their losses in the hope that the industry would gain from a more orderly marketing scheme. One advertisement for Australian wine could be flashed on the television screens in the United Kingdom and would be seen by people all over that country. This would be better than having an individual advertisement in Birmingham or Leeds or some other town. Instead of people going into one shop and asking for one particular brand of wine, they should be encouraged to go into shops anywhere and buy Australian wine that is advertised all over the country. We could give our wines a very good name. What better name could we have than “ Bottled Sunshine “?
– Order! I think the honorable member has gone fu enough on that point.
– in reply. - The debate on this Bill has been quite interesting. The Bill seeks the provision of loan moneys with which to continue the war service land settlement scheme. The system until two years ago was to arrange a loan and to add to the loan any moneys that accrued from repayments made by settlers. Whilst that revenue lasted, the charges would be met. Two years ago, the system was changed and each year we need to provide, through the Budget, the finance needed to continue any payments for war service land settlement. This year the revenue is estimated to be £1 million more than the outgoing; so £1 million more will go into the Treasury than will go out of it for war service land settlement. I think I interjected when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was speaking to point out that the bulk of these moneys were for credit facilities to be made available to the settlers if they had the necessary security or if, in the assessment period prior to obtaining their permanent lease, provision of finance was necessary to keep them in operation, we provide funds for that period.
– I am criticising the development part of the scheme. It should have been finished long ago.
– The honorable member quoted a speech made by the then Minister for the Interior in 1954 who, I think, made a reasonably sound forecast when he said that the scheme would be completed in approximately five or six years.
– It was only six years out.
– I think that, under normal conditions, that would have happened. What does the honorable member for Lalor expect the Government to do? Every settlement has not developed as it was expected to develop. If deficiencies are found in a settlement, does the honorable member say: “We have reached a certain standard of development and that is as far as we shall go “? Are we to leave that settlement stranded?
– I am not going to say anything of the sort.
– I know the honorable member is not. He agrees with what we urge in relation to extraordinary circumstances. That is, that we should continue the development as we did in King Island where we engaged in a redevelopment scheme which has cost us nearly £750,000.
– The problem should have been realised earlier. It was obvious.
– That is another matter. I do not know whether these problems can always be foreseen. I remind the honorable member - if he does not know, let me tell him - of Loxton which was a completed soldier settlement. The year after I became the Minister in charge of this scheme, salinity which developed in the irrigation was killing the trees on that settlement. This was a completed settlement. What should we do? Should we leave that settlement stranded or should we help to save the settlement?
– We happened to be criticising the King Island settlement particularly.
– Order! The honorable member has made his speech.
– The honorable member was criticising the whole scheme. Let me tell him that altered circumstances require different treatment. So, we have continued to help each settlement in which extraordinary circumstances have arisen. We must meet those extraordinary circumstances. Loxton was one of those settlements. I approved the spending of. £900,000 there on head works for drainage.
– What does the Minister mean by “ head works “ - trenches?
– This is not the interna] farm drainage, but the main drainage for the whole settlement. There was what was called a bore trench. Bores, were put down. As a bore filled, the ground around the trench became saturated and, when salinity was in the soil, the trees were killed. When this occurred at Loxton, something had to be done to save the whole settlement. I approved the spending of £900,000 on a completed settlement. The work started all over again and £100,000 is still to be spent there. We are spending £3,000 to £4,000 on the internal drainage of some farms at no cost to the settlers.
– Somebody blundered.
– That might be right. The engineers may have been at fault. I do not know. I think that probably nobody expected the salinity development. The soil was expected to be porous enough for the old type of drainage. This was before I became Minister. I had the problem placed before me, and I had to act.
– I think everybody thought that Loxton was all right.
– The second point about King Island is that I was not the Minister responsible for the selection of it as the site for the settlement. I think that, in some cases, the trouble that has arisen with war service land settlement has been that the State Governments, in recommending certain areas have not put an economic proposition on to the Commonwealth. In saying that, I am putting the position in the kindest way. King Island falls into that category. I have really inherited a problem with King Island. I am not afraid to discuss it because the year after I became the Minister concerned with this scheme I went over there and saw what the position was. All of the trouble on King Island is not the responsibility of the Government. Some of it was caused through the settlers being urged by the Returned Servicemen’s League to get on the land as quickly as possible. They did this before the land was developed to the stage where a settler could come on to it and make a livelihood from it. Some farms were brought up to the normal stage of development which would provide a livelihood in other areas. King Island showed that it had extraordinary problems, first, in regard to regrowth and undergrowth and, secondly, in regard to heavy depreciation. When we entered into the scheme for the redevelopment of King
Island, we did not take the farms only to the stage of development which was accepted in other centres. For instance, the standard stage of development for a dairy farm in any other soldier settlement is 10,000 lb. of butter fat. We made the standard on King Island 12,000 lb. of butter fat. In other words, we provided extra development.
The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) says that everything there is wrong. He talks about administrative costs. The Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania went with me to Currie. We had a meeting there. He never mentioned it at all. Nor did any of the settlers. If administration officers were not doing their job, that would be the right place for settlers to speak up and say so. This is a general charge which I do not accept. It is a sweeping charge that cannot be accepted; nor is it true.
– Will the Minister have a look at the figures I gave him tonight?
– Order! The honorable member for Braddon has spoken.
– I do not accept that argument. Let us consider the action taken as far as King Island is concerned. The first thing we did was to vote £750,000 for extra development in order to bring these farms up to a standard above the standard enjoyed by every other settlement in Australia. We hoped that this would meet the position on King Island. Then a request was made to the Government because of the isolated position of King Island. The Government granted the settlers on King Island a freight subsidy to enable them to get their produce to markets. I think it is £2 10s. a ton. The honorable member for Braddon nods his head in agreement with what I have said. That subsidy was admitted to be quite a considerable asset to every settler on the Island. The State Minister and I agreed that we would re-examine the accounts of the settlers so that any work done by them on their own accord would be credited to them against any debits which might be accruing to the Government. In addition, we are making allowances because of the extra depreciation costs on King Island. This process is in operation now. Each individual account is being attended to by the Commonwealth Govern ment wilh the co-operation of the Tasmanian Government. Finally, as a consideration for the extra depreciation that does occur on King Island, as shown by experience we have granted each settler - we are treating each settler individually - £800 credit to write off debits. If we have not tried to assist the settlers, I do not know who has. All the things I have mentioned are over and above the development that is carried out in other settlements.
Quite a number of soldier settlements are making good. In regard to the £800 credit, we have to give that amount to some settlers to put them on the same levels as others. We must treat the efficient farmer as well as we treat the farmer who is not so careful.
– Do administrative costs go on to the cost of the settlement?
– What the honorable member for Hindmarsh has probably forgotten is that the basis of the cost to the farmer is either developmental costs or the value of productivity as applicable to that farm, whichever is the lower. So, in the case of King Island, development costs would not be out of the picture. The Commonwealth and the State Governments are up for considerable amounts of money regarding King Island. I do not know the amount; I would only be guessing if I tried to give it. But the Commonwealth is up for three-fifths and the State Government for two-fifths of the development costs that are written off. We have written off many hundreds of thousands of pounds in respect of the King Island Scheme.
– Millions of pounds.
– Yes, probably millions of pounds. We have accepted these costs so that no settler will have to pay more than a reasonable sum for what we describe as his equity in productivity. I think that is a reasonable approach.
Let me say to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) and any other honorable member who is interested in the situation in the three agent States with which the Commonwealth was directly involved that all ex-servicemen seeking farms in Western Australia obtained them, there was a surplus of farms available in Tasmania and practically all who wanted farms in South
Australia obtained blocks. So, from that standpoint, the war service land settlement scheme in the three agent States has been completed. To date, the Commonwealth has spent no less than £124 million, quite apart from expenditure by the three principal States, which, on a rough calculation, I assume would have spent an equal amount. This is a vast investment and, on the whole, it has turned out to be a very profitable investment that has been for the good of the country. Some settlement schemes like that at Rocky Gully in Western Australia have proved very costly.
– In that instance, the area has proved true to its name.
– Yes. The scheme there has proved very costly, but it does one’s eyes good to see the clearing and development work that has taken place there. The scheme may have cost us heavily, but it will repay the expenditure over the years to come. This was a project investment, and, in such a scheme the Commonwealth has to be prepared for heavier expenditure in order to ensure that settlers have adequate financial facilities. This explains the statement about which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) was inquiring. That statement related to a project investment. The Commonwealth was responsible for lending the money required, and the average cost was higher than in South Australia, where settlers had sufficient security to obtain advances from a bank or a co-operative society, such societies being well known in South Australia.
I think I need do no more except remind the honorable member for Braddon, who alleged that there had been delay in the war service land settlement scheme at King Island, that he should level his charge at the Tasmanian Government, which is responsible for development in that State. The Commonwealth provides the cash, and the Closer Settlement Board in Tasmania is responsible for administration and development. However, I do not level against the State Government a charge similar to that levelled at the Commonwealth by the honorable member, for development on King Island is not an easy task. Since the development scheme there was approved, there have been several excessively wet seasons in which development was particularly difficult. Furthermore, there is heavy depreciation of farm machinery on the Island. That is why we propose to extend a credit of £800 to each settler. Because farm machinery deteriorates much more rapidly there than it does elsewhere, I have obtained the approval of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to extend this credit. We considered that this would be a fair way of dealing with the situation. This credit to allow for depreciation will assist the settlers to meet the commitments that they owe to the Government, because portion will be wiped off. As a result, the settlers will be encouraged to continue in the future. The adjustment of their financial situation that is in process, quite apart from the credits of £800, will benefit most of the settlers considerably.
I recognise that problems have arisen, but it is mainly extraordinary circumstances in many war service land settlement areas, such as those at King Island, Rocky Gully, Kangaroo Island and Loxton, that have required additional development work. This has delayed the completion of schemes that could otherwise have been completed perhaps by 1959 or 1960. These extraordinary circumstances having arisen, the Government is sympathetic and is prepared to meet the needs of settlers and see that they get a just recompense for their efforts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to deal briefly with one or two aspects of the Bill relating to the application of moneys. I should like to answer several comments that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) made when he spoke in reply at the second reading stage. He mentioned a meeting that was held at Currie on King Island and said the question of administration charges was not raised by anyone present at that meeting. I simply point out that he and the State Minister concerned were invited to Currie to discuss the proposals that were to be put forward.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that he may discuss only the Bill itself. He may not canvass statements made in debate at an earlier stage.
– May I answer the Minister’s statement that he refuses to accept the charges made with respect to additional administration costs, since these come within the scope of the expenditure provided for in this Bill?
– The honorable member may not introduce further debate.
– I do not propose to do so.
– The honorable member may discuss only the Bill itself.
– There will be no further debate so far as I am concerned. I simply ask the Minister a question that I tried to put to him earlier when he dealt with the figures relating to the King Island scheme. I ask him to check what he said about the expenditure of some £750,000 on the redevelopment of farms totalling an area of 12,000 to 14,000 acres. If this does not work out at about £50 an acre, I do not know what does. Administration charges alone are to cost about £50 an acre this financial year. If the Minister does not think that this indicates poor administration, I do not know what he would regard as poor administration. I ask him to inquire into this matter. I ask him also to consider the other matters that have been put to him concerning the expenditure of war service land settlement funds and especially the point that I made at the second reading stage about the Commonwealth Director of War Service Land Settlement not giving effect to a particular provision of the War Service Land Settlement Agreement although it is his job to check the estimates for each proposal. I appeal to the Minister to look into these matters in the interests of the war service land settlement scheme at King Island.
– in reply - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I always check anything that is said by any speaker if there is any occasion to check it. I still question the authenticity of the particulars given by the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). The matter that he has mentioned was not raised at the meeting at Currie. No case of the kind that he has mentioned was put to me on that occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 123), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Order! There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Opposition proposes to oppose these measures. Our attitude is determined by the stand that we took at the second reading stage of the Budget debate. We maintained then that if the Government required to raise additional taxes the methods that it had chosen were inequitable. We went on to suggest that in terms of the overall state of the economy it was doubtful that extra taxes were required at all. Consonant with that view, we now oppose the measures before the House.
Let me put the matter in some perspective. The diesel fuel tax is one that has been in operation in Australia for not many years. It was imposed originally to remove the anomaly that some people believed existed because petrol which was used commercially and privately was taxed although, by some deficiency in the law as it was originally written, diesel oil was exempt. When it came to the point of putting a tax on diesel fuel certain objections were raised to the imposition of a tax on all diesel fuel and the tax was restricted to diesel fuel used on road vehicles only.
In the financial year ended June 1965 the diesel fuel tax yielded £4.6 million, and presumably the yield at present rates might be in the region of £5 million for the current year, so that when the rate of duty per gallon is increased from ls. to ls. 3d. it may be expected that the increased yield from this tax will be £H million. The Government has not indicated whether these figures are right or wrong. I should have thought that when the Minister made his second reading speech he would have given some indication of the extent of the revenue expected from the tax. However, if my estimates are wrong I will be glad to have the correct figures. My rough estimate is that increasing the rate of duty from ls. to ls. 3d. a gallon will net the total revenues of the Commonwealth an additional amount of £14 million. Whether £H million is a very significant sum in terms of a total expenditure of £2,600 million I leave to members to determine for themselves.
– Do the heavy road transport vehicles use diesel fuel?
– In a moment I will give some of the facts. In the year ended 30th June 1964, which is the last year for which I have the complete figures, 205 million gallons of diesel fuel were used for what is called inland consumption and 48 million gallons for what is called bunker consumption, which presumably means the fuelling of ships at various ports. If there had been a duty of ls. a gallon, which is the current rate, on all that fuel it would have yielded about £12£ million. In fact the tax yielded only between £4 million and £5 million. Apparently out of every three gallons of diesel fuel used tax is collected on only one gallon or so.
All we suggest at this stage is that it is about time we had a close look at the whole structure of taxation in our community. We will argue these matters at greater length when we get on to some of the tax rate bills later. This Bill is insignificant beside the one which will cover the addi- tional levy to be imposed on petrol, which will net something like an additional £20 million. This proposed tax, as I have said, will yield only another £1 million or so. Is it not about time that we began looking at the whole structure of tax and its operation in the Australian community? Can the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) justify this? He has not done so up to date. His second reading speech covering these three bills took about a minute and a half to deliver. He made no comment at all on the merits or demerits of taxing this kind of item. There is, of course, the argument that it is anomalous to have different rates of tax on diesel fuel and on petrol, but even if we accept the principle that we should tax diesel fuel because it is anomalous not to do so when we are taxing petrol, there surely is no argument to support the proposition that there must be exactly the same tax on both.
What is the effect in the community as a whole if we impose this additional levy of £li million, which is about what it will yield? Where will the impact fall? The tax applies only on road vehicles as distinct from other vehicles. As most people know, diesel fuel is used only by vehicles in commercial operations. There are very few motor vehicles using diesel fuel that are not commercial vehicles. All that can happen as a result of this additional impost of £li million is that there will be an increase of the prices of goods that the road vehicles carry. I am sure there will be no argument about that proposition.
This Government suggests, when it suits it, that it believes in trying to keep costs down. There is no doubt that this proposed impost will increase costs to the community. Not only will it increase the costs of users of the vehicles concerned; those users will be in a position to pass their costs on in charges for transport of goods. During the course of this debate I shall be interested to hear from the Minister the justification for this impost. I can understand the position taken up by the Minister or his predecessors some years ago when it was said that an anomaly existed because users of fuel might change from petrol to diesel because there was a tax on the former and none of the latter. That conversion having been made, there is obviously no advantage now to increase the tax on diesel fuel merely because it is proposed to increase the tax on petrol.
Some of my colleagues will argue - I agree with their argument - that it is time we looked at the whole problem and began to make a sensible assessment of the total use of fuel in Australia. I myself shall argue this point at greater length when we come to consider the more significant bill which relates- to the increase in the duty on petrol. We should be making an assessment of the total use of petrol, fuel oil and diesel oil, all of which are made out of imported products. The price at which these products ultimately sell is a condition of their competitiveness with other forms of fuel, including coal of one kind or another. The purpose of the Bill that we are now discussing is to put an additional impost on a fuel which is used mainly in commercial vehicles. The additional costs will be transmitted by way of additional prices to the people who make use of the vehicles. It is about time that we began to consider the sensible employment of this sort of machinery, if we want to employ it at all, to get a better use of fuel in total in Australia.
I can understand the predicament of the Government at the moment. It claims that it needs an extra £70 million or £80 million this year in order to balance the Budget and it has chosen to raise three-quarters of that sum by indirect taxes and onequarter by direct taxes. The item that we are now considering falls within the realm of indirect taxes. This tax, together with the petrol tax which we will contemplate later, will yield an additional £20 million to the Treasury. But even if the Government sees some merit in having to raise those sums, it should stop occasionally to look also at the other side of the problem.
What is the effect on the economy when, by taxation, we increase petrol and diesel fuel prices? A tax of this kind has secondary effects as well as primary effects. It seems to me that the Government is looking only at the primary effect rather than at the secondary effect as well. The primary effect, as the Government assesses it, is that it will receive an additional £li million from the diesel tax and another £18 million from the petrol tax, but it does not stop to consider that, as will inevitably happen, a large part of the additional charges must appear as increased prices for the goods and services which the community buys. There is perhaps, some argument with regard to petrol used in private vehicles. There may be some argument as to how much of the total increase is passed on in the cost of goods and how much is a private charge, but there is not very much doubt so far as the tax on diesel fuel is concerned. Diesel fuel that is used on farms is exempt. I have no objection to that, and when that exclusion was proposed we agreed with it. Nevertheless, an honest assessment should determine that diesel fuel is not used in private vehicles; it is used only in commercial vehicles.
If the costs of operating commercial vehicles rise, the operators must pass on that rise in the charges which they levy for the carriage of goods. I hope that the Government has a suitable explanation for that kind of arrangement. When it suits its purposes, the Government adds all these effects into aggregates, but in terms of this measure we can segregate them. We can see just where the impact of this measure will be felt. Although this tax may immediately increase the revenues of the Government, in the long run it will also add to the costs of goods and services in the community. This seems to me to be a rather inane rather than a sane form of finance. I hope that the Minister, in the course of the debate, will give us some information about this. I hope he will explain the logic of this tax, and the suggestion that because we are raising the tax on petrol by a quarter we must raise the tax on diesel fuel by a quarter. I doubt whether one follows logically from the other. There may have been some logic in the argument that anomalies would be created if there were no tax on diesel fuel while there was a tax on petrol. It may be possible to persuade people to switch to vehicles using distillate rather than petrol, but as the Government has decided to put on the tax, there is no neat logic that suggests that we should have exactly the same rate or the same relativity as between duties as we had previously.
The Opposition is not opposing the measure for that reason alone. We oppose the measure because we believe that the Government, in framing the Budget, did not need basically to impose these additional taxes. But assuming that the Government did need to impose additional taxes, we consider that the most equitable way would have been to increase direct rather than indirect taxation. This tax on petrol and diesel fuel is one of the indirect taxation measures that the Government has chosen to submit to us, and we think it imperative that we oppose it. The Opposition intends to oppose this Bill and the cognate measures, but 1 hope that the Government will offer at least some logical reason, other than the brief statement that has been made by the Minister, as to precisely why we have to relate the increase in petrol tax generally with the increase in the tax on diesel fuel, particularly when it can be seen fairly clearly that the additional tax will impose additional costs on the community. I do not think that there is any clearcut logic in this proposal. The net result of this Bill will be an addition to revenue af about £H million. The estimate of total tax collections for this year is nearly £2,000 million and the estimate of expenditure is £2,600 million, so the collections from this tax will be pretty insignificant in terms of total government operation. The Government has some obligation to explain whether a sum as petty as this justifies some of the dislocation in other directions that will inevitably occur.
.- I rise to support my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), in opposing these measures. In Australia we have a total area of just under 3 million square miles and a population density of fewer than four people to the square mile. We have a tremendous road system. In New South Wales, for example, we have 133,000 miles of road - whether it be main roads, trunk roads, highways or secondary roads - and any measure that might increase further the burden on the motor transport industry must be thoroughly scrutinised; and in this case we feel it should be opposed. For the purposes of comparison, in England and Wales there are 167,000 miles of road, so with 12 times the population of New South Wales they have little more length of road to maintain than New South Wales has. If further proof is wanted, an analysis has been made and cited previously in this House, that from 30 to 35 per cent, of our gross national product is absorbed in transportation costs. That being so, even an increase of 3d. a gallon in fuel costs can represent a substantial addition to the already crushing cost of road transport for the Australian people.
The use of diesel fuel is peculiarly attractive to the motor transport industry. There are certain very well known technical advantages in its use, and over the last generation there has been a remarkable switch from petrol to diesel operation. The most noticeable economies are related to the relative efficiency of the diesel engine. The ordinary internal combustion engine, powered by petrol, has a thermal efficiency - it can extract energy, in other words - of the order of 20 to 22 per cent. The diesel engine, using a lower grade, cheaper fuel, has a thermal efficiency in a road transport vehicle of from 25 to 30 per cent, and, in the case of rail operation of from 30 to 35 per cent. There are other technical advantages in the form of economies in running costs. The lesser number of revolutions to generate a given horsepower in diesel consumption is of great importance. No other invention of modern times, with the possible exception of electricity, has had a greater impact on human life and certainly on human transport than petrol and diesel power have had.
I have the honour to represent a constituency which is the major coal producing centre in the southern hemisphere. It may be a remarkable coincidence, but Dr. Rudolf Diesel, the German inventor of the diesel cycle, originally had the thought that tha diesel motor could be operated with pulverised coal. Certain technical difficulties arose in the way of abrasion and friction from the residual wastes after the combustion of the coal. Coal, of course, is cognate to petrol - it is a chemical cousin to petrol - and as one wit put it: “Life itself is an equation in volatile hydrocarbons”. Coal is simply another form of combustible hydrocarbon. As an example of hydrocarbon combustibility I point out that explosions have taken place in flour mills when there has been certain precipitation of flour in combination with a given volume of air. No country needs motor transport more than Australia does, and no country is paying more for it at the present time. We are already subjected to swingeing sales tax on both ordinary motor cars and on motor trucks. We are already subjected by the various States, without exception, to a high rate of registration fees and a high rate for compulsory third party insurance. That being so, an additional impost of £H million or possibly £li million, which this tax will yield, will be a serious burden.
For many years in local government the allocation of excise from petrol taxation, and, later, from diesel fuel taxation, has been a matter of constant agitation and criticism. Today more than ever we need to give serious thought to the financing of road construction. It is perpetually put to every parliamentary representative, whether Federal or State, that there should be a full refund of excise on both petrol and diesel fuel to the State Governments for the purpose of financing road construction. 1 suppose there would be no other country in the world with such an anomalous position as exists in respect of the allocation of the present Commonwealth aid to roads, and where one can find gravel main roads fed by bitumen secondary roads. The latter circumstance is, of course, a tribute to the pressure exerted on the Government by its Country Party component. It is a classical case of the tail wagging the dog.
The burden of fuel tax naturally will fall heaviest on the general carrier. It will fall heavily on areas remote from the railhead, and it will fall heavily on the carriers in the cities and towns in their general deliveries. It will fall heavily also on the private operator. It will fall heavily on local government and on diesel power stations used for the generation of electricity in certain areas. There is another angle to the general use of diesel fuel. I do not want to open up the question of the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry - ‘the Vernon report - but with an adverse balance of trade of the order of £375 million we must give serious consideration to just how long we can continue to excessively import diesel fuel. In this regard I would say that there is no better example of what can be done with the substitution of thermally generated electricity than the Government railway systems of the various States. It seems a major tragedy that vast sums of money - almost astronomical sums - have been spent by the State Governments of New South Wales and Victoria on thermal power generation. The State Governments are to be pitied because of their financial problems, particularly in rail operation.
Throughout the world today every rail system is in a most precarious financial position. With such funds for modernisation as have been available the controlling authorities of the different State railway systems have had to turn to dieselisation because it gives the most spectacular and quickest forms of economy, but in the long term the advantages of straight out electric traction are manifold.
An average diesel electric locomotive is a mobile powerhouse. It has a diesel engine governed to its most economical speed in relation to the torque curve. That diesel unit is coupled to a generator, and the generator in turn drives an electric motor. In other words, every diesel electric unit uses electric traction. There comes a time, particularly in the areas of heavy freight density, when rail electrification undoubtedly must be substituted for dieselisation. That is a worldwide trend today. The diesel engine gives the most spectacular and most remarkable economies in the early phases of its operation, but taken over the long term electric traction wins hands down. We, as the National Parliament, must consider whether Australia - with the problems that lie ahead, particularly those arising from adverse balance of trade - can continue to use disel fuel indiscriminately or on the present scale.
Some months ago I heard the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) refer to the problems that would confront this country in the event of hostilities. I heard him advocate the necessity for the storage of both petrol and diesel fuel. I heard him suggest that, using every method of storage that we have in Australia today - even down to the last car tank - we would not be able to store more than four million tons of oil fuel. I heard him advocate further that we should store the 11 or 12 million tons of oil fuel that we use in this country each year. The capital investment that would be involved in that would be of the order of £30 million or £40 million.
That sum of money might be spent very well on rail electrification. Let me take as a classic example the railway system of New South Wales. Within the area from Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Port Kembla, Sydney to Bathurst and Sydney to Goulburn, with a total mileage of 600, we have one of the most efficient and one of the most heavily used railway systems in any part of the world. The economies of electrification are long term economies. There is a very great simplicity in electric traction. I have heard of electric train sets on the suburban runs in Sydney covering 800,000 miles without a major overhaul. It is inconceivable that a diesel unit could avoid a major overhaul after only one-tenth of that mileage.
I do not want to delay the House unduly. I wanted to emphasise especially the economies that can be achieved. I fully realise that the immediate obstacle to rail electrification is the capital investment involved. But, in terms of defence, we have to think of how our money can be best used. Sometimes I wonder whether, in the national interest, some of the money that is allocated to defence should not properly be used for this purpose, which is an obvious method of substituting a local fuel that we have in unlimited quantities for our complete dependence on overseas imports. According to the latest figures, the production of crude oil in Australia will meet no more than 2 per cent, of our annual requirements. In point of fact, it will not cover the increase in our annual consumption.
I suppose that in my constituency I have had the crowning indignity of all. In a district with the major coal production in Australia the government railway system is proudly boasting that it has converted the whole of the Illawara line to diesel operation. I merely commend my observations to the House. I believe that in all the circumstances, and particularly in view of the crushing burden of transport costs on the national economy, we might well show some clemency to the road haulage operators and relieve them of an impost which they, of all people, least deserve.
– in reply - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) raised one or two points. It is estimated that this tax increase will raise about £11 million per annum. As he pointed out, this measure is essentially part of the wider measure to increase the tax on fuel used by road vehicles. As the duty on petrol is being increased it is sensible to increase the duty on diesel fuel correspondingly. If one fuel rather than another is to be used, surely the choice should be made not on fiscal grounds but on ordinary technical and economic grounds. Therefore, this measure is in line with the wider measure. Far from being a trivial item in the total taxation picture the tax on diesel fuel and petrol will raise an extra £25,060,000 in a full year and nearly £22 million in the current year. So this can by no means be dismissed as a trivial item. It is worth noting that only about 15 per cent, of the diesel fuel used in Australia is subject to taxation. Of course, a large part of it is used on farms and for other exempt purposes.
I do not propose to enter into the general fiscal argument because that was thrashed out thoroughly in the course of the Budget debate. Finally, as the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) introduced the position in the United Kingdom - although not quite in this context - I point out that even the new higher level of tax on petrol and diesel fuel will be less than one-third of the level of petrol tax levied in that country. With those remarks I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17th August (vide page 123), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17th August (vide page 123), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Bury) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Bury) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Many honorable members on both sides of the House have been privileged in the last few weeks to receive a little book which is presumably designed to investigate the truth of the war in Vietnam. The book is entitled “Vietnam. Is it truth we want?” The author is Dr. J. F. Cairns. Presumably, he is the gentleman who has the honour to sit on the front bench of the Opposition. It is our proposition tonight to see what truth lies in this book. One of the most interesting features about the book is the commendation that it receives in the foreword commendation given to it by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) wherein he states -
Dr. Cairns has done a great service to the cause of truth and justice . . .
I do not know why the Leader of. the Opposition should have given his commendation in this way, but one would assume that it has been given in a mistaken sense of humanitarianism or, perhaps, because the Leader of the Opposition wanted to give a little encouragement to the author.
Tonight I shall investigate some of the presumed truths which are stated in this book. The book is interesting for a number of reasons. It is interesting, first, because of its sense of history - a rather peculiar sense of history, I suggest. It is interesting, secondly, for the quaint reasoning that is proposed to argue against our intervention in South Vietnam. On page 3 the author states -
We Australians are not only involved in war in Vietnam. We are involved in history. We are taking sides in history.
Presumably the taking of sides in history is not to be countenanced. In other words, this country is to place itself in the hands of the forces of history and we can never give those forces a nudge in whatever direction we desire. But events since 1945 and the intervention of the West directly and indirectly in Korea, Greece, Malaya and the Philippines indicate that you can give the forces of history a nudge and that they have been given a nudge in these cases. The book clearly proposes a determinist view of history and, as can be seen later, it proposes a Marxist-determinist view of history. This must give the people of this country grave cause for disquiet.
The third feature of the book is the reasoning which it proposes for nonintervention in South Vietnam. The author states that if large numbers of weapons from Czechoslovakia, Russia or Communist China could be found in the possession of the Vietcong, intervention would be justified in this limited war. All honorable members remember the numbers game that has been played in these matters. If we were to apply this reasoning to every limited war since 1945 there would not have been any intervention. Take the case of Greece. We know that Communists were involved there. Were large numbers of Communist weapons found? The fact is that the Communist forcesin Greece fought with British weapons. We know that the weapons used by the terrorists in Malaya were largely of Allied origin. We know that the weapons used by the Huks in their campaign in the Philippines were ostensibly not of Communist origin. We know that in the years immediately after 1945 the Americans were responsible for arming Ho Chi Minh. So why propose the argument that only if you can find large quantities of weapons from Czechoslovakia, China or Russia, can intervention be justified? If this reasoning had been used in all other limited wars we would have come to the wrong conclusions. We would have come to conclusions which we now know to be incorrect. Yet the pages of this book are replete with this invalid and fallacious type of reasoning. Why should this type of reasoning be resurrected to justify non-intervention in Vietnam? We can only question very seriously the objectivity of this work.
If we turn to page 1 6 of the book we find an obvious reference to the Philippines. The campaign in the Philippines is meant to justify this not-by-military-means-alone theory which we have heard ad nauseam in this place. On page 16, the argument is advanced that the Communists were defeated in the Philippines without the use of military means. The Huks were defeated there because economic and political reforms under President Magsaysay were responsible for bringing them to heel. The modern history of the Philippines illustrates that Luis Taruk, leader of the Huks, surrendered for three reasons. First, he was a genuine Socialist and he saw his movement being infiltrated by the Communists. Secondly, he saw that President Magsaysay was interested in proposing social reform. Thirdly - this is the point always left out of these arguments - he knew that President Magsaysay could defeat him militarily. So why does the author propose this argument? Why does he, by careful omission, proceed to forget and neglect the fact that military means in the Philippines were significant, as they are in South Vietnam?
Then he goes on to quote from BrigadierGeneral Lansdale, a psychological officer in the Philippines. Brigadier-General Lansdale is quoted once again to illustrate the point that military means are not significant, that they are not what is required in addition to social means. This is intriguing, because Brigadier-General Lansdale has just voluntarily come out of retirement to assist the Americans in South Vietnam at the precise time when the Americans are increasing their military commitments there. The very argument that has been based on the case of the Philippines to justify the reasoning in this book is invalid. Not only is the argument wrong in its reasoning, but the alleged facts on which it rests just do not exist. So, Mr. Speaker, we can see that the sense of history proposed in this book is not only a Marxist-determinist sense of history but also one which would neglect certain patent facts. Time prevents me from going through the book in detail, but on page 19 we see, once again, this view proposed -
If the conditions are not there–
Referring to Vietnam - the movement will not be there.
That is, the revolutionary movement presumably. Once again the proposition is made that out of depressed conditions the revolution will come spontaneously. The author knows, as he illustrates on earlier pages, that it is the military-political intervention which has sparked off the Communist revolution in these areas; but he never explains why the revolution should occur in the South, which had a standard of living which was low, but was improving, and why it did not occur in the North, where the standard of living was still lower, and regressing. The adumbrations of Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara to Marx on military-political intervention and the interventions subsequently carried out according to these principles are responsible for the different positions in the North and South of Vietnam. So one has reason to question the intellectual validity and the intellectual objectivity of this book. One can say only that if a work is writer which presumably rests on a search for truth, which is a work which has a Marxist-determinist origin and which lacks objectivity in the way in which it looks at particular nations, then it may very well be asked: Is a book of this nature of itself capable of investigating truth or of recognising truth when it finds it?
.- Mr. Speaker, I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) to pass unnoticed. When all is said and done, after the Vernon report the Government requires some diversion to take the minds of the people off the way it has failed to meet its responsibilities. Whenever this Government is cornered it immediately turns to the issue of Communism. While it does nothing to stop Communism itself it endeavours to cast aspersions on the Labour Party and its members in respect of certain activities in this country. Tonight we have heard a lecture from the honorable member for Lilley on his views on the position in Vietnam and on world affairs generally. Let me tell him that I do not think he would know what is going on in Vietnam. He spends all his time as a bookworm and does nothing practical in regard to matters such as this. He supports blindly policies on international affairs which are dragging the name of Australia into the dirt in Asia. In every way he is contributing, by his support for the policy of sending troops to Vietnam, to the degrading of Australia’s name for years to come. Even prominent men in the United States Senate - in a country where such people cannot be accused of being Communists - are condemning the policies of this Government for sending Australian troops to the Vietnam conflict.
The honorable member for Lilley makes no attempt to defend the policy of the Government but launches an attack on members on this side of the Parliament who have written their views on this matter. I am one who does not delve too far into the field of international affairs because, unlike the honorable member for Lilley. I know my limitations. The best observation I can refer him to, Mr. Speaker, is the saying that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. If he wants to do something for this country why does he not see that those servicemen who are being called upon to give their lives in Vietnam are first of all given a vote to say whether they agree with the type of policy that the honorable member is espousing tonight? In this chamber today the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) why the bodies of men who die in Vietnam fighting for this country are not brought back for burial at the expense of the Government. He was told in effect that these men will be sent there to die, but that the long-standing policy of the Government is that they will have to be brought back by businessmen and others in order to be buried among their own relatives. Why does not the honorable member get up in this Parliament and show respect and decency to the relatives of these ex-servicemen instead of condemning people on this side of the Parliament in respect of things he knows nothing about? I repeat: Why does he not stand up and stop the bodies of men who have given their lives having to be brought back at the expense of relatives and businessmen when the Government should bear that responsibility?
– He voted against these men having a vote.
– Yes. The honorable member, who tonight condemned members on this side of the House, voted in this Parliament yesterday to deny these servicemen a vote, although they are being forced to give their lives and are being conscripted in the most disgraceful way that any country could conscript them in peace time. I do not care whom honorable members link me with, but while I am in this Parliament I will never cease to condemn the use of Australian troops in Vietnam, for which there is no justification whatever at this particular time. I will never be a party to
Australia being dragged into affairs in other parts of the world at the heels of any country. If Australia were attacked tomorrow I think the guard that was out at the front of this building when the GovernorGeneral arrived today is about all we would have to defend this country.
The Government which has committed servicemen and other people of this nation, from one end of Asia to the other, should know that if a conflict broke out we would again be defenceless as we were when a Government of the same parties as the present Government was thrown out of office in 1941. When we think of all these things, is it any wonder that this man - one of the smearers who has got into this Parliament on the Communist catchcry in recent years - gets up and tries to divert us from the shortcomings of the Government, in defence and other matters, by attacks on members on this side of the Parliament? I should like the honorable member to defend the defence policy of this Government, to stand up, if he will, and defend the use of Australian servicemen whom his Government conscripts and to whom it will not give a vote. I object on behalf of the people in my electorate to men being dragged literally from their homes and sent overseas. I would not care if people protested outside every military conscript camp in Australia against the policy of this Government to drag men away to fight in Vietnam. I should like to say also that I have heard no explanation from the honorable member for Lilley as to the basis on which he places his interpretation on what is happening in Asia and other places. It is as well for him to know that on this side of the Parliament there is great unity on the question of the use of Australian troops in Vietnam and Asia. There is not one member on this side who is not opposed to it and who does not realise the damage it is doing to the good name of this country.
Let us look at the men on the other side who have written books, for there are some authors on the other side of the Parliament too. Honorable members will remember that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) wrote “Down the Garden Path “. He is the mentor and adviser of the new Communist spotter in our midst, the honorable member for
Lilley. He wrote the stories for him to build on in days gone by. Honorable members will remember that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) wrote “ Socialism in Our Time “ when he was a bright young student at a university. He said, in effect, that he believed in Socialism at that stage. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has ventured into the field of authorship at times. If I had time to read some chapters from the books of honorable members opposite there would be some red faces tonight. I suggest to the people of this country that they should not be diverted by attacks launched by supporters of a Government that is falling to pieces while we are looking at it. The other day everyone saw the spectacle of honorable members opposite eating out of each other’s hands - right up to the elbow, as it were. It was Country Party versus Liberal Party. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes), who is paying a temporary visit to the National Parliament, decided to be a rebel because he knew he could not vote the Government out of office. Everyone saw the four forlorn good shepherds or black sheep, whatever they may be, sitting on this side of the House during a division and trying to look dignified while they conducted a fight over wool, sheep, goats and a few other things like that. We all know that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) cannot retire because he is frightened that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) will wreck the Liberal Party if the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) becomes Prime Minister. This is the collection of nondescripts who tell the people that our policies are wrong and that individuals in our Party are wrong.
Is it any wonder that honorable members opposite try to divert attention from themselves? Next week they will raise the matter of unity tickets or some other matter that they are accustomed to debating. Whatever people may say, 1 can predict that these attacks will be made in the not far distant future, because the Government is on the defensive. Its own selected representatives have repudiated its policies. Members of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party are at each other’s throats. The Government has decided to hold a referendum on the wool marketing plan, but half its members will be opposing it.
The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) is abroad at the moment; but immediately he returns to this country he will be dismissed from the Cabinet for disloyalty, if we can judge by the letter he has distributed. What a collection of people this is to be attacking the Australian Labour Party. They have to hang together, because that is the only way they can exist at this time.
We see on the opposite side of the House today the remnants of the party that was in office in 1939 when this country was attacked. I hope that we will not be involved in any conflict in the near future, because the world knows how the Government has let our defences run down. The world knows also that the Government’s policies in Asia are destroying forever the prestige that was built up by the Labour Government. Attacks such as this do honorable members opposite no credit. They would be much better occupied if they were to fight the Communists in the factories, the workshops and the unions instead of giving impetus here to those who seek to destroy the Australian Labour Party and all it stands for.
.- It was not my intention to speak tonight unless somebody attacked the review made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) of the book which I now understand is the pride of the Australian Labour Party and which I now understand sets out the policy of the Australian Labour Party. When the book was first released, I spoke to a member of the front bench of the Labour Party and I said: “ I understand that the honorable member for Yarra has produced a book explaining the policy on Vietnam.” He said: “He has no right to produce any book. He has not been authorised by the Labour Party to produce any book.” I said: “ I cannot help that. I understand he has done so.” I had already seen the book.
– Who said this?
– It was suggested by this gentleman that, if this book is produced and if this is the policy of the Labour Party, at the next election Labour will possibly come back with 12 seats. So the conversation went on.
– Who said this?
– Order! The honorable member for Bass will cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly)-
– Who said this?
– I cannot spend time on the honorable member for Bass. I have only 10 minutes.
– Order! The honorable member for La Trobe will resume his seat. 1 ask the honorable member for Bass to restrain himself.
– I am not going to. Who said this?
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Bass to apologise for his discourtesy to the Chair.
– Mr. Speaker, I will apologise to you, but I will not-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker.
– I would not worry about an apology.
– Who said this?
– Order! I name the honorable member for Bass.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the honorable member for Bass . be suspended from the service of the House.
– Mr. Speaker, in your tolerance, do you think you could give the honorable member for Bass a chance to keep his record in this Parliament for dignity and respect for the Chair? Could you give him an opportunity to withdraw his remark?
– Order! I point out that I drew the attention of the honorable member for Bass to his conduct in the House. He ignored the Chair and then immediately proceeded to carry on in exactly the same manner. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– Mr. Speaker, I apologise to the Chair, but I think the honorable member is inviting criticism.
– The honorable member will not debate the matter.
– Mr. Speaker, I apologise to the Chair.
– I take a point of order.
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Am I not entitled to take a point of order?
– Order! I agree to accept the honorable member’s apology.
– I apologise to the Chair.
– In view of the interruption, am I given extra time?
– The honorable member for Lilley, with perfect right, criticised a book that had been published and sold, endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), as a book that puts forward, I presume, the true view of the situation in Vietnam. Therefore, this book will have considerable effect not only in Australia with people who try to learn the truth but also in Asian countries with people who wish to read a book showing how a once leading Australian political party views the situation m Vietnam. I have not time to read a document that I have here, because the Opposition has effectively used most of the time allotted to me. This is part of the act. This document is called “ Spotlight “ and is produced in the Melbourne University. It draws attention, as the honorable member for Lilley did, to the similarity, intentional or unintentional, between the book produced by the honorable member for Yarra and the policy of the Communist Party. It takes the book point by point and compares it with arguments advanced in the “ Guardian “ and the “Tribune” and with the Communist policy. Let me go further. I have here a booklet called the “ Melburnian “. It is a magazine produced by the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. Opposition members may not accept the school as an authority, but after all it does produce a booklet. In an article headed “Upper Sixth, Dr. Cairns “, the magazine refers to a visit paid to the school by the honorable member for Yarra. It appears that the honorable member now goes to the better public schools to give them his viewpoint, but he does not seemingly have much success. At page 36, the magazine had this to say -
On the other hand he sought to minimise our national self-concert. Our indifference in finding out the facts about Asia is an example of such myopia.
Of course, the honorable member has never been there, but he tells everyone else what the Asians ought to do. The magazine continued -
Do we accept without question, American bombing of North Vietnam. . . . Are we aware of Indonesia’s attempts to compromise over the North Borneo dispute, when we espouse the “spotless” Malaysian cause? In short, if Australia is to assume a proper role in living with Asia, it should prepare itself rather than rely upon “ them “.
That is all very well; they are the views of the honorable member. But they are the views he is selling throughout Australia and they are being taken outside Australia. The similarity between his views and the Communist policy is incredibly close.
The honorable member for Grayndler says in this House: “ We are one party; we are together; we are united; we are magnificent.” But he forgets that the Press was present at the recent Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party. I understand that at this conference the honorable member for Grayndler started off as a man of great strength and courage, as the man behind the scenes and as the man who would take power away from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He was the man who would stand on behalf of all decent Labour men. As I understand, he squibbed it. The honorable member for Bass, my very verbose friend, asked me to name somebody. Let me give an extract from the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the Federal Conference on the issue of unity tickets. He delivered his address with some courage, I will admit, and made certain statements about the State Executive in Victoria. Let me read what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has to say because, all the way through this report, he refers to the Victorian Executive of the Labour Party which, he states, if it did not adopt unity tickets with Communists, would have better members in both the State and the Federal parties. He refers in this statement to the fact that no branch of the A.L.P. in Australia has fewer members than the Victorian branch. I have not time to read everything the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, but I am sure that th gentlemen opposite have read it. I quote the honorable member’s conclusion -
There would be more and belter A.I..P. men In unions and parliamentary posts if the Victorian Executive had been as clear and prompt in condemning and combating collaboration with the Communists as it has been loud and quick to condemn and combat collaboration with the D.L.P.
Is not the honorable member who has written this book on the Victorian Executive of the A.L.P.? Is not this the same Executive that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, and has gone out of his way to prove, has collaborated with Communists? Is not this member on the Executive that has the smallest number of Labour supporters in Australia? Furthermore, is the loyalty of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) such that he must support the honorable member for Yarra in the face of whatever proof is produced even by the Labour Party to show that he collaborates on the Victorian Executive seemingly with Communists? Is this just something that they say at their conference and have not the courage to say in this House? Is this something they have not the courage to say to the people of Australia? Are they just hypocrites? Do not honorable members opposite realise that the policy of the honorable member for Yarra is long term and that the right wing men will lose their seats through the policy that he puts out? Right wing men will be replaced by the left wingers. When the day comes for a change of government, it will be a left wing Labour Government in this place. I say to each honorable member opposite that you do not deserve the respect of even one small child who does not understand what you are saying.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I object to the last sentence used by the honorable member for La Trobe and I ask you to direct him to withdraw it.
– What was that?
– The honorable member said that any member of the Opposition side would not be worthy of the respect of even a child. I take offence at that.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I take a point of order.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Bass that the honorable member for Lalor has been called to speak.
– Yes, but I am taking a point of order. The honorable member for La Trobe suggests that honorable members on this side of the House are idiots. I think the honorable member for La Trobe is an idiot.
– Order! I call the honorable member for Lalor to proceed.
– Mr. Speaker, I have come to the conclusion that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) and the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) are rather childish. In all the circumstances, the least I say the better it will be, so that these fanatics will be able to go home to bed early and have a good night’s sleep. All I have to say about the allegations made by the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for La Trobe about collaboration and similarities with the Communist Party is to remind them that over the cables at the end of last week or the beginning of this week came the news that the emissary representing the Department of Trade and Industry had fixed up a very satisfactory trade agreement in Moscow. To me, there is not much difference between the jingle of Russian money in your pockets, and so-called collaboration and similarities with the Communist Party. With those few words I advise honorable members to go home, cleanse their own ranks and endeavour to be a little consistent.
– Mr. Speaker, this House witnessed a most remarkable scene early this evening. As you will remember, Sir, the House was full after a division, and when the adjournment was moved, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) rose to speak about a booklet issued by his namesake, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). The honorable member for Yarra was in the chamber at the time the honorable member for Lilley started to speak. But the honorable member for Yarra slunk out. He is called the crayfish from Yarra. He slunk out of the chamber. This action was followed by a mass and organised exodus on the part of members of the Labour Party. One would have thought that if honorable members opposite wanted to publish what they regarded as their version of what was happening in regard to our policy in Vietnam, they would have been eager to stay in this House and defend it against the very logical, temperate and wellreasoned remarks of the honorable member for Lilley. One would have thought that the author of this booklet - I am not going to use in regard to it the adjective I would like to use, because that would be unparliamentary - would have been here to defend his child. But the honorable member for Yarra ran away. Why is this? I think it is because the Labour Party is ashamed in this House of its policy. It does not want its policy examined or made the opportunity of debate in this House. What the Labour Party wants to do is to put out propaganda which will appear persuasive to people who are uninformed.
In another remarkable and extraordinary performance, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), whom I would not regard as a left winger in this respect, tried to cover up for the left wing of the Labour Party. Well, togetherness apparently goes a long way in the Labour Party. It is a united party, they say. It has deep divisions, but all honorable members opposite are willing to sink their principles for the hope of advancement in their party. The honorable member for Grayndler, knowing that he was speaking against his own conscience, gave a truly remarkable performance tonight. Looking at this booklet, I find that there is one remarkable thing that the House had better remember. In the foreword to it, which is apparently signed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell)-
– Who wrote it?
– I do not know who wrote it. I said that it was apparently signed by the Leader of the Opposition. In the second paragraph of the foreword, there was a demand for a unilateral withdrawal of the forces of the United States of America and her allies from Vietnam. But there was no mention of a withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces. This was printed. Apparently, when it was printed, somebody realised they had gone a little too far in revealing their real objectives. This was a little bit too tough for even the Labour voters to stomach. So, we have a little errata sheet inserted. In the original edition, this paragraph called for the unilateral withdrawal of the United States and her allies. This paragraph is now to be amended by a little, subsequent, typewritten sheet.
– Who signed that?
– I do not know who wrote this. It is to be amended so that we are now going to call - are we not - for a withdrawal by both sides, but the pamphlet does not say that. The pamphlet is all directed on a line which is the same as the Communist line. Idea for idea, paragraph for paragraph, this is the Communist line. I do not say that the honorable member for Yarra is a Communist. I have no evidence that he is a member of the Communist Party. All that I say - I do not infer this or make any innuendo but I say it directly - is that his line is the Communist line, and this is a matter of very great significance to the country.
If he wants to do something in the interests of this country, why does he not do something with some of his associates? I have here a reprint of an article by Anna Louise Strong, apparently a Communist propagandist, giving a version of what was called a “ World Workers Rally “ in Hanoi. Hanoi is the centre of the Communists in North Vietnam. It is interesting to see that in this version of what occurred at this conference - and I have no reason to suspect that it is anything but a true version, because this woman was a Communist and she was there - she says that the Communists in Hanoi were all against any peaceful settlement. They denounced any peaceful settlement. A resolution against peace was carried unanimously and, according to the report, there were present at that conference these Australians: Mr. N. Wallace, an organiser of the Victorian Branch of the Builders’ Labourers Federation; Mr. G. Smith, a member of the executive of the
Plumbers Union; Mr. E. Worrell, a shop steward of the Painters Union at Newport workshops; Mr. J. McNamara, an executive member of the New South Wales Branch of the Builders Labourers Federation; and Mr. J. Young, of the Waterside Workers Federation.
These are all the close political associates of honorable members opposite, and these people, if the report be true, as I have no reason to doubt, have been engaged in what can only be described as treasonable activities - treasonable associations with our Communist enemies who are fighting and killing Australian troops. Where are the standards of honorable members opposite?
Are they to continue to associate with these people? Are they to continue to co-operate with them? This is a question for the Opposition to answer because all along there is a double standard. Any fault in those who are our allies is to be exaggerated and brought forward. Much greater faults manifest in those who are our Communist enemies are to be condoned and glossed over. This policy of the double standard is very helpful to the Communist Party and it is the policy of the Australian Labour Party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What are the State and Territory requirements which the Minister had in mind in answering my question on 18th May 1965 (“Hansard”, page 1619) and which the airlines check where (a) Aborigines, (b) Torres Strait Islanders, (c) other Australians, (d) NewGuineans and (e) other persons intend to travel (i) between States, (ii) within any State, (iii) between Territories, (iv) within any Territory and (v) between any State and Territory.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
The State and Territory requirements that were in mind in answering your question on 18th May 1965, were-
A permit for indigenous Papuans and New Guineans to travel between Papua and New Guinea and Australia and other external territories.
A permit to enter the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for all persons to travel between Australia (and/or other external territories) and Papua and New Guinea.
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Education in the Northern Territory. (Question No. 1177.)
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the overseas debt of (a) the Commonwealth Government and (b) the State Governments at 31st December in each year from and including 1949?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Australian currency equivalent of outstanding Commonwealth and State Government overseas debt, as evidenced by securities which have been issued by or on behalf of these Governments overseas in respect of that debt, has been calculated at 30th June each year. Similar figures for 31st
December each year are not readily available. Details as at 30th June for each year since 1949 are as follows -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What quantities of cheese, both cheddar and fancy and pig meat were imported from New Zealand during the year 1964-65?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question -
The figures which have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician are preliminary and subject to revision.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
At the end of 1964-
At the end of 1964-
Comparable figures for 1960 to 1963 are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Which of the recommendations presented to him on 21st November 1958 by Sir Richard Boyer on behalf of the Committee of Inquiry into Public
Service recruitment has the Government (a) put into effect, (b) rejected and (c) put aside for further consideration?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Schedule below lists the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Service recruitment. The Committee’s recommendation! are identified by reference to the appropriate paragraph on the Committee’s report. The corresponding decision or course of action adopted is shown opposite: -
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Premiers asking them to give priority to whatever action might be necessary in their States to bring the relevant State legislation into line with the new safety convention and the new collision regulations. The matter was again brought to the notice of the State Ministers at the July 1964 meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Further correspondence in the matter passed between the Commonwealth and various States during 1964 and 1965, and on 7th May 1965 the Prime Minister advised the Premiers that the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation had fixed 1st September 1965, as the date on which the new international regulations were to come into force, and said that it would be greatly appreciated if they could arrange for the State legislation to be amended so that Commonwealth and State legislation could all operate from that date. The Premiers’ replies in most cases indicated that the State legislation was ready or would be ready by 1st September. In July 1965, the matter was again brought to the notice of the State Ministers at the next meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
New South Wales- 2nd September 1965.
Victoria- 12th August 1964.
Queensland - 8th June 1964.
South Australia - No formal advice was received.
Western Australia- 20th October 1964.
Tasmania - 28th August 1964.
Launceston - from 1st September 1965.
Burnie- from 11th August 1965.
Devonport - from 25th August 1965.
Circular Head - from 1st September 1965.
Other Marine Boards are still dealing with the matter.
In any case, however, the British High Commission has advised that a new order made under the British Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 applies the new International Collision Regulations to all Australian States except Queensland.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650922_reps_25_hor47/>.