25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.. and read prayers.
Mr. BOSMAN presented a petition from certain citizens of the Division of St. George praying that particular steps be taken by the Government to lessen the noise hazard emanating from aircraft using the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. On Tuesday the Minister slated that his Department was undertaking a programme of works, estimated to cost S3 million, at the Brisbane Airport. When are these proposals likely to be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report as required by section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act? The people of Queensland are anxious that this work and all other proposed work on this airport be expedited.
– The works to which I referred in answer to a question on Tuesday arc works which are already in progress and which were referred to the Public Works Committee and approved in the normal way. They are principally the erection of a new control centre building and operations room with all the equipment that is being provided and the erection of a new building for the new radar system and the installation of the latest and most modern equipment in the world. That work is in progress. I cannot state a final time for the completion of the work, but I expect that before the end of this calendar year the installations will be completed and in operation. The planning of other developments for the future will, of course, follow the normal procedures.
– Can the Treasurer give any indication to the House of the growth of business transacted by the Commonwealth Development Bank since it com menced in 1960? Can the honorable gentleman assure the House that ample funds are available for loans? Does he envisage a broadening of the terms of loans to cope with demands for capital?
– Since the Development Bank was established it has made available about $175 million to small operators both in the rural and secondary sectors of the economy. It has also financed the purchase of 80.000 separate items of equipment mainly by small men whether they be on the land or in a secondary industry. As to the honorable member’s second question about an increase in the amount of capital, in recent weeks I have had discussions with the Acting Chairman of the Board relating to the capital structure of the Bank. He has put certain proposals to me which L hope to discuss soon. As to the last question asked by the honorable member, the Acting Chairman did not, during our discussion, raise with me any question of extending the functions of the Development Bank.
– I address a question to the Treasurer concerning the conversion of our currency to the decimal system. Has the date for completion of conversion from old money to new been determined mainly by the length of time necessary for changing the various calculating devices or by the shortage of new decimal coins? If the latter consideration has been a significant factor, will the Treasurer consider a simple change in which the existing threepenny piece would be regarded as two cents, the existing penny as one cent and the existing halfpenny as a half cent? At present these coins are slow in circulating and if my suggestion were adopted it could greatly facilitate the completion of the conversion to the new currency.
– The reports I have received from the Decimal Currency Board lead me to believe that the conversion is proceeding according to the plans prepared and announced by the Board and agreed to by the Government. Nonetheless we would certainly like the process to be speeded up if possible. Consequently I will ask both my Department and the Decimal Currency Board to see whether the three coins mentioned by the honorable member can be used for decimal currency purposes. As soon as I receive a reply I will write to him and if he wishes he can then inform his colleagues.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. 1 refer by way of preface to a recent report that the Minister has decided to transfer the designation “ Melbourne Airport “ from Essendon to Tullamarine and to rename the former Essendon Airport. Is the Minister aware of strong local antipathy to such a change? Is he aware that the so-called Essendon Airport is not situated in the municipality of Essendon but is within the municipalities of Broadmeadows and Keilor? If it is desirable that the airport at Tullamarine be designated Melbourne Airport, will the Minister consider a more appropriate name for the airport at present in use? I suggest that this might present an opportunity to give recognition to the services of the former honorable member for Maribyrnong, the late Arthur Drakeford?
Mr. SWARTZ__ It is a fact that during the last couple of days I have received representations from the councils concerned in Melbourne, also from the honorable member for Lalor and from the honorable member for Maribyrnong himself, relating to a decision I had to make fairly recently about these two airports. The designation of the airport at Tullamarine as the Melbourne Airport is, I think, the only logical thing to do because it is the international airport and must be recognised by the name of the city which it serves. The name Essendon was chosen because to my knowledge the airport had in the past always been recognised as the Essendon Airport. It was a name associated with the airport. The only reason for designating the airports at this stage is to accustom airline operators and the public to recognise, prior to the opening of the international jet airport in a couple of years time, that there will be two airports in Melbourne. However, I am not wedded to any particular name. The name Essendon was chosen because it seemed to be appropriate and had been used in the past. There is still plenty of time to consider a different designation. I will be happy to consider the honorable member’s suggestion, as well as those made by interested councils and the honorable member for Lalor.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has Liberal-Country Party propaganda ever been produced and distributed at public expense before or are the two pamphlets about Vietnam without precedent? Does the Government intend to print and distribute at public expense all aspects of its policies? If not, why has its policy on Vietnam been especially selected? Is it because of flagging public support for the Government’s discredited position on this subject? Are these pamphlets made available free of charge or at less than cost for Liberal-Country Party distribution? Does the Government intend to deny the Opposition an equal opportunity to publish its views on Vietnam?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman answers directly to all of the elements of his questions, but I shall see that they are supplied to him as rapidly as possible. As to whether there are precedents, I draw upon my recollection of a great variety of Government publications which have been released at different times for the purpose of informing those sections of the public directly interested in or having some special requirement of knowledge on a particular topic. How generally we have issued pamphlets in the past which were of general public interest is a matter I. shall explore. As one of the more senior members of the Parliament I recall the very active employment of the Ministry of Information by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for Information. Not only did the Ministry become an instrument of information; it was converted into an adjunct of the Australian Labour Party for its own political purposes. Indeed, the honorable gentleman even went to the extent of shutting down Australian newspapers because they were publishing political information unpalatable to the Leader of the Opposition. At that time it was not a matter of supplying information; it was a matter of suppressing information. I know that my recounting of these facts does not please honorable gentlemen opposite. To the extent that there has been a valid request for information, it will be supplied. Vietnam is a subject of national and general interest. The public is entitled to have the facts. The pamphlets do not contain one item of news or comment which is not in accordance with the facts as understood by this Government.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General without notice. Has his attention been drawn to a statement attributed to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Housley, that the Post Office is likely to spend $250 million in the next five years extending the Australian trunk network? I further ask: ls the Postmaster-General in a position to say what effect this will have on trunk routes between the smaller exchanges in rural areas? Will extra finance be made available for converting exchanges from manual to automatic operation in rural areas so that all subscribers, whether in rural areas, country towns or in cities, will have the same privilege at the same installation cost?
– As I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions, it is the desire of the Post Office to upgrade to a very satisfactory service the whole of the Post Office’s operations. This refers particularly to the provision of additional trunk channels not only on the main routes. Honorable members will realise that over recent years there has been a substantial improvement in services, by means of the coaxial cable and the microwave connection, from Cairns to Melbourne and across Bass Strait. We are now undertaking microwave operation between Melbourne and Adelaide. Recently tenders were called for a similar network between Adelaide and Western Australia. In the south western area of Western Australia there is also a similar type of operation, so there is maximum service in that area. This means that there will be improvement also in relation to the internal networks within the States which will become associated with the main trunk operations. Within the programme of the Post Office and within the programme mentioned by the Director-General there will be continuing improvement in the provision of internal trunk channels and also in the conversion to rural automatic ex changes of present manual exchanges, lt is hoped that by 1975 there will be on-demand services through all exchanges in Australia and that at least 66 per cent of all trunk traffic will be on a subscriber trunk dialling basis.
– As is well known, the United States Government is under pressure on the one hand from those sections of opinion who are called the “ doves “ and on the other hand from those sections of opinion who are called the “ hawks “. The designation “ hawks “ is given to those who advocate stronger military measures in order to terminate the war in. Vietnam more quickly. As far as I am aware although the “ hawks “, so described, have advocated stronger military measures they have not advocated the use of nuclear armaments. I have never seen any quotation or any statement from a responsible and authoritative source suggesting the use of nuclear weapons in this war. So far as this Government is concerned and so far as honorable members on this side of the House are concerned there certainly is no wish to advocate the use of nuclear weapons in this particular war.
– ls the Minister a hawk or a dove?
– I am trying to be neither a hawk nor a dove, but to be an intelligent Australian. There have been false, and I think vicious, rumours that certain statements have been made by members on this side of the House, but I would answer categorically that to my knowledge there is no honorable member on the Government side of the House, and certainly no honorable member on the Government front bench, who has ever tried to use any persuasion of this kind either at home or abroad.
– My question is to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister take up with the Australian Agricultural Council the question whether the States and the Commonwealth could combine in some way to make use of the now proved benefits of cloud seeding, which has been developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation?
– The honorable member used the interesting phrase, “ the now proved benefits “. I am wondering why we are still in the throes of a drought. The matter raised by the honorable member is important. It was discussed at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on the recommendation of the Standing Committee. The Council has intimated that it is very interested in continuing the investigations and has approved of the cooperation between the C.S.I. R.O. and the States. I am sure that this attitude will continue.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Will he, when framing the Budget, consider making it possible for local government authorities granting land or money lo approved organisations for the building of aged persons homes to receive the subsidy of £2 for £1 under the Aged Persons Homes Act?
– The original purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Act was to permit money to be granted to churches and charitable organisations, but it did not permit subsidies to be paid in respect of the value of land made available by local government authorities. There was a good reason for this at the time. Over the years the Government has increased the grant to the various organisations from £1 for £1. to £2 for £1. Nonetheless, I will discuss this suggestion, which has been made on several occasions, wilh my colleague, the Minister for Social Services who will have the carriage of the matter, and, if we both think it is desirable, the honorable gentleman can rest assured it will be dealt with at Budget time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to a recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister of Indonesia, Mr. Abdulgani, that the Indonesian Government intended to dissolve its Secretariat of the Coordinator for West Irian Affairs. Has the Minister any further information at his disposal that would enlighten the House as to the significance of this decision?
– At the moment, I do not have any information that would throw any light on the reasons for the announcement made by the Deputy Prime Minister or the purpose to be served by it. If the honorable gentleman will excuse me, I will defer a reply until I have had an opportunity to study the matter more fully.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he consult wilh his colleague, the Treasurer, on the circumstances in which Sergeant C. J. Upston, who resigned from the Australian Capital Territory Police Force under threat of dismissal, was denied payment in lieu of long service leave, amounting to £500, after 15 years’ service? Will the Minister recognise that this is an extremely severe additional penalty on an officer who had given years of devoted and valuable service to the Police Force? Will he further recognise that the decision of the Treasurer refusing payment in lieu of long service leave was based entirely on the report of the Commissioner of Police and that Sergeant Upston was given no opportunity to know what was in the report or to rebut any of the allegations contained in it? Even now, will the Minister agree to have all the circumstances of this case referred to the police arbitral tribunal for investigation and report?
– At the request of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory 1 did have this matter thoroughly re-examined. Having looked at the matter, all 1 want to say is that this man was dismissed from the police force as being an unsatisfactory member, a circumstance in which the Minister has power to dismiss without giving a reason. I have examined the matter and, so far as L am concerned, it is closed.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been directed to a recent report of a statement made by the general manager of a trading bank suggesting that the statutory reserve deposits held by the Reserve Bank of Australia were of such proportions that they tended to restrict development? Is the Treasurer aware whether this view is generally held by the trading banks or whether it is a particular opinion?
– Many opinions are held about the function of the statutory reserve deposits. I do know that several at least of the trading banks feel that they should have the opportunity to invest their own funds in accordance with their own wishes and their own commercial practices. So 1 can understand that, looking at it from their point of view, they would wish a change to be made. But one of the two or three most powerful influences of control of the economy, particularly to restrain inflation and to restrain it in the interests of the primary producer and the exporter, is the monetary control mechanism, particularly statutory reserve deposits and interest rate policy, exercised by the Reserve Bank. As one who believes that in recent years monetary policy has been very well handled by the Reserve Bank. I personally disagree with the publication of the statement made by the general manager of the bank referred to. I feel that statutory reserve deposits and interest rate policy in combination are essential if we are to control inflation. I repeat that we do this in the interests of the primary producer and the exporter.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister a question. What action has been taken, or what action is intended by the Government, on the frequent requests concerning the need for co-operation between the Commonwealth, the States and local governments to promote decentralisation of industry? Has any attempt been made to inform the States not only of the desirability of decentralisation and balanced development but also of the extent to which the Commonwealth is prepared to co-operate on the issue?
– I could draw on my recollection on this matter and I shall try to do so to a certain extent. However, I think it would be more satisfactory if I gave the honorable gentleman a complete statement which I should be able to do after consulting the reports on the latest development. Quite apart from what we do inside our own administration, there is, I understand, a collaboration between the Commonwealth and the State Governments on this topic. Just what stage this has reached I shall make known to the honorable gentleman. The importance we attach to the matter can be seen in a variety of Government policy decisions.
One of the most recent of these which will contribute to the decentralisation objective is the action that has been taken in respect of petrol and the setting up of the Committee on Transport Costs in Northern Australia, known as the Loder Committee. My own view has long been that one of the most important aspects of decentralisation in Australia is the maintenance of a healthy economic climate in which projects, which themselves touch off the development of townships, railways, port facilities and matters of that kind, can be encouraged. We in Australia are going through a phase in which at various points in Western Australia and Queensland and elsewhere the number of projects of this kind has increased remarkably.
– 1 thought the Government intended to appoint a committee to consider this matter.
– I said that a committee was functioning already. I shall let the honorable member know the outcome of its investigations.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, concerns decimal currency. It appears that the Decimal Currency Board, having steered the country through the initial stages of the changeover, is now resting on its oars. Does the Minister know that the Board has refused firms and companies permission to have cash registers converted at their own expense outside usual working hours? Does he know that the reason given is that in the later stages of the changeover, if this were allowed, there might be a shortage of spare parts? Would not such a shortage be likely in any event? Does the honorable gentleman know that firms are being unfairly and unduly criticised because of the nonchalant attitude of the Board?
– I did not think that the Decimal Currency Board was as much at sea as the honorable gentleman would have us believe. I consider that the initial stages of the changeover have been satisfactorily completed. I was not aware that the direction mentioned by the honorable member had been given by the Board, it does not appear to me to be logical, though it probably would have a logical foundation. I shall make inquiries and find out what the exact position is. If companies are being criticised because they do not convert their machines. I shall approach the Board and see whether it will make a statement setting out the position.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by referring him to the Government publication “ Viet Nam - Questions & Answers “. I ask: Was it by oversight that the following questions were omitted - “How does the Government reconcile its foreign policy with its trade policy? “ “ Why does it trade with China when the Minister for External Affairs says that China seeks to destroy half the world? “ “ Why did Australian trade with North Vietnam continue after Australian troops hud been engaged in operations in Vietnam? “ Would it be fair to say that the questions in the booklet are very selective and that therefore it does not represent a fair and full account of the Government’s policy?
– There is not one of the questions referred to by the honorable gentleman which has not been fully and authoritatively answered in this House and which is not the subject of an answer that is on public record. One of the cheapest ways of disseminating authoritative information in Australia is presented by the “ Hansard “ record of the proceedings in this Parliament. In that record there is set out for the people authoritative information concerning the facts that do not appear in the booklet mentioned, which cannot claim to be a completely comprehensive and exclusive survey of the subject. The information in the booklet is supplemented by the very full statements that have been made by senior members of this Government. What is the object of Opposition members in resisting the dissemination of information by means of the booklet mentioned? Are they afraid to have the facts of the situation known to the Australian people? Honorable gentlemen opposite cannot deny that there have been many opportunities for them to put their point of view. The trouble is that they cannot agree on a point of view. The whole difficulty in this Parliament is in ascertaining where individual members of the Australian Labour Party stand.
– How many-
– The honorable gentleman has given half a dozen versions of the position of the Labour Party. Wc have heard talk about hawks and doves being found on our side of the Parliament. On the other side there are sparrows and lyre birds, and it is hard to know just what is the position of honorable members opposite.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the profound concern of the Opposition at the publication of the pamphlet setting out the Government’s policy of Vietnam, will the right honorable gentleman consider giving the Opposition some assistance, if it should decide by secret ballot which of ils four, five or six inconsistent policies on the Australian military presence in Vietnam it ultimately wishes to pursue, by enabling it to publish, at public expense, a pamphlet advocating the policy ultimately selected?
– I think I have indicated that it is very difficult for members on this side of the House to know precisely where the Opposition does stand on the matter of the withdrawal of troops. The Leader of the Opposition has given no less than four or five quite different interpretations of where his Party stands on that matter. It was reported to me - I do not claim this to be authoritative, but the honorable gentleman could readily confirm it - that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra found it necessary to get together a week or so ago to see whether they could reconcile their many different statements on this matter. Subsequently the Leader of the Opposition gave a revised version to the public.
If the Leader of Opposition is anxious to have the views of his Party set down in print and finds it impracticable to arrange for this to be done by the channels which arc normally used by political parties for these purposes, then 1 would carefully examine any request which might come from him for public dissemination.
– Some months ago. the Minister for Territories announced shortterm drought relief measures for drought affected primary producers in the Northern Territory. As bills are before the House for the allocation of funds to the States of Queensland and New South Wales for longterm drought relief purposes, will the Minister state what provision has been made for the Northern Territory in this respect either through Northern Territory Administration channels or the Commonwealth Development Bank?
– j point out io the honorable member that the Commonwealth has made assistance available to pastoralists in the Northern Territory in line with that accorded by the States. Assistance has been given by way of freight concessions on the transport of cattle purchased for restocking and cattle returning from areas to which they had been taken on agistment because of the drought. The Commonwealth has announced through the Treasurer that funds will be made available for long-term advances to the rural areas of Australia. I am unable to give any further information because details have not yet been announced, but the Northern Territory will have the benefit of the same measures as are to be adopted for the rest of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has studied a scheme announced by the Premier of Queensland this week to boost the economic stability of the dairy industry in Queensland by way of special development grants. Similar proposals have been mooted in New
South Wales. Is this approach to the serious sectional problem of the industry a new break-through which provides the means of overcoming those difficulties which have stood in the way of a national approach to the industry’s problems? Will the Commonwealth give full support to both New South Wales and Queensland in implementing these revolutionary and progressive moves to aid the dairying industry?
– I am conversant with the contents of the report upon the dairy industry in Queensland and the response by the Queensland Government to the recommendations as announced by the Premier of that State in a policy speech. 1 noticed that in that report there were some matters referred to which this Government had already taken action upon, such as increased research and increased extension funds to enable the dairy farmers to increase productivity. Queensland has the lowest average productivity of all the States. I think that increased productivity must be the answer to the dairy problem. The Queensland Government is taking action to provide funds to help dairy farmers improve pastures. That has been announced as part of the programme. I think the Queensland Government is facing up to reality. It cannot be said that the Commonwealth Government has not already done that, because we have already announced part of the programme to assist the industry.
– 1 direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Department of Immigration is at present preparing a publication containing the speeches of all honorable members - and I emphasise “ all honorable members “ - made recently in this chamber on immigration and that honorable members have been asked to place their orders for 50 or 100 copies, or for whatever number they want? If it is competent for the Government to do this in relation to immigration, why does not the Government have prepared, published and distributed a publication containing the case of the Government and that of the Opposition, respectively, for and against conscription for Vietnam?
– Explain that one.
– If the Leader of the Opposition could give an agreed statement on Opposition policy on Vietnam this would make consideration of it a little more practical. Can I put this as an example, Mr. Speaker? Do honorable gentlemen opposite subscribe to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition - the written statement, because it was in the written version of the honorable gentleman’s speech - that he doubts whether there is to be found in Europe today a convinced Communist under the age of 50 years? Do other honorable members of the Opposition agree with that statement? If the Government is to publish something which is representative of Labour views, let us at least feel that it is representative of Labour views, lt would be very interesting to publish side by side the views, say, of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra along with those of the Leader of the Opposition. The privately expressed views of a number of other honorable members opposite would be even more illuminating.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to repeated requests that I have made for the inclusion in Trans-Australia Airline flight schedules of Hinkler Airport at Bundaberg and the city of Gladstone. On the last occasion on which I asked the Minister about this he said that the application of T.A.A. to operate to Bundaberg and Gladstone was being referred to the rationalisation committee. Is the Minister able to say whether that committee has made any decision? When does he expect that T.A.A., if the decision is favourable, will be able to operate from those airports?
– As the honorable member knows, a service is at present being provided to Bundaberg and Gladstone by Queensland Airlines. Trans-Australia Airlines applied to have these airports included in its schedules. This matter was referred to the rationalisation committee some months ago. The rationalisation committee, after hearing the case decided to grant approval to T.A.A. also to cover Bundaberg and Gladstone on its Rockhampton route. Since then Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., on behalf of its subsidiary Queensland Airlines, has appealed against this decision and the appeal is at present before the arbitrator. As the matter is sub judice I cannot make any further comment at the moment.
– 1 should like to add to the answer I gave to a question asked by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory in order to clear up any misunderstanding I may have caused. In my reply I might have given the impression that Sergeant Upston was dismissed from the Canberra Police Force. That is not correct. He resigned. The circumstances were these: I received a recommendation from the Commissioner for Police that Sergeant Upston be dismissed. On examining it I suggested that Sergeant Upston might be given the option of resigning so that he could enjoy the benefits of superannuation. However, when this matter became public the facts of the resignation had to be given to the Superannuation Board, and the conditions that surround the case precluded Sergeant Upston from the benefits attaching to superannuation.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– As a matter of fact, I think the honorable member did get a mention at question time. He will be in order in making a personal explanation.
– It was represented by members of the Opposition that I had advocated the use of nuclear weapons for the bombing of Communist China. That is completely untrue. What I did advocate was that measures should be taken to prevent the Communist Chinese criminals from obtaining nuclear weapons.
– by leave - The Northern Territory (Administration) Act requires that where assent to an ordinance is withheld the ordinance and a statement of the reasons for withholding assent shall be laid before each House of the Parliament. I wish to inform the House of the considerations leading to the withholding of assent to the Local Government Ordinance 1965 and the Agricultural Development Leases Ordinance 1965. The Local Government Ordinance 1965 sought to provide that provisions be inserted in the principal Local Government Ordinance to require that the Commonwealth pay for garbage and night soil services provided by the Darwin City Council to tenants of Commonwealth houses. It has been the Government’s policy since before the establishment of local government in Darwin in 1957 that tenants of Commonwealth owned houses in the Northern Territory themselves meet the charges for these services. This was one of the factors taken into consideration when rental charges for Commonwealth owned houses in the Northern Territory were fixed. The Local Government Ordinance 1954-1964 now provides that these tenants shall pay the charges for these services to the local government council where the council provides the service.
In other town areas of the Territory where there is no local government and the Commonwealth provides garbage and night soil services, the tenants of the Commonwealth houses are charged fees for these services in addition to the normal lease rentals of the houses. The Legislative Council does not have the responsibility for raising revenue for the Territory or for the expenditure of that revenue. The only way in which the direct financial liability which the present ordinance sought to impose on the Commonwealth could be met would be by the Parliament appropriating moneys for this purpose. The Government does not accept that, having regard to the arrangements between the Commonwealth and its tenants in the Northern Territory, this is a liability which should be met by the
Commonwealth. Nor does it accept that, in principle, the Legislative Council should seek to impose an obligation on Parliament to appropriate funds.
The other ordinance to which the Governor-General has withheld assent sought to amend the Agricultural Development Leases Ordinance 1956-1963, so that the Minister for Territories could only grant leases under that ordinance upon the recommendation of the Administrator in Council and for such purposes of agricultural development as are specified in the recommendation. Under the existing legislation the Minister is empowered to grant leases of Crown land for the development and subdivision of agricultural land on such terms and conditions as he considers appropriate. The Administrator’s Council is an advisory body to the Administrator. As such it plays an important role in the administration of the Northern Territory and there is no restriction as to the matters on which the Administrator can seek the advice of the Administrator’s Council. At the present stage, however, the Commonwealth is and must remain responsible for the economic development of the Territory. While the advice of the Administrator’s Council will be sought in appropriate cases the Government considers that legislation which would limit the Minister’s powers so that he may only grant agricultural development leases in accordance with the advice of that Council is incompatible with the discharge of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in the Northern Territory.
I now lay before the House the Local Government Ordinance 1965 and the Agricultural Development Leases Ordinance 1965 of the Northern Territory together with statements of reasons for withholding assent to those Ordinances.
I present the following paper -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1 965 - Agricultural Development Leases, together with statement of reasons for withholding assent to the Ordinance, and Local Government, together with statement of reasons for withholding assent to the Ordinance - and move -
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nelson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.
.- Here we go again as you might say in the language of the classics.
– You sit down.
– It is all right for the honorable member for Gippsland. A young man like him ought to be in Vietnam.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw the remark, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that the Parliament is being treated in the same old fashion as has developed in the last ten years.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration of Senate’s requests.
After section 17 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “17a.-(1.) “ (3.) If, in column 4 in the First Schedule, the letters ‘ NZ ‘ are specified in relation to a rale of duty and those letters are followed by the letter ‘(C)’-
Senate’s request No. 1.
Leave out sub-section (3.) of proposed section 17a., insert - “ (3.) If, in column 4 in the First Schedule, the letters ‘ NZ ‘ are specified in relation to a rate of duty and those letters are followed by the letter (C) ‘, that rate of duty shall, in respect of goods entered for home consumption on and after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven, be read as a reference to that rate reduced by one-fifth.”.
Tariff Amendment 14.
Senate’s request No. 2.
In sub-paragraph 07.05.412. column 4, leave out “NZ(A): SO. 1 2 per lb.”, insert “ NZ: $0.12 per lb.”.
Senate’s request No. 3.
In sub-paragraph 07.05.492, column 4, leave out “NZ(A): $0.12 per lb.”, insert “ NZ: $0.12 per lb.”.
– I move -
That the requested amendments be not made.
To explain the Government’s attitude, which I hope will prove to be the attitude of the House. I remind honorable members that the Bill now before us gives effect to the tariff changes needed to implement the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Senate’s amendments affect only two items, frozen peas and beans, and dehydrated peas and beans. The intention of the Government was to reduce the duty progressively in terms of the Agreement so that after a period of eight years the duty would be abolished entirely. The effect of the Senate’s amendments would be that the first one-fifth tariff reduction would be made, and then the Parliament would again review the item before any further reductions were made.
The Senate’s amendments have been considered by the Government and they are not acceptable because they are unnecessary. The amendments would modify the purpose of the tariff proposal. The stated motive for the Senate’s amendments is to provide a safeguard for the industry. The ground on which I feel I can confidently recommend that the Committee reject the request is that there are already quite ample safeguards in the Agreement. As I have said before, the Government’s decision to include frozen and dehydrated peas and beans in the Agreement was taken after a very close study of the circumstances of the industry and after discussions with those involved at all points in the industry. The conclusion arrived at by the Government, by the Department of Trade and Industry and by me was that the tariff reductions, timed as proposed, would cause no harm to the Australian industry.
Let me recall briefly the facts of the situation. Referring to the major item, frozen peas, I stress that the consumption of this commodity in Australia has increased very rapidly. When I last spoke on this subject I said thai I could not think of any other item of agricultural produce the demand for which and the volume of the Australian production of which had risen so rapidly. Indeed, in the last year for which full statistics are available the rates of consumption and production in Australia were more than double those of the year before. Suppose the growth of production of dairy products in Australia, or of meat or wheat, were to double in a year and the whole additional production were to be taken up at prices profitable to the industry; could there be any reasonable cause for suggesting that the industry was in danger?
The imports that have come into this country have not come principally from New Zealand but from the United States of America. In the last year for which statistics are available total consumption in Australia of frozen peas was more than 60 million lb. Total imports amounted to only 5.3 million lb., of which 3.1 million lb. came from the United States. Certain amendments of the Customs Act which place new powers in the hands of the Department of Customs and Excise are likely to result in a diminution of imports from the United States because there was some doubt about the accuracy of methods of invoicing imports from that country. I have given the figures for the last full statistical year, which ended almost a year ago. I now have the figures for nine months of the current year, during which imports into Australia have amounted to 2.3 million lb. from all sources. This represents a substantial diminution of the volume of imports by comparison with the previous year, and if consumption this year is no greater than it was in the last statistical year - and 1 understand that it is greater - then in the first nine months of this year, taking a pro rata figure, local consumption has amounted to 45 million lb., of which only 2.3 million lb. has been imported.
The processors of this product are the importers, and they have said to officers of my Department, as they have also said to the pea growers whom I invited to come here and see me the other day, that their bulk imports have served only to make good the difference between local production and local demand. Officials of the Department of Trade had careful discussions with the processors before we reached our conclusions. These officials, who are very experienced people, advised me that in these discussions the processors told them - for my information - that it was their planned policy and intention to procure their requirements in Australia. They said, as I have already told the Committee, that all the peas they have imported in bulk for repacking for the retail trade have served only to make good the difference between Australian production and Australian demand.
The investment of processors in factories and plant in Australia is very substantial, running into many millions of dollars. This is an investment that has a value only if fresh peas are bought locally for processing. One cannot import fresh peas, one can import only processed peas, and when the peas are processed that is the end of the line; the plant is no longer needed. No reasonable person would think that the processors would invest millions of dollars in plant to process Australian peas only to turn round and close their factories down because of the introduction of the Agreement, and invest a similar amount of money in New Zealand to process peas there. If they adopted this procedure all they would achieve would be the introduction into Australia of a product which their factories in Australia, then closed down, had previously been furnishing. This does not make commercial sense on any examination whatsoever. Indeed, this tariff item, unlike some others, is not operative from 1st January this year. It is operative from 1st January next year. Why is this? It is because in our consultations with processors they explained the dimension of their current investment, which was progressive, lt was not concluded.
– When was this?
– During last year. The processors said to us: “ We are in the course of completing a very big investment. We have not yet completed it. Would the Government consider not reducing the duty until we have completed our investment? Would the Government defer reducing the duty until a year after the commencement of the Agreement, because by that time we will have completed our investment and be engaged in our enlarged activities of packing? We will then have no fear from import competition “. The Government said: “ All right. We are persuaded “. So the Bill which the House passed last week defers for one year, in accordance with the proposal of the processors, which I thought completely explicable and understandable, operation of the first reduction of the duty, which is a reduction of only one-fifth. This is out of consideration for the investment of the processors - an investment intended only for the purpose of processing peas grown in Australia. This reveals the kind of confidence that I and the Government generally have that processors will continue to contract with Australian pea growers and Australian bean growers. They believe they are on a good thing. They believe they are in an industry where there is a new and growing demand - a demand, as I have said, that doubled in rate in a year. It is true that part of the explanation for that occurrence is that it is a new industry, but it cannot be denied that the Australian population has developed a taste and a desire for this particular character of frozen peas. Notwithstanding that the rate of production increase has doubled to meet consumer demand, it still falls short by some millions of pounds. Nevertheless, the fact remains that our per capita consumption of frozen peas is only about half that of New Zealand’s and that it bears a similar relationship to America’s consumption.
So here the Committee is considering an industry which has been expanding very fast and in respect of which every indication is that it will continue to expand at a fast rate. It is this fact which makes me feel justified in asking the Committee not to accept the Senate’s request to provide that the duly be reduced to nil over a two year period instead of an eight year period, with the Parliament of the day to review the situation at the end of the two year period. I would have confidence that such a Parliament would see that no damage had been done to the industry and that the industry did not fear any damage. I would not fear the outcome of it. What I fear is the opinion in New Zealand that we have not acted in good faith in undertaking to do something that is demonstrably reasonable and then recanting.
The other item referred to is something new on the Australian scene called “ Surprise “ peas. These are dehydrated peas - not the ordinary split pea of the old pea soup, but a green pea which, by a patented process, is pricked and then dehydrated. Upon immersion in water it resumes the shape of a fresh pea. The company which has the patent for the process - Unilever Aust. Pty. Ltd. has a factory equipped to do this work in New Zealand. Last year between July and December it imported from New Zealand about 7,500 lb. of peas. A restaurant would use that amount. So far this year the firm has imported nothing. In discussions with us the company has said: “ This is a new product. We have a factory in New Zealand. We are importing the product to test the Australian market.” This is a completely common commercial practice. Nobody sets out to build a motor car or a washing machine here without first importing a sample of the product to test the market. If the test gives a favorable result the firm commences local production. So Unilever Aust. Pty. Ltd. has said: “ We have imported this small amount to test the market “. Incidentally, it has also said: “ We have shown a substantial loss on our enterprise but if we find that the market wants the product, we propose to establish the facilities to produce it in Australia “. I accept that statement in good faith. It is too early yet to know whether there will be a public demand for this product, but I am convinced that if there is consumer acceptance for the product, processing will take place in Australia.
So I say that there is no real evidence to refute the Government’s assessment that no harm will come to this industry from this proposal. Whatever one’s views may be on green peas, I hope that I have been concerned with primary industry, both outside and inside the Parliament, long enough for it to have been well established that it is my absolute conviction that while you have big industries and small industries it would be utterly improper to sacrifice a small industry as part of a bargain to improve a bigger industry. I have said this in the Parliament many times. All of my actions and statements have confirmed my attitude. Nobody could ever accuse me of saying that it does not matter if a small industry goes out because we will be doing something for a big industry. Dismiss that thought please. I have committed myself by word and action so constantly on this that my attitude will, I hope, be accepted.
There have been representations on this matter. The Opposition has indicated some disquiet. This is understandable; Since the measure was last before the House I have invited representatives of pea growing organisations to come here and discuss their problems with me and officers of the Department of Trade and Industry.
– How did the Minister find them?
– They said: “ Our industry is thriving. It is booming and expanding, Mr. McEwen, as you say, but we are fearful of what could happen in the years to come.” They are in no trouble now but they say that they are fearful of the future. I suppose this is human nature. I do not rebuke people for being fearful of the future. I have had the same feeling. But I explained to them that even if their most dire forebodings came to pass, the Government could temporarily withdraw an item from the Free Trade Agreement entirely. The Government may withdraw an item, provide protection or impose quantitative restrictions - whatever may be necessary. With regard to supplies from any source other than New Zealand, our capacity to impose whatever tariff is judged to be proper is untouched. If circumstances justify our doing so, we may impose any tariff or restriction that we wish on imports from any country other than New Zealand. I say this without asking the Committee to do more than hear me and not to be unwillingly persuaded by me: I have tried to ascertain the possible potential for greater production in New Zealand. I have made inquiries from experienced sources that have served me well, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) well, over the years, and all the advice I can get is that because of physical circumstances of land availability and competitive land use there is not in New Zealand a potential for great expansion.
As a result of inviting representatives of pea growers to come here I have discovered that they have no new facts to put to me. They have accepted my invitation to do what has always been done to meet a situation in which an industry has fear rather than fact, namely, to constitute an industry panel to study the situation. More than 60 industries have accepted the invitation of the Department of Trade and Industry to choose from their own ranks members of a panel who come here either on invitation or at their own initiative and sit down, not with me but with officials of the Department, and study the facts and the prospects of their situation. I should say that there would be no more than a dozen instances in the more than 60 industries concerned where the circumstances have justified the fears. When this has happened the industry and the Department have been aware of the facts before the event and have been ready to pull the trigger, as it were, and refer the matter to the Tariff Board or to the Special Advisory Authority which can recommend protective action within 30 days. This is a protective device that the New Zealand free trade area does not deny us from applying and which provides a measure of protection to Australian primary and secondary industry that has never previously existed. Prompt action can be taken.
It is against this background that I say that the request of the Senate should not be accepted. The proposal to give effect to the terms of the Agreement is that after one year there shall be a reduction of one fifth in the duty and progressively thereafter in eight years there shall be an elimination of the duty. The other place suggests converting that to a proposition where only the first one fifth shall be given effect to and the rest shall be dependent on a future government and a future parliament. This would not convey to the New Zealanders the feeling that Australia is acting as bone fide as it intended to act and as it engaged to do. It is notorious that New Zealand unhappily has some measure of suspicion of big brother and would take this new suggestion wrongly. The Agreement covers 60 per cent, of our trade with New Zealand. The real essence of the Agreement is that after two years we will annually sit down and examine what additional items can be brought into the free trade area. If we have not lived up to what was expected of us initially then I would think that the circumstances in which we would meet for the recurring re-examination of items would be greatly prejudiced.
I have referred to the establishment of an industry panel. If, in accordance with the Senate proposal, Australia now decides to introduce special provisions or conditions regarding particular items we will run the risk that New Zealand will do the same, and this will seriously prejudice the whole Agreement which no-One will dispute is a good arrangement for both countries in its general concept. The Agreement gives either Government the power to take whatever steps are necessary to protect an industry from being damaged by imports from the other country. For example, the Government can withdraw an item from the working of the Agreement for so long as is necessary where imports threaten serious injury to an industry. It is not necessary to amend the Agreement to do this. I give an unqualified assurance that the Government will exercise this power if necessary. It is against this that I ask the Committee not to accept the Senate request.
.- I have just listened to what is probably the most’ persuasive speech the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) has ever made in this Parliament. He has an objective in view - a very legitimate one. He is now, after being vigorous in debate last week, confronted with Labour opposition in tha Senate as well as some departures from his own ranks in support of this measure. When he had only the Labour Party’s opposition to deal with he was pretty tough, and his speech was very rough. We were a lot of novices here and, according to him, I knew nothing about pea growing or anything else. He said that it would be a dreadful thing if we did not pass the tariff schedules. Today the situation is very different. His remarks were, of course, directed to the ranks of his own Party in the Senate. We have heard all about the machinery that is provided to prevent any harm being done to a great Australian industry.
– We have heard all this before.
– Yes. I said many things last week that I will not repeat today, but if there is anything I should like to repeat I will repeat it without being bothered by the honorable member. I commend the Minister on his ability to be a. roaring Hon last week and a cooing dove today. His was a magnificent performance. But what are the facts? We are told that there is no great potential in New Zealand for a substantial increase in pea production. Does anyone who knows New Zealand believe that? New Zealand has perhaps the best dairying industry in the world, apart from Denmark, and the Minister knows full well that where dairy produce can be efficiently produced, nine times out of ten the country is eminently suitable for the growing of green peas. New Zealand grows the best rye grass and clover pastures in the world. It has the type of soil in which green peas and beans thrive, so I refute the Minister’s argument that there is no potential for increased production in New Zealand.
I am not going to rehash all the argument advanced last week. I have heard about the conference that the Minister called in Canberra last week. I have with me an article from a Tasmanian newspapaer, and the article is headed: “ Talk on Peas Called to Appease Pea Growers “. The Minister has been forced in the Parliament - in the House of Representatives - to appease country members. The article relates a remarkable state of affairs. An attempt was made to appease the grower representatives. I take it that processors were present at the conference.
– No, they were not.
– Well, the pea growers were present. I understand that their fares and expenses were paid by the Commonwealth Government, and I do not object to that; but the fact is that the attempt to appease them failed. Some remarkable statements are made in this Tasmanian newspaper article. In effect, the Minister is accused of misleading the Parliament in the debate on the pea industry. I will not deal with the newspaper article, though I think it ought to be incorporated in “ Hansard “. The pea growers ought to know about it and I hope it will gee into “ Hansard “. We will get it in somehow. The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) no doubt will read the most pertinent paragraphs of it. The Minister did not delude the Tasmanian pea growers. Incidentally, I do not know whether the Werribee pea growers were there; I have not heard from them.
– The industry was represented. Victorians were there.
– That is right. Strangely enough, I noticed today that the Minister did not devote as much attention to the position of the processors as he did to the position of the growers. I do not know why. The processors are up to their necks in this problem, just as everybody else is. We have heard references to the rapid growth of demand and that sort of thing. The Minister has referred to articles in the Agreement which, he says, practically overnight would enable the imports of New Zealand peas to be shut off, if they were doing any damage to the Australian product. The article in the Tasmanian Press included remarks by the secretary of the pea growers organisation. He pointed out that by the time action was taken, conferences held and the machinery of government put into operation, a season’s pea growing could disappear.
– That is quite wrong.
– The Minister says that is wrong, but some of his remarks last week were quite wrong. He referred to contracts. The gentleman to whom I have referred pointed out that contracts had been made two years ahead in one instance, and that when the contracts were entered into, the parties could not have known what would happen with this Agreement. The whole tenor of the newspaper article is that the people in the pea growing industry have largely been caught on the hop. The Opposition does not retract one word that it said last week. We appreciate that all the members of the Opposition Party in another place opposed the proposals of the Government. We appreciate that a most capable Senator, after reading, considering and analysing the Minister’s speech and speeches made by other honorable gentlemen here, was not reassured. He was responsible for moving that the Senate make these requests, and he was supported by the Opposition. We hope that the Minister will accept the requests. In effect, the Senate has not asked for anything very drastic to be done. This is not as drastic as the amendments we moved here last week. The Senate’s suggestion goes only half as far as we did and I hope that its requests will be accepted.
.- I am very pleased that -the Opposition has decided to support the requests made by the Senate. They do not go quite as far as the amendments moved here by the Opposition last week did. However, if they are accepted, the industry will be helped and for that reason the Opposition will support the Senate’s requests. We hope that all honorable senators who supported the requests will maintain their attitude when the matter goes back to them for further consideration. The first request relates to sub-section (3.) of proposed section 17a. The Senate seeks to remove paragraphs (b), (c), (d) and (e), and the words “ before the date specified in the next succeeding paragraph “ from paragraph (a). As the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) said, the purpose of the request is simply to permit a reduction of onefifth in the rate of duty from the beginning of 1967. It deletes the paragraphs that provide for further reductions from the beginning of 1969, from the beginning of 1971, from the beginning of 1973 and from the beginning of 1975. We had hoped last week to effect the complete deletion of this proposed sub-section. However, the Senate’s request allows simply for a reduction of the rate of duty by one-fifth.
The second and third requests relate to sub-paragraphs 07.05.412 and 07.05.492 in the First Schedule. The first sub-paragraph refers to retail dehydrated peas, which we commonly know as the “ Surprise “ peas, and the second relates to bulk dehydrated peas, known the the “ Surprise “ peas. I would like to ask the Minister for further information. The effect of the Senate’s requests is to delete from the fourth column the reference to “ NZ (A): §0.12 per lb.” and to insert “ NZ: $0.12 per lb.” in sub-paragraph 07.05.412. A similar amendment is made in relation to the second subparagraph. lt seems to me that, if the letter “ (C) “ appeared, the reduction of one-fifth in the rate of duty on frozen peas and beans would take effect from 1st January 1967. However, I take it that, because the letter “ (C) “ has not been inserted in the Senate’s request, the duty on the “ Surprise “ dehydrated peas could operate immediately and not from 1st January 1967.
– Could I explain by way of interjection?
– The fact is that the reduction of duty on the “ Surprise “ dehydrated peas applies from the beginning of this year. This is the item in respect of which 1 said there had been only about 7,000 lb. weight imported in the last year and none whatever during this calendar year. In the request from the Senate, the reduction of duty applies from 1st January of this year, but the reduction of duty on frozen peas will apply only from 1st January next year.
– 1 thank the Minister for his explanation. As he said, the original phasing out of duty on dehydrated peas and beans comes into operation this year and the reduction of duty will take effect straight away. Therefore, there is no need for the letter “ (C) “ to be inserted. As I have said, and as the Minister has said, the duty is reduced by one-fifth. If the Parliament saw fit, the reduced duty could remain applicable for all time. If this proposal is adopted - it will not be adopted by the Government, but if it is adopted by the Parliament - in two years time the Parliament will have an opportunity to consider whether the pea and bean industry would be seriously damaged and whether there was a need to leave the duty as it was. If the Parliament considered that the industry had not been damaged by the reduced duty, it could decide whether to proceed with a subsequent reduction of one-fifth in the duty for the two years which followed. As I see it, this is the purport of the request from the Senate.
I should like to refer to one or two matters without traversing the whole ambit of the arguments raised in the House last week. The Minister for Trade and Industry spoke this morning, as he did last week, about adequate safeguards in the Agreement. This subject has been discussed. 1 spoke last week on Article 9 which states that the Minister may make representations and may suspend the Agreement. I referred then to the fear of people in the industry because of the way that the Minister had brought in the Agreement that he may not make representations. Under Article 10, once the Minister has given written notice a period of 60 days must elapse and, during that time, we cannot make any inquiries in the member State, which is in this case New Zealand. After the period of 60 days has elapsed there must be a hearing, which would take another month. Therefore, if Article 10 is brought into force, a period of at least three months would elapse.
My friend and colleague has referred to an article which appeared yesterday in a Tasmanian newspaper on a matter on which 1 have received further information. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Lalor has said, that the report under the heading “ Talks on peas ‘ called to appease growers ‘ “ states that the secretary of the Canning Pea Growers Association of Tasmania pointed out that the meeting called by the Minister for Trade and Industry with representatives of processing pea grower organisations was an endeavour to appease the growers before the vital Senate vote on the Customs Tariff Bill. It is interesting to read the comment of the Pea Growers Association on the adequacy of the safeguards in the Agreement. This newspaper report appeared only yesterday, after the meeting to which I have referred, lt states -
Pea growers are not at all impressed with Mr. McEwen’s statement on Monday when he said that the Commonwealth Government would use safeguards, if necessary, to protect the Australian frozen pea and bean industry from New Zealand competition. . . .
The Secretary of the Association is reported as saying -
Primary producers organisations are well experienced in past endeavours to gain tariff variations to know that such procedures are extremely difficult even wilh assistance from the Department of Trade and take a great deal of lime.
Under the safeguard articles of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement the provisions for the implementation of any safeguard action are such that a whole pea harvesting season could pass by before any protection could be afforded the industry.
– That is not correct.
– I have pointed out that time is not on my side. This is the Association’s interpretation of what could occur if Article 10 were brought into the ambit of the scheme. The report continued -
Mr. Bonney said it seemed apparent from his actions, and from secretive handling of the Agreement negotiations, that the Minister was determined to subjugate the pea processing industry to satisfy pressure from New Zealand and other Australian industrial groups. “ It is our contention that the Minister has based his whole argument that the pea processing industry will not be harmed by future New Zealand pea imports purely on the premise that only lime (eight or nine years) can prove or disprove it.”
Another matter raised by the Minister in the debate last week and referred to by him again this morning was the question of an industry panel. I was very disappointed and upset to hear of the way in which the pea growers, who are a reputable body of people, have been treated and how they have been looked after by the panel which had been set up.
This criticism is very illuminating and, 1 believe, calls for some response from the Minister later in the debate. In referring to the panel the pea growers have stated -
The suggestion has understandably not been met with any delight on the part of the processor and grower organisations because they well remember a similar panel set up for similar reasons in 1963.
That panel never met and, to our knowledge, received no information, assistance or direction from the Department of Trade and Industry or from any other department. One would have thought from listening to the very persuasive speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Industry - I agree with the honorable member for Lalor that it was persuasive - when outlining the success of the panel system of industry discussions which he has set up and which has grown in Australia that this system would have flowed into the pea and bean industry. But when we get the facts from people in the industry and we find that the panel set up for the industry has never met and has never received any information or assistance, direct or indirect, from the Department of Trade and Industry or from any other department, we are inclined to doubt the effectiveness of this system of discussion.
– The panel can meet whenever the industry asks for it.
– I suppose the Minister will have an opportunity to reply later. As I have said, time is not on my side; and I should like to push on to one or two matters which were referred to by the Minister and which require an answer. These matters have been answered by people who have a knowledge of the industry. As we were reminded by the honorable member for Lalor, the Minister referred this morning to the great part played by the processors. He concentrated on them and referred, quite rightly, to the millions of pounds which had been invested by these people in machinery and in setting up farms. Those of us who know this industry and have been in it from time to time - having been a contract grower and having worked in the industry, I claim to have a first hand knowledge of it - know that much of the machinery would be used in handling bulk imports. Not very much of that machinery would be discarded if, for example, the whole of the industry now collapsed because of imports and the industry concentrated, as happens in some instances, on bringing in huge quantities in bulk. In this situation not much of the equipment at present in the hands of the processors and costing millions of pounds would be damaged in any way because the peas grown in the paddock go to the viner’s station. The viner’s station would certainly be put out of operation. Then there is the question of the peas coming in from the viner’s station to the back door of the factory. As they come in it is only a matter of cleaning them and sending them over the belt.
Most of the money referred to by the Minister, these millions of pounds, which the processors have invested would be in freezing chambers to hold these quantities which have been either processed locally or brought in in bulk. The Minister probably knows better than anybody in this place, because of his position, that most of the money is invested in freezing chambers.
He would realise fully the tremendous cost of refrigeration and the units required to hold these products.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, may 1 take my second period now and continue my remarks?
– There being no objection, the honorable member may proceed.
– I thank the Minister and the House. Apart from all the money invested in the freezing section of the industry a vast amount has been invested in the packaging section at the front door. All this equipment would not be affected in any way if imports seriously damaged the industry in Australia and we were forced out of pea growing and had to rely entirely on imports, as we fear. The point I wish to make is that if there were a flood of imports in bulk form - the duty on bulk peas is subject to this rebate and to this phasing out of duty by one-fifth each two years - all this packaging part of the industry would not be affected in any way. So it is not so much a question of the damage that may be done to the processors, though I believe that they will bs adversely affected. The important question is the loss of income to the growers who supply peas to the processors. As I have indicated, the processors would not suffer very much because most of their money is invested in freezing plants and also in the great packaging machines that they are now importing from overseas. I pay a tribute to the processors for using these excellent, huge packaging machines. Admittedly, these involve a heavy outlay of capital, but they will still be required if peas are obtained in bulk elsewhere.
I emphasise the fears of the growers concerning the safeguards in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Minister for Trade and Industry described these safeguards as adequate, but the industry fears that they will not be adequate. I refer the Minister to the comments of the industry concerning the establishment of a panel to investigate the situation. I hope he can give us some information about this. The industry has indicated [that the whole procedure has been a complete failure. Indeed, representatives of the (‘industry have criticised the lack of assistance !by the Department of Trade and Industry.
– May I repeat that repre- j sentatives of the industry can meet officials of the Department whenever they ask for a meeting.
– Having that assurance from the Minister, Mr. Chairman. I shall take up the matter with representatives of the industry again. In yesterday’s Press, a very damaging observation was made when it was pointed out that a panel for this industry has never met. I do not know whether the Minister intends us to understand that the industry has not asked for a meeting between a panel and officials of the Department or whether he means merely that on any occasion when a meeting is sought it can be arranged. If he reads the quotations from various letters, reports and articles that were read in this chamber when the matter was discussed last week, he will see that the producers in Tasmania had no indication beforehand that frozen peas and beans were likely to be included in the Free Trade Agreement. They had no idea that this situation was likely to arise. As I pointed out last week, when they finally received information that frozen vegetables would be included, they had only about two clays in which to prepare a case. There is no denying this. Indeed, it has never been denied, although the Minister has a staff of publicity and Press officers to ensure ample Press coverage for anything that he says. It is very damaging to the Minister’s arguments to realise that last year the industry had only two days in which to prepare a case in opposition to the inclusion of these products in the Agreement. Until about August or September last year, when the first indication was received, the industry had been going well. I could understand it if the Minister were to say that up to that time the industry had never asked for discussions with representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry. Until that time, the pea and bean industry was flourishing.
The article in the Tasmanian Press yesterday was very critical of the Minister because last week he made a statement that appeared to suggest that last year production of frozen peas and beans rose by more than 50 per cent. The Minister, in making that statement last week, failed to make it clear that he was referring to the statistical year ended 30th June 1965. However, this morning he specifically stated that he was referring to the statistical year ended 30th June 1965. lt is pointed out in the article that no notice can be taken of this increase in production because it applied to a period that ended more than four weeks before the industry received the first indication that processed vegetables were likely to be included in the Free Trade Agreement. This morning, the Minister spoke of great confidence prevailing in the industry. Until last year, it did, but that is so no longer. He stated that no concern had been brought to his notice. He said that he had received no representations from people who were concerned.
I would just like to direct attention to a reference in yesterday’s Press article to the comments made by the Minister in this chamber last week. He was described as having made a “ desperate effort, no doubt to persuade parliamentary members that there was great confidence within the pea processing industry, and that therefore there should be no concern at the proposed duty reductions on New Zealand imports “. The Secretary of the Canning Pea Growers Association of Tasmania pointed out that the Minister had not explained that in Tasmania, the major pea growing State, virtually no contracts riad been signed at the time in question. The current price schedule was fixed in April 1965 and was to operate for two years. This was well before there was any real knowledge of the Trade Agreement. When price schedules are fixed, growers and processors meet to discuss the pros and cons, the economics of the industry, costs over the previous twelve months and the like. The processors state their view of likely markets for the current season and of the likely output for the season. Finally, a price for the ensuing period is agreed on. Last April, a fair price was negotiated and it was to operate for two years. As I have pointed out, this price was negotiated about four months before the growers in Tasmania had any idea that processed vegetables were likely to be included in the Free Trade Agreement. 1 could say much more, Mr. Chairman, but I do not want to go back over much of the ground that was traversed in this chamber last week. 1 believe that the Senate has very rightly directed attention to this matter. On behalf of the Tasmanian growers, I say that I am only sorry that the Government’s proposals have not been rejected altogether with respect to the phasing out of duty on peas and beans imported from New Zealand. Tasmania grows at least 60 per cent, of the frozen peas and about 35 per cent, of the frozen beans consumed in Australia. The pea and bean industry is very valuable to that State. I have been over these facts many times in this chamber. I have explained the importance of this industry to the people in my electorate, who depend on it for their livelihood. I have explained that this industry returns revenue to the Government, that it maintains small farmers in production and that it provides a valuable means of decentralisation.
The Minister has quite rightly said that we are entitled to have fears if we cannot see far enough ahead. In eight or nine years, the duty on New Zealand imports will be phased out altogether. We would have preferred this proposal to be rejected completely with respect to imports of peas and beans from New Zealand, though we recognise that the Trade Agreement is in principle good for Australia. We fear that the pea and bean industry is being sacrificed for the benefit of various other industries that are to have the advantage of concessions on a variety of products. I believe that the growers of peas and beans are entitled to voice their objections to the operation of the Agreement. As I have said, I am sorry that the whole proposal with respect to peas and beans has not been rejected. However, the Senate’s request, if agreed to, will mean that duty will be reduced by one fifth immediately in respect of dehydrated or “ Surprise “ peas and from 1st January 1967 in respect of frozen peas and beans. The Australian Labour Party had to accept this proposition in the Senate because its numbers there were insufficient to enable it to carry through any other proposal. The amendment requested by the Senate would at least go some way towards doing what we ask the Government to do for the growers of peas and beans, because it would afford the Parliament an opportunity in two years’ time to consider the matter again and to determine whether imports from New Zealand were putting the Australian industry in any danger.
Many statistics of imports have been quoted in relation to this matter. However, I do not think that the bare statistical figures in relation to “ Surprise “ peas are a good guide, because one sixth of the weight is lost when the moisture content is removed. So the figure quoted for these peas ought to be multiplied by six to give us an accurate picture. The Minister has mentioned the decrease in imports from New Zealand that is already evident. 1 am worried about what may happen in the two year period during which the first reduction of duty will operate. Is this being done with any purpose in view? What will happen at the end of two years? If New Zealand builds up stocks of these vegetables, they will have to be exported to this country and, despite the figures quoted by the Minister, I feel that in two years’ time we shall be in a better position to assess the possible threat to the Australian industry. For those reasons the Opposition proposes to vote for the acceptance of the amendments requested by the Senate. Although we would like to see the threat removed entirely, we feci that at least we should adopt the Senate’s proposal that the duty be reduced by one-fifth for the first two years and that the position be reviewed at the end of that time. It is only fair that we, the representatives of the people who are likely to be threatened, should have this opportunity to review the position. We should not be asked to vote now for the introduction of a scheme that will operate for eight or nine years. We should accede to the request of the Canning Pea Growers Association and agree to a review by the proper authority - this Parliament - at the end of two years.
The Minister seems to be quite confident that there will be no danger to this industry in eight years time. Some members of this place and of another place are not so confident. Wc would prefer to review the position at the expiration of the first two years. I suggest that in fairness to those who have invested their money in an industry which has made such a valuable contribution to Australia’s economy, this opportunity should be accorded us.
I have pointed out time and time again that this is a small man’s industry and that the people engaged in it should be protected. I cannot understand why the member’s of the Country Party are opposed to our request. The Minister has said that he hopes we will vote against the acceptance of the requested amendments. We cannot do that because we feel that these people are entitled to protection. Most of them are on farms of less than 150 acres, which is recognised as the minimum economic size of a holding, and this cash crop is valuable to them. Honorable members on the Government side would have a better appreciation of the position if they were to see for themselves how many of these farmers have to take other work to keep their properties going. This crop is vital to their existence.
Reference has been made to the so-called safety provisions of the Agreement. I remind the House that 60 days must elapse after a complaint that the industry is being seriously prejudiced has been made before the Agreement can be suspended. Following the suspension, The Special Advisory Authority must hear the complaint and arrive at a decision within four weeks. This means that a total of three months will pass before a final decision is arrived at and by that time the industry could be in a serious position. As the pea and bean season lasts only for three months, the returns for one whole season could be lost. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for granting me the opportunity to put fully the case for the people whom I represent. The Opposition proposes to vote for the acceptance of the amendments requested by the Senate.
Question put -
That the requested amendments be not made.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 11th May (vide page 1701), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker, this Bill was introduced yesterday afternoon and. in consequence, the Opposition has not had a great deal of time to look at the substance of it. The Bill purports to authorise the borrowing of$450 million for the purchase of goods and services for defence purposes. These goods and services are to be procured in the United States of America. The original procurement was in terms of materials set out at some length in a statement made in the Senate on 23rd March 1965 by the then Minister for Defence, the late Senator Paltridge. As a result of talks he had with Mr. McNamara in the U.S., he said -
Our new defence programme contemplates the purchase of substantial quantities of material and services from the United States at a total estimated cost of 350 million dollars over the three years. My objective was to obtain an overall package deal with the United States Government to cover this total, rather than to negotiate each separate purchase as it arose, and so obtain possibly more advantageous financial terms together with assurances of better delivery dates to meet our requirements. Mr. McNamara accepted the commitment to assist us with this major procurement programme and the various items will be ordered in accordance with- the timings laid down in our programme, so that they will become available as they are required.
Then the senator went on to list the substance of the package deal. He said -
The main items are: For the Navy, 14 tracker anti-submarine aircraft, torpedoes, missiles and ammunition; for the Army, amphibians and tracked carriers, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, radio and radar equipment: for the air force, 12 Hercules medium transport aircraft, 10 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft, equipment, weapons and missiles for the FI IIA aircraft, radar and communications equipment.
They were the details in aggregate rather than with very much detail of what was called the “ package deal “ which was to involve, at that stage, an expenditure of $350 million. I think the Opposition characterised the terms then as a sort of hire purchase deal. Whilst those items were to be procured over a three year period beginning from the financial year to commence on 1st July next, I think that anything that came prior to that date would have been paid for out of the existing defence vote. From that time on the goods were to be procured over a three year period, but payment was to extend over a seven year period - that was the $350 million - and interest on the money was to be calculated at 4) per cent.
Since that time, our procurement has increased by some further $20 million. As I understand the position - and I hope that the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) who is at the table will elaborate this matter this afternoon - to the package deal there will now be added certain F111A aircraft above what was contemplated at the time of Senator Paltridge’s transaction. This will involve in aggregate another $80 million. So the sum has now been increased from $350 million to $450 million. So far, we only have been told detans of the borrowing in respect of $350 million. That is being done with a hire purchase arrangement over a term of seven years, with repayments to include principal as well as interest. But in respect to the further $20 million and with respect to the $80 million for the F111A aircraft, the terms are still being negotiated with the U.S. I would have thought, at this stage, that it is a little unsatisfactory to be sanctioning approval for borrowing, the terms of which we do not know. The Opposition considers that it would have been more prudent to finance these purchases as we went along and to have paid for them over the three years rather than have to borrow dollars at all. But if the Government is going to borrow such money, at least the House should be informed of the terms of the borrowing. The House is not aware of what is involved in this transaction costing $100 million.
One of my colleagues intends to suggest later on that if the Government had planned properly much of this equipment could have been manufactured in Australia or built under licence, using the technical knowhow available here instead of borrowing at all. The matter could have been handled internally rather than externally. It could have been handled in much the same way as the Mirage construction programme is being handled. Those aircraft are being constructed in my own electorate. If Australian industry is capable of building the Mirage it also might have been capable of turning out some of the helicopters or other aircraft involved in this deal. The Minister may contest that viewpoint and say that there are some technical difficulties that make this impossible. 1 do not know. But at least it is the Opposition’s belief that Australia should begin to produce more of this material for itself.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Let me recapitulate briefly what I said during the seven or eight minutes I was speaking prior to the suspension of the sitting. The Opposition expresses some concern about the way this transaction is being handled, particularly in relation to the further sum of SUS100 million that is to be borrowed. Two matters that cause us concern are the SUS20 million excess in cost above what was to be the cost under the arrangements made by Senator Paltridge in March last year and the additional SUS80 million expenditure for further FI IIA aircraft. To put this transaction in perspective; we are, over a three year period, sanctioning an aggregate sum of SUS450 million of expenditure for equipment that will be bought overseas. Over the last 10 or 12 years our defence expenditure has been at an average level of £200 million annually and in some years it did not even reach that figure. Therefore the SUS450 million - at least the component of it that is now to be financed out of Australia and directly in the United States of America - is a fairly significant part of the whole. I think that that would be conceded. The aggregate expenditure projected for this financial year and the next is about $500 million - it might be a little less than that - and a fair proportion of that expenditure will be incurred outside Australia. During the short space of time from 23rd March 1965 to 11th May 1966 when this measure was introduced - not much more than 12 months - there has been a rise in the estimated expenditure on this equipment of some SUS20 million.
Sometimes with defence expenditure of this magnitude it is easy to be gratified by the sum that is being spent rather than to be concerned about the value obtained. In this instance what was going to cost only $US350 million not much more than a year ago is now going to cost SUS370 million, a difference of some SUS20 million. I have insisted for a long time, and so has the Opposition, that sometimes it is pretty difficult to assess the reality of what is called defence effort if you conceive of it only in terms of the expenditure incurred rather than in terms of the physical result obtained. I must confess to finding it a little difficult to know what the position is from the statement Senator Paltridge gave in the Senate on 23rd March last year. What does it really mean? How does anyone determine whether the equipment is worth SUS350 million or, as it now turns out, SUS370 million? I hope that the Minister will expand on that when he replies to the debate.
The point I want to get down to finally is the question of the method of financing this transaction. We on our part believe that expenditure on defence, as on anything else, is an annual outgoing that ought not to involve loan expenditure at all. We should pay as we go, as it were. Why borrow American dollars to finance defence expenditure? The Opposition finds difficulty in welcoming American dollar loans in any event, but at least it can be said about the arrangements Senator Paltridge made that the original loan seems to be fairly reasonable in its terms. I think the projected interest rate was 4f per cent, which in these days is not an unreasonable rate. But certainly some mystery attaches as to how the next SUS100 million is to be raised to the SUS20 million that is still being discussed with the United States authority and to the remaining $US80 million.
I direct attention particularly to clauses 5 and 6. Clause 5 provides -
An agreement made in pursuance of this Act may provide for the issue and delivery of promissory notes or other securities by or on behalf of the Commonwealth in respect of any liability of the Commonwealth under such an agreement.
When negotiations are being conducted at a government to government level, as this negotiation is, reference to a mundane document like a promissory note is a little humiliating, to say the least, to Australia. Surely the integrity of this nation is great enough in the eyes of a country which some people are pleased to call our friendly ally that it should not be necessary to engage in hole and corner methods involving promissory notes.
Clause 6 provides -
The proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of this Act may be issued and applied for defence purposes.
I thought the whole purpose of raising this loan was for expenditure on defence. I find it difficult to see why clause 6 should be necessary. After all, the description of the Bill is- to authorise the raising and expenditure of a certain sum of money for defence purposes.
Why do we need clause 6 at all, which states that the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of the Act may be issued and applied for defence purposes? This is a Bill to raise and expend money for defence purposes. Why is it necessary to state that the proceeds of any loan should be for defence purposes? Does it mean that if that clause were not in the Bill the moneys could be applied for some other purpose.
– We would have to go ‘o the Australian Loan Council.
– That is the point I am making. As long as the loan is for defence purposes it does not have to be subject to the general arrangements of the Australian Loan Council. Loans for defence purposes are specifically excluded from that machinery.
I will leave it at that. After the Minister has answered one or two points that have been raised one of my colleagues will go into more detail about the practicability of making a lot of this equipment in Australia. The Opposition would also like some assurance from the Minister that we are not being taken for a ride by contractors in the United States. We remember what happened in relation to the Ferranti organisation in the United Kingdom recently. When you are dealing with sums of this magnitude and the money is to be expended for highly technical purposes where sometimes normal accounting sanctions are really difficult to apply, it is hard to be sure whether you are getting value for the large sums being expended. After all, even in such a short space of time as a year the estimating has proved to be out by SUS20 million. I hope that as soon as possible legislation will be brought into the House indicating the terms on which this further $US100 million is to be raised. I would have preferred that the Bill should be in respect of only the SUS350 million whose terms of raising we already know rather than for the $US100 million for which, it seems, we have to shop around, bearing in mind the sort of restrictions that have been placed on capita] transactions in the United States as they apply to external -countries. The terms of the raising of the SUSI00 million loan may not be anywhere as favorable as the 4J per cent, interest rate that we obtained in respect of the SUS350 million loan. The $US100 million loan may have to be obtained on rather less pleasant terms than we were able to arrange in respect of the earlier loan.
– The honorable member for
Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has raised quite a number of varied subjects. Perhaps I should take them one by one and deal first with the subject that is my immediate concern and on which he asked specifically for an answer. I refer to the matter of payment for the Fill aircraft.
The Bill before the House does three things. It authorises two loans to cover expenditure incurred after 1st July 1966 on orders for defence equipment and services placed during the present three year programme, 1965 to 1967-68, and it authorises a loan in respect of certain payments to be made for the Fill aircraft, of which we are purchasing 24. It is on this third subject that I wish to amplify the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) in his second reading speech. As the Treasurer stated, the loan will provide a credit of $US80 million. This is the difference between the first estimate of SUS125 million and the present estimate of SUS205 million.
We have contracted to buy 24 of the F111A type aircraft. This is the aircraft being produced for the Tactical Air Command of the United States Air Force. There are, as I explained to the House recently, three other models of the Fill - the F111B which is the United States Navy counterpart of the FI IIA, the FBI 11 for the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force, and the Fill aircraft which is being procured by the United Kingdom and in which will be incorporated some equipment of British origin.
The Fill is a complex aircraft, lt is no secret that there have been difficulties in its development and production, but the development and production schedule of 1963, against which we bought the aircraft, is still valid. At this stage of its testing there is great confidence that the performance of the aircraft that was envisaged in the development schedule of 1963 will be achieved. Although the costs have increased, it is a great tribute to the American methods employed in the management of this project that it has been possible to maintain during the development, prototype production and testing of this complex aircraft a schedule which was prepared in the very early stages of the programme.
I have spoken, in and out of the House, about the price of the aircraft. As the House knows, the price we shall pay is the average unit’ cost of development and production calculated at the time of delivery of our last aircraft and based upon the total production run forecast at that time. The average cost of development’ will be related to the particular model of the aircraft we are buying and will naturally not include research, development and production costs associated with features peculiar to the other models of the Fill to which I have referred. It is not possible to say at the present time with certainty what the final cost of the project will be, for this will be affected, amongst other things, by the total production run as seen in 1968 when we expect delivery of our aircraft.
In 1963, when we ordered these aircraft, the estimated magnitude of cost, including the cost of spares and other supporting equipment and services, was approximately $ US 125 million. As I stated recently, we were advised a short time ago that the costs of the project had increased and that the current estimate of cost was approximately SUS205 million. At the time, I mentioned that this was not a complete estimate for there were some items for which costs had not been estimated. This estimate was based on an estimated unit cost per aircraft of SUS5.95 million, including the estimated cost of research and development. During the recent visit of some of our officers to Washington, these estimates were discussed with the American authorities. There are some aspects of this matter which require further consideration at the moment. Our officers were advised by the Americans that, subject to certain minor reservations, which we are examining, such as escalation of the costs of labour and materials, we could regard this figure as pretty reliable.
This cost increase is due to a great many factors, not the least of which are improvements which have been made to various features of the aircraft. For example, special attention has been paid to the ease of maintaining the aircraft and the reliability of the many items of complex equipment in it. Whilst these have added to the initial cost, they will not only reduce the operating cost of the aircraft but will result in a higher serviceability. As the House knows, there have also been difficulties with the propulsion system and this has added to the costs of development and production.
This increase of the basic aircraft cost brings the estimate for the 24 aircraft in a fly-away condition to SUS142.8 million; the remaining SUS62.8 million in the estimate of approximately $US205 million is primarily for supporting equipment. We have a team of officers in the United Slates at the present time examining the equipment necessary to support the operations of this aircraft and we shall know more about this aspect when they have completed their investigations.
As I have said, this estimate is incomplete. It does not take account of equipping our aircraft for the reconnaissance role. Our officers discussed this matter also and we have a number of alternative proposals before us which we are considering and for which we have pretty reliable estimates of cost advised to us by the United States defence authorities.
The increase in the estimated cost of this project will considerably increase the payments required from us over the next few years. The borrowing authorised bv the Bill, which is pursuant to arrangements contemplated in the original understanding about the purchase of these aircraft, will enable these additional payments to be spread over a period of years and so ease the budgetary and balance of payments problems of the future.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports dealt next with the details of the loan and spoke of an unsatisfactory situation in which the Government cannot place before the House the actual details of terms for the loan of the extra SUS100 million. I agree with the Treasurer that it is an unhappy state of affairs when we cannot produce these details to the House. All I can say is that the officers concerned are in Washington at the moment. They were meeting yesterday and they are meeting today, and as the Treasurer has said in his speech the terms will be announced as soon as practicable. Until we get the answers, obviously we cannot give them to the House, but we are doing everything possible to get these answers for the information of the Parliament.
The honorable member also asked why we have to borrow in any case; why we do not pay cash from year to year. First, as the honorable member must realise, we are getting the advantage of very good terms, a very favorable rate of interest, and accommodation over a reasonable number of years. The purpose for which this loan is being negotiated is to purchase items that are likely to be in service for a very long time. For instance the Orions, which are replacing the Neptunes, are expected to be in service for about 15 years. The Neptunes have been in service for that length of time. One would expect the C 1 30’s to be in service for a long time. They will be replacing some of our other transport aircraft such as the old DC3’s, which have been in service for even longer periods than the 15 years I spoke of in connection with the Neptunes. If we expect to be using these items for a long period there would seem to be some merit in spreading payment for them over part of their life. As regards the majority of the items referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, one can say that their life in service is likely to be a good deal longer than the life of the loan.
Referring to annual outgoings, the honorable member asked why we did not set aside money for the items as they were purchased. We must not forget that in the case of aircraft we must sometimes make decisions about aircraft and their procurement 10 years ahead. Plans must be made many years ahead for the aircraft that are being purchased in the present three year programme. Even if the aircraft were available off the shelf we would have to plan ahead for spare parts and servicing and maintaining the aircraft. These are not items that will be with us for only one year. First there is the planning and then the period in service. When considering items of defence equipment I do not think you can plan on a yearly basis. You must plan further ahead than that.
The honorable member asked whether we are getting value for money or whether there would be a repetition of what happened in respect of the Ferranti deal. Most of the aircraft that we are getting are being purchased through the United States Air Force. We have an arrangement whereby the United States Air Force looks after our interests wilh the commercial firms involved. So we have not only the backing of our own examination; we also get the same terms and conditions as the United States Air Force. This tends to help us to get value for money. In the case of the Fill aircraft, about which there has been so much discussion in the House, I feel that the estimates of expenditure have been gone through with a fine tooth comb on both sides of the Pacific.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked why we do not produce in Australia some of the aircraft that we are buying overseas. I know that the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) is interested in this matter and that he will probably produce, as he did last week, more facts on the subject. The Government and the Defence Services devote great efforts to assisting Australian industry and ensuring that, whenever possible, defence equipment is manufactured, purchased and maintained by Australian industry. The honorable member for Kingston may be interested to know that in the 21 years since the end of the last war the Royal Australian Air Force has purchased 700 or more Australian made aircraft. The only aircraft bought overseas have been those that have been required in very small numbers. For example, the R.A.A.F. has bought not more than 200 aircraft overseas compared with the 700 that have been made locally. Of the 200 bought overseas, 50 were Meteors required in an emergency at the start of the Korean war. Of the remaining 150. the largest order for any one type was for 27 Caribous placed in three separate orders of nine each. So apart from the 50 Meteors, the 150 other aircraft bought overseas have been obtained in small quantities. It is obvious, surely, to honorable members opposite that it would be extremely uneconomic and probably impossible for Australia to set up production lines to produce 12 Hercules C130E’s, 10 Orions and 24 Fill’s, as well as the Mirage and Macchi that will be produced here. Purchases by the Navy and the Army have been predominantly Australian unless numbers have been so small as to make local production impossible.
The latest electronic equipment which will be fitted to the Orion and Hercules aircraft will be maintained with the help of Australian industry. This maintenance cost is a very high proportion of the total cost incurred while these items are in service. We must have regard, not only to the initial capital cost, but also to the cost of maintenance during the life of the aircraft. About 95 per cent, of the Air Force’s ground communications equipment is maintained by Australian industry. The remainder is maintained by the R.A.A.F. itself. Australian industry does all the work of overhauling engines in R.A.A.F. aircraft. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) said last week, 80 per cent, of the Atar engine, which is one of the most advanced in the world, will be manufactured in Australia. We can manufacture the remainder in Australia- if we are under compulsion to do so. A lot of new electronic equipment for the Macchi trainer will be produced in Australia.
– Did that equipment come from overseas?
– It is an overseas design. As a result of placing the order, the company building this equipment for the Macchi has set up in Sydney a factory in which to manufacture electronic equipment. This has brought a new industry to Australia, which will be qf value to us in years to come. In money terms, the extent of defence spending in Australian industry may be gauged from the fact that in 1964-65 the R.A.A.F. spent 65 per cent, of its budget in Australia and the remaining 35 per cent, overseas, including expenditure for the maintenance of our squadrons in Malaysia. Thailand and Vietnam. All of this evidence indicates, surely, that we have carried out a very large proportion of defence expenditure within Australia. But when we are considering small numbers of aircraft containing extremely complicated equipment, the task of doing the whole job ourselves becomes virtually impossible. Where small quantities of complex equipment are involved, 1 am sure that we are taking the wisest course in order to get the best value for money in the reasonably shortest possible time.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked whether we are certain that we are getting value for the money we are spending. In this regard one must look at each item individually and weigh it against the threat to Australia that it is meant to counter. In any one year the threat alters and our needs alter. One therefore cannot look at the situation over a period of 12 months. This is why we must plan, as we are doing, on a three year basis. Taking the picture as we see it over the next five to ten years, we feel that we have spread the risk as wisely as we can. In conjunction with our allies, we aim to purchase equipment that we think will be in the best interests and the most economic interests of the defence of this country. I hope that I have covered most of the points raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I look forward to hearing now from the honorable member for Kingston.
.- At the outset, 1 must set the record straight as to what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said about manufacturing aircraft in Australia. He said -
If Australian industry is capable of building the Mirage it also might have been capable of turning out some of the helicopters or other aircraft involved in this deal. The Minister may contest that viewpoint and say that there arc some technical difficulties that make this impossible.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has never suggested that we can build the Fill and I did not advocate last week that we should embark upon such manufacture. We do say, however, that the Government has let an Australian light aircraft industry die by allowing the unrestricted import of light aircraft to Australia. The Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) said that we have to plan 10 years ahead for aircraft, that decisions have to be made so far in advance. All honorable members are familiar with how the decision to purchase the Fill aircraft was made. Shortly before the last election for the House of Representatives, the Government was under attack because Australia needed a replacement for the Canberra aircraft. All Australia was astir and. the then Minister for Defence ran off to America and ordered these aircraft quicker than he could have gone into a shop and bought a handkerchief. The ordering was done specifically for electioneering purposes. There was no 10 year advance planning then. The Minister has admitted a big increase in the cost to Australia of the FI 1 1 - an increase of more than 60 per cent, on the original estimate, from SUS125 million to SUS205 million. That is not a bad escalation of cost. Today the Minister says that he believes we have a “ pretty reliable cost “. We all hope it will be a lot more reliable than the original estimate of cost was. The cost has increased by over 60 per cent, and the end is not yet in sight.
What have we gained by this order made on the eve of an election? If any advantage was gained, we have not sighted it. We have certainly noted the increased cost. The Minister has told us that the cost will be worked out by formula on the average cost of development of each unit and so on as applicable to that particular aircraft. We appreciate this. The United Kingdom Government has ordered similar aircraft, but it seems to be able to obtain them on a fixed price basis. Surely we ought to be receiving the same treatment. We ought to be able to purchase aircraft at near a fixed price. If anything, the Australian Government should be treated on a most favorable basis by the American Government because, rightly or wrongly, Australia is fighting in Vietnam with the United States, and if we are to buy equipment from America we should be treated at least as well as any other country. In fact, I suggest we ought to be treated more favorably than many other countries. We appreciate that cost’s cannot be known on a unit basis at this stage because the mass production cost cannot be ascertained yet. Of course, one difference between the United Kingdom and Australia in this matter is that the United Kingdom will be supplying much of the electronic equipment for the planes it buys. It will not have to purchase this equipment from America and this will greatly influence the cost. We do not manufacture equipment of this sort, so we will not know whether or not we are being touched. The United Kingdom Government at least knows the price of the equipment it manufactures.
The Minister claims that we now have a “ pretty reliable cost “. He said something similar in March. He said then that we were getting a valuable aircraft at “ a damn fair price “. We would prefer figures to comments like “ pretty reliable cost “ or “ a damn fair price “, because most of this equipment is costly. I readily agree that much of this equipment is not available in Australia, but some of it could have been manufactured here. Although package deals may be good in some respects they can in other ways harm our own industries. Who will service the equipment we are buying from America? The Minister spoke about the servicing of some of the equipment, but what of the Tartar missiles, the inertial guidance system of the FI 1 1 and the terrain radar equipment? Will not this equipment be serviced by United States firms or their agents? Our costs will increase on all this equipment because servicing will be a recurring cost. My beliefs have been confirmed by Mr. Dunn, Chairman of the Australian Telephone Development Association, who emphatically states that 50 per cent, of our electronics equipment could be manufactured in Australia. Last year the late Minister for Defence said that this loan would cover radio, radar and communications equipment. Surely the electronics industry in Australia could have supplied some of th: equipment. If it did not have it readily available and an order had been placed the industry could have commenced research programmes to enable it to supply future requirements of such equipment. If we do not start planning now to develop our industries how on earth will they ever be able to manufacture our requirements?
Through not encouraging our electronics industry we are suffering from a shortage of trained specialists. In fact, one of the greatest problems facing our electronics industry is a shortage of trained technicians. This is underlined by recently published figures showing the number of engineers and scientists in Australia to be 1.7 per 1,000 of population as against 2.6 in the United Kingdom, 4.6 in the United States of America and 6.5 in Russia. It is emphasised, too, by the statement of the Institute of Engineers, that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Supply obtain 60 per cent, of their scientific staff from overseas. With the technical content of sophisticated electronics equipment becoming increasingly complex the reasons behind the shortage of skilled technologists deserve careful scrutiny. One obvious reason is that the intake of students is severely restricted by the strained resources of Australian universities. A study made of 113 bachelor of science graduates from Sydney showed that 86 took their doctorates of philosophy in Australia and 27 took them overseas. Of the 86, 53 went overseas. A total of 80 graduates spent some of their best years abroad. Fifty-one ultimately returned but 29 remained permanently overseas. There is no doubt that the brain drain to overseas countries could be substantially reduced if the local industry could provide more research opportunities and more job satisfaction. Private industry alone cannot provide all the research that is necessary. The Government is doing some. It is estimated that for first class and basic research development work, a laboratory staffed by 20 men would cost from $200,000 to $400,000 a year. This would be beyond the reach of industry, unless it received a reasonable share of the defence orders for the electronics equipment that it can supply.
The Americans have long realised the benefits to be gained by government sponsored research, not only as a means of satisfying military requirements for new equipment designs, but also as a means of developing and expanding American industry and enabling it to meet and overcome external competition. The American Government provides 66 per cent, of all funds spent on research and development activities in the United States, but only 15 per cent, is spent by Government agencies, the remainder going to industries and universities. In the United Kingdom, the Government provides 60 per cent, of total research and development funds, using 28 per cent, itself and distributing the rest. The Canadian Government provides 61 per cent… spends 48 per cent., and re-allocates the remainder to industry and universities. By comparison, the Australian Government provides 77 per cent, of all research and development funds in Australia and spends every penny in its own laboratories. I would not quibble with this, if the Government would only spend more. I think we should be co-operating with the electronics industry to see whether we can get together to develop the industry and train technicians.
Is it any wonder that Australia’s knowhow for new products is being bought from overseas and that huge sums are flowing overseas for licences used in Australia? The dangers attached to this are self-evident. Approximately 5 per cent, of the money Australian industry is spending to buy the benefits of overseas research is being channelled back into research and development by the overseas companies concerned. This assures that they will always keep ahead of us and that Australia will have to keep going back to them to buy their technology. Where will this leave us if these technological lifelines are cut during an outbreak of hostilities? Conversely, if the
Australian Government took action along the lines suggested, new laboratories costing several millions of pounds would rise and the flow of graduates overseas would be reduced by the opportunities afforded locally. Overseas companies would be induced to transfer research centres to Australia, because this would be a convenient centre for research and technical services for companies aiming at Asian markets. Such a revolution could not be achieved overnight, of course, even if the Government were willing to pour millions of dollars into research and development. But surely this underlines the necessity to make a start. The shortage of trained electronics staff and more especially research staff must be faced.
This situation is also present in the aircraft industry. The universities are turning out aeronautical engineers, but the opportunities for them in Australia are limited. They are leaving Australia and taking overseas appointments, and they do not return because the opportunities for them are not here. Where Australian industries can produce the goods that are needed they should be given every assistance to do so. As it is, we have no opportunities to offer the trained men and they leave us. some never to return. It is not in Australia’s interests to purchase overseas equipment that is available in Australia. I believe that some of the radio, radar and communications equipment that will be purchased with the proceeds of this loan could have been manufactured and purchased in Australia.
During the war, a war expenditure committee kept a watchful eye on defence expenditure. Some time ago, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) suggested that the time is opportune to set up a defence expenditure committee of this Parliament. Defence expenditure is not sacrosanct. We should not be criticised for wanting to know more about the way the money is spent. We do not quibble at the amount, but we do quibble when we are not given more details of the goods that are bought and the cost of them The Minister said that the cost of the equipment we are buying has increased from SUS125 million to $US205 million, an increase of more than 60 per cent. This calls for more than the explanation that it is a “ damn fair price “, as the Minister said. We hope that the escalation of costs has stopped. I suggest that the time for some committee to be appointed to watch these costs has long passed. The Public Accounts Committee keeps a watchful eye on the expenditure of the departments. It is a very good Committee and some excellent members serve on it. I suggest that the Parliament se: up a defence expenditure committee to keep a watchful eye on the Government’s defence expenditure in an attempt to keep down the ever escalating costs of defence equipment purchased overseas and especially to try to channel into Australian industry orders for the goods used in our defence that can be manufactured in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading io bc moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it does not insist on the amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives and agreeing to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from 21st April (vide page 1054). on motion by Mr. Fairbairn -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Australia’s economic growth is restricted by two major deficiencies. These are the shortage of water and the lack of good roads and transport facilities. The Opposi tion has consistently advocated increased expenditure to overcome these handicaps. The Parliament now has before it a Bill to amend the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act of 1962. The amending Bill provides for a Commonwealth vote of $1,500,000 for one year only from 1st July of this year to 30th June of next year. The Bill is in keeping with the Government’s faltering policy on national development. No long range proposals are before the Parliament for road construction and there is no suggestion that a national transport policy will emerge.
The Bill deals with the Kimberleys in the north-west of Western Australia only. Instead of a co-ordinated programme of rail, road, sea and air transport for the development of the nation, which would have regard to our beef cattle industry, the Government makes its election year gesture with a grant for one year only for work in the north-west of Western Australia. In the course of his speech the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) said -
The road works for which the financial assistance will be available have been agreed in discussions between Western Australia and Commonwealth authorities. However, provision is made for variation of the proposed programme if this should prove to be desirable.
Here is uncertainty; here is room to change; here is room to equivocate; here is room to go on with something not contained in the speech that we have before us or in the precise terms of the Bill that we are considering. Beyond doubt, no firm decision on road work for Western Australia has been determined by the Commonwealth Government. The failure to fix formally programmes of essential road construction and to have a continuing policy cannot be too strongly condemned by the Parliament. For our economic development, which includes the cattle industry, a co-ordinated transport programme, as I have said before, of road, rail, sea and air, is long overdue. For years the cattle industry has occupied a dominant position in the economic life of the Kimberleys and north Australia. The necessity for better transport of livestock has been the subject of numerous reports and pleas from those interested in northern development. Beef roads have been constructed in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and in Queensland and votes such as Parliament is asked to approve should have for their purpose the co-ordination of the economic development of north Australia. These proposals must have regard to the whole area and should be related to similar projects in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
– Order! 1 draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that we are dealing with a Western Australian grant only and that references to matters outside the Western Australian grant will be very difficult to control from the Chair.
– I do not intend to go outside that area. What I wish to do is to show that the cattle industry is a part of an economic entity and that there must be economic co-ordination. Stock from the Northern Territory must go to the west to Wyndham to be killed. Plans for roads have as their objective in the long run the bringing of cattle to Western Australia to the meatworks from pockets where they are grown in the Northern Territory or elsewhere. These roads are to feed meatworks and abattoirs at Wyndham. They are to bring stock to ports for despatch to other places. For that reason I was merely saying that there is a need for co-ordination. Neglected north Australia needs a new approach in its transport problems for beef cattle, minerals and defence.
– Order! The honorable member is now referring again to the Northern Territory. I point out to the House that the Bill deals with Western Australia. Any reference to the Northern Territory would be out of order because the Northern Territory is not provided for in the Bill. If the honorable member, who is leading for the Opposition, goes wide of the Bill in his remarks it will be impossible for the Chair to control other members who wish to follow in his footsteps.
– It is not my intention to do that at all, Mr. Speaker. Anything that I say in regard to the Northern Territory or to Australia - the nation - will be related to the Bill before the House. All that I am attempting to do is to show that there is a cattle industry in north Australia in the Kimberleys and that, by this legislation, a sum of $1,500,000 is being made available by the Commonwealth to stimulate this industry and to make it possible to bring stock from the respective areas of the Kimberleys and north Australia to the ports and the meatworks for treatment. Should I perchance use the forbidden words “ north Australia “-
– -Order! The honorable member is using forbidden arguments as well as forbidden words.
– I do not wish to challenge your ruling, Sir, because I know how just you are in matters of this kind. I shall certainly try to observe your requirements. There can be no serious consideration of this legislation to make a grant to Western Australia without paying regard to a system of transport the establishment of which this Bill envisages. The immediate need and the long range programme both warrant careful consideration. I have said that the key to the situation is one of coordination. If it is not national coordination, surely it is co-ordination of the industry in the Kimberleys of north-west Western Australia. This is the point of view that the Opposition wishes to place before the Parliament this afternoon. To build roads from A to B or from C to D in the Kimberleys without regard to coordinating the development of the industry of the north would be a futile exercise-
– Order! I have asked the honorable member to observe the procedure he should follow.
– 1 have not mentioned anything outside that.
– The honorable member has got on to the Northern Territory again. I will have to provide him with a map of Western Australia.
– I am discussing the Kimberleys and north-west Western Australia. My approach at this stage does not go outside north-western Western Australia. I put it to the Parliament this afternoon that with better roads and the use of road trains droving will continue to diminish and this will more speedily be diminished if we have a co-ordinated road transport system for Western Australia and, precisely, the Kimberleys in Western Australia. At page 199, a very valuable document which I managed to obtain from the Parliamentary Library set out this conclusion -
A periodic review of progress of key beef roads being developed with Commonwealth financial assistance should be made by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development in consultation with the Bureau of Roads and other technical agencies, such as the Departments of Works, Primary Industry, Shipping and Transport, etc. The Commonwealth should be kept advised by periodic reports on the construction and the financial position of each road.
This. I submit to the Parliament, is of fundamental importance - the question of inspection and co-ordination. May I indicate here that the Opposition proposes in Committee to move two amendments with a view to placing the control of the development of these roads in the hands of the Minister for National Development instead of the Treasurer. We feel that the Minister for National Development is the proper person to be responsible for this. The Department of National Development, within which is the Northern Division, would be fully competent to deal with these matters. Therefore I can only hope that when these amendments are moved at the Committee stage they will be accepted by honorable members. It is surely evident from the development of the Kimberleys and north-west Western Australia that a coordinated programme is desirable for the cattle industry and the development of the mineral wealth which is being won from that region at the present time. With the possibilities in the long run of the area being developed in a major sense, better road transportation is desirable. In the spending of Commonwealth funds at the present time we can look forward, I hope, to this type of co-ordinated programme in the Kimberleys to meet with these requirements.
Mr. Speaker, the beef cattle industry in the Kimberleys is a most important industry. It has prompted the action of the Minister in bringing forward this legislation. It is interesting to note that 60,000 head of cattle were moved by road trains, 15,000 head were moved by sea transport and 20,000 head were moved on stock routes by being walked and driver by drovers, making 95,000 altogether. This indicates the diversity and range of stock movements. But this situation could alter, Sir. I suggest that in the future the Commonwealth Government will have to look at the Kimberley region as part of Australia as a whole and will have to consider the construction of a railway that will not merely end at the Western Australian border but will be part of a link across the continent. However, Sir, I shall not proceed to discuss that. I shall content myself by saying that there should be a link across Australia from the Kimberleys to serve the nation as a whole.
The Minister for National Development, in his second reading speech, admitted that he has in his possession a report on beef roads that was prepared by the Northern Division of the Department. The person who was responsible for the preparation, compilation and presentation of the information contained in that report was the present honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), who was at the time an officer of the Department. As you, Mr. Speaker, are aware, 1 had but a brief opportunity to study that excellent document. Some person, unauthorised to do so, removed it from my office in this building. I deplore that very much indeed. I deeply regret it because the few minutes of study that I was able to give it made me sure that all honorable members, if they had had an opportunity to examine it, would have gained a wealth of information, facts and figures that would have been beneficial to them in participating in this debate. The Minister said that the Government could not at present proceed with a firm programme of expanding development in future years because it was now considering and evaluating this report.
– Surely the honorable member would not argue against that.
– 1 believe it is proper for the Government to gain an appreciation of what is in the report and to evaluate it. But honorable members ought to realise that the Minister and the Government have had this report since June of last year. Yet they are still considering it. Ministers have had this report to themselves in the Cabinet room all this time. Surely this document, which was produced by the expenditure of public money, ought to be made available to the Parliament, fs there something sacred about it? Is the*e something sinister about it? ls there something evil about it? Honorable members who were sent to this place to represent their constituents, and especially the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who represents the Kimberley area, should be entitled to read this important report which deals with an industry that is fundamental to the economic welfare of northern Australia.
– Although it is confidential?
– The honorable member, who comes from the suburbs of Perth, talks about this report being confidential. Six copies of it were on exhibition in the Parliamentary Library for examination by delegates to the recent Inter-parliamentary Union meeting and by all and sundry who wished to examine them. They were there to be loaned out.
– The honorable member has been informed that they should not have been there.
– I wonder what the honorable member has in mind, Sir. He says that copies of this report should not have been in the Library. He says that it was a secret report. What does he mean? Does he mean that it was secret and that copies should not have been in the Library, or does he mean that as it was available there it ought to have been a public document? He ought to answer this question. This report would be of great value to honorable members and to the country, and the Government ought to make up its mind about it. However, as I remarked earlier, the measure that we are now discussing is typical of the sort of thing that happens on the eve of a general election, when the Government, as is usual, decides to offer some financial assistance. In this instance, assistance is offered for one year and one year only. I have here a book entitled “ North Western Australia “ which was written by Mr. Alex Kerr and which is not on the forbidden list, but is readily available in the Library. It sets the cost of road construction in north western Australia at £10,000, or $20,000, a mile. On this estimate, the funds being provided under the terms of this measure would finance 75 miles of road. What sort of proposition is this in terms of a long range programme for a large State like Western Australia with its great distances? Surely something more than this should be done. Even if the annual allocation is to be only a minor one like this, surely the Government could intimate that this would be a continuing contribution. The Government should agree to do more and it should stipulate a worthwhile sum as an annual contribution. We on this side of the chamber would be very happy indeed to accept on that basis what is provided for in this measure.
In addition to the report on beef roads that was prepared by the honorable member for Dawson when an officer of the Department of National Development, the Government has received the report of the Committee on Transport Costs in Northern Australia, or Loder Committee. This also is a document that we are forbidden to see. Its circulation is restricted. It is being dealt with as the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, or Vernon Committee, was dealt with. That* report was not available to the public for many months and then it was thrown aside by the former Prime Minister with a few words in this House. The Government has the unfortunate knack of referring matters to committees of all kinds, including select committees of this Parliament, receiving the reports of those committees, spending years pondering over them and then invariably rejecting them. This is not at all satisfactory. It is not good enough for the people of Australia.
– By the time the reports are finally rejected, they are out of date, anyway.
– As my colleague has rightly said, they have become out of date by the time they are rejected, and they are valueless. The report of the Loder Committee was important at the time it was presented. It gave valuable information about transport costs and should have been considered immediately the Government received it. What harm would have been done if this Parliament and the various specialists, economists and others interested in northern development had known, from a perusal of this report, the facts concerning transport costs in northern Australia, and particularly in the north west of Western Australia? Information about these costs is vital to the establishment of industry in that part of the continent. It is of fundamental importance. What evil would the nation have suffered had the Press known something about the contents of the Loder Committee’s report and if the facts had been made available to the general public? The procrastination of the Minister for National Development in dealing with the report of the Loder Committee and the report on beef roads submitted by the Northern Division of his Department ought to be strongly condemned.
The Government not only has failed to make decisions on these reports but also has advanced its failure to do so as an excuse for the lack of a continuing policy on beef roads and transport generally in the north west of Western Australia. If Ministers are unable to agree on what is to be done, we would like to know. We would like to know who approves of various proposals that have been made. Is secrecy to prevail in respect of all these matters now and in the future? The Government has had ample time to consider them and it is preposterous that the relevant information has been denied to members of this Parliament. The Government apparently relegates them to an inferior role, for it considers that they should not be provided with information that is vital to the consideration of this measure and to debates on other matters that are likely to be raised in this Parliament. The information that we seek has been obtained by the expenditure of public funds. Consequently, it ought to be available to members of the Parliament while Ministers are trying to make up their minds. They appear to be unwilling and unable to reach decisions. I deeply regret that.
I hoped that we would be able to have a full dress debate on transport needs, but that is not possible now. Perhaps the opportunity will be presented to us at some later stage. In any event, it is necessary that in this debate we consider wider matters and give particular attention to the question of costs. It will be admitted by the Minister, who has shown an interest in this matter, that we must get on with the construction of better roads, that we must stimulate the cattle industry and develop the economy of the Kimberleys region of Western Australia. I realise, as I am sure other honorable members do, just what a handicap bad roads are and I appreciate how important it is that this great work of developing our country should proceed without further delay. And it ought to proceed on a scale much greater than has been contemplated hitherto by the Commonwealth Government. According to a report entitled “The Economics of Road Transport of Beef Cattle “, published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Canberra, in 1959, the lowest cost of road transport per 100 miles loaded was £65 5s. Id. and the highest cost £150 17s. 3d. The average cost is stated to be £132 4s. lOd. The cost of transporting a bullock ranges between £1 12s. 8d. and £2 3s. 6d. per 100 miles, the average being £2 0s. Id. Lest the industry experience more difficult times, it is essential that these costs be cut. We should therefore embark upon the construction of better roads to reduce wear and tear on vehicles and do everything possible to make our transport system more efficient and so reduce costs as to provide a greater incentive for the people who live in these distant places. The cost per ton mile ranges between 7.8d. and 10.4d., the average being 9.6d. These are all facts of great importance and significance. In order that other important information may be made available to the Parliament and the public, I incorporate in “ Hansard “, with the concurrence of honorable members, the following table relating to the cost of transporting cattle by road train -
It is the feeling of the Opposition that progress and development are urgently wanted in this region. Any practical proposals submitted to the Parliament to advance the north-west of Western Australia, to stimulate the economy of the area and to attract people there will be met with warm approval and support from the Opposition. We do become impatient at the pinchpenny methods employed on occasions such as this. What is proposed now does not seem to meet the requirements of the area. The amount of money being voted does not seem to be enough, and there seems to be no continuing, positive, planned policy of transport development for the north-west of Western Australia. 1 regret that I cannot link this debate with the wider field of development of the nation, but I am sure that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) who, having represented the region so faithfully and well over the years, has an intimate knowledge of it, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), who is familiar with the north-west and the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) whose detailed knowledge of the area everyone appreciates and respects, will be contributing to this debate. I hope that the amendments proposed by the Opposition, which are designed to place the Minister for National Development in his rightful position, that of being in charge of these undertakings, policing development and seeing to it that the various projects are being carried out to the satisfaction of the nation, will receive the support of the Committee.
.- The Bill before the House amends the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act and I am very happy to support it for it does represent the expansion of a well founded scheme for helping not only Western Australia but, in its proper context, other areas of the north. My remarks, of course, will be directed specifically to the Bill before us which concerns Western Australia, the State from which I come.
The House will be clearly aware from the Minister’s second reading speech that this is an interim measure seeking to extend the operation of the current legislation for the next 12 months because that legislation is due to expire on 30th June next. I want to answer in part now, and, 1 trust, in more detail as I proceed, some of the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). His reference to what he called the faltering policy of the Government regarding development in the north and the provision of roads was just too ridiculous to warrant detailed comment.
Speaking for Western Australia 1 simply have to place on record the fact that, without the incentive of the current legislation, the expansion of the road system that has taken place in the north-west of the State would not have been practicable. The new, modern roads constructed there have attracted visitors to the area. The fantastic developments that are taking place and the exciting things that are happening in the north-west are attracting more and more attention and visitors to the area return with words of appreciation of the quality of the roads which have been provided. All this is a great transformation from the conditions of some few years ago. Today, we can find on these modern roads in the north west the types of road trains which can transport slock to ports for export in a matter of a few days, and, on occasions, a matter of hours. This is something for which the people of the north had been looking for a long time for it means the avoidance of long weeks of droving during which cattle lose condition. 1 should like to deal with this matter in a little more detail because, linked with the north over the years of its history, there has been the constant problem of moving large mobs of cattle. Droving frequently imposes serious limitations on the movement of cattle and, therefore, on the development of the whole of the beef industry. Successful droving depends on the state of the stock routes. And how difficult it has been during the history of the north to maintain stock routes at a standard conducive to the proper development of the beef industry. Again, the availability of good drovers has been a problem which has had to be faced year in and year out by the industry. Another point to be remembered is that, when cattle are taken on the hoof they are not taken in small numbers. Because of the time involved, large mobs have to be formed and this adds to the difficulties. The movement of a whole mob of cattle which has calves mixed in with it usually results in a serious loss of condition in the stock. The longer the track, the longer the movement, the larger the mob of cattle, the more accentuated becomes the risk of loss of condition of the cattle.
On the reverse side, once road transport can be brought into operation, once the cattle trains which we are so pleased to see today can be organised, several advantages follow immediately. In the first place, small lots of cattle can be moved as they reach top condition. As a result of this, returns come quicker to those engaged in the industry. A further advantage is that losses are much lighter. Again, deliveries of cattle can be spread over a long period of time and cows and young calves can be turned off during periods of adverse climatic conditions when some concern is felt for the continuing well being of the stock. They can be turned off and disposed of. Considering the drought conditions that we have all been concerned with in other parts of Australia, it is a very important point to recognise the value of improved transport on this type of improved road in the north west.
In his last Budget speech, the then Treasurer, now the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), foreshadowed the legislation which is now before us. He mentioned the place that beef roads had occupied in the thinking and planning of this Government. When referring to Western Australia in the current Budget, he pointed out that some £750,000 had been provided for that State. He highlighted that that sum would be the last payment under the existing agreement with the State of Western Australia. In referring generally to beef roads, let us note the words he used. Regarding the roads to which he had been making reference he said -
These roads have already produced good dividends by enabling cattle to be marketed at younger ages and in better condition-
I have just underlined that point - and also by facilitating the movement of cattle from drought affected areas.
He went on to say -
However, we do not mean this to end the Commonwealth Government’s participation in this important field of activity.
He went on to mention the steps taken by the Government to have this comprehensive report prepared so that there could be a determination about the future of the beef roads programme for the whole of the north and not just for Western Australia. He continued and said -
In due course, we will expect to hold discussions with the States about various aspects of the future programme.
From the way my friend from the electorate of Macquarie spoke, one would think that we were trifling with only a few hundred thousand dollars instead of the millions of dollars which are being spent on one of the most comprehensive plans relating to road construction and transport in the north of Australia that this country has ever known. It is without doubt the largest plan yet conceived. To suggest that a comprehensive plan could be dealt with by a Cabinet and a Government in a matter of a few minutes, and that then the discussions with the States, foreshadowed by the then Treasurer in his speech could be completed in a short time, is just pure fantasy. There is no justification for the honorable member for Macquarie to make such accusations and to endeavour to point out that from a political point of view this is poor planning.
– There is no plan.
– This is an area in which planning is current. Planning has been spread over a period of time and there is every justification for allowing this Government or any government adequate time to complete that plan. In the case of Western Australia, as I have said, this Bill extends the assistance on the same level as that for the current year for another 12 months. Therefore, in 1966-67 the State from which I come as a representative will be glad indeed to have SI. 5 million as an extra grant. This interim period required by the Government, in which it will complete ils analysis and negotiations with all the States concerned, will enable it to bring to the Parliament - to the next Parliament if necessary - the plan that it recommends. The States that are going to benefit from any fu. ure plan, similar to that which we have enjoyed, will be grateful indeed that the thorough analysis has been made.
The report to which the honorable member for Macquarie referred was the comprehensive analysis prepared by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development at the request of the present Government. It is a report that was called for in connection with the whole of the beef roads scheme, not just a section of it. This was a confidential document, as is any such document required by a Cabinet of the current Government, or of any government. 1 was surprised indeed to hear in this debate the honorable member for Macquarie say certain things about this document. He was informed officially in this House, by none other than the Prime Minister, in answer to questions raised, that this was not a public document. This was a document required by a government as advice to it. lt was tendered by highly qualified public servants in whom we have confidence at all times. We have to expect, as every government is entitled to expect-
– Why is it confidential? What are you hiding?
– I will answer that interjection in a moment. Of course any government must treat as confidential a document which has not yet been before it for analysis, and which has not been referred to the State Governments with whom there must be discussions. If the honorable member who has interjected is going to try to convince this House that a Cabinet has no right to treat as confidential a document of this kind, then he will have to talk for a long time in order to convince sane, logical members of this House that he is on the right track. In this context, the honorable member for Macquarie was categorically informed that this document was still confidential and that the copy which had unfortunately come into his hands through the Parliamentary Library had been withdrawn. The Prime Minister, the Minister concerned, and honorable members of this House have every reason to expect - as would any government - that the honorable member for Macquarie, in the strange circumstances in which he was placed, would have treated this matter as confidential.
– It was stolen from my office.
– I am not talking about that. I am saying that into the hands of the honorable member for Macquarie there came a confidential document. When, in sincerity, he asked about his position he was informed. I would have expected that all of the contents of that document would have been respectfully treated as confidential. I do not think that he could do anything else but acknowledge that some parts of that confidential document found quite a significant place in his speech this afternoon. I think that that answers any interjection. The honorable member might well be reminded that if he were supporting his own Party, as a goverment, he would be just as firm about any document such as this being confidential until it was released as a public document by the government which had requested it. This document does not yet fall into the category of a public document.
– Order! I think that we have debated the missing document for long enough.
– I return to what I was saying. In conclusion, I want to put on record some of the background to the provision of funds by this Government to assist the State of Western Australia in the development of beef roads in the north.
It was in 1961 that the Government announced that sympathetic consideration would be given to the development of roads in the north. When the Government of Western Australia was requested to put forward submissions and recommendations in this regard it suggested that 1.3S4 miles of road and bridge works, estimated at that time to cost Si 6.642 million, should be listed for consideration. The road works suggested by the Western Australian Government consisted mainly of up-grading the Great Northern Highway and the Wyndham-Nicholson road and bridges over Bandicoot Bar and the Dunham River. In the case of Western Australia the Commonwealth Government decided to provide a grant of SI million for the financial year 1961-62 subject, of course, to matching expenditure by the State Government.
Let me digress at this point and deal with the incentive value of a scheme of this kind. I am glad to say that this has been part of the policy of this Government in other fields, too. But in this area what an incentive it is when a State Government knows that if it can organise its own budget and set aside moneys for road development of this kind what it sets aside will be immediately doubled by Commonwealth grants. It is an incentive scheme provided by the Commonwealth which I trust will be used in other fields. I am sure that our honorable friend from Dawson (Dr. Patterson), who has such a background of knowledge in this area, would endorse that any legislation which can inspire a government along these lines is fully justified and should be repeated. Later the Western Australian Government made representations about the need for continuity of the beef road scheme in the Kimberley area. The Commonwealth Government readily agreed that continuity was desirable because of the problems in that area in the construction of roads and because it was preferable to define a fixed programme of financial assistance rather than rely on a system of annual submissions. My own experience over a number of years now on the Public Accounts Committee reminds me of the very great inbuilt problems associated wilh northern development and northern area construction, if an area like the Northern Territory, the north west of Western Australia or northern Queensland is to be dependent on the annual appropriations of the departments concerned it is imperative that we should have forward planning such as has been conducted in relation to the beef roads scheme. I am confident that when the Government makes its decision and the new legislation is brought to the House we will find that the concept of finance being spread over a period of years will be adopted as before.
To sum up. The financial assistance to Western Australia between the years 1961-62 to 1965-66 has amounted to $6.9 million in the form of grants. All of these grants were subject to matching expenditure by the State and were for expenditure in the area north of 20 degress latitude south. The expenditure has been used for the construction of the roads which I named earlier in my speech. The Duncan Highway has been constructed and the Derby-Mount House-Glenroy Road has been assisted by upgrading by stage construction. These are roads of tremendous importance to the development of the north west. I put this on record with appreciation, having been a spokesman for the State which will be the recipient of this $li million in the next financial year. 1 now come back to the point which I think 1 have emphasised fairly adequately but which I think I am justified in mentioning again as I conclude. There is no sensitivity about this confidential report. The departmental committee is now in the process of looking at the proposal which is the subject of the confidential report. The Government has indicated that it expects the interdepartmental committee’s survey to be completed this month. That is not a bad programme and in the meantime we have this current legislation. This is not the first occasion that interim legislation for a 12 months’ extension of a scheme has been introduced. As such a procedure has applied to other schemes, why should it not apply to the beef roads scheme? We can expect that when the interdepartmental committee’s report is available to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) he will present it to the Cabinet and make recommendations regarding the farsighted legislation that I am confident will be introduced. Surely when we take an honest and logical look at the whole programme the Opposition is quite unjustified in its accusation that time has been lost and that the programme has been stretched out. If we compare this legislation with other legislation we realise the amount of funds involved and the tremendous responsibility that falls on this or any other government to ensure that it is making a right decision and not just a hasty decision. I say that the Government is adopting a right attitude which I am confident that the people of Australia will endorse.
– The honorable member does not know where that stolen report is, does he?
– I wish I did. If I knew where the missing report was the suspicion which unfortunately falls upon public servants, upon the servants of this House and upon virtually every member of this House, would be removed. Nobody would be more pleased than the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for National Development if that report could be found.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that we are not debating the missing report.
– In any event, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was coming to an end. I return to the Bill under discussion. I commend the Government for extending this assistance to an interim measure for 12 months, and as a Government supporter from Western Australia I am confident that the new scheme will take over from where this interim scheme will terminate and that we shall see the north vastly developed by the improvement of roads and all the attendant conditions for moving cattle. I am sure that the cattle industry of the north will become one of the inspiring facets of northern development.
.- I think it is a great pity that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) did not have the benefit of reading the missing report. He might have had a greater knowledge of the position if he had read it. The Bill now before the House is to amend the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act for the purpose of extending for a further 12 months the assistance now provided under that Act. The existing legislation is due to expire at the end of the next month and the passing of this Bill will simply mean that the Commonwealth will make a further $li million available to Western Australia for works on beef roads in the north of the State to the end of June next year. Of course, the same old proviso will apply, namely that Western Australia must find a similar amount from other sources.
The $li million to be provided under this Bill is a similar amount to that which has been granted in each of the past three years. Honorable members can readily see that there has been no increase in the grant since 1962-63 which would meet the rising costs of road construction and maintenance that has occurred. Therefore the amount provided cannot be expected to serve the same purpose in actual road works as was served in, say, 1962-63. The fact of the matter is that the assistance towards beef roads in Western Australia, measured in road work value is being allowed to decline gradually. Naturally enough the Opposition does nol oppose the Bill, but the Government would not expect Opposition members to offer it any congratulations. Now, almost five years after the original Bill was introduced, the Government can only see its way clear to extend the term of this assistance for a further 12 months, and it cannot be definite on what the position will be in the future.
Surely it is reasonable to expect that after five years of operation of the scheme, and after some $14 million of Commonwealth and State money has been spent, the Government should have been able to satisfy itself well before now as to the proper plan for the future and as to what would be required by way of finance over the next few years to pursue the plan. But as it is quite clear that the Government does not know what is the best for the future we can only conclude that it has not, at least in the earlier stages, shown the interest in the scheme that was warranted. It seems most unreal that at this stage it can see only a year to year programme ahead of it. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) informed us in his second reading speech that this Bill was only an interim measure pending a further decision on finance for beef roads. In conclusion he expressed the hope that something even better will eventually be provided. But of course the people of Western Australia, and honorable members on this side of the House, remember only too well a similar position and a similar expression of hope by the former Prime Minister when he was speaking about the future of the Ord River project. That was three years ago, but we have not been able to obtain any more finance for that scheme up to date, and by the tone of the debate last Tuesday we will not be likely to obtain any.
Last November’s issue of “ The Beef Situation “ put out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in referring to the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act had this to say -
The termination of these agreements docs not necessarily mean an end of the Commonwealth Government’s participation in this important field of activity. The Government has under consideration a report on the future of the beef roads programmes and in due course is expected to hold discussions with other States.
That was referred to also in the Budget Speech, and as honorable members can apppreciate there is nothing definite about it. lt is delightfully vague and leaves, if anything, a doubt whether the scheme will eventually be pursued to any great length. The article I have referred to does admit the importance of beef roads, but the best information we can gather from it is merely that a report on beef roads has been under consideration by the Government for at least six months. We also know, of course, that it is the same report which has caused a certain amount of embarrassment to the Government recently. As the Government has not been prepared to make it available to honorable members we can only conclude either that its contents are not acceptable to the Government or that it puts the Government on a bit of a spot. The fact remains, however, that the Minister cannot or will not tell us whether the Government is prepared to go beyond next year with financial assistance. This is not good enough. We certainly cannot be expected to accept without criticism this vague suggestion that’ further finance may be available at the expiration of the period covered by this Bill.
A long range programme is very definitely required for this important beef roads work, lt is also very necessary that the authority responsible for carrying out the work should know for certain that funds will be available, not just next year but for several years ahead. As I have already said, the Government and the Department’ administering the beef roads scheme should have been properly informed long since and should have been in a position to determine what work will be carried out on beef roads not just next year but for several years ahead.
Of course it is easy to appreciate the difficulties and frustrations which beset the Minister and his Department because of section 7 of the Act which gives the Treasurer and not the Minister the right to approve the specified work requested by the Government of Western Australia under section 5 of the Act. It seems ridiculous that although the Minister in charge of the Department that has the job of investigating the beef roads programme may give full approval to a request from Western Australia and wish to see the work carried out as quickly as possible, hi. decision can be set aside, or the implementation of if delayed considerably, by the Treasurer. It is difficult to understand how a Minister can accept such a position or why a Cabinet should place him in such a position. Surely the Minister who is close to the Department and to the works involved would have a better knowledge of what is required with regard to beef roads construction and maintenance than the Treasurer would. Surely he would have a better appreciation of a request lodged under section 5 and would know whether the proposition put forward by Western Australia was sound in all respects and worthy of approval. If he is not able to make a determination along these lines he has no right to be the Minister in charge of the Department of National Development. If, on the other hand, he is quite capable of arriving at a proper decision on proposals made by the State Government, his decision should not have to be subject to Treasury approval, and the implementation of his decision should not’ bc subject to delay because- of Treasury actions.
The retention of section 7 in the Act in its present form can mean only that the Government or the Cabinet has no confidence in the Minister. If this is so he should be replaced, because the present procedure must work contrary to the interests of the beef roads scheme. At the Committee stage we intend to move an amendment designed to remedy this situation, and I sincerely hope that honorable members on the Government side will support us in the interest of the beef roads programme in Western Australia.
No doubt honorable members are aware that it is estimated that expenditure on beef roads in Western Australia will amount by the end of June of this year to about $14 million, half of which will have been provided by the State. I am reliably informed that early last year the Government of Western Australia, with the idea of ensuring the continuation of the scheme as planned, asked for an extension of financial assistance under the Act to carry out additional work beyond June of this year at an estimated cost of about $15.5 million. This meant that the State required about $7.75 million from the Commonwealth and was prepared to find a like amount itself. But now, 15 months later, we find that the Government is prepared to make available only $1.5 million, with no certainty that any more will be provided. We hope and expect that more will be available but there is nothing definite about it.
This uncertainty as to whether finance will be available up to the amount required makes it very difficult to organise the work. It also makes the scheme less economic in the long run. It is considered in Western Australia that the most suitable practice is to bring as great a mileage of the roads as possible up to the best condition- that can be obtained without sealing and to seal those sections which will not otherwise stand up to the traffic. That is the programme in the first instance. It is realised, of course, that overall sealing would be the most economical method in the long run but that this cannot be achieved in the short term when such long distances are involved. Sealing, except for the worst sections, must be included in the long term plan, but it is very difficult, in fact impossible, to plan well ahead if there is no certainty that funds will be available. For that reason, having in mind that the existing legislation covers a period which will expire at the end of June, the Government should have made its decision and introduced continuing legislation much earlier than it has done. At least it should have given an assurance or a guarantee of a minimum amount that will be available in each of the next four or five years. This would allow the Western Australian Government to make its plans and organise its work. In such circumstances it would, of course, be able to do much more work with the finance available. f have beard whispers and have read in newspaper articles that there is a suggestion that the Government has been advised, or is considering a proposal, that no further funds should be made available to either Western Australia or the Northern Territory until a different and more efficient policy is introduced. Perhaps the Government - more likely the Treasury - now claims that the policy in Western Australia on beef roads is not acceptable. Perhaps it now claims that the policy is in some way wasteful and that insufficient work value is being obtained from the expenditure by way of actual road construction or road maintenance. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Government at this stage is not prepared to make a long term agreement.
– This is all based on rumour.
– Perhaps this is the Government’s excuse. If so, the Government or the Minister should have told us about it. No doubt they have avoided doing so because if the policies are now considered wasteful the Commonwealth Government must accept a fair share of the blame for this; it cannot escape from it.
The need for a much more extensive and better roads system for the north of Australia has been obvious for many years. The Government should have established a special authority several years ago to examine the whole matter of northern requirements, including requirements for roads and all other forms of communications. Surely it must always be the responsibility of the Government to do everything possible to ensure that moneys provided by the Commonwealth are spent to the best advantage. Certainly there cannot be any excuse at this stage, five years after the commencement of the scheme, for holding up funds pending a further inquiry. Neither can there be any excuse for holding up finance because the original estimates of costs may have been much lower than the actual costs, such as was the case with the standard gauge railway scheme, because again it must surely be the responsibility of the Government to satisfy itself about these matters right at the beginning and not halfway through a project. If, on the other hand - and I direct this remark particularly to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) - there is nothing wrong with the present policy of the Western Australian authority or with the estimates, why must we have this interim measure? The road work that is suggested must be carried out. lt would be absolute foolishness not to complete it, particularly after so much has been done. One can only conclude that as with many other northern projects the Government is rather lukewarm.
The Minister has informed us that the works on which expenditure is proposed during 1966-67 comprise sections of the Great Northern Highway from Broome to Wyndham, which means via Turkey Creek, sections of the Duncan Highway, Halls Creek to Wyndham via the Nicholson and sections of the Derby-Mount House road. The total length of the roads mentioned would be about 1,200 miles, mostly through pretty tough country for road construction and maintenance. Much of it is subject to flooding in the wet season and it is also subject to very severe damage by way of corrugations and dust holes during the dry seasons. Everybody associated with the building and maintaining of these roads is doing an excellent job and should be congratulated.
Although these roads are referred to as beef cattle roads, they are not used only for the transportation by road of cattle. They have many other uses. They are. with the exception of the Derby to Mount House road, the main roads or highways. In fact, they are virtually the only roads in the north of Western Australia catering for the transportation of materials to such projects as the Ord River scheme and available for use by tourists and others travelling in the north. They are important in many ways additional to the transport of cattle. There can be no question but that the present rate of beef production in Australia, both for local consumption and for export income, can be more economically sustained and in fact substantially increased by the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing roads in beef producing areas, lt is heartening to know that the Government has, to some extent, come to realise the value of good roads to the beef industry because in 1949 honorable members who now sit on the Government side of the House were very reluctant to support a bill introduced by the Labour Government to grant financial assistance to the States of Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the development of beef production by the provision of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of livestock. It is rather interesting, although disappointing, to compare what Liberal Party and Country Party members then advocated should be done with what has actually happened and with what they advocate today. It must be remembered that they have been in government for 16 years and so have had ample time to carry out what they claimed th 1949 was necessary. The then honorable member for Maranoa, who is now Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said -
The difficulties of marketing cattle in a satisfactory condition and the distance stock have to travel to rail heads over inferior and overtaxed stock routes have always been a serious obstacle to increasing the production of beef. That obstacle will remain until railways are constructed along the required routes. Railways must be built to enable slock to be moved from drought stricken areas to more favoured districts where fodder is available. Since the Government-
That is, the Labour Government - is not providing all-weather roads it will not be practicable for the cattle to be taken to market in flood time.
He concluded his remarks by saying -
The mere construction of a few roads which will not even be all-weather roads will of itself do nothing to bring about an increase of the number of stock carried in the Channel country.
The present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) also spoke in the debate. He said -
The Queensland Railway should be projected into the Northern Territory and a railway should be constructed from Western Australia into the cattle country of the Northern Territory.
Mr. Hamilton, who was the honorable member for Swan, said -
Unless the roads are all-weather roads and are sealed in some manner it will not be long before they become quagmires and the jolting that the stock W Il experience in those conditions will affect them to a degree we cannot assess.
He said also -
Whether this scheme will have the effect that is hoped for remains to be seen. I do not intend to condemn it wholly.
He condemned it to a very large extent, which is the same thing. So, as I said earlier, supporters of this Government were reluc tant in 1949 to support a beef roads proposition. In 1949, the Country Party member for Wide Bay said that the roads should bc sealed with concrete rather than bitumen. All the Country Party and Liberal Party members condemned to some extent Labour’s roads proposition. They were adamant that railways were the only answer - that roads were not worth a bumper unless they were sealed. But today, 17 years later, and after 16 years of a Liberal-Country Party Government, we find ourselves dealing with a proposition rather similar to that proposed by a Labour Government back in 1949. We find also that the area with which we are dealing in this Bill is the very same area in Western Australia referred to in Labour’s proposition. Further - and this is the really amazing part of it all - after 16 years of government by a Liberal-Country Party coalition, bearing in mind what the Government supporters said in 1949, we find that in this particular part of Western Australia about which they were so vocal there is not one inch of railway and only a few miles of sealed roads. Up to the end of 1964, of 1,419 miles of the Northern Highway, the Duncan Highway and the Mount House to Glenroy and Gibb River roads, only 31 miles were sealed. I am informed that not only has this Government failed to construct any new railways in the beef country of Queensland but it has even pulled up some of the line that existed in 1949. So, as I said earlier, it is pleasing to find the Government, even at this late stage, realising to some extent that there is good value in providing good roads in the beef areas of this country but at the same time it is rather unfortunate that the Government has not been able to reach a final conclusion and still is not sure of the next move.
Large areas of the Kimberley cattle country are not served to any great extent - in fact to only a very small extent in some cases - by the existing highways to which I have referred. I have in mind areas around and beyond Gibb River, Karunjie and Kalumburu. There are also the areas south and south-east of Hall’s Creek and over to Billiluna. which is slightly above the 20th parallel and close to the border of the Northern Territory. Outside the Kimberleys but still in the north of Western Australia there is a large area of cattle country requiring good roads. Compared with the Kimberleys, this area does not carry a large number of cattle, but it is still an important area.
At present, there are about 3,000 miles of roads over which cattle are transported to meat works, rail heads or wharves. These are main roads, not feeder roads. Very few miles of those roads would be sealed. If you were to draw a line from a point on the map about 200 miles south of Broome east to the Northern Territory border you would have north of that line the area from which is produced cattle for the Wyndham. Derby and Broome meat works as well as several hundred head for slaughter at Robb’s Jetty. Records disclose that 62,800 head of cattle were slaughtered in 1962 at the three meat works in the north. In 1963 the number was 75,600 and in 1964, which was a bad season in most of the area, the number was 58.000.
To show the growing popularity of transporting cattle by road trains, as they are commonly called, I propose to cite a few figures. Until about 1960 no cattle were transported by motor vehicle to the Kimberley meat works; they all were walked. In 1961 only 3,900 were brought in by motor vehicle. In 1962 the number had reached 11,170. In 1963 it was 16,680 and in 1964 the number brought in by motor vehicle was 22,219. There was some road transportation of cattle to the Broome works and to Derby around 1950 but more recent figures show that most cattle are now being brought in by that method. In 1962 the number brought in by road was 20,000. In 1963 it was 37,000. In 1964, which was a poor season, the number was 24,000. Last year, at Broome alone, 23,476 out of a total number received of 24.005 were brought in by road train. At Wyndham last year the number brought in by road was 14,939 out of a total number received of 23,523. Those figures from the meat works in the Kimberleys demonstrate the growing popularity of road transport notwithstanding the condition of existing roads. We all know there is room for improvement of existing roads and for the construction of new roads. As our roads are improved we will find road transport increasing. Returns to the producers will increase, Production of beef will increase. So we must push ahead with the development of roads in the beef country. We must formulate a long term plan to meet long term require- ments. We cannot achieve our objective by making grants on a year to year basis, which seems to be the Government’s policy.
The main requirement in beef roads is that they be of such a standard that the bruising of cattle transported by road train is reduced to an absolute minimum. The degree of bruising depends on several factors, including handling during loading and unloading, the skill and patience of the driver and whether the cattle are wild or docile. However, the main factors are the condition of the road and the distance to be travelled. Although distance is a consideration the prime factor is the condition of the road. A 20 mile bad section in a road of 200 miles could be enough to cause a degree of bruising sufficient to downgrade seriously the value of the bullocks and as a result the benefit of the 180 miles of good road would be lost. In these circumstances it is most important that the rough section be sealed. It is almost certain that rough sections in otherwise reasonably good roads cannot be adequately maintained without sealing, so the value and effectiveness of otherwise good roads are diminished unless the bad sections are sealed. Further problems arise if work can be planned only on a short term basis because of uncertainty of finance.
The effectiveness of a long earth or gravel road is largely lost if sections known !o be virtually impossible to be maintained in an unsealed condition cannot be sealed. A decision must be made whether it is better to have a long distance road with bad sections or a much shorter road with all rough sections sealed. Perhaps in the area we are discussing a decision would have to be made after taking into consideration what use is made of the roads for other purposes. However, if looked at purely from the cattle transportation angle it would be better surely to ensure a good short road by which cattle could arrive at killing works or ports in prime condition rather than a long road with bad sections that leads to bruising of beasts.
If, on the other hand, we can be assured that funds will be available for long term planning these problems will not exist, because rough sections can be attended to as they are encountered. There are several reasons why the transport of beef cattle by road train is more economic in the long run than transport by droving, but the savings can be largely if not completely offset by loss from bruising if the roads are rough, or rough in sections. One worry associated with droving is the problem of walking the cattle through tick country. I notice from one report that in 1957 it was estimated that 100 cattle out of a shipment of 400 were lost through tick fever and that 84 per cent, of the deaths in another shipment were due to tick fever. These figures indicate the value of road transport in tick infested areas.
In 1957-58 it was estimated that road transport from Fitzroy Crossing to Derby cost about 13s. 2d. a head more than droving would. At the prices then obtaining this represented between 16 lb. and 20 lb. of beef. If that weight could be saved road transport would be a better proposition, but there is no value in saving in weight if there is a downgrading due to bruising. It is obvious that the prevention of bruising is a major factor. This must be a major consideration in road construction and maintenance. It must be made possible for road sections, which as gravel will not stand up to traffic, to be sealed. Unfortunately, sealing cannot be done cheaply. If the Western Australian authorities were assured of funds for a few years ahead they could plan to carry out the sealing of the rough sections safe in the knowledge that other necessary road works would not have to be curtailed. While I do not oppose the Bill it is a great pity that the Government has not been able to see its way clear to introduce a long range plan by providing financial assistance over a few years. I hope that the Opposition amendment to remove the obstacles besetting the Minister in determining whether finance should be provided for road works is accepted.
.- This Bill is another step in the development of the north western section of Western Australia, which is a rich area of this continent. It is rich in many ways: It is a rich piece of terrain which has not been put to its best use in the past and it is rich from the viewpoint of its water resources, which are well known to this House. For these two reasons alone, as a Government we cannot afford to ignore this area nor can private investors afford to ignore it. There is tremendous wealth in the area and I believe that as we institute more measures similar to the one before us the development will progress and continue. The beef industry, to which this measure is directed, has reached an interesting stage not only in Australia but throughout the world. Beef has had its ups and downs over the years, and even since the introduction of the 15 year meat agreement with the United Kingdom we have encountered difficulties, but the best advice available indicates that the future for the beef industry is extremely bright, so it is important that measures like the one we are debating should be implemented.
In the north of Western Australia we have killing works available in several places, including Wyndham and Broome, although as I see the position it is still necessary for a percentage of the cattle from that area to be killed in southern abattoirs which can take advantage of the increasing markets throughout the world. We have always had to transport a percentage of the cattle to the southern abattoirs, and in Britain the Smithfield market has been our main market for Australian beef. But the situation has changed. There are many more markets throughout the world and as we develop them it will be even more necessary to bring our beef to ports from which it can be dispersed to overseas markets. Beef roads will assist this process. They are enabling suitable cattle to be transported long distances at present. We must appreciate that nowadays we have to supply markets with better and different meat than we supplied in the past. Previously from the northern areas we could transport only the older and larger beasts southwards, and then only under favourable conditions, but since the establishment of beef roads we have been able to transport two to three times the number of cattle, and we can transport younger beasts when they are in the right condition.
Beef roads have also assisted considerably in dry periods. When we get a dry time in the Kimberleys, as happens from time to time - and we had this situation recently with the extension of the drought from the east of Australia right across to the Kimberleys - road transport is able to move the beasts to more suitable locations. Before the establishment of beef roads it would have been impossible to get them out. If they had been left they would have done considerable damage. Road transport, using roads of the type that are made available by measures of the kind now before us, was able to bring the cattle into the Wyndham meat works. This brought some monetary return to the producers of the animals, and it also took the cattle out of the area. This is important. In addition, the work at the meat works received a boost. There was a shortage of cattle at this time, and these beasts contributed towards the killing numbers of the meat works. These are all important factors. The use of cattle in the way I have described is possible only if road transport is available. Other areas have been mentioned today and there has been some discussion of what could have been done. However, we must realise that this is really the only form of transport available in the north-west of Western Australia. There is no such thing as a railway. The only transport other than road transport is air transport. We in Western Australia did some work on Air Beef, as it was known at that time. Up to a point, this was quite successful, but if we want to develop the area, I think that road transport is the solution to the problems.
I support the Bill. It is one link in the chain of development that is going on today in this area. A lot of money has been spent in various ways in the north. The Commonwealth has spent a lot of money in improving port facilities, and some of this work is now coming to completion. A lot of money has been spent by the Western Australian Government and by private enterprise in the north, as well as in the south, on the establishment of killing works that are necessary in the development of the beef “industry. When we realise that all this money is being spent we can look confidently into the future, knowing that port facilities and road facilities will be available to get the beef out to the killing works. I expect the Government to continue with its programme of constructing these roads, because this is part of a pattern of development in the area.
We cannot afford to move this development to one side, because it is necessary if we are to get the best out of the area. The soil is tremendously wealthy. One has only to see it to know that this is so. Tremendous streams of water are at the moment moving out to sea. We have gained valuable ex perience in the beef industry over the years and we will gain more in the future. Scientific knowledge will help us to use tha right grasses and the right fodders. Bills of the type now before us will help development. The cattle industry, if it is handled correctly and safeguarded against the difficulties that we know can arise in the north, will be a valuable asset. There has been overstocking, but beef cattle roads will enable the stock to be brought out. In addition, the roads will enable cattle to be brought out from small pockets within the Kimberleys, using smaller trucks than those that we normally see using beef cattle roads. If this development had not been undertaken, probably no one would have thought of bringing the cattle out from these small pockets. All this will enable better management of properties in the Kimberley area where there has been a sort of range system which has not been very satisfactory.
I believe that, given the encouragement and given the tools of trade in the form of more beef roads, the cattle growers in the north will take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. As I said, we must in the future look to the harnessing of the rivers, in a small way as well as in a big way. The north-west is bulging at the sides. However, it seems that the more money the Commonwealth spends on the north-west of Western Australia, the more it is expected to spend. Everyone knows that a lot of money is being spent in the north-west now, and I have every confidence that development in the area will move forward. There is much work to be done and many difficulties to be overcome. Transport has been one of the difficulties and this Bill will help to provide better roads.
.- All honorable members who have spoken in the debate so far have said that the concept of beef roads is sound. I do not think that anyone would doubt the validity of this opinion. The benefits to the cattle industry, to Western Australia in this instance, and to the nation, are obvious. I have always held the belief that all roads are good roads and sealed roads are the best. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) expressed some surprise at the doubts raised by the Opposition about the programme of beef cattle roads in the Kimberleys. He based his argument on the assumption that further funds will be made available for a comprehensive road programme. Perhaps he has been advised by the Government that it intends to do this, or he may, after reading the various statements that have been made on the subject, have reached the conclusion that further funds will be available after the next financial year. I hope he is right. We certainly would not oppose any such move. But we have criticised this type of ad hoc approach to beef cattle road programmes. This approach is found not only in the Kimberleys but in other parts of northern Australia.
Programmes for beef roads in the Kimberleys have followed this pattern of ad hoc, unplanned development. The first move was in 1949 with the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act, under which the Chifley Government committed itself to spending £1 million on the upgrading of beef roads in the Kimberleys, particularly the Wyndham-Mistake CreekNicholsonroad. The roads were very rarely used by vehicles transporting cattle. I doubt whether more than 100 head of cattle were ever carried over the roads. They deteriorated very badly and much of the £1 million was wasted. Gravel put down on some sections during 1951 and 1952 was swept away by winds and was not replaced, because maintenance fell by the wayside. After 1961, there was an upsurge in the clamour for further beef road development. At this time, beef prices started to move upwards and the demand for breeding cows, cast for age cows and other cattle increased. At the same time, drovers became scarce.
Various investigations were undertaken and it was shown fairly conclusively that road development - not merely beef road development, but road development in general - was fundamental to the development of northern Australia. After discussions with the State Governments, the Commonwealth made money available. In 1961-62, £500,000 was made available to Western Australia for the upgrading of roads on the western side of the Kimberleys as well as the construction of two bridges, one over the Dunham River and one over the Ord River. In the following year, after further investigations, a total sum of £3.5 million, which included the previous financial year’s commitment, was committed for road development throughout the Kimberleys. This enabled the Western Australian Government, through its Main Roads Department, to plan effectively the upgrading of existing roads, such as the road from Wyndham to Nicholson via Mistake Creek. This road would tap not only the cattle country in the Kimberleys but also areas in the Northern Territory and, particularly, the Victoria River district. Another road was from Wyndham to Halls Creek via Turkey Creek, and another was from Halls Creek across to the coast to Derby and to Broome.
One of the new roads to which the Western Australian Government attached great priority - in fact a higher priority than the Commonwealth attached to it - was the road from Derby to Mr House and Glenroy to open up the western and north Kimberley areas. This overall pro-‘ gramme involved a total of about 1,500 miles of road when one takes into account the matching arrangements made by the Western Australian Government. But it was quite obvious to everybody that these roads would still be of inferior standard for the efficient’ movement of cattle or the efficient movement of people. The most efficient roads are sealed roads. As the time progressed towards the end of the term of the agreement for the provision of Commonwealth funds the Western Australian Government became extremely anxious. It is at this point that I must differ with the honorable member for Swan who did not fully appreciate that it is not only Western Australia involved in the disbursement of funds from the Commonwealth Government but that other States also are involved, particularly in relation to beef roads. I refer to Queensland and the Northern Territory in particular. In such circumstances it is quite clear that the Western Australian Government last year should have become somewhat worried about what was going to eventuate with respect to further beef roads moneys.
If the honorable member for Swan cares to read newspaper reports of many statements by responsible leaders of government and leaders of the cattle industry he will see that they have expressed grave concern at the tardiness of the Commonwealth Government in not declaring itself on a positive stand with regard to the provision of further money for beef roads. I agree entirely with the honorable member that continuity is one of the most important aspects of road construction. In this area of Australia it is extremely important because if only a limited amount of funds is available the engineers and the cattle industry have to spread those funds to give the greatest’ advantage to the cattle industry, or to whichever industry is being considered with respect to the total funds available. If those responsible for the construction of roads do not know how much will be available in the future they do not know whether to build roads of a high standard or whether to build a greater mileage of roads of an inferior standard, whether to concentrate on arterial roads or whether to reduce the mileage of arterial roads and build more feeder roads. All these problems breed a major degree of uncertainty. This is the principal criticism that the Opposition makes of the disbursement of Commonwealth funds for beef roads.
As was pointed out by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act was initiated in 1962. Since then there have been active investigations of various beef road proposals throughout the Kimberleys and other areas of northern Australia. One would have thought that by now the Commonwealth would have been in a position to come forward with a more positive plan for beef roads development in the Kimberleys. To be quite fair to the Minister, I appreciate that the Kimberleys cannot be treated alone. With all respect to Mr. Speaker’s ruling, it is impossible to treat the Kimberleys by themselves. One just does not do that. We cannot draw a line on the map and say that the Northern Territory cattle should keep this side of the line and the Kimberleys cattle should keep that side of the line. The whole idea of beef roads in the far western part of the Kimberleys is to transport cattle principally from the Victoria River district to the meat works at Wyndham or from the bottom part of the east Kimberleys. One of the major roads that we are debating today actually curves into the Northern Territory and out again.
As was pointed out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the amendment which will be moved at the Committee stage relates to the complete removal of control of beef roads agreements from the hands of the Treasurer and proposes to place the technical aspects of beef roads in the hands of the Minister for National Development. We feel quite strongly about this. If one refers to the Commonwealth of Australia “ Gazette “, in the administrative arrangements one finds that the functions of the Department of National Development as administered by the Minister for National Development are the evaluation and development of natural resources and the development of northern Australia. Certainly it is a paradox to find that practically every act relating to northern Australia is administered by someone else - the Treasurer. It is no good the Minister telling us that this must be the arrangement because we know very well that such is not the case. The arrangement can be changed simply by the amendment of a particular order. In fact, the State Grants (Water Resources) Act 1964 is administered by the Minister for National Development with the bookkeeping and financial arrangements undertaken by the Treasurer. This is all we ask in respect of this Bill.
We believe that it is a sound proposal that the Minister in charge of beef roads should be responsible for the approval and technical supervision of beef roads in northern Australia. The Treasurer’s function should be confined to financial arrangements in exactly the same way as we see in respect of the States Grants (Water Resources) Act 1964 which states that the administration of the Act is a function of the Minister for National Development except to the extent that it is administered by the Treasurer with respect to financial arrangements. The Blowering Water Storage Works Agreement Act has the same provision. Our advice from the legal authorities here is that there is nothing to prevent the Minister for National Development from controlling the technical aspects of this measure. I shall not deal with other acts or agreements, such as those relating to brigalow lands, in order to strengthen my case as I would be ruled out of order. I believe that it is obvious to everyone concerned that the amendment which will be moved by the Opposition is sensible and would lead to greater efficiency in the administration of the Act. Section 7 of the Act states -
The Treasurer may, for the purposes of this Act, approve standards of design or construction for any work approved . . .
How can the Treasurer really approve these things? Surely this is a function of a technical department and the responsibility of a technical Minister. It is no good saying that we have inter-departmental committees which will sit, deliberate and recommend. The fact is that for the greatest efficiency in the administration of any technical act, it should be under the control of a technical department. One has only to read the relevant Orders in Council to find this glaring anomaly that northern development almost universally comes under the control of the Treasurer. I repeat: We do not mind the Treasurer looking after financial arrangements. We regard this as his real function. But the technical aspects of the approval and supervision of works, particularly road works, and the preparation of reports to acquaint members of the Parliament and others with what is happening in respect of beef roads and other northern development works ought to be the responsibility of the Minister for National Development. Surely it is not too much to ask that he be responsible for these matters.
I believe that up to the present time the beef roads programme in the Kimberleys has worked extremely well. Among the two States involved, and the Northern Territory, the effectiveness of the Western Australian authorities has perhaps been highest. 1 believe that in all instances they have efficiently carried out within the financial limits involved the works that they have undertaken. Indeed, in some instances they have actually constructed roads and bridges for less than the estimates that they originally submitted. The Western Australian Main Roads Department should be complimented on its fine work. There is no denying the fact that the improved roads provided have in themselves been a tremendous boost to the cattle industry in the Kimberleys. It now has an efficient road system linking it to the meat works at Wyndham, Derby and Broome, which are the outlets for its beef. The Air-Beef scheme, of course, has closed down because of the construction of the road from Mount House to Derby. The system of beef roads that has been pro vided in the Kimberleys now permits the efficient movement of cattle to the meat works that I have mentioned.
As the Minister for National Development knows, a lot more needs to be done about the highways than merely bringing them up to sealed standard. Perhaps even more important is the fact that large areas of the Kimberleys are not yet served by beef roads. These are principally areas of inferior land which might be described as marginal land for cattle production, with a carrying capacity perhaps less than four or five beasts to the square mile. Nevertheless, because these areas have a relatively safe climate, in terms of rainfall reliability, their use is essential to increased beef production, particularly in regions where, because of pleuro pneumonia restrictions, lull advantage cannot be taken of breeding capabilities. One of the difficulties that the Opposition has pointed out is that the Western Australian Government does not know what is to happen in the future. It is to receive in the financial year 1966-67 $1,500,000 to further the programme of upgrading beef roads. What is it to do with this money? Admittedly, works have to be approved by the Treasurer under the terms of the principal Act. I ask honorable members to put themselves in the shoes of the Minister for Transport in Western Australia and of the men in the cattle industry and to consider whether the right course is to upgrade existing roads or whether it is to give higher priority to certain new roads. Should higher priority be given to a road linking Tableland, Mornington, Lansdowne and Bedford Downs with the Turkey Creek road or with the Hall’s Creek to Derby road, or should higher priority be given to a road from Billiluna to Hall’s Creek or to sealing the road from Kununurra to Mistake Creek?
All these considerations occupy the minds of the main roads engineers. The great uncertainty in their minds is caused by the fact that they do not know what lies around the corner. They do not know whether the source of these funds will freeze up or whether money will continue to be available. I admit that in presenting the last Budget, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), who was then Treasurer, stated that more money would become available. But this represented only a general statement. The Government has honoured the promise that was made at that time, but I submit that the promise should have been honoured about six months ago when the Western Australian Government was deeply concerned about what was to happen after the wet season. It is not just a question of treating each of the 12 months of the year as being the same. One has to look to seasonal variations and provide for requirements in the wet season as well as in the dry season. What will happen next year? This is the big question that must be exercising the minds of the engineers. Therefore, Sir, we can only emphasise that the essential for properly planned development, not only of the cattle industry but also of other industries in the Kimberleys, is a system of roads based on a long term plan for the upgrading of existing arterial roads, particularly those linking the Kimberleys with the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory, and also an effective system of feeder roads.
The North Kimberley region is something like 100.000 square miles in area - larger than Tasmania - and at present it is almost unoccupied. What is the Western Australian Government to do about this region? Is it to give the North Kimberleys higher priority by constructing new roads to Carson River and Drysdale River and northwards to Kalumburu, or is it to say: “ We will stop at Gibb River and undertake a road programme in the East Kimberleys “? As I have said, considerations like these exercise the minds of the engineers and of Ministers in the Western Australian Government and cause them much concern, because they do not know where the next penny is to come from after the Si, 500,000 at present being provided is spent. We cannot stress too strongly the need for a plan of the kind discussed at length by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver). I hope he proves to be right, but evidently he has more faith in planning by this Government than I have. I hope that the Minister for National Development will speak in reply and give us an assurance thai further funds will be available to Western Australia for beef roads after the financial year 1966-67. Such an assurance would make the Western Australian Government, the main roads engineers and the men in the cattle industry extremely happy.
Before concluding, I wish to make one final point about the efficiency of this method of making handouts of Commonwealth funds for the construction of beef roads. It is one thing to build a road, Sir, and to know that immediate benefits will result from its construction. But there are other considerations. As previous speakers in this debate have said, we know that beef roads permit cattle to be turned off at a younger age, more cast for age cows and mickey bulls to be marketed and a general increase in the percentage turnoff of cattle. But there the benefit stops. The Government has declared time and time again that the major object of its beef roads programme is to increase our export earnings, improve our balance of payments and promote the development of northern areas. This places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the men in the cattle industry as the direct beneficiaries of beef roads in northern Australia. As the Minister knows, large companies often are reluctant, under the system of open range management, to spend money, particularly when security of tenure is not always guaranteed. Even when it is guaranteed, if the property is big enough, many owners. I am sorry to say, treat the land as something that can be flogged and reduced almost to dust bowl conditions, and they content themselves with the hope that the Government or somebody else will regenerate native pastures.
Unfortunately, we are seeing the effects of this attitude in many parts of northern Australia today. Anybody who has seen the catchment area of the Ord River will be aware of the major problem that is being faced by the Western Australian Government in the regeneration of native pastures that have been depleted by indiscriminate overstocking. This does not mean, however, that I entirely blame the owners of cattle properties in the north. Many of the properties were taken up 50 or 100 years ago under conditions vastly different from those that exist today. Many of the early owners refused to build fences and looked only to a good return on their capital. All they were concerned about was making the greatest possible profit. They were not bothered by the thought that they might have to walk off their properties after 20. 30 or 40 years. Before it spends money on or enters into a long term programme of beef roads in northern Australia, the
Government should work in close collaboration with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland, and with the Northern Territory authorities to ensure that the maximum benefit will be received by the Australian people for their investment in the north. There are many ways in which this can be ensured, but the first and most important consideration should be the development of the areas which will be influenced by the construction of roads. We all know that it costs a great deal of money to develop areas, but I emphasise that where the roads touch the high rainfall country the potential for development is tremendous.
Let me say in conclusion that, to a man, the Opposition believes that beef roads are an excellent investment. The only points on which we challenge the Government are, first, not enough money is being made available and, secondly, that no properly coordinated long term programme has been prepared.
The honorable member for Swan referred to the report of the Northern Division on beef roads. As everybody will value, 1 know what is in that report. It is regrettable that a copy of it was taken from the room of the honorable member for Macquarie. I think that the only people who can be completely absolved from suspicion in connection with this matter are the Minister for National Development, the honorable member for Macquarie and myself, because nobody who knows what is in a report would have any need to take a copy of it. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that it would be very advantageous to everybody concerned if this matter were cleared up because a cloud does hang over the heads of all of us.
Frankly, I cannot see why the report cannot be released. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why. Admittedly certain parts of the report are hard hitting, but so they should be. Anybody who is conversant with the cattle industry in northern Australia will know precisely what I mean. The philosophy that I have always followed is that the truth should never hurt, and I feel that it would be a good gesture on the part of the Government if, after Cabinet has considered this document, it were released to the public. It took a lot of time to prepare and I believe it is very valuable. The officers of the Northern Division worked extremely hard in preparing it. It throws a lot of matters up for further research, particularly with respect to the cattle industry and universities. It is a pioneering document in this field and I say quite frankly that there is nothing in it that is really confidential or that will hurt anybody. As I have said, it is hard hitting, but that should not hurt anyone. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on the suggestion that this excellent report should be released officially to the public at some later date.
.- The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) stated in his second reading speech that the purpose of this Bill was to extend the operation of the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act of 1962, which, we have been told, is due to expire on 30th June next. Over the five year period ending 30th June next, the Commonwealth Government will have provided $7 million for expenditure on beef roads in Western Australia. This figure will have been matched by the Western Australian Government, so that a total of $14 million will have been expended on this work. This Bill provides for an allocation of $1.5 million by the Commonwealth Government in the next 12 months. This is a similar amount to that which has been provided in each of the last three years. The State Government will match this figure, so that a total of $3 million will be expended on beef cattle roads in the 12 months ending June 1967. 1 join wilh the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) in protesting against the limiting nature of this Bill. It provides finance for a period of only 12 months. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) seemed to think that this limitation was justified and that the matter could be considered further at a later date. I point out that the Government has had ample time to consider legislation to continue the scheme for a further period of years. The original legislation was introduced in 1961. It has been in operation for five years now and, surely, during that time the Government and the Minister should have been able to plan for years ahead instead of introducing a measure with such a limited period of operation as 12 months.
It could be, of course, that this measure is introduced simply to enable the Government to get over an election year. We should ask ourselves what the Government intends to do once the election is over. It has been suggested that no further funds will be made available. I hope that this will not be the position. Irrespective of whether that suggestion has any foundation, I suggest that it is bad that this Bill should be so limited in its operation because, as the honorable member for Dawson, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Macquarie have pointed out, it does not allow the Main Roads Department of Western Australia to do any forward planning for this important work. It is unable to plan if it does not know what is going to happen in the future.
As has been pointed out, the Kimberley region of Western Australia lies between the 14th and 20th parallels of latitude. Its area is approximately half as big again as that of the State of Victoria. This rugged, isolated region produces approximately 520,000 cattle or 51 per cent, of the cattle produced in Western Australia and, together with parts of the State’s north west, offers great scope for future development of the beef export industry.
Prior to 1945, all the Kimberley cattle received at the ports of Wyndham, Derby and Broome for marketing were moved by the tedious droving method, with all its faults and weaknesses, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. In those days roads in the Kimberleys consisted of partly developed tracks which were used only in the dry winter months for transporting supplies to cattle stations. Since .1952, the Kimberley beef industry has been stimulated by the growth of the home market and the heavier overseas demand for meat. This increased demand for beef encouraged thi Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government, through the Main Roads Department of that’ State, to upgrade the road system of the area to assist the beef industry.
I am very pleased that the honorable member for Dawson complimented the Main Roads Department’ on the work that it has been doing in the building of roads in the Kimberleys and other parts of the north of Western Australia. It is important to note that the Main Roads Department spends one quarter of its income north of the 26th parallel where less than 2 per cent, of the State’s population lives. That is a very big contribution when we consider the area concerned and the fact that it is so sparsely populated.
Transport is most important if we are to develop the northern areas. Next to water conservation, transport is imperative. That is why it is so disturbing to know that an important report on road transport costs in the north is being kept from the members of this Parliament. I previously drew attention to this matter. I also point out that there is a question on the notice paper dealing with this important subject. But as long ago as 1st April 1965 I raised it with the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Later on, on 1 1 th May 1965, he had the courtesy to give me a reply. On that date he said -
On 1st April 1965, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) asked me without notice when the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia might be expected. As promised I took this matter up wilh the Chairman of the Committee and have been informed that the Committee believes its report will be presented by my colleague, the Minister for National Development, before the end of August.
That referred to last August, not this coming August. That reply was given to me in May 1965. I raised the question again in September 1965 and in October 1965 the then Prime Minister replied to me and said -
I can assure the honorable member that as soon as I can get my clutches on to it-
Referring to this important report - and have a look at it I will do my best to ->ee that it is made available for debate during the course of this sessional period.
The report still is not available to us. I think it is regrettable that an important report like this should not be available to honorable members when a subject such as this is being discussed. I also add my protest to the protests already made regarding the other report, concerning beef roads, which also has not been made available. I can see no reason why it should not have been tabled to assist us in this debate and in the debate which will take place later concerning beef roads in Queensland.
Getting back to the question of beef roads in this northern area of Western Australia, 1 would point out that the main route through the Kimberleys is the section of the Great Northern Highway from Broome to Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Wyndham, a distance of more than 700 miles. This road serves both the east and west Kimberley cattle region. In 1949, as mentioned by the honorable member for Dawson, the Commonwealth Government made a special grant for a beef road in order to assist beef production in the east Kimberleys. I think he said the grant was £1 million. This road, the Duncan Highway, connects Nicholson Station with the port of Wyndham, 260 miles away, and passes through the Ord River area. The Minister for National Development said in his speech that the works expenditure in 1966-67 is proposed to include sections of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Wyndham, the Duncan Highway between Wyndham and Halls Creek via Nicholson, and the Derby to Mount House road.
The construction of the new beef road from Derby to Mount House has been a special feature of the operations of the State Main Roads Department in the Kimberley area. This road has taken the place of the pioneering Kimberley air beef scheme which has already been mentioned in this debate. It has cut transport costs between Derby and Glenroy by half, lt will be remembered, of course, that the beef had to be flown out of Glenroy to Derby before this road was built. The Commonwealth Government was subsidising that scheme. This road has cut transport costs by half and is saving the Commonwealth Government the subsidy that it was paying for the air beef operations at that time. Major construction works were required on this road. There were numerous water courses which had to be crossed and it passed through some rugged sections of country such as the Napier and King Leopold Ranges. These had to be surmounted. Now this road is being extended to Gibb River in order to help serve the central Kimberley area. It comprises another huge section of road but I forget the length of it at the moment. When that stage is reached it is to be hoped that the road will be extended to other areas in that Kimberley district.
Up to June 1965 103 miles of roads in the Kimberleys had been sealed in various sections. The aim was to seal another 85 miles of road by June 1966. In addition it was intended to upgrade 670 miles of beef road by June next. That does not mean, of course, that the entire length of that 670 miles of road work would be sealed. The Ord River area and the WyndhamHalls Creek regions have a cattle population of over 30,000 and it is from this area that cattle are taken to the Wyndham meat works. The upgrading of these roads will enable more cattle to bc carried to Wyndham meat works. That in itself will not mean that the works will be operating at full capacity. Wyndham meat works has the capacity to kill 80,000 head a year but it works at less than half that capacity, lt increased its capacity from 30,139 head in 1961 to 34,650 in 1963. That increase was principally due to the improvement in the beef roads. But the meat works will not be operating to full capacity in my view, and in the opinion of people to whom I have spoken, until the Ord River scheme is completed.
This Government is committed to assist in the financing of the diversion dam on the Ord River but it has been hedging on the question of providing finance for the main dam. It is about time that a decision was made about this very important project. Is this project going to be used as another election gimmick, as it was at the last Senate election? Will it then be pushed to one side again after the election? This Government, in my opinion, is all talk about developing the north of Australia. The Ord River scheme plays an important part in that development. The Government brings these matters out from time to time when election time nears, gives lip service to the question of developing the north of Australia, but then falls down on the job when the time comes. Finance is urgently needed for the main part of the Ord scheme. It is planned under the scheme that the Ord River dam will provide a volume of water about six times that in Sydney Harbour.
The Kimberley research farm work has proved that anything can be grown in that area if water is provided. There is a vast area of fertile black soil there which will grow rice, sugar, cotton, peanuts, linseed, maize and safflower, just to mention some of the proved products. Reports show that cotton crops on the Ord pilot farms have proved most successful. The Government has received those reports. There is no reason why it should not go ahead and state what it intends to do about the main Ord River dam. The by-products of cotton are very important as far as the cattle industry is concerned. They can be used to top off cattle. Therefore there could be a combination of cattle and cotton in that area and that could be the answer to questions concerning quite a lot of the development there. I do not know whether it is generally known but in California 480,000 tons of cotton seed are treated each year and from the by-products of the seed thousands of cattle are topped off each year. That indicates what could be done in the north of Australia.
Pasture lands also are needed near the meat works in the north to provide a staging depot in order to top off cattle which have travelled long distances. The Premier of Western Australia has stated that while beef roads will enable more cattle to be brought to the meat works they will not be enough in themselves to enable the meat works to operate to full capacity. I agree with his statement in that regard. Some authorities believe that a staging depot should be provided covering an area of about 30,000 to 40,000 acres not far from the meat works. It is suggested that the nearest point on the western boundary of this area would be about 30 miles from the meat works. One authority has suggested that a railway should be built from that point to the meat works and this would provide additional means of getting sufficient numbers of cattle to the works so that it could be operated at full capacity. I believe that beef roads are essential, but like the Premier of Western Australia I do not think that they will meet the full requirements of the Wyndham meat works to enable those works to be operated to full capacity. A railway link is needed in addition to roads. A rail link would be cheaper as rolling stock would be available from the Western Australian Government Railways as a result of being released due to the rail standardisation project which is being carried out.
One report states that in some parts of the north - the Kimberleys and other parts to which I have referred - road building costs reach as high as £40,000 a mile. An example of this, I am told, is the 155 mile road through the King Leopold Ranges. A book by Alex Kerr titled “ Northwestern Australia “ has an interesting paragraph dealing with this particular point. It says -
The problems involved in road construction in the Northwest are considerable, from the point of view both of the engineer and of the Commonwealth and State Treasuries. Up to £10,000 is required to build a mile of sealed road in the region. Because of the nature of the traffic and the climatic conditions roads may require resealing every four or five years in the Northwest compared with an average of every fifteen and sometimes eighteen years in the Southwest part of the State. Maintenance costs on earth formed roads are relatively low.
Alex Kerr says in his book that £10,000 is required to build a mile of sealed road in the region, but other reports have pointed out that costs can reach as high as £40.000 a mile which, of course, is quite an amount of money to spend for a mile of road.
This measure is very important to Western Australia because the provision of adequate roads for the State’s needs is a formidable task. It is regrettable that the measure does not extend beyond 12 months so that further planning could be done by the State well beyond the present 12 months period. The problem in relation to roads in Western Australia is due, of course, to the great distances that have to be covered, the diversity of soils and (he climatic conditions. With an area of 976,000 square miles, or approximately one third of the area of the Commonwealth, the roads system extends from Eucla in the south eastern division to Wyndham, which is 3,000 miles away in the far north. The State of Western Australia is passing through a developmental phase and is faced with the task of providing a roads system for opening up new land areas. In the five year period from 1952 to 1956, 3,451,000 acres of new land were alienated. This area was equal to approximately half the acreage alienated in Australia during tha period. Between 1955 and 1958, 9,500 miles of new roads were opened to traffic. In the northern region of the State, with which this measure is concerned, are nearly half a million square miles of country without rail communications. Roads therefore are of major importance to serve the scattered mining and pastoral settlements. Railways are also necessary where they can be suitably placed. I was hoping that the report on transport costs in the north would give us some information from those people who know about these matters on the possibility of rail links in parts of these areas.
In the coastal districts of this vast area orthodox road materials arc scarce and in some places non-existent. The Main Roads Department has had to devise new techniques of stabilisation of soils to make the road bed. The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) paid a tribute to the Main Roads Department for the work it has done in this connection. In the northern region there are approximately 3,000 miles of important secondary roads and a large mileage of minor roads of a developmental character leading to cattle and sheep stations and mining areas. Road trains are now being used for cattle haulage in the Kimberleys. The improvement of the existing roads and the building of new roads will enable more of these road trains to operate. lt is interesting to note how the number ot cattle being moved by road has increased over the years. For instance, the cattle received at the ports of Derby and Broome in the 1962 season numbered 31,000 head. In 1963 the total increased to 41,000. In 1964, despite the fact that the Broome abattoir operated for only part of the season, approximately 27,290 head of cattle were received at Derby and Broome, 90 per cent, of which were transported by road. The value of beef exports from Western Australia climbed from £3,046,032 in 1960-61 to £5,720,011 in 1963-64. These exports, of course, made a valuable contribution to our overseas exchange earnings. Du rmg the same period the quantity of beef exported doubled.
There has been a tremendous swing to road haulage. For instance, in the east Kimberley region prior to 1961 no cattle were transported by road, but in 1961 the number of cattle so transported amounted to 3,900 or 13 per cent, of the total cattle transported. In 1962 the number increased to 1 1,170 or 35 per cent, of the total cattle transported, and in 1963 the number increased to 16,680 or 48 per cent, of the total transported. That was in the east Kimberley region. In the west Kimberley region in 1952 2,000 cattle were transported by road or 8 per cent, of the total cattle transported. By 1962 the number had increased to 20,000 or 64 per cent, of the total cattle transported. By 1963 the number was 37,000 or 90 per cent, of the total. Those figures give some indication of the value of these roads.
There are nearly 91,000 miles of roads in Western Australia of which 3,436 miles are gazetted main roads and 7,538 miles are classified as important secondary roads, making a total of 10,974 miles of principal roads. The ratio of mileage of roads to each 100 square miles in Western Australia is 9 miles, which is lower than the ratio in any other State. Again, Western Australia has eight persons per mile of road, which is again lower than the figure for any other State. The building of these cattle roads will help also with the general development of the areas where they are to be built, and anything that will help to open up the vast north of Western Australia is welcome. Millions of acres of land containing minerals are awaiting prospecting. Resources are varied and considerable. There is no comparable area in the world which contains so many untested mineral prospects as the northern region of West Australia and the north of Australian generally. It is true that some progress has been made in this direction in recent years but vast resources there have not been touched yet.
Roads will help, but encouragement in the form of incentives is also needed if we are to get skilled prospectors and companies to operate in these areas. The great essential for the development of the north in my view is co-ordinated transport. We need railways and roads to the ports and the meat works. Another great essential, of course, is water. Australia has the second largest area of arid land in the world and is the driest of all continents. Much of it is destined to remain empty because it is unable to sustain life from natural foliage. We should be doing all we can to conserve what water we can in those parts of Australia where it is running away. I mention again the Ord River dam for which (his Government should be providing the necessary finance.
We are faced with the task of populating the north of Australia. Ours is a sparsely populated land compared with other countries. There is an area of 2.2 million square miles of Australia, comprising 74.7 per cent, of the total area, carrying only 1.9 per cent, of the population. In other words, 98 per cent, of our population resides in a quarter of the area of the continent. Forty-five per cent, of the area of Australia carries onequarter of 1 per cent, of our population. South Australia has 1.1 per cent, of its population in 78.7 per cent, of its area. Western Australia has one person to each 26 square miles in 86.2 per cent, of its total area. In other words it has 32,000 people in an area of 841,000 sq. miles. That is why a measure such as this, which will help, together with other measures such as that covering the Ord River scheme, to populate our north is worthy of support. Roads are important, railways are important, ports are important in this area. They should all be co-ordinated one with the other so that the best means of transport may be utilised to the full.
This measure will help, but to get people into our northern area other measures are necessary. In this connection taxation concessions, for instance, are very important. I believe the people in the northern areas are entitled to decent amenities. In the south, people find better schooling facilities, better medical services, better food and better climatic conditions. There is an urgent need in the north for people from all walks of life, but they have to be offered inducement to go to the northern areas.
I am very pleased to be able to support this measure, limited as it is. I regret that it does not take the provision of finance beyond the period of 12 months. I believe that the amendments which will be proposed by the Opposition at the Committee stage are worthy of support. I suggest that the Minister seriously consider them because we believe that the administration of these matters should be in the hands of the Minister for National Development and should not be subject to the approval of the Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
.- by leave - I move -
That the following new clauses be inserted in the Bill- “ 3a. Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the word ‘ Treasurer ‘ and inserting in its stead the words ‘Minister for National Development’.”. “ 4a. Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the word ‘ Treasurer ‘ (first occurring) and inserting in its stead the words ‘ Minister for National Development’.”.
The purpose of proposing these two additional clauses is to strengthen the position of the Minister for National Development in his task of developing the north of Australia and in dealing with the broad ramifications of his portfolio. This has particular reference to the measure we are now discussing. Section 5 of the principal Act, the Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Act 1962, says -
For the purposes of this Act, the Slate may, before or during a year to which this Act applies, request the Commonwealth to approve, in relation to that year, specified works in connexion with roads in the northern part of the State to be used for the transport of beef cattle, and the Treasurer may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, approve any such work in relation to that year.
It is the considered view of the Opposition that the Minister best qualified to decide the type of work to be done, when, where and how it should be done, is the Minister for National Development. Section 7 of the principal Act says -
The Treasurer may, for the purposes of this Act, approve standards of design or construction for any work approved under section five of this Act and if, after standards so approved have been notified to the State, expenditure is incurred by the State in carrying out that work otherwise than in accordance with those standards, the Treasurer may direct that payments under this Act shall not be made in respect of that expenditure.
I think members of the Committee will appreciate at once that the Minister for National Development, who has under his control the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, has a very competent staff and that the members of his staff have the capacity to examine the various projects, such as the roads proposed to be constructed, to keep a watchful eye on roads being constructed and to advise the Minister about them. It seems to us that there should be a clear division of authority. We accept the proposition that the Treasury has the responsibility for providing the funds, but the authority to decide whether the funds are being correctly spent, whether the works are up to standard and of the quality required by the Parliament and the Minister, should be the Minister for National Development.
To emphasise my point I shall refer to the research that’ is being conducted in regard to beef roads. The present Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) has had cause to have prepared a most valuable report on this subject. The very fact that the Minister has called for a report and has considered such a report means that he expects the Northern Division of the Department to say clearly to him, without ambiguity, what is going on in the north of Australia, what is happening in the Kimberleys, whether the work is up to specifications and standards whether it is proceeding on time, whether there have been any overestimations or underestimations. and what is taking place generally. The amendments that we propose would strengthen the hand of the Minister. We believe that the Minister should be responsible in this field and the proposed new clauses would vest him with this responsibility. To use a word that we have heard frequently in the debate on this Bill, what we propose will upgrade the Minister for National Development. It will place him in his rightful position to take charge of the situation.
The members of the Opposition have been grieved and worried that the work of the Minister for National Development seems to be constantly undermined. It does not happen in this Parliament. The trend is not perceptible here because the Minister is Leader of the House and is respected in this place. But it appears that in Cabinet meetings and elsewhere he assumes a subordinate position in the management of the affairs of this nation. We would like to see the Minister completely in charge, answerable to the Parliament and being able in matters of this kind to report to the Parliament without having to say: “ The Treasurer has told me this “.
It may be that in actual practice the Minister assumes responsibility, but would it not be better to have a definite statement in the legislation that matters of this kind are the responsibility of the Minister for National Development? It will be seen that the purpose of our amendment is to enable the Minister to take his rightful place in charge of the approval of works - to control standards of design and construction. I would be grateful if the Minister would accept the amendment in good faith and strengthen his position in the affairs of this nation.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). It is a paradox unmatched in most departments of administration to have a Minister and his Department investigating and preparing a case and submitting it to Cabinet and then find that the administration of the relevant act is taken out of his hands. This kind of thing does not happen in many fields. It is no use saying that the Minister for National Development cannot have control of this legislation because he can, just as other Ministers control the operations of other acts. As 1 have said before, the document dealing with administrative arrangements sets out clearly the responsibilities of Ministers and departments. It is clear that almost every other Minister has control over the legislation which he fights for and steers through Cabinet.
With respect to States Grants legislation, unless there is an amendment to the orders, this usually comes under the control of the Treasury but there are plenty of examples of States Grants legislation coming under the control of Ministers. So it is of no use the Minister for National Development Mr. Fairbairn) saying, for example, that everything relating to States Grants in northern Australia must come under the control of the Treasury. Rail standardisation is administered by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, as are matters relating to the Commonwealth’s responsibility in regard to roads. Extension services come under the control of the Minister for Primary Industry. Mental health, tuberculosis and cattle tick come under the control of the Minister for Health. Uniform petrol prices come under the control of the Minister for Customs and Excise. Education comes under the control of the Prime Minister. Water resources and the Blowering Reservoir - these are the best analogies - come under the control of the Minister for National Development, whilst the financial arrangements are administered by the Treasury. This is exactly what we want in this Bill and for that matter in all bills relating to northern development.
Administration of the Ord River scheme and the brigalow project is completely out of the hands of the Minister for National Development. We had the absurd position last year of an agreement relating primarily to cattle being reached between the Commonwealth and Queensland and somebody forgot to mention cattle in the agreement. Is it any wonder that the Premier of Queensland objected strongly? The agreement has since been amended. Such a thing would never have happened if a technical Minister had been in control of technical provisions of the legislation. All that we seek is that the Minister for National Development be responsible for the technical aspects of the Bill. We concede that the Treasury would administer the financial provisions as they affected the Commonwealth and the States. This would lead to greater efficiency in administering the legislation. If this had been the situation in respect of beef roads we would never have had in Queensland the under-estimation of $8 million in the cost of certain beef roads. Technical officers of the Department of National Development would have been working in consultation at all times with the Queensland Department of Main Roads and would have been able immediately to put their finger on the major problems affecting various roads.
I think perhaps the classic example was that relating to the brigalow scheme last year when absurdly rigorous conditions were attached to an agreement drawn up by non-technical departments and as I said the under-estimation by $8 million of the cost of beef roads in Queensland would never have happened if the Minister for National Development had had control of the technical aspects of the legislation. Unless the attitude of officers of his Department has changed, the Minister will rise in their estimation if he fights for his right to have control of this legislation. On behalf of the officers of his Department I assure him that it is exceedingly frustrating to be told by Treasury officials: “ Wait for six months. Keep out of this, brother, because we are administering the legislation.” Anybody who has worked under such a system will know how frustrating it is, particularly to technical officers.
.- In moving the amendments, the Opposition is simply trying to put into the hands of the Minister for National Development authority to approve the works which he has investigated after receiving requests from the Western Australian Government. It seems rather ridiculous for a Minister responsible for the administration of certain legislation to make investigations into a particular matter after it has been submitted for approval by a State Government and to approve a certain project, only to be knocked back by the Treasury. As I said at the second reading stage, it is amazing that the Minister should be prepared to accept such a situation. It is amazing also that the Cabinet should be prepared to impose such a situation on a Minister. Section 5 of the Act states, in part - . . the Treasurer may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, approve any such work in relation to that year.
Section 7 provides -
The Treasurer may, for the purposes of this Act, approve standards of design or construction for any work approved under section five of this Act. . . .
Surely a Minister would not approve a proposal put forward by a State Government unless he was satisfied that in all respects, including design and construction, it was acceptable. The Treasurer also decides the construction and design. When did the Treasurer ever go and examine the beef roads, bridges and other constructions in the Kimberleys? In my time in this Parliament - and it has been during that time that this beef roads work has proceeded - to my knowledge the Treasurer has never made such a trip. I know that the Minister for National Development has been to the area and has shown an interest in it, yet we have the ridiculous situation that he can return from the area and say: “ It looks pretty right to me to get on with the job “ and the Treasurer can say: “ No dice “ because he is not satisfied that the work should proceed.
The Act uses the words “ the Treasurer may “. It might as well use the expression “ the Treasurer may or may not “ because it seems to me that it is more likely to be “ may not “ than “ may “. I do not think a great deal needs to be said on this. 1 would be surprised if the Minister rejected the amendment ‘because I should not think the Minister would want to be in the frustrating position where he has not complete control over whether work is approved. We know that the Treasurer handles the funds but this does not mean, surely, that he should determine whether works should be approved. In the circumstances it will be rather peculiar if the Minister is prepared to hand over all his authority to the Treasurer.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) said that he would be surprised if 1 rejected this amendment. I regret to tell him that I am going to surprise him. This is a financial measure which is administered by the Treasurer under section 96 of the Constitution. It is an interim measure and it is only right and natural that at this stage the principal Act, which leaves the administration in the Treasury, should continue. This is certainly not the time to make an alteration of the type suggested. The second point I make is that roads and standards of roads are primarily matters for the State. The Treasurer has the authority in consultation with a State to make whatever alterations are required by the State, but in practice, on technical matters he and his Department always consult the Department of National Development and its Northern Division. What this amendment seeks is actually already happening. For these two reasons I reject the amendment; first, that this is an interim measure and it is not the time now to amend the principal Act and, secondly, there is very close consultation on all technical matters between my Department and the Treasury.
I do not intend to speak at length, but I might answer some of the matters that were raised. I was pleased to note that every honorable member agreed that beef roads in Western Australia are essential. The only difference of opinion concerns the rate at which we go ahead with the construction of the roads and the continuity of the work. It can always be said that we should be spending more on some work or other. It can be said that we ought to be spending more on hospitals, social services, defence and schools, but it is a case of how much money is available to go round. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said that the amount we make available to Western Australia will not go very far. I point out that not only has a total of well over £20 million been made available for beef roads but this ££ million grant must be matched by an equivalent amount from the State spent north of the 20th parallel. This means that there will be at least double this amount spent in the north. In fact, just about every penny that the State has spent on beef roads has been spent in the Kimberleys area. Over and above this there is. of course, the tremendous increase in finance that has been made available to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. As honorable members know, when we came into power £9 million a year was made available under that Act. Today the amount made available is in excess of £75 million per annum. All these measures are tending to open up and to improve the accessibility of this area.
The second matter raised by honorable members concerned continuity. They have been saying: “ No-one has told us that this provision is for anything more than one year “. T draw the attention of honorable members to the Treasurer’s statement in his last Budget Speech when he said that we were to have a continuing programme of beef roads, and to a statement that I made on 24th March. I said -
In addition this decision is part only of a continuing active beef roads assistance programme and investigations which are in hand will lead to further action by the Commonwealth Government.
We cannot do more than give the assurance that the Government has a policy under which money will be made available on a continuing basis, and as we look at the situation we will be able to decide at what rate and under what conditions the work can proceed.
The honorable member for Macquarie mentioned that variations would be permitted under this scheme - in other words, the State Government might vary the scheme. He said this was a bad thing and that the State ought not to have that power. This has been put in because there are a number of projects to be undertaken by the State and it could conceivably be that in one year either a contractor cannot be obtained or an early break in the season may occur and the full amount of money cannot be spent. This provision will enable the money to be spent on another road in another area. I think this is a sane and justifiable provision. It will enable the State to switch the money from an area where it cannot be spent to another area rather than pay it straight back into the Treasury.
I want finally to mention briefly the report that honorable members said they felt should be available to the public. The Government has decided that for the present at least this is a confidential document. The reasons for this are, first, that the document is still under discussion and, secondly, it is very strong Government policy not to disclose the advice it gets from departments. If officers knew that reports were to be made public this would act as an inhibiting factor and would prevent the departments from giving advice freely. In actual fact, of course, the report was part of a Cabinet submission. Do honorable members believe that every Cabinet submission should be tabled and be made available to the public?
– The Government is dealing with public money.
– It is not normal practice to disclose Cabinet submissions. It is strong policy not to disclose departmental advice. The situation is quite different if we are considering a report from the Vernon Committee, the Loder Committee or some other committee set up by the Government and comprising persons outside the Government. The report we are now discussing contains a number of recommendations, some of which we approve and some which we do not approve. Had it not been for the Government there would have been no report. First, there would have been no beef roads programme and, secondly, there would have been no report to the Government. It was to try to get additional information and to make certain that we were spending money to the best possible purpose that we called for the report, but it is a confidential report to the Minister and to the Government.
.- The Opposition is extremely disappointed that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) has not seen fit to accept the amendment that I moved. This is to be regretted, because we thought that we were strengthening his hand in the control of his Department. Work should not only be in charge of the Minister for National Development; it should also appear to be in charge of the Minister for National Development. It is clear that this legislation is under the control of the Treasury. The Opposition believes that this is not in the best interests of the Parliament or of the development of the north west of Western Australia. I say to the Minister: We regard the portfolio of National Development as a glamour portfolio. It is one of the most important portfolios and the Minister ought to be able to stand on his feet against all other contenders in Cabinet to assert his position and to make a case for the development of this nation. Other Ministers have such control; they are not subordinated in this way to the Treasury. We very much regret that the Minister, whom we desired to help by strengthening his hand, is not willing to meet us on this occasion. Again, this may be dictation from the Cabinet - the faceless men.
The Minister mentioned section 96 of the Constitution. This seems to make it clear that grants should be for specific purposes. We would have hoped that on this occasion it would be for specific works, for positive objectives such as the coordination of transport, and that these objectives would have been fulfilled. The Minister mentioned the report. I think it is time that this farce was called off. If it is good enough for sections of the Press to publish the report, it is good enough for honorable members to receive copies.
.- I want to clear up one point. The prime reason given by the Minister for not agreeing to the amendment is that he would have to amend section 96 of the Constitution. This is quite contrary to the advice that has been given to us. He need only agree to the amendment of this Act. An amendment of the Administrative Arrangements Order would automatically follow. If the Minister agrees to the amendment, he will administer the Act. Thus, the amendment will be agreed to and the Minister will have control of the technical arrangements in the Bill and the Treasury will have control of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the State.
Question put -
The committee divided.
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Luchetti’s amendment) be inserted. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.7 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - The progressive rebuilding in permanent construction of H.M.A.S. “ Leeuwin “ in Western Australia and provision of a new combined mess, galley and recreation centre for junior sailors and junior recruits.
The proposal is in two parts: First, the progressive rebuilding of H.M.A.S. “ Leeuwin “ in accordance with the master plan and secondly, the construction of a building providing messing, galley and recreation facilities for junior sailors and junior recruits at an estimated cost of $725,000. The galley and mess will be a single storey building and the recreation centre a two storey construction linked together by a single storey entrance lobby. The building will be a steel framed construction with appropriate durable finishes. 1 table plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10th May (vide page 1625), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, ever since the fateful announcement on 10th November 1964 by the Government that 20 year old boys were to be conscripted for national service training there has been a demand from the Opposition and the public for the legislation that we are about to discuss. The amendment to the Defence Act whereby conscript national service trainees for the first time in our history were to be sent overseas in time of peace for service anywhere caused great public concern. The former Prime
Minister’s announcement on 29th April 1965 that Australia was to send troops to Vietnam - a blundering, unforgivable action for which Australia will pay dearly and for which many will give their lives - further increased the demand for votes for those involved. Finally, with the announcement by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) in his report to the nation that our forces in Vietnam were to be trebled and that one in three of those serving there would be national service trainees made some gesture by the Government on votes for the defence forces inevitable. These decisions and the despatch of our voteless conscript national service trainees, whom the people were told had been called up to defend our own shores, shocked the Australian public.
There were violent objections in the newspapers on the voting aspect, demonstrations in practically every capital city, condemnation from the churches and parliamentary action. In a thousand and one ways public feelings were aroused and expressed. The Government was under constant attack, particularly on the voting issues, and a bewildered Prime Minister went from bluster to blunder trying to defend this undemocratic proposal which affected voteless members of the defence forces. In fact, the very fear of defeat is uppermost in his mind. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia people have clamoured and protested against the conscription of 20 year old voteless boys to fight anywhere in the world, particularly in Vietnam, in a conflict in which we should never be militarily engaged. In this atmosphere the Government has panicked and has brought in this apologetic Bill to give voting rights to members of the defence forces.
The Australian Labour Party has consistently demanded a vote for those who are called up. We are opposed to conscription for overseas service and the giving of a vote will not remove this principle. But, at least, if they are to be conscripted they should have a vote. The Labour Party and public reaction forced the Government’s hand. Begrudgingly, belatedly and in a most niggardly fashion the Government has introduced this measure which, as I shall show later, will give practically no benefit to members of the defence forces and practically no benefit to conscript national service trainees. We believe that the principal Act must be amended to give every person coming within the scope of the infamous conscript legislation of this Government the right to express at the ballot box his views on the legislation and the Government’s action. In introducing this Bill the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) referred to the action of the Labour Government during the 1939-45 war and he mentioned how we had protected the rights of servicemen by introducing the Commonwealth Electoral (Wartime) Act, which was Act No. 27 of 1943. After three years of government by the Liberal and Country Parties, at that time early in the war the Government had not seen fit to protect the voting rights of servicemen. The 1943 Act, from which 1 shall quote provided, among other things -
Section six of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:- (2.) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection a qualified member of the Forces means -
a member of the Forces who is not under the age of twenty-one years;
a member of the Forces who is under the age of twenty-one years and is serving or has served outside Australia; or
a discharged member of the Forces who is not enrolled as an elector of the Commonwealth and who -
is not under the age of twentyone years; or
is under the age of twenty-one years and has served outside Australia.”.
The classes of persons mentioned in that sub-section came within the scope of the Act which was brought in in circumstances totally different from those now prevailing. It was brought in when Australia was at war and it was left to a Labour Government to introduce the legislation. The Liberal and Country Party Government had never seen fit to protect the voting rights of servicemen during that conflict.
As the title of the Bill implies, our discussions are limited to members of the defence forces. Within those limitations I intend to move certain amendments and to inform the House of the reasons for the introduction of the legislation and the limitation of its benefits. You know well, Mr. Speaker, that it is a very limited Bill. I feel that with my limited parliamentary knowledge and your tolerance I may be able to survive in the battle we are having to deal with this very narrow measure which has deliberately been designed by the Government to prevent the Opposition from criticising certain aspects of it. I propose to quote briefly from the Bill in order to recall to honorable members what is involved in the legislation. The long title of the Bill states that this is -
A Bill for an Act to make provision for voting at parliamentary elections by persons under the age of 21 years who are, or have been, on special service outside Australia as members of the defence forces.
It is a very limited title covering a very limited Bill which consists of not more than eight clauses. In order to put the provisions of the Bill on record I shall state them. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the franchise to persons under 21 years of age who are or who have been on special service outside Australia as members of the defence force. “ Special service “ has the same meaning as the term in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act and means, in relation to the person, service during a period that he is outside Australia and he or his unit is allocated for special duty in a special area. Another provision of the measure entitles under 21 year old members of the defence forces who are British subjects to vote during the periods that they are outside Australia on special duty in an area declared to be a special area under the provisions of section 4 of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. This enables a person under 21 years of age who at any time was on special service to retain the right to vote after discharge while he is living in Australia.
The new legislation gives a franchise to all persons who are under 21 years old who are members of the defence forces serving in South Vietnam and the Borneo States of Malaysia and those members stationed on the Malayan peninsula and In Singapore on special service. It should be noted particularly - this is vital - that it will not extend the franchise to members of the defence force under 21 years of age who are on service outside Australia but who are not on special service. Tn other words, the very basis of the Act has been removed by the absence of that provision. Then we come to details of how the Act shall be implemented and how it shall be applied in respect of those few who will come within its scope at a time when a ballot is taken. I shall not deal with the administration of the measure, but an interesting point about it is that it does not provide for compulsory voting. No penalty is provided for those who do not vote. This is understandable but rather quaint, if I may say so. There is no compulsion to vote imposed on a person who has been conscripted to fight. In other words, there is a voluntary vote for a conscripted voter. Honorable members must admit that that is a strange and weird approach by the Government to the problem.
This Bill will not provide voting rights for all members of the defence forces under 2 1 , but only for those who are or have been on special service outside Australia as defined in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. Of the 20 year olds who are conscripted, having been required to register, only those sent overseas on special service will qualify. This means that the vast majority of those conscripted will still be denied a vote under this Government’s proposals. At this point, I think I should quote a leading article that appeared today in that well known newspaper, the Melbourne “ Age “. Under the heading “ The Vote is not a Privilege “, it states -
As outlined in legislative form, the Federal Government’s proposal to enfranchise under-age servicemen on overseas service is even less principled than first reports had suggested. The right to vote is to be extended only to young men who are, or have been, on “ special duty “ in a declared “ special area “ (presumably fighting men in a combat zone). They will not be enrolled and voting will not be compulsory.
The legislation is apparently the Government’s response to gibes that it was conscripting “ voteless youths “ to fight in Vietnam. If it were logical, the Government would give volunteers a voluntary vote and conscripts a compulsory vote. This would demonstrate the absurdity of its reasoning. Even the Aborigines are treated less casually: they need not enrol, but once enrolled, they must vote.
The democratic franchise is a right shared equally by all adult citizens, lt is not a privilege that can be earned by some and not by others. In Australia, it is also an obligation. Those who are entitled to vote are also required to vote. The franchise is not a favor to be conferred for meritorious service or to be accepted or spurned according to individual inclination.
It is regrettable that the Government intends to abandon these principles in an attempt to sweeten the bitter necessity to send young Australians to fight in the jungles and paddy-fields of South-East Asia. If the voting age is to be lowered - as well it might be lowered - then it should be extended without exceptions and without options. Equality at the ballot box is as basic a principle as equality before the law.
– In what newspaper did that appear?
– In the Melbourne “ Age “. What a damaging comment on this Government’s legislation, which is supposed to protect servicemen. Let us look at the matter further, Mr. Speaker. The Government has introduced this measure in response to gibes by the Opposition, so the “ Age “ stated. A national public opinion poll showed that of 10,000 persons recently interviewed in all States, 57 per cent, were opposed to the Government’s present proposals and 34 per cent, were in favour of them. In New South Wales, 71 per cent, were against these proposals and in Victoria 68 per cent. Only in the Northern Territory was there a majority in support of the Government’s proposal. The Government realised that some gesture had to be made so that the Prime Minister could be brought back to normal and his blood pressure prevented from rising whenever questions on this subject of voteless conscripts were directed at him.
I now return to the provisions of the Bill to demonstrate how false the Government’s claims are. On the face of it, this measure may give the impression that many members of the armed Services will benefit by having the right to vote when less than 21 years of age conferred on them. This, however, is far from the truth, Mr. Speaker. The latest figures available give the number in the age group from 18 to 20 inclusive already in the defence forces at 1 1,500, 4.500 being in the Navy, 4,000 in the Army and 3,000 in the Air Force. In addition, national service trainees in this age group total 8,500, giving a grand total of 20.000. The Government endeavours to convey the impression that all these men, as members of the defence forces, will be eligible to vote. This, of course, is not strictly correct. When all is said and done, the whole thing is a matter of luck. Some of these men are selected by the drawing of a marble out of a barrel. Furthermore, they will be given the right to vote only if their service comes within the definition of “ special service “ in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. If a man is a little unlucky, under this Government’s conscription proposals, he may soon find himself dead instead of voting.
Let us analyse the position. I refer honorable members first to the definition of “ special service “ in section 3 (1 . ) of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act.
It is as follows - “ Special service “, in relation to a person, means service of the person in a special area while -
So, to begin with, a conscript will be eligible to vote only if he undergoes special service in a special area. Section 4 of the same Act provides - (1.) The regulations may declare that, by reason of war-like operations, or a state of disturbance, in or affecting a specified area outside Australia, that area shall become, on a specified date, a special area for the purposes of this Act or shall be deemed to have become, on a specified date (which may be a date before the commencement of the regulations or before the commencement of this Act), a special area for the purposes of this Act. (2.) The regulations may declare that a special area shall, on and after a specified date, be no longer a special area for the purposes of this Act.
That section will almost completely nullify the wide benefits that the Government claims this measure will confer on conscripts in the defence forces.
Let us now look at the situation of national service trainees, whose presence in the forces is largely responsible for the introduction of this Bill. Figures given to me show that it is estimated that those required to register numbered 81.000 in 1 965, number 90,000 this year and will number 100,000 in 1967. The planned call-up is 8,400 a year, or about one in ten of those who will be required to register. At this stage, 8,500 national service trainees are already serving in the forces. Of an ultimate force of 4,500 in Vietnam, one in three will be a conscript national service trainee. These 20 year old youngsters, unlike the other members of the defence forces, who are volunteers having a full knowledge of their commitments, are conscripted against their will, having no right to vote and no say whatever in whether or not they shall serve in the Army either at home or abroad.
As 1 have said, so far about 8,500 national service conscripts are in the armed forces. About 1,500 of these or a little more will this year be serving in special service areas in Vietnam and probably in other parts of Asia. These boys are required to register for national service at 20 years of age and may be a few weeks or months over the age of 20 when they enter the Army. They are then given, so we are told, from six to nine months’ training before they are sent overseas. This means that practically every one of them would be over 21 when he served in a special service area. It would not be wrong to say that very few if any of the 8,500 national service trainees already in the forces would qualify for a vote under the rigid conditions imposed by this measure, which, the Government claims, is designed to protect members of the defence forces and assure them of the franchise. In other words, if is only window dressing by a Government now using every means at its disposal to counter the violent reaction to the conscription of voteless boys to serve in the paddy fields and jungles of Vietnam. Let us, however, take a more tolerant view of the situation as it applies under the Defence Act. If every one of the 1,500 national service trainees who will be in Vietnam by the end of the year, and the few hundred others who may be in special service areas, were all under 21 when they arrived at their destinations and every one of them voted - an almost impossible situation, by the way - fewer than 25 per cent, of those actually conscripted for overseas service in each year - would get a vote. In other words, one in four of the men eligible to vote would get a vote.
This year, 90,000 youths of 20 years of age were eligible for registration. Of that number only from 1,500 to 2,000 at the most’, or a little over 2 per cent., will be entitled to vote. I repeat that only two in every 100 boys liable to be conscripted will get a vote under this miserable piece of so-called protective legislation. With another 100,000 eligible for registration in 1967, assuming the intake into the defence forces remains the same the percentage of those eligible to vote under this legislation will fall to 1 per cent. What contempt this shows for men the Government may be sending to their doom under the false and misguided policies it follows! The Government refuses to give a vote to all those eligible for service - 90,000 this year and 100,000 next year. After all, under the lottery system applied to national service by this Government, any one of them could find himself ultimately serving in Vietnam. Every one of them takes the risk that, if called up, he may have to give his life for his country. That is why he should be entitled to vote for or against the government that conscripts him for overseas service.
There can be no justification whatever in these circumstances for the Government’s failure to extend the franchise to all people in the call-up age group. There is nothing more than justice in that request. The Labour Party says that every person in the defence call-up age group should get a vote, and we propose during the course of this debate to move appropriate amendments to see where the Government stands on this issue. We do not know at what age the Government will ultimately decide i’o call up youths for service in the defence forces. It may be reduced to 18 or 19. If it is, every one whose name is likely to come out of the barrel should have the right to vote. If a person is old enough i’o fight, he is old enough to vote. This is of the utmost importance when we consider how much depends on the luck of the draw under this Government.
Let us see how one gel’s into the Army; how one gets the so-called benefits of this legislation. This is how one gets into the Army - or into the grave, for that matter - under this Government: First, the boy must register. His name must then be drawn out of a barrel. Then he must be lucky or unlucky enough to be sent overseas. Then he must be lucky enough to go to a special area. He also has to be lucky enough to be under 21, lucky enough to live, and lucky enough to vote. Then, subject to lucky operational activities, he will get a vote and benefit under this legislation which the Minister has brought down.
A vote for a soldier, or a civilian for that matter, should never depend on luck. It is a right which, as the newspaper to which I referred earlier stated, this Government is denying the boys it is conscripting and sending away, against their wi’ll. to fight. No wonder honorable members on the Government side squirm. They ought to feel ashamed for conscripting these young men. They know that the public does not support them in bringing down their conscription legislation. One might well be asked: “ What is the solution?” lt is simple, if the Government cares to face up to it. The logical solution to the immediate problem is to reduce the voting age for ail members of the defence forces to 18 or 20 years, without any tags attached at all. Why should it depend on where a man will be? As 1 have said, a man is in the Army as the result of a lucky dip, whether he is serving in a special area or at home. Certainly all those who are eligible for national service training and all members of the defence forces should have the right to vote.
It is only because of the violent public reaction to the conscription of boys for overseas service that this legislation has been introduced at all. Nobody believes for a moment that the Government brought it in because it thought this was the just thing to do. The Government, for reasons best known to itself, will not give a vote to every member of the defence forces who is under 21 years of age. What is there to stop this? What is the age at which a person who is a member of the defence forces should vote? lt is all a matter of opinion. The Labour Parly favours giving a vote at 18 years of age to all members of the defence forces, and to others, for that matter. The scope of this Bill does not allow me to discuss a general lowering of the voting age - 1 shall merely make passing reference to it. I point out that on 21st September 1965, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) moved the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) in an effort to give all members of the fighting forces a vote -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof. “The Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for votes at 18 years of age and for votes to be as nearly as possible of equal value “.
Had honorable members on the Government side voted for that amendment, every person in the defence forces would have been covered without any of the strings that the Government is seeking to attach at this stage; but every member of the Government parties, even the most loyal of them to the Government’s policy of conscripting boys, voted against it. Had they not voted against it, every person in the call-up age group, amongst others, would have been entitled to a vote; but the Minister and all the Goversment supporters voted against the amendment, as the records of the Parliament show. Today, of course, public opinion has changed their views and they have swallowed the principle espoused at that time in the interests of political survival. It is to the credit of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) that he stated openly that he would support the reduction of the voting age to 20 years. But the Minister and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) were opposed to it. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Mallee, that great defender of democratic rights, had this to say -
It could have lowered the voting age all round and not only for those who went away to the war. When a man goes overseas to serve his country whether he has been called up or does so voluntarily, he should do so with the same purpose in mind. Probably the only difference between these two classes of men is that one goes with a little more enthusiasm than the other.
What a silly suggestion to make. I touch on this only briefly because it is not quite relevant to the Bill. The Minister gave the astounding reply that he could not meet our wishes and give servicemen in the defence forces a vote under that legislation because the voting ages in Queensland and New South Wales were different. I do not think that argument will hold water at all. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth has the right to set its own standards for servicemen and others. I will not quote the honorable member for Bradfield, but he did go on record as supporting that point of view.
The Government in its wisdom, or for policy reasons with which I disagree, of course, has decided to call up, or to use the more unsavoury term, conscript 20 year old voteless boys for service overseas. This is indeed an unprincipled, deliberate move, an infringement of the rights of the individual, and must be considered and dealt with as such in the debate tonight. In other words, boys 20 years of age are to be conscripted and commanded to fight and die, if necessary, for their country, yet as
I have pointed out, almost without exception they are denied the right to say who shall govern the country. This is one of the gravest infringements of the rights of the people of our time. The obvious solution to the problem is, as I told the Minister, to give all members of the defence forces a vote without any strings attached at all. I think that is the responsibility of the Government and that it should do so.
This legislation has been forced upon the Government by public reaction and assertions by the Labour Party that those persons old enough to fight are old enough to vote. The Government realises that the conscription of voteless youths is unprincipled and unsupported. A bewildered Prime Minister and a tottering Government are trembling at the public reaction to the conscription of youths for overseas service while the Government trades with the enemy and conducts business as usual at home. With this sordid background the Government introduces this almost meaningless piece of legislation. The Labour Party says that it does not go far enough, lt should embrace every person in the call-up age group; every person who one day may be compelled to fight and die for Australia under these conscript proposals. So because we of the Opposition desire to know where this Government and its supporters stand, and because we desire to know how these members will vote who say they are so ashamed of these conscriptions proposals, I now move the following amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the vote should be given to all persons in the call-up age group “.
– ls the amendment seconded?
– Yes. 1 second the amendment.
– The broad subject of the Bill before the House relates to voting provisions for members of the defence forces who are under the age of 21 years. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Grayndler seeks to give voting rights to all persons in the call-up age group regardless of whether or not they are members of the defence forces. I am of the opinion that the amendment is too far removed from the defence forces aspect of the subject of the Bill to be permissible under the Standing Orders and the practice of the House. It is therefore out of order.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Has the honorable member for Eden-Monaro put the resolution in writing?
– It is in writing.
– Is the motion seconded?
– Yes. I second the motion.
- Mr. Speaker, you can imagine with what reluctance I move this motion. Over the years I have marvelled at the wisdom of the rulings that you have given. I speak with some knowledge on this matter because no other living Australian has had such a long direct experience of this Parliament as I have had, first above the Speaker’s Chair, and more recently on the floor of this chamber. Speaking with that experience and knowledge, I say that there has been no Speaker of this Parliament who has commanded from the whole of the membership more admiration and esteem than you have done. Therefore, you can understand the reluctance with which I have moved that your ruling be dissented from.
But I am compelled to do this because if your ruling is upheld the House will be prevented from having the opportunity of remedying a direct violation of democratic rights, and a violation, moreover, of the principles upon which the parliamentary system itself is based. I say that because, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the purpose of the Bill is to give the right to vote to people in a special category while depriving other people of the same age but in different categories of that right. The Opposition does not oppose at all the granting of the right to vote to members of the armed Services.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not speaking to the point of order. He is speaking in regard to the-
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
-I was saying that the Opposition does not oppose at all - in fact it supports - the extension of voting rights to members of the defence forces. The Opposition contends - and I think this will be accepted as being democratically correct by all honorable members of the House who consider the matter - that the only proper course is to give the right to vote to all people in the age group from which those members of the defence forces are drawn. The honorable member for Grayndler has shown that this is a miserable travesty of justice, a miserable pretence at doing justice to those who are concerned-
– What about dissenting from the ruling.
– 1 am dissenting from the ruling.
– I might suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that the subject matter of the Bill before the House should not be referred to. The dissent taken is from the ruling.
– That is right. 1 am moving dissent from your ruling because I believe, for the reasons that I am giving, that the basis of your ruling is far too narrow. With a correct interpretation of what is possible under the title of the Bill you should allow the amendment to be moved, because the amendment simply proposes to extend this voting right to all persons in the call-up agc group. The phrase “ call-up age group “ refers to the age group affected by the call-up of youths for defence purposes and the provision of defence forces for the Commonwealth. Therefore I rest my proposition very firmly on the proposal that this amendment is within the terms of the Bill.
Now, if it is within the terms of the Bill and you do not allow honorable members the opportunity of voting on the amendment, you deprive honorable members, as I have said, of the opportunity of rectifying a very serious violation of democratic rights and of the principles upon which is based the parliamentary system of which you, Sir, are the guardian and with which every member of this House has to be concerned. I would say in passing that I cannot understand why this Government, which claims popular support for its conscription proposals, is afraid, apparently, to extend the right to vote to all persons in the age group concerned.
– Order! I would ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro not to pursue that line.
Mr. ALLAN FRASER__ No, Mr.
Speaker. That was purely a very brief reference in passing and I certainly will not pursue it.
– Does the honorable member want to give the right to vote to girls?
– The honorable member for Henty asks whether I want girls to be given the right to vote. He has not studied the amendment apparently and he should study it before he decides to vote for or against the ruling of Mr. Speaker. The amendment refers to everyone in the call-up age group. I think there would not be the least difficulty in justifying the proposition that members of both sexes in that age group should have a say in whether or not members of one sex in that age group should be taken away and forced to go into battle in Vietnam.
The motion of dissent rests on the view that your ruling represents too narrow an interpretation of what is possible under the title of the Bill. The Opposition urges honorable members that they should now agree to dissent from your ruling so that they can give every person in the conscript age group - the call-up age group - the opportunity of deciding, by using their vote, whether or not members of that group should be compelled to take on military service outside Australia.
– Order! I think we will get on better if honorable members obey the Standing Orders.
– I think the interjection made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) was probably a very excellent and helpful one, but because of your calling the House to order, Mr. Speaker, I was not able to hear exactly what it was. My final proposition is that the ruling is too narrow and is improper. I submit that the House should be given an opportunity to rectify the position in which the Government says to people: “ You are old enough to be required to fight; you are not old enough to be entitled to vole, and we will allow you to vote only after we have called you up and required you to fight “.
– I wish to support your ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker. There is a certain amount of poetic justice about this debate on the Electoral Bill. 1 remember that the last time I brought forward a slight machinery amendment to the Act, because there was not a long title to the Bill then before the House the Opposition took up a full day of the time of the House, from morning until late at night, airing its views on every single subject, and then complained at the end-
– Order! I think I had beter point out to the Minister that my ruling is the subject matter before the Chair and not some past disagreement he had with the Opposition.
– I think it was a related point I was making, but I shall get back to the ruling before the Chair. The whole purpose of this amending legislation is to add an additional provision to section 39a of the Electoral Act which refers to servicemen serving overseas. Under section 39 of the Act a serviceman overseas, if he is not enrolled, provided he is over the agc of 21, is a British subject and has resided in Australia for a period of longer than six months, is entitled to vote. What we intend to do now is to provide that servicemen under the age of 21 serving overseas in special areas will be given the vote. If honorable members read the long title of the Bill they will see that it covers this point exactly. It states that this is a Bill for an Act -
To make provision for voting at parliamentary elections by persons under the age of 21 years who are, or have been, on special service outside Australia as members of the Defence Force.
We are dealing with people who are members of the defence force, not with the Australian populace as a whole. However, not only are we dealing with men who are likely to be called up, we are also dealing with women.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in his speech made it quite clear that it was young conscripts or possible conscripts who in the Opposition’s opinion should be given the vote. He said nothing about women being given the vote, yet this amending Bill would even cover them. That shows how broad the scope of the amendment is. In fact, a debate on this amendment could open up a very wide debate and the Opposition could take up the time of the House on many frivolous matters i’n exactly the same way as it did on the last occasion to which I have referred.
.- I second the motion of dissent. No-one regrets more than I do, Mr. Speaker, having to go against rulings you give, because you have been a very tolerant Speaker during your period in the Chair. All honorable members on this side regret the necessity to move this motion of dissent from your ruling, which ruling we think is curtailing still further the scope of the debate. It is quite true that, as the Minister said a few moments ago, in his youth - his callow youth, as it were, as a Minister - the Opposition took him for a ride over an Electoral Bill. We had a pleasant time because of the fact that he did not tie the title of the Bill down. He has learned his lesson and I suppose, Mr. Speaker, that this Bill has such a tightly drawn title that it almost prevents us debating legislation which is to give no benefit worth mentioning to servicemen. Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, will tie still further down any attempt by honorable members on this side to show the falsity of the Government’s approach to the question of servicemen having the vote.
Anyone who can read knows that the Opposition’s amendment and its proposal on this score cover all persons. Does not the Government want us to include people who might die? If honorable members opposite do not want us to do this they can vote against the motion of dissent. The fact is that all we want is the right to move an amendment which we believe will not only widen the scope of the legislation but above all else, give justice to people who, we think, are denied it under this measure. This Bill deals with people who are members of the defence force. Whether honorable members opposite like it or not any chap whose name goes into the national service register is pretty close to being a members of the defence force. To all intents and purposes, when he registers it is a moot legal point whether or not he is then a member of the forces from the day he reregisters, let alone from the day he is called up. I do not profess to be a lawyer, but that is a technical point and the Government might some day be challenged on the matter.
I regret. Mr. Speaker, that you do not see fit to allow this amendment to be moved. I do not think it does much good to the Parliament, or much good to the people, if debate on a matter which deals with special service outside Australia by members of the defence force is sought to be curtailed by the Government. Government supporters should not let the fact that they are ashamed of their policy enter into a debate where the lives of people are involved. That is why, bringing this amendment forward in all good faith, Mr. Speaker, we thought that you might in your wisdom have allowed it to be debated. We are extremely aggrieved to find that on this occasion you are in accord with the Government’s point of view, because it is so unlike you to rule out of order a proposition that seeks to give so much to defence Service personnel. I have no more to say, but I express my regret that this dissent motion has had to be moved. I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite, who wave flags all day and vote against legislation to benefit servicemen all night in this Parliament, on this occasion will at least come forward and support the Opposition’s dissent motion which is designed to make it possible to give just a few more people, in addition to the miserable few involved, a vote under legislation which the Government has brought forward under a phoney pretence.
.- I want to support your decision, Mr. Speaker. We have heard in this House some hypocritical speeches, but I do not think I have ever heard such hypocrisy as has been uttered by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– Order! The words “ hypocrisy “ and “ hypocritical “ in relation to an honorable member are out of order. I ask the honorable member for Isaacs to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them, Sir. I am sorry the honorable member for Grayndler sees so much humour in my hav ing to withdraw those words. I want to direct the attention of the House to the fact that this motion of dissent from your ruling was brought into the House already written out. I should like to know how the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) could know what your ruling would be until it was delivered. The fact is that the Opposition knew only too well-
– I raise a point of order. Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Isaacs has just implied that you were a party to connivance. I do not think you should let that pass unchallenged.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member was referring to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– I direct the attention of the House to the fact that this motion was already written out before you, Mr. Speaker, gave your decision. It would appear that before the amendment was moved the Opposition knew that it was out of order. I only wanted to direct your attention to this fact.
– The honorable member misunderstands. The Opposition is always prepared for all contingencies.
.- With proper respect for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the matter under consideration relates to the fundamental principles upon which this Parliament has been designed rather than the principle upon which the draftsman has drawn up the title and so on of the Bill. This Parliament has been designed, and the whole constitutional structure of the nation has been designed, upon the premise of universal suffrage. Any piece of legislation before this Parliament concerning suffrage has to be related to that general principle, whatever the title of the legislation. So the Opposition has brought forward an amendment which is related to the fundamental principles of the electoral system of this country. Any alteration to the existing legislation that is proposed by this Government is an alteration related not so much to the title that happens to have been given to the Bill by the draftsman or the Minister or anyone else, but rather to the principles on which the members of this House are elected. In considering the legislation we must disregard any question of the title of the Bill, which again I say is only incidental, and must be concerned with the principles governing the electoral system. It is a question of the suffrage upon which members shall be elected, and the only question to be considered has relation to that matter.
The Opposition has brought this amendment forward having in mind the principles upon which the members of this Parliament have been elected for 65 years, except for the one instance during the last four years in which the operation of the electoral provisions was changed. When the House is considering this matter it has to do more than consider the Standing Orders, which are important, or the Bill before the House, which again is important although perhaps not as fundamentally important as the Standing Orders. What the House has to consider is the spirit and the principle on which the whole structure is based. The Opposition brings this forward with a view to protecting the spirit and the principles of the Australian Constitution. That is the issue before the House, and that is why I think you, Mr. Speaker, were in error in ruling our amendment out of order.
.- The protestations of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) simply fall apart because we have had the spectacle of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) standing in this chamber and tacitly admitting, by inference, that he came into this House prepared to hear you, Mr. Speaker, rule the amendment out of order. He knew full well in his own mind, as all members of the Opposition must have known, that you would give this ruling. They came here prepared for it. Yet the honorable member for Wills has the audacity to protest against the treatment of the Opposition and to talk about the principles of universal suffrage.
Question put -
That the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. ..17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1812).
.- The Bill is a by-product of the Defence Act and the National Service Act, which authorise the conscription of the youth of Australia to fight, perhaps to die, in Vietnam. The Government has wilted under the constant criticism it has received, not only from the
Opposition but from all sections of the community, because of its action in conscripting youths for national service training and sending them overseas. The Government has capitulated under the constant barrage of such slogans as “ Old enough to fight and die but not old enough to vote “. Tonight the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) clearly set out what the Opposition considers should be done. He told the House why we consider that the vote should be given to all people in the community on attaining the age of 18 years. It should at least be given to those young men who are required to register for national service. As has already been said, the ballot for national service decides whether a young man will have a vote. All young men of a certain age are required to register. If their birth dates come out of the barrel they commence national service training. If fate steps in and they are among the small percentage allotted to a division of the Australian Regular Army for service overseas in an area designated in the Bill, they and only they will receive the franchise. Surely this is an absurd way of deciding whether a person shall have the right to vote for the government of this nation.
The vote is a right and a privilege. Above all, it is an obligation. A citizen enrolled is obliged to vote. If he does not vote he suffers the penalty imposed by the laws of this Parliament. By this Bill, the franchise will be extended to a certain section of national service trainees. The Bill does not say that they must enrol or vote. It states that if they serve in the special areas designated in the Bill they will receive the right to vote. The legislation is only an attempt to make more palatable to the community the Government’s action over conscription. Ever since the National Service Act and the Defence Act were amended last year and action was taken to conscript boys for service overseas the Government has been asked: “ Will you send voteless boys overseas?”.
Only a few months ago when another Electoral Bill was before the House the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) refused even to consider giving these young men a vote. Now he has shifted his ground and has decided to go part of the way, thinking that in so doing the Government may appease those people who criticise it because of its policy in relation to national service training. But by the Bill now before the House the Government has only confused the issue further. Its attempt to make its policy on national service more palatable will only arouse in the community more criticism. The honorable member for Grayndler read from a leading article in this morning’s Melbourne “ Age “ which clearly sets out what I think would be the view of the majority of the people of Australia. I will not weary the House by reading it again but a study of that article is well worth the time of any honorable member and of any member of the community.
– Does the honorable member think that the Minister heard it?
– If the Minister did not hear the honorable member for Grayndler read the article, I will read it now. Under the heading “ The vote is not a privilege “ the article stated -
As outlined in legislative form, the Federal Government’s proposal to enfranchise under-age servicemen on overseas service is even less principled than first reports had suggested. The right to vote is to be extended only to young men who are, or have been, on “special duty” in a declared “ special area “ (presumably fighting men in a combat zone). They will not be enrolled and voting will not be compulsory.
The legislation is apparently the Government’s response to gibes that it was conscripting “ voteless youths “ to fight in Vietnam. If it were logical, the Government would give volunteers a voluntary vote and conscripts a compulsory vote. This would demonstrate the absurdity of its reasoning. Even the Aborigines are treated less casually: they need not enrol, but once enrolled, they must vote.
The democratic franchise is a right shared equally by all adult citizens. It is not a privilege that can be earned by some and not by others. In Australia, it is also an obligation. Those who are entitled to vote are also required to vote. The franchise is not a favour to be conferred for meritorious service or to be accepted or spurned according to individual inclination.
It is regrettable that the Government intends to abandon these principles in an attempt to sweeten the bitter necessity to send young Australians to fight in the jungles and paddy-fields of South-East Asia. If the voting age is to be lowered - as well it might be lowered - then it should be extended without exceptions and without options. Equality at the ballot box is as basic a principle as equality before the law. 1 believe this article sets out clearly what the majority of Australians think about this legislation which is designed to give the vote to certain members of the defence forces who are on special service outside Australia. The legislation will entitle members of the defence force under 21 years old to vote during the period they are outside Australia on duty in an area declared to be a special service area. The under 21 year old person who at any time was on special service will retain his right to vote after his discharge from the defence force while he is living in Australia. What a great concession. As the honorable member for Grayndler pointed out, by the time these youths arrive in the special service area they probably will be 21 years of age and be entitled to vote in any event, yet this Bill seeks to give them the right to retain the vote after their return to Australia and their discharge from the forces. As I said earlier, this proposal is a by-product of national service and defence legislation which has imposed conscription on the youth of Australia.
Our defence force consists of the naval forces of the Commonwealth, the military forces of the Commonwealth and the air force of the Commonwealth. I believe that all members of those forces should be entitled to vote in elections when they attain the age of 18 years. The honorable member for Grayndler advocated that the vote should be extended to all those young people who are required to register for national service. That is outside the scope of this Bill, but surely the vote should be extended to all those in the defence force who attain the age of 18 years irrespective of where they serve. They do not decide where they will serve. It is a strange procedure that the Government will decide when a lad joins the defence force that if he is stationed in one area he will not be entitled to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament but if he is stationed in another area he will be entitled to vote. 1 do not know how this will work out. A boy may be stationed at point A one day and the next day be posted to a special service area where he will be entitled to the vote; but if the election is held the day before his transfer he is not entitled to vote at that election. The Bill has been dressed up to hoodwink the people of Australia. It is an attempt to make more palatable the conscription legislation. The Minister complained that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Grayndler would give women the vote. Is there any objection to that? The legislation should provide the vote for all members of the defence forces who attain the age of 18 years irrespective of their sex, because we believe in equality. I do not know why the Minister is so harsh that he would deny the female members of the defence force the right to vote. Surely a goodlooking fellow like the Minister would like to get some votes from the female members of the Services. For some reason he does not like the particular sections of the Service in which the young ladies of this nation serve. We believe in equality and, quite aside from the ruling that the honorable member for Grayndler’s amendment was out of order, we believe that there should be no denying the vote to all members of the defence force who attain the age of 18 years, irrespective of where they serve.
Perhaps the Minister can explain to me what the position will be with personnel serving on ships and aircraft that transport troops to special service areas. Will they get the vote? A transport ship may anchor some miles out at sea after discharging servicemen in the special area. How close does the ship have to be to the special designated areas before its crew members become entitled to the vote? The only just and fair way to extend the franchise is to extend it without distinction to all members of all sections of our forces who attain the age of 18 years. Because this is our belief, on behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the vote should be given to all persons in the Defence Force who have attained the age of eighteen years “.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fairbairn) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 103 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this week.
.- I support the Bill and do not support the amendment. I should like to refer to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and other members of the Australian Labour Party who have spoken. It seems to me that they have taken the opportunity - as they have done in most debates - to speak about “ fighting and dying in the jungles “, “ this unwinnable war in Vietnam “ and so forth. One wonders, listening to the Opposition, whether it has any sense of responsibility to Australia or to the people as a whole or whether it is the Opposition’s one mad desire, by hook or by crook, to win the election that should take place later this year. If I were on the Labour side of the House I would be most disheartened at the way the Opposition has gone about this. Earlier the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said that the Labour Party always has an alternative policy for anything that may crop up. We are becoming rather used to this as are the people of Australia.
This is a Bill for a specific purpose, and that is to give the young men who serve this country in specified zones the right to vote at elections. The honorable member for Kingston made much of the point that the servicemen did not have to enrol and they did not have to vote. I know that I cannot use the word “ hypocrisy “, but the Opposition is only play acting. If we made voting by these young servicemen compulsory and if an instructor in the hill country of Vietnam was fined £2, or whatever it may be, for not voting. Opposition members would be the first to make a great exercise of standing up for the rights of servicemen.
I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). He was the Whip of the Labour Government and a member of the Parliament during the 1939-45 war. Tonight he said that certain things were immoral, that certain people should be given the right to vote and that we are not recognising the moral rights of servicemen. He said that servicemen under 21 years of age who are not serving in a specified area should be given the right to vote. This is quite ridiculous. The Commonwealth Electoral (Wartime) Act of 1940 provided that a member of the forces under 21 years of age who was or had been on service outside Australia was entitled to vote, whether or not enrolled. It was not until July 1943, when the Labour Government was in office and when the honorable member for Grayndler was in this Parliament, that the right to vote was extended to members of the forces under 21 years of age. Under the 1943 amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act, members of the forces who served or who had served outside Australia and discharged members of the forces were entitled to vote, irrespective of age. That is the provision that was introduced by the Labour Government, and it is exactly identical with the provisions of the Bill now before us. For the honorable members for Grayndler and Eden-Monaro to speak of the inequities in what is happening now is, with respect to you, Mr. Speaker. I think very close to being hypocritical. There is no doubt in my mind that during the war when Labour members had the opportunity to do this, they did not give the right to vote to the people about whom they are now speaking. I repeat that under the 1943 amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act, members of the forces who served or had served outside Australia and discharged members of the forces were entitled to vote, irrespective of age. Is this the view that was held by Labour members at that time? They may be able to turn up reports of the debates that show they proudly put out their little chests, stood up against their Party and said: “ The vote must be given to these people “. Were they then as heroic as they are supposed to be today when they stand up for servicemen?
This Bill was not introduced because, as Opposition members say, the Government capitulated to the pressures exerted on it by the Australian Labour Party. Labour has not put any pressure on the Government for the last 15 years. It has proved itself incapable of putting pressure on anybody, except its own leaders, and that not very effectively.
The Government and members on the Government side of the House realised that young men who had enlisted to serve overseas and were on active service in specified theatres were entitled to a vote. I do not think that anybody in this country is opposed to this idea. We are not saying that every 20 year old should have a vote at this moment. We are not saying that every serviceman is entitled to a vote. But we are saying that the man who goes into these active service areas to fight, whether he be 20, 19 or 18 years of age and whether he be on a frigate or serving with the Royal Australian Air Force, is entitled to a vote, should he wish to exercise it. This is a worthwhile privilege which the Government thinks these men should have. 1 cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition members, in view of their past record. Throughout the history of Australia, going right back to the First World War, this has always been the provision that has been made by Australian governments, whether they be Labour or Liberal.
Whenever servicemen in Vietnam or in other areas overseas are asked whether they are very much concerned about this issue, most of them say: “ No “. Many of the newspapers have printed remarks made by national servicemen who are serving in Vietnam and by those who are about to serve there. Their remarks on this issue and relating to protests that are being made on their behalf are consistent. As one newspaper reported yesterday, these men say: “ It is not the people here in Vietnam who are complaining; the people who never look like coming here, who have no interest in being here and who have no interest in winning here are making all these remarks for no reason other than political gain at the next election.” I think the contempt of the people of Australia for the impossible case being put by the Opposition on these issues is growing.
.- If the Government had genuinely wanted to give a vote to the servicemen under 21 years of age who are serving abroad, it would have done so when it decided to send the men abroad. The Government at this late hour has decided to give the right to vote to these men and it is quite obvious that it has done so because of the pressure put on it by the Opposition.
– What difference would it make if it was done between elections?
– If the Government had intended to give servicemen the right to vote, why did it not do so when it sent them abroad first? There is an election coming up and the Government thinks it may catch some votes. That is why it has introduced the Bill at this late hour. It could have done this years ago.
– What have the servicemen lost?
– The Government did not give this right when it had a chance to do so. The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) spoke about the 1943 Act. The honorable member should look back through the parliamentary records and discover for himself whether the Liberal majority in the Senate at that time opposed this provision when the Labour Government introduced it.
A point arises here that needs some explanation. This point has arisen before in such matters as the issue of service medals. A unit of the Royal Australian Air Force may be stationed abroad. It may not be domiciled within a combat area but its aircraft may be flying into one. Are the members of the air crew to be given the right to vote and the members of the ground staff denied it? What is the position? The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) raised the matter of the crews of vessels that took men into the special areas. I understand from the Minister that those people will be given the right to vote. Let us extend this all the way. What is the position of the crews of civilian aircraft that fly people into a special area? Civilian aircraft have been doing this continually. Stewards who are under 21 years of age may be aboard such aircraft. Do they get the right to vote? Let us remember that when the Labour Government introduced its legislation, everyone who served abroad had the right to vote. Special areas were not designated. Why designate them now? What are the areas abroad that will be excluded from this provision? That would be worth knowing.
– What about the girls? Should they get a vote?
– That is up to the Minister. He evinced a little interest in this subject when another honorable member was speaking. He is the Minister who can give people a vote, but I suppose not many of the girls reside in his electorate, so they will not be given the right to vote. I think we were quite correct in assuming that this was just a last minute decision to give servicemen the right to vote and that it was the result of the campaign waged by Opposition members on behalf of the voteless conscripts. These people will be sent but will have no vote. If a person is old enough to fight he is old enough to vote. If the Government had honestly intended to allow national service trainees to vote it would have legislated at the time that it brought in the Act to send them overseas. This measure is quite obviously an afterthought and this is the thought that I leave with the people of Australia and members of the Parliament. I do not propose to delay the House any longer than is necessary. Probably there is very little, if anything, left to be said on this subject, so I content myself with having made those several points. The Government should extend these provisions to everyone who serves in any branch of the Services and who is liable to be sent into any of the proclaimed special areas.
.- It is ironical to recall that the decision to introduce conscription was made on the 47th anniversary of Armistice Day on 1 1 th November 1964. It is probably worse still to recall that the ordinary democratic electoral processes - after all, we are dealing with an electoral bill - which derive and arise from the election of a Parliament by democratic procedures were denied when this issue was introduced into Parliament. By that I mean that the Government clearly had no mandate for the introduction of national service training. Every honorable member will recall that the election which preceded the introduction of national service training resulted in the Government losing control of the Senate. If it is claimed that some mandate was sought, it must readily be conceded that that mandate was denied.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has talked about the large number of people who are involved in this pro- position. He said that about 90,000 are eligible and register for national service training each year and that about 8,400 are being called up. As a result the view is taken that all people who come into this category - at least those in the 20 year age group - should be given the opportunity to have their names added to the electoral roll and so participate in elections. The first view of the Australian Labour Party on this matter, or one of its very early views, is that there should bc no second class army. There should not be merely a proposal to provide votes for a minority of serving members of the forces, those engaged on special duly in a special area. We believe that the vote should be given to all servicemen. The honorable member for Grayndler said that we believe that this principle should apply lo everybody in the prescribed age group. 1 know that he was ruled out of order on that subject and that I am unable lo proceed with any further elaboration of that point. However, one amendment has not been ruled out of order. I refer to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Calvin) which reads -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not opposing the passage of this Bill, the House is of opinion that the vote should be given to all persons in the Defence Force who have attained the age of eighteen years “.
It will be readily understood that the Opposition would go further if the Standing Orders of the Parliament permitted; that is to say we would advocate that this principle apply to everybody in this age group, whether they are in the Services or not. But the Government has said that only some servicemen can vote - those in this special area engaged on special duty. In fact, the Government goes further and says that a serviceman under 21 years of age can return to Australia and still vote. But those who are destined to go overseas, who may or may not know whether they will go, are deprived of a vote. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile these proposals in terms of logic or in terms of principle.
Conscripts - national service trainees, as the Government likes to call them - are called up for two years first of all on a full time basis and then for a further three years for the purpose of serving in the reserve. I do not think it is generally understood, even by honorable members opposite, that under the provisions of existing legislation national service trainees can receive a much longer sentence. 1 feel that the people of Australia are not aware of our state of preparedness or the state of panic which the Government developed a short time ago. On 25th May 1965 section 27 of the National Service Act was amended to provide, in effect: If at the end of your two years period of full time service in the Regular Army Supplement a time of defence emergency is proclaimed you will be deemed to be re-enlisted till the end of the time of defence emergency or for a further three years, whichever is the shorter. This is a much more significant period of potential service which confronts the conscripts, the young 20 year olds who are now being called up and who, if the war goes on for some years, will be called up in the future.
I was interested to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) say that it is going to be a long war. Heaven knows what a long war really means in terms of time, whether it is five years or ten years, but even if it is five years the prospect which I have just mentioned confronts even the 15 year olds in this country. We have 90,000 who are now required to register each year. So, if it becomes a war which lasts five years, five times 90,000 young men will be affected. But the position is even more serious than that. All males from 18 to 60 years of age can be conscripted to serve overseas. This can be done under the provisions of existing legislation. But this is not generally understood throughout Australia at the present time. There are good reasons why we should give an opportunity to people in this age range to express a view about the Government’s discredited foreign policy and to express a view about defence deficiencies, lt is a most unsatisfactory position if the Government says it is prepared to call up. and indeed has the power to call up under existing legislation, everyone in the 18 to 60 years age bracket, but is going to allow only those aged between 20 and 60 years to express any view about the matters which are involved.
I was interested to hear the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) mention that the Government has not demonstrated any consistency in this matter. It is true that the electoral bills have been many and varied. Their history is such that one would need to engage in very extensive reading if one sought to gain a full and comprehensive appreciation of all the various steps which have contributed to the franchise which prevails in Australia at present. What has been the attitude of the Liberal Party of Australia on the question of whether the right to vote should be given to people under the age of 21? Some very definite and clearcut views have been expressed about proposals such as that which has emanated this evening from the honorable member for Grayndler, who has proposed that the voting age be reduced not only for servicemen but also for civilians. I should like to read to the House some views that were stated in another place on 24th June 1943 during the consideration of the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill 1943.
– A measure from which this one stems.
– Indeed, that measure was related to the principal Act that is to be amended by the Bill now before the House. On 24th June 1943, the late Senator McLeay, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said -
Why the Labour Party, of all parties should be prepared to confer the vote on smartly uniformed minors in the various women’s auxiliary services, but not on overalled girls of equal age and giving equal service in munitions factories, is as incomprehensible as it is unfair. The Opposition will not agree to allow that discrimination which would perhaps result in there being in the one family an 18 year old girl who would have the right as a member of the Australian Women’s Army Service to vote, whereas her sister, 12 months her senior, would not have that right. Boy messengers and girl typists in, say. the Prime Minister’s Department would not be allowed to vote, because they were less than 21 years of age, but their equivalents in uniform would be. Such discrimination must not be allowed in Australia.
– Who said that?
– The late and highly respected Senator McLeay, who was a distinguished member of one of the present Government parties, and who was then Leader of the Opposition.
– His brother is highly distinguished, too.
– I do nol want to labour the point. This concept, this principle, this idea - whichever one chooses to call it - was encompassed to some considerable degree, though not, I confess, in a clearcut and specific manner, in an amendment that was proposed in another place in 1943 when the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill was being considered. I do not know whether the Standing Orders are different in the other place, Sir, but the submission of that amendment was permitted there on that occasion.
– That would have been due to the persuasive powers of Senator McLeay.
– I do not doubt that his persuasive powers and capacity had something to do with it. I am demonstrating that the present Government parties have no consistency in this matter. The present Opposition contends that if it is fair to reduce the voting age for servicemen serving in special service areas to 20, the voting age for everybody in Australia should be reduced to 20. Since we are not permitted to propose an amendment designed to achieve this, we have been forced to resort to the alternative proposal of submitting an amendment designed to have the voting age reduced to 18 for serving members of the forces. Indeed, we would reduce the voting age for everyone in Australia to 18. However, the present Government would oppose such a proposal, though the Liberal Party of Australia, during the Second World War, supported the proposition that everyone in Australia should be able to vote at 18 years of age. So, with the Liberal Party, it is a case of all care and no responsibility.
– The Liberal Party did not support such a proposal in wartime. It maintained that reduction of the voting age for service women and not for other women would be unfair.
– Then let me make the position a little clearer. I have read the views expressed by Senator McLeay. One of his colleagues in the Senate at the time was Senator McBride, who also was highly distinguished and who later became Minister for Defence in a LiberalAustralian Country Party government. I understand that he served in the Defence portfolio for a record term. Later, he became Federal President of the Liberal Party and served in that post for a record period. I invite the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) to listen carefully to the words uttered by Senator McBride on 24th June 1943 during the consideration of the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill. At page 281 of “Hansard” he is reported as having agreed that that measure was brought down in the previous March. Referring to the proposal to give service men and women the right to vote at 18, he said -
Yes, but what I shall say was as pertinent then as it is now. It is apparent that, in providing for the extension of this privilege to members of the fighting forces, the Government is being influenced by the latest addition to its ranks, namely, the Communist element.
So this distinguished Liberal Minister for Defence who held that portfolio for a record period and who served for some years as Federal President of the Liberal Party pretended that a proposal similar to that for which the present Government is legislating was a Communist concept and had been inspired by the Communist Party of Australia. He added -
I have no doubt that the influence behind the Government–
Remember that that was a Labour government - in making this move is that of the Communists. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, to enfranchise minors in the fighting services merely because they are doing a war job will create anomalies.
He said further -
So we have an incredible conglomeration of inconsistencies emanating from the Liberal Party. Time does not permit me to read more of the observations made during the debate on the 1943 measure.
– Does the record show how members of present Government parties voted on the proposal to reduce the voting age for servicemen?
– It indicates quite clearly that the contention made in the present debate by the honorable member for Capricornia is correct, in that the attitude then was completely contrary to that being taken by the present Government. Only one conclusion can be drawn from this, Mr. Deputy Speaker: The Government has become obsessed with the idea that its unprincipled attitude towards the Vietnam war generally had caused public agitation and disturbance and that it ought to try to accommodate itself to the movement of public opinion. Obviously, the Government is concerned at the reaction to its proposal unnecessarily to conscript Australian youths. T do not believe that even the Minister for the Interior will quibble at the contention that it is unnecessary to conscript Australian youths. The undoubted fact is, as the statistics show, that in the year in which national service training was introduced there were far more volunteers for the Services than there are youths now being conscripted into them.
The Opposition proposes that servicemen be given the right to vote at 18 years of age. I shall demonstrate to the Minister that, by world standards, it would not be unusual to reduce the voting age for everyone else in the community, in addition to servicemen. The fact of the matter is that young people in the world generally, and in Australia in particular, are reaching maturity at an earlier age. It is unquestionably a fact that servicemen, at 18 years of age, are comparatively well informed these days. They are mature in their capacity to make decisions. And why should they not be with such advances in communications as radio, television and newspapers? The Martin Committee, which looked at our untapped university potential, made it quite clear that young people in Australia today are intelligent. The Government’s attitude is a reflection on the young people of this country for it virtually says that they are incapable of making a mature decision on the issues of the day and should therefore be denied a vote. We of the Labour Party do not take that attitude at all. It might interest the Minister for the Interior to learn which countries do give people under 21 years of age a vote.
– I supplied that information to the honorable member, did I. not?
– I did not get this information from the Minister. It comes from the Institute of Electoral Research. I find that even countries such as Albania, Argentina and Bulgaria give young people of 18 years a vote. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) is laughing. He will stop that before I have finished. In Burma, Ceylon, China, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, Ecquador, El Salvador and Indonesia people of 18 years are given a vote. In Japan, they are given the right to vote at 20 years of age provided they are literate. In Jordan, males over 18 years of age are given a vote, but members of the armed forces and people related to the King are precluded from voting. In North Korea young people of 18 years arc given a vote. Is the honorable member for Mitchell still laughing?
– People of 18 years of age are allowed to vote in Mongolia and Portugal. In most states of the United States of America, the voting age is 21. years. In Georgia, and Kentucky, it is 18 years. In Alaska, the voting age is 19 years and in Hawaii it is 20 years. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the voting age is 18 years. It is also 18 years in Venezuela, South Vietnam - to the extent that they can vote - North Vietnam and Yugoslavia. I should say thai about two-thirds of the world’s people arc being given the opportunity to vote at 18 years of age. Therefore, no radical departure is proposed by the Opposition this evening. The fact that the Government, which has steadfastly stood against any proposal to give conscripts a vote is now, because of the pressure of public opinion, forced into the embarrassing position of eating humble pie and changing its declared attitude is most impressive. All the vilification and abuse which were directed to the Opposition when it contended that men who are prepared to fight for this country should be given a vote are now proved to be quite unjustified.
The Labour Party has consistently argued that it is desirable and just to give servicemen a vote at the age of 18 years. Indeed, we have advocated that the younger people generally throughout Australia, who have demonstrated their capacity, their maturity and their ability to take an intelligent interest in the affairs of the nation, should be afforded the same privilege. I certainly hope that honorable members opposite will realise that to express an opinion on the issues of the day through the ballot box is the prerogative not only of members of the forces who are serving overseas but of all servicemen - particularly those liable for overseas service. When a Labour Government is returned to office, all these people will be given the opportunity to participate in democratic affairs.
.- I do not think anybody will take seriously everything that was said by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). He did say one or two things that could be taken seriously because they had some commonsense and logic in them, but most of his speech was not of that quality. I did not appreciate his quoting a deceased senator who is not able to speak for himself. There may have been some special reason which the senator had for speaking in the way he did. Perhaps if he were here tonight he could have explained that. I did not appreciate what the honorable member for Hughes did.
– That is about the lowest thing that you have ever said in this House.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Mallee has stated that the honorable member for Hughes was not in order in quoting the words of an honorable senator who, unfortunately, has passed on. In effect, the honorable member for Mallee would deny members of this Parliament the right to quote Sir Winston Churchill, Ben Chifley and others. This reflection on the honorable member for Hughes should be withdrawn. Otherwise, I shall have to ask that the honorable member for Mallee refrain from referring to statements made by any person who passed on.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member.
– I merely stated that I did not appreciate what the honorable member for Hughes did. I do not think that anybody can say that it is wrong to say that I do not appreciate what he did. I repeat that I did not appreciate what he did. I put the point very logically, I thought, that had the honorable senator whose remarks were quoted been able to speak for himself perhaps he could have explained them. The position is not as was suggested by the honorable member for Grayndler. There is nothing low about the statement I made.
– Get on with the Bill.
– Yes, I think that it is time we did that. When I said that I did not appreciate what the honorable member for Hughes had done, the honorable member for Hughes said: “ That is the lowest thing you have ever said in this Parliament “. I have been here for more than 20 years now, and if that is the lowest thing that I have said in all that time, then I suggest that the honorable member for Hughes was offering me great praise.
The honorable member for Grayndler quoted tonight what I said in this House on a previous occasion. I want now to quote something that I said when the Electoral Bill (No. 2) was before the House on 21st September 1965. On that occasion I said -
If the Labour Party had so desired, it could have reduced the voting age to 18 years during two world wars when it had the power to do so.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) interjected, quite rightly, and said -
It did so during the Inst war.
That was quite right. I went on to say -
It could have lowered the voting age all round and not only for those who went away to the war.
I was not advocating that the Labour Party should have done that; I was merely saying that it could have done it. If honorable members opposite wish to go back further into history, I ask them why at that time the Labour Party did not adopt the suggestion that was put forward tonight by the honorable member for Hughes. He said that all those people in Australia who are able to think correctly and who are 18 years of age should have a vote. Why did not Labour legislate for that at that time? Labour policy then was similar to that which he is condemning now. People seem to have forgotten completely what the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) said in his second reading speech. Regarding the words “ special service “, which have been referred to tonight, he said - “ Special service “ in this Bill takes the same meaning as that term in the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act and means, in relation to a person, service during a period when he is outside
Australia and he or his unit is allotted for special duty in a special area.
This was set out very plainly by the Minister when he said, in effect, that the new legislation would give the franchise to all members of the defence forces under 21 years of age serving in South Vietnam and the Borneo states of Malaysia, and to those members stationed on the Malayan peninsula and in Singapore on special service. It will not extend the franchise to members of the defence forces under 21 years of age on service outside Australia who are not on special service. I would say that it relates to anyone in a combat area or a special service area.
The honorable member for Hughes illustrated his case by what had been said by a former senator, but it must be remembered that at that time we were engaged in a world war and almost the whole world was aflame. Any person who went overseas anywhere at that time had the chance of getting into a combat area. Now this is not so. Service now is confined to a comparatively very small area and therefore it has to be denned. It has been defined as the “ special service “ area, as stated by the Minister.
I think that members of the Labour Party are merely trying to hold up the legislation, although they have said that they are in favour of it. Before this Bill came before the House they even advocated that these servicemen who go overseas to a special area, or to a combat area, should have the right to vote regardless of their age. I agree with that proposal. Surely, if the Opposition is getting what it desires in this legislation - what it has advocated - it should not be so critical. The only reason that honorable members opposite are critical is that they think they may make some small political point against the Government. But that has not been so. So far as the overall position is concerned, wc who support the Government desire much the same as what has been advocated by the Labour Party. Despite that, this Bill is held up by honorable members opposite who make speeches that are not relevant to the subject at all. If I were to go on talking now on this subject I might fall into the same error. Therefore I will leave it at that.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is quite obvious that the
Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), after having introduced this Bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1966, has found that there are not many members of either the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party who are in favour of it. The only two members from the Government side who have spoken in favour of it have been the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Being one of those people who follow the same pattern of behaviour as the honorable member for Mallee and never indulge in personalities but always attack arguments, I will just pass over both those honorable gentlemen that have spoken by saying that on this occasion, as on past occasions, they adopted the typical sanctimonious, holier than thou attitude, and did not bother to support the legislation before the Parliament at all.
This Bill is a complete sop. lt is a child that was born subnormal. The Minister certainly is not, and certainly cannot be proud of the Bill. I am certain that if it were a child of his he would keep it in a back room, hidden away from the view of the people. There is no depth in the Bill. There is no justice in it. No desire is exhibited in it to do anything at all for our defence forces. It has been introduced by the Government because of the public clamour that has become apparent on this issue, led undoubtedly by the Opposition in this Parliament, because of the fact that those young men who are called up at 20 years of age and expected to go away and fight for our country are not entitled to a voice in the government of this country.
In his speech, the honorable member for La Trobe criticised members of the Labour Party because we were taking the attitude, first of all, of wanting all youths of the call up age group to be given a vote, and secondly, because of an amendment moved by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) aimed at giving a vote to all members of the defence forces who had reached the age of 18 years. The honorable member for La Trobe said that the Opposition had only just become aware of the desirability of doing this; that the Opposition had not done anything about it; that the Opposition had no desire to help our troops in any way. He stressed the fact that it was a Labour Government which in 1943 had extended the right to vote to servicemen serving overseas. He said that the action on that occasion was not forced by public clamour and was not forced by the questions of the Opposition in this Parliament, but was due to the fact that the government of the day had thought it was merited.
It has taken this Government a long time to wake up to the fact that our defence forces deserve some extra recognition. I say that because it did not extend the right to vote to 20 year old boys serving in the Korean campaign. It did not extend the right to vote to 20 year old boys in our defence forces taking part in the Malaya campaign. It did not extend the right to vote to 20 year old boys taking part in the Malaysia campaign. It is only since it has had power to send national service trainees overseas to fight in Vietnam that the Government has realised that voteless boys ought to be given this right. So let us not talk about hypocrisy. That word has been mentioned a couple of times tonight by Government speakers. Let us not talk about hypocrisy on the part of members of the Opposition. Let us first of all examine the Government’s attitude. Let us see why this Bill was introduced at this time.
There is no doubt that it was introduced because the Government is aware that there is criticism coming from every section of the community about 20 year old boys being sent overseas. In order to allay some of his criticism the Government introduced this Bill. As I said, it is a child that no father would own. It is a child that will never grow up to bc healthy because it has not the basic structure to become a healthy child. The Opposition has made two attempts tonight to give it some hormones so that at least it will have an opportunity to develop into something that the Minister might be able to accept as part of his work. But apparently the Minister and the Government are adamant that only an infinitesimal number of boys in our defence forces will be given the right to vote. I reiterate that this is quite obvious from the fact that the Minister has been supported on his side of the chamber by two speakers.
Where are all the ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House? Where are all the men on the other side who, as the honorable member for Grayndler said earlier tonight, wave flags by day and vote against benefits for ex-servicemen by night? Where are these men who from 1943 onwards gained the right to vote although they were under 21 years of age because of legislation put through by Labour? Why are they not doing the same for servicemen in our forces today? Why will they not come into this House and talk to the Minister and tell him that he is wrong? Why will they not tell the Minister that this Bill is not worth the paper on which it is printed? It is weak. It is puny and has no depth to it. Why does the Government pick out only those 20 year old boys serving in special areas? Every 20 year old boy in Australia at the moment has to register for national service training on his 20th birthday. Every 20 year old boy in Australia runs exactly the same risk that his birthday date will come out of the lottery barrel. Every 20 year old boy who is unfortunate enough to win a national service uniform, does not know when he goes into the Army whether he is going to be in this unit, that unit, this battalion, that division or just where. He does not know whether he will be in a combat unit or a headquarters unit; he has no idea. His future, once he registers for national service training, is entirely bound up with fate and with luck. One 20 year old boy, because he goes into a particular unit, may find that within a very short time he is serving overseas - and he wins the magnificent prize of a vote. Another 20 year old boy, perhaps much more anxious to serve overseas than the cove who has been sent there by this Government, does not get a vote because luck was against him. He does not get what he desires. He does not get the opportunity to go overseas and serve his country; he is kept at home.
The general election is likely to be at the end of this year. The 26th November is the date that I guess. A boy serving in Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia or Borneo at that stage is to have a vote. He is likely to be killed the very day that he uses his vote. He may be replaced two or three weeks later by some boy who was serving at Holsworthy camp or some other camp here in Australia. This second boy is then going to run exactly the same risk as the boy who got the vote, but because he was in Australia on the day of the general election he does not get a vote. The risk he runs is the same. The same threat hangs over the head of every member in the armed forces. They can be sent to any of the special areas the day after an election. They will not have had a vote in that election. One of these boys might have wished at that stage to have voted for the Government, although why he should so wish I would never know. He might have wished to vote for the Opposition because he did not believe that 20 year old boys should be sent overseas to serve in our armed forces when this Government has made no real attempt to obtain volunteers to serve in our forces in South Vietnam.
Why has the Government not thought of introducing this legislation before now? What about the 17 and 18 year old boys who have been in our Regular Army for a long time and in our Air Force and Navy?
– The Opposition does not want to give them the vote.
– Why are they not getting a vote? We gave them the vole in 1943.
– The Opposition’s amendment does not include them.
– Our amendment provides for every member of the defence force who has attained the age of 18 years.
– The honorable member is talking about 17 year old boys now.
– Boys of 17 or 18 years of age. We have picked the age of 18 for the simple reason that most boys will join at that age and not at 17 years of age. Boys 18 years old who have been in our regular forces for a number of years have been given no consideration up to this time simply because the Government never intended that any person under 21 years of age should have a vote. It was only the opposition to national servicemen going overseas to fight in South Vietnam that caused the Government to change its mind.
The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) criticised the Opposition tonight for the attitude it is taking. He cited the Labour Government’s 1943 legislation and said that the present legislation is founded on the legislation of 1943. It is only a couple of weeks ago since he and other members on the Government side told us to get up to date. They told us that we should get our policies up to dale and that we were still living in the horse and buggy days. Tonight, because it suits him, the honorable member goes back to the Opposition’s 1943 legislation. The 1943 legislation was opposed by the LiberalCountry Party members in this House at that time and also by the Liberal-Country Party members in the Senate at that lime. The Government has now reversed its position, but the Opposition has shown no reversal at all. We want to give something; we want to extend the legislation. We are quite happy that these boys overseas should get the vote, but if the Government is prepared to give them the vote - and particularly the 20 year old national service trainees - surely it ought to give a vote to every 20 year old boy in Australia, because each one of them runs exactly the same risk. It is only the Russian roulette system of call up that decides that one will go overseas and another will stay at home. The Government has picked 20 year old boys; that is the age it has chosen.
I think it has been clearly shown that the only reason that this legislation has been introduced is that national servicemen are being sent overseas. They are called up at 20 years of age plus. They serve six or nine months in training camps in Australia. They are then sent to South Vietnam, Malaysia. Borneo, Singapore or some other place, and by that time they are almost 21 years of age. What concession is the Government giving at this stage? This legislation is pure window dressing. The Government is no more interested in our defence forces than is a fly on the wall. Honorable members opposite wave their flags, they shout about Communism and they talk about treachery on the part of the Opposition. They talk about the apparent movement of Communism down from our north, but when it comes to practical, feasible propositions for our forces they continually fall down on the job. If it had not been for the Opposition in this place and in (he Senate the boys overseas would not at this stage be covered by repatriation benefits. It was Senator Charles Sandford in another place who moved a resolution to give repatriation coverage to every serviceman serving overseas. The Government at that stage refused to accept the Opposition’s amendment, and it was not until a couple of rebels on the Liberal-Country Party side dug in their toes that the Minister for Repatriation and the Cabinet capitulated. Honorable members opposite should not talk about the Government’s desire to do something about the defence of Australia and about our defence forces, because continually the records of this House show that it is the Labour Opposition that has pushed the interests of our defence forces serving overseas.
– The same thing occurred in relation to entertainment and mail.
– As the honorable member for Hughes reminds me, in this House a matter of two months ago the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) dared to say that entertainment and the delivery of mail for our troops in South Vietnam were not up to standard. At least two members on the Government side, including the then Minister for the Army, called him every low name that they could lay their tongues to while still remaining within the Standing Orders. The Government again on this occasion has clearly demonstrated that it does not want to give any advantages or any amenities to our serving men.
The fighting men of Australia in all wars in which they have fought have proved their worth. They have kept this land free for us. Surely the Opposition is not asking for too much in suggesting that on this occasion the Government be big enough to give votes to all members of the defence forces who have attained the age of 18 years? I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Minister answers Opposition speakers tonight. I hope he will tell us just how many members of our defence forces will be eligible for the vote under this legislation.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) asked a question on notice the answer to which appeared in “ Hansard “ of 28th October 1965. As at 29th September J 965 our approximate Army strength in Vietnam was 1,400 and in Malaysia 1,700. Admittedly our Vietnam force is likely to increase to 4,500 but our force in Malaysia is fairly stationary at the present stage. So ultimately we are likely to have 6,000 or 6,500 troops overseas. The number of national service trainees who go overseas will be infinitesimal. National servicemen will represent a very small portion of this next batch of 4,500, and by the time they go overseas each one of those boys will be 21 years of age or within three or four months of 21 years. Some of the boys who joined our armed forces at 17 or 18 years of age may be there already, but they would be very few indeed in number. 1 would like the Minister to tell us how many of our troops overseas he expects to be entitled to vote at the next election.
Why is it that the Government does not propose to make enrolment compulsory? Why does it not propose to make voting compulsory? Why is it that the system of voting overseas is going to be so loose when the system here in Australia is so tight? We have a voting system in Australia that very few Australians have ever found reason to fault, and yet with our armed forces we will leave the arrangements in the hands of some officer or other. Admittedly when these men are commissioned they are declared to be officers and gentlemen. 1 will admit that they are officers but sometimes I doubt whether the fact of being commissioned makes them gentlemen. The Government does not know how they will react in this situation. It does not know whether they will prevail on these boys to vote for or against the Government or for or against the Opposition. It does not know whether the assistant returning officer will vote in the place of someone who fails to vote. The Government has no guarantee about these things. It has no check as to which of those entitled to vote actually do vote. So why have this loose system? Why not do as we suggest and give the vote to every member of the defence forces who has attained the age of 18 years? We would then know exactly where we stood. Each unit could have its role and that role would disclose exactly how many persons were entitled to vote. It would disclose exactly how many soldiers voted.
I am not suggesting that if a soldier does not vote he has to be fined. We all know that it is only on a rare occasion that someone in this country is fined for not voting. If a person produces one of the two or three almost stock excuses he can escape a fine practically any time. If a member of our defence forces who was entitled to vote failed to do so I would not complain about it, but I would at least give all of them the opportunity to vote, and I would see that our Australian electoral system is maintained as one which is above reproach. If this is not done the Government will be open to criticism and charges of rigged ballots.
Again I say that there will be only an infinitesimal number of persons, national service trainees or members of the Australian Regular Army, who will qualify under this poor, puny piece of legislation that the Minister has brought down. I am sorry for the Minister who has been let down so badly by the Government, which has given him this piece of legislation to bring to the Parliament. I know full well that the Minister has some desire to see that the members of our defence forces are given the treatment they deserve, the recognition they deserve and the acknowledgement they deserve.
.- The purpose of this Bill is to give the vote to our fighting men who are defending Australia in Vietnam and Malaysia. The Labour Party is endeavouring to ride on the backs of these magnificent men and is trying to secure through the back door votes for persons other than servicemen who are fighting for Australia overseas. The Labour Party has no interest whatsoever in our servicemen fighting in Malaysia and Vietnam. They have said that they would bring them back and abandon our allies. They would cease defending this country in those overseas theatres and would no longer try to keep the enemy from our shores.
I was shocked to hear the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) suggest that our officers m these magnificent forces are not gentlemen. I say that not only are our officers gentlemen but so also are our noncommissioned officers and the men in the ranks who are offering, and in some cases giving, their lives for Australia.
The purpose of this Bill is to do what is essentially fair and just. It is said that men who go overseas to defend Australia should have the franchise. Regardless of age, if they are fighting for the defence of this country they will, under this Bill, be given the vote. Therefore I would have expected every member of this Parliament to support the Bill wholeheartedly and not to do what the Labour Party is doing, which is using the measure to try to get votes through the back door for other people.
– I rise to speak on one point. A charge has been laid by honorable members on the Government side against the Labour Party of inconsistency in that it is now proposing a vote for all members of the defence forces although it did not while in government in 1943 take the opportunity of providing a vote for all members of the forces. That charge has been supported, I understand, by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who ought to know the facts. Therefore I propose to quote to the House some relevant passages from “ Hansard “ to show what actually occurred in 1943. The Curtin Government brought down legislation to confer the vote upon all members of the defence forces. The legislation was in accordance with the amendment that the Labour Party is proposing tonight. The Opposition in the Senate opposed the legislation and moved an amendment to restrict the vote to members of the defence forces under 21 years of age who had served or were serving outside Australia. The Opposition had the numbers in the Senate and carried this amendment by 16 votes to 14. The Senate in those days consisted, I think, of 36 members.
– Are you suggesting that it is Labour policy to give votes to all 18-ycar-olds?
– What we are moving is strictly in accordance with Labour policy. The honorable member need have no doubt about that, but let him not try to prevent me from giving the House the facts in place of the canards that we heard from Government supporters. I refer to page 298 of volume 175 of “Hansard” of 24th June 1943. Senator Collings, then Minister for the Interior, was explaining the purpose of the Bill, and the report reads -
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland Minister for the Interior). ; … it is not a complicated piece of legislation in that it proposes merely to grant the franchise to all members of the forces, male or female, over the age of eighteen year3.
Senator McBride. ; That is not in the Bill.
Senator McBride was referring, as will become apparent, to the reference to “ eighteen years “.
Senator COLLINGS. ; The bill provides that all members of the forces shall be entitled to a vote whether of the age of 21 years or younger.
Senator McBride. ; The bill does not provide for that. A member of the forces would be entitled to a vote if only thirteen years of age.
Senator COLLINGS. ; There are no members of the forces, outside the Navy, under the age of eighteen years. I cannot see any need for the amendment, which would defeat the object of the bill. It imposes conditions which the Government thinks should not be incorporated in this legislation, because the Government believes that, regardless of age, every person, male or female, who serves in the forces, should be entitled to a vote.
Senator McBride. ; In other words, it covers every person wearing a uniform.
Senator COLLINGS ; It ill becomes Senator McBride to make a remark of that sort. 1 could say things in that connection which probably he would not appreciate, but 1 shall not do so. If agreed to the amendment would extend the right to vote only to members of the forces under 21 years of age who had served, or are serving, outside Australia.
In introducing the measure the Government had one idea only in mind, namely to give to all members of the fighting services, male and female, the opportunity to vote, regardless of the age condition imposed upon other electors.
Senator Courtice, supporting the Bill, said
The Opposition objects to giving a vote to a member of the fighting services who has not served overseas unless he is 21 years of age or over.
Senator Fraser, who was then Minister for External Territories said -
However, if under the Defence Act men arc liable to military service on reaching the age of eighteen years, is it not logical to give those between the ages of 18 and 21 years the right to vole in the election of the Government of this nation?
The Opposition in the Senate favoured the amendment, which was carried. It was the action of the Opposition in the Senate, where it had a majority at that time, which deprived members of the Australian defence forces during the Second World War of the vote which the Labour Government sought to give them. Details of the division on the amendment appear on page 302 of “Hansard “ of 24th June 1943. In the division, 16 honorable senators voted for the amendment and 14 voted against it. It is plain that what the Labour Party is advocating now is what it endeavoured to establish in 1943, when it was defeated by the reactionary anti-Labour Opposition which had control of the Senate at that time.
– I want to address a few remarks to the amendment moved by the honorable member for
Kingston (Mr. Galvin). I did not want the occasion to pass without supporting the amendment because I would not like anybody to think I was in the category of most Government supporters, who evidently are not prepared to support this legislation in this Parliament. Tonight, we have heard a few speeches made off the cuff. The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) went down in flames when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) completely disproved every statement he made about the introduction of the legislation in 1943. I would have thought that instead of skulking out of the House the honorable member for La Trobe would have tendered an apology for endeavouring to mislead the Parliament on a matter so vital as voting rights for members of the defence forces. But he rushed out of the chamber as soon as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro began to quote from the record of proceedings in 1943.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is in the same category as is the honorable member for La Trobe. He was prepared to make certain charges earlier tonight, but now that proof has been presented, chapter and verse, to show that, but for the action of the Liberal Party in 1943, every serviceman under the age of 21 years would have had a vote, he and his supporters are silent. The silence of the mastermind behind all this, the honorable member for La Trobe, is particularly noticeable. He constantly tells everybody in this Parliament that he is the only man who should be listened to on service matters. Other honorable members opposite are inclined to point the bone at the Labour Party. But none of them has defended the legislation that has been presented. The House is indebted to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for his attitude on the matter, and to the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). It is indebted also to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) for his splendid contribution to the debate which really put the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) on the spot so far as telling us precisely how many men will benefit under this legislation is concerned.
The Labour Party has shown to the people of Australia that had it not been for our campaign against the use of conscript voteless boys in the armed forces for service in Vietnam and other places, no member of the Services would have received any consideration by way of legislation of this kind in this Parliament. The protests and demonstrations, which this Government has tried to suppress by calling upon the security police and in other ways, have caused the Government to introduce this miserable piece of weak legislation, as the honorable member for Lang described it, as a sop to persuade the electors that something is being done.
The honorable member for La Trobe said tonight that national servicemen had been interviewed and had supported the Government’s policy, saying that they did not want a vote. I would go so far as to suggest that they are hand picked personnel whom the Government is putting on the Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes and reporting in the Press because any person who expressed a contrary point of view might end up chained to a pike like Gunner O’Neill and might finally be drummed out of the Army in disgrace. These actions by the Government are attempts to suppress the views of the people. I thank God that there are people who will stand up and demonstrate; who are prepared to criticise the Government on these issues, because had it not been so this legislation would not have been introduced and kids could have been conscripted and could have died without having a vote as to whether this Government, which insists on calling them up and wants to deny them a vote, should remain in office. The electors should at the next election vote this Government out. It is treating boys who do not have a vote in a way that is contemptible. We should remember that the Labour Party is supported by people all over the country who have demonstrated against the Government’s conscription legislation. It is a scandal that tonight the Government would not accept the amendment that was moved, which would have had the effect of bringing within the scope of the legislation all persons eligible for call up. The Government had an opportunity to accept the amendment.
Let me cite it again for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee. Listen to it. Let it sink in and realise that it refers to service personnel in the defence forces. The effect of the amendment would have been to give the vote to all persons in the defence forces who have attained the age of 18 years. Does the honorable member for Mallee object to that? Does he say that men’ in the defence forces who may be called upon at any stage to give their lives are not entitled to vote for or against the Government causing this situation? How does the honorable member justify not giving a vote to people in this category? Honorable members opposite may sneer and snigger. Few of them have been prepared to support this legislation tonight. We heard a couple of bumbling statements from Government supporters. We heard an apologetic statement from the honorable member from Mallee. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior will endeavour to reply to what we have said but few honorable members opposite have spoken because they are not in agreement with this substantially bad legislation. Take the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). He is a Queen’s Counsel and a man who knows the law backwards. He has been as silent as the grave because he knows that his political career has been doomed by this legislation. He does not want to be publicly exposed as being opposed to giving 18 year old members of the defence forces a vote.
I congratulate the honorable member for Kingston on presenting this amendment but I regret that the earlier broader amendment was not accepted. It is to the eternal disgrace of the Government that it is prepared to conscript boys, put them in the defence forces but refuses to give them a vote unless they are lucky enough to get through the 1,001 loopholes and end up in some special area. The public should be made aware that Government supporters will not defend this legislation. Not one honorable member opposite has made a reasonable contribution in the debate. Not one Minister has spoken. When men whose lives are in jeopardy are looking to the Government for some support, Government supporters are as silent as the grave. When we discuss giving the vote to members of the defence forces and we recount what servicemen have got from the Labour Party, Government supporters are silent. Let them remember that in 1939 the Menzies Government sent men to war and gave their wives 18d. a day and 6d. a day for each dependent child. But when Labour came to office it reviewed these conditions and, under the guidance of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), overhauled the Repatriation Act and provided real benefits for servicemen.
Tonight, I place those few words before, honorable members in support of the amendment. Those honorable members opposite who interject should stand and be heard. Now is their opportunity. But let them remember what we have said. This Government has let the people down on this issue. 1 doubt whether many national servicemen will get a vote under this legislation.
– Might I ask the Minister whether he will be speaking to the amendment or closing the debate?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker I am closing the debate. The Government applied a long title to this Bill to limit the debate.
– To limit the debate: That is an admission.
– The Government decided to limit the debate because on the last occasion the Act was amended the amending legislation did not have a long title and members of the Opposition took the opportunity of going right through the legislation and talking on every provision in the Act.
– The debate went right through the night and the Government finally gagged it.
– If I may reply to the honorable member, the last time the Act came into this House a slight machinery amendment was proposed. [Quorum formed]. I thank the honorable member for Wills for drawing attention to the state of the House and for providing me with a better audience than I had before. Few Labour members were in the chamber taking an interest in the debate, so it is nice to see a few more here now. T was trying to explain why this Bill has a long title. On the last occasion the principal Act was amended no specific title was given to the Bill and the Labour Party occupied the time of the House for a complete day although one minor machinery amendment only was proposed, yet honorable members opposite complain about not having sufficient time to discuss important legislation. I was having second thoughts about giving the present Bill a long title when tonight the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) made a considered speech. It lacked the emotionalism and extravagant statements that we are used to hearing from him, but when he rose to discuss the amendment he let loose. He went off in his usual way and introduced all manner of subjects. He spoke extravagantly and tried to engender emotionalism about Australia’s contribution to the war in Vietnam.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) spoke in endearing terms of the support the Labour Party was giving this legislation and, indeed, of its support for our defence forces. This was pleasant to hear. I wish he and other members of the Opposition would give similar support to our defence forces in Vietnam instead of uttering their usual jargon about “ an unwinnable war “ and “ the bottomless pit “. Nothing could be worse for the morale of our forces in Vietnam than this type of talk. Tonight the Opposition is claiming some virtue by giving support to what is a minor measure.
Honorable members opposite have raised a number of questions that I shall do my best to answer. They have moved an amendment to provide that all members of the defence forces who attain the age of 18 years shall have the right to vote. 1 might comment that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill; honorable members opposite favour it. However, many of them have attacked Government supporters for not speaking to this measure. We have nothing to answer, or to say, if the Opposition does not oppose it.
The Opposition talks about giving a vote to all members of the defence forces who attain the age of 18 years, but this statement needs to be made clearer. Would they give a vote to members of the Citizen Military Forces?
– Yes; they are members of the defence forces.
– All right, then why not give a vote to fellows in the defence forces who are younger than 18 years - and there are many of them? Members of the
Royal Australian Navy, for instance, can be obliged to serve overseas in active areas at the age of 17. The Opposition wants to restrict them from having the vote.
– Bring the age down, if the Minister believes it should be lower than 18.
– The Opposition wants to restrict this. Anybody serving in an active area should have a vote even if he is younger than 18 years.
– We would support such a provision.
– But the Opposition amendment would restrict the provision. The Opposition amendment says that the vote shall apply only to members of the defence forces who attain the age of 18 years. In our defence forces there are many people under the age of 18 years. Royal Australian Navy cadets can join up at 15 years of age. They remain in the Navy for a long time. In fact, at the age of 17 they can be sent overseas.
– If the Minister wants the age to be 17 years, we will agree to such a provision.
– The Opposition’s amendment does not say this. The Opposition should make its amendment clearer. What about apprentice junior musicians who can be in the defence forces at age 15 years to 17 years? Cadets enter the Royal Military College at Duntroon at 17 years of age. Youths can join the Royal Australian Air Force Academy at age 17. Apprentices are permitted to join the defence forces, some at 15 years of age, some at 17. The Opposition is precluding these in its amendment. Now members opposite do not think that such personnel should have, the vote. This indicates the confused thinking of members opposite. The position should be clarified.
Much play has been made of the reference to special areas. The intention of this Bill - and it was the intention of legislation that was enacted during the last war - is that members of the defence forces serving overseas in active areas should be entitled to vote. Honorable members should remember that the Second World War was total war, throughout the whole world, whereas this is a limited war in a specific area. We propose to give the vote to men under the age of 21 years who are actively fighting in this area. The Labour Party has made considerable play of the fact that it was not the Opposition’s fault that servicemen in Australia did not get a vote during the last war. Members opposite claim that this was the fault of the Senate. Let us examine history. The Labour Party came into office in October 1941. It was not in office very long when it decided to conscript all young fellows of the age of 18 years.
– But there was a declared war then.
– Yes. and the Labour Government conscripted the young men. It was not until 1943 - some 18 months later - that a Bill was brought before the Parliament to give young servicemen a vote.
– That is not true either. The Senate anti-Labour Opposition delayed the Bill for months. Read the “ Hansard “ record.
– Let us not argue about the number of months. I am not going to worry about that. It could have been 1 6 months before the Labour Government brought the Bill in.
– The Minister should get his facts right.
– If the honorable member wants to argue about months, all right, but it took the Opposition 16 months to think about giving the vote to the conscripted men of 18 years. It may have taken 18 months. The legislation came before the Parliament. It went into the Senate in June 1943 and was opposed by the then Opposition in the Senate which used sound reasoning when it said at the time that the legislation would be unfair to many people who were already in essential industries in Australia and who were not very far removed from the defence forces. The Bill was assented to in July 1943. In August 1943 there was a general election after which the Labour Government got control of the Senate. If it was vitally concerned then, as Opposition members say they are concerned now. why did it not resubmit its proposal to the Senate?
– Because there was no election until the war was over.
– There was an election in August 1943, when the Government gained control of the Senate.
– There was no election from then until 1946.
– There was an election in 1943. The Government gained control of the Senate. If it had been really genuine in its desire to give all servicemen the right to vote, why did it not bring its proposal into the Parliament again? It did not do so because it thought there was good reason why all servicemen should not have the right to vote and why this right should be given only to those on active service overseas or those who had returned to Australia from active service and who were under the age of 21 years.
– There was no election until after the war.
– There was an election in 1943.
– That was the election at which we gained a majority in the Senate.
– J will not argue about this any more. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro can check his facts. He will then know what the position is. It is obvious that the Australian Labour Party wants a general reduction of the voting franchise. If the right to vote is given to all members of the defence forces, the pressure that will result will be so great that all persons under the age of 21 and above the age of 1 8 years will have to be given a vote.
– That is our policy.
– If that is the Opposition’s policy, that is all right. But the Government at this stage considers that the voting age should be consistent with the legal age of a person. This is the principle that is accepted in most mature countries. In the United Kingdom, the Speaker’s Committee only last year investigated the possibility of reducing the voting age and came to the conclusion that it should not be reduced. A committee in Canada decided that the age should not be reduced. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R.
Johnson) went to great lengths to quote the position in many countries. I noticed that he quoted all the Communist countries and the satellite countries. He said that the voting age in these countries is only 18 years. But what is the good of a vote in a country that has no Opposition party, where candidates of only one party stand at an election? I do not see any great merit in quoting the position in these countries. It is quite interesting to note that the voting age in Denmark and the Netherlands is 23 years, lt is even higher than the age here.
– Do you approve of that?
– I am not saying that 1 approve. 1 am merely giving the facts. I think some of them should be made known to honorable members opposite. Why do we not have compulsory voting for servicemen under the age of 21 years who are serving in active areas? I suppose for exactly the same reason that Labour did not have compulsory voting for those under the age of 21 years in active areas. But of course this is no argument. The reason is that a serviceman does not know whether he will be serving overseas in a special area. How would he know that he would have to enrol? Does the Opposition want all servicemen to enrol and then have the right to vote only when they go overseas? The machinery difficulties in this arrangement would be immense. So, if a person in a special area is entitled to a vote-
– Why does the Minister not talk sense? I voted in the front line in 1916. Do not talk nonsense.
– Did the honorable member say he voted in 1916?
– At that time the Commonwealth Electoral Act did not permit people under the age of 21 years to vote.
– I voted against conscription at a referendum in 1916.
– The honorable member for Lalor could be right if he said 1917. An amendment was introduced in 1917 to give a vote at a referendum to all servicemen overseas.
– The Minister can substitute 1917, if he likes, but I have given the facts.
– The amendment mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor was not brought in by a Labour Government; it was brought in by the Hughes National Government. Labour up to that time had not seen fit to give a vote to those under the age of 21 years.
– If you could do it then, you can do it now.
– The honorable member was serving overseas, and we are giving the right to vote to those who are serving overseas. I think I have cleared up much of the misunderstanding of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Lang asked how many people would be affected. 1 can give him only an approximate figure. The latest figures I have - they may refer to the position a month ago - show that the number involved is about 600. However, as more troops go into Vietnam and other special areas, many more servicemen will be affected. I can do no better than to give the honorable member the approximate figure of about 600 under the age of 21 years who are serving in special areas. We have designated special areas so that we can distinguish between those outside Australia who will be entitled to vote and those who will not. This issue is complicated. A naval training ship may go outside Sydney Heads. If the right to vote were given to all servicemen, a person serving on a training ship would only need to go more than three miles outside Australia for a week, or even for a day, dumping garbage and he would be entitled to a vote. A cadet in the Royal Australian Air Force who flew across to New Zealand would have gone overseas. Does the Opposition say that he is entitled to a vote? A cadet who went to a naval or military college in England would have gone overseas. Is it the intention to give these people a vote? The Government’s intention is to give a vote to those under the age of 21 years who are fighting in active areas.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) said that we were tardy in bringing this amendment forward. What is the great concern about bringing this forward any sooner than we have. We are bringing it forward now, so that if there is an election before the end of the year, the servicemen concerned will have a vote. If the amendment had been introduced earlier, it would not have made any difference at all. The position is that the war in Vietnam has built up. It has escalated. It has reached greater significance. We believe that there is justice in giving the right to vote to a serviceman who is under the age of 21 years and who is in an active area.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Calvin’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. .. 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Members of Defence Forces).
.- . I just rise to say that, as the Minister has said, the title of the Bill is such that it distinctly limits debate and limits the possibility of amendments in Committee. It is not because the Opposition is in complete agreement with the Bill that we do not move in Committee; it is because, in the Minister’s own words, the Bill has been deliberately designed to prevent the Opposition from moving any amendments and to limit completely any criticism. The crux of the Bill is in clause 3, which we are now discussing. The fact that we do not propose to move an amendment to the clause is because under Standing Orders we are not permitted to make an effective amendment to it. I should like to address myself to the clause for jus! a few minutes.
The Minister estimated that 600 people would come within the scope of this Bill. I do not like to differ with him, but I believe that his estimate is very extravagant. I think we would be lucky to find 60 people who have a vote under this legislation. 1 was surprised to learn tonight that the present Government is making things under this clause worse than I had thought. The Minister admitted tonight that the Government is sending kids to war. He said they have kids aged 14 and 15 going into special zones. He asked whether we would include them and give them the right to vote. All honorable members heard him say this. He said: “ Does the Opposition want to include them in the voting? “ The Government is not only conscripting voteless boys and denying them a vote but is also sendings kids to war, in effect, and refusing them a vote. The Minister criticised the Opposition for not giving kids a vote. He is a member of the Government and is the Minister in charge of electoral reform. If he thinks that these kids should go to war at 14, why does he not move and give them a vote? He has the numbers behind him in this Parliament.
It is no good the Minister misleading us. He said deliberately tonight in an hysterical outburst from which we can judge the inroads that the campaign against the conscription of these kids has made on the Government: “ Why give these kids of 1 4 or 15 a vote? Would honorable members opposite do so? “ But then he would not explain why he would not give them a vote. If the Government is so desperate for manpower, why will it not give them a vote? If Labour’s amendment to the motion for the second reading had been agreed to, under this clause every person coming within the scope of the Bill would have received a vote. But the Minister does not agree with that. Evidently he subscribes to the general policy of “ Conscript, you can fight and die, but you are not entitled to a vote unless you can come within the provisions of the Act in the special service area.”
In my remarks tonight on the second reading I outlined the special service provision from which honorable members will see that it is well nigh impossible, with few exceptions, for a person under 20 years of age to enter the forces at a time which will give them a vote. The Minister said that the measure had been brought in now simply because the elections were approaching and because the Government thought it was just and proper to give them a vote. Have honorable members ever heard anything so silly as that proposal? Does the Minister say now that if it had not been for the election the Government would not have considered the rights of servicemen? Does he mean to say that they were not entitled to a vote but, because of the elections coming up, the Government thought it would give them a bit of a sop? All I can say is that the Government is lucky that there is an election this year; otherwise many of these men would not have been given the vote until another election came round in a couple of years time. The fact of the matter is that none of us was impressed tonight by the Minister’s statement about the youngsters who he says are going to war and are in these special zones risking their lives.
The Minister who, with others, was responsible for bringing in this legislation said tonight that he would not give them a vote, even if he could, because, he said, a former Labour government would not give them a vote. But he is now in a position to give them a vote. The Minister was unlucky tonight. He made a reply to an amendment which was never before the Parliament. In that respect he was very unfortunate. I suggest that he should get better advice and, next time, reply to the amendment to the clause instead of speaking to an amendment which has never been presented. I do not want to say more except to point out that the Government’s proposal is practically useless unless it is extended to all servicemen under 20 years of age regardless of where they serve. The Minister, of course, will not accept the suggestion that that be done and the Opposition is not permitted to propose an amendment to achieve that purpose. That is the only reason why we shall not propose such an amendment. The Government can rest asssured that if we were not prevented by the wording of the long title of the Bill, we would move an appropriate amendment to this clause.
In sorrow rather than in anger, I say that it is a matter for regret that the Minister, when discussing a matter as vital to young servicemen and. indeed, to all members of the defence forces as this is, in effect said: “ We have deliberately brought in a Bill so drafted as to prevent debate and criticism “. The long title of the Bill is deliberately worded so as to prevent the Opposition from proposing an amendment designed to reduce the voting age for persons other than members of the forces. It is to the eternal discredit of the Government that it has acted in this manner in order not to add to the benefits given to servicemen but to prevent, them from receiving benefits that would have been greatly in their interests.
– Mr. Chairman, with restraint I say that I have been deliberately misrepresented by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). He accused me of saying that we should send young fellows of 15, 16 and 17 who are cadets in military colleges overseas to fight. I said nothing of the sort. What I said was that chaps in the Navy who were aged 17 could go into active service areas and fight.
– That is what the Minister said.
– That is what I said. I did not refer to young fellows under the age of 17 in any Service other than the Navy. But the honorable member for Grayndler tried to interpret what I had said as a declaration that I was in favour of sending young cadets in military colleges or apprentice schools into active service areas. That was deliberate misrepresentation on his part. I mentioned that matter only to point out that the amendment envisaged by the Opposition would preclude fellows under the age of 18 from voting although there are some members of the defence forces who are under that age. 1 asked: Why should they be precluded from voting if they have signed up to serve in the forces for a number of years?
The honorable member for Grayndler also tried to give the impression that the long title of this Bill was deliberately worded so as to prevent debate on this clause, lt does not do that, Sir, but it does prevent the Opposition from ranging over the whole ambit of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We tried to prevent that from happening on this occasion. When a previous electoral measure was before the Parliament, though it was purely a machinery one, since it had no long title, Opposition members took up a whole day discussing their favorite electoral debating points, with particular reference to electoral quotas. They indulged in delaying tactics and then, at the end of the sessional period, attempted to use that delay as an excuse for complaining that they had not been allowed enough time to discuss vital subjects which, in any event, they were incapable of debating properly. The Opposition, apart from the limitation in respect of the amendment that it would like to propose with respect to this clause, was free to propose amendments to any of the eight clauses of this measure. But it has not seen fit to do so. As was indicated in the amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time, the Opposition does not oppose this measure. On the contrary, it goes along with it.
– Mr. Chairman, earlier this evening the Minister made a statement which, 1 suggest, he will regret for a long time to come and which will cause considerable concern to many people. Perhaps it is natural that he subsequently attempted to explain away what he had said. He attempted to explain away his remark by misquoting what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had said in stating that the Minister had declared that youths under the age of 18 were now liable, under the administration of this Government, to service in fighting areas and had then asked why they should not be given the right to vote.
– I referred only to young fellows in the Navy.
– The Minister now says that he referred only to those in the Navy. That is what the honorable member for Grayndler quoted him as having said.
– He did not.
– He quoted the Minister, quite correctly, as having said that members of the forces under the age of 18 were liable to service in fighting areas. The honorable member said nothing about the Army or the Air Force. He referred only to “ the forces “. The Minister himself now says that he agrees with that and says that what he said applied to the Navy. He says that the Government sends these kids into fighting areas and he then asks why they should not be given the right to vote. I believe that the Minister already regrets having made this statement, for it is a disclosure that will cause considerable concern among many people. Furthermore, having been found out in an error in claiming that the Curtin Labour Government did not seek to give the right to vote to all members of the defence forces, the Minister has now resorted to another tack here also. He has had to admit that the Curtin Government did endeavour to give the right to vote to all members of the defence forces.
– I did not deny that it endeavoured to do that.
– He cannot deny it now.
-I did not deny it before.
– He is unable to deny it. He has to admit that the efforts of the anti-Labour Opposition of that time led to restricting amendments to the Curtin Government’s legislation. In addition, the Minister has now come back with what I believe is a very silly statement indeed. He now asks: “ If the Labour Government believed in extending to all members of the defence forces the right to vote, why did it not introduce its legislation before 1943? “ The reason was indicated later by the Minister himself when he explained that the present Government had not considered it necessary to introduce the present measure until the approach of a general election. That is the present Government’s justification for the delay in introducing this measure, and it is the obvious reason why the Curtin Government did not introduce its legislation earlier.
I suggest to the Minister that the next point that he made was even sillier. He pointed out that after the 1943 general election the Labour Government had a majority in the Senate, and he then asked: “ If Labour believed in all members of the defence forces having the right to vote, why did it not legislate to extend this right to all members of the forces when it had a majority in the Senate? “ The Labour Government’s majority in the Senate did not become effective until 1st July 1944.
– I did not say otherwise.
– I am telling the Minister the date on which the Labour Government’s majority became effective.
Order! The honorable member for EdenMonaro is discussing again matters which were raised at the second reading stage and which are not strictly relevant to the clause at present before the Committee. I suggest to him that he has spent sufficient time on those matters.
– I shall conclude with this observation: There was no purpose in introducing further legislation at that stage because there was not to be another general election until 1946.
.- Mr. Chairman, I want to address myself to the definition of “ special service “ in proposed sub-section (4.) of section 39A of the principal Act. This relates to the point, that we are attempting to make in relation to this measure. In the view of honorable members on this side of the chamber, special service relates to service in the defence forces. We have yet to hear from the Minister any adequate reasons why there should be restrictions of the nature that he has outlined this evening. 1 rise also to correct some of the impressions that the Minister may have given to anyone who was listening to him, if everyone did not switch off as soon as he began to speak. He referred to the debate some 12 months ago on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965. A number of Opposition members refrained from participating in the second reading debate on that measure because we believed that we would have an adequate opportunity at. the Committee stage to discuss the matters about which we were concerned. However, clause after clause of that measure was gagged through the Committee by the Minister himself in the early hours of the morning. I resent the way in which in an attempt to stifle debate, he has chosen this evening to use every resource at his command, by taking advantage of fine points of parliamentary draftsmanship, as we have seen revealed in this Bill, of the Standing Orders and of his own personal position as a Minister in this place. After all, as a Minister, he has a special charter conferred on him by the Parliament. We have met for 22 or 23 days in this first part of the year. The Government now brings before the House what I believe is a fundamental issue - the question of our electoral provisions - and the Minister has used every technique and gimmick to restrict the debate. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I hope every honorable member in this House tonight will remember the tenor of the Minister’s remarks this evening and their significance to the parliamentary system of Government.
I believe that if we are going to do anything at all about the Electoral Act then what we do must have some universality. I believe it is wrong in principle for us to tinker with actual age groups.
It is a bad principle to bring into the Electoral Act any provision that does not include everybody in an age group. This touches a fundamental part of electoral procedures in this country. We may have drawn lines in the past because of service or areas of service, and there may well have been debates about those, but we live in a different age today. Indeed, young people are now being committed over whole fields of social endeavour at an earlier age than ever before. But I believe that the young people of this country are better tuned to the way politics and governments work. I appeal to honorable members opposite to take a second look at this question. If we are prepared to put young men into the Royal Australian Air Force and give them aeroplanes worth £3 million to fly around in, then it is not too much to ask that they also be given a ballot paper with which to help the country govern itself.
.- 1 want the Minister to enlarge upon his statement with relation to the 600 servicemen who will be eligible to vote under the new provisions. The figures I quoted earlier indicated that there were something like 3,100 members of the armed services overseas as at September 1965. Admittedly the Vietnam force is to be increased to 4,500, but I still have grave doubts that there will be 600 men under 21 years of age in the Army and the Air Force overseas even then.
I should like the Minister also to give the House an indication of how long one of our naval ships will have to be in this area before the members of its crew will become eligible to vote under the provisions which are being introduced by this Bill. If a Navy ship goes up there for three weeks, does that entitle all naval men on board who are under the age of 21 years to vote? Or is it proposed to stipulate that they have to be there for 90 days, 30 days, or some other period? The Minister did mention that he does not intend that the person who flies to New Zealand and back shall be covered by this legislation. What about the men on Navy ships which take troops to the battle areas and return immediately? Are they to be entitled to a vote? I would like the Minister to give me a breakdown of the 600 whom he says will now be entitled to vote under the new provisions because I very much doubt that there will be 600 persons under the age of 21 years in our forces in Vietnam even after the total number there is increased to 4,500.
.- I cannot allow to pass unchallenged certain statements which the Minister made. Firstly, I am sorry that he said that I misrepresented him. I clearly understood him to say that there were people under 18 years of age on vessels travelling to and from various places, that they could easily become involved in a conflict, and that he would give them a vote. He implied quite honestly in his statement that there were people well under 17 years of age going into such areas-
– I did not. I said people of 17 years of age.
– I do not know whether the Minister is aware of it, but the Navy will take as members of the defence forces, apprentices of from 15 to 17 years of age, the Army will enrol apprentices between the ages of 17 and 20 years, and the Royal Australian Air Force will take apprentices between 15 and 17 years of age. The Minister asked us tonight whether we would give these men a vote. He said himself that they could be in battle areas. If they are being sent to battle areas, then the Government is sending kids to war. The Minister also said that we could have moved a dozen amendments if we so desired. That is not an accurate statement of the position. We certainly could have moved amendments but they would have been ruled out of order immediately because once we move to extend the benefits at any stage, we go outside the ambit of the long title of the Bill. To have endeavoured in Committee to extend to all servicemen the right to vote, as we did during the second reading stage, would have been out of order because we would have been moving to extend the provisions of the Bill to cover something which would have been completely contrary to the intentions of the Bill.
I congratulate the Minister on the cunning, clever way in which he has tied up the debate on this issue and refused us an opportunity to extend the benefits of the legislation to all young men who are being conscripted to die. My understanding of the Standing Orders convinces me that it would be impossible for us to move any amendments in Committee. That is the only reason why we are not seeking to make extensive amendments to the legislation at this stage. I rise to put the matter right because 1 could not allow the Minister’s statement to go unchallenged. I regret that he thought I was misrepresenting him, but I believe that I was putting the right point of view.
– I have just dropped across something on which I should like a little elucidation. The Minister seems to be reluctant to answer questions. I think the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) is still waiting for an answer to a question he asked about the number of men who will benefit by this legislation. Can the Minister tell me what is going to happen to a person who is not a British subject but who is under 21 years of age and who volunteers for service overseas? Will he be given a vote?
– Of course not.
– That is very good to know. Not only is it what I expected to be the position but it also appears that this attitude has the approval of the Government. The Government is going to say to a person who is not a British subject: “ We will accept you as a volunteer. We will let you take the risk of sacrificing your life for this country but if you are not a British subject you are not to be given a vote.”
– Would you give a vote to non-British subjects?
– If a nonBritish subject is prepared to lay down his life for this country, I am prepared to give him a vote and the honorable member ought to be ashamed to call himself an Australian if he would refuse to do that.
– How does he get on to the roll?
– At the moment, it does not matter whether he gets on the roll. This Bill ought to be so framed as to ensure that he does go onto the roll because any non-British citizen of this country who is prepared to volunteer to take the risk of laying down his life for this country has as much right to be given the franchise as a person who was born here.
– You will be describing him as a hired mercenary next.
– I do not gel the honorable member’s point.
– That is my point.
– I do not get the honorable member’s point, and I do not think he gets it himself. The fact is that a prohibition has been deliberately inserted into this Bill to prevent a non-British citizen of this country who is under 21 years of age and who volunteers from getting the right to vote. The Minister need not come back and tell us that it is not possible for a non-British subject to volunteer to serve because I have just had the benefit of seeing a letter which the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Birrell) has received from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) in which it is stated that a non-British subject in Australia can volunteer for service. That being so. I now ask the Minister to get up off his hindquarters and tell us what is going to happen about such a person.
– First, in reply to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), 1 cannot give him a breakdown of the number of servicemen involved under this Bill. I have been given the total number that is expected to be involved. The latest figure that I have indicates that there are about 600 young men who would benefit from this legislation. That figure would rise as more national servicemen went into the active area. But I cannot give the honorable member a breakdown of the number involved in the various forces or in the various areas. So far as naval personnel are concerned, if they are allotted for special service in special areas they are eligible under this Bill. They need not be in the special areas involved as long as they are allotted for special service. For example, this could apply to those personnel allotted to a convoy escort vessel. Once those people leave to go to the special area they will be considered as being on special duty and will be entitled to vote. The point raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) referred to an alien in the defence forces. No person who is not a British subject will be entitled to a vote. This has always been a principle - one of the basic principles - of our electoral law. If a person becomes an Australian citizen or a British citizen he is entitled to a vote, but if he does not accept Australian citizenship he does not get a vote.
– I want to return, if 1 may, to the point I raised earlier. 1 can name for the Minister for the Interior a person who was not an Australian citizen but who received a vote during World War II. He served overseas. His name is Con Kiosses, of Grange Road, Grange. This fact can be checked. He had his name on the roll during the last war. When the war ended he was told that he was not permitted to buy land because he was an alien. I had to take his case up with the State Government of South Australia in order to obtain for him the right to buy a block of land in his own name. As one of the reasons for my asking the Minister concerned in South Australia to give him this right, I was able to point to the fact that he had served in the war, that his name was on the electoral roil and that he had voted. Yet he was told he was still an alien.
The Minister should not tell me that an alien cannot have the right to vote, because he can. It is no good for the Minister to shake his head and look worried about this. He ought to do more than that. He ought to get down to dealing with these things. He ought to say to the people who come to Australia: “If you are prepared to go out and fight for your new country, although you have not adopted it, it is true, then the Government is prepared to give you the right to vote “. It is not asking very much to ask the Government to give to the people fighting for this country, whether aliens or not, the right to vote. They are entitled to it and the Government has no right to deny it.
– We are now faced with a most shameful revelation. We should not make any mistake about that. There are thousands of young men in this country of alien birth who are of military age. The mere fact that in this Bill it is set out that no one other than British subjects are entitled to obtain a vote-
– Not in this Bill.
– It is set out in the Bill. Any person who is not a British subject is not entitled to a vote. That is correct. That would indicate quite clearly that this Government does anticipate that some aliens may enlist. The Government apparently will accept them as enlistments and then when their fighting mates are lined up alongside them the inequality will be most pronounced. One man will have a vote and one man will not have a vote. This matter comes down to this: Protection for the security of the defence forces is ensured the moment an alien takes the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen upon his enlistment. The taking of that oath of allegiance upon enlistment is as effective, I would say, as the renunciation of allegiance and the conferring of naturalisation at naturalisation ceremonies that has been going on in the past. After all, naturalisation ceremonies consist merely of the taking of an oath that a person will be loyal to Her Majesty. An alien cannot be enlisted until he has taken an oath of allegiance. Under those circumstances, I say that it is a shameful state of affairs that the Government, under the measure we are debating in this chamber tonight, should deprive an alien who enlists of the right to vote.
Clause agree to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- 1 want to pose a question to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) in a general way because it relates to these clauses. The last clause that we dealt with referred to special service. Only those who come within the scope of the definition of special service will be eligible to vote under this Bill. We are constantly told that Australia’s security is under attack; that we are threatened by Red China and the march of Communism. In effect our country is threatened and our security is threatened. Working on that basis, in line with Government thinking and the conscription by it of young men to defend this country, which we are told is in danger, if the Government is sincere would not Australia come under the definition of a special service area. Would not every man in Australia be entitled to a vote? If the Government is consistent in its thoughts that the threat is so great at this stage, every person in a camp in this country and who is in the defence forces should be eligible to vote because Australia would be a special area. On what grounds does the Government justify its claims that we face the threat of the march of Communism, and that it has to conscript boys into our defence forces to defend the country, if this is not a special area within the terms of this Bill? At the next elections everybody in camp should be entitled to vote, in accordance with the terms of this Bill. I merely pose that question to the Minister because if what the Government says is true then Australia is a special area. Otherwise the Government is putting up a phoney idea to conscript kids.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
– On Thursday afternoon last, 5th May, the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) informed the House that his room had been entered during the. early hours of that morning and that a number of his personal papers had been removed. The police investigation which was commenced when the robbery was reported to me earlier in the day has not yet been completed.
Since this second case of intrusion into a member’s room and the removal of documents, action has been taken to increase the internal security of the building, and further means to this end are under consideration. Honorable members will agree, however, that the best security results from individual precaution and that the way of an intruder and a thief is made more difficult if personal property of value or importance is kept under lock and key. Those members who do not have desk and door keys may obtain them from the Serjeant-at-Arms.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate did not press its request for the amendments which the House of Representatives had not made, and that the Senate agrees to the Bill.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Customs Bill 1966.
Therapeutic Goods Bill 1966.
Financial Agreement Bill 1966.
– I present the thirteenth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1526), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
.- The measure for consideration now is a Bill for an Act to make provision for the granting of financial assistance to the States of New South Wales and Queensland in relation to the alleviation of the effects of drought. I think I should point out that this measure is the last Bill that will be debated during this sessional period of the Parliament. The remarkable thing is that everybody knows that for at least 12 months, if not longer, drought has decimated the flocks and herds of Australia, caused untold suffering among the people who are farming in the areas affected, and plunged them into serious financial difficulties, yet this Government - the only one capable of making financial assistance available to these people -has delayed an announcement, and has taken no legislative action until the dying hours of this sessional period.
My recollections are that the concern of this Parliament about the drought was awakened some time in July and August of last year when honorable members - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), myself, other members of the Opposition and, indeed, some members of the Country Party - began to direct the attention of the Parliament to the seriousness of the situation. These honor able members pleaded strongly by question and by speech for some action to be taken by the national Parliament to ease the financial stringency of the people so badly affected. They urged the Parliament to adopt a line of action that would result in the economy of Australia being assisted through some restitution being made for the losses which were inflicted on the nation as a whole. Despite this considerable pressure, despite articles in rural journals, despite speeches in State Parliaments, despite criticism and despite leading articles in the daily Press of this country, practically nothing has been done. It is true that after long questioning at question time inthis House the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on 12th October - long enough after the attention of the Parliament had been directed to the matter - made a statement in which he outlined the measures which the Commonwealth Government was proposing to take to deal with the problem. In brief, he indicated that the general principle followed in regard to national disasters - drought, fire, floods and so on - was that the Premiers of the States affected, if they found that their financial ability to relieve the distress was inadequate, should approach the Commonwealth Parliament for financial assistance.
Now at this late stage a measure is brought down to give the Commonwealth Government the authority of this Parliament to provide certain financial assistance to the States of Queensland and New South Wales. On the face of it. when one reads the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon)-who, 1 am sorry to say, is not here tonight - this measure looks exceedingly generous in character. It is nothing of the sort’. It is one of the meanest things that has ever been done in the way of relief from the national Parliament since I have been a member of it. The proposals are that in this financial year the sum of SI 7 million will bc made available to New South Wales and S9 million-odd will be made available lo Queensland. Allowing for the few fractions involved it makes a total of some $25 million or, in the old currency, fi 2,500,000.
When we analyse the exceedingly brief outline given by the Treasurer in regard to the usage of this money we must be astonished and disappointed. When anybody hears an announcement thai legislation is to bc introduced to make a grant of $X million - in I his case $25 million - for drought relief he immediately thinks: That is good. Somebody is going to get some concessional money - the State and ultimately the people who are afflicted by the particlar problem. Then we read the explanation furnished by the Treasurer. He outlined, without the specific and necessary and intricate detail that should be given, the general principles on which this money will be available. This grant is made under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, which enables the Commonwealth Government lo make grants to the States for specific purposes. The Commonwealth is empowered to detail the specific purpose for which a grant is made. In this case we find that reference is made to the purposes, if any - in other words there may not bc any, although it is clearly laid down that the specific purposes can be set out by the Commonwealth.
Returning to the outline by the Treasurer we find that he said in his second reading speech -
The loan falls into the following five categories -
Loans for carry-on and restocking purposes where credit is not available through normal commercial channels . . . S14.SU million.
This means that the only people who will benefit from those loans will be those who were unable to obtain credit on sound security from the private trading banks. There is not a word about the rate of interest that will be charged. This Parliament, in granting financial assistance for the alleviation of distress, should be able to inform the people, through the members who speak in this Parliament, exactly what the rate of interest will be on the loans that will be made available by the States to the unfortunate sufferers. But there is not a word about it, the interest rale is nol mentioned. The amount that will be available under this category is SI 4.5 million. This is a lot of money, but when we read the Treasurer’s speech closely we find that this is not a non-repayable grant of money to the States. The States will lend the money at a certain rate of interest to the unfortunate sufferers, it will later recover the money and then return it lo the Commonwealth Treasury. That is not a grant, it is a loan. We do not know the interest rate, of course, but we do know that inevitably and with due exactitude the money will be recovered by the States, which are required under the terms of this Bill to return it to the Commonwealth Government. It is true that if there are concessional rates of interest - and we do not know what the rates will be - there will possibly be a loss incurred by the Treasury.
Then the Treasurer referred to the second category in these terms -
This is not a loan. This is an expenditure which the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland will incur and have been incurring. There is nothing to specify what the freight rate will be or anything of that sort. This debit has probably already been incurred by the two State Governments, and it would appear that the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland will not suffer a financial loss or a budgetary difficulty because the Commonwealth will come up with the sum of $4.75 million. The Treasurer then referred to the next category -
Here again I would say that as far as the States are concerned this is possibly - and only possibly - a dead loss. On the other hand the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland may make a proviso that these are special loans to the municipalities concerned; the money will be repayable and it will not be a dead loss. In due course under the terms of the legislation, as I interpret it, anything that is recovered by the New South Wales Government from the municipalities concerned in the payment of principal and interest will be recouped by the Commonwealth Government. It might not be much, but it might be something. We are entitled to have from the Minister some details regarding the sum of $4.60 million.
I come now to a very interesting category, about which no details are furnished and no outline is given of what is envisaged. Nothing is said of what has already been done, or of anything else. The category reads -
Assistance in respect of the Queensland sugar industry. (The Commonwealth has agreed to contribute a total amount of SI. 75 million).
The estimated requirements in the 1965-66 provision is for $.75 million. The remarkable feature of this category is that it is the only one which indicates that the Commonwealth has agreed to contribute an amount larger than the amount which will be immediately available this year. The Commonwealth has agreed to contribute $ 1.75 million and the estimated requirements for 1965-66 are S.75 million. In the Bill, of course, the authority of the Commonwealth is limited specifically to the present financial year. Why is a specific extra amount stated for the sugar industry? I have no doubt that the needs of the sugar industry are desperate, but they are no more desperate than are the needs of the people who have suffered losses of flocks and herds on the parched plains of outback New South Wales and Queensland.
Why is the sugar industry in Queensland accorded special treatment? The sugar interests are to receive $1 million more, not this year, but next year. Not a word is said about the other poor devils in the rural industries receiving anything more next year. It is true that the Minister explains at the end of his second reading speech that there will be other appropriations if it is necessary. That explanation would have also covered the sugar industry. Is this one of those vote catching devices with which the Government, already in bad favour with the Queensland sugar industry, is trying to curry favour and snatch something back by holding something out specifically - a definite amount for the sugar industry as compared with the other drought sufferers? Perhaps the Minister can explain it away. I hope he will. But in any case, we do not know whether this is a dead loss to New South Wales and the Commonwealth, or whether the sum of $1.75 million spread over more than 12 months will be distributed amongst the sugar growers as a loan, repayable at a rate of interest over a period for which any loan may be obtained.
In the explanatory statement of the Treasurer - T will quote it directly - it is quite clear that it is anticipated that any money advanced by way of loan will flow back to the Commonwealth Treasury. One begins to analyse it and to say: “ What will be left? What is the amount that the Commonwealth Government is actually contributing in the form of an irrecoverable grant? “ As far as I can see it will be pretty slim. I make these charges because the Government is guilty of not giving adequate information to the House. Worse still it is guilty of not giving adequate information to the people of Australia, particularly those who are suffering because of the drought. Inquiries continue to come in from people all over the affected areas. They want to know how much they can get by way of relief and what the interest rates will be.
Let us come to the fifth category of assistance outlined by the Treasurer. He said that this would come from interest on treasury-bills made available temporarily to finance drought measures and minor miscellaneous items of expenditure in relation to the drought. The estimated requirements in this financial year under this category are $400,000. The States will get that amount because they have been able to get advances from the Treasury lo finance some of their drought relief work, lt would appear that the Commonwealth will be making a straight-out grant in this case of $400,000.
Lest there be any doubt about the allegations I have made, 1 will quote from the Treasurer’s second reading speech. He said -
Honorable members will recall that some time ago the Commonwealth gave an undertaking to assist the States in this way. In particular, we agreed, in effect, to underwrite State expenditure on all drought measures they found necessary, including loans provided by them for restocking purposes. To ensure that the States would not be impeded in undertaking such measures by any shortage of cash, we have made finance available to them on an interim basis pending the passage of this legislation.
At this stage we cannot know precisely how much we will need to pay to the two States in this financial year to cover their outlays on drought measures. The State Governments themselves, however, have estimated that their expenditures this financial year will amount to approximately $25 million, made up of $16.5 million for New South Wales and $8.5 million for Queensland. To provide for the possibility that these estimates may be exceeded, the Bill before the House provides for payment of up to $17 million lo New South Wales and up to $9 million to Queensland. The precise amounts to be paid to the two Stales will, of course, depend on the trend of their actual expenditures and on their actual requirements.
The fact that the Bill specifies certain amounts for payment in 1965-66 does not mean that the Government has placed any limit on the assistance to be made available to the two Stales for drought relief purposes. We have made it clear that we will continue to assist the Slates to finance their drought measures as far as necessary and for as long as necessary. Accordingly, the Bill provides for the payment of such further amounts of assistance as Parliament shall, from lime to time, appropriate. Clearly, further assistance will be needed next year, although at this stage we cannot predict how much will be required.
But the Government predicted and provided another amount for the sugar industry. The Treasurer continued -
Wc will, 1 expect, be making provision for payment of further assistance . . .
Now I come to the part I have been searching for -
The Bill does not set out the precise terms and conditions for the Commonwealth assistance, but leaves them to be determined by the Commonwealth Treasurer.
The Commonwealth Treasurer will determine terms and conditions of Commonwealth assistance. The grants will be made under section 96 of the Constitution, which empowers the Commonwealth to make grants on specific conditions. I take no exception to this but I do take exception to (he fact that the Parliament has not been informed of the terms and conditions that have been determined or will be determined. The Opposition and the people in the country are entitled to have this information. The Treasurer continued -
This will provide flexibility to deal wilh any circumstances that might arise. As regards the measures currently being undertaken by the Slates, however, the terms of assistance have been agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the two States concerned.
Then we come to the general statement. 1 hope that the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), who is at the table, will explain this statement -
In general, the Commonwealth assistance will cover expenditure by the States on drought relief measures and also on certain drought rehabilitation measures.
The assistance falls into the categories which I have already outlined. The Minister continued -
The assistance provided by the Commonwealth lo the States of New South Wales and Queensland will lake the form of outright grants except in cases where the funds arc used by the States for making repayable loans.
The amount made available for repayable loans is $14 million. So it is a comeback from the States to the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth is giving nothing away. lt might perhaps recoup the interest loss, but it will recoup nothing as far as the capital is concerned, and this should be understood.
The Minister continued -
In terms of the States’ estimates of their requirements in 1965-66, nearly $10 million will take the form of outright grants and just over $15 million will take the form of repayable advances.
That is quite clear. The Minister continued -
The Commonwealth will make these advances available on an interest free basis-
That will be a loss -
All that means is that the money is distributed to the farmer by the States as a repayable loan, with no interest in the first two years. But just when he begins to look his creditors in the face he has not only the payment for the interest-free two years landed on him but also the interest for the current period of the loan. The speech continued -
The States will be charging interest at concessional rates-
Again there is no outlay on the loans - . . on their loans but they will be meeting the administrative costs and, within reasonable limits any losses which may arise. If, however, such losses prove to be beyond the financial resources of the States at the time the Commonwealth has undertaken to come to their aid.
Then we get the humdinger at the end of the story. The Minister said -
This assistance is certainly the most generous ever provided by a Commonwealth Government in this sort of situation.
I would like the Minister for Air to tell the House, before the debate ends, exactly what is the Treasury estimate of the dead debit on the Commonwealth Treasury when this business is all cleared up. There must be an estimate, but the Treasurer will not know whether this is the most generous assistance in the history of the Commonwealth until this matter is cleared up. I do not want to tire the House, but I could quote the assistance given in the droughts of 1944, 1946 and 1947 by the then Commonwealth Government. That assistance was given without means tests or interest charges and consisted of absolutely free grants. If we take into consideration the depreciation in the value of the pound since then, those grants amount to a very much more substantial loss than the Commonwealth Treasury will contribute in this case. It is a vainglorious boast, without foundation in fact, to say that this is the most generous assistance ever given. And there has been no attempt by the Treasury or the Treasurer himself to explain how these will eventually become the most generous grants in the Commonwealth’s history. Then we come to this passage in the speech -
It has. of course, been complemented by what is being done through the monetary system. In that area, of course, the trading banks, strongly supported by the Reserve Bank, have been doing an excellent job in providing farmers with assistance. As to restocking, which will largely be a matter for the trading banks, the new arrangements for the Farm Development Loan Funds can be expected to make a valuable contribution.
Unfortunately, in north west New South Wales and to some extent in south west Queensland, the drought still persists.
Then hope is expressed that more rain will fall, and so on. The assistance by the trading banks is, of course, Commonwealth assistance, which we have been told by the Treasurer is designed to help provide finance in this dreadful drought. What it amounts to is that greater access to immediate long term finance for farm development purposes will be available. The Treasurer outlined the proposals, which were to include measures for drought recovery purposes and for mitigation of future droughts.
It was proposed to establish a separate Rural Division within the Commonwealth Development Bank. Of course, this is only a fairy tale, and I suggest that the Rural Division, if it is to be within the Development Bank, will be at the other end of the counter from the ordinary business of the bank and an applicant for assistance will be dealt with by the same officers. He may get slightly better assistance at slightly higher interest rates than he would at the other end of the counter. This will mean nothing to the people most concerned.
A person does not go to the Development Bank until he has been to a private trading bank, had his financial position examined and been told: “ You are not so hot “. When he gets to the Development Bank, if he is very lucky he may get a loan on less sound security than would be required by a trading bank. If it is a farm term loan that the person is seeking - and the Treasurer gave it this fancy name - he might get in by a whisker and get something out of this new division of the Development Bank.
Another proposal was the establishment by the trading banks of farm loan funds. I have ascertained that they already have term loan funds. I have been studying the private banking system’s recent report on rural credit, and the private banks have what they call “ term loans “ whereby they lend money to rural industries on overdraft. Now they will issue loans to producers for 7, 10 or 15 years at specified rates of interest. The Government has used the additional word “ farm “ and this means of credit is now called “ farm term loans “. Is this a new discovery? Is this something out of the magic box? People will be able to get this sort of credit from the Commonwealth Development Bank if they are lucky: They will never get it from the private trading banks unless their position is mighty sound. What is proposed is the establishment by the trading banks of farm loan funds separate from the existing term loan funds. For this purpose $50 million will be made available.
We are told that there is to be an exploration of an insurance scheme. Why? This is intended to protect not the Development Bank and its new Rural Division but the private trading banks which might or might not give the farmer something out of the farm loan fund. This situation has not been explained and honorable members are left up in the air about it. The insurance scheme is to cover losses made by the proposed farm loan funds. We were informed that legislative action was not necessary because there had been a meeting between the Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Treasurer and the private trading banks. So far as the Development Bank and its little Rural Division at the other end of the counter are concerned, all this talk of farm loan funds is mere camouflage. If the Government expresses the wish that money be made available for the purposes intended the Governor of the Reserve Bank knows that if he does not give effect to that wish all the Treasurer needs to do under Labour introduced legislation is to direct that the money be made available.
The Treasurer told us how this scheme was going to work. He said that there had been a conference with the general managers of the private banks and with the Governor of the Reserve Bank and that a general agreement had been arrived at. They were in general agreement with the proposals, but further discussions were to be held. Those discussions were held and we were told that the private banks were taking immediate action. This happened the week before last, but what has been happening to the rural section of our economy since then? The Farm Development Loan Fund is to be set up by the transfer - and this is where the catch lies - of $50 million from the trading banks’ resources to accounts kept by the trading banks with the Commonwealth Reserve Bank. This is a great manoeuvre. It is like a military manoeuvre. It is to be called the Farm Development Loan Fund.
Two thirds of the $50 million will come from the trading banks’ statutory reserve deposits with the Reserve Bank and one third from the trading banks’ assets. An amount equivalent to .4 per cent, of the banks’ deposits, or approximately $21 million, will be transferred to the existing term loan fund account. A proportion of the term loan fund account will be applied to rural lending. Loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be made available by the trading banks to rural producers. Outsiders will not generally share in this arrangement. In a time of financial stringency, when men need funds to restock their farms, restore their pastures and rehabilitate themselves, I am not quarrelling with the release of $50 million from the statutory reserve deposits held by the Commonwealth Reserve Bank. But I am quarrelling with the Government’s attempt to make out that it is doing something very wonderful. All it is doing is arranging for the release of this $50 million. Having secured $50 million from the Commonwealth Reserve Bank, the private trading banks then start to lend it to the rural producers of Australia al current loan rates, which today are approximately 6 per cent, or 7 per cent.
– Are they paying any interest to the Reserve Bank?
– Yes, very small interest. It means the release of more money for the private trading banks from the reserves which the Commonwealth Reserve Bank holds for them. They will make a handsome income as a result of the disastrous circumstances in which the producers of this country find themselves. This Government has the effrontery to talk about this release of money as being some great revolution in rural finance. When the drought relief proposals are boiled down they mean very little. All that they will probably mean will be a net loss to the Commonwealth Treasury of an amount not exceeding £3 million. I do not believe in losses if they can be avoided. But there will be some loss, and it is right that the Commonwealth should bear it. But for the Government to talk about loan funds as grants is downright hypocrisy. The money is to be loaned for a term at a rate of interest. The Commonwealth will lose as far as the concessional rate is concerned, I take it.
When 1 come to examine the scheme I can see great truth in what the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) told this Parliament today about the Treasury. I am an admirer of the Commonwealth Treasury and its officials. It has produced a Coombs and a Wilson. It has produced directors of international banks and men who are now members of food and agricultural organisations throughout the world. It has produced men who serve in the various organisations of the United Nations. It has produced men of rather extraordinary capabilities and of mighty ability and versatility. But it must never be forgotten by the Parliament, the Treasury and the Minister that because the Treasuryhas trained and acquired a mighty staff the Government ought not necessarily to accept the advice of the Treasury officers. The advice is given to the Government in good faith. The officers would not be worth their salt if they did not give the advice in good faith. But the Treasurer has the responsibility of making the final determination as to what extent he will commit the Commonwealth and the taxpayers of Australia in a particular expenditure. I am satisfied that this Government is tottering to its doom. It no longer has any initiative. It says to its Treasury officers: “ Work out a scheme for us that will give some relief to these poor devils in Queensland and New South Wales “. Of course, the trained Treasury officers, whose duty it is to protect the Commonwealth funds and to advise the Treasurer as to the best way to get out of everything at a minimum cost, work out the most satisfactory scheme from their point of view. I have worked with Treasury officers and I have had to fight for what I wanted all the way. I have admired them for the way they have done their work, but finally I have had to say what I wanted. But this Government now believes that what goes for its advisers goes for it. We have had many illustrations of this in the Parliament. I do not think that anyone can deny that the Government is going from bad to worse. 1 expect the Minister to give me this information: What is the estimated loss? What are the commitments already made by the New South Wales Government? What rate of interest is being charged to the people who receive money from the
New South Wales Government? That is the type of information I seek. I would also like to know what extra profit will be made by the private trading banks from the release to them of an additional $50 million to lend. It is a bonanza. It reminds me of the occasion a few years ago when the Commonwealth Government arranged for the release of money from the Reserve Bank. The Press carried the admission on the following day that this meant an extra profit of £5 million to the private trading banks. A Commonwealth Treasurer issued licences to the private trading banks to enable them to open savings banks, although (his service was already provided by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and by government banks in every State. The profits from the State banks and the Commonwealth Bank are used for public activities, such as housing loans. But the Commonwealth handed this privilege to the private trading banks. By the Lord Harry, the Government must have had handsome gifts into its Party’s funds for elections.
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting away from the Bill before the House.
– I suggest that the release of $50 million for rural finance will be worth a few shillings for the Government Parties at the next election. I think it is time that members of the Australian Country Party voiced their protest about this sort of activity and advocated that the issue of credit to rural communities, and, for that matter, to the rest of the people, be left to the institution that is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia and which has been operated so successfully. I had a look at the balance sheet of the Reserve Bank recently. It is something of which we can be proud. The profit for this year is £23 million, of which £15 million came from the issue of bank notes, which were once called “ Fisher’s flimsies “. Another £500,000 came from the Rural Credits Department and £7 million or £8 million from another source. Despite the Government’s friendship with the private banking system and despite its efforts to give the private banking system extra business whenever it can, the Commonwealth Bank grows and grows. 1 hope the day will arrive when the Commonwealth Bank will be the only bank and will mop up the exploiters in the banking system. This would be to the eternal benefit of the people of Australia.
Because of the paucity of information, I move the following amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ while welcoming the measure of drought relief provided by the Bill the House is of opinion that the Bill should state in more precise terms the manner in which it is intended that the assistance will be distributed “.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
Friday, 13th May 1966.
Dr. PATTERSON (Dawson) 1 12.25 a.m.]. - Mr. Deputy Speaker, the concept of the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill inasmuch as it provides funds to those people who are needy because of the ravages of drought is an admirable one. J support the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) strongly in his point that the Bill tells the House and anybody who is interested in this problem precisely nothing as to how this assistance is to work. As the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out with numerous examples, it is extremely difficult to ascertain in any of the categories that have been set out in the Bill how the provisions will apply. When we look at the second reading speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) we find, as the honorable member for Lalor pointed out, that the Bill does not set out the precise terms and conditions of the Commonwealth assistance. The Treasurer said -
The Bill docs not set out the precise terms and conditions for the Commonwealth assistance, but leaves them to be determined by the Commonwealth Treasurer.
That must be one of the classical statements of all time. The Bill does not set out anything. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say that the precise terms and conditions of the assistance will be determined by the Commonwealth Treasurer. What we want is some information as to how the provisions of this Bill work with respect to the loans or grants as outlined in the Bill. Looking at the Treasurer’s second reading speech, we find a number of interesting points. For instance, when discussing the method of making advances, the Treasurer stated -
The Commonwealth will make these advances available on an interest free basis, repayable over a period of 10 years but without any repayments in the first 2 years.
That is all very nice. But why is this provision not in the Bill? Why is it not attached as a schedule to the Bill? The Treasurer goes on to say -
The States will be charging interest at concessional rates on their loans but they will be meeting the administrative costs and, within reasonable limits, any losses which may arise.
He goes on to make a most important statement. lt is this -
If, however, such losses prove to be beyond the financial resources of the States at the time, the Commonwealth has undertaken to again come to their aid.
Where has the Commonwealth undertaken this? There is no undertaking in the Bill that says this. All there is in the Bill is the flat amount of $26 million for disbursement in New South Wales and Queensland. The statement by the Treasurer that the Commonwealth has undertaken to again come to the aid of the States if losses are beyond their financial resources is a most important provision. I suppose that if it is written in the Minister’s second reading speech and the statement is to be found in “ Hansard “ also, we can only believe it. But one would have thought that this provision would have been attached to the Bill in schedule form. The Treasurer then made the statement - 1’ believe that the scheme of Commonwealth assistance which has been agreed with the Slates. . .
If the scheme has been agreed with the States, why is that agreement not in the Bill also? Here we see the Treasurer jumping from one extreme to the other extreme. We are used to seeing in most of the Bills put forward by the Treasurer almost waterlight provisions applying to repayments of advances and so forth, almost to the nth degree. Here, it seems that a blank cheque is provided. It is said: “ Spend it how you like, but do not go over the amount of £26 million.” Even in the explanation in connection with the estimated requirements and the requirements for 1965-66, there is no division between New South Wales and Queensland. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, it is remarkable to see SI. 75 million for the sugar industry and yet for 1965-66 only $.75 million was estimated to be required. On this question of sugar, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is at the table, I should like to ask how the sugar loan scheme works because I have been besieged during the last week by cane farmers in my electorate who have asked me to explain to them or to provide information to show how it works. I asked the Treasurer a question last week to find out how it works, but he became extremely upset and said that I was trying to suppress information. In his reply to me he said that I would have to wait for five or six days to get the answers. I have not been given the answers, nor has the House.
I should like to state to the Minister for Primary Industry how I think the sugar loan works and perhaps he can then enlighten me on whether my interpretation is right or wrong. It would seem that the Sugar Board has recently estimated that the No. 1 pool price for sugar for the 1965 season will be about S85 per ton for 94 n.t. sugar. On the basis of ces. of 12.8, 14 and 15 respectively, this would result in cane prices of $7, $8 and $8.80 with respect to that price estimated by the Sugar Board. On the basis of this calculation, where the mill levy is, say, 50c per ton, the Government apparently would be prepared to lend the full amount of the levy where the cane price is based on a ces. of less than 12.8. In the case of cane between, say, 12.8 and 14 ces., the full levy would be lent if the grower produced less than 80 per cent, of his farm peak, but if the grower produced up to the full level of his farm peak the loan would be limited to 35c per ton. If we go on to cane between 14 and 15 ces., the grower could borrow the full loan only if the full crop was less than 70 per cent, of his farm peak. At the full peak of production the amount of the loan would be 40 per cent. If this does not sound double Dutch to every honorable member then I do not know what it is. This is how I think the scheme works and I should like the Minister for Primary Industry to tell me whether I have stated the position correctly. How can I or the honorable member for Lalor go back and explain to people in our electorates how the loan works if the Treasurer does not tell us?
What am I supposed to tell the cane farmer? Should I tell him to read the “ Courier Mail “, to read a magazine or something else because no-one in this place has told us? I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry will tell us how it works.
– What about the cane growers supplying co-operatives?
– The same thing applies to cane growers supplying cooperatives, proprietary mills and those having other arrangements in this regard. It would seem here that there is a possibility that there may be no benefit for those cane growers supplying sugar to proprietary mills for example. It is a very serious situation when this House cannot obtain this information. Surely one would expect that in a Bill as important as this we should be able to ask that a series of schedules bc placed at the end of the Bill, not going into detail such as 1 have wilh respect to sugar, but at least explaining fairly broadly how the provisions work.
I come now to a point which will interest members of the Country Party. I was most interested to read in the Treasurer’s statement about the role of the trading banks and the Reserve Bank and his statement that they were doing an excellent job in providing farmers with assistance. Perhaps they do give assistance in some areas, but there are certain areas which are vital to the Commonwealth today where the Reserve Bank, private banks and the Development Bank are not satisfying the role that they are supposed to be filling. I am now making a statement of fact. Recently, in regard to brigalow farmers, 1 asked the Treasurer this question -
How many brigalow farmers in the brigalow scheme have been supported by the Bank -
That is, the Commonwealth Development Bank -
The number of settlers who have approached the Development Bank for finance is 26. Loans for nine of these have been approved and seventeen have been declined.
This is a scheme in which the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government are vitally interested. The Commonwealth is plunging ahead in one of the most difficult areas - brigalow area No. 3. I sincerely hope that somehow or other the Commonwealth has instructed the Queensland Government to make better financial arrangements for the brigalow settlers so that they may get more help from the Development Bank. If they are not getting help from the Development Bank, they most certainly are not getting any from the Reserve Bank or from the private trading banks. These unfortunate settlers have had to go to hire purchase firms and to pay outrageous rates of interest. This is quite inconsistent with the Treasurer’s statement about the great role that is being played by the banks in drought stricken areas.
These particular grants, admirable as they are, are only temporary measures. They will be used to alleviate the present problems of producers. But in the longer term, as members of the Australian Country Party and Opposition members have said in recent weeks, this Government must do something in eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales to alleviate permanently the drastic and ravaging effects of drought. I refer to the need for water conservation. Certainly in western New South Wales, western Queensland and the arid areas of the Northern Territory not much can be done to conserve water. The great advantage to be derived from drought loans is the opportunity to restock. I conclude by saying that I support the amendment.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) 1.12.38 a.m.]. - I do not oppose any measure that makes funds available for drought relief. Indeed, I am very pleased that funds have been made available for this purpose. However, I am concerned about the delay in announcing the details of the scheme for Queensland and New South Wales, because it seems that an announcement about the details of a similar scheme for the Northern Territory has been held up pending the working out of the details of the scheme we are now considering. The drought has affected producers in the area that I represent. They have been waiting for approximately eight months for a scheme for the Northern Territory to be finalised. As long ago as August 1965 the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) announced short term measures to tide producers over and to give them a reasonable prospect of being able to carry on. In a letter that he wrote to me on 8th February the Minister said -
The situation of pastoralists in relation to the drought has been kept under constant attention. It is the Commonwealth Government’s policy that drought assistance shall be provided to pastoralists in the Northern Territory in ways adapted to the Territory’s particular circumstances and at a standard not less than that provided by State Governments. lt seems that producers in the Northern Territory will have to wait for a scheme to be worked out that will satisfy the requirements of New South Wales and Queensland before they themselves can get any relief.
I believe that relief measures should be finalised in general terms before a drought has actually commenced. It is important to a person who is affected by drought to know what his future commitments will be and what the future holds for him. He wants to know whether it will pay him to dispose of stock and whether, when the drought breaks in three months, five months or six months’ time, assistance will be given to him to restock or to supplement the stock that he has been able to pull through the dry time. If no announcement on the matter is made by the Government, he has no alternative but to sell stock and not to take the risk of trying to pull them through in the hope that a measure of relief will be granted to him at the end of the dry period. My protest is against the fact that no announcement has been made in respect of drought conditions in the Northern Territory, despite the fact that the drought developed to an acute stage there much earlier than it did in New South Wales and Queensland. That is a Commonwealth Territory and the Commonwealth could have worked out a scheme for it much earlier than this. The Government did not have to wait for examination of the complexities and problems associated with the effects of the drought on primary production in New South Wales and Queensland, where there is a greater diversity of activities among pastoralists and farmers.
In the Northern Territory there is the clearcut situation of cattle raising. Anybody with the resources available to the Commonwealth through the agency of the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Animal Industry Branch of the Northern Territory Administration could have set to work long before this and worked out a scheme so that the primary producers in the Territory could have known when the drought broke what their position would be. But, even at this stage, we still have to wait on the working out of terms. I do not know when they will be worked out. It may well be months before they are determined. In the meantime, what is to happen to pastoralists who want to restock? Have they to wait for some time yet before they can even make inquiries about restocking? It is of no use for them to make inquiries if they do not know what financial assistance will be forthcoming. All these things will have to be worked out before primary producers can even attempt to plan. I suggest that as matters are proceeding, many primary producers in the Northern Territory, even if they do not go broke, will be much worse off in six months than they are now. All the details of a drought relief scheme for the Territory could have been worked out long before now. I protest at the Commonwealth Government’s delay in making provision for drought relief for primary producers in its own Territory. Pastoralists and primary producers in the Northern Territory experience problems akin to those encountered in New South Wales and Queensland, but the complexities involved in working out a scheme of relief are not so great, and provision to meet the needs of the Territory’s pastoralists, especially in the Centre, should have been made much sooner than this.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the amendment proposed by the Opposition will be supported only by those who do not want the funds provided for in this measure to be allocated for drought relief, as the terms of the amendment represent a device by which a bill is thrown out. That is the only construction that one can put on the proposal. It will be interesting to see how many Opposition members vote against the allocation of S25 million for drought relief by supporting the amendment. I do not want to say much about the questions that have been asked. The Commonwealth Government has given an undertaking to underwrite all the moneys that New South Wales and Queensland require for drought relief. That undertaking is plain enough. Indeed, we go further and say that if more is wanted we shall meet the requests of the States. The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) has asked what is meant by the phrase “ if more is wanted “. Does he think that we would not honour the word of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) given to a Premier by letter? Of course we would honour it. If more assistance is required, the Government will have to ask the Parliament later to vote more funds for these purposes. That is exactly what our undertaking means.
The States are the administering authorities in matters relating to drought relief. They determine the methods by which relief shall be given, the manner in which loans are to be made and rebates on freights, for they control the railways. Indeed they determine all matters relating to drought relief. Applications for assistance are submitted to local authorities and passed on to the State authorities which determine the action that is to be taken. The Commonwealth merely says: “ You may have loan moneys free of interest for 10 years and free of repayments for two years “. A grant is a grant. We do nol gel it back. There is a grant for SIO million. A loan for $15 million is provided, without interest, for 10 years. This is more reasonable treatment than has ever been given before, in spite of what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) says, because any assistance that the Government of which he was a member gave was on a £1 for £1 basis. The States had to find their £1 before they got £1 from the Commonwealth. The statement of the Treasurer is correct. This is generous assistance. It is unlimited, because we do not know when this drought will end. We are not waiting to find out the precise terms on which assistance will be given to this farmer or to that farmer. That is a function of the State Government. State Governments have gone ahead for all of this time and given assistance. We are providing the funds. They have been able to draw on treasury bills when they wanted to. This Bill validates that procedure and provides the necessary money. If more is wanted, this generous Government will meet requirements.
Original 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.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The subject I wish to raise tonight is a means by which television might be provided in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. Although I was extremely doubtful, I had hoped it would not be necessary for me to deal with this matter in this chamber but that it would be debated at some length in another place. Unfortunately, it would seem now that the possibility of that happening is very remote, so I am obliged to bring the matter forward at this late hour. Honorable members are aware that the Broadcasting and Television Act lays down that no person shall have control of more than two television stations. This naturally acts as a deterrent to any interested company or syndicate against setting up a low powered station in a less populated area where the return would be very small compared with the return from a high powered station in an area where there was a large population. A company, naturally, would not be prepared to set up a station in a less populated area and thereby use one of the permissible licenses if there was a possibility of using that licence, say, in a city area.
At a meeting held in Kalgoorlie just recently a representative of TVW7 said that the only way his principals could see commercial television coming to Kalgoorlie or Geraldton was by package stations owned either locally or by stations elsewhere. He went on to say that the Government considers that control of the programmes means control of the station. If this is correct, the significance of it can readily be realised
Adjournment. 1855 because, if a syndicate of local business people wanted to set up a station with the idea of obtaining programmes from either channel 7 or channel 9, they would be in immediate difficulties because channel 7 or channel 9 would be required to exercise a licence which, of course, it would not be prepared to do in the present circumstances.
It was stated here by either the present Postmaster-General or his predecessor that it is extremely unlikely that a commercial television station could be established in the towns 1 have mentioned because of the licence and revenue position. There is a strong feeling in both Kalgoorlie and Geraldton that local business people would be prepared to set up low powered stations in those places if the Act were amended in such a way that control of the stations would not be taken to represent the exercise of one of the two permissible licences. With this idea in view, representatives from Kalgoorlie and Geraldton districts, at the meeting to which I referred earlier, decided that the Government should be asked to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act accordingly. Therefore, I take this opportunity to bring the matter before the House and ask that the request be given reasonably early and favorable consideration.
I do not think I need canvass the necessity for a station in these areas or the value of television to the districts generally, because the House and the PostmasterGeneral have been told, of these things on several occasions and are well aware of the position. I do want to point out, however, that the people of both districts are only looking at the idea of low powered stations with relation to commercial stations because, as has been said, it is not likely that high powered commercial stations will be set up in those lesser populated areas. We are still of the firm opinion that a high powered national television station, with a service equivalent to that provided for Perth, should be established. With that in mind the meeting to which I have referred moved that a television link be included in the interstate broad band communication system, and that the system be completed as soon as it is possible to do so, at least between Perth and Kalgoorlie; and, further, that the system also be extended northwards from Perth as soon as possible to give a service [12 St 13 May 1966.] to Geraldton and district. That is but a rough outline of the text of the resolutions carried. No doubt the Postmaster-General has been notified by the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce and will be aware of their exact wording. I hope he can at least give some indication of the possibility of the resolutions being successful.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I was hoping that it would not be necessary for me to raise this matter in the House and that it would be dealt with in another place. The reason I said that was that a Liberal senator from Western Australia put on a great act about how he was going to have the matter ventilated by a private member’s bill. He was given a great writeup in the Western Australian newspapers and the people in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton expected great things of him. Personally, 1 was a bit cynical. Anyway, I understand that the senator concerned took the matter before a meeting of his Party and got leave to bring in a Bill. It was reported in the Press that he did not meet with any opposition from any of the members of the Government.
The people concerned in the areas took the view that as the Postmaster-General and other Ministers would be at the meeting the proposition to be advanced must have been favorable to every Government member and that it would fly through the Senate without any trouble. The Bill was introduced and I understand no one spoke to the motion that it be read a first time, not even the proposer of the motion, and it has not been heard of since. That was three weeks ago. It has been on the bottom of the notice paper since then and I gather that it will remain there at least for this sessional period.
I would not have raised the matter tonight if I thought the Senate might deal with it tomorrow, but as that seems unlikely and as there will not be further sittings after tomorrow for three months or so, I thought I would give the Postmaster-General an opportunity to give us some information because I do not think that the people of Kalgoorlie and Boulder, who were kidded into a feeling of great expectation by the senator in question, should be left in suspense for a further three months.
There can be no doubt that as a result of the great write-up in the Western Australian newspapers the people of that Stale expected to see some definite and extensive action taken to extend commercial television to both Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, but it is now quite obvious that the Government party meeting offered no objection to a bill being introduced into the Senate simply because there was never any intention of allowing the bill to see the light of day. It would be the height of foolishness to suggest that the main actor in that particular vaudeville was not aware of the actual position. In fact, he would have known the position long before he sought the Press publicity and that is certainly no credit to him. I would be very pleased if. through this action tonight, the matter were raised in the Senate tomorrow and debated fully. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to wait until tomorrow to find out whether the Senate will deal with it because I would not then have the opportunity to raise it in this place. I should like to thank the Postmaster-General for making one of the senior members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board available to attend the meeting in Kalgoorlie. I can assure him that the member was well received and that all in attendance appreciated his visit and what he had to say. I appreciate the PostmasterGeneral’s co-operation. I sincerely hope that when we return in August, or whenever we return, the Broadcasting and Television Act will be brought before us for amendment as suggested, and that we will learn that a start has been made on this broad band link system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.58 a.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660512_reps_25_hor51/>.