25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 9.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GRIFFITHS.- My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Does the Minister and his Government approve of the despicable and cowardly action of the State mine superannuation authorities in disturbing the status quo which has always existed in relation to Commonwealth social service and mine workers pensions until the recent increase? Could the reduction of $2 a fortnight to miners’ widows apply to mine pensioners also under section 13 of the mine superannuation legislation? Was the opinion of the Minister sought about the legality of the action taken? Who was responsible for the legal opinion that the 1963 single rate pensions increase was not a general increase of the basic pension rate? Will the Minister examine the alleged legal opinion and make it definitely known to all authorities that the 1963 increase in the single base rate pensions resulted from the impoverished conditions single pensioners were found to be living in, and that any whittling down of mine pensions -
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order! The honorable member’s question is too long.
Mr. GRIFFITHS.- As the allowance is entirely the responsibility of State Governments
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order! The honorable member will direct his question.
Mr. GRIFFITHS. - Will the Minister endeavour to use his good offices to try to influence the State authorities to return to the status quo so far as the two pension authorities are concerned?
Mr. SINCLAIR. - The question that th: honorable gentleman has raised has some reference also to the variation that has been made to certain benefits available in the State of Victoria. Each State has its own sovereignty. The Commonwealth has neither the responsibility nor the authority to vary any action taken by a State Government within that sovereignty. As to the variation, I was not aware that a consequent reduction had occurred in the rate of pension to which the honorable gentleman has referred and with which I know he has been personally concerned. However, I repeat, it is quite outside the competence of the Commonwealth to vary in any way the decision of a State Government undertaken within its own sovereign responsibility.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, is the newspaper report that the Government intends to build a new clothing factory at Coburg a factual report, or is there still an opportunity that more suitable areas with both factory space and trained female textile workers are available, such as the La Trobe Valley - and I am sure that the honorable member for Indi would quickly add Wangaratta - and make tubmissions to the Minister in this respect?
– I am not quite sure of the status of the project at the present moment; but I remind the honorable gentleman that this is not the establishment of a new facility. It is the replacement of an existing facility that is fully staffed with highly trained and highly skilled people who live in proximity to the site that. I understand, has been chosen. The matter of decentralisation was looked at, but I have an idea that in view of the situation to which I have referred this was set aside. I will refer the question to my colleague in another place.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, concerns permits that have been granted over the last six years for the cattle ships “ Clara Clausen “ and later “ Ida Clausen “ to operate in north Queensland as cattle transports. I ask: Have these permits been granted on condition that an order be placed for a replacement ship with an Australian shipyard? My understanding is that this was so. If it was not so will the Minister please clarify the position?
– The honorable member’s understanding of the position is perfectly correct. The cattle trade along the north Queensland coast is purely seasonal. Small vessels are required to get in and out of the small ports there. For this reason, the Government has been tolerant of the difficulties that the company concerned has undergone in proving this kind of trade. 1 can inform the honorable gentleman that discussions are at present going on between the company and the Australian Shipbuilding Board relating to the construction in Australia of a ship for this trade. 1 hope that an order for the construction of a vessel in Australia will be forthcoming fairly soon.
(Mr. Bridges-Maxwell having addressed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service) -
– My information is that up to only about 50 per cent, of the members of the New South Wales Teachers Federation have on previous occasions participated in the ballot for the election of officers.
– What has that to do with the Minister?
– The result, of course, is that–
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. This is an important matter, but it is outside the Commonwealth’s purview. A generation ago the High Court of Australia determined that teaching was not an industry and that therefore it was not a matter within the Commonwealth’s conciliation and arbitration powers. Of course teachers ought to vote at elections for officers of their organisation. But this has nothing to do with the Department which the Minister for Labour and National Service administers.
– Order! The Minister is responsible to the House for anything that comes within his administration. As I see the matter at this stage, I do not think that elections for officers of the New South Wales Teachers Federation come under his administration unless the form of ballot is one for which he is responsible.
– I was going on to say that I have no means of influencing this ballot. Of course, the–
– I rise to order.
– Order! The question is out of order.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been the invariable custom inthis House to allow a Minister to reply in what terms he thinks fit to a question that has been directed to him.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– The Chair ruled the question out of order.
– I know that the–
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in his point of order.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its 6.45 a.m. news broadcast on Wednesday, reported the crushing rejection of the Government’s conscription policy by an overwhelming number of delegates at the annual conference of the Methodist Church of Australasia in Victoria and Tasmania, but that this news was deleted from subsequent news broadcasts by the Commission on that day? If this is so, will the Minister have the Australian Broadcasting Control Board immediately investigate this latest instance of political censorship by the Commission of news reports that are critical of the Government’s Vietnam and conscription policies so that this pernicious practice will be discontinued forthwith and in order that the public may receive a less biased coverage of important news events in future?
– I am not aware of the factors mentioned by the honorable member but I would suggest that he study the Broadcasting and Television Act. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has no responsibility in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1 will have a look at the matter he has raised.
– Does that mean the Minister will–
– I do not need any help from the honorable member to answer the question.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for the Army, relates to some of the items in the basic 24 hour patrol ration pack used by our troops in
Vietnam. Has the Minister seen reports that whilst most items are excellent, the article which is designed to be used as a combined can opener and spoon is not very good as a can opener and is quite unsuitable for use as a spoon because of its width and length and because of the material of which it is made? Will the Minister have investigations made into this matter? If the reports are accurate, will he study the possibility of obtaining a more practical article, such as the plastic spoon used by the United States Forces?
– I have seen some Press reports offering criticism of what is called a combination spoon and can opener. It should be pointed out that the article referred to has never been intended as a replacement for the lightweight knife, fork and spoon which soldiers generally carry when on patrol. The purpose of the combination spoon and can opener is to open the small 1 and 4 oz. cans in the ration pack and to gouge the contents into a mess tin. It has been found that plastic implements are quite unsuitable because they break. They would not be strong enough for gouging the contents of a can into a mess tin.
We have had no complaints about the combination spoon and can opener. Investigations are constantly being made into the ration packs and all other personal equipment used by our troops. For example, three basic one man ration packs are now available for the troops to carry in the field. This number will soon be increased to five. I mention this as an example of the constant research that is being carried out in these matters.
(Mr. Bryant addressing a question to the Prime Minister) -
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Wills that the Prime Minister has no control over matters affecting the American negro and is not answerable to the House for them. The question is out of order. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to order.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– May I speak to the point of order?
– The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– I was going to ask a question about Australian Aborigines.
– The honorable member did not make any reference to that at all.
– The Government is a hypocrite.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order. He will resume his seat. (Mr. Aston proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister) -
– I rise to order. In view of your earlier ruling, Mr. Speaker, I submit that this question is out of order.
– Order! The honorable member for Phillip may not quote from a statement unless he is prepared to vouch for its accuracy. The honorable member is out of order.
– I will vouch for it. I will give the reference. (Mr. Aston having addressed a question to the Prime Minister).
– Order! The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– The Minister for the Navy no doubt is aware with pride of the operations carried out by naval pilots and members of the crew of the H.M.A.S. “ Vendetta “ in the rescue of survivors from the dredge “Atlas” which foundered off Jervis Bay. Will he take steps to record the appreciation of Australian citizens for a gallant job well performed under most hazardous circumstances?
– I appreciate the tribute that the honorable member has paid to the men involved in this rescue operation. As for recording it, I think the mere fact that a question relating to this incident has been asked in this House indicates the full appreciation of honorable members on both sides for an action such as this by members of our Services in time of peace. Certain principles, of which I am sure the honorable member is aware, are laid down, and if any aspect of Service life or Service endeavour is worthy of recognition of some kind, the necessary steps are taken. No further comment is possible.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by stating that section 82o of the Income Tax Assessment Act provides that taxpayers shall be entitled to a deduction of $286 for a housekeeper who is wholly employed in caring for the child of a taxpayer where the taxpayer is a widow or a widower. Will the Treasurer consider extending the same concession to deserted fathers, deserted mothers, widowers and widows with children under 16 years of age in their care, who avail themselves of day nurseries and the services provided by child minding centres and kindergartens, so that as both parent and breadwinner they may support their families because they are unable to afford the services of a full time housekeeper, although their circumstances are similar to those of persons who are able to afford a full time housekeeper?
– Problems similar to this have been considered in various Budget discussions in the Cabinet. On the last occasion I considered a recommendation somewhat similar to the one just made by the honorable member. Nonetheless, I assure him that I will have another look at the matter and if I think it is of great urgency I will see that it is dealt with specially: I think it is appropriate again to give the honorable member an assurance that in the Budget discussions next year we -will have a look at this matter.
– You will not be here.
– Yes, we will be here for many years to come. The second point I should like to make to the honorable gentleman is that the Act contains a provision which permits deduction in respect of school expenses. I think - this is subject to what my colleague, the Attorney-General may say - that kindergartens, under the interpretations section of the Act, are interpreted to mean schools. However, I will look at the Act or, if the honorable member can supply me with the particulars of any special case, I will consider them to learn whether the particular case comes within the provisions of the Act. It may be that deductions are permissible in some cases.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has the right honorable gentleman any information to give to the Parliament about the reported widespread discontent in Air Vice-Marshal Ky’s Government in South Vietnam? Is it likely that decisions made at the Manila Conference next week could be nullified by another early political upheaval in South Vietnam?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman a clear picture of difficulties inside the Ky administration. The honorable gentleman has some difficulties inside his own and it is not always easy to give a clear picture publicly of what is. occurring there. I think the important “thing to remember about what is going on in South Vietnam is that this does appear to be largely based on regional factors which have produced some discontent inside the Ministry. I have yet to perceive in any statement relating to this matter any weakening of resolution by. any section of the Ministry of Prime Minister . Ky in pressing on with the military operations in an endeavour to bring the country back to a condition of peace. So whatever political disagreements there may be on domestic issues of their own, these do not extend to the policy in relation to the conduct pf the war or involve any relaxation of their determination to resist Communist aggression in their country.
– Does the Prime Minister recall that yesterday, by way of interjection at question time, the Leader of the Opposition described the South Vietnamese Government as “ Fascist “? Is there any truth in this assertion? Can the right honorable gentleman recall any occasion upon which the Leader of the Opposition has expressed any criticism of the political colour of the Hanoi regime?
– Of course I have.
– Dealing with the second part of the question first, I point out that the Leader of the Opposition has interjected that of course he has expressed criticism of the Hanoi regime.
– In nearly every speech I have made.
– The Leader of the Opposition has not done so very vehemently because I do not recall the occasions on which he has expressed criticism. If he can point these out to us we will all be illuminated by his observations on that point. On the first matter raised by :he honorable member for Parkes, I believe it regrettable that the Leader of the Opposition should have said by way of interjection what he said yesterday as a description of the Government of Prime Minister Ky, and ail the more regrettable that he has chosen to repeat that slur in the course of our proceedings here this morning.
– It is no slur. It is a statement of fact. He helped to murder Diem and his brother.
– The Leader of the Opposition now aggravates it by saying that it is a statement of fact. What does the Leader of the Opposition know about the atmosphere and relations of the Ky Government? We know that in a situation of war - and no-one can deny that that is the situation in South Vietnam at this time - the most democratically minded governments have found it necessary to assume complete powers in order to preserve, the freedom of their country and to conduct i he operations of war.
This is a highly democratic country. In the Second World War, under the National Security Act, a Government led by honorable gentlemen opposite imposed the most severe restrictions on the liberties of the Australian people. That Government was not begrudged this power because it was regarded as being necessary to the successful conduct of the war effort. In South Vietnam there is a strong administration with a considerable element of military influence in it. The most recent efforts by the Ky Government to produce an acceptable constitution involved the conduct of elections which attracted up to 80 per cent, of the potential vote of a country where the people vote under threat either of death or disablement from the Vietcong. Yet approximately 80 per cent, voted for the confirmation of this democratic constitution. This is not the act of a Fascist minded leader nor of an administration that is not genuinely seeking to introduce democratic practices into the country. I hope that the honorable gentleman will make a closer study of events there and will retract this quite offensive reference to the leader of an embattled people and those who serve with him.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that Air Vice Marshal Ky and his military junta were responsible for the murder of the previous leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, and his brother? Is it not a fact that the Ministers who resigned last week said they did so because of corruption and because Air Vice Marshal Ky wishes to establish a police state? Is it not a fact that the national security regulations to which the Prime Minister has referred and which he said were administered by a Labour government - several Labour governments - were the work of the Menzies and Fadden Governments and that after they were deposed because they were not wanted we inherited the regulations?
– The honorable gentleman quite obviously on the pretext of asking a question, has made a series of observations in an attempt to debate the issue. As to his assertions, I say, first, that a government which is able to attract 80 per cent, of the potential vote on the kind of issues that were recently canvassed is a government that is encouraging democratic practices inside its own country. I do not know why he should refer to a corrupt administration. I have had some opportunity to speak to Prime Minister Ky at first hand. I have some capacity for assessing men when I meet them and get to know them. I was impressed by Prime Minister Ky’s sincerity, his earnestness and the resolution and determination he has brought to this task of saving his country from Communist aggression. Why cannot honorable gentlemen opposite at least give him credit for these efforts without repeatedly trying to weaken his position in his own country by these slanderous attacks upon him?
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. As he is no doubt aware, a large crop of oranges is available in Australia this year and it is desirable to secure additional markets so that the important citrus industry can continue soundly in its expansionary programme. Is the Minister aware that oranges are ideal as a food and drink for our defence forces at home and abroad? Will he make investigations with a view to encouraging those who arrange the purchase of supplies for our forces to include adequate finance for increased purchases of oranges and citrus products generally? In passing, I would say that, if this House is not interested in Australian products but is rather more interested in questions of the kind asked by the Leader of the Opposition a sorry state of affairs exists.
– I am aware that there is a big crop of oranges in prospect at the present time and there is a drive by the organised industry in combination with the Government to try to find new markets and penetrate existing markets further in the interests of this important industry. I think we all know the dietary value of oranges. It is not within my province to decide the extent to which oranges may be included in the diet of the forces, but I will consult my colleagues who are responsible for this and convey to them the point raised, I think quite properly, by the honorable member for Mallee.
– In view of the Government’s decision to defer the Ord River project for another year, will the Prime Minister inform the House of the precise reasons for this unjust decision? Does this, in effect, now mean that the Government has wiped all plans for water development in Queensland, including the use of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for water development projects, and in Western Australia also?
– Dealing with the last part of the question first, I give the answer simply as: No, we have not closed the door on these other developments, nor have we closed the door on the Ord project. I have a quite extensive answer to this question and I suggest that I be given an opportunity by the House to make it at the end of question time.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport indicate the result of recent talks concerning a possible shipbuilding industry near Margate in Tasmania? In view of the fact that the latest report of the Commonwealth Grants Com mission indicates that the Tasmanian Government, as opposed to the Western Australian Government, is becoming more and more dependent on Commonwealth payments, the attraction of this industry is a matter of urgency to the Reece Administration.
– The Government has given very sympathetic consideration to a request by an overseas shipyard, supported by the Tasmanian Government, to be recognised for shipbuilding subsidy purposes. In fairness to the shipbuilding industry in Australia, it must be recognised that although there has been an unprecedented lift in shipbuilding over the last few years - I illustrate this by pointing out that during the financial year 1964-65 ships of the value of about $19 million were completed in Australia, and that in the year just completed, 1965-66, the value increased to as high as $29 million - the position is that this is still short of the existing capacity of the major recognised shipyards. To recognise another shipyard for subsidy purposes at this time would undoubtedly create additional excess capacity. In a survey recently conducted by my Department it was proved that no major shipyard in Australia, even with the large increase in shipbuilding, has been able to operate at an economic level of production for any length of time. It would be sheer folly at this stage to recognise an additional major shipyard.
– That is right.
– With the best will in the world, it would not be doing a kindness to Tasmania to encourage an industry to go there and to bring out skilled workmen when at odd times - perhaps at numerous times - those men would be faced with the threat of unemployment. I am encouraged by the interjection by the honorable member for Newcastle to say to the House that everyone sympathises with and understands the position in a major shipyard when nearing the completion of a ship. One recognises the despair of the skilled tradesmen who know that there is no further order on the yard’s books. It is quite understandable that it takes a long time to get the final stages of that particular ship completed. Having looked at. this position, the Government has decided with some regret that it cannot at this stage say that this is a yard which will be recognised for subsidy. There are seven small shipyards in Australia, financed with Australian capital, which have been seeking for some time to be recognised and the Government has refused to recognise them. When one examines the situation of those yards one realises that they are either associated with an engineering industry, engaged in building very small ships or engaged in ship repair work. There is nothing to stop such industries as the Tasmanian Government decides to encourage from going to Tasmania and setting up engineering works, ship repair works or anything other than a major shipyard recognised for subsidy purposes.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Industry seen reports that a representative of the Chrysler-Rootes organisation - the manufacturer of Valiant motor cars - has stated that shipping freights for the carriage of these cars from Australia to the United Kingdom are 30 per cent, greater than the cost of transporting cars of similar size from the United Kingdom to Australia? Have the General Motors and Ford companies made statements that shipping freights are the biggest single cost factor in motor vehicle exports and that Australian exports are priced out of valuable export markets because of freight charges which are much greater than those on exports from the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Europe to Australia? Have these companies also complained that it costs only 10 per cent, more to ship a car from the United Kingdom to New Zealand than from Australia to New Zealand? Why does it cost more to ship a car from Melbourne to Wellington - a distance of 1,200 miles - than to carry the same vehicle by rail from Melbourne to Perth - a distance of 2,300 miles? If these reports are correct, what is the Government doing to rectify this serious and unfair burden on Australian motor vehicle exporters? Has the Government power under the restrictive trade practices legislation recently passed by this Parliament to investigate these charges of unfair trading? ]f it has, when can we expect some action?
– I am not familiar with all the matters stated in the question.
– They are correct.
– I am not disputing that they are facts. Because I say that 1 am not aware of them, it does not mean that 1 am disputing them. I will answer the question on the assumption that the quotations in it are correct. It does trouble the Government when certain items of trade are prejudiced and, on occasions, priced out of markets by shipping freights. On the other hand, it should not be assumed that shipping companies are prepared to carry cargo at a loss or for an inadequate profit. The Government’s investigations show thai the profits of the shipping companies are really pretty low. What we have devoted ourselves to primarily is trying to produce proposals designed to arrest the constantly ascending costs of the -shipping companies.
– What about the question?
– I will answer the question. It is on the actions of which I have told the House, namely, attempting to secure rationalisation of services and eventually containerisation of cargo, that we have pinned our hopes. I believe that this is accepted as a fruitful course.
As to the export of Australian cars to the United Kingdom, I know that Chrysler Australia Ltd. has a Valiant on exhibition in London at the present time. That is a car of which this country can be justly proud. I would not expect the United Kingdom to turn out to be a major market for Australian cars. I believe that the exhibition of the Valiant in London must be regarded in part as a prestige operation. But I am happy to be able to say to the House that a very recent study of a range of items of Australian manufactured goods showed that the freight from Australia to the United Kingdom is lower in toto than the freight on the same items of manufactured goods from the United Kingdom to Australia. I confess that I was a little surprised to discover that that was the fact. But it is the fact. I cannot enter into a discussion of the freight from Melbourne to New Zealand by sea compared with the freight from Melbourne to Western Australia by rail. However, a couple of days ago J answered a question by saying that at present it is expected that a roll-on roll-off ship will be running to New Zealand in 1968. I believe that that holds out prospects for lower freight between Australia and New Zealand.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is the Territory of Papua and New Guinea yet eligible for loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the Asian Development Bank? If it is not, is there any prospect of it becoming eligible for such loans?
– When I was in the United States recently I was informed that, subject to certain legal problems which I understand can be solved quickly, Papua and New Guinea would be eligible for loans from the International Development Association, a subsidiary of the World Bank-
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. There is a question on the notice paper dealing wilh this matter and there have been previous ones this year which have been answered. In fact this one is question No. 2172.
– That question has nothing to do with it.
– On the point of order: No giants can be made by the Asian Development Bank other than to member countries ot the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East.
– Order! This is one of the difficult cases, lt appears to me that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is excluded from this question which deals with West Irian alone. Therefore, with some doubt, I think the question is in order.
- Sir, I shall start again to emphasise the point. The answer to the honorable gentleman is that when I was recently in Washington I was informed by the Director of the World Bank, Mr. Woods, that at a recent meeting of the executive of the International Development Association, which is a subsidiary of the World Bank, it was decided that Papua and New Guinea were now eligible for loans from I.D.A. This opens opportunities for us, provided that projects which are commercially viable can be presented to the Bank, to make applications for loans. So far as the Asian Development Bank is concerned, whilst Papua and New Guinea are not yet participants or eligible, we have good reason to think that both Papua and New Guinea or the combined Territories will be eligible for loans from the Asian Development Bank.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question. As the Minister is aware, it is a treasonable offence for any person or persons to trade with an enemy country. Liberal propaganda now circulating in various electorates, authorised by a Mr. J. Willoughby, Federal Secretary of the Liberal Party, makes it crystal clear that this political party considers Communist China to be our enemy. If this assertion is true, when does the Attorney-General intend to charge the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues and supporters with treason?
– This is a great change; the House joker is trying to be serious. The Minister for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister have answered this question adequately. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition found himself fishing in strange and troubled waters when by interjection just two days ago he was bound to give the attitude of the Opposition on this question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development in his capacity as Leader of the House. Has ample opportunity been given in this House to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to reply to the allegations made against him by the honorable member for Mackellar? Since the honorable member for EdenMonaro has so far not answered these charges, can the Minister ensure that the honorable member is given a further opportunity to reply, if he so desires, before the House rises?
– I am sure that every honorable member here knows the forms of the House.
– If I may be pardoned for interjecting, I would like to say that there are some honorable members who do not.
– I would say that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has been here much longer than the rest of us. I am sure that he would know that there are ways in which he could reply if he desired to reply. Ample opportunity was provided last night for him to raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment, but not one honorable member saw fit to speak to that motion.
– by leave - I desire to make a statement in relation to the Ord River project. This matter has been raised by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), lt is, of course, of wide interest, and is especially of interest to honorable members from Western Australia. The Cabinet has given very close consideration again - and extensive consideration - to the request which came to us from the Western Australian Government for financial assistance for the development of stage 2 of the Ord River scheme.
– What more needs to be done?
– I shall come to that. I have sent a letter, following the decision of the Cabinet, to Mr. Brand, the Premier of Western Australia, indicating the Government’s decision not to commit itself to provide financial assistance for stage 2 of the Ord River project at present. In this letter I indicated that major uncertainties still exist in regard to the future prospects of the scheme, which the Commonwealth Government felt could be clarified only in the light of further experience with the pilot project comprising stage 1 of the scheme. These uncertainties are, of course, related to the request that the Commonwealth commit itself to funds in excess - and perhaps over the years substantially in excess - of $70 million over the next 15 years, and to the present considerable commitments of the Commonwealth’s limited resources.
More importantly, in the context of the project itself, our uncertainties are closely tied in with unresolved doubts about the viability of the scheme. The terms of the letter, in order to save time, were telephoned through to the Western Australian Premier’s Department. I have since received a telegram from the Premier in which he comments that he has received my telephone version of the letter, and that he found it difficult to believe that such a decision had been made. He says: “What more can be done to satisfy you on the Ord? What other evidence do you want? Our belief is that the Ord River project could be the fore runner of similar developments in the north. A great vision for Australia is being unduly delayed “.
The telegram has just reached me. This Government would emphatically deny that we are lacking in any way in vision for the development of this country which, during the period of office of my predecessor and of the parties which I now have the honour to lead in Government, has made the greatest surge forward in its development. We have created the environment for development. We have encouraged projects. We have maintained the economic policies which have produced these results. In Western Australia, very considerable sums are currently being outlaid and have previously been outlaid to encourage development in that State. However, we also have a responsibility to the whole of Australia that our resources shall be wisely employed. Our resources are not unlimited, and when considering a project which involves a commitment of upwards - and, I repeat, perhaps substantially upwards - of $70 million, then we are bound to make the closest examination of it.
– Spread over 15 years.
– The honorable gentleman says “Over 15 years “; but every year the Government has other commitments. A $70 million commitment does not become less than $70 million simply because the payments are spread over a number of years. We are spreading payments over a number of years in respect of a great range of items, some in the field of defence, some in the field of development.
Let me indicate some of the difficulties which had to be considered by us. First, we looked at the world market outlook for cotton. It is generally agreed that this project at present stands or falls as a cotton project. It is strictly a monoculture project. There has been no attempt to argue that there is any alternative which would make it a viable project at the present time. It has been suggested that there are supplementary crops which could be grown in assistance of the cotton project, but it is as a cotton project that the venture must basically be considered.
Cotton is a surplus commodity in world markets. In recent years world production has exceeded consumption and large stocks have accumulated, particularly in the United
States. Recent United States legislation will probably put more United States cotton on world markets and further depress prices, which have already fallen appreciably in recent times. In fact, prices have fallen since the United States legislation came into effect on 1st August, and market investigations indicate that there could be further falls in the long term.
As to cotton yields, average yields have improved considerably. However, it remains to be seen whether the farmers can attain a level at which, without cotton bounty, they would be protected against likely increases in farm costs and possible further falls in world cotton prices. We acknowledge that there is a possibility of average yields reaching 1,000 lb. of lint per acre, but our technical advice is that this will require intensive research and a high standard of farming and handling of the crop.
Now I come to the suggestion about stub cotton. One of the arguments advanced was that the practice of producing stub cotton, that is, of allowing the cotton plant to bear for two seasons, would improve the overall economics of the scheme. But the experiment was tried out on only 35 acres, and our investigations overseas suggest that the stub cotton method is not a practice that is at all widely favoured. Indeed, there is some evidence to the effect that it could attract additional pests and could weaken the propects of the venture over the long term. Although considerable cost savings are claimed for this practice, experience to date has been far too limited for us to draw general conclusions about its effect on production costs, yields and quality.
As to supplementary crops, such as wheat and sorghum, these have not yet been grown commercially in the region and it is necessary to consider this project fundamentally on the basis of cotton. As to the cattle industry, the economic and practical feasibility of feeding cotton seed or grain to cattle in the region has not been demonstrated.
There are a few other circumstances that a national government has to bear in mind. The project would involve a considerable expansion in local production of cotton for sale on world markets, but as I have said cotton is a product that at present is surplus throughout the world, and the market outlook for it is most uncertain. In this situation, and having regard particularly to the fact that the area concerned is relatively isolated, in a relatively remote part of Australia, we must be all the more careful not to appear to throw out any assurance to those who would hazard their capital and energies there that we have become completely convinced of the viability of the scheme. In this situation there is a need to be clearer on the future possibilities of cotton before committing ourselves or potential Ord farmers to the larger Ord project. The success of the project is of great importance not only for the farmer but also from the point of view of our international trade relations, including our relations with many less developed countries to whom cotton is an important project. In all probability, exports of cotton from Australia would have to be subsidised. Some $17 million has been spent by the Commonwealth and State Governments in constructing stage one of the project as a pilot scheme. It is not unreasonable, having regard to the uncertainty still persisting and the implications of failure, to allow stage one to fulfil its function as a pilot scheme more completely before proceeding to the full project.
I think enough has been said to indicate that this matter has been most carefully considered. This Government, no less than any other government and no less than any other political party, wants to do things which please the people who ask it to do things. But more than popularity and more than approval from the government or the people of a State, or from the people of the country as a whole, are involved here. What is involved is the responsibility we have as the national Government to ensure that development will proceed as affectively as we can contrive and that we will make the best use of our limited resources of finance, manpower and the other elements required for an undertaking of this kind.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement on the subject.
– Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
– What is concerning the people of Western Australia is not that this is a popular project that the Commonwealth Government is turning down. I doubt whether there is any popularity in northern development. I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has reversed the political facts. The fear in Western Australia is that the Commonwealth Government is so concerned with political popularity that it will not carry through development projects in remote areas where no votes are to be gained and that it is not applying to economic development around cities and other places where there are many voters the fine tooth comb that it applies to development in remote areas. I am not making this statement as an accusation. I just refuse to accept the Prime Minister’s assessment of the politics of this issue. What is concerning the people in Western Australia is the constant cutting of expenditure by the Commonwealth Government. The statement is made here that there is a suspended judgment on the Ord River project, whereas the financial facts show that there has been a decision against it and that the question is not being treated as if it were still open.
In the 1964 Budget the sum of $4,368,000 was provided for specific developmental projects in Western Australia. In the next year the sum was down to $3,766,000. This year it is down to $1,500,000. We are now in the position that we do not know what will happen in the following year. One may agree or disagree with the Brand Government in Western Australia, but one has no doubt that Brand and Court have a passion for the development of the State. They have highly competent advisers attached to their Government. What concerns us is that when the Commonwealth Government’s advisers leave by retirement or by going into politics they say things different from what the Government implies is the advice of its experts. Sir Harold Raggatt has just made a statement. He was for many years the Secretary of the Department of National Development. According to a newspaper report he said -
The Commonwealth Government could not refuse indefinitely to recognise the potential for agricultural development that lies in the largely unused water resources in northern Australia.
This opinion was expressed yesterday by the former secretary of the Department of National Development, Sir Harold Raggatt.
Sir Harold was addressing 140 delegates at the second Federal Convention of the Australian Water and Wastewater Association. “ There is plenty of scope for greatly increased production of pasture and agricultural products by better use of land and water in Australia,” he said.
Seventy one per cent, of water resources in northern Australia were largely unused.
-I rise to a point of order. The honorable member sought leave to make a statement regarding the Ord project, not about water resources in northern Australia.
– Order! When leave is granted to make a statement, the honorable member concerned has full authority to make that statement.
– The point is that the Government’s expert has indicated that the Government’s assessment of any sort of northern development, including vital water development, is quite inadequate and it seems that the Government’s anonymous experts who have been cited here say, immediately that they are free to speak, that northern development has not been given adequate priority. The Western Australian Government has put up a proposal on the advice of its experts, but we are told that the expert advice of the Commonwealth Government’s advisers is against proceeding with the project. The moment a man becomes free by retirement he seems to contradict the Commonwealth’s claims.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate -
Without requests -
Income Tax Bill 1966.
Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1966.
Without amendment -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1966.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1966.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1966.
Broadcasting and Television Bill 1966.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1966.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s decision to introduce a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers used in Australia and is further evidence of the Government’s policy of promoting primary production in this country. I know that honorable members on both sides of this House recognise the vital importance to our national economy of healthy and growing rural industries, not only to meet the needs of our own people but also because we must continue to expand exports of rural origin and increase our export earnings if we are to be able to maintain both our present rate of development and our standards of living. The increasingly competitive nature of world markets, with severely depressed prices for some of our products, notably sugar, requires that we not only increase agricultural output but also achieve this without undue increases in cost. By the application of improved techniques, including adequate fertilisation of the soil, we must strive for maximum economic production from all our lands.
The introduction of a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will mean that use of the two major plant nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, to promote the production of bigger crops, more wool, meat, milk and butter, fruit and vegetables and other products of the land, will be directly encouraged by the Government meeting a significant part of the cost of fertilisers containing these plant nutrients. I do not need to refer here to the role which the Government’s bounty on phosphate has had in increasing rural production over the past three years.
Nitrogen also is a most essential element for plant growth. With the exception of legumes all plants obtain their requirements of nitrogen from the soil, but most soils are naturally deficient in nitrogen and additional quantities need to be added to improve productivity. Shortage of nitrogen is probably the most widespread nutrient deficiency in world agriculture.
The need for adequate nitrogen fertilisation is recognised in all countries, particularly in the more advanced countries with an intensive pattern of agriculture. World output of nitrogenous fertilisers increased enormously in the postwar period. For example, world production was 3.6 million tons in 1948 but had reached 15.4 million tons in 1963-64 and 17.4 million tons in 1964-65. A still greater increase was expected in 1965-66, yet production is barely keeping pace with demand. Compared with other countries with an advanced agriculture, for instance those of western Europe and North America, Australia has been a relatively small user of nitrogenous fertilisers.
In Australia the main users of nitrogenous fertilisers in the past have been the sugar, fruit and vegetable industries, where the use of nitrogenous fertilisers is essential for efficient crop production. In these intensive industries the high cost of fertilisers is an inescapable and major item in the cost of production. The price of nitrogenous fertilisers produced from inorganic nitrogen is influenced very markedly by scale of production. Production of nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia has been at a relatively low level and we have had to import, not only sulphate of ammonia to augment local production of this material, but also other forms of nitrogenous fertilisers. The price of nitrogenous fertilisers is very much higher in Australia than in countries where large volume production has resulted in the availability of low-cost nitrogen to farmers. In the United States, for example, sulphate of ammonia is $A30 per ton ex works compared with $A61 free on rail ex works in New South Wales, $A68 at Brisbane, and $A72 at Cairns. In the United Kingdom sulphate of ammonia is $A50 per ton on the farm with a net cost after subsidy of $A33 per ton.
It would, however, be an oversimplification of the situation to attribute the low total usage of nitrogen in Australia solely to the high price of this plant nutrient. Leguminous plants, such as clovers, are host plants for nitrogen fixing bacteria which live in nodules on the roots of the legumes and have the ability to extract nitrogen from the air. This nitrogen then becomes available to the host plant and ultimately to non-legumes in the same soil. Where legumes can be grown in association with other plants, or in a crop rotation, they are responsible for a substantial accretion to the nitrogen status of the soil and may go a long way towards meeting the nitrogen needs of non-leguminous plants.
However, there are many regions of Australia, where the role of legumes in nitrogen fixation is limited by climatic or other factors. Despite the tremendous importance of legumes to our agriculture and the enormous quantities of nitrogen added to our soils annually by reason of the growth of leguminous plants, there is undoubtedly scope for much greater use of applied nitrogen in our cropping and pastoral industries. I shall refer to this aspect later.
The purpose of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is therefore two-fold. In the first place, it will have a cost reducing effect for industries which have been the major users of nitrogen. The most important of these is the sugar growing industry which everyone knows is going through a period of serious depression. Nitrogenous fertilisers have increased in price by almost 25 per cent, over the last three years and for sugar growing which accounts for over 40 per cent, of total nitrogen usage, the cost of nitrogen represents a major cash cost item for the industry. The average sugar farmer would spend $A800 to SA900 annually on nitrogenous fertilisers. World ‘ free “ market prices for sugar are at the lowest level for some 25 years, and while strenuous efforts are being made internationally to raise the “ free “ market price it is difficult to foresee any substantial improvement in the short term. About 70 per cent, of Australian sugar exports - approximately 50 per cent, of total production - is sold at prices related to the “ free “ market price. The cost reducing effect of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will help alleviate the problems of the sugar growing industry.
The fruit and vegetable growing industries have also been major users of nitrogenous fertilisers. The fruit industries especially, contribute significantly to export earnings but export markets are highly competitive and price-conscious and there is need to reduce costs or to produce more with no greater cash outlay on fertilisers. The nitrogen subsidy will give some relief from increasing costs. I should add that these sugar, fruit and vegetable industries did not benefit from the Government’s superphosphate subsidy to anything like the same extent as the pastoral and grain growing industries which are the main users of superphosphate.
The second important purpose of the nitrogen subsidy is to encourage the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in newer fields such as cereal growing and pasture improvement. The low rate of nitrogen used for these purposes has been due in part, as I have said, to the valuable role of pasture legumes as a means of providing soil nitrogen, but the high cost of nitrogenous fertilisers has been a real deterrent to the greater use of these fertilisers. As a result of intensified experimentation carried out by Departments of Agriculture, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, universities and fertiliser companies in recent years, and the introduction of new types of fertilisers, there are now fresh avenues of usage of nitrogen in cereal growing and pasture development.
Whilst evaluation and farm trials are continuing and the technical and economic aspects have yet to be fully worked out, it appears that nitrogenous fertilisers can bring significant benefits from increased productivity in such fields as the establishment and improvement of temperate, subtropical and tropical pastures and in wheat, oats, winter and summer forage crops and summer grain crops. From experimental work with wheat and oats it appears that the application of appropriate quantities of nitrogen can be expected to give worthwhile yield increases on an area in excess of 2 million acres of wheat and on some half a million acres of oats. The additional production could be in excess of 15 million bushels of wheat and 5 million bushels of oats.
Nitrogenous fertilisers have also induced worthwhile responses from pastures under a range of circumstances. In the higher rainfall areas of southern Australia it has been shown that the winter depression of growth which occurs even in good clovergrass pastures can be overcome by applying nitrogen. In northern Australia striking responses have been recorded from nitrogenous fertilisers applied to grass pastures. There is also evidence that nitrogen applied to forage crops can result in substantially greater production.
The extent to which nitrogen can be used to advantage in the newer fields I have mentioned is still a matter for experimentation but it is already clear that the scope for increased productivity from existing resources of land is indeed considerable. Tha subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will be a major inducement to individual primary producers to investigate the role of nitrogen on their own properties. This will repeat the pattern of development in other advanced agricultural countries. The total usage of nitrogen in Australia for use as fertiliser and stock feed supplement is currently about 70,000 tons per annum, with about another 20,000 tons being used for industrial purposes. Australian production meets only part of this demand and imports of nitrogen for all purposes in 1964-65 were 49,000 tons. Imports of nitrogen for the first 10 months of 1965-66 were at the annual rate of about 44,000 tons.
Until a few years ago the main nitrogenous fertiliser used in Australia was sulphate of ammonia, either applied alone or mixed with superphosphate and/ or potash and most of the demand was met from local production. More recently there has been increasing usage of other forms of nitrogenous fertilisers, including aqueous and anhydrous ammonia, urea and compounds known as N.P.K. fertilisers. These new forms are now made locally but the quantities available arc as yet Insufficient to meet demand. Moreover, there is a continuing though small demand for some types such as sodium nitrate and calcium ammonium nitrate which are not produced in Australia.
An important development in recent months has been the announcement of investigations into the establishment of large scale plants for the production of ammonia or ammonia-based nitrogenous fertilisers. However, the present shortfall situation could continue for several years until new production capacity is established in Australia. The subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will therefore apply not only to nitrogenous fertilisers produced and sold in Australia but also to imports of these materials sold for use within Australia by primary producers. Nitrogen used for industrial purposes will not qualify for the subsidy.
The level of imports which will qualify for subsidy will be limited to that quantity needed to meet the shortfall between local production and demand. The level of imports which will be eligible for subsidy will be assessed annually taking into account local production and trade and other information. This assessed quantity of imports will be allocated amongst importers on the basis of their shares of imports in a past representative period. Importers will be free to decide the imports they wish to make but imports not eligible for subsidy will obviously be placed at a price disadvantage. The Government confidently expects that the increased usage which the subsidy will encourage and the enlarged market which this will provide will encourage local manufacturers to expand production to meet the shortfall. In turn this expansion in production should assist manufacturers to lower their unit costs of production.
The subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will be administered by my colleague the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) along lines similar to the superphosphate bounty which is paid to manufacturers with provisions to ensure that it is passed on to the primary producers. In addition to use as fertiliser a small amount of nitrogen - mainly urea - is used as a stockfeed supplement. These stockfeeds are often made up by the pastoralist himself and it is intended that nitrogen, when used as stockfeed supplement will qualify for subsidy. The quantity involved is estimated at about 2,000 tons of nitrogen per annum. The subsidy will be restricted to fertilisers and stockfeed supplements manufactured from inorganic chemical nitrogen and to naturally occurring nitrate of soda. The subsidy will not be paid on fertilisers of plant or animal origin. The subsidy to be paid on nitrogenous fertilisers will be related to the nitrogen content of the products and will be payable from 17th August 1966 until 31st October 1969. Because of the pattern of distribution in the nitrogenous fertilisers industry it has been decided that the subsidy will be paid on fertilisers sold by distributors ex stocks held at midnight on 16th August 1966.
The Government has given a good deal of consideration to the level of subsidy to be paid. The actual price at which nitrogen becomes an economic proposition will vary for different primary products and from one district to another. It will depend also on the level of return for the commodity concerned at any point of time as well as the type of fertiliser used. In this situation the amount of subsidy has been assessed in relation to the need to assist existing major users, particularly sugar growers, and to encourage greater use in other fields of production where worthwhile benefits can be expected.
With these considerations in mind, it has been decided that the rate of subsidy will be S80 per ton of nitrogen payable pro rata on the nitrogen content of the particular material. As examples, subsidy at the rate of $80 per ton of nitrogen would provide subsidies of S36.S0 per ton of urea - 46 per cent, nitrogen - and SI 6.80 per ton of sulphate of ammonia - 21 per cent, nitrogen. The subsidy would represent about 25 per cent, of the present f.o.r. price of sulphate of ammonia at Brisbane.
I conclude by repeating that the Government has had two main objectives in introducing a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers. The first of these is to reduce the costs of those industries which are major users of nitrogen and which, as it happens, are currently encountering low returns abroad; the second is to encourage the usage of these fertilisers particularly in industries where productivity may be raised by the application of nitrogen. The result in either case will be an improvement in the welfare of our farmers and in the efficiency of our agriculture. 1 commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move - That the Bill bc now read a second time.
In a statement in another place on 21st September the Minister in charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, Senator Gorton, outlined the decisions taken by the Australian Government on the further development of universities and the development of colleges of advanced education during the. three years 1967, 1968 and 1969. The purpose of the Bill is to authorise grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution for the Conmmonwealth’s share of the agreed programme for State universities over those three years. The Bill authorises a total Commonwealth contribution of approximately $175 million. The total pro gramme for the State universities amounts to $446 million and the balance of the funds will come from State Governments, from university fees and endowments and other income.
The Bill follows the same pattern as previous legislation in this field and I shall refer briefly to the major heads of expenditure and to some matters about which it has been found desirable to modify previous arrangements. Grants from the Australian Government towards the general recurrent expenditures of universities in the States will be slightly in excess of $114 million which will be provided under a formula which requires the Commonwealth to contribute $1 for every $1.85 that a State university receives from State grants and fees, up to the ceiling set out in the First Schedule to the Bill which provides details year by year for each university.
Honorable members should note that an upper limit of $40,000 has been placed on the extent to which general recurrent funds may be used for the purchase of a single item of teaching equipment. Current practice is to apply a ceiling of $10,000, but the increased amount is to be provided to afford greater flexibility to the universities in meeting their special needs for equipment, particularly in departments which are not being provided with new buildings. The programme of capital expenditure on general university buildings is set out in the Second Schedule. Provision is made for a maximum Commonwealth contribution of approximately $41 million on buildings, furniture, equipment and computers during the next three calendar years. The Commonwealth contribution is on a $1 for $1 basis with each State.
The lists of projects for each university in the Second Schedule have been agreed to by the Australian Universities Commission and the university concerned, in further discussions which have been held since the Australian Government announced the financial ceilings for this part of the programme, following consultation with the State governments. There has been one variation in the total amount since the announcement on 21st September. This is an increase from $2,178,000 to $2,968,000 in the university buildings programme at the University of Adelaide, to which the Australian and State governments have agreed. The Commonwealth’s total contribution for university buildings will be increased by $395,000 as a result of this variation.
Once again, special provision is to be made during the next triennium for grants to universities for special research purposes, that is, primarily in connection with the training of post-graduate students. In the triennium just ending, a total amount of $10 million has been paid equally by the Australian and State governments to encourage research in the State universities. Of this sum, $6 million was allocated to the universities throughout the triennium on the recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission, the other $4 million was directed to special research projects, only a very few of which were outside the universities, on the recommendation of the Australian Research Giants Commtitee. This new programme came into operation only in September 1965.
The Government has made it quite clear that it is prepared to continue to support both avenues for promoting research and would be willing to meet half the cost of a $5.76 million programme under the control of the Universities Commission and, in addition, half the cost of a further $1 1 million programme under the control of the Australian Research Grants Committee. However, we have stipulated that if a State is unwilling to match in full the grants recommended for its universities by the Australian Research Grants Committee, to that extent we will reduce our own contribution to the Universities Commission programme within a total contribution by us of $9 million. It would then be up to the State to provide the funds required under the Universities Commission programme. Two States, Western Australia and South Australia, have agreed to support both programmes. We understand that at present Tasmania is undecided while the other three States have said that they regard the Australian Research Grants Committee’s programme as being something purely for the Australian Government and therefore they may not be inclined to support it.
The Third Schedule to the Bil] sets out the amounts allocated to each university under the $5.76 million programme to be administered by the Universities Commission. The Bill itself provides flexibility for the Minister to reduce the Commonwealth’s contribution to this programme in respect of any universities whose State is not prepared to support the programme recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee. Commonwealth contributions to the latter programme are authorised under the State Grants (Research) Act 1965 and an appropriate amendment is being proposed elsewhere to that Act to meet the new situation.
This Government has always attached considerable importance to the development of proper residential facilities at Australian universities. In the present triennium we have seen an ambitious programme of construction of halls of residence and affiliated colleges brought to reality. We will continue to support a vigorous programme for this purpose in the next triennium. The total value of the projects covered by the Fourth Schedule is $18 million of which the Commonwealth’s contribution will be $9 million. As. in the past, the Commonwealth will provide half of the approved cost of all residential accommodation - whether halls of residence or affiliated colleges; the State government will meet half of the cost of halls of residence, and will share with the college authorities in providing half the cost of affiliated colleges. The Bill provides for the maximum flexibility for variations in the programme for student residences by decision of the Minister after consultation with the Universities Commission.
The Commonwealth will continue to pay unmatched grants to student residences as a ‘ contribution towards their tutorial functions. On .the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission the rate of payment to affiliated colleges will be liberalised. The formula for this is set out in the Bill.
Grants from the Australian Government towards the capital cost of teaching hospitals commenced in the 1961-1963 triennium and recurrent grants commenced from July 1965. Both forms of grant will be provided again in the next triennium. Details of capital grants involving a total Commonwealth contribution of $4,927,000 are set out in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill. This represents a half share of the cost of the programme. In New South Wales the State Government has not yet finally determined the allocation of teaching hospitals between the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales and therefore global amounts for both capital and recurrent grants have been provided in the schedules, with provision for the Minister to determine the precise allocation at a later date. The recurrent grants to universities for specified costs of their teaching hospitals are set out in tha Sixth Schedule and. as with general university recurrent grants, the Australian Government’s contribution will be on the basis of SI to $1.85 with the State.
Honorable members will appreciate that this legislation is not concerned with grants to the Australian National University which are dealt with each year in the relevant appropriation Bills. The approved programme for the Australian National University in the next triennium will require a Commonwealth contribution of almost $66m. The total amount of Si 75m. appropriated under this Bill for grants to State universities during the 1967-1969 triennium represents an increase of approximately 30 per cent, over expenditure in this triennium. The programme has been arrived at after close consultation with the State Governments. Approval of this measure by the Parliament will constitute a firm commitment on behalf of the Australian Government and it will then be for each State to determine the extent to which and the manner in which it will make its own contribution to the programme. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to make amendments to the legislation which authorises grants from the Australian Government to the States for their universities over the three years 1964, 1965 and 1966. In one respect the legislation covering the 1961- 1963 triennium is affected also. Recently the Auditor-General questioned the practice adopted by the Australian Universities Commission since I960 of regarding alterations or additions to buildings costing less than £5,000 as a recurrent rather than a capital expenditure. This is a generally accepted practice and meets the wishes of the States and the universities. The Auditor-General did not consider the matter such as to require that he draw attention to it in his report but he is of the opinion that the practice is not in accord with the definition of capital expenditure in section 6 of the 1960 Act and section 2 of the 1963 Act. It is therefore proposed to amend that definition in those Acts to exclude from it expenditure on alterations costing less than £5,000.
Honorable members will be aware that the former University of Adelaide at Bedford Park became Flinders University of South Australia as from 1st July of this year and a formal amendment is proposed to take account of this change in title. Provisions authorising Commonwealth grants to universities for their teaching hospitals were included in the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act (No. 2) 1965. That Act defined teaching hospitals as those listed in its Fifth Schedule where the teaching hospitals to receive assistance with capital projects were set out. However, certain other teaching hospitals are eligible to receive recurrent grants only during the present triennium and an amendment is proposed to authorise this. On 7th March this year the Government announced that in view of the special circumstances deriving from the rapidly increasing enrolments there, the Australian Government and the Government of Queensland had agreed to increase the maximum recurrent grant to the Townsville University College for the year 1966. The increased Commonwealth contribution of £19,000 will be authorised by a further proposed amendment.
Finally, the description of two projects at universities, one in Queensland, the other in New South Wales, is to be changed because of changes in the location of these projects. I commend the Bill to the House,
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Freeth, and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to amend the States Grants (Research) Act 1965, which authorises payments to the States for special research projects recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee. Where under the existing Act a payment is for research to be carried out in a State university, the Australian Government’s contribution is conditional upon an equal matching contribution by the State. The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to vary that condition so that the Minister, after discussion with the State, may require an equal matching amount or a lesser amount or no contribution at all from the State towards special research projects in a State university.
This flexibility is required because not all States may share with the Australian Government in supporting grants recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee for projects in State universities. The extent to which a State shares the cost of the special research projects under this legislation will determine the extent to which the Australian Government will contribute to research grants recommended under the programme of the Australian Universities Commission. The circumstances which have brought about this change in the arrangements were explained in some detail in my second reading speech on the Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill 1966. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Rebuilding at H.M.A.S. “ Nirimba “.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - First stage of progressive rebuilding in permanent construction of H.M.A.S. “ Nirimba “, at Quakers Hill, New South Wales.
The proposal involves the construction of four three storey barracks blocks, a marine engineering demonstration building and a new ward room to replace the existing building which was recently badly damaged by fire. The total estimated cost of these works is $1,800,000. In reporting favorably on the proposal, the Committee has also recommended that some minor improvements be effected in the treatment room in the present sick bay. It is proposed to accept this recommendation. On the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
New Secondary School at Nightcliff, Northern Territory.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Proposed new secondary school at Nightcliff, Northern Territory.
The proposal consists of a complex of a main two storey classroom block with attached annexe containing administration and laboratory facilities, a single storey craft block and a covered assembly area. The estimated cost is $2,200,000. The proposal submitted to the Committee envisaged construction in two contracts, the first stage to be ready at the beginning of 1970 and the second at the beginning of 1972. The Committee has recommended that the school be built under one contract and completion of the second stage advanced to January 1971. It is proposed to accept this recommendation. The Committee has recommended also that the number of car parking spaces be increased and that steps be taken to ensure that pavements, landscaping and playing fields are completed concurrently with the building contract. Both these recommendations will be implemented during the further design and construction stages of the proposal. The Committee has reported favorably on the overall proposal and, on the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I ask whether it is intended that this school shall have air conditioning. One of the grievances of people in the Northern Territory is that some of the schools there are untenable by children in hot weather and that air conditioning ought to be regarded as normal in the Territory.
– in reply - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am not able to give the honorable gentleman a categorical answer. I am almost certain that air conditioning will be provided. 1 think that the Public Works Committee will have seen to that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Airfield Pavements, Coolangatta Airport.
. -I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public WorksCommittee Act 1913-1965, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Coolangatta Airport - Development of airfield pavements.
The proposal involves three main elements - first, the strengthening of the existing runway, taxiway and apron pavements; secondly, the extension of the runway to a total length of 6,500 feet, plus 200 feet of stopways at each end; thirdly, the construction of a new taxiway, and widening of the existing taxiway. These works are estimated to cost $1,300,000 and are required for the larger aircraft that the domestic operators propose to use at Coolangatta. In reporting favorably on the proposal, the Committee has recommended that the adequacy of the aircraft parking facilities be kept under review. It is proposed to accept this recommendation. On the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Snedden, and read a first time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill substantially completes the revision of the statute law of the Commonwealth made necessary as a consequence of the adoption by Australia of the system of decimal currency. The Currency Act 1965 which came into operation on C day, 14th Feburary 1966, requires references in acts to amounts of money in £ s. d. currency to be read as references to the equivalent amounts in decimal currency. The Currency Act 1965, however, does not effect a textual alteration of the £ s. d. references. The purpose of the Bill is to amend each reference to its decimal currency equivalent so that, when acts are reprinted, money references can be expressed in decimal currency terms. Honorable members will recall that, towards the end of last year, the Parliament passed a number of bills which amended references in acts to amounts of money that did not convert into convenient decimal currency amounts. During the current year, the opportunity has been taken to include in a number of amending acts the amendments relating to decimal currency required to be made to the principal acts amended.
Honorable members will notice that, while most of the amendments have been dealt with by means of a schedule, certain references - such as amounts in tables - that do not lend themselves readily to this type of amendment have been dealt with separately in the clauses of the Bill. The Bill converts each reference to an amount of money into its exact decimal currency equivalent; no substantive alteration is made to any amount. For example, the tax of three tenths of a penny per bushel of wheat imposed by the Wheat Tax Act is amended by the Bill to its exact equivalent - one quarter of one cent.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the fixing of 1st December 1966, as the main date for the commencement of the Act. This date has been chosen because it is expected that the bills currently before the Parliament that are amended by this Bill will be assented to before that date. I commend the Bill to the consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13th September (vide page 768), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a Bill to amend the High Commission (United Kingdom) Act 1900-1957 and for other purposes. It is a short Bill of only eight clauses. With one exception it is a machinery measure. The Opposition does not oppose it.
The Bill alters the description of the High Commissioner from “ High Commissioner for the Commonwealth “ to “ High Commissioner for Australia “. This is a highly desirable change and is fully supported by the Opposition. The Bill further gives the High Commissioner authority to delegate powers conferred on him in relation to the appointment of permanent offi cers and the engagement of temporary employees. It validates, firstly, appointments made other than by the High Commissioner and, secondly, certain salary increases paid by way of ministerial approval to locally engaged staff. This delegation of authority appears to be sensible and reasonable. The amendments appear to be made all the more necessary because, according to the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), the Australian High Commissioner in London at this time does not have legal authority to appoint a clerk, a typist or a doorman. The Bill gives him the right to delegate powers. The Opposition is in agreement with the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.22 a.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
Civil Aviation. (Question No. 2110.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers -
s.- On 14th October 1966, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) asked me a question without notice on the steps taken in the last two years to augment plant quarantine facilities and when such facilities will be adequate to test without delay all varieties of fruit which Australian growers wish to import, including apples, pears, citrus, stone fruit, strawberries and vine fruits. I undertook to look into the question, and take corrective action, if necessary.
I am now able to supply further information, which is as follows -
The quarantine legislation regarding plants specifically prohibits, except by special permit, the importation of apples, pears and other pome fruit from any source where Fireblight exists. Fireblight is a devastating bacterial disease which the growers of such fruit fortunately have not experienced in Australia and special precautions are necessary to ensure that this disease does not gain entry. In addition it is now known that the importation of apple stock, even as small pieces of budwood, can be the means of introducing virus diseases.
Virtually no apple varieties were imported into Australia for a considerable period prior to 1958. Since that time, 31 commercial apple varieties from overseas have been introduced in quarantine and nine of these have been released. Seven were found to be virus infected and have been destroyed, and the most recent introductions are still under test.
Several factors, including the stage of development of the stock; the season of the year, particularly where the stock is imported from the Northern Hemisphere; and the size of the imported stock, have influence on the time taken for testing and clearing the varieties and this period frequently extends to three years. In this regard, it is necessary, initially, to successfully establish the stock and let it grow to the point where there is sufficient material for testing purposes.
Expert quarantine supervision over the importation of new varieties of commercial fruits is also exercised. Specialists in the State Departments of Agriculture and the Waite Institute, South Australia, have undertaken the time-consuming disease screening, especially for virus diseases, in the case of imported stock of citrus, stone fruit, strawberries and vine fruits.
New techniques and procedures applicable to quarantine testing are constantly being evolved. Additional staff is being trained to cope with the work involved in quarantine testing and it is hoped that special equipment which is on order will also help considerably in this direction.
The State Departments of Agriculture, which are responsible for testing fruit varieties for their horticultural attributes, arc concerned about the number and suitability of fruit varieties, including apples, which may appear on the Australian market. In practice officers of my Department consult with the appropriate State Department of Agriculture officers before the importation of commercial fruit varieties is approved.
I would like all honorable members to know that my Department will continue assisting as far as possible in the introduction and establishment of new fruit varieties in Australia consistent with maintaining the necessary quarantine precautions.
Drugs for Mental Depression.
s. - On 14th October, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mc lvor) directed a question to me regarding certain tablets that may be prescribed for people suffering from mental depression and nervous disorders? 1 undertook to make some inquiries regarding the availability of these tablets and any dangers that may be associated with their use.
As a result of my inquiries I am able to inform the House that the names of the drugs in question are Naralid (or Maneilin). Nardil and Parstelin. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has not recommended that any of these drugs be made available as pharmaceutical benefits and consequently they are not on the pharmaceutical benefits list. In fact Naralid (or Maneilin) is not known to be available on the market at all in Australia. Nardil is available in all States except Tasmania and South Australia but only on a doctor’s preemption. Parstelin is available in all States but only on a doctor’s prescription.
I regard it as highly improbable that these tablets would be given to patients by medical practitioners without knowledge of the effect they might have on the patients or on a trial and error basis. There has been a great deal of publicity in recent years regarding the possible adverse effects of drugs on patients and the medical profession is very well aware of the dangers associated with the use of drugs.
The possible adverse effects of the particular drugs referred to by the honorable member in his question have been detailed in medical literature which is readily available throughout the medical profession. Should cases arise where such effects do occur alternative drug treatment is available and medical practitioners generally would be conversant with the alternative treatment
The investigation which the honorable member suggested in relation to the use of these drugs is a continuing process in my Department. Studies of all the available information regarding the use of drugs are continually being undertaken by highly qualified experts and the best available independent medical advice is provided by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee which was set up in 1963 by one of my predecessors and includes some of the most eminent medical and scientific people in Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19661021_reps_25_hor53/>.