26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hod. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the growing concern of a very wide section of the Australian community at the loss of our national heritage to overseas financial interests, due to the continuing taking over of our manufacturing industries, rural industries and our natural resources? As the Government seems to have no remedy to rectify this situation, I ask: will the right honourable gentleman consider setting up a committee, including representatives of both Government parties, the Australian Labor Party, manufacturing and rural industries, the stock exchange and the trade unions, to inquire into all aspects of overseas investment in Australia and how best it can be planned and controlled; or does the Australian Government intend to continue to allow any type of overseas investment in this country without planning and without controls so that it can fill the deficit gap in its balance of payments each year?
– If this question is deemed to be in order it is so clearly of a highly argumentative character that I do not propose to engage in debate on it here. The general views of the Government on this matter have been stated by myself and other members of the Government on many occasions. I do not regard any special machinery as being necessary to guide the Government in the policies it should pursue in the matter. In making our determinations we do take into consideration, of course, what we believe to be the national interest and the views of people whose judgments should have some influence on our own thinking. But there is no doubt in the collective mind of the Government that Australia has benefited very greatly - it has been strengthened and made the more secure - by the development and growth which has been assisted on a limited scale, to which I previously made specific reference, by capital, technique, know-how and executive ability which have come to us from overseas. I do not find in the community the wide spread concern to which the honourable member referred. I find a realistic recognition by the thousands of employees who have found profitable and satisfactory employment in these establishments that the growth of the country has thus been made possible.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. My electorate is very interested in the route of the gas pipeline from Gidgealpa to Adelaide. It is the general opinion in this area that the pipeline should pass through such centres as Port Augusta and Port Pirie, also serving Whyalla, rather than through the area of Peterborough, which does not sustain an industrial complex. Could the Minister let me know what arrangements were made by the Government with the South Australian Government, and what are the prospects of the route being changed to service the more populous industrial areas?
– Both the Prime Minister and I had discussions with the South Australian Premier in order to find out whether finance could be provided for the natural gas pipeline from Gidgealpa to Adelaide, and we were informed that it should be possible to provide semigovernment finance of at least $20 million. The Commonwealth Government agreed that it would provide bridging finance of up to $15 million. So we have permitted the South Australian Government, through our actions, to have the pipeline built - -
– Through the Australian Loan Council.
– I should have said, the Commonwealth Government through the Australian Loan Council. The project received the unanimous approval of the Australian Loan Council. As to the question raised by the honourable gentleman, when I was in Adelaide I was advised of the desirability of having the line shifted to go through the more populous and industrial centres mentioned by the honourable member. I had to point out that while the Commonwealth Government was willing to provide finance it felt that this other aspect was a matter within the jurisdiction of the South Australian Government itself. What the honourable gentleman has said does sound like common sense to me, but I confirm that I cannot intervene in this matter, as it is for the South Australian Government alone.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the very serious economic condition of the sugar industry, in which unemployment is running at record levels in the monoculture sugar towns, I ask the Minister whether, in the event of it being undesirable to raise the domestic price of sugar this year under the CommonwealthQueensland sugar agreement and there being a further inability to negotiate successfully a satisfactory international sugar agreement, he will give very serious consideration to the establishment of a constructive sugar stabilisation scheme to cover this year’s crushing, if the industry so desires. Also, in view of the very heavy profits being made by the Japanese Government from our sugar, what are the chances of getting a higher price, or a more reasonable price, for our sugar from the Japanese?
Mir McEWEN - I am very conscious of the problems that confront the Australian sugar industry. They are problems which would be completely devastating if it were not for three arrangements that have been made. The first relates to the domestic price assured for the Australian proportion, the second to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which ensures the sale to Britain of about 335,000 tons of sugar a year at a satisfactory price, and the third the arranger ment which has been negotiated with the United States to take an amount of sugar which has in fact been approximating 160,000 tons a year, again at a very satisfactory price. In addition, but not of great significance, there are preferences for the sale of our sugar in New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom in respect of quantities in excess of the agreement - the quantities which I mentioned. These are the result of efforts by the present Government and past governments drawn from this side of the House and from the other side of the House. The sugar industry recognises, I know, the great value of these arrangements. Our sugar industry is highly efficient and has expanded to the point where the quantity of sugar not covered by these various arrangements is now so substantial as to leave a most unsatisfactorily low average price.
For the last couple of years, I have tried with great intensity, as have the Government and officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry - always in co-operation with representatives of the sugar industry - to negotiate a new international sugar agreement. Up to the present, we have failed. I attribute the failure principally to the tension between the United States and Cuba, Cuba being the biggest exporter of sugar in the world. It is of considerable interest to note that Australia today is the second biggest exporter of sugar in the world. This is a tribute to the efficiency of those engaged in the industry. However, in the face of the failure of general efforts to secure an international agreement, I have directly approached the Prime Minister of Japan and sought to reach an arrangement under which Japan, either directly by negotiation or by action within the ambit of international sugar agreement discussions, would indicate a willingness to pay a more reasonable price for sugar. I have pointed out that although at present the Japanese economy is benefiting from the importation of sugar at intolerably low prices, the Japanese consumers are not reaping much advantage from this because of very high customs duties and excise duties upon sugar refined in Japan. I have had personal close discussion with the Prime Minister of Japan on this point. Up to date, I have failed, but I do not accept that the book is closed. I intend to proceed during this year with the efforts which I have now described to the House and which I think I have previously described on more than one occasion.
Having said all that, I come to perhaps the critical part of the honourable member’s question. He asked whether I would support a stabilisation scheme. The policy of this Government has been clear. We have always relied upon an industry to propose to the Government what it thought best in its own interests. We have never thought it right for the Government - for politicians - to make such a proposal. I have never thought it right for the Australian Country Party, even with its specialised rural role, to compose policies for the primary industries. We prefer to allow those who have made their investment in the primary industries to propose the policies, then to pick up the proposals and, as we have done on many occasions, to support them. What the sugar industry has done up to the present time is to decide that its own interests would best be served by sustaining all the arrangements that I have mentioned, by continuing the efforts to get an international sugar agreement and by asking the Government - this was done last year - to advance to it a very substantial sum of money as a loan. The Government has done everything that the sugar industry has asked it to do.
- Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to you. In view of the disproportion of numbers as between Government and Opposition members in this chamber, causing congestion on this side of the House, and the crush that now occurs during divisions when the Government takes the negative side, will you consider a complete renewal and redesign of the existing seating arrangements and the installation of a press button voting system during divisions?
– I shall consider the matter that the honourable member has raised.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. I have sensed speculation that the Cabinet may have concluded its agonising reappraisal of its promised referendum on provisions of the Constitution relating to the comparative numbers of members in the two Houses of the Parliament and to the counting of Aboriginals for electoral distribution. I ask: can the right honourable gentleman yet reiterate his intentions of a year ago?
– The honourable gentleman is mistaken if he thinks that agony has accompanied the earnest consideration by Cabinet of matters of so great importance as these. No doubt he relates them to his experience within his own Party. I can assure him that the discussions in Cabinet are both much more harmonious and much more comfortable than those within his Party. I now get to the point of the question. Yes, Cabinet has come to a decision on the proposals that it will put to the Parliament for a referendum to approve changes in the Constitution. At the end of question time I shall seek an opportunity to outline these in more detail. At this stage I can say that we shall put forward the substance of the two proposals that were previously adopted unanimously in this place, one being adopted unanimously in the Senate and the other by a substantial majority there. Expressed almost in shorthand terms, the first proposal concerns the breaking of the nexus between the numbers in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The second proposal now to be put to the people represents an expanded version of that relating to Aboriginals, the purpose being to remove from the Constitution references that have been regarded by many as discriminating against Aboriginals.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a supplementary question. Concerning the proposed referendum on Aboriginals, will he intimate whether it is proposed to go beyond the mere excision of certain references in the Constitution to Aboriginals and to deal with more substantial matters relating to the interests of Aboriginals and, indeed, oi the whole Australian people?
– The two proposals concerning Aboriginals emerge from section 51 (xxvi) and section 127 of the Constitution. I shall explain them in more detail when I can do so with more precision.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport He will recall a series of questions culminating in a debate in this House last year on the Government’s rejection of an application for the payment of a subsidy to the Dutch company Verolme United Shipyards for the establishment of a shipbuilding industry at Margate in southern Tasmania. The Minister will recollect saying that the Government would not consider payment of a subsidy to the company before the completion of the Tariff Board’s review of the shipbuilding industry in 1969. Is he aware that Margate is one of the areas that were devastated by the recent bushfires? Does he also know that the fires have disrupted industry and caused loss of employment in the Margate area? Will he reconsider his attitude towards the payment of a subsidy to the Verolme company to enable a shipbuilding industry to be established as a practical step towards the rehabilitation of industry and the restoration Of employment in the stricken area?
– I am aware that the area mentioned by the honourable gentleman suffered disastrously in the recent bushfires. However, I point out to him that the question of the payment of a subsidy for the building of vessels of a certain size is rather different from the question of whether Verolme United Shipyards ought to receive a subsidy for the establishment of a shipyard and an engineering industry at Margate. The proposals submitted by the company embodied the establishment of a general engineering works and also a ship repair dock. To qualify for a Commonwealth shipbuilding subsidy they have first of all to obtain an order to build a ship of over 200 tons. There is nothing whatever to stop any private enterprise industry, by arrangement or negotiation with the Tasmanian Government, from setting up in business in that area; but the Commonwealth’s policy with regard to the shipbuilding subsidy remains as it was.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. It relates to Commonwealth financial assistance requested by the Western Australian Government for developmental projects. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether, apart from the request for finance for the standard gauge railway project and the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme, tooth of which are now under construction, and for the major Ord River dam, there is any other development project in Western Australia for which the State Government is seeking financial assistance.
– I shall treat the question asked by the honourable gentleman as being one on notice and give him a considered reply when I have been able to study the facts.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister seen recent reports in Australian newspapers concerning a Miss Wendy Farrell who was alleged to have been placed on board a plane and sent back to Rome after a stay of only 45 minutes in Britain? Is there any reciprocity between Australia and Britain regarding immigration? Is it necessary for an Australian citizen to have a visa to enter Britain? Likewise, is it necessary for a United Kingdom citizen to have a visa to enter Australia? Will the Minister make a statement on thu matter so that people proceeding to Britain will be aware of the requirements and so that they will know what to expect if they overstay their time?
– I did see the news item referred to by the honourable gentleman. Let me say first that there is no need for a person who is a British subject of European descent to obtain a visa to enter Australia. There is no reciprocal agreement between Australia and Britain in relation to the right of entry to either country. This is a matter for each country to determine. We in Australia make our own determination and the visa is not the method used for the entry of British subjects of United Kingdom citizenship. A United Kingdom citizen is able to come here if he is of European descent, if he is healthy, if he is of good conduct, and so on.
As to Australian citizens going to the United Kingdom, about two or three years ago the United Kingdom Government applied a system which had commenced to operate some years earlier. Under this system, persons arriving in the United Kingdom from all Commonwealth countries need to obtain a work voucher if they propose seeking employment in Britain. I would describe the work voucher condition as something quite different from what applies to the arrival of dependants of persons who have been admitted earlier. I think the quota of work vouchers is 8,500 a year, and I think also that a total of 1,000 of these is reserved for Malta, the remainder being spread over the Commonwealth. The number of Australians who receive work vouchers is relatively quite small - something in the low hundreds.
The net result of all this is that any Australian citizen going to the United Kingdom and intending to seek employment there ought to apply for the issue of a work voucher before he or she leaves Australia. As I understand the position, people who are going as tourists will be admitted provided they establish to the United Kingdom immigration authorities that they do not intend to engage in employment and that they have sufficient funds to maintain themselves. Consequently, my advice would be that any person going on what one might describe as a working holiday should make his inquiries with the United Kingdom authorities in Australia before departing. Individual cases, and there have been some few of them, are handled by the Australian High Commissioner in London and come within the Prime Minister’s Department for representations of that kind. My recollection is that the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Australia made quite a lengthy statement on this subject earlier this year or perhaps late last year. I would be quite happy to co-operate with the honourable gentleman by obtaining a copy of that statement for him.
– In addressing a question to the Prime Minister I refer to a published announcement in London late last evening that Field Marshal Sir Richard Hull was leaving for Singapore where he was to arrange the necessary reductions of United Kingdom forces in that area and that the proposed reductions would possibly make Great Britain no longer qualified to be a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the United Kingdom has advised him that there is a possibility of reductions in United Kindom forces in the Singapore area and whether Great Britain may have to withdraw from SEATO? Will he also advise the House on how this proposal might affect Australia’s defence commitment to SEATO?
– I was not aware of the particular report to which the honourable gentleman has directed my attention, but I know the general intention of the United Kingdom Government. Indeed, this was re-affirmed even as recently as yesterday in the discussions we held with the Minister for Commonwealth Relations. The United Kingdom has made it clear in both of the most recent general reviews which it has made on defence matters that it intends to sustain a military presence east of Suez and to maintain British forces in those areas where they have long been established in Malaysia and in the area of Malaysia and Singapore. The United Kingdom forces were built up in that general area during the period of confrontation and we were well aware of the intention of the United Kindom Government to reduce its forces once the confrontation crisis either abated or terminated. This process will no doubt continue. However, I am sure that the United Kingdom will be in a position to maintain its role in SEATO and to discharge the other commitments which it has undertaken in this area of the world.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Has ‘he received representations from the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations seeking a reduction in the licence fees paid by commercial television stations? Does the Federation claim that the Commonwealth Government has been the principal beneficiary from a financial standpoint in the ten years of television? Is this claim correct and, if so, does the Government intend to reduce the licence fees paid by television stations by granting Concessions to those stations which make an effort to produce and present Australian programmes of a higher standard?
– Naturally there has been a number of representations from the commercial television organisations covering quite a number of matters. To suggest that the Government has been the chief beneficiary of their activities is, in my view, to overlook completely the fact that from the Government they have received a tremendously valuable asset at no cost other than the licence fee which is paid annually. I believe that the profits they have made - I cast no reflection on private enterprise making a profit - ‘have in most cases been very substantially in excess of the amount that has .been paid to the Government in licence fees. I would not believe it was the Government’s intention to reduce these licence fees at present.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question in his capacity as Minister in charge of Tourist Activities.
Has the Government established any targets for the number of tourists who could be attracted to Australia in the future and the amount of foreign exchange which Australia might gain from this source?
– At this stage the Government has npt established any targets as far as future numbers of tourists who might come to Australia are concerned, but we are very encouraged by a report from the Harris, Kerr and Forster organisation, a research company of world repute which was commissioned last year by the Australian National Travel Association to make predictions in this regard. Last year Australia attracted 200,000 visitors who spent about $60m in this country. The report of the Harris, Kerr and Forster organisation suggests that if we promote Australia’s tourist image in a vigorous and dramatic way, in ten years the number of visitors each year will increase to 600,000 and our foreign exchange earnings from this source will increase to more than $200m. For my part I would believe that these would be minimum targets at which the Government should aim.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is it a fact that much of the lucrative income of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is derived from the systematic fleecing of people who insure parcels against loss or damage simply by refusing to pay compensation on the ground that the parcels had not been adequately packed, although it has been admitted in some instances that they were carefully and securely wrapped?- Is the general public expected to be conversant with the multitude of regulations governing the conditions under which compensation might be payable when insured goods have been lost or damaged in transit? If so, will the Minister take action to protect consignors by having notices displayed in all post offices setting out the type of packaging required for various types of goods before they will be accepted under insured rates? Alternatively, will he instruct all postal officers not to handle at insurance rates parcels which are inadequately wrapped, thus saving the general public from unnecessarily- wasting money or the time of postal officers?
– The public is given every opportunity to know what is required in relation to the wrapping of parcels. The Post Office Guide’ sets out clearly the type of wrapping necessary. I believe that merely to place a printed notice on a notice board in post offices would not overcome the problem to which the honourable member has referred. Postal staff at all post offices are quite conversant with what is required. They- may be consulted by the public and they will give advice to the public. I think it has been stated on many occasions that only registered mail - not unregistered mail or certified mail - carries an insurance cover. It should be clearly understood that if people wish to send through the mail articles that are easily broken, such as crockery and glassware, they should be adequately packed in a suitable container, which should really be of wooden construction, because when hundreds and sometimes a thousand bags of mail, including letters and parcels, are collected together from one area the pressure on the contents is great.
– Why does the Post Office accept the parcels?
– We accept the registration fee at the request of the person sending the parcel. The Post Office cannot be held responsible for determining what is in the parcel or whether the contents are adequately packed having regard to their nature. This must remain the responsibility of the public.
– Can the Minister for
Trade and Industry say what progress is being made in establishing an overseas container service to cater for Australia’s general cargo requirements? Is it a fact that Overseas Containers Limited will spend $2 million Australia on the purchase of containers? Is it also a fact that a British-Australian service will commence early in 1969?
– A.n announcement has been made by the British company, Overseas Containers Limited, today. Not only for myself, but for all Australians, this is a happy announcement. This great combination of British shipping companies has stated that it will proceed to bund six- container ships - very sizeable ships- rand commence a specialised container service to and from Australia. The ships will be delivered in 1969 and the service will commence then. This will have the result of providing a service to Australia every ten days by a container ship. The ships will load and unload in only three Australian ports - Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle - and there will be feeder container services from all Australian ports to these major terminal ports. The cost of the feeder services will be absorbed so that there will be a single Australian freight rate. This is a very important aspect.
The whole project represents a major breakthrough in the carriage of Australian goods out of the country and the carriage of goods imported here. I am confident that this innovation will put an end to the continuous, and apparently interminable, trend of upward freight rates due so largely to the cost of on-shore handling, for at present 40% of the freight rate that is charged represents costs that occur on shore. Under the proposal large ships are intended to be completely unloaded and reloaded in 48 hours.
– What will happen to the redundant waterside workers?
– I am sure that question will be attended to. I think it would be ungracious if I did not pay a tribute to a very distinguished Australian who has taken the initiative in this matter. I refer to Sir Alan Westerman, who has concentrated greatly on analysing the opportunities for this system and for a rationalised service. He persuaded me to convene a conference in Canberra in May of last year and the great shipping interests from all over the world responded by coming to Australia to discuss the situation and to be persuaded that this great innovation should proceed. I understand that there are only two container services in the world at present, one operating between Honolulu and the west coast of America and the other operating out of the port of New York. For Australia to have persuaded the shipping interests to commence this innovation here is a recognition of this country. I certainly pay a tribute to the work of Sir Alan Westerman. The honourable member asked in the latter part of his question whether containers to the value of $2 million would be manufactured in Australia. My in formation is that containers to the value of $3 million will be manufactured in Australia for the proposed service.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Has the Royal Australian Navy taken delivery of a former Royal Navy minesweeper to be used as a diving tender? What was the cost of the vessel to the Royal Australian Navy, including the cost of shipping it to Australia as deck cargo? Was this vessel imported to Australia because no suitable vessel was available here? What efforts were made to obtain a suitable vessel in Australia or to have one built in Australia?
– Yes, we have taken delivery of this diving tender which will be known as HMAS ‘Seal’. I cannot give the exact costs off hand, but I do know that an examination showed that it would be much cheaper to obtain the vessel in this way than to have one built in Australia. Inquiries were made about having a vessel built in Australia, and it was found that the method we finally adopted was by far the better and more economical proposition. If the honourable gentleman is interested in further details I will be very pleased to supply them to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. As the substantial requirement of building tradesmen urgently needed for the rebuilding programme in Tasmania, made necessary by the recent disastrous fires, cannot be met from local sources, will the Minister see that a special effort is made by his Department to recruit building workers overseas?
– I can give the honourable member an assurance that my Department is very much seized of the necessity to co-operate to the fullest extent possible. Indeed the Chief Immigration Officer in London is already forging arrangements for a campaign to recruit the required skilled building workers. He is consulting with the Tasmanian Agent-General. We are at present awaiting details from the Tasmanian Government of the number and type of skilled building tradesmen needed, having regard to the job that has to be done and the number of workmen who will be available from local sources.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is there a well organised plot to discredit Qantas Empire Airways Ltd and exert pressure on the Government to permit the establishment of a second Australian overseas- airline company? Has Ansett-ANA recently applied for a licence to operate an overseas airline service between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the Philippines? Has the Government decided to grant this licence to Ansett-ANA as the first step in the establishment of a second overseas airline?
– The answer to both parts of the question is no.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. I refer to the memorial cairn erected near the Canberra airport to commemorate the tragic air crash in 1940 in which three [members of the Australian War Cabinet and other persons were killed. Will the Minister take action to improve the approaches as well as the general condition of the area, which presents a most untidy and neglected appearance with broken beer bottles and assorted rubbish? Even the commemorative plaque has been damaged and left insecure.
– I thank the honourable member for directing my attention to mis. I have seen the cairn. The memorial is associated with one of the most tragic accidents in Australian aviation and political history. I believe that ten people, including three senior members of the War Cabinet, lost their lives. I can assure the honourable member that I will immediately send an officer of my Department to look at this memorial and make sure that it is regularly tended and kept in a manner befitting a memorial.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Has the Government refused to issue a passport to a respected foreign affairs journalist, employed by a very responsible Australian newspaper, to enable him to visit Hanoi? If so, what is the reason for the refusal?
– Some time ago the Acting Minister for Immigration at that time, my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service, announced that in future all Australian passports would be marked as being not valid for travel in North Vietnam. The nature of a passport is that it asks those persons responsible for government in the country to which the holder of the passport goes to accord proper facilities to the person possessing the passport. It also entitles the person, as a traveller, to expect the protection of the Government which issued the passport. The Australian Government came to the conclusion that these conditions relating to a passport could not be fulfilled in relation to North Vietnam. It further came to the conclusion that, having regard to the state of events in Vietnam and the infiltration and warfare from North Vietnam, it was not proper that passports should be marked in any other way than as not valid for travel in North Vietnam. The Government has considered this matter and has come to the conclusion that that decision was right and should be maintained.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a supplementary question to that asked by the honourable member for Gellibrand. Will the Government review its attitude in the case of this well known Australian journalist seeking a passport to go to Hanoi in the light of the fact that the United States Government had no hesitation in granting a passport to Mr Harrison Salisbury of the ‘New York Times’ to go to Hanoi? Might I also ask the honourable gentleman how he distinguishes between a nonCommunist Australian journalist going to Hanoi and a Communist Australian journalist going to Saigon a couple of weeks ago?
– The Leader of the Opposition makes an assumption on which I have no information. He says that the United States readily gave a passport to Mr Harrison Salisbury. I do not know whether it readily gave him a passport or not. So far as this question is concerned, the Australian Government considered the matter and came to its conclusion. As to how I distinguish between a person going to North Vietnam and a person going to South Vietnam, I would remind the Leader of the Opposition that we have a number of very gallant Australians serving in South Vietnam and I see a remarkable difference between our relationship with South Vietnam and our relationship with North Vietnam.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, Cabinet has given further consideration, as I outlined in answer to a question put to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), to the matter of holding a referendum on the two items which were the subject of legislation by both Houses of Parliament towards the end of 1965. It has decided to proceed in relation to both of these matters. The major purpose of the first proposal was to remove the requirement in the Constitution that any increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives would automatically produce an increase in the number of senators to the extent of half the increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. The second proposal, in the form in which it was previously passed, was designed to remove the provision which prevents Aboriginal natives from being counted when the population is reckoned. This is one of two provisions in the Constitution in which Aboriginals or people of the Aboriginal race are mentioned explicitly. They are to be found in section 51 (xxvi) and section 127. Section 51 provides:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
The people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
The Government has decided to propose that the words ‘other than the Aboriginal race in any State’ be omitted from the section. While the original intention in inserting these words was to safeguard the position of people of the Aboriginal race they have been widely misinterpreted and there is a general impression that they are discriminatory.
When amending proposals were previously before the Parliament, that relating to Aboriginals was adopted unanimously in both Houses, and the proposal to break the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate was adopted unanimously in the House of Representatives and by a very substantial majority in the Senate. Indeed on the second reading of the Bill in that chamber there were forty-four ayes against seven noes. On the third reading there were forty-three ayes to eight noes.
For reasons which I publicly indicated on 15 th February 1966, and later repeated in my first policy statement to the House of Representatives on 8th March 1966, the Government decided to defer until the commencement of this Parliament the consideration of the taking of a referendum in relation to these matters. I said then: we intend, early in the life of the next Parliament, to introduce the necessary legislation to enable a referendum to be held on the proposal to break the nexus between the two Houses of Parliament. We will also then give a general indication of our intentions in relation to the distribution proposals which would be made should the referendum prove successful. We intend, at the same time, to present also the proposal relating to Aborigines. This proposal has been supported by all political parties, and there was indeed no negative case prepared for circulation to the electors.
I now give the general indication then promised of our intention in relation to redistribution proposals. Need for this is long overdue as I am sure all honourable members will agree. Some metropolitan electorates, for example, in the same State, have fewer than 40,000 voters while others have in excess of 100,000. By the time of the next election, assuming the Parliament will run its full course, the disparity will have widened. Should the referendum in relation to abolition of the nexus between the two Houses prove successful the Government would propose to increase the size of the House of Representatives so as to provide one member for not fewer than 85,000 persons. It is worth mentioning here, I think, that if a specific provision relating to 85,000 persons were made it would be the first occasion when such a specification had been included in the Commonwealth Constitution. This, we anticipate, would require an increase of about thirteen in the size of the House of Representatives.
Unless the nexus is removed an increase in the House of Representatives must be accompanied by an increase of as nearly as practicable half that number in the Senate. If the present voting system were to be maintained this could be performed effectively only by increasing the Senate by twenty-four, thus involving a total increase in the House of Representatives of fortyeight. In other words, to secure what would be intended as a modest increase in the House of Representatives we would be driven - I repeat, assuming that we maintain the present system of voting for the Senate - to a total increase of seventy-two parliamentarians. The purpose of the nexus proposal is as I have mentioned. It has been suggested that our object is to permit an excessive increase in the number of members of Parliament. This was one of the grounds of criticism which we heard at the time of the earlier legislation. This, of course, is not so. Our proposal is, I repeat, to ask the electors for approval to change the Constitution so that as the growth of the population requires we can legislate in this Parliament for modest increases in the size of the popular House. It is true that the present Constitution would permit small increases in the size of this House, but they would have to be accompanied by directly proportionate increases in the size of the Senate. Our proposals, if carried, are designed to allow the smallest increase that we consider to be consistent with effective representation without the necessity to make adjustments in the size of the Senate.
There is no question of eroding the proper role of the Senate by the proposal to break the nexus, nor indeed of precluding future increases in the size of the Senate. I think that questions of this sort, with the restraints removed, could safely be left to the good sense of representative members of the Parliament in both Houses, themselves responsive to the wish of the electorate as they interpret it at the time. Under the existing constitutional provisions, it is not possible to secure changes in the numbers of the House of Representatives without running into serious difficulties in effecting the proportionate changes in the size of the Senate. We believe that the Government and the Parliament should have flexibility to secure such changes in the size of this House as we deem desirable as our population grows. However, we believe that the Senate as at present constituted is well able to discharge, and discharge effectively, the role designed for it by the Constitution. We are well aware that some fears are held that the prestige and authority of the
Senate may in some manner be diminished as a consequence of this proposal and that its role as a house of review and custodian of the rights of the smaller States weakened. We do not accept these views as having practical force. The Senate of the United States provides an example of how a chamber much smaller in numbers than the popular House may develop great authority and prestige. In modern times, most senators - in my experience this has invariably been the practice of those from the Australian Labor Party - have followed in the Senate the policies adopted by the majority in their party room discussions.
The Government, I may say, has considered other suggestions that have been brought forward to effect an increase in the size of the House of Representatives and at the same time enable an increase in the size of the Senate, but without having the considerable jump in numbers that would follow if we maintained the present system of voting. We have looked in particular at a proposal that the Senate be increased by a total of six, with one additional senator for each State. This would mean that at alternate elections there would be six senators voted for on one occasion and five on the other. It might be necessary to have six senators elected in some States and five in others at the same election. The possibility of a deadlocked Senate would be considerably increased and there are other factors which, in the view of the Government, make this a less desirable course than the more simple and clear cut proposition to increase the House of Representatives to the required extent without the requirement of a corresponding increase in the Senate.
We did consider whether other referendum proposals should be added to the two that had previously been considered by the Parliament. However, except in the one respect I have mentioned in relation to Aboriginals, we have come to the conclusion that we ought not to complicate the issues to be put to the people by introducing additional proposals but should confine ourselves to the two issues previously considered by the Parliament. These, as I have mentioned, were matters which received the unanimous support of this House and, as to one, unanimity in the Senate, and, as to the other, the very large majority that
I have detailed. The Government feels that, with an understanding of its intentions and recognition of the necessity to provide adequate parliamentary representation for a rapidly growing population, there will be the necessary electoral support for the desired constitutional change. There should also be wide approval for the removal of provisions generally deemed, even if mistakenly, in some way to discriminate unfavourably against Aboriginals and persons of the Aboriginal race.
Our intention, Mr Speaker, is to put through the necessary legislation relating to these proposals as soon as practicable. I expect it to be introduced in this House within the next week or two. We propose to have the measures passed by the two Houses as expeditiously as possible. Whatever may be the fate of the referendum we are resolved that there shall be a redistribution of electoral boundaries during the life of this Parliament. Clearly it would be unsatisfactory to continue indefinitely a situation in which metropolitan electorates in particular exhibit such wide disparity of numbers of voters and in which there is great need for a more balanced and more equitable distribution of boundaries between the electorates of the Commonwealth as a whole. The expedition proposed for the passage of the legislation and the submission of the proposals to the people by way of referendum is dictated in large part by our knowledge that the carrying through of a redistribution for all the electorates throughout Australia will take considerable time. We must have these initial procedures completed well before the next general election, which we hope will occur in three years from now.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– I asked the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) whether he wished to make a statement. He considered that as the legislation would be introduced shortly that would not be necessary. If one honourable member is given leave to make a statement, doubtless others will want to join in. There will be an early opportunity to debate the matter when the relevant legislation is before us soon.
Leave not granted.
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament for ‘an amendment of the Tasmania Grant (Gordon River Road) Act 1964. Mainly to extend the period of its operation by two years. Under the Act the Commonwealth is providing a grant of up to $5m to the State to assist it in the financing of a developmental road in the Gordon River region of southwest Tasmania, to enable the State to undertake a detailed investigation of a further stage of its hydro-electric system. The Act provides for reimbursement by the Commonwealth of the State’s expenditure on construction of the road, up to the limit mentioned, during the four years ending on 30th June 1967.
The Premier of Tasmania has now requested that the period of operation of the Act be extended for two years beyond 30th June 1967. This is to allow the deferment of expenditure on sealing some sections of the road until after that date. Up to 30th June 1966 an amount of $3,153,000 had been spent on the road. The Premier has advised the Commonwealth that some $4,750,000 of the overall limit of $5m is expected to have been spent by 30th June 1967. The State plans to spend the remaining amount on sealing work after 30th June 1967. No increase in the total funds available under the Act would be involved. The road is being constructed to sealed standard. However, not all sections of it will be sealed by 30th June 1967. The State wishes to continue with the remaining sealing work, but considers that it would be desirable to defer it until the summer of 1967-68, or possibly 1968-69, to ensure that the formation is soundly consolidated first. It is understood that weather conditions in the area make this desirable, and that expenditure on this sealing work now could turn out to be a waste of public funds as resealing within a few years could well be necessary. The Commonwealth Government considers that the Premier’s request is a reasonable one and should be acceded to.
The Bill also makes provision for a variation in the description of the road in the Act so that it accords more precisely with the exact route followed by the road. Sir, I commend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adourned.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give effect to the announced reduction of the residential qualification, for citizenship, of non-British subjects who are permanent residents and are called up for national service. At the time of call-up, nonBritish subjects selected for service will be adults, and as the Nationality and Citizenship Act stands at present they would be entitled to no concessions by way of reduced residence for the purpose of acquiring Australian citizenship. As members of the forces they will be liable for overseas service. The Government has decided that they should be eligible for citizenship after three months service, regardless of their period of residence in Australia. A person who, before completing three months service, is discharged as medically unfit for further service and who, in the opinion of the Minister for Immigration, has become medically unfit by reason of his service, will likewise be eligible for citizenship. The grant of citizenship has always been discretionary and it is consistent with this that the Minister should determine whether or not the discharge was due to a disability caused by Army service.
Under the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 Irish citizens are neither British subjects nor aliens. Irish citizens were not liable to call-up as British subjects but the decision to extend the call-up to nonBritish subjects rather than to aliens means that Irish citizens now become liable. Irish citizens may acquire Australian citizenship by registration in the same way as British subjects. Clause 3 (b) of the Bill is designed to ensure that British subjects and Irish citizens who are either called up for national service or who volunteer, or have volunteered, for service in the permanent forces, shall be residentially qualified for the grant of registration as Australian citizens under section 12 of the Act after three months service- or after a shorter period if discharged as medically unfit by reason of their service.
Clause 4 (a) of the Bill makes similar changes in the conditions for the naturalisation of aliens as are made by clause 3 (b) in respect of the requirements for the grant of citizenship to British subjects and Irish citizens. There are some consequential changes to which I should draw the attention of the House.
Section 12 (1) (f) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 specifies that an applicant for registration must intend “to continue to reside in Australia or New Guinea “. This pre-supposes that an applicant is resident in Australia at the time of application. In fact, it will be possible for a serviceman to be abroad at the time of application and it is necessary to provide for acceptance of an intention ‘to reside’ in Australia. Clause 3 (a) of the Bill achieves this.
Clause 4 (b) repeals the existing provisions of the Nationality and Citizenship Act in respect of persons who volunteer for service in the permanent forces. The Nationality and Citizenship Act now provides that alien volunteers in the permanent forces may count each four weeks of such service as equivalent to eight weeks’ residence for the purposes of acquiring Australian citizenship. It would be inappropriate to give to persons volunteering for service with the permanent forces less favourable treatment than is afforded to aliens called up for national service. The Bill therefore will amend the existing law and place volunteers in the permanent forces on the same footing as persons called up for national service.
In 1964, Parliament repealed section 49 of the Defence Act which provided that members of the military forces were not required, unless they voluntarily agreed to do so, to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and certain of the Territories of the Commonwealth. Since then there has been no question of members of the permanent forces volunteering for overseas service. Clause 4 (c) therefore includes a consequential amendment of section 15(2a)(c) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 by deleting the words ‘having volunteered to serve beyond the limits of Australia and the Territories’.
Mr Speaker, I know that members on both sides of this House will endorse the changes which this Bill contemplates and which are designed to ensure that no nonBritish serviceman will have to go overseas without first having had the opportunity of becoming an Australian citizen. I commend the Bill to all members of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks authority for the Government to double the amount of money annually available from the Commonwealth to provide science laboratories and equipment in independent secondary schools throughout the Commonwealth. The present Act provides for $29,717,400 to be available to government and independent schools for this purpose during the three year period ending on 30th June 1968. This requires an annual allocation of $9,905,800 and of this annual amount $7,237,800 is provided to government-run schools and $2,668,000 to independent schools.
In the light of our experience of the scheme, it is evident that an increased measure of assistance to independent schools would be of great benefit and bearing in mind that of the $20m now granted for science facilities and laboratories in secondary schools and in technical schools the State schools are receiving $17,237,800 and the independent schools only $2,668,000, we have decided that it is reasonable and just to increase the amount payable to independent schools to $5,336,000 out of a total grant for these purposes of $22,668,000. The Government, therefore, now proposes, as was stated in the policy speech at the last elections, that in the 1967-68 financial year and subsequently, the amount annually available to independent schools should be doubled. We believe that as a result virtually all secondary schools, both government and independent, will have received during the next four years the basic science teaching laboratories and apparatus they need, though in the case of government schools this target will depend on the various States continuing to provide the same resources to this end as they have done in the past.
Up to the present time every State high school has received Commonwealth assistance in the form of science teaching apparatus and the State departments of education have chosen some 253 high schools at which to build science teaching laboratories with Commonwealth money.
By 30th June 1967 the States expect to spend $14,475,600 which is their entitlement for the first two years of the triennium ending on 30th June 1968, and each State has a programme of work in hand which will, we hope, take up the whole of its three years entitlement by 30th June 1968. So far as independent schools are concerned 771 secondary schools have registered with the Department of Education and Science as being interested in receiving assistance and 508 schools have so far received assistance, or will receive assistance in the triennium.
During the operation of the scheme the Government has made available grants of sums recommended by the State advisory committees for projects in schools recommended by those committees. The Government, in doing this, undertook to meet the full reasonable cost of assisted projects when the initial grant did not do this. This undertaking was given subject to the proviso that Parliament continued the scheme and that a definite date for payment of outstanding costs could not be given. The additional money to be provided for independent schools by this Bill will, in the financial year 1967-68, be used to discharge the indebtedness of building projects in respect of all schools assisted during 1964-65 and a number of schools assisted during 1965-66; the latter schools will be chosen in the order in which payments were first made to them in 1965-66. The remainder of the schools assisted in 1965-66 and the two succeeding financial years will have their indebtedness discharged in full in the financial year 1968-69. At the same time the process of assisting new school requirements will continue. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd February (vide page 1 03), on motion by Mr Munro:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Before referring to the Governor-General’s Speech, I want to mention one matter, and it is with a degree of regret that I have to mention it. It relates to representations which I made to the Minister for Air (Mr Howson). I do not propose going into the details of the representations but I do think the circumstances have been most unfortunate. First of all, certain action was taken in my electorate following representations by someone outside the electorate and I was not notified or informed in any way of what action had been taken or what had happened. When my constituent consulted me I made representations to the Minister in regard to the matter and was informed that inquiries would be made and that information would be obtained for me. I waited for a period and then again contacted the Minister. I was informed that certain regulations had to be adhered to and that in the circumstances the action which had been taken was only in line with departmental policy. Quite frankly, I wonder whether this is correct.
Although I was prepared to accept the Minister’s explanation I felt, nevertheless, that there had been undue delay on the part of the Minister and the Department in replying to my representations. I was informed that a letter was being written and that I would receive that letter very shortly. I do not know what the Department means by ‘very shortly’, but that was five weeks ago and I have not yet received a reply on this subject. The incident to which I refer and from which the circumstances developed happened on 1st February. A changeover was made on that date, but I felt that at least a decision should have been made and a reply given before now. I am most dissatisfied with the action that has been taken on this matter and I think it evidences a lack of courtesy not only to myself, which perhaps is not of great importance, but also to my constituent who is concerned in this case. I repeat that I am most dissatisfied with the way this matter has been treated. I sincerely hope that action will be taken to ensure that this sort of thing does not occur on too many occasions. We were debating yesterday an increase in the number of Ministers State. I feel that perhaps some of the criticism that was levelled arose because things have been taken for granted in many instances. I am afraid that the matter to which I have referred is evidence of that. I hope that steps will be taken to rectify the situation so that this sort of thing will not occur again.
I come now to the Governor-General’s Speech. When one listened to and read the Speech presented by His Excellency there came a realisation of the development in Australia and the progress that we have made. One became aware of the increased responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the tremendous responsibility that the Commonwealth now has in all matters concerning our progress and our future. As we read through the various sections of the Speech presented by His Excellency we can see and understand some of the complications which now exist. One matter mentioned by His Excellency was the renewal of the five year stabilisation plan relating to the dairy industry, which faces many problems. I shall go into this subject in greater detail when the new stabilisation plan is presented.
There are some things that we must face up to in regard to the dairy industry. I have felt in many instances that steps that have been taken to assist the industry have, in the fullest sense of the term, not been of value to the industry because frequently assistance given to farmers in some areas has been just sufficient to enable them to continue in the industry but not sufficient to allow them to take those steps which are necessary to stabilise the industry in that area or to give them a real foundation upon which they can build. This is a problem that we must study and one that we must face up to. In the basic reasons behind the desire of those of us who constantly present a case for people in the dairying industry the aim is twofold. We hear constantly the statement that there is need for increased food production. In this regard, particularly in the Asian area, we in Australia have a responsibility. Therefore, to meet this responsibility, it is necessary for us to sustain the dairying industry not only for our own domestic economy but also for the help we can give in the Asian area.
I believe we need to take a new look at our primary industries, particularly the dairying industry, so that we can help in this area. This is something we must encourage. In this connection I think of the factory which we have established in the Philippines. The young man who is in charge of the factory came from my area. He is a most competent individual. When I was in the Philippines last year he took me to the factory and showed me some of the improvements and the remarkable achievements that had been made. These are the areas and the sorts of things upon which we must concentrate to ensure the future of the industry. I reiterate now something that 1 have said on many occasions. I remind those people who constantly object to assistance being given to primary industries and the dairy industry- in particular that it is remarkable that on many occasions these same people are the ones who give strongest support for tariff protection for secondary industries. We do not object to tariff pro- tection for secondary industry, but I think it rather unreasonable to object to assistance being given to primary industry while advocating tariff protection for secondary industry.
I was gratified to bear in the news and to see in a report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ that the Australian fishing industry will set up a national council which will represent all sections of the industry in all States. This was decided at the recent three- day conference. The conference agreed on a national fish policy to exploit the sources from the Australian shore to the 100-fathom line. It suggested an inventory of sea resources and better information services and improved technical information and planning to reduce the industry’s risk element. I believe that this will be of extreme value not only to the fishing industry but also to the economy of Australia as a whole. We must realise that these things affect not only the individual industry but also spill over and have a beneficial effect upon the whole of the Australian economy. I believe that one of the problems in the fishing industry has arisen because there has not been the central control, direction and advice available to assist the industry in all States. When the fishing industry has been faced with a problem there has been a little too much of the individual approach to the problem by the States and, therefore, not sufficient strength in finding a solution to the problem. I think many problems in the fishing industry, particularly in my own State of New South Wales, unfortunately have been caused by apathy to the industry on the part of the New South Wales Labor Government which was previously in office in that State. I pay tribute to what has been done so far in the State sphere by the present Liberal and Country Party Government in New South Wales in assisting the industry. The efforts of the State Government, plus the establishment of the National Fish Council, will be of tremendous value to the industry in New South Wales.
I propose now to say something about development and decentralisation, subjects on which we have been speaking for many years. In New South Wales we have seen a new lease of life under the new Liberal and Country- Party Government. Its. enthusiasm and its support for planning and thinking in regard to. decentralisation has been most encouraging to people in the country districts, of- New South Wales. However, there are many things that could be done by co-operation and continuing cooperation between the State and Federal Governments. I turn to the problem of development, about which we have been talking for so long. There has been certain criticism of the amount of overseas capital coming into this country. I have no criticism of overseas capital coming into the country because we need it to establish new industries; to. give- us fresh know-how and to help us to develop the country. My only objection to overseas investment is when it takes over already-established industry or when Australian capital is used by overseas companies to establish industries here. When this is done we do not obtain the advantage of increased capital corning into the country. This is an aspect that should be examined because I am sure that there have been instances where overseas companies have been allowed to use Australian finance to establish an industry whereas that Australian money could have been used to give a greater Australian participation in the industry. This is the only criticism I offer about overseas investment; I do not criticise it in general.
I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) and the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) on their fine maiden speeches in this debate. The honourable member for Kennedy referred to the availability of amenities in country areas. One way to attract people to country areas is to provide them with the amenities they need. I have said on other occasions in the House that as far as decentralisation and development of this country are concerned we face great problems because we have a small population and a vast area. Because of these things the per capita cost of providing communication services, railways and roads is high. It is higher in Australia than in any other country. So we must concentrate on keeping costs down and making sure that we get the maximum use from our available finance and resources.
Local government authorities are vitally concerned with decentralisation. They face problems of increased costs. If we are to solve these problems we must have full co-operation between State governments, the Commonwealth Government and local government authorities. I am glad to see that in New South Wales efforts are being made to solve these problems. I propose to quote from a report by the Local Government Electricity Association of New South Wales concerning the price of copper. This report was discussed recently by a county council in my electorate. The report, which is dated 29th November 1966, stated: the price of copper moved again. This time it was increased (on 3/10/66) by $100 to $1,050 per ton. Then on 19/10/66 (16 days later) it was increased again by a further $100 to $1,150 per ton (where it now stands at the date of issue of this report).
Thus it will be seen that within the space of approx. ten weeks the following fluctuations have occurred: - 6/8/66 up $380 from $870 to $1,250 per ton 16/8/66 down $100 from $1,250 to $1,150 per ton 24/8/66 down $200 from $1,150 to $950 per ton 3/10/66 up $100 from $950 to $1,050 per ton 19/10/66 up $100 from $1,050 to $1,150 per ton
The effect of these variations has been extremely detrimental to electricity supply authorities. Besides the overall increases involved it has proved most difficult for authorities to estimate with any degree of accuracy their capital works expenditure commitments for future periods.
In addition a number of Electricity Councils have reported that orders placed for copper cable and other copper products have been the subject of delays and argument on matters of price. It would appear that some authorities have not been given the immediate benefit of decreases in copper prices whilst at times of increased prices these have been applied forthwith to current orders.
Delays in delivery have also been evident in some cases where suppliers appeared to be anticipating fluctuations in copper prices.
This illustrates the problems of local government in country areas. These problems affect not only local government authorities but also individual industries and people building homes. I am aware of the difficulty of surmounting these problems. I know also that the Association had discussions with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and, I think, with the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). These problems are of deep concern to those who are responsible for progress and development in country areas.
While a good deal of progress towards decentralisation has been made by the New South Wales Government, there is one thing that could be of tremendous advantage in this field. In many circumstances consideration should be given to making finance available to a group or a company to assist it to establish industry in country areas but I think the better course is to endeavour to reduce freights and telephone charges, for example, or to give freight concessions. These things would assist not only industries but also individuals who may think of living in these country areas. The adoption of such a policy would go a long way towards achieving a measure of decentralisation. I do not suggest that there would not be occasions when finance should be made available to individual industries but I think that some encouragement to people themselves should be given. This is one way in which we could help to achieve decentralisation. We would help not only to establish industry in country areas but also to encourage people to live in country areas and assist in the establishment of industry. There would be a snowballing effect because people moving into these areas would attract additional population to service the already existing population.
I now wish to make a brief comment about Australia’s position in the international scene. I congratulate the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) on the fine speech he made yesterday. There was a tremendous amount of commonsense in what he said about our attitude towards Asian countries. I think there is sometimes a danger that we tend to judge Asian countries by our own standards. This is ridiculous. I remember years ago that famous man Sir Roy Welensky saying that we should realise that democracy had been established in our countries for many centuries and yet we still made many mistakes. We should understand and appreciate the problems confronting the newly independent countries and other countries of Asia. It will take many years of hard work and hard thinking not only on their part but also on ours and on the part of other developed countries before they will be able to make maximum use of their potential. What the honourable member for Angas said in this regard is well worth thinking about. I confess that I have not been tremendously impressed by the argument against our military involvement in Vietnam that we should instead provide economic assistance. No-one denies the need to give economic assistance and other help to countries like Vietnam. However, it is no good supplying such aid unless there is stability in the country. The honourable member for Angas mentioned, as did the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong), the destruction last year by the Vietcong of a dairy farm established in South Vietnam by Australians.
Yesterday the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Gray) said that with all the might of the allied forces in South Vietnam little advance had been made against the Vietcong and the Communists. Surely any person with an understanding of the complexities of the situation, and an appreciation of guerrilla warfare, realises that the might of a modern army fades into insignificance in jungle warfare. The Government is not unmindful of the problems and complexities of the Vietnamese situation, associated with which is the human factor, but the basic responsibility is to secure the future of our country and of its people. The Government recognises its responsibility and has accepted it.
– On 26th November 1966 the people of Australia decided to keep in power the coalition Liberal Party and Country Party Government. They returned to the Government benches a greater number of members than had sat upon those benches for about thirty years. Why did the people do that? I look at those who have been returned as members of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party but, with one exception, they are not distinguished by attractiveness or charm that would appeal to the people. They have no outstanding qualities or qualifications. In fact, they represent an ordinary cross-section of the community and are relatively dull and uninteresting. I admit that they are the choice of the people, but I have been trying to find out why the people chose them. Of course they were not elected because the people considered that the policies enunciated by the leaders of the Liberal Party and of the Country Party were more in the interests of the Australian people than were the policies enunciated by the leaders of the Labor Party. They were elected for one reason, namely, that there exists in Australia a condition of affluence that the people are prepared to accept. There exists in Australia a condition of prosperity that is shared generally by all members of the Australian community. All people who intelligently examine the situation will admit that this was the sole reason for the way the people voted. I met new Australians who said: ‘We have never had such good conditions as we enjoy in Australia. We might get better conditions from a Labor government but we are not going to risk what we have got on the chance of getting something better, so we will return to the Government benches the coalition Government.
– They were mighty wise.
– My friend suggests that these new Australians were mighty wise. But whence this prosperity and affluence, and how long will the present situation last? The prosperity is the direct result of the activities of past Labor Governments. The banking legislation of 1945 gave to the Commonwealth Government power to determine Australia’s monetary and financial policy. That legislation has enabled the Government to marshal, mobilise and utilise the monetary and financial resouces of Australia to defeat either inflation or deflation. It was the vast immigration scheme of a Labor Government that provided Australia with four million additional workers who have increased vastly the productivity of Australia. It was the great Snowy Mountains scheme, initiated by a Labor Government, which added to Australia’s productive capacity. This scheme was frowned upon by honourable members supporting the present Government, with the exception of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who alone among the cohorts of the present Government accepted an invitation to the opening of the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– I advocated that scheme.
– Yes, the honourable member was the one bright speck in an otherwise gloomy outlook. The immigration scheme, the Snowy Mountains scheme and the banking legislation of Labor governments, together with the settlement of numbers of ex-service personnel on the land, are the basis of the affluence that Australia has enjoyed in recent years. You, Sir, will remember, I know, that it was Lord Babington Macauley who said that the good effects of the reign of a good king are often not felt until that king has gone to join his ancestors and another king, whose deeds and accomplishments cannot be compared with those of his predecessor, has taken over. And this, of course, applies to the accomplishments of the Labor Government. The basis of prosperity was established by Labor, but it was not during Labor’s term that the people of this country enjoyed that prosperity to the full; they have enjoyed it during the term of office of this Government which coasts along on Labor’s achievements.
Somebody might well say: what is wrong with that from the point of view of the people of the country? It might be said that if this Government has inherited the products of Labor’s genius and is using them well in the service of the people, then the present Government deserves the goodwill of the people, and the people have acted wisely in returning this Government to the Treasury bench. But is the Government using the products of past achievements wisely? Is it taking advantage of the golden opportunities that have been provided for it, in the first place by Labor legislation and in the second place by a benevolent providence that has given to this country during the last fifteen years a more or less uninterrupted succession of satisfactory and fruitful seasons? During that fifteen years we have received higher prices overseas for the products of Australian industry than we ever received before. Greater quantities of our products have been sold overseas than ever before. In addition to an increase of 4,000,000 in the manpower of this nation there has been a very great increase in output per worker due to advances in science and improved equipment. Nevertheless this period of prosperity does not appear as if it will last. The people of this nation are already experiencing certain disabilities.
I listened with care and attention to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). He pointed out that one of Australia’s essential requirements is increased rural production. He said that our farms must produce more because we have millions more people to feed and we have secondary industries in -which primary products must be processed. In 1939 there were 253,000 farms in Australia. In 1947, after people had gone off the farms to serve in the armed forces, there were 247,000 farms. After 1947 the legislation of the Labor Government resulted in another 17,000 ex-service personnel being established on farms. I see the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), who has been Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, looking at me attentively. I know that he will be able to add together 247,000 and 17,000 and get a result of 264,000. But in
Australia today we have not 264,000 farms; we have not 253,000; we have about 252,000. The number of farms has diminished and the number of rural workers has diminished by tens of thousands during that period of fifteen years.
– Modern invention.
– Our friend here says modern invention’. We have 4,000,000 extra people but not one extra person has been put on a farm; not one put into rural employment. Not one migrant, soldier settler, son of a farmer, or city or rural dweller has been given a farm or put into rural production without the displacement of another rural worker or another farmer who was in the industry in 1939.
– What about the 1,000 new soldier settlers in Western Australia alone? The honourable member had better have another guess.
– These are not guesses. I asked the Minister himself on one occasion what the value of rural production per head of population was in 1939 and what it was at the time I asked the question.
– It was much improved.
– Per head of population?
– That simply proves that the honourable gentleman is totally and absolutely irresponsible. He has had recorded in Hansard his answer to my question, which is to the effect that per head of population the rural production of this country has diminished.
– Not diminished.
– Per head of population it has diminished although per worker in the industry it has increased. I have already told the House how science and invention have increased productivity. I have already said that in secondary and primary industry the output per worker has increased considerably, and I have pointed to one of the golden opportunities of which this Government failed to take full advantage.
Today in this country we have what is called affluence, and one of the reasons for that affluence is that the country has been sold at bargain prices to overseas investors. If we receive from overseas investors, as we have received, the magnificent sura of $5,000m in ten years we can of course use that money to do something for the people of this country. That is what has happened. But Australia, after all, can be considered a big business. Consider the position of big businesses such as Farmers, Foy and Gibsons or Cox Bros which are going broke today because although they have sold large quantities of goods during the period of their operations they have been unable to live on their income. They have sold their goods but the sales have not been sufficient to meet their commitments and so they have sold a portion of their industry. They have taken a loan here and a loan there and then every year less and less does the production of their undertaking meet their liabilities and so they get into difficulties. That is the position with Australia. Australia exported goods in order to buy goods overseas but she was not able to pay for the goods out of the proceeds of those exports and so a bit of the farm has been sold every year.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is the leader of the Australian Country Party and the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He said that we are like farmers. We can live comfortably if our income annually is great enough. Of course we still can live comfortably if our income is not great enough by selling a bit of the farm every year. That has been going on in Australia and inducement after inducement is offered to overseas people to buy this country. If I happened to be an investor in Australian industries and I lived in New York and my income from that Australian investment were a clear $5,000 then I would pay $750 in taxation to the Australian Government. If I happened to be a worker in Australia and if by the sweat of my brow or the ingenuity of my brain I earned $5,000 taxable income in Australia I would pay $1,154 in taxation. If I happened to be an investor in General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and I lived in New York and was entitled to dividends of $50,000 a year I would pay $7,500 in taxation to the Australian Government. As an Australian living in Australia I would pay more than $29,000.
That is the manner in which the predatory capitalist overseas interests are being enticed to buy the industries and the natural resources of Australia. At the present time because of the fact that the goments of the United States and of the United Kingdom are restricting the export of capital to other countries, this Government, anxious to live easily, anxious not fo develop Australia so that Australia can live upon its own resources, but anxious as it were that Australia should live upon the toil and the sweat of bygone generations by the sale of industries, now says that we have to do something about extending our dual taxation agreements. Japan has not a dual taxation agreement; nor has West Germany. But I have here, not one, but a dozen articles from a dozen different papers softening up the people of Australia in order that they will accept the imposition upon this country of double taxation agreements with Japan and West Germany by Australia so that the Japanese and others who are willing to come to this country and use their money to exploit our resources to the benefit of themselves and their nation shall get added advantages. As somebody pointed out earlier, already they are coming to this country and exploiting our mineral resources so that as rapidly as possible we will have very little mineral resources left, merely holes in the ground.
That is what this Government has done for the people of Australia. Of course the hour of reckoning is coming and this Government will be forced to endeavour to give to Japan and Germany and other nations those taxation concessions that will induce them to send more and more money - they call it money but really it is capital - to this country in order to take over our assets. I heard honourable members talking about capital coming to Australia. The only way in which capital comes here is in the form of goods. It comes in the form of shoes from Italy, Czechoslovakia and China. It comes in the form of all kinds of manufactured materials and textiles from Japan, the US and other countries. It comes here in forms that are destructive of the very industries that are the foundation of the economic life of Australia. But this Government is permitting it to be done. The boot industry of Australia has lost thousands of skilled operatives in recent years. The textile industry has lost thousands of skilled operatives. Most of these people are now employed in some tertiary occupation, engaged by the foreign predatory interests that are being built up with the assistance of this Government. My time is almost ended but before I conclude I suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann), who had the audacity to challenge some of my figures earlier, that he should look up the records.
Sitting suspended from 12.38 to 2.15 p.m.
-I call the honourable member for Franklin. I remind honourable members that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– I associate myself with the remarks that have been made by the mover of the motion, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) so ably supported by my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I join with the expressions of loyalty contained in the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I should like to take the opportunity, Sir, to congratulate you on your elevation to the position of Speaker and to congratulate those other honourable members who have assumed high office in this Parliament since it has been reconstituted. I have found it rather interesting to listen to the speeches delivered in this Address-in-Reply debate, particularly the very entertaining and interesting speech which was delivered by the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) who posed the question why there should be such a large majority on the Government benches and how it so happened that such a debacle occurred to the Party which he currently represents. That is perhaps a problem that will for some years to come be exercising not only the mind of the honourable member for Scullin but also the minds of many other members of the Opposition. Amongst other things, the honourable member paid a great compliment to those of us who have come into this Parliament as new members when he said that we were ordinary people. I am sure that most of the new members on this side of the House are proud of being just that.
The honourable member who led the debate from the Opposition benches mentioned yesterday the lack of publicity which His Excellency’s Speech received in the local Press. It is rather interesting for one to pick up the Press of today and notice that the Labor Party’s contribution to this debate through the lips of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) has been greeted by the mention of Labor once on the front page - of the local paper anyway - and that in an item concerning a small baby.
– That is not unusual.
– I agree that it is not unusual. I think that the honourable member would be sufficiently familiar with the Press to realise that if on the eve of a test match Bobby Simpson got a sore toe the report of a major conflict taking place perhaps in Vietnam would go on the second page. It is all a matter of how pressworthy an item happens to be or, in regard to activities here, how current or topical might be the appeal of an item to those who are. responsible for reporting the proceedings of this chamber. However, it was rather interesting to hear the comments of the honourable member.
I want to touch on a matter that has caused Tasmania and me a great deal of concern. Since 1 have assumed great responsibility in the electorate of Franklin we have been, of course, subject to a tremendous blow from the recent bushfires which
We have sustained in southern Tasmania. I would be recreant to the trust placed in me and lacking in my duty to the electorate I have the honour to represent if 1 were not to pay in this Parliament, as soon as is humanly possible, a tribute of the warmest kind to the people of the rest of Australia for the tremendous donations they have made to assist people in Tasmania who have been affected by the tragic bushfires which have devastated southern Tasmania. The fires have brought in their wake many problems which are none the less great notwithstanding the efforts being made to overcome them by all those people responsible for overcoming them. There are many people to whom we in southern Tasmania express our sincere gratitude.
Our thanks go first to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) who so promptly, even despite the pressing nature of his commitments was good enough to fly to Tasmania and in a statesmanlike manner see for himself the devastation which had occurred. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) immediately after the bushfire tragedy occurred was good enough to appoint the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) to go to Tasmania as a liaison Minister between the Commonwealth and the State Government of Tasmania. We are extremely grateful - and I am sure 1 can speak for the Tasmanian Government too - to the Deputy Prime Minister for having sent Mr Howson to Tasmania to assist us. Since then we have had the help of the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who came to Tasmania to see at first hand the efforts of the Army to assist and the contribution which its members are making to alleviate the losses which have occurred. This contribution is considerable. The Army so far has acted as host to many hundreds of people who have been rendered homeless by the tragedy. Army cooks have undertaken longer hours of duty in order to help. They have done all this cheerfully and uncomplainingly and have performed a magnificent service for the people rendered destitute by the fires, and we are grateful to the Minister, not only for coming personally and seeing the position at first hand by flying over the areas affected, but also for the contribution the Army is making. The Prime Minister summed up the position, I think, and gave a lot of solace and consolation to the people who have been affected, when he said that we are all Australians and that he had come to express the sorrow of the rest of Australia for the Tasmanian people in the tragedy which had struck them.
Perhaps the magnitude of the loss can be best illustrated if one makes a comparison - bearing in mind the small population of Tasmania - on a per capita basis with the largest State of the Commonwealth. New South Wales. Had this calamity occurred in New South Wales, on a per capita basis 16,000 homes would have burned and been razed to the ground. That is a tremendous number of homes, particularly when one realises that in Tasmania the houses destroyed were in a small area. For the information and benefit of the House I point out that 1,400 houses have been entirely destroyed. This figure does not include outbuildings, barns and the many other buildings which have been burnt, nor does it cover destruction of stocks of hay. The fires have rendered 7,500 people homeless. We have lost 50,000 sheep. That figure is not complete as yet. One thousand beef cattle have been destroyed, and that too is a figure which is not yet complete. One thousand pigs, 300 dairy cattle and 25,000 laying fowls were also destroyed, and there is a possibility, of course, of damage to the reproductive capacity of some of the animals which still are only just alive and may not recover in the present breeding season. There were 1,500 miles of boundary fences burnt entirely and are in need of replacement and 1,200 miles of subdivisional and internal fencing that will require to be replaced. Four hundred acres of small fruit crops have been entirely ruined and at least 750,000 bushels of apples have been destroyed. This figure is estimated at slightly less, I believe, at the moment, but I believe too that by the time the full assessment of damage is known the figure will reach at least 750,000.
Here I hasten to say that despite the loss to its fruit industry Tasmania will still manage to export the quota which has been allotted to it for the current fruit season. I would also reassure our buying market that our fruit will be of the standard that has been maintained over the years. Therefore there should be no reluctance or apprehension on the part of buyers who contemplate purchasing fruit from this area. Perhaps had this tragedy not occurred I would have availed myself of the opportunity to devote the time at my disposal in this chamber today to making mention of some of the other and basic problems confronting this major industry in southern Tasmania at the present time, particularly the marketing problems which were encountered during the marketing season last year.
The damage caused by the fire is tremendous, but naturally the greatest blow of all is the loss of fifty-nine lives. Every one of us deeply regrets these deaths; many of the people were personal friends of mine. The fire has been a great setback to Tasmania. In addition to the items I have mentioned, we have lost three major industries. One is in the electorate of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I refer to Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. In Hobart, we have lost the Cascade brewery. This was a tremendously important industry to us, and will no doubt be a loss to other Australians. The Australian Commonwealth Carbide Co. Ltd of Electrona has sustained losses of more than $300,000.
The process of rehabilitation has begun. There is an enormous will to work, supported and abetted by the knowledge that the Australian people in general have feelings of deepest sympathy for those who have been burnt out and who have suffered tremendous losses in this tragedy. Planning has commenced, but perhaps I should mention a few matters that arc important in this context. Some communities have been almost completely wiped out. They grew over the years, without the benefit of town and country planning - the systematic organisation that is now available and the knowledge we now have of modern planning. It is, of course, necessary to hasten with the programme of rebuilding, but I hope that in our haste we do not miss the opportunity to replan and redesign the districts that have been seriously affected and thus, in rehabilitating the people, contribute to their future by using modern town planning methods.
Two committees have been formed. One will keep a close liaison with the Federal authorities in the use of the generous assistance that is being given at government levels. Of course, it would be unfair to mention property damage without referring to the tremendous losses of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Hydroelectric Commission of Tasmania. In one stretch of 24 miles, no fewer than 200 poles were completely destroyed. Power still is not available in some areas and it will be some time before it again becomes available.
One committee that has been formed will administer the trust fund which is the result of the generous contributions to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. The other, as I have said, will handle the joint contributions that have come from State and Commonwealth sources. The announcement has already been made that homes to the value of $8,000 will be built as soon as possible for those who were made homeless. I would express some slight concern, not because these homes are being built or because some people will in this way receive a benefit if the homes that were destroyed were of a lower value, but because of the insurance aspect. At the moment, it is thought that the amount of insurance carried on a home that has been destroyed will be deducted from the grant of $8,000 made to rebuild the home. This may undermine the confidence that is ordinarily held in insurance and may have a deleterious effect in the future. 1 do not think that people should be given the impression that a benevolent government will always provide for them if they suffer losses in a catastrophe of this kind and that, therefore, they need not insure. Situations such as that now existing create anomalies and precedents which may not be to the enduring good of the people. Nothing should be done to destroy the confidence that one ordinarily has in the benefits that can be derived from insurance. I hope the responsible authorities will keep thi$ thought in mind. lt is necessary to provide urgently some tangible assistance for the Australian Commonwealth Carbide Co. Ltd so that it can again tool up and come into operation. The Company has given an assurance to its employees that it will continue their employment. The employees, having lost everything, may have decided to leave the district. Already a small caravan site has been established on a recreation ground in the district and employees will soon be moving in. I sincerely hope that the Company will be given some assistance. There seems to be little point in rebuilding an industry of this magnitude if employees are not available to it. The industry is important to the district. If it is not re-established, there is little need to commence a rehousing programme in the area. One must go hand in glove with the other. I hope that some satisfactory arrangement will be made for this industry, perhaps by a long term low interest loan combined with a grant from the State and Commonwealth coffers. I know that the Minister who is engaged In liaison between the State and Commonwealth Governments has this matter well in mind and will give it his earnest thought and sympathetic consideration.
It would be unfair in discussing insurance not to mention that by far the heaviest losers in the whole of this tragedy are the insurance companies. They have paid out an enormous amount of money to people who were insured. They have been generous and quick in their assessments of the damage. They have come to the rescue of their clients with alacrity and generosity. It would be most unfair to do anything between now and the final rehabilitation of the people that would undermine the confidence that the ordinary person has in insurance and the belief that is ordinarily held that a person has an obligation to insure his possessions. The losses are mounting to astronomical figures. Some of the claims will undoubtedly be more complex than others and we may find that the claimants with the more difficult cases, some of which obviously will relate to the heaviest losses, will not benefit to the same extent as did those whose cases could be more readily and easily processed. But this is only a word of warning.
I have given the stock losses and other losses suffered by the farming community. Honourable members who are primary producers will know of the heavy cost of building a chain of fencing these days. In a little State like Tasmania, with few people but comparatively large areas being affected, we lost 1,500 miles of fencing and 1,200 miles of internal fencing. This is nothing in some of the larger electorates, but it is still a lot of fencing and its replacement will cost a lot of money. Of course, some people have lost everything. One of the contributing factors to the fire was the superlative spring season that we enjoyed. The growth of crops was magnificent; it was perhaps one of the finest seasons on record. As a result, we had a tremendous amount of hay in storage. Most of it has been lost. Our friends in northern and north western Tasmania have assisted by contributing large quantities of hay. But unfortunately this will not go on indefinitely and we will be left with the continuing problem of feeding our stock during the coming winter months. Many honourable members who come from rural areas will realise that we in southern Tasmania are dependent on autumn growth and therefore on seasonal conditions over the next two or three months. I understand that in the mainland States there has been a tremendous harvest this season. I suggest to any honourable member representing a rural electorate who is anxious to make some tangible contribution, in addition to the generosity already exhibited in assisting us, that offers of any of the cereal feeds would be extremely well received. Supplies of these feeds would enable us to feed some of our stock and at least to carry over breeding animals so that we may build up our depleted herds in the years ahead.
Naturally enough the income of many primary producers in southern Tasmania has been cut heavily - in some instances almost to nothing. Some have lost much more than others. Our orchard industry is confronted with considerable problems because many of the packing sheds and some of the cool stores have been destroyed, together with many grading machines. We shall be forced to work shifts round the clock at some of the sheds that remain if we are to dispose of our fruit crop this year. Many of our farmers have been left homeless. Yet they have had to return to their properties to care for their stock. This they are finding increasingly difficult. I pose a proposition to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who may be able to assist through Treasury action. Perhaps he will consider the proposition that for a farmer in circumstances like these a caravan, though ordinarily a luxury, becomes virtually a necessity. Many farmers, in the attempt to rehabilitate their properties, have had to find their stock and then hand feed them under the conditions that I have described. To do this they have had to return to live on their properties in all sorts of makeshift conditions. At present, it is true, living conditions may not be really bad, but the approaching winter will make them extremely difficult to endure. Furthermore, when new houses have been built, farmers will be confronted with the need to find the wherewithal to refurnish.
I suggest that it would be reasonable for those primary producers who have had to buy caravans to enable them to live on their properties and those who will later have to renew household furnishings and equipment to be allowed to claim the cost as a tax deduction if they can prove beyond doubt that they were victims of the recent bush fires. I suggest that they ought to be given the benefit of such a deduction in respect of the cost of items that are necessary, bearing in mind the vicissitudes due to the disaster. I submit that this proposition is not at all unreasonable. 1 believe that the people of Australia are kind and generous enough to approve this additional contribution to the welfare of the victims of a disaster such as this. I hope that my plea will not fall on deaf ears, Sir. Many producers whose properties were burnt out are doing their utmost to rehabilitate themselves, and anything that would make it easier for them to obtain the necessary items would help them greatly in coping with the tremendous struggle that lies ahead of them.
I am afraid that we paint a rather gloomy picture in southern Tasmania at present. It appears that in addition to the frustrations and tragedy that have already struck us we may in the coming season be confronted again with the additional problems of marketing our apples on export markets. Last year many farmers had rather bitter experiences in the disposal of their fruit crop. There were some contributing factors over which the growers themselves had little or no control. At any rate, this year they approach the marketing season with reservations and apprehension about the ability of the fruit shipping agents in Tasmania to make the necessary advances to cover freight for the shipping of fruit to our traditional market in England. I believe that the Australian Apple and Pear Board has perhaps not been so sympathetic towards the Tasmanian Board as we would wish. This year the Australian Board has made decisions that have not redounded to the benefit of the Tasmanian apple and pear industry. The Tasmanian Board, which is a statutory body elected by the growers and which has the full backing of the State Government, finds itself in some difficulties. I just mention this now because it appears that in the near future action will have to be taken to remedy the situation.
My time has almost expired, Sir. In conclusion, I place on record the heartfelt gratitude of the people affected by the bushfire tragedy in southern Tasmania for the help received from our brothers and sisters on the mainland. We are indeed deeply grateful. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
- Mr Speaker, first of all I congratulate you on being elevated to the post that you now occupy. You just made it. I trust that you will enjoy the experience while you are there and especially that at question time you will not forget the backbenchers on this side of the House. I also congratulate the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) on his first speech in this Parliament. I point out that it was not by any means his first speech in a parliament. For seventeen years he has served continuously as a member for Franklin in the Tasmanian Parliament. I appreciate his remarks about the bushfire tragedy in southern Tasmania; 75% of the damage was in his electorate. I too shall touch briefly on that subject, lt is only natural that 1 should mention it. We Tasmanians appreciate the detailed information that he gave us concerning the tragedy that befell our State on 7th February, and the concern that he exhibited for those who have suffered. I am sure that the honourable member will not mind my saying that I would rather his opponent at the recent general election, Mr Parsons, had become member for Franklin. We in the Australian Labor Party worked hard for Mr Parsons. The honourable member, I am sure, knows very well that we were fighting for his opponent. Nevertheless, now that he has won the seat, we wish him well. We trust that during the three years for which he will represent the Franklin electorate in this House he will serve the electors as well as he served them in the State Parliament.
I congratulate the two honourable members who opened this debate on the quality of their speeches. After Labor was returned to office at the general election held in September 1946 I had the experience, in making my first speech here, of moving the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. So 1 am well aware of the feelings of those two honourable members while making their first speeches in this place. We on this side of the chamber are almost overawed by the fact that there are twenty new members on the other side. So far as I know, since 1943 when John Curtin swept the country at the polls in the middle of the war - about twenty-four years ago now - there have never been so many new mem bers entering this place at once. On this occasion, about a quarter of the Government’s strength is made up of members who are new to this Parliament. Though they all sit on the other side of the chamber, it is only right for me to tell them that they will find the task of representing their electors in the Parliament a fascinating and rewarding job. They will look back on it with pride and pleasure for the rest of their lives, whether they remain here for three years, six years, nine years or longer. 1 do not believe that there is any higher field of service to the people or the nation than is to be found in the Federal Parliament. I trust that all the new members will find their experience widened and that both in the Parliament and among the electors for whom they serve as spokesman they will make many wonderful friends. It is a wonderful honour to be elected to the Federal Parliament.
We parliamentarians desperately need to kill the cynicism about Parliament that is prevalent among certain kinds of people whom we meet in our travels. Australia has too many cynics today. We cannot survive on cynicism, lt is barren, it is empty, it is callous, it is un-Christian. Indeed, it is everything bad that one may care to say of it. It is one of the worst evils in Australia today. The cynic has nowhere to go. He has no beliefs and no faith. The cynic is a greater menace to this country than the Communists are. I say that quite deliberately for he is eating the heart out of this country while he is here sheltering under the banner of democracy. Such a man in our midst is a worse fifth columnist than any Communist. This Parliament must bc free of such men if we are to lead the country out of the wretched cynicism that is eating the heart out of it today. I believe that the things in which we believe in this place will do much to fashion or shape the thinking of the people throughout vast areas of Australia.
I come back to the subject matter of the debate - the Speech read by Lord Casey in another place this week. After listening to it and reading it I would say there was nothing bold or brave in it. There was nothing challenging, nor was there anything cheerful in this recital of the Government’s 1967 programme for Australia. For example, there were no promises of eager expeditions across exciting new frontiers of our country. The Speech savoured of a stuffy business-as-usual outlook - the outlook of a Government satiated with success and complacent with its huge majority. Apart from a glimmer of hope in social services, a welcome grant for education and teachers colleges, the inevitable though nervous venture of the Government into management and control of natural gas and oil and a promise of further assistance to the dairy industry, it was a disappointing and dreary document. But I must congratulate the Governor-General for his valiant effort to make it sound good and to clothe dry bones with flesh. I think he read the Speech in a manner that did him credit. I have a tremendous admiration for Lord Casey personally. I knew him here as a member of this Parliament and a Minister of this Government for many years. He is forthright, he is intelligent, and his knowledge of Australia is thorough. His speeches while he was here were always creative and interesting, and they still are. He spoke this week with a great deal of fire and a great deal of purpose; but he had a very poor Speech to read. He made it sound much better than it actually was.
I believe that this Government will be embarrassed by its inflated majority as a result of the last election. There is, too, the smouldering and vicious difference of opinion be:ween the two parties or partners of this marriage between the Country Party and the Liberal Party. We know that the Press plays these things down, but we have heard sufficient during the last six months to know that the parties arc balanced on a very fine knife edge on many grave issues affecting the Australian economy. But over all else, over the Speech itself and over this country, hangs the hopelessness, the horror and the heartbreak of the Vietnam war - a war that Australians did not seek and in which, in my opinion and in the opinion of my Party, they should not be militarily committed. This war will sap more and more of our strength, energies and manpower and wealth, and, after years of confusing conflict, and heavy losses, it will have to be settled around the table anyway.
Another point I wish to mention here is that Australia’s industries are gradually falling into foreign hands. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), who always speaks on this subject, emphasised it again today. It has also been emphasised in other quarters. It is frightening to know that 25% of our secondary and primary industries are now controlled by overseas investors. The Labor Party welcomes foreign investment when foreign investment breaks new ground and establishes new industries in our land; but we condemn it when it takes over Australian industries and puts them under foreign direction and control. We have only to read the story of what has happened in Canada over recent years to become fearful about what can be done by foreign investment.
Today, over 60% of Canadian industry is in foreign hands and Canada now has the highest unemployment rate of any country in the Western world. Recently I wrote to the leader of what might be termed the Labor Party in Canada. I think it is called the Socialist Commonwealth Party. Tommy Douglas is its Federal President and a member of the Federal Parliament there. He has written a very stringent article about what is happening in Canada. I wrote to him for more information on it. I have not yet received a reply, but it is on the way. I feel that we should study his article very closely. Whether we be members of the Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, we are Australians and should do all we can to see that this country is not bought out by overseas investors, whether they be American, Swiss, Japanese, German, British or of any other nationality. We simply must save this country from going the way Canada has gone. Tommy Douglas’s party is pledged to try to bring Canadian industry back under Canadian control.
What happened there was that many American businessmen bought out Canadian industries that were competing with their American organisations over the border and either closed them down or greatly reduced their output, thereby vastly increasing unemployment but at the same time benefiting the parent body. That is what foreign investment can do when it takes this most vicious and contemptible form. I emphasise that it can close down good employing industries which are competing with the parent body in another country.
I turn now to the fire disaster that occurred in Tasmania and to which my friend the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) referred. I shall mention it only briefly because he covered the subject so well. In all, 400 square miles of my electorate were devastated and sixty homes were destroyed in the southern part of the electorate. I went down on 10th February to see for myself just what the fire had done. Many other people also went to see for themselves. We in Tasmania appreciate greatly the fact that so many people, from the Prime Minister down, have come over to see for themselves just what has happened. The television authorities did a magnificent job in showing Australia exactly what was happening at the time. Indeed, one cameraman nearly lost his life when taking some of the shots that the people saw on television, so dramatic, so true, so factual was the presentation. The television organisations have continued with the publicity since and I feel that the coverage given by the television stations was one of the main reasons for the tremendous support that has come from the mainland States. The Press also did much in publicising this tragedy and the gifts so generously made in an effort to relieve the distress there. By these two means, most of the people in Australia were able to see what happened down in Tasmania, but I would emphasise that a visual inspection on the spot is something quite different from what one sees on television. The full extent of the tragedy and the devastation can only be learned from a personal inspection. In one street in South Hobart twenty-one out of twenty-five houses were destroyed by fire within twenty minutes. Some houses were burnt in fifteen minutes. Others exploded within seconds. Why only fifty-five people perished in the holocaust, no-one will ever know. We shall never know why the figure is not well over 100, for the fire came at frightening speed across the southern part of the island through my electorate, down both sides of the Derwent, through the suburbs of Hobart, past Hobart, into Ferntree, and into vast areas of the Franklin electorate. It was no respecter of persons. The temperature that day was 103 and the gases resulting from the burning of our beautiful forests and heavily timbered areas exploded to set the very air alight. The fire was jumping one-quarter of a mile ahead of the firefighters. The fire jumped the Derwent River near New Norfolk. At this point the river is 2 miles wide. Nothing on this earth could have stopped that charging tornado of fire racing before a 60 miles an hour gale. Why more than 100 people were not burnt to death one will never know. The only reason I can suggest is that the people were quick to react. They left their houses with what they stood in, and people who were able to help in rescuing them were magnificent in their coolness and courage. We cannot pay too high a tribute to those who fought in that frightful holocaust in which, within two and a half terrible, hellish hours of fire, $25m in damage was done. According to the Tasmanian Premier, the economy has been set back eight to ten years.
The honourable member for Franklin mentioned some of the figures, but I do not think he mentioned that sixty people have now perished as a result of the fire. Ten have died since the fire from their terrible burns. I would like to mention one or two other points not mentioned by the honourable member in his recital of the statistics. One thousand properties have been affected by the fire with the result’ that 10% of the State’s rural holdings have been blackened. A total of 2,700 miles of fences have gone. The stock loss so far is estimated at about $lm and housing losses at about $8m. Two thousand square miles of Tasmania have been devastated and blackened by fire. The farmers affected will face a loss of production for quite a while and the cost of reworking and resowing their pastures will be very great. Through all this the insurance companies have been magnificent. 1 never thought I would be able to stand in the Federal Parliament and say this about an insurance company, but today I can say that quite truthfully.
The honourable member for Franklin gave some concept of what the companies did, but I should like to say more. As honourable members know, there is bitter and vicious competition between the insurance companies today. The competition is even more intense than the competition between banks. The insurance companies have their agents going into homes all round the Commonwealth, week after week and month after month. But on this occasion the companies agreed on the day after the fire - I think it was 8th February - to work out’ at a combined meeting how they could handle this great tragedy. They decided to set up depots in the worst affected areas. Two depots were established in my electorate, one at Brighton Camp and one at New Norfolk, and at each there was one man representing the insurance companies. He took his place with representatives from the Red Cross, the Army and the Department of Social Services. Those who were homeless and were taken into the rehabilitation centres went to the insurance man and told him the name of their company and what their losses were, whether he represented their company or not. The insurance representative then processed all the applications and sent them to the individual companies. Within thirty-six hours of the fire the companies were starting to pay out on claims in the southern part of my electorate near Pontville and Brighton. This was quite remarkable. So far 2,000 claims have been processed and the insurance companies will pay out $15m, which is a record payment in Australia as a result of one holocaust. The nearest payout to this was as a result of the Townsville sugar fire. My friend the honourable member for Dawsor (Dr Patterson) will remember this as he is one of our spokesmen on the sugar industry. On that occasion in 1963 SI Om was paid out by insurance companies. The payment in Tasmania will create a record. 1 believe that in future insurance will have to be compulsory. The State Government in Tasmania proposes to build free for all those people who did not have their homes insured houses worth $8,000 each. The fire victims will receive those houses free of charge. I am sure that it will be compulsory to insure those homes. In addition the Government intends to build homes for those who were insured and to meet the difference between their insurance payment and the cost of the house. The honourable member for Franklin was a bit critical of this, but he had no need to be. This was a desperate move by the Government to keep our people in Tasmania. The honourable member said that about 8.000 people were homeless. That is a tremendous number. After the fire, where were these people to go? Where were they to find work? Even their means of work was taken away in many cases where the industries were destroyed, so the State Government wisely decided to make this tremendous effort to have these homes built free of charge to the fire victims in order to keep our population in Tasmania. Hundreds of these folk could have migrated to the mainland and swelled the work force or the unemployment force as the case may be if these promises had not been made right at the beginning. They had to be given security quickly.
I think the State Government has made a wonderful effort. It will create tremendous employment and will provide for use by the work force building materials of all kinds. This will help the industries concerned. It was the only thing the Government could have done to avoid losing these people to the mainland. Had that happened we would have suffered economically in the next few years. Fire insurance, therefore, is very important. Perhaps we could bring in fire insurance compulsorily and base the extent of cover on State land valuations. I believe that this should be done because disasters hit discriminatively. If the home owners involved did not think the insurance covers sufficient they could extend the cover with the insurance companies by insuring the house and property for a greater amount. The land valuation would give some firm basis to start with. I believe also that it is necessary to have one coordinating body to enforce the law in each State, especially to deal with those people who light fires indiscriminatively. We have learnt this from the recent fires. People who light fires should receive heavy penalties and should be gaoled for this type of criminal act, because that is what it amounts to. In weather such as we now have the lighting of a fire in Tasmania at the moment could destroy thousands more homes. The State is just one great fire tinder as the result of a wonderful spring growth of grass.
The money available for restoration work must be spent also on prevention. The State Government has set an excellent example. We must do our best to prevent fires. I believe that we should invest much more in fire brigades and similar bodies to prevent fires in future. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) mentioned a national disaster fund when addressing a question yesterday. I should mention that I suggested this ten years ago and we now have it on the platform of the Australian Labor Party. If elected we would establish a national disaster fund. This is very important, as was pointed out by the honourable member. A fund has been established and has worked satisfactorily in some countries. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) does not think such a fund would work here, but I believe the matter should be studied further and that we should investigate the possibility of setting up a disaster fund to cover all national disasters in Australia.
The cost of refencing in Tasmania will be tremendous. The civil defence organisation could have a permanent headquarters with authority to organise and train volunteers in each State where the organisation is established. Further, the Forestry Department could assist in the training of volunteers. All these bodies did a magnificent job in Tasmania. I refer to the Hydro-electric Commission, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Forestry Department, the Public Works Department and the councils. There was not one organisation that did not play a magnificent role immediately the fires were over as well as during the fires. I intend to ask the Prime Minister whether he will consider giving Tasmania a grant to match not only the amount provided by the State’s Labor Government but also to match the total received in voluntary donations from all sources and paid into what is known as the Governor’s Fund in Tasmania. The Fund has now reached $2m. Tasmanians and the people of the mainland have now contributed about $2m towards the relief fund. It would be a magnificent gesture on the part of the Commonwealth Government if it were to match $1 for $1 not only what has been contributed by the Tasmanian Government but also the donations that have come from all over Australia. After all, Tasmania is only a small State by comparison with the mainland States which are better fitted financially to make substantial grants. I pay a tribute to everybody in the Commonwealth who has helped us so magnificently.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by congratulating you on your re-election as Chairman of Committees. I have an affinity of interest with you in your office because you honoured me by swearing me in as a member of this Parliament almost twelve months ago. So clearly I supported with a great deal of interest your nomination for the position of Chairman of Committees. Through you, Sir, I would like also to congratulate Mr Speaker on his election to his high office. I congratulate the honourable members who have made their maiden speeches this week. In particular, I congratulate the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) who spoke this afternoon. He spoke most fluently. Having regard to his background in the State Parliament and to the manner in which he put forward in simple and rational terms his point of view I am sure that he will make a great contribution to the Government during our term of office.
I would like to refer to a matter raised by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) in his very lucid address last night. He referred to the need for greater understanding in Australia, and particularly in this House, of science and technology. The House will recall that after defining his term and quoting various authorities the honourable member spoke of the great need today for all people to be aware of the possibilities as well as the dangers inherent in scientific activity. I mention this because I sometimes sense in the community a certain scepticism towards scientists. This concerns me because blame often is placed at the feet of scientists for the peril of nuclear weapons. The death a few days ago of Dr Oppenheimer brought this matter to the fore once again. However, it must be recalled that although scientists executed the primary function in producing nuclear weapons, this was brought about only because they were persuaded to do so by governments. This persuasion will continue with scientists. If we are to have this persuasion and a relationship with technologists, we must also have an understanding of the matters with which they deal. I thought that the address last night by the honorable member for Robertson was one that should commend itself to most honourable members.
I turn now to the matter of Federal and State financial relations. This is a very emotional matter at times. Not only members of this Parliament have their attention directed towards the relationship between the States and the Commonwealth but, of course, also the Premiers and those who support them in the various State Houses are continuously referring to the somewhat inefficient system that we have in operation today. As I said, the matter is dealt with somewhat emotionally. I suppose it is rather difficult to speak on a topic such as this without taking sides. I recall that only last year a member of the Victorian Legislative Council was seen to march up the steps of the Victorian Parliament House carrying a Victorian flag and urging his Government to secede from the Commonwealth. I have a great deal of respect for that gentleman, but unfortunately he had forgotten that the Federal union, having been brought about by agreement, is legally indissoluble and therefore there is no right of seccession vested in any individual State. But his action epitomised the attitude on certain occasions of various State members when they approach somewhat bitterly the current situation that exists in the relationship between our Parliament and the various State Parliaments. Of course, the State governments have been in great difficulty ever since Federation.
I do not have sufficient time available to trace the history of Commonwealth and Slate financial relations. We should recall, however, that within a period of ten years the States had lost two of the major revenue earning powers that were vested in them by the Constitution. One was the power to receive customs and excise duties, a power which the States had held for ten years until such time, more or less, as the Commonwealth saw fit to remove it and, of course, after the expiration of ten years the Commonwealth did take over the function of levying customs and excise duties. The States also had given to them under the Constitution all the rights to any surplus revenue which the Commonwealth may have. This matter was soon fixed in 1908 when legislation was introduced to rid the Commonwealth of any surplus revenue by paying such revenue into trust funds. I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) could speak with far greater authority than I on this subject. So one might well say that there has been a fatal financial flaw in the Constitution as regards the capacity of the States to raise revenue ever since the Bill was enacted. This position was highlighted by the uniform tax legislation which in 1942 took away from the States their right to levy income tax. Honourable members will be aware that this legislation led to an appeal which allowed the States legally the right to levy income tax but which made it politically inexpedient to do so. The remarkable thing is that the only person at the time of Federation to foresee all this was Alfred Deakin.
I would refresh the memory of honourable members as to what was Alfred Deakin’s attitude in this matter. Having been a member of all three constitutional conventions, mark you, after the enactment of the Imperial Statute he said:
As the power of the purse in Great Britain established by degrees the authority of the Commons, so it will in Australia ultimately establish the authority of the Commonwealth. The rights of self-government of the States have been fondly supposed to be safeguarded by the Constitution. lt has left them legally free, but financially bound to the chariot wheels of the Commonwealth.
How true this turned out to be, because in essence today, although we have a Federation written into our Constitution, we have in effect a mere legal fiction which has resulted from the Commonwealth’s power over financing and the lack of revenue raising powers that are vested in the States.
As I said earlier, this situation was accentuated by uniform taxation. This is probably the kernel of the matter at present and the manner in which the Commonwealth is reimbursing the States is the matter that occupies each year the minds of the Premiers, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. I think it is fair to say that this cannot continue in the manner in which we are allowing it to continue if we are to have an efficient constitutional structure. Just as easily as we took away the income taxing powers of the States we could grant them back again, but I am not advocating that at all. What I am advocating is that we should face fairly and squarely the problem that is inherent in the inefficient handling of the economy at the present time vis-a-vis governments and recognise that it is our duty not merely to say to the States, ‘Look, you are getting money back from us’, but also to face up to the fact that more than any other single entity we can activate a proper movement in the right direction for generations to come insofar as the manner in which government is executed, because this is probably of the utmost importance to the nation. I would remind the House that great power is vested in the Commonwealth Government to move one way or the other. Various authorities have referred to the power of the Commonwealth Government but I would like to quote to the House what is admittedly obiter dictum but was said by a most eminent judge - Sir John Latham, Chief Justice, as he was at the time, of the High Court. In 1942 in the first uniform tax case he said:
If the Commonwealth Parliament, in a grants Act, simply provided for the payment of moneys to States, without attaching any conditions whatever, none of the legislation could be challenged by any of the arguments submitted to the Court in these cases. The amount of the grants could be determined in fact by the satisfaction of the Commonwealth with the policies, legislative or other, of the respective States, no reference being made to such matters in any Commonwealth statute. Thus, if the Commonwealth Parliament were prepared to pass such legislation, all State powers would be controlled by the Commonwealth - a result which would mean the end of the political independence of the States. Such a result cannot be prevented by any legal decision. The determination of the propriety of any such policy must rest with the Commonwealth Parliament and ultimately with the people. The remedy for alleged abuse of power or for the use of power to promote what are thought to be improper objects is to be found in the political arena and not in the Courts.
I am a federalist and I believe strongly in the maintenance of State governments. I know that members of the Opposition subscribe to a platform which would like to see State parliaments whittled away. I can respect that view because I believe that today we are faced with three alternatives. Firstly, we can continue to muddle along with the present state of financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States in a manner which, as I have previously described, is somewhat inefficient to say the least; or, secondly, we can go out as strongly as possible and establish a unitary system of government and centralise all power in Canberra - and this would represent the very antithesis of my belief; or, thirdly, we can do as I should like to see done, namely, establish an efficient federal system of government with revenue-raising powers being allowed to the States but with the Commonwealth in control of the economy. I add that rider because there are some who feel that this cannot be done - that the States cannot exist in a federal system if the Commonwealth is in control.
I think it is axiomatic today that we must accept the Keynesian theories of economics and realise that for banking and fiscal measures the power must vest in the Commonwealth. At the same time, if we are to have what is a proper federal system with entities operating within a nation and none greater than the other - because this is the essence of it and the Commonwealth is not to be more powerful than the States except because of the demand that we make economically for the Commonwealth to control the fluctuations of the economy - then we must see that the States are functioning in a proper manner and in, as they say, their own sovereign State rights.
This is a great constitutional issue. I do not wish to labour it any more. I raised it today because I was happy to see at the end of the Premiers’ Conference, which was held about a week ago, that there appeared to be a more refreshing and new approach to this very vexed question. When the Premiers meet with the Commonwealth Government later this year I hope they will meet in the spirit of the words of the Commonwealth Constitution - that we are joined in an indissoluble Federal Constitution. This is legal terminology and I should like to see it enacted by way of undertakings given by the Commonwealth to allow the States to function as I am sure the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) would like to see them function - as effective sovereign States and in the manner I have described.
- Mr Lucock, I congratulate you on your re-election to the position of Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker. I congratulate also the Speaker on his election and those honourable members who have made their first speeches in this House for the courage they have displayed on the occasion of their first speech. I should like to follow the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) in the fascinating field that he has discussed. Some of his observations I agree with, some I disagree with, but I hope that when the new financial arrangements are debated later in the year he will be able to contribute at greater length. The House is debating the traditional Address-in-Reply which follows the opening of every new Parliament. This ought to be an opportunity for the Government to delineate what it intends to do, at least for the next year, and to give some glimpse of what it proposes for the life of the Parliament. The Governor-General’s Speech this year is disappointing. It is a document of bits and pieces rather than of any social coherence. I regret, for one thing, the adulation that seems to have been poured out over what is the escalation of the war in Vietnam. The Government should begin to pay some devotion to attaining peace in that unfortunate country rather than being a mere belligerent there. I should think that in another twenty or thirty years the war in Vietnam will be regarded as one of the most aggressive acts by Western power upon emerging Asian power. However, on this occasion 1 do not want to go further into that.
The tone of the Speech at the opening of the Parliament would give the impression that Australia is one of the most prosperous countries in the world and is situated in the most prosperous circumstances possible. I should like to discuss certain facets of the Australian economy to show that, in essence, our economy, measured against some of the economies we would like it to be considered with - say, that of the United States of America, some European economies and even perhaps the Japanese economy - is a poor performer in what is called economic growth. Honourable members were circulated with a document bearing the date Thursday, 9th February 1967 and titled ‘Australian National Accounts 1953-54 to 1965-66; Preliminary Statement No. 1, Gross National Product at Current and Constant Prices’. It is the figure referred to as constant prices that I want the House to look at. This shows that for the year 1964-65 the gross national product of Australia, expressed in terms of prices as of 1959-60, was $ 17,297m. In 1965-66, again expressed in relation to the same constant price, the gross national product had risen by a mere S150m to $17,452m. It looked far better when not expressed in constant prices. However, this shows virtual stagnation in the Australian economy, because the workforce was 1% or 2% higher in 1965-66 than it was in 1964-65. The situation in Australia at present gives no ground whatever for complacency.
The last monthly summary of the Department of Labour and National Service issued about a week ago and bearing the date Monday, 13 th February 1967, showed that at the end of January 1967 there were nearly 89,000 persons registered for employment in Australia, lt also showed that at the same date there were fewer than 50,000 jobs to be filled. In other words we are getting towards a position where there are two persons unemployed for every job that is available. Other pertinent figures are given in the regular monthly statement of wage and salary earners in civilian employment. The latest one, dated 20th January 1967, gives the figures for November 1966. It shows that over the whole field of male employment there were only 23,000 more employed in November 1966 than had been employed twelve months previously. That figure refers to private employment. Government employment represents about one quarter of the total; in other words there are nearly three times as many in private employment as there are in government employment. We find that the level of government employment had increased in the twelve months period to almost the same extent as had private employment. If it had not been for government activity, the employment situation in Australia would have been much worse than it is. lt is bad enough in my view that in a country in which so much is required to be done there should be 89,000 people seeking work.
The words ‘affluent society’ have become almost household words so far as economic discussion is concerned. Those words were taken, of course, from the title of a very famous book written by John Kenneth Galbraith who is Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He wrote that book nearly ten years ago. In November and December last year the same Professor Galbraith delivered over the broadcasting system of the United Kingdom a series of addresses known as the
Reith Lectures. The full text of those six lectures is contained in issues of ‘The Listener’, the journal of the British Broadcasting Corporation, commencing on Thursday, 17th November 1966 and concluding on Thursday, 22nd December 1966. This is what Professor Galbraith said about economies such as that of the United States and, I suggest, also that of Australia:
Even in countries such as the United States, where faith in free enterprise is one of the minor branches of theology, the state plays an increasing role in affairs. It stabilizes aggregate demand of purchasing power; it underwrites expensive technology such as the development of supersonic transports and similar misfortunes; it restrains wages and prices to prevent inflation; it provides the technical and presumptively educated manpower that modern industry requires; and it is the state that buys upwards of a fifth of all that the economy produces.
He went on in the first lecture to outline what his thesis was for the whole of the lectures, and I will briefly mention what he aimed to do. 1 hope that some of the people who quote the phrase ‘affluent society’ and who have read Professor Galbraith’s book will take the trouble to contemplate also these Reith lectures. He said:
I hope in these lectures to show three things. They are:
I do not think anybody would deny that Australia’s is an industrial economy, and I would ask honourable members to note Professor Galbraith’s observation: ‘By its very nature the modern industrial economy is a planned economy’. I suggest that the Australian economy is an unplanned economy, and it is because it is an unplanned economy, because of this bits and pieces approach, that its performance in 1967 is as poor as in fact it is. If this Government over the last three years had given the same attention to the economy as did the governments of the United
States, the United Kingdom, France or Germany, the gross national product of Australia would probably be about $3,000m greater than it is. In other words the standard per head would be about IS or 16% higher than it is. At the moment, despite the kind of optimism that is displayed in some quarters, there are very few economic portents that point to an upsurge of prosperity for Australia. Tha subject of employment is a significant one, but I do not want to go any further into figures with regard to that matter. We can, however, look at such indirect indices as the yield from government customs up to 31st December 1966. The yield in the first six months of the financial year is $llm less than it was in the corresponding six months of the previous year. Similar trends can be seen in the figures for sales tax. It is true that there were some very minor adjustments in sales tax in the last Budget, but the fact remains that the sales tax yield is J 10m less for the first six months of this financial year than it was for the corresponding six months of the previous year. These are signs that all is not well.
In the field of employment, one item in the new series of statistics being published is a survey of multiple job holding, a survey of people with more than one job. I suppose that in a free country people are entitled to have a second job if they choose, but sometimes we should remember that the reason why a person has two jobs is that the income from the first job is not adequate. Of the 148,000 people who hold two jobs, three out of four are married men or married women, and my presumption would be that they have second jobs because their economic standard is not reached by the returns from the first jobs. To my mind this is also another reason why there are so many homes from which the wives go out to work. Again if wives want to work they are free to do so, but I think sometimes we should recognise that working wives are industrial conscripts rather than willing devotees of the jobs they choose to take. Surely in a society that calls itself ‘affluent’, in a society that believes if all the resources of technology were properly harnessed, it would be possible - I have read this in American figures - for something like 10% of the labour force to produce all the physical goods and services that a community demands. Somebody spoke this morning about less people in rural activities producing far more goods in total. Well, the same thing could apply to the rest of the community. Professor Galbraith, in the course of his talk, even suggested that advanced western economies may some day have to get round to the concept of paying wages, not for work done, but for work that is impossible to attain; that people, through no fault of their own, will be forced out of employment. What they formerly could do will no longer be required.
Just to show how imminent that may be, I want to talk for a moment or two about the development of natural gas as it applies in Australia at the moment because this seems to me to highlight the Jack of planning in Australia that Professor Galbraith in those lectures suggested is so essential to any industrial economy. One of the consequences of the natural gas, if it is developed, will be that lots of the existing technicians in the gas industry, the people who work in the coal gas manufactories in Sydney and Melbourne, will not be required for the new process. Many of them are people with quite high degrees of skill so far as the existing type of gas production is concerned but they will not be required for the new process because the method is entirely different. Some of them are men of 45, 50 and 55 years of age. What is going to happen to them?
The distressing thing to me is the way this matter has been handled. It was handled at discussions of the type that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) referred to a few moments ago. There were discussions at Canberra between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government. 1 will refer to the report of this spectacle as described in the Melbourne Age’ of Saturday, 18th February. The Australian Gas Light Co., as I understand it, is still a private company although it is what is called a ‘regulated utility’. It operates under the model act of the 1890’s but it is still a private company. The newspaper report said that the company had asked the Commonwealth to intervene in the negotiations with Victoria and it wanted, not unreasonably in my mind, the Commonwealth to regulate rates and conditions of interstate sales on the ground that this was in the national interest. I suggest that the national interest ought to be paramount in this matter. After all, the discussions related to natural gas. It is there by nature and not by anybody’s creation. It is available certainly because of somebody’s discovery but not by anybody’s creation. In my view because it is natural it ought to be utilised in the public interest. But Victoria claimed, and unfortunately claimed successfully, that this would be a breach of State sovereignty.
Now, what does ‘State sovereignty’ mean as against ‘national interest’? If you happen to have something three miles off your shore but still within your State confines, does that give you paramountcy over some other State which might be the ultimate user of it? Victoria claimed that there would be a breach of State sovereignty and demanded to negotiate sales on a strictly commercial basis. What greater absurdity can you get than a government wanting to do things on a commercial basis on the one hand and a private company wanting them to be done on a public utility basis on the other hand? That is the kind of mystery of mythology, if you like, that you get into if things that are really of national paramountcy are done on the basis of State sovereignty, or what is called ‘commercial haggling’. My idea of the development of natural gas would be that the Broken Hill Pty Co. and the Esso group, who were not looking for natural gas but were looking for oil, should have been bought out at the time natural gas was found. They should have been bought out by the State Government and the existing reticulating system in Victoria, operated by a public utility, should have been the basis for distribution. I suggest that the documents relating to this matter ought to be tabled in the interest of a full understanding of it. Whether the gas is sold at 2id a therm - I am not going to go into what a therm is because it is well known - whether it is sold at 3d a therm, or up to 5d or 5id, it will mean that hundreds of millions of dollars will go into the pockets of a few private investors over the life of the exploitation of that gas and out of the pockets of the consuming public of Australia.
Now, whose interest ought to be paramount here? I shall refer to the way this matter has been discussed from the start.
I was going to say ‘disgusting’. It has beer disgusting. It has been discussed behind closed doors. Here was something that could have revolutionised the future industrial activity of Australia. But it is now being developed on such a basis that if somebody makes more profit than they ought to then some other fuel will be economically a more feasible one to ase. Australia, in terms of the things that it has to do in the next twenty or thirty years, must be regarded as being short of natural resources in the long run, rather than being super-abundant in them. There ought to be some principles for the conservation of natural resources. So far as this transaction is concerned, the matter is not being handled in the national interest. It is being done on a petty-fogging semi-commercialised basis. lt is not the public utility that is being considered. Consideration is being given to what the Premier of Victoria was pleased to call the ‘commercial basis’-. A ‘commercial basis’ means that he as the Premier of Victoria thinks that he can get royalties into the coffers of the Victorian Treasury at the expense of the gas consumer in Sydney.
That is not my idea of social justice, lt is not my idea of sensible constitutional usage. As I have suggested, I could have debated with the honourable member for Kooyong this very interesting proposition of Commonwealth-State financial relations and of constitutional powers, vis-a-vis one or the other. But here, surely, within the terms of the existing mechanism is an absurd operation of something that should be done in the national interest but which is not being done in that interest. In consequence, the whole procedure is likely to be prejudiced. For a long time yet in the foreseeable future the bulk of the population in Australia is going to be contained in the two States of New South Wales and Victoria and, unfortunately, in the two cities of Sydney and Melbourne. That is where the bulk of the market will be and this matter ought not to have been handled on the basis of separate States. It should have been handled on the basis of the national interest. In my view the national interest has been prejudiced by the way the negotiations have taken place.
Mr HOLTEN (Indi) [3.44J- Mr Deputy Speaker, firstly I would like, through you, to congratulate Mr Speaker on being elected to office. I also would like to congratualte you on being elected his Deputy. I would be pleased if you would pass that remark on to Mr Speaker. I am certain, as is nearly every other member of Parliament, that he and yourself will enjoy the confidence of honourable members. 1 do not wish to spend much time on the words of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who has just resumed his seat. But I am sure there are others of us in this House and in Australia who would differ with some of the points he made, particularly his remark about Australia having an industrial economy. That statement is very much open to question because it is our primary products which earn the export income with which we develop this nation. So 1 think it is inaccurate to say that Australia is an industrial economy. The thesis of the honourable member’s argument underlines the classic differences between the philosophies of the coalition government and the philosophies of the Opposition, the latter of which the people of Australia have shown that they reject. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports gave us a long talk on planned economies and mentioned as an example of a planned economy the United Kingdom. I think it is pretty well known around the world that the United Kingdom’s economy is not in the best of shapes at the present time. He wants, like most of the other members of the Opposition, to set up a great bureaucratic machine to dominate and dictate everyone’s life on the one hand while at the same time talking about freedom for the individual on the other. His basic arguments fall to the ground. This is where we on this side of the House differ completely on basic philosophy.
In the Speech of the Governor-General we had an overall survey of the Government’s achievements and plans for the future in many spheres. The Speech illustrates the wide range of matters and subjects with which the Commonwealth Government must deal. Most of the proposed programmes contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech were announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his general election policy speech last November. I should like to mention briefly the election and the campaign preceding it and offer a word of congratulation to both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) on the landslide result which brought the coalition such a tremendous majority. Speaking on behalf of myself, and I am sure on behalf of my colleagues in the Country Party, I am proud of the part that our Leader played in this wonderful victory. We saw in this election campaign evidence of Mr McEwen’s great ability to handle effectively and forthrightly the bitter and vicious attacks that were launched against members of the Country Party by various sections of the community in various States of Australia, including the faceless highly-financed group known as the Basic Industries Group. This group, as we know Mr Deputy Speaker - they get a very brief mention from me, but they will get a mention - attempted to wrest seats from the Country Party in Victoria and Western Australia. The result of their efforts was a dismal failure which their distorted and untruthful advertising fully deserved. It is certainly very commendatory to the Prime Minister that in his first year of office as Prime Minister he was able to lead the coalition team to such a tremendous victory.
I think we all regret the disturbing acts that occurred during the election campaign, committed by groups of people who did not act in the true Australian spirit at all. I want to register a strong protest against the disturbances and the threat of actual physical violence to the Prime Minister of this country. Threats such as this should not be allowed to be made to the leader of any political party - ‘that is the point I want to make - whether he be the Leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister. Some of the actions of the mobs were disgraceful and I hope that the leaders of the Government and of the Opposition will see that steps are taken before the next general election campaign to prevent similar occurrences.
The Speech of the Governor-General, as I said before, covers a wide range of subjects. I was very pleased to see that the Government intends to hasten with the alleviation of the means test, for widows in particular. I think this is long overdue, and I doubt that we have gone far enough in this direction yet. I was also particularly pleased about proposals to give the Secretary of the Department of Housing discretionary power to review disallowed applica tions for home savings grants. Many of the other innovations planned by the Government are most welcome and most important and are examples of progressive policies and progressive thinking. Matters such as further aid to education, more assistance in research and promotion for the wool industry and trade promotion generally were covered in the Speech. All these matters are of vital importance to the future development of various sections of the community.
One vital subject was not mentioned at all in the Governor-General’s Speech. Its omission is particularly disturbing to me as it must be to others who are interested in the economic and population development of the areas of Australia outside the capital cities. I wish to devote the rest of my address to this important subject. All the governments in Australia must be concerned with the urgent task of countering the centralisation of our population in the capital cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. I am aware that many speeches have been made on this subject by myself and by others in this Parliament and by persons outside the Parliament. I am well aware also that the results to date have been pretty discouraging. I am encouraged, however, in this slow and cumbersome battle by an expression I once heard from a very wise man. He said: ‘Unless you keep on talking you have no chance of winning’. This is the fundamental philosophy that I think we have to adopt in relation to this important subject. My speech today will be another drop on the stone of decentralisation. Sometimes I think that the stone is about as big and as difficult to crack as Ayers Rock, which is situated in the Northern Territory, an area for which we now have a very distinguished member in this Parliament, Mr Calder, to whom we are looking for very big things. It seems to me that we are not even scratching the surface of this problem which, defined, is the promotion of economic and population development in Australia outside the metropolitan areas.
This programme is fundamental Country Party policy. It is one of the major reasons we are in the business of politics. However, all aspects of the problem should concern all political parties and also people outside this Parliament. One of the difficulties we face is to convince the Australian people, the majority of whom live in the capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne, that this problem is most serious. Policies have been introduced which have helped to develop the extra-metropolitan areas of Australia. The coalition Government, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, has introduced programmes to assist the rural areas. He gave as examples equalised petrol prices and Commonwealth aid road funds, which at the end of the present five year period will total about $1,500 million over the last fifteen years. 40% of which must be spent in country areas. Television services and air services have been extended into country areas. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) raised a very important point in his maiden speech when he said that the position of television in many of the outlying areas is most unsatisfactory. The policies of the Australian Country Party, translated into legislation by the Government, have developed and sustained a wide range of primary industries and in consequence have assisted the development of the economy and growth of population in country towns. I mention the dairy industry stabilisation and the wheat industry stabilisation schemes, which respectively support more than 80,000 and 50,000 families in country areas. Of course, the success of these industries has greatly assisted the growth of country towns.
– They were both introduced by the Australian Labor Party.
– Yes, but not in their present form. Labor’s schemes were not even a shadow of the present schemes. Labor sold cheap wheat to New Zealand when it was the Government. Of course, it is very hard to remember as far back as that. Labor’s schemes certainly were not a patch on the present schemes. The State governments have also introduced legislation that has encouraged the growth of population outside metropolitan areas. However, despite all the programmes that have been introduced, the stark fact remains that the population of the capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, is continuing to increase more rapidly than is the population in the rest of Australia. This is a dangerous trend. The latest census figures show the position. I will refer only to New South Wales and Victoria. In the last five years, the population in the Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong areas has increased by about 297,000 while the population of the rest of New South Wales has increased by about 45,000. In Victoria, the pattern is much the same. The population of Melbourne has increased by about 250,000 and the population of the rest of the State by only 67,000. in the last five years we have seen a continuation of the dangerous trend of centralisation of our population. I realise that we cannot change the movement of population overnight, but we can change policies that have failed and we can introduce new policies that may succeed. There is only one test of a policy and that is the result. Up to the present, all the policies that have been introduced by both the Commonwealth and State governments have failed. Therefore, we must adopt new policies and change the old policies. There is ample evidence of the social, economic and defence perils of centralisation. There is ample statistical evidence of population centralisation, and there is little need for me to produce a mass of statistics to prove the case. Secondary industries must be encouraged to move to country areas, because secondary industries will develop the population in country areas. There are two ways to get secondary industries to move to country areas. One is by direction, which is the method favoured by the Opposition, and the other is by incentive and encouragement, which is the one that we favour. We must find ways of inducing people to go to country areas. I do not want to give details of the methods we could use now. I will mention several of them later. We do not have a very wide choice really, but some of the methods can be tremendously effective. Unfortunately, the fact is that they are not being employed.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth must get into the act more than it has. Many of us have been advocating this for years and, as I said earlier, I hope that this will be another speech that will help to solve the problems. What has been the latest Commonwealth action? In the middle of 1964, two and a half years ago, the Premiers’ Conference agreed to set up a joint committee of Federal and State representatives to consider this subject. But the Parliament has not seen one piece of paper or heard one syllable from this committee. Certainly, the Prime Minister did say yesterday that he had received an information paper from the committee and had distributed it to the Cabinet. This is a pretty poor effort in two and a half years and 1 hope that the Prime Minister will do his best to stimulate further action. Each State has a representative on the committee. I have a list of the members here. The Commonwealth departments represented on the committee are the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of National Development, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Primary Industry and the Prime Ministers Department. My first reaction is that the committee is top heavy. Too many departments are represented on it. However, that is how it stands at the moment.
The slowness of the committee is very hard to understand. After all, it is not expected to break new ground. Many publications on this subject, produced in Australia and overseas, are available to it, and I really find it extremely difficult to understand why the committee has taken so much time. The Victorian Distribution of Population Committee has furnished a report, which took about three years to compile and was the result of a most painstaking examination by the Victorian all-party Committee. Surely this is a fundamental document and the joint committee could read it. The committee should be able to reach some preliminary conclusions in less than two and a half years. Another document available to it is entitled ‘Seminar on Decentralisation’. It is a record of the proceedings at a conference on decentralisation held at Orange on 11th June 1965. It contains constructive suggestions on certain aspects of the problem. Many sound publications are available to the committee.
However, there is no doubt that the fundamental difficulty, as with most problems confronting any government, is finance. We must have finance if we are to make even a dent in the dangerous trend of centralisation of population in the capital cities. Finance is needed for obvious reasons. They are not new; I did not think them up. The authorities in Italy, France and the United Kingdom lend money to firms willing to establish themselves in country areas at a flat rate of 3%. Why can we not adopt this scheme? We set up funds for all sorts of purposes. Why do we not set up a decentralisation banking fund with capital of $50m right now? It could be set up this month or next month and it could start by making money available to industries at low interest rates for the purchase of land or for the building of factories in country areas. The National Government should give a firm lead.
Mr Deputy Speaker, another important factor in this problem of developing country areas is parliamentary representation. Members of the Australian Labor Party have interjected frequently since I began speaking, among them the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), who is now at the table. He has on the notice paper a notice of motion on the subject of decentralisation. It is designed only to give the Labor Party publicity and to put up a show that he and his Party are really seriously interested in decentralisation. However, he neglects the fundamental factor of parliamentary representation. His notice of motion contains no mention of that. Apparently he attaches no importance to that factor. Indeed, he cannot afford to, because he is a one vote one value man. He believes in the abolition of country electorates and the silencing of the country voice in the Parliament. Because those are the things he believes in, he does not mention parliamentary representation in his notice of motion.
– The honourable member wants more country electorates. That is all he is interested in.
– The honourable member for Bendigo has made a big splash on this subject and would have us believe that he will be the big fighter for decentralisation. But the one thing that he does not mention is parliamentary representation. ‘One vote one value,’ he says. He wants all members of the Parliament to represent electorates in Melbourne and Sydney.
– What is wrong wilh the principle of one vote one value?
– We cannot develop the country areas of Australia if we do not maintain representation of country interests in this Parliament. Let me quote some observations made by a Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly al the seminar on decentralisation that was held at Orange in June 1965. No names no pack drill. Referring to parliamentary representation, he said:
Now the politician has to, unless he is completely rash, take some note of the people who put him in power, and you are not going to find many politicians who will stand up and tell you that they are prepared to support a programme which is going to say that the city of Sydney or the city of Melbourne or the city of Brisbane or Adelaide or Perth is going to grow so far and no further. Let us put it on the line.
There we had a Labor member of parliament admitting that he would be dominated by the people he represented. If Australia were divided into electorates with equal numbers of voters, it would be a mathematical certainty that as the cities of Sydney and Melbourne grew the number of members representing electorates in those cities would increase. As a consequence, yet more and more of the available finance would be channelled into those cities.
We hear from the Labor Party much talk about decentralisation, but it is all part of a sham fight. The honourable member for Bendigo has covered everything very nicely and glibly in the terms of his notice of motion in an attempt to hoodwink the Australian people, but that notice of motion makes no reference to the abolition of rural representation in the parliaments of Australia in accordance with the principle of one vote one value. I hope that the members of the joint Commonwealth and State committee that I have mentioned will have heard or will read my remarks, which, I trust, will stir the convenor of the committee into action and cause him to put the needle into the members of the committee and get some action from it, for that is what we really need.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I join with previous speakers in congratulating you on your appointment again as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of this House. I have always been impressed by the manner in which you read the Lord’s Prayer when you have occasion to take the chair at the opening of the days proceedings. My first significant impression of you was gained early in my political life when I visited Wingham to attend a political meeting. On the occasion of that visit, I heard you read the TwentyFourth Psalm at the opening of a rodeo. Your rendering of it brought soberness to all the roughriders who were about to saddle their nags to take part in the rodeo. We on this side of the chamber expect that you will display the same measure of impartiality that we have experienced from you for some time now. Admittedly, you have made errors, but we all realise that we could have a much worse person in the chair presiding over our proceedings than you are.
We have just heard an oration by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), who was one of Victoria’s outstanding athletes. Having heard the oration that he has just delivered in the National Parliament, I can say confidently that he was a much better player of Australian rules than he is a politician. He set out to criticise the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who earlier had suggested the adoption of economic planning. In time economic planning will come to every nation in the Western world. Those that have resisted it most up to date are those which are dominated by monopoly interests that control the money bags. When private industry plans its development and expansion over a period of years in the way in which planning is undertaken by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other monopoly enterprises throughout Australia, the enterprises concerned are applauded for possessing farsightedness and having great business minds at their head. But when a government institutes economic planning it is immediately branded as being Socialist or pro-Communist, and this arouses the indignation of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, which has begun to play an important part in Australian politics and which, I believe, was responsible for the election of so many members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party at the general election on 26th November last. However, as the Australian electorate becomes better educated concerning the activities of this nefarious organisation we shall find a complete reversal of the relative numbers in the ranks of the present Government parties and the present Opposition in this Parliament.
We are at present debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is known as the AddressinReply debate. Before I turn directly to His Excellency’s Speech I shall make some further comments about the remarks made by the honourable member for Indi. He suggested that governments, both Commonwealth and State, should make a greater effort to bring about decentralisation. Honourable members on this side of the Parliament have been appealing to this Government for a long time to undertake effective measures to promote decentralisation and to prevent the drift of people from country areas to the cities. The honourable member for Indi is a prominent member of the Country Party. In the last sessional period of the last Parliament, only a short time before the general election was held, he refused to support decentralisation proposals that were presented in this chamber by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), who is an outstanding Labor man. The honourable member for Indi is totally inconsistent. When I say that I am using very moderate language. This afternoon he devoted the major part of his address to decentralisation.
He also mentioned the wheat stabilisation scheme, which was introduced by the Labor Government years ago at a time when members of the Country Party were clutching at each other’s throats and undercutting one another in attempts to sell their wheat. The Labor Government, in effect, said: ‘This will go on no longer. We shall establish a wheat board which will take the wheat and give the growers a reasonable price for it. We will sell it for them.’ Today there is peace in the wheat industry as a result of the wheat stabilisation legislation introduced by the Labor Government. Only recently I have read that the barley growers - I think in Victoria - are asking for an Australia wide barley board so that growers throughout Australia may have an equal opportunity to sell their barley in seven recognised markets as is the case with wheat under the stabilisation scheme introduced by Labor. How inconsistent is the honourable member for Indi. His arguments can be cut to ribbons in a few moments.
The honourable member, in his remarks on decentralisation, failed completely to mention that one of the most important ways of inducing private enterprise to establish plants in country areas, under the capitalist system that the Australian people at present sponsor, is to allow tax concessions and concessions on telephone rentals and charges to those establishments that are located in country regions. This is the sort of thing that the former Labor Government in New South Wales was trying to bring about, particularly in the Hunter electorate. The Labor Government in that State induced industry to go to the coal fields centres of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri in the heart of the Hunter electorate at a time when economic changes in the coal mining industry had caused half the men employed in it to be displaced. It was the practical, commonsense way but there was no suggestion from the honourable member for Indi that taxation concessions should be given to those people in private enterprise who are prepared to take their factories out into the country.
– Section SI of the Constitution will not allow it.
– How can we expect to induce people to establish, say, a tailoring factory at a place like Inverell, away from a market of three million people in Sydney and bear the cost of transporting goods to Sydney while there are other clothing factories operating in the suburbs of Sydney close to ready markets? It could not compete with these. We will have to compensate people who are prepared to set up factories in the country in order to put them on an equal footing with manufacturers in close proximity to the city areas where the markets are. So much for the inconsistent talk of the honourable member for Indi.
I want now to refer to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, a copy of which has been supplied to all members. In outlining the Government’s proposed business for this sessional period, His Excellency said:
My Government will persist with its search for the attainment of a just and enduring peace.
I intend to speak mainly about Vietnam this afternoon, but first I shall mention a serious personal matter that arose shortly before the last election. It affects a fifth generation Australian, a man named Francis James who is managing director of the ‘Anglican’ newspaper in Sydney. His home was invaded by two customs officers on 13th November at about 1.40 p.m. Incidentally, this outspoken Australian believes more in the Liberal Party’s ideology than he does in that of the Labor Party, although he agrees entirely with the Labor Party on the question of Vietnam. As I have said, his home was invaded by two customs officers who, when questioned, claimed that they were searching for narcotics. Most honourable members will know that customs investigators possess a search warrant covering the full twentyfour hours of the day and have very wide powers. But to search the home of Francis James for narcotics was just as ridiculous as it would be to search your home, Mr Deputy Speaker, or the home of any honourable member of this Parliament.
The Government was in a dilemma. It was desperate. It was worried about the Liberal Reform Party. I have never seen a man look more contented than has the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) since the election. He thought that as a result of the intrusion of the Liberal Reform Party in the campaign for the Robertson seat he would lose his place in this Parliament. The Government was worried; it was desperate. There is no doubt that something was done to cause the customs investigators to go into the home of Mr Francis James, which is situated at 65 Billyard Avenue, Wahroonga. I understand from the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) that Mr James was a Spitfire pilot in the last war. He is a very loyal and patriotic Australian. The customs investigators claimed they were searching for narcotics. I want the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Howson) to stand up in his place here and tell us why these men were searching for narcotics. What caused them to go there? On what information did they act? They said it was anonymous information. 1 suggest that this is absolutely ridiculous. They went to the home of Mr Francis James on the advice of either the Commonwealth Police or the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In my opinion, they went into his home in an endeavour to find subversive literature, because he defied the Government after being refused a visa to go to Vietnam last year.
It is atrocious that a man of virtually unblemished character, a fifth generation Australian who is the managing director of the ‘Anglican’ newspaper should have his home at 65 Billyard Avenue, Wahroonga, invaded by customs officers who purported to be searching for narcotics. It is absolutely ridiculous. It shows the desperation of this Government and the low actions to which it was prepared to stoop in order to retain control of the treasury bench in this Parliament. The situation has been reached in Australia where the secret police can go info the home of a man of the integrity of Francis James.
This man, in my opinion, has been subjected to persecution since he took a stand against the Government on the Vietnam issue. On 9th January last he applied for a visa to go to North Vietnam. Tha immigration authorities or the AttorneyGeneral’s Department refused him a visa. The authorities replied to him on the first day of this month saying: ‘No. What are the special circumstances?’ This man is a respected and fair minded journalist who writes the truth. The Government is refusing this man a visa to go to Hanoi because he is in conflict with its policies on Vietnam. But that is not the attitude that is adopted by the Government of the United States of America. The United States Government issued a visa to Mr Harrison Salisbury, one of the editors-in-chief of the New York Times’. He wrote about what he saw; it was not favourable to the United States Government. Mr William Warby, a well known politician in the United Kingdom, was granted a visa by the United Kingdom Government to go to Vietnam. The West German Government gave a Lutheran pastor authority to go to Hanoi. In the ‘Australian’ of 12th January last this report appeared:
In New York, three American women, on their return from an 11-day visit to North Vietnam, charged that the United States ‘was waging a war of civilian terror which could lead to racial extermination.’ One of the women, Mrs Grace Newman, said that after seeing the atrocities of anti-personnel bombing among civilians, she was convinced ‘the conflict was a war of genocide and of extermination against the Vietnamese people.’
As 1 indicated, the United States Government, with all its faults, is not preventing its nationals from visiting Vietnam. Rut the Australian Government is refusing prominent, fair minded, honest-writing Australians permission to go to North Vietnam because it is afraid that they might write about what they see. I have no doubt that the Government would not refuse Mr Alan Reid of the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ or Mr Bob Santamaria, who writes for the News Weekly’ permission to go. The Government knows that their minds are so warped in its favour that they would write stuff that was suitable to it. But honest Mr Francis James, who depends upon writing for his livelihood, is refused permission.
If ever I saw a Minister in an embarrassing situation it was in this House at question time this morning when the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) had to extricate himself from the difficulty in which the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) placed him when they raised the matter of refusing a visa for North Vietnam to an Australian journalist. I believe that every true Australian agrees that this Government has gone too far in withholding visas from decent Australians, whether they be clergymen or writers, and in preventing them from going to North Vietnam in case they come back and write something that is detrimental to the Government. The Government claims to be a protector of freedom. It says: ‘We must protect the frontiers of freedom’. The freedom of the Australian people is being whittled away every hour, every day and every year that this Government is in office. The sooner the Australian people wake up to the situation, the better it will be for them. There is only one party that will protect the freedom and liberty of speech of this nation and that is the Australian Labor Party, which sits on this side of the House.
I come now to the Governor-General’s Speech from which I was about to quote before I raised the matter of Mr Francis James. His Excellency said:
My Government will persist with its search for the attainment of a just and enduring peace.
During the suspension of the sitting today I took pains to see what the Governor-
General said when he was Minister for Externa] Affairs in this Parliament at about the time of the 1954 Geneva Conference agreements by which peace was brought to Indo-China. Let us look at what the Governor-General said to the Parliament on that occasion when he was Minister for External Affairs under Sir Robert Menzies. He said on 10 August 1954, as reported at page 96 of Hansard:
The French, despite all their efforts and despite great sacrifices of French life, never really succeeded in rallying the Vietnamese themselves to resist the Communist Vietminh.
In the same speech as reported at page 97, that distinguished Australian, the former Minister for External Affairs, said:
I felt we should look for a political settlement of the problem in Indo-China - a negotiated settlement - recognising the realities of the situation.
– Who said that?
– It was said by Lord Casey in this Parliament on 10th August 1954 when he was Minister for External Affairs in the Menzies’ Administration. That was at the time of the Geneva Convention agreements. Is not that what the Australian Labor Party has been asking for in the Parliament for some time - a negotiated settlement? Has not this been sought by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the overwhelming majority of Labor members in this place? Let me quote a little more of what was said by this distinguished Australian Governor-General when he was Minister for External Affairs. He said:
In April, the French and Vietnam forces were waging an unequal conflict at Dien Bien Phu against the Vietminh. Talk of intervention, particularly in the air-
I interrupt myself to remind honourable members of the relentless bombing of the north which is going on today - in order to save the situation, was being widely canvassed at that time. Our Australian view was that such intervention would be wrong for the following reasons:
It would not have the backing of the United Nations. It would put us in wrong with world opinion, particularly in Asia. It would probably embroil us with Communist China. It would wreck the Geneva Conference, and it was most unlikely to stop the fall of Dien Bien Phu. These were the views that I expressed on behalf of the Australian Government to Mr Dulles, Mr Eden, and other leaders at Geneva.
These are the words of the former Minister for External Affairs taken from Hansard, verbatim. Has not the Labor Party been protesting at the intervention in and the relentless bombing of North Vietnam? The British Government has dissociated itself from the relentless bombing of Vietnam. I think this nation faces a most serious situation today because of the war in Vietnam about which the people of Australia were misguided at the last election. At that time, the then Leader of the Opposition warned the Australian community that if the present Government were returned to power Australian commitments to Vietnam would be in the vicinity of 30,000 men within the three years that it would be in office.
What do we see? We see this in the newspapers after the elections but they did not give it such prominence before. Each day we see reports of Australian kids being blown to pieces. In today’s ‘Australian’ we read: ‘Vietnam mine kills seven Australians’. What disgusts and hurts me is this: the members on the other side of the Parliament are in favour of conscription and sending the children of Australian mothers over to Vietnam - I reluctantly say this but it is true - but on that side of the Parliament there are many men of military age, many men under thirty-five years of age, and I do not know of one member of the Government who has initiated steps to put on a uniform and suffer some part of what our boys are suffering today in Vietnam. Those honourable members are prepared to send other people’s children who are conscripted but they are not prepared to go themselves. I say, Mr Speaker: how low can you get? I have said this in the Hunter electorate from the time this Government introduced conscription, and the people honoured me for it and returned me with the largest Labor majority in Australia. I will continue to pursue that course as long as there is breath in my body and as long as my vocal cords will ring out, because this is an immoral, unjust and cruel war in which the world’s most powerful nation is among a peasant people who are virtually fighting with bows and arrows.
I recommend this latest book, ‘VietnamVietnam’, by Felix Greene, that has just come from America at my Instigation to our Parliamentary Library. I recommend it particularly to new members before they become hard core, professional, cold hearted politicians like some of their older mates who have been on that side of the Parliament for too long, far too long. Get hold of this book and read it. It should touch the most cold, iron hearted men in the Parliament. Read what is going on. The younger members opposite might take the stand that has been taken by a man in another place who could not wrestle with his conscience any longer and who recently resigned from the Liberal Party. He said, in effect: ‘We hold the right to criticise our Prime Minister. We believe we have that right and we hope that that right will never be taken away from us.’ I do not altogether look with great pride at the cartoon on the front of the ‘Far Eastern Economic Review’, a magazine that supplies from time to time some very useful information. Our newspapers do not, I am reluctant to say. It depicts a kangaroo, with Air Vice-Marshal Ky’s head replacing the head on the kangaroo.
– Who is in the pouch?
– The Prime Minister is in the pouch of the kangaroo. Many Australians believe that he might be a pouched man, but this is the first time that I have seen that. It depicts him as a person who is prepared to jump into the pocket of one of the world’s most vicious dictators of our time. Also in this paper is an article written by Alan Reid. This paper stated some short time ago that it is strongly suspected in Hong Kong that thirty-eight periodicals, newspapers and magazines there are gradually being subverted by the powerful finances of the American Central Intelligence Agency. I hope that the Australian people will study more the activities of this nefarious anti-espionage organisation. I do not believe that any country has the right to set up espionage organisations in this country.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, may I commence my speech by offering you congratulations on your appointment to the high office which you now hold. Secondly, I think it only proper that I should express my gratitude and my thanks to the electors of Parkes for having been kind enough not only to put up with me for three years but to send me back for another three. I am grateful to them.
– Packer’s pea for Parkes.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Scullin that he recognise that he is one of a very long tail of a very small party and should try to behave himself better and not interrupt. 1 suppose I should say something about the emanations that have just poured forth from the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). I would pass over them very quickly, because in my view he said nothing that was worth answering. He does little service to the House or to the country, 1 suggest, at this point of time in trying to rehearse and retrace in a highly histrionic way the issues and debates that were fully covered during the course of a very intensive election campaign and in this place during the last twelve or eighteen months. I suggest that the country at large would be better served if the Australian Labor Party and particularly the honourable member for Hunter were to take the view at last that, after all, the people of this country have spoken their mind through the medium of the ballot box on the correctness of our commitment in Vietnam; and there the matter should, in broad principle, rest.
J do not propose in my speech on the opening of this Parliament to cover issues of the election campaign. 1 feel that more useful purposes would be served if at this stage private members tried to concentrate on some aspect or aspects of particular legislative policy and endeavoured to put before the House some reasonably constructive ideas, particularly on subjects which may not have been debated in the House during the last Parliament or, if debated, not debated very extensively. I would like to invite the attention of the House to the fact that there is in the Australian community a degree of nonarticulation and lack of co-ordination as between the various statutory bodies which have important functions to play in the direction and formulation of our economic policies and practices. The four bodies to which 1 refer in particular are the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Trade Practices Commissioner and the Trade Practices Tribunal.
The Tariff Board and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission play a tremendously important part in the directing of our economy - indeed, even the formulation of economic policy. It is my belief that we should endeavour to secure more co-ordination than presently exists between these two bodies. After all, in some important respec’ts their work is complementary. I should imagine, therefore, that there would be little opposition to a proposal that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Tariff Board exchange more information than perhaps they do at present and that they should indulge in more consultation on various aspects of the Australian economy in which, in their separate ways, they arc interested. I do not think any machinery exists at the moment for consultation between the two bodies. But, perhaps mow importantly, we should consider the interrelation between the Tariff Board and the Commissioner of Trade Practices.
We must bear in mind that when the work of the Commissioner of Trade Practices and the Trade Practices Tribunal begins, the Commissioner and the Tribunal will be charged, in substance and in large measure, with the task of investigating agreements and practices which really amount to a sort of unofficial or private protective tariff wall operating or standing within the official boundaries o, the statutory tariff. I should think therefore that when, for instance, the Tariff Board has to consider whether a particular Australian industry is deserving of protection or, to use the term now commonly applied, whether the industry is economic and efficient’, it should be in a position to know what, if any. restrictive practices or agreements falling within the ambit of the Trade Practices Act that industry may be participating in.
It seems to me a fair enough proposition that if an industry seeking tariff protection is in fact engaging in practices within the ambit of the Trade Practices Act, the propriety of which in terms of public interest has to be determined, then the Tariff Board should know this. It should be given the information by the Commissioner of Trade Practices. This should be borne in mind in considering whether a particular industry is in fact economic and efficient and deserving of protection.
In the same way, looking at the problem from another point of view, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has to consider the capacity of a particular industry or of industry in general to pay increased wages, as it frequently has to do, any relevant information gained by the Commissioner of Trade Practices and his staff in the course of their inquiries should be given to the Commission. I would have no sympathy with any Australian industry which sought to resist a claim for increased wages in proceedings before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the ground that it would not bc able to absorb the increased costs consequential upon an increase in wages, if in fact its incapacity to absorb those increased costs was due to the industry engaging in restrictive practices which distorted the market economy by the establishment of a sort of private tariff wall within the framework of the statutory tariff.
So I look forward to legislative proposals, the effect of which should be to provide for a full exchange of information between the Commissioner of Trade Practices and the Tariff Board and between the Commissioner of Trade Practices and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
I feel certain that if some means can be found of achieving this objective we will get more articulation and more coordination in the general framing of economic policies. The next matter to which I want briefly to refer is perhaps a rather larger matter. The time has come when the Parliament should give serious consideration to the question whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as it is presently framed contains adequate and effective criteria for the guidance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in its task of fixing wages in those industrial disputes that fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission. The problem is by no means lacking in complication, as I would be the first to agree. The starting point to any consideration of this problem is to be found in some words written by Sir Owen Dixon, when he was Chief Justice, in a case reported in 89 Commonwealth Law Reports, ‘The
Queen v. Kelly, ex parte the Australian Railways Union’. Sir Owen Dixon said:
While an arbitral tribunal deriving its authority under an exercise of the legislative power given by section 51 (Xxxv) must confine itself to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes including what is incidental thereto and cannot have in its hands the general control or direction of industrial social or economic policies, it would be absurd to suppose that it was to proceed blindly in its work of industrial arbitration and ignore the industrial, social and economic consequences of what it was invited to do.
Those words appositely and aptly sum up the essential nature of the problem. The power of this Parliament to legislate with respect to industrial relations is a qualified and limited power, as has hitherto been thought at any rate. The main head of power is the placitum in the Constitution which gives the Parliament power to legislate with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
The theory has developed that the dominant objective or purpose and function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the prevention and settlement of disputes and that, while the Commission cannot disregard the consequences to the economy of what it may do, these are, as it were, matters on the periphery of its deliberations and do not go to the central problem. There has been, of course, a degree of divergence among members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from time to time as to the importance which particular economic factors should or should not assume in the hearing of wage cases. I should like to put before the House for its consideration a general proposal, which I make inevitably in fairly tentative terms because its validity will have to be examined very carefully and very extensively. I would suggest that there are ways and means while acting within constitutional power of enlarging and extending the criteria which may permissively be taken into account by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in determining wage claims.
I should approach the problem in this way: for the purposes of my argument, I start with the Report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry and refer to chapter 7, Costs. Prices and Wages’. In that chapter of its Report the Vernon Committee was very anxious to press the view that wage policy should ensure as far as possible price stability. It took a view with which various members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission quite strongly disagreed to the effect that the Commission had become de facto a sort of incomes tribunal. Now, that view was pretty strongly rejected, amongst other people, by Mr Justice Wright. He rejected it in the 1965 basic wage case. But while the view may be rejected that the Commission can act as an incomes tribunal, it cannot be denied that because of the pervasive outspreading effects of the decisions of the Commission, it has a tremendous influence on the movement of wages and prices generally.
The Vernon Committee was firmly of the view that price stability should be a major objective in wage fixation. It took the view, perhaps a little optimistically, that by means of a relatively simple amendment to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act the Commission’s position as an arbiter which in its arbitration would concentrate on price stability could be established. I quote in this regard from paragraph 64 of chapter 7 of the Report where at page 137 the Committee said:
Without wishing to support any particular wording, we think that the Act could be amended so that its objects include the maintenance of price stability in a context of full employment and the promotion of the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
This is, perhaps, open to doubt, as was pointed out by one of the judges of the Commission in the basic wage case last year when he queried whether such an amendment cast in such bald terms would be within constitutional power.
– Which judge said that?
– I think that it might have been Mr Justice Wright again. I think that there may be more subtle ways of approaching the problem than the particular way suggested by the Vernon Committee in chapter 7. It seems to me that there is no reason why careful consideration could not be given to relying upon the Commonwealth’s trade and commerce power to support new provisions in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act designed to establish specifically as a criterion in wage fixing the objective of price stability. 1 know that there has been a great argument over the years in submissions and debates before the Commission in wage cases as to the proper part to be played by the concept of price stability in wage fixing. But my belief is that price stability goes to the very root of good industrial relations because unless we can achieve price stability within the context of full employment, a rising standard of living and increased population then we are not really eradicating, perhaps, one of the basic causes of industrial disagreements. One of the basic causes of industrial disagreements is the discontent which naturally and properly is engendered when prices outstrip wages and a disastrous wage spiral ensues. What I would like to propose in a very tentative way is this: there is no reason why the trade and commerce power should not be invoked so as to include as one of the objectives of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the promotion of Australia’s export trade by means of ensuring, as far as possible, that wage fixations cause no undue disturbance of price stability. It goes without saying that increases in internal costs are calculated to disable our export industries. We have all heard about the cost-price squeeze to which some of our primary industries are presently being subjected and have been subjected for some time. My honourable friend from Bendigo (Mr Beaton) will know more about that than I do.
– Is the honourable member advocating price supervision?
– I am advocating no such thing. I believe that the best way of maintaining price stability is to allow a free market economy to run with proper supervision at the manufacturing end, proper supervision of harmful restrictive trade practices. That is the real answer to those who would support an elimination of the market economy by price control and price fixing.
I have been able to put this in only a very sketchy and tentative way. Internal costs affect our exports. Price stability, if it can be achieved, will keep internal costs down and thereby help to promote our exports. The trade and commerce power has been described by most eminent judges as one of wide and flexible application, and while I would be the last person to want to appear dogmatic on any question affecting the law of the Constitution, I do suggest to the Government that if, as 1 believe, the objective of price stability should be given more significance in wage determinations, then something should be done to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide some sort of additional objective such as I have proposed.
There is only one other thing I want to say. By reference to the conciliation and arbitration power itself, it may well be possible to enlarge the scope of the objectives of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to raise in importance and status the objective of price stability. After all, the chief object of the Act is the promotion of goodwill in industry, and I do suggest that at bottom, when one analyses the matter, goodwill in industry will in the long term be promoted by a conscious attempt to achieve stability of prices. I am not denying the tremendous importance of distributive justice, of equity, but if we can achieve stability of prices through the arbitration system we will be doing something well worth while.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– First of all. Mr Speaker, let me add my congratulations to those that have already been heaped upon you. Whilst I was not one of those who voted for you, I do respect the authority you hold, and I believe you will dispense justice and follow in the footsteps of the man who has just retired from the office of Speaker. 1 also congratulate the mover and seconder of this motion. Making a maiden speech is always a problem. It is not so many years since 1 made mine. I do not know whether one is lucky to be, as it were, the first cab off the rank. I congratulate both honourable members on the speeches that they made about their districts. They both follow men whom I have been proud to call my friends and whom 1 have held in the highest regard. If I am here in three years time or at any future time, I will be pleased to express the same sentiments in relation to them.
We are considering the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. It is usual to expect the Speech to outline actions of prominence and importance to the coun try which the Government will take in its term of office. I think this year’s Speech is one of the shortest that I can recall, although quality is what counts. However, I find that little initiative is shown in the Speech. I believe that that is an indication of the stolid stuffiness of a Government which is comfortable in a larger majority and which believes that it has effectively answered any efforts for a better deal for wage and salary earners, pensioners and supporters of greater Commonwealth assistance in development, by reference to a threatened invasion of Australia from Asia and our need to maintain a few thousand troops in Vietnam. The Labor Party recognises and has always recognised the need for adequate defence. But, for how long can the Government hide behind this as an excuse for not doing very necessary things? I remind honourable members of the dilemma in which the President of Indonesia, a man who once was thought of as the leader of one of these supposed invasions, now finds himself. For many years he has drawn the minds of the people of Indonesia away from their own economic and domestic problems by hiding behind a shield of military projects. I do not wish to deal with South East Asia at all; but I believe that that point should be made.
I heard a comment - I think it was made by the seconder of the motion - to the effect that today we see fewer and fewer sunburnt, independent Australians who are prepared to give it a go. It is quite obvious why that is so. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) touched on some of the reasons for it when he referred to the many restrictive trade practices and takeovers which are damaging and destroying initiative. I believe that one of the major factors in this respect is lack of finance. Today the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) held up a copy of a magazine called the Tar Eastern Economic Review’. I do not know whether any Australian had anything to do with the production of the cover of that magazine; but if one did and if he is a friend of Air ViceMarshal Ky I think he has done him a certain amount of injustice by placing his head on the body of a female kangaroo.
I wish to deal with some of the matters referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. One of them is very close to me as a Queenslander; that is, the sugar industry. Actually, very little was said about it. The Governor-General said:
The sugar industry, although attaining high production levels, is experiencing serious difficulties through the depressed international price for sugar, and faces an uncertain world outlook. My Government, in close co-operation with the Queensland Government and the industry, is actively seeking acceptable international arrangements which will ensure Australian sugar producers access to world markets at remunerative prices.
Wc heard the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) say today in reply to a question by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that, he had so far been unsuccessful in his efforts in this regard. 1 know that his task will not be a light one because the expansion in the sugar industry took place not only in Australia but also in many other countries, lt is interesting to note that the expansion of the sugar industry in Indonesia was encouraged by Japan. Japan has financed the construction of sugar mills in Indonesia. I do not know to what extent the Japanese are interested in the purchase of our sugar but it is interesting to note that the Minister for Trade and Industry no longer acclaims our sales of sugar to Japan as being very beneficial to the industry as a whole. It is known that through customs and excise duties the Japanese Government makes much more out of the sugar than do the people who actually produce it.
The sugar industry in Australia is very concerned indeed. The full peak of the expansion has not yet been reached. Some people who have been granted assignments have not yet been able to obtain the necessary capital to go ahead with the clearing of land in preparation for the planting of crops. Here, again, is something that I have emphasised before: Australian initiative has been damaged by the lack of finance. The Australian Labor Party drew attention in its policy to the need to make cheap money available for development, especially rural development. In the sugar industry it has been the practice at the end of each crushing for the engineering firms in Bundaberg and Maryborough in my electorate of Wide Bay to carry out repairs and overhauls to existing mills. Owing to the depressed state of the industry orders have not been forthcoming. There were fewer last year and still fewer this year.
This is creating a fear of unemployment in sugar towns. There are other industries but they do not provide anything like the employment that the sugar industry offers, particularly in engineering works. So there are grave fears about employment. 1 know that representatives of engineering firms in Bundaberg and Maryborough, are touring the country looking for contracts. These firms have been recognised always as specialists in the sugar industry. They have manufactured sugar mills for Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, and other countries. Because they were recognised as specialists they did not have the problem of obtaining contracts. If they turn to other work they are faced with having to compete with engineering industries in centralised ureas where there is a large labour force available and where, if a job is wanted in a hurry, incentives can be offered and skilled mcn found to push those jobs through. This is not the case with industries away from the capital cities.
Decentralisation is a subject which has been touched on by a number of honourable members. But no mention is made of it in the Governor-General’s Speech. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) asked the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) whether he was interested in decentralisation. We hear from Country Party members that they are interested in the subject. But if we read the policy speeches for the three major political parties, wc find that the only party that gave any attention to decentralisation and balanced development was the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party proposed to set up a balanced development fund to make money available to States for use in establishing industries in these areas.
One of the aspects on which the Government could act and has not yet acted is sales tax. Goods sold in these areas bear sales tax on the last wholesale price, that is, sales tax is applied on the manufactured price plus freight and handling costs. This system works very much against people in decentralised areas. In many cases they are paying much more sales tax - this applies particularly to motor vehicles, which are essential - than are their brothers and sisters in the capital cities. I believe the answer lies in imposing sales tax on the article at the point of manufacture. This would mean that people throughout Australia would pay the same rate of sales tax, irrespective of their location. To some extent this would also assist industries in decentralised areas. I know wholesalers in the city of Maryborough, particularly those dealing in groceries, who have had to close down. I know wholesalers in Bundaberg who are facing the same problem. They have to charge sales tax on the last wholesale price and so are unable to compete with firms which send a traveller from Brisbane who sells at the Brisbane price plus freight. In those cases sales tax is levied on the capital city prices. This is working against the interests of decentralisation.
The Governor-General also mentioned other matters which may seem to other honorable members to be of small importance but they are matters in which I have been interested. He said that the Government will introduce legislation to give the Department of Housing discretionary power to deal with certain cases of hardship which have arisen since the commencement of the homes savings grant scheme. I am sure this is appreciated by all honorable members, particularly those who were in this place in the previous Parliament and who had raised with them many queries on the administration of the scheme. I recall that when the scheme was introduced in May 1964 the Minister said that if he had not prepared the Bill himself he would not have understood it. Many of us had the same difficulty, so we cannot blame the couples who wondered whether they were entitled to receive the grant. Twelve months later, in March 1965, the scheme was amended to remove some of the anomalies but there are still borderline cases in which the Minister’s discretion should be exercised.
One interesting point is that the scheme now will extend to widows of less than thirty-six years of age who have children. This is something the Labor Party proposed when the Bill was introduced. On that occasion we asked why widows and widowers were excluded. In reply to a question along these lines by the then honourable member for Hughes, Mr L. R. Johnson, one Government member said that widows were not a very good financial risk. I am happy that the scheme has been extended at last to widows and widowers, but this will apply,
I understand, only from 29th November last year and not from the inception of the scheme. There have been instances of hardship. In some cases, as a result of the tragic death of the husband, a mother has been able to provide a home of her own for her children because she received a lump sum compensation payment. She is not entitled to it. Yet she is probably more in need of it than many others who do qualify for it. What about the widower who finds himself left without a wife and who wants to purchase a home for his family? Is he to be denied the assistance because he has not got a wife? What sort of a qualification is this? When Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin was appointed Minister for Housing I asked that she give special consideration to widows and I am pleased to see that this has been done, but why should a widower be excluded if he qualifies in every other respect?
The limitation on the value of a home that qualifies under the home savings grant scheme will now be increased from $14,000 to SI 5,000. Has this been done in recognition of the fact that home building costs have increased? The maximum loan available through most banks, State housing commissions or the War Service Homes Division is $7,000. It is a long way short of the $15,000 that is proposed - less than half way. An amount of $7,000 is the maximum that is loaned. If the Government recognises that costs have increased how does it reconcile this with the low maximum loan that is available? Recently in Queensland the State Housing Commission increased the maximum loan available from $7,000 to $8,000. If honourable members look through statistics they will find that of all the capital cities the cost of building is cheapest in Brisbane with the possible exception of Hobart. I wonder whether the raising of the amount from $14,000 to $15,000 indicates that couples who are able to afford a better type of home are the ones who will qualify for the maximum savings grant.
I referred a short while ago to the War Service Homes Division. I wish to direct the attention of the House to an interpretation of the Act in regard to the method of holding land on which a war service home has been built. There are many instances in country areas - I am speaking about Queensland because I am not certain of the position in other States - where people have been assisted to build homes on what are known as ‘perpetual leases’. They pay an annual rental to the State Department of Lands. This land is recognised under the War Service Homes Act as a holding. In Queensland, if the people in possession of such a home find themselves in a better position and wish to convert their holding to freehold the State Department allows them twenty years in which to do so. However I am reliably informed that immediately they do this the arrangement is not recognisable under the War Service Homes Act and they are faced with no alternative but to obtain a second mortgage with the permission of the War Service Homes Division. They have to make a cash payment for the conversion and then pay a higher rate of interest than they would pay to the Department of Lands. This is only a small thing but it is something that is giving concern. I believe that the Minister for Housing should have a look at this matter and introduce an amendment so that the problem can be solved.
Also in relation to housing, I am pleased to note that local authorities will now be recognised for benefits under the Aged Persons Homes Act. This has been part of Labor’s policy and amendments designed to achieve that objective have been proposed by Labor in this place for a number of years. It seems that when the Government is looking for ideas it turns to the Australian Labor Party’s policy so that it may introduce something new.
It is pleasing to note that the permissible income of age, invalid and widow pensioners is to be raised by $3 a week. It is many years since the limit was lifted. The value of money has decreased considerably in the meantime and I believe that the time is not very far off when Australia could well follow the lead of countries such as New Zealand and abolish the means test. Employees of local authorities in Queensland are obliged by law to contribute to superannuation schemes. Are contributors to such schemes making their payments only to receive a reduced pension when the time of retirement comes? While the additional allowance of $3 a week is welcome, it is not enough. However, I am sure that it will be appreciated by many people who at present are denied some of the fringe benefits available to pensioners.
It is interesting to note also the reference to Commonwealth participation in the field of tourism. I judge from an answer given this morning by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), who is in charge of tourist activities, that he is right on the ball in respect of tourism; unless, of course, he gave the answer to a prepared question. However, he certainly gave a full and precise answer. I suppose, on reflection, that if it is a good answer it does not matter whether it is an infringement of the Standing Orders. My friend, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), may have something to say on that subject. I believe there is room for greater Commonwealth participation in tourism. State governments are limited by the funds available to them. This is an industry that may be used to assist decentralised areas by bringing a considerable amount of money into them. Queensland has many miles of shoreline, most of it behind the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the wonders of the world. I am surprised that more is not made of this attraction.
I do not believe that in developing such areas we should go in for the Honolulu pattern of bright lights. We may have learned something from the experience of people there. We have an Australian way of life which is acceptable to the people of most countries. I do not believe that it is inferior to that of other countries. The amenities we can offer visitors to Australia by sticking to Australianism and not introducing facets of another way of life will bring tourists to Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 5.25 p.m. ^
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670223_reps_26_hor54/>.