26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Has the visit to Australia of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, been declared by the Government to be a national event? Does this declaration mean that the coaxial cable between Canberra and various capital cities is made available to commercial television stations free of charge? Was the Melbourne Cup also declared to be a national event? Was the Federal election last November declared to be a national event, or did commercial television stations have to make their own arrangements for the televising of results from the national tally room? If so, what are the criteria used by the Government to decide what is and what is not a national event?
– The last Federal election was not declared to be a national event and each television station was required to make its own arrangements. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs is the one who determines whether the coaxial cable should be made available in the national interest; but it must be appreciated that the coaxial cable, particularly between Sydney and Melbourne, has been leased to two commercial television stations - one in Sydney and one in Melbourne - in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think it will be accepted by all honourable members that full consideration must be given to such a lease. If there are matters of special interest, such as the visit of President Johnson or the visit of Prime Minister Ky. the Director of Posts and Telegraphs makes a declaration. I am not yet aware whether there is anything of a special national character connected with the visit of His Royal Highness, such as a Press interview, which would be of great interest to the Australian public, but if it is indicated to me that there is to be such an event, then I shall make the information known to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and ask him to give the matter full consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. There have been reports from Victoria that the price agreed to be paid for natural gas from the Esso-BHP organisation is excessive. Can the Minister inform the House whether there is any truth in these allegations? 1
– I have seen some of the reports to which the honourable member refers, and I do not agree with them. I have had some personal experience of selling stock. I have always found that when I sell I am told that I did not get enough and when I buy I am told that I paid too much. I think the same thing is happening in this case.
The Victorian Government had the advantage of a very full and complete report from one of the world’s experts on natural gas. That report set out the range of prices to be paid. After negotiations extending over a considerable period of time an agreement was reached. This agreement will enable Melbourne to get the gas at a city gate price which is slightly lower than the average city gate price in the United States or Canada and considerably lower than the price fixed in the original negotiation in England for North Sea gas. The price is lower than the price of gas in Holland, and after all, the Dutch have what is probably the biggest deposits of natural gas in the world very close to their shoreline. So from everything I can see this is a very favourable agreement. It must be borne in mind that the Esso-BHP group must find $154m to bring the well into production and it must have a reasonable price if it is to do this. Under the agreement there is provision for re-negotiation in five years as well as provision for the price to fall if larger quantities are sold elsewhere.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that 70% of postal clerks in New South Wales are recruited from country areas, where approximately only 35% of the State’s population lives? Is it the policy of the Postmaster-General to encourage centralisation, or are the rewards for service in the Post Office so meagre that he cannot compete on the open market for clerical staff and must recruit his postal clerks from areas where other avenues of employment are very limited? Is it a fact that of the intake of 208 students for the current course at the Postal Training School at Strathfield, 60 are from Sydney and 148 from the country? If so, why?
– Fortunately we live in a community where people have the right to choose their form of occupation. The Post Office simply calls applications for the position of postal clerk. Applicants must sit for an examination and undergo a period of training. The choice is theirs rather than that of the Post Office administration.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a full page advertisement appearing in the latest issue of a national weekly magazine .claiming that an electronic device known as a ‘turbospark converter’, by converting air into fuel enables a motorist to travel up to 700 miles on a single tank of petrol? If the claims of the company concerned are fraudulent will the Minister take appropriate action? If, however, the claims are genuine, will he confer immediately with his colleague, the Minister for National Development, so that greater publicity may be given to this amazing device?
– My attention was called to the advertisement making the remarkable claim referred to. I do not have any information about the device or about the firm advertising it but in view of the honourable member’s question I will have some inquiries made into the matter and let the honourable member know the result.
– Will the Prime Minister give immediate consideration to increasing substantially the compensation benefits paid in respect of national servicemen killed or injured in Vietnam?
– The matter clearly is one of policy. The honourable gentleman’s interest in it has been noted, as indeed has the interest of other honourable members who have raised this matter with the Government. The matter is currently under consideration.
– The Minister for National Development, in answering a question asked last week by the honourable member for Mallee, referred to legislation under which the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority has the option of paying half the cost of increasing the capacity of the Hume Weir or of building an additional dam. Does this mean that any dam to be constructed by the Snowy Mountains Authority on the Murray upstream from the Hume Weir would be limited in size by the amount of finance required to fulfil the Authority’s obligation under legislation? If so, can this limitation be removed by the provision of supplementary finance in view of the vital necessity to fully utilise the water diverted to the Murray River system from the Snowy scheme?
– The Snowy Mountains Authority has the option of either paying this amount of money to the River Murray Commission - 1 think it would be about $4m - or building a major storage, lt has until 1969 to decide which of the two it is going to do, but certainly if the River Murray Commission believes it better, and is able to persuade the governments to put in more money, then a larger dam could be built. As I indicated, the site that is being looked at is the Upper Murray region at a spot known as Murray Gate near Tom Groggin. I point out also that apart from this possibility of additional storage, which is to be discussed at a meeting of the River Murray Commission that I will be chairing in Adelaide on Monday, additional water is also being made available to the Murray through the diversion of Eucumbene and Snowy River waters. This will amount to about 800,000 acre feet per annum.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it correct that the Parliament of Western Australia, having recently recognised that isolation, cost of living and climatic conditions are as severe in some areas below the 26th parallel as they are above the 26th parallel, has extended certain State concessions accordingly? If so, would it not also be correct that this recognition and subsequent action by a State Parliament proves conclusively that there is an urgent need, in the interests of the people concerned, for the Commonwealth Government to make an immediate review of zone boundaries for income tax concessions or allowances? Is any such review currently in progress or will a review be set in motion in the near future? If not, why not?
– The Government has from time to time reviewed the income tax zone allowances but has felt that up to now, at any event, it is not desirable to increase the amounts or the area. There are constitutional reasons, I can assure the honourable gentleman, why this matter has to be treated with the greatest delicacy, because there is some doubt as to whether the provisions can stay within the constitutional law. Nonetheless we do constantly keep this problem under review. I can assure him that there is much sympathy for what he has spoken of. On whether it is practicable to do anything more, I reserve judgment.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. I refer to a matter which involves many of my constituents. By way of explanation I should say that these people face in the near future the problem of their homes being resumed for a new road system in Brisbane. Many of them are pensioners and fear that they will be disqualified from receiving a pension after receipt of a lump sum payment for their homes. Will the Minister help me to allay their fears by advising the procedure adopted by his Department to maintain pensions in such circumstances?
– The Department regards the net proceeds received from the sale of a home by a pensioner with some discretion where the purpose of the retention of the net proceeds is the purchase of another home. However, only that part of the net proceeds which is so intended is regarded as being not part of the means of the pensioner. The honourable member can assure his constituents that provided they intend to use the proceeds received from the acquisition of their homes for the purchase of new homes the Department will favourably consider the continuing of their pension rights. After an initial three months applications are normally reconsidered, but nonetheless, provided the pensioner is taking steps to purchase a home, there should be no difficulty.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In his policy speech last November the right honourable gentleman promised that the Government would spend about $50m in the next five years on selected water conservation projects. In view of the fact that soundly based proposals for water conservation projects have been before the Government for years, when does the Government intend to start spending this amount of money in this important field of national development, particularly in Queensland which, during the last seventeen years, has received not one cent from the Commonwealth for water conservation projects although $900m has been committed by the Commonwealth in other States for water conservation projects designed to provide power and irrigation?
– A submission is being prepared at the present time and we hope to have some discussion in Cabinet on this matter in the near future. However, I shall answer some of the allegations made by the honourable member. It is true that the Queensland Government has succeeded in financing, from its own quite considerable resources of loan funds and tax reimbursements, the water conservation projects which it is undertaking. A booklet published last week by my Department shows that there are seventeen water conservation projects costing Sim or more under construction at the present moment in Queensland. Admittedly many of these are for the purpose of providing water for towns, but a number of them are irrigation projects. However, the Commonwealth Government has made its contribution by way of other forms of assistance to Queensland, such as the provision of beef roads and a harbour at Weipa, the Brigalow land clearance scheme and the upgrading of the railway line to
Mount Isa. At present there are developmental projects under way in northern Queensland, financed by the Commonwealth Government, to the value of $31m.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to the recent introduction of new interstate air traffic schedules which have resulted in a more rational and efficient service between State capital cities. I ask the Minister why the services to and from Canberra, the national capital, still remain inadequate. For example, there is no aircraft leaving Melbourne for Canberra between 9.35 a.m. and 1.55 p.m. If the lack of airport facilities at Canberra is the factor militating against adequate services, will the Minister consider stepping up the proposed development of Canberra airport so that better services may be made available?
– Included in the recent improvements in timetables made by the two major domestic operators were some improvements in the services to and from Canberra. At the moment there are thirtyseven services, to and fro, between Canberra and Melbourne, each week and eighty between Canberra and Sydney. But no doubt some further improvements can bc effected in the future. As the House will recall, 1 set up a committee last year to investigate the matter of timetables and I expect before very long to have a report, as a result of which some further improvements may be expected. However, 1 stress that some improvements have recently been made to services to and from Canberra. As to airport facilities, we are in the process of strengthening one of the runways and some of the taxiways to provide a better traffic flow, and this will allow all domestic aircraft at present in service and others up to the DC9 type to operate to and from Canberra. Expenditure of funds allocated for that particular project is well over $200,000 at the moment. We will be commencing very shortly, I hope, on the new terminal building. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Works, will be arranging to call for tenders in the near future. I think that, not only will the facilities be improved, but the service will certainly be much better in the future.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Last week, during question time, I asked whether he was aware that there was widespread concern in Australia about uncontrolled overseas investment taking over Australia’s heritage. I asked whether he would set up a committee representing a variety of interests to inquire into all aspects of overseas investment. In reply, the right honourable gentleman said: I do not find in the community the. widespread concern to which the honourable member referred’. I ask him now whether he is aware that those who have expressed concern in the Government parties range from the Deputy Prime Minister to the honourable member for Mackellar; that there have been newspaper editorials on this subject in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, the ‘Financial Review’-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– The ‘Australian’, the Melbourne Herald’, and even this week’s Bulletin’?
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– Will the right honourable gentleman take his head out of the sand and give consideration to setting up a committee representing all interests to inquire into all aspects of overseas investment in Australia and curb the sell-out of our national heritage?
- Mr Speaker, I have given this matter far more concentrated attention, I would say, than the honourable member is ever likely to give to it, and I have had resources available to me - departmental resources and others - which have assisted me in that consideration. Of course I am aware that there are critics in the community. There are certainly many in the Australian Labor Party. I know that it is official Labor Party policy to restrict by various means the flow of capital to Australia, even if that flow can be demonstrated to have a value for developmental purposes. The whole approach of the Labor Party in this matter is one of discouragement. Fortunately for this country there has not been a government in office which has had the inhibiting effect on Australia’s development that a Labor Government would have had. I have studied the Canadian position quite closely also. I happen to know that overseas investment by the United States of America in Australia is about one-tenth of that which has occurred in Canada. So we have a very long way to go before anyone can point to the Canadian situation; and objective observers of the Canadian economy acknowledge that it has grown to its present strength largely as a result of this massive investment from overseas. The advantages that we derive from this investment are so well known that I do not need to recite them again. That does not mean that the Government does not look from time to time at these matters, exercise some measure of restraint in particular circumstances, and through our exchange control arrangements, and in other directions-
– Can the right honourable gentleman give an instance of such restraint?
– I have plenty of recollections of these restraints, having applied them during my own term as Treasurer. I am sure my colleague, the present Treasurer, has such recollections also. We do not disclose what is confidential between the Reserve Bank of Australia or the Government and particular prospective investors from overseas. The honourable gentleman need not think that we do not keep a close watch on these matters. At the same time, we are aware how sensitive to the risk either of appropriation or restraint overseas capital is. We have a great continent to develop and we need the resources that will assist us in that development. I can assure the honourable gentleman that his fears, and those of others who think like him, are not ignored, but we believe the policy we are pursuing is in the best national interest.
– My question to the Treasurer relates to overseas borrowing. In view of the strong advance in the gross national product - I think an increase of 8% in the December quarter - is he in a position to inform this House whether it is the Government’s intention to borrow further funds overseas in the near future? Can he tell the House whether these funds are readily available, and will he comment on the current rate of interest position and on the trend in interest rates that may apply in the future?
– I supplement what the Prime Minister has said. We welcome the movement of private and public capital into this country. If this movement had not occurred in the past we would not have been able to sustain our growth of population and our immigration policy. We would not have been able to sustain our full employment policy nor would we have been able to get an increase of gross national product of the kind mentioned by the honourable gentleman. I mention incidentally that the rate of increase of 8% in the last quarter will have staggered even the worst of the critics. It is a remarkable performance for any country. As to the question, first, of public capital movement, regrettably we expect that the movement will be out of Australia this year and not into it. In other words, we expect that there will be a movement of $90m from . Australia to overseas countries, and to that extent we will be reducing our indebtedness to those countries. That must stagger the honourable member for Reid.
On the public capital movement side we find it difficult to raise moneys overseas. For example, we recently raised a loan in Euro-dollars on the continent through our United States agent. The interest rate was somewhat higher than we like to pay. We are not prepared to chase money at this rate of interest. The amount borrowed was about $25m. But, Sir, we do think that the stage has been reached when there may be a tendency for interest rates overseas to be reduced, and if that is so then we hope to be able to raise some loans, though not very substantia] ones, during the balance of this financial year.
As to the private capital movement, 1 have already said that we welcome it. The rate of private capital movement into the country this year will he high. It will be not as high as last year, but it will be about $500m, which is consistent with the private capital inflow of other years. All in all, we see no reason why this inflow should be substantially reduced even in the face of the restraints placed upon the movement of capital by the United States and the United Kingdom Governments. In the public field we have to watch the rate of interest, but I do say, Sir, that we welcome the movement of this capital, both public and private. It has contributed to our growth. It is one of the great influences in ensuring that our gross national product keeps increasing and that our population increases at its present rate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is there any truth in the report that the Government is likely to again apply a means test for pensioner medical service entitlement when it extends the social services means test shortly, using 1st May 1965 as the date for eligibility purposes? If no such proposal is being considered, will the honourable gentleman give serious consideration to extending the pensioner medical service to other categories of pensioners such as coalminers and superannuitants whose net income, after meeting taxation, local government rates and paying for medical services, falls below the maximum gross income of other pensioners?
– The matter raised by the honourable member is under consideration by the Government at this very moment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. By way of preface may 1 say that the Minister must be proud of the way that the nation as a whole assists the explorations of the petroleum and mineral industries through the services of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping, and by subsidy and taxation rebates. I ask: are our mineral and petroleum resources on the continental shelf outside the three mile limit regarded as the resources of the nation as a whole? Is there any national plan for the reticulation of natural gas by trunk pipelines, especially for the four largest cities? In a word, will the city gate price for gas be higher in Sydney than in Melbourne?
– Part of the information the honourable member seeks in his question depends on the lawyers, because the lawyers, like the States and the Commonwealth, have not been able to agree completely as to who owns certain resources. 1 will supplement my answer with a written answer to the honourable member.
The States very strongly hold the view that, certainly up to the three mile limit, they own the resources on the sea bed and some of them believe that they own the resources further afield. The Commonwealth very strongly holds the view that the resources beyond the three mile limit on the sea bed belong to the Commonwealth. But because of the various ways in which litigation could occur, the Commonwealth and the States came together and decided that they would not contest the rights of each other to these resources; that they would produce a common code; that they would share in the regulation of the use of resources, and that they would share in the royalties from the exploitation of the resources of the sea bed. I can tell the honourable member that we are the first federation in the world to succeed in reaching an agreement of this sort. In the United States there has been constant litigation and I understand that in Louisiana an amount of $800m is held in escrow because the courts are unable to determine who owns it. In addition, I believe that people there take out two leases, one with the State authority and one with the Federal authority, to be sure that at least one is valid.
The honourable member asks about pipelines. The Commonwealth has not yet decided to have any national plan of pipelines. It would undoubtedly have certain powers to arrange for the interstate delivery of gas, but I think it would be loath to exercise them unless it thought that there was a very strong need for it to do so. It is apparent that people in Sydney using gas produced off the Victorian coast must pay higher transport costs than Melbourne users. Therefore the Sydney price will undoubtedly be higher than the Melbourne price, just as the price at Geelong will be higher than the price at Melbourne. The Victorian Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, has conferred with us and has assured us that he wants to obtain additional sales of gas. He will do everything he can to get additional sales of gas because this will give the advantage of a lower price in Victoria and increased royalties.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry why the printed transcripts of discussions by the Australian Agricultural Council are not made available to honourable members and to the public. What justification can there be for withholding these transcripts when those of the Premiers’ Conferences - the conferences between the Prime Minister and the Premiers - are readily made available?
– Only when the Premiers decide that a public record should be kept and made available. For instance, no public record was made of our discussions at the last Premiers’ Conference.
– I certainly have never found any difficulty in securing through the normal channels the printed transcript of proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference. I ask the Minister: since the last Agricultural Council made decisions on some highly contentious issues which will not come before this Parliament, or, I understand, any of the other Parliaments, in legislation, will he make a statement to the House so that at least his reasons for these decisions may be vouchsafed to the public and honourable members given an opportunity to express their views on them?
– All through the period of the operations of the Australian Agricultural Council the verbatim records have been regarded as confidential between the Ministers who have taken part in the conferences. All decisions which have been made have been notified to the public by the Chairman as spokesman for the Council. I think it must be recognised that we get a far better discussion, analysis and decision on matters which come before Ministers, having regard to the fact that different political opinions are represented by Ministers there, if the proceedings are confidential.
– The record of the Premiers’ Conference is available.
– That is all right. Nevertheless, we get a better analysis if we are able to throw our opinions about and have a full discussion on matters. I repeat that the final decisions are notified to the public and are always available. If the honourable member wants to ask me any questions on any of the matters that have been raised, I would have no hesitation in giving my opinion on that question as the Commonwealth Minister. I am quite ready to do that.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: is the Minister aware that there is unrest among woolgrowers regarding the fall in wool sale prices during the last twelve months and that many of them are of the opinion that the money they are contributing to the wool promotion fund is being used in a way that at least appears to be ineffective? Has the Government a plan to assist the wool industry by improving the marketing services of its valuable product?
– There will always be varying opinions among woolgrowers, as there are among producers of any commodity, as to marketing conditions, and more particularly when there are no stabilisation schemes covering the marketing of their products. The Commonwealth Government has offered the woolgrowers unlimited finance and the proposal of a reserve price plan. This was voted upon in 1965 and the woolgrowers chose not to accept our offer. Now the honourable member says that there is concern and dissatisfaction with regard to promotion. I do not see any evidence of that. If I am to judge from the decisions of the Wool Industry Conference which was held either earlier this week or last week, the growers were unanimous in accepting as policy the Government’s offer which was announced by the Prime Minister to increase our assistance up to a maximum of $14m for promotion and research. The Conference was unanimous in accepting that and unanimous in accepting the responsibility by way of levy to continue promotion, having regard to the results promotion has achieved. When we see reports which are coming in as to the results of promotion of wool I think we can be optimistic, more particularly when we see that overseas the competitors - the synthetic people - are in more trouble than those in the wool industry. Today the world is accepting wool as a more basic and fundamental fabric than synthetics. As a country which depends so much on wool, we can have a great degree of optimism as a result.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Primary Industry to advocate an increase in the offshore limits from three to twelve miles off the Australian coastline? If it is, what is the reason for this? Is it because more foreign fishing vessels have been sighted off the Australian coast? If they have, will the Minister take steps to sec that suitable fisheries protection vessels are available to safeguard these areas?
– I have discussed this matter with the Attorney-General. It is under active consideration by both him and myself and will be under active consideration by the Government also. I want the House to understand that fishing rights extending to the 12 mile limit have been claimed by several countries around their own shores. In this instance, it is the extending of fishing rights to the 12 mile limit that is under consideration, not the extending of territorial rights in the wider international sphere to the 12 mile limit.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the cowardly silence of the Australian Labor Party on this issue will the Government support the Australian Council of Trade Unions in its courageous stand on the ‘Boonaroo’ dispute? Will the Government do this by enforcing the authority of the ACTU with action against the Seamen’s Union of Australia for a breach of its award by refusing to man the Boonaroo’ even for its movement to Port Wilson for the loading of supplies urgently needed by Australian troops fighting in Vietnam? By way of comment, I would say to the Minister that every Communist on the waterfront is crowing that the Communists have achieved their objective of forcing the Government to send supplies to Vietnam in a naval vessel.
– Towards the end of last year the then Leader of the Opposition made in this House a statement to the general effect that although the Australian Labor Party opposed the sending of troops to Vietnam it believed that there should be no obstruction of supplies going to our troops there. I have no reason to suppose that there has been any change in this policy.
– The Minister certainly has not.
– Why do you not do something, then?
– Let us have a ministerial statement on the matter and have the facts published instead of just allowing innuendoes to be made.
– If I may be allowed to answer the question: it has not directly come to my knowledge that there has been any public statement on behalf of the Labor Party about this issue, but I assume that there has been no change of policy.
– Of course not.
– This the Leader of the Opposition has confirmed. This policy is supported also by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I point out, lest there be misunderstanding-
– Why do you-
-Order! A question has been asked and the Minister is entitled to answer it in his own way. There have been too many interjections from both sides of the House.
– I am afraid that the new Leader of the Opposition is acquiring the same habits as the last one, for he is trying to answer questions himself as they come up. I should add that a number of different unions are involved in the sailing of these supply ships. Most of these unions are anxious to ensure that these vessels are manned and that they sail. I am satisfied that the last thing the good, solid core trade unionists in this country want is to ditch our fighting men in Vietnam. The key organisation, of course, is the Seamen’s Union of Australia, which is Communist dominated. Its actions are directed by the Communist Party of Australia towards promoting a Communist victory. The main object of the Communists - in this they act through the Federal Secretary of the Seamen’s Union - is not so much the welfare and employment opportunities of the members of the
Union as the triumph of Hanoi. On a number of occasions it has been demonstrated that the Communist Party has ready at any moment a hatchet that it will use to sever the lifeline of our troops. This is an intolerable situation which the Government has had to bring to an end.
The honourable member for Henty asked about prosecution of the Seamen’s Union. A number of factors are involved in this aspect of the matter. The situation has moved swiftly in the last few days and I would need further time to examine the matter.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. It is supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Did the Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, support the decision of the Australian Agricultural Council to retain the quota system imposed on margarine production? Does this decision mean that the quotas will remain fixed at present levels? Did the Minister support the retention of quotas at the present levels? Finally, will he make a Ministerial statement to this Parliament in order that honourable members may debate matters which were contentious before the Australian Agricultural Council?
– If the honourable member re-reads the statement I made on behalf of the Australian Agricultural Council, he will see that the decision arrived at was unanimous. As to making a statement in the House, there will be ample opportunity to discuss this matter when legislation relating to the stabilisation of the dairy industry, which I hope to bring before the House during the course of this sessional period, is under discussion.
– Will the quotas remain fixed at the present levels?
– The honourable member must know that the fixing of quotas is a function of the State governments. I did say in my statement that this matter will be kept under constant consideration by the members of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– In secret.
– There is nothing secret about it. If the honourable gentleman wants to support the importation of vegetable oils to the detriment of a great industry like the dairy industry-
– The Minister sells his peanuts which are used to produce peanut oil for the production of margarine.
– I am interested to see that the honourable member for Oxley roo is against the dairy industry.
– The Minister approves the importation of substitutes.
-Order! There are far too many interjections from both sides of the House. I ask the House to come to order.
– It is interesting !o know that the honourable member for Oxley and others are opposed to the interests o the dairy industry. It may interest the members of the Opposition to know that 112 tons more safflower oil was imported into Australia in the first six months of this financial year than in the whole of the previous twelve months despite the increased production of this oil in Australia. If honourable members opposite want to expand the importation of vegetable oils from other countries, if they want to help other countries rather than help our own industry, if they want to decry the dairy industry, I remind them that last year the dairy industry earned no less than $104m worth of export credits for Australia. That is a worthy achievement. Let me tell honourable members that there is ample room for the expansion of the vegetable oil industry in Australia. We imported 50,000 tons of vegetable oil last year. There is ample room for the vegetable oil industry in Australia to expand without in any way affecting imports from Papua and New Guinea.
– This is the sort of statement we want. We want to be able to discuss the matter in Parliament.
– If I have the privilege of introducing a dairy industry stabilisation bill, I intend to set out the full position in detail. Honourable members will then have an opportunity to discuss the matter.
– On Thursday last, 23rd February, the honourable member for Maribyrnong said there was congestion, firstly, on the Government side of the House and, secondly, on the Opposition side when the Government Parties vote for the ‘Noes’. He asked whether consideration could be given to a redesigning of seating arrangements. The honourable member also raised the question of electrical voting equipment.
For ordinary purposes during a sitting day, there is no congestion of the Government Parties as 87 seats are available for the 81 members of those Parties. Including two scats at the Table, the seats available on the Government side of the centre aisle are adequate and convenient during division for 87 members. On the Opposition side, there is seating space during division for 77 members. The full voting strength of the combined Government Parties is 81 but, of this number, two are tellers who are not seated during the counting of votes.
As the records of the House show that the presence of the full voting strength of the parties is an infrequent event - there are valid reasons for this - I feel that there should be no overcrowding of honourable members voting for the ‘Noes’. Certainly, there can be no overcrowding of those voting for the ‘Ayes’. I noted that the largest number voting on a side last week was 75. I am of opinion that any change of present seating arrangements does not appear necessary. It may become necessary if the number of honourable members is increased but this is obviously a matter for later determination. The question of installing electric voting equipment has been given some thought from time to time but I understand the results have been inconclusive. There are some advantages but there are equal or greater disadvantages. The matter was scheduled for consideration by the Joint Committee on a New and Permanent Parliament House and will, no doubt, be considered by the Joint Committee if it is re-appointed by this Parliament. I would prefer, therefore, to leave the question in abeyance at this stage.
– Mr Speaker, may I make a brief statement on the matter to which you have just referred?
-Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr TURNER (Bradfield) I wish to say a word or two about automatic voting. I am one of the few members of this House who has sat in opposition as well as on the government side of Parliament. I want to say that, from my experience of nearly fifteen years in the New South Wales Parliament, about the only weapon that an opposition has - whether it is this Opposition or the present Government parties in opposition does not matter - to insist upon being heard is to be able, if I may so express it, to gum up the works by calling divisions. I have sat in the State House for an hour while the Opposition opposed a Bill and on every clause of that Bill it voted first on the question being put and then on the clause. I have sat for an hour or two simply while bells rang. This being a device which an opposition can use, a government prefers, as a rule, to allow an opposition to have its say rather than gum up the works. I want to point out from my own experience that to introduce an electronic system of voting which results in divisions being taken in the twinkling of an eye, efficient as this may seem, could stifle a very important safeguard that any opposition has for being heard.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In later editions of some of this morning’s newspapers there appeared a story about me and Mr Morris West. I propose to read to the House the text of a cable I have received from Mr West.
– What is it about?
– It is in the later editions of this morning’s newspapers.
– We are not aware of it. What is the subject matter?
– It is a suggestion that before the recent elections I was in touch with Mr West about a splinter Labor Party and his participation in it. I have received from Mr West the following cable:
Have just been informed and confirmed that Aust Associated Press London filed story stating Morris West claimed to have been offered top job in Labour splinter group by Gough Whitlam. This story is a baseless fabrication. Have filed denial. Have informed AAP legal action is contemplated. Story is grossly libellous to you and to me. Am prepared join you in any legal action you desire.
He then gives me-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can the honourable member inform us which is the splinter party and which is the Labor Party?
-Order! There is no reason for a point of order.
– I believe, Sir, that in this afternoon’s papers there will be a report of a statement by Mr West that before the election he was contacted by a group calling itself the Liberal Reform Group. Mr West, in his cable, indicates places where I can get in touch with him and concludes by saying:
You may use this cable at will. Am furious and disgusted.
Debate resumed from 1 March (vide page 252), on motion by Mr Munro:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed (o:
May it Please Youn 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.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Gray. I remind honourable members that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– I have pleasure in supporting the motion before the Chair. At the same time I should like to offer my congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on your preferment to the high office of Speaker in this House. I am sure that you will carry out your duties in a manner that will uphold the dignity and impartiality that have been evident in your predecessors for many years. At this early stage 1 would suggest that you have already demonstrated your efficiency in this regard. As a newcomer to the House I have been impressed by the traditional ceremonies associated with the opening of this Parliament and I am extremely conscious of my responsibility as spokesman for the electorate of Grey in Her Majesty’s House of Representatives. This electorate is one of the three largest in the Commonwealth and covers approximately 318,000 square miles. It comprises about 84% of the State of South Australia. I was made well aware of the magnitude of this area during the Federal election and I can now appreciate the difficulties which the former member must have encountered in covering this vast electorate during his years of service to this part of the country. I should like to commend him for the work that he put into it. When speaking to many people since I have been in Canberra on this occasion it has become obvious to me that few of them know where the Grey electorate is situated and much less of its importance to the Commonwealth. The most recent evidence of this occurred at dinner on Wednesday night when a member asked me whether my electorate was in Victoria.
As a new member 1 do not feel competent at this stage of my career to elaborate in fine detail on the many problems which face this Parliament today. In view of this I have been inspired to be somewhat parochial in this address in order to remind honourable members of some of the more important features of my electorate. Four or five years ago a byelection was held when this seat became vacant due to the unfortunate death of Mr Edgar Russell, a man whom I held in very high esteem. Sir Robert Menzies came to the electorate at that time to assist in the campaign and I recall a statement he made then. He said that the electorate in many ways typified Australia. I have since thought many times of this remark and realise that what he said is very true. There is a crosssection of almost every type of industry in this area. This situation is uncommon to most other electorates. Port Pirie boasts the Broken Hill Associated Smelters, the largest lead smelters in the world. It provides South Australia with one of its greatest export earnings. There is great concern in Port Pirie at present about high freight charges by the South Australian Railways. These charges could seriously affect the traffic of ore from Broken Hill. I sincerely hope that a review of these charges will be made shortly with a view to ensuring the continued prosperity of the city of Port Pirie.
On the other side of Spencer Gulf, Whyalla has become famous for its blast furnace and its steel making and shipbuilding activities. These industries have caused rapid expansion during the last few years, until today Whyalla is the most progressive city in Australia, as the latest population statistics show. The population at present is 22,000, and indications are that it will double over the next few years. At the head of the Gulf is Port Augusta, the heart of Commonwealth Railways and a city that will grow in importance as the rail standardisation programme continues. Port Augusta is also of particular significance to the State because of the existence of the regional power stations that generate more than 70% of the State’s electricity. In addition, during recent years large quantities of copper concentrates from the Peko mines have been exported from Port Augusta to Japan.
It is interesting to note that during the last twelve years farmers on Eyre Peninsula have cleared more than half a million acres of virgin land, and this has resulted in a record crop of 25 million bushels of wheat this year, being almost half of the State’s total yield. Crops of oats and barley have also surpassed all expectations. It is planned to clear within the next few years another half a million acres, and this should produce some very interesting results when harvesting commences. The record harvest this year is causing extraordinary distribution problems on the Peninsula. Recent rains which have relieved drought conditions in the north of the State have assured pastoralists of good seasons in the immediate future, and this will guarantee the prosperity of this part of the country and assist to ensure the prosperity of the country as a whole.
The Woomera rocket range is another important feature of this area and it is reassuring to hear of the extension of the Government’s programme, in co-operation with the United Kingdom and the European Launcher Development Organisation, to launch satellites to assist in the gathering of weather information and other such peaceful projects, at an additional cost of $20m.
The Flinders Ranges in my electorate, with some of the finest scenery in Australia, have become a feature of the tourist industry, and with the improvements carried out at Wilpena Pound and the provision of better access roads they will attract greater tourist interest in the coming season. The picture would not be complete without a mention of Port Lincoln, which is also a great tourist centre. During the last few years the tuna fishing industry has been extensively developed, and this has resulted in an ever-increasing export trade with America. A total quantity of 5,709 short tons was landed last year. This represents a major part of Australia’s total production. Port Lincoln’s magnificent Boston Harbour would, of course, be second only to Sydney Harbour, and it could well be a naval base of the future.
I am not, Mr Speaker, a teacher by profession, although it may seem that 1 have been delivering a geographical lesson. I did feel that it was important to direct the attention of members to the situation of Grey and illustrate some of the more important features of the electorate which I am proud to represent. There are many things that need to be done in this part of South Australia as in other parts of the Commonwealth. Honourable members will be amazed to learn that in the more remote parts of the Eyre Peninsula certain areas do not enjoy reliable radio reception. It seems strange to me that in these days of advanced technology such a situation should exist, and I trust that it will not be long before it is rectified. Television, which has become an accepted part of life in the larger cities and the more closely settled areas, is yet to be enjoyed by a great many people in my electorate. I was interested to hear the comment of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) last week concerning the microwave link with Western Australia and how this will provide Kalgoorlie with a future television service. I sincerely hope that this will be a forerunner to the provision of a complete television coverage of Eyre Peninsula and other more remote parts of the Commonwealth.
I have been extremely interested in plans to deliver natural gas to South Australia from the Gidgealpa field and the special significance that this will have for the Spencer Gulf area and South Australia generally. We have heard a lot of talk about decentralisation over a number of years. In fact this subject has already been mentioned by previous speakers during the current sessional period. It is evident that much more has to be done to give impetus to decentralisation, and I am hopeful that the eventual provision of natural gas in the northern part of South Australia will lead to an unprecedented era of development and will prove an attraction for new industries, in this way making a worthwhile contribution to decentralisation in that State.
I have great confidence in the development of the mineral potential of the northern regions. The opal mining centres at Andamooka and Coober Pedy support populations of about 1,000 people at each town, and with increasing interest in this now precious gem continued exports to Japan and America are assured. I believe that investigations of vast low grade nickel deposits are being carried out in the north west of South Australia in the Mount Davies area and extending into the Blackstone Ranges in Western Australia. Latest reports indicate reserves of 60 million tons averaging, however, only 1.32% nickel. If these reserves can be developed economically, the fact that natural gas is now a possibility in the Spencer Gulf area will provide an incentive to consider the transport of this ore to the Spencer Gulf seaboard for refining and shipment. According to mining authorities the surface has only been scratched of mineral reserves in the northern part of South Australia and the Northern Territory, and we can look forward to good prospects in the future.
Many speakers on this side of the House have broached the subject of social services and have paid specific attention to the means test. On Tuesday the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) spoke most eloquently on this subject. Having many friends and relations who are receiving pensions, and therefore being very close to the problems of the pensioner section of the community, which is growing and will continue to grow in importance, I received with great joy the Government’s decision to liberalise furthur the means test for age, invalid and widows’ pensions. I have always felt that many of the social worries of these people stem from a feeling of insecurity and a desire for independence which can be attributed very largely to the lack of economic stability. One of my earnest desires is to see an acceleration in the relaxation of the means test so that these people will be able to share more fully in the prosperity of this country, to which they have contributed for so long.
It has been a privilege, Mr Speaker, to have had the opportunity of supporting the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I should like to take this opportunity of heartily congratulating Mr Speaker (Mr Aston) on his elevation to his exalted position. I believe his predecessor, Sir John McLeay, carried out his duties fairly and without prejudice or bias, and that such an approach is essential in any democracy. I trust that Mr Speaker will on ail occasions endeavour to follow the principles of his predecessor. I offer my hearty congratulations also to the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees (Mr Lucock) on his re-election. I have no fault to find with his record in these positions except that I think somelimes he is inclined to allow too many interjections by Country Party members. In addition, all honourable members would agree, I am sure, that Mr Alan Turner, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, should be highly commended for the compilation of the booklet ‘Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives’. The booklet is set out in easily understood terms and. is of valuable guidance to all honourable members.
In speaking to the Address-in-Reply debate I shall confine the major portion of my remarks to the existing Commonwealth Aids Roads Act which is operative for the current five years from 1st July 1964 until 30th June 1969. My motive in referring to this particular legislation is to point out the unfair allocation of money to New South Wales and Victoria for roads from what we commonly refer to as the ‘Commonwealth petrol tax’. The existing Act stipulates that the Commonwealth shall provide the sum of $660m for the six sovereign States over the current five years. In addition the Commonwealth will be prepared to make available a further $90m on the basis of $2 for every $2 allocated by the State governments from their own resources for actual expenditure on roads over and above the base grants. The formula used in the existing Act in determining the amount of money to be allocated to the Stales is the same as was contained in the legislation which operated from 1959 to 1964.
The current legislation provides that of the amount payable in any one year 5% shall be paid to Tasmania and of the remainder one-third shall be divided among the States according to population, one-third according to motor vehicle registrations and one-third according to the respective areas of the States. In addition it also is provided that each State shall spend not less than 40% of. its allocation on rural roads which are not highways, trunk roads or main roads. That part of the formula which states that one-third shall be divided amongst the States other than Tasmania according to their respective areas is in my opinion totally unfair to New South Wales and Victoria.
The effect of this provision can be seen from an analysis of the survey of road needs made in 1963 by the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities for the ten year period from 1964-74. The report shows that the total road needs for the Commonwealth, excluding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, is $7, 112m. Included in this total is an amount of $5 12m, being the estimated road needs of Western Australia, and the remaining road needs of the other five States is assessed at $6,660m. The estimated total allocation from the Commonwealth Treasury, . if the present formula is maintained up to 1974, would amount to $ 1,600m. The sum total grants to Western Australia for this ten year period would be $2 80m and the total allocation to the other five States would be $ 1,320m. The allocation to Western Australia would represent 55% of that State’s road needs for the next ten years and the remainder would represent only 20% of the road needs for the other five States. The inclusion of an area factor in the formula assists the more sparsely populated States, but area of underdevelopment is not a satisfactory measure unless the whole area is capable of development. This is not so in Western Australia.
The atlas of Australian resources prepared in 1957 by the Department of National Development shows that there is no significant land use in 53% of the area and that 26% is sandhill, desert or stony desert. It is interesting to note that the total area of the five States subject to the formula is 2,420,307 square miles. Of this total, Western Australia has 975,920 square miles, or 40.3%; Queensland has 667,000 square miles or 27.5% ; South Australia has 380,070 square miles or 15.7%; New South Wales has 309,403 square miles or 12.7% and Victoria has 87,844 square miles or 3.6%.
Let me return now to the formula to ascertain the amounts, to be allocated to the States. The total grant over the existing five year period is $660m. Of this, Tasmania is to receive 5% or S33m, leaving a balance of $627m. This balance is then to be divided into three equal parts of $209m. I shall now analyse the breakup of $209m allotted to each State according to the size of its area. Western Australia, with 40.3% of the total area, will receive $84,226,000; Queensland, with 27.5%, will receive $57,474,000; South Australia, with 15.7%, will receive $32,812,000; New South Wales, with 12.7% of the area, will receive $26,542,000; and Victoria, with 3.76% of the area, will receive only $7,524,000. Out of a total amount of $116,754,000 which Western Australia will receive in the current five year period, $84,226,000 is allocated because of its area. As I indicated earlier, the atlas of Australian resources revealed that 26% of Western Australia is practically useless and will always be so because it comprises sandhills, desert or stony desert.
Let us have a look at the case for Victoria which has an area of 87,844 square miles of which only a fraction near the South Australia border has no significant land use. If this State had attached to it a completely worthless desert for which there was no possible use - no agriculture, no industry, no roads - then under this formula Victoria would receive a further $10m for its roads. I think that example illustrates what a farcical formula is used to determine the allocation of money to the States under the existing legislation.
The United States of America found it necessary to adjust the State areas under the American formula for the distribution of Federal aid to the fifty States for road purposes. For example, only one-third of the gross area of Alaska is taken into account. The other two-thirds is considered unusable. In the State of Michigan, 29,268 square miles of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, which are within the State boundary and represent 33% of its total area, are excluded. But under the antiquated American formula used by us such areas have been included. Somebody in the United States suddenly discovered that you cannot build a road on a lake so such areas were then assessed as being unusable.
I shall now illustrate the ratio of the return received by each State to each State’s contribution to the petrol tax funds which are distributed by the Commonwealth. For every $1 contributed by New South Wales that State receives 85c or 85%; Victoria receives only 69c or 69%; South Australia receives$1. 06 for every $1 contributed, or 106%; Queensland receives $1.27 for every SI contributed or 127%; Tasmania receives $1.52 for every $1, or 152%; and last but not least - honourable members should take notice of this one - Western Australia receives $2.02 for every $1 contributed, or 202%.In the current five years the Commonwealth under this legislation will spend $840m. This includes expenditure in the Territories. Of this amount New South Wales and Victoria will contribute no less than $529,400,000 and receive back only $357,400,000, which means in effect that the motor vehicle users in New South Wales and Victoria are subsidising the other four States and the Territories to the extent of $172m during the current five year period under this plan.
Another factor of paramount importance which has not been taken into account is the cost of maintaining highways, main roads and trunk roads in New South Wales and Victoria as compared with the cost in the other four States. The volume of traffic - particularly heavy trailer vehicles - is several times greater in New South Wales and Victoria than elsewhere. This means that these States naturally require large additional finance for repairs, maintenance and reconstruction. I turn now to the position in the capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne. These two cities are confronted with major traffic problems. Because of the rapidly increasing number of motor vehicles coming onto the roads, Melbourne and Sydney must be provided with a greater allocation of road money in order to provide additional outlets for traffic. The alternative is traffic chaos in the next five years or so. The urgency of the problem of city traffic has been recognised in the United States as is evidenced by the ninth Pan-American Highway Congress held at Washington DC in 1963. I shall quote an extract from the proceedings of the Congress:
Since the need of the cities for highway development and modernisation was not until recently as obvious as the need for road improvement in rural areas, the rural areas have in the past been given preferred attention. The accumulating highway needs of the cities have become urgent. They are receiving more attention and a greater share of state and federal highway revenue.
It is interesting to note that some road experts have stated that the standard of roads in Europe and the United States is much superior to the standard in Australia. Is it any wonder? I shall quote petrol prices paid by motor vehicle users in various countries. This information was supplied to me in 1964 by the Petroleum Information Bureau in Sydney. Perhaps some of these prices have increased since. The figures, which are in Australian currency, are as follows:
In summarising this portion of my remarks I should like to make three points. Firstly, due to the raw deal meted out to New South Wales and Victoria under the area section of the formula of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act I submit that the usable area only should be taken into account. Secondly, the cost of maintaining roads according to the volume of traffic should be included in assessing the allocation of Commonwealth money to each State, and thirdly, additional finance must be provided out of each State allocation to the capital cities to prevent traffic chaos.
Another matter I wish to raise concerns the use of prohibited drugs in Australia.
Recently a specially appointed committee in New South Wales investigated drug abuse and reported that there is evidence that more narcotics, especially heroin, are being smuggled in for local addicts and that the smoking of marijuana is on the increase. While it is recognised that our Customs regulations are specifically designed to combat smuggling, and that the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise have done and are doing an excellent job in prevention by searching overseas vessels and aircraft, we must accept the fact that some narcotics would escape detection. In addition, it must be taken into account that we have only very few Customs patrol launches to service approximately 12,000 miles of coastline, much of which is desolate and uninhabited. This nefarious trade has created a major social problem, in various parts of the world, particularly in the United States, where much crime is attributed to illegal distribution and to the addicts committing felonies to obtain money to buy, as the Americans call it, ‘a fix’. Reports indicate that many teenagers of both sexes, including high school and university students, have had access to narcotics through illegal channels and subsequently have become addicted.
It is interesting to note that drug squad detectives arrested twenty-six people, including young women, on drug charges in the space of one week in Sydney the week before last. Five were gaoled for smoking marijuana. Two others were fined $80 each on charges of selling or aiding and abetting in the sale of restricted drugs, and the supplier - who in my opinion is the most evil culprit of all was fined $200. I believe it to be a pediculous state of affairs when the distributor, or, as the Americans call him, ‘the pusher’, is fined only a paltry sum of money and not gaoled for such a serious offence. I am fully aware that the penalties imposed for the illegal distribution and usage of prohibited drugs are entirely a matter for the States. However, I believe the time is opportune for the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) to have the legislation covering penalties for smuggling amended with a view to imposing much stiffer gaol sentences on persons found guilty of smuggling narcotics into Australia. Illegal drug usage in Australia at this stage is not a serious problem, but it cannot be denied that it could pose a threat in the near future unless drastic action is taken to make it very unprofitable for narcotic smugglers and ‘pushers’ to deal in this evil trade.
– I call the honourable member for Adelaide. I should like all honourable members to accord him the courtesy that it is customary to accord to all honourable members making their first speech in this House.
– May I through you, Sir, pass on my congratulations to the recently appointed Speaker of the House. As my colleague the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) said previously, I am sure that he has a wonderful tradition to continue. The topic of my talk this morning will cover broadly four fields, namely youth, social services, education and housing. Prior to discussing these topics I should like to pay a tribute to the previous honourable member for Adelaide, Mr Joe Sexton, who held the seat for some eight years and performed a very honourable and worthy task within the division. I think that the number of people throughout the division of Adelaide who still remember Mr Sexton as a gentleman and as a very good worker for the area is in fact his tribute.
I think I should begin by mentioning that today in Australia, as never before, there is a much greater political awareness on the part of youth. Why is there a greater political awareness? I believe that there are five reasons for this. The first and perhaps the most important of all is the progressive education of younger people. Today, an increasing number of young people attend the universities or go through schools to the leaving certificate stage. They are taking a deeper interest in events around them. In addition, the schools are placing more emphasis in education on the business of government. Most youths when they leave school in the leaving certificate or matriculation year have a fair idea of what is going on in the economy and in the country around them. I believe this reflects credit on the education system in general and on the State Ministers for Education in particular. If this trend continues throughout Australia and if young people are taught more and more about the nation in which they live, surely we must all benefit.
The second reason is the rather affluent society in which we live. Today, young married people have a home, a car, a refrigerator and they can usually afford to spend a couple of weeks away from work with their families. Economic conditions in Australia have never been better. Our prospects are extremely good. I understand that our general standard of living is the fourth highest in the world. I think that this is the second most important point to examine when considering why we have a greater political awareness now. The first point I mentioned was education and the second is the affluent society. Affluence abounds in the society around us.
The third reason - this also is very important - relates to the issues at stake today. I refer to the issues on a State Government basis and a Federal Government basis. I believe that the young people in Australia are standing up and moving forward, and they are taking much more interest in the issues at stake. We have a number of young people in the South Australian Parliament and even more in the Federal Parliament. The issues at stake include the Vietnam question and whether our commitment in Vietnam is right or wrong. Whether they be members of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or the Australian Labor Party, 1 think it is good for young people to take an interest in national affairs. If young people know what they are talking about and if they have a goal for which to strive, surely we must have a better nation and a better future. I come to the fourth reason. Undoubtedly, young people have a better understanding of such modern day problems as Vietnam and whether Britain should join the European Economic Community. They have a better understanding of the problems at home, including housing, education and social services. These problems are starting to impress themselves on young people because they affect their pockets. They are more conscious of the problems and are trying to take an interest in them. In trying to get to the bottom of these problems, they must improve the nation as a whole.
The final reason is that youth today has a greater sense of belonging in Australia. In the early part of the 1930’s, we suffered a depression. Hundreds of thousands of people were out of work. But now, with our affluent society, people are beginning to believe that they are part of Australia. I do not say that previously Australians were not part of the nation, but I am trying to say that because of the boy scout movement and the rise of many fledgling organisations, together with the greater impact of schooling, young people are beginning to educate themselves, to realise that Australia is their country and to act accordingly. Whether the struggle in Vietnam is right or wrong and whether the action our Government is taking is correct or not, our young people of twenty and twenty-one, our potential officer corps, are now vitally interested in the issues and are amassing a tremendous amount of knowledge. But these young people take it in the face without saying much in return. Australia can be very proud of the exploits of her fighting men overseas. Australia was proud of its fighting men in the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. Australia can also be proud of her young men in the Vietnam war. We hear much of the so-called gutless wonders in society, the people who will buck anything, who will buck the establishment or the Government. But when we hear of our young people in Vietnam, who do not buck, who settle down, apply themselves and do their job, our pride in our young people is restored. T am proud to be one of the young people of Australia.
How has this emergence of youth come about? Why do we have this sudden youthful revolution? I believe that youth today has more opportunities than ever existed before. As I look around this House, I see four honourable members under the age of thirty years and quite a few in the thirty to forty age group. This again goes back to our affluent society. Young people have many more opportunities today. We are becoming more mature as a nation and the young people now are starting to realise the importance of the opportunities that lie before them. Many more people are attending universities. An increasing proportion of the population is taking an interest in the affairs around us and we have young politicians in the Federal Parliament - not necessarily good ones but young ones.
Young people are coming to the fore today through the formation of youth groups, some of them political. This is an excellent development. I am speaking now about the opportunities that exist for young people. Whether they be Liberal, Country Party or Labor, or even Communist, so long as people have a tie to bind them, a common interest and a goal to strive for, they must develop, have a better understanding of events and create goodwill. Youth now has a better opportunity to speak up and voice ideas. No matter what sort of society it may be, whether it be in Russia, China, England or America, we will always find, as one person put it, the militant, left wing, long haired, short brained, intellectual, highbrowed, pseudo radicals. But in Australia today we also have many young people who are not so militant, not so long haired and not so short brained, who are quite willing to stand up and put their point of view. The beauty of this country is that we are allowed to do so. Whatever side of politics we may be on, we must be proud of the freedom we have in Australia that enables us to put our point of view, to speak our minds, and to sit down without any fear of repercussions or reprisals. This is the hallmark of a great society. If Australia continues in this way, with a good democratic Parliament such as we now certainly have, I believe the future is secure.
I want to continue speaking about the youth of the nation. Our sports record, per thousand head of population, is outstanding. Our records are second to none internanationally. We have created records at the Olympic Games, in swimming, in tennis and in other sports. Many of our young people have surpassed records that have existed for many years. Today Australians hold records in almost every major field of sport. We are a healthy country and we have opportunities for sport. Again I come back to the opportunities. They abound in Australia and our sporting records speak for themselves. But we must not overlook our academic records. Young men from Australian universities are to be found in all countries. Australia leads the world in many academic activities - in physics, in biochemistry, in law and in medicine. Our doctors of medicine practice in most of the major hospitals in England and America and even in Western Europe. Many work in the neuro-surgical field. Distinguished people in this Parliament and in Australian commerce and industry have certainly put Australia on the map and I think we can all be very proud of them.
We should be proud of the young people who pay more attention to books than to the idle, fruitless pleasures of the times, and certainly many of these can be found. I mentioned Australia’s efforts in the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and now the Vietnam War. Australia has always had reason to be proud wherever its forces have been deployed. General Westmoreland has expressed bis opinion of Australia’s fighting men. I do not have his exact words in front of me, but I recall the nature of them. He said that he admired the fighting capacities of Australian troops. He admired their courage, their ability and their grit and determination to get down and do the job without saying too much. Whether our commitment in Vietnam is right or wrong - I believe it is right - the record of our fighting men speaks for itself. General Westmoreland touched on a characteristic of the Australian people. We do not tell others that we are good; we let the rest of the world find out that we are good and the rest of the world has found out.
I spoke about industry. Youth has an increasing role in industry. More people are coming from universities, some as bachelors of arts, some as masters of arts and some as doctors of philosophy. A number of the young men in politics hold university degrees. Recent statistics compiled in South Australia show that some 20%, or one in five, of the leaders of industry, managers or employers, in that State are under the age of thirty-three years. I put this to show that a rather incredible position now exists. I dare say that fifty years ago nothing like this percentage of young people would have been at the top. But now one in five or 20% of the leaders of industry are under the age of thirty-three years. This reflects tremendous credit on Australian capacity, Australian enterprise, Australian industry and on the Australian himself. In the tertiary field our universities continue to enrol more and more students yearly. The Government states its education policy and the Opposition tries to amend it or to put its alternative. Whichever way it goes, whatever we are doing in education must be right. If one more student can be taught and if one more student can be taken one step further, this country will go one step further. I think this is probably the principle we could adopt generally. The more students we can train at universities the better our universities will be and the better our country will be.
I come now to morals. Someone once said to me when he came to Adelaide: Adelaide is a very dead town. You have not even got a nightclub that is open after 11.30 at night.’ What this Englishman did not know - I say this with deference - was that we in Adelaide do not need to have nightclubs. We have a few nightclubs, but our moral standards in Australia, I am proud to say, would be the highest in the world. We do not want to be told what we have to do up and down Hindley Street. We do not want to be told what we have to have in Kings Cross, although some people have told us. We want to try to maintain our Australian way of life. If Australia is not good enough for some of these belly-aching people who come in from overseas, let them go out again. I think the majority of Australian immigrants are prepared to come in and settle down. In my electorate in Adelaide - I am getting off my point for a moment - I have Germans, Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Poles and Czechoslovakians. I would say that 95% of these people are genuinely industrious. They are diligent. They try to fit in with the Australian way of life and to fit in with the Australian community. Then there is the other 5% who come to Australia. I do not blame Australia House in London or our immigration authorities - I have a great respect for them - but we will always have dissenters. What I am trying to say is that what this person wanted to see in Australia is not here, and because it is not here credit is reflected on everybody. Australia is a clean country. I think throughout the world people would look upon Australians as tall athletic people who do not have a subservient moral standard, who do not have to run to nightclubs at twelve o’clock at night to enjoy themselves. This is only one aspect of morals, but I think it is very important. The youth of this country today is clean. The youth of this country today is generally uncluttered. I believe that we can only go further because our moral standard is high.
I turn now to politics. Young people of all parties worked hard last year. Recently I was talking wilh a Minister who said that when he came into Parliament in 1949 there was terrific unrest throughout Australia. Again I must say with respect and deference to the Opposition, whether we be right or whether we be wrong, that I understand that was basically because of the Banking Act 1947 by which it was proposed to nationalise banking. In 1949 Australia saw something it had not seen for a long time. Bank clerks were walking around handing out Liberal how to vote cards, and I do not doubt that the Labor Party had other people working for them. But in 1966 - this is important - there was a revolution among the young people throughout Australia. In South Australia, which is the only State for which I can really speak, thousands of young people came out and helped the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. This comes back to exactly what I have been trying to say in my first point about youth, that they took an interest for the first time in a long while. For once people had been hit through the head by the pocket I am biassed because I am a Liberal and I do not like the South Australian Government, but just the same that was why we had this interest. The South Australian Government created such an antagonism in that State that people decided to do something about it. This goes back to what I was trying to say originally.
For the first time in a long while - in fact, for the first time since 1949 - the growth in the young Labor contingent, the growth in the young Liberal contingent and the number of young people who were prepared to come out on Sunday morning to devote their time to help fight for a cause must reflect credit, whether from your point of view our cause was right and from my point of view yours was wrong. I do not believe that anyone is wise enough to be able to set himself up and say that this is right or that that is wrong, but I do believe that if young people can band together and help to fight for something that they believe in this must affect Australia greatly. It certainly affected me in the division of Adelaide. I am very proud of the part played by young people in my campaign and I give them full credit for winning this seat. Without the support of the young people I do not think we could have won. That is just one point I want to mention. I believe also that the existence of such organisations as the National Council for Youth, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Rostrum. Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and the 1,001 charity and other organisations which abound throughout Australia is a wonderful thing.
People today are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of integrating, of uniting to work for something in which they believe and, in the case of politics, to fight for something in which they believe. I look around this House and unfortunately I have to say that everybody here has more mature years than I have but no-one can doubt today that youth in Australia is definitely on the move. I believe also that what we saw in 1966 was only a very small part of what we can expect to see in 1969. On a State basis I think it will be found that there will be ever more young people prepared to go out to fight for what they believe in. But this is a situation which did not exist ten years ago. Certainly there were young groups then, but I do not believe that ten years ago politics aroused enough interest in the young of the day. There was not the need. I believe that there must be a need and a goal before there is interest in something.
Last year was the beginning of a long slow haul back. There was evidence of this in Adelaide and in the various other divisions in the South Australian metropolitan area. The terrific rise in the number of political branches in country areas in South Australia must mean that something is happening among young people. I am not trying to put the view of young people, but I am trying to acquaint the House of the fact that there are people in this world who are young. 1 am not saying that honourable members do not know this because they were once young themselves. I say also that these young people are doing all they can to fight for. to strive for and to believe in something. Today in all States young people are moving forward in commerce, industry, education and. as I have said, politics. Today the members in the Parliament under the age of thirty years are about four in number. Perhaps in ten years time we will see even more.
I propose to speak now very briefly on three issues which concern my own electorate of Adelaide. These are basically social services, education and housing. For the interest of honourable members, my electorate of Adelaide is one of the smallest in the Commonwealth. It is hemmed in by five other divisions in South Australia. We have the wealthy area in Walkerville and we have a slightly poorer area in Brompton. But right throughout this cosmopolitan cross section of people we find that there are three main issues - social services, education and housing. The interesting thing that I found throughout the campaign, and especially now as a member: - I am sure that Mr Sexton would have agreed with me - is that in social services it is not a matter generally of what people can get from the Government; it is more a matter of people trying to find out what they are entitled to get from the Government. On the broad theme of social services I believe that many people in Australia, or at least in South Australia - T. say this with respect - are perhaps a little ignorant and do not know what is going on and what they are entitled to. I believe that this is very important and that more care, more attention and more time should be paid to informing people of what is - going on. especially in this field. I could talk about the liberalisation of the means test. I believe, and I am hopeful, that as the Governor-General said in his Speech, and as I understand from the Government and the policy statement delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Government is looking to liberalise the means test further. This is most important when a businessman, who has probably contributed half a million dollars in his lifetime in taxation, comes up and says: ‘T cannot get the pension’. It is not that he necessarily wants the pension, but he does have a point. This is just one point that I throw into the pot.
I refer now to education. In my electorate in Adelaide there is one university, four university colleges, one of which is, incidentally, a girls college, and also a teachers college. Education is a very important part of the Division of Adelaide, especially when so many young people are congested into one area. This is most important. It is gratifying today to see that the Federal Government is paying ever more attention to this fact and that money is being granted for the establishment of science blocks. There is also the very welcome announcement made quite recently that a new teachers training college, known as the Northern Training College, will be built at Elizabeth, which is north of Adelaide. This is excellent. It is certainly needed in South Australia. I think I speak for the whole of South Australia when I say to the Government: thank you very much.
I come now to housing, which is very important. I know that basically this is a State issue. In Brompton and a few other areas we find that just because of the march of time large industries have become established. For example, in Brompton we have W. Brown & Sons Pty Ltd with its scrap metal yards. People are living in fairly squalid conditions in this area. 1 believe that urban renewal could well be a subject for discussion by this Parliament during a future session if not during this one. A Victorian colleague of mine once said that if 100 acres of slums a year were cleared in Melbourne it would take the Victorian Government 250 years to clear every slum there. That is a long time. So obviously slum clearance is a pressing problem and there is urgent need to deal with it. Housing is an important issue. Many people are living in squalid conditions. Sometimes they do not know any better. Just the same, they are entitled to improved housing. I believe that more attention should be given by the Government to the work of the Department of Housing. It is extremely important.
In the division of Adelaide we have 30,000 voters, and a population of about 60,000. The problems of the electorate range over many fronts. I touched briefly on the liberalisation of the means test. This issue caused me more problems during the general election campaign than did any other single issue. The unfortunate part about it all was that I did not know how to answer the questions that I was asked. At that time I did not know what was being undertaken. I respectfully suggest to the Government that it could well look at this issue - the Governor-General stated in his Speech that it intends to do so - and that it could well ease the means test. I believe that every liberalisation of the means test is highly welcome, not so much because it enables retired businessmen to get more money from the Government as because the principle that arises in this issue holds that they should receive social service benefits. There are many sides to this question also. I am just a bleating back bencher at the moment, but nevertheless I want to mention this as an important problem. The raising of the rates of pension has its difficulties also. The present pension of S26 a fortnight is adequate for a pensioner to live on, perhaps. But, as I said before, the important factor is not what people gel out of social services. The important thing is that they know what they are entitled to. I know that throughout Australia the Department of Social Services is doing its best to ensure that those who are eligible for benefits receive them. But what I am trying to say is that a lot of people do not know what they can get in the way of these benefits and the Government should take some action to enlighten the community on these matters. If it were to do so, this would be a very good thing, as I am sure many people will agree.
I see that I have less than a minute left, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the House for its tolerance in listening to me. If I can be half as good a representative of Adelaide as was my predecessor I shall be twice as happy as I am now. I thank honourable members for their courtesy in hearing me so kindly.
Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) L 12.23] - Mr Deputy Speaker, in the absence of Mr Speaker I ask you to be kind enough to convey to him my congratulations on his attainment of his high office. I have been assured that he will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and prove to be a very good Speaker of this House. I also congratulate the new member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) on the speech that he has just made. I hope and trust that in his parliamentary career he will not encounter half so many troubles as older members of both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia have encountered - troubles caused by this Government. Last evening, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) condemned out of hand every backbencher in the House. He does not know, perhaps, that I have my troubles. I have to look after the Opera House in Sydney. Since it came into the hands of the present Liberal and Australian Country
Party Government in New South Wales it has run into more trouble than ever before. I take this opportunity also to congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) on the work of himself and his Department. I have read the printed copy of the Governor-General’s Speech as thoroughly as 1 could, but I find that there is in it very little that will affect my electorate or prove to be of any benefit to my constituents. His Excellency stated at one point:
My Government has decided to introduce legislation to liberalise the means test for age, invalid and widows pensions. The amount of allowable means will be increased by $156 per annum for both single persons and married couples.
That liberalisation is a good thing. The Governor-General went on to say:
Legislation will also be introduced to expand the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act by making local governing bodies eligible for subsidy.
That Act represents the finest piece of legislation in the field of social services that I have seen for the last five years. After the proposed amendment, only laziness on the part of local government bodies will be responsible if they do not rally round and obtain from the Federal Government the subsidy of $2 for every $1 that they spend. Previously, councils could meet the cost of providing accommodation for aged persons but could not obtain this subsidy. Any council in the Commonwealth, whether in the city or the country, will soon be able to set aside funds to provide accommodation for aged persons or to acquire land for the purpose and be able to attract the subsidy. This is a very good thing. I trust that the Minister for Social Services will be properly rewarded for the adoption of this proposal.
I have a lot of troubles in the electorate of West Sydney. There are so many that I do not know where to start in recounting them. I shall begin with Lord Howe Island, which is neglected by the Federal Government. It may not be the best policy for me to repeat time and again the troubles experienced on the Island, but I shall continue to raise these matters so long as this Government denies the people of the island an adequate airstrip. Four weeks ago twenty-eight people were stranded there for more than five days because air services could not be maintained. Visitors from every part of the Commonwealth were waiting to occupy places in the island’s guest houses and were delayed in Sydney waiting for services to be resumed. Not until the sixth day did the plane return to Sydney. This sort of disruption of transport imposes terrific costs on people who are delayed for four or five days while on holiday on the island or while proceeding to it for a holiday. The Government decided some time ago that instead of constructing an airstrip on the island it would sanction the purchase of a flying boat by one of the airlines to provide a service. The machine that was acquired was about the only one of its kind left in the world. It gave up the ghost some two and a half years ago. The Department of Civil Aviation then had to approve the purchase of a flying boat in New Zealand. It was brought to Sydney and more than £100,000 was spent on repairs. But the service that it provides is not satisfactory to anybody. Why does not the Government look into the matter? Why does it not construct an airstrip and put into service some of the smaller aircraft that I understand are now available in many countries?
I want to discuss many other matters. Let me now turn to the remarks made last evening by the honourable member for Bradfield. I believe that they were uncalled for. I have great respect for the honourable member and I have always been surprised that he has not attained a higher position than he now occupies. I am not in a position to do anything for him, of course, because he sits on the Liberal side of the House and those in charge on that side have taken care that he will rise no higher than he rose in the New South Wales Parliament. The honourable member for Bradfield has an easy constituency to represent. He comes into this House condemning backbenchers for wasting their time making representations for age and other pensioners. I remind the House that in 1962, when the New South Wales Government sought to build homes for returned soldiers on some vacant land in the Bradfield electorate, the honourable member for Bradfield was the first to oppose the proposal. The people there did not want soldiers’ homes, let alone workers* homes because they thought such homes would lower the tone of the area.
I am the present member for West Sydney. It has been my honour to follow some very good representatives, among them being the late J. A. Beasley and the late William Morris Hughes. Shortly afterI became the member for West Sydney William Morris Hughes bailed me up several times in Kings Hall to talk about West Sydney. Eventually I said to him: ‘You do not care about West Sydney. You have a better seat now.’ He replied: ‘I have, but I do get some callers. I was cutting the hedge the other day when a chap came to the gate and asked could he see Mr Hughes. I told him that he could not. Mr Hughes added: ‘Of course, it was a hot day and I had on an old hat.’ He said that he told this caller that Mr Hughes was not home and that he had an office in the Commonwealth Bank building where he could be interviewed. He said: The chap was waiting on the doorstep at the Commonwealth Bank Building next morning to meet Mr Hughes and when I walked up to him he said: “ So you are the old B.” ‘ That is the story exactly as it was told to me by the late William Morris Hughes. It is all very well for the honourable member for Bradfield to suggest that my electorate is like his and that, like him, I have very few callers to worry me. That, of course, is wrong.
In all the years that he has been here, the honourable member for Bradfield has received no recognition for his work although the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, did give him one important commission. Throughout my first eleven years in the Parliament - I had previously been a member of the Sydney City Council - I continuously urged the Government to restore the Sydney General Post Office clock. Eventually the Government decided to restore it but instead of giving me the privilege of announcing this, after all the work I had done, Sir Robert Menzies gave that opportunity to the honourable member for Bradfield, who of course was very pleased to have the honour of announcing that my clock would be restored. But he was given no other honour by the Government. In my opinion, the honourable member for Bradfield should have been given some important position in this Parliament long ago. He served in the New South Wales Parliament before he came here and
I should say that he has done his workw ell. Nevertheless, he has no right whatever to say that the backbenchers of this Parliament are not doing their work. I would like him to trot around with me for a week and see the number of pensioners and others who need my help. If he did that, he might change his mind about backbenchers.
I come now to the question of the Glebe Post Office. The other day, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) denied that mails were being lost and that there were undue delays in deliveries. I should like him to come to Sydney and see just how many of my constituents ring me up complaining about postal deliveries. There are 22,000 people in Glebe. In the last eighteen months, 110 flats have been built within a radius of one mile of the Glebe Post Office. There is no other post office within one mile. The next nearest to Glebe would be at George Street, Pyrmont or Annandale. The position at the Glebe Post Office on pension day is disgraceful. If young mothers cannot find any volunteers to care for their babies, they are forced to leave them in their prams while they climb seven or eight stone steps and go into the hovel to collect their endowment payments or to transact other business. That position has obtained for the last five or six years. Time and time again I have made written representations and presented petitions seeking to have some improvement effected, but the position is going from bad to worse. Certainly a start has been made with the building of a new exchange and possibly within the next two or three years the postal facilities at Glebe will be more in keeping with what they should be for a locality like that, but at present the position is almost intolerable.
I wish to refer now to another matter which I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) mention. He spoke about housing and education. I suggest that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) should look closely into the matter of education facilities provided for the children of immigrants. Thousands of children are attending schools that are a disgrace to the community. This is a responsibility that should be accepted by the Commonwealth Government. I have attended several Citizenship Conventions in Canberra at which this problem has been discussed and have sought information from well informed sources. Most of our immigrants come from Catholic countries or from other lands where denominational education is available. When they come to Australia they find that inadequate provision is made for educating their children in the way in which they want them to be educated.
During Mr Calwell’s administration of the Immigration portfolio an attempt was made to assist immigrants by importing houses. Certainly some were imported into Queensland. But not enough has been done about educating the children of the immigrants. The Government claims great credit for what if has done for education in Canberra. Five years ago 1 asked the then Prime Minister a question about education. I did not ask it on my own behalf: 1 had visited a Catholic school where half a dozen lay teachers were being employed in addition to the nuns and it was becoming impossible for the school to pay those lay teachers. The Prime Minister in his reply to my question said that I knew full well that he had no power whatever to make payments to these schools. The same situation applied until 1961, when the Government had a very slender majority in this House. Sir Robert Menzies then discovered that he did have the power - from which flowed the glory - to provide aid to independent schools. This just shows what the Government can do when it is pressed. Sir Robert Menzies then proclaimed throughout the country that here in Canberra Catholic and other denominational schools were receiving a gift from the Government. Some of this may have been du to big heartedness on the part of the Government but generally speaking the Government’s hand was forced because it had decided to transfer to Canberra Commonwealth departments which for many years had been located in Melbourne. The Government was forced to provide schooling in Canberra for the children of it<i officers transferred from Melbourne. If it had not done so it would have been confronted with valuable officers who had spent a lifetime in the departments refusing to come to Canberra. I have been told on good authority in Melbourne that this was the first breakthrough in the provision of state aid to schools. The Government did this solely because it was bringing thousands of people to Canberra and will continue to do so for another four or five years. So the Government was forced to do what it did. If it had not provided aid for Catholic schools in Canberra it would not have been able to transfer from Melbourne officers of the Department of Air and the other departments which are now established in this city.
I trust that in its pursuit of our immigration policy the Government will provide adequate finance to enable those immigrants who require a Catholic education in this country for their children to have one. J came from a country which could not give much praise for the treatment it got from England in the old days, but anybody must concede that the British at the time drew no distinction between Catholic schools and other schools and made adequate finance available for those schools. Almost all other countries today freely recognise the right of parents to send their children to the school of their choice. Those parents who wish to send their children to Catholic schools do not have to pay extra fees. When people from these other countries, particularly Italians, come to Australia they do not readily take to having to pay fees to send their children to Catholic schools. But if they want their children to have the same kind of education as they themselves have had, these people are forced to pay extra for it. Only one authority can provide financial aid for these people, and that is the Commonwealth Government. I trust that the State governments will do what they can in the matter, but their best does not seem to be very good. The Nsw South Wales Government is making all sorts of promises in relation to education. It has promised concessions with regard to school children’s fares but, instead, fares have been increased twice since the Liberal Government came to power in New South Wales. There is no hope that the New South Wales Government will do anything.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I would remind honourable members that this will be the maiden speech of the honourable member for Maranoa.
- Mr Speaker, firstly may I offer my warm congratulations to you on your election as
Speaker of this House. I am confident that you will worthily uphold the high traditions of your office, and I wish you well. I also offer my congratulations to the Chairman of Committees on his re-election. In the last Parliament he proved his worth in this position. To the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Munro), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and those other honourable members who have made their maiden speeches I offer my congratulations on their contributions to this debate. They have been really worth while.
I should like now to express my appreciation to the people of Maranoa for the honour they have done me in electing me as their representative. I am conscious of the responsibility which now rests clearly on my shoulders to give to the people of Maranoa, every section of the people of Maranoa, the standard of representation they are entitled to expect. I can but hope that I shall prove worthy of their confidence. It is with real pleasure that I pay a sincere tribute to Mr W. J. Brimblecombe, my predecessor as member for Maranoa, who, when he retired at the end of the last Parliament, was Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. In this position, and as member for Maranoa, he served the Commonwealth and the people of Maranoa well. It was most pleasing to see him honoured with the award of Commander of the British Empire. Maranoa has had distinguished representation in previous years too. It numbers among its former representatives the right honourable Charles Adermann, Minister for Primary Industry in this Government - and what a great political figure he is. Earlier than that, the honourable J. A. J. Hunter, who also made his mark in this House, represented Maranoa.
Maranoa is an important, if far-flung area. It contains some of Queensland’s best farming and grazing areas. Farm production there has, in recent years, improved dramatically, even in spite of the fact that a lot of the area has suffered from severe drought, which has been reflected in the production from our pastoral areas. Stock numbers have been severely reduced and wool production has declined as a result. My electorate has historic importance in that at Moonie, south west from Tara and some sixty miles north of Goondiwindi, Australia’s first commercial oil well was discovered, and from this point Australia’s first oil pipe line was built, which now carries oil from Moonie to Brisbane. In the area we have great reserves of natural gas. I am proud to say that Roma is the first town to make commercial use of natural gas for generating electricity, which is reticulated from Roma to other towns in the area. Negotiations for the provision of a gas pipeline to Brisbane are now taking place and we are hopeful that in the not too distant future we may achieve another first with our first Australian natural gas pipeline. I am pleased to note, however, that we have some competition in this regard. This will be a good thing for Australia.
Regarding Australia’s foreign policy, our first consideration must always be national security. In this direction the maintenance of our treaties with freedom loving countries and the honouring of our obligations under those treaties are essential. This is particularly so with respect to the United States of America, because that country has the military power to preserve freedom. It is a great freedom loving country and we are fortunate in having a treaty with the United States. Every Australian who values the freedom of this country should be pleased to do all he can to maintain that alliance. There is no doubt that the hope for world peace rests on the ability of the free world to contain aggressive Communism. In relation to overseas trade - a vital matter for Australia - I am of opinion that even greater efforts should be made to find alternative markets for our exports, particularly in those areas where Australia enjoys a geographical advantage. The possibility of Great Britain entering the European Common Market only emphasises the necessity for this.
I turn now to problems confronting many people in the western areas of Queensland and, indeed, in other parts of Australia. Australia as a nation has the clear responsibility of making the best use of all of this island continent. In the western areas of Queensland we find some of the most difficult living conditions, the greatest loneliness and lack of entertainment, the heaviest burden of education and the sacrifice in separation of children from parents and families. These hardships are borne by those living in sparsely populated areas and in some respects they are related more or less to distance from the larger cities. This is sometimes overlooked by people who want everything to be provided in the closely settled areas and in the cities. We have heard some of these people in this House since this Parliament opened. To those who are prepared to accept the responsibility of living under these conditions the gratitude of the community is surely due. The fact that people have voluntarily accepted this way of life, or may even prefer it, does not lessen the debt we owe to them. Many of the great benefactors of mankind performed their work voluntarily. The pioneers of this country performed their work voluntarily, too. I might add that the spirit of courage and endurance which characterised the early pioneers of this country lives again in the hearts and minds of those who have suffered heartbreaking droughts in recent years. Most of us appreciate what is being done by these people, but despite the drought assistance given by the Government the position for many of them is serious. Coupled with the drought, the problem of rising costs and decreased returns in primary industry, particularly the wool industry, is a real and urgent one. We must take all possible steps to see that the rewards won from the land are commensurate with the risks that have to be taken and the efforts that have to be made by landholders.
Specific proposals that I recommend to this end are, firstly, long term low interest loans for drought rehabilitation under liberalised conditions. Applications should be dealt with expeditiously and more discretion should be allowed at local levels. As an example of this, funds have been made available in some instances for restocking, but a limit has been placed on the price level at which breeding stock can be purchased. Prices went up with the result that meat works were able to buy breeding stock at prices beyond the amount allowed to people for restocking. This could have been altered at the local level quickly had discretion been allowed at that level. Discretion at the local level should be allowed concerning the use of these funds.
Secondly, 1 would recommend increased advantages from zoning for taxation purposes and the expansion of the area covered by zones by the introduction of a third zone to benefit people in the mid-inland areas which also have been sorely hit in recent years. This would help a lot of people who have done a great job during these times. Business people, to whom I give great praise for it, have extended credit facilities beyond their capacity to do so and as a result of their generosity now find themselves in difficult financial circumstances.
I would suggest, too, encouragement to landholders to build up tax free reserves of funds for drought relief purposes. Here I pay tribute to the metropolitan Press for the way in which it has featured this aspect. 1 hope this will be the forerunner to further publicity that will be given to suggestions made by members of the Country Party. It is not easy for people to build up these reserves of funds, even given reasonable conditions, unless they have the benefit of tax concessions, and this is something that I commend to the Government for its earnest consideration. J have discussed this matter with very many people and most of them have said that they believe this would be of great benefit to them. It would be of benefit also to the Government eventually, because the people concerned would be able to use the funds they had built up instead of having to call on the Government for assistance.
I believe, too, that it would be a wise move to extend freight concessions to enable reserves of fodder to be stored economically on properties. Just how such a scheme would be implemented is a matter for discussion. Possibly some subsidy from the Federal Government would be needed to enable the State governments to extend such freight concessions. Fodder is grown extensively in some areas and can be purchased quite economically, but the cost of freight to take it to outlying areas is so great that many graziers are unable or unwilling to pay it. We must remember that they still have to build their storages and take the risk of deterioration of the fodder, so the least we can do is to give some freight concession if they are willing to make this preparation for possible future droughts.
I suggest that these measures would constitute sound government administration, and I hope the Government will give them the earnest consideration that I believe they deserve. I know I have asked for things that will cost a great deal of money, but I say to those who ask how these concessions are to be financed that the matter must be treated as one of high priority. I suggest, too, that we must look at the alternative. If we do not make these concessions, production will decline and population will continue to fall in areas in which we cannot afford to lose population, thus diminishing our export earnings. Australia must meet the challenge of making it possible for people to make a reasonable living in outlying areas under present conditions. What I am asking is, briefly, that we do all that is humanly possible to tide these people over a period of very difficult seasonal and economic conditions, with the object of enabling them to take full advantage of conditions when they change for the better. as they surely will.
I now want to get on to the matter of rural amenities. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), and I have had experience similar to his. Wherever I go in outlying areas people ask me when they can expect television. I join with the honourable member for Kennedy in urging that television be provided in these areas as soon as possible. The progressive extension of television coverage is a matter that must be given urgent consideration. This is something that is well recognised by the people who live in remote areas and also by their representatives. As we move further out we find that these people have few opportunities for alternative entertainment.
Another improvement that is sorely needed is a more adequate telephone service. This can be provided by means of more rural automatic exchanges and the widening of the extended local service areas - the system known as ELSA. Most ELSA systems at present include at least one town in which medical and other professional services may be obtained, and I believe that every ELSA district should include a town with these benefits, even if this means making some areas quite large. I believe that medical and other professional assistance should be available at the price of a unit call in any district. This is not too much to ask for the people in the outlying areas.
I also would like .to make a plea for improved radio reception in south west Queensland. This is one of the few media available to people in this area for gleaning news and other information. They do not have television and many of them are a long way from postal facilities. I believe that this is something that it is within our capacity to provide. It could be done by an alteration of frequencies or the addition of another national station, or both.
The Speech delivered by His Excellency foreshadows much important legislation designed to further the progress and development of Australia. Water conservation planned on the widest possible scale, is, I believe, one of our greatest needs if we are to achieve balanced development of our country. This is an aspect of national development which I feel must be given more consideration. Water conservation projects must be proceeded with, even if they are not immediately and completely payable. In my area the Darling River basin and the Dawson River basin both have great potentialities for irrigation. My colleague, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan), has advocated development of the Darling River basin on these lines on a number of occasions in this House. I need not elaborate on the potentialities of that river system, but I can say that irrigation has proved most successful in my area in that same river basin. Cotton production has increased to the extent that a modern cotton gin has now been established at Cecil Plains on the Condamine River some twenty miles south of Dalby, Maranoa’s largest town.
The St George irrigation area has also proved its worth in the recent drought and I understand that plans for its extension are well advanced. This is proof positive of the value of irrigation and the necessity to conserve as much water as possible in this the driest continent in the world. The Coolmunda Dam at Inglewood is nearing completion and will irrigate some 8,000 acres along the Mclntyre River. I pay a tribute to the Queensland State authorities for what they have done in this direction, but I must say that much more remains to be done.
The border rivers scheme is under investigation, and has been for some considerable time. The Darling Water Conservation Authority has been formed by local authorities in the area to promote water conservation on a river basin basis in the Darling River area. This shows the great interest that is being taken in the subject. We know the results that have already been achieved and we know what can be achieved in the future. We want the finance, the engineers and everything else necessary to go ahead and conserve more and more water. As I said earlier, this is a job that needs to be done on the widest possible scale, and I think it would be wise if the Commonwealth and States got together so that when water conservation is being planned it will be with an eye to the future, and so that finance will be provided which probably could not be provided by the States in their own right.
I mentioned earlier some of the agricultural development in Maranoa. I would like to quote some figures to show just what has happened there. In 1961-62 wheat production in Maranoa amounted to 5,737,740 bushels; it is estimated that the crop just harvested will be about 17,000,000 bushels. Although this was a year of record production, the figures indicate how much advancement has occurred in agriculture in my electorate. Production of barley in 1961-62 was 407,526 bushels and it is estimated that the crop now being harvested will total about 2,000,000 bushels. Cotton production increased from 1,239,325 lb in 1961-62 to 5,536,080 lb in 1965-66. It is on the basis of this improvement in agriculture that I have made my appeal for more water conservation and more irrigation.
I have concentrated on drought alleviation, Mr Speaker, firstly because of its national importance and secondly because so many people in my area are suffering distress. I have also dwelt on water conservation because of its potential for increased production and decentralised national development. At the same time, I will be keenly interested in projects of all kinds, both large and small, in any part of the Commonwealth, that are designed to promote the progress and further the welfare of Australia and her people. I will work for that progress and welfare in the years during which it will be my privilege - and a very great privilege it is - to represent the people of Maranoa in this our national Parliament.
– Mr Speaker, the speech which the Government gave to the Governor-General to read in the Senate contained references to the need for increasing population in this country, to the value of the migration scheme and to the Government’s determination to press on with the assisted passage scheme and even to extend it. His Excllency said:
Increasing population is an essential element in Australia’s programme of national development. Currently, migration is contributing 40% of the annual increase in the work force. There is a valuable flow of migrants from Britain, and my Government aims to stimulate assisted migration from, other European countries.
Nobody would argue with the need for increased migration and if we are to attract migrants to Australia it seems to me we must do three things: firstly, we must persuade them to leave the countries in which they are now residing; secondly, they must be brought to this country or assisted in coming to this country; and thirdly, having got them here we must see that every opportunity is available to them to obtain employment and to obtain suitable accommodation. If the Commonwealth is to continue its assisted passage scheme to bring additional migrants from European countries to Australia, it must make better arrangements for the accommodation of migrant families in Australian cities while they establish themselves in the community. To say that dissatisfaction with living conditions in migrant hostels is widespread would be to put it mildly indeed.
The recent increase in tariffs at migrant hostels has brought to the boil all the irritants and disturbances that migrant families feel for the type of accommodation that we have provided for them. I feel that the disappointing, even demoralising, aspects of hostel life, coming as an introduction to life in Australia, are a big factor in the migrant loss we suffer. Many migrants are misled by the too rosy picture they are given of life in Australia. I do not doubt the truth of their complaints in this regard I do not doubt that officers who man some of our posts overseas are too enthusiastic in seeking to attract migrants to Australia and that they do give them a too rosy picture of this place. I doubt if the prospective migrant’s family is ever shown photographs of the interior of a hostel and the type of accommodation they will be offered when they reach this country.
Migrants in Great Britain have been told - and I have heard this from so many migrants that I do not doubt its authenticity - that if they arrive here and have £1,000 they will easily be able to secure a house. Well, these things are just not true. While they may be true of some parts of some States they certainly are not true as regards the country overall. Certainly, in some States housing is easier to obtain than in others, notably in South Australia and, perhaps in Western Australia, but the great bulk of the migrant flow comes to our heavily populated States of Victoria and New South Wales, and to a lesser degree, Queensland. The picture that is given to these people overseas, I am convinced, is not the true picture. They are misled from the start and the shock they receive when they are ushered into a migrant hostel for the first time is hard to realise.
Instead of ‘the better living conditions that they expect, they find conditions infinitely worse than those they left in their own country. This is particularly true of migrants from Great Britain where standards of living are very much higher than they were in the years before World War II and the years following the War during which great programmes of slum clearance and rebuilding were put in hand. We should not delude ourselves that all the migrants coming from Great Britain come from slum areas or depressed areas or even from the comparative affluence of Coronation Street. Many of these migrants simply serve out their term of two years and return to Great Britain disillusioned and likely to advise other prospective migrants to think again.
Our post-war migration scheme has been in operation for twenty years. If we are to continue to attract migrants and if we are to safeguard our investment in regard to the payment of fares under the assisted passage scheme it is time we provided something better than the depressing conditions of hostel life. Obviously, Mr Speaker, we have a responsibility to provide initial accommodation for the families we seek to bring to Australia. At present we provide hostel accommodation and as most honourable members would know most of these consist of former Army buildings or hutments of some kind - Nissen huts in some cases - or converted single workers’ camps which are converted to accommodate families. The hostels - I think the name is a misnomer for many of these places - are unsatisfactory. They are costly to maintain and the board charged to families living in them must be subsidised.
Recently, I had apportunity to inspect the migrant hostel in Canberra. We have only the one - Ainslie Hostel. I am told by migrants living in that hostel that conditions there are infinitely better than the conditions at Villawood or Bunnerong or some of the other hostels in New South Wales and Victoria. But conditions at Ainslie Hostel are anything but good. Ainslie Hostel was built to provide accommodation for single workers. It consists of rows of hutments containing bedrooms which are 9 feet by 9 feet. In an attempt to provide accommodation for families these rooms have been converted. In some cases two of the 9 feet by 9 feet rooms are knocked together to provide a bed-sitting room so that the mother and father and perhaps the youngest child sleep in the room in which the family lives. Other members of the family are accommodated in separate 9 feet by 9 feet rooms which have no connecting link. All rooms open on to a common passage so that young children have to be locked in their rooms at night because of the danger to them of prowlers or other people in the corridors of the hostel. The conditions of living are poor.
Not only is the actual living accommodation - the bedrooms and the bedsitting room, so called - inadequate, but the other facilities of the hostel are inadequate. The laundry facilities, for example, are outmoded. Such facilities would not be provided in a refugee camp in the worst part of Europe. You would find nothing worse than those provided in the hostel The women have to carry the clothes from these dormitary blocks a couple of hundred yards, perhaps, down to the laundry. They stand on bare concrete at old fashioned tubs and steam heated coppers to do their washing and then carry the clothes to the clothes line at the top of the hill. When the clothes are dry they have to carry them back to the laundry and. stand on the wet concrete floor while they iron them. Finally, they- have to carry them back to their rooms.
The lavatory accommodation - as honourable members may understand because this hostel was build for single men - is quite inadequate for families. I have the figures concerning this somewhere. In one part of the hostel that I inspected - this was a family living block - there was one lavatory, one bath with a shower fitting over it so that if one man was using the bath no-one could take a shower, and two basins, and this was for use by seven men and twelve boys. That is the type of accommodation which is provided for :migrant families in. the National Capital and it, I am told, is infinitely better than what is provided at Villawood, Bunnerong or some of the other migrant hostels, ls it any wonder that we lose these migrant families? Is it any wonder that they get fed up with conditions in this country and go back to Great Britain - to the better accommodation which they left to come here?
Their accommodation in these hostels is limited mostly to two years. In Canberra, because of our grave housing shortage, they are permitted to stay in this hostel for three years because they cannot get a house in much under that time. It seems to me that there is an urgent need for the Government to take action to improve conditions in this hostel; and, if conditions need to be improved in this hostel then how much more so in the other hostels to which I have referred?
To illustrate another point about the conditions we provide for these families, in each of these hostel blocks there is a central room. Originally it was furnished as a sitting room for the single workers so that they could sit at night around the fire and play cards, talk, or do whatever they wanted to do. Such rooms are now euphemistically labelled ‘quiet rooms’, and in theory this is where the children can go, perhaps to do their homework at night away from the family group and the television - if the family is fortunate enough to cram one into its small room. But these rooms are all locked because they accom modate the excess baggage- of the migrant families who have been brought into this place. Approaches to the company - Commonwealth Hostels Ltd - to provide separate accommodation to house baggage have been unavailing because the company says the life of this hostel is limited and it cannot justify further expense on it. The workshops provided for the maintenance carpenters and plumbers in the place are infinitely better than the accommodation provided for the people who live in the hostel because there is a union to look after the needs of the plumbers and carpenters and see that they have proper accommodation.
But it is only in this House that the case for the migrant families can be put, and I believe that the Government should take immediate and urgent action to improve facilities in these hostels. It can be done. You cannot, perhaps, provide all that the families would like, but you can make the conditions in these hostels better, and that should be done.
I believe that we should give up this idea of providing hostels, so called, for migrant families. It would seem to me to be much better, and infinitely less costly, to build blocks of family flats, furnished and available for incoming migrant families lor the same two-year or three-year term as at present they have in the hostels. If the Government were prepared to do this the incoming families would pay an economic rent calculated to repay the capital cost and maintenance over an extended period. They would live as independent families, pay their own way and provide and cook their own food. One of the great bugbears of hostel life, particularly in migrant hostels, where we have families of young children, is the communal cooking and communal eating. It is quite good by hostel standards, but it is not good enough for families. If only the Government could see that it could cut its costs on hostels by establishing these family flats of the type to which I have referred. It would get a return on its outlay. If the Commonwealth were prepared to do this - and it could place the same limit on the tenancy of the flat as is at present placed on the occupancy of hostel accommodation, a two-year or three-year term - it would be relieved of the task of maintaining hostels.
It would be relieved also of the cost of paying staff and of providing food, and would receive a return on its outlay instead of subsidising the living costs for families in hostels, as it is doing at present.
The figures of the Auditor-General show that in the last financial year the Commonwealth, from its general funds, provided nearly $4im to subsidise losses sustained on Commonwealth hostels. The losses have been running at a figure of about $3im to $4im a year. If this money, or a figure equivalent to it, were used to build the type of flat accommodation I have suggested, with one year’s outlay we could build SOO flats, allowing $8,000 for the construction of the type of flat to which I have referred. Flats are being built in Canberra at that cost, and could be built even cheaper in Sydney or in Melbourne. I believe that if we took this step we would have the migrants reasonably happy from the time they arrive in this country. Instead of suffering the irritations of .hostel life and all the problems that are concerned with communal living, such as getting children off to school and caring for sick children - epidemics have swept through these hostels - we would have families living as families, not in over-furnished flats but in flats furnished adequately. I suggest that it be left to the tenants perhaps to provide their own refrigerators, washing machines and those types of things.
I think that the Commonwealth should give serious consideration to this matter. A problem arises - this has been brought to the notice of the Commonwealth previously - because, having handed over to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd the task of running these hostels, the Government now has a problem in seeking to take this task away from the company. However, it is certain that the conditions that were satisfactory twenty years ago to people who came from displaced persons camps in Germany are not satisfactory to people who are leaving their own homes, which in many cases are quite substantial and comfortable homes, in Great Britain and other parts of Europe, to come to this country because we want them to come. We are losing many of them because we are not providing adequately for them. I urge the Government to look again at this proposition. I stress that instead of continuing to make an annual outlay to subsidise the living costs of these families it should provide them with something better, and the Government would secure a return on its outlay. If at some time the migrant flow dwindled then the Commonwealth would have an asset in the flats on which it could realise, or it could use the flats to provide accommodation for other purposes.
I believe that the migrants have every reason to protest against the increased tariff recently announced. I do not know that they can really go on refusing to pay the increased tariff, but they certainly have reason to be incensed at being asked to pay increased rates for the type of accommodation being provided. If any member of this House would take the trouble to have a look at the Ainslie hostel, having in mind that it is better than other Commonwealth hostels provided for migrant families, I believe he would be shocked to see the conditions that exist. I have photographs of the hostel here, and really and truly, honourable members would hardly believe that the Commonwealth of Australia would continue to allow this sort of accommodation to exist for families we have attracted to Australia with rosy promises of the better life that can be given to them in Australia.
Commonwealth Hostels Ltd also controls a number of guest houses in Canberra which were formerly controlled by the Department of the Interior. The company, so called - it is registered in Victoria as a private, non-profit company - is of course a subterfuge company. It is acting as an agent of the Commonwealth. Each of the seven shareholders - I think each one holds a £1 share - is a member of the staff of the Department of Labour and National Service. In 1959 the company took over from the Department of the Interior the management of the hostels that the Department had conducted in Canberra for public servants and others who needed that type of accommodation. Tariffs in these hostels have been increased recently by an overall increase of 10%. From the figures that are available I can see no justification for this increase. The Administrative and Clerical Officers Association has taken up the case on behalf of its members who are accommodated in hostels in Canberra. It has made representations to the company and to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). lt has had a conference with the Minister but so far has received nothing but a firm answer that the increases will stand and no change will be made in the company’s position. But the ACOA has put forward, 1 think, facts which cannot be overlooked. My time does not by any means permit me to go into the whole of the case it has put up but this organisation is not to be pushed aside. It is an organisation containing within its ranks men of very high qualifications in all fields of government administration, men who know what they are talking about, men who are familiar with forms of government accounting and who are able to dissect the statements that are published or are made available by the company from time to time. In a letter to the Minister dated 8th February 1967 the sub-branch president of this organisation wrote:
In our representations to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd we mentioned that a general increase of 10% in hostel tariffs would produce additional revenue of about $900,000 per annum, whilst the total loss in 1965-66 was only $90,000.
A 10% increase will bring in an additional $900,000 per annum but the total loss incurred by the hostels which this increase is supposed to recoup was only $90,000. That is the total loss over the whole of Australia, migrant hostels included. The letter continues:
The tenfold rate of recovery appears so staggering, particularly when one notices that there has in fact been a reduction in overall accumulated losses in the eleven years (1955- 1966), that we can only come to the conclusion (hat the premises on which the increases were based were incorrect.
It is a fact that since the company was formed the Parliament no longer has the opportunity to scrutinise the balance sheets or the statements of profit and loss in respect of the individual hostels that this company manages. When the hostels were under Government control through the Department of the Interior or the Department of Works, figures in respect of each hostel were available to us in the Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General, and I should like to quote some of them. These figures relate to the hostels operated in Canberra. We have several grades of (hostels. Some are A grade or high tariff (hostels, others are intermediate hostels - these have recently ‘been established - and the : remainder are lower tariff hostels.
In the financial year 1956-57, Havelock House made a net profit of £4,155. That is one of the higher tariff hostels. Reid House, one of the lower tariff hostels with very little comfort provided for guests, made a profit in that year of £8,039. Lawley House made a net loss of £844. The remainder of the hostels made net losses. The Hotel Acton made a net loss of £8,928, the Hotel Kurrajong a net loss of £6,291, Mulwala House a net loss of £4,204, Gorman House a net loss of £4,794 and Narellan House a net loss of £2,650. Two other guest houses ceased operation during that year and I will not give their figures. In 1957-58, which was the last full year in which the hostels or guest houses were conducted by the Department of the Interior, Havelock House made a net profit of £4,458. Reid House, which is a hostel for young people, which provides very little comfort - not even cold water in the bedrooms - and which is another hostel converted from the workers’ hostels, made a net profit of £12,766. There were, of course, continuing losses in the other hostels. In that year, the loss incurred by the Hotel Kurrajong was reduced to £2,195. The point I seek to make here is that the hostels that have made a profit are subsidising the losses on the other hostels. This seems to me to >be grossly unfair. It seems to be unfair to ask the young people in Reid House, where the board they pay shows a profit to the Commonwealth, to subsidise the losses on the Hotel Kurrajong, on Lawley House or on any of the other higher tariff hostels.
In the first year in which the so-called company came into operation, there was a change in the profit and loss figures for the hostels. Whilst under the control of the Department of the Interior for the first half of the year 1958-59, Havelock House showed a net profit of £443. Reid House showed a profit in the six months of £7,393. In the first half year of the operations of the company, Havelock House showed a profit of £1,154 against £4,458 for the previous year. Hotel Kurrajong showed a profit for the first time. The amount was £3,077. Reid House showed a profit of £3,104 and so on. I see no reason why the figures should not be made available to the Parliament now. They were made available to the Parliament when the hostels or guest houses were controlled by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. The company that controls the hostels is a subterfuge company adopted for the Government’s own purpose, and I think part of the purpose was to conceal its financial operations. The taking over of the hostels in Canberra was perhaps a bit of empire building by the Department of Labour and National Service. It is against that entrenched position that the Government will have to stand if it adopts my proposal to get out of the migrant hostel field and establish the self-contained flats to which I have referred. I see that my timehas expired.
-I call the honourable member for Boothby. I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I should like to congratulate the previous speaker, the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser). I listened with interest to everything he had to say. Obviously he has paid close attention to matters in his electorate, but I find myself in total disagreement with the conclusions he has reached. I join with other honourable members in congratulating you, Sir, on your election to the high office of Speaker of the House. In doing so, I should like to pay a tribute to your predecessor in the office. In my opinion, he served the nation, the Parliament and the electorate of Boothby with great distinction for many years. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) have already referred to his service. I take this opportunity to thank the former member for Boothby on behalf of the residents of the electorate and the thousands of other South Australians who have been helped by him in one capacity or another over the years. This applies especially to me. We have had an association that extends for quite as long as I can remember. We all wish him a long, happy and fruitful retirement.
I should also like to express my gratitude to those same electors who have given me the opportunity to render further service to the community as a member of this Twenty-sixth Parliament. I shall endeavour to represent them in the same efficient and successful manner as my predecessor did - accessible within the electorate to all constituents, irrespective of their political affiliations. In this way I believe we can demonstrate that Australians do live in a representative democracy.
In supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I take the opportunity to say something further about what I believe to be the dual responsibility of a parliamentarian. I believe that we have an obligation of service, both to the nation and to the electorate. Although on most occasions these dual responsibilities will be synonymous, there may be times when one may claim precedence over the other, and in my opinion our first responsibility is clearly to the nation. By way of illustration I refer to a common problem that I believe faces honourable members on both sides of the House and one that we on this side resolve in what we consider to be the national interest. I am sure that we all wish for our people the highest possible social service benefits, whether they be for the aged, the handicapped or the sick or simply extensions to existing social service arrangements. Obviously the Government can only continue to expand its social service legislation so long as the nation remains prosperous and we can only remain prosperous as long as we are secure.
I believe, therefore, that the responsibility to ensure the external as well as the internal security of the country is more important than any other single responsibility we shall ever be expected to undertake. Unless we have security we have nothing. This means that we must interest ourselves in other nations and their problems, more particularly in the general Asian and Pacific areas where our country happens to be placed. We must recognise and study the facts of power and also recognise the reality of power politics. Force is being used in the world today and the possession of power is the main determinant of what happens in the world, whether we like it or not. Foreign policy, I suggest, is not developed in a vacuum and we, as a small nation in this time of power contest, have to choose to stand with one or other of the great world powers. We stand firmly with Britain and the United States of America, not only because we believe them to be military allies with resolution and capacity, but also because they are the nations which follow the principles to which we adhere and they are determined to defend them.
We cannot expect to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and talk piously about minding our own business and not interfering with our Asian neighbours. In an affluent society such as ours this attitude seems to me to ‘be narrow and selfish and can only invite disaster. To adopt an isolationist policy towards the rest of the world is, I submit, to have no policy at all. There are critics of the Government who complain that we have no independent foreign policy and that we are content to remain tied to the apron strings of Great Britain or the United States of America. I entirely disagree with the suggestion. Because of our quite small population and our geographical situation we do not have an independent foreign policy in the sense that the great powers have, but we do have a foreign policy independently arrived at and we do take a strongly independent line when we consider it necessary. As an example I refer to mainland China. Great Britain recognises the People’s Republic, but we do not We were the only member .of the Englishspeaking allies to oppose the Italian resolution to explore the question of Chinese representation at the recent Twenty-first General Assembly of the United Nations. The United States, Canada and New Zealand voted for it and Britain abstained from voting. We voted against it. We maintained that the timing was inopportune for a concession to Peking, and in this instance I suggest that we took a line not only independent of Great Britain but also of the United States of America.
It was not until 1935 that the Australian Government re-established the Department of External Affairs. We now have fifty-four posts abroad, and it is good to note that nineteen of them are situated in Asia. In addition we have an impressive number of trade and immigration posts dotted around the world. In Cambodia we represent the interests of the United States, and in South Vietnam we represent Cambodian interests. We are represented in, and make practical contributions to, almost every significant organisation involving financial, military or civil aid in our region of the world, and quite recently we sent one of our members as an observer to the Second General Assembly of the Asian Parliamentarians Union in Seoul. From the earliest indication of Indonesia’s opposition to Malaysia, the Australian Government worked steadily to achieve a situation in which Malaysia would be brought into being without the hostility to its neighbours. Because we left Indonesia in no doubt concerning our attitude, both in negotiations at the time and by our commitment in South Vietnam, the course of events in the areas immediately to our north has been very different from what it might otherwise have been.
I must say, Mr Speaker, how concerned I am, and I am sure how concerned are so many other Australians, at the attitudes of the Socialist British administration to this region of the world. “We are told that Britain intends to maintain a significant presence east of Suez, but as each week goes by we read of more and more evidence of .the reduction of her forces and base facilities - for example, in Singapore - and we can soon anticipate a complete withdrawal from the key port of Aden. I was very disappointed when the Socialist Government of Great Britain decided to give us virtually no support in our efforts to assist the people of South Vietnam. We have gone to the assistance of Great Britain militarily on at least five occasions. I well remember the phrase, which I think was used by Sir Robert Menzies: When Britain is at war, we are at war.’ But now when we seek to take a stand in Vietnam and thereby make our small contribution to prevent another world conflict, not only the mother country but also the whole of Western Europe are at pains not to be involved with us.
In my opinion Australia must therefore move even nearer to our other traditional ally, the United States of America, to whom we already owe our very survival in the Second World War. I remember with the utmost gratitude the success of the Coral Sea battle and vividly recall the jubilation and relief of the Australian garrison troops in New Guinea when the American forces first landed there. I believe also that I echo the sentiments of the vast majority of Australians of every shade of political faith when I say that we applaud the vigour and earnestness with which our Leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), has made us aware of our obligation in the world community of nations and, at the same time, has- made that community aware of our existence. He has said that for us there is no such place as the Far East; for us it is the near, north. During his first twelve months in office, only recently completed,, he has been prepared to introduce adequate legislation to ensure that we make a satisfactory contribution militarily and economically to the stability of the Asian and’ Pacific regions. He has in fact shown that the people of Australia respect political courage and honesty and are prepared to support this kind of leadership at the polls.
I should like to quote from the speech made by the Prime Minister in Washington on 30th June 1966 which clearly summarises our position:
It is in our judgment short-sighted’ for the industrialised nations of the West to believe that they can contract out of the problems, the troubles and agonies of Asia. The challenge thrown by Communism in Vietnam is a challenge not only to Vietnam, it is a challenge to the whole free world.
I should like also to refer to the item in the Governor-General’s Speech dealing with the introduction of legislation to enable local governing bodies to become eligible for subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Several years ago, when I was Mayor of the City of Unley, which is portion of the electorate of Boothby, I put forward a similar suggestion to my Federal member but found myself in conflict with him -on this matter. In fact, I have found myself in conflict with him on many occasions. But now I am very pleased to be able to draw attention to this part of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech because it affirms the view that I take, that the Government is broadminded and is prepared to consider any worthwhile social innovation, or any other innovation, which in its judgment the nation can afford, irrespective of the political party or organisation which conceived the idea. More than 20% of the population of the City of Unley is over the age of sixty-five years. Provided that councils can finance development of the size and type envisaged, I would expect the Councils of Unley and Mitcham and some others to be very interested in the proposed legislation.
However, I foresee two difficulties that unfortunately could inhibit the success of the plan, Sir. One is the extremely high cost of acquiring suitable land in densely populated built up areas like Unley and Mitcham. I believe that this kind of problem will apply to many corporations and council areas throughout the Commonwealth. I suggest to the Government that some Commonwealth assistance in this regard would be very useful. The other difficulty is the unfortunate device of imposing a double tax on ratepayers. I do not know how many State governments adopt it, but the South Australian Government certainly does. I consider that the imposition of State land tax is an unwarranted intrusion into the local government taxing field and in fact represents a double tax on ratepayers. This seriously affects the rate of revenue of local government authorities and at the same time imposes an additional and almost intolerable burden on the fixed income group among which are numbered a large portion of the 20% of the population of the City of Unley who are over the age of sixty-five.
In conclusion, Sir, may I in general terms sound a note of warning in relation to the proposed amendment of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The most important single worry of most elderly and handicapped people is the fear of what may happen to them when sickness occurs. In my opinion it should be almost mandatory for infirmary services to be available on the site for the occupants of future multi-home developments. Infirmaries qualify for considerable Commonwealth benefits and the most successful homes for the aged perform the dual service of providing accommodation both in sickness and in health. Local government bodies in South Australia are also local boards of health. I believe that with their highly trained administrative, inspectorial and specialist trades staff such as gardeners, painters and electricians they are ideally situated to help implement this forward looking legislation that we have in the Aged Persons Homes Act, particularly in the light of the forthcoming amendment. The aged ratepayer is also the pioneer ratepayer. I am sure that local government will recognise its obligations and its opportunity to take full advantage of the direct partnership that is to be offered, for the first time, I believe, by the Commonwealth Government.
I have very much pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I thank honourable members on both sides of the House for their courtesy in listening to me.
– (Mr Speaker, may I open my remarks in this Address-in-Reply debate by first congratulating you on your election to the position of Speaker of this House. I shall not wish you a long and successful term in the chair, for I sincerely hope that you do not break the record set by your predecessor. Obviously, that would mean that members of the Australian Labor Party would continue to sit on this side of the chamber. However, I trust that you will carry out your duties in a manner comparable with that of your predecessor, who, on most occasions, was prepared to give honourable members on both sides equal opportunities. Only when the Prime Minister or someone else applied pressure were we subjected to any bias, if I may say so. I am certain that one thing about which you are concerned, Sir, is the fact that two members of your own Party took the opportunity, in a secret ballot for the election of the Speaker, to vote against you. We conduct many ballots in the Labor Party. Indeed, it takes up to ten or a dozen ballots to elect the leaders of the Parliamentary Party and the members of its executive. But never have you seen one member of the Labor Party come into this chamber and vote against any candidate selected by the Party to contest an election for a position of any kind. I believe it is most regrettable that members of one of the Government Parties are prepared to allow their bias and their dissatisfaction at their defeat in the contest in the party room for the selection of the Government’s nominee for the Speakership to play a part in this place and to cause them to vote against the nominee who was selected. I believe that this event clearly indicates the disunity that exists between the two Government Parties. We hear much talk about unity between them. The only reason why there is any unity, as honourable members opposite well know, is that the two Parties, if they do not hang together, will hang separately.
I congratulate the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) on the standard of the maiden speech that we have just heard from him. I have high regard for his father, who was your predecessor, Mr Speaker, and who, as I said earlier, did a magnificent job as Speaker of this House. The honourable member and His Excellency the Governor-General, in his Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament, dealt particularly with one subject - the attitude of Communist China. His Excellency said:
My advisers are closely watching developments in China. The outcome of the crisis there will have profound implications reaching far beyond Asia. The greatest impediment to any general relaxation of existing tensions in Asia, and indeed throughout the world, is the attitude of the Communist regime in China.
I agree with that statement by His Excellency and I agree with the Government that the attitude of Communist China is one of the factors contributing to the tension that exists in the world today. But the whole point is that other factors are contributing to this tension. What are the Commonwealth Government and this Parliament doing to try to ease the tension that exists? Would not one of the sensible and obvious things have been to support, at the session of the United Nations General Assembly late last year, the admission of Communist China to the United Nations? Would not this have helped to break down some of the tension that is so obvious in the world today? If the Government really wants to reduce the tension in relations with Communist China there is one way to do it - by bringing the Chinese into the United Nations and making them feel that they are part of the world community instead of allowing them to feel that the whole of the world is antagonistic towards them and opposed to their views.
I have no more time for Communism than has any honourable member on the Government side of the House. No honourable member on this side has any time for Communism. But the fact is that this Government recognises other Communist countries. Why does it accept the Soviet Union’s membership of the United Nations? Why does it accept the admission to the United Nations of other Communist controlled countries and oppose the admission of Communist China? I firmly believe that if the United States of America, Australia and the other countries that continually oppose the admission of Communist China were to relent and show some desire to bring about world peace and an understanding with China they could do much to achieve those objectives by welcoming China into the United Nations. I recall the occasion when a delegation of members of the Australian Labor Party visited Singapore in the middle of 1965. Government supporters have made much of this on a number of occasions. The members of the delegation discussed the international situation with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore. He indicated that he had certain attitudes on Vietnam. He also told the members of the delegation that the United States and other countries would have to break down their antagonistic attitude towards Communist China. He said they would have to relent and show some desire for peace and an inclination to be conciliatory. He declared that there was one obvious way to go about this - to welcome the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. This is one way that is open to the Government if it really wants to do something to ease world tension. So we see the conflict in this place between the members of the Liberal Party and the members of the Country Party. Liberal Party members refer to China as Communist China, but our dear friends in the rabbit corner here, the members of the Country Party, always refer to it as mainland China. I am certain that this eases the strain on them in accepting from Communist China that bloodstained money that our Liberal friends talk about.
One thing that does concern me is the omission from His Excellency’s Speech of any mention of Australia’s position in the shipping industry and our failure to move into the field of containerisation. What are we doing to relieve the serious strain being placed on Australia’s trade balances by the freight charges we have to pay each year? I have with me a table setting out the freight charges that this country has had to pay out to other countries. It does not include freight on our exports; it relates only to the freight paid on our imports in the last ten years. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate it in Hansard.
Compiled by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Legislative Research Service from figures published in ‘Balance of Payments’ by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
The table shows the huge sums that are involved. For instance, in 1964-65 we paid out $290m in freight charges; in 1965-66 the figure was $3 04m and the total for the last ten years was £2,299m. An amount of that size should be causing the Government some concern. The Parliament should be given some indication of what the Government proposes to do about overcoming the effect on our overseas balances of this serious outflow.
There is one way in which I think a great deal could be done. At the moment, there is a great revolutionary change taking place in shipping methods throughout the world. Every major trading country is now changing its system of handling cargo other than bulk cargo. These major trading countries include the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany, France and Holland. What worries me is that Australian industry and commerce are not taking any part whatsoever in this change. We are still at the mercy of overseas shipping lines.
At the present time, the Australia-United Kingdom-Europe Conference is made up of fourteen British and nine European shipping lines. Those twenty-three shipping lines will continue to control completely all Australia’s overseas shipping transport. I know that we cannot demand that all our exports and all our imports be carried by our ships, but we are entitled to expect that half be carried in Australian owned ships. The Government will not take any action on this matter.
The change to which I refer is the change to containerisation. Overseas Containers Ltd has announced that it will be building six container vessels each of a capacity of 27,000 tons. 1 believe they are to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $12m each. Five of those ships are to be built in Germany and one on the Clyde in Scotland. Those six ships, together with three container ships which will be built in 1969 by Associated Container Transportation - here again we have a consortium of British shipping lines - will carry approximately 40% of the non-bulk cargoes carried from Australia to the United Kingdom. At the present time, these cargoes are being carried by 100 ships which are owned by the fourteen British and nine foreign shipping lines.
I believe that now is the time for Australian shipping interests, especially the Australian National Line, with its experience with roll-on roll-off container ships, to move into the overseas field with container shipping. Now is the time to say to these overseas shipping lines: ‘We want to be part of the Australia-United Kingdom-Europe Conference’. It is of no use waiting until some later stage and then trying to buy in to the Conference. By that time all sorts of restrictions and embargoes will have been imposed and it will be made virtually impossible for us to buy in. I repeat that now is the time to move in so that we in this country will have some say in how our exports are to be carried. If we move now, Australia will have a chance to curtail this serious outflow of funds to which I referred earlier when I pointed out that in the last ten years freight on Australia’s imports amounted to the mammoth total of $2,299m. We must not wait until the container trade is firmly established and then try to break into it.
It is not only in the Australia-United Kingdom-Europe trade that this change is taking place. It is also taking place in America where the Farrell line proposes to build five container ships capable of carrying 678 containers each for use in the trade between the east coast of the United States of America and Australia and New Zealand. The first of these vessels will be available by about August 1969 and the remainder will be delivered at two-monthly intervals. So not only are the United Kingdom and European shipping lines moving into this section of the trade but an American owned line is moving in. The five ships of the Farrell line will be able to handle almost all of the non-bulk trade between Australia and the east coast of the United States of America. So we shall have a continuation of the present stranglehold on Australian shipping services by these overseas lines. Once again I ask the Government to do something about it.
I come now to another field. As honorable members know, vast quantities of Australian exports are transported to Japan. In August 1966, the Japanese Transport Ministry submitted to the Japanese Government for its consideration a $360m container shipping plan. The question there was whether the Japanese Government would move into the field with a line of container ships plying between Japan, Australia and New Zealand, or whether some private container shipping company would do it. So it will be seen that here again we are missing an opportunity to enter this field. I firmly believe that the Government should instruct the Australian National Line to confer with the Japanese Government, the United Kingdom and European Conference lines and perhaps the Conference lines plying between Australia and America with a view to building and operating our own container ships. I understand that to build the nine container ships which will carry approximately 40% of the trade between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe is expected to cost SI 08m. Why should we not build at least half of those ships?
What will we get out of the present proposals?
This question was asked in this chamber only last week by a Government supporter who referred to the fact that Overseas Containers Limited proposes to place an order for $2m worth of containers with Australian engineering yards. What a magnificent gesture that is! We are to get $2m while the overseas shipyards get $108m and overseas lines will still carry our goods. I repeat that it is time the Government moved into this field.
I might say that from the information available to me it would appear that the harbour authorities at Fremantle and Melbourne are doing an excellent job in preparing their ports for container shipping. The three container ports will be Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. The other ports throughout the Commonwealth will be feeder ports. Already the authorities at two of the three container ports are doing excellent work in preparing for this new trade. They have made plans for adequate space. Unfortunately, the New South Wales Maritime Services Board is trying to cram the container terminal into Balmain peninsula. Everybody in Sydney knows, and the Maritime Services Board should know, that the Balmain peninsula is one of the sections of Sydney in which the traffic is heaviest. Not long ago Sir Alan Westerman, in a report to the Government on shipping and stevedoring, said that unfortunately most of the cargo being transported through Sydney had to go through heavily built up areas where there were lengthy delays because of the density of traffic. Yet nothing is being done by the Maritime Services Board to alleviate the position. All that it is doing is aggravating the position by placing the terminal on a small area of about eight acres compared with the fourteen acres set aside in Melbourne and twenty acres in Fremantle. It is important that further consideration be given to this matter.
– Where would the honourable member place the terminal?
– If the Port of Sydney cannot cater for it there is always Botany Bay. Why not develop Botany Bay? At present there are rail spurs to Botany Bay which could easily be extended. There is any amount of space there now. It would be a little presumptuous on my part io suggest establishing the terminal at the Port of Newcastle, but bear in mind that Newcastle is only sixty-two miles by sea from Sydney. An area of more than 6,000 acres, at present completely developed, is embraced by the island reclamation scheme. Some of this area would make an excellent terminal, and we must not forget that much of the goods that are to be exported through Sydney will either go to Newcastle as a feeder port or be carried beyond Newcastle by rail or road. These things must be taken into consideration. I do not think sufficient thought has been given to the siting of the terminal in Sydney.
I want to say something else about shipping. Information recently made available indicates that the concerns in Western Australia exporting iron ore have been negotiating with Japanese interests for a reduction in the price of iron ore and iron ore pellets on condition that they are carried in Australian ships. I do not think one member of the Opposition would fail to support the general policy that our exports of iron ore should be carried in Australian owned and built ships. Last Wednesday I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) whether the Government was condoning the sale of iron ore at a reduced price on condition that it was carried in Australian ships. I asked why, if this were the case with respect to iron ore, a similar situation could not exist as regards imports of crude oil. Honourable members should be aware of the magnitude of the effect on our overseas balances of the transport of crude oil from overseas. In 1965-66 imports of crude oil totalled 4,370 million gallons or 16,554,427 long tons. Do honourable members realise how much freight was paid on that oil? I refer them to the Tariff Board’s report of 23rd July 1965 in which the Board said:
In 1964, freight accounted for £29 million of the total landed cost of feedstock (approximately IS million tons) imported by refiners.
With an increase of H million tons in the amount of feedstock imported, the freight on crude oil must be well over $60m per annum.
One thing that strikes me about the various oil companies is the way their profit margins vary. From 1962 to 1966 the Ampol organisation, which is 96.5% Australian owned, made the following profits: in 1962, $4.72m; in 1963, $5.21m; in 1964, $5.78m; in 1965, $5.86m; and in 1966, $5.04m. According to the organisation’s financial report, with the exception of 1966 the profit earned in each year represented a dividend rate on ordinary shares of 14% . I think the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp) will agree that a dividend of 14% is not a bad one. Even in 1966 the company paid a dividend of 10% on invested capital, and I think the Minister will agree that that is not a bad effort.
The H. C. Sleigh organisation made the following profits from 1962 to 1966: in 1962, $3.61m; in 1963, $3.66m; in 1964, $2.81m; in 1965, $3.29m; and in 1966, $3.03m. In its annual report, the H. C. Sleigh organisation points out that its profits in 1965 and 1966 represented a dividend rate on ordinary shares of 10%; in 1964 a rate of 11.5%; and in 1962 and 1963 a rate of 12.5%. These Australian owned oil companies, which are not part of the overseas combines, were able to make those reasonable profits and, in my opinion, quite substantial profits. But what was the position of the major overseas owned oil companies? Take, for example, the largest of them, the Shell company, which handles between 21% and 22% of Australia’s petroleum products compared with 12.8% handled by Ampol and 8.5% handled by H. C. Sleigh. The profits made by the Shell company have been: in 1962, $3.37m; in 1963, $0.76m. The figures for 1964 and 1966 were not available. In 1965 the company suffered a loss of $ 1.47m.
– Whom is the company trying to fool?
– It is fooling the Government because the Government is not prepared to do anything in the matter. These overseas owned oil companies are fooling the people of Australia. They have fooled the people of Australia for a considerable time because if they can show a loss on their trading operations in Australia they will not be required to pay company tax here and if they load the overseas purchase price of their crude oil they will pay very little tax in the poor underdeveloped countries from which they obtain it. The situation of the Shell company is an example of what all the overseas owned companies trading in Australia are doing. They all show either a small profit or a loss. In its report of 26th March 1959 into the petroleum refining industry the Tariff Board said:
It is apparent that there are four main factors which have a bearing on the profits earned by the refining companies. They are -
The selling prices to marketing organisations;
The operating costs;
The landed costs of crude oil; and
The pattern of production of the refinery.
The main aspect as far as I am concerned is the landed costs of crude oil. I believe it is long overdue for the Australian Government to require all oil companies in Australia to bring their imports of crude oil to this country in Australian owned and built ships. The Australian Government itself should go onto the world’s markets to purchase our requirements of crude oil so that we may take advantage of any improvement -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Deakin and remind the House that the honourable member will be making his maiden speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, would you be good enough to convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his elevation to his high office. I would like also, with your permission, to pay a tribute to my predecessor from Deakin, Mr Frank Davis. It is hardly necessary for me as a new member in this House to remind those who were members of the last Parliament and earlier Parliaments of the qualities which endeared Frank Davis to honourable members on both sides of the Parliament. Frank Davis, together with the former Prime Minister, was one of the foundation organisers of the Liberal Party of Australia and one of those responsible in no small part for formulating the great democratic principles on which the Liberal Party is founded. He entered this House in 1949 when the Australian people first swept the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition into office. The wise counsel and friendship that Frank Davis has given to all honourable members is well known and needs no elaboration by me. Whilst he never sought the spotlight, the work he has done in this Parliament stands as a memorial to his energy and capacity. As one of his constituents for many years, and as president of one of the Liberal Party branches in his electorate, I am well aware of his untiring efforts on behalf of the electors of Deakin. Disraeli once said of his predecessor:’I succeed him. I am afraid I cannot replace him’. For my part I can claim to succeed Frank Davis. If at some future date I can also claim, even in part, to have replaced him, I will feel that my entry into this Parliament has been worth while.
I should like also to take this opportunity to assure the electors of Deakin that I will represent them honestly and sincerely, irrespective of party or of creed. My interest in politics was first stimulated as a schoolboy at Wesley College in Melbourne back in 1940, when I met the then Prime Minister, Robert Gordon Menzies, on one of his visits to his old school. I believe that Wesley should feel justly proud of its contribution to this Parliament. The school has provided not only two successive Prime Ministers but, in addition to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) and myself, an independent senator from Tasmania and, by some strange turn of the wheel, the Deputy Labor Leader in the Senate. I am afraid I can offer no explanation as to how the last named worthy senator went astray. But Wesley, fine school that it is, cannot claim a monopoly of worthy members in this Parliament. There are many excellent members in both Houses who are products both of the State and the independent school systems. In Australia we have been fortunate in this regard. We have been able to choose to some extent which school our children will attend. True, in many cases it has meant considerable sacrifice on the part of parents to send their children to independent or church schools, but if parents have been prepared to make this sacrifice they have been free to do so.
It is not generally known that over onequarter of all children in Australia are educated in private and church schools. It is good that this dual system of education should continue, but over the past few years, due to rising costs and the student population explosion, the independent and church schools have found it increasingly difficult to carry on. They have been faced with two alternatives; either they must progressively increase their fees or they must progressively decrease their standards. An increase in fees limits entry to the few - the wealthy few. A decrease in standards is not in the best interests of the student or of the nation. Because of the inability of parents to meet increased fees there has developed over the past few years a downward trend in numbers attending independent secondary schools with a consequent percentage increase in the students attending State schools. In 1961, in my own State of Victoria, 70.54% of all secondary students attended State schools. In 1963 the percentage had increased to 71.71, and in 1965 there was a further increase to 72.75. Conversely, in Catholic schools, the comparative figures were 18.43% in 1961, a drop to 17.86% in 1963 and a further drop in 1965 to 17.36%. In other independent and church schools the figures were 11.03% in 1961, a drop to 10.43% in 1963 and a further drop to 9.89% in 1965. Thus, as these figures show, parents are being forced by rising fees to take their children from independent and church schools and to send them to schools provided by the State. What if these non-State schools, or even some of them, were, for financial reasons, forced to close? The State would then be faced with paying the total cost of all students forced on to the State education system. This, I submit, is certainly not in the interests of the taxpayers whom we represent in this House.
I can understand why Socialists believe in nationalised education just as they believe, of course, in nationalised industry; but we, as a free enterprise government, believe in freedom of choice. I ‘believe that this Government and its predecessor are to be congratulated for initiating government assistance to independent and church schools and for the action they have taken to extend it. Only last week the Government introduced amendments to the States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act doubling the grant for science blocks to independent and church schools. Within four years all secondary schools, both State and independent, will have received the basic science teaching laboratories and apparatus they need. In the Territory under its own control, the Commonwealth has undertaken to repay loans raised for capital purposes by bodies administering independent schools. The Commonwealth repays these loans over twenty years and at the same time subsidises the interest payments which schools have to make in order to reduce that interest burden. The Government is also providing $8m a year over the next three financial years for the construction and equipment of new colleges for teaching training throughout Australia. At least 10% of the places in these colleges are reserved for teachers not bonded to State education departments. But there is still much to be done. Catholic schools, in particular, are badly hit. In my electorate of Deakin 2,465 secondary students and 4,825 primary students - a total of 7,290 students - are attending Catholic schools. Based on costs given by the Victorian Minister for Education last November in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, if these students were all to attend schools financed by the State the added cost to the taxpayer would be $1,813,190 for the electorate of Deakin alone. I respectfully submit that it is far more economical on the public purse to assist these schools to carry on rather than call on the taxpayer to foot the bill for the education of these students if they are forced to attend State schools.
A little over two hours ago I attended a meeting of the Government Parties Education Committee and I was most heartened at that meeting to see the understanding and feeling of members towards this problem. I should like to quote a statement made by the newly appointed Minister for Education and Science. He made this statement in Canberra in March of last year. His words sum up the Liberal Party’s attitude on this problem of aid to independent schools. Senator Gorton said:
We do not think it either reasonable or right to say to a parent: ‘You are entitled to have your child educated at a Government school at no expense to you, but if you choose to seek something you think preferable - and are prepared to make some sacrifice to support this choice - then even though you ease the burden on the State, you can expect no help at all from the States.’ That is why we help to provide science teaching facilities in all schools in Australia. That is why we provide capital for all school buildings in those parts of Australia under our control. In doing this we see no principle violated. But we see the quality of education improved and the quantity of facilities increased. If there are those who disagree with us, that is their right. But this is the approach that the Government has and will have.
I know, Sir, that independent and church schools are grateful for the assistance they have received from this Government, but further help is urgently required if they are to continue effectively to shoulder the burden of education as they have done in the past. The schools feel that some form of subsidy towards the salaries of lay teachers would be most helpful and I hope that the Government will, when funds permit, explore this avenue.
The Minister has stated that the matter of assistance will be under constant review and I believe that as finance becomes available more assistance will be given. I commend the Minister for his understanding and for his interest in this great problem.
Independent and church schools have rendered a great service to this country. They should not be allowed to disappear.
It is a little over twelve months since the Holt Ministry first took office. Many Australians, accustomed as we all had been for seventeen years to the strong yet benign leadership of the former Prime Minister, felt that with his retirement a void would be created which would be difficult, if not impossible, to fill. They need have had no fear. The work which was started by Sir Robert Menzies has gone on to even greater fulfilment under our present Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the past year has not been an easy one for this country. We have had to face difficult and complex international problems. We have witnessed the beginning of the British withdrawal east of Suez, and Britain’s entry into the European Common Market has become imminent. There has been no lessening of Communist aggression in Asia. The Communists, encouraged by organised demonstrations in this country, in America and other Western countries, have made a mockery of the repeated efforts of the allies to bring peace to war-torn Vietnam. But the past year has, nonetheless, been an exciting one for this country. A new awareness of Australia’s role in Asia has developed. The free nations of Asia realise that Australia will not stand idly bv while the Communists first subvert and then finally take over the small or weak Asian countries.
The present Government realises that, as history has proven, weakness, indecision and vacillation lead only to far greater difficulties. The support that we and others are giving to South Vietnam is not only assisting the people of South Vietnam to withstand Communist subversion and aggression; it is creating a screen behind which a new Asia can emerge in freedom and grow stronger. As the Prime Minister has said, our presence in Vietnam is not a commitment to war, it is a commitment to freedom. But Australia’s role in Asia is not confined solely to the resistance of Communist aggression. Australia is devoting an increasing part of its national resources to economic aid to the under-developed countries of Asia. This is largely because of the broad humanitarian considerations which lead us to do what we can to help people in the under-developed countries. But it is also due to the knowledge that Australia’s own future is intimately connected with that of the neighbouring countries of South and South East Asia. Since the end of World War II Australia has provided approximately $880m in aid to other nations. It is estimated that a further $123. 5m will be added to this total in 1966-67. It will represent an aid contribution this year of about Si 1 for every Australian.
But financial handouts are not, in themselves, the sole answer to our assistance in Asia. Possibly our greatest contribution has been under the Colombo Plan. Besides making available the services of experts in particular fields, we have trained able young men and women at our universities and colleges so that they may return to their own countries and take a leading part in raising living standards. Last year there were some 14,000 overseas students in Australian universities, colleges and schools - no mean effort when we realise the difficulty we have in placing all Australian students wishing to attend a university. As a former member of the staff of Monash University I am well aware of what has been done for tertiary education by this Government. In 1950 we had seven full universities, two university colleges and one post-graduate university. Today we have fourteen full universities and three university colleges. Despite this rapid expansion it is still not possible for every Australian student who gains his matriculation to undertake a university course. This situation must be remedied as soon as possible.
I would like to see the day, in the not too distant future, not only when every Australian student who qualified would be able to attend a university, but also when Australia would become the university of Asia, whence students of all nations could come in even greater numbers than they come now, not only to learn technical skills but also to learn the workings of this great Australian democracy of ours. True, this would mean a further expansion of our university programme, but I have no doubt that the expenditure involved would be repaid many times.
As His Excellency pointed out in his Speech, we in Australia border on a changing Asia. The area to our north is one of poverty, of uncertainty and of political upheaval. We cannot divorce ourselves from involvement with Asia. We are part and parcel of Asia. Throughout our history Australia has made it clear that she will not shrink from her responsibilities. Our commitment in Vietnam is only one proof of our adherence to this, policy. Our assistance to the developing nations of the world is another. The record majority which the Australian people have given to this Government is clear proof that they endorse this policy. But the Government must not, and will not, rest on its oars. Much has been achieved, but much still remains to be done. Let us continue the forward thrust of development and expansion which has given Australia the prosperity which we enjoy today. With history the final judge of our actions, I have no doubt that the 1960’s will be remembered as our greatest years of stability and progress.
– I compliment the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) on his maiden speech. We all know what an experience a maiden speech can be. I may say that throughout his speech he commanded our interest. However, I want to move on to the Speech of the Governor-General, which is the subject of our debate. Specifically I wish to refer to one paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech which made it obvious that he anticipates the formation of some sort of capital investment corporation within this community of ours. This is a very interesting development because it means that the Government has at last conceded that there is enough capital in this country available for developmental projects if the Government is prepared to go about and marshal it. If it is marshalled it will modify the need for the rather heavy inflow of overseas finance which is becoming a problem to Australia.
The Governor-General obviously does anticipate this. He referred to the great new resources being brought into play in the community and then mentioned that the Government favoured Australian participation in the ownership and control of these resources. Well, at last we are arriving at this point of realisation. We are arriving ten years late but at least we are getting there. But this always has been the problem with this Government; we are always a decade late; we are always dragging our heels. Under this Government >ve are always well behind with progressive thinking in the community. This morning, if I could advert to the occasion, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) took great pride in the fact that the Government was doing nothing. This seemed to be a virtue. This seems to be the ethos that surrounds what the Government is doing - or not doing I should say. This is the sort of thing which the Government calls policy - to do nothing. The Minister was speaking about fuel. We are going to have serious problems with the distribution of fuel in Australia. We are going to have serious problems in making sure that there is not wasteful competition and wasteful duplication and that excessive opportunity is not taken by one State or organisation to the disadvantage of another.
This obviously calls for a national fuel policy but the Minister for National Development, under whose portfolio this responsibility falls, completely rejects any such suggestion. We in Australia urgently need a Federal fuel or power commission modelled on the American federal fuel and power commission and its task ought to be to forecast trends in the energy market, to encourage rationalisation, to show where Government intervention can overcome excessive competition and wasteful duplication, and to furnish indicative targets and plans in the fuel and energy market. We are not going to get such a commission at the moment. We will, I suppose, get it eventually, in another decade’s time, when all the damage has been done, when all the wasteful duplication has occurred and all the excessive competition has been built up. Then we will have further problems on our hands unless, of course, we obtain a change of Government. This is the only hope, if we are going to get any sort of dynamic planning in the economy of the country in order to lift it out of the sloppy wastefulness which we seem to see it falling into so much under this Government’s economic policies.
This morning the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said that there was nothing to be concerned about on the subject of foreign investment in Australia. He discovered that there was no important body of opinion concerned about foreign investment at this time in Australia. I can suggest only that the Prime Minister is badly out of tune with the public attitude on this subject. There is a large body of opinion, not only in the Labor Party and organised labour and the people who traditionally support us, which is concerned. There is a large body of people amongst the business community of Australia, the industrialists, the investors, and the people of commerce, which is concerned at the way in which the wealth of Australia is being sold out, and which is concerned about the 25% to 30% of foreign ownership of Australian industry at this time.
Obviously, then, we have needed this investment corporation for some considerable time. We are going to get it now apparently but what sort of corporation are we to get? I sincerely trust that it will be an independent government instrumentality with the sort of independence that the Commonwealth Banking Corporation has. It could easily be funded, as I mentioned when speaking on the Treasury estimates last year, by a modest tax on undistributed company profits before normal taxation is applied. This corporation could operate in the capital issues market. As a government instrumentality it will be a very important organisation to be used as a flexible capital issues control body. It could ensure that investment was directed to the priority growth potential development that has to take place in Australia. The alternative is that if this is to be placed under the control of private financiers - if this is to be a private financial institution - then we are going to see a further consolidation of this unhealthy top heavy investment in the tertiary sector of the economy. Already about 54% of total national investment takes place in this sector. About 60% of national employment is in this sector. Some of this sector is important to our development - health, education and so on - but a lot of it is not; a lot of it is the so-called milk bar sector with which we do not develop growth - the fatty sort of sector. If you are going to concentrate investment in that sector you are going to hold back growth and the future development of this country. If the Government is going to allow this organisation to be a private sort of thing, to be the tool of private entrenched conservative capital in this country, this is what is going to happen.
Make no mistake about it, in Australia at present the commanding heights of capitalism do have tremendous power. They have far too much power. The power held by the multiple interlocking directorates which enable these people at the commanding heights of capital to be virtually outside the economic and particularly the monetary policy of the Government should not be extended because this is not in the interests of the nation’s welfare. The situation in these multiple interlocking directorates at this time is that the classical theory of competitive laissez-faire enterprise does not exist. Rather than the economy regulating the activities of these people, these people are regulating the flow of the economy. In these interlocking directorates you have the financiers, industrialists and people of commerce working together who should normally be separated from one another in their activities. They have this warm chumminess which allows them to get together on boards of separate organisations or corporations. Also, through the interlocking of many corporations they can make decisions which are consciously or unconsciously intended to affect the flow of the economy of Australia because of the wide sector their decisions affect and therefore affect the welfare of every person in this economy. This is something that is serious and this is one of the reasons why, firstly, we ought to be taking action to try to break down this sort of concentration of economic power in the community; and secondly, why we ought to ensure that this investment corporation, when formed, is not another slab of power thrown onto the pyramid of capitalist influence in Australia.
The Australian Labor Party is not opposed completely to foreign investment in Australia. We do not have any narrow, irrational, nationalistic attitude that we can have an entirely self-sustaining economy. This of course is a very happy little myth that has been developed by some members of the Government in an endeavour to avoid trying to knock over the real arguments that we put up against certain forms of foreign investments. To the extent that foreign investment contributes benefits to this community, to the extent that foreign investment is the best source of these benefits, we are prepared to support it. But we make a distinction between direct invest ment used to create new income and produce assets, and direct investment that takes over Australian enterprise. This morning’s ‘Australian’ quotes the case of the British Tobacco Co. (Aust.) Ltd which last year made a net profit of over $4m. I do not have time to quote all the take overs that British Tobacco has carried out since it was established here. But this is a tobacco firm which has moved in and taken over a large number of soft drink manufacturing organisations. It has taken over four snack food production corporations, three meat production corporations and four frozen food and ice cream corporations.
I am going to mention a little later the funding of these take overs from internally raised money - from re-invested profits - and I will suggest to the Government that this is a very expensive way of deriving benefits - benefits which are very dubious anyway. 1 cannot see that there is any growth capacity for the economy of Australia by the introduction of investment in tobacco products by a foreign concern when, after all, it is well established that tobacco smoking is the cause of lung cancer. There has occurred in recent years the take over of fifteen Australian food producers by foreign concerns or corporations. I should like to ask the Government what benefits we derive from this sort of takeover of established industry. Is it claimed that these takeovers release capital into the community where it can be used more efficiently or for a greater remunerative return? If it is claimed that this takes place, I think we are entitled to see the evidence in some sort of report because I strongly suspect that although some of it is re-invested - probably a large proportion of it is released capital - a significant part of it goes into consumption and only adds to the internal problems of the, economy.
– Is the honourable member unhappy that consumption should rise?
– What is the argument of the honourable member for Lilley going to be? Is he going to argue that we should increase consumption at this heavy expense of living today and paying tomorrow, and paying very dearly? I am ready to agree - I am sure everyone here is - that our living standards have been improved by foreign investment; but on the other hand all of this improvement has been at a cost, and we ought to look at those areas where the cost is unnecessary, because it could have been avoided, and is going to be burdensome for us. We ought to look at the possibility of avoiding this cost where we can as much as possible. The investment corporation is obviously one of these areas. But I am looking at the moment at some of the flaws in this argument of the complete virtue of foreign investment - utter and unimpeded foreign investment. It is said that benefit must come to this country as a result of the philosophy of the Government, of an unfettered inflow of foreign investment. Is there any merit in the argument that improved technology is introduced by foreign investment? There does seem to be some evidence of this, but on the other hand we have sloppy standards in too many of our industrial undertakings in this country in terms of management and in terms of productive processes. Of course we have a starved section of industrial research and development. I intend to cite a few points in relation to this in a few seconds in order to make this point. However, the point that I make first is that while we have foreign investment coming into this country improved technology is not being developed internally. We are encouraged to be lazy because the improved technology is coming from outside.
There is no evidence, and the Government is taking no action to see, that domestic technological research and development are taking place in industry. I have not time to quote all of this Swedish bank report, which I have in my hand but it shows that in Sweden expenditure on research and development in industry averages about 1.5% of the gross national product. The report shows also that in specific sectors it reaches as high as 6% to 7%. We have nothing comparable with this in Australia. The ‘Economist’ of 18th December 1965 shows that on a per head basis - the figures are in sterling - expenditure on scientific research in Belgium was £25, in Holland, £40, in France, £35, in Germany, £35, in Britain, £60, in Russia, £65 and in the United States, £95. I have not been able to get the figure on a per head basis for Australia, but judging from some figures I have seen it would be deplorably low. We would be lucky to have an expenditure of £10 per head. With whatever reservations we might like to apply, as we are usually told by economists to apply when we read these sorts of international comparisons, the figures still show a staggering gulf between the insufficiency here and what is being done in other places.
I hope that no-one will quibble about this point, but it is an insufficient contribution in the. field of industrial research in Australia either by industry or in terms of encouragement from the Government. In this regard I am calling as my main witness none other than the GovernorGeneral who said that Australia was open to charges of scientific colonialism in industry. His Excellency said also that efforts had been made unsuccessfully for many years to encourage private enterprise to do more research. In addition he said:
Scientific and technological research will be more and more essential if we are to develop and hold overseas markets in an increasingly competitive world. Australian secondary industry has been slow and reluctant to learn this.
Indeed, it has been slow and reluctant to learn that, as the Governor-General pointed out in his address to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year.
Let me quote to honourable members from the Journal of the Institution of Engineers for June 1965. Dealing with international comparisons the Journal set out the percentages of the gross national product devoted to industrial research and development. The figures show: United States of America 2.75%; United Kingdom 2.5%; Canada 0.85%; Australia 0.6%. It is a deplorably low figure for Australia. The report further states:
Thus the number of scientists and engineers in Australia was 1.7 per 1,000 of population against 2.6 in UK, 4.6 in USA and 6.5 in Russia.
This, of course, introduces another interesting sidelight which I am not going to follow up at this point, namely the deficiencies of our tertiary education system and the insufficiency of financial support being given to the educational system by our central government. The report also states:
Most of the authorities agreed that the attitude of management was responsible for the lack of innovation and technical deficiencies which were noted in many industrial firms.
Why does not the Government, to get over the technological problem which it is always talking about, establish some sort of technological development body which would be prepared to invest in innovations and to encourage innovations within industry in Australia? One of our problems, which is freely admitted by all I am sure, is that we have a small population. There are problems because of the size of enterprise, and problems in funding industrial research. This is why it becomes a responsibility for the central government to invest and to encourage very materially this sort of investment.
Perhaps we ought to look at tax concessions as a way to give some sort of incentive. Canada has given incentives by providing a deduction of 100% of any expenditure incurred for research in a year, whether this be capital or running expenses. An additional 50% may be deducted for increases of both capital and running expenses for research over that incurred in the base year of 1961. There are a number of other innovations which time prevents me from mentioning today. These innovations which have been introduced in Canada promote industrial research in that country.
There is another aspect of foreign investment which I mentioned earlier, namely that of providing investment from retained savings in the country, or from undistributed profits. From 1948-49 to 1965-66 direct investment in this country by foreign investors from unremitted and undistributed profits amounted to $ 1,596m. The total amount of overseas investment for that period, including portfolio investment, was $5,041m. That is about one-third of the total of foreign control developing in this country is internally generated. We ought to look at this. If we remove the portfolio quantity from this total, the amount of direct foreign investment internally generated is a substantial proportion of the total.
Then we have the balance of payments effect, which of course is a subject frequently put forward by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). Let me make a comparison which reveals the detrimental effects inherent or implicit in what is developing in foreign investment in this country in relation to our overseas balance of payments. For the five years to
June 1955 investment income payable overseas was 6.9% of our export earnings. For the five years to June 1965 it had risen to 10.5% of our export earnings. This means that if the time arises when our export earnings are a bit shaky this will cause strains on our balance of payments. If it occurs at a time when our reserves are falling we could get into serious trouble. This trouble could be compounded if our foreign investors, because of pressure at home, decided to repatriate funds in significant lumps. Let us not dismiss this possibility lightly, because already the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain is talking about this. The British Government has set up a special department to observe the outflow of investment that is developing in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, and it has clearly conveyed the impression that when it thinks the time has arisen, it will act to see that repatriation of this investment - at least some of the returns from this investment - takes place. We should consider whether it is worthwhile having foreign investment in our heavily protected economy in circumstances which mean that the: investment is competing with export industries for scarce resources and so pushing up the price and forcing us out of competitive export markets or making it more difficult for us to engage in those markets. I think I should also mention the high tariff levels in Australia. Apart from anything else, they contribute to the sloppiness in management standards which I mentioned earlier. They unnecessarily protect sections of industry in Australia with such high levels as 90% or 100% ad valorem. They protect industries that should be improving their efficiency and production standards. When we raise the tariff levels and allow investments to come into Australia willy-nilly, we are really subsidising the profits of the giant overseas corporations. If the tariff barriers were lower, these corporations would sell their product’s to us from their overseas sources on a lower profit margin than they get by producing behind the high tariff barriers. But we give the corporations this protection.
Another aspect that I want to mention relates to double taxation. Perhaps it would be as well to quote a statement made in this
Parliament on 14th September last by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). He is well known for the amount of work he has done in analysing the flow of money between the signatories to double taxation agreements. He pointed out that, on a conservative estimate, investors in the United Kingdom have saved some $220m on the $859m repatriated to the United Kingdom since the double taxation agreement was entered into in 1946. We do not get much out of these double taxation agreements. I cannot for the life of me see much advantage in entering into them. In terms of the amount we get compared with the amount we send out, we receive very little advantage, and it is a costly advantage if it is merely to encourage some foreign investment into the country.
The result of unfettered foreign capital inflow has been that a concentration of control has developed in important sectors of our economy. For instance, foreign control represents 97% in pharmaceuticals, 96% in petroleum refining and distribution, 95% in oil exploration, and 80% or even higher in minerals. Why has this had to occur? One of the arguments used is that this is necessary in order to get the technological requirements. But the fact that the Government intends to form this investment corporation demolishes much of the value of this argument. Why do we not do as Chile did with the Huachipato steel mill? This was established by using people with the technical ability on a hire and fire basis. India has set up three steel mills, an oil refinery and a drug establishment by hiring and firing the people with the technical knowledge. In this way, it has avoided the need to tie itself in perpetuity to repayments to foreign investors. But Australia is becoming an economic colonial possession of overseas investors. This is unwholesome. It is destroying the future of Australia and the future of our young people.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I first request that you extend to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election to his very important post. I have no doubt that he will discharge his responsibilities in the way they should be. Sir, may I also extend to you my congratulations on your re-election to your important position in the House. I should also like to take the opportunity to thank the electors in Canning for returning me to this place. I take this as a great honour and I accept my responsibility for this very large and important electorate in Western Australia. As I have said before, the electorate covers a vast area, in which enormous developments are occurring at this time, especially in the coastal areas. Secondary industries are developing very rapidly and agricultural areas are progressing, right through to the newly developing eastern agricultural areas. I shall speak about all these matters before I sit down.
During the last year, Australia enjoyed a reasonably good season. Some areas have not yet recovered from the drastic drought that has been with us for two or three years. However, on the whole we have enjoyed a fairly good season. Some areas in my own State have not yet returned to the state of prosperity that they might have enjoyed. However, our conditions should be compared with the conditions of our friends immediately to our north. We read repeated reports, for instance, of the conditions in the great country of India, which has suffered tremendous losses from drought. Even without a drought, India has a tremendous problem in feeding its people, housing them and educating them. It can ill afford to have a drought. People in Australia’s affluent society really need to see the conditions under which others live to appreciate what is happening. Although I have not spent much time in these areas, I had an opportunity to travel through some of India and Pakistan two or three years ago. With this practical experience in mind, I can well imagine what the present situation is.
The development of Australia on sound lines is, of course, most important But let us not forget that we have to the north of us some very good neighbours who need assistance. These countries have the resources within their borders to improve the standard of living, to educate the people and so on. But nonetheless this is a tremendous task and they need the assistance that Australia and other countries can give. This is not really asking for very much. The question is always asked: how do we assist them? I gathered in talking to leaders of these countries that their greatest need is for technical assistance. They have the resources and the manpower but they do not have the technical knowledge. They do not have our technical standards. We may think that our standards of education are not as good as they should be, and I go along with that idea. But in the countries of which I speak 15% or 20% of the people have some sort of education and the balance of the vast population has no education at all. What chance do they have of lifting themselves out of their present situation? This is an important factor. How can the situation be changed? Obviously the problem can be solved only if assistance is provided by other countries, and we can well afford to give this assistance. The Commonwealth Government has now decided to assist the States with teacher training. Perhaps it could consider boosting the assistance so that we may be able in the future to make teachers available to help the countries to our north. This assistance is of major importance and I am sure that the countries I have mentioned would welcome with open arms any teachers that we could send to them.
During the course of his Speech, His Excellency mentioned many internal matters and matters in the field of foreign affairs. He referred to the need to maintain economic stability in Australia. He mentioned also the desired rates of growth if we were to continue to maintain our export levels and our standard of living in Australia. This is a very important point. He mentioned also the productivity in industry. These matters are of imporatance and I intend to say something about them this afternoon. We must continue to export if we wish to maintain our standard of living; indeed, we must increase our exports tremendously. Our capacity to expand production and our ability to sell on satisfactory terms in relation to costs of producttion is the basis on which we must consider the problem. We find that production costs in certain areas are moving up very rapidly.
Among those affected by rising costs are those on fixed incomes. People in areas of production on which we rely for our exports - to a great extent these are those who are engaged in primary industry - are also suffering from cost increases which we are experiencing today. This is one factor that I do not think we can ignore. I believe it was in 1963 that measures were introduced in the Parliament to provide for a superphosphate bounty. By 1966 we found that almost the total amount provided for the bounty had been absorbed by rising costs. This was within a period of three years. That is the situation in Western Australia, and I believe the same situation exists in other States. But this is not the only area in which rising costs have their effect. We find the increase reflected in the price of machinery and in all walks of life, not only in agriculture but even in the building industry. The Government has done much to try to alleviate the cost rise position. It has made money available for research in many fields. It has made great sums of money available for wool research. As I have already mentioned, it has also made money available for the superphosphate bounty. It has provided a subsidy on nitrogen and for an equalisation of the fuel price. It has also made available sums for development, about which I shall speak in a moment.
I propose to refer first to research, which is important. I have said we should perhaps assist other countries. There is no doubt that it is extremely important to us to continue with our research programme at an ever increasing rate. Although I do not do this very often, I should like to refer to a statement made by a very important research gentleman in respect of an area of Western Australia. This relates also to other parts of the Commonwealth. His statement gives some indication of what the situation is in relation to research and he tells us of the sort of returns we might expect to be able to get from money spent on research. He was referring to sheep numbers in Western Australia. Everybody knows of the great increase in acreage that has been developed in Western Australia. If we want to make an economic proposition of sheep farming or any other type of farming we must have stock. This gentleman said:
If the sheep were stocked in 1975 over the increased acreage at present rates, they should number 26 million.
This was referring only to Western Australia.
However, if pasture improvement increases at the present rate and recommended heavier stocking and management techniques are used 51.6 million could be carried. This could not be reached in practice, as it would require either a dramatic increase in fertility or imports from the eastern States to Western Australia at the rate of 1.5 million sheep per annum. As neither is at all likely, a reasonable estimate of sheep numbers in 1975 is 38 million- double the 1965 figure.
He goes on to ask what this means to Western Australia and states:
It means that in 1975 Western Australia will be carrying 13 million sheep below its potential with a consequent loss for wool alone of approximately $47 million per annum, based on an average price for wool of 50 cents per lb.
At the moment in Western Australia there is a group of people who are practical sheep farmers and who are endeavouring to establish a research station to overcome what has been one of our major problems in breeding. I refer to the fertility problem in certain areas in Western Australia. The short statement to which I have just referred shows that if we spent Sim or $2m on research - I am sure this much would not be needed - and we solved the problems which I have mentioned, the return would be tremendous. I do not think it is possible to estimate what the returns are from research and what our research workers have done for us. In many cases they find the answer to our problems, but we do not always find methods of expanding research work or find the money which is required to enable them to continue with their work. But here is a small group of people in Western Australia who are endeavouring to set up a research station to find an answer to this problem and they are experiencing difficulty in finding finance to enable them to continue. It is quite obvious that if they were able to continue and the problem was solved it would be worth millions of dollars to our economy.
Nitrogen is another important substance and another area in which the Commonwealth has helped to reduce costs. I feel that this will be of great importance, not only to the sugar industry in Queensland and to vegetable industries, but also to the general farming community throughout Australia, especially in the coastal areas. J have referred to the equalisation of fuel prices. This is another field in which we have had some alleviation in country areas. Perhaps we will be able to achieve a complete equalisation of prices and remove the present differential of 4d per gallon which people in country areas now have to pay.
I believe it was last year that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced that agreement had been reached with the trading banks throughout Australia on the moneys available for farm development finance in a fund which was known as the $50m Farm Development Loan Fund. This was to be made available on a long term of up to fifteen years and, if necessary, more than fifteen years. If it was found that a certain development project required longer, these terms were to be made available. What disturbs me, and the reason that I raise this subject now, is that a statement was made in the House by the Treasurer in answer to a question on Tuesday, 28th February. He said, at page 157 of Hansard:
During the last few weeks we have had discussions with representatives of the banks about the Farm Development Loan Fund. They have informed us that there appears to be some reluctance on the part of farmers to avail themselves of the benefits of the banking system and to obtain from the fund loans repayable by instalments. Money is available. More than $50m is made available by the banking system. At present something like $9m has been advanced and substantially more- probably about S15m - has in fact been committed. We asked the representatives of the banks to make further inquiries to ascertain why farmers would not take advantage of the development funds so offered. So far the bankers have not been able to find an answer for us.
This disturbs me very much. It is less than three weeks ago that I attended a meeting in my electorate of a group of farmers and other business people. This was quite a large group and the hall was rather full. I feel that from what was said at this meeting and also from letters which I have been getting that it is very difficult to understand the Treasurer’s statement. There are large areas in Western Australia which have not yet been developed.
One of the reasons why I asked in this House originally for this long term money was to help these people to develop properties. Now I find from the meeting to which I have referred and which I use as an example that people are crying out for money and cannot get it. What is wrong? The Treasurer has asked for a report and has asked the banks foi an explanation. Some reports which came to me some months ago suggested that the banks were saying that this money was for drought relief. I was concerned about this suggestion but I had no evidence that this was so until I visited a senior officer of a major bank in Western Australia. One of the first things that he said to me was: ‘You know, sir, our first and our largest commitment in this is to make money available for drought relief. So 1 was convinced that what my constituents were telling me must be correct. I have since had more evidence of this. The bank officer also told me that money could not be provided out of the $50m Farm Development Loan Fund for the construction of buildings on properties. I mention these points because I believe that there is a complete misunderstanding by the banks if this is their attitude. And I have been told that it is.
How does one develop a property? In simple terms the Farm Development Loan Fund of $50m is available for the development of properties. And development includes clearing, fencing, the provision of water supplies and the construction of buildings. Surely all this is development work. Many men are willing to take up vast areas of undeveloped land. They can get to a certain stage of development with their own resources and then they want to expand, so that their properties may be economic units, as was pointed out, I think by the Treasurer when he announced the formation of this Fund last year. I wonder what is wrong with the attitude of the banks to this Fund. I have made considerable inquiries about the position and I intend to make more. Before the Treasurer made the observation which he made the other day and which I have already mentioned, I wrote to a major bank about the matter, but I have not yet received a reply.
We have vast areas of undeveloped land. War service land settlement schemes in similar country in adjacent areas have proved that in selected farming areas if sufficient capital is used individual farmers, if they are afforded adequate opportunities to develop their properties, will produce great wealth not only for themselves but for the nation as a whole. This has been amply proved. There is no question of such development being unsuccessful to a significant degree, though there will always be a very small percentage of settlers who do not succeed. All the evidence that I have obtained in discussions with representatives of State governments and with individuals is that whenever, for one reason or another, a property developed in this manner has had to be sold it has realised considerably more than the total capital invested in it. No security problem arises. Indeed, as I understand the situation, when the Government introduced the insurance schemes that we have in the fields of housing and exports the banks agreed to forego security. So this problem does not arise.
I am disturbed by the situation that I have outlined. I believe that I have a duty to raise it here today so that the Treasurer will at least know that in my part of the world in Western Australia, which, admittedly, is a long way from here, there is urgent need for the money that is supposed to be made available by the Farm Development Loan Fund. I have in my files many letters expressing concern at the fact that farmers cannot obtain funds for development. I believe that a thorough investigation is needed to ascertain why farmers are not taking advantage of the loans that are supposed to be available. Are these loans being offered over long terms, as I understand they should be, or are they being offered only over short terms such as would perhaps have been available in the normal way some years ago? This is an important matter, Sir, and therefore I have spent a lot of time on it.
I now want to deal with several other matters. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) made some reference to shipping and shipping costs this afternoon. When I first became a member of this House I took up the challenge of shipping costs. I stated then that we should change our general system of shipping overseas cargo, both imports and exports. We can see changed methods now coming into use and by 1969 we shall have container services between Britain and Australia. Overseas Containers Ltd will be in business, as the saying is, operating a fleet of container vessels by then. This is very gratifying to me. These vessels will serve three major ports - Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. So I point out to the honourable member for Newcastle that we are making progress in this field. We are attempting to reduce shipping costs. I believe that the container system will do much to reduce them. However, one important aspect of this new development requires careful consideration. On Thursday of last week the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), when answering a question that I bad asked, referred to the proposal by Overseas Containers Ltd to build six large container ships. He stated, among other things:
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 represents an important factor at this stage of our development, Sir. We know that the conference lines now intend to come into the field and provide container services to serve these three major ports. But what of the other ports, especially the outlying ones? This is the important thing. The conference lines at present charge uniform freight rates from all Australian ports to various parts of the world, except for some anomalies that we in Western Australia are trying to sort out. Overseas Containers Ltd will operate its vessels to the three major ports that I have named. What do we in Australia intend to do to provide for container services from other ports to those three ports? We here have an opportunity to do something worth while for Australia. It is our responsibility at this stage to organise facilities not only in the three major ports mentioned but also in other ports. How are we to feed those ports with cargo from the areas immediately adjacent to them? How are we to feed them from other ports all round Australia also? If shippers in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia or the northern part of Western Australia, for example, are to have the full benefit of overseas container services, we must organise suitable container services to feed the three major ports that will be served by the overseas vessels. It is obvious that properly organised arrangements will be needed if the charge for a container that leaves Darwin and goes to Sydney for shipping to Europe is not to be greater than that for a container shipped from Darwin through Fremantle. My friend, the honour able member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), for example, would not wish a container from Alice Springs to attract a higher freight charge than one shipped from Sydney. How are we to develop the necessary organisation to ensure uniform freight charges?
– The provisions of section 98 of the Constitution will allow charges to be regulated.
– My friend has just mentioned section 98 of the Constitution, but I am speaking of the inbuilt costs embodied in freight rates.
– Section 98 of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth power to regulate shipping freight charges.
– My friend is quite right. But we need to organise an effective system for the transport of containers. On the Western Australian coast services are provided by the State Shipping Service. It will have to gear itself to feed container cargoes to Fremantle. The Australian National Line serves Tasmania. It will have to gear itself to feed container services to Melbourne and Sydney. Both this Line and the State Shipping Service operate along the Western Australian coast and serve Darwin. They will have to gear themselves to feed container cargoes to Sydney and Fremantle. We need properly organised internal transport, by means of the railways and other methods of transport, geared to feed container cargoes to the three major ports from which they will be shipped overseas. We must provide services that will move container cargoes from port to port and from factory to port - indeed, from the production line to What I may describe as the point of embarkation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, on 6th September 1961 in this chamber, during the consideration of the estimates for the Parliament, I made a speech in which I suggested that a reference and research bureau for the Opposition in this Parliament was urgently needed and should be established. My suggestion has not borne fruit. I admit, however, that some improvement has been made in the research facilities available in the Parliamentary Library. Despite this, I am still of the opinion that the research and reference facilities available to the Opposition in this Parliament are far from sufficient. I intend, therefore, to reiterate the arguments which impelled me to make my speech in September 1961.
Any statement which suggests that an efficient and effective system of democratic government demands a well-informed, critical and active Opposition would meet with the approval of most sections of the community. It would also be conceded that the form which our system takes should allow for this to be the case. To most Australians a democratic form of government means the right to practise the four freedoms, the operation of the adult franchise, each vote having equal value, and free and secret elections at regular intervals with the Government for the time being consisting of the party or parties receiving the majority support. To different degrees, Australians certainly enjoy all of this.
As our Federal Parliament consists of a Government and an Opposition, it should follow that each is provided with similar privileges and facilities on behalf of the people it represents. However the system adopted in Australia gives to the Government, through its Ministers, far greater facilities and privileges for informing itself and its members than are given to the Opposition. The party elected to government immediately has at its disposal a neutral and efficient Public Service. Each Minister has a department, which is under the control of a departmental head and consists of various sections to deal with such matters as policy, research and administration. Every officer in the department owes loyalty to the departmental head and he in turn owes loyalty to his Minister. Each Minister, therefore, has under his direct control a complete organisation, an organisation which can analyse, evaluate and appraise trends in the particular field covered by its activities. Every policy decision is based on submissions prepared after thorough research. Local and overseas statistics are dissected and examined. The Minister’s every wish, suggestion or query is answered by his departmental officers. The department has at its disposal the most up to date information available.
All of this gives the Government, through its Ministers, a tremendous advantage over the Opposition, an advantage so great as to be unfair. After all. the Opposition party or parties in any Federal Parliament would represent between 40% and 50% of the people, yet the only special staff provided for the Opposition is restricted to the leader and deputy leader in the House and in the Senate. This staff is small and is expected to perform the same duties as are performed not only by one department and its staff but also by the entire staff of the Commonwealth Public Service.
Undoubtedly it will be said that each member of Parliament should be capable of doing his own research and of preparing material for his own speeches. This could be the case if members were allowed to devote sufficient time to this aspect of their duties. However it must be admitted that very few members would survive many elections if they devoted the correct proportion of their time to research, study and preparation. The duties of members - this has been recognised by the informed sections of the community - demand that the greater proportion of their time be devoted to public relations. There are innumerable meetings of political, charitable and service organisations to address, constituents to advise and assist and social Functions to attend. Every member realises that to neglect these matters would mean a very short term as a representative of the people. Votes are won in the electorate, not in this House.
A survey of a cross-section of members of this House shows that between 50% and 80% of their time is devoted to electoral or public relations activities. This leaves very little time for the vastly more important activities of research, analysis of statistics, study of departmental reports and preparation of speeches for delivery in the House. Ministers are certainly called upon to perform the same electoral and public relations activities as are the ordinary members, but they possess the distinct advantage of having a departmental and personal staff to do the necessary research to keep them informed of the latest developments in their specialised fields. On the other hand, the ordinary member has to rely on his own resources and at the same time is expected to have a thorough knowledge of all government policies and functions.
Opposition members seldom know of the ntroduction of Bills amending or introducing legislation prior to the Bills being placed before the House. The details of such Bills are never the property of the Opposition until they have been presented to the House. The debate on Bills is rarely sufficiently delayed to allow an Opposition member to undertake proper research. The end result is that it is very difficult for the Opposition to be as well informed on pending legislation as is the Government. To my mind this creates a very serious fault in the operation of our democratic system. After all, an Opposition represents almost half of the people of Australia, and those people have every right to expect that their representatives will possess similar research facilities and assistance as do members of the Government. This fault needs to be rectified if our democratic way of life is to keep pace with the other ideologies enunciated in various parts of the world. We believe in criticism and freedom of speech. Constructive criticism ensures the proper working of our system but constructive criticism cannot be voiced unless the Opposition is well informed.
What then is the solution of our problem? First of all, we need to decide the functions of an Opposition. These are, I suggest, firstly, to offer an alternative government; secondly, to analyse and criticise government policy; thirdly, to prevent the increase of government by the executive, and fourthly, to safeguard the rights of the people and to be well informed, virile and active. With these points in mind I suggest the introduction of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition. This bureau would be under the direct control of the Leader of the Opposition but would remain an integral part of the Public Service. It would consist of an officer in charge and specialised staff seconded from various departments. Each officer would be responsible for analysing, appraising and evaluating the reports, statistics, statements and policies of three or four departments and a similar number of statutory bodies or commissions. The bureau would also be expected to undertake research and prepare submissions on ideas and suggestions of Opposition members. It would not take an active part in policy discussions of the Opposition and would have no direct access to confidential departmental files or information. However full co-operation should be extended by the departments.
The introduction of an organisation of this nature would ensure that an Opposition would bc greatly assisted in performing the functions I enumerated earlier. It would reduce the Government’s advantage in the field of research and information. It would increase the efficiency of the Opposition and greatly improve its potential as an alternative government. The power of the Executive would be curtailed as each Minister would be compelled to accept greater responsibility for decisions reached. The Executive would be reluctant to widen its power as it would be confronted with a critical analysis of all its regulations, activities and functions. An improvement in the research facilities available to the Opposition would mean a better informed and more active Opposition and would offer increased protection for the rights of the people.
A criticism which may be levelled at the suggestion I have made is that Opposition members would have an advantage over the back bench members of the Government as these would still be expected to perform their own research. This need not be the case. The factual information available to the Ministers could and should be passed on to all Government supporters. As a matter of fact, the introduction of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition would make it imperative for Government supporters to be as well informed as the Ministers because the increased efficiency and knowledge of the Opposition would need to be matched by the Government side.
It is natural that a government which is not opposed by a well informed and active Opposition soon becomes complacent, disinterested and arrogant, the standard of government declines, problems develop and the progress of the nation is drastically hindered. I am certain that the introduction of a research and reference bureau for the Opposition would increase the efficiency and standing of the Parliament, strengthen our democratic system and improve the standard of debate. The creation of a reference and research structure for the Opposition is even more imperative in this Parliament now than it has ever been before.
The House of Representatives, in the Twenty-sixth Parliament, consists of 124 members with only one, the member for the Northern Territory, not having full voting rights. The Government side numbers eighty-two. made up of sixty-one representatives of the Liberal Party and twentyone representatives of the Country Party. The Opposition consists of forty-two members of whom forty-one are representatives of the Labor Party. The remaining member is an Independent. The Government, therefore, has almost double the number of members in the Opposition. Yet the Opposition will be expected to match the Government with well informed speakers in all debates. This is almost an impossibility. The Government now has twenty-six Ministers, each with the facilities of a department at his disposal. Any Minister can, if he so desires, supply any back bench member of the Government with special information on a topic that is under discussion. Opposition members are left to their own resources. “So what?’ honourable members opposite may say: ‘We won the election. Better facilities are among the plums of office. You will have the same advantages when you become a government.’ My answer to this is that in the 1966 election for the House of Representatives, 5,892,327 votes were recorded. Of these, the Liberal Party received 2,291,964 and the Country Party received 561,926, making a total of 2.853,890 for the Government parties. The Labor Party received 2,282,834 votes, the residue of the votes either going to the Democratic Labor Party, the Independents and the Communists, or being informal. Of the total formal votes recorded, the Liberal Party received 40.14% and the Country Party 9.84%, making a total of 49.98% whilst the Labor Party, the official Opposition, -received 39.98%. This means that the Opposition polled only 571,056 votes fewer than the Government, or only 10% less than the total polled by the two Government parties.
An examination of the Senate discloses that of the sixty senators, twenty-eight belong to the Government parties and twenty-eight to the official Opposition, the other four Senate positions being held by two members of the Democratic Labor Party and two Independents. So, for the small advantage of 571,056 votes, the Government gets all the facilities and the Opposition gets virtually none. This state of affairs is noi in the interests of democracy or good parliamentary government, and it should be rectified. I ask the Prime Minister through the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly), who is sitting at the table, to examine carefully the proposition I have outlined today. The future of democracy and of parliamentary government, and the safeguarding of the four freedoms demand that the official Opposition of this Parliament, which represents 40% of the Australian voters, should have special reference and research facilities.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Brisbane Courier-Mail’ yesterday reported that on Tuesday, in the House of Representatives, 1 attacked the International Sugar Agreement. As a result, throughout today’s Queensland Press sugar industry spokesmen are reported as having criticised the statement attributed to me. The ‘Courier-Mail’ reported that I had attacked the Australian Government’s backing of the International Sugar Agreement and that 1 had said that Australia was bankrupting one of its own industries. I made no such statement on Tuesday in this Parliament, nor have I ever made such an irresponsible statement at any time. In fact, I said the reverse. I praised the part a new International Sugar Agreement could play if negotiated. I said, as fc reported in Hansard:
There can be no doubt that if we can negotiate it new International Sugar Agreement it will be a good thing.
As regards the report by the ‘Courier-Mail’ that I had said the International Sugar Agreement was bankrupting the sugar industry, 1 point out that I was not at that point even remotely dealing with the International Sugar Agreement. 1 was dealing with the Japanese Trade Agreement, and I said this:
The time has come to completely expose the nefarious trading operation with Japan which, under present arrangements, is bankrupting thousands of growers and causing untold misery in the sugar towns. . . .
In this same article, the ‘Courier-Mail’ reported me as having said that I blamed neither the Japanese Government nor Mr McEwen. This is another example of misreporting. What I said was:
I attach no blame to the Japanese. The blame must be shared fully by the Federal and Queensland Governments for expanding a prosperous industry with the object of providing Japan with sugar.
Finally, as for the reference by the ‘CourierMail’ to Mr McEwen, what I said was:
I believe, as I have always believed, that the Minister for Trade and Industry is currently doing his best for the industry. He has made a mistake, in my opinion, by backing this sugar agreement-
That is, the agreement with the Japanese - without first paying particular attention to a satisfactory price.
In the interests of all decency and of accuracy of reporting, I hope the Press will at. least retract these incorrect and harmful statements.
-I now call the honourable member for Barton and remind the House that this is the honorable member’s maiden speech.
- Mr Speaker, may I first of all add my congratulations to you on your election to your high office - one which I know you will fill with dignity, ability and impartiality. It is with both pride and humility that I stand in this House as the first Liberal member for Barton for twenty-five years. I am proud because the electoral division I represent is, physically, one of the most beautiful in Sydney. It is also the centre from which many of Australia’s great sporting champions have come. Sir, I have felt for years that Barton is really a Liberal division and so should be represented by a Liberal member.
I stand with humility, Mr Speaker, because I realise fully the almost awesome responsibility that a member of this Federal
Parliament has - the responsibility to serve his country and his constituents to the limit of his possibilities, very often submerging his own interests and energies to the needs of the people he represents. And at this stage, Sir, I should like to pay a tribute to my predecessor in the seat of Barton, who was one of the hardest working local members I have ever known.
The Governor-General, in his Speech in another place, made reference to Australia’s relations with other countries of the world and I should like, if I may, to make some brief comments on this aspect of his speech. It is perhaps trite to say that we live in the most dynamic period in history, but I believe it to be true, Mr Speaker. The world in the last two decades has undergone a greater transformation than at any other similar period of time in its history. Australia’s existence as a nation and, indeed, its justification as a nation, depend upon our understanding of these events and our reaction to them. No more do the old, traditional alliances of the forties and fifties provide a comfortable, stable basis for permanently aligning our country with its traditional friends and groupings.
Africa, that sprawling giant with enormous, untapped natural resources and even greater human resources is groping its way towards what we hope will be eventual democracy and stability. But we have to remember that democracy is a double edged sword. With one edge a people cut away ail that was bad in the past and with the other they carve out a life in which they can develop themselves to the fullest possible extent and, at the same time, make some very real contribution towards their country. The only way to do this, I feel, is to have a government which creates a climate for people to do it effectively. The needs of people vary from country to country, and so do the methods of government. It is impossible to know the needs of a people or to judge their governments while sitting in a comfortable chair m our own country. The governments and the people of Africa need our sympathetic understanding and our technical help where this is invited.
I travelled through the length of Africa some years ago, when the giant was just beginning to awaken and to flex its muscles. I was appalled by man’s inhumanity to man and by the lack of vision of many who could not see or who refused to see what was to happen in the future. There were visionaries then who told me that if Africans had been given the right to vote then they would have elected a predominantly white government, for they respected the white man’s skills in this area of administration. Native leaders told me that the tragedy of Africa was that the natives did not particularly wish to mix in every area with the white man, but they wanted to have the dignity of being able to do so. Many Europeans who had lived in Africa for most of their lifetime said that if the indigenous people were given equality, they would mix with white people for a while, for the novelty of it, but would then settle down to a voluntary separation of their own choice, retaining their dignity at the same time. The countries of Africa have a great respect for Australia, Mr Speaker, and I hope that our country will respond with tolerance and understanding, and with generous aid to African countries who may appeal to us for help.
Europe also, Sir, is a new Europe, whose alliances have changed rapidly in this period of which I speak. Many of us regret the fact that Great Britain has lost some of its prestige and influence, but however much we may regret it, we have to face this. fact. We have also to face the fact that from negotiation and renegotiations of trade and political alliances in Europe will probably come a united, strong and politically viable Europe which will not have to depend upon outside aid for either its defence or economy, and this surely will contribute towards the ultimate stability of the world. This inevitably brings one to consider the role of the strongest nation in the world, and the finest example of free enterprise - the United States of America.
A short time ago I had the good fortune to visit the United States of America on a Smith-Mundt Leader Specialist Grant which allowed me to spend two months in that country conferring with colleagues and studying subjects in my own field of interest. I would like to place on record my appreciation of the United States Government for making these grants available to two members of each of the Western nations each year. I had been in the United States only once before - in 1949 - and I came away with the rather cruel, but at least honest, personal opinion that America and Americans suffered from an almost adolescent desire to be loved. In the interim however I found that America and Americans had undergone a period of intense national and individual introspection from which had come the decision that, in the international sense, it is far more important to be respected than to be loved. This decision, I believe, will be of great significance to Australia and to the other countries of the world.
I have never met a people with as much genuine warmth towards Australia and Australians as have the Americans. This is a nation and a people with whom it is essential and desirable for Australia to have the best possible personal and diplomatic relations and with whom we should and must honour our treaty obligations.
I turn now to the area of the world which is most vital to Australia - the sphere of Asia. This vast, little-understood, area of the world is the one to which, in my opinion, Australia will have to devote most of her thinking and energies in the future. No person who has travelled through Asia and has made an effort to know and understand its peoples could fail to be impressed by them and by the enormous, untapped potential that exists there. Nor, I think, could anyone help but be saddened at the lack of opportunity many Asians have to develop themselves in the economic sense. So many times I have seen Indians who spent their whole lives sleeping on the footpaths at night, with their total worldly possessions wrapped in a tiny parcel. Before they lay their pieces of hessian down on the footpath as their bed for the night, they took from their meagre belongings a brush with which they swept spotlessly clean the footpath on which they were going to sleep. They were up early in the morning washing themselves and their clothing under the communal tap in the street. The human resources in India are great. The natural resources are also great and I cannot but feel that with the right, vigorous leadership, this country will develop into a truly great nation.
Our problem, Mr Speaker, and one which our Department of External Affairs has tackled with great skill, is to think of the problems of these countries of Asia in terms of their own thinking. In India, to give but a primitive example, an Indian thinks that a Westerner who has a bath twice a day is filthy, because he sits in the same water as that in which he washes his face.
I would wish that every member of Parliament could visit Djakarta, for I feel that our administrators should be enabled to see for themselves the extraordinary difficulties in gauging the thought processes of the people with whom they have to deal. I was driven along the main street of Djakarta by the side of the canal which runs down the centre of the street. People were washing their clothing and themselves in water which was the colour of thick mud. I said to the driver, who was a man with higher than average intelligence in that area: ‘Would it not be unhygienic for people to be washing that way in that muddy water?’ His reply was: ‘Oh no, sir, the water must be clean. It comes from the mountains.’ This was fairly typical of the outlook of so many people with whom I talked. I ask this House to realise and appreciate the difficulties under which our people in Indonesia labour and the appallingly primitive conditions under which some of them have to live.
I pay a sincere tribute to our representatives abroad, not only in Indonesia, but in the other fifty odd countries which I have visited or lived in. With very few exceptions they are giving dedicated and devoted service to Australia and I am proud of them. My point is one that has been made by others, but bears repetition. People in Australia tend to think of all Asian problems - indeed, problems in other countries - by their own standards. I talked with people in Istanbul, the sprawling, fascinating centre of commerce in Turkey. Most of the cartage of imported goods is done in this city on the backs of men who make their living as human carters and are permanently stooped as a result. Importers have consistently asked Australian suppliers to pack their goods in boxes of a size and weight to allow them to be carried on these men’s backs. But I was shown vast stacks of goods in cases far too large to be carried on the porters’ backs. So they were left on wharves and in sheds and we lost important market opportunities. 1 would not like you to think, Mr Speaker, that I look at Asia merely as a potential market for Australia. Far from it. I look upon this area as one to which Australia can make a valuable contribution in the field of political and technical skills. This is a field in which we should, and are, trying to fill needs, rather than create demands. Australia is in a unique position in this regard, for we are a people who have no colonial ties or ambitions and we are a people who have very real religious tolerance. On the one hand, the Asians have a Red China, extolling the philosophy of world revolution and preaching the doctrine that power comes out of the mouth of a gun. On the other hand is Australia, together with America and the other treaty signatories, who seek to guarantee Asia its freedom and who ask nothing in return. This places us in a unique position, and one which I know Australia will treat as a sacred trust.
While on this subject of making a contribution towards the welfare of Asian peoples. Sir, may I be so bold as to suggest that one of the ways I believe Australia can make a most valuable contribution towards these countries, and also, incidentally, earn much goodwill from their peoples, would be to equip hospitals, to be known as the ‘Australian Hospitals’, in these countries. Most of these countries have the resources to build hospital buildings, but the equipping of them is a very real problem. By doing this I believe we could reap a harvest of goodwill far beyond the value of our contribution.
On a visit to Hong Kong I stood and watched long, four abreast queues of refugees from Communist China slowly shuffling forward to get a ration of potatoes, rice and flour which was shovelled into a bag or bucket which they dragged quickly away as though they had been given diamonds. They had escaped from this Communist Garden of Eden at great risk to their lives, for they had found, as have many other people, that this ostensibly humanitarian philosophy had been replaced by the naked lust for power that has characterised Communist governments the world over.
While on the subject, Mr Speaker, I would like, if I may, to speak briefly about a visit I paid to East Berlin, East Germany, Poland, Moscow, Czechoslovakia and Hungary - the so-called Iron Curtain countries of Europe. I feel I would be failing in my duty to these people, and to my own country, if I did not take this opportunity to pass on some of my personal observations of these countries and their people, because they are such an important part of this East-West dialogue which so vitally affects Australia. Those who have been fortunate enough to visit both West and East Berlin as individuals, and not, I emphasise, as part of escorted delegations or tour parties, will have been appalled, as 1 was, by the difference between the prosperous, largely reconstructed, bright and friendly Western portion of this great city, and the impoverished, still largely ruined, drab and frightened city of East Berlin. Anybody who visits both sides of the Brandenburg Gate realises that the Wall was built to keep people from Eastern Europe from escaping to the West, and not vice versa, as the Communists naively tried to maintain. And anybody who visits East Berlin and the unfortunate countries of the Eastern bloc can sympathise with the people for risking their lives to escape from the type of brutal dictatorships under which they are forced to live. The poverty, fear and lack of consideration of the individual’s rights are constituent parts of these people’s lives, and it is a frightening atmosphere to a visitor from our affluent and free Western countries. 1 can recall in Moscow approaching scores of people in the streets and saying to them: T am an Australian. Do you speak English?’ As you probably know, Mr Speaker, the Russian word for ‘no’ is .-I -I, Anybody who has been to Russia or the United Nations, will never forget the word; it is used so often. I would not have minded if the people I approached in Moscow had just replied: ‘No’ or ‘Nyet’, as they would in most countries, of the world if they did not speak English, but the manner in which their reply was made - a frightened ‘Nyet, nyet, nyet’ - made it quite obvious that they were scared of being seen talking to a Westerner. The only people who would speak to one in the streets were young people, and in them I see the salvation of the Russian people, as far as their relationship with the West is concerned. In my opinion it is not possible to give to Russian youth at the universities translations of erudite papers from the West giving details of great scientific and medical discoveries and still maintain the pretence that these momentous researches and discoveries are the product of a decadent and corrupt West.
But we do wrong, Mr Speaker, if we think that the Russian people are near to revolt: they are far from it. They have a Slavic fatalistic acceptance: they dislike the system under which they live, but feel that if they behave themselves their children and grandchildren will find things a little better than they do. The Russian people also have a deep religious sense, and it is saddening to see the cynical way in which ostensible freedom of religion is used for the purposes of external propaganda. I feel that one of the things which puzzles an individual visitor to Russia is that the Russian people, who are great talkers, never talk on trains, but just sit and read a book, or just sit silently, with no conversation. And, again, in a quiet street, if two people are walking along talking avidly, they cease their conversation as one approaches and then continue it after one has gone well past them. I asked people I finally met about this and several times I was told a story which they said demonstrated the attitude of these people, lt seems that two Russians were standing looking at a big American car. The first Russian said to the second: ‘What a beautiful Russian car. The second said to the first: ‘Huh, don’t you know an American car when you see one?’, and the first man replied: ‘Yes, but I don’t know you.’ This is a very real attitude, and one that saddens and depresses a visitor to one of their great cities.
In Czechoslovakia 1 had the rare privilege of working for a short while with their antiCommunist underground movement, and I was filled with admiration by the risks the people are daily taking to keep alive in their people, particularly in their children, the ideals of religion and democracy. In Hungary, Sir, 1 was both surprised and relieved to find that the revolutionary forces to whom 1 spoke at secret meetings had no feeling of bitterness towards the West for not helping them more in their revolution. They said they realised that this may have started a world war and that the fault was their own because when they had their first battle won they spent the next few days in celebrating instead of regrouping their forces and re-building their lines of communication. It is still a very sad country, but in each of these Iron Curtain countries the people asked me to convey one thought to the people of the West: they are appalled every time they hear of an eminent Westener making the statement that since the last war several thousand million people have embraced Communism. Their plea to me was twofold, firstly to make our people realise that, far from embracing Communism, they have, in their turn, been embraced - cruelly embraced - by it, and they cannot get out of this suffocating embrace. Secondly they asked me to request our people in the West to talk about their plight, to think about them, and to pray about them. We must have diplomatic relations with the Governments of these countries but let us realise that the ultimate Communist aim is still world conquest, and that their people are still living under the greatest repressive imperialism that the world has ever known.
The role that Australia can play, Mr Speaker, in this extraordinarily complex and exciting new world which is springing up around us is a complex one but also a vital one. We need to build up our population as quickly as we can; we need to develop our natural resources so that they become not potential, but real assets; we need to find new outlets for our primary and secondary industries; and we must build with our Asian neighbours a relationship which is built upon mutual respect and co-operation - something to which our Prime Minister and our Minister for External Affairs have contributed enormously by their visits to Asian countries and their conversations with the leaders and the people of those countries. And more than any of these things, we must develop an understanding of the hopes, aspirations and needs of the people themselves.
My constituents of Barton would wish me to mention to the House two of our very great problems in my area. One is the problem of the erosion along our vast beachfront, and the other is the urgent need for adequate postal facilities in the Sans Souci area. But as I have spoken to the Ministers concerned, who are giving mc every co-operation with these problems, I shall not take the time of the House with them.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, in answer to the honourable members opposite who have been giving Job’s comfort to me and my fellow new members on the Government benches, on the grounds that we may sit for only one term in this House, may I quote the words of the grand old American philosopher, William Allen White, who said, on his 83rd birthday:
I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday - and I love today.’
Sitting suspended from 5.33 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I begin by adding my good wishes and congratulations to those of honourable members who have referred to the election of the Speaker in this House. The Speaker of the Federal Parliament has a very grave responsibility, and I am sure that those who have chosen the Speaker from the other side of the House have done so with this fact in mind. Naturally, the Opposition does not wish the Speaker a long term of office, but it certainly wishes him well while the Government occupies the Treasury bench. 1 would also like to join with those honourable members, from this side of the House, particularly, who have referred to the speeches that have been delivered by newly elected members of this Parliament. 1 have had the opportunity of listening to some of them and I have found them to be forceful and constructive. I am sure that the speeches have been delivered in the spirit of making a contribution to this Parliament. I know that it is always an ordeal for a new member to deliver his first speech in this Parliament. In a sense I find myself in much the same position because this is the first speech that 1 have made since I was elected to a position of seniority in my Party. To those who have delivered their maiden speeches during the course of this debate I wish, if not a lengthy term in this Parliament, then a constructive one. I am sure that the contributions to the Parliament of honourable members who are supporters of the Government will be delivered in the spirit that one would expect.
The Governor-General’s Speech outlined very broadly three areas of Government policy: foreign affairs, defence and domestic issues. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) amplified the Government’s external policy in a lengthy statement which was delivered in this House on Tuesday night. I shall reserve my remarks on this area of the Government’s policy until I have the opportunity to speak during the debate on the Minister’s statement. Tonight I wish to speak briefly on certain aspects of the Government’s defence policy and on some of the domestic issues referred to in His Excellency’s account of Government policy.
I am sure that honourable members were impressed with the list of defence hardware outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. After a long period of neglect in which Australia’s armaments were allowed to run down to an alarming degree, a start is being made to bolster our defence forces by the orders which the Government hastily placed overseas in the early 1960s. I note that two new Charles F. Adams destroyers have joined the fleet and that a third will be added this year. The Navy is to be augmented by four new Oberon submarines, by new Tracker and Skyhawk aircraft and ultimately by twenty patrol boats. The Air Force is to get Mirage jet fighters from France, the legendary Fill aircraft from the United States of America and Macchi jet trainers from Italy. The Army will spend $48m on additional capital equipment. This awesome list of armaments is prefaced by a statement which must strike Australian industry as a telling piece of irony. I quote from the text of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech:
An active defence research and development programme, and an efficient production organisation, support these forces. Provision has been made in the three year programme for new capital construction and for modernisation of existing facilities in these production and research establishments.
The reference is correct in its application to organisations such as the Defence Standards Laboratories and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. But to what extent has the Government used these organisations in its defence build-up? The significance of such establishments has been minimal by comparison with the overwhelming emphasis placed by the Government on overseas armaments and defence research.
The plain fact is that the Government has frozen out Australian industry from its defence supply and re-equipment programme. Last year the Opposition raised the question of the serious neglect of Australian industry in the defence programme. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the former member for Kingston, Mr Galvin, led a notable debate which bared the dissatisfaction of Australian industry with the attitude of the Government and the emphatic bias towards American suppliers of defence equipment. The Government has done nothing in the interval to allay the misgivings of local industry. Now we have the anomaly that Australia is backing the American effort in Vietnam using equipment which is predominantly American. The Government has failed to initiate a strong civil aid programme which could draw heavily on the capacity of Australian industry.
In the Inst war and until the end of the Korean War Australia’s defence was sustained by highly efficient and well developed defence industries. However, the Government allowed these industries to run down and wither away, at the same time as it allowed our defence forces to rot away. When the Government was spurred to reactivate Australia’s defences a bare five years ago, it found that defence supply had deteriorated to such a degree that it had to order equipment off the shelf overseas, mainly from America. We remember that when the Government decided to order equipment from the United States a great deal of it was purchased, as honourable members opposite described it, on tick. Inevitably this has produced increasing integration of Australia’s defence effort. This has accurately been described by an Australian defence correspondent as ‘Plugging in to the US’.
The Government has made no serious effort to stimulate on a major scale defence supply and procurement industries in Australia. Even orders for items, such as electronics, building materials and bedding, which could have been supplied readily by Australian industry, have gone repeatedly to American companies. Australian tenders have been ignored. To an overwhelming extent the Government has underwritten the interests of American industry in Australian defence supply at the expense of Australian industry. Let us consider the items of military hardware listed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Most of these armaments are bought from America. In future years refitting, modernisation and improvement of this equipment will mean a further heavy flow of benefits to American industry. This means we are subsidising the defence supply component of American industry at the expense of our own industry. Australian industry will be denied the immense benefits which flow from defence research and production to the whole range of domestic industry.
Another effect of this accelerating integration of our defence effort with that of America is that Australia’s defences will harden rapidly into stereotyped patterns. Our defence system will become inflexible because we must always act in concert with America which maintains and sustains our armaments. This ultimately denies Australia flexibility of response in its foreign policy. It cripples Australia’s external diplomacy and destroys the independence Australia must retain if it is to perform the decisive role it should play in South East Asia. This is the most shameful facet of the Government’s heavy arms build-up in recent years. Ultimately the Government’s neglect of local industry must be tragedy for Australia. 1 turn now to the Government’s domestic policy, if such a term can be applied to the pitiful state of measures listed in the Governor-General’s address. My criticism of the Government’s inadequacies are directed on four main grounds. Firstly, it is impossible to censure too severely a government whose avowed legislative programme ignores national health. Secondly, the Government shows unwarranted complacency in its attitude to education. Thirdly. the Government’s housing measures are insufficient to stimulate a respectable level of home ownership. The Government by default has failed to act to remove violent fluctuations of activity from a sector whose vibrations are transmitted throughout the economy. Fourthly, the Government’s social welfare measures are demonstrably inadequate to counter deprivation and hardship in increasing sections of our society. I find the Government’s bland disregard of measures to improve our health and hospital services impossible to understand or excuse. Labor has long urged a comprehensive national health scheme for this country. It has advocated also a series of urgent improvements in benefits covering medical services, hospitals, dental services, drugs and therapeutic services. 1 need not refer to debates that have taken place in this Parliament and which have referred to the refusal of this Government to recognise the need to incorporate in the Government’s medical scheme treatment for those who require the services of optometrists or ophthalmologists. The Government has repeatedly ignored the requests that have been made to it not only by honourable members on this side of the House but by those who represent organisations outside. These are areas of the sort :n which the Government should be legislating, yet we find Australia’s health services still in the hands of an incredible potpourri of funds and benefit societies which compete actively against each other.
The two major funds, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd and the. Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, have steadily increased their immense assets and reserves. Their wealth, for example, is emphasised by the decision last year of the Hospitals Contribution Fund to buy a $40,000 aircraft for ils executives to use on official business. Our whole system of health insurance is incredibly incompetent and wasteful. Furthermore, it is financed by a voluntary contribution system which falls regressively on those in the lower income brackets. If taxation deductions are considered, net contributions paid by those in the higher income groups are considerably lower than those in the lower income groups. This is an area where the Government should bc working to reform, rationalise, and co-ordinate the wasteful accumulation of funds and societies into one comprehensive national system.
The apathetic attitude of the Government extends also to education. In this House last week I gave notice of motion calling on the Government to hold an inquiry into primary, secondary and technical education. My motion also called on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Martin Committee on teacher training. I urge the Government to allow the House to debate these vital measures at the earliest possible opportunity. The view of the Labor Party is that only a full-scale inquiry can determine the needs of Australian education and allocate priorities for removing inadequacies and revitalising our education. The great mass of Australian educators have backed our call for a national inquiry, but the Government is no nearer to heeding our warnings. The requirements of Australian education are poorly documented. The most recent published report of the Australian Educational Council was the report for 1963 which was printed not by this Government but by the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation as a pamphlet called ‘Some Needs of Australian Education’. This contained a valuable statement of statistics, background information and recommendations of the national needs of Australian education. But this document is now sadly outdated. I urge the Government as a service to educators to release the 1967 report of the Australian Education Council, held early in February, as an interim guide on Australia’s eductional needs. But this can be only a short-time remedy until a national inquiry is held to evaluate our primary, secondary and technical education.
I would suggest that Australia is on the threshold of a unique educational opportunity in raising the quality of its education. This Government has consistently refused to measure up to these requirements. I refer to a quarterly economic survey published by Dr A. R. Hall of the Australian National University in the ‘Financial Review’ on Tuesday, 21st February. According to Dr Hall population pressures on primary and secondary schools in the immediate years ahead will be much less than they were in the past ten years. Dr Hall says:
Providing the community is willing to spend relatively freely on teacher training for a few more years there are prospects for an immediate improvement in the quality of educational services.
This emphasises the point the Labor Party wants to make about the adoption of the Martin Committee report on teacher training - that if teacher training is improved and extended, the opportunity exists for the enrichment of our educational systems because there are indications of an easing of population pressure on educational facilities. This is an opportunity which the Government should not let pass and I urge it to capitalise on the opportunity by raising standards of teacher training. This can be done only by implementing the Martin Committee recommendations; by devoting additional resources, both State and Commonwealth, to recruiting and training teachers; by increasing the minimum length of the period of training to three years for all teachers; by professionally training teachers for all schools, government and nongovernment; and by making teacher training colleges autonomous institutions. I want to refer briefly to the present plight of the universities following reductions made by the Government in the expenditure recommended by the Australian Universities Commission for the 1967-68 triennium.
– What about the reduction by the States? Answer that point.
– On one level these reductions have meant higher fees at most universities. The honourable member who interjects so persistently comes from Tasmania, whose university is now in extreme difficulty because of the lack of finance. But what does the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) do about it? He does nothing. He does nothing in this Parliament and he does nothing outside of it. Let me return to my point about higher fees at most universities and the paring down of staff, courses and facilities. This process is certain to continue over the next three years unless the Government restores its grants to the level advocated by the Commission. On an even more serious level is the stupid deadlock between the Federal Government and the State governments over the payment of grants for post-graduate research. It is not easy to apportion accurately the blame for this wrangle. The Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) has outlined the case for the Federal Government in another place. Doubtless the State governments are equally convinced of the merits of their stand. But the net result is a national tragedy for postgraduate research. At a time when all the world’s advanced nations are channelling increasingly vast amounts into research, Australia has cut back by almost one-half its programme for post-graduate study, which is the basis of science, technology, tertiary education and industry. Postgraduate research is the cradle of technological and sociological progress. I urge the Government to exert all its efforts to resolve its differences with the States ami to ensure that ample funds flow to postgraduate research.
I want to touch briefly on housing. The Government’s liberalisations of the homes savings grant scheme are appropriate. But 1 suggest that the Government should have a close look at the basis of the grant. The grant was fixed by the Government’s election policy of 1963 at $500 for each $1,500 saved. The value of this grant as an did to young couples seeking their own home was soon eroded by soaring prices for land and home building. The Government implicitly recognises this in its proposal to raise the maximum value of the home and land from $14,000 to $15,000. But the problem posed by inflation on land and home values could have been tackled more usefully by adjusting the basis of the grant and raising its value. For example, a grant of $800 could be made for each $1,600 saved. This would mean a slight increment in the amount of money to be saved before the grant could be made, while adjusting the basis of the grant from $1 for S3 to $1 for $2. This would be a more realistic approach in the light of appreciation of land and home values, and it would serve as a valuable stimulus for home purchases.
It is a broad principle of the Labor Party’s policy that social services should provide a basic benefit which is sufficient to give a minimum income to all who are in need. This basic benefit should be available to all who need it without condition or limitation such as a means test. Judged by this criterion, the Government’s measures to improve social services are extremely meagre. The Government has announced a very minor liberalisation of the means test. I would like to see the Government make this hesitant step a prelude to a great rethinking of its attitude to poverty and deprivation. Sociologists are just beginning to document and assess the problem of Australian poverty. Their estimates of the number of Australians who live in poverty as a result of ill health or social disability range from 500,000 to 800,000. These are the people who slip through the network of present social services or who suffer unjustly from delays in receiving benefits. There is immense scope here for Government initiative, for measures such as rent allowances for large families, for increased aid for the care of the infirm, blind and crippled and rehabilitation of the disabled, for household help and maintenance allowances for deprived families, and for Government grants to the many charity services that are at present conducted admirably but inadequately on a voluntary basis. These are the ways in which a Labor government would wage war on poverty and deprivation.
I have sought, Mr Deputy Speaker, to indicate to the Government vital areas where its policies are sadly defective. I have tried to give some broad ideas about how a Labor government would work to remedy these deficiencies. The Government’s aridity in domestic policy shows up strikingly in the Governor-General’s Speech. An immense amount remains to be done in this country in relation to science and technology, education, social welfare, housing and a host of other fields. The Government was elected on a policy that was weighted heavily towards foreign affairs and in particular Vietnam.
– It was pretty successful.
– The Government has a huge majority in this House. Let me say to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and to the Government that I hope the Government will not interpret its mandate in such a way that it will ignore the needs for vigorous and constructive domestic policies.
– I call the honourable member for Sturt. I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am doubly honoured in having been elected to the Parliament and in having an opportunity to speak in this debate. For many years the electorate of Sturt has been represented by my father. 1 am fully conscious of the high standards that were set by him in the representation of the electors of Sturt and in his advocacy and support of policies that were designed to further the wellbeing of the people of Australia. I will do my utmost to serve this Parliament in a like manner. I join with those who have spoken before me in this debate in congratulating Mr Speaker and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your election to those high offices. I support the proposal that this
House thank His Excellency for his Speech to the Parliament and place on record its loyalty to our Sovereign.
In the Speech he delivered on the occasion of the opening of this, the first session of the Twenty-sixth Parliament, His Excellency observed that ‘Australia is enjoying a sustained period of stability and economic progress’. He said that the Government is committed to policies that are ‘aimed at maintaining economic stability and furthering welfare and economic growth’. For the last eighteen years a Liberal-Country Party Government has implemented policies which have permitted the economic growth of the nation. The growth rate has outstripped the rate at which the population has increased, with the result that the standard of living has improved significantly. The real value - the purchasing power - of wages has increased and there have been improvements in ancillary benefits such as long service leave and annual leave.
Today there are more houses per head of population than there were eighteen years ago. There are more motor cars, telephones and radios. The houses, motor cars, telephones and radios that have been built or manufactured during those years have, on the whole, been of a standard higher than those built or manufactured earlier. Television has been introduced and television sets are to be found in many homes. Such household aids as refrigerators, washing machines, hot water systems, electric food mixers, petrol driven lawnmowers and other domestic labour saving devices which a generation ago were regarded as being luxuries are deemed to be essentials today. The steady yet dramatic economic progress which has been made has enabled the Government to embark upon the development of a comprehensive social security programme. The Government has properly concentrated its attention upon the areas of greatest need. Firstly, it has constantly reviewed the real value of the benefits provided. After needs have been assessed in the light of the ability of the economy to pay, pensions have been increased from time to time. Whereas in 1949 the pension of a single age pensioner represented 34% of the basic wage, today a rent paying single pensioner receives a pension which is equal to 45% of the basic wage. Secondly, by progressive liberalisation of the means test the Government has increased the proportion of persons qualified by age, illness or widowhood who are eligible to receive a whole or part pension. In 1939, 37% of all persons of pensionable age were receiving a whole or part pension; today the proportion is 53%.
I was pleased to hear His Excellency say that the Government proposes to introduce legislation which will further liberalise the means test as it applies to age, invalid and widows’ pensions. Despite the extensive liberalisation of the means test which has occurred under the LiberalCountry Party Government, the application of the present means test in determining pension entitlement penalises thrift by raising artificial barriers to individual incentive and initiative. The first such barrier arises because the means test discourages savings beyond that arbitrary amount above which pension entitlement is reduced below the maximum pension payable. There are many persons whose pension entitlements are reduced by virtue of their thrift. No tax concession is granted to those making provision for the future by direct personal savings. The prudent investor cannot expect an income yield of $1 for every $10 of capital. Many part pensioners retain control of their capital in preference to purchasing annuities, and as a result their actual income is reduced by an amount greater than the reduction in pension entitlement. Other persons who would otherwise have made direct personal savings are discouraged from doing so.
Then there is a second barrier. The means test discourages those who provide for retirement through superannuation funds by making contributions that will entitle the contributor and his wife to an income in excess of $14 a week, or the survivor to an income in excess of $7 a week. I was pleased to hear His Excellency say in his Speech that legislation is to be introduced to increase these amounts to $17 a week and $10 a week respectively. As long as we have the situation in which pension entitlement is reduced by $1 a week for each $1 a week provided by superannuation funds above the figures I have just mentioned, there is very little incentive to make this kind of provision, and when people are compelled to make it they are resentful of the requirement that they make what seems to them to be a double provision. I urge the Government to keep the situation under constant review so that the penalties on thrift arising as a direct result of the operation of the means test may be removed as soon as possible.
I do, however, pay tribute to the Government for the progress so far made. The Government has not only alleviated much of the hardship caused by the severe means test that was applicable when the Government came to office; it has also paid attention to special needs. It has recognised that while two cannot live as cheaply as one. they can, if living together, live more cheaply than if living separately.
The Government has also appreciated the special situation of widows with dependent children. For a time, whilst attention was focussed on the means test as it operated in respect of age and invalid and widows’ pensions, the special financial needs of widows with dependent children were overlooked. Much has been done to alleviate the situation. Subject to the operation of the means test, such a widow is now entitled not only to a basic pension but also to a mother’s allowance and an increased additional pension for each dependent child. A widow may, without affecting pension entitlement, have a permissible income of S7 a week plus S3 a week for each child. The proposed increase of permissible income for such a widow from S7 to $10 a week will further assist many widows who wish to work both to supplement their incomes and to provide themselves with social contacts of which they would otherwise be deprived.
Members on this side of the House believe in adequate provision not only for the aged, the invalid, the widowed, the sick and the unemployed, but also for the children. We believe in the establishment and maintenance of an Australia in which family life is seen as fundamental to the wellbeing of society, and in which every family is enabled to live in and preferably own at reasonable cost a comfortable home with adequate amenities. Through the Governor.General’s Speech the Government reaffirmed its belief that home ownership is in the interests both of the individual and of the community, and that it wishes to encourage more young people to save so as to own their own homes after marriage. Much has already been done in pursuit of “iese objectives so that today Australians are among the best housed peoples of the world. Contrary to the allegation of the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) Australia has a most respectable level of home ownership.
The Government has recognised the fact that the need to purchase a house does nol always arise at the time when the necessary financial resources are available to the family concerned. Commonwealth assistance in fulfilling this need has been provided through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the war service homes scheme, and more recently by means of the homes savings grant scheme and the housing loans insurance scheme. These latter two schemes are in their infancy. Both are designed to assist home purchasers to bridge the deposit gap or the difference between the maximum long term uninsured loans available from lending institutions and the cost, of a dwelling. The operation of these schemes has revealed a number of technical difficulties which cause hardship and limit their effectiveness. I am delighted to see that attention will be paid in the Commonwealth’s programme to the removal of these technical difficulties. The operation of the two schemes thus far has provided adequate evidence of their potential for the provision of further assistance to enable young couples to purchase a comfortable home with comfortable amenities at reasonable cost.
It is common ground that an increasing population is an essential element of Australia’s programme of national development. Recent figures reveal that a rise in the rate of increase in population as a result of immigration was offset by a decline in the rate of natural increase. There are, no doubt, many causes for such decline, but it is not always the most obvious cause which is the most deep-seated and which is likely to be the most lasting. Over recent years some important structural changes have occurred in the nation’s economy. If the nation’s population is to be increased at the optimum rate, we must ensure that efforts to increase the migrant intake are not offset by a decline in the natural increase caused by a failure to appreciate the structural changes that are taking place in the economy.
Firstly, there has been a significant change not merely in the number in the work force but also in its composition. The strong prejudice that formerly existed against the employment of women, and particularly married women, has been broken down. There has been a higher average annual increase in the female work force than in the male work force. Between 1947 and 1961 the female work force increased at the rate of 2.8% per annum, whereas the growth rate of the male work force over the same period was 1.8% per annum. Between 1954 and 1966 the proportion of women in civilian employment to the total in such employment increased considerably. Over that period the increase in civilian employment of women was from 25.9 in every 100 employed to 30 in every 100 employed. It is especially interesting to observe that married women accounted for the major part of this increase. Since 1961 the Bureau of Census and Statistics has been carrying out a work force survey. By applying the information obtained from the sample dwellings visited to the total population of the six capital cities, it appears that the rate at which men and women over the age of fifteen years participate in the work force has shown a steady increase, due mainly to the fact that an increasing number of married women between the ages of twenty and forty-four are in employment or seeking employment. Between 1961 and 1966 the number rose from 31.3 in every 100 to 37.8 in every 100. It is both interesting and significant to find that 85.3 out of every 100 single women in the same age group participate in the work force.
Secondly, there has been a tendency for many types of wage differentials to decline. There was a time when a teenager received in wages an amount considerably less than an adult. This differential was in part the consequence of the teenager’s lack of skill and experience, but in part was due to account being taken of the fact that the teenager generally had no dependants to support. Over recent years, the differential between the female wage and the male wage has been reduced. In some places, the principle of equal pay for equal work has been accepted; in others, there is positive agitation for it. As the differential between the adult male wage and that of the teenager and adult female is reduced to the point where it merely makes allowance for differing skills, the man supporting a wife and family is at an increasing disadvantage. Unless they are encouraged to save by incentive schemes teenagers, not having experienced the responsibility involved in supporting a family, have little appreciation of the need to adopt a savings plan designed to maintain their families at the standard to which, by their rate of expenditure whilst single, they have become accustomed.
Statistics reveal that most young couples are employed at the time of their marriage. Each is in receipt of an income equal to or not much below the income of an adult male employee who is supporting a wife and family. Each has grown accustomed to a standard of living based upon available spending money. In purchasing a house and its amenities they assess the weekly cost of their purchases in terms of the two incomes being received at the time, only to find that when the first child arrives the family income is reduced by the loss of the wife’s income and is not offset by maternity benefits, child endowment and tax concessions now given. As a result, the financial pressures force the young couple to lower their standards of living. Their income is reduced at a time when their needs are greatest.
Mr Deputy Speaker, if the nation’s social security programme is to be developed and made more comprehensive, it is important that every effort be made to ensure that the standard of living of a family with children compares well with that of a single man or woman. As more women enter the work force and as wage differentials decline, this objective must be achieved not by altering earnings but by an extension of the nation’s social security programme. It is desirable that the social security programme be developed so that men and women are enabled to spread their incomes over their lives so as to have the means of keeping a family when they need it and of keeping themselves when the retiring age is reached. Such a programme should be designed to encourage rather than discourage individual initiative and enterprise. Lord Beveridge said:
The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity or responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than the minimum for himself and his family.
With these principles in mind, 1 urge the Government to continue its progressive liberalisation of the means test and to review the present social security programme so that, without stifling individual initiative, all people may be guaranteed a realistic standard of living at all stages in their life span, so that wide fluctuations in that standard caused by undue financial burdens when supporting a family or when enjoying the years of retirement may be eliminated. Our aim must be to achieve social justice by encouraging the strong and protecting the weak.
– 1 congratulate the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) on his first speech in this place. I think that he has, in adopting the objective of following his father well, begun already this evening to do so. Listening to his speech, I almost felt that J was listening, as I have listened on many occasions, to his father. Not only was the subject matter similar but also the arguments were similar and the delivery was similar. 1 imagine that the proposals that the honourable gentleman has put before the House for social justice are proposals that, if they were implemented, would make far greater differences to the Australian community than have been made in recent times. The deficiencies that he pointed out quite clearly and quite accurately that exist, if they were to be rectified would involve quite considerable changes - more than the Government that he is now supporting has been able or willing to undertake in the immediate past’.
I want to say something this evening about the connection that exists between economic theory and economic policy, because what the Government in Australia does or does not do today is very materially influenced by its heritage of economic theory that has come to it as it comes to citizens who become members of Parliament, or as it has come to those in the various departments who acquired their economic theory from their university courses and who now give advice to the Government which very much reflects that economic theory. There is a very close and important connection between economic theory and policy and, beginning as we are in a new Parliament, I should like to take the opportunity of saying something about that connection.
Generations of economists from Adam Smith, who lived and wrote at the end of the 18th century and before that, up to Lord Keynes, well over 100 years later, refined and developed economic thinking to provide proof that a Government need do nothing in economic affairs but protect the strong against the weak and the dissident. Automatically, they said, the market would get the right goods produced and would reward the clever, the industrious and the frugal as well as punish the lazy and the extravagant. Not only would this be done, it would be done with almost mathematical precision. Men would be rewarded according to their actual contribution and every penny spent in different directions would give a proportionate amount of satisfaction. The great dynamic of action, they believed, was self-interest and the only regulator necessary was competition.
This elaborate system of thought was little better than mythology but it served a useful purpose. It helped and justified the revolutionising of pre-industrial society. lt increased man’s powers of production or helped to do so far more in a hundred years than in all of his history before that. But in practice hardly any economic policy was needed. Exports could be encouraged a little and imports discouraged. Workers should be discouraged from combining effectively and there could be a little regulatition of working conditions, a little progressive taxation and a little social welfare. Even mass unemployment, which continued throughout this economic Utopia, was seen to be a natural phenomenon or the fault of the unemployed. If only wage workers would accept a wage proportionate to the marginal product of their labour they would be able to get a job and there would be no unemployment.
By the time Lord Keynes had finished with economic thinking in the 1930s this law of full employment had been relegated to the intellectual scrapheap. Full employment was seen afterwards as only one of the many levels of employment that might be established, and no more likely than any other level. Keynes pointed out that full employment or high employment was no! automatic. He pointed out what could be done to produce or maintain full employment. But even more importantly, World War II created the expectation, in many countries, of full employment, and after that nothing much less than full employment would be acceptable in those countries. Full employment brought about a great increase in the volume of goods and services that was produced and it brought about a more rapid rate of economic growth in that volume. It created, for the first time, the affluent societies of the Western world even when the rate of unemployment remained at about 4% or 5%. This was great and substantial material progress. What Keynes had done has been described as a revolution - the Keynesian revolution. There can be no doubt that what he had done made a significant difference to economics and helped to make a significant difference in economic performance, but its effects can easily be exaggerated. Keynes himself pointed out:
If our central controls succeed in establishing an aggregate volume of output corresponding to full employment as near as is practicable, the classical theory of economics comes into its own from this point onwards.
And so it tended to be. Once the Government and the banks did what Keynes had pointed out they should do in order to establish and maintain something like full employment, then not only the old classical economic theory could be used again but the old laissez-faire in policy could remain too.
Some countries, like France, have gone a bit further than this but many, and in particular, Australia, have not. Having done in Australia more or less what Keynes said should be done to maintain full employment, we have reverted to the old economic theory and to the old system of laissezfaire. I think it is time - and this is the significant thing of 1966 - that our economic theory and our economic practice should be taken a bit further. The special significance of the work of the American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, is not only that he demonstrated that the modern economy was affluent but also that he pointed out that it was unbalanced. He said there is ‘private affluence’ and ‘public squalor’. It is not that inflation is ‘too much money’ everywhere chasing too few goods. This happens only in some places in the economy. In other places there is far too little money. We all really know that too little money is spent on schools, education, science and research. We know that too little money is spent on water supply and transport facilities, on health services and rehabilitation. We know that too little money is spent on houses for poorer people and on preventing our cities from becoming concrete jungles to produce outbreaks of violence which disturb even the most affluent people. One result of this condition has been described by the author John Stubbs, in his recent book the ‘Hidden People’. The first line of the book is: ‘At least half a million Australians are living in poverty’. ‘Surveys of living conditions in Melbourne 1966’, produced by the Institute of Applied Economic Research in the University of Melbourne, shows that 59,552 income units - and that does not refer to just one person: there is more than one person in each unit - are below the poverty line and 12,269 are just above it. That is in Melbourne alone.
What is the answer to this? Mr. Stubbs quotes the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in the introductory paragraph of his book. The economic and social programmes of the Government have an important objective - the spread of prosperity through the community and a just sharing of national production. But the economic and social programmes of the Government do not spread prosperity through the community if there are half a million people in Australia who are living in conditions of poverty. And they do not result in a just sharing of national production. The detailed speech just made by the honorable member for Sturt, in which he examined the impact of the social service scheme on the community, showed that there is not a just sharing of national production. Why is this not so?
Modern economic thinking, that is Keynesian thinking, and government policy today, to which it is related and from which it is derived, still accept the old main determinants of economic activity and income distribution in the economy. There has been little change in taxation since World War II. Taxation proceeds were about 25% of the gross national product just after the war. They are about 25% now. A government that relies so much on the proceeds of taxation to provide the essentials cannot be providing much more of the essentials if it is raising only a similar amount of the gross national product in taxation now as it was in 1945.
For its main instruments of economic policy the Government still relies on fiscal - that is taxation - and monetary policy. In line with this policy the Government still will not spend more on essentials when we are in a recession because it still will act only by Reserve Bank policy, only as the economic theory of the day and the established private banks want it to ‘act. On the other hand in times of excessive demand the Government uses monetary policy to regulate things. This has the effect of raising the cost of borrowing and therefore of hitting those who cannot afford to pay more for money, whilst it does not stop those who can draw on great profits to pay for their borrowings or whose profits are so great that they do not need to borrow at all, and who, thereby, can increase their investment in their own fields or take over people in other fields who are not so powerful and wealthy.
A credit squeeze stops those who have to borrow and the smaller they are the more likely it is that they will be in this class; but it does not stop those who do not need to borrow because they are big enough to be able to use their prices to extract money from the general public, not only to pay the cost of producing their product but also to pay enormous sums of money in taxation, which they pass on to the consumer, and to accumulate enormous sums of money to become bigger and bigger every day. I suppose General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has accumulated a capital structure in Australia of which over 90% has been paid for by the Australian consumer of the Holden motor car because of the price he pays for that article. As Galbraith put it in Keynesian language: ‘In other words, an active monetary policy acts to make the competitive sector of the economy and the public sector of the economy the least credit worthy and the oligopolistic sector the most credit worthy part of the economy’. Hence affluence is not the only feature of the modern economy. The other feature is that the economy does not all grow at the same rate even when growth is going on.
Some parts of it grow at very fast rates; some grow at slow rates; and some actually decline. Hence we still have poverty in the midst of plenty; we still have one education crisis after another, we cannot make any real progress in social welfare and health; housing costs for many people are fantastic; and our cities grow more congested and irrational as they continue to grow bigger.
Another American economist, James Tobin, has reminded us that there is more to economics than the aggregates of full employment and national income about which the Keynesian revolution took place thirty years ago. He wrote:
The importance of accelerating economic growth brings the question of allocation to the fore. Can we as a nation, by political decision and governmental action, increase our rate of growth? Or must the rate of growth be regarded fatalistically, the result of unco-ordinated decisions and habits of millions of consumers, business men and governments, uncontrollable in our kind of society except by exhortation and prayer?
We reach, then, the point that the main economic problems of today are part of one problem and cannot be solved by conventional economic theory and by conventional economic policy derived from that theory. The main economic problems are: a more rapid rate of economic growth; the control of inflation; and the solution of the problems of poverty and of the education and similar crises - in other words, the problem of allocation. Having reached this point in his analysis, Galbraith stops to issue a warning that all the large money concerns and monopolies in the community will be against the kind of change that is necessary to solve these problems. Similarly, he offers a warning that most economists will also be against this kind of change of policy.
The main problems of today are not those seen by the Government at all. The Government sees our main economic problems as aggregate problems - problems of the stability or growth of the economy as a whole. That was the main problem of the 1930s, but is no longer the main problem. The Americans have proceeded much further in this field. I have already quoted two Americans who are working in the field of solving the problems of economic policy. One of them, James Tobin, described the situation in this way:
If the overwhelming problem of democratic capitalism in the thirties and even in the fifties was to bring the business cycle under social control, the challenge of the sixties is to bring under public decision the broad allocation of national output.
Further economic progress in Australia demands that we cease being concerned only with aggregates; that is, with total employment and total production. We have to become concerned also with the make-up or composition of the aggregate or total. We need money to reduce or to eliminate the poverty of the half a million people about whom Stubbs has written. We need money to relieve the poverty of the 71.821 income units found by a University of Melbourne survey to be in poverty in Melbourne. We need money to ensure that the amount available for graduate training in the University of Melbourne, for instance, will not fall from $450,000 in 1966 to SI 80.000 in 1967. 1 could recite many things which almost every Australian would agree are of the highest priority and which will go short of money as long as the old conventional economic theory and policy prevail. This, then, is the nature of the economic problem we have to solve. The question is: how can it be solved?
I want to emphasise at this point that there can be no revolutionary solution of a situation of this kind in a country such as Australia. We cannot make revolutionary differences in what is done in Australia. But such differences as we can make should be made. If those differences arc made, hundreds of thousands of people in Australia will quickly be made much better off and hundreds of thousands of people will be lifted out of poverty. What is perhaps of more importance is that many more people will be prevented from inheriting poverty or from slipping into it through no fault of their own. We have to consider the various departments of economic policy in order to solve this problem. The former Chairman of the Tariff Board, Sir Leslie Melville, in a recent lecture, said: . . our tariff policy is diverting our scarce resources of capital into high cost industries some of which make little contribution to the national income . . .
The argument of this paper goes no further thun to claim that growth would be faster and employment greater if we avoided high cost industries, whether manufacturing or agriculture, and concentrated instead on low cost industries wherever they are to be found.
Not only does this mean, as Sir Leslie Melville showed it means, a relatively slow rate of economic growth for Australia, but it means that nothing like the past immigration programme can be continued into the future, if this policy prevails.
The reaction of the Government to this is as the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) reacted last week when I questioned him about it. The reaction is merely to brush it aside and to indicate that the Government believes that there is no need to make any changes. What must be done in respect of our tariff policy is that the Tariff Board must be better equipped so that, in Sir Leslie Melville’s words, we can ‘deliberately select for assistance only the less costly ventures’. Today the Board is not equipped to do that. It must become more than a tariff board. At present it can recommend assistance to industries only in the form of tariffs and subsidies of a general nature. It must be equipped to bc able to recommend assistance in those and other forms, and the conditions upon which such assistance is given should be laid down. It must become more effective and more independent. Recently it has become too subject to the Minister and his Department, which in turn are too subject to the influence of a few of the large pressure groups in this country. Assistance should sometimes be given to ventures other than the less costly ones. But when that is done the reason for it should bc stated clearly: that it is necessary, for social reasons, to establish or to preserve a venture in some rural or other area, and so on.
Just as the Tariff Board needs development, the arbitration system needs development, too. At present it is ill equipped to do its job. That is true of the arbitration system of almost every country in a position similar to that of Australia. In America James Lewis, an economist, has written:
Accordingly, i am brought to the view that over the years ahead … the main thrust . . . will be to contrive workable reforms in many of the procedures and/or institutions through which American wages and prices are now set.
– Who said that?
– An American economist, James Lewis, who is a specialist in this field. I am sure that in Australia over the years ahead the main thrust should be to contrive workable reforms in arbitration procedures. In Australia we have not anyone who is really concerned about working out a plan for reform of the arbitration system. Anything that goes is satisfactory. We are decades behind in all these fields.
– Is the honourable member saying that we are decades behind in the field of arbitration?
– Yes, we are.
– A royal commissioner from Canada and one from the United Kingdom have been out here to have a look at our system.
– Did they come here to have a look at our system? There are people who go all over the world to seek archaeological specimens. In many respects our arbitration system is the kind of thing that ought to be studied by an anthropologist. The fact that those men came here to look at our system does not mean that it is up to date.
It is not possible to lay down a blueprint for reform of our arbitration system. But what is beyond doubt is that it cannot long continue in its present form. It is unreasonable to assume that a democratic community will accept indefinitely a situation in which wages are regulated in accordance with some principle of public policy while prices are left free to be fixed according to the principles of private monopolistic policy. The arbitration system must evolve into one capable of examining industry as a whole and of ascertaining what it needs for rapid growth and scientific progress. The size of its profits is as relevant to this as is the size of ils wages. If the system is properly to prevent and settle industrial disputes, its operations must extend as far as that. I would have thought that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who is now sitting at the table, was Attorney-General for long enough to have discovered that.
If we want rapid economic growth, it is illogical that public enterprise should not be used more extensively where it is likely to be able to operate at lower cost or has some other advantage. There can be little doubt that public enterprise can operate at a lower cost in banking, national insurance, health, in the exploitation of large-scale raw materials, in energy production and in the production of bauxite, coal, iron ore and natural, gas.
– Would the honourable gentleman nationalise banking and insurance?
– The Minister is typical of those who flock round him. When we are endeavouring to show that it may be some advantage to explore the possibilities of putting public enterprise into some specific fields the honourable gentleman, in order to raise some kind of political opposition to a consideration of these possibilities, begins to suggest that what the Labor Party might be proposing is mass nationalisation.
– I am speaking about two significant parts of the economy, the two that the honourable member mentioned.
– I should imagine that Australia would be far better off if it had a completely public banking system and a completely public insurance system, and I would imagine also that these things will some day - and it may not be very long ahead - be part of the economic’ structure of this country. I should think that the honourable gentleman at the table and his friends would do much better if ‘.’ney could consider the effectiveness of public enterprise in a number of these fields.
– Does the honourable gentleman mean that Labor will nationalise these two fields.
– I have already answered that question several times.
– No, the honourable member has not.
– There can be little doubt that public enterprise can operate at lower cost in the fields that I have mentioned. If the public enterprise has to be shackled as the Commonwealth banking system and Trans-Australia Airlines is shackled, then there is proof that it can operate at lower cost.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armstrong) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move - That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Second and Third Schedules to the Public Service Act list, respectively, the departments which comprise the Commonwealth Service and the permanent heads of those departments. With the Government’s decision to establish a new Department of Education and Science, it is necessary to take action to amend the abovementioned Schedules.
As honourable members will be aware, action has already been taken, in accordance with the provisions of section 64 of the Constitution, formally to establish the new Department of Education and Science. It will be apparent to honourable members, therefore, that the amendments proposed by this Bill are purely machinery ones. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, let me firstly congratulate you on your re-election as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I should like you to convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his election as Speaker, and I should also like to congratulate every one of the new members whom I have heard - and that is most of them - make their maiden speeches. Several of them bring the vigour and enthusiasm of youth to the House and I think that with experience, and tempered with age, they will make a great contribution to government. I support the motion before the Chair. I do not propose to cover the wide range of subjects that His Excellency mentioned in his Speech. He referred to the fact that we live in a changing area and we are very close to Asia. I hope to have an opportunity to enlarge on matters such as that in the near future when speaking on the debate on the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). We are a country with tremendous possibilities and a rapidly expanding economy. Our great task is to help the people of our near environs in Asia to help themselves, particularly in education and in providing medical facilities and in extending their agricultural knowledge and providing them with more engineering facilities. In order to do this it is vital that we maintain and extend our economic strength - and we must remember that economic strength and military security are not separable. A nation cannot contribute to its own military strength unless it has economic strength.
What has happened during the last sixteen years in the economic world since the present coalition Government first came to power is spectacular, particularly in relation to primary industry, a subject upon which I intend to dwell tonight. Output has increased by 70% in the sixteen-year period while the number of people engaged in producing that greater output has reduced by 20%. In other words, eighty people today produce 170 units of production whereas, in 1950, one hundred people produced 100 units. This is very important, because nearly 80% of our export income is still derived from primary industry, which enables us to buy imports, 75% of which are used as raw materials in our secondary industries. This is due to a number of things. Firstly, it is due to the industry and ingenuity of our people. It is due also to those engaged in industry who provide services and amenities to the community. But it is due to a lot of other factors too, one of which in relation to primary industry is taxation incentives. The fact that people are able to average their incomes in adverse seasons has been a great help. Production may go down in adverse seasons and then rise rapidly, but the primary producers are able to average their income over a period of five years.
Those engaged in primary industry are also able to claim deductions for fencing, building materials and the provision of water facilities. Most of the deductions amount to 20% per annum and can be spread over a period of five years. Expenditure on some of these items is fully deductible from taxable income earned in one year. This system has enabled many primary producers, particularly those in outlying areas, to have far better control over their herds and flocks. This has been particularly so in tropical areas. Several other things have made a contribution to the betterment of people in these areas. One, which is not a minor factor by any means, is the equalisation of petrol prices. The price of petrol varies by no more than 3c a gallon in any area. However, the basis of all development must be better communications, and in this connection the Government has made a very great contribution to people living in outback areas. It has contributed by way of Commonwealth Aid Roads grants an amount of $500m in the five-year period ending 1964 and will contribute $750m in the present five-year period. These grants have brought about spectacular changes. During the last few weeks I visited North Queensland, in particular the Cape York Peninsula. I was in several areas which I had seen many times previously. During the last three years there has been a transformation in the work of cattle husbandry in these areas, and better transportation has been the main reason for this. People are able to control their herds better because of better fencing and water facilities, and because of the taxation incentives they have been able to buy better herds. The fact that the producers are able to transport cattle on better roads has made it not only possible but common practice in many areas for vealers a year old and up to eighteen months and two years old to be sold off properties. Only a few years ago the owners of those properties had to wait for a meatworks buyer to buy the cattle at his own price in the numbers he chose to take, and they had to wait until the stock were three to four year old bullocks before they could be sold. Better roads have brought about a revolution in the industry. Pastures have been improved; producers have discovered the value of Townsville lucerne, of Guinea grass and other grasses and of leguminous plants. It would not be too bold a prophecy to say that this area will double its turn off of beef in the next ten years.
When I was in that area I saw an example of the use of the terrible foreign investment about which we hear so much from the Opposition. At the Tully River, which is 145 miles north of the town of Tully, there is an area of 50,000 acres which was offered to Australians in aggregate and in detail. No-one would venture to take it up. It is tropical forest country with a rainfall of 120 to 140 inches a year. This country was inspected in detail by the representatives of two English companies. Finally it was taken up by a company which is largely American but has an Australian participation and is under Australian management. Improvement of this property was begun only three years ago and now on 30,000 acres scrub has been knocked over with a ball and chain and huge bulldozers. The land has been sown down; fences, yards and buildings have been erected and it is confidently expected that the land will have a turn off of at least a bullock to the acre per annum. That will mean a production of from 30,000 to 50,000 cattle a year from an area which was formerly useless. That is just one example.
Another area, in Cape York Peninsula, has been developed entirely with American money. It has been fenced, dips have been built and the area has been otherwise improved. Those developing the area have not been there long enough to arrive at any definite conclusion as to the possibilities of this country, but what has been done leads one to hope with reasonable confidence that spectacular things will be done in this area too. The important point is that this development requires a tremendous amount of capital - and risk capital at that. We as a people have not shown that we are prepared to risk large amounts of capital in these activities. This is a form of experimentation which will be of tremendous value to Australia. Personally, I think there is a degree of risk in the Tully River project because there is great difficulty with regrowth, but let us hope it will be overcome. If the problem can be overcome, these are the people to do it. They had exactly similar land in Cuba but were put out of that country in the early days of the Castro regime. It is interesting to note in passing that they ran 40,000 to 50,000 cattle in Cuba and the country they developed has now gone back to rain forest.
Another interesting, development is what is being done in the brigalow country. This also, to a certain extent, is in the experimental stage but there is no doubt about the ultimate success of this project or about what can be done with brigalow country when it is cleared. One difficulty is that if too much is attempted in one fell swoop there is a great regrowth problem.
I want to refer briefly to overseas capital investment in Australia. I have said before, and I repeat, that I like to see Australian participation in every developmental activity if that is possible, but when overseas capital is accompanied by particular knowledge and is available in large amounts which we cannot supply ourselves, it is reasonable to expect overseas investors who take the risk to get a reasonable reward. This brings me to the subject of the taxation that is paid on money that goes overseas. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) recently gave some figures which were quite accurate, but he did not mention that, through reciprocal taxation arrangements, the money is taxed at the normal rate in the country to which it is sent, just as money made outside Australia is taxed in the country of origin and also is liable to taxation in Australia. We should not lose sight of the fact that although money earned in Australia might go into individual hands and then go overseas, it is taxed by way of company tax before it leaves Australia. An example of this is Mount lsa Mines Ltd. Of every $2 capital return to the company in the year 1964-65, 54c were expended in wages and salaries. Other expenses, including freights and set charges, accounted for 70c. Depreciation accounted for J 9c, and taxation by way of company tax at 8s in the £1 net accounted for 21c. Overseas investments amounted to 9c and dividends in Australia to 8c. The company retained 19c for expansion. So of every S2 the company made, only 9c went overseas, lt is interesting to reflect that that company was a failure three times. It was bolstered up three times before it finally succeeded.
An important factor in addition to those I have already mentioned in connection with the development of land is what science and technology have done for primary industry and a vast field of other activities in Australia. One result of the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and which we take for granted, is the use of fertilisers and trace elements, but this use has transformed land which was wasteland into highly productive land. One outstanding example of this is the sandy plain country in Western Australia. It was absolutely non-productive but is now carrying three, four or five sheep to the acre. What is happening in Western Australia is spectacular. The producers there are increasing their carrying capacity by three million to five million sheep a year but are not carrying those numbers because the sheep are not obtainable.
Having acquired this scientific and technological know-how, there is a need for extension services. There is a lack of these in Australia. I am pleased to note that the Government will spend $20m in the next four or five years on extension services. Scientific discoveries are of no value if the knowledge cannot be applied on a commercial basis by the men who should put the new methods into operation. The practical man who will use the knowledge is the most important man in the community. A fourth element is required if production is to be increased and that is the finance to enable people to carry their ideas into effect.
– Where do you get the finance?
– The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) mentioned this subject today. He went into it in some detail and I will not repeat his arguments.
– Finance is not available.
– That depends on personalities. Banks will not lend money to some people, of course. While I am speaking about finance, I want to mention briefly the effect of probate duty. The Commonwealth Government does not figure ‘largely in this impost, but the State governments do. Probate duty destroys continuity of effort, not only on the land but in small companies, businesses and in every sphere of activity where knowledge is passed from one member of a family to another, lt is a most destructive lax. A commission in America studies its effects and expressed the opinion that the state lost more money in the long run by the imposition of probate duty than it gained in the short run. If time permitted, I could name several families that have been adversely affected by probate. One notable family engaged in breeding merino sheep was put out of business by probate duty. The family assets had to be sold to pay the duty.
Irrigation is a most important element in the expansion of production, and this applies especially to my electorate of Riverina. My electorate will in a very short time contain the largest irrigation area in Australia. At present, the electorate of my Leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), has a larger irrigation area than the Riverina has, but when Coleambally is finished Riverina will surpass the electorate of Murray. I realise the value of water storages and I am pleased that the Government has said that it will allot $50m over the next five years to the States. This will be used on works other than those for which approval has already been given. The expenditure of this money may present some difficulties, but I do not think the difficulties will be insurmountable. It is a good contribution. I hope it will enable us to keep together the team work, engineering know how and good relations with big contracting companies that the Snowy Mountains Authority has established. It would be a great mistake nationally if the Snowy Mountains Authority were disbanded or moved somewhere else before the work in the Snowy Mountains area was completed. This morning I asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) a question about dams above the Murray. He referred to the 800,000 acre feet of water that will be added to the Murray River. This is exactly the water that I would like to see impounded and not allowed to run to waste.
I would like to dwell briefly on another matter mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. He referred to the easing of the means test. I am sure that every thinking person will agree that this should be done. But we should explore thoroughly the possibility of introducing a national superannuation scheme. I am reliably informed that if 1.33c in the $1 were added to income tax it would be possible to eliminate the means test on everyone over 70 years of agc. The scheme could then be gradually extended until the means test was eliminated altogether.
Education has been mentioned tonight. The people in the area in which I live are striving to have a rural university established in the Riverina. I wholeheartedly support this move. A child in the country has onethird of the opportunity of a child in a metropolitan area to obtain tertiary education. If all thought of establishing a university in the Riverina is put aside on economic grounds, we shall be putting aside future benefits that could not be accurately measured in terms of hard cold money.
I have already said that we must build up our economic strength to ensure our military security. I whole heartedly endorse the past actions of the Government. No government would do what this Government has done without a good deal of thought and reluctance. I have been to Asia on more than one occasion and I know that the Government could not have taken any other action in the time at its disposal. Our task here is to build up a strong nation and to help those who are less fortunate than we are. In doing so we will secure a lasting and honourable peace.
– I rise to take part in the debate on the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on behalf of the Government. I take this opportunity to prevail upon you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as other honourable members have, to pass on to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election to his high office in the Parliament. I look forward, as other honourable members do, to his upholding the high traditions of the House just as his predecessor did. His predecessor performed his duties with tolerance, understanding and impartiality. I also congratulate those new honourable members who have made their maiden speeches during this debate. On perusing the schedule of speakers, I noticed that we may have created a record today; seven new members will have made maiden speeches. I do not know whether this is a record in this Parliament, but it would seem to me that it is likely to be a record. I realise that delivering a maiden speech is an ordeal that no members on this side of the House will experience on this occasion. My regret is that so many of my Labor colleagues who represented their electorates with outstanding success are now not members of the Parliament. However, I am sufficient of an optimist and a realist to prophesy that this is only a temporary state of affairs and that the next election will reverse it.
Honourable members of the Government coalition parties have, during this debate, lauded the Government’s success at the election and have praised the proposals contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. Some honourable members opposite have also taken the opportunity to criticise their colleagues for trying to defeat one another at the election. Honourable members on this side of the House - as we now have members of the Australian Country Party on this side, perhaps I should saymembers of the Australian Labor Party - do not experience this two-timing. We as a party, when given the opportunity by the electors, will govern in our own right. We will not rely upon the support of a splinter group, as the Government parties did during the last Parliament and are doing now. Because of their matrimonial relationship, they will now have to put up with each other during the life of this parliament.
I took particular notice of a reference towards the conclusion of the address by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) in which he suggested that consideration should be given to an increase of 1.3% in income tax to finance a superannuation scheme. This would provide funds to enable the abolition of the means test or at least to make benefits available to people who have reached seventy years of age. I am surprised to hear a Government supporter come up with this kind of suggestion at this time of the year. My mind goes back to the 1949 general election when the then Leader of the Opposition, Sir Robert Menzies, announced in his policy speech that his party would abolish the means test. This was one of the catchcrys at that time which was instrumental in getting his party into office. Now, some eighteen years later, we have suggestions coming from a member of the Government coalition parties to abolish the means test and to finance it by making another 1.3% increase in income tax. Before making these statements some honourable members should do their homework. At least they should remember which of the election promises have not been fulfilled by a party which they support.
I took particular notice of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which contained the Government’s proposals for administering the future affairs of the nation. To say the least it was consistent with the Government’s election promises. I do not think anybody would disagree that, to say the least, both are barren. The Government’s success in retaining office was achieved through its ability, together with the power and wealth which supports it, to instil a fear complex in the electors that Australia is vulnerable to attack. I have heard countless speeches in this House on why Australia is involved in Vietnam. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and his predecessor have told the House on numerous occasions that this country is involved in Vietnam because we have obligations under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation arrangements and under the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and also because we have a responsibility to stem Communist aggression in South East Asia. I propose to analyse the Government’s reasoning as to our obligations and responsibilities and why Australia is involved in Vietnam. The Articles of SEATO provide for eight constituent countries to be parties to the Treaty. Those countries are Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Republic of the Philippines, the Kingdom of Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. These are the eight constituent bodies. Article IV of the Schedule to the Treaty is specific in regard to Australia’s obligation under the Treaty. It states:
Each Party recognises that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area against any of the Parties or against any State or any territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement -
This is the point of significance -by unanimous agreement’: may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.
The reference to ‘constitutional processes’ is also important. We have been told by the Government that we have an obligation under SEATO to support. In Article IV there is most certainly a provision that we must go to the assistance of a protocol State, but only in the event of attack. The Treaty states specifically that it can be only by unanimous agreement. Nobody will tell us that France, the United Kingdom and
Pakistan are taking part or have agreed that we must assist America with its aggression in Vietnam. Nobody could say this. So much for the SEATO commitments. Let us consider now the ANZUS agreement. Again, this is quite specific to anybody who likes to read it. It states in Article IV:
I.j.h Party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to iis own peace and gaiety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with hs constitutional processes.
Again, we find this reference to constitutional processes. When we look at the political situation of America and consider exactly the constitutional processes which must be undergone before America will assist any constituent body such as Austrafia or New Zealand, we realise that a proposal must go through the Congress and, in addition, through the Senate. We know the difficulties associated with both these chambers. One would have some doubt, if this country were under attack, as to when we would gel support from the mighty American nation. But the point that I want to raise .-.bout our obligation under the ANZUS agreement is that any of the constituent bodies, which are Australia, New Zealand and America, must come to the assistance of another when they are attacked. America is not under attack; Australia is not under attack; and New Zealand is not under attack. So how can the Government, in all honesty, come forward and say that Australia has an obligation under the ANZUS Pact to become involved in the war in Vietnam?
Let us come to the other point which the Government has made on numerous occasions: that we have a responsibility to stem Communism within South East Asia. General Westmoreland has said that to have a military victory in South Vietnam we will require at least one million troops. Let us suppose that we are successful with this one million troops and that we are victorious in South Vietnam. We will then require one million troops as a task force to hold the position in this area. What is the next step which must be taken in these circumstances? Again I am grateful to General Westmoreland. He says it will require two million troops to have a military victory in North Vietnam. Surely this must be the next step. If we have had a military victory in. South
Vietnam and if we have a responsibility to stem Communism in South East Asia, surely we must go into North Vietnam. I am prepared to accept General Westmoreland’s declaration that we cannot have a military victory unless we have two million troops in North Vietnam. We must have two million troops there as a task force to hold the position. Where do we go then? The next must be to go into the Republic of China. I do not know how many troops we shall require to go into China which has a population of more than 600 million people. I do not know how many troops will be required. Most certainly, the Allies involved in Vietnam have not sufficient men there to do this.
– Such a move would be stupid.
– Of course it would. I could not agree more with the honourable member for Hunter. The Government’s thinking as to the reasons why we are involved in Vietnam is stupid. If the Government was honest it would come straight out and say why we are involved in Vietnam. It would say that we are involved there for no other reason than to maintain American capital interests in that country.
– That is the main reason. We are embarrassed by our present involvement with the United States of America. The attitude and actions of this Government in relation to Vietnam are causing embarrassment because, by continuing in this way, we are in effect escalating the war there. Can honourable members opposite tell me of any positive move that this Government has made towards finding a basis that will enable us to sit around the table for peace talks? Everything that this Government has done in the past has been merely to re-echo words that have been uttered by officials in America. Let us also face up to some of the things which are published in American newspapers and which do not seem to see the light of day in Australia. We are told that 100% support is being given by Americans to the United States effort in Vietnam. I happen to have been sent a letter which was published in a newspaper and which was written by an American author, Lewis Mumford.
– He is a pretty frank man.
– I do not know whether he is frank. All I know is that he has not a bad record, because he holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the first time that I have read this interesting letter. It is interesting to see exactly what some Americans are thinking about the war in Vietnam. Lewis Mumford, in his letter stated:
The time has come for someone to speak out on behalf of the great body of Americans who regard with abhorrence the course to which the White Rouse is committing the United States in Vietnam.
As a holder of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I have a duty to say plainly, and in public, what millions of patriotic fellow Americans are saying in the privacy of their homes: namely, that the course the White House is now following affronts both our practical judgment and our moral sense.
From the beginning, the presence of American forces in Vietnam, without the authority of the United Nations, was in defiance of our own solemn commitment when we helped to form that body.
Our steady involvement with the military dictators who are waging civil war in South Vietnam, with our extravagant financial support and underhanded military co-operation, is as indefensible as our Government’s original refusal to permit a popular election to be held in Vietnam lest Communism should be installed by popular vote.
The attempt now to pin the whole blame on the Government of North Vietnam deceives no one except those whose wishful thinking originally committed us to our high-handed intervention: the same set of agencies and intelligences that inveigled us into the Bay of Pigs disaster.
Instead of using political adroitness to rescue our country from the military miscalculations and political blunders that created our impossible position in Vietnam, the White House is casting all caution to the winds.
This betrayal is all the more sinister because it is obstinately committing us to the very military policy that Americans rejected when so overwhelmingly defeating the Republican candidate.
We are horrified by the immediate prospect of having our country’s fate in the hand of leaders who, time and again, have shown their inability to think straight, to correct their errors, or to get out of a bad situation without creating a worse one.
The Government has forfeited our confidence, and we will oppose, with every means available within the law, the execution of this impractical, and above all morally indefensible policy.
There is only one way in which the White House can remove opposition or regain confidence, and that is to turn back from the course taken and to seek a human way out.
– What a man.
– This man has never been in a position b which he could be labelled a fellow traveller or a Com. He is a man who has gallantly won his honours in the field and, I would say. is a typical American. The repeated claim by honourable members on the other side of the House that we are involved in the war in Vietnam because we have obligations under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, or SEATO Treaty, and the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, or ANZUS Treaty, and that we are out to stem Communism in South East Asia, sounds stupid, as my colleague from Hunter said.
I want to mention briefly a matter that has given me grave concern since I first asked a question about it of the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when he was Treasurer. I inquired when the Government would make a general review of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I asked about the matter on that occasion because the right honourable gentleman had given an assurance in this House that the Parliament would have an opportunity, for the first time since 1959 - I emphasise that - to amend the act and make reasonable provision for some 600,000 officers in the Commonwealth service. On 11th November 1964 we were considering the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1964 which increased the benefits payable to Commonwealth employees. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) had circulated a considerable number of amendments that he intended to propose in Committee. The present Prime Minister then gave an assurance that in the sessional period in the following autumn he would bring down a Bill that would afford honourable members an opportunity to discuss the operation of the Act generally. The honourable member for Hidmarsh who led for the Opposition on that occasion thanked the Prime Minister for his remarks, but strange as it may seem no legislation was introduced into this House in the autumn session of the following year 1965.
At the latter end of that year I asked the Prime Minister when the House would be given an opportunity to make a general review of this Act. Again he said that his
Department had met with considerable difficulty but he hoped the workers would get some relief in the autumn session of 1965. In a ministerial statement on the same day he said that his Department had completed all the necessary material and he would introduce the legislation in the autumn session that year. We are now in the autumn session of 1967.I hope the present Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who is not in the House at present, will bring down this Bill at the earliest opportunity because there has been no general review of the Act since 1959. Until that year the Commonwealth was far in front of the States in the benefits paid to workers in the service of the Commonwealth but today Commonwealth employees are lagging far behind. I have had conversations with the Treasurer on a couple of occasions and I hope that he will heed our request to introduce this legislation so that a general review can be made and so that the workers who are justly entitled to the many benefits requested by the honourable member for Hindmarsh may receive them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not my intention at this rather early stage in the life of this Parliament to occupy the House for a lengthy period. However it is my intention to offer a couple of rather kindly and gentle thoughts on the events of the past fifteen or sixteen months and to point out how the lessons learnt in that period may be applied in the year ahead. Before doing so may I through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, offer congratulations to the Speaker on his election to his very distinguished and high office. It is one that we on this side of the House respect most sincerely. One also feels a sincere and heartfelt obligation to congratulate the new members of this House - most of them are on this side and we are doubly pleased on that account - and in a way to congratulate those members of the Opposition who managed to survive. As I have said, this speech will be marked with gentle and fervent goodwill.
I would like also to extend congratulations in a rather different way, but nevertheless sincerely, to the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson). He won the seat. He beat the machine. That was a quite unique performance which won for him the highest respect from many people in this country. The 1966 election as a result of which we are here was a unique event. I think this is admitted by all. The support which the Opposition party in this place enjoyed from the country at that election reached a rather low point, and its members can rest assured that we intend to keep that support at that low level. That election, too, should give the Labor Party opposite considerable cause for reflection, particularly on those events which occurred towards the end of 1965 and during the year 1966. No party in which there are clear and persistent signs of disunity - [Quorum formed.] Mr Deputy Speaker, let me continue with the line of thought which I was pursuing. The 1966 election was unique in that it disclosed the low point to which the support that the party opposite enjoyed had fallen. I was saying that this demonstration of lack of support should give members of the Labor Party considerable cause for reflection concerning not only their activities during the election campaign but also, and particularly, the disunity that existed within their own party during the fifteen or sixteen months prior to the election.
The year 1966 was marked in a political way by three great cataclysms which rent the official Opposition Party in this place, and I submit that the three crises and their causes are worthy of examination, for there may be one or two lessons to be learned from them. The first of those crises was the confrontation of the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition - he is now the Leader of the Opposition - with his own Federal Executive and the machine of his own party. We should never forget - I know that the members of his executive will never forget it - that he classed his executive as twelve witless men, with all that goes with the word ‘witless’. Then there was the special conference which was arranged for the Australian Labor Party on the south coast of Queensland. I understand it is commonly referred to as the bikini conference. The deliberations there concerned education policy. The third event worth remembering occurred in Adelaide just a few days before the last general election, and again the star performer was the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa, who is now Leader of the Opposition. In the three crises which rent the ALP there was one common factor. There was a great deal of disloyalty between the then Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the party to which he had given his support. The then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Leader of the Opposition, ought to consider that factor. No party - no political organisation in which there is disunity and disloyalty - has even been or ever will be entrusted to govern by the people of this country. In the general election of 1966 and the decimation of the Opposition, there was a factor which is worth remembering. A story has been put about that the present Leader of the Opposition is a great vote getter. It has been said that’ he receives 600 or 700 letters a week. He has friends who publish these things. It has been suggested that he was able to retain seats for members of his party. In an uncritical way, I followed with interest his meanderings during the election campaign. I examined the position in the areas in which he concentrated his energies and asked myself whether he was in fact a vote getter. I asked myself whether he saved those members whom he put himself out to save. Let us look at the tour he conducted during the election campaign. It is now a well known fact that Mr Reynolds, the former member for Barton, has been replaced by a most distinguished gentleman. Mr Reynolds was, in a way, a protege of the present Leader of the Opposition, who spent a great deal of time in the Barton electorate. Of course, the protege lost the election and was replaced.
An attack was made upon the seat held by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt). It was a persistent and very well planned attack. 1 understand that it was made by public servants. However, the seat of Hume was retained very handsomely by the Government. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) received the attention of the present Leader of the Opposition, and he retained his seat very handsomely. So it is clear that at least in the large State of New South Wales the vote-getting activities of the Leader of the Opposition, with his excellent television personality, did not attract the support and confidence of the people to whom he turned. Let us go a little further. The Leader of the Opposition campaigned in other States. He spent a considerable amount of time in Queensland.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 draw your attention to the State of the House.
– The honourable member for Wide Bay possibly has placed the Chair in a difficult position, in the sense that a quorum is already present.
– Having dealt with New South Wales, the Leader of the Opposition went to Queensland and campaigned for some of his favoured colleagues. He spent a considerable time in the electorate of Kennedy. One would have expected that he could help to retain at least that seat. It had been held by Labor since Federation. The very respected Riordan family held it for nearly four decades. However, in one of the most remarkable upsets of the campaign the Kennedy electorate was lost by Labor to the Government. So the abilities of the Leader of the Opposition have to be very sincerely doubted. He did not like thz Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), so ae spent a considerable time in the electorate of Petrie. The majority of the PostmasterGeneral went up quite dramatically and rather deservedly.
It was to be expected that the Leader of the Opposition would spend some time in the electorate of Moreton, because there is a great deal of affinity between him and the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). The honourable member for Moreton was returned with a greatly increased majority. And of course, the seat of Herbert, in which he spent further time, was lost to the Australian Labor Party. So, in another State, the vote-getting propensities of the present Leader of the Opposition are, on an uncritical and unbiased examination, to be greatly doubted.
Towards the end of the campaign the honourable member for Werriwa proceeded to South Australia. That State had always returned respected Australian Labor Party members in great numbers. So it was thought that even if. the present Leader of the Opposition were to campaign in South
Australia, his very doubtful ability would not disadvantage the Labor Party too much. Well, within five days of the election he denied the policy that he had supported through his leader. He denied the policy that his Party’s Federal Conference had enunciated. The result is that we now have in this House from South Australia on this side of the House three well-respected new members - the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill), the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) and the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop). So in an uncritical way we must doubt the progaganda that has been circulated about the honourable member for Werriwa by his friends. In passing we note that he spent very little time in Victoria during the election campaign. And in Victoria the Australian Labor Party lost fewer scats than in any other State with the exception of Tasmania. This is worth reflecting on. Perhaps there is a lesson in it.
Speaking quite seriously and sincerely, may I say that we should remember that no leader of the Australian Labor Party in Australia in this century has received the support of the people of this country :f he has not shown loyalty to his party, his mates and his principles. 1 leave the lessons of the elections there. They should be pondered upon by some members of the Opposition.
During the debate today the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) dealt at length with social welfare programmes in this country, lt was bruited that social welfare in Australia is at an unjustly low ebb. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Cohen) has argued that the level of poverty in this country is disastrously high, lt is not my intention to go into these matters in great detail or even in technical detail tonight but I would leave one thought with the Parliament. There is poverty in Australia: there is poverty in every country - in the richest and the poorest. However, a survey conducted recently by the Institute of Applied Economic Research in the University of Melbourne has demonstrated that the degree of poverty in Australia is less than in any other country of this kind. It is claimed one in every sixteen households in Australia - more than 6% - is at a poverty level. This figure is too high and we must strive to reduce it but we must recognise, for example, that precise analyses of conditions under the British Labour Government show that 14% of United Kingdom households are at a poverty level. In the United States 19% of households are at a poverty level. Although this Government has a social welfare programme that is to be applauded and defended, we nevertheless must agree that poverty should not be allowed to exist anywhere. We must do everything we can to reduce it. Nevertheless, we must recognise that our efforts in this direction have been more successful and better received than have similar efforts in any other similar country in the Western world - at least among countries where people are concerned about these things and try to improve them.
The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) said a good deal about overseas investment in Australia. A great deal was stated by other honourable members concerning overseas investment in Australia. They made the case that Australian industries were being taken over by foreign investment in a similar way to that which has occurred and is occurring in Canada, lt is not my intention to dwell upon this subject tonight - certainly not in a techcal manner. I merely say that the costs of servicing investment in this country represent one-half or one-third of the cost of servicing overseas investment in Canada and in other countries which receive this investment. The parallel which is attempted to be made between this country and Canada cannot be made because it just does not exist. Canada’s position has no relationship to Australia’s position in this matter. The figures indicate this fact and we will indicate it on other occasions.
At the commencement of my speech tonight I indicated that I wanted to say only one or two words of a gentle and kindly nature. In fact, it has been my intention to do that. It has not been my intention tonight to sow the seeds of discord. This is the beginning of the Parliament and there will be many other occasions upon which the thrust can be more precise and telling.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
In view of increased prices, and wages since pensions were last increased, will he consider now an increase in pensions instead of waiting for the Budget session?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is the customary practice to review the rates of pensions each year in connection with the preparation of the Budget. Review at this time is appropriate as social services is a major item of Government expenditure and consequently is best considered in the light of the Government’s overall budgetary position. The customary practice will be followed again this year and any changes that are considered desirable and financially practicable will be announced by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech.
Naval Base in Western Australia (Question No. 40)
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
We have important military facilities in Malaysia and Singapore, as have our Australian and New Zealand partners. These we plan to retain for as long as the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore agree that we should do so on acceptable conditions. Against the day when it may no longer be possible for us to use these facilities freely, we have begun to discuss with the Government of Australia the practical possibilities of our having military facilities in that country if necessary. The discussions between Britain and Australia about the possibility of new facilities in Australia in certain contingencies are continuing.
The Commonwealth Department of Works invited a number of possible consultant firms (in Australia and overseas) to present a case for consideration for selection as consultant if they are interested in this assignment.
Responses are being examined and a firm will be selected by the Department of Works in the near future.
As stated by the Prime Minister last August the feasibility study will take into account the possible needs of allied navies and in particular the Royal Navy.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
I and 2. The income lax law authorise-, a concessional deduction for certain medical expenses, including payments to a legally qualified medical practitioner in respect of an illness or operation and payments for therapeutic treatment administered by direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner. A deduction is, therefore, available for payments made for therapeutic treatment by a person not legally qualified to practice medicine only where the treatment is administered by direction of a practitioner who is legally qualified.
The law is not ineffective, as payments lor various kinds of therapeutic treatment are deductible if the treatment is administered by direction of a legally qualified medical practitioner.
In accordance with the usual practice in regard to requests for tax concessions, I shall arrange for the question of allowing deductions in respect of expenditure on treatment by registered chiropractors to be considered during the preparation of the next Budget.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What would be the approximate increase under the existing income tax system to a taxpayer with an annual taxable income of (a) S2,000, (b) $3,000, (c) $4,000, (d) $5,000, (e) S6.000, (0 S8.000, (g) $10,000, (h) $12,000, (i) $14,000, (j) $16,000, (k) $18,000 and (1) $20,000 to raise by way of direct taxation an additional (i) $60m, (ii) Si 20m. (iii) $160m md (iv) S250m?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Budget estimate of collections of income tax from individuals in 1966-67 was $1, 895.3m.
Assuming the amounts of $60m, $120m, $t60m and $250m were to be raised by a flat percentage increase in existing rates of income tax payable by individuals, the increases would, on the basis of the 1966-67 estimates, be approximately as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670302_reps_26_hor54/>.