26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon W. S. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Is he aware that at the last election the Government parties, allowing for preferences, polled approximately 2,750,000 votes, or 55% of the votes cast, and the Australian Labor Party, allowing for preferences, polled approximately 2,200,000 votes, or 45% of the votes cast? Despite this, the Government secured 83 seats, or 66%, whereas the Labor Party secured only 41 seats, or 34%. Did the Minister also notice that at the 1966 election it took, on average, only 35,000 electors to elect a Government member.
-Order! the honourable member will direct his question.
– I am coming to it now. By comparison, it took 53,000 electors to elect one Labor Party member. Will the Minister make sure that when the next redistribution takes place justice will be done, that the great democratic principle of one man one vote will be preserved, and that the tragic gerrymander which is apparent from the figures I have quoted will be eliminated?
– The honourable member for Banks produced a lot of figures and tried to deduce something from them. Let me deal with the one vote one value aspect. One of the strange things about the last election was that a large percentage of seats with numbers of electors below the quota were those held by members of the Australian Labor Party. The honorable member cannot really deduce anything from the figures he gave. Even if we had a system of one vote one value, it would not necessarily follow that if there were a 50% vote for one side of the House and a 50% vote for the other side of the House each side would have the same number of members in the House. On the figures that the honourable member has produced, I do not think I can help him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the serious state of the railway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, and the fact that a part of the line, including the Finke River bridge, is beyond repair, can the Minister tell me whether plans for an alternative route have been completed and, if they have, whether he will give urgent consideration to commencing the construction of this line at an early date? It is rumoured that the proposed route of this railway is such that the line will by-pass Marree and Oodnadatta and will pass through the towns of Kingoonya and Coober Pedy. If this is so, would the Government consider making money available for the formation of a road to Alice Springs, to service those areas which will be bypassed by the railway?
– It is true that the railway line to Alice Springs has been subject to serious disruption. 1 think it should be borne in mind that the magnitude of these floods is such that they would only be expected to occur once every century. It is true also that the Commissioner for Railways has been looking at possible alternatives. Plans have not been prepared to the stage where the Government can give positive consideration to any detailed proposal. So I am unable to give the honourable member any assurance as to when we will be in a position to consider a detailed plan for any alternative route, if at all, or an upgrading of the present track. As to the question of roads, insofar as it relates to the Northern Territory, my colleague the Minister for Territories may be able to assist the honourable member. Insofar as it would be in South Australia, it is a matter for the Government of South Australia.
– My question is to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the fact that two-thirds of the world’s population does not get enough to eat and one-third is chronically undernourished, and the fact that this is a major cause of instability in Asia, Africa and Latin America, will the Minister urge, through the United Nations, a summit conference on capital for food production and immediate assistance? The normal procedures of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations are recognised in this question. But does the Minister agree that the problem deserves more than the attention of agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation and is a question of statesmanship at the highest level?
- Mr Speaker, the question of world food supplies and, as part of it, the problem of food shortages felt in certain continents and the food surpluses enjoyed in other continents is exercising the minds of all people concerned with international affairs. The honourable member will realise, I am sure, that attention to it is given on several fronts. For example, at the present time, in matters relating to marketing, my colleagues, the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Primary Industry, and I, are very closely and seriously engaged in dealing with questions relating to food. In Rome recently at a multilateral food supply conference, Australia again took some part in considering these problems in their breadth. Of course, in our own agricultural policies and in the agricultural assistance that we are attempting to give to the less developed countries, particularly those in Asia, we are giving attention to this problem.
– It is all very conventional.
– It is not very conventional. The matter is receiving the close and serious attention of the Government with constant - indeed almost daily - interdepartmental consultation amongst the best advisers that this Government has. In every opportunity that presents itself, both in relieving shortages and tackling the problems of food marketing, the Australian Government is playing a constructive and, I believe, a very helpful role.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the statement made by Dr Lionel Jacobs to the effect that the drug phenacetin which the Minister has banned from the free medical list has caused 200 deaths in the last four years? What assurance can the Minister give the public that the drug paracetamol will not have any side effects like those of the drug phenacetin? Is the Minister aware that Dr Bauer of Sydney said that pain killing drugs sold over the counter could kill people with high blood pressure? Is it a fact that an antibiotic drug called tetracycline was causing serious discolouration of teeth particularly among children and had the effect of causing bone brittleness in children making them prone to broken limbs? Are not these facts sufficient to have a full scale inquiry conducted into the drug industry? Failing this, will the Minister take action to compel the drug industry to set up an indemnity fund in order that victims of the side effects of drugs and relatives of those whose lives have been lost from the effects of drugs can be justly compensated?
– I do not think it appropriate that such large and, if I might say, unsubstantiated statements, and such large issues as the ones raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand, should be either the source of a question without notice or of an answer. 1 say that, Sir, because the honourable gentleman has just thrown off a lot of unsubstantiated allegations relating to matters which are of great concern to the public.
– They are substantiated.
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question.
– I certainly would not be a party to dealing in the same way with such important matters in answer to a question without notice, but if the honourable gentleman is prepared to put his question on the notice paper I will be glad to give him a considered reply.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the $25m share issue of Hamersley Holdings Ltd at the record premium of 400% based on minimum profit forecasts of 30% and prospects of much greater percentage profits from additional iron ore exports? Does he continue to justify the 90% overseas ownership of this company under the Government’s present wide-open policy regarding overseas acquisition of Australia’s mineral wealth? Will he inform the House of the effect on Australia’s balance of payments of the outflow of dividends to overseas investors as an offset against potential export earnings from iron ore exports?
– In the guise of asking a question about a particular financial operation the honourable gentleman virtually invites me to debate the foreign investment policy generally. I do not propose to do that at this point. I think I have made my own views known clearly and frequently enough in this place. All that I know of the particular share issue to which he refers is what I have read quite casually in the Press this morning, but at least on the face of it it would appear that the initiative and enterprise shown by this company is producing a very attractive financial return. We as a country are deriving secondary benefits of a very considerable’ nature, and I am sure that the West Australian Government, which has encouraged these developments, will be gratified by the way in which free enterprise, taking advantage of opportunities, hazarding substantial capital and devoting a great deal of energy and time to these processes, is in some instances - by no means in all instances - reaping a return which benefits itself but also at the same time benefits Australia through the revenue which we as a government derive and through the decentralised development of townships, ports, harbours, railways and matters of that sort which take place. I have said before, and I repeat, that Australia’s Government and people derive advantage from successful enterprise, whether foreign owned or privately owned. The very fact that this particular organisation is now seeking to enlarge its Australian participation would, I thought, have been welcomed rather than condemned.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. As widespread and welcome rains have recently fallen in areas of New South Wales and Queensland which were still affected by drought until now, will the Treasurer indicate how much the Commonwealth has found necessary to provide to those two States by way of grants of assistance and what action is being taken regarding rehabilitation of primary producers now that favourable seasonal prospects are assured?
– When my colleague the Prime Minister was Treasurer agreement was reached with the governments of New
South Wales and Queensland to underwrite their maintenance expenses for those farmers who might have difficulty in staying on their properties because of drought. The amount allocated by the Commonwealth to the States up to the moment is in the region of S45m and, of course, that is not the end of the bill that has to be met. As to the more important and topical part of the question, namely the subject of rehabilitation loans, now that the drought has, I think, ended over a large area of those two States the Commonwealth will make available to the State governments in respect of individual farmers approved by the States $10,000 a man for rehabilitation and restocking purposes. So far we have not been able to estimate the cost of this but if I can obtain an estimate for the honourable gentleman I will do so and let him have it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that an insurance company has asked co-operative housing societies not to accept as members national servicemen or any servicemen on active service and that insurance companies will grant policies to persons on active service only if they pay exorbitant premiums? By these means those dying in defence of this country are prevented from making adequate provision for their dependants. In addition, if servicemen are banned from membership of housing cooperatives they will not be able to make the same provision for homes as civilians are able to make. Will the Government have an investigation made of the practices and profits of insurance companies?
– The Treasurer will answer the question.
– Like most honourable members I was disturbed to read the statement made in Melbourne yesterday by the Victorian manager of the City Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. Consequently I made detailed investigations as to the position. This matter relates particularly to mortgages on homes by serving members of the permanent forces or by national service trainess. Might I first explain that so far as personal insurance is concerned, I have been informed by the life assurance societies that they will insure a permanent serviceman or national serviceman at normal premiums up to the date he is actually posted for service overseas. Take the case of a permanent soldier or a national serviceman: from the date he is called up until the date he is posted for service overseas he may obtain a policy at normal premiums.
It is not within the power of the insurance company to vary the policy during its currency. It is true that in the case of personal insurance, once the serviceman is posted overseas a loading has to be paid. As to the matter of insurance relating to mortgages on homes, I took up this matter with the general manager of the company. He has informed me that as far as his company is concerned - this matter applies only to his company and not to others - the normal premium will apply until the date the serviceman is posted for service overseas. The general manager has also informed me that he will make a detailed statement on this matter today. I have no wish to cut across any ground that might be covered in that statement. He has pointed out to me that until now no serviceman has been refused insurance on his home at normal premium rates.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. What loans for the construction of gas or oil pipelines were approved at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and to what States or State instrumentalities were such approvals given? Have any understandings for future loan approvals for these purposes been reached by the Loan Council? If so, what are the details of such understandings?
– ‘Immediately prior to the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council the South Australian Government approached the Prime Minister and asked whether the Commonwealth would attempt to help it obtain $35m for the purpose of constructing a pipeline from, I think, Gidgealpa to Adelaide via Peterborough. I went to Adelaide to negotiate with some private interests who have agreed to make available about $20m in the form of semigovernment loans to the South Australian pipeline authority. The Commonweath has agreed to make available upwards of $15m in the form of what we call section 96 grants. The private loans will be made avail able as semi-government loans at what ls called a private rate of interest; that is, an interest rate somewhat in excess of the Government bond rate of 5i%. In reply to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, that is as to whether the problems of other States were discussed at the Loan Council meeting, the matter was raised but the Premiers decided that the South Australian case was not to be treated as a precedent and that each problem was to be raised separately in the Loan Council and was to be dealt with by the Loan Council as an individual application and an individual loan.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: having in mind the considerable public concern, recently expressed, about the policies being followed by the Department of the Interior and the National Capital Development Commission in the variation of leases and land redevelopment generally in the Canberra city area, and the apparent inability of the Department of the Interior to enforce the conditions that it imposes on leases of residential sites and leases for commercial purposes, will the Minister consider referring the whole question to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory for investigation and report? If he refers the matter to the Committee, will he ensure that the terms of reference are sufficiently wide to enable the Committee to go fully into it? The matter is now reaching the proportions of a scandal in this city.
– It is somewhat of a surprise for me to hear the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory say that the Department of the Interior has been unable to enforce the City Area Leases Ordinance insofar as they relate to the purposes of various leases. Legal action is now taking place in respect of some leases. Generally we have no difficulty in enforcing them. In fact, as the honourable member knows, when a variation is applied for the Minister can apply an absolute veto. However, I will look into the question of referring this matter to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and give the honourable member a considered reply.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral consider introducing legislation to provide compensation payments for victims of criminal violence in the Australian Capital Territory? If he does so, will he also consider discussing with the Minister for Social Services the possibility of amending the Social Services Act to allow those persons who may become eligible for such compensation, either by way of a lump sum payment or periodic payments, to receive those amounts without losing their entitlement to various social service benefits that they receive under the Act? Both parts of this question are directed to the Attorney-General because, if a favourable reply is received to the first part, negotiation with the Minister for Social Services becomes most important if the compensatory benefits referred to in the first part are to retain their value.
– I have followed with some interest the progress of legislation on this subject in the New South Wales Parliament and 1 have noticed some of the difficulties that flow from the provisions that have been discussed there. This is a topic that anyone considering law reform at present would consider, and I shall certainly be prepared to look at it. The honourable member himself, however, has called attention to some of the difficulties that would arise from the consequences relating to social services. Those will be looked at when the whole matter is considered.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the increased concern expressed by the world scientific community about the possible use of chemical and germ warfare, can the right honourable gentleman say to what extent Australia is undertaking research on and developing these weapons? Does Australia allow any tests of these weapons at Woomera or any other site in this country under her quadripartite agreement with the United States of America, Britain and Canada? Are these weapons at present under test at any such site?
– Matters of this sort do not come directly within my range of activity. However, I shall see what information is available and shall supply it to the honourable gentleman as if the question were on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the number of workable national superannuation programmes in operation in other countries 1 ask the Minister whether he will comment on the practicability, the political feasibility and the desirability of introducing such a programme in Australia.
– It is rather difficult at question time to go into the ramifications of the introduction of a national superannuation scheme. However, I assure the honourable member that, by means of income tax concessions which are applied within the sphere of responsibility of my colleague, the Treasurer, the Government gives to individuals incentives to contribute to private superannuation schemes. Tax concessions are applicable also to the superannuation funds themselves. Beyond that, the social services system in the Commonwealth is designed to provide the most benefit possible within the limits of the funds available in the Treasury. It appears that any scheme of national superannuation adopted would involve some measure of Commonwealth contribution. Any such contribution, of course, would have to be taken into account in considering subsequent applications for an increase in the rates of pension, should there be any such applications. If the introduction of a national superannuation scheme would mean that there might be some limit on the possibility of the Government extending pension payments this also would have to be taken into account at the appropriate time.
- Mr Speaker, I have just received some information that will enable me to give a reply to the question asked several minutes ago by the Leader of the Opposition. I am happy to give the answer now.
– Why not make a statement at the end of question time?
– The answer is quite short. I shall allow a little extra time for questions to make up for the time that 1 take now. This information was prepared following the publication in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on Thursday of last week of an article entitled ‘How involved is Australia in germ war research?’. It was possibly this article that prompted the honourable gentleman’s question. I am informed that a small nucleus of Australian scientists is charged with the responsibility for keeping up to date our technology of defence against chemical warfare, and this involves some research work as well as keeping in touch with allied activity in this field. No work on bacteriological agents is being undertaken in Australia. The activities that I have mentioned are not in contravention of the 1925 protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisoning or other gases and of bacteriological methods of warfare.
– My question, which is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Scullin, is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: as insurance companies will not cover servicemen once they leave the shores of Australia will he follow the lead of the Government of the United States of America and arrange for the Australian Government to cover our servicemen so that their dependants will not be deprived of insurance benefits?
– The first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is inaccurate. They will be able to obtain policies but there will be a loading on the normal premium that they will have to pay. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I understand that representations are now about to be made to the Government by the federated life offices. Also, my own Department, in co-operation with the Department of Defence and the Repatriation Department, is preparing a submission to go to the Cabinet so that this matter can be thoroughly discussed and a decision made.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. I understand that some naturalised Australians carrying Australian passports who return to their native land are subject to laws relating to military training. Can the Minister inform the House whether a migrant who has undergone national service training in Australia and returns to his native land on a visit is liable to find himself called up a second time? Can the Minister also say whether the Australian Government has made representations to the governments of such countries for recognition of the bona fides of Australian passports by accepting that such citizens are now Australians by choice and should be answerable only to Australian laws?
– It is a fact that those people who were formerly Italian or Greek nationals but are now Australian nationals, upon returning to their former countries, will be subject to performing military service. When a person who was formerly an Italian becomes an Australian citizen, under Italian law he loses his Italian citizenship but he does not lose the liability to perform military service, so that up to the age of thirty years if he returns to Italy he will be subject to military service requirements. However, Italian consulates are able to give exemptions of up to twelve months from the liability to serve.
So far as those people who were formerly Greek nationals and who became Australian nationals are concerned, the taking of Australian nationality does not deprive them under Greek law of Greek citizenship. They therefore are dual citizens. When a person has dual citizenship, the principle of master nationality applies, so that the person in the jurisdicition of one of those countries is subject to the laws of that country. When a person who was formerly a Greek returns to Greece on an Australian passport, because of this principle he will be subject to all the Greek laws and there is nothing that we as an Australian Government can do to protect him. He will be subject to military service. However. I understand the Greek Government does not call up a person for military service if his stay is to be less than twelve months. What I have said applies whether or not a person has performed his national service.
I have dealt particularly with Greece and Italy, but if the honourable gentleman has some other country in mind I shall be glad if he will tell me, upon which I will make appropriate inquiries. The final point is that I think implicit in what the honourable gentleman said is that he would like all countries to recognise the loss of their own citizenship when persons voluntarily take the citizenship of another country. Australia believes in this principle and has incorporated it in its nationality laws but whether other countries do so is very much a matter for those countries themselves.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which I preface by directing attention to the fact that persons who are unable to pass a Commonwealth medical examination are unable to receive permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that many Australian servicemen, including conscripts, now serving in Vietnam will not be eligible for permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service due to injuries and disease that they have contracted or will contract in that conflict? Will the right honourable gentleman give the lead as recommended by the Boyer report to allow persons who may be unable to pass a 100% physical test to be employed permanently in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– It is not clear to me whether the latter part of the honourable gentleman’s question relates to the servicemen to whom he refers or to persons in Commonwealth employment generally who are seeking permanent engagement in the manner to which he made reference.
– I will give priority to the men in Vietnam and then the Prime Minister can widen the scope.
– I believe that our repatriation and other similar provisions would adequately cover the situation of the men who have been on active service, but 1 shall personally examine that aspect. Indeed, I will look into the more general range of the provisions in the Boyer report. 1 do not hold its exact provisions in my head, but I will study it and then give a more detailed reply to the honourable member.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is he aware of the serious build up of cargo in northern Tasmanian ports? I refer particularly to the problems of the potato growers, whose product is perishable. Will the Minister ensure that the Australian National Line provides additional shipping to relieve the pressure?
– lt is true that there has been some build up of cargo in northern Tasmania. Since the beginning of the year, the Australian National Line has been trying to relieve the pressure. Two support vessels have been put on the run in addition to the normal container roll-on roll-off ships, the ‘Princess of Tasmania’ and the Bass Trader’. During January, the two support ships did not receive full cargoes, but there was an unexpectedly large build up of cargo during February. It must be recognised that the tonnage of potatoes offering varies to a considerable extent with the market in Sydney. It is not a very reliable foundation on which to base a tonnage programme for shipping. However, at present the Australian National Line is making very strenuous efforts to relieve the pressure of cargo. During last weekend, the ‘Princess of Tasmania’, though normally due to go in for a couple of days’ maintenance, made a special trip without passengers for cargo only. I am happy to say that it was turned round in Melbourne in four hours and turned round from Tasmania again in four hours with a full cargo on each trip. This says a great deal for the co-operation of all the men concerned. The Australian National Line is also seeking to charter additional vessels to relieve the present pressure.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: is a director of Automotive Pty Ltd, the company that received valuable financial benefits from the Government’s decision to reject both majority and minority reports of the Tariff Board and fix its own tariff, the gentleman who sits on the committee that is raising finance for McEwen House, the Canberra headquarters of the Australian Country Party?
– My answer is: I do not know.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General concerning the Government’s proposal to establish a Federal Court. Is the honourable gentleman in a position to give a timetable for the legislation? If he is not, can he make a statement to the House during the course of this sessional period?
– It is not possible yet to give a precise timetable for this legislation. I might say that an enormous amount of work had been done on the proposal by Sir Garfield Barwick and by my immediate predecessor who is now the Minister for Immigration. I have given some detailed consideration to the proposals in the last week or two and have made decisions on some points that were outstanding. The matter has reached the stage where work is being done on a submission to the Government for consideration. It would, of course, be too much to expect a bill to be prepared at this stage, but I think there is a possibility that a statement could be made before the Parliament rises at the end of this sessional period.
– For the information of pensioner recipients and many citizens denied pension benefits, I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. When is it intended to legislate to give effect to the promise contained in the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General to ease the means test slightly? Does the Minister intend to amend the law during the current session? If so, will he take the opportunity to make a substantial increase in the base pension rate to meet rapidly increasing living costs?
– Initially I should like to say that I do not agree with the honourable member that the extension is to be only a slight one. In fact there is to be a considerable extension in the means test qualification. The necessary legislation will be introduced, I am hoping, on the day the House resumes after the Easter recess. There has been some difficulty in finalising the details of the legislation because of the general range of the extension of benefits announced by the Prime Minister. The reason is simply that the Government is continually providing more and more benefits for the pensioner section of the community. As benefits are extended it is necessary to ensure that all the legislative requirements are covered in every instance. However, I assure the honourable member that the legislation will be before this House before the end of the session. As to the final part of the honourable member’s question, that subject is, of course, not a matter for decision or discussion at question time.
– I address a question to the Treasurer who, I know, is aware of the shortage of wheat storage in New South Wales because of the record crop last season. Has the Treasurer or the Government received representations from the New South Wales Government for financial assistance to enable more storage to be erected, as there is a possibility of still another record planting this year? If such representations are received will the Treasurer give sympathetic consideration to the requests?
– At the last two Australian Loan Council meetings a special allocation of funds was made to New South Wales, on semi-government account, to permit increased wheat storage to be erected in that State. Since the last normal meeting of the Loan Council last year wc have not had any further requests from the New South Wales Government for additional finance for wheat storage facilities. Naturally, Sir, if we do get a request it will be looked at carefully and it would have to be considered in the context of the next Loan Council meeting.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that section 12, sub-section (c) of the Tariff Board Act provides the Chairman of the Board with a casting vote in the event of an equality of votes by Board members? Does this mean that the Tariff Board’s report on lowpowered air-cooled engines rejected by the Government yesterday was in fact a majority report? Further, was the Minister deceiving the House yesterday when he said that the Tariff Board was ‘equally divided’ on the protection recommended?
– This question again is on a matter which will be dealt with by the House when it is debating this issue. I remind the honourable member that the statement I made was that the Chairman did exercise a casting vote in relation to the Tariff Board report. The report has now been tabled and is available for all honourable members to read.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Health, I refer to a recent Press release announcing the removal from the list of pharmaceutical benefits of preparations containing phenacetin. In view of the recent finding of medical research that the taking of powders containing phenacetin to relieve one headache has the result of replacing that headache with another one, thus creating a chain reaction - very good for the maker of the powder but not for the taker of it - will the Minister now take steps to ban the use of phenacetin in all proprietary medicines?
– The Press announcement to which the honourable member refers was a routine announcement informing the public that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee had recommended that preparations containing phenacetin be removed from the pharmaceutical benefits list. The sale of preparations containing phenacetin, other than those on the pharmaceutical benefits list, is not a matter coming within the powers of the Commonwealth Government; it is clearly within the powers of State governments. I can say, however, that this question of the side effects, if one may call them such, of phenacetin, whether induced by normal use or excessive use of the drug, is on the agenda of the National Health and Medical Research Council for discussion at its April meeting. It is quite possible that from that meeting may come a more decisive, documented and scientific statement of the effect of this drug than we have had up to the present time.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Has his attention been directed to imports that Russia will become a wheat exporter by 1970? Is Russia a major market for Australian wheat at present? Are Australian wheat acreages currently being rapidly increased? Are short falls between guaranteed prices and world prices made up from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, that is at the expense of the taxpayer? Has the Government developed, or is it going to develop, any plan to buffer the wheat industry and the economy against any dislocation through the wheat industry and the economy against any dislocation through loss of export markets and overexpansion should the Russian market be lost, in order to avoid the sort of costly disruption presently experienced by the sugar industry as a result of the lack of appreciation and foresight on the part of the Government in evaluating world market trends?
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question, which is becoming far too long.
– I am winding it up now, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister make a full statement to this House on future prospects for the wheat industry so that farmers may be reliably guided in their decisions on future plantings?
– I have seen a report that Russia may become a substantial exporter of wheat. During my time in public life I have seen many such reports, and not all of them have been proved accurate.
– But it would be dangerous to ignore this report completely.
– Are you going to answer the question?
– I will help you if you like.
-Order! There are far too many interjections. When a question has been asked the Minister involved is entitled to give his reply without being interrupted. Honourable members will please cease interjecting.
– I have made the point that this report has appeared. What will eventuate I do not know. I would not attempt to hazard a guess as to what the position of the wheat industry will be in several years time. As to the calls upon the taxpayer in respect of wheat exported, this is a matter that is clearly set out in legislation which was passed, I think, without a division in this House, and which limits the quantity of exported wheat on which a subsidy can be paid in certain circumstances to 150 million bushels. Therefore under that legislation, which endures for five years, if a larger crop were grown here there would be no increased liability placed on the Treasury. The future of the wheat industry will turn very largely, I think, upon whether success attends negotiations which are proceeding at Geneva at the present moment. The socalled cereals group meeting within the general ambit of the Kennedy Round of tariff negotiations is endeavouring to arrange an international wheat agreement. I hope that a suitable agreement will be arrived at. 1 and my colleagues have done all we can to ensure the success of these negotiations but at present I am not prepared to be dogmatic on the question whether they will succeed or not. Any debate on the future of the wheat industry should await an announcement as to whether these negotiations have succeeded or failed.
– by leave - I have previously indicated that consideration was being given to the extension of the limits within which Australia has exclusive rights over fisheries. At present, Australia still adheres to the three mile limit for all purposes, including the exercise of sovereign rights over fisheries. I now inform the House that the Government has decided that the limit for fisheries purposes should be twelve miles. The Government’s decision applies to the external Territories as well as to Australia itself. The decision does not involve any increase in the breadth of the territorial sea, which will remain at three miles. The Government has taken its decision in the light of developments in the international law of the sea over the past few years. The advice of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) to the Government is that the decision that I have just announced has the full support of present day international law and practice.
Honourable members will, I think, know that in 1958 and 1960 the United Nations convened conferences at which endeavours were made to secure the adoption of an international convention relating both to fishing limits and to the breadth of the territorial sea. The need for an extension of fishing limits was generally recognised. The conference broke down, however, because agreement could not be reached on the breadth of the territorial sea. In an effort to secure a compromise at the conference in 1960, Australia gave its support to a proposal by the United States of America and Canada that the breadth of the territorial sea should be six miles. This was known as the ‘6 plus 6’ proposal. It failed by the narrowest of margins to secure the majority required for the adoption of a convention to be submitted for adherence by governments. Since 1960, Australia, in common with Britain, the United States and other countries of the West, has continued to adhere to the three mile limit as the breadth of the territorial sea. Many countries, however, have extended their fishing limits to twelve miles. These include Britain and certain Western European states as well as Canada, New Zealand and the United States. New Zealand enacted legislation for this purpose near the end of 1965. The United States passed its legislation in October 1966.
It is, of course, only right and proper that Australia should take up, and avail itself of, the rights that have become established in this field of international law. There have been suggestions at times that exclusive fisheries rights do not stop at twelve miles and indeed that they extend to all the waters above the continental shelf. The Government’s legal advice is that, while the rules of international law enable Australia to exercise sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting the mineral resources of the continental shelf as well as certain sedentary fisheries on it, international law does not at present give a coastal country sovereign rights over all fisheries in waters above the continental shelf. In practice, the adoption of a twelve mile limit for fisheries purposes will have the effect of protecting, and encouraging the development of, the fishing industries of Australia and the Territories. The cray fisheries, which are the basis of a valuable export industry, will be given a very substantial measure of protection. The developing prawn fishery and other fisheries will also be assisted. The Government will examine the position of nationals of other countries who have been engaged in fishing in the new zone between three and twelve miles and will consider whether, as a matter of international comity, a short phasing-out period might be allowed in any appropriate case. Fortunately, so far as both Australia and the Territories are concerned, there is no evidence of any substantial degree of foreign fishing having taken place in the new zone.
Mr Speaker, 1 have briefly described the action that the Government has decided to take and the reasons for it. The Government will proceed, as soon as practicable, to introduce legislation to give effect to the decision.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of beef roads, Western Barkly Tablelands, Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the following roadworks:
The total length of sealed road to be provided is 470 miles and the total estimated cost is $9m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to (he Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public
Works for investigation and report: Provision of engineering services to Casuarina Sub-division, Neighbourhood Unit No. 2, Darwin.
The proposal involves the construction of roads and drainage, water supply, sewerage and electricity supply to a new sub-division in the Casuarina area of Darwin. The estimated cost is $2,250,000. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 March (vide page 361), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The sole purpose of this Bill is to make the proper arrangements within the Public Service for the setting up of a Department of Education and Science following the decision of the Government as announced in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) last year. The Opposition supports the Bill completely. For many years both inside and outside the Parliament we have proposed that there should be such a department. My predecessor as Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), proposed that there should be a separate ministry of education in his policy speech before the general election of 1961. In his policy speech before the 1963 election for the House of Representatives, the honourable member for Melbourne proposed a ministry of science and technology.
On 6th December 1962, when the House was debating a ministerial statement on the Commonwealth and education by the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies, I moved by way of amendment, that a Federal ministry of education and science be established forthwith. On 27th February 1964 I moved, as an amendment to the Act which is being amended by the Bill now before the House, that a department of education and a department of science and research should be set up. On 18th October 1966 I moved, again as an amendment to a Bill amending the very Act which is being amended by this Bill, that departments of education, science and research be added. On both the occasions during the last Parliament - February 1964 and October 1966 - on which I moved that there should be such a department as is now proposed, my amendments were opposed ‘by the Government, and all the Government’s supporters voted against them.
Last November, in the only television confrontation, I believe, which occurred in the whole of last year between any member of the Cabinet and any member of the Opposition, I asserted that the Government had twice opposed the proposition for a department of education and science which the Prime Minister had put in his policy speech that month. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who was my opponent in this tele-confrontation, brazened it out and denied what I said. He said in effect that I was not telling the truth. I have checked Hansard and find that the Treasurer was present on each occasion that I have mentioned. He was among those who voted against the proposition for a department of education and science on both occasions. Honourable members and other interested persons can check this by looking at page 127 of Hansard of the earlier date and page 1903 of Hansard of the later date.
It is true that the Treasurer does not speak on matters of education, but in fact he opposes any proposals for greater Commonwealth responsibility in education outside or below the universities. To the extent, then, that the creation of this new Ministry indicates that the Government is now prepared to do, in the closing years of this decade, what the Labor Party has been urging since the beginning of the decade, we welcome this Bill. To the extent that the establishment of this Department indicates some degree of willingness to assume some of the Commonwealth’s real responsibilities in the fields of education and science, we welcome this Bill.
It is true that in his policy speech the Prime Minister outlined this proposal. These were his words:
We believe the time has come to establish a Commonwealth Ministry of Education and Science, and we will do this.
This Ministry will be responsible not only for education but also for certain areas of scientific activity. The CSIRO will function within the new Ministry.
When the Governor-General, in his Speech opening the Parliament, read the Government’s prospectus for legislation during this session, he said:
In view of the establishment of the Department of Education and Science, the Parliament will be invited to repeal the Education Act and to approve a new Act governing the administration of Commonwealth scholarships. The new Department will also administer Commonwealth university scholarships. lt will be noted that the Governor-General referred to the repeal of the Education Act. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, did not refer to the Education Act, or to any provisions of it, let alone the repeal of it. The Education Act, which was passed in 194S and to which the only material amendment was made in 1959, set up the Commonwealth Office of Education and also the Commonwealth Scholarships Board. It is clear from the Prime Minister’s policy speech and the Governor-General’s prospectus that the only consequence of repealing the Education Act is to abolish the Commonwealth Office of Education. The other function which the Government assumes under the Education Act, that concerning scholarships, will be continued by the Department.
It should cause disquiet not only to honourable members but to a very great number of our fellow citizens that the Commonwealth Office of Education may be abolished. Section 5 of the Education Act sets out the functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education. In particular, I stress that they include these functions:
To establish and maintain a liaison, on matters relating to education, with other countries and the States; to undertake research relating to education; to advise the Minister concerning the grant of financial assistance to the States and to other authorities for educational purposes.
If the Commonwealth Office of Education is abolished - and it would appear from the statement that I have quoted that this can be the only purpose of repealing the Education Act - then it would seem that the Commonwealth will be forgoing its function of liaison with the States on educational research and financial assistance to the States and to other authorities for educational purposes. The Commonwealth will thus be abdicating the responsibility which the Chifley Government undertook in the 1945 Education Act to help in secondary and primary education.
Id the intervening years, the Commonwealth has assisted in every field which, before that time, was considered to be solely or mainly the prerogative of the States. Whatever aspect one looks at in State financial or constitutional responsibilities, the fact is that in the intervening twenty-one or twenty-two years the Commonwealth has come to take a leading part. This is the case clearly in bousing, where the Commonwealth provides nearly all the money which the States spend. It has come to be the case in relation to roads and universities; the Commonwealth finds more money than the States find together. It is the case with health where the Commonwealth spends more money than the States between them spend. Only in secondary, primary and technical schools, and in the other forms of education preparatory and parallel to university education, does the Commonwealth refrain from providing substantial assistance. In every other form of State activity, the Commonwealth now plays a prime role.
My fears and misgivings in this matter are confirmed by the administrative arrangements order made by the Prime Minister and gazetted on 13th December last following on the establishment of the new Department of Education and Science. The functions of this new Department are stated to be just education, scientific research and support of research. Then the various Acts to be administered by the Minister for Education and Science are listed. The Education Act 1945-66 is among them. There is nothing in the functions, nor is there anything in the Acts other than the Education Act, which would support a continuance or expansion of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in education outside the universities and those few fields in relation to which this Parliament has passed other Acts. I believe that the House is entitled to have assurances on this point. The Education Act will be repealed in some later Act presumably, but when we are discussing the functions of this new Department of Education and Science it is proper for us to investigate what powers it will discharge. At the very time that the Commonwealth is establishing a department in this field is it to forgo some of the responsibilities which it pegged out in the 1945 Education Act? If, in fact, the full scope of the Government’s proposals is accurately defined in the Governor-General’s prospectus, then far from representing an extension of Commonwealth responsibility in the field of education it represents a limitation. It would be a retreat; not an advance. I believe we are entitled to have the clearest assurances on this point in this debate.
We must avoid the danger of being unduly impressed by the form of words Department of Education and Science’. It is one thing to have a ministry so named; it is another to have a national policy for education and a genuine science policy. The present Government accepts, and the Menzies Government which preceded it accepted, limited responsibiltiy for tertiary education. The Government accepts a still more limited responsibility in secondary education. It accepts none in the basic field of primary education. The alarming thing in the Commonwealth attitude towards education as a whole is that the Government has refused to take the steps, recommended by bodies that it has established, which would enable our schools to be better staffed and our universities to be better staffed. It is impossible to staff our schools properly unless there are greater teacher training facilities. It is impossible to staff our universities properly unless there are extended university research activities. To each of these fields - teacher training and university research - I propose to devote some attention, because they show that the Government is, in fact, retreating from the steps, recommended to it by bodies which it appointed, for the better staffing of our educational institutions, primary, secondary and tertiary, both private and State.
The Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia in its report to the Australian Universities Commission has projected estimates of the number of new teachers required in each year up to 1975. It draws attention to the fact that there is a period of relatively slow increase in new-teacher needs ending in 1972. This is the period we are now going through. The report points out that this period represents an opportunity to achieve an important improvement in the quality of teacher training by changing over from a two year course of training to a three year course. The report says:
The possibility of effecting the change without great disruption to the output of new teachers exists until 1972. Such an opportunity may not occur again for a very long time.
The report also recommends suggestions for improving the quality of teacher training, including higher entrance standards; the establishment of State boards of teacher education to take responsibility for the supervision of standards, the award of qualifications and the allocation of funds; the development of teachers colleges within the ambit of the boards to autonomous status; and wide advertisement and open recruitment of training college staff.
The initial response of the Federal Government to the Martin Committee’s proposals was to dismiss teacher training as an area of activity well within the existing financial resources of the States and best left to them. This failed to take account of the fact that the proportion of the State budgets for education had reached a ceiling and, while teacher training might account for no more than 7% of an average State’s total education appropriation, any expansion of this figure could take place only at the expense of other sections of the system already themselves disastrously underfinanced.
The Government’s original stance was modified by the Prime Minister’s last policy speech in which he proposed capital grants to finance the construction of new teacher training facilities. In stating his proposals, the Prime Minister made not a solitary reference to the Martin report. The reasons for this omission are clear. He knew that teachers organisations, parents and others connected with education felt strongly about the report’s teacher training proposals. He knew also that his proposals had little relevance to the problems described in the report. Even if the whole $24m promised over a three year period were to be applied to provision of additional teacher training places, its impact on the actual requirements would be relatively slight. In fact, projects announced following the recent round of negotiations with the States indicate that a good deal of the money will go for replacement of existing places -in premises either not originally intended for teacher training or else rendered obsolete by lapse of time. Moreover, while the grants require no matching contribution from the States, they involve them in substantial recurrent expenditure. New colleges mean more staff to be paid, more students to be maintained and a variety of other unavoidable costs which, as has been pointed out already, can be met only at the expense of other areas of educational activity.
The Government’s proposals represent a grossly inadequate response to problems of crucial national importance. Indeed it is arguable that it is a response which does more to aggravate the difficulties of the States than to alleviate them. If nothing more is forthcoming - and particularly if (here is no contribution to recurrent expenditure - the requirements foreshadowed in the Martin report will not be met, the opportunity to introduce three year teacher training will be lost, and the States will be compelled to divert funds to teacher training from their primary and secondary schools and from other tertiary institutions. To sum up on teacher training: as a result of the Government’s neglect of and silence on the Martin Committee report, our schools, both State and private, will be unable to secure and train the teachers that they need during the best period that is likely to present itself for very many years to come. If we do not make this advance in teacher numbers and standards for State and private schools before 1972, this generation of pupils will have been denied the opportunities which comparable countries secure and which the Commonwealth, under the Education Act of 1945, set out to secure for Australia.
I come now to the teaching at universities^ - the staffing of universities - and, in particular, the research facilities in universities. For the current triennium the Commonwealth offered to support, dollar for dollar, $6m for general research and Slim for special research selected by the Australian Research Grants Committee. Thus the Commonwealth contribution was to be $8.5m and the States were to find the remainder. As an alternative the Commonwealth offered to contribute $9m to the ARGC and leave all the financing of the general research of $6m to the States. All of the States said that they would leave it to the Commonwealth to pay the whole S9m for special research. As a result the special research allocation is reduced from Slim to $9m. Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland said that they would meet the full cost of general research in their universities. The other States said that they would not meet the full cost of the programme of general research. New South Wales will reduce its general research grant from SI. 894m to SI. 098m this triennium, Victoria will reduce its grant from SI. 28m to $824,000 and Tasmania will reduce its grant from $244,000 to $90,000. This means that in these three States the amount to be spent on general research in this triennium will not be the proposed $3.41 8m but $2.012m. As a result of these cut-backs the universities in these States face a very serious situation. The Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University, Sir George Paton, said:
An already difficult situation will become almost impossible.
The Vice-Chairman of the Professorial Board at Melbourne University, Professor Willett, said: the cuts would inevitably lead to loss of university staff and promising undergraduates to overseas universities which had the money to support research.
The Federal Government’s action has pushed Australian universities back into the pre-war systems where students went overseas for postgraduate training.
By blood and sweat over the past ten years we have conquered this brain drain and stopped well-trained undergraduates from going overseas, perhaps for good.
We developed, and were continuing to develop, viable post-graduate schools of international standard in Melbourne and Sydney universities.
This is now all threatened and we are faced with the prospect of a post-graduate standard that under-developed nations with emerging university systems would not be satisfied with.
And all this over research grants which, in terms of Federal Government resources, are trivial and quite inadequate and represent only 3% of the universities’ total budget.
We had already budgeted for less than last year, and suddenly we are told that even that meagre amount has been cut in half.
The only way to describe it is that at breakfast the situation was scandalous - at noon it was disastrous.
The Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University, Sir Stephen Roberts, said:
The Commonwealth had dealt the development of Sydney University a heavy blow.
The university would have to severely restrict its research because of the cut in Government research funds.
It would have no hope of doubling full-time postgraduate numbers from 700 last year to 1,500 in 1969, as had been planned.
The buying of major equipment had also been cut to the bone and there would be no staff increases.
Many urgent projects, including a proposed social sciences survey unit planned for this year, had been cancelled because of lack of funds.
The situation is now deadlocked; the Commonwealth blames the States for not meeting their share of the cost and the States say that they are in such a difficult financial situation that they cannot match and so attract the Commonwealth subsidy.
The new Chairman of the Universities Commission, until recently a distinguished member of the Treasury staff, should be instructed to review the deadlocked situation and make recommendations for its solution. Just how have the States applied these cuts? What principle has been applied? The body most competent to answer these queries and make recommendations based on the facts is the Universities Commission. The Chairman should be instructed immediately to undertake this task. While the present situation continues and Ministers, Commonwealth and State, stand on their dignity, the universities suffer.
Research and teaching in universities cannot be separated. They are part of the one process of the advancement of knowledge. It is not sufficient to pay scholarships to a certain percentage of the students at universities, nor is it sufficient to provide buildings in the universities. We must provide staff for the universities. The basis upon which Australian universities can now secure their staffs is to carry out postgraduate research on their own campuses. We cannot expect, as we did before the war or as we did in the immediate post-war disruption in Europe, to attract from Europe for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and for our universities enough men with research training. We must be independent in this respect for our university staffs as we have been for our school staffs. The whole question can only be reviewed adequately now by the Universities Commission. Here is an instrument which the Commonwealth set up, which the States accept and which the Commonwealth has staffed. This deadlock between the Commonwealth and States should not be allowed to jeopardise the future generations of Australians.
The Bill sets up, furthermore, the Public Service arrangements for science. For the first time there will be a Department of Science. The Government must state its policy for science. Unless there is a much clearer statement of policy than we have so far had the words ‘and Science’ in the title of the Ministry seem little more than window-dressing. Without a clear policy, the best that can be expected is mere formalising of informal channels of communication between the Government and scientific bodies. We are entitled to ask: how is the Department to operate? The techniques of implementing policy which have been developed for consultation between Government and private bureaucracies, such as the hospital and medical funds, will not meet the needs of science. Scientific progress depends so much on the individual scientist, who will be affected by policy decisions, that maximum publicity must be given during the formulation and implementation of science policy. This provides adequate opportunity for those most directly affected to influence the development of policy along the proper paths.
The platform of the Australian Labor Party states:
Science must not be regarded as a compartment, separate from other aspects of life. It is a fountainhead of human progress the source from which technological and social changes spring and it affects all aspects of life.
Our platform follows this declaration with a detailed policy for science and technology. It is the only science policy to exist in the published platform of any Australian political party. The policy properly groups science and technology as indivisible. There is an intimate communication between science and technology, but the Government has given no indication that industrial research and technology will form part o£ the scope of the new Ministry, except insofar as this is already the responsibility of the CSIRO. What is to become of the annual grant of S6m for industrial research and development announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech last year? Is this to be administered by the Department of Trade and Industry? Does the Government believe that indus trial and technological research can be divorced from science policy? We believe that the Ministry should embrace technology as well as science so that a broad overall view of Australia’s needs can be obtained.
So long as such a distinguished scientist as Sir Hugh Ennor is Secretary of the Department of Education and Science there is little danger of any conflict between administrators and research workers. However, Sir Hugh will not always be Secretary of the Department. The Labor Party considers that a more appropriate arrangement would be to have a Minister for Education, Science and Technology with a regular Department of Education and a much looser structure to handle the needs of science and technology, a structure in which senior scientists from CSIRO and other organisations would assist the Minister. Administration needs could be met by a small secretariat developed from and perhaps within the existing structure of CSIRO.
The existing dispersion of scientific and technological activities of the Commonwealth can be seen from a rapid survey in this field. The CSIRO, we are told, is to be the responsibility of the Department of Education. We know that, following on the procedure laid down from the establishment of CSIRO, it will not be subject to ordinary Public Service procedures. But let us consider the other scientific activities of the Commonwealth. Some are under the Department of National Development There is the Bureau of Mineral Resources, whose geologists are apparently regarded by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) as jackaroos in their training period. However, there will be a further opportunity for him to justify this comparison in a debate on a matter of urgency tomorrow. Again, under the same Department, there is the Forestry Research Division, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. My colleagues and 1 have taken many opportunities in discussions on matters of urgency and in estimates debates to point out the alarming loss of scientists and engineers that there is in these branches, bureaux and commissions in the Department of National Development. Is this matter to be within the province of the Department of Education and Science? In the Department of the Interior there is the Bureau of Meteorology, in the Department of Supply there are the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. In the Department of Trade and Industry there is a section dealing with industrial and research grants. I have left out entirely science in the medical field, which comes under other departments and instrumentalities.
The whole field of scientific and industrial research was recommended as a subject matter for Commonwealth power by the Constitutional Review Committee in 1958 and again, with full reasons given, in 1959. There is little doubt that the extraordinary subterfuges to which the Commonwealth has had to resort in regard to research because it has no clear constitutional power over scientific and industrial research could be resolved at the forthcoming referendum - or could have been resolved at any time in the last eight years - if the Commonwealth Government allowed the Australian people to modernise their Constitution in this respect. True it is that State politicians of the last century drew up the Australian Constitution on an American model of the century before and that science and industrial research were not regarded as governmental responsibilities. In every developing country in the world they are so regarded now. But the Australian Constitution does not mention these things. Our activities in education and science - and I stress science - would be much more easily fulfilled if this Parliament had an explicit head of power in this respect. Similarly, activities by the States, including their activities in regard to agricultural extension services give a clear example of a lack of co-ordination and a loss of skilled people. There again, co-ordination of the use of our skills in Australia would be more effective, and the dividends to the nation would be much greater, if we had this power. In Australia there is complete fragmentation between governments and within the Commonwealth Government in the scientific and technological field. There is no co-ordination. There is no planning. In a word, there is no policy.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has given us a rather tedious account of his past performances in this House with respect to education and the setting up of a Common wealth Ministry of Education. During the course of his address he tried to make five points. He tried to make the thesis, firstly, that the Commonwealth was rather uninterested in education and was not in fact assuming greater responsibilities in this field. He then tried to make the point - and I do not think he understood the notes that had been supplied to him - that the activities of the Commonwealth Office of Education would be restricted. Had he read the statement of the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton), made in the other place, he would have realised that his apparent suspicion on this score had already been taken care of. He then tried to make a case concerning the Australian Research Grants Committee, misunderstanding what had been said and what was the truth as against what certain university chancellors and vice-chancellors had said in statements to the Press - and there is a distinction. He misunderstood what was being done concerning teachers colleges. H : also had something to say about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
It is my intention to deal with the five misunderstandings which the Leader of the Opposition manifested this afternoon. It is very clear that in 1945 the Commonwealth Government first expanded its control in education. Up to that time education was almost the complete responsibility of the State governments; the Commonwealth had almost no responsibility. In the pre-war period, apart from responsibilities in the Territories, the Commonwealth was concerned mainly with administering the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, the Canberra University College - from 1930 onwards - and certain fields associated with aeronautical research which were attached to one of the departments.
In the post-war period the Commonwealth’s interest in this field expanded tremendously and constantly. It is valuable to look quickly at some of the fields which the Commonwealth has taken unto itself for its own administration since 1945 and since this Government came into office. They include the Commonwealth university scholarship scheme, secondary and technical scholarships, and the science grants scheme - all new schemes. There was also the establishment of the Australian Universities Commission, which is a little removed from direct Commonwealth interest. Nevertheless the Commonwealth undertook increased, and increasing, responsibility. Apart from setting up a separate Ministry of Education and Science, a separate department - which is the sole concern of this Bill - the Commonwealth has developed increasing responsibilities in education and acknowledges such responsibilities. At one time there was a section within the Prime Minister’s Department - a large section - handling education matters, but whether education activities were under the control of the Prime Minister or not the simple fact is that these responsibilities were acknowledged and were borne by the Commonwealth.
The second error that the Leader of the Opposition made concerned the Commonwealth Office of Education. The Leader of the Opposition implied that the Commonwealth was going to shed responsibility for the activities carried out by the Commonwealth Office of Education. He implied that the Commonwealth was not going to maintain a liaison with the States. He implied that the Commonwealth would not be responsible for some of its own research in education; that it was not going to provide research relating to education and statistics, and information relating to education required by the Commonwealth authority. This is incorrect. Had he read the statement made in the other place by the Minister he would have realised this. The Minister had something to say about this precise matter. At page 2S3 of the Senate Hansard of 2nd March the Minister said this:
As to the relations of the Department with the States, these will be the same as the relations of the Commonwealth with the States have been in this field of education where more than one Government is involved. In some fields, the operation will be for the provision of sums of money for specific purposes . . .
This relates to the Australian Research Grants Committee and other specific purposes. In other fields the grants will be related to matters requiring matching grants by the States. This will be in fields in which the grants are related to current expenditures. No activities of the present Commonwealth Office of Education will be curtailed. They will be maintained. It is perfectly clear from the thinking that is occurring in the community and in the Government that the interest of the Commonwealth in education will be expanded. The Leader of the Opposition obviously did not understand the case that had been prepared for him.
I refer now to the third misunderstanding of the Leader of the Opposition. He tried to make something of a dispute concerning funds for the Australian Research Grants Committee. The fact is that in announcing the proposed programme to the Commonwealth Parliament on 21st September last year the Government stated that it was prepared to pay either half of each component of the grant, as had been done in the last triennium, or alternatively to contribute $9m to the Australian Research Grants Committee; but in the second case it would have to leave the financing of the general research grant of $6m to the State governments. There was a 50% increase. This matter was left to the States. The decision was publicly announced last September and all universities and vicechancellors had their attention drawn to it. That was the position as it stood towards the end of last year.
Having done this - here we see a clear division among the States - Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland told their universities that they would meet the full cost of the general research programme. They favoured the proposals in relation to the Commonwealth’s grants of $9m and $6m. New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania however informed their universities otherwise. They said that not only would they not meet the full cost of the programme but also that they proposed to reduce their contribution drastically. The Leader of the Opposition is unhappy about this. Will he come out and say that Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland were incorrect, or will he say that the other States were incorrect? As is his usual practice in these cases, he does not take a side. Of course in relation to the other field of education on which he touched in the debate this afternoon - the field of nongovernment education - he was never known to take sides until the last eighteen months of his public career. As I have said, he does not take sides in these matters.
Let us look at the States which have reduced to the greatest extent their obligation in the matter of general grants, the States which have restricted themselves more than others in their responsibilities. In New South Wales there has been a reduction of something like 40% in contributions to general research grants during the next triennium. In Victoria the State Government has reduced its grant by something like 40% in money terms and, in real terms, by a somewhat higher percentage. In Tasmania, a State maintained and administered by the same Party as that to which the Leader of the Opposition belongs, and a State which presumably would be concerned with expenditure on research, the Government will reduce its total grant for research from $244,000 as it was in the last triennium to $90,000 in this three year period. Having regard to the real decline in its contribution, this represents a decrease of something over 70%. I remind honourable members that Tasmania has a Labor Government. If the Leader of the Opposition has a quarrel with what various States do, he should have the greatest quarrel with his own Deputy and those Tasmanian Labor members who sit in -this place because the State Labor Government has absolved itself from its responsibilities more than has any other State government in this Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition should first look to where responsibility lies in this respect.
Having taken care of his obvious misunderstanding of the activities of the Commonwealth Office of Education and of the new scheme for research grants which has been proposed and accepted, let me turn now to another matter. He said something about teachers colleges and tried to imply that the Commonwealth was opting out of its responsibilities in this field. He also referred to the report of the Martin Committee. He wants the Committee’s recommendations in relation to teachers colleges adopted. The people of this country should be grateful that they are not being adopted. In fact this Government is going much further than the Committee’s recommendations. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, when speaking in this House on 24th March 1965 on the report and recommendations of the Committee, had this to say:
The next important recommendation of the Committee is that the Commonwealth should enter the existing field of teacher training, both by way of an interim capital grant of £1.25m and by way of £1 for £1 grants for capital and £1 for £1.85 grants for recurrent expenses in the 1967-69 triennium and after.
These were the kind of proposals the Leader of the Opposition wanted adopted. Let us look now at the kinds of proposals that are being implemented. In his policy speech delivered during the last election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) stated:
We will provide S8m a year over the next three financial years for the construction and equipment of new colleges for teacher training throughout Australia.
No talk of matching grants there, just a promise to provide $8m. He went on:
This money will require no matching grants from the States. It will be used by us to build colleges on sites selected by the States, on condition that the State does not reduce its expenditure on teacher training, and on condition that at least 10% of the places at the new colleges are reserved for teachers not bonded to State Education Departments.
Let me point out the difference in the two approaches. The Leader of the Opposition had something prepared for him supporting a proposal which he said would require matching grants by the States. He claimed also that the Commonwealth was not doing enough. The Commonwealth, however, goes beyond his proposals and in fact beyond the propositions advanced by the Martin Committee. Obviously once again the Leader of the Opposition did not understand what had occurred.
He then referred to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and expressed some kind of concern that the Organisation would not be able to maintain its position of integrity and independence. He felt that somehow it would be lost in the new Department. This is understandable because the Victorian ALP Country Conference passed certain resolutions last weekend. The Melbourne ‘Age’ of Monday, 13th March 1967, carried the following report of the Conference:
The conference expressed ‘grave concern’ at tha Commonwealth Government’s decision to bring the CSIRO under the control of the Minister for Education and Science.
It declared the Commonwealth should take positive steps to ensure the independence of the CSIRO.
The CSIRO har played an important role in agricultural and other forms of scientific research.
We can see the concern expressed by the Victorian ALP Country Conference. Apparently on that occasion at least the Leader of the Opposition decided to have a honeymoon with certain policies of the Victorian ALP.
What in fact are the opinions of the people who are concerned with the CSIRO? The February 1967 issue of ‘Coresearch’, a journal which circulates among members of the staff of the CSIRO, had this to say concerning the Organisation’s relations with the Ministry:
In the past, the Science and Industry Act was administered by the Prime Minister who appointed a deputy to act as Minister in Charge of CSIRO.
Under the new arrangements, however, the Minister for Education and Science will administer the Science and Industry Research Act.
There will be no other changes in the way CSIRO operates and in spite of inaccurate reports that the Department will be taking over responsibility, the administration of CSIRO will remain unaltered, except that the Executive will be responsible direct to the new Minister.
So once again the Leader of the Opposition has made an error on the fifth point with which he was concerned.
This Bill is a machinery measure concerned with setting up a new Commonwealth Department under a new Minister. It is quite clear that the Executive has the authority to set up this Department and that Parliament, through the Public Service Bill before the House, has the authority to administer the Department. In fact it is doing that now. However while one acknowledges that the Commonwealth has been accepting increasing responsibilities in the field of education, and while it has, in the period from the Second World War and again from 1949, set up new departments and taken a completely new interest in education, one must sound a warning. We live under a Federal system and some people are concerned that the responsibilities of the States may be forgotten. One becomes concerned that the States may not bear the responsibilities that they should and would like to bear.
Some of us are sufficiently concerned about preserving a certain number of
States’ rights. I merely make the point that a principle of subsidiarity is involved in education. I subscribe very strongly to that principle. Municipal authorities ought to be able to exert their own responsibilities as far as possible. State governments ought not to take over from municipal authorities what those authorities can do quite efficiently and well, and State authorities ought to reserve to themselves what they can do efficiently and well. Bearing this principle in mind, the Commonwealth should take over only the fields and interests of education which it finds cannot be administered by the States. These fields and interests are not as wide as people may imagine.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he had to say something concerning the plight of schools, for example, at both secondary and primary levels. He has dealt with tertiary education on other occasions. He has hinted on other occasions that he would like the Commonwealth to enter the fields of primary education which it has not entered before. During the last election campaign he said that he would like the Commonwealth to enter much more strongly the field of non-government education. The worst State for non-government education is Tasmania. That State has a Labor Government. My own State of Queensland has assisted in this field, as has Western Australia. The new government of New South Wales has expanded its interests in this field. In trying to shovel everything onto the Commonwealth - in trying to divert everything to the Commonwealth - the Leader of the Opposition fails to acknowledge that his own colleagues in Tasmania, whether they are concerned with university research grants or with the field of non-government education, are responsible as members of a Labor Government that has been in power there for over three decades for worse administration than exists in any other State. The same kind of neglect occurred under the former New South Wales Government from 1941 to 1965.
I have stated before that this is a machinery Bill. It is only a machinery Bill. It would seem that the Leader of the Opposition in this debate, ranged very wide of the subject matter of the Bill. It was only iri attempting to correct his five misconceptions that I have taken up so much time of the House this afternoon. I support the new Ministry which the Commonwealth has set up and the new Public Service arrangements which are concomitant to the setting up of the new Ministry. I say only that the Commonwealth ought not to enter the fields of education which can be administered satisfactorily by the State authorities. It ought to enter only those fields in which the State authorities have shown that they are not interested or cannot administer.
– Unlike the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) I would not attempt to make a qualitative assessment as between standards of education in one State and standards in another. The only sort of generalised assessment I would like to make is that overall neither the quality nor the quantity of education that we should be getting is being obtained in Australia. The honourable member for Lilley referred to a principle of subsidiarity. The only comment I would like to make is that the role of the Commonwealth in the field of total education is still a relatively subsidiary one. I illustrate that point by some very compact figures that were a supplement to an address given by Professor Peter Karmel, Vice Chancellor of the Flinders University of South Australia, at the University of Melbourne on 4th October 1966. He titled his address ‘Some Arithmetic of Education’. The occasion was the Tenth Theodore Fink Memorial Seminar. Professor Karmel showed in terms of the latest year for which figures were available that the estimated expenditure on education in Australia for the period ended June 1966 was $788m. Of that sum SI 35m was provided for what is termed private education - that is, nongovernment educational responsibility. In the public sector the total expenditure was $653m. The contribution made by the Commonwealth to all forms of education was $94m only, or approximately oneseventh of the total expenditure of $788m.
So the roles of the States in education in aggregate are still more significant than the role of the Commonwealth. In a subsequent table Professor Karmel compiled a break-down of the figures which shows that
Commonwealth expenditure on education relative to public expenditure was only 14.4%, or about one-seventh. So much, for the idea that the Commonwealth is doing a great deal for education. It is not doing anywhere near as much as the States are doing. In the aggregate, not nearly enough is being done in 1967 to fill the total educational needs of Australia.
None of us has anything to brag about in respect of the total provision for education. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in my view rightly, attacked the Federal Government for the meagre information it provided when introducing this measure. All we have before us is a flimsy sheet of legislation which states that it is a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Service Act 1922-1966 in relation to the Department of Education and Science. The substantive part of the Bill is that it is deemed to have come into operation as from 13th December 1966. It is retrospective in its application. It allows for the creation of the Department of Education and Science. All that is required is to add one line, not to the Public Service Act, but to the Second Schedule of the Public Service Act. The Third Schedule is to be amended by adding the simple words The Secretary to the Department of Education and Science’.
There is no information in the Bill or in the remarks of the Minister when introducing the measure as to whether we are to have a little education and a lot of science, a lot of education and very little science, or possibly very little education and very little science. 1 would have thought that if we were to have assessed the situation intelligibly there ought to have been an attempt to outline what the Government has in mind in setting up the Department of Education and Science. I assume that the new Department will take over the Commonwealth Office of Education. It is interesting to note from looking at the statistics contained in the annual report of the Public Service Board just how much of a New South Wales institution the Commonwealth Office of Education is. Out of a total establishment of 255 persons, 173 are in New South Wales.
– Is that not because the Commonwealth Office of Education has not yet shifted to Canberra?
– Precisely. All I am suggesting is that in no sense can it be regarded as a Commonwealth network of education. Presumably, when this legislation is implemented, we will have some kind of Commonwealth network of education and science activity, but how much or how little of each is left to the imagination. After all, the Minister’s second reading speech takes up only half a page in Hansard. I would have thought that so important is the creation of this new Department that the Minister would have given us some indication of its establishment and proposed functions. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, we might have been given a preview of that document known as the administrative arrangements order - I have no doubt that the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) knows that that is the document which sets out the objectives of the Department.
– The Prime Minister has announced that.
– It has not been announced in connection with this Bill. When we are debating the setting up of a Department of Education and Science surely we should not have to rely on a miscellaneous assortment of statements made over the last six or twelve months, many of them purely for electoral purposes. Surely we ought to know what we are legislating for and what is to be the magnitude of the organisation.
– How does the Minister know that the Department will not keep on growing like Topsy?
– That is one of the things I want to suggest: how simple it is to allow a Public Service organisation to grow like Topsy. I am not one who condemns the growth of the Public Service. I believe that there should be more public activity relative to total activity in the community. That means an extension of departments. All I point out k how simple it is to create a department. For instance all the Government need i’o is introduce a Bill consisting of only two lines announcing that tomorrow it will set up a department for whale fishing as distinct fi om other fishing. The Government could then appoint some gentleman as the secretary to this department of whale fishing. It n-;ed not mention how many officials the o” apartment was likely to employ or indicate the scope of the new ministry. I do think that a comprehensive statement should be issued so that we will all know what it is envisaged that this new Commonwealth Department of Education and Science will do. The title of the Department sounds very impressive. But a mere couple of lines inserted in the Public Service Act will not make a great deal of difference to the serious situation that faces Australians at the educational level or significantly extend the scope of Commonwealth activity in the scientific field.
The fact that this measure was even contemplated shows that the Government is not satisfied with the performance of its existing education network. I have heard mention this afternoon of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Leader of the Opposition referred to one or two scientific agencies in other departments. He mentioned the Aeronautical Research Laboratories which are attached to the Department of Supply. A similar role is performed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources which is attached to the Department of National Development. Instrumentalities such as these are engaged in technical and scientific endeavours and the Leader of the Opposition wanted to know whether they were to be brought within the ambit of the Department of Education and Science. I think that many of them will not be. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition was raising these questions rhetorically rather than in any other sense. He felt that the presentation of the case for this Bill is inadequate. I am inclined to agree with him.
On the other hand, the debate apparently has been made an opportunity to point out how much the Commonwealth is doing in the field of education. Well, however much the Commonwealth is doing regarding education it is still doing only one-seventh of what the States are doing. Some people glibly talk about matching grants. The Commonwealth is in the fortunate position of being able to raise revenues, certainly not without limit but certainly far greater than those available to the States. In some fields the Commonwealth says that for every £1 it gives the States - sometimes it is only 17s - it expects the States to provide £1. This is being rather airy about the whole thing.
Comparisons of State and Commonwealth contributions to education have been made here on other occasions. For example in 1948 the States expended about one-third of their total budgets on education. By 1966 that figure had risen to more than half. So, it cannot be said that the States have not at’ least struggled to devote more and more of their relatively limited resources to education. I doubt whether anybody on either side of this Parliament would suggest that the total expenditure - both Commonwealth and State - on education at the moment is adequate. No doubt Government supporters will point out that because we are spending more in a certain field we must spend less in the education field. Of course, the field in which so much more is being spent is the field of defence.
Defence expenditure has risen dramatically from $750m to SI, 000m in this financial year. I assume that so long as we have defence expenditure at that level, education will have to go short. 1 will not argue in this debate whether we are getting full value for our SI, 000m of defence expenditure. 1 doubt it. I believe that there is considerable waste and considerable empire building. But it is timely on an occasion such as this to ask whether existing techniques between the Commonwealth and the States are the most satisfactory means of obtaining the optimum use of educational resources. I do not believe that the existing techniques are satisfactory. There is very great danger that the Commonwealth - I repeat that it is responsible for only one-seventh of the expenditure on education in Australia today - will approach the problem with a view to doing some window dressing. It will do the sort of things that will appeal most to the public, but those things are not likely to be the most effective ones to remove the defects in the education structure.
I certainly say that for the Commonwealth to provide more money for universities was right. But I am not so sure that it should have directed that money’ separately to universities. In my view, the proper pattern is to give more money to the States and to allow the States the luxury of choosing how the money is to be spent. The States should decide whether money is to go to teacher training rather than kindergartens, or to adult education and library services rather than advanced colleges of education or something of that kind. All these matters can be argued.
I am not sold on the idea that the organisation of the CSIRO is superior to that of a government department. These, to my mind, tend to be technical arguments. They are not blacks nor whites; they are matters on which there are some pros and some cons. In my view the Government has been very remiss in the way in which this measure has been brought to this House. It has been simply tossed in here. Of course, the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) is not a member of this House - he is in another place - and I suppose that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden^ who introduced the measure in this place, does not have any great responsibility for it. Certainly the speech that accompanied the presentation of the Bill was very perfunctory. I think it took the Minister about two minutes to deliver the speech. It tells us nothing whatever.
– It is only a technical Bill.
– It is not only a technical Bill.
– The honourable member’s leader said that.
– If he said that he is wrong. I suggest that it is more than a technical Bill. It is a significant measure. I suppose that the Government would prefer it to be regarded as a technical measure so that we would not argue about the details of it or the motive behind it. But surely there was some imaginative purpose behind the Government’s creating the Department of Education and Science and the Government ought not to be ashamed to indicate what it is. It would be better to have this information at this belated stage than not to have it at all. We have no idea whether the Government is only taking an existing establishment out of a niche because the present Minister does not care very much whether it passes from his control or whether the Government is establishing a new full time Minister to make him look a little bit more impressive than what he is. This would not add to the total provision for education or scientific endeavour in the Commonwealth. If this Bill is only a technical measure, I suggest that it would be better not to have the legislation at all. I suggest also that the Government had some motive in making this matter an election issue. The Government told us that there were to be qualitative improvements. We are endeavouring to probe what the qualitative improvements are. We can see many areas of education in which there is need for improvement in both quality and quantity.
I was making the point that I think the Commonwealth is not nearly as sympathetic as it ought to be to the total needs of education in Australia. The Government’s approach in this matter is to pick a line here and a line there and say: ‘We have done this and that’. An example of this kind of thing is the lovely glossy purple book entitled ‘The Commonwealth Government in Education’ that was published prior to the last election. But the Government does not put the matter in perspective. It does not show how much the States have been spending on education. The States’ expenditure on education in the aggregate is six times the Commonwealth’s expenditure on education. It seems to me that members who sit behind the Government feel a certain smugness about the wonderful job that the Commonwealth is doing in education.
I have had close experience of the difficulties in getting children into universities. I have had experience of children, whom I know to be seven years old, going along to a primary school at the beginning of the year and finding out that they cannot get a place in the school or cannot be housed satisfactorily in any institution. It seems to me that we do not have a national picture of the deficiencies in education. I hope that one of the tasks that the new Department of Education and Science will set for itself will be to achieve a better co-ordination of educational matters. The Commonwealth should get a picture of the situation so that at least we can see the deficiencies in education. It should not tell the States what they ought to do.
Surely in Australia in 1967 it is a social crime for any person who has been turned out of the secondary education system at the right level to be quota-ed out of a place in a university. To my mind that is a social crime against a child. We allow him to believe that, given a certain capacity and a certain application, if he reaches a certain level he can go to a university and undertake a course of his own choosing. I do not know how many children were excluded from Australian universities this year, but there were thousands. There were thousands last year and there were thousands the year before that. These are the years when the locusts eat. Once a child aged between sixteen and twenty years is denied the opportunity to attend a university, he does not get an opportunity when he is twentyfive or thirty years of age. He rarely gets a chance then and his particular skills are lost to the community. That is the kind of thing that is happening at only one level of education in Australia at the present time.
I suggest that in many respects there is another big deficiency in our education system. Many children who matriculate - and I use the Victorian standard as an example because it varies somewhat in description in the other States - believe that a university is the only place to which they can go. I think that is a wrong attitude. A diploma obtained from a technical college will be as significant - possibly more significant - in the years ahead in view of certain social and industrial changes taking place. But there is a tendency to regard the technical channel as second rate to a university course. That is a bad attitude for the community to adopt.
The Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out that we cannot draw a fine distinction between what is called teaching and research. I think that is quite true as far as the community is concerned.
I recommend to the House for its consideration a passage from an article in the ‘Listener’ of 26th January 1967 entitled Whither Britain’s new universities?’. It quotes Lord James, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, who, when pointing out the difference between teaching and research, said:
Nothing could be further from my intention than to denigrate the importance of genuinely important research. I would recognise, too, the importance in some fields of research at a very humble level as a valuable means of teaching. It is rather the attitude that believes research, however trivial, to be a more important activity than teaching, however stimulating, that I fear and deplore.
I suggest that in Australia at the present time there is a great danger of elevating research however trivial above teaching however stimulating. Occasionally we have to think of things of quality as well as of material things. At least that may be one aspect to which the new Department may devote itself.
– In dealing with this measure I should like first of ail to congratulate the new Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) upon his appointment and also the new head of the Department, Sir Hugh Ennor. I think that Australia is very fortunate indeed that Sir Hugh has agreed to take on this job in the new Department at what is undoubtedly a very important time in our history in the field of education, science and research as we enter to a greater extent this age of technology. This afternoon we have heard speeches by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) which in some ways were quite extraordinary. The Leader of the Opposition set out to prove the case that the Government has not a science policy and that the Australian Labor Party has. He produced a whole series of what he regarded as facts to support his contention. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports made some serious charges against the Government, but in producing evidence to support his charges he invariably touched upon schemes that had been instituted by this Government in order to try to overcome difficulties in the field of education. The honourable member rightly said that, under the Constitution, the major responsibility in this field has been, and is, with the States, but he said also that the Federal Government had taken executive action in relation to universities in the case of what he called a social injustice. Let me put the facts. In 1950 there were, I think, eight universities and two or three university colleges in Australia. Today there are fourteen universities and three or four university colleges. In 1950 there were 30,000 university students in Australia. Today there are over 90,000. This is a threefold increase. The rate of increase in this period is twice that of the United States of America and, I think, thrice that of the United Kingdom. So this Government has taken action in that regard.
Let me get back for a moment to the remarkable performance of the Leader of the Opposition. He started off by referring to his party, but then he dealt with the subject more personally and said that he had advocated the establishment of a Ministry of Education and Science in 1961 or 1962. He implied that the Commonwealth had done little to establish such a Ministry and that it was the Labor Party which had discovered this area of activity. I referred to this matter in the Address-in-Reply debate. Statements of that kind remind me of the people who still say that Captain Cook was the first person to come to Australia - that he discovered it. These people completely forget that Dirk Hartog had been to the west coast of Australia a century or two earlier. In this, his first term of office, if I may use that phrase, the Leader of the Opposition is displaying a total disregard of the facts. I hope he has a greater regard for the security of his leadership than he has for facts. The truth is that, although a Labor government established the Commonwealth Office of Education, the platform and policy of the Australian Labor Party from 1951 to 1954 contained only one line on the subject of education. This was a reference to the establishment of a Faculty of Labour and Industrial Relations at each of the various Australian universities. From 1951 to 1954 that was Labor’s total policy on education, and even then the matter referred to was not actually an education matter but an industrial relations matter. In 1955 the Labor Party expanded its policy on education by putting in an additional line, referring to the promotion of secondary and higher education by way of bursaries, scholarships, exhibitions and benefits of a like nature payable direct to students. Up to 1959, those were the Labor Party’s only contributions to education in its platform. The policy speeches of Labor leaders - I have copies here - did not take the subject much beyond that.
In 1961, however, the Labor Party did go further. It added that the Federal Government would establish a Ministry of Education and Science, which would consider, inter alia, the establishment of a Faculty of Labour and Industrial Relations at each general Australian university. In 1961, according to the Labor Party’s policy, that was to be the main job of the new Ministry of Education and Science. The 1961 platform also contained a series of points about improving the physical health of the people and about technical education, but there was nothing of any great depth. As the Leader of the Opposition implied, the Labor Party discovered education and science in about 1961, but during the 1950s some remarkable developments in the field had been instituted by this Government. Education had been assisted by way of grants to universities and the growth of the grants to the States for general purposes. This Government has taken the attitude that we live under a federal system and that the States should have the right to decide how they spend their moneys. This attitude has continued. As recently as two or three years ago, at a Premiers’ Conference or a Loan Council meeting, one of the States - I think it was New South Wales, in the last year in which there was a Labor government there - proposed that a special grant be made to the States for expenditure on education. The proposal was taken up by the Commonwealth and each of the States was told: If you want this special grant, there must be certain strings attached to it. We would like to know what you think they should be, so that there can be uniformity in Australia’. After a recess, all of the States knocked the proposal back.
Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports have said that there has been no definition of the purposes of the new Department of Education and Science. I should like to refer to a Press statement that was issued by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) on 20th December, the day after the new Department came into operation. The statement was:
I have some details of the transfer of duties and responsibilities to the Department of Education and Science. The Prime Minister’s Department will retain responsibility for matters which might be said to have some flavour of education about them - support for the arts, for example, the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Art Advisory Board, the grants to the Elizabethan Theatre Trust and historical societies, miscellaneous grants to charities - surf lifesaving associations, boy scouts and girl guides, National Youth Council, the National Library. The Department of Education and Science will have responsibility for the administration of various education grants such as universities, colleges of advanced education, technical training, science laboratories, Commonwealth scholarships for universities, schools and technical colleges, advice to the Government on education policy questions, university training, Colombo Plan and other aid schemes, UNESCO affairs and Commonwealth co-operation in education, grants to scientific bodies, for example, the Academy of Science, Humanities Research Council and Social Sciences Research Council, special research grants and Queen Elizabeth Fellowships, Institute of Aboriginal Studies. On the science side, CSIRO will be responsible to the Minister for Education and Science and will maintain its past relationship with the Minister; the National Standards Commission which works closely with CSIRO will also report to the new Minister. The staff of the Education Division, the Commonwealth Office of Education and of the Australian Universities Commission are being transferred to the new Department.
Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports tried to create confusion about the future of the Office of Education. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) answered the Leader of the Opposition in what I thought was a firstclass and brilliant way. He pointed out, and I think it is worthwhile pointing out again, that the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton), in a speech on 2nd March, said:
The Commonwealth Office of Education . . . will not be affected by the passage of this Bill as such. All this Bill does is to put beyond doubt the legality of setting up by executive act the Department of Education and Science. However, the Department having been set up, a proposal will be coming before the Parliament in another measure to amalgamate the Commonwealth Office of Education with the Department.
There is no doubt that the functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education will be supported. The establishment of this new Department will provide a focal point for the Commonwealth’s activities in the fields of education and science. Over the two years or so that I have been here 1 have advocated the creation of such a Department as this. As I said two weeks ago, it is now time for this to happen. I foresee further developments of this kind. In four or five years time when we have done a lot more in the field of applied research right through the spectrum of the economy we could well have a Department of Technology, such as now exists in the United Kingdom. We would still have our Department of Education and Science because I see a close correlation between education continuing through from the secondary level to the tertiary level to the basic research level, which may be regarded as science. Technology - the application of science - is a separate matter. I can see this happening in four or five years’ time when the schemes to subsidise increased research in industry and to assist primary industry are well under way, but not at the moment. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Labor Party was the only party with a science policy, but he ignored the criticism that his party’s so called policy is not defined. It is simply a series of sentences setting out principles which mean nothing unless we know how they would operate. This cannot be regarded as a science policy.
– The honourable member does not mean that.
– 1 certainly do. The interjection reminds me of an occasion about eighteen months ago when the Leader of the Opposition - he was then Deputy Leader of the Opposition - endeavoured to define his Party’s policy. In doing so, whether through inadvertence or for some other reason, he made it clear that Labor would destroy’ the primary industry research schemes and that the implementation of its policy would have a violent effect on the operations of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. All this is in Hansard. It has been admitted. One statement was made during the debate on the estimates for the CSIRO and another statement was made during the debate on the meat research legislation.
The Opposition claims with great pride that it is the only party in Australia that has given deep consideration to science, but in doing so it ignores totally what has happened. The Opposition must pay regard, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) did, to what this Government has done. Let us see what the Government has done in the field of education in the last ten or twelve years. We have seen the establishment of the Murray Commission and the consequent great development of universities throughout the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has supported the universities by making grants and by providing scholarships to students. More recently we have seen the establishment of the Australian Research Grants Committee, which will make grants to research workers throughout the Commonwealth. The establishment of that Committee met with the approval of honourable members opposite as recently as October last year. In the debate on the
Australian Universities Commission report, the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition applauded the Committee’s operations. Today in criticising the assistance that is given to universities for research work and in dealing with the problems that we are facing in this field he ignores the facts. He gives only one side of the picture. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) effectively answered the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition, so I will not dwell further on the matter.
In addition to providing an impetus to our universities the Government has given great assistance to the States in the field of technical education. The establishment of new colleges of advanced education which has been assisted by the Commonwealth will go a long way towards meeting the needs of industries and professions in what is becoming a more technical age in which employees are required te have greater training. In addition the Commonwealth has provided the finance for the provision of science blocks in State and independent secondary schools.
– For a long time the Leader of the Opposition was opposed to that policy.
– He has had many changes of heart in the field of education. His attitudes have fluctuated fairly violently, not necessarily on the principle of the need of the time but perhaps on the principle of the politics of the time. But that is secondary. Last weekend I was present at Barker College, Hornsby, when the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) opened the College’s new science laboratories. These new laboratories are an indication of the tremendous upsurge in technical training that is occurring in our State education system. Here is an example of how an Act of this Parliament will have great benefit to the students of not only our independent schools but also, and more importantly because there are more of them, our State schools. It is estimated that within four years every secondary school in the country will have adequate science teaching facilities.
When the current legislation governing the provision of science facilities in secondary schools expires it will be time to consider such matters as the use of television in the secondary education system, using techniques such as a videotape machine to record a programme televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Having established the principle, we could provide assistance to secondary students, in whatever system they may study, by providing such things as language laboratories and libraries. In view of the need for our children to stay longer at school than they did in years gone by and to gain a better education - this is apparent particularly under the Wyndham scheme in New South Wales - the Commonwealth has provided scholarships for students in their last two years at secondary school. All these things the Opposition totally ignores when it blindly accuses the Government of dithering about education and of lacking co-ordination so far as education is concerned. The Commonwealth has endeavoured to meet the critical needs of the States where pressures have been felt most. As the honourable member for Lilley pointed out, we have gone much further than the Martin Committee recommended in the matter of teacher training. The grants that have been made or that are about to be made to the States for teacher training are unmatched grants. These grants should help the States in an area of critical need.
We must not forget that we live in a federal system. The major responsibility for education still rests with the States. As the honourable member for Lilley pointed out in referring to the current argument between the Commonwealth, the States and the universities about research grants, it is in the States’ area that the major responsibility lies, for it was their decision to take the money and to accept the terms governing the grants. Without regard for the facts the Leader of the Opposition ignores this side of the matter and quotes only individual cases or one side alone. As one of my colleagues points out, it is quite possible that he did not understand it although in October last, when he spoke on this matter, -he seemed to understand it, because in that speech he seemed to give approval of it. So the question of co-ordination as we develop in the future, particularly in the area of science, research and technology, is a real one.
The Leader of the Opposition, whilst he said that we had no science policy, very rightly pointed out the various Commonwealth activities that have grown up in departments in which research is undertaken. He tended to play down the amount of this activity; but he did - I thank him for this - place on the record once again, as I have done on previous occasions, the enormous contributions to the development of this country that are being made in the various departments and sponsored by various government agencies, either under their own direct control or through other institutions and research organisations such as the universities.
As I have stated earlier in this speech, 1 believe that as time goes on and as we develop in this general area we could well establish a ministry of technology; but in the logical course of events this would be about five years away. 1 disagree with the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that education should be separate and science and technology should be kept together - unless we are at cross purposes on the definition of science. I believe that technology and the application of research are a separate matter, but that science and fundamental research should stay in th*general field of education. I believe that there is a much closer link between them. That has been shown in the United Kingdom recently. However, I understand that the Opposition, since it has talked about these matters, has appointed a shadow minister of technology as part of its front bench and has, in effect, separated it from education. But it has not yet explained what it really means.
Let me sum up. This is purely a machinery measure but it has, I think quite properly, been fully debated by the House. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who introduced it, had no need to go into any greater detail than he did because, as he pointed out in his short speech, the Department of Education and Science was set up by Executive action under section 64 of the Constitution and the purpose of this measure is purely to give that action legality within the terms of the Public Service Act. Obviously in the future there will be a series of debates on this whole question because various legislative measures will have to be brought forward. I believe that the establishment of this new Department is a hallmark in the history of the administration of this country. It is timely. It will have a very great effect not only on the contributions that our children and pupils will make ultimately after they have completed their education and graduated at whatever level of tertiary education they undertake but also on the development of the Australian economy through science and research.
– By the time the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) had finished his oration I was not too sure whether it was a eulogy or an apologia. There seems to be some confusion on exactly how the Government has come to venture into this new field of education. I will elaborate that in a moment. The honourable member was a little unfair to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who might be regarded as one of the foundation members of the education lobby in this Parliament. For the last ten or eleven years there has been an education lobby, if I may use that vulgar political term. It is mostly on this side of the House. There has been an access of enthusiasm from honourable members on the other side. They have noticed that citizens outside the Parliament have become interested, and they have been lobbied in their turn. In fact, one could hardly say that honourable members opposite have come to this subject in the full flush of enthusiasm. There has been no driving force. There is not much dynamism about it. But they are here; so let us be grateful for that and the fact that at last we have arrived at what is on the one hand only a technical point and on the other a landmark, according to one speech - that of the honourable member for Robertson.
I believe that this is a landmark. My impression from my observations of this Government - dilatory as it is in so many fields despite the fact that it has the resources of Australia at its disposal - is that when the Commonwealth does put its foot in the door that is a landmark in the particular enterprise. The Commonwealth brings to it a great surge of resources, administrative competence and so on which changes the field dramatically, as has been done in the universities, as I hope will be done after the referendum in respect of the Aboriginals and as I presume will be done in the field of education under careful guidance from this side of the House.
Australia is a wealthy country. I have not much sympathy for people who say how much better off we are than the people of Finland, Iceland, the Congo or even the United States. I believe that there is some relevance in comparisons that show how badly off we are. There is no doubt in my mind that Australia is one of the wealthy countries and that we should be able to produce the best administrative system and the best education system. I have no sympathy either for the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Robertson. I pay tribute to the fact that he steps into this debate with a certain sensitivity for the needs of education. But he will have to develop much more drive if he is to keep this Government moving. He says that education is something which generally speaking should be confined to the State area. I believe that the Constitution is a long way behind the needs of the community. Education is not mentioned >n the Constitution. That is reasonable enough because at the time of Federation education was a matter for the States. Although compulsory primary education was being established throughout the country, secondary education was not for ordinary mortals and university education, of course, was for the high and mighty - the elite.
The total expenditure on education at the time of Federation was probably not more than three or four million dollars. Now education is one of Australia’s largest undertakings. The Commonwealth is stepping into the field officially, I presume, by this ratification of the appointment of the Secretary of the Department of Education and Science. The Commonwealth is now stepping into the largest social enterprise in the community and the largest single enterprise in the community. It involves more people than does any other enterprise. We have between 2 million and 2i million children in our schools every day; we have 10,000 schools- 2,000 of them non-State and 8,000 of them State; we have about 80,000 teachers; and somebody has pointed out that we have 90,000 students in universities. Each of these units is a most important private undertaking, a most important family undertaking and a most important national undertaking. Each one involves a great deal of capital investment. For instance, the new Monash University will cost about $140m by the time it is established to the point of having 20,000 students. So each student in a university involves a capital investment of about $7,000.
I join with my colleagues on this side of the House in saying that it is dilatory indeed for the Commonwealth to drift into this field in the way that this Parliament is allowing. One almost has to appoint a research assistant to find out what is happening in this field. First of all we have a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Service Act under which several sentences are to be placed in the Schedules to the Act.
– Two sentences.
– That is right. This is supposed to place us in the position of being the godfathers of Australian education. Then we turn to the speech of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) who introduced the Bill into the House on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). One would almost think that the Minister was trying to hide the fact that he was attempting to deport somebody. His speech occupies about three-quarters of a page. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said that the Minister took two minutes to read it. I doubt that. But it is on the record. Of course, one can do what honourable members opposite and I did, namely, go to the various public relations officers around this place - for the Government side - and be given some statements on the matter. If one looks hard enough these can be found. We always receive courteous assistance from the staff. Honourable members can go to the Bills and Papers Office and get the Commonwealth of Australia ‘Gazette’, issue No. 103a, which was published in Canberra on Tuesday 13th December 1966. It contains an Administrative Arrangements Order issued under the hand of His Excellency the Governor-General. That issue of the Gazette’ sets out what has been done in establishing the Department of Education and Science.
– That is the sort of information that usually one cannot find.
– That is so. From the lack of information on this occasion one would almost think that it was a security service that was being established. If one looks at that issue of the ‘Gazette’ one finds that the new Department will administer a large number of Acts. I do not believe that this is the way for the Government to launch itself on the nation’s largest social enterprise. I believe that if the Administration were motivated by the proper spirit and were moving into this field with dedication, and not just to demonstrate that it was subordinating itself to the public will, we would have received from somebody at the top level in both Houses of the Parliament an effective statement of the philosophy behind the establishment of the new Department and of its aims and objectives as well as of the kind of task that it will undertake and the way in which it will be administered. Therefore, I join issue with honourable members opposite. I assert that the Government is merely drifting into the field in which the new Department will function. I believe that this Government has on its conscience very little of which it can be proud, even though some of its administrative actions have actually produced good results, as has happened in the university field, dilatory though its efforts there may have been.
We cannot ignore the history of the campaign on education that has been embarked on in the Parliament and in the community at large. The Education Act of 1945 has been mentioned here today. That was a specific indication of what the Commonwealth Labor Government of that time proposed to do. The Honourable J. J. Dedman, who was then member for Corio and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, introduced that measure in this House. I suppose that because of the way in which he went about the job of re-establishing Australian servicemen in civilian life, and because of his approach to universities as indicated by his successful establishment of the Australian National University, he has had more impact on the Australian community than almost any other Minister in the history of the Commonwealth has had. He started a kind of continuing chain reaction that has now flowed through the entire community and has lifted standards in education throughout the country. At the time of the introduction of the Education Act of 1945, Sir Robert Menzies, as he later became, was Leader of the Opposition. He was then showing some interest in the field of education and he intimated that he intended to debate the education issue at about that time. I understand that in his policy speech for the 1949 general election campaign he promised to do all sorts of things for education. Those promises were made while he was in opposition, of course. Having entered into government, he failed to move on the issue.
Honourable members who want to turn up the pages of history may go back to page 1450 of Hansard of 6th May 1958, where they will see recorded the opening of a debate in which we on this side of the chamber launched a campaign on education. I had the honour to propose for discussion as a matter of urgency:
The urgent need for the Commonwealth to take action to ensure that sufficient funds are available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for its people.
This was a highly significant debate. Those who participated included the late Dr Evatt, who was then Leader of the Opposition, Sir Robert Menzies, who, as Mr Menzies, was then Prime Minister, another Minister and a number of honourable members on both sides of the House. That debate was accepted at the time as being important. There was no doubt about what was then the guiding philosophy of the Government. The same philosophy governed its actions until the 1961 general election, when the facts of life were brought home to it pretty smartly and it found that the time had come for it to do something about education which, I believe, is the most important field of governmental social activity. If one turns up the remarks made by Sir Robert Menzies in May 1958 one will find that he defended the position that then existed and said that the Commonwealth had no administrative competence in the field of education. He declared:
The fact is that education, except in Commonwealth Territories, remains a function of the States. And the further fact is that I have not heard very much, if any, agitation in Australia to have education transferred to the Commonwealth. . . .
What we want to see is concurrent activity, with the Commonwealth taking some initia tive in the field. On the same occasion, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) - he is still merely the honourable member for Bradfield despite the best efforts of the progressive forces in the community to change the situation - said:
In the second place, if the Commonwealth makes specific grants, then the education system becomes centralised, and I do not think that any educationist in Australia would care to see that.
That is playing with words, rather. However, the honourable member at that time was convinced that if the Commonwealth came into the field the result would be the establishment of a large Commonwealth department that would in the end control and direct every phase of Australian education. This, of course, is not the proposition that we on this side of the House advance. Subsequently, members of the Australian Labor Party, in its various echelons in this Parliament and outside it, applied themselves vigorously to the question of education. In 1963, after long and careful deliberation, the Labor Party adopted a thorough-going policy on education embracing the establishment of a ministry of education and a separate ministry of science. It was this, I believe, that put education firmly in the national field. The Labor Party’s acceptance of its responsibilities in the matter achieved this. The State Labor governments throughout Australia accepted the view that this move was part and parcel . of the development of the nation, and the whole machinery of government became involved. Subsequently, in election campaigns and in debates in this House, it became more and more apparent to honourable members opposite that, diffident though they might be about acting, they had to accept the facts of life and themselves step into the field of education.
It would be presumptuous of us on this side of the chamber, of course, to claim that we were the only advocates of Commonwealth activity in the field of education. We on this side are not the administering authority. We can only use coercion, persuasion, influence and all the other pressures available to us. It has taken us about nine years of effort to get the Government to do what ought to have been done long ago and to establish a Commonwealth ministry with responsibility for education. Just in case I did not give enough emphasis to this before, I state that I take a dim view of the way in which the consideration of this measure is being handled by the Government. It has failed to say what the Commonwealth ought to do or will do in education. Therefore, it is perhaps incumbent on honourable members on this side of the House to say what we think it ought to do.
At this juncture I would like to mention a development in university finances and attitudes that has occurred in Victoria, the State from which I come. One of the things that the Commonwealth should do in view of this sort of development is try to ensure that the State governments undertake to protect the intellectual integrity and the autonomy of universities. Both students and staffs of universities do all sorts of things. Occasionally they attack governments and occasionally they praise them. Students and staffs of universities are always becoming involved in public demonstrations and the like. There is developing throughout Australia an unhappy attitude that this is dangerous. If the students of a university become involved in anti-governmental activities, some highly placed university administrator takes the view that the government concerned is likely to reduce the funds available to the university. In the last few days this has been demonstrated by the unfortunate effort of the Victorian Premier and his offsider, Mr Rylah, to make sure that the students of the University of Melbourne do not get out of line. What the students proposed to do may have been in bad taste. It may have been correct. Indeed, it may have been whatever one may care to think it to be. However, the situation is certainly dangerous when a government in Australia or anywhere else shows no respect for the intellectual integrity and the autonomy of a university and allows to develop the sort of situation that has arisen in Victoria.
For the benefit of those honourable members who may not be aware of the circumstances, let me say that the students of the University of Melbourne proposed to carry out a public demonstration the subject of which was the Victorian Premier. This may have been good or it may have been bad, depending on one’s attitude. The University was advised that such a demon.stration could have serious effects on its financial standing. Nobody can justify that sort of development. It represents a completely conscienceless use of governmental authority. Like the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who has just attempted to interject, I may or may not have agreed with what the students proposed to do. But surely to goodness, in this day and age, a mature government should not act as the State Government acted on this occasion. University students have always been like this. The honourable member has probably had his own moments of revolutionary ardour.
– I think he has.
– Yes. That may well be true. We have to make sure that the sort of attitude evidenced in Victoria does not continue and that the autonomy and the intellectual integrity of universities are preserved. The capacity of students to riot, rebel, let down tyres on motor vehicles and the like should not be reflected in the administrative attitudes of universities themselves. But that is just what has happened in Victoria. The universities have not been strong points of disciplinary control. That has been the inevitable development in universities. An almost fundamental feature of Western universities is the capacity of students to do what they want to do within the law generally. Serious breaching of an important principle in relation to policy towards universities has recently developed in Victoria in particular. From conversations with people throughout Australia I am aware that most university administrators are deterred from appropriate commitments in the community on other matters of policy because they are afraid that their ability to obtain funds may be prejudiced. I make this appeal. It will not always be the other people who will administer these things. There will not always be Liberal governments around the States, able to throw their weight around. We should encourage proper and appropriate freedom of speech, thought and action on political matters throughout the community. In particular, we should protect the autonomy of universities in these matters.
What ought the Commonwealth Ministry to do in the general field of education? What ought to be the duties of the Commonwealth Department? We have them listed. They are to control - perhaps control’ is not the word - the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Australian National University, the National Library and so on. First, the Commonwealth Department ought to do something immediately about teacher education. There is a good deal to be said for an immediate examination of the type of teacher education that has been adopted. The States certainly need a greater flow of funds with which to do this. Consideration should be given to the length of teacher education and I believe there should be a spirit of freedom in it. Teacher education should be released from departmental procedures. The fact that the State departments are also the training authorities, has been an inhibiting factor in the development of Australian education. While the present system has produced relative efficiency in Australian education - the classroom procedures are probably adequate and the teachers are probably well trained if not properly educated - to release teacher education from the departments would be to release them into the field of new inquiry and community attitudes. Education departments, like everybody else, are inclined to become self-perpetuating mechanisms. People will choose to be teachers, and will choose for promotion and training persons who look like themselves. I believe that the Commonwealth, ki stepping into the education .field, has the opportunity to produce a new attitude.
The second area in which the Commonwealth could be very effective is educational research. Off hand, I do not quite know what the expenditure is at the moment, but I understand that about Sim per annum is being spent on educational research in this country. That is totally inadequate. Many fields of research are available. What levels are necessary for admission to universities. Are teacher techniques, training methods and so on adequate? Are the things that we are teaching appropriate? Are we using the best techniques and methods? Are we using technology in the classroom? One could go on and on. I hope that the Commonwealth with its resources will gather to itself the initiating capacity to keep research moving. I am not suggesting that institutions such as the Australian Council for Educational Research should be taken over, but I think that they should be sponsored. Along with honourable members opposite I can see the need - I think members on this side would agree - for what one might call autonomous development to be encouraged and in some areas to be initiated.
We could also co-ordinate Australian standards. A large area of hardship is created in Australia by the differences between the standards of matriculation. I am not one of those who say that every student in every school should be learning the same things; but these differences still cause extraordinary difficulty, particularly in a community as mobile as ours. I believe that something could be done about the matriculation level. What is matriculation? We on this side of the House would disagree wholeheartedly with the Minister when he says that matriculation is not an admission certificate to universities. I have always believed that this was exactly what it was. This year, I think, the new University of La Trobe in Melbourne had 8,000 applicants for 400 places. Like the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) I do not know how many were excluded. Every one of those exclusions was a personal and domestic tragedy and a national waste.
Only the Commonwealth can co-ordinate this activity. I believe that the Commonwealth must become, in effect, the general staff of the Australian education system. It will not necessarily administer. Indeed, one of its great advantages is that it will not have to worry about the day to day administration of education systems. The education systems of Australia are remarkably efficient in their administrative exercises. Only a very small percentage - I think between 1% and 2% - of their actual expenditure goes in administration. This is largely inadequate. Headmasters - highly placed educationists - spend a lot of their time doing administrative work. Education administrators in Australia have little enough time to do anything but keep the wheels moving. It will be somebody who is removed from the needs of day to day administration who can put some initiative into Australian education at all levels. I would hope that this is the way that the Department of Education and Science will develop.
Australia needs nothing more than it needs some philosophy of education. I do not suppose that any government, any political party, or indeed any department, can sit down and draw up a philosophy of education. Australian education is not so much a development of a philosophy as a continuation of a series of habits. We teach French, for instance, because our forefathers came across the English Channel from France. The Channel is twenty miles wide. French was the closest foreign language that had any functional use to our grandparents and it is still the one to teach today. If one looks at the answer provided by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to the Leader of the Opposition in Hansard of 14th March at page 6S2 one will appreciate the difficulties that the Department of External Affairs has in keeping up the supply of Asian speaking diplomats. I presume that we ought to be teaching much more Indonesian in Australian schools. If we are as pessimistic as honourable members opposite, we ought to be making quite a thing out of the teaching of Chinese. At least, we ought to do something about Asian languages and get them involved in Australian schools. As to the educational attitude, the manner of education and the philosophy behind it, we ought to be encouraging philosophical thinking in the field of education. There is a great deal of it in Australia here and there, but it is not co-ordinated. It is not available to educational administrators, who have very little capacity to move round the country. They are restricted in their contacts with fellow educationists. This applies particularly to State administrators.
There is one issue that I should like to take up with the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). He said that Labor governments had done worse in the field of education than non-Labor governments. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, I do not know how one measures this. New South Wales was under Labor governments for about twenty-five years. Victoria has had hardly any Labor governments at all. The ones it has had were firstclass and they produced remarkable changes in the field of education, as I think any observer of the Victorian system will admit. Let us take one measure of the success of an education system and its administration, namely, the number of students or the proportion of students who reach universities.
Victoria has three-quarters of the population of New South Wales. Let us consider the 1966 university enrolment figures. I take these as a fair test of the success of the university administration in getting its students on. In that year there were 35,196 students in New South Wales universities and 19,497 in Victorian universities. Victoria, having three-quarters of the population of New South Wales, should have had between 26,000 and 27,000 university students. If all those Victorian students lived north of the Murray, another 8,000 would have been at universities. This, I believe, is a pretty fair critique of the approach of the Liberal Party and other conservative parties in Australia to education.
There are large measures of difference throughout Australia which the Commonwealth Government ought to attempt to remove. Some are not due to politics. Some are due to geography and some are due to social attitudes. I have not enough skill in arithmetic to analyse immediately the figures that have just reached me, but I think there were 56,000 or 57,000 male students in Australian universities last year and 19,000 or 20,000 young ladies. In other words, about 37,000 young women who had the same social background, the same economic status and the same intellectual capacity as their brothers, their cousins and their other male contemporaries did not reach the stage of university education. This was a tragic wastage for the whole community. It is a social question as much as anything else, but it is one that any government conscious of the necessity to develop the intellectual resources of the community ought to tackle.
Honourable members opposite have been very pleased with the way their Government has acted. I suggest that they get a copy of the report on educational television from down in the archives, have a good look at what the report said ought to be done and find out what has not been done. This is another example of the pigeon-holing of the aspirations of highly placed people. I will give my recollection of the report. It said that there ought to be a separate educational television authority and that channels ought to be made available for educational programmes. It spelled out in fairly precise terms what ought to be done. As far as I know, none of the suggestions have been put into effect and the opportunity to do so is passing from us. Every increase in the number of television channels being used for other purposes limits the availability of television for education.
I suggest to honourable members opposite that, far from the complacency with which they are approaching this debate, far from giving themselves broken backs by trying to pat themselves on the back, they should make a very close study of the Australian educational system. They might at least pay some tribute to the people who deserve it, and I think that is principally Opposition members, and teachers’ unions and parents’ associations. The community is now education conscious and is willing to see a substantial Commonwealth initiative even in fields that are not ordinarily within its constitutional competence. The future of education in Australia will depend increasingly on the efforts of this Parliament. I would like to see some parliamentary committees established to examine aspects of education. We could then all participate in the development of education. I am confident that if honourable members on the other side of the House study the subject, they will arrive at the conclusions that we have reached. Before I sit down I want to wish the new Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) well. We have created this opportunity for him by the continual persuasion on this subject that we on this side have poured into the Parliament.
– The Bill before us is an historic document in the annals of the Commonwealth. It marks a new day in education. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, we have a fully autonomous and self-contained Ministry of Education and Science. This departure comes after a long history of development in education, not only relating to education in Australia but to education across the world. I should like honourable members to cast their minds back for a moment to the way in which education has developed during the last century. There was a time, of course, when education in Europe and certainly in Great Britain was almost entirely the province of the churches. The universities and most of the schools were nin as church institutions. The great universities of Oxford and Cambridge owe their origin in no small measure to this source. In Scotland, the church played its role, together with the local authorities. Even today throughout Scotland education is very much the responsibility of the churches and the shire authorities. This idea of education was brought into the Australian scene. It was understood at the time of the foundation of Australia and later, even at the time of the Commonwealth Constitution, that the Australian States were quite adequate and sufficient bodies to take care of the educational activities within their borders.
The last fifty years has seen a tremendous development in the concept of education, the importance of education and the amount of people’s lives and money that it requires. As we look at education in this light we become aware of the Commonwealth’s steady assumption of responsibility in this field.
Before I pass on to the future, which is my real area of concern in this speech, let us look at some of the developments which do not for one moment merit the sneer of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who said that some of us will have broken backs from trying to pat ourselves on the back. That is a totally irrelevant comment. But it is not irrelevant to point out the growth of education not only over the last century or the last half century but over the last decade or two in terms of the financial assistance that the Commonwealth has given to the States. This is now acknowledged. An honourable member opposite made the point that the States still contribute a great deal more than the Commonwealth does. This is an unreal reference and comparison. The financial assistance grant, which was previously known as the tax reimbursement grant, is made available each year to the States by the Commonwealth without any strings attached. It is recognised that one of the large areas of concern of the States is the field of education. In 1949-50 the grant was $141m. In fifteen years it grew from $141m to $757m and in this current year it will be $81 7m. This is a factor that must be reckoned with when considering the amount of money available for education. The States have substantially increased their expenditure on education. In the year 1950-51 the six States spent $92m on education. In 1965-66 they spent not $92m but $594m.
I turn to the Commonwealth’s role. In recent years, in addition to the money that has been made available and which it is understood will go largely to education, the Commonwealth has substantially increased its expenditure on specific forms of education. In 1960-61 the Commonwealth’s direct spending on education amounted to almost $50m. In 1965-66 that $50m had grown to $ 125.2m and the expenditure currently being incurred is nearly $156m. I do not want to continue with this theme because, as I said when I started to speak, this is current history. It is the story of the past being translated at this moment into the growth of something entirely new. It is a development which makes us look to the future, to the implications of the creation of this Ministry, not just as a means of cementing together what now pertains or just bringing together the kind of things we have already accepted or asked for or the kind of things we regard as the normal educational requirements.
The Commonwealth has steadily assumed real responsibility. It has done so in the universities, and I am sure honourable members from both sides of the House will pay homage to the degree to which the Commonwealth has concerned itself in this sphere. We have also seen a tremendous growth in the number of scholarships that the Commonwealth has made available. Anyone who is aware of this development will know how many and how varied these scholarships have become. The Commonwealth is active in the field of tertiary education; we have the new concept of support for tertiary colleges and the latest move into teacher training. We have the science grants to schools and the co-relative factor of the aid to the private sector in education. Because of the very growth I have mentioned and because of the change from our traditional roots which were so largely dependent on private institutions and ecclesiastical responsibility, the private sector of our educational community has been placed in a position of dire need. There has been the assumption by the authorities of the Commonwealth and the States of increasing responsibility in this sector. We could, of course, go on to talk about research grants. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) I was interested to note that he failed to make clear the new concept that the Commonwealth has tried to bring into the whole field of research. He pointed out that some States, principally New South Wales and Victoria, with the possible addition of Tasmania, have declined to come in on the new scheme, a scheme whereby the Commonwealth would assume not a fifty-fifty relationship with the States, providing $6m as in the triennium from 1964 to 1966, but $9m, as against the portion that it was expected the States would bear, which would directly relate to university research, incidentally, of $6m on the old fifty-fifty basis. The result is that there is now confusion in Victoria and New South Wales as to the amounts of money that will be available for university research. I trust that this confusion will be speedily resolved, lt does credit to nobody. I believe that the demand is that the young men and women in our universities, who are pursuing degrees - research degrees in particular - who require the assistance that is available only from governmental sources, will be encouraged to know that the status quo is to be maintained and the position not allowed to deteriorate. As 1 say the Commonwealth proposes to take over the lion’s share - at least the major share - namely the Australian Research Grants Committee’s programme on the condition that the States take over the former united general grants. I have mentioned already that three of the States apparently are not prepared to accept that basis. Although the problem remains to be resolved I do not think it can be fairly said that this is an example of the Commonwealth’s failure to make some increase in its contribution for research.
I turn now to the future, which is the question that concerns me most in this debate. With the creation of this new Ministry and with the opportunity now for a Minister to devote his own mind, and to bring together trained minds such as are being introduced into this new Department, there will be the possibility of new, exciting and adventurous developments in the whole field of education in Australia. I want to make one plea at the outset. When we enter this new field we should do so, not for sectional advantage, not because of pressures from this quarter or that and not because we are playing politics at the State versus the Commonwealth level or at the party versus party level. 1 believe that far above State, religion and class, there is the question of what is best for Australia and what will best serve the future of this nation. The call is for new thinking, not just a correlation of the old and of the present ways. We must move into the emerging concepts of education that are peculiarly suited to an Australia which is in a unique situation; an Australia which is living cheek by jowl with Asia; and an Australia which has to establish the very roots of the culture that is going to be most effective for the future.
We have come - and we are proud of the fact that we have - out of a European context, largely a British context. Out of this history and out of this background have come our valued institutions, but around us are other nations that do not share this tradition and these heritages. I believe that into the educational content of the future training of our young citizens of Australia there must be steadily inculcated an appreciation, a sympathy, an understanding and an evaluation of the background of their cultures and of their thinking. Only in this way will Australia become a nation which is capable of giving leadership, friendship, help and support to the nations which are not only our neighbours but also our trading partners and upon whose security our security will depend. These are the nations which are going to be our friends. One thing which I hope will emerge, and upon which great attention must be focussed, is the fact that in the educational field of tomorrow new fundamental bases need to be incorporated.
Another aspect that excites my interest is the way in which the breadth factor of education must continually be maintained while the depth, the intensity of attention to individual subjects, is increased. One result of this attempt to give breadth in education is seen in New South Wales with the implementation of the Wyndham Committee’s report. Breadth at the sixth yea level at school has been proposed as the outcome of the additional year. However, already the scheme is under fire from the universities because of demands for higher entrance standards in an attempt to tackle the failure rates in the first and second years. Universities have thus tended to endanger the implementation of the Wyndham scheme by raising the general level of entrance standards required, particularly in science and mathematics. I believe that in this way there is, perhaps, a danger to the whole spirit with which the State entered upon the experiment of the Wyndham scheme.
As I said previously the present is an exciting and at times even a frightening age in which to live. One of the things that is continually most chastening to me, as I think about the sphere of education, is that some of the best thinking, particularly in science, comes from young men and women and particularly from young men and women well below thirty years of age. It is not enough for us to think, as the quantum of knowledge in the world increases, merely in terms of adding more and more to university courses; rather we should think of how we are going to make it possible for the bright men and women of the community of as little as nineteen and twenty years of age to make fundamentally new and challenging contributions in their own fields. I am thinking at the moment particularly of the sphere of physics. The sub-atomic particle area of physics - the investigation of sub-atomic particles, the nucleus and the other hundreds of tiny particles, mesons and so on - is the subject of much fascinating modern research. Some of the work that has been done, and some of the fundamentally new thinking in this realm have come from people barely into their twenties. This challenging thought must always be in front of us. There must be the challenge of how this genius, this brilliance, is to be enabled to emerge in time to make its contribution before the heavy weight of additional years and responsibilities, and of knowledge itself, is to be felt. These things are quite capable of being inhibiting factors to the adventurous thinking of the young experimenters and we must enable them to do valuable work before the years take their toll.
This brings me to a point on which I totally agree with the things which have been said by Opposition speakers. I refer to research in university courses. I believe that such research in universities is a must.
Mr Speaker, may I suggest that this would probably be an appropriate time to suspend the sitting as i want to make this point in some detail.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking about research and making the point that a very valuable, in fact indispensable, part of modern research, particularly in scientific subjects, is done these days by comparatively young men, and that any worthwhile educational programme must be designed so that people with particular and outstanding ability - one hesitates to use the word ‘genius’ although it may not be inappropriate - must be encouraged to make their distinctive contributions before they attain the years when it becomes increasingly difficult to take the detached and adventurous view that is so necessary in modern science. This means, of course, that in the universities there must be a continual search for and encouragement of young men and women who have such ability.
I do not mean that there should be a blanket approval for everyone who wants to do research at the university level - who wants to pursue a senior degree - to go ahead and do so willy-nilly. We have to look, particularly in a country of this size, to the element of quality rather than of quantity. We must remember, too, that at the university level - not just at the undergraduate level but at the staff level and particularly at the professorial level - the Commonwealth is already encouraging research in this sphere under the Australian Research Grants Committee Provisions. This is something which, I think, adds quite significantly to the contribution that universities make and must continue to make. Indeed if I were to sound a note of warning with regard to the provisions for this new Ministry, it would be that we must beware of any attempt to corner research in any particular domain. This applies as much to the universities as it does to industry, and of course industry must increasingly play its part in this sphere of related and relevant research. This also applies, of course, to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It would be a grim day for Australia if the idea gained wide acceptance that all research may be left to this most admirable institution and that universities should simply carry out the job of teaching people and preparing them in a kind of grown-up high school fashion for professional activity. This is not in the best interests of Australia and one of the jobs of this Ministry will be to resist any attempt to particularise and categorise research in any one domain.
I recall a story, which is quite true, of Oxford University and the way in which a young man sitting for his first degree, the Bachelor of Arts degree in science, sat down on the first day of the examination, and the question that took his eye was one relating to a particular interest of his in the scientific field. He started to write on this topic, which happened to be that of wave mechanics, research into which was then in its infancy. He continued to write for the duration of that day’s examination period. He returned on five other occasions and continued writing on the same subject. At the end of his eighteen or so hours of labour he had produced a sizeable treatise on the subject of wave mechanics, which was duly sent in and for which he was awarded first class honours. I venture to say that if he had done this in an examination in any university in Australia today he would have failed the examination.
The Australian Universities Commission seems to desire that all honours degrees awarded in Australian universities today should be gained in the same type of way. This may be admirable from the point of view of the administration of scholarships but it could operate to stifle independent and valuable research. I am not advocating that young men going to universities should emulate that outstanding young gentleman to whom I have referred. I mention his case only as an illustration - an extreme illustration perhaps - of the way in which universities, and in fact all other educational institutions, must be continually aware of the possibilities of outstanding contributions being made by particular individuals.
Again I suggest that the new Ministry must be on its guard against submerging new thinking, from whatever direction it may emerge, and particularly it must continue to recognise the distinctive contributions that can be made by State education departments and at the level of State thinking and experimentation. It is an undoubted fact, to which I have already referred, that very valuable contributions in the field of education are made in one State as compared with another and in one system as compared with another. The party of which I am proud to be a member stands for diversity in education; it stands for the giving of opportunities to small groups as well as to large ones to make their particular contributions to the national educational standard, and I believe that this is one of the things for which a Mintsry such as the one proposed must stand.
The new department will have to be careful that it does not become unduly influenced by what one might call the ‘bread and butter’ requirements of professional associations, associations which exercise a considerable influence on university degree standards and other standards which relate to the preparing of young men and women for entry into professional bodies. This strong influence is not always in the greatest national interest. Indeed I hope that the new department will be on the frontier of new thinking in this regard. The very fact of government responsibility and the contact that governmental personnel have with those in other countries will mean that there will always be an opportunity to stretch thinking in new directions. I have in mind, for instance, medical education in our universities. This is a field which is ripe for new and adventurous thinking, as few other fields are.
The Carnegie Corporation in the United States of America has recently been carrying out a most important examination of the educational processes of that nation. From its investigation of medical education in the United States it came to the conclusion only this year that medical education provided under existing methods would not be meeting the requirements of American medicine within a very few years. I venture to say that this situation in the United States is not unique; it certainly applies in Australia as well. Undergraduate training in medicine has notoriously done little but become cramped and cluttered as the years have passed with more and more highly specialised information. Yet the same pattern for graduation has been maintained. Many young men go out from our university medical schools as proud possessors of the twin degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. Many of them have never used a scalpel on living flesh in their lives. They go out into sometimes only one year of not the best preparation. They go out into the community as general practitioners and they are then permitted, particularly in country towns and outlying areas, to practice surgery and often undertake quite major operations.
There was a case in Sydney recently which left me with an unsatisfied, if not an indignant feeling. It was the case of a woman who died under anaesthesia. Certainly there was malpractice involved. Many anaesthetists were involved in this operation, and when the profession itself carried out an inquiry the anaesthetists who were engaged were both censured and suspended, but the surgeon’, as he was termed, was in no way censured, and he was allowed to continue his practice. He was, after all, the captain of the ship and fully responsible, surely, for what went on in that operation, and he was not a qualified surgeon but an anaesthetist who had transferred his interests to surgery for reasons of his own. These are matters that must be given adequate consideration. I believe that they stem from the very basis of medical educations.
I believe that in the new approach to education it should be possible for the new Ministry to be developed so that it will become increasingly responsible for education throughout the nation. I have directed attention to some of the matters that must be taken into account. I refer particularly to the results of the investigations of the Carnegie Corporation in America, which could well have relevance for Australia. An allied topic, of course, is the effect of the intrusion of what I have called professional associations into the educational field and other fields. A good graduate of professional standard may cost upwards oi $20,000 to produce in Australia today. It takes $20,000 of the taxpayers’ money to produce a trained engineer, a doctor, a dentist and so on. Yet today it is impossible for new settlers in this country, people who have been trained in professions in universities in Europe and the United States of America, to obtain full professional recognition. The Consul-General for France was speaking to me on this subject only recently. Men bearing degrees from some of the proudest universities in Europe cannot get professional recognition hers, simply because of a lack of reciprocity. The view taken is: ‘If they will not recognise us, we will not recognise them’. This is an expanding nation. It needs talent and ability. I believe that the Commonwealth must act strongly to ensure that people who are well qualified professionally will be given the opportunity to develop this country with us.
I am drawing to the close of my time. I conclude by saying that I congratulate the Commonwealth on taking the step of creating this new Ministry, which will have completely under its control the development of the educational picture of this nation in the days to come. I hope that the comments that I and other members on this side of the House have made, as well as the comments that were made by members of the Opposition, will be taken into account. This, surely, is one subject that must be above mere partisan party politics. I have heard statements in this debate from the Opposition to which I must give a hearty ‘Hear, hear’. I concur with a good deal of the constructive comment that has come from the other side of the House, as I do with the comment from this side. I venture to say that underneath the surface of the political squabble there is a great and abiding sense of satisfaction with the knowledge that the Commonwealth of Australia has at last moved into this domain.
– in reply - This has been a most interesting debate. This very small Bill has provided a vehicle for a wide ranging discussion of an issue of great importance to all of us in this country - education and science. We have heard from this side of the House three very excellent speeches. They came from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) and the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). I am afraid I cannot say the same of the speeches from the Opposition side.
– Now the Minister is being partisan.
– I am not. I am stating the facts. One fact is that in this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) resorted to artifice. It is most unfortunate that he should have done so. However, that is not a matter calling for great comment. We have had experience of that sort of thing before, but there has been no more notable occasion than this. The Leader of the Opposition knows or ought to know - if he does not know it is a matter of reckless negligence - what the reality of this Bill is. He came into the House with the deliberate intention of creating an aura of dissatisfaction in relation to education. This does not do him any good. He knows, or ought to know, just what this Bill is for.
There are two glaring examples of the way in which he has painted a false picture. I propose to invite the House to consider them. The first relates to the Education Act. He made great play in his speech about the abolition or repeal of the Education Act. He went on to say that this meant that the Commonwealth would abdicate its responsibilities, such as those responsibilities are - these are things which are being forged - in relation to education. He said that the proposal to abolish the Education Act, which gives certain statutory functions to the Commonwealth Office of Education, would result in a cessation of the functions now being performed by that body. This simply is not so. There has been created by an act of the Governor-General, pursuant to section 64 of the Constitution, a department of state - the Department of Education and Science. I will come to the detail of that in a moment. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition simply is not true.
In our parliamentary democracy, we give to the Opposition the title of ‘Her Majesty’s Opposition’. We are accustomed to think of members of the Opposition as an alternative government. If we think of them as an alternative government, and if they think of themselves as an alternative government, they ought to be responsible, because our parliamentary system demands responsibility in government as well as in opposition. The irresponsible arguments produced by the Leader of the Opposition in this afternoon’s debate point to the fact that the responsibility which we demand in our parliamentary system is not to be found on the other side of the House. It simply is not there to be found.
All the present activities of the Commonwealth Office of Education will be assumed by the new Department of Education and Science either by administrative act or, as is the case with scholarships, by the introduction of new appropriate legislation. I have referred to ‘legislation’ and ‘administrative act’. The words ‘administrative act’ lead me to the next matter which demonstrates the artifice used by the Leader of the Opposition. He read from the Administrative Arrangements Order and he made some slighting reference to the fact that the Department had been described as being responsible for education, scientific research and support of research. If he makes this a ground for criticism, ought he not to criticise the Department of Housing? In relation to the Department of Housing, the only entry in the second column of the Administrative Arrangements Order, under the heading ‘Principal matters dealt with’, is Housing’. Ought not the Leader of the Opposition to complain about the Department of Primary Industry, for instance, in respect of which the only entries under the heading ‘Principal matters dealt with’ arc Agriculture, pastoral industries and fisheries’? In the Administrative Arrangements Order, this is the method of description in the second column. It is a well established method of description and has been used for the period that the Administrative Arrangements Order has been operative. This dates back to the commencement of the Parliament. Specific Items are to be found in the third column. Listed there are the enactments administered by each Minister. I will read out to the House from the Administrative Arrangements Order the pieces of legislation for which my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, will be responsible. They are the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act; the Australian National University Act; the Australian Universities Commission Act; the Education Act - that is the Act to which reference was made and to which I will return in a moment - the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-66, Part III in relation to university and university-type training and Part XII to the extent which it applies or may be applied in relation to the foregoing; Science and Industry Endowment Act; Science and Industry Research Act; States Grants (Advanced Education) Acts; States Grants (Research) Act; States Grants (Science Laboratories and Technical Training) Act; States Grants (Science Laboratories) Act 1965-66; States Grants (Technical Training) Act 1965-66; States Grants (Universities) Acts; Universities (Financial Assistance) Acts; and the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act It is an artifice to say that there is no responsible statement of the duties that will fall upon this Ministry.
The Leader of the Opposition failed to looked at the very purpose of this measure, which is to amend the Second Schedule and the Third Schedule to the Public Service Act. The Second Schedule to the Art lists all the departments of the Public Service. The only department not listed is the one which will be listed when this Bill is passed, and that is the Department of Education and Science. The Third Schedule lists the permanent heads of all departments. The only one not now listed is the permanent head of this Department, Sir Hugh Ennor. These particular schedules find their authority in sections 10 and 25 of the Public Service Act. Section 10 states:
The persons who occupy the offices in the several Departments specified in the Second Schedule to this Act and the persons who are unattached officers constitute the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
This is a piece of legislation to enable those people employed in the Department to be among those who constitute the officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Section 25 of the Act, which provides for the Second Schedule, provides for the office and gives the responsibilities of the permanent heads of Departments, and one of the most significant responsibilities under the legislation for the permanent head of a Department is as stated in section 25 of the Act:
The Permanent Head of a Department shall be responsible for its general working, and for all the business thereof, and shall advise the Minister in all matters relating to the Department.
This is the Public Service as we know it. This is the Public Service which has operated so well in Australia. For the Leader of the Opposition to say what he said this afternoon was, I am afraid, an act of great irresponsibility on his part.
These are but two examples that I take the time of the House to illustrate. If the
Leader of the Opposition wants to criticise the Government on its education policy that is one thing. He is entitled to do so. He has done so in the past and no doubt he will continue to do so. But the Government’s record stands for the purposes of examination. It is a very fine record, as I am sure the great bulk of the people of Australia will readily acknowledge. But it is not for the Leader of the Opposition to resort to this method of criticism. I regret to say that it is not an experience new to us, however.
As I have said, the purpose of the Bill is to amend the schedules to the Public Service Act. The creation of the Department was done by executive act of the Governor-General on 13th December pursuant to section 64 of the Constitution, which enables His Excellency to do so. That part of the Constitution is worth reciting briefly. Section 64 states:
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
The Department, then, was created pursuant to the Constitution by executive act of the Governor-General on 13th December. On 14th December my colleague Senator Gorton was appointed the Minister administering that Department. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the two schedules to the Public Service Act to be amended so that the people who are employed by the Department, and the Permanent Head of the Department, will have their responsibilities and duties as prescribed by the Public Service Act.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) made certain criticisms of the Bill. Primarily his criticism seemed to be that it is a simple, short Bill. I am sure every honourable member in this House will readily recognise that a Bill contains what it needs to contain. That which it needs to contain in this instance is the amendment to two schedules by including the Department on the one hand and a Permanent Head on the other. If we had put other clauses into the Bill the honourable member would have had proper cause for criticism that it contained more than it ought. It contains nothing more than it ought, and it contains appropriately what it should contain.
The honourable gentleman went on to say something about the Commonwealth Office of Education, which has its central office in New South Wales. He thought it was wrong that the predominance of the members of the Public Service serving that organisation are in New South Wales. I find this an extraordinary statement. The fact is that at this point of time some of the central offices of the departments of the Commonwealth Government are not located in Canberra. For example, the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Labour and National Service are in Melbourne. Are we to criticise any legislation that comes here, emanating from either of (hose Departments on the ground that at this moment there are more public servants in those Departments in Victoria than there are in the Australian Capital Territory or New South Wales. His was quite a facile criticism.
But I think the most significant thing said by the honourable gentleman, and which demands some response, is his statement about Professor Karmel’s figures on Commonwealth education expenditure, as given by the Professor in the tenth Theodore Fink lecture in October 1966. The honourable gentleman implied that Professor Karmel’s figures showed that the Commonwealth is nol really doing a great deal for education in terms of the gross national product. I say, without any fear that it will not be received as fact, that the Commonwealth is doing a tremendous job in education. I think it is fair to say also that all the States are doing a tremendous job in education. True it is that there are claims in the community that more should be done, but there is scarcely an area of governmental activity about which there is not a group of people wanting more done. This is the business of government. The business of government is to .assess the policies which are needed for the greater benefit of the whole Australian nation. This is the job of this Government, the job that successive governments under Sir Robert Menzies and the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) have been elected to office since 1949 to do. Apparently they have done it so successfully that at the last election the Labor Opposition was reduced to the lowest level of numbers proportionately that this House has known.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports suggested that Professor Karmel found that the total expenditure on education in 1966-67 was estimated at 3.84% of the gross national product. The figure of 3.84% might be an under-estimate of expenditure on education as a proportion of the gross national product. There is doubt at all times as to what should be included in the gross national product and what should be included in the expenditure on education. You can never get a situation where everybody agrees with the two premises. One person can reach figures which suggest one answer. Another person just as devoted to the truth can reach a different figure.
I can well remember studying at university a book which had the most enlightening title, ‘The Use and Abuse of Statistics’. Everybody in this place knows the use and abuse of statistics. But let us accept at this stage the figures as presented by the honourable member. The fact is that 3.84% might under-estimate education expenditure as a proportion of the gross national product because Professor Karmel did not include, and could not have included, $27m paid by the Commonwealth as assistance to students. This deletion would not be accepted by all economists. Nor, because the figures had not been announced, did Professor Karmel take into account various new items of Commonwealth expenditure, including $8m for teachers colleges and $3m for science buildings. If we add to Professor Karmel’s figure of $78 8m expenditure on education in 1966- 67 - that is the figure that constitutes his figure of 3.84% of the gross national product - the Commonwealth scholarship payments, the figure would be $821m, or 4% of the gross national product.
There is one final point I want to make in relation to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman took this opportunity to try to make some political capital. I suppose one cannot blame him for seeking to make political capital, but it is worthwhile to put it in its right perspective. It is an attempt to make political capital out of the Government’s support for research. I think, too, that another point worth making is the fact that the Australian Universities Commission recommended that for the 1963-66 triennium the Commonwealth Government support on a dollar for dollar basis with the States a programme totalling SI Om. The Commonwealth and the States agreed to do this, and of the $10m an amount of $6m was allocated to universities on a formula devised by the Australian Universities Commission and $4m was allocated to selected research projects, mainly in universities, recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee which was established for this purpose.
The offer by the Commonwealth tor research in State universities for the 1967-69 triennium was for a $6m programme for general research and an Slim programme for special research projects recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee, both programmes to be shared between the Commonwealth and the States on a dollar for dollar basis. The Government stated that if some States were unwilling to share the cost of both programmes the Commonwealth would give preference to the Australian Research Grants Committee programme and reduce its contribution to the Australian Universities Commission research programme accordingly. The Commonwealth’s total contribution for both programmes would not exceed S9m in the triennium.
South Australia and Western Australia were the only States to agree to share with the Commonwealth the cost of both programmes. The Minister has approached all States therefore and offered the alternative proposal that the Commonwealth meet the full cost of the Australian Research Grants Committee research programme in the present triennium and that the States meet the full cost of the Australian Universities Commission research programme. If this alternative proposal is adopted it will mean that in the 1967-69 triennium the Commonwealth will provide S9m for research in Australian universities, distributed on the recommendations of the Australian Research Grants Committee.
This Bill is a necessary corollary to the creation of the Department of Education and Science. In some ways it is the parliamentary initiation of this Department. I am sure that the Department will serve the interests of the people of Australia magnificently over the years to come, in the very fine hands of its Minister and its permanent head.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 March (vide page 229), on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the House is a Bill to authorise the raising and expenditure of a sum of$6.75m for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. At the outset, I say that the Opposition supports the Bill, although we will indeed voice criticism of some shortcomings within the war service land settlement scheme. The Bill stems from an original arrangement made in 1945 and enacted in 1946 by the Labor Government of the time to enable the three financially weaker States to obtain Commonwealth assistance in respect of war service land settlement.
The Bill seeks to raise $3,024,000 for Western Australia, $2,300,000 for South Australia, and $1,426,000 for Tasmania. The money is required for three purposes. In the main, it will be used for advances to settlers, for the further development of King and Flinders Islands, and for the drainage scheme at Loxton in South Australia. It is nearly twenty-two years since the war ended and the fact that further development and modification through the installation of drainage systems is required at this time indicates, in the view of the Opposition, that mistakes have been made and that factors outside the settlers’ control but certainly within the responsibility of the Commonwealth have created difficulties, delays and disappointments for settler farmers.
When we think about it, it is really astonishing that after all this span of years from 1945 to 1967 we are still approving measures to develop or to repair the shortcomings in our war service land settlement scheme. I agree that the war service land settlement schemes in the independent States, I think in the Act they are referred to as the principal States - of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland - have been successful in the main, as they have been in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which are covered by the Bill. Indeed, we can cite prosperous areas all round Australia which had their beginning as war service land settlement schemes. Approximately 10,000 ex-soldiers have settled on farms and by the production of wheat, wool, fat lambs, citrus fruits, dried vine fruits and many other primary commodities, make significant contributions to our national income.
Of course, there have been failures both with individual farmers and in respect of governmental planning. Fortunately, the lessons of the post First World War settlement schemes were digested and largely put into practice. After the 1914-18 War the sole criterion for a successful scheme was apparently the number settled. ‘The more the better’, the governments of those days said, without regard for the capacity of the land and the prospects of the applicants. Farms of acreages insufficient to support a soldier and his family were common. This brought hardship and heartbreak. Indeed, my own father was one of the many who experienced the virtual slavery of a war service land settlement dairy holding in those bad old days.
I am pleased to say that the Commonwealth Labor Government in 1945 laid down the principles that ensured the overall success of the post Second World War scheme. First, it guaranteed that sufficient finance was available for the proper establishment of farms. But this finance was available only if the land had sound prospects for production, if the applicants were suitable and had prospects of success, if the holdings were of sufficient size to enable settlers to farm efficiently and earna reasonable income and if the States made available extension services to guide and advise the settlers. In addition, an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government of the time and the States covered losses in the acquisition and development of land for settlement, and in remitting rent and interest.
Despite these principles, which were so vast an improvement on the original 1914- 18 war service land settlement scheme, some areas and some settlers have experienced trouble. I was in the Sunraysia district a year or two ago and there I witnessed at first hand the comparison between the post 1914-18 War scheme and the post World War II scheme. In the Mildura-Redcliffs area I saw dried vine fruit holdings of fourteen, fifteen and sixteen acres which, in average years, are just able to support the settlers and which in poor years - that is, years when crops are poor or prices are low - are insufficient to provide a reasonable living. At Robinvale, a part of the Sunraysia district settled in the post World War II era, areas double this size provide more opportunity for the settler to cushion the effects of poor crops and poor prices. This area, of course, flourished as a result of co-operation between two Labor Governments - the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.
I pay tribute to the late L. W. Galvin, the former State member for Bendigo and Minister for Lands and Water Supply at the time, who was largely responsible for its establishment and success. It was he who planted the first vine in 1947, and it was he whose administration engineered the water supply necessary for the scheme. One of the side effects of the successful settling of so many ex-soldiers on the land was the encouragement of others in the civilian field to follow. In Western Australia, for instance, a large proportion of the soldier settlement farms are in areas previously regarded as being unsafe for agriculture. The success of these farmers - their pioneering - paved the way for others who, having seen what could be done, followed. Of course, modern agricultural methods are placing increasingly larger areas of what was regarded as unsuitable land within the reach of our primary producers.
With respect to advances to settlers, for which the greater proportion of the money to be raised under this Bill is designed, the need is understandable. I am aware that soldier settlers were not required to have finance as a prerequisite to the allocation of a farm. Indeed, in the opinion of the Labor Party this was important and essential. It was important to Labor that no-one should be ruled out because of lack of capital. The Labor Party understands that in some areas, because of various difficulties, some ex-soldiers have been unable to maintain repayments. This scheme was probably never considered by the Labor Government of those times as being one which would, in strict economic terms, repay the finance outlaid. It was a scheme to rehabilitate ex-servicemen. It was a measure of thanks from a grateful government and a grateful nation. The Labor Party would still say concerning those who are facing problems that this Government should look further than at cold, hard economics and should temper its approach with sympathy.
Approximately $800,000 of the amount to be raised as a result of this legislation is to be spent on development on King Island and Flinders Island, particularly on King Island where the occurrence of regrowth has been a great problem and where a large proportion of the original settlers have walked off their farms. This is still presenting major difficulties. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), in whose electorate King Island lies, has been a great fighter for the rights of the settlers there. I will leave it to him to put their case in detail. He has a personal knowledge of the problems and I know that he has spent a considerable time looking at the farms and talking with the farmers about their problems. I understand that the Returned Services League on King Island is demanding a royal commission into the treatment meted out to the settlers in the area. This indicates the seriousness of the state of affairs which exists there. More than 100 of the King Island settlers have walked off their farms and, although departmental inquiries have been held, there is still strong dissatisfaction at the final prices which are being demanded. In the settlers’ view, these prices bear no real relation to earning capacity. It is quite apparent that on King Island some of the holdings, particularly dairy holdings, are too small to be economic units. It is apparent, too, that in the original planning no allowance was made for the mere fact that King Island was an island and that the extra transport costs involved would become a heavy burden on settlers there. Again, it ls apparent that the Loxton estate in South Australia was the scene of a major blunder. It was considered that natural drainage there would be sufficient, but a drainage scheme costing approximately $1.4m was required. Perhaps the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann), who is sitting at the table, could inform the House whether this extra cost will be charged against the settlers. It would seem to me to be wrong if this is the Government’s intention.
I want now to raise the position of men who are serving in or are returning from Vietnam in relation to the war service land settlement scheme. By the end of June tha Sth Battalion and the 6th Battalion will be returning home after having engaged in a bitter and bloody war. More than 100 Australians are dead and hundreds more have been wounded. The 2nd Battalion and the 7th Battalion will replace the Sth Battalion and the 6th Battalion. Navy and Air Force personnel in some strength are, or will be, serving in Vietnam. Altogether more than 6,000 young Australians will be serving there this year. By the expiration of this year probably 10,000 Australians will be serving, or will have served, in Vietnam. Many of them are young men with a farming background who would jump at the chance of a war service land settlement farm. But the cost of farm establishment or farm purchase is high. All these young men lack is capital to get started. Labor’s attitude to the war and to our involvement in it is known to everyone. We oppose it. But we have always insisted that the young men who serve in Vietnam should get maximum re-establishment and repatriation benefits upon their return. I ask then: what are they - both national servicemen and the men in the regular forces - entitled to in the way of war service land settlement? The Australians who served in the First World War and the Second World War and in Korea had the opportunity under this scheme to apply for re-establishment in civilian life as farmers. Indeed, thousands of them are now successful farmers. Are veterans from Vietnam entitled to any less? I and the Labor Party say no. What is the Government’s attitude to this particular matter? It has taken great pains to paint a picture of the force in Vietnam as being one force or one united army, but in respect of re-establishment it separates the men of the regular force and the national servicemen.
Let us look at the land settlement proposals for both these sections. With respect to the national servicemen, apparently as the result of a decision made under the Defence (Re-establishment) Act of 1965 an announcement was made a few weeks before the last election. In the national Press the announcement received the heading ‘They can get $6,000 to go on the land’. This is remarkable. I do not know what they could buy for $6,000. It would be extremely difficult in the suburbs of our capital cities to buy for $6,000 an allotment of land on which to build a home. The announcement was that the Federal Government would provide loans of up to $3,000 and $6,000 for discharged national servicemen to help them re-establish themselves as civilians. The $3,000 was to be for business occupations and the $6,000 for agricultural purposes. The interest rate on the loans was to be 4i%. On these miserable loans they will pay interest, but the first $100 will be interest free.
Who is the Government trying to kid? Any Australian would be lucky if he could buy a farm of reasonable capacity for wool, wheat or dairying for ten times the amount offered by the Government. The situation is ludicrous. A person would not be able to buy a home for £3,000 or $6,000, let alone stock a farm and buy everything else that goes to make up a farm. The smallest farm unit that I can think of is a poultry farm, It would require a handful of acres. A sum of $6,000 would not go half far enough to purchase such a farm. This miserly amount which is not even interest free, is apparently the best that the Government can do for national servicemen. This is merely an empty gesture by the Government. It is meaningless. This limit of $6,000 guarantees that no national servicemen will be able to take advantage of the Government’s offer. I believe that the young conscripts, having done their job and having served this nation, are entitled to war service land settlement assistance as were their fathers and their grandfathers before them. Surely a grateful nation can do better than make this miserable offer to re-establish national servicemen.
Let us look now at the prospects of war service land settlement for men in the Regular Army, the Air Force and the Navy. I can find no provision at all for land settlement for these returning servicemen. Vietnam, of course, was declared a war zone in 1962. I quote from the Statutory Rules 1963, No. 44, which states that Vietnam shall be deemed to have become, on the thirty-first day of July, 1962, a special area for the purposes of the Act’. In all this time the Government has made no statement on its attitude to war service land settlement for these returning servicemen. Perhaps there are several reasons for the silence. Perhaps the Government and Cabinet have not discussed the matter, or perhaps they have not even thought of it. Alternatively, they may regard regular forces as being not in the same category as soldiers who served in other wars. In my view this would be wrong. Whichever of the reasons I have stated is the correct one, the Government must be condemned either for its tardiness or for its failure to provide this reestablishment aid for members of the regular forces. Of the thousands of young men who are serving or who are to serve in Vietnam, surely hundreds would be qualified in every respect to take up the challenge of the land.
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry, who is now at the table, what the Government proposes to do about war service land settlement for regular forces. Has any assessment been made of the number of servicemen who would qualify for such assistance? Does the Minister think that any young national serviceman, or any young Australian for that matter, could possibly establish himself on a farm with a loan of $6,000 at 4i% interest? Why will the Government not give these men a real chance to go on the land by extending to them the advantages of war service land settlement? Australia still has vast areas of land upon which modern agriculture can thrive. Frankly, I would like to see government investment in that land and in young Australians, ex-servicemen and civilians, who could develop it, but apparently the Liberal Party-Country Party Government prefers to allow foreign interests to buy out our land resources. I refer to the proposed sell-out to foreign interests of Tipperary station where lie the best soils in the Northern Territory.
The matter of civilian land settlement does not come within the scope of this debate so I merely make a passing reference to it. Surely there is an opportunity for a civilian land settlement scheme based perhaps on the brigalow scheme in Queensland. I suggest that there is room for an inquiry into the land available and the prospects of production and marketing for such a scheme. We certainly have the young Australians ready and willing to take advantage of such a scheme. One of the characteristics of the reign of the Liberal PartyCountry Party Government has been the astronomical and unrealistic rise in land values. In many areas these values are certainly not in keeping with the earning capacity of the land. The tragedy is that countless thousands of young Australians with the desire and skills to make successful farmers will never be able to reach their objective because of lack of personal capital. A civilian land settlement scheme could tap this source of enthusiastic and skilled prospective primary producers.
The Labor Party does not oppose the Bill, designed as it is to raise loans for development and advances for war service land settlement, but we demand, in the interests of young Australians who are now serving, answers to the questions that I have posed.
– I was interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton). I take this opportunity, if I may be forgiven for doing so, to remind the honourable gentleman of the performance of the Labor Government after the last war. The two Ministers who had been charged with the direct responsibility of caring for the needs of returned servicemen not only lost their portfolios but also their seats in the Parliament. I do not believe that this is a record of which any Government should be proud.
I support the measure now before the House. As I understand the situation, the war service land settlement scheme began as a combined effort by the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth generously providing the finance required for war service land settlement and the States acting as the Commonwealth’s agent in spending the fund.. I propose to speak tonight only about the war service land settlement scheme in Tasmania as that is the only State on which I consider myself to be well informed. It is true to say that in some instances the scheme was successful in Tasmania. I refer particularly to the area known as Lorinna where dairy farms and some sheep properties were established and where an irrigation system was readily available. However, the same cannot be said of attempts to establish the scheme in some other parts of Tasmania. I am sure that other honourable members from the island State will address themselves to this subject. It is true to say that there is much unhappiness and concern among soldier settlers. The honourable member for Bendigo said that several people had walked off their properties. This is true. Others have died after the unequal struggle, but their widows know no more about their financial position than did their husbands when they first took over the blocks many years ago. It is twenty-one years since the war ended and somebody is to blame.
I have spoken on this subject several times in the Tasmanian Parliament and have asked that the matter be clarified once and for all. The returned servicemen who have settled on these properties are not asking too much when they seek to have their position clarified and to be informed of the equity that they have in their properties. They wish to know the extent to which they are indebted to the Government so that they can liquidate their indebtedness, but they are unable to obtain the information. The lack of success of the scheme perhaps proves the weakness of this type of agreement under which one government supplies the land and another government supplies the wherewithal to develop it. It is certainly not untrue to say that in Tasmania, and particularly on the nearby islands, there has been a huge waste of public money. I support the settlers on King Island who claim that their plight should be investigated by a royal commission or some other body. No purpose will be served by going back in history or by resorting to recriminations at this stage; nevertheless, it is true to say that much money has been wasted.
In the days when the King Island soldier settlement scheme was being developed, as a member of a party committee I used to fly to King Island at my own expense to see what efforts were being made. The committee would report back on the waste that it saw. We found that bulldozers had flattened the natural shelter belts and that the land had been only roughly ploughed before grass seed was sown. Time and again we told the State authorities that this was a wasteful practice and not in keeping with good farm husbandry. But our overtures fell on the deaf ears of the State Government and more thousands of pounds were wasted on these properties. Now somebody has to pay for that waste and for the other follies which occurred in that era of so-called development. The full burden should not fall on the shoulders of the returned servicemen who are settled there. The settlers want to know where they stand.
Some properties on King Island have not the productive capacity to support a man and his family. Often it is only by impressing his wife and family that a settler can make a property pay its way or even eke out an existence at all. Tt is probably true to say that the concept of one-man farms has never been as successful as was expected. The assessment of the productivity of the islands was based largely on farming practices of those who had settled there long ago, in some cases immediately after the 1914-18 War. But the early settlers were at least blessed with large tracts of country. Because of their success it was assumed that soldier settlement could be successful with smaller holdings. I believe that this was where the mistake was made. As an Opposition in the State Parliament at that time we tried our hardest to dissuade the State Government from cutting up areas into small lots. We argued that the blocks were far too small and that many were low lying or wet and provided no opportunity for cattle to be grazed on drier country. But our pleas were rejected. We were refused. We asked the Government not to take the step of building a home on every block of land until such time as we saw how this Island developed and how the pastures responded to the treatment given to them. We asked the Government not to take it for granted that these areas would become living areas on which returned soldiers could hope to make a reasonable living.
Living on an island as they are, these people are at least entitled to some recompense for the isolation they suffer. Nevertheless our overtures once more fell on deaf cars when we had the audacity, in the view of the State Government at that time, to suggest that it should not build a house on each block of land that was developed but should build only on every second block and wait to see how the pastures responded. We wanted the Government to wait until it could assess the possible advantage of the scheme as a whole. This request again was refused. So it came about that soldier settlers were placed on these small blocks of land which did not meet the optimistic opinions of those who, perhaps, were giving advice while sitting in plush seats - those who lacked the necessary knowledge of sound farm management and practice and knowledge of proper land development that one would have hoped to see. There was in turn a change in management and this is usually a rather expensive experimentIt has proved to be just that in the case of some of the soldier settlement areas. This scheme has been in operation for twentyone years, since the Second World War ended. Some of the people have been settled and I believe one could place any interpretation one likes on the word ‘settled’. Yet we still have a series of buck passing manoeuvres from one government to another.
I am not sufficiently well informed to be able to say who is wrong but at least we owe it to these people to see this matter finally resolved so that they will know exactly what their future commitments will be. On the best advice of all the experts to whom we have spoken about this matter - and we have spoken to them time and time again - there is only one thing to do; that is to get a frank assessment of the situation and a recommendation that any writing off which is necessary must take place. Surely we cannot tolerate the situation any longer than necessary under the circumstances. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) canvassed the idea of assistance to servicemen who will be returning from commitments in Vietnam. If this scheme of war service land settlement is to be proceeded with there are certainly many lessons we can learn from settlement that has taken place in the past. I sincerely trust we will never repeat many of the things that happened in the past because they have been very costly experiments to say the least.
In Tasmania we do find some war service land settlers who are very happy indeed. There are some who have made an outstanding success of their ventures. However others who have taken over single unit properties, through little or no fault of their own in some cases, now find themselves in some difficulty. I would be failing in my trust to those people I represent who have taken single unit farms, particularly orchard properties, if I did not say that at this time they are facing a real crisis over the future of their farms. I am not referring only to those persons who suffered losses in the recent fires. Even those who were fortunate to escape are in a difficult position because they have no sure market for their fruit and there are rising costs on every hand over which they have no control whatever. Unless some material assistance is given it will be not only the single unit war service land settlers who will be penalised. I am afraid many others will be affected. This question is being sympathetically considered by the Government. I sincerely hope that in the near future we will have some encouraging news for them.
I do not want to delay the House much longer but I want to repeat that mistakes have been made - bad mistakes. Some of the problems of the settlers on King Island in particular are real. But I emphasise that these matters cannot be laid at the door of the Commonwealth Government. As I see it, the Commonwealth supplied the money and all the development was undertaken by the State Government. It was in this sphere that the waste took place. Money was wasted without the slightest shadow of doubt because of the manner in which the State Government undertook the development of some of these properties. The proporties were cleared badly, seed beds were not properly prepared, and they were sown down far too quickly. Homes were built on every block. As honourable members know soma areas of King Island are under water for half the year - during the winter - and tfes settlers had no opportunity to run dairy cattle on dry land. What hope did they have? They had no hope at all. Some properties were doomed to failure from the start. Without a doubt there has been a waste of money. Nevertheless these things are in the past’.
I conclude, Mr Deputy Speaker, by asking that this situation facing war service land settlers on King Island be not allowed to continue any longer than is possible. One of the governments must put the wheels in motion. The people concerned must understand their position. They want to know where they stand. They want to know what their indebtedness is. These are the questions hovering on the lips of all these ex-servicemen. I do not believe that they are asking too much after twenty-one years when they say: ‘Can somebody tell us where we stand and where we are going?’ The time is now overdue in the history of our war service land settlement for us to write off the losses and let these people know precisely where they stand. We should at least keep faith with the people who served this country so well in time of war.
– The House is debating the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1967 which provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6,750,000 for war service land settlement in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. The States of Victoria and New South Wales decided to act as principal States, and to find the money themselves, when they embarked on a war service land settlement scheme without reference to the Commonwealth or assistance from the Commonwealth. In many parts of those two States the scheme has been fairly successful. But in the agent States of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia the Commonwealth advances all the money required for the scheme and the allocation under discussion is required either for advances to settlers or for developmental purposes. Western Australia is to receive $3,024,000; South Australia is to get $2,300,000, and Tasmania $1,426,000.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) has pointed out that of this total of $6,750,000, a sum of $5,850,000 is for advances to settlers and $874,000 is for development, mainly on farms on King Island and Flinders Island in my Slate of Tasmania and on the drainage of horticultural and viticultural farms at Loxton in South Australia. This debate has been held each year. I do not know why it has not been set down for this year’s Budget session. It has been dealt with in the Budget session in years gone by but the matter has come up for debate this year during the autumn session.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minister for Primary Industry for the detail he supplied in his second reading speech. It enables honourable members to get a much clearer picture of the overall position of the scheme which has been allowed to drag on for far too long. I join with the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) in expressing this view. It is a long time since the war ended but these men still do not know what they are up for. As Opposition members have said to the Minister year in year out, this is information that should be provided, and provided quickly. This is the burning question. This information qould provide for these men the green light on the hill. They would be able to see where they are going and what they are up for. It would ease the minds of many.
I disagree with the honourable member for Franklin on where the blame lies. One minute he says he does not know where the blame lies and the next minute he blames the State. I think the whole difficulty has arisen because of joint control and I sincerely hope that if another war service land settlement scheme is introduced after another war the scheme will not be implemented as a joint enterprise between the Commonwealth and the State because there is this shilly-shallying and this shifting of the blame, one blaming the other. One makes an agreement such as the agreement on regrowth control and another denounces it. The Committee puts up the money and everything has to be approved by it. Sites have to be inspected. There is a Commonwealth Director, an assistant director and others who make periodical visits to the settlement to see how things are going. They should be able to correct any mistakes made by either party. Blame must be accepted by both sides. One side cannot be blamed any more than the other.
This process of raising loan moneys for war service land settlement goes on year after year. We all hope, and I think the Minister hopes as much as we do, that the scheme will soon come to an end. I well remember the former honourable member for Lalor, Mr Reg Pollard, whom we miss very much in this House. I miss him personally because when I was a young member coming into this Parliament he gave me a great deal of assistance. We miss him particularly in debates of this kind. The Parliament is the poorer for losing the great contributions that the Honourable Reg Pollard made to debates such as this, and to debates on all matters affecting primary industry. I well remember him referring to a speech made by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) when the honourable member for Chisholm was the Minister in charge of war service land settlement. In 1954, when introducing a bill similar to the one now before us the honourable member for Chisholm made this comment:
The amount of work that is being undertaken at present is influenced by the desire of the Commonwealth to complete land settlement within the next five years.
That was back in 1954. Now, some thirteen years later, authority is still being sought to raise further loan moneys. Certainly some of it will be used for credit advances as settlers were accepted on the basis of having no capital, but some of it is for development in the areas outlined by the Minister. We are now eight years behind the target date set down by the honourable member for Chisholm and still the settlers do not know where they stand.
Expenditure in the three States now amounts to $195m and interest on that amount is some $17m. A total of $121m has been spent on the acquisition and development of properties and $74m has been spent on advances to settlers. Excluding interest, 1,011 farms have been provided in Western Australia at a cost of $46m. This places the average cost per farm at $46,000. Some 1,021 farms in South Australia have cost approximately $36m exclusive of interest and the average cost per farm is approximately $35,300. In Tasmania 525 farms have been provided for some $39m excluding interest at an approximate average cost of $70,650. Under the scheme, farms in Tasmania have cost 57% more than they cost in Western Australia and 100% or more than double the cost of farms in South Australia. This staggering cost figure per unit in Tasmania, referred to by the honourable member for Franklin, is considerably higher than the approximate cost I have quoted because I worked on the basis of 154 farms on King Island as mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech. We know that over thirty of these are vacant and are now in the process of being divided up and sections from them added to existing sheep and dairy farms to bring them to the required standard of 1,180 ewes in the case of sheep farms or 12,0001b of butter fat in the case of dairy farms.
No fewer than 116 settlers have walked off the 154 properties on King Island. Is it any wonder that they have walked off when we consider the tremendous cost involved and the turnover of settlers? The National Executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League is demanding an inquiry into all aspects of war service land settlement on King Island. In the newspapers of 14th February there appeared the headline: R.S.L. wants inquiry into “failure” of K.I. scheme’. This was followed by a news item from Canberra in these terms:
The Returned Servicemen’s League wants the Federal Government to conduct a comprehensive survey into the ‘terrible tragedy and failure’ ot the King Island soldier settlement scheme. The R.S.L. national executive decided yesterday to ask the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to order the survey immediately. The National President (Sir Arthur Lee) said the R.S.L. was ‘terribly concerned at the tragedy and failure of this settlement’. The Secretary of the Tasmanian R.S.L. Branch (Mr Blackwood) said that since the inception of the scheme in 1950, 113 blocks had been vacated. A further 30 blocks were due to ba unoccupied … Sir Arthur said the R.S.L, was deeply concerned and alarmed at the failure of this scheme. It was a direct contrast to other schemes established throughout Australia which had enjoyed a 90% success rate, he said.
The National Executive had previously put its request to the Minister for Primary Industry who is now at the table and when he refused an inquiry it decided to appeal to the Prime Minister. I have always believed that an inquiry should be held. Back in 1959 I presented a petition to this Parliament from the people of King Island requesting that a committee of members from both sides of the House and from both Houses of the Parliament be set up to investigate all phases of war service land settlement on King Island.
I feel sorry for the Minister for Primary Industry because he inherited the whole sorry mess. He has been to the island twice. The first occasion was shortly after the petition was presented. Arising from his visit, a committee of inquiry was set up as a result of which $Um was spent on the redevelopment of properties which had been left in a rough state when handed over to settlers. Approximately $500,000 was credited to settlers’ accounts to compensate them for deterioration of mechanical plant and equipment in trying to work rough pastures, and for various other expenses for which the Government accepted liability.
There were undoubted mistakes on both sides, on the part of the settlers and on the part of the Government, and these mistakes were costly for the Government. They cost it $2m. But this was only propping up a scheme based on the worst possible foundations, and early in the 1960s economic troubles again showed up in the settlers’ budgets. The Minister for Primary Industry again readily accepted an invitation to visit King Island. On that occasion he outlined the proposals of 1965 which were designed to assist the settlers further. Amongst other things, a credit of $1,600 was given to compensate for the high cost of repairing machinery breakdowns and to cover depreciation of plant and equipment, and a system of financial control was instituted for those settlers who could not meet their arrears.
After almost seventeen years of the scheme it was found that some farms had no hope of reaching the standard of 1,180 ewes on fat lamb properties or 12,000 lb of butter fat on dairy farms, so agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and the State to divide up most of the thirty vacant farms to strengthen existing blocks and to bring them to a state in which they would be an economic proposition. Seventeen years is a very long stretch out of a man’s life. The settlers still do not know what they are up for since they have not been told the price at which they will have the option to purchase. Some have done well, others have not as is proved by the wastage factor amongst the settlers. An inquiry would establish the reason for this, the need for the concessions granted in 1965, the circumstances of the repudiation of the agreement on regrowth control, why at this late stage of the scheme vacant farms have to be subdivided to bring others up to standard and so on. There need be no witch hunt but at least the findings and recommendations of the committee of inquiry would be on file should another land settlement scheme ever be attempted in this country.
However it is heartening to know that some of the settlers on King Island have succeeded and that most of the other settlements under the scheme on the Australian mainland have been a success. This is probably the big reason why many people and organisations, such as the RSL, would like to know what went wrong on King Island. This should never have happened because the Island is great dairying country with an assured good spread of rainfall. The grass grows all year round. Fat stock do remarkably well, as is indicated by the great trade done with the Newmarket saleyards, and the fact - I am very proud of this - that one of our leading graziers, Mr Peter Snodgrass, and his wife will be in Sydney next Saturday night attending the Aberdeen Angus Society dinner to receive the Buchanan trophy for his great success in the Angus fat steer class. This competition is decided on a points basis allotted for fat cattle exhibited at the various agricultural shows throughout Australia. It is a great credit to King Island and to Mr Snodgrass that he won the competition in Tasmania and was third in the overall Australian section. This shows the ability of King Island to turn off choice fat stock as well as to provide the basic essentials for first class dairying.
As I have indicated, the majority of the settlements are doing well. Despite the great cost involved, land which probably would have remained unproductive for many years to come has been cleared, drained and brought under production, thus making a substantial contribution to the nation’s economy. Togari, formerly known as Montagu Swamp, not far from Smithton in north-western Tasmania, readily comes to mind as an example. There, a great land clearing and draining problem has been successfully tackled. The only criticism of any note that can be offered is that the Government should have carried on with its intention of providing the original target of 120 farms instead of restricting the programme to 45 farms.
For the first time we now have some idea of the liabilities incurred by the governments of the three agent States as a result of the scheme. The War Service Land Settlement Agreement Act of 1945 provides that after the settlers’ share of the total cost has been determined the excess costs are to be shared between the Commonwealth and the States on the basis of three-fifths and two-fifths respectively. The cost of land acquisition and development in the three agent States, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia, amounts to $12lm. This amount, when added to the interest bill of $17m, brings the total cost to $138m. The Minister has supplied information indicating that approximately S61m of the total represents excess costs and will be shared between the Commonwealth and the States. A couple of years ago the Tasmanian Auditor-General estimated that Tasmania’s share of the debt would be approximately $15m. This debt could have been crippling to the State’s financial resources and arrangements were made for the State to repay from State revenue a yearly amount of $2,040,000 for five years until the financial position became clearer.
The Minister has referred to arrears owed by settlers and to the fact that the Department is now taking appropriate action to deal with the problem. If a settler cannot pay his arrears or make a satisfactory arrangement, control measures are introduced which require him to pay all the proceeds from his farm to the Authority and to accept a living allowance of $52 a week, in the case of King Island, and about $42 a week if he lives on the mainland. This creates a difficult situation, because for ten or eleven years or more the settlers have been handling their own affairs. They have looked after their own income and have paid their own expenses. Now they are placed under control measures and we want to know why this situation has come about. We want to know what factors caused conditions to deteriorate to such an extent that the settlers are to be put under financial control so that all the proceeds from the farms have to be paid to the Authority and living allowances of $52 or $42 are to be paid each week.
Out of that weekly income a settler must pay all his living expenses, hire purchase commitments for cars and other items, education expenses of his children and all such things. Living on an island is very costly. These days it is very costly to live anywhere, but people who live on an island find it even more expensive. A settler or a member of his family may be referred to a specialist by a local doctor. The patient must travel to the mainland or to Tasmania, and that is very expensive. Very often parents have to accompany their children. They have to pay first class air fares. There is only one air operator in and out of King Island under the airlines rationalisation agreement instituted by the Commonwealth. These settlers are not even allowed to claim travelling expenses for medical purposes as normal taxation deductions. We have been fighting for that right for some time.
Youngsters who show the ability and aptitude to go on to higher education should be allowed to go on at least to the matriculation stage. There is a very fine comprehensive high school at King Island. It takes students up to School Board level. To reach matriculation standard students must leave King Island for one or two years. All expenses incurred have to be found out of the weekly allowance of $52 payable under the control measures.
The Minister has indicated that he will look forward with interest to the end of this financial year because we will then be able to see how the scheme has worked out. It is interesting, for the sake of the record, to examine the question of arrears. Arrears on King Island rose very rapidly from about $800,000 in 1962 to over $lm in 1965. At 30th June 1966, of the seventyseven settlers on permanent lease, forty-five had no arrears; eleven had made satisfactory arrangements with the Authority; four had accepted financial control under the measures I have indicated; eight cases had been deferred; and nine settlers were to be proceeded against. Of the forty-four settlers on temporary lease seventeen had no arrears; twelve had paid their current calls to the Authority; six had made some payment, subject to adjustment; one had accepted control measures; and shi were receiving close attention. I have heard from the boys on the island what that close attention means. They have had experience of it. Unless satisfactory arrangements were made the leases of those six settlers would be subject to non-renewal. The cases of two settlers were under consideration for callup of their advances. This revealed that a total of 121 settlers were in occupation at the end of last June of the 154 farms mentioned by the Minister, thus leaving thirty-three farms vacant. More settlers have walked off since then. It is estimated that approximately $200,000 is owing in arrears on the vacated properties. About half of that amount has been written off and it is anticipated that the remainder will also have to be written off.
I repeat that the Minister has said that it will be interesting to see at 30th June of this year the results of the first year’s trading of the first few King Island settlers now operating under financial control. The Tasmanian Minister in charge of these activities has publicly said that the results will show whether a living is to be made there and whether the administration or the settlers are at fault. We certainly await with interest the review of the first year’s trading.
The Bill provides for advances of $5,850,000 to settlers. On this point of advances for development or redevelopment of farms I seek clarification from the Minister. He will recall giving some figures in 1965 regarding redevelopment on King Island and its cost. As I pointed out in this chamber at a later date, the redevelopment - which simply means the reconditioning of grass paddocks with little clearing compared with the original clearing of virgin bush - had cost about $100 an acre. The cost of administration at that time - this is where I take issue with the honourable member for Franklin - was greater than the cost of the work being done. Two years ago salaries and wages for administration alone were costing redevelopment up to £112 an acre.
After the programme for redevelopment of a farm has been discussed between a settler and the Authority and the amount of work has been decided upon, the settler is free to proceed under the terms of proposal one. This is known as the SDP or Settlers Developmental Plan. I would like to know whether the funds for this purpose come from the money allocated for development or from the advances to settlers provided for in this Bill. Under SDP a settler may decide to develop other sections of his farm and to apply for an advance in the same way as if he were applying for an advance for stock, structures or improvements. The work must be done by a private contractor and he is paid by the Authority. An advance to a settler takes the form of a repayable loan, provided the area is seeded within eighteen months of cultivation. So a settler does not have to pay provided he does the seeding within that period of eighteen months, but the money for a private operator who does the job comes from the Authority. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to tell me what section that money is debited against. Is it debited against the money that was granted for redevelopment under the 1959 concessions? Is it debited against the funds for development purposes provided for in this Bill and preceding Bills, or is it debited against the funds for advances to settlers sought in the allocation at present before the House in this Bill?
The position of the owner operator is one that causes everyone, I think, a great deal of concern. I was interested to hear what the Minister for Primary Industry had to say on this point in bis second reading speech. He said:
I refer to the problem of the owner operator who, with advancing years, can no longer undertake farm work.
While I appreciate this problem and sympathise with those so affected the remedy is outside the sphere of war service land settlement.
How pitiful is this statement. Surely a Bill can be amended to meet changing conditions and to ease some of the great human suffering that is being experienced. As the Minister says and as we all believe, the Government will be more than compensated for the losses sustained in providing the farms. No man over sixty years of age can be expected to go on milking cows for long. Some of these men have seen hard and strenuous times as prisoners of war. We have seen already the effect of these years on their health. Fresh consideration must be given to the problem.
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry, who is at the table, whether it is possible to have another look at the position to which he referred concerning the owner operator. I submitted to the authorities a confidential document from a medical officer relating to some 40 patients out of the 150 settlers who were on the island at the time. Surely we can look back to the days immediately following the last war when we all were so proud of these men and felt we owed such a debt of gratitude to them. Surely we still owe some debt of gratitude to them when we observe the freedoms enjoyed by the Australian people today. Therefore I make another plea to the Minister that the Government give fresh consideration to the position of these people. The situation of the owner operator causes a great deal of concern to people from all political parties and from all walks of life who are interested in the welfare of these men.
In conclusion I wish to reiterate that I believe firmly as I have always believed, that an inquiry should be held into this matter. We must bring war service land settlement to an end as soon as possible. I agree entirely with the honourable member for Franklin that the settlers must know what they are up for. This wastage of human life and human endeavour cannot go on for ever. We need settlers on King Island. We need population. We need settlers for the economic wellbeing of the island. We need to attract to King Island people who will stay there. This can be helped by greater recognition of the need for such things as taxation concessions on fares for medical purposes. If the Minister would use his best offices to persuade the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to establish a national television relay service to King Island, this would be a tremendous boon to the people in the area. We all know what television means in ordinary family life today. The people on King Island who are doing such a wonderful job are denied the benefits of television. That is one way in which the Government could assist the people of the island.
We need to keep the families on King Island. As I have said, an inquiry should be held. We cannot understand why some of these people have failed in a land of plenty. The inquiry that I propose should have been held a long, long time ago. There are many reasons, as we all know, why people fail. As I have already told the
Minister, I know of many people who would be only too willing to appear before such an inquiry and present statutory declarations and depositions setting out what they consider happened in the early days of settlement. We do not want this sort of thing to happen ever again. If such an inquiry was held, there would be no need for a witch hunt. The reasons why some of these people have failed and some have succeeded would have to be brought to light. Immediately the reasons for failure and success were known corrections and adjustments could be made. Certain debts would have to be written off. At least the island people would be allowed to prosper as did the older settlers, the pioneers and people I have mentioned this evening.
King Island has great dairying country. It is a wonderful place not only on which to live but also on which to turn off fat cattle. We appreciate the subsidy given by the Government on the operations of the King Islander’. The fat cattle from King Island that go to the Newmarket sales always bring top prices. There are certain things that the people on the island should have. We would like to see an end to the adverse publicity that King Island must continue to receive while war service land settlement is allowed to drag on and on. We would like to make it the place that it should be - a place of great happiness and great prosperity. This could be achieved through the good offices of the Department of Primary Industry which administers the war service land settlement scheme. I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry has the power, if he likes to use it, to order his Department to institute the inquiry that I have advocated. He has the power to make greater write-offs and to ensure that the settlers get the valuations they deserve. He has the power to ensure that they know where they stand and are able to plan for the future. What each settler wants to know is how much he owes, what the future holds for him and how he can best proceed to make I if a worth living for himself and his children.
- Mr Speaker, once again I am on the field of combat with the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and, as I think happened two years ago, I find myself on some common ground with him. In what appeared to me to be a very well informed speech, the honourable member mentioned television, a subject with which this Bill is not concerned. If I may comment on this fact in passing, it seems to me a quaint thing that the King Island area of which the honourable member spoke and the area about which I intend to speak in a moment are two areas, composed of soldier settlement farms, that do not enjoy the benefits of television. However now that I have heard that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has received a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board regarding the further development of television, I am confident that both the honourable member for Braddon and I will be able to obtain some results regarding television for the edification of the soldier settlers in our respective areas.
Despite the honourable member’s great grip of his subject about which I have heard him speak from year to year, it seemed to me that tonight he went a little further than he has in other years. In effect he suggested that the normal farming and financial conditions that apply to anyone who takes up land should not necessarily apply for some unknown reason to those who hold a war service land settlement block.
– The honourable member for Franklin said that too.
– I will come to that point in a moment. The Commonwealth Government in co-operation with the State Governments provides finance for redevelopment of areas. I intend to touch on that matter in a little while. But let me come back to what the honourable member for Franklin had to say. As I understood his remarks, he pointed out that in his opinion some waste of money was involved in the early development stages of certain war service land settlement scheme blocks in Tasmania. If I remember rightly, the honourable member for Braddon insisted that the big wastage was in administrative costs.
As I understand the position, the administration of this scheme in the areas represented by the honourable member for Braddon and myself is the responsibility of the State governments concerned. If any wasteful expenditure occurs - it seems to me that this is exactly what the honourable member for Franklin was saying - there are, I gather, odd small ways in which State governments can recoup their administrative costs. One of the areas in which they can recoup costs is to be found in field work and field expenses. The Commonwealth Government comes to the party and helps State governments out in this regard. If I have understood the course of the debate properly, in effect both the honourable member for Franklin and the honourable member for Braddon agree that there has been a wastage of funds and further, that there has been a wastage of funds of an administrative nature. If this is so, I think it is quite fair to say that the wastage of funds can be blamed well and truly on the Tasmanian Government. I hope I am not incorrect in saying that.
I was rather intrigued by the fact that whereas my friend, the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), suggested that the war service land settlement scheme should not come to a halt but should be extended into two particular areas, his friend and colleague, the honourable member for Braddon, looked forward to the day when it would come to a conclusion. Probably they were talking about two different things. At least I hope they were. This struck me as being a rather comical clash of opinions. Before I go any further may I comment on the fact that Mr Pollard, the former member for Lalor, is no longer sitting in this place leading for the Opposition in this debate.
– It is a great loss to the House.
– In many ways it is. If the honourable member for Hunter had not said that I might have agreed with the statement completely. But we have found a man of better quality - if I may put it that way - to represent that electorate. However, in many ways it is sad not to see someone who was as respected as was the former member for Lalor leading for the Opposition in this type of debate. If the new leader for the Opposition in this debate, the honourable member for Bendigo, sounded and spoke differently to the former member for Lalor, then I suppose we can take account of the fact that their shapes are not identical. The height of the former member for Lalor perhaps is 5 feet and that of the honourable member for Bendigo is almost 7 feet. Apart from that small difference in height, no doubt the honourable member for Bendigo, in an attempt to raise the morale of his side of the House, will continue to give the sort of drive and leadership that his predecessor did.
Several words have been uttered already about the magnificent success of the scheme. I refer in particular to the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). On the contrary, the honourable member for Bendigo referred to the area of Loxton as being a major bungle. I thought that the honourable member for Braddon was even ruder. But he did suggest that the Minister for Primary Industry was not to blame because unfortunately over the years he had faced a problem that existed before he took over his present portfolio. Let us get these matters into perspective. The scheme has been a very great success. I do not need to go through the Minister’s second reading speech and recall the facts that are quoted in it. And facts they are. Many soldier settlement farmers are doing a good job. They have developed their farms magnificently. Frankly, I think the majority of the farmers would fall into this category. On the other hand, I am not suggesting that problems do not exist or have not existed. It seems to me that as conditions have changed - as the cost of production has increased and as export prices have varied - so has the Government adjusted its thinking to provide a proper degree of help to many of these areas.
I refer, for instance, to the bringing back of many farmers in my area under budgetary control. This applies also to the area represented by the honourable member for Braddon. Personally, I do not know of any soldier settler in my own area who does not think at this point of time that this was not a wise idea. Firstly, it was necessary to prove several points of view. Secondly, I believe that through the proper compilation of statistics we will be able to get to the root of some of the problems that are exercising the minds of this minority of unsuccessful ex-soldier farmers. I do not know accurately what has been happening in the other States, but I do know that in South Australia those farmers who were brought back under budgetary control were not necessarily from the lower echelon of success. They were brought under budgetary control for a number of reasons, one of which was to get a cross-section of some of the problems that exist in this area. I think that I speak for the majority of the war service land settlers involved when I say that they do not object to this action. They congratulate the two governments concerned for bringing them back under budgetary control while they attempt to achieve a greater degree of success in overcoming the problems that confront them.
The main reason why I rose to speak tonight was to comment on the provision of drainage. Over many years we have run into a drainage problem around Loxton and the Upper Murray area in South Australia. Moreover, we may run into further salinity problems in years to come. The Minister for Primary Industry visited this area many years ago and as he pointed out in his second reading speech, when he saw the condition of sumps and the water level at that time he took immediate remedial action. This action is still proceeding, but I would say that over the last few years it has not proceeded quite fast enough.
Some time ago I wrote to the Minister asking whether it was correct that Commonwealth capital is provided to effect drainage and whether it was true that there were sufficient funds to meet this annual expenditure on drainage. I received a lot of information from the Minister, some of which I would like to quote to the House. It is as follows:
Following a review of the situation late in 1965, agreement was reached on proposals :o considerably increase the rate of installation.
That was the point that concerned me at the time. It continues:
These plans, which included the acquisition of more plant and the possibility of interesting contractors in the work, did not come into being until towards the middle of this year.
That is 1 966-
Since then they have had a very marked effect. This is illustrated by the fact that, for the financial year 1965-66, $93,102 was spent on block drainage installed at Loxton. For the four months to the end of October 1966, the expenditure was $67,001. This latter amount covered 1,876 chains of drains and it is pleasing to be able to state that the cost per chain has been considerably reduced.
In other words, by effecting better organisation and by providing better plant the cost per chain has decreased. That is of great credit to the department concerned. The Minister’s reply continues:
There appears to be no physical reason why the current rate of installation should not be maintained for The remainder of the financial year.
However, in submitting its estimates for the current financial year, the State did not have the experience of the increased rate of installation. The Stale must remain within ils approvals on expenditure and it is evident that the funds allocated for 1966-1967 are now fully committed
That was back in December - and would not permit the State to plan further ahead without further funds being made available.
I am concerned about a comment made earlier by the honourable member for Bendigo. He said he trusted that a charge would not be made on settlers for redevelopmental work. I remind him that he should have a brief look at the Minister s second reading speech, which I think makes this point very plain.
Regardless of the Minister’s statement on this matter, I imagine that the facts are still the same as they were in the early days of the scheme. Any new developmental costs are shared between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments in the ratio of three-fifths by the Commonwealth to two-fifths by the State. This proportion applies to the difference between the valuation and the developmental charges. I presume that drainage would be one of those developmental charges, but not the only one. So the State governments have to find twofifths of the difference between the valuation and the developmental charges. I note that the drainage period has been extended until 1972. Therefore, I suggest that it is not mandatory on the States to repay their two-fifths share until 1972. Whether the States will agree to fractionalise their ultimate financial onus and produce a certain amount of capital year by year, I do not know. It may well be that some of the States will elect to do this. Anyway, the point that interests me is that the Commonwealth Government appears to be finding all the capital sums to effect drainage in these areas. I am under the impression that when the States commence repayments, the money will be paid into the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund, and that in the case of the war service land settlement section of the Minister’s Department there will be no entries showing repayment of capital sums. I congratulate the Government on its decision to press on at a greater rate with this drainage.
This bears on several other things, one or two of which I would like to touch on. In the upper Murray areas of South Australia - I presume much the same applies to the area represented by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) - there has been a series of drought years. As a result, natural rainfall has not succeeded in driving surface salt out of fairly newly developed top soil on many of the blocks. Added to this, there is no shadow of doubt in my mind that coming down the Murray each year there is a higher proportion of salt than in the previous year. This has affected areas such as Cooltong, which irrigates from a small inlet called Ral Ra Creek. Due to the high salinity of the Ra Ral Creek inlet to the pumping facilities, the farmers cannot put on their early season irrigation. Certainly at that time of the year, before the melting of the snow in the higher regions, there is not a high river flow. This, of course, is one reason for the high salinity. Then there is the factor that I have already mentioned - the salinity rising because salt is not washed away by natural inundation.
In addition to these problems, we have the problem that the further one goes down the River Murray these days the greater is the degree of salinity. I think honourable members will be aware that I and other people have been asking questions about the dangerous levels of salinity that might occur in years to come in the lower reaches of the Murray. Therefore, I was very pleased recently when the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) was able to tell this House that he was seeking a top American consultant, experienced in the field of studying the flow of rivers and salinity problems, to come to Australia and advise on the steps that should be taken. Some of the steps that should be taken are suggested by remarks made by Mr J. V. Sekamp. He stated:
In the Nyah, Swan Hill, Cohuna, Kerang area the tempo of drain installation is increasing and most of the effluent is returned to the river. Al Robinvale all drain discharge is back into the river. In the Sunraysia area disposal of drain discharge is partly by pumping into the channels, partly into evaporation basins and partly back into the river. In South Australia, above Mannum, no drainage wafer is discharged directly into the stream. The large community drainage schemes all discharge to evaporation basins, usually on the river fiats and often close to the river or creek banks. Many individual landholders dispose of their drainage water by shafts sunk into the Loxton sands or the underlying limestone. Below Mannum ail drainage water is pumped over the banks back into the river.
I am not concerned so much with Mannum as I am with the fact that in the upper reaches of the Murray there is an increasing trend, due to the increasing development, for effluent water to be pushed back into the Murray. As I suppose might well happen to a junior State such as South Australia, we seem to get everybody else’s refuse. Of course, this will be added to over the years. Therefore, I am pleased that the Government is at last taking steps to get a properly trained and competent consultant to work on this problem. I hope that the Minister will be able to get the services of the American consultant that he has in mind. If, by any chance, this cannot be done, then this Parliament must look for alternative action at a very high level. The areas from Renmark through Barmera, Berri, Waikerie, Murray Bridge and Mannum are areas where the whole livelihood of the people is based on irrigation from waters of the River Murray. I believe that damage to the economy of South Australia and to the morale of the settlers could be very great indeed if this position is not watched very carefully over the years.
Finally, I refer to the only other matter I wish to mention tonight. It is the matter of pumps supplying irrigation water to what is commonly known as the Loxton area. This in actual fact concerns more the Cooltong section of the Loxton area. I wrote to the Minister some time ago about this. I believe that the Minister’s advice probably comes from the engineers in charge of these matters. The Minister said he was happy that the pumps were kept in good order and that the pressure at head was at a reasonable level. He further said that obviously faults sometimes do occur at farmer level through not keeping clean jets or by not looking after the permanently set irrigation lines. I can assure the Minister that this is not necessarily so. I know of at least two pumps where the pressure is down to 22 lb. No permanent irrigation system, whether it is in a war service land settlement area or any other area, can function properly on permanent spray lines at a pressure of less than 20 lb. I ask the Minister to look into this problem, because nothing is so disheartening to a farmer who is struggling to keep his head above the line of credit on the bank of the irrigation channel as to find that the whole efficiency of his farming operation is jeopardised by a central pumping unit over which he has no control and which, in actual fact, he is not even allowed to touch, inspect, maintain or have anything to do with when the pumps are the responsibility of the Government. I beseech the Minister to try to make some detailed inquiries. I can assure him that I know of two pumps that just will not put out enough water to allow the farmers to run their farms efficiently and economically.
I have appreciated for some years the opportunity afforded me by Bills of this kind to air some of the minor criticisms that crop up from time to time. The debates on such Bills are getting shorter and shorter, and the speeches do not have as much element of complaint in them as they had in the past. We all know that the Minister has succeeded in achieving a great deal tor this area, and that probably contributes to this state of affairs. I conclude my few words tonight by congratulating the Minister and his Department, as well as the Department of Lands in South Australia, on the fine job they are doing for war service land settlement farmers in my area.
– I agree wholeheartedly with the submissions made by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), who suggested that plans should be put into operation now in order to place on the land, if they so wish it, those who are now fighting in Vietnam. I agree also with the honourable member for Bend:go that the land settlement of ex-servicemen from Vietnam should be only a p*rt of a more extensive scheme for settling civilians on the land. The greatest need in the world today is more food. That statement has been made by honourable members on both sides of the House in the last few days. They have pointed out that twothirds of the world’s people go to bed hungry every night; that daily thousands of people die from starvation and that the number is increasing. To provide more food we need more farms. What is this Government doing to provide more farms and, so, more food? In recent years the Government’s main contribution towards increasing the number of farms has been through the soldier settlement scheme.
In introducing the Bill on 1st March -last the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann) referred to what had been done under the war service land settlement scheme since the last war. He pointed out that 1,011 farms have been provided in Western Australia at a cost of $45,000 each, 1,021 in South Australia costing $35,000 each and 552 in Tasmania at $70,000 each. The honourable member for Bendigo referred to the provisions the Government is making to establish on the land numbers of men who are now fighting in Vietnam and who come from rural areas. He said that the Government will advance to an ex-serviceman from a rural area $6,000 at an interest rate of 4%, $100 of the amount being free of interest. What a magnificent gesture. The interest payment on SI 00 at Ai% amounts to a mere $4.50 a year. I am not impressed by such generosity.
In his speech the Minister pointed out that the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland between them placed 6,500 ex-servicemen on the land. He said:
So, all told, this scheme has been responsible for developing more than 9,000 farms for ex-servicemen -
Nine thousand farms for ex-servicemen from the Second World War! The Minister concluded with these words: a very creditable effort, I feel sure honourable members will agree.
Tonight I heard the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) saying that the scheme was a very great success. I do not agree that it was a creditable effort or a very great success. As a contribution to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen it was most unsatisfactory. It gave farms to only a fraction of the eligible and qualified ex-servicemen who were anxious to become rural producers, to only a fraction of those who had left agricultural occupations to go to the war and who the authorities expected would want to become farmers.
In answer to a question that I asked in this Parliament I was told that 60,000 exservicemen throughout Australia applied after the Second World War to be provided with farms and that of that number, after exhaustive examination by government authorities, about 40,000 in the various States were declared to be eligible and qualified for settlement on the land. The Minister says that to settle 9,000 m;n on the land is a very creditable effort. I do not think the 30,000 disappointed eligible and qualified applicants would agree with him. Did more ex-servicemen apply to become farmers than the Australian Government expected would apply or than the Australian governmental authorities considered should be granted farms in this country which then had n population of about eight million?
Before the end of the Second World War, in order to prevent the making of similar mistakes in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land to those that had been made after the First World War, the Labor Government established a commission to advise it on post-war rural reconstruction. The second report of that commission was presented on 18th January 1944 to the Hon. J. B. Chifley. M.P., Minister for Postwar Reconstruction. The commission consisted of the following experts: F. J. S. Wise, J. F. Murphy, S. M. Wadham and C. R. Lambert. T quote the following extracts from that report:
The Commission understands that roughly 80,000 of the men leaving the land went into the forces and about 50,000 went into munitions.
That means that 130,000 rural workers went to the Second World War -
The proportion of the First A.I.F. which went on the land was about 9% and, if we are to expect that a similar percentage of the Services has the same desire after this war, the number for consideration for land settlement will be in the order of 54,000.
The Rural Reconstruction Commission also said:
The Commission believes that Commonwealth participation (in land settlement) is inevitable, from the repatriation and financial aspects as well as from the point of view of co-ordinating plans to the general production requirements of Australia as a whole. While it is not possible at the present time for the Commission to furnish a close estimate of expenditure on land settlement, large numbers of discharged servicemen and large sums of money are likely to be involved. If we judge from this branch of repatriation after the last World War-
That is the First World Warup to 50,000 may seek settlement on the land.
The reports of the Commission show that in 1944 government authorities expected that 50,000 ex-servicemen of the Second World War would seek settlement on the land. Reports show also that general production in Australia as a whole, with a population of 8 million then, justified the settlement of this number of persons on the land. The farming requirements of Australia as determined by the Commission have certainly not been met. The number of farms in Australia has not increased since 1939 and the number of rural workers has fallen by thousands though the population has increased by 4 million. Answers given by the Minister for Primary Industry to questions that I have asked make clear the need for more and rapid land development. On 30th June 1947 there were 251,678 farms. In 1963 there were 251,945. In 1939 there were 253,000 farms. In 1965 there were 253,000. The number of persons permanently employed on farms in 1949 was 400,000 and in 1958 it was 393,000. Later figures appear not to be available. The population of Australia was 8 million in 1949. In 1965 it was more than 11 million and it is now about 12 million. So not one immigrant, not one ex-serviceman, not one son of a farmer, not one rural worker and not one resident of a country town has been settled on a farm or has become a rural worker without displacing someone already on the land. Could anyone except the Minister for Primary Industry and, of course, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) claim that our rural expansion is creditable?
Australia’s contribution to the feeding of a hungry world is not great enough. It is certainly not as great as this country is capable of. It is not even enough to meet the requirements of the Australian people. Not only has the curtailment of soldier settlement been a breach of faith with those who have served this country in war. Australia’s solvency in international trade depends on the stepping up of rural production, which supplies 80% of the commodities that we export. 1 think that even members of the Australian Country Party would agree with that. Furthermore, Sir John Crawford - a very distinguished servant of this Government - pointed out that if we are to meet our obligations overseas and to avoid ever increasing balance of payments difficulties we must increase primary production, particularly in agriculture.
– We have told you that.
– The honourable member says that he and his colleagues have told us that, but what have they done about it? I have a table of balance of payments figures which gives a comparison between the overseas trading operations of the United Kingdom and those of Australia from 1952 to 1965. It demonstrates how essential it is to put ex-servicemen from the Vietnam war, as well as others, on the land. The United Kindgom has recently been, and still is, in serious difficulties with its balance of payments. The very distinguished Minister for Primary Industry, whom I consulted before I started to make this speech, has graciously consented to this table showing balances of payments going into Hansard. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the table.
The table shows that from 1952 to 1965 Australia had two favourable balances of payments totalling £302m, while the United Kingdom had nine favourable balances totalling fi, 502m. Australia had twelve unfavourable balances totalling £2,601 m and the United Kingdom has had five unfavourable balances totalling £932m. Over the whole period the Australian net adverse balance of payments totalled £2,299m, while the United Kingdom had a net favourable balance of £570m. A Labour Government in the United Kingdom works like Hercules to enable Britain to live upon its earnings. The United Kingdom could give taxation and other concessions to foreign investors to encourage them to buy its lands and industries and thus more than meet its overseas obligations.
– What has this to do with soldier settlement?
– I think what it has to do with the provision of farms and the provision of food is clear to everybody except the honourable member for Mallee. The United Kingdom could sell the Crown jewels and the stately homes of England, as well as its lands and industries, but it does not. It could balance its current overseas accounts by increasing its overseas indebtedness, as does Australia. Australia has sold lands and industries in order to balance its overseas payments. Why does not the United Kingdom do the same thing?
– How much do Australia’s overseas reserves amount to?
– That has nothing whatever to do with it. Our overseas reserves are about £800m, which is but a fraction of the amount of our increased indebtedness to the exploiters from other lands. If the easy way adopted by Australia to meet overseas debts is beneficial to the nation and its people, why is it not adopted by the United Kingdom? It is not adopted by the United Kingdom, in spite of all that our Prime Minister says because it can lead only to national disaster. If this country is not to increase its dependence on overseas capital inflow it must expand its export industries and establish import replacement industries. It can expand its export industries only by expanding rural production, by expanding rural exports, by putting more people on the land and by creating more farms.
– Tell us about the butter quota.
– It is all very well for honourable members opposite to make ridiculous comments, but they have never attempted to answer the facts I am giving. Instead of this country meeting its com mitments out of its earnings, it is meeting them out of the earnings of others. Honourable members opposite have the Palmer, Cox Bros, Stanley Korman type of mentality which argues that obligations are met out of capital and not out of earnings. They do this and run on the rocks.
– No, it is out of our primary production.
– That is what I am saying. Commitments should not be paid out of the capital; we should increase our primary production. This country needs more farms. It needs to increase rural production to feed the growing Australian population. It needs more farms to obtain more goods for processing in Australian factories. It needs more farms to enable it to meet its everincreasing overseas obligations. It needs more farms if its real estate and its industry are not to be owned and controlled in other lands. An extension of land settlement for servicemen to include those in the present conflict in Vietnam is not enough. It should be part of a national target of development of at least 5,000 new farms every year.
– Why does not the honourable member go out and see the farms for himself?
– I have seen the farms of this country. For twenty years I occupied a position as a member of the Victorian Land Settlement Branch. For another ten years I was Secretary of the Public Works Committee in Victoria. I travelled from one end of Victoria to the other looking at farms. In my travels I saw vast areas of land that were being held out of production. I saw aggregations of land in the western districts of Victoria. During my term in Victoria, an investigation was made of what was being done with some of the best land in Australia - that is, the land in the western districts of Victoria. The investigation revealed that 600,000 acres could have been taken away from those who owned it without interfering in any way with their production or their incomes. This would have added immensely to Australia’s production, to the wealth of its people and to our standard of living.
– But that was thirty years ago.
– ‘That was thirty years ago’, he says.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Failes)Order! I suggest that the honourable member get back to the Bill.
– Get back to the subject? I am on the subject; I am right on the target, Sir. You may remember the old story that, it a person throws a stick the people who are hit are the ones who squeal. The people sitting on the benches on the other side of the House have big interests in the western districts. They are squealing now because 1 have flung a stick. However what I want to make clear is that two reasons have militated against the success of land settlement in this country. One is that in 1948 a ceiling price was placed on land. The ceiling price was eventually removed. Until its removal, land for soldier settlement for ex-servicemen from the last World War was being obtained in Victoria at about £11,000 for each farm. Since then, it has cost £22,000 for a farm. It has exactly doubled. The incubus of $70,000 per farm imposed on those who are seeking to develop land in Tasmania is due to a large extent to the elimination of the ceiling price on land. It has put a burden upon land settlement.
Another reason for the high price of land was the fact that this Government removed the land tax. This form of taxation was introduced by a Labor government in 1910. The introduction of land tax caused millions of acres to be put under the plough and brought about the establishment of at least 30,000 farms. But what did the representatives of the big interests do? When the Bruce-Page Government came into power it immediately reduced the impact of land taxation upon the big landowners. When I became a member of this House I was astounded to find that the same philosophy that animated the Bruce-Page Administration also animated the PageFaddenMenzies Administration, which further reduced the rate of taxation on land.
– They eliminated it.
– My friend, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), says they eliminated it. They did not eliminate it at once. They reduced it and at a later stage they eliminated it.
– Would the honourable member introduce it again?
– I would introduce a scientific method of land taxation that would cause those who are not using the land of this country to its full productive capacity to do so in the interests of our people and also to relieve starvation among masses of people, many of them children, in other countries. Certainly I would increase faxes upon those who have the audacity to keep out of production some of the most fertile land in this country.
– The Loan (War Service Land ‘Settlement) Bill 1967, which was introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann), provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6,750,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. May I say, after listening to the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), that the object of this entire exercise was to give an opportunity to returned men from the last war to settle on the land. The advances made by the Commonwealth in the States concerned have been quite considerable. I say without any hesitation at all that, although some problems have been experienced, in the main the scheme has been very successful. In Western Australia, where a large amount of land has been made available, we had some problems in the early days. They were associated mainly with the heavy timber country. However, over the years these problems have been alleviated to a great extent. During the latter stages of the project complete new areas and new towns have been developed.
I pay a tribute to those men who, together with their families, have gone on the land and have built up these areas out of pure scrub, particularly in the coastal areas. They have taken a tremendous interest in the scheme and are to be congratulated on the job of work they are doing for this country. It was not easy for some of these men who had not had previous experience to take up land. They came from all walks of life and helped to build up complete new communities. Earlier in the scheme there were men who had access to developed or partly developed properties. In my opinion they had some advantage over some of the settlers in Tasmania about whom we have heard tonight. These cases in Tasmania deserve some special consideration because of the problems that have been described this evening.
A long time has elapsed since the last war. The whole scheme indicates what can be done when a vast amount of money is made available, not just in a particular area, but over large areas where thousands of farms have been developed. It shows what can be done when capital is made available over a period of years and there is no hesitation in development. The land is cleared in the proper way, superphosphate is provided as well as the necessary clovers and the fencing and all the other requirements of farming, and the stock is also made available. Anyone who visits some of the areas in Western Australia where the capital has been adequately supplied will find that great prosperity now exists. My information is - and I keep pretty close to some of these landholders - that before very long we can expect to see carrying capacities of four or five sheep to the acre in some of these areas. This improvement has been achieved in the comparatively short period of time since the war service land settlement scheme was commenced. This has indeed been a tremendous achievement.
Let me refer specifically to some of the areas in question. The Gairdner River area is a very prosperous one: It is on the south coast. The development around Gairdner River and Jerramungup has been followed by further development right along the south coast of Western Australia. It is reasonable to assume that if the soldier settlers and the Government had not taken up this challenge the development of Western Australia in the southern regions would not have proceeded as it has done. The country from Albany to Esperance and far to the east has vast potential. This has been proved by the soldier settlers at Jerramungup, and Gairdner River and other places, such as in the Stirling Range, which is closer to the Albany district. Of course there have been problems, but science, aided by patience and determination on the part of the settlers, has managed to sort out many of those problems, and today these are vast areas of production. I wish the settlers there every success. They certainly deserve it and I know that they will build very good communities.
Although it is not my intention to speak at length on this subject, I want to refer to the men who are now coming back to Australia after having given service overseas. The Government has said that they will receive all the benefits available to returned men. No war service land settlement scheme is mooted at the moment. In Western Australia the development of the land made available under earlier schemes has been completed, and there is no indication that another scheme will be commenced to cater for the men who are now returning. In my book they should be given every opportunity to take up properties if they wish to do so. Various statements have been made by the Government in this connection, but I would point out that it is not a bit of use encouraging these men to take up land, or even suggesting that they should do so, without making sufficient capital available to give them the fullest possible opportunity.
In my own State there is land available, and I feel quite sure that the State Government would give these chaps first call on any blocks they wanted. But from that point on, capital would be required. No doubt some of these chaps would have some capital of their own, but many of them would not. It is not a particle of use giving them a few thousand dollars and leaving it at that. That is just not good enough if development is to be carried out properly. They must be provided with capital until they have fully developed their properties and are firmly established. It is no use going part of the way and leaving the settlers to live in poverty for the next twenty years. This is the problem that must be faced in all developmental schemes today, and unless the people who provide the finance realise this there will be only heartbreak for a good many settlers. This is something that I do not want to see.
There is another point I want to raise. I have raised it before in this House and I make no apology for doing so again. Under this scheme, an ex-serviceman who took up a war service land settlement block was supplied with a home, among other things, on the property. But in my own State of Western Australia, and no doubt in other States as well, a man who took up a conditional purchase or leasehold block was not granted entitlement to a war service home. That situation still exists under the
Act as it stands. A man who takes up such a block does not get the $7,000, or whatever the amount is, to enable him to build a war service home. A returned serviceman who settles in a town or city gets the money for a home but those who take up conditional purchase blocks have not the same entitlement.
There is no earthly reason why security for the advance should not be available. Conditional purchase land development has been going on in Western Australia for many years with tremendous success and there should be no doubt about the security for an advance in the long term so far as I can see. There is provision in the Act that if something goes wrong the block shall be returned to the Crown or the Minister can decide finally what should be done about it. Usually the block is sold so there is no problem as to security for a loan.
I ask the Government to consider this matter again. I have had correspondence with the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on this matter because I am deeply concerned about it. Men who set out off their own bat to develop blocks and take their families with them cannot get war service homes for which they are eligible. No doubt men returning from service overseas will take up properties in Western Australia because the opportunities there for getting blocks at reasonable prices are greater than they are in other States. All in all, the war service land settlement scheme has been a success. There have been some problems but generally the men concerned have done a good job. Capital has been made available to enable them to develop farms. If there is not to be another war service land settlement scheme, let us follow up this one by giving individuals an opportunity to develop properties. The men should have sufficient capital for that purpose and they should also have entitlement to a home. If such provision is made I feel that all will be well in this field.
– in reply - This has been an interesting debate. As I stated in my second reading speech the Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $6,750,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
The provision for this advance is quite different from the earlier arrangements under which repayments collected from exservicemen were used as a revolving fund. This is no longer the case and all collections go into Consolidated Revenue. Hence it is necessary from time to time to provide funds so that we might finalise the war service land settlement scheme applicable to those who served in the Second World War. In the main, development in Western Australia is complete. Although most of the money provided still goes to that State the finance is made available to settlers, as was stated by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) to carry them on until they have sufficient security to use the normal channels of rural finance. The very fact that war service land settlement provided the opportunity for ex-servicemen to settle on the land without capital has meant that both Commonwealth and State governments have had to provide a considerable amount of money. The figures were set out in my earlier speech. There has been criticism of the land settlement scheme and indeed of State governments. It is not for me to criticise the State governments with whom I have worked, but I can say that each government in its turn has done its best under the circumstances. If any criticism should be voiced probably the cause for it dates back to the time when the selection of areas was undertaken. I am not necessarily condemning the areas selected, but it is a fact that at least some of those selected were very costly to develop. The figures I gave in my earlier speech indicate that in Tasmania development has cost just about twice as much as it has cost in the other States. That in itself explains the reason for the heavy development costs.
I emphasise, however, that the development costs have not been charged to the soldier settlers as such. They have had no charge imposed upon them in excess of the productive capacity of the land which they have taken up or the actual acquisition and development cost, whichever is the less.
A very pertinent question has been asked about the equity that the soldier settlers have. Let me say quite clearly that the war service land settlement scheme does not promise any equity as such, but the opportunity to achieve it is available. If honourable members want to know what the real equity is, let me say that every settler knows what his commitments are and what debits have been made against him. He knows for example whether he has drawn finance for stock, whether he has to pay any charge for development, the amount of rental he has to find and so on. There is no ambiguity whatever about the position. Therefore, if a settler sold his farm, his stock and his plant, the amount he had left over after discharging any debts that he had would be his equity. The only way in which the true equity figure can be established is by sale. Of course, estimates can be made by the settler or the farmer according to values pertaining at the time at which he is making the estimate. The estimated equity can vary in relatively short periods, as we know. For example, the price of stock fluctuates and land values increase or decrease in certain areas. That is the answer 1 give to those who want to know what the equity is.
Development in Western Australia has finished very satisfactorily and the scheme is now moving on to completion. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has described the position in South Australia. In the main, the problems there are those pertaining to the cost of establishing a satisfactory drainage system, more particularly in some of the fruit growing areas, such as Loxton. When I first became Minister for Primary Industry, as I said in my earlier speech, the difficulty there had arisen from the fact that the engineer had prescribed drainage by deep bores. It was discovered that this system of drainage was not satisfactory. The ground had become saturated and overflowing and the trees were starting to die. Something had to be done to save the settlement. It was at that stage that I arranged for the expenditure of about £1.4m spread over three financial years to provide the necessary drainage headworks. Fortunately, tenders revealed that we were able to construct the drains much cheaper than that. However, as the honourable member for Angas has pointed out, there have been continuing problems in completing block drainage. This has kept the scheme going until now. Added costs have been necessary in order to save those settlers. I have indicated that these charges, which are superfluous to normal development charges, are not charges against the settlers. The governments accept responsibility for these charges; we must necessarily do so.
There has been criticism of the State Government in respect of Tasmanian war service land settlement. I am not going to enter into that argument. I have found that the Tasmanian Government has faced up to the problems, lt conducted an independent inquiry into the King Island settlement and acquainted me with the report. The Director of War Service Land Settlement, who works in my Department and who has done an excellent job throughout the years, has kept in constant touch with the State Government. King Island has been the centre of criticism, but there could well be criticism of the Montagu Swamp site, which is now called Togari. Originally 120 farms were planned for that area. Heavy drainage costs would have been necessary to complete the whole scheme and the Government eventually decided to limit the area to, i think, forty-five farms. Development in that area has occupied a considerable time, primarily because of circumstances. There were years that were excessively wet and this prevented any development taking place for months on end. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) would agree with that statement. However, criticism has occurred on King Island. I do not think it can be said that those leaving the area are doing so because of the poor quality of the soil. I do not think King Island was an excellent selection as a site for war service land settlement because of the problems associated with regrowth and so forth that have arisen; however, most of those who have left their farms have done so because of the health of their families, because of domestic problems, including deaths, and because of dissatisfaction with island conditions.
Honourable members should consider what the Government has done on King Island. The majority of settlers there know their commitments. There is no ambiguity in relation to this area as compared with any other soldier settlement areas. Because of the problems of the area a higher standard of development applies to King Island than elsewhere in Australia. For instance, the minimum developmental requirement for a dairy holding on King
Island is such as to enable the dairyman to produce 12,000 lb of butter fat a year; elsewhere in Australia the figure is 10,000 lb. A higher standard of development is required for the fat lamb producer on King Island. This indicates that the Government has had regard for the situation there. I found, when I first visited King Island as Minister for Primary Industry, that many settlers were occupying farms that were not satisfactorily developed. This, to some extent, was the fault of the settlers. They wanted to get on to the land and did not want to wait for the completion of development of holdings. They admitted this to me. It was evident that more development was necessary to put them on an equitable basis and to bring their farms to a standard that the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government would be satisfied with. Consequently we decided to increase the minimum standard of development so that the settlers on King Island would not be at a disadvantage. I arranged for finance to be provided. The honourable member for Braddon referred to that amount of Si. 6m, but I had claimed that only an additional Si. 4m had been spent on extra development to bring those farms up to the necessary standard.
Subsequent experience showed that conditions on the island took a heavier toll than elsewhere on machinery and plant, so we wrote off concessions and rebates to settlers against their debt and against the commitments they had undertaken. This amounted to a further $356,000. Some of the settlers received the concession notwithstanding that they were efficient and were doing ‘better than the others. We treated them all alike and gave all the benefit. In an odd couple of cases settlers received a cheque from the Commonwealth Government as payment of the concession, whereas others received it by having their debts reduced. At that time some settlers still had quite heavy commitments. Because they had not shown good management we asked them to come under the budgetary system so that the income that accrued from their farms would come under budgetary control. Under this system it was understood that we would assist them in the management of their property. We have not seen the result of the first year’s budgetary control system because the first year has not elapsed.
In addition to the SI. 4m for redevelopment and the $356,000 which was really due to the Commonwealth but which was written off their debts, the Commonwealth Government has given subsidies on transport from the island by both sea and air. The Director has calculated the benefits accruing to individual farmers. He has worked it out that an individual farmer selling his normal fat lamb production to the mainland would benefit by about $1,300 each year because of the subsidy on sea freight. So honourable members should not say that the Commonwealth has not been sympathetic. The honourable member for Braddon admits that those concessions have been made. We have met the settlers’ every need. But we do expect a settler who has been receiving income to be fair and honourable in paying as much as he can afford to pay. He is allowed to earn $2,600 a year to live on before there is any expectation of a payment to the Commonwealth. He must earn that amount before he is required te make any payment, so he does have something on which to live. Over and above that amount, according to his income, we want to arrange with him a mutually satisfactory budgetary system in which he repays his commitments which, in the main, he has incurred through the purchase of stock or other things. But part of his commitment is rent. The Commonwealth and the States have accepted the responsibility for everything over and above what the farmer can pay, according to his property’s productive capacity.
When honourable members consider the rents and the repayments that these settlers have to meet having regard to the standard income which we determine as a minimum, there can be no complaint that either the Commonwealth Government or the Tasmanian Government has been unfair to them. Some settlers have been dragging their feet in meeting their commitments. We found with some of them that we could not get any payments, although we felt that they had been making good incomes. That is why we had to make this examination and see each settler in turn. If settlers were not able to meet their commitments straight out, we wanted them to come under the budgetary system to protect them against themselves and to ensure that the money provided by the Federal Government and the State Government was put to the best advantage. I think that both Governments have acted very responsibly in this matter. I am sure nobody could say that we have been other than sympathetic in trying to help every soldier settler to achieve the success he ought to achieve.
The only other point - it is one of detail - was raised by the honourable member for Angas. It related to pumps. The honourable member rightly assumed that the answer I gave him came from an engineer.
– The honourable member was pretty right, was he?
– He was right. I said that the honourable member rightly assumed that the answer came from an engineer. The question of pumps on irrigation areas in South Australia is an intricate one. It is related to the length of the irrigation pipe, the head of water and the type of sprinklers used. This is a technical problem which needs to be examined in individual cases. But if there is need to look at the matter further and if I can assist the honourable member in expediting the further development and construction of irrigation facilities I will be only too happy to do so. In spite of the remarks of the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), who dealt with trade matters outside the scope of this Bill and with land settlement in general rather than with war service land settlement, I repeat that this Government has very creditable achievements in respect of war service land settlement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to say a few words tonight about petrol prices. It appears certain that the unfortunate motorists of Australia are to be slugged again with a rise in the price of petrol. My authority for this contention is Mr L. J. Thompson, Chairman of Ampol Petroleum Ltd. Mr Thompson is reported to have told a meeting of his shareholders that he had convinced the South Australian Prices Commissioner that a rise was justified. Apparently the South Australian Prices Commissioner is the only person whom he has to satisfy. There is no price control anywhere else in Australia. It is a pity that trade unions do not have to deal with a sympathetic audience, such as that addressed by Mr Thompson, when they seek wage increases for their members.
If Mr Thompson’s company and the other oil companies had to justify their claims before a public inquiry it would certainly be a different story. The oil companies would have to answer a few questions for a change. One would be why, if they are in such dire financial straits, they have been able to reduce the price of fuel oil by 2d a gallon over the last two years while all other prices have gone up. There is a reason for that decrease, of course. The oil companies do not care what price they get for their fuel oil because it is covered by the overall production costs. This means that fuel oil can be dumped on the Australian market to compete with coal and other fuel. Whichever way you look at it, Australia gets it in the neck.
We use our overseas exchange unnecessarily by importing far more crude oil than we should need to satisfy our petrol requirements. Our refineries are inefficient by overseas standards because after refining there is anything up to 30% of so-called residual oil whereas in the United States there is only 7%. Residual oil is simply a name for the burnable rubbish that is left after refining. The companies use this residual oil to put Australian coal mines out of business by dumping it on the Australian market. Australian natural gas will be affected too because all that the companies are interested in is carrying out the policy of their masters who control them from abroad. They would not get away with this in the United States because the Government of that country believes in protecting coal and other fuels against unfair competition. This Liberal PartyCountry Party Government claims that it is all the way with LBJ. The one example he sets that no-one in Australia would object to following is that of protecting an entirely local industry against dumping by foreign interests. But it is too much to expect that those who sit opposite would protect an Australian industry.
There is another aspect of any petrol price rise that should be investigated in the public interest. How much money is being spent, or wasted for that matter, by oil companies in costly advertising and promotions? There are give-aways and huge cash prizes. One company will claim that something has been added to its product thus producing more speed and power than any other brand can match. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in boosting the new miracle product. The other companies immediately follow suit. Then you have a tiger in your tank and zooms and booms as you speed into space on Esso or some other product - all at the expense of the Australian motorist. There is huge expenditure in advertising and gimmicks. The Australian motorist has to pay for all this ballyhoo just as he has to pay to have a service station on every corner of every street in every metropolis of this country.
A public inquiry should be held into the whole marketing set-up of petrol in Australia before there is any question of a further rise in the price of petrol. Why, in my own district and in others unlimited funds are poured in to buy up sites where petrol stations can be erected. Tennis and other tournaments are organised and huge prizes are offered. Then the oil companies ask the motorist to pay an increased price for petrol so that the companies can meet the cost of production and distribution.
The motorist of this country has taken just about all he can take from the petrol companies. He must buy petrol because he runs his car on it. He has no choice. The position is something like that pertaining to butter and margarine. If you do not want butter you cannot get margarine. The motorist is entitled to expect some protection against companies which sell petrol at a high price to balance the other price that has been reduced to put Australian fuels out of business. I say to members of this Parliament that in the interests of motorists everywhere, and in the interests of Australian industry in its fight against foreign investors, the Government should heed my words and set up a public inquiry before an increase in petrol prices is granted. I say tonight without fear of contradiction that if the Australian motorists received justice the price of petrol would be reduced today throughout Australia instead of being increased.
For too long the Australian peopleparticularly motorists - have been held to ransom by the oil companies here at the expense of Australian industry. It is time that the Federal Government and other governments checked the situation to ensure that Australian motorists are not exploited in the future. The oil companies have gone unchecked for too long and the motorists have paid the piper because of the incompetence of governments in controlling petrol prices. If the oil companies can pay unlimited amounts for petrol station sites, set up petrol stations at every corner, reduce the price of fuel oil, run expensive tennis tournaments, conduct huge advertising campaigns, put a tiger in you tank and give zoom, boom and zip and all the qualities that go with advertising, they can reduce the price of petrol to the Australian consumer and give Australian motorists a fair go.
I suggest to the Government that it should examine petrol prices before an increase is allowed. The principle that applies to Australian workers seeking wage increases should be applied to the oil companies when they seek to increase petrol prices. They ought to justify a proposed increase to an authority and show that it is necessary before the increase is granted against the public interest. I suggest that the Government should arbitrate on the question of petrol prices. Whether it knows it or not, whether it cares or not, the Australian motorist has been exploited in a way that would not be tolerated in any other country in the world. Protest meetings should be held against increases in petrol prices because they are unjustified. Until such time as the oil companies are prepared to put their cards on the table before an impartial tribunal no increase in petrol prices should be granted throughout Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Pay-roll Tax (Question No. 8)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
As under the existing income tax law a zone allowance is available to a taxpayer who resides in a prescribed area for not less than six months of a financial year, will he give consideration to the apparent anomaly that exists when the period of six months or more extends over two consecutive financial years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer which 1 gave on 1st September 1966 to a similar question which he had addressed to me. (See Hansard, page 754.)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In view of the increased population in the north of Western Australia, will he take action to increase the zone allowances for taxation purposes in respect of this area with a view to encouraging permanent settlement?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In accordance with the usual practice in regard to requests for tax concessions, I shall arrange for this question to be considered during the preparation of the next Budget.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In 1964 the State Ministers for Health adopted a resolution to the effect that a long-term health education programme be undertaken; that the programme be directed primarily towards school children and smokers who desire to stop smoking; and that research be undertaken into patterns of cigarette smoking in the Australian community.
I have previously indicated that the Commonwealth would co-operate in such a programme in relation to its own Territories. 3 and 4. The Australian death rate from lung cancer has risen by an average of slightly less than 5% since 196’..
With regard to control measures, I have previously stated that these are primarily the responsibility of the respective Slate governments.
However, the honourable member may be interested to know that, at the request of the State Ministers, I have referred to the National Health and Medical Research Council a proposal that the Council undertake a survey into Australian smoking habits and attitudes to smoking. This proposal was considered by the Council at its 63rd Session in November 1966, and a special committee was appointed to undertake a survey design. Work on this survey design is at present proceeding.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many persons with an Auburn (New South Wales) or Lidcombe address registered for (a) sickness benefit or (b) employment at the Commonwealth Employment Offices at (i) Granville, (ii) Homebush and (iii) Bankstown during each of the years 1964, 1965 and 1966?
– The answer to the honourable members’ question is as follows:
The information is not available. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not keep statistics of persons registered for sickness benefit. The statistics of persons registering for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service are not dissected according to the areas in which those persons are resident.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The statistics sought are not kept by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
5 and 6. These questions involve policy considerations. I add only that I have repeatedly made it clear that useful comparisons of the Commonwealth Employment Service employment statistics for the months at the turn of the year cannot be made.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670315_reps_26_hor54/>.